Sunday, December 27, 2015

Hope in the End

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."  (NIV) Romans 15:13

It is so hard to believe that another year is behind us.  I'm not sure about all of you, but I think the oler I get, the quicker time passes!  Reflection at the end of the year can help us to see what went well, what didn't go so well, and what we want to change.  When we think about such things, we can better understand what choices we made that were good choices, and which choices were not necessarily God-centered.  I certainly had opportunities to make better choices throughout the year in many circumstances.

Typically, while we do this type of reflection, we also realize that we have had prayers that may not have been answered yet - something we are hoping for in our hearts.  Yes, we may "like" to win the lottery, we may "want" to have a new car, but HOPE is something completely different.  Hope - which can be hard to define, is to want something with the understanding that it will come to fruition.  Hope is what we have when we take our heart to God.  Hope is what God gives to us when we absolutely trust that He will act in our behalf - our BEST behalf.  We may want things that aren't necessarily what we need to have.  Hope is when we take those heartfelt desires to God and trust that he will deliver to us what we need.

Yes, I have things that I am hoping for that haven't been revealed to me this year.  As we hope, and wait, we can become discouraged.  We can get frustrated and think many thoughts:

                       God isn't listening to me.
                       I'm a bad person - it will never happen.
                       I'm being punished.
                       Maybe what I am hoping for will NEVER be answered.
                       Maybe what I am hoping for is too big for God.

Yes, sometimes our discouragement and frustration can lead us to doubt God and His lack of love for us.  Our verse for today clearly states that our hope resides FULLY with God.  As He truly is our God of hope, we are filled with love and joy, peace and trust, and most importantly, the Holy Spirit!  God gave us the Holy Spirit to reside IN us when peace, love, joy, and hope seem far away.  Because we are blessed with the Holy Spirit, we need not doubt - don't doubt that God can hear you; don't doubt that you are forgiven; don't doubt that God is the great I AM - and has power over everything and everyone; Don't Doubt.  Stand strong in the hope that God has given you in the Holy Spirit.

Do you need to find a story of great hope?  Read about Elizabeth and Zechariah.  Now that is HOPE!  They hoped to have a child and were blessed not only with a beautiful child, but the child who came before Jesus - John the Baptist!  This blessing was not given to them when they were young, it was provided to them when they started running out of hope.  Yet, it was all part of God's diving plan.  We all have hopes like Elizabeth and Zechariah.  Maybe it is hope for a child, maybe it is hope for love, maybe it is hope for relationship restoration, maybe it is hope for . . . .

Believe this - God KNOWS your hopes.  God is aware of your needs.  God will deliver to you exactly what you need.  Your hope resides in God.  As this year ends and the new year begins, may you find peace in the fact that God loves you so very much, and knows your hopes and desires - and He will deliver.  May you all enjoy a wonderful New Year in Christ.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the Holy Spirit who resides in my soul.  May I realize that the hopes of my heart are revealed to you - and that you will bring to me exactly what I need, when I need it.  May I fully trust you, God, and may the peace that only you can bring into my life, reside in my heart forever."

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Greatest Gift of All

"Today in the town of David, a SAVIOR has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.  (NIV)  Luke 2:11

I thought about who should round out our Advent series of those who were there at our Dear Lord's birth.  We have talked about the innkeeper, the shepherds, and Joseph.  We have seen through the innkeeper to keep our focus on Jesus.  We have learned through the shepherds to be humble before God and tell His great story.  We have learned through Joseph to be obedient to God and His plan for us.  Today we focus on the one that this entire evening was about - our dear Jesus.  What a miraculous night that must have been. 

He was just a baby that night, yet, as a baby, the impact He brought into our world that evening changed history.  There was so much that Jesus' birth meant.  His birth filled the prophesy that had been preached.  His birth brought confirmation of the angels that visited Mary and Joseph.  His birth brought hope, knowing that the Messiah would carry our sins.  Yet, the greatest gift that Jesus' birth brought, in my humble opinion, is perfect love.  Through Jesus' birth, life, and death, we see the incredible picture of perfect love.

No matter how much we love our spouse, our children, our parents, our friends, we are still sinful.  We can think bad thoughts, say bad words, do bad deeds - although we love these people dearly.  We sin, even to those that we love the most.  Yet, Jesus was perfect in His love for all.  Perfect in His love for his parents.  Perfect in His love for a paralytic.  Perfect in His love for a sinful woman.  Perfect in His love for a thief on a cross.  Most importantly for all of us, he is perfect in His love for you and me.

So many times I have had conversations about finding true love.  When will the right person be brought into our lives?  When do I know if the person I am with is the right person for me?  Why can't I be loved for who I am?  There is one answer for all of those questions - JESUS.  Jesus is the right person for our lives; He loves us for who we are - for He CREATED us.  He created us with all of our flaws and all of our gifts.  He loves us despite what we have done - the sins that we have committed.  He loves us enough to take all of our sins away from us.  He loves us enough to prepare a place for us when we depart this earthly life.  He loves us - you and me! Through His perfect love of us, he teaches us how to love others.  In every word Jesus spoke, in every miracle Jesus performed, in every moment He taught us how we should love those around us - far and near, family or stranger, easy or difficult.  

There is no greater gift than Jesus' love for us.  So as we prepare for Christmas on Friday, may we take some time to reflect on our Advent season together.  May we live our lives EVERY day how we might have focused them during Advent.  May we focus on our Jesus with a humble and obedient heart; telling others of the good news; and showing His love through us.

As Christmas approaches, my Christmas wish for each and every reader is to be blessed with the miracle of our Lord.  May His birth bring to you all that He wanted it to bring - hope and love in our true Savior.  I pray that your Christmas is filled with joy and happiness.  Blessings and love to you all!!

"Dearest Jesus - during this Advent season, you have shown us so much through those that were present at your birth.  May we take those learnings and apply them to our lives - not just during Christmas, but every day.  Help us to take the greatest gift of all - your unconditional love, and share it with others.  In your gracious and wonderful name we pray, AMEN!"


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Obedience Like Joseph

"When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife."  (NIV) Matthew 1:24

I wonder why God didn't provide us more information about Joseph, Jesus' earthly father.  He seems obscure after the birth of Jesus.  There are a few mentions of Joseph following the birth, but nothing by which we can detemine the type of person he is.  As always, I am sure there is a reason for this.  Yet, there is much we can learn from Joseph that can help us in this life on earth.

Joseph, above all else, was a person who was obedient to God.  The love and admiration Joseph must have had to do all that he did to ensure Jesus was born, was safe, and had an earthly father.  Joseph obeyed God on so many different occasions.  Let us explore just a few of them.

Joseph finds out that the person he was engaged to, Mary, is pregnant.  He was not with her, so I am sure he had some incredible throughts running through his head.  God knew those thoughts and ensured that he touched Joseph's heart to complete what the prophets had shared.  Still, even after the dream, Joseph could have walked away.  I am sure he still had doubt about where this journey with Mary would take them.  Yet, he didn't walk away, he followed the path God provided.

Joseph safely takes Mary to Bethlehem.  He obeys the laws that were laid out before him, although the trip was not going to be easy with a pregnant woman.  Yet, Joseph does this - he takes care of Mary and the tough journey to Bethlehem brings Jesus.

As they settle into Bethlehem, God once again speaks to Joseph, telling him to leave Bethlehem immediately.  Joseph once again, doesn't hesitate, but leaves as God had instructed.  Joseph's faith in God and his love for his Lord are evident in so many situations.  His obedience to God and to the laws of the land are a wonderful example for us.

How often is God speaking to us and are we obeying his instructions?  How often does He tell us to do one thing, and we do "our" thing instead?  We know the laws of God, the ten commandments, yet, how often are we obedient to them?  Joseph's obedience is a wonderful picture of what happens when we follow and are obdient to God.  In doing so, every step of the way, God provided for Joseph when Joseph obeyed God.  What happens when we obey God?  Do we find ourselves happier, more at peace?  I know that when I stray from God's direction and where He wants to send me, it never turns out well.  When I follow His instructions, my life takes a more blessed path.

Take time this week to get to know what God wants from you.  Once you know it, don't turn away an do your own thing, but be obedient unto God.  For our obedience will yield much goodness.

"Dearest God, how man times we have not obeyed what you have asked from us.  They are too numerou to count.  Please let me be still, God, and focus on what you want me to do.  Let me follow that path instead of walking away from it.  May I closely follow your instruction and enjoy all the blessings you have for me.  In your nam I pray, AMEN." 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Getting the News FIrst

"When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them."  (NIV)  Luke 2: 17-18

Getting great news first is a pretty special thing.  The first to learn of a couple's engagement, the first to learn of a new job, the first to learn of a special accomplishment, the first to learn of a newborn's birth. Being the first to find out information makes us feel as if we are a part of the news and that the person who is receiving the joy wants us to know first.

Today, our people of focus in the Christms birth are the shepherds.  The evening of Jesus' birth, the first to be told of this miracle were the shepherds.  Lowly, humble shepherds were the first to receive the news of Jesus' birth.  Angels came down from heaven to share this incredible information.  The shepherds headed off to the manger scene to find exactly what the angels had told them.  Talk about feeling special!!  Angels and Jesus all in one night!

Be certain, God could have chosen the angels to go to anyone.  He could have had the angels go to kings and authorities of the day.  He could have had the angels go to wealthy people of the day.  He chose humble shepherds to begin telling the story of Jesus' birth to others.  God chose people who were honest and hard working, taking care of the creatures he created.  It is such a wonderful foretelling of Christ.  His birth is told to shepherds as Jesus would become a shepherd to men around the world.  

There have been times in my life, even recently, when I question if I am knowledgeable enough to tell others about Jesus.  Do I know enough about my Bible?  Do I have the right words?  Do I understand the word of God the way He intended?  Do I . . . . ?  Then I read the story of Jesus' birth and realize that he CHOSE the humbleness of the shepherds to begin sharing the greatest news of all!  What do we, I, need to do? Humble ourselves before our Lord.  Ask Him to use us as HE sees fit.  Ask Him to give us the words that we need.  Ask Him for guidance to explore His word and gain all the truth we need.  Ask Him - He will always deliver.

Yet, as the shepherds, it's not just getting the information that is important.  We need to tell others.  The shepherds did this long ago, and we are instructed to do this today.  Tell people how important Jesus is in our lives.  Tell people that you will pray for them.  Tell people how much Jesus loves them that He gave His own life for them.  We, like the shepherds, need to tell others of the glory of Jesus, the King of Kings who came for us, for you, for me.  May our joy be shared with everyone we meet - along with the reason for our joy - JESUS!!

"Dearest Jesus, help us to tell the good news of your coming to our world, just as you helped the shepherds tell the good news so long ago.  May our love and joy for you in our lives easily be told to those around us.  If we ever feel we are not the right person for the job, may we come to you for the blessed assurance that we are your children and have been given this good news to share with others."

Sunday, November 29, 2015

No Room for Jesus

"...and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."  (NIV)  Luke 2:7

When I mentioned to my husband a couple of weeks ago that I wanted to do an Advent series on the characters of Jesus' birth, he suggested, "Do the innkeeper!"  The innkeeper?  "Really?", I thought.  Then I thought about it some more and thought, "The innkeeper - yes!"  So I start this series with the innkeeper.  I think he can teach us so much!!

There is very little written about the innkeeper.  We don't know what type of inn he had, we don't know the type of person he was.  The Bible shares one important phrase about him, he had no room for Jesus.  WOW - that's a pretty hefty sign to have on your back - but then again, he didn't know it was Jesus he was turning away from his inn to his stable.

As I did research on this man, there is much speculation as to the circumstances by which he turned away Mary and Joseph.  Let's set the stage.  Bethlehem wasn't a bustling city back then - it was a small village.  There were many travelers on "the road" due to Cesar Augustus' decree.  Inns back then were not the lap of luxury - they were usually a mat on a dirt floor.  Yet, the innkeeper couldn't offer them even a mat, he sent them to the stable, filled with animals, feeding troughs, dirt, grime, smelly; need I go on?

One theory was that the innkeeper may have been too busy to try to rearrange "sleeping" arrangements with his current customers to accommodate Mary and Joseph.  Another was that he just didn't care and sent them on their way.  Yet, there needed to be something in the innkeeper's heart - because he didn't just close the door on them, he sent them to a place - someplace - for their child to be born.  He sent them to the place that God chose for His son to be born, the humblest of  beginnings, a stable.  Although the innkeeper pointed Mary and Joseph in the direction, it was God who had set the path - the path to a place where NOBODY would believe that a king could be born, much less the King of Kings!  

Whether the innkeeper was too busy or didn't care, he was there for that wonder of a night.  Therefore, let us take some time to see what we can learn from the innkeeper.  Are there times when we are too busy for Jesus?  Maybe we have lots on the list to do.  Come on, it is the Christmas season!  Maybe there is cooking, and cleaning, and shopping and . . . .   are we too busy?  Perhaps we don't care?  Really, not care about Jesus?  Let's think about it though - maybe we were out too late the night before and want to stay in bed for a few extra winks instead of going to worship.  Maybe our Bible is collecting dust while the latest novel is quick on our fingertips.  Maybe we don't care?

This is not about a guilt trip, for I myself have fallen into some of the scenarios above!  It is about an opportunity to refocus and go on the journey that God created for us, like the innkeeper did when he sent Mary and Joseph to the stable to fulfill God's plan.  How would have Jesus' birth been different if he was born IN the inn instead of OUT of the inn?  That's a blog post for another time.  Today, let's learn from the innkeeper - let's not miss out on the greatest event of all time!  Let's not be too busy to spend time with Jesus.  Let's care enough to explore his presence in our lives.  Let's focus on the stable - that stale, smelly, cold, quiet, miraculous stable.  

May your Advent season bring you closer to our Lord, who was born in a lowly stable so that we may all be with Him in paradise.  

"Dearest Jesus, how that innkeeper must have felt when he learned WHO he turned away from his inn that evening.  Yet, he is there to teach us.  May we learn to not be too busy during this Advent season that we don't spend time with you.  May we bring you close to our hearts so that we care to spend time with you.  May we stay on the path that you have provided for us, God."  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Undone Plans

"...since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect."  (NIV)  Hebrews 11:40

I need help (I bet many of you who truly know me are saying, "yes, you do!").  Being the active planner that I am can bring about much organization and structure to my life.  This isn't necessarily bad, I can accomplish much in the 24 hours our Dear Lord gives us.  My world runs on one of time - I literally live with this "visual clock" in my head, planning out hours and days by which I need to get everything done.

During this time of year, the busy holiday season, you can only imagine how many "plans" I have in my head, on pieces of paper, in my day timer, etc.  I have plans for just about everywhere and every part of my life.  This is fine, and pretty much great, as I can accomplish much to prepare for the holidays.  Until the dreaded thing happens - my plans don't come to fruition. Yep, that's not such a nice scene.

The smile that would grace my face quickly turns into a frown.  The great and powerful thoughts that I have turn to cynicism pretty quickly.  Then there is the inevitable - who's to blame.  Please tell me there are at least one or two of you out there who operate life the way I do!  Our best laid plans, plans that are filled with rich and wonderful ideals, can come to a halt within a blink of an eye.

The question is, whose plan is this anyway?  Many, many times, these are my own-made plans.  These typically aren't plans made with God in mind.  These plans weren't necessarily made with God's consult - just my own!  In looking at these plans, and then what derailed my plans, I often realize that when my plans take a different direction - it was God trying to gather my attention.  This happens often and time and time again, God does not disappoint.  He wants me to focus on something different.  He wants me to pursue a different direction.  He wants me to listen to HIM, not to ME.

As we all know, God's plans are infinitely better for us than our own.  It may not seem that way at the time, but there isn't an instance that I can reflect upon where this hasn't been the case.  He knows the plans He has for me, and when we work in tandem to make those plans a reality, great things happen - especially FOR me.

So during this holiday season, when plans seem to haunt us, let us all make a pact.  A pact to:

  • Go to God FIRST when we make plans, asking prayers to discern the right plans for us.
  • Realizing when our plans go array that there is nobody to blame, it's just God  smiling down on us to say "time for a detour".
  • Put aside the disappointment that tends to come with plans that are "undone" and readjust our outlook to a smile BACK to God.
  • Take the anxiety that comes with plans undone and turn it to a prayer of thanks to be a bit closer to God.
Our holidays plans can result in some great experiences and memories.  Let us remember, though, that plans undone can lead to some time with our Lord.  Now those are plans that I would want to have any day.

"Dearest Lord, as the busy holiday season begins, let us be grateful for the blessings you have brought into our life - including the blessing of undone plans.  Please help us to appreciate the detours you may provide us, and let us see them as opportunities to be closer to you."

P. S. - First and foremost, a Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and your families.  Please take time to give thanks to God for all He has given you.  Also, our Advent series this year will focus on four people who were instrumental in Jesus' birth.  I hope you enjoy it.  Blessings to all!!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Mistakes Made, Forgiveness Given

"...for though the righteous fail seven times, they rise again . . ."  (NIV)  Proverbs 24:16

I'm driving behind a school bus the other day.  It stopped and to my left was a little boy, about 6, and his younger brother and mom.  The boy crossed the road, hopped onto the bus, and found a seat by a window.  He turned to wave goodbye and his little brother and mom waved in earnest as well.  It was a beautiful sight.  It also brought back an enormous sense of guilt that I have carried with me for many years.

Guilt can be a powerful emotion.  It can drive us to act out in rage, retreat to our deepest inner beings, or can eat at our hearts and souls until there is nothing left.  Today, I share with you guilt that I have had for many, many years.  I trust all who read this can relate to the guilt that I have held on to, and may even have their own "guilt world" that they have lived in for a long time.

Mine surrounds my children.  I grew up always wanting to be the mom who put my children on the bus and the one that was waiting for them at the end of their school day with cookies and milk.  I'm not sure where this picture came from.  My mom was a teacher, so growing up our days were very similar. We all left for school around the same time - she got us on the bus and then left for school.  At the end of the day, we would go to a neighbor's house until she came home.  So I'm not sure why this other picture was so prominent to me - but it was.

Yet, my career took me in a different path.  That path had me leaving for work early in the morning and wouldn't have me returning until late afternoon - well after the school bus would have arrived.  Therefore, our children went to a day care center for before and after school care.  They were safe, well taken care of, and many of their friends were in the same boat.

There are many ways that I have failed at being a parent.  I believe we all try the very best we can, but there have been times that I have lost my patience and yelled when I could have responded better.  There have been times when my "body language" has been anything but supportive and kind.  There have been times that my decisions may not have been the best.  There have been times - times I have failed.  I always felt that not being there to send my child off to school or be there when they arrived home was one of those times.  Yes, I may not have had other choices, yet, the guilt of that has haunted me for many years (considering our children are 19+ years old now).

Then I saw this verse and it helped me to understand that although we may fail, we can rise again.  We get that opportunity because we have Jesus, who forgives our mistakes without holding a grudge, who died on the cross for our sins so that we can have freedom in His name.  We may fail, but we can rise again.  So, I decided to talk to my children and let them know the guilt that I felt (and I'm sure the scarred memories that they must have had), because I wasn't there at the bus.

Yes, you know the response that I got, "Really?  That has bothered you all these years?"  Yes, children, it has.  As I am sure you expected, they were absolutely fine with it and certainly had moved on - much quicker than I had.  The guilt was lifted.  The pain was released.  I was free.  This same thing happens when we go to our Jesus and share our guilt with Him.  He has already forgiven us for the mistakes that we have made, for the sins that we have done.  When we go to Jesus to ask forgiveness, it is for us, for our guilt to be released and for us to be able to get up again.

Take the time, right now, and go to Him for forgiveness of the guilt we may be feeling.  If necessary, also go to the person and ask for their forgiveness.  It may be small or large, but guilt can weigh us down - let it be lifted to God.  That is our blessing for having simple faith - we are blessed to have Jesus on OUR side, waiting for our guilt to be lifted.  Let your guilt have freedom!!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Tradition Continues

"Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation."  (NIV) Joel 1:3

A couple of weeks ago, our oldest daughter, Sarah, wanted to learn how to make pierogi.  WOW - I hadn't made that childhood favorite for a long time.  I found the old Slovak cookbook and we headed into the journey of dough, filling, and fun.  It certainly reminded me of the times when I worked with my grandmother making these delicious yummies.  When I was little, I actually used to stand on a chair just to be able to reach the counter to help.  Traditions and memories, how they go hand in hand.

These days, we spend much time working on crafting moments that represent "me" and "I".  Many times, we don't necessarily want to go back to childhood traditions, but to create our own traditions.  That can be fun and certainly it's neat to build our own traditions to give to our children.  Yet, think about how hard our parents and grandparents worked to instill certain behaviors and values with us.  If we think back, I'm sure we can understand that some of those very important traditions live deep inside us.  What we want for our children, our prior generations wanted for us.

Especially around the holidays, traditions tend to come to life.  They can be focused on 'Turkey Day' and all the fun things surrounded about the day of thanks.  As you are reading, maybe you are remembering traditions that occurred during Advent, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, etc.  You may not even realize why you do things a certain way.  It could be as simple as "that is how my family has always done it".  Finding out the 'why' behind traditions can be fun and humbling.  It helps us to understand our past generations.

The greatest tradition we can give our children is sharing the gift of our faith in Jesus.  By finding ways to share our faith, telling our children, creating memories and traditions focused around the greatest gift God gave us, these traditions live in our children's hearts.  The Bible is filled with so many opportunities to see where traditions have been passed down from generation to generation.  Maybe you have been blessed to receive a tradition that was passed down by your parents and grandparents that focuses around our dear Savior.  Make sure you take the time to tell your children why you celebrate that tradition - and even encourage them to share it with their children.  

Life can take us in so many different directions that it can seem hard to feel grounded.  Traditions help us do that - to feel grounded in our past and know that our future generations will enjoy them as well.  Spread the word, spread the joy, and let the traditions of the past take your children into the future.  

"Dearest Father, thank you for the traditions you have given us from our past generations.  As we look to create traditions for our children, may they always include the most precious gift we have been given, your son Jesus."

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Giving Thanks

It's hard to believe it is that time of year again.  Halloween is officially over and now it is time to move towards the holiday season of Thanksgiving and Christmas.  For those of you who know me, the holiday season cannot come soon enough.  I love this time of year and absolutely love the honor of making the holidays a cherished time for my family.  I always find it ironic, though, that Thanksgiving tends to be the DAY that we give thanks for all the wonderful things that happen in our lives.  The irony is that Thanksgiving should be a daily event.

When the children were all home (and that seems light years away for some reason), we used to write on a slip of construction paper what we were thankful for each day of November.  We would then take those slips of paper and construct them into a beautiful paper chain.  Imagine, with six of us, it was quite the chain, streaming around the kitchen.  I terribly miss those days and it seems as if the last couple of years, as children have either left the house to move onto their own lives or are at school, our paper chain tradition has diminished.

Although sad, it also makes me realize we don't need to have the paper chain to be reminded of all the good God has done for us.  It can, and should, be a daily event.  Many of you give thanks each and every day to God - that is a blessing I'm sure not just to God, but to you as well.  This is an area I need to do a better job with - and I'm encouraging all of us to do so.  Giving thanks seems to be something that can be easy to do - when we know, see, and feel the good things that God is doing in our lives.  Where it becomes difficult is when the good things don't seem to be with us.  I'm sure you know what I'm speaking of - those days when NOTHING seems to be going right and EVERYTHING seems to be going wrong.  It's hard on those days to find the good.  It's there - it truly is there.

I know that feeling.  I remember the days when I thought that there truly was nothing I could be thankful for; days when I even questioned if God was nearby.  Those were very difficult days and it was hard on those days to see the blessings of God in my life.  He was there, at each step.  Many times, we need to go through the difficult days to get to the good days.  This reminds me of Joseph (yes, the Technicolor dream coat one).  Joseph endured many years of slavery and heartache of rejection by his family., but it was all part of God's plan - His wonderful plan to bring goodness to Joseph and his family. 

It can be hard to see the goodness and blessings that God has for us.  If we continue to put our focus on God and not take our eye off of Him, we can see what we can be thankful for each and every day, then we will see that God is good and we should give him thanks EVERY day.  My heart reaches out to each and every one of you that during this November Thanksgiving season - and every day of the year - you will find the goodness that God has placed in your life.  Look for it, recognize it, and give thanks to God almighty that He provides for you - always.

"Dearest God - THANK YOU never seems to pass my lips enough to you.  You, the great giver, who always has every detail of my life in concert with the world, deserves thanks each and every day.  May my eyes recognize all the goodness you give to me every day, may my heart reach out to you, may my mouth share praise to you, and may my soul rejoice with you.  In your heavenly name, Amen!"

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Joy in Waiting

"And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised."  (NIV)  Hebrews 6:15

I waited, and waited, and waited.  The activities of our family seemed to be taking over time that I felt I desperately needed with my husband.  Just time for us.  As we lived through our busy days, I just longed to spend some time with Juan.  We didn't necessarily have to go on a vacation, I just wanted some precious time - time without distraction.  This just seemed to be scarce in our worlds.  Like many of you, our days are filled with work, chores, activities, more chores, more work, etc.  Yes, we might sit on the couch together for a few minutes, but that was what it was - a few minutes.  I couldn't remember the last time we relaxed with each other and laughed like we used to.  I kept waiting for that moment.  The more I waited, the more discouraged I became that our time would never arrive.

I am sure that many, if not all, have felt that desperate waiting.  Maybe we are waiting for news in our lives; maybe we are waiting for a family member to reach out; maybe we are waiting for a new job; maybe we are waiting for our children's events to take place.  The waiting game, as I've written in previous blogs, can be a difficult place for us to hang our hats.  

To fill the gap of waiting, many times we try and put our OWN agenda in there.  Been there - done THAT!  Usually, that is never very successful.  Sometimes as we wait, we fall into despair, that what we are waiting for will NEVER happen.  That can be a very ugly place.  Sometimes as we wait, we lament heavily, and bring those around us down with us.  Can't imagine I'm very fun to be around during THOSE times.  As we wait, though, we don't typically focus on the joy that may be right in our sight.

I'm sure you are all saying - JOY?  Really Susan, can there be actual JOY when we are waiting.  I think there can be, and I think we often overlook that opportunity to see the joy in the midst of the wait.  Where can the joy be hiding?  Many times, it's not really hiding - it can be staring us right in the face.  As you wait for news, we could be pouring into prayer and understanding that our God is always with us as we wait.  As we wait for family members, we can do our own reaching out to others who may need US versus US needing someone else.  As we wait for the new job, maybe we can search other passions and hobbies that can help us in our search.  As we wait for our children to move through life itself, maybe we can take time to remember the joy of memories passed and look to new memories we can make ahead.  Yes, there can be joy in the waiting.

Where the wonder of it all comes into play is that God has the plan.  There is a reason why what we want NOW is not coming.  He has that wonderful master plan that only HE knows.  Yes, don't we all long to know what that plan is?  How much fun would THAT be?  We wouldn't take the time during the wait to grow closer to our Lord - and isn't that what He wants the most - to be close to Him?  We have opportunities during the next wait to focus not on the despair, but the joy.  All the learnings and growth that happen during those times.  We will never understand God's plan - but we do have the hope in His perfect love.  Now that's a gift worth waiting for.

So, what happened on that long wait with my husband?  Last weekend, Juan suggested we take a drive to Cape Cod - about 2 hours away.  What, time for us?  I jumped at the request and before I knew it, we were off for a day of US.  I can't even begin to share the joy I felt that day.  Some moments were filled with wonderful discussions.  Other moments were silent.  The best part was that we were just "us".   The dust may have been a little higher on the coffee table.  The laundry may not have gotten done until Sunday versus Saturday.  It didn't matter.  The time was right!  During our time together, we talked about our waiting period - and realized that there was joy during that time.  Joy in seeing our family make decisions.  Joy in knowing we might have helped out someone who needed it.  Joy in doing God's will at that time so we could enjoy His will for our time.  What did that take?  Just a little simple faith!  May you have the faith to have joy during your waiting time. 

"Heavenly Lord, so often we wait for things, situations, or people in our lives.  The wait can put us into a very desperate place.  The wait can make us so impatient that we put OUR agenda into the wait versus taking the time to wait for YOUR agenda.  Please help us to be patient in the wait, and during that time, find the joy that you want us to!  Bless us to have the simple faith you provided to us.  In your name, AMEN!" 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Detour to Beauty

"He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set the eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end."  (NIV) 
 Esslesiastes 3:11

Those of you who have read my blog for the past two years must be saying, "When is she going to talk about her favorite season, AUTUMN?"  I'm sure you were patiently waiting :)  Here it is, but with an important lesson I learned along the way.

I rush to get to work in the morning.  I'm an early riser and I have no real NEED to rush, other than I believe I will never have enough time to finish all I need to get done at work.  Come on, we have all been there - never thinking that we have enough time to get something done - regardless of our occupation.  Then I rush to get home - to get the things done that need to be done at home, dinner for my family, errands and chores, etc.  In that case, nobody is making me rush but me!  I have a very understanding family.  Yet, I put this pressure on me to keep moving, moving, moving.

The other morning there was a traffici jam on the main highway I take to work.  So I needed to detour.  Once I came to grips that I wouldn't be at work at the time I had set in my mind (an hour earlier than I needed to be), I relaxed.  Then I started looking.  I looked at the houses and yards I was passing.  I looked at the trees.  Yes, fall is truly one of those times when I just can't get enough of the outdoors.  On this particular day, God reminded me of why I enjoy this season so much.  The beauty.  The incredible beauty that surrounds us, especially in New England in Autumn.  I then realized I was rushing through autumn, my most favorite season.  

I couldn't help but think of the other many seasons of my life I had rushed through without stopping to look at the beauty.   When I look back, there were times when my children were growing up that I rushed so much - instead of stopping and relishing in their beauty.  There were times with family and friends that I rushed instead of stopping and spending time - the beauty of their friendship and love.  There were times that I didn't see the beauty of a situation that God provided to me because I rushed right through it.  There were times. . . . 

The beauty of autumn has that reflective time for me, when I look back at things I can improve upon.  With God's help, I will start taking the time.  No more excuses of having to clean the house or getting three weeks ahead on a project.  It all gets done.  I will try to put aside the "rushing" and replace it with"reflection".  No, it won't be easy.  Our old habits die hard, don't they?  But I will, because I don't want to miss the beauty God provides to me - not just in the beautiful trees, but in the beautiful people!

All of you take time to read my blog, of which I am eternally grateful.  Please, I ask you to take a few more moments.  Look out your window.  Whether you live in a city, suburb, or the country, there is beauty everywhere.  Look inside your windows.  Whether it is your family, your friends, your pets, or your home, there is beauty everywhere.  Detour and find the beauty God has so graciously provided to you.  Reflect on His majesty.  We can never explain the beauty that we will find - for only God can do that.  But we can enjoy the beautiful gifts that He has given us.

"Dearest Lord, help your children.  Help us to take a detour from our busy and rushed lives to breathe and appreciate the beautiful gifts you have given to us.  They are all around us in so many things - beauty that can only be explained as a gift from you.  Thank you for those gifts, God, especially the beauty of your most precious gift, Jesus."

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Strength to Weary

"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak." (NIV) Isaiah 40:29

Sixteen years ago yesterday, when I was 36 years old, I heard those words, "You have cancer."  It's an odd thing when you hear those words.  In my case, the doctors and nurses had "prepped" me for hearing those words - they shared that there was a high probability, that I should be prepared, that someone should come with me for that appointment with the surgeon.  Yes, I was well prepared, until I heard those words.  Then everything that I thought I was prepared for went out the window.  Lots of other thoughts entered in.  The greatest of them all was, "what will happen to my girls if I die?"  And that was the last thought I had like that - after that - the battle began.

I would love to tell all of you that I was the vision of strength during this battle.  I would love to tell all of you that I was strong and ever relying on God.  That, my dear friends, would be a lie.  There were times when I felt strong.  There were times I gave my illness to God.  And then there were other times when I didn't.  I would get tired; I would get sick; I would wonder why.  Before my diagnosis, I was a woman on the move - work, children, wife, daughter - all those roles had me hoofing it!  I was always on the go and very rarely did I stop for anything.  There are many times I wonder if that was part of God's message to me during that time in my life.  Yet, you can imagine how frustrating it was to be moving on all cylinders to come to a complete stop.

Maybe that was the greatest difficulty.  Being tired - and not just tired - weary.  Completely drained of any energy whatsoever - having no energy to get out of bed, to take a shower, to only have energy to lie on a couch.  That was horrible for me.  I looked back into a journal I kept during this point in my life and found the following:  
                     I was nauseous, I constantly find myself tired - 1.5 weeks after my third chemo treatment.  It's such a horrible feeling of "unusefulness" (I know, not a word).  I really don't want to go through round four.   I am just plain tired.  I'm tired of trying to help everyone else feel comfortable with this.  I'm tired of trying to get up for work.  Yet, if I don't do this, I am afraid that people will find me weak.  That for me is unacceptable.
It was unacceptable for me, and that is a problem.  My Savior knew me better than I knew myself.  He knew what I needed.  That was when something made me move.  Something made me get up, take a shower, hug my children, and smile.  It wasn't 'something', it was 'someone'.  It was my Dear Lord.  Reflecting back, He was truly the only one who could give such strength to my being weary.  He was there despite me not always praying. He was there despite my questions of why.  He was there when I felt so lonely.  HE WAS THERE.  HE GAVE ME STRENGTH.  I look back on that time in my life and wish I was stronger in my faith.  I wish I had prayed more, read the Bible more, latched onto God more.  I didn't.  I was tired.  Yet, when God gave me the strength that I needed - He also gave me the faith I needed, the hope I needed, the love I needed - from HIM!

The good news is that when I couldn't, God could.  He didn't leave me, he supported me.  He gave to me even though I didn't give to Him.  Praise the Lord for His goodness.  I am one blessed lady!!  Unfortunately, I know many others over the last 16 years up to today that have heard the same words I heard.  They are God's children fighting the good fight.  They are moving forward and not looking back.  The Lord provides the strength for them each and every day.  Blessed are all of you who are strong, albeit weary.  Know that I am praying for you that our Dear Lord will continue to walk with you as He walked with me.

We all have times in our lives when we grow weary - when we don't know how we can take another step, we don't know how we will go on.  Rest in God's grace, for He knows you are tired, He knows you are weary, and He will give you the strength that you need.  Let Him hold you.  Let Him comfort you.  Let Him love you.

"Dearest Lord, thank you for giving me the strength to move closer to you.  When I am tired, Lord, you come alongside of me and lift me up.  When I'm not sure if I can go on, you make sure I know I can.  Please continue to walk beside me Jesus, for without you, I will fall.  With you, I know I can make it through all my earthly days."

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Storm Coming

"He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?"  Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm."  (NIV)  Mark 8:26

"The storm is coming," I remember my dad saying when we knew a big rain storm was coming.  He liked the big storms.  He used to stand in the garage and watch the lightening light up the sky.  He always wanted me to join him.  Nope, not me.  That wasn't my idea of a good time.  To watch that truly scared everything in me - and still does today.

Recently, the east coast had some severe weather.   It seems like that is happening a lot these days all across our country.  Difficult weather through rain, flooding, heat, fires, etc.  Yet, the storm that has always had an impact on me when I read about it is the storm that Jesus calmed on the lake with the disciples.  It  has always amazed me how Jesus just stands up, tells the waters to calm, and that's exactly what happened.  It is a beautiful picture of Jesus calming the fears of the disciples - those closest to him - with a few words from his mouth.

I think of that story and know that I often act as one of those disciples.  I am the one to get into the boat with Jesus, to try and live my life the way he wants me to, to believe everything he has ever taught us in the Bible.  Yet, as the disciples did that evening, I fail to have the faith that he wants me to have.  I try to live with the boldness and courage that we as Christians can live by.  Yet,  there are times when my faith is not strong, when I become afraid.

Yes, I have to admit, many of those times are when there are storms in my life.  When the winds and the waves become tumultuous, when the problems seem too great to bear, I seem to fold under the pressure.  Just as the disciples said to Jesus, "We're going to drown," I also feel that I might drown - drown in all the things that are going on in my life.  Maybe I have so much to do I don't believe it will ever get done.  Maybe I want harmony and peace that just doesn't seem to be around me.  Maybe there are financial struggles.  Whatever the storm is, I tend to wait until I am right in the middle of it before I pray, before I "wake up Jesus" to my problems.

As we know, he is there all along.  He is there long before the problems started building.  He is there far before the storms.  He is with us each and every waking moment.  It is up to me to cry out to my Lord.  It is up to me to ask for the help.  It is up to me to trust my Lord - truly trust him with all that I know.  Then it is up to me to wait for his love to surround me.  I need to have the faith that he wants me to have.  I need to not be afraid of any part of the storm - the lightening, the thunder, the wind and the waves.  He is with me - and will always take care of me.

Are you facing a storm in your life right now?  Do the days seem to bring stormy weather?  Remember, we have one on OUR side that watches over us, takes care of us, and calms the storm.  Settle into the boat with Jesus.  Give him your storms and have faith that he will calm the waters you are in.  Picture your boat mate - picture Jesus holding your hand as he calms the raging waters.  He is there for you - trust in him.

"Heavenly Father, thank you for being the one to calm our storms.  We know you are there for us to rely upon and to bring us to calmer waters.  May we always reach out to you and have faith that our lives will be more wonderful with the hope in our future with you.  Grant us the peace that comes with calmer waters, and the faith to know you are in control, Jesus.  In your gracious name we pray, Amen." 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Drivers and Passengers

"Whatever you have learned or received from me, or seen in me - put it into practice.
Annd the God of peace will be with you."  Philippians 4:9

This past week, I began teaching a leadership series at work.  The first chapter was dedicated to Drivers and Passengers.  It reviewed when we are the associate, we play the role of passenger.  Many times, as the associate we can do things that we can't do as leaders (drivers).  As an associate, we may occassionally be able to get away with coming in late, spending a few extra minutes at lunch, have a bad day, etc.  As a leader/driver, we need to be more responsible, our time is not our own, and we need to try and have very minimal bad days.

The analogy came from the driver/passenger in a car.  As a passenger, you may be able to get away with texting, talking on the phone, playing the music a bit louder, or generally have fun (as we see in the picture).  A driver needs to be more responsible, is not able to text, needs to pay attention to the road, and may not necessarily have as much "fun" as the passengers.  After class, my thoughts jumped to our lives as Christians, and the difference between being a passenger or driver with Christ.

As a passenger Christian, I see the role as being one of "going along for the ride".  Yes, you may occasionally go to worship, say a prayer or two during the week, etc.  You may very well believe in Jesus as our Savior, but some of the activities associated with being a Christian may not be activities you want to participate in.  As a passenger Christian, we may want to rely on the help or assistance of others to drive us through our Christian journey.  As with any passenger, this certainly isn't a bad thing. Having faith in our Lord is of crucial importance.  Yet, let's  look at someone who my be driving their own journey with Christ.

The driving Christian may seek out opportunities to engage in furthering their relationship with Jesus.  What does this look like?  Perhaps you see if there is a local Bible study you can join (or even lead); is there a service opportunity you may enjoy participating in; how about a daily devotional to get your morning going; does someone need your assistance during a difficult time; is the church council, church choir, Sunday school staff in need of a new member; do you have a friend who is struggling and needs your prayers - yes the list can go on and on.  Does being a driving Christian take time from our days?  It certainly does.  Does being a driving Christian mean that certain days your time is not your own?  Possibly.  Yet, what it does bring us is the joy of seeing our Lord in an entirely new light - one that blesses our lives so much greater than anything we can do ourselves.

Why is that?  Because we get closer to our Lord with each moment we share with Him.  When we fill our days with Jesus, we see the glory of Jesus in everything that we experience.  We drive down the path that HE wants us to have - not a path that someone else is driving for us.  It could be the path that we need right at that time.  Have I always been a driver of my faith?  Not always.  There have been times in my life when I wasn't able to drive - for many different reasons.  The good news is when we can't drive, there are drivers out there to help us - to drive for us - and help us to get back into the driver seat.  I am blessed to know many of those wonderful drivers and give thanks to them.

Spend some time deciding whether you are a passenger or driver in your faith.  If you are a passenger, maybe there is something you can do to get into the driver's seat and gain that closer relationship to our Heavenly Father.

"Dearest Lord, help us to drive the faithful journey you have laid down for us.  May we take the steering wheel and drive towards a closer relationship with you.  And when our lives take us towards the role of passenger, may you put drivers in our paths to help us along the way."

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Wisdom in the Truth

It's amazing how reflection can provide us different perspectives.  Reflection of our own moments, reflections of our children's moments, reflections with work, reflections on relationships, . . . .  Reflection helps us to gain perspectives throughout our lives.   It is through these reflections that we can truly value our learning, our accomplishments, our failures and our growth.  The difficult thing about reflection is that it takes time: quiet, solitude time.  So much in our lives today doesn't allow us to have that reflection time - yet, without it, we continue to march to a beat that may not be meeting our needs or God's needs.

I had the pleasure and honor of spending some time in reflection this weekend with some wonderful friends.  We reflected, we shared accomplishments and failures, we provided dreams and frustrations, we learned.  Most importantly, we spoke truths.  There's something tough about truth - it's not always easy to hear and many times it isn't what we expect.  Yet, it is in those moments of truth that we find the wisdom we need to move forward. 

I received much wisdom from these women this weekend.  Some came directly to me through conversation, some came indirectly through other conversations, all of it was taken to heart to help me learn.  I don't know about you, but there have been many times in my life, whether it be work or relationships or parenting, when I have asked for advice and counsel.  I have turned to mentors at church and in the workplace.  I have turned to my parents and siblings.  I have certainly turned to my husband and also my friends.  What is wonderful about advice and counsel from all of these people is that it has been truthful.  It may not always be what I want to hear, but I know it comes from a place of love and caring.

How about you?  Have you had the honor of people sharing their wisdom of truth with you?  How did it make you feel?  Yes, sometimes it's not easy, but when we reflect on the wisdom of truth, we know that what they have shared has mostly been correct and when followed has proven great results.  Since the beginning of time, God has provided us with people to give advice and counsel.  Think of the great prophets, of Solomon with his great wisdom.  Throughout Biblical history, the wisdom of truth has been passed down through generations.  Yet, there is something that needs to accompany the wisdom of truth - simple faith.  Faith in the wisdom you have now received and the faith that the new path will lead you to a better place.  Faith that God is the ultimate counselor who we can always turn to for the truest of wisdom.  Faith that when we listen to God's word, our reflections become action.  Simple Faith.

If you have had the honor of receiving the wisdom of truth lately, tuck yourself away in a special spot for a moment of reflection.  Reflect upon the words of others and say a prayer of simple faith that God will lead you to the path that is correct.  If you need some of that wisdom of truth, seek out that special someone who not only shares what you WANT to hear, but also what you DON'T want to hear.  Remember, the truth is what is important.  Always, confirm the wisdom of truth through God, reaching out to Him in prayer and thanksgiving - giving to Him what he always desires of us - time!  May the week ahead provide you an opportunity to reflect - and may that reflection bring you peace.

"Heavenly Father, you have provided us a great gift on Earth, those who can share the wisdom of truth with us.  May we value their wisdom and continue our learning through these gifts.  Let us have the simple faith that this wisdom helps us to continue down the path you have paved for us, one by which we grow closer to you.  In your gracious name we pray, Amen."

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Power of a Memory

"Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live.  Teach them to your children and to their children after them."  Deuteronomy 4:9

It  has been one of those weekends.  It started on Friday and, even as I write, the memories keep flooding back.  It doesn't seem to matter what I do or where I go, there is a special memory that must be tucked down deep in my heart that is getting pulledl to my mind.  I have to say, most have been wonderful and positive memories.  Memories of special times with my parents and brother growing up, memories of high schol and college; memories of first jobs, when my children were born, vacations, special dinners, even simple walks  -  all these memories just coming back.

Memories are such a powerful thing.  I found myself sharing my memories a lot this weekend, with my husband, our children, the dog, anyone who would listen!  What I found as I shared my memories was not only the look on the other person's face as I was speaking, but the smile that was coming from my own face.  I found that as I shared, all the emotions of those special moments filled me up - made me feel good.  It was amazing.

Yet, this time, something different happened than when I have had reflective memories in the past.  It happened when I was at my dad's gravesite - getting it ready for fall.  As I cleaned up the lillies that have already passed their season and laid the mum that will adorn his site for a few weeks, there was a feeling of thankfulness.  Yes, for the first time, I took time to thank God for all of these wonderful memories I was having.  Usually the "good feeling" of memories comes and goes.  This time, I didn't want it to go.  More importantly, I needed to thank God for so much at that moment.  

I thanked God for letting me remember, for bringing all those wonderful thoughts and times back to me.  I thanked Him for blessing me with those special moments.    Those moments were filled with such love and joy and all of that can only come from our Heavenly Father.  I thanked Jesus for giving me the salvation I so much do not deserve so that the memories I have here on Earth can one day be shared again with those that are already in our heavenly home.  There was so much to be thankful for.

As our lesson for today shares, when specal moments happen, they need to stay in our hearts and be shared with others.  We can't let go of them.  We need to take those moments and not just keep them to ourselves, but give them to others --  to increase their joy, their happiness, and their knowledge.  Especially our children.  I watched a mom and daughter have a special moment the other day.  It was truly precious and, yes, helped me to relive memories of my own.  I shared with that mom to keep that moment, that very simple moment, close to her as they grow up so fast.  She smiled and I knew she understood.  

Now, I know, that we all have memories that may not be wonderful and pleasant.  Yes, we need to thank God for those memories too.  Although they may be painful, through those memories we grow, and learn and move on.  Even those memories can be shared - for helping others to learn from our mistakes, our pain.  It is important to not only remember, but to share! 

As we begin the week ahead, I ask that you take a few moments, maybe after you finish reading this post, to think of a memory - a good memory - and cherish how it makes you feel.  I would love to hear from all of you and those great memories you are having.  Feel free to post them at the bottom of this blog.  And may all of you enjoy the power of a memory.

"Dear Jesus, thank you for the power of a memory.  Memories are such an important part of us; they fill us with warm feelings of happiness, joy, and yes, maybe even sorrow.  Yet, we know that all of our memories are blessings from YOU - our Heavenly Father.  Be with us as we move forward in the week ahead, and fill our hearts with gracious memories from you.  In your gracious name we pray, Amen."

Sunday, September 6, 2015

If One Shall Fall

"If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. . . ."  Ecclesiastes 4:10

I had the privilege and honor of attending a wedding on Saturday.  The day couldn't have been more perfect.  The weather was gorgeous and in this church was a wonderful joining of two families into one.  The joys and love these two young people felt were definitely shared with all of us who attended.  It was truly a blissful moment.

It reminded me of my marriage, and marriages of friends and family members.  That special day, the day that two people are joined together, is so beautiful.  With God present, the new couple feels as if their lives would be forever happy.  I felt that.  Those of you who are married probably felt that too.  Then life comes.

Please, today's blog isn't just for those who are married, but also for those who are not married.  Today it is about sharing lessons learned, and where God shows up at those moments when we truly need him most.  The wedding, the honeymoon, are incredible moments to spend with each other and share the blessing you have been given - the gift of each other that God has given to you.  The joy that surrounds those moments are to be cherished and remembered, because other moments will follow.  Maybe it is the joy of a new relationship - not just an intimate one, but a friendship as well.  What we need to remember is our verse for today.

Through the years, there have been many trials, many tribulations that we have all had to face.  What I have learned most, though, is the verse for today.  When one of us falls, the other is there to help them up.  That falling may be letting the best of a bad day at work get to you.  That falling may be a tough discussion with the kids.  That falling may be a burned supper.  That falling may be tough financial decisions.  That falling may be sickness.  That falling may be not knowing where to turn.  That falling may be one of us actually falling (I'm not the most graceful person in the world - no snickering family members!).  The importance is ensuring that the other is there to pick up the pieces.  It's not about blaming.  It's not about resentment.  It's not about holding on to what went wrong.  

It's about picking up the other person - mentally, spiritually, and yes at times, even physically.  Those aren't the things that people share during weddings and new relationships, and that's okay.  Yet it is important for all people, young and old, married 6 months, 6 years or 60 years, new and old friendships to remember, be there to pick up.  One person can't do all the heavy lifting.  It needs to be shared when those moments arise.  I have been very blessed by a wonderful husband who helps with the heavy lifting - not just physically - but mentally and spiritually.   Isn't that what love and friendship are?

What happens if neither party has the strength to lift the other one up?  The best news is that there is always someone to help us with the heavy lifting - our Lord.  He helps to lift us up - mentally, spiritually or physically, just when we didn't believe there was any more assistance for us.  Couples, whether married or friendships, can go through periods where both people have so much weighing on them that helping the other person up can feel next to impossible.  That is when Simple Faith takes over.  That is when praying to God and KNOWING He will help you up is what needs to happen.  

For our newly married couple, I pray God's abundance to be poured out upon you.  And remember, when one of you falls, lift the other one up.  And should both of you fall, always turn to God, who will lift you up with ease.

"Dearest Lord, may we always remember that any relationship will have moments where one person may stumble.  Let us be there to pick up our loved one, whatever their need may be.  When both of us have fallen, let us have the simple faith to believe that YOU are there for us, Jesus, to do the heavy lifting.  In your gracious and humble name we pray, Amen."

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Best Laid Plans . . . .

A few years ago, our church focused on reading through the Bible in a year.  I was so excited to do this, as I longed to read through the Bible, but didn't know how to start.  Many of you would say, "at the beginning" and I tried that many times.  Yet, by the time I got to the book of Numbers, my interest would wain.  So when they shared it would be a combintion of old and new testament books, I was excited.  It was a great year!  I kept the outline because I found so many times I needed to spend more time in certain areas.  Yet, there were a few books I loved - and Proverbs was one of them.  It's like a book of little gems that help us to better understand how to live our lives.  It is one of those books I should read on a daily basis!!

As many of you know, I'm a planner.  When there are plans to be made, I'm your gal.  Lists to throw a perfect party?  Got it.  Plan a vacation?  Should have been a travel agent.  Plan for a project?  In detail.  These plans not only get in my head, but in my heart.  I become very passionate about these plans.  Please tell me someone reading this understands me??  Of course, those who live with us "planners" tend to see us as a bit obsessive.  I know I probably am.  

Our lives unfold, and here, once again, our plans can get rearranged.  So many things can change plans; people's minds, people's hearts, circumstances, etc.  When plans change, they can create quite a stir in our lives, certainly for us planners.  The plans that we create and hold dear to our hearts can many times feel personal.  When the plans change, it can disrupt our lives. 

What is so important for all of us to remember is that plans change for a reason.  God has the divine purpose that we don't always understand.  His focus, His drive, His journey is the one that we need to be on - and He has a special way many times of gaining our attention to HIS PURPOSE.  Gaining our attention when our plans don't align with His can sometimes seem drastic.  Yet, that may be what is necessary for us to see what He needs us to see.  And I don't know about you, but when my plans are changed by God's plans, it is always better.  It's not that good things occur - truly great things occur.  

God is the ultimate planner - not me.  Sometimes I need some reality checks in this area and God is always willing to give them to me!  I have learned to accept them as His will instead of my will - knowing that His will is divine.  So the next time that plans seem to go array, remember, it's just God telling us that He is the one who is in control - He is the one whose plans prevail.  We just need to have simple faith to continue on His path.

"Dearest Lord, may I always realize that you knew my journey long before I was born.  May I heed myself to your plans, not mine.  May I understand that you know what is best for me and my family.  Let me rely on simple faith to guide me in your direction."

Sunday, August 23, 2015


Submission is a powerful word.  When I hear that word, it doesn't necessarily scream "AWESOME" to me.  It tends to be a word that I would associate with words like:  intimidation, weak, passive, etc.  That was, until this weekend.  Submission has taken on an entirely new meaning, and as I researched it in the Biblical terms, it became even clearer.

This weekend was a difficult weekend.  We brought our son, Christian, to his first year of college.  The only school he wanted to go to was Virginia Military Institute.  It was the only school he applied to, the only school he ever focused on.  That was it.  He was determined and worked hard to make sure his desire became a reality - and it did.  As with any military school, the incoming freshman go through many months of "conditioning"; not just physically, but mentally.  It's a matter of "breaking them down before building them up".  I can't imagine going through all of that - not to mention that this was something Christian CHOSE to do!  He actually wanted this!

So as we walked through the matriculation process on Saturday, I watched not only the incoming students, but also the current cadets, have a sense of submission - totally obeying those that spoke to them.  It was incredibly impressive and even as I think of it now, chills run down my spine.  There was a submission to the process, to the company commanders, to upperclassmen, submission.  To be totally passive in all situations (my original thought) would be difficult for me - yes, many of you know me all too well.

Yet, I researched the word.  If there was one person who was TOTALLY submissive, it was Jesus.  He did exactly as His father asked.  He came down from his throne, endured temptation, endured mockery, endured humiliation, etc. because His father told him to.  He submitted because He knew what it would bring - everlasting life for all of us that believe.  God being the ultimate leader, Jesus followed.  Jesus submitted, or invested, His earthly life in God.  Jesus had knowledge that in total submission comes great things.  Christian is submitting or investing his life to the company commander.  He has knowledge that in his total submission will come great things.

Now, the challenge is for all of us - for you and me.  By submitting or investing our lives to Jesus, we also will have great things.  We receive Jesus' grace, mercy, wisdom, peace and most pivotal, His unconditional love.  You may think it is harder to submit or invest in Jesus as He is not here to guide us.  Yet remember, it is our Simple Faith, that truly guides us to the journey He has laid out for us.  By following the path He has set before us, by submitting to His will - not ours, we will also receive great things - eternal life.  There is no greater gift for our submission than that!  When we submit to Him and tell Him that we know He is our savior, His arms will be reaching out to us from now until we see His face in heaven.  I don't know about you, but for that, I will submit!!  And please, a few prayers for Christian during these first few months as he submits would be deeply appreciated!!

"Heavenly Father, we know that through our simple faith in all that you have given to us, especially your son Jesus, we can have everlasting life with you.  This takes submission on our part to follow the path that you have laid out for us.  I pray that you will help all of us to submit to that journey.  May we be submissive to you as our great leader.  In your name I pray.  AMEN"

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Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope we can share how God's grace has been life changing and that SIMPLE FAITH, getting back to a life that is rooted in the basics, can truly set us free to achieve so much in our lives.