Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Where He Leads, I Will Follow

Say hello to my beautiful babies. Caroline is four going on forty, and Anthony will be four months next week. These precious blessings from God are two big reasons I wake up every morning...why I am on this earth. I've always thought that one of the reasons God made me was to be a momma. I am a nurse by trade, but a momma by heart. But I have to confess something. I don't always appreciate the great blessing that is motherhood. I don't always greet my children with sunshine and smiles. Many times they've gotten frowns and scowls instead. I don't always bless their innocent ears with sweet words. Many times, I speak rashly instead of thoughtfully and fill their ears with words that are anything but sweet. I love being a mother. I truly do. And my children know it.  

But when I allow emotions of stress, frustration, and exhaustion to be my guide instead of looking to The One who heals us all, I blow it every time.  

When I try to get through the many steps of my day using my own strength instead of God's, it never works out.  

When I take for granted my relationship with God, my time with God, my day comes crashing down before it even has a chance to start. 

 I find myself doubting that I am the mom that God intended me to be. Did He intend for me to be a perfect mom who always has it right and ready without even looking as if she broke a sweat? No.

He intended for me to be a Godly mother.  

A mother who isn't only herself after God's own heart, but teaches her kids to be as well. A mother who is forgiving and patient with her children just as God is with her. A mother who treasures the innocence and individuality of each child, loving them for who they are right where they are in life...whether it is making home runs or striking out. That is the kind of momma I want to be. But I know I won't get there on my own. My Heavenly Father will lead me.

"Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, "the Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him." Lamentations 3: 22-24

Thursday, January 30, 2014

"MADE TO CRAVE" BY Lysa Terkeurst

So being 32 weeks pregnant may be kind of a funny time to start talking about eating and acting healthier, but here I am!  I have to be honest...I questioned whether or not to even participate in this study because I thought how in the world could I possibly start a healthier lifestyle when I'm less than 2 months away from giving birth? 
(Thanks for this OBS leaders)
I decided to ignore those negative "I can't do it"..."This is silly" thoughts and give it a shot.  I prayed for God to show me that this wasn't a waste of my time, but an opportunity to learn more about Him and become closer with Him...and guess what?  It's totally working!  Not only am I making some healthy changes little by little...not so much with exercise right now, but definitely in what I'm choosing to eat...but I'm also arming myself with some fantastic tools that will get me started on the right path to get myself back into shape after this beautiful baby boy greets us!  Let me give you an example:  I LOVE CAKE!  I totally do.  It is one of my favorite things to eat.  Last weekend, the awesome women in my life who I love so very much decided to throw me a little shower get-together and they brought with them one of the best cakes I have ever had.  Of course, I had two huge pieces of it with extra icing.  And of course I got to take the leftovers home.  For a little while, that big beautiful cake sat in my kitchen, just begging me to eat every last bite.  And I won't lie...I did have a piece of it.  But by the beginning of the week, I asked my husband to take it with him to work for his coworkers to enjoy.  I may have actually waved at the cake as it was leaving, but it left regardless.  It had to!  It was a huge delicious unhealthy temptation literally smacking me in the face everyday.  And I've had temptations in my face everyday since...maybe not with cake, but with some kind of bad-for-me food.  But I made some decisions at the beginning of this week: #1 I was going to drink more water and less of the other sugary beverages that have been taunting me my entire pregnancy.  #2 When in the presence of healthy and unhealthy snack options, this girl was going for the healthy.  And you know what?  Even with a belly sticking out to the east coast and a backside sticking out to the west coast, I did a good job.  I drank loads of water this week and packed fruits and veggies into my snack and meal times.  So there you have my victories this week!  Now onto the verse mapping:
If you've ever read my blog before you know that I like to list several different translations of the weekly verse, so I hope you enjoy them!  
I Peter 5:7-8a
"Live carefree before God; He is most careful with you.  Keep a cool head. Stay alert."

"Give all your worries to Him, because He cares for you.  Control yourselves and be careful!" (ERV)

"...casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.  Be a sober spirit, be on the alert." (NASB)

"Leave all your worries with Him, because He cares for you.  Be alert, be on watch!" (GNT)
Talk about your good advice.  I love The Message translation that tells us to "Live carefree before God."  When I read that statement, I can literally see myself walking on a bright sunny day and just letting God be my gentle breeze, taking me anywhere He wants me to go with not a doubt or worry in my mind.  It brings me so much peace.  God brings me so much peace.  And He cares for us which is why He wants us to be on alert and practice self control over things that we could have complete control over us...things that rob our love we should be giving to Him.  He never intended us to live in this kind of bondage...living under a trap door of these things with no way out.  He wants us to be carefree and fill our hearts with His love so that we don't even have a desire for that other stuff...whatever it may be.  
Lastly, I've written down some identity statements based on a few Bible verses I always go to when I am bogged down with worry and self-doubt...

JENNY: the woman God will lift up in His own time (I Peter 5:6)
JENNY: the woman God will be with wherever she goes (Joshua 1:9)
JENNY: the woman God has commanded to be determined and confident 
(Joshua 1:9) 
JENNY: the woman God will never leave nor forsake (Deut. 31: 6)

Nothing about cake in these statements!  Cake doesn't hold me up in my time of worry, need, and self-doubt...God does.  And He always will!  God's blessings to you all!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Because God Made Me That Way

" You have searched me, Lord, and you know me." Psalm 139:1

It's hard to believe sometimes, isn't it, that the Lord knows us so much better than we even know ourselves.  Well, I thank the Lord that He does know me inside and out, good stuff and bad, the entire package, yet He loves me all the same.  He doesn't compare me to anyone because He made me exactly the way He wanted me to be.  Even though I'm far from being able to say that I never compare myself to anyone, I learned a long time ago that life is much sweeter when we embrace who we are, not who we think we should be or who someone else thinks we should be.  

I do things the way I do them and say things the way I say them because God made me the way He made me!

He's our biggest and brightest cheerleader.  He's God, and everything He does is perfect.  

Now onto this awesome online Bible study...a wonderful that God opened for me over a year ago which has changed my life completely.  It is such a blessing! 
This week, our inspirational verse is Psalm 139:1 and what a powerful message in just a few words.  But then again, that's God, isn't it?  
This week has been awesome because it really opened up an opportunity to discover a lot about myself, Our author, Renee Swope, really broke down this chapter in an awesome way to help me really understand what God made me the way he did from the inside out.

This week focused a lot on personality types, abilities, and spiritual gifts.  I'm pretty confident in my abilities and spiritual gifts, but I asked my husband for help when trying to decide what type of personality I have.  Though there are four different types, I found pieces of me in each one.  After reading each personality type, my husband decided than I am the "Melancholy type: Desires perfection." He knows me pretty well at this point, and I believe that he is right.  He made sure that I understood that all of the "Relational Challenges" didn't necessarily fit me, but some of them do.  For instance, I don't get easily depressed and I'm thrifty, but not to what I would consider an extreme, and I'm content in most situations I'm I find myself.  I actually feel that contentment is one of the most important blessings God has given us.  But I do lack spontaneity, I can be hard to please, and I am a perfectionist in the things I do most of the time.  That trait, I will tell you, is exhausting.  But it is who God made me!  

My strengths as a Melancholy-Perfectionist Type are pretty accurate.  I do work well alone, but to be honest, I don't like being a lone for long periods of time.  Aside from my quiet times in the morning and sometimes at night, or when I'm really trying to concentrate on something (perfectionist!) I really enjoy the company of people.  
I am a planner and I'm pretty organized (except for my car and our computer room).  Treating others fairly is very important to me and I try my hardest to put myself in another person's shoes as opposed to judging what they are doing and why they are doing it.  And creative...I am creative.  I love to quilt, craft, cook new things, decorate,  I love it.  I've found creativity to be an awesome way to express myself.

My God-given abilities go along with most of my strengths...creativity, singing, talking, listening.  One of my favorite abilities that God has given me is to be able to see God's greatness and wonder in the simplest of things.  Take snow, for example.  Snow, to me, is one of the most magical things God has created.  It's peaceful, quiet, and there is absolutely nothing humans can do to mess up the beauty of falling snow...no matter how hard we try.  This time of year, I'm known to wait by the window when the forecast calls for snow.  I just love it!

Before I talk about spiritual gifts, check out the Bible verse that describes them way better than I ever could!

"...so it is with Christ's body.  We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.  In His grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.  So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out as much faith as God has given you.  If your gift is serving others, serve them well.  If you are a teacher, teach well.  If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging.  If it is giving, give generously.  If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously.  And if you have the gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly." 
-Romans 12:5-8 NLT

At first, discovering my spiritual was a little difficult.  Just like the personality types, I found little bits of myself in each gift.  But after reading them, re-reading them, and really thinking and praying about it, I decided that serving is my spiritual gift.  Whether it me family, friends, or complete strangers, I love to help and serve others.  I love it so much I became a nurse so I could serve others all day long.  But it's not just about serving...it's about serving others, and helping them in ways they may not be able to do for themselves.  I do that as a nurse, as a mother, as a wife, as a church member, and as a friend.  I can think of very few things that bring me as much joy...true joy...as I experience when I am serving others.  Not it isn't always a picnic, I'll admit.  Especially when someone I'm trying to help doesn't want to be helped.  But most of the time, it is a blessing.  I've said for a long time that I truly believe God put me on this earth to help others.  That is my spiritual gift.  
What has been really awesome about this week is discovering how God gave me a certain personality type, special abilities, and spiritual gifts just so that He could impact the lives of other people through me.  Little old me.  And He did it all on purpose, knowing exactly what He was doing the whole time.  I love Him for it.  He made each of us that way.  We just have to slow down long enough to figure just how special He made each and every one of us so we can make His world a wonderful place the way He intended us to.  And with that, I'll leave you with another awesome verse that just shows how special God made us and how much He loves us.  God Bless!
"...and the whole body depends on Him.  All the parts of the body are joined and held together, with each part doing its own work.  This causes the whole body to grow and be stronger in love." Ephesians 4:16 ERV 


Friday, November 8, 2013

Being A Child of God

Well here we are in week 4 of "A Confident Heart" online Bible study. This week our inspirational Bible verse is John 1:12:

"Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God."

I wanted to dig a little deeper into this verse by sharing some of the other translations:

"But to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the authority (power, privilege, right) to become children of God, that is to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, rely on) His name." Amplified

"But some people did accept Him. They believed in Him, and He gave them the right to become children of God." Easy-to-Read Version

"However, He gave the right to become God's children to everyone who believed in Him."
God's Word Translation

"But whoever did receive Him, those trusting in His name, to these He gave the right to become children of God." Tree of Life Version

Now here is the same verse in the New International Reader's Version, but I decided to go another verse deeper in this translation because I found it so meaningful:

"12Some people did accept Him. They believed in His name and gave them the right to become children of God. 13To be a child of God has nothing to do with human parents. Children of God are not born because of human choice or because a husband wants the to be born. They are born because of what God does."

Once I read all of these translations, I started thinking about what it really means to be a "Child of God". Does being a child of God mean you have to walk a straight line in everything you say and do? Does it mean we need to lead the perfect Christian example? No. To me, being a child of God doesn't mean any of those things. Actually, we would be setting ourselves up for a pretty big failure if we tried to be children of God by doing those things because we are far from perfect and we are going to make mistake after mistake...just the way God intended. As the verse clearly spells out, we are all born as children of God because of what God does not because of anything that we do. I think we mess up with what we don't do. God is always present and willing for us to receive Him. He never goes anywhere, and He is everywhere. He is a constant. We are the ones who must accept Him, believe in Him, trust in His Holy name. I know as well as anyone else that trusting God isn't exactly a cake walk because I'm just as flawed as the next girl...on some days even more.

When I think about being a child of God, I often think about my daughter. She is a beautiful three year old gift from God who thankfully still has plenty of innocence and her heart and mind haven't been tainted with much negativity at this point. We have raised her knowing God and praying to God, and teach her how important it is to talk to God everyday and that she can go to Him with anything. If something really great has happened, she can thank Him. If someone is sick or in trouble, she can pray for God to help them. She, herself, was in the midst of a terrible cold this week, so before bed, we said a special prayer that God would heal her and make her better. She's had restful nights of sleep ever since. When we talked about her getting better the next day, we said "God made you better! Isn't that great?" She was so excited, and it's things like that which make me think about what it means to be a child of God. Though she may not have a true grasp what it means to trust God and have faith in His promises, if I ask her, "Caroline, when we are sick, who makes us better?" She immediately shouts, "God!" Not doctors (even though they sure help) or medicine or even Mommy and Daddy. Just God. 

How I wish I could be like Caroline and immediately think of God and what He will do in the midst of trouble...to always know without a doubt that He will not fail. Instead, many times I rely on what I or someone else can do to fix the trouble. But being a child of God doesn't mean that we are never going to make mistakes or that we are never going to try and "fix" things ourselves before remembering that God is still here waiting. But to me, it means that we know in spite of all that, in spite of all our mistakes and mess ups, we know that God loves us still, and just as He promised, He will not leave or forsake us no matter what we say or do. We have loads of Bible stories and hopefully stories from our own lives that show just how much God loves us and is here for us. We just have to trust in His very name! I love being a child of God!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Moving Forward...

This week...week 3 in our online Bible study...I was introduced to an awesome verse of scripture and it pretty much transformed my week, and hopefully lead me to a place where I could help others transform theirs as well. This is the verse I'm talking about...

"...to bestow upon them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called Oaks of Righteousness, a planting of The Lord for the display of His splendor." Isaiah 61:3

I've been going through a situation in my life, that while it is far from the most difficult situation I've ever been in, it is still a toughie. If I would let it, this situation could have real power to get me down and drown me in self-doubts and insecurities. I'll be honest, for a little while, it was. But that was only because #1 I was letting it and #2 I wasn't having as much faith in God to take care of it as I should've. I know so much better. I've got years of God getting me through tough situations, and I had no reason to believe He wouldn't do the same now. However, I could really start feeling my faith wander and self-doubt grabbing its hold on my life, on my spirit. Then, as He always does, God allowed a few things to happen.

First, He allowed something to occur that gave me just a little shove of encouragement and confidence, which in turn, made a HUGE difference in the way I was perceiving things. Then, He brought the above verse into my life and into my heart and into my mind, which really gave me a shove of encouragement. The verse also got me thinking, as did the reading in our OBS study book that went along with the verse. Renee compares an oak to a pine. Then I started doing it myself. I thought about a pine tree. I imagined the way it would stand in a storm...flimsy, branches flying everywhere, gusts of wind and rain chipping off pieces of its wooden trunk a piece at a time causing it to become even weaker than it already was. Then I imagined an oak in the same storm, and got a completely different picture in my mind. An oak is strong, beautiful, sturdy, meant to last. It stands tall and firm in the middle of a storm. Then the last part of the scripture spoke to me:

"They will be called Oaks of Righteousness a planting of The Lord for the display of His splendor."

Then it was like I could hear God saying to me, 
"So which one are you going to be, Jenny? Are you going to stand weak like a pine only to be knocked down by self-doubt and insecurity, or are you going to stand tall and strong, and be my Oak of Righteousness...my display of splendor?" 

 I knew my answer, and it immediately lifted my spirit. God is the answer in this situation, just like He is in all situations. He's not going to let me down. He's not going to leave me alone, stranded on an island of pain and self-doubt. He's going to lead me in being the strong oak that I know I can be and that I can encourage others to be, but only with Him as the everlasting leader.

"For the Lord will be your confidence, and keep your foot from being caught." Proverbs 3:26

And there's more where that came from! God bless and have an awesome weekend everyone!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I Believe

Online Bible Studies are back and I am super stoked. Actually, right now I am super tired, but I'll get to that story in a bit. But first I want to take a look at the definition of a very power word-a word that can bring about excitement or fear, sometimes both. I'm talking about change.

CHANGE: to become different
to make (someone or something) different
to become something else

When it comes to change, I am generally a fan depending on what you are trying to change. If someone wants to change my furniture around that's ok. If there was a vote to change the order of events of church services I'd be ok with that too (not sure if I would have much company in that though). I'm generally pretty flexible. However, there are those times when change is not my friend and I will fight it until I can't fight anymore. When my husband wanted me to change insurance carriers from a woman I'd known for decades to a company I didn't know at all, I was not a happy camper. And why was that? Why are we so afraid of change? I mean the change I just referred to was going to be saving my family hundreds of dollars a year, so why would I fight that? Because it would force me to leave my comfort zone, which in this situation, was a family friend I had known probably since birth. This was a lady whose voice was always a comfort when someone in our family got into a wreck or had a car issue because we knew that she would fix it and fix it quickly. She made me feel comfortable. She made me feel safe. And most of all, she was what I had become used to for thirty years.
I was thankfully raised in a family of believers so I do not really know a life without God. But I do know what it is like to fight the changes that God wants me to make. I'm struggling with it right now. Worry. I'm not a huge worrier, but there are certain things in my life that I feel like I couldn't stop worrying about if I tried. My family is usually what I worry about the most...their safety, their health, their lives in general. When I have a family member going through something really difficult, I immediately try and think of a way to make it all better. That is the nurse and the mom in me. But I'm realizing that, more times than not, I can't make it better. I can't make the bad disappear. And it drives me crazy. Of course I pray about these situations always, but it is difficult for me to stop asking God to just take my family out of the painful situations and put them in happy ones again. If is difficult for me to change my nature from wanting to fix everything and make everyone better to just letting it go, accepting I can't fix it, and completely handing it over to God to fix. One of my biggest insecurities is feeling like a failure when I can't fix the people I love. But this is an area of my life in which I know change is a must, and it is what I am really trying to learn through this study. I want to gain an even stronger relationship and trust in God. Our inspirational verse this week reads:

"Then you will know that I am The Lord. Those who hope in me will not be disappointed."
-Isaiah 49:23b NIV

And there it is. When I trust in The Lord with all my mind, all my heart, and all my soul, He won't disappoint me. This is His promise, and I believe in a God who does not and will not break His promises to His children. 

 "God is not a man;
    he will not lie.
God is not a human being;
    his decisions will not change.
If he says he will do something,
    then he will do it.
If he makes a promise,
    then he will do what he promised."
-Numbers 23: 19
 As a nurse, a mother, a daughter, a sister, and a friend, I have a lot of people around me who I love and who are always going through things...painful things, scary things, unfair things. Things that I would love to be able to lift each and every one of them out of...but here's the thing. I can't. But God can, and He will in His time. And now it is my time to let go and stop trying to do God's job for Him. My interference merely slows things down and gets in the way of His awesome plans which will trump mine every time. He's got this. Always has and always will.  

God bless all of you! Here are some pictures of change in my life over the years:

This is my cat, Callie.  She has definitely changed the lives of our family.  This quiet, skiddish cat turns into our guard dog when someone comes to our door that she doesn't know.   She is also quite  talkative with her high pitched squeaky meows.  She has definitely made an interesting addition to our family...that is for sure!

Even better than a cat is my family.  My husband and my daughter have forced me into change and flexibility over the years and I wouldn't trade any of it for gold!

And here we have our newest influence to change.  God gave our family a new gift this summer and we are so excited...even though we know that massive amounts of change are on the horizon when we finally get to welcome "the peanut" into our crazy world. 

So see, with change, be it a little or a lot, comes inevitable blessings from our Father.  He knows what is best for us and that is all He wants to give us.  I can't wait to see what change He blesses us with next!  God Bless!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Glimpses of God

So I cannot believe that we are almost done with this Bible study.  It has really zoomed by, but I've learned truckloads of ways that I can get closer with God and make my relationship with Him even stronger.  
The question on today's post that I am going to try my best to answer is:
"How can my life experiences help provide people with glimpses of God?"
 I do a few ministries with children in our church...Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, and a children's moment during Sunday morning service, and I've talked to them before about how they can witness to people.  Much like myself, the children aren't big on preaching to people about living a life for Christ.  I was raised in a household where telling people what they were doing right and what they were doing wrong as far as God goes what not the way to lead people to Him.  Quite the opposite, many times I've seen that kind of approach backfire and force people to shy away from God, for fear they just are not and will never be good enough.  The way I was taught and how I continue to teach the children how to lead people to God is by showing people how great God is in your life...by simply telling people, "Look what God has done in my life and look at the awesome blessings He continues to give to me!"  Christianity...having that faithful and blessed relationship with God is beautiful.  Letting people know how God has blessed you is nothing but awesome, and can help those people say and believe that not only do they want a relationship with God, but that they can have one too!  I mean who wouldn't want a life of security, love, and peace?  If we show others how God makes that happen in our lives, it's only a matter of time before they start really believing that it can happen in theirs too. 
Check out his Bible verse from Philippians 2: 14-16.  I'll offer some different translations and a little verse mapping as well.

"Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may be innocent and pure as God's perfect children, who live in a world of corrupt and sinful people.  You must shine among them like stars lighting up the sky, as you offer them the message of life.  If you do so, I shall have reason to be proud of you on the Day of Christ, because it will show that all my effort and work have not been wasted." Good News Translation

"Do everything readily and cheerfully--no bickering, no second-guessing allowed!  Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society.  Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God.  Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I'll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns.  You'll be living proof that I didn't go to all this work for nothing." The Message

"Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you will be blameless and pure, children of God without any fault.  But you are living with evil people all around you, who have lost their sense of what is right.  Among those people you shine like lights in a dark world, and you offer them the teaching that gives life.  So I can be proud of you when Christ comes again.  You will show that my work was not wasted--that I ran in the race and won." Easy-to-Read Version

And now a little verse mapping...
As Christians, God wants us to live our lives doing everything without complaining or arguing so that when people look at us they can tell who we are living for...God.  
Living in a world that is corrupted, squalid, polluted, sinful, and has lost its sense of what is right, God wants us to be a breath of fresh air and shine like stars lighting up the sky.
God wants us to live our lives so that just by looking at us, people get a glimpse of good living and the living of God.  
By doing that, we aren't living our lives in vain, but we are living them to carry the light-giving Message into the night...to offer others the teaching that gives life.  
Then on the day when Christ returns, He will see that He didn't come back for nothing.  He came back for the world!

Just as I am doing right now, give these verses much thought before you start your day, and let the Words encourage you to do God's work in the lives of others.  Let these Words, and any other verses in the Bible that are helpful and encouraging to you...let them all be our guide to our day to day.  Reading these verses inspires me to be God's light in a dark world.  I want to shine like a star in the sky so that all a person has to do to know that I have God in my life and in my heart is just watch me for awhile.  This is my Godly goal.  I will have days of success and I will have days of failure, but I will always have God either way.  And God is great!