Sunday, January 29, 2017

You're Paid For

"For you were bought with a price.  Therefore honor God with your bodies." 
1 Corinthians 6:20  (NIV)

The last couple of weeks have found life very busy.  With many different concerns happening in all aspects of my life, it seems no matter where I turn, something needs my attention.  Work, family, household chores, the list gets longer.  Please know that I have an amazing family that is always helping, always assisting.  Yet, when I finally had a moment to sit down after a long day of activity, I sighed a heavy sigh.  My daughter looked over at me and smiled.  "What's so funny?" I asked.  She said, "You're paid for."  Sure enough, on my sock, was the sticker from the case of water I bought earlier in the day.

This phrase made me think about many situations where "you're paid for" may apply.  Just earlier this week, my husband and I had the privilege to watch our son swear into the Navy.  The entire process has been an experience for our son, Chris, as well as for the rest of our family.  We are extremely proud of his decision and support him greatly.  Yet, as one can imagine, there is much apprehension, especially during these first few weeks of boot camp.  We are all focusing on the opportunity we get to send and receive letters.  

Although always respectful of the men and women who serve our country (my dad served as a Marine in the Korean War), when it is your own child who has decided on this path, it brings to light even stronger awareness of the price these men and women pay for each and every one of us.  Yes, the incredible sacrifice of giving up "every day life" conveniences is one thing.  Yet, when they are deployed into dangerous situations, they understand that they are paying the price for our freedoms.  Even as I write these words, my heart is full of pride as well as empty as I miss my son.

The reflection of these words, "You're Paid For", also took me to the One who has paid the ultimate price for me.  Our Dear Jesus paid for me with the greatest price - His life.  Through His death, I will have the ability to live life eternally with Him in paradise. His unconditional love, for you and for me, drove Him to show this love through the most unselfish act one can offer another - His life for mine.  His horrific death leads me to life eternal.   That specific thought can lead me to ask, "Am I truly worthy of eternal life?"  Jesus answers a resounds, "YES, YES, YES".  His love solidifies this to me every day.

"You're Paid For" are words that have deeply impacted me today.  Those words have followed me to thoughts of my son and thoughts of my Jesus.  So the next time you see a "PAID" sticker, may it take your thoughts to those who are paying a price for you.  Let's reflect on those people, and may our hearts be full with pride and love.

"Dearest Jesus - thank you never seems enough when we realize the price you paid for us.  Help us to be reminded of your unconditional love for us and our place in eternity.  In your name we pray, Amen."

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Family Near and Far

"...these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God."
(NIV)  1 Timothy 5: 4

As many of you know, our family recently returned from a fantastic vacation in Costa Rica.  My husband is a native of Costa Rica and most of his family still resides there.  During the first part of our trip, our immediate family enjoyed some incredible experiences while touring the country - zip lining, white water rafting, catamaran cruising, and relaxing by the water.  It was exciting, exhilarating, rejuvenating, and just plain old FUN!

Since we have older children, it is difficult to get everyone together at the same time for dinner, never mind 10 days away in a foreign country.  Yet, our family made the commitment, and I couldn't have been happier.  I knew that when we would hit US soil after this vacation, everyone would go back to their separate lives and journeys.  For a few precious days, though, we accomplished what we went there to achieve - make memories.  It could have been something simple as being in a car for four hours together - laughing along the way.  Or it was something much braver as hitting the rapids in a small raft (and I only almost fell out once!).

My greatest revelation, though, was the love our family has for each other, and support for each other is still there.  We may have grown up, and some may have moved away, but the love for each other hasn't wavered.  It was as if all that they have learned in the last eleven years as a family came together - the joy, the tears, the trials and the triumphs.  It was all there as God had planned.

The last leg of our trip brought together our Costa Rican family with us.  On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, by the pool of Melissa and Carlos, the family gathered, reminisced  and made new memories.  As an observer, it was beautiful to watch.  As a participant, it was beautiful to FEEL.  My Spanish is not very good (okay, non-existent), but we were able to communicate.  Through smiles, through touch, through facial expressions - we were able to share thoughts and love.  On that special Saturday, we came together - it was all there as God had planned.

God's plan for our families can sometimes seem foreign to us.  I know that I tend to want experiences for my family that don't always come to fruition.  I can be demanding of God on many occasions, wanting the "perfect" family times on MY time.  What I realized during this vacation, though, is that these moments come when God wants them to come - and usually those times are much sweeter, much grander, than I could have planned.

Our family moments may not always come through scheduled family reunions or vacations.  They could come with kids jumping on a trampoline, huddled around a board game, eating a meal together, or even Skyping near and far.  The important thing to realize is that God wants us to take care of each other - regardless of the distance.  God wants us to pray for each other.  God wants us to support each other.  God wants us to love each other - to take all that He has taught us and bring that into our families.  When we do what God has guided us to do, the memories will follow.  They will be better because the memories will be in His name.

"Heavenly Father, we ask that you be with our families - both near and far.  Help us to live out our faith with our families, showing our families everything that you have taught us.  May we fold our loving arms around each and every family member - whether they be streets, states, or countries away.  May we remember them in our prayers.  Thank you, Lord, for my wonderful family.  In your name we pray.  Amen."

Monday, January 2, 2017

Plate of Cookies

"Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."  (NIV) 2 Corinthians 9:7

It started a couple of weeks before Christmas.  The holidays were approaching and life, as usual, was very busy.  With work being extremely taxing, I was finding little time to do all that was needed at home to prepare for the holidays.  As I continued to check things of the holiday 'to-do' list, God kept pushing me in a direction I didn't have on the plan - bake cookies.

Yes, many of us bake cookies around the holidays.  I applaud those people!  I enjoy the decorating, the planning, the gift buying, the meal preparing.  Although I enjoy an occasional holiday cookie, this wasn't what God was nudging me to do.  He wasn't saying, "bake cookies".  God was saying, "BAKE COOKIES - AND A BUNCH OF THEM."  Okay, I can do that.  I can bake a batch or two.  Have a few around the house, bring some into work.  The driving purpose wasn't that, though.  God kept saying, "Give cookies to your neighbors."

Please let me explain.  Our lives are busy and time at home has always been precious to me.  Right or wrong, I've never been the big neighborly person.  Certainly we will stop along a walk for a quick chat, but we've never been the "let's have a barbecue" type of people.  So, this "nudge" that God was giving me seemed a bit out of character.  Better yet, He was telling me who I should be giving these cookies to!

So, I decided to take the plunge.  I took a Friday off from work, went to the store Thursday night, and bought all types of baking items.  Friday morning I woke up with a kick in my step and a cup of coffee in my hand.  Let the baking begin!  Seven hours later I had 11 different types of cookies and holiday goodies.  Yes, they are the ones in the picture.  I then went off on my distribution journey.

House to house I went.  Yet, once again, the true purpose for this baking endeavor was God telling me to take cookies to Debbie and Jeff's house.  So off I went.  Debbie seemed very appreciative and I was glad.  I went about the rest of the evening with a lighter kick in my step.  The next day, there was a little package on our porch with a beautiful ornament and a heartfelt note - from Debbie.  She shared how the plate of cookies meant so much.  They were battling with Jeff's recurring cancer and the act of kindness really impacted her.  There it was, the greater purpose.  I didn't know that Jeff's cancer was back.  I know the help a family can use during treatments as I have been there. 

Now a new journey has begun - one of meals and coffee time.  One of praying with a purpose for that family.  God has plans for us that we never expect.  A nudge for a plate of cookies has turned into a purpose for hope and healing.  God does work in incredibly mysterious ways.  It's our job to listen, to follow, and to pray.  May you feel His nudge, lean into His arms, and let Him carry you to His purpose.

"Dear Jesus, your motives and purpose may not seem clear to us at times.  Yet, let us have the faith to follow your desires so that we may fulfill the purpose that you have for us on Earth.  Please bless all who read this that they may take the time to reach out for the purpose you have given to them.  In your gracious name we pray, Amen."

Finding Purpose

Image result for Finding purpose
"Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."
(NIV) Proverbs 19:21

As I sit gazing out of my living room window towards a beautiful sunrise, it is hard not to ponder on many different questions in life.  The beauty of nature, the stillness of the morning, and the break of a new day draw me to purpose.  What will this day bring?  What should I get done?  The list always seems long, but it is driven by a daily drive to check things off the ever-growing list.

I'm talking about real purpose.  I believe so many of us, self included, look for our purpose in areas such as family, career, relationships, friends, etc.  These are wonderful places to look for purpose.  I know that I seem to have found purpose as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a co-worker, a friend, etc.  There is no doubt that if we look to these areas of our lives, we will find something that will drive our daily purpose.  These are all good and important areas to look at and strive to be better at.  These are also areas, typically, that I have looked at on my own - areas where "I" am making a determination of purpose.

Rarely in my life, though, have I gone to God to find my purpose.  Rarely have I asked Him what I should be doing.  Being that controlling person I can be, I have often told God, "I've got this one."  I know where my path is and how to follow it.  Yet, I have to admit, that my path hasn't always been the right one.  When I have followed my dreams instead of God's dreams, I am either disappointed or lost.  I get to the other side of a goal and don't feel fulfilled.  I finish that "purpose" and realize it didn't achieve what I thought it would.

In more recent years, I have turned to my Lord for my purpose.  I ask - and then I listen.  Asking can be the "easy" part of the purpose focus.  Certainly I can fold my hands, bow my head, and talk to God.  The hard part comes in the waiting, the nudging, that only God can provide to us.  Yet, when we listen and follow His purpose, our lives do become fulfilled.

Our purposes are all different.  PLEASE don't compare purposes to each other.  Remember, if the purpose is coming from God, then it is the right purpose for you.  Years ago, my friend Marcia and I were Sunday School teachers for little tots.  I had never imagined that my life would have taken me there, but that weekly purpose didn't just provide amazing gifts of God's love in the children we taught, it provided purpose and love in my heart.  Purpose then drove me to lead some Bible Studies.  Although I pray that the studies brought enlightenment for many, it was my own personal growth in the Word that helped me to understand scripture.

When God took me on this journey of blog writing, it started as participation with an on-line Bible Study.  Yet, with His grace, mercy, and nudging, I continue.  His words come through me to you.  I have heard from so many of you how His words have blessed you.  Yet, once again, it is the blessings I receive when I write and hear from you that help me to know that this current path God put me on is a blessed one.

Our purposes don't have to be large and difficult.  Some find purpose in mission trips.  Others in the pastoral call.  Others in positions of evangelism and stewardship.  Many books have been penned about this subject.  Certainly one I have always enjoyed is Rick Warren's "Purpose Driven Life".  It definitely assists on the journey of finding one's purpose.  

The important thing to remember is that our purpose, great or small, is not OUR purpose, but GOD'S purpose, when we listen with our heart.  Listen to His nudging, follow through on the purpose.  It may be for a certain day, a week, a season of life or a lifetime.  Just stop, look through the window at the stillness and beauty.  His purpose will be set into your heart.

"Heavenly Father, your purpose is one that fully completes us, that gives our hearts love.  We ask that as we come to you, asking what our journey is, that you help us to be still and listen, and share with us your vision for our lives.  May we then respond in kind, following the purpose you provide us.  Amen."

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Remember the Good

Image result for Remember the good
"In everything set them an example by doing what is good.  In your teaching show integrity, seriousness."  (NIV)  Titus 2:7

Happy New Year Everyone!  I pray that you had a wonderful New Year's Eve and are ready for the 2017 year!  I think as we get older, the years seem to pass by quicker and quicker.  I remember being younger and hoping for the year that I would be old enough to ride into town on my bike on my own; or the year that I would get my license; or the year that I would be able to go to college, etc.  Now I don't want the years to pass as quickly.  I want to hold onto them a little longer . . .

Usually, during this time of year, we think of resolutions that we want to make or goals that we want to set for the upcoming year.  The New Year is always a great time to "reset" our objectives and see what we can achieve in the future year.  This New Year, though, has me reflecting on the past year and some of the triumphs and tragedies I have faced.  I want to remember the good times that I may have enjoyed or the difficult times that I may have had.

What could they be?  Well, there were certainly many good times.  We had one child graduate college and all four children either found new jobs or have decided upon a life direction.  We have had family and friends who have been healed from difficult illnesses or accidents.  We have enjoyed weekend vacations in new destinations.  We have had visits from family far away and have enjoyed remembering past times.  There was also personal joy - moments when really great things happened that made me just stop in time.  All of these wonderful things have come with God's glory and wonderful blessings.

The difficult times?  Yes, we've had some of those too.  Difficult accidents to work through, tough relationships to deal with, passing of furry friends we were close with, and moments of despair.  There were certainly times when I just didn't know where to turn, where life seemed so "upside down" and I just couldn't figure out how to "right side up" it.  There were also moments of pure exhaustion, where working so hard at work and at home just left me exasperated.  God's glory and wonderful blessings were here too.  These difficult times helped me to reflect on the only One that could truly help get me through all of these times.  Our Dear Jesus.

So as we move forward to see what the New Year may bring us, I encourage us to review the past - see what went well, see what can go better.  Maybe take a few moments to write down all we are grateful for - the people and the things in our lives that make us happy.  Try writing down one a week - in a journal or even in a note on your phone.  What glory we may have as we reflect on the good (or difficult) time that helped us to move forward this year.

I also ask that you pray to our Lord for His help in finding purpose and direction in the New Year.  Many times, we focus on what WE want and how WE will be able to move forward.  Is that what God wants for our future?  Have you asked Him lately?  You may find that what He has in store for you is far greater than any goal or resolution we can set.

"Dearest Jesus, we thank you that you are the one who can truly "reset" us.  With your guidance and love, help us to ask what YOU want me to do with my life and then ensure that I LISTEN to receive understanding.  My ways are not always the right ways, Lord, but your ways are perfect.  As 2017 rings in, guide me to YOUR path.  In your name I pray, Amen."

About Me

My photo

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.