Christian Communicators, Christian Mentors, College age women, Millenials, Moms, Parents, Public Speaking, Stay at Home Moms, Students, Teachers, Uncategorized, women, Women in Ministry, Women's Ministries, Writers

The Sound of Stillness…

Is stillness really a sound?

I think it is and sometimes it is absolutely deafening.

Our society within the American culture is extremely uncomfortable with stillness.

My personal comfort zone is uncomfortable with stillness. But, I think silence is different than stillness though.

When my girls were little I absolutely craved silence by the end of the evening. I will admit that one of my favorite games sometimes was “The Quiet Game” ~ if I could just get 15 seconds or even a whole minute of silence, I could refocus my brain and continue on with our day. Even though I’m an extrovert and a 2w1 on the Enneagram scale, there are times I must schedule time to be quiet. But that can look different depending on the day. Sometimes the quiet I need is to take a long nap in the middle of the afternoon. Some days, like today, it’s to find a quiet local coffee shop, where I can collect my thoughts and put them down for you to read. Other days, the silence is reading a book or sitting with a friend.

But to be still….to truly be still…that’s a whole other story.

When I’m fighting the stillness, it is in that exact moment I have to stop and realize that in the stillness is where God speaks to us the loudest.

I’ve shared a story before how God spoke to me about my priorities (and my mothering!) when I’d been in car accident. The result was a fracture in the T5/T6 part of my spine. The miracle was two-fold: The night before I was to be fitted with a body brace that I’d have to wear for 6-12 months, God healed me through the many prayers of friends and family members. The other came when although I didn’t need the brace, I was still prescribed 3 weeks of complete, upright bedrest: no laying down, no slouching, ice packs, heat packs, no going downstairs, and basically no physical contact. You tell an enneagram 2 that they can’t hug anyone (or be hugged!) for THREE WEEKS!! May as well of told me to stop breathing!! This is where God used the stillness of those three weeks to draw me back to Him. Partly because I was alone A LOT and I had to rely on Him for my sanity, but more so in the fact that since my girls couldn’t hug me before and after school, they began to kneel down and “hug” my feet. Big lesson in humility for sure!

Psalm 46:10 {AMP} “Be still and know (recognize, understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth.”

But God knew I needed that ~ He had to ‘still’ me because I was too busy running around acting like I had it all together and didn’t need Him. When God wants to get our attention, He will!

Right now, I feel like I’m in a place of stillness. And I really, really, like not all, really don’t like it. I’ve been walking with the Lord long enough now to know that He is about to do something big. Not in the way the world would necessarily think is big, but big for Him and His name sake. That doesn’t always equate right away with feeling peace in the stillness.

Mark 4:39 ” {AMP} And He got up and [sternly] rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still (muzzled)!” And the wind died down [as if it had grown weary] and there was [at once] a great calm [a perfect peacefulness].”

I love the verbiage in the Amplified Bible, especially in this verse in Mark 4. When Jesus hushed the sea and told the wind to stop, it stopped as if it was a child who’d been fighting a nap and suddenly realizes they are weary. They need to stop fighting. They need to be still. I love the last two words of this verse ~ perfect peacefulness. That just gives me chills! Notice here with me, that the wind did nothing to gain the peaceful calm EXCEPT to obey the voice of the Lord.

Stillness before the Lord that brings that kind of peace. 

The Lord has been whispering plans and ideas to my heart for a while now and I am so excited to share it with you when the time is right. At any rate, a few weeks ago I was feeling so confident and telling everyone how great it was to be able to hear what the Lord was telling me were my next steps. Usually the “next steps” are great because it means were in a path of forward motion and most of the time that is a good thing. I loved the fact that God was showing me what ministries and activities I needed to say ‘no’ to in order to get me even more ready to be available to say ‘yes’ to the new things He has for me in the near future. It was exciting. Honestly, it felt empowering to be able to do that. 

But now, I’m feeling like I’m in a wonky in-between place. I’ve cleaned out my schedule of anything that would distract me from hearing the Lord’s direction. Now what? 

Stillness.

Psalm 23:1-3 {AMP} The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, to guide and to shield me], I shall not want. He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still and quiet waters. He refreshes and restores my soul (life); He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”

Like me, you’ve most likely read these verses in Psalm 23 many times. Today, I’m soaking them in a little deeper. I’m taking note of the clarity of these verses and it is beginning to help me settle into this stillness I’m feeling.

Just as the seas and wind only needed to obey the voice of the Lord, I cannot DO anything to gain peace or refreshment. In the stillness, look at what the Lord wants to give us:

to be fed

to be guided

to be shielded

to be provided for

to be still

to be led

to be refreshed

to be restored

And none of that is for my glory but for His. But it is ALL for my benefit! Whoa!! I do not find my own stillness. I do not create my own stillness. Only the Lord can orchestrate stillness in my life that will be of any use to my soul. My part in the stillness is to listen to His voice and trust that He loves me enough to create seasons of stillness.

Out of those seasons, the stillness will bring a new sense of peace that only He can give.

I can honestly say that after putting the words of my heart down on this page, I am feeling a new sense of contentment in this season of stillness that God has welcomed me into. I will move forward each day, trusting that He has a good plan for tomorrow, next week, and beyond. He desires for me to join Him in it! That’s pretty cool friends!

Stillness may not be one of my favorite things, but it is definitely one of the most important things I can do as the Lord moves me into new opportunities to learn and to teach.

Where is the Lord calling you into stillness right now? If you’re not sure, sit with Him in the stillness and ask Him. Even if you have to “run away” to your car in the driveway…find a few moments of quiet stillness.

Because in that place, you will be able to hear Him the loudest.

Blessings,

René

STILLNESS

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Christian Communicators, Christian Mentors, College age women, Millenials, Moms, Parents, Public Speaking, Stay at Home Moms, Students, Teachers, Uncategorized, women, Women in Ministry, Women's Ministries, Writers

Becoming Unoffended…

We have all been offended. Someone cuts us off on the freeway. We’re telling our spouse something only to realize that they’ve been scrolling through their emails or social media. Our kids aren’t listening. A group of friends is out on the town and no one invited you. I’m sure you can add a few of your own examples too.

Then it happens. You’re offended.

In March of 2017, I experienced a freedom from the spirit of offense and I’ve not looked back once! It was an incredible moment to be prayed for, and I literally said out loud to the Lord, “I’m so tired of this. Please God. Deliver me from being offended all the time.” And He did…ugly cry and all. I literally felt a huge weight lift off my heart and my mind ~ it was incredible!

This experience came at a time in my life when the Lord was shifting the direction of ministry. I’ve always been involved with women’s ministries but I knew God was leading me to be more purposeful and intentional to minister to college-aged girls. I should have known that this deliverance would prove to be more than I imagined. Not only did I live in a new-found joy of daily life, but I began to see people around me through the eyes of Jesus.

Walking around being offended all the time is exhausting. And it’s no way to be in true ministry to others.

But here’s the thing ~ I really thought I deserved to be offended. “If people around me would just _______________, then I wouldn’t be upset.” It was never ‘my fault’ and I made sure to let everyone know that their  actions and attitudes were the problem. They were ‘making me’  react in an offended manner.

It was all them; never me.

This spirit of offense had woven itself so intricately into my soul that I had no clue how to escape it. I didn’t like being offended. But then I’d rationalize it by thinking, “Well, I know I’m right about this, so it’s okay to be offended.” What? That’s just crazy talk! The flip side of living with a spirit of offense, is that anytime someone does actually treat you poorly, instead of feeling offended, you end up feeling ‘less than.’ Then you are walking around exuding attitudes of feeling dejected, unworthy, unseen, and so on.

This is right where the Devil wants you to live.

Because it’s not just you that is affected by your actions when you activate offense in your heart. You lead others astray. If you overreact to a situation, you give people the motivation to tell others about how you freaked out. Enter in gossip. In your pursuit of being offended (yeah…your pursuit…because you certainly aren’t pursuing a godly response in that moment), you will inevitably lead others to join you. What good is that?

1 John 2:10 says, “The one who loves and unselfishly seeks the best for his [believing] brother lives in the Light, and in him there is no occasion for stumbling or offense [he does not hurt the cause of Christ or lead others to sin].”

You know the old saying, “Misery loves company.”? Well, it does. Think about a time when you were feeling miserable, feeling offended. How did you handle it? You either sat at home getting deeper and deeper into your offense, or you called someone to tell them your tale of woes, or worse yet, you took to social media to blast someone publicly. In all three scenarios, you had company.

The first one ~ you were allowing the enemy to take a seat on the couch next to you. He made you feel like you deserved to be offended. He used that to plant seeds for your next move.

The second one ~ to fuel your ‘rightness’ you need to bring in someone else who will empathize with you and tell you that you have a ‘right’ to be offended.

The last scene ~ in your ‘rightness’ you decide that the offender needs to be put on notice. Even if you don’t use the persons name, it will be completely obvious to many in your circles who you are publicly complaining about. Let me guarantee you ~ no one will even be aware of what you are offended about; they will simply see a vindictive person lashing out in a shameful way.

The best place to start in your journey to become free of offense, is to speak it out loud. Meet up with a friend, your pastor, or your spouse, and tell them everything that is on your heart. James 5:16 encourages us in this way, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another [your false steps, your offenses], and pray for one another, that you may be healed and restored. The heartfelt and persistent prayer of a righteous man (believer) can accomplish much [when put into action and made effective by God—it is dynamic and can have tremendous power].”  It’s so true! Confession is truly good for the soul.

Speaking your story out loud, telling the Lord what you need Him to forgive you for and bring restoration to your heart, is worth it all. When you speak it out loud, the power of that offense is gone. The goal of the enemy is to make us keep everything hidden; to bury deep down inside the parts of our life that make us feel shameful. That is never the goal of the Lord. He wants to bring us into the glory of His light that brings healthy and wholeness to our life.

There is such beautiful freedom in being unoffendable. I know, it sounds lofty and unattainable, but it’s absolutely possible.

You were created in the image of God to worship Him and bring others to Him. Living your life in a way that makes other people want to know Jesus is to be our goal. What better way to bring God glory than to show others how to live an unoffendable life.

Blessings,

René

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Christian Communicators, Christian Mentors, College age women, Millenials, Moms, Parents, Public Speaking, Stay at Home Moms, Students, Teachers, Uncategorized, women, Women in Ministry, Women's Ministries, Writers

It’s my Blog-aversery!

Whoa y’all!  Today, August 31, 2019 is my 4th anniversary of writing my blog! To date I’ve written about 165,000 words. That’s a lot of words!

{cue the Confetti!!}

One thing that I love is to celebrate and everything is worth celebrating! My mother-in-law has often told me that she loves how I can make every holiday and any milestone a celebration. I mean, I’m a Type 2 on the enneagram, so go figure! But I just had to look up what the traditional anniversary gift for “year 4” was and amazingly, it kind of sums up what I feel about writing this blog.

So the traditional gifts are fruit, flowers, linen, and silk.

Fruit & Flowers ~ “…flowers represent the growth and blossoming of the relationship, and subsequent ripening as symbolized by fruit. Flowers nurture the soul, and fruit nourishes the body…”  The geranium & hydrangea are flowers associated with year 4…the more positive and meaningful symbols of the geranium are comfort and gentility of a true friend. The hydrangea’s more positive symbols [are] gratefulness, ‘thank you for your understanding’, pride and appreciation.

Linen & Silk ~ “In biblical times, garments crafted from fine linen represented truths from the Divine, given that fine linen worn by holy figures was of the purest white and also lustrous (eg, angels in the bible are described as wearing fine white linen), hence, the symbolism of truth…Silk…is connected with items that are…the comfortable flow and connection between [people]. The saying “as smooth as silk” further represents good times ahead in the relationship.

{https://www.eternityrose.com/4th-wedding-anniversary-gift-ideas}

Through this blog, I have experienced personal and spiritual growth, gained deeper friendships, and become increasingly grateful for this writer’s gift the Lord has given me. I strive to be someone who writes the truth not for self-gratification but for the joy of shining light on the goodness of the Father. I write how I speak. When I sit down, I imagine that you are sitting across from me at a cozy little coffee shop.

My hearts desire is to meet you right where you are at. To encourage you that you can stand when you are feeling fragile; to cry when you are feeling pain; to draw strength from the Lord when you feel discouraged; to firmly believe that you are fearfully and wonderfully made and God has a great and mighty plan for you right now!

I can tell you that every single word has been from my heart ~ prompted by a desire from the Lord to share my story with everyone who reads it, in the hope to point you to Jesus! When I am able to sit down at my computer and have a blog ready to publish in about 2 hours, I know that I do not write alone. It’s something that astonishes me every single time. I feel the Holy Spirit lay something on my heart, and my mind begins to swirl. I pray before each blog ~ to hear God’s voice and type it out on the page through my words.

I’ve written on so many topics; it’s hard to pinpoint my “writer’s perspective”. I’ve had people ask me “Well, what is your blog about?” I’m usually a deer in the proverbial headlights for a second and then answer, “Whatever God wants me to write about.” I’m in no way being glib…it’s just the truth.

From marriage, to kids, to empty-nesting, to friendship, to verses in the Bible, mistakes & triumphs, and topical issues ~ it’s all here…all 114 blogs worth.

My biggest encouragers & supporters are my fabulous family! They are so kind when I send out a family text with, “Hey everyone…I just published another blog” and add in the link.

After I had been writing for almost one year, my middle daughter saw me checking my blog stats for the millionth time that month. She quietly asked me, “Why do you check your stats so often? Does it really matter how many people are reading your blog?” Um, well, sure it does. I believed then as I do know that God leads to me write every single one. I rationalized that I was simply seeing how many were reading them since God gave me this gift, He must have huge plans for them! Right?! Even as the words to my daughter tumbled out of my mouth, I felt embarrassed.

Side note…having adult children is a trip!  Let me just tell you to hold on to your seats…it’s a great ride and it’s never dull!

So, my daughter gave me a challenge ~ to not check my stats for a month. I thought it would easier to simply take my app off my phone, but that would be too easy. I left the app there because I still wanted the availability to open it up real quick when inspiration hit. But I did it…I didn’t check the stats for 30 days and it was so liberating. I was able to come back to the place of writing for the audience of One. To write back to the Lord the words He was so graciously putting on my heart to share with you.

I’m so grateful how my oldest daughter sat with me for an hour (granted it was for a school assignment) and led me through a goal-making session. I’d never really done that before and it felt so good to accomplish those goals. I prayed over my accountability team and am humbled to say that all three of my friends are still “in it” with me! I’ve given myself grace when I haven’t kept up with my weekly blog posts…cuz…life. I’ve maintained connection between what I’ve written about and the validity of God’s word and the truth of His Scripture.

I write because I can’t not write.

I share my stories because I’m the only who can.

I become vulnerable with my readers to remind them that they are not alone in this world; they aren’t the “only ones” struggling.

I want to connect with you because we are way more than the house we live in, the car we drive, the schools our kids went to, the job we have or don’t have, the balance in our bank account, the fab Instagram pics on our feed…and so on and so on.

We are together a collection of beautiful creations made in the image of God. 

And seriously, I think sitting at a coffee shop with a friend for hours and hours, is one of love languages ~ so let’s meet up!!

If we were sitting across from each other sharing our hearts, I would tell you how much you are loved by the Lord. I would squeeze your hand and tell you that you are gonna be okay. I would thank you for listening to my words and I would thank you for sharing yours with me.

And huge thanks to my youngest daughter who has patiently taught me the basic nuances of canva and creating better graphics! I’ll be going to her for future graphic design help in the future (stay tuned!)

I can hardly wait to see what is coming next for me in this ministry. Writing, speaking, traveling, and some new things on the horizon ~ God is the great organizer and His timing is always perfect! I’d love for you to continue along for the ride ~ and to ask for your prayers as I navigate into this next year.

Psalm 121:8 declares, The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in [everything that you do] From this time forth and forever.

What is it that you are called to do? Why not start today! You are needed to share with your community and circles of influence. You are the only one who can tell your story, so tell it girl! Let today be your anniversary of saying yes!

Blessings,

René

Blog-aversary #4!
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{Photo by Erik Brolin on Unsplash}

 

Christian Communicators, Christian Mentors, College age women, Millenials, Moms, Parents, Public Speaking, Stay at Home Moms, Students, Teachers, Uncategorized, women, Women in Ministry, Women's Ministries, Writers

Keep On Keepin’ On…

Mom?

Mom?

Mooooooommmmmm!!!

MomMomMomMomMomMomMom!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Every single child has the ability to be persistent. Not necessarily the virtues and how to be politely persistent, but they’ve totally got the concept down to a science!

Let me ask you this question….how persistent are you with Jesus?

Do you ask Him something? Pray about a situation you are going through? Talk to Him about the hardships of life? How about questioning Him about the plans He has for you?

Do you ask Him once? Twice?

Do you talk to Jesus so much that you are so busy talking and thinking about your own stuff that you aren’t quiet enough to hear that He’s actually trying to answer you?

Just like with a small child who keeps calling out for Mom or Dad or whomever their caretaker is; they are so preoccupied with their own need and what they want to ask or what they desire to happen that they cannot hear the response. I’m very thankful that Jesus never responds to me like I did sometimes with my kids…you know what I mean…that exasperated (and sometimes loud) “WHAT??? What do you want?”

But in God’s Word, He asks us to be persistent. Check out the same verse in two versions:

Matthew‬ ‭7:7-8‬ ‭TPT {The Passion Translation} says, ““Ask, and the gift is yours. Seek, and you’ll discover. Knock, and the door will be opened for you. For every persistent one will get what he asks for. Every persistent seeker will discover what he longs for. And everyone who knocks persistently will one day find an open door.”

Persistent Seeker…

In the Amplified Version (AMP) it says, “For everyone who keeps on asking receives, and he who keeps on seeking finds, and to him who keeps on knocking, it will be opened.”

‭‭Everyone who keeps on…

But here’s the key ~ it’s not just about the persistence.

We must be willing to seek and knock. And we must be willing to wait.

In these verses it doesn’t say that the answers we seek, the path we are looking for, or the doors we knock on, will be opened immediately. It just tells us that they “will be opened.”

Take a quick minute and do a little activity for me ~ it’s easy and you don’t even have to get up…

Open both of your hands to where your left and right cute little pinky fingers are touching. Now stretch out your thumbs as far as they will go. Imagine that your left thumb is the day you were born and your right thumb is the day you will meet Jesus face to face.

The span of your whole life is in the palm of the mighty hands of Jesus. And He sees your WHOLE life ALL at once! We only get one day at a time. We have no idea what will happen even five minutes from now let alone 5 years from now. But Jesus does. He can look at us and see our whole life all at the same time. He knows whether or not that the thing you are asking Him to do right now is good for you or not.

When Jesus says ‘No’ to us, it feels like a punishment sometimes. But because He sees our whole life, He knows when to say no to the things that will cause us harm in the future. We have to trust Him with the no’s as much, or possibly even more than, the ‘yeses’ we get from Him.

When we become persistent seekers of God, our mind and heart will be at rest with Him instead of being on the bus to crazy town when we make our life all about our self.

A persistent seeker of God reaches beyond what is seen and sweetly leans into the comfort of knowing that God has the best for us. This is not to say that life will easy when we are trusting Jesus. In fact, scripture promises that there will be hard times and difficult circumstances (Hebrews 6:12; Isaiah 43:2) but we will not be taken out by them. Only God knows what is for our good and what would be a detriment to our life.

I can’t help think about that old country song, “Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers.” Oh my word friends! Just think back to prayers you used to pray in high school…and who you might’ve dated or married had God not intervened!  Seriously! I’m not saying that they were bad people, just that the Lord knew best and knew who would be the right one for you! Maybe you don’t even have to look back that far…maybe that song phrase resonates with something you prayed for last week and now you can clearly see that it was for your good that God didn’t give you what you asked for!

Persistent Seeker…

Let those words truly sink in.

Do you see that it doesn’t use the verbiage of being a ‘persistent asker’ ~ yes we are to ask the Lord for guidance, direction, future plans, anything really! But we are to first be seekers of what God has for us.

I actually just laughed out loud right now as I imaged the sweet face of my grandma. She used to say, “Ask any question that you want, but always be prepared for a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ answer.” She first said that to me when I asked one of my daughters (when they were a toddler) if they wanted to take their bath. I was completely baffled when my sweet child looked at me and quite confidently said, “No thank you.” What? Politeness aside…what?

But it was a great lesson for me in the art of ‘asking’!
‬‬

Before I sign off for today, let’s go back and really sit with The Passion Translation of Matthew‬ ‭7:7-8‬ ~

““Ask, and the gift is yours.

~ The Lord wants to give us good gifts…gifts that will glorify Him through our lives.

Seek, and you’ll discover.

~ When we seek the scriptures we will absolutely discover every answer we are looking for. It’s all there. It’s always been there. When you have those “aha” moments, highlight the verse and put the date down so you can come back to it and remember what God did for you on that day.

Knock, and the door will be opened for you.

~ Walking over the threshold of knowledge in God’s word is the best door you can walk through. Jesus wants to invite you in to share in those good words but He also wants to be invited in to the living room of your heart.

For every persistent one will get what he asks for.

~ We are called to have enduring tenacity before the Lord. But after we have truly sought after what is best for us through scripture, we will come to know what we need to be persistently asking for. However, when we get so off track, sometimes the Lord will give us that thing we are begging for even though He knows it won’t be good for us. That is a painful place we put our Father into, but He is there through it all with open loving arms when we return to Him, trusting Him for what we truly need.

Every persistent seeker will discover what he longs for.

~ As we daily seek scripture and spend time in prayer with the Lord, He will not disappoint us by keeping secrets.  He longs to reveal to us the plans He has for us. Jeremiah 29:11-14 {AMP} For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call on Me and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear [your voice] and I will listen to you. Then [with a deep longing] you will seek Me and require Me [as a vital necessity] and [you will] find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ says the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and I will [free you and] gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ says the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’

Anywhere in scripture where you read that Jesus ‘will’ do something…He absolutely will! He will hear your prayers. He will hear your unique voice, be it a whisper, a groaning, a celebration, or a cry of desperation. He hears you!

And everyone who knocks persistently will one day find an open door.”

~ The Lord may have you in a season where you are about to go through a new door. I myself feel that I am in that place and boy oh boy do I want that door to open. TODAY! But I have walked with the Lord long enough to know that if I kick that door down before He opens it before me, I will miss the true beauty of what is next for me. Humans are inpatient. That is why we need our companion of the Holy Spirit to quiet our minds and remind us of the beauty that is in the waiting.

And hey, windows are to be looked out of or in to…not climbed out of. When the door isn’t opening yet, don’t be tempted to use that proverbial window. When God opens the door that you have been persistently knocking on, you know it will be the right time to walk through in the fullness of all He has planned for you.

Be persistent, be a seeker, be a door-knocker ~ but first be obedient to His plans in all that you do.

Blessings,

René
What door are you knocking on

 

 

Christian Communicators, Christian Mentors, College age women, Millenials, Moms, Parents, Public Speaking, Stay at Home Moms, Students, Teachers, Uncategorized, women, Women in Ministry, Women's Ministries, Writers

The Goodness of Being Uncomfortable…

“Well, Jesus hasn’t told me any of this, so you must be wrong.” This was my emphatic statement to my husband years ago, when he told me that he felt the Lord leading him to resign from his job and pursue developing his own company. Clearly, there was nothing spiritual about what I said to him. I knew it the minute I said it. It was my way of getting out of a prickly situation. A way of avoiding what I instinctively knew was about to happen to our lives. And I wanted no part of it.

We were about to get really uncomfortable.

That was back in January of 1999. Although its been quite some time since then {gosh, has it really been 20 years?} I remember the day that my husband told me of his revelation, like it was yesterday.

We went from a very secure six figure salary with benefits and tons of perks to complete financial uncertainty. My husband worked for a well-known entertainment company and God has blessed him with crazy talent for animation. He felt God calling him to leave his job and start his own faith-based company; a way to use the gifts God had given him to reach families with a message of Christ’s redemption and salvation through animation.

I finally came around because I was tired of dodging the Holy Spirit. Have you ever experienced that? No matter where you are, there HE is!

So, we jumped in, a bit trepidatiously, but confident that we were following God’s direction for our little family. And what could possibly go wrong when you are following Jesus…right?

Long story short ~ we emptied our savings and our 401K, joined forces with two other families in our church (who did the same), lived and breathed this calling from God, and lived our faith out loud in an industry that could care less about Christian ideals.

A week after our business plan was completed and ready for the 14 meetings we had planned with investors, 9/11 happened. We lost all but one meeting and at that, we were put off until the new year.

Seven years later, our company closed. Amidst an abundance of tears and sadness, the one thing that my husband and I, our daughters, and the other two families held firmly to was a spirit of contentment.

This is a story in itself, but suffice to say, during this time of our lives, we learned the true meaning of contentment. The Lord developed in us a strong determination to always seek after faith, trust, and belief that God is always good. Because of all that we endured, I have gained an unshakeable contentment that I serve a living, loving, good, good Father.

Philippians 4:11-13 {AMP} says, “Not that I speak from [any personal] need, for I have learned to be content [and self-sufficient through Christ, satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or uneasy] regardless of my circumstances. I know how to get along and live humbly [in difficult times], and I also know how to enjoy abundance and live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret [of facing life], whether well-fed or going hungry, whether having an abundance or being in need. I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]”

I’ve read this verse countless times in my life, but until those eight years, I had no idea what it truly meant to live a life of contentment. I know that part of the gifts I have from the Lord is the ability to believe that no matter what, everything will turn out okay. Even wavering a bit through difficult circumstances, I’ve always known it to be true.

The dictionary defines contentment as “the state of being contented; satisfaction; ease of mind.” The one part of these definitions that are most personal to me is the “ease of mind”. It is absolutely impossible to have a mind or heart that is content on your own. I tried it both ways, and I know Who gives me the ability to be content.

His name is Jesus.

Before this whole adventure of leaping out of our comfort zone, we had lived in a different kind of comfort zone. Consistent paychecks, all benefits, money was no object, beautiful home, my husband had an enviable career, I stayed at home with our children, kids went to private school, nice cars, the world-standard of a healthy bank account and investments ~ all of it. In the eyes of the world, and even in the eyes of our friends and family, we had it all.

And I was miserable! I was miserable because I wasn’t grateful. I was expectant of receiving good things, because well, I just did. I deserved them. It was my right to have a good life. I lived as a Christian well enough to hide my true thoughts. I led bible study groups, developed my gift of hospitality to host various events in our home, was the good wife and the doting mother. I was doing all the right things. But my heart was not moved to where God wanted my heart to be.

He wanted my heart to be moved by Him and for Him.

Instead of dwelling on all the things I did wrong and all the ways I did not act faithfully, let me tell you how this season of eight years shaped me for the rest of my life.

I learned that it is difficult to receive.

The first time I had to tell my husband that we didn’t have enough money for groceries was quite humiliating. We had come face to face with the fact that we could no longer deny the fact that following God’s direction meant sacrifice. What was even more difficult was to call up my parents and ask them to take us grocery shopping. For goodness sake, we were in our 30’s with three kids and a mortgage. What was happening to us? We were very used to being on the giving end…other families in need, gifts for friends and family, dinners out on us, and on and on.
It was very, very different now.

God was asking us to be open with our struggles. To ask for prayer for finances (ugh!) and for the Lord to lead us to new investors for our company. Life ebbed and flowed and sometimes we felt swept away on the current of the unknown, but we began to learn that it was only unknown to us. God knew exactly where He was taking us.

When confronted with challenging financial circumstances, like when we realized we had about $18.00 (yes… E I G H T E E N) in our bank account, instead of completely freaking out and despairing over our future (or the next hour!) we would hold hands and pray; together and as a family. The girls never knew the extent of the leanness of our finances, but they knew life had changed.

One morning, upon cobbling together a totally weird lunch for our girls to take to school, I went to find my husband to pray before we left. We distinctively felt that we were not to ask anyone for help.

We were learning true dependence on Him.

After I dropped the girls off at school, I pulled over, about to call my mom for help, but remembered what the Lord had whispered to our hearts. So instead, I prayed and asked Him for a content heart. As soon as I said “Amen”, my husband called and said that I needed to drive over to the office before going home.

When I arrived, with tears in his eyes, he handed me an envelope that someone had left on his desk chair. It was a “Thinking of You” card and it simply said inside, “You are being thought of today. Love, Jesus” ~ and there was a grocery store gift card for $100.00. We hugged and cried and thanked the Lord for this unexpected provision. Again, it was only unexpected by us…He knew all about it. He had prepared the heart of an anonymous person to bless us out of their excess.

I learned that it is worth it to look foolish in the eyes of friends and family.

So many times, when the Lord asks us to follow Him, to trust Him, to take that leap of faith, it will not look “normal” to the people around us. It was surprising to us that the initial support we received was from our church, not necessarily from our family. Some of it came out of concern for our well-being, but some of non-support came from those who claimed we were doing things outside of the will of God. The first few years of our business was extremely difficult in dealing with some of these family members and it caused us great sadness. It came to a point that we simply ceased any conversation with them about the business.

That experience helped me to shape other relationships in my life. I’ve come to understand, through loads of prayer and seeking the Lord, that not everyone needs to know every thing about me and my life. I need only share with people, whether I’m related to them or not, what the Holy Spirit spurs me to share.

I learned that God’s path is never easy but always worth it.

No matter what, it is always more important to serve the Lord than to care what others think.

Over the past decades, there have been plenty of times in my life that I have reverted to feeling the fear of what others might think about me and my decisions, only to realize that God’s opinion of me is what matters. When I am content in knowing who I am as God created me and in doing what He has created me for, then I can soar! It doesn’t mean that I will have a smooth path ahead of me, it just means that I have a loving Father who has good plans for me to follow.

I learned that teaching my daughters to trust the Lord for everything was in fact, everything.

This was probably the hardest one actually. Every parent wants to give their children everything they can. I can admit that I wanted to have more “yeses” than “no’s” in my vocabulary. The important part was in making sure that my girls knew why we were saying no or yes. We would have family talks and make as many decisions with them as we could. Obviously, there were plenty of things that we had to decide as the parents, but letting our kids know that we valued their ideas and opinions too was important.

As our middle daughter began to feel a shift in her future plans for after high school graduation, what could have been a difficult conversation wasn’t hard at all. She felt that the Lord was leading her to become a full time missionary instead of attending traditional college. As she shared her heart and what had brought her to this decision, my husband and I could see the contentment in her eyes and hear it in her voice.

Towards the end of the conversation, my ever-practical husband said to her, “Babe, why would you willingly choose a life where you are dependent upon other people to support you financially? You know what a hard life that can. It’s so unpredictable. Are you really sure about this? I mean, you know the difficult years we had spent where we had to ask for financial help on so many occasions and hope that God would intervene for our provision.”

I’ll never forget her face nor her response.

She said, “I know where you’re coming from dad, but that’s why I don’t have any worries about my future financially. First, this is what God is calling me to and I know He’ll provide. And besides that, I watched how the Lord provided for our family over and over and over again. You and Mom showed me how to trust God no matter what and how to stay content in believing that God would always provide what we needed exactly when we needed it.”

To be ministered to with wise words by your children is one of the most amazing and humbling experiences of my life!

I learned that loving my husband meant battle.

Thankfully my husband and I never battled each other, but we battled the enemy on the daily for stability in our marriage and in our family.

When the Lord asks us to follow Him, satan is going to do everything he can to distract us from the path. Especially when that path takes you down the uncertainty of finances, that can definitely have a negative impact on a marriage relationship.

When we were planning our wedding, we vowed to each other that: Plan A – commit our marriage and family to the Lord and that divorce would never be a part of any future conversation. Divorce would never be an option. Plan B – refer to Plan A!

And that’s what we have done for the past 29 years. Through the wealth of the first decade of our marriage, to the incredibly lean years of the second decade, to now the almost third decade of life together. Contentment in knowing that God brought us together for a reason and purpose, fuels our desire to impact others for Him.

I learned that being authentically vulnerable is what people want.

True contentment comes from knowing beyond a shadow of doubt that the Lord is for me, not against me. It is a deep commitment to follow Him wherever He leads, especially when it doesn’t seem to make sense to anyone else. People want to hear the authentic story of how God has moved in your life. Pretending that “life is good” will never bring anyone closer to a real relationship with Jesus. As we know, sometimes life doesn’t feel so great. But the Lord is always good!

As I live my life, I want to show others that I can be content no matter the circumstances. I honestly believe everything will turn out okay, not because I deserve an easy life, but because I know who I serve. The Lord does not change. He will always be drawing me to Him to experience a deeper love for the path He has for me.

I can be content in my life because I know

the Lord is my provider and protector.

Blessings,

René

Being Uncomfortable...
{Photo by Camila Cordeiro on Unsplash}

 

Christian Communicators, Christian Mentors, College age women, Millenials, Moms, Parents, Public Speaking, Stay at Home Moms, Students, Teachers, Uncategorized, women, Women in Ministry, Women's Ministries, Writers

It’s all about Perspective…

I recently joined my husband on one of his business trips to Sicily and it was incredible. I’m very grateful that I’m able to accompany him and have these opportunities to explore various countries that otherwise would be short of impossible. But it didn’t start out that way.

When we checked into our hotel, we noticed that the covering over the large sliding glass doors were actually metal. We found that a bit odd, but there were little holes throughout that let sunlight in. However, we then noticed we could hear people talking and saw their shoes quite close to our shutters. The ground was wet and we could see the legs of what appeared to be pool lounge chairs.

My first thought was, “Oh great, we are in a room that is directly in contact with the pool area. We won’t be able to open up this shutter at all on this trip!” After a disgruntled sigh, I reminded myself that we were in Sicily for goodness sake, and didn’t have to pay a dime to get there.

No matter what, we would have a great time!

We broke the cardinal rule of international travel and promptly took a nap. Later in the afternoon, we freshened up and went out for a lovely walk along the waterfront and had a wonderful dinner. We didn’t remember anything about our “horrible view” until the next morning.

We listened and didn’t hear anyone by the ‘pool’ yet, so we decided to open up the shutters. We’d since found the electric button that began to slowly reveal something far better than we had imagined. As we pulled all the curtains back and opened the sliding glass door, we were greeted by a large private patio with a balcony…complete with a chaise lounge, a table with two chairs and an L-shaped couch! And the view ~ WOW! We had a view of the ocean and the lovely city that we were in! What a difference it made to open those shutters!

My husband and I laughed (and I repented a bit again for my discontented attitude of the previous day) as we walked out on to the balcony, breathing in the fresh ocean air, thankful that we discovered the true reality of what a gift we had received in this trip. I swallowed hard as tears welled up in my eyes as I felt the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart, “What you see isn’t all that God wants to reveal to you. Open your eyes to His revelation and you will experience more joy and contentment that you can ever imagine.”

So many times we see what we want to see, not what we need to see.

Sometimes the Lord places us in situations where we have no choice but to trust in Him, that His plans are intended for our good. Not that we will run about rejoicing when hardship crosses our path, but keeping close to our heart the knowledge and truth that God is always good.

I thought of the verse, Jeremiah 29:11, that everyone quotes with abandon. It’s on t-shirts, mugs, blankets, and those darling wooden painted signs at your local Hobby Lobby:

“ – ‘For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the LORD, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster to give you a future and a hope.”

My friends, let’s not miss the importance of this verse in context. This is in no way a statement from the Lord that our lives will be always filled with earthly goodness and easy paths. We must remember to look at scripture in context to receive the full knowledge of the truths God intends to teach us.

The verses surrounding Jeremiah 29:11 are a reminder to the Israelites who had been exiled for so long in Babylon. The Lord had allowed them to become captives of the Babylonian Kingdom due to their disobedience to Him. He allowed hardship to be heaped upon their lives. It’s difficult to understand how He could do this, but the Lord is “the same yesterday, today, and forever”{Hebrews 13:8}. When we choose to go in the wrong direction, the Lord has to retrain our steps to go according to His will. How many times do we, and ridiculously so, think that our will and our way is better than His? That is a battle we will never win ~ and trust me, you don’t want to win that one!

Jeremiah 29:10 says, “For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years [of exile] have been completed for Babylon, I will visit (inspect) you and keep My good promise to you, to bring you back to this place.”

The Lord was reminding the people of His punishment.

And also the fact that His promise’s will come to fruition.

The story/lesson continues in verses 12-14, “~’Then you will call on Me and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear [your voice] and I will listen to you. ~ ‘Then [with a deep longing] you will seek Me and require Me [as a vital necessity] and [you will] find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. ~ ‘I will be found by you,’ says the LORD, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and I will [free you and] gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ says the LORD, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’”

Isn’t that beautifully reassuring? Wherever it states in the Bible that God will or will not do a certain thing, it is a promise that we can count on.

When we call out to the Lord, He will hear us.

When we have a deep longing to seek His will for our life, the Holy Spirit will fill us with the truth and understanding we need.

When we come back to the Lord after a period of disobedience, He will welcome us with open arms and restore us to full relationship with Him.

But think about this for a moment, there cannot be reconciliation without some kind of exile.

Whether we are separated from God for a moment in our day, or for a longer period of time, we cannot hear the wisdom the Holy Spirit desires to share with us for our life. When I allowed dissatisfaction to enter my heart about what I thought the view from our hotel room windows would offer us, I shut out God. It was as if that big metal shutter had come down over my spirit, squelching the light of God’s truth.

What if I had never pushed that button to raise up the shutter? We would have been ‘exiled’ in a sense to the confines of our room. I would’ve missed out on part of the generosity of our hosts. Part of their gift to us of having a private patio that overlooked the oceanside of Sicily would have been lost on us. How very sad that would have been!!

When I choose to trust God in the little things {like opening up a shutter on a window} it’s easier to handle the bigger things in life.

When my eyes are on Him, seeking His will, searching His heart, then the view of the world He has placed me in will always be one of contentment. Not because this earthly life is always good, but because my God is always good and He always has a good plan for my life!

Blessings,

René
perspective

Christian Communicators, Christian Mentors, College age women, Millenials, Moms, Parents, Public Speaking, Stay at Home Moms, Students, Teachers, Uncategorized, women, Women in Ministry, Women's Ministries, Writers

Seeking True Identity…

Y’all ~ I am so excited to let you know that I wrote a guest blog for the Loved + Blessed Ministry!  They are an incredible ministry with a heart to help women live encouraged.

I would love for you to go check them out ~ https://lovedandblessed.com/

You can find them on Instagram @lovedblessedbox and all other social media platforms (facebook, twitter, pinterest, and youtube.

….and in the process you can find the rest of my blog ~ https://lovedandblessed.com/blogs

Here’s an excerpt…

In every super-hero movie out there, there is a moment where they have to choose to keep their identity secret or live out loud in the world with everyone knowing who they are.

I love the ending scene of the first Iron Man movie where Tony Stark’s character is being prepped for a live TV interview about the goings-on at one of his factories. The city has seen what Iron Man can do and how he is risking his life to save those who cannot save themselves from certain disaster. Tony’s handlers have given him set of note cards with the instructions to simply read the explanation they created and end the interview.

But here’s what I love.

Tony Stark’s character stands there, looking at everyone, and calmly says, “I am Iron Man.”

Of course, everyone freaks out but he has chosen to own his identity and live it out loud for all the world to see.

Okay, so this is a movie plot and things work out just how they are supposed to because it’s entertainment. It’s not real life. We are living in real life and we grapple with our identity all the time.

My heart breaks for this younger generation who is fighting so hard to find their identity.

Wading through the endless sea of social media, they are bombarded by the “unreality” of the perfect post. They are tied into how many “likes” their post receives and if it doesn’t get enough, they deem that post insignificant and usually end up removing it.

The comparison game is off the charts as well.

Constantly caught up in the tidal wave of who has what and when and how much; whether that be money, a large social media following, a significant other, or a fantastic wardrobe. There is always something they are wanting to have. Something they believe that will make their life better, give them meaning in a personal way, and bring them the identity they are so desperately searching for.”

 

We all need encouragement in our lives. We are all seeking true identity. The best place to find it is in the embrace of Jesus. And He gives us one of the best jobs we can have in this life of ours…we get to be the arms of Jesus when we come alongside one another, and bring love, grace, and joy with us.

Blessings,

René

Seeking Identity