Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Public Speaking, Stay at Home Moms, Teachers, Uncategorized, Women's Ministries, Writers

Authentic Joy…

What come to your mind when you hear the word ‘joy’?

Candy ~ Almond joy?

Songs ~ Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee

Or different variations of the word JOY ~ happiness? Delight? Pleasure? Enjoyment? Bliss?

Or maybe on a more serious note, you’re wondering when the last time it was that you actually felt joyful?

So much of the idea of success in the world today is based on individualized aspects…What makes you happy? What lights you up? What moves you? What’s your passion? What drives you? Do those things!

But what happens on the mornings when you wake up and the answer to those questions are a big fat nothing? Then what do you do?

John 15:11 says “I have told you these things so that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy may be made full and complete and overflowing.”

So this is what I want to focus on the blog today ~ how to have joy everyday no matter what the circumstances.

Joy is defined as, “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation; a source or cause of keen pleasure or delight; something or someone greatly valued or appreciated; the expression or display of glad feeling; festive gaiety.”

There are over 300 references to ‘joy’ in the Bible, so I’m going to throw it out there, this is something that is important to the Lord…something that He wants us to understand and embrace for our benefit. As opposed to the word ‘happiness’ which is only mentioned a mere eight times. Joy and Happiness are totally different…even though the definition of Joy contains the word happiness.

Happiness is fleeting and is usually attached to an event or how a person makes us feel.

Joy on the other hand, is a state of being. It is a way we can feel no matter what circumstances we are experiencing.

Oh…but there’s one more word I want to touch on before I share a story with you ~ FEELING.

The most important thing I can tell you about feelings is that many times, okay, most times, they aren’t to be trusted as the absolute in how we respond to a situation. Feelings are temporary. I love the quote, “Never make permanent decisions based on temporary feelings.”

Let me tell you a little story ~

In January 1999, we were six months in to living in our dream home in Pasadena…white picket fence and all. My husband had a great job in the entertainment industry, money wasn’t an issue, we had two healthy daughters and decided to try for a third. Life was fantastic. I was so happy because I had everything I wanted. Did ya catch how many “I’s” were in that last sentence??

And then God decided to change the course of our life. It wasn’t horrible, but it was hard!

My husband came home one evening and said, “I’ve been praying a lot lately and I really feel that God wants me to quit my job and open my own company. I know this will mean that we will have to trade in our cars for less expensive ones and figure out if we can keep the kids in private school, oh yeah, and we’ll have to sell the house.”

Well, he told me how he felt, so I was gonna tell him how I felt…

I can still picture the scene in my mind; he was standing by the staircase and I was one stair up so we were just about eye to eye. I non-to-politely (honestly, I was downright rude about it), told him that he couldn’t possibly be hearing from God and I didn’t care what he felt because he was wrong. It was definitely NOT one of my proudest moments as a supportive Christian wife. But my husband truly loves me like Jesus does and he was so patient with me.

He just smiled, asked me to pray about it, and said that when I was ready to talk about it, to let him know.

That made me FEEL so mad!

Had I allowed my feelings to continue to prevail, I would have missed out on experiencing what true Joy can be.

It took the next 9 months to deal with all the things that I was feeling. How my heart ached at the thought of selling our dream home and moving again. How sad I was to be losing a very comfortable salary. Then I started realizing that all the things that were making me sad, were just things. I would still have my family and how could I walk away from doing what the Lord had asked us to do.

To step out in faith requires that we operate in the Fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23a says, “But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

I love how the Amplified version of the Bible describes peace as being something “inner” ~ and what is on the inside of us is what ends up coming to fruition on the outside of us. Through this passage we can see that authentic joy has nothing to do with our happiness; it has everything to do with where our identity comes from.

The worst thing my husband said to me that night was that we would have to sell our house. It was MY house. I had big plans (literally…we had just finished paying for an architect to draw up remodeling plans a few weeks prior). I had already imagined our future Christmases, our girls coming down the staircase for prom & taking pictures in front of the Batchehelder fireplace, how incredible our back yard would look as we hosted friends and family for their weddings amidst fragrant bouquets of flowers and covered in a canopy of fairy lights.

I felt cheated. I felt mad. I felt slighted. I felt my dreams weren’t important.

And for what….a house?

The last day of work for my husband at his original job, was November 19, 2000. For the next decade, I learned quite intimately how I must trust the Lord to be my strength, my hope, my delight, my joy.

Proverbs 10:28 is quite thought-provoking, “The hope of the righteous [those of honorable character and integrity] is joy, But the expectation of the wicked [those who oppose God and ignore His wisdom] comes to nothing.”

Yeah, the Holy Spirit doesn’t mince words here.

And I battled between spiritual integrity and selfish expectations for a long time. It was not pretty.

On the outside, I would plaster on that happy face. But deep down, and many days it bubbled barely beneath the surface, I was angry. And I’m sure you know this…but you cannot be both angry and joyful at the same time. It’s like expecting to bite into a luscious donut and all you get is tofu…they don’t go together…like at all…ever!

Why did we have to struggle so much? Paying our bills, the mortgage, keeping food in the fridge, and gas in the car….seriously? Didn’t GOD tell my husband to quit a perfectly good job and create a new one? Wasn’t it GOD that whispered to the heart of my husband to do his work for Him?  How can GOD direct us to start a Christian company and not bless it?  I mean, really. I was even dyeing & cutting my own hair (oh yeah…it was not a good look…) and stopped getting manicures.

I knew it was petty. I knew that God was in charge. I knew that we would receive blessings from God that would be nothing less than miraculous. I knew all of that in my head, but my heart was in complete denial & filled with frustration pretty much every day.

Proverbs 17:22 summed up my life, “A happy heart is good medicine and a joyful mind causes healing, But a broken spirit dries up the bones.”

Well, the second half of that verse sums up my life for far too long.

We moved ~ God graced us with a beautiful new home.

We tried for a third child and had a healthy daughter.

Our cars were different but they were great ~ and paid for!

Our girls were able to remain at their private school ~ total miracle.

We had the support of our church community.

And I still loved my husband.

Things were looking up.

Then the ceiling in our kitchen started to fall down…because of a burst water pipe…from the upstairs bathroom…

Really?

Happiness disappeared like a vapor and Joy…inner peace…that wasn’t even part of the plan anymore. I moved into survival mode.

For the next 18 months, the Lord took us down a road that I still look back on in amazement. Within the first few weeks, I realized that I needed to change my perspective real quick or I was going to implode.

Actually, I didn’t realize it on my own…thankfully I have wonderful mentors and friends who spoke hard truth to my deaf ears and hardened heart. God wasn’t punishing me, my husband, or our family. He was using this time to prune out of my heart what didn’t need to be there in order for His purposes to be completed within me and throughout my life as a witness for Him.

I was broken but knew deep down I was still blessed. I had to pray often for my joy to be renewed. Very often in the beginning!

Psalm 16:11 promises this, “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”

Where is my joy? It’s in His presence.

Where are the pleasures of life? In His right hand.

Hello! Life changer right there!

We lived in a local hotel for 6 months then moved to a furnished apartment for one year while our house/kitchen went through insurance denials, mold abatement, insurance stalemates, lots of waiting, finally remodeling, then suing the insurance company and moving back home.

I had to learn how to have joy ~ a joy that didn’t come from anything around me or from anything I could produce. I had to rely on the Lord to move within my heart, mind, and soul to create His perfect joy.

I had to ask Him for it…and He gladly answered that prayer!

Part of my responsibility as a wife was to be a support to my husband however I could…happy wife happy life…but not just happy…joyful. As a Mom, my daughters needed as much stability in their lives as possible. At 2, 6, and 8, none of it made sense.  And sleeping together in a pull-out sofa lost its charm pretty quick!

What’s a momma to do…pray!

So I found things I could be joyful about…

Living in a hotel meant I had room/cleaning service…every day!

Apartment laundry rooms meant I could get 15 loads of laundry done in about 3 hours instead of 12…yeah…Every.Week!

Apartment living meant it only took 45 minutes to clean house instead of all day at home.

In both locations, I brought in photos from home and hung them on the wall with those fabulous 3m hooks. I brightened up the beige walls of the apartment entry way with big colorful maps of the USA and one of the world that I found at Costco. I restored part of my sanity by donning a mask & going to our house and getting my sewing machine so I could be creative. I mean, I had all that “free time” that I didn’t have to spend doing laundry or cleaning, right!?!

One of the best ways that the Lord humbled me to learn how to receive His joy was to receive help from others. I didn’t want to be a charity case. But a very wise friend reminded me of how I felt when I was able to bless others with a home-cooked meal, or free babysitting, or a paid-for date night…people wanted to do that for our family now. It’s hard to be on the receiving end, but it’s so worth it.

My attitude began to change and I began to see our reality through the lens of authentic joy. A joy that is not borne out of circumstances, but out of following Christ and choosing to be obedient to what He calls me to walk through.

Once we were able to move back into our house, our life didn’t suddenly become easy.  The money struggles were still there but my husband and I would pray, “Okay Lord, you love to show off to Your children how well you can provide…let’s see what You’re going to do this time!” And we really meant it! And He would always come through. There isn’t enough time to recount the miracles of how God provided for our family during that decade, but it was phenomenal!

Just one quick story, that is still a bit emotional for me to think about, was how we literally had no food in the fridge. We finished up the last of the cereal, eggs, and milk, and used up the rest of what we had to make three little lunches for our girls to take to school. My husband and I prayed before I left to take the girls to school, that God would provide a miracle for us to be able to feed our family. I won’t lie, we were nervous but we trusted God.

As I exited car line and went down a side street, I pulled over and cried and knew I needed to discard my pride and call my parents to help us…and now that I have grown children, there really isn’t an age where that momma heart doesn’t kick in to want to help out your kiddos.

As I held the phone in my hands praying for God to give me the courage to call, it rang…it was my husband…he said, “Everything is great and I’m fine, but you need to come to the office before you go home.” I told him I was about to call my mom about the grocery dilemma and he told me to “wait. Come to the office.” Fine!

I pulled in and walked slowly to his office. He sat there with tears streaming down his face holding a card in his hands. He held it out to my and said, “Just open it.” It was a beautiful floral design, “Thinking of You” kind of card. Inside it read, “Dear Bancroft Family, You are always in my thoughts. Love, Jesus”. Then my husband handed me another little envelope that had been inside the card.

It was a $300 gift card to Ralphs grocery store, written on it with a black sharpie, “To the Bancroft’s ~ Love, Jesus”.

He provided more than enough.

And I still have the card as a reminder that Jesus sees our needs. And that He shops at Ralphs!

Romans 12:11-13, “never lagging behind in diligence; aglow in the Spirit, enthusiastically serving the Lord; constantly rejoicing in hope [because of our confidence in Christ], steadfast and patient in distress, devoted to prayer [continually seeking wisdom, guidance, and strength], contributing to the needs of God’s people, pursuing [the practice of] hospitality.”

I learned that there is no “last minute” with God ~ it might feel like MY last minute, but it’s His perfect timing! God has shown up for us every single time.

We have known plenty and we have known want.

But most importantly, we have always known that our joy rests in Him and not in our circumstances.

That is true authentic joy.

To trust the Lord with EVERYTHING! You don’t have to be happy when you go through difficult times, but it is possible to be joyfully content in the midst of the struggle.

Blessings,

René

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Public Speaking, Stay at Home Moms, Teachers, Women's Ministries, Writers

Your View: Windshield or Rear-View…

Are You Looking Out the Windshield or the Rear-View Mirror?

I got the idea for this discussion topic from a sermon I heard the other day on the radio.There’s a reason why the windshield on a car is so large and the rear-view mirror is so small.

We need to have a wide view of what is out in front of us so that we can see where we are going. The point of driving somewhere is to move forward to get where we intend to end up. We don’t drive backwards to get to our destination. Right?

I know these concepts are not mind-blowing or something new…but I think it’s a good reminder every now and then to take notice of where our attention lies.

Rear-view mirrors, and side-view mirrors for that matter, aren’t bad though…they are completely necessary.

When we look up to check the rear-view or side-view mirrors, that’s just it…it’s just to take a quick look to make sure we are not in danger of being in an accident or causing an accident as we move about the road. We are not to allow our focus to linger because if we do, we are bound to run into the car in front of us.

Our past is like those smaller mirrors.

There’s a warning bell that sounds in your heart or your head, when you’re about to veer off course.  It’s the alarm that alerts us to check ourselves. Are we about to make the same mistake for the millionth time? Are we about to say the wrong thing to someone…again…knowing it won’t work? Did we forget what happened the last time? And if the mirror checks don’t work, then when we drive over those little bumpy-things (I’m sure they gave a name!) that’s a physical AND audible alert that we need to correct our path or we’ll soon be in trouble!

When we look into the side mirror, we can see that car speeding up really fast to our left and make that quick decision to WAIT to move over.

When we look into our rear-view mirror, we can see that car speeding up behind us or flashing their lights at us, and decide we need to move over and let that person go on their merry way albeit too fast and not get involved in their crazy. We can also see the red lights of a fire truck or police car, alerting us to move over because there’s trohbke ahead!

So how does that this translate into our spiritual life?

What side glances get you off track?

What kinds of things do you think you should be focusing on in your “front windshield”?

Let’s look at some scripture that talks about looking forward or behind.

Proverbs 4:25-26 (AMP) “Let your eyes look directly ahead [toward the path of moral courage] And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you [toward the path of integrity]. Consider well and watch carefully the path of your feet, And all your ways will be steadfast and sure.”

 Right there in scripture ~ “…look directly ahead…”  When we direct our gaze straight ahead, like through a large windshield, we will see the path that clearly leads to integrity!

Hebrews 11: 23-29 (AMP) “By faith Moses, after his birth, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful and divinely favored child; and they were not afraid of the king’s (Pharaoh’s) decree. By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, because he preferred to endure the hardship of the people of God rather than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of the Christ [that is, the rebuke he would suffer for his faithful obedience to God] to be greater wealth than all the treasures of Egypt; for he looked ahead to the reward [promised by God]. By faith he left Egypt, being unafraid of the wrath of the king; for he endured [steadfastly], as seeing Him who is unseen. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood [on the doorposts], so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch them (the firstborn of Israel). By faith the people [of Israel] crossed the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; but when the Egyptians attempted it they were drowned.”

 I love that these verses in Hebrews remind us that it is not simply looking ahead & fixing our gaze on the Lord; it is through FAITH that we can accomplish this daily task.

 We are also instructed in God’s Word to take His direction for our life very seriously. When He tells us not to look behind us {dwelling on past sin; obsessing over something you think you’ve missed out on; staying stuck in a cycle of unforgiveness; etc.} then He means it!! 

Genesis 19:26 (AMP) “But Lot’s wife, from behind him, [foolishly, longingly] looked [back toward Sodom in an act of disobedience], and she became a pillar of salt.”

God also shows us through scripture how He provides the way out of a situation. One that is getting a bit frightening or unsettling. In Genesis 22:13 (AMP) we see just that…“Then Abraham looked up and glanced around, and behold, behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up for a burnt offering (ascending sacrifice) instead of his son.”

 Let go of the past and start moving forward! Maybe it’s an actual physical move out of the environment you’re in (work, neighborhood, state…). Maybe it’s a shift in your heart ~ an attitude you’re having is causing disruption in your spiritual life. 

Luke 9:61-62 (AMP) “Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord [as Your disciple]; but first let me say goodbye to those at my home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back [to the things left behind] is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Don’t linger on looking into the smaller windows. Look through the bigger lens of God’s Word…through His windshield!

Blessings,

René

 

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Public Speaking, Stay at Home Moms, Teachers, Uncategorized, Women's Ministries, Writers

Hope is like a belt buckle…

Yesterday, heard a pastor on the radio talking about hope. In that same day I visited my daughters’ high school to watch her sing with the worship team in chapel, and the teacher that spoke to the student-filled auditorium that morning… You guessed it – it was on hope. Later in the afternoon I read several posts from different Christian authors that I follow and all of their messages were about hope. In the evening on my drive home, the host on the radio program I was listening to was talking about hope. So it seemed very clear to me that God was calling me to investigate hope a little bit more and write them down for today.

Now I know my Bible enough to know that in terms of clothing analogies the “belt” in the Christian armor of God, is the belt of truth (Ephesians 6:14). But as I heard the pastor speaking about Hope on that first radio program, he mentioned that hope is really the connection between the past and our future.

Whether it is something that is happening later in the day or even the next day, that is our future because it hasn’t happened yet.

Hope is something that is look forward to.

The radio pastor was encouraging us to remember what we have hoped for in the past and how God has answered those prayers, so that can fuel our hope for whatever it is we are looking forward to in the coming days, months, or years to come.

When I heard this analogy I have to admit that I immediately pictured one of those huge cowboy belt buckles! All blinged out and personalized for the owner.  Come on ~ you know what I’m talking about!!

I got to thinking more of the function of a buckle. The belt buckle must be connected to both ends of the belt fabric, in order to be effective. If we as believers are putting on our spiritual armor every day, which must include the belt of truth, we can in a sense, buckle that belt with the power of hope. Hope in the Lord!

When we know the truth of God’s Word then we can increase our confidence and walk in the hope that the Lord provides us. It says in Romans 5:1-5, Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him 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 will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (emphasis mine).

All of these things rest upon the other. Instead of looking at this list of virtues as a list as if they were all separate, imagine something different with me. Imagine the wood-shake siding of a cute little beach cottage. Each layer is built upon another to create that effect. So it is the same with all the characteristics that are named in this verse. We don’t get to skip some and just choose the ones that we want, or the ones that we think are going to be easier to attain.  That would leave holes in the siding and make the house susceptible to outside dangers.  So it goes with our spiritual life.

romans-5-verses-1-5

Honestly, we can hope for a great many things. But hope is nothing if we do not have truth to base it on.  Hope is not effective in our life if we do not have faith in the one who gives us that Hope.

I think Romans 5:2 summarizes this concept beautifully ~ “We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”

One way to promote the growth of hope in our own lives is to be immersed in community with other Believers.  I have had a variety of experiences in my life that caused great suffering for me.  Had I not had the partnership of those around me to pray for me and lift me up when I did not have the stamina to do so on my own, I shudder to think where I would be in this life.  In fact, scripture tells us of the joyful command from God to be in community.

Hebrews 10:23-25 says, Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering,  for He who promised is faithful.  And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

A pastor at my church is well-known for saying, “remember in the dark what God has done in the light.” When we feel that we are in a dark place, that we are suffering, that we are feeling alone, we can take that walk of faith to remember all of the other times that God has lifted us out of a dark place. The moments of suffering that are replaced with rejoicing.

As we think on these things and as we look to scripture to bolster our spirits, we have our faith renewed and that will give life to a new hope in our heart for whatever it is we are trusting God for in the future.

With trust, faith, and hope…these three characteristics in our life are not a guarantee of ease or of even getting what we want or hope for. They are there to sustain us no matter what the outcome of our situation is. It is very difficult when the prayers that are lifted to the Lord from a heavy heart come back to us with the answer of ‘no’ or even the answer of ‘wait’. We do not have any guarantee of comfort, an easy life, or a life without suffering in various degrees.

What we are promised is that no matter what we go through, Jesus will always be by our side.

Forever and ever, Amen!

psalms-136-verses-1-and-26

Each New Year {especially} starts off with so much anticipation of what is yet to come. Sometimes the year ahead turns out exactly how we had hoped. Sometimes there are tweaks here and there, and sometimes our life is turned upside down.

These are the moments to choose to hold tightly to the hope that is in Jesus Christ. To choose to praise and worship the Father knowing that He truly does have the best in mind for us. God is not in the business of granting wishes or making our dreams come true.

But He will absolutely {and every time} give us what we need.

And what we need is to be filled with His Spirit so that we can shine the light of His glory to the world around us. The people in your realm of influence: be it in an office, a classroom, your own home, or your neighborhood. The Lord has put you right where you are for a specific purpose.

He has a plan for you, and it is good.

Blessings,

René

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Public Speaking, Stay at Home Moms, Teachers, Uncategorized, Women's Ministries, Writers

Seasons change….

Well, it’s officially been the “Fall” season here in SoCal for almost a month.  And do you know what that means? Well, it means something different here than it does in almost every other state in America.  It means our brownish lawns (due to the water shortage) actually look acceptable.  The brownish hue to our mountains seem to be promising that they are just in hibernation and will burst forth with beautiful green come the Spring.  It means that we still hit the 90’s several times a week.  Literally, I’m serious…at this very minute, my weather app tells me it’s a balmy 89 degrees outside, with tomorrow and Friday promising to hit in the low 90’s, then by the weekend it’ll creep down to a chilly 80 degrees on Sunday.  Really people, my heart just did a little happy dance because on Monday & Tuesday next week, it says we’ll have a high of 73 degrees and…wait for it…RAIN!  TWO DAYS of RAIN IN A ROW!!  A change of season…

Okay, okay….I’m calm now.  Honestly, I know that just because it is forecasted to actually be cold (yeah I know…72 isn’t actually cold, just go with me here) and rainy next week, it could change.  I won’t be too surprised, but I’ll be disappointed.  When we think of all the seasons in our own life, we could say the same thing.  The things that we have planned are amazing and exciting.  Then things that are completely out of our control happen, and we are sad, angry, irritated, feeling let down, and may walk around in a fog for a bit wondering if the sun will come out?  Will our season change to a better one?

Even though we are surprised and challenged by the seasons in our life, God never is.

The verses in Psalm 139:15-16 are a perfect and beautiful example of what I mean by this.  Actually, the entire chapter of Psalm 139 is full of promise and faithfulness.  Read these intentional words and let them sink in to your soul…

My frame was not hidden from You when I was being formed in secret [and] intricately and curiously wrought [as if embroidered with various colors] in the depths of the earth [a region of darkness and mystery]. Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book all the days [of my life] were written before ever they took shape, when as yet there was none of them.” (Amplified Version).

God saw our whole life before we were born; before we began to add to our own story; before everything!  He is absolutely a loving God and His heart breaks when we sin, when we choose to walk a different way than what we know to be right.  He does not rejoice in our suffering.  He does not anticipate with glee any hardship we go through.  He is good…He always has been and He always will be.

There are plenty of times in my own life when I doubted God’s goodness.  When kids in high school spread rumors about me and my friends did not come to my defense.  When the people I thought were my friends actually began believing those lies and never came to talk to me about it.  When the boy I thought wanted to marry me, changed his mind and moved to another state. When plans would not work out like I wanted them to and it meant taking a harder road to accomplish various goals.  When our family hit hard times and had major financial difficulties.  When other kids were horribly mean to my children and appeared to get away with the damage they caused. When my mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, and good friends, all went through cancer (and thankfully beat it!).  When my aunt and other other friends and family members were ravaged by cancer and did not make it through.  So many things happen in our life that we don’t understand.

In all these seasons, God was there.  God knew what was going to happen, how it was going to happen, why it happened, and how it was going to end.

And all of these tough seasons have brought incredible fruit to my life that I wouldn’t have otherwise tasted.  I know the importance of speaking up when lies are being spoken.  I know the indelible imprint you will make in a friends life when you believe their story.  I know the vigilance that is needed to keep our kids safe.  I know the joy and harmony that God brought me in the man that HE intended for me to marry.  I know the humble gratitude of the anonymous grocery store gift card arriving in my mailbox at exactly the right moment.  I know the peace and relief when a friend or family member is healed of a disease.  And I know the mourning of friend and family member, will turn to dancing when I see them again in Heaven.

I’m not going to sugarcoat anything here and tell you that I always handled myself in a spiritually sound way.  Nope!  Many many times I cried to God how unfair life was.  How unfair He was!  After all, if He loves me so much that He sent His Son to die on the cross for me, why in the heck do I have to go through a bunch of garbage in my life?  Why does life seem to be easier for other people than it does for me and our family?

Sadly, many times I reverted to a season of being a whiny little baby.  Instead of going for the meat of God’s Word to fulfill and sustain me, I chose ice cream and candy bars.  And where did that get me?  In a new cycle of self-hate and doubt that I would never matter to anyone or amount to anything.  I vacuumed up all the lies Satan was sprinkling out before me. He was tickled pink by my decisions toward destruction, while my loving Heavenly Father was heartsick that I was not turning to Him.  How selfish I was.

The brightest star that God created is the Sun.  It is one singular orb that illuminates the entire world.  Not all at once, not all with the same intensity, but with distinct purpose, direction, and intention.  If we had sunlight all the time we would suffer from heat exhaustion, burns, and drought…just to name a few.  We would not know the joy of a cool evening breeze on our face, or the intense radiant beauty of a sky filled with stars on a cloudless night.

Think about your favorite season?  I personally love it when it stays between 65-75.  I am not a heat-loving person.  But if I never experienced heat, I wouldn’t know the complete bliss of wrapping up in a warm blanket with a cup of tea on a chilly night in winter. (Yeah…it happens a few times a year!).

Even when we are encountering a stressful season, where things seem bleak and spiritually torturous…God can and will bring the rain, the cool breeze, the warm blanket.  It is possible to have peace within the storm.  I’ve lived through enough storms of every level, that I undoubtedly know this is true.  When I am faced with tough seasons now, I am much quicker to run to the Father.  To read His love letter of scripture, to pray and allow the Holy Spirit to pour out the oil of gladness over my soul, to fix my eyes and gaze on His holiness ~ that is the beginning of living peaceful in the midst of the storm.

Every part of the earthly creation comes to play with our spiritual story.  God created the world very specifically with incredibly detailed functions.  He created light and dark, day and night, man and woman, and seasons.  We are created with the same distinction and purpose.  We are meant to grow and change, to rejoice in the knowledge of who God is and how we are to honor and glorify Him with our life.

Reading through a bible study on Ecclesiastes is a wonderful reminder of just that.  Christian or not, most everyone is familiar with the beginning words from Ecclesiastes chapter 3, “To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven:” ~ not just some moments in time, but in every single moment.  In some ways going through this study, I feel like I’m reading Ecclesiastes for the first time and I’m loving it!  It is proof once more that the scripture God fashioned into the Bible we have known for centuries now, is just like He is…the same today, yesterday and forever.  Take a moment to read through the book of Ecclesiastes and see what I mean!

I believe the main purpose for the changing seasons of our life is to constantly bring us back to the knowledge that God alone is the sustainer of our life and the ONLY ONE who can fill the gaps and emptiness we experience.  Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He also has planted eternity in men’s hearts and minds [a divinely implanted sense of a purpose working through the ages which nothing under the sun but God alone can satisfy], yet so that men cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”

God alone satisfies our every desire, wish, want, and need.  He is the director and perfecter of the seasons in our life.  Allow Him to till the soil of your heart, to plant the goodness of His Word, and to harvest the completion of that work that He started in you before you were born.

Live blessed and live loved, in every season, by the God who created the Universe.  He took His time with you ~ now take your time with Him.

Blessings,

René

psalm-139-verses-15-and-16

{all scripture verses are taken from the Amplified Bible Version}

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Stay at Home Moms, Women's Ministries

In the Shadows

On a recent trip out of town with my husband, we took a bunch of photos…and of course posted them on social media!  In many of them, I was in the shadow of my tall husband because the sun was so bright.  I couldn’t open my eyes in the photos, and I don’t like taking photos with my sunglasses on.  I know, I know…big problems of life here!  One of my darling witty daughters commented on one photo saying, “So sad that you’ll always be in dad’s shadow.”  It actually made me laugh since I had CHOSEN to be in his shadow so I didn’t have to squint into the sunlight or leave my sunglasses on.  I wrote a reply saying, “I like to think of it as shelter from the heat!” And the next moment, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart, “In MY Shadow is exactly where you are supposed to be.”  Whoa!  I love it how God can even speak to my heart through social media!  LOL!!

I’ve been mulling over this whole idea between “in the shadows” and “in shelter of” for the past two days now.  And here I sit now chatting with you!

Shadow ~ “a dark figure or image cast on the ground or some surface by a body intercepting light; shade or comparative darkness; darkness especially that of coming after sunset; shelter; protection.”

Shelter ~ “something beneath, behind, or within which a person, animal, or thing is protected from storms, missiles, adverse conditions, etc.; refuge; protection from blame or incrimination; a dwelling place or home considered as a refuge from the elements; to be a shelter for; to place under cover; to protect; take under one’s protection; find a shelter.”

Psalm 91:1, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

Isn’t that beautiful!  This verse in Psalms completely captures the unique quality of the beauty that combines being in the shadow AND being sheltered by the Lord ~ at the same time!

Take a quick look back at the dictionary definition of the word shelter.  Now think of this meaning in spiritual terms.  When we are sheltered beneath the wings of our Heavenly Father (Psalm 36:7*), we are able to sing with confidence!  He is able to protect us from the storms of life, from the missiles of discontent blasted off from the enemy, and from conditions in our life that are meant to distract or make us dissatisfied with the Lord.  When we make our home with the Lord, we can take refuge from the arrows of the enemy and trust that He will extinguish the deadly fires of dissatisfaction.

Notice as well what I’m pointing out here….the attacks from the enemy WILL COME!  They are inevitable simply because we are children of the Most High God.  We are reminded in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  And how do we maintain a sober and alert mind?  As we read scripture, we are sheltered by the Word of the Lord and all that comes into our mind from Him enables us to wage a victorious battle against the lies of Satan.  This verse maintains that the enemy is “like a roaring lion” ~ it doesn’t say that the enemy IS one…big difference there!  It also doesn’t say that we as Christians are like sitting ducks waiting to be picked off ~ we are moving targets that the enemy tries to pin down, but we are NOT to be passive!  NO my friend ~ we are to be ever-moving about our life, navigating the path that God has set us on, and be ready to press into the Lord when the battle wages.  And the battle will be tougher on some days than others.  There will be seasons of hand-to-hand combat, and seasons of less contention ~ but every day we should be ready for whatever comes our way.

Another reason to remember to put on the proper battle gear ~ the Armor of God!! (Ephesians 6). Oh, and here’s one of the most comforting pictures in scripture to me ~ I don’t have to worry about constantly looking behind me to see what’s coming.  I can use all my energy (mental, physical, and spiritual) to move forward knowing that I’m protected because God has my back!  Isaiah 52:12 says, “But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the Lord will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.”  YES!!!  My God and His angel armies are sheltering my life from all that I cannot see as I move in concert with what I can see and follow God’s leading in how to combat the enemy as he tries to throw me off course! I don’t know about you, but I gave myself chills here!

We have an endless supply of reminders in God’s Word of how the Lord protects, shelters, and shadows us.  But we have to be IN and involved in spending time in the scriptures to know this.

When the heat of battle is beating down on your head ~ hide in the cool shadow of the everlasting God.

Blessings,

René

Psalm 91 verse 1

{ photo taken on our trip as we drove through the Presidio in San Francisco }

 

All Bible verses found on http://www.biblegateway.com, NIV version
 * Further reference: Psalm 36:7, “How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”

 

 

Christian Mentors, Moms, Parents, Stay at Home Moms, Women's Ministries

Seeing the Delight in being Set Apart

Does this title seem like an oxymoron to you?  It does to me ~ and I’m truly beginning to love how God has been working in my heart in the past few years.  Showing me delight in things I previously found absolutely frightening.  He is so good and so patient as I learn these truths.

What does it mean to be set-apart?  As I searched these words in scripture, there are about 60 verses that touch on the subject.  Some of them deal with animals, unclean things, or cities.  However, most of these verses deal with people and how the Lord has set us apart.  Being “set apart” is not for only certain people.  It is not for those who’ve gone through seminary or special theology classes…it is for all who call on the name of Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.  Let me share a few with you here ~

Leviticus 20:26, “You are to be holy to Me because I, Yahweh, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be Mine.”

Psalm 4:3, “Know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for Himself; the Lord will hear when I call to Him.”

Jeremiah 1:5, “I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born. I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Galatians 1:15, “But when God, who from my birth set me apart and called me by His grace, was pleased”

I Peter 1:2-3, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father and set apart by the Spirit for obedience and for sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ. May grace and peace be multiplied to you. Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”

I think the verse in Leviticus gives us a beautiful picture of who we are to the Lord.  The phrasing is very clear, that we have done nothing on our own to receive the bounty of God’s love.  Simply because HE is Holy, we are called holy and called to be set apart.  We are separate from those who do not have a relationship with the Lord.  This does not mean we are better than others.  But it does give us an amazing privilege ~ to call the Almighty Creator of the Universe, our Father.  We can call Him our friend, our confidante, our protector, our healer, our Savior.

God is PLEASED to call us His own ~ He yearns to reconcile us back to Him.

I know I wrote a bit about being “set apart” in my last blog, but felt like there was more to say.  It can be our delight to be set apart.  When we allow God to lead us into the calling He personally and specifically places on our life, being set apart doesn’t look lonely ~ it looks whole and full!  This is not the game of kickball in 2nd grade where you got picked last…or not at all.  God chose YOU to be right where you are at this very moment in time because YOU are the one He wants to be a light to the neighbors, family, or co-workers that surround you.  You have a unique job that no one else can quite fill the way you do.  Dive in and see what He has planned for you!

Sometimes, being set apart can feel like you are alone in the quest that God has given you.  Especially if you are the only Christian in your home, work place, dorm room, or in your family. But you are not by yourself ~ the Lord is with you and because He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever,” (Hebrews 13:8), He will never leave you or forget about you.

So take a moment today and ask God what it is that He has set you apart for.  What is it that He has been whispering to your heart to do?  Take time in your prayers to seek Him and not say a word ~ yep…just quietly listen to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit and not give a list of wants and needs.  God is faithful to answer you when you call.

It is always safe to go where God is.

Psalm 4 verse 3

Blessings,

René