Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wishing On Willows by Katie Ganshert

Friends, have you heard of Katie Ganshert? This girl ROCKS! I was blessed to read and review her first release, "Wildflowers From Winter", (check out my review) which by the way, I LOVED! Katie's newest novel coming out in March, "Wishing On Willows", is a beautifully written novel that tells the story of releasing yesterday and embrasing today. We see how it takes time for a heart to heal.  Through these characters we see a reality of what loss does to a heart. Through Katie's writing style, we are able to feel the pain of the characters. Characters that at first glance you would think were secure in themselves, but at closer glance, we see the insecurities. An emptiness waiting to be filled.

We meet Robin Price and her precious son. Robin is as real as you get. She is a struggling with the loss of her husband,  and is finding her way to surrender. It's not easy for her, being a single mother, holding on to the cafe that she and her husband dreamed of having. She is stuck in this pain and memory of what was and is terrified to move forward. It's in this cafe that she finds comfort and peace. A cafe the town needs to let go of to create growth.

Robin meets Ian McKay. The town has hired Ian to develope condominiums to create new growth for the town. In order for that new growth to prosper, something has to give. The town has embraced Ian, but Robin is keeping her distance. We see God at work in their lives. He is gently guiding them to let go and let God. This is a painful process for these two people. In many ways they are both holding on to something of yesterday.

We meet many characters that are weaved into the lives of Ian and Robin.  I loved seeing them come to the place where they could embrace all today holds for them. Robin is on a journey of realizing that moving forward isn't forgetting yesterday, but allowing yesterday to be a part of this new path for today. Ian embraces new dreams now and sees that the Lord is creating new in him also. I think through each of these charaters getting to know one another, they learn a bit more about themselves.

I not only liked Robin, but I admired her as well. It's awesome to see a character grow into herself and into the woman God has created her to be. She is stubborn and strong, with a gentleness that is catching. This is one of those novels that will stick with you for a while. After I closed the last page, I found myself pondering this story late into the night. Robin and Ian are trying to hold on to a part of their past. Fear keeps them from moving forward. The town is calling for growth. When we are stuck in our hurt, the world continues to move forward. This is where we find Robin and Ian. They are on a journey of finding themselves, each other and the God who created a path for them to meet

This novel was a gift from WaterBrook Multnomah for my review of, "Wishing On Willows". You can check out the first chapter by clicking on to one the highlighted links.

Katie Ganshert graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison with a degree in education, and worked as a fifth grade teacher for several years before staying home to write full-time. She was born and raised in the Midwest, where she lives with her husband and their young son. She is the author of Wildflowers from Winter.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

He Is My Forever Companion

You know you have a wondrous friend when you can spend time together not saying a word to fill the silence. My husband and I have this kind of relationship. We can be together for hours. Him watching TV and me reading a book. No words spoken, just holding hands. It's the companionship that speaks volumes. In that silence I am able to come to a total enjoyment. It's like an unspoken joy.

I open my eyes to my Savior. I am learning to just be in silence. I say, "Good morning, Lord", and I am filled with a desire to spend time with Him. I lay my head down for rest and there I am once again seeking my Savior. A solitude of peace. A soft flow of grace. It is as though we are speaking heart to heart.

I once heard that it was selfish and rude to fall asleep during prayer. Friends, I have to disagree with this statement. For me, what better way to fall asleep, then to the voice of my Savior? I am learning to simply listen to Him. In the silence of the night I can hear my Savior's calling. I can feel His love wash over me. I leave behind the busy of the day. All the aggravation. The weary thoughts. The hurts that pile up. Words I have spoken and actions that have not shown the grace of my Lord. I lay it all down at the foot of the cross. The bitterness that creeps in after a hurtful action of another comes to mind and then holds me captive as more anger drifts in like a high tide.

It's turning a corner and finding my Savior there waiting. He goes before me each day. He knows the path He has desired for me. He too knows the path I will take. He is ready for what may come. Before I take a move, He already knows the next and has it prepared for me. There is nothing that lies in question for Him.

On a cloudy day, He brings the sunshine. On a busy day that sweeps my feet out from under me, He is there to remind me to calm my spirit. Just stopping to listen for His voice brings calm in calamity. He eases my fears when in a moment's notice I can turn to Him and simply say, "Jesus". When I have no words, He speaks for me. He intercedes when I am at a crossroad. He goes to the Father on my behalf. He reaches out for a love greater than any other.

There isn't anything He wouldn't do for me. In His no, there is an open door waiting. In His yes, there is a path for me to follow. He brings understanding in questionable moments. He clears the pathway of all debris for me. He is Truth in the moment of lies that Satan spews. He is my strength in times of trial. For it is He that shows me there is reason for all and never just happenstance. Through every circumstance He gives opportunity for me to give praise to His name.

Yes, there are days I move away from Him. Like you, there are days I get busy and say to Jesus, "Later". Only to later, I put it off for another time. The Holy Spirit calls and there I am hushing. But even in my self time He remains strong and steady. He isn't giving up. He continues to remind me. To call to me. Again, He already knows my step and He is prepared to bring me back. That is exactly what He does. He brings me back and there I am before Him in all humility  more eager to be in His presence. It is with Him that I desire to be.

There are times I am angry and I don't want to let go of it in fear that I am in some way weak. But in that very moment I hear my Savior remind me that it is in my weakness, that He makes me strong. When I am wronged and want to make it right, He is there to still my heart. Over and over again He is there with words of encouragement. He brings to mind people who have walked before me. People who have been temped and have overcome. He gives example through those shared in His Word just how my walk can have new meaning.

He loves me for me. He can always be found. He is that constant in my life. My day can quickly turn into something that is not desired. I am learning in every circumstance to call upon Jesus and wait for Him. Wait for His answer before I speak. Wait upon His Word before I act. Today, I cannot imagine my life without Jesus. He has changed everything for me.

He is my cheerleader. The one who inspires me. There is always time to share with my Savior. Whether I am doing the dishes, driving into the city or readying for bed. I can go to Him all throughout the day. He is never too busy and He is never unavailable. Yes, He is the available, steadfast Savior, who is forever present. He is my forever companion.

"Every morning, I tell you what I need, and I wait for your answer." Psalm 5:3

"I'm an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I'm thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back; I'm never out of your sight. You know everything I'm going to say before I start the first sentence. I look behind me and you're there, then up ahead and your there, too-your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful-I can't take it all in." Psalm 139:2-6

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don't worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:4-7

Sweet Jesus, thank You, for being my forever companion. You go before me and are always with me. There isn't anything that You do not know about me. I praise You, Lord. May I seek You, Lord, morning and night. Help me to see time wasted and how I can make time given hold more value.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

What's A Seed Have To Do With It?

A few weeks ago I noticed a new shoot emerging from a plant I have in my kitchen. I was thrilled to see it growing. Yes, I was giddy like a school girl. Why you ask? Because I am not a girl with a green thumb. I am the girl who kills a cactus. So, when I see something growing I am thrilled with excitement.

With a little closer inspection I noticed that this was not my plant at all, but something new. Come to find out, my husband planted a potato just to see what it would do. I can tell you, we have little shoots of all kinds of things coming up all over the house. He loves to grow things and I'm guessing, he too enjoys playing tricks on his wife who knows nothing about growing plants, much less a garden.

I do however remember growing bean plants. Remember those? You plant the bean. It loses it's outer shell and then before your very eyes a shoot grows upward and you can pretend your now Jack with your very own beanstalk. Come to think of it. It's time to plant one with my granddaughter.

That potato my husband planted is now almost six feet tall. So, of course that had me thinking and guess what my devotional study brought me to this morning? John 12:24 "I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop."

I have read this verse many times and today it was like seeing a new verse before my eyes. I love how God prepares us for His Word. I pondered this verse and had to read more.

Matthew 16:24 "Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If any one wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me."

Are you still with me? Just wait. It will all come together. I'm wrapping my mind around a grain of wheat and how I can pick up my cross. This takes change. A change in me. It's an outward change that begins in the heart. It's me letting go of my old self and allowing God room to mold me into looking more like Him. Yes, it's me, shaking off my old self. Growing out of my shell and giving myself to the Lord. Just like the grain of wheat. I too must die (to self) in order to have life abundant. I die to that old me and make room for the new me God is creating.

Look at this. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come." 2 Corinthians 5:17 As that old layer of self falls off there is something far greater that emerges. Life. Not only one life, but a life that spreads the love of Christ. Just how I looked closer to my growing plant. I knew it was different. That is how the world will see us as we move and grow closer to the Lord. This world will see an image that intrigues them. One in which they too will want to know more about.

We are to plant ourselves right where we are. Right now. Here today. Jesus is waiting. Here's the thing. Change doesn't occur over night. Change happens over time with tender love and care. It's watering and nurturing. For me, I'm finding the more time I spend with my Savior the more of that old self is gone. I'm more aware of who I am and who it is Christ is calling me to be.

I find myself in awe of God's creation. I watch the birds at my feeders each morning and evening. I am wide eyed in wonder as they patiently wait for their turn to sit at the feeder and feast. My heart is ready to burst open as I think of myself at the feet of Jesus, patiently waiting for His Word to touch my soul. I feast upon His Word and it brings me back time and time again. His Word renews my mind. It brings clarity and peace. Comfort and joy. I can find everything I need, right here in His Word.

I find a Jesus who loves me just the way I am, but as Max Lucado says, "God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus." So, here I am, feeding on His Word. Giving myself to Him. I lay myself down and am reminded, I am a daughter of the King. I am precious. I am loved. I am me, the girl, God created. He loves me so much, He wants to spend time with me. I then realize, He is my companion. My Perfecter. I give Him all of myself and He rejoices. He brings about change in some areas and magnifies others. I now find myself in Him.

When I realize who I am and who I am to be, it makes sense to pick up my cross and follow Him. He knows me. He gets me. He has for me greater things than I can imagine. It's when I die to self that I am giving Him room to do a work in me. Patience creates beauty.

Now as I look over at this potato plant, I no longer think it silly. God used this plant to create something new in me. It caused me to see myself in a whole new way and friends, that is the plan of our Savior. We are to see ourselves as His creation. We belong to Him and it is in Him we find who we truly are to be.

"For I know the plans I have for you-this is the Lord's declaration-plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.. You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:11-13

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Gotta Prepare With The Right Stuff

There are days I have a hard time dealing with folks. Gosh, I even have a hard time dealing with myself. Doubt slips in and I hear the words, "You can't do it. You just don't have what it takes." Crabbiness can overtake me and all it takes is one person to say the wrong thing and I am ready to explode. I battle my flesh on a daily basis. Most of the time I am my own worst enemy. I allow Satan to enter my mind and once he is there, gosh, the heart is soon to follow and I am having one mountain of a bad day.

As the day comes to end I'm wondering, why in the world did I say that to my son? I find my words were not encouraging, but more discouraging. I am then going to my son asking him to forgive me. My hubs can say, "Wow babe, that's a big bowl of ice cream", and before anything else can be said, I am there with the words, "What, you saying I'm fat?" I am that girl with an A-T-T-I-TUDE!

You know those days. Your head is already pounding. Nothing is going as planned. Your tired from the day before. Did I even sleep last night? The chores are waiting and you don't even have time for coffee. You think you have lost your glasses. After spending hours looking for them, you now realize they have been on your face the entire time. The kids are bickering. The dog is no longer begging to go outside as she has all ready done her business in the floor. The afternoon arrives and you realize your not even dressed yet. That chicken you planned for dinner is still in the freezer and your husband will be home in an hour. The UPS man knocks on the door and you now wish you had combed your hair.

We each have those days of craziness. Each filled with something to tempt us. I back up and realize that I didn't begin my day with the Lord. I usually pray before my feet hit the floor. Not today. I wake and have coffee as I do my devotionals. Not today. I just skipped God and moved about my busy day. Yes, you know don't you? I can always tell the days I begin in the Word from those days I leave the Lord behind. On this day I am reminded to back up and start again. I take out my devotional.
Don't you love it when the Lord gives you exactly what you need? It may not be what we want to hear at the time, but friends, it's what we need. There is nothing sweeter than being washed by the grace of God. The verse that is the reading for today is Ephesians 6:11-13 "Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against darkness, against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand."

That is exactly it. I woke that day of just falling short of growing legs like a crab. I didn't begin my day in the Word. I wasn't prepared for the junk Satan was going to throw my way. He is the master at deceiving us. He will try everything to stop us from completing God's purpose in the day. I can honestly tell you, he had a hold of me on this very day. I was not only feeling angry, but down on myself. You know how anger creeps in and pretty soon your now lost in the anger of the last sixty days. It's like he brings everything to the forefront to throw you off balance. Have you been there?

What I love about this verse is the last sentence. The last four words. "To take your stand." Yes, God wants us to be prepared for every situation. He wants us to be focused on Him and be aware of the evil around us. He too wants us to stand! I am to stand and tell Satan, "Get behind me Satan, because it is the Lord who is leading me today and always!"

We prepare for everything in life. What better way can we prepare than to prepare our hearts, minds and soul for the day ahead? It doesn't matter what happens. As long as we focus on Jesus, He is going to move in the situation. I need to shift from having an attitude to being one of gratitude. Just think about how much our day changes when we simply start praising the Lord for each and every blessing. That's good stuff right there.

I dug a little deeper into the Word and I realize there is more we can do. Yes, we put on the armor. We protect ourselves against the attacks of the enemy, but is there anything we should be taking off? Yes indeed! As we put on the armor there are some things the Lord wants us to remove from our thought and heart.

"But now you must also put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator." Colossians 3:6-10

"And don't grieve the Holy Spirit. You were sealed by Him for the day of redemption. All bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ." Ephesians 4:30-32

Yes, we have the Holy Spirit to lead us in this battle. He is here within us to warn us, to protect us and to give us what we need to stand. God is so good to meet us right where we are. He equips us for the battle. Tells us what to put off and what to put on for the day. When I remain focused on these things I am strengthened through my Savior. There is nothing that can hold me down.

I begin to pray. I go through the armor. I remove all the ugly stuff. I take it off garment by garment. It's all that stuff that gets in the way. It's then I place on the armor. I then remember, I am sealed with the Holy Spirit. Friends, that should have us on our feet and ready to go for whatever the Lord has waiting for us in our day. There is nothing for us to fear as He surrounds us with protection and fills us with strength.

When those ugly thoughts begin to creep back in I  look to scripture. Again as the Lord is calling us to dress in His armor, He too fills us with the gifts of the Spirit.  "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23 As I concentrate on each one I am filling with a new peace. I feel the Spirit moving in me. Yes, this is just what I needed. I may have had an ugly beginning to my day, but the Lord understands. He meets me right where I am and He knows exactly how to turn it around.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Who Needs Their Feet Washed?

Thirteen walk into a room. Twenty-six dirty feet. Men who have walked the sandy roads to share a dinner. Only One reaches for the basin and towel. He kneels as the others stand in amazement. Why didn't they think to do that? I ask myself, "Would I have thought to do that?"

Can you see the room? Imagine being in line to have your feet washed by your Savior. This had to be one the most tender and humble of moments. To sit before Jesus, placing your feet in the basin, and having Him gently wash your dirt covered feet. I don't imagine there was a lot of talk in the room. I can however imagine a holy hush.

"He came to Simon Peter, who asked Him, "Lord, are You going to wash my feet?" Jesus replied, "If I don't wash you, you have no part with Me." Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head." John 13:6-9

Peter did not realize he would soon deny Jesus. Deny ever knowing Him. Being a part of Him. But Jesus knew. Jesus washes the feet of Judas. The one who would soon give the silver away for His life. Thirty pieces of silver in a bag. The one holding the bag, a giver. One who was known for his charity. He would now be known as the betrayer. Jesus knew this whole time. Before they ever entered the room. Jesus knew.

"When Jesus had washed their feet and put on His robe, He reclined again and said to them, "Do you know what I have done for you?" You call Me Teacher and Lord. This is well said, for I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you." John 13:12-15

Jesus gives us a clear picture of love, forgiveness and humbleness in this room. The Savior should be having His feet washed, but He is doing the washing. Is there someone in your life that needs their feet washed? I have questioned myself this morning of this very thought. Forgiveness. Grace. Mercy. Love. I see hope in this picture. I see a humble heart. One who doesn't think of themselves greater than another. One willing to go the distance.

Jesus speaks, "I assure you: One of you will betray Me!" John 13:21b Can you see the disciples looking at one another in wonderment? Each thinking nothing of the sort could ever happen. Jesus and Peter have a conversation. Peter seeks to understand.  "So he leaned back against Jesus and asked Him, Lord, who is it?" John 13:25 This is the part that brings it home for me. Here is Peter, the one who will deny Jesus, pondering Judas doing something so horrendous. I can see him having the,  "How could he!", attitude. Really, put yourself there. I can hear Peter saying, "What? Jesus are You being for real right now? Judas? Are You sure? I mean he is so charitable. He loves to give to the poor. I mean has walked among us. He is part of You." Not that any of us have ever done such a thing. Surly not us. But others, right? Humility in it's deepest moments would hit these men shortly.

Time would change before their eyes. Their Savior would be taken and they are left in their dirty feet, now  understanding the message in full. "I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people  will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:34-35

That's a simple commandment, right? To love one another seems reasonable. Jesus doesn't tell these men that it will be easy. When we are to love one another we are to do so in our Father's love. That changes everything. Who would have thought a foot washing to be so powerful. A moment in time for us to all look to for example.

"I assure you: A slave is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them." John 13:16-17 Jesus gives us a clear picture here to not think of ourselves as greater than other. Position means nothing. At the foot of the cross we are all equal, friends. We are to do for others. We are to do the work of our Savior. We must reach out beyond ourselves and love as we want to be loved.

Okay, let me be real. There are a great many of people's feet that I need to wash. First, I need to begin with my Savior. I need to let go of bitterness trying to grasp for my soul. I need to lay at the cross the hurts that plague my heart. I need to simply forgive. I need to love past the words of forgiveness and allow my actions to live presently. There is no time for later. Time is now.

Feet washing was for the lowest of all servants. Jesus took on this roll as Servant to those He was to show love to. I can only imagine as Peter and Judas sat down before Jesus. Maybe He wanted to prepare them. I suppose He was. Just maybe He wanted to ask them, "Why? After the love that I have shown you. Why?" But see, this is Jesus. He loves beyond all measure. This is the Jesus we are to be.

For me, I guess the message I walk away with is this: I need to see past my own feet. I need to place my Savior first in my life. I need to walk with a humble mind and a heart filled with grace. I don't need to point at others when I have my own issues at heart. I am to be a servant of the Lord. Placing others before myself. My faith will grow as I step out  and live the example that Jesus shares with us here in this room.

Dear Heavenly Father, I come to You, humble and upon my knees. Your love is so filled with mercy. A mercy I need to carry. You live grace. A grace I need to give freely. Jesus, help me to forgive. Help me to see beyond my own hurts and see the heavenly purpose. Lord, wash me in Your love. Fill me with Your grace. May I walk in Your mercies new each day. You have given us the example of love. A pure and undefiled love. Show me, Lord. Show me. Take my life and make it Yours. Teach me Your ways and may I forever walk in obedience to You, Lord.

Friday, January 18, 2013

It's Time To Celebrate Our Imperfections

I'm learning that if I totally have my eyes open and my heart ready, that I can just about find a lesson in everything around me. Ladies, lets be real. It's hard at times to be us, isn't it? I recently seen Brooke Burk-Charvet, speaking about her thyroid cancer and the scar she now wears. She was sharing how difficult it was having a scar right there on your neck for everyone to see. I too have one of those scars. I remember when the bandage came off and found myself looking in the mirror. I was horrified. It was one monstrous scar. It's a little over two inches across.

Over time my scar has faded. At first I would notice people looking at me and I knew they were wondering what in the world happened. I looked as if my neck had been slashed. I didn't want to wear any kind of shirt where my scar was visible. I even kept my bandage on longer than I had to. Now, it's a different story. That scar has grown on me. It's a story I can share of God's glory and the power of His healing.

I carry quite a few scars. A few are on my wrist. Battle wounds of a softball player. Yes, each scar has a pretty cool story attached. It's funny really. I remember having surgery and asking, "Is this going to leave a scar?" I was terrified of being imperfect. It plagues us to think of what others will say about us. About the things they will wonder. With each passing year my scars fade and I have almost stopped wondering about the thoughts of others.

I carry scars that cannot be seen from the outside. I think we all do. Life impacts us. There isn't one decision that doesn't leave an impact on someone. I think it's more about what we do with those scars than the appearance of them. Don't you?

We have visions of what we think perfection looks like. Is it really ten fingers and ten toes? I don't think so. See, God doesn't make junk and He surely doesn't make mistakes. He hasn't placed illness cloud over my head, but He has allowed certain circumstances to touch my life. Yes, your life too. There is nothing that is just happenstance. God can bring beauty from ash. Every single flaw and imperfection we wear, He can use for His glory. Our Savior has His own scars. Life giving scars that tell a wondrous story.

Whether it's our attitude, our actions, or our beliefs. We are all flawed. We have imperfections. Grace creates righteousness. Praise gives over to glory. Forgiveness brings a humble heart. All of these things bring about perfection in Jesus Christ. In His eyes, He doesn't see me as being flawed. He looks at me with the love of a Father. A Father who chooses to see beauty.

Read these words slowly and allow them to ruminate in your heart. "God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus." Max Lucado That's great stuff isn't it? Powerful statement of truth. Jesus loves me beyond my flaws. Yes, beyond my sin. He chooses to love me today, just the way I am. That's a great and mighty love. I can get hung up on my flaws. I can go to Jesus asking forgiveness and He forgives. My sin is cast away never to be brought up again. It's me that can get hung up on my sin. It's me that cannot forgive myself. It's me that continues to bring it up. It's Satan who likes to keep me locked there. That's a sad place to be. Because when we are focused on our flaws and imperfections there isn't room to see the glory of God take place. Friends, there's a lot of glory taking place. We are just stuck and refuse to allow ourselves to see it. Why? We have been told that we are unworthy so many times we are now beginning to believe those lies. We are worthy. Why? Because Jesus lives in us. We are His children. Whether we are saved or have yet to accept our Savior, it doesn't change the fact that we are loved!

Yesterday while my husband and I were having Dove chocolate with our coffee, he opens his chocolate and tosses the paper to me. Wait. Let me back up. After he creates a plane, he flies it to me. lol The wrapper says, "It's OK to be fabulous and flawed". That plane went straight for my heart. I pondered this Dove wrapper and decided I would like it better if it said, "It's possible to be fabulous and flawed". I tell you I wanted to stand up and shout, "YES!" Friends, we can be fabulous and flawed. This is what Jesus wants us to tap into. He wants us to see our value goes far beyond our scars and our sins. It's us as humans that are a little mixed up in our thoughts of imperfection. We choose to see the imperfection before the beauty. We choose to focus on the scar and not the story.

I can wake feeling wonderful. Read my devotional. Seek the heart of God. Twenty minutes later I'm cleaning a dirty kitchen and furious over the mud that has been tracked through the hall. I can snap at my husband. Be frustrated at the person on the other end of the phone. My attitude can completely change without a moments notice. By the afternoon I'm telling myself how unworthy I am and there is my Jesus reminding me of His grace. He reminds me that His mercy is new every time I choose to accept it.

"Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now." 1 Corinthians 13:12

We are a work of art. A work in progress. God is creating in us a masterpiece. A one of a kind. There is no one else exactly like you. I think that is the coolest thing! My Savior created me just the way I am and it's Him that is still molding and shaping me. When He is finished no one will recognize the new me from that old girl of long ago. He takes each blemish and scar and pieces them together like a puzzle to tell a story of redemption.

Friends, it's time to look in the mirror and celebrate! It's time to be comfortable in our skin and know that we were created in love. We are complete in Jesus. He isn't finished with us yet. There may be many more scars to come. As each one tells a story, think of it as a chapter in your book. Don't close the chapter just yet. Keep reading. God doesn't just leave us where we are today. He continues working in us. We are valued. We are loved. If you have to repeat those words to yourself throughout the day then do so. Remind yourself that you are one special child of God!

What A Friend I Have In Joy

Picture a yard filled with flowers of every kind. Gardens at every corner of the house. It's a terribly warm day in Missouri, but here I am in the yard of my friend, Joy. I have always found her name to be the definition of her walk. Joy carries such a beauty. A beauty rare. It's as though her joy is contagious and her passion for life gives way to allow her Savior to shine through her every action.

Joy is my Sunday School teacher and on this day she has invited me over for lunch. A lunch in where I walk away with a new recipe for chicken salad and a truck filled with flowers to plant in my own summer yard.

I'm not sure when my relationship with Ms. Joy went from being my Sunday school teacher to my friend. It's as though it just blossomed. Maybe our love for the Lord connected us. She is not only my friend, but my sister in Christ. She has been my mentor for many years now. I look to her for my example to follow. I hope to one day become the woman she is today. Life has not always been easy for this woman of grace. But life has taught her a great many lessons. Lessons that she is now teaching me.

She is spunky and fun. She's quirky and beauty all wrapped up in one. She is retired now and even more busy than she was when she was working full time. Yes, she is the woman on a mission to share the love of Jesus. I think the Lord sees that she is a woman after a heart like His and He has opened door after door for her to shine Him through. If she sees you in Walmart, prepare yourself for a hug. She will take your hand and pray wherever you are at the moment. She refuses the bad things in life room where Jesus is waiting for a blessing. This is a woman completely filled with joy. If I had to describe Ms. Joy I would say she is a colorful garden of sprouting daffodils. She has a heart inviting. Yes, she is that friend you could sit with for hours and when your visit is over your already planning your next. She cares for people. I mean, she really cares.

In many ways I look to Ms. Joy with a daughter's eyes. When I have been absent from church it has always been Ms. Joy who is calling me. She isn't calling to question me with condemnation, but calling to simple let me know that I am missed. She gives encouragement through her words of wisdom. Inspiration through her own walk with the Lord.

What I love most is that she loves me just the way I am. She prays for me and intercedes when she knows I am walking a difficult road. She knows all about difficult roads. It's through her own life experiences that make her a wondrous teacher. She isn't perfect. Maybe that's where her beauty shines through. She is always excited to share the Lord. She is His willing vessel. She knows the meaning of grace and forgiveness. It is her own trials that has taught her great lessons that has lead to a great faith.

She has taught me to be humble in every situation. To pray before I speak. In fact, she has taught me to listen far more than I speak. She has taught me the value of having a quiet tongue. I don't have to speak my mind about every issue. If you know me, well, lets just say, I often speak up when I should be sitting down. My tongue tends to get me in trouble.

As women we have relationships that seem to take everything out of us. But then here is my friend who makes everything seem so easy. With Joy everything seems to flow. She has taught me to reach out and not allow fear to hold me back. My faith has grown because of the example she has given me. If there is one woman who has made an impact on my life it would be Ms. Joy.

She has helped me to see the good in every situation and to know the Lord is always in control. When I'm going through a difficult time she doesn't have to know every detail in order to pray for me. One lesson of value she is teaching me is that we go to church to worship. I am to go to church and be so focused on Jesus that no amount of junk that gets thrown my way can come between my worship with Him. Focus is an intentional action. If my focus is shifted off of Jesus I must make the choice to let it go and place my focus back on Him. She has taught me to let go of those issues that seem so big at the time. She reminds me that Jesus has a plan and purpose for me and it isn't to focus on things I cannot change. That's good stuff, isn't it?

When I'm spending time with Ms. Joy my heart is at ease. We can share our love for Jesus, we can laugh about silliness and we can take hands and pray. She has helped me come out of my comfort zone and reach out in ways that I would have never thought to do. I can make a difference in the life of another simply by praying for them.

Ms. Joy is a servant of the Lord. A child of the King. She has surrendered her life to Christ. All of it. She trusts Him. This is something I am learning still today. There are times I feel unworthy and she is quick to remind me that I am. I surrender pain and burdens to Jesus only to pick them up again. She is there to guide me to the cross and trust Him with everything.

This journey can at times be lonely. We can feel as though we are walking in the desert. Having a friendship with Ms. Joy has changed my life. She is a woman I am inspired by and one in whom I am inspired to become. A woman of God in every way. Giving every situation over to Him and seeking Him in all I do.

She has encouraged me to be present in His Word. To trust Him even when things don't seem to make sense. Yes, my relationship with Ms. Joy is build on the foundation of our love for Jesus. She is the woman who inspires me to become the best woman of God I can be. She has taught me to find strength in the Lord. In my weakness He can move me to become strong. My faith isn't something that just happens. It's intentional. My relationship with Jesus is the most important relationship I have.

These are qualities I hope to obtain as I grow with the Lord. Having a friend like Ms. Joy by my side creates in me a God chick who knows nothing is impossible when I am one with my Lord.

"Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice."
Proverbs 27:9

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Just Like Jesus Devotional by Max Lucado

This devotional blew me away. I was totally surprised. I'm a Max Lucado fan. I admire his work, but sometimes it can be repetitive as book after book comes out. This is one I missed in 2002 and has now come out repackaged. It's a thirty day devotional. Thirty days spending time with Jesus. The introduction alone is praiseworthy. I pondered the introduction for days. As he asks, "What if for one day, Jesus were to become you?" This was such a powerful question for me. There are other questions to follow that make you stop in your tracks.

In each devotional, Max Lucado shares a scripture verse. Along with that verse he shares a powerful devotional. He focuses on four components: Thinking, hearing, reflecting and speaking. Along these lines he ends the devotional with a few questions that are sure to make you think and grow. There is just enough room to pen your answers. I love this aspect. I enjoy working through a devotional and later coming back to it to see just how the Lord has moved in my life.

Although this devotional is created for a thirty day journey, you could use it in any way easy for you. It too would be a great teaching tool. These are life lessons Max shares. Lessons from the Word. Wisdom for the heart. He shares in this devotional how God loves me just where I am right now. He loves me so much He doesn't want me to remain as I am, but grow to be more like Jesus. In fact, his words are, "God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus." This statement sums up this enter devotional.

This is one devotional I will return to again and again. I too think it's one you will enjoy.

This devotional was a gift from Thomas Nelson for my review.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Extend The Branch Of Grace

Have you ever dodged someone at the grocery store? It happens doesn't it? A few months back my son and I were walking down an aisle, coming closer the the check out. We had grabbed all our items and we were focused on having lunch. I look ahead and there is a woman and her daughter coming toward us. I see her look at me and before I knew it, they turned down an aisle faster than you can say, "Oh no she didn't". Oh, yes she did. I walked along side my son and he says, "Mom, did she just do what I think she did?" I'm not even sure I replied at the moment. I just shook my head in unbelief. The saddest part is that we are members of the same church. I think that's the part that really threw me for a loop.

I mean, we don't have to like everyone. I get that. I really do. But being rude and avoiding someone just so you don't have to say, hello, is just..well, wrong. That put a funk in my day. I found myself with a bad attitude. My son was feeling my attitude. For the rest of the day I questioned myself. What's wrong with me? Am I not good enough? Did I do something to offend her? Why would it be so terribly difficult to just look at me and my son and simply say, hello? I felt unwanted and unloved. I took that moment and it created a day that was no longer fun. I just wanted to go home.

Can I just say, hurt people, hurt people. When something is off in our life we often take it out on others without even thinking about. Grace. Sweet, sweet grace. I was ready to extend grace. But sadly, this wasn't the only time. It later happened again. This person walked right in front of me and turned her back to me as she spoke to others. There may have been a foot in between us, but for me it felt more like a few miles. I felt disconnected. Here I was again wondering what in the world was wrong with me. Has this ever happened to you? Praise Jesus, He can fill that gap with grace. He can cover the ground that seems to seperate us.

It's in these moments I go to Jesus with my brokenness and say, "Jesus, you don't know how this woman makes me feel. You don't understand what she has done to me." I hear the words of my Savior as though He is right here next to me. "Yes, daughter, I do understand. More than you know, I understand how you feel at this moment."

It hits me. She could have been having a bad day. Someone could have put the yuck in her day and now she is placing that yuck on me. I have no idea why she would turn from me and not choose to speak, but you know what? This is where grace comes in and makes a difference. It covers the distance between us. It gives way for Jesus to do His mighty work. We not only ask for grace daily, but we extend it to everyone we meet.

I can tell you that I'm praying about this situation. I could make a choice to personally go to this woman. I could pray for this woman. I could totally forget it and let it go. What would you do? Would you just decide that it's no big deal? Maybe reach out to her the next time I see her?  I need to totally make an effort to extend grace to her and simply say, hello. There could be something here that has me unaware. With us humans there is no amount of wondering that can bring about peace. It must be an active effort. Maybe the Lord has given me this time to pray so when that time comes I will be prepared.

It's not easy, is it? But then, friends, when we focus on our Savior, we see Him filled with grace overflowing. We are to extend the branch of grace just as our Savior extends His unyielding love for us. When we extend the branch of grace it gives that other person room to feel comfortable. It eases their burden and it doesn't have thorns of shame but blossoms of acceptance. We don't have to accept ones behavior, but we do accept the person in grace.

Next time we find ourselves in the shopping mall and we see a woman we don't really like, don't duck and hide. Extend the branch of grace. I don't think those meetings are just of chance, but are opportunities to see God do something big.

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things."
Philippians 4:8

Dear Heavenly Father, help me to extend the branch of grace to all that cross my path. Whether they are friend or foe, may I focus on You and Your love and see this person with the same grace and love You extend to me. May I give You the opportunity to make a difference in every situation. I know there are no chance meetings. You tend to place those that we struggle with in our path for reasons we are unable to see until we shift our focus to You. Thank You, Lord, for giving me grace. Your sweet, sweet grace.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Don't Allow The Pain To Get In The Way

I reach for drink of coffee. I ponder my day. Over the last few weeks I have been in more pain than normal. Living with chronic pain isn't something you can ever prepare for and you find yourself dreaming of one day with nothing hurting. Head or body.

A few weeks back I took a fall. Now this I cannot blame on any illness. This was more along the lines of my own goofiness. I was in the bathroom, with my leg propped up on the counter, as I was fixing my hair. Have mercy. I was on the floor before I knew what had happened. I found myself just laying there, thinking, "How in the world did that happen?" Well, I went out that night to see, "The Hobbit", with my girlfriend and was in pain, but not bad. It didn't hit me until in the middle of the night when I tried to move. Ouch!

There are days where I feel like if it isn't a migraine it's my Fibromyalgia acting up. Maybe it's my thyroid levels again. Oh wait, it could be the arthritis that I have inherited. Do you ever just wanna say, "Thanks a bunch, but you just keep that in your genes"? Asthma is horrid in the winter. Ah, but see, although I know I'm a mess, I know it could always be worse. I didn't come to that conclusion over night. It has taken me years to get there. Yes, I live with chronic illness, but it isn't going to hold me captive. It is something I have. It's not something I am.

When you live with pain or just simply having health issues all the time, you almost get use to it. A morning comes along where your head isn't pounding and your body doesn't feel like you've been hit by a bus and you wonder, "Hey, what's going on?" You hop out of bed with excitement! Your ready to head for the zoo and maybe make it an all day event. You get ready, get all packed up and then there it is. Yes, that cluster migraine that seemed as though it had packed it's bags and headed north. But no such luck. You might be thinking you have a black cloud over your head about now, but no. It's the weather front that is right over you that has brought on the vision change and the jack hammer in your temple.

On Saturday I woke excited to spend the day with my cousin. I was sitting up in bed having coffee. I turned to my husband and heard something pop. I should say, I felt something pop in my neck. Not sure if it could be heard, but it was sure felt. Once again, I thought, "You have got to be kidding me!" I was determined to go and share the day with Melissa. I'm not sure if the pain subsided or it was my sheer determination. You know, sometimes that is exactly what it takes to make it through the day. We shared a terrific day of lunch and the St. Louis Art Museum. It was pouring rain during my drive home. My neck was beginning to feel very stiff. By that night I was crying. The pain moved from my neck and down my spine. It was horrid. But you know, I just kept thinking, "At least it's not a migraine".

That pain has hung on even today. It's much better, but it has left a few sore spots that battle for my attention. So for me, that's the thing. Where is it I want my attention to be focused? On my pain or am I going to add up my blessings? If I allow the pain or bronchitis to hold my attention I am down in the dumps, covers over my head and the pity is piling up. Isn't that right where Satan wants us to be? He sure does. If our focus remains on the pain, there isn't room for the Lord to move. If my eyes are focused on the pain I miss out on blessings that the Lord has for me on this very day.

He doesn't just put them aside and say to me, "Okay Rob, when you feel better, take a look over here, because I have some special gifts set aside for you." He looks at me, His daughter, and says, "This isn't all there is for you today. Shift your focus off your pain and spend time with Me." Yes friends, it's then that my perspective changes. My pain isn't gone. It's still there, but I'm no longer focused on it.

My husband purchased a few new bird feeders for me. He filled them up and I waited. The birds are there every morning and evening feasting on the treasure before them. Today I seen two different kinds of woodpeckers that are new to the feeder. I can just look out and yes, it's mighty cold here in Missouri, but it's not even the cold I see. It's the beauty of God's creation.

I think of the little things, having a great cup of coffee with my husband. Being able to pen from my heart. Stacking books around my bed and escaping to another time and place. Opening my Bible and getting my devotionals out to focus on the Word. Spending time with Daisy makes me smile. Looking at old photos of our children. Getting a phone call from my granddaughter. Friends, when we are in pain, we must make an effort to move our focus. We must be more determined than ever before. It's through this determination that I have grown closer to the Lord.

It's finding motivation in others who live with chronic illness. It's making a choice to say, "Okay, I may be in pain today, but I refuse to give in and let it take captive my blessings". Even more importantly, it's taking those pain free days and running with them. It's learning to not take one single day for granted.

I've learned I can express myself through my pain. So many people live with pain. Pain that knocks them over. We live in a world filled with hurting people. I can start a prayer journal. I can spend a few minutes sending texts out to others just to add a smile to their day. Write out a few cards to those we know are struggling. Most of all, seek the Lord and ask Him, "Lord, what is it You are calling me to do today? Take my day and use it for Your glory". That totally changes the focus of our day. The Lord becomes our focus and it now becomes a mission to reach out to others.

I'm not saying this works for me every day. There are days the pain is tough. Sometimes migraines go on for days and the body aches and joint pain just sets me back. I just want to curl up and give up. But friends, again, even when I don't feel like I can do anything, I can pray. I can take those hours in bed and simply decide to give them to the Lord. Lifting others up has a way of bringing comfort to our own hurting body.

Pretty soon if we aren't careful we can begin to use our pain or illness as our excuse. We soon forget to look for the beauty of the day and just fall in to the pain. I know, I've been there. But I am learning. The stuff my body has been through in the last ten or so years has taught me lessons of value. In each surgery I have thought, "Oh, I will never get through this", but I did. In ever appointment of rehabilitation after I injured my wrist, I came home in tears. I didn't want to go back, but I did. I have learned that with each circumstance the Lord has allowed to touch my life, He has prepared me for the next. He has taught me great lessons of compassion. I am stronger today than I was ten years ago. I never expected myself to be, but I am. Not because of me, but because of the Lord and all He has done in my life through. Despite the pain and illness I face, He has such mighty lessons for my heart to learn.

Yes, I have learned to value every single moment of my life.  Every day isn't going to be pain free, but every day can be a day where I try. Where I make a choice. Where even in my pain I claim victory in Jesus.

"Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through Him, we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint because God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Romans 5:1-5

"I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things, but I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. I press on to reach the end of the race and received the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us." Philippians 3:12-14

Lets Share Coffee

We have all heard of "Fix A Flat". Maybe you have even used it yourself. Usually it works for a while, just until you can replace your tire. It's not meant to hold it forever. Although it covers up that hole that is now present in your tire, you know the repair goes much deeper than just the surface.

I want to share a quote from, Lyn Smith, that I read this morning in my, "LeadHer Challenge Devotional".

"One of the best feelings in the world is when someone stands by you unwaveringly. Some things in life are just plain hard, but nothing is sweeter than a friend who doesn't let you do hard things alone. It takes courage, strength, and selflessness to come alongside someone in their difficulty. A friend like that doesn't preach, criticize, or correct during those times; they simply SHOW UP AND LOVE." Lyn Smith

Lets be honest. There are times we look at a friend and think, "Oh, she needs fixed. I can help her do that." Girls, I have been there more times than I can count. I too have had those friends who thought I needed, "Fixed". But what we must realize that it isn't our job to fix our friend. Our job is to be there for them. To encourage through love and be that shoulder they need. We need to place our friend at the feet of Jesus and ask Him to move in their life. To show Himself clear and precise so they know the road they are traveling is paved with the love of Christ and guidance that only He can provide.

Too many times we offer advice on a circumstance. Advice we have no idea about, because we have not walked that path. This was so evident in my life when my relationship with my daughters was out of control. I was at a loss as what to do and instead of waiting on the Lord I turned to friends. Friends who loved me yes, but friends who gave advice on matters that they simply weren't equipped to give. My mistake wasn't calling on my friends, but simply not waiting on the Lord. In doing so, I feel I made terrible mistakes and walked in a path not yet traveled by my friends.  Now I was alone and feeling helpless.  Waiting on the Lord should have been my first priority, but when your hurting you really don't want to wait. I learned a great deal from that journey. I learned the value of Godly advice and simply praying for a friend when words cannot bring comfort.

We must be careful in how we handle situations with our friends. We are to love them right where they are at that very moment. It's not our job to fix them in the way we think they should be. They don't have to be our twin, but our friend. Simple as that. In Proverbs 17:17 it says, "A friend loves at ALL times, and a brother is born for adversity." Proverbs 17:17

Now, I am sure that there are going to be times when our friendships are in need of repair. Friends, we can't just use "Fix A Flat", to bandage it up. We must go deeper below the surface. Friendships are too rare and too valuable to lose just because of a misunderstanding or a difference in opinion. Isn't that what makes us unique? Friendship is being able to say, "We can agree to disagree on this subject".

A friend's job is to simply love. Not judge, not correct and not treat the other as if they know all the answers to their difficulties. A brother is born for those times when adversity arrives. They are there for the hard times. A friend is there always. Not just during the good years, not just during the times of struggle, but always and with a smile of encouragement.

Ruth just may have been the friend of friends! That friend we all want standing at our side. Look at Ruth 1:16 with me. "But Ruth said, "Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law." But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God." Ruth 1:16

Ruth wasn't trying to "Fix" Naomi. She was just simply standing side by side with her. She was selflessly loving her as Jesus loves. We must be willing to love as Jesus loves. We must remember to be the friend we would want. We cannot expect from others what we ourselves are not willing to give.

Think about it. Have you asked a friend to lunch over and over again only to hear, "I am just so busy right now, maybe we can get together later on when things slow down"? Life is always busy. It's really not that hard to spend time with our girlfriend. A friend doesn't just pop in and out of our lives when it's convenient for them. The thing is, we can always make time for a friend. In fact, making time for a friend just might give us the added blessing we need to make it through the busy week ahead.

I know when my husband was laid off for nearly three years I had friends just scatter. I am not sure if they were afraid I would ask them for something or if they were too afraid it was catching. Circumstance is not catching. What I needed were friends to encourage me each day. Friends that would make me giggle and take my mind off things. Friends who would take the time to pray with me. Have you felt lonely during a hard time in your life? I now try to make sure I reach out to my friends who are hurting. I never want to make a friend feel like I did during that time. It was a lonely place I never want to enter into again. Just as when life with my daughters was tough. We don't always need advice. Sometimes we just need a friend to say, "Girl, I am here for you. Lets pray and seek the Lord's wisdom." I just needed friends to listen as I cried and friends who would not judge, but love me through it.

"A friend loves at ALL times, and a brother is born for adversity."
Proverbs 17:17

Sometimes all we need is to giggle with one another. To share a cup of coffee and catch up. Friendship is being able to be yourself and feel comfortable in your own skin even when your friend is the total opposite of you. It's loving even when you don't see, "Eye to eye", and it's stepping in when needed and knowing when to take a step back and give that friend the room she needs.

We are to stand in the gap. Meaning we aren't to gab about what our friend shares, but keep what we share between us and always be in prayer for those friends of the present and the past. Friends come into our lives to make an imprint in our lives. God allows friendships into our lives for a purpose. Each one is unique and special in its own right. We should never take our friendships for granted, but enjoy them and treat them with the love that is needed for those friendships to grow and blossom. Friendships are an extension of the love of Christ. A love that is to be captured and treasured.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

How Do I Respond?

"As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and the bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." Isaiah 55:10-11

Okay, let me get real. Let me be as transparent as I possibly can. My words do not always give glory to God. Oh, so often my words bring Him shame. But I'm learning, God doesn't leave anything empty. Even when I seem to use words that don't bring glory. He brings a lesson to my heart. He can take my biggest failures and my smallest triumphs and turn them into something of glory.

I wake reading my devotional or Bible and I repeat God's Word over again and let it soak in. I step out of bed and see the sunshine through the clouds. I ponder His Word. I watch the beautiful birds at my feeder  and then I see the sink filled with dishes. My mother calls to complain. I see an email that makes me mad as a hornet. I see mud tracked through the hallway. I see dirty clothes laying scattered in places that should be void of these smelly socks. Sound like your morning? I get so off track. But isn't that what Satan's goal is? Can you imagine him as we have the Word of God open before us? He is pondering and scheming every which way possible to get our mind off of what we just gave praise for and we are now yelling at the kids, mumbling under our breath at our husband and about ready to kick the dog over the poo we just about stepped in.

I think of the first responders. They are first on the scene. They act. They move. They are there to protect and to serve. They don't stop until the job is done and they don't even think of it as a job, but their duty, their life. They simply just do it. They are there to bring calm. They add salve to fear and remind people, "It's going to be okay". They make people feel safe and guarded. I ponder how I am as a first responder. How do I react when I hear that juicy gossip about the grocer and his wife? Do I respond as I should or do I listen in and think, "Oh my, how in the world could they do that", and then share with the next person to call me? How do I respond when my son has made a mistake and it's not the first time? Do I speak with grace and talk calmly? Of course I do. I don't. At least not always. I slam my fist and I yell. I repeat words that makes me think of the times I make mistakes and go to my Savior. He doesn't yell at me. He accepts me. He shows me grace and He covers me in His mercy.

I pray. I walk with the Lord. I soar in excitement as I read His Word. I think, "Today is a new day and I'm not going to have a bad attitude". All is well for about four hours and then I'm driving and a car whizzes out and cuts me off and I'm now yelling at my window, telling the person who is now three miles up ahead how she can't drive. Where in the world does that come from? Satan.

As a Christian I know that one day as I stand before the Lord I am going to be accountable for every word that has come from my lips. This breaks my heart. I too know that I fall short. Here's the thing. My heart is with the Lord and it's okay. He knows I'm going to make a mess of things. He knows I'm going to shoot from my mouth as if I'm firing bullets. He too knows that I am going to come to Him humble and broken over my choices. It's part of having a relationship with the Lord. I come to Him with the ugly and He has a way of creating beauty from my mess.

Our words hold power. Yes, we say our actions speak louder than words and in many aspects that is true, but words hold such power. Hurtful words can bring a person to their knees. They can shatter our heart. Words are meant to uplift and inspire. But boy, we use our words and think of them after they are already out.

The thing is, I just need to remain in God's Word. When I mess up I feel like I've let Him down and I go for days without picking up His Word. That's the wrong attitude. The more life comes at me the more I need His Word to saturate my heart. He is big enough to handle anything in my life. Yes, even my attitude.

What I love is that my Lord can change my attitude just by me saying one word. Jesus. I speak His name and He washes over me. A devotional is a great tool to carry with you. We can get to His Word using our smart phones now. Friends, there is no excuse for not taping into all He has. We need His reminders throughout the day. His power can overcome anything we are going through in our day. He sees that laundry before us and you know, He can take that attitude of, "Are you kidding me? The hamper was empty yesterday after I did five loads", to "Wow, I am so thankful I have a hamper filled with awesome clothes and a family that fills it daily".

It's about our perspective. I know. I am just as real as you. I'm in that grocery line too. I have people say things to me that just fire me up. I see things that are just not right and I want to open my mouth and just..well, you know, right? We can be God Responders. We can come into that moment and take a minute to access the situation without assuming and without anger. My self control isn't my greatest asset. In fact, it's one that I need to work on. Praise the Lord, I am a work in progress. The Lord knows my needs and He is quick to teach me. He humbles me on a daily basis. I stand back and think, "Did I really just say that?" But see, the Lord is quick to take my confessed sins and remove them, never to be brought up again. He isn't a score keeper. We are the ones who tend to do that not so fun game.

I don't always respond like I should. Often instead of grace there is anger. Instead of understanding there is a restless why. I complain and murmur. I get hurt and want to attack back. Maybe not so much attack, but just defend and for me, turns into attack. But I have to remind myself that Satan not only attacks us from those we don't know, but even more so by those who are closest to us. He uses every tool possible and he knows our weakest points. He is so aware of our heart and where we are at the moment. Ah, but no matter Satan's tactics, Jesus has the victory!

Don't beat yourself up when you falter. It's going to happen. Take time to forgive yourself and yes, give yourself room to make mistakes. It's a life learning tool. It's one the Lord knows how to use to bring ash to beauty.

When the kids are on your last nerve and your ready to shout from the roof tops, step back and remember there is One who can bring peace to your heart. When you have written a post and worked hard to get it ready and it disappears and you want to slam your fist into the computer, remember. There is One who can wrap you in calm. I told you I was going to be honest. Honest is sometimes ugly. But it's real and it's raw and it helps us know that we aren't alone.

We can be God Responders. We just have to remain in Him and saturate our lives with His Word. Measure all we do with His Word. Don't worry about those who want to attack us or fail to encourage us. We carry such hurts and if we aren't careful angry words can spew from the deepest corners of our hurts that have been buried for years. Believe me, I know.

Friends, let it go today. Forgive yourself and let the Lord forgive you. Our lives can be loud and ugly at times, but they too hold beauty and they have a way of shimmering God's unmeasurable love. He is the spot light. We are the keepers of the light. When we mess up, He isn't leaving us. He isn't leaving us. Remind yourself when you have messed up, "I am a child of the King of kings, Lord of lords. There is nothing Satan has on me and nothing this world can attack me with that my Lord cannot handle." Keep going, my friend. Don't give up just because you've had a bad day or a bad moment. Character is created through a life time of lessons.

Lord, help me to be a God Responder. Help me to be patient and kind. May I turn to You when I'm ready to burst and ask for Your strength and peace. Wash over me today, Lord. I thank You for always being near and for accepting me just the way I am. Broken and misplaced in a world that seems so backward. May my words bring You glory and may they lift others up and never cause another to stumble. May I take these life lessons, these messes I create and give You room to use them to create in me a humble girl on fire for Christ, continuing in the mission to share Your love with all.

God's Perfect Wilderness Road

"But forget all that-it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland."  Isaiah 43:18-19

In my Bible commentary it says that God didn't want the Israelites to forget the exodus from Egypt, but they did need to look forward in faith. Seeing what God was doing now and would do for His people instead of dwelling in the past. Have you ever dwelled in the past? I have downright settled down, pitched a tent and camped for weeks.

I have figured out that when I spend time dwelling in the past about what could have been or about what was lost, I totally lose sight of the blessings I have today. You could say that as long as we remain in the past we limit what the Lord can do in our life today. When I'm stuck thinking of the what ifs and if onlys I'm missing out on what the Lord has for me today. This very moment holds such promise and purpose. If we aren't focused on Him we miss it in the blink of an eye. Isn't it great when you release yourself from the captivity of the desert and find solace by the river of grace? Have mercy, friends, God is so good. He meets us right where we are. He isn't angry that I'm camping in the past. He sees where I am and He gently nudges me to let go and see from a different perspective.

Think of Danial Boone. He created the Wilderness Road. Can you imagine the work that went in to making this path from yesterday to a new tomorrow? It didn't happen in one day. It was a journey. Oh mercy, the blood, sweat and tears that must have taken place. But we can't be afraid of the work ahead and just camp there. There is glory to be seen! We must see the blessings that bestows because of his vision. He cut a path through a territory. A wild and unknown area. A path less traveled, but one that he was willing to travel. One that without his ambition and determination for more, folks would have  just settled. Never seeing what grand beauty was before them.

Through Daniel's path. His example. His go forth attitude. Others followed and found lives much greater because they too were willing to step out of that comfort into the unknown. These people had motivation. They had spunk! Life wasn't easy, but they were going to enjoy the road before them. They knew there was more beyond each step. Friends, life can be so hard. We see things that we can't explain. Circumstances that don't have answers. But I am finding that with each happening in my life there is something to be learned. There is something to grasp for the road I am to travel next. Even in the times I am feeling a deep sense of pain, I can honestly find God's beauty around me.

We know the Lord has a path for us. His plan is perfection. He sees the past, today and what lies ahead tomorrow. He has cut the pathway for us to follow. He had led us to the pathway that leads to a greater life. That doesn't mean there are not hard times to come. It doesn't mean we aren't going to have to put in some hard work. Change is adamant. It's part of this life here on earth. Through change and growth we become the children of God He has created us to be. With each determined step, our foot prints create a legacy for others to follow. Our lives, our path is to lead others to know Jesus.

We can't just sit back and watch others live life as we are camped out in the past.  We need to jump in and experience the exhibition of His glory while having a front seat view. I'm sure in the days of Daniel Boone there were some very fearful times. Moments that were unsure. Friends, we cannot live in fear. Nothing holds us back more than fear. It's Satan's greatest tool to keeping us right where we are.

Can you see the excitement in Daniel Boone's life? He left behind a legacy. One that shouts, "I'm not afraid. I am charging ahead!" He knew there was more out there and he didn't want to keep it to himself. He wanted to share with others. That is exactly what we are to do. That's our great commission. We are to live a life that shows the world we can leave behind the desert for the river.

"This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun." 2 Corinthians 5:17

The past can hold us back from experiencing all God has for us today. God wants more for us. Yes, we must learn from the past. We must grasp hold of all that it can teach us for tomorrow, but we too must let it go if we want to experience today. Aren't you tired? I find myself so tired of living in yesterday. I want to experience new! I want to see all the Lord has for me today. Hoping for a tomorrow that is all the more lasting and glorious. He wants us to let go of yesterday. The hurt, the anger, the resentment. That old life that keeps us in chains. He has the power to release us from the chains of yesterday and expose us to His wonderful grace. We can live in His joy and surround ourselves with His immeasurable love.

"For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me." Jeremiah 29:11-13

That's the key, friends. Daniel had a hope. He never gave up. Even when the road was long and hard, he kept trudging through and yes, sometimes that is exactly what it feels like I'm doing. Trudging knee deep through muck and mire. It's saying, "You know, this is hard, but I can do it with my Lord leading the way". It's seeing a God-vision and knowing without a doubt He has more for me. It's trusting Him when I can't see past right now. When all I can see right now are the tears, it's believing that there lies beyond the tears a road of joy. It's dreaming big and trusting God to move on our behalf. There are times I make a mess of things. I get downright lazy in my walk. But praise His sweet and powerful name, He gives me what I need to keep going! We gotta be motivated and determined to not only push through, but to stop and breathe in the beauty of the moment.

Heavenly Father, thank You for carving my road before me. You have given me a path that can only lead to complete perfection through You. Forgive me for the days my feet don't seem to follow. Forgive me when my fears out way my faith. Lord, You have blessed me greatly and I am asking that You help me. Lord, you have given me everything I need for this journey. You have equipped me with the Holy Spirit. All I need to do is listen and be obedient.  You are my Guide for this journey. It's a journey I want to experience with You. It's one that leads to You and with You is right where I want to be.

Monday, January 7, 2013

"Unglued Devotional" by Lysa TerKeurst

Do you like devotionals? I am a girl who desires them. I soak them up. I carry them in my purse and read them daily. I look at it as adding a great tool to my study time with the Lord and His Word. The latest devotional I have been introduced to is, "Unglued" by Lysa TerKeurst.

Lysa had written an early book entitled, "Unglued", Making Wise Choices In The Midst Of Raw Emotions. This new devotional penned by Lysa is a companion to this release. You don't have to purchase "Unglued" to enjoy the devotional, but friends, I found this to be a great and poignant read. What I love about Lysa is that she speaks from her heart. She shares her experiences and she too is on this journey of faith. I admire her honesty and just raw emotion as she expresses her love for the Lord.

This little devotional is sixty days of imperfect progress. I just love this. After all, we are a work in progress. Lysa gives a scripture for the day, her thought for the day, a devotion, along with a prayer. I'm going to share a few that stand out to me today.

Her thoughts for the day:

"Don't let your lips or typing fingertips be the first thing that walks into a conflict."

"It's unfair of me to use my expectations as the standard for someone else's behavior or hold it against her when she doesn't live up to my hopes."

"It's good to know the difference between an inconvenience and a real problem."

I love the scripture she shares and friends, her devotionals are for woman living today in every circumstance. Lysa has a gift to reach out to all. Over all the devotionals I have read I can walk away with a vast array of wisdom from a woman who in an inspiration and a great encourager. She has been there. She is living the life of a woman of faith. This devotional is a great life tool for our journey.

For me, it is one I'm going to carry in my purse and pull out as reminders throughout my day when I'm feeling frustrated and confused, angry and worrisome. Lysa takes the Word of God and applies it to our every day situations. There were may devotions that touched on anger and resentment, frustration and just plain old being stuck in a rut. Even expectations from others and being lost in our self pity. We'd all had those days.

This is one you are truly going to enjoy. Get that highlighter ready, because your going to be using it and I can bet your going to be sharing what you have learned in, "Unglued", with the ladies you love.

This book was a gift from Zondervan and the Booksneeze Program for my review of this book. I thank you!

Lysa TerKeurst is a New York Times bestselling author and national speaker who helps everyday women live an adventure of faith. She is the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries, author of 15 books, and encourages nearly 500,000 women worldwide through a daily online devotional. Her remarkable life story has captured audiences across America, including appearances on Oprah and Good Morning America. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and five children.

Find Lysa TerKeurst at


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