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, Uncategorized, Women's Ministries, Writers

Words ~ the power to hurt or heal…

One of the little rhymes I heard as a child that I never understood {and actually, I really hated it!} was the one that goes, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Have you heard that one?

What a pile of rubbish!!!!

Words hurt sometimes!!! A lot!!! They cut deeper than we can imagine. Whether those words are spoken to our face, behind our back, or through the glorious glowing screens of social media platforms.

Words are powerful ~ not only do we need to be careful about what we say to others but {almost} more importantly, what we say to ourselves!

From the First5 devotional app, that I was reading today (Day 6 of Return to Refuge plan, by Kellye Schiffner Carver), she writes Habakkuk recalls God’s character and resolves to trust in Him.” This referred to Habakkuk 3:18-19, “Yet I will [choose to] rejoice in the LORD; I will [choose to] shout in exultation in the [victorious] God of my salvation! The Lord GOD is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army]; He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet And makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence] on my high places [of challenge and responsibility].”

Look at all of those positive things that Habakkuk speaks back to the Lord…characteristics that He has given us as His children…strength, courage, salvation, steady, sure, confident…not one thing uttered here is of discouragement.

How many times this month (or goodness sakes…just today!) have you said something negative over yourself? Maybe you don’t even realize you’re doing it because it’s become second nature?

Let me share a story…

For the many years of my adolescence & early adulthood, I truly believed I was ugly.  Not just slightly  unattractive or not really pretty…but really and truly ugly. I mean, I must be because people made fun of me for how I wore my hair, what clothes I wore to school, the gap in my front teeth, oh, and the fact that growing up our family didn’t eat sugar.  Like we were “that family” before eating healthy was cool.  We made our own peanut butter, my mom made cashew milk for our whole grain hot cereal, we made our own grain free granola.  Oh and the sugar free peanut butter was mostly enjoyed between TWO huge rice cakes! {Hello 1970’s when Whole Foods was only known at a few stores called Mrs. Gooch’s}!!

{all the glory that was me in the 8th grade!}

At any rate ~ the teasing was endless…the whispers were terrifyingly loud…my weirdness factor was off the charts.

It wasn’t until I was in my early 30’s that I was able to break free of the “I’m ugly” curse that I had spoken over my life. There were times in-between those years that I felt pretty, but not many…Senior Prom, Senior Pictures, my wedding day and honeymoon, and the days my three daughters were born. That’s about it.

Thanks to some super deep talks in the dark with my husband and some difficult conversations with a dear friend, they helped me walk out into the light of who God saw me as, who God called me to be, and who they saw me as. The hardest thing that my friend asked {okay…she TOLD} me to do was to say, “I’m fearfully and wonderfully made by God and I am beautiful.” But that wasn’t all of the mandate…I had to say to myself…IN THE MIRROR!

Ugh!

I had to look at myself and say it out loud…every…day! Until I could say it confidently without looking away and without disbelieving what I was saying. It took at least a month but maybe more. It was painful and I hated it. But I did it.

At first I did it because we were raising three little girls. I could see that it pained them whenever I said something demeaning about myself. My husband could see the far-reaching potential of those hateful things I said out loud about myself, and the affects they would have in our daughters’ lives. Only I had the power to change that. So I said the words. I said them until I began to see myself the way God did. The way my husband and children did. The way my true friends did.

I haven’t felt ugly since then.

Ephesians 4:29 {AMP} warns, “Do not let unwholesome [foul, profane, worthless, vulgar] words ever come out of your mouth, but only such speech as is good for building up others, according to the need and the occasion, so that it will be a blessing to those who hear [you speak].”

People!  This is not just talking about what we say to other people, whether to their face or in gossip. This verse is about how we speak to our self!

STOP SPEAKING LIES OVER YOUR LIFE!

Some of the things we say about ourselves don’t even register as a lie because we’ve said it so many times, we believe it’s true.

“I’m so overwhelmed.”

“I’m such a bad mom.”

“I’m a horrible wife.”

“I’m never gonna be like her.”

“I’m never going to amount to much.”

“I’ll never find a husband.”

Oh my friends….let me give you a great encouragement here…none of those phrases were ever said about you by our amazing Heavenly Father! NONE of them!

The first blessing God spoke over us was this from Genesis 1:26-28, 31 “Then God said, “Let us (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) make man in Our image, according to Our likeness [not physical, but a spiritual personality and moral likeness]; and let them have complete authority over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle, and over the entire earth, and over everything that creeps and crawls on the earth. ” So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them [granting them certain authority] and said to them, Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, and subjugate it [putting it under your power]; and rule over (dominate) the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and every living thing that moves upon the earth.” God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good and He validated it completely. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day.”

Did you catch that last part? Does it talk about us being good enough to be made? Perfect enough to be given authority? Unflawed enough to deserve to be created in the image & spiritual likeness of the Trinity? Nope…not once!! Did we have to work hard & prove our worth? Nope, not even that! Yet He validated us COMPLETELY!!!!

And everything He saw that He’d made ~ which includes you and me ~ He thought it was good!!!

We are sealed by His words of creation, and sealed forever by the salvation through Christ, the Living Word!!

All through the New Testament, the Lord calls us His beloved, His children. He calls us precious, restored, renewed & reconciled. He provides the free gift of salvation. He calls us by name and declares us wonderful!

When you don’t have words of your own, speak Psalm 139:14 (amp) over yourself, “I will give thanks and praise to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it well.”

Here’s another one to speak over yourself from Psalm 141:3 (amp), “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips [to keep me from speaking thoughtlessly.]”

When we speak lies over ourselves, we begin to allow the spirit of that attribute to cover us. When we speak the truth of God’s Word over our life, we allow His character to cover us.

Either way, how we live is affected by what we speak. Our heart is affected by what we speak over ourself. And our mind listens to it all.

I still have body issues that I’m dealing with, my I know that I’m not ugly. What I do know is that I’m beautiful because God made me. I’m joyful because I live for Him. I’m happy because I know how miserable I used to be. I’m grateful that the Lord (and my fantastic husband and sweet friends) wouldn’t let me stay in a miry pit of sadness and depression. I can smile and laugh because I know my life has a plan and purpose that only God has orchestrated for me to fulfill!

The power of words is important for us to understand. It is vital to speak truth over ourself, our spouse, our children, our families, those in our circle of influence, and really, to speak God’s truth over & into the lives of anyone the Lord puts in our path!!

So if you feel like you can’t say something nice…pray a Psalm out loud instead!!

Blessings,

René

{Living out a special day with family in the beauty that is Waimea, HI ~ Big Island ~ and I actually ASKED my daughters to take some photos of me!}

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

A Story of Six Fathers….

This past weekend, we celebrated Father’s Day.  One of the songs we sang was “Good Good Father” and man….it gets me every time!  I have a good good Father and He loves me so much!  The service also made me think about the father’s that are in my life, and how I believe that the Lord ~ my Heavenly Father ~ has used all of them to shape my own life and about the life that God has for me.

The catch is, I’m not going to tell you how these fathers are related to me until the end of this blog, so you’ve gotta dive in and come along this journey with me.

The first man is someone of whom I know very little of. I’ve only met him in person once, chatted on the phone a few times, received a few letters from, and have sent Christmas cards to him for over a decade. His life is different now, but the stories of an earlier time in life are not what I would call a “good father.”  He had addictions to drugs and alcohol, physically harmed his wife, and emotionally harmed his children. At one of the births, he was so drunk that the flowers he brought into his wife’s hospital room had been plucked fresh from the gardens outside the hospital…with roots and dirt still attached.  I know this man feels remorse, and has said as such, about his “life before being sober,” but it has still held him back from having a healthy relationship with his children.

The second man is the picture of a husband and father deeply devoted to his family.  Even to children not borne of him, he warmly welcomed them into his family and called them his own. There is always a funny joke (okay…corny is more the word for it), a smile and a hug upon entering his home, sweet notes of encouragement for no reason at all, and all of this is done with such a generous spirit.  He truly serves his family with love and grace.

The third man is someone that I would not want to meet in a dark alley. He is gruff and selfish. He is frightening and commanding. He is cunning and sharp. He is full of smiles and pats on the back. He appears generous but there are always strings attached. He is two-sided ~ depending on which side you are on, determines how you are treated. Nothing was ever good enough…his wife and children could never truly do anything that pleased him.  It often made me wonder why on earth this man even got married in the first place. His fits of anger were terrifying…even more so because many times he would have a smile on his face. He lied to gain approval from others.  He told stories that weren’t true. He embellished true stories, in an effort to somehow make himself seem more important that he really was. When his son received the Lord, he emotionally disowned him. His son was 45 years old before he ever hugged him…and then only because they were seated next to each other at a Father’s Day service at church.  That was about the last time this man entered a church building.

The fourth man is strong and gentle.  He is kind and generous.  He can be intimidating because he’s so tall.  His piercing eyes are at the same time full of love and expectation. He is a man of few words, but when he does speak, it is always worth listening to. He too welcomed children into his life that were not his own. The child who was his was lost at a very young age and I do not think he quite recovered. This man is very wise and knows so much about safety, boating, the weather, and he can build just about anything and everything…which you can see in the home he built for his retirement. He loved the Lord but felt that he couldn’t truly receive the Lord as His Savior (even though he always believed) until he stopped drinking beer. That broke my heart to hear this, but I’m so grateful he did!

The fifth man is complex and simple at the same time. He is so smart and knows the answer to just about any question thrown his way.  He loves cars and loves to drive.  In fact, I think if you were lost anywhere in the United States and called him for directions, he would be able to get you where you needed to go! He would do anything for his family. His job of over 30 years was one where he put himself in harms way everyday to make sure that people were safe. He is kind and beyond gracious to his wife and children. Sometimes his kindness has been seen as weakness by others, but I know that it is a gift the Lord has given to him. He loves the Lord with all of his heart and soul. There is a calmness about him, and a sense of trust that everyone can tell when they are around him. He hardly ever does anything just for himself, because quite honestly, I don’t know if he truly believes that he deserves good things. His upbringing and losing a child of his own may have some connection to that, but oh how I wish that someday he would know how truly incredible he is to his family and friends.

The sixth man is someone whom I have come to admire more and more everyday.  I’ve known him for more than half of my life and I wouldn’t know what to do without him. He gives everyone the benefit of the doubt (a little too often if you ask me) and his gut instinct is to trust everyone. He is honest and doesn’t lie to anyone. His wife and children and of the utmost importance to him and he does all he can to provide well for them.  His extended family is very important to him too, and I’m pretty sure they all know it! From his life today, you wouldn’t necessarily know that he came from a broken family. By God’s grace, he never got mixed up into trouble while growing up. He is the definition of a strong, kind, gracious, and merciful husband and father. He is funny and loving.  Sometimes he lacks that all important “filter” but usually comes out smelling like a rose…and those moments have honestly been a source of amusement for his family. This man wants to life the best life he can.  This man wants to honor the Lord in all he does.

Whew…that was a bit of an emotional roller-coaster for me there.  I’m sure that there are qualities in each of these men that I described that you can identify with.  Maybe someone who is not in your life anymore, or someone who still is.

The best news I have for you ~ whether you have a difficult father or a kind father ~ is that there is the ultimate Father who loves you no matter what!  Our Father God is the one from whom we can receive unconditional love, immense grace, undeserved mercy, and everlasting life. The sacrifice He made, in the death of His Son Jesus Christ, was not the end of the story.  The resurrection of Jesus made it possible for us to find out way back to our amazing Father in heaven. Jesus filled that gap.  There is no one else who can do that for you.

So who are all these father’s I wrote about today…I won’t hold you in suspense any longer…

The first man ~ he is my husband’s birth father. He was never there to show my husband what it meant to be a good father. The facts of his addictions and abuses were shared with my husband by his mom, and through seeing her heartache, my husband determined himself at a very young age that he would not grow up like that. I also strongly believe in the power of prayer and know that my husband was spared many temptations because of prayer.  One of the people that prayed for him, just about every day since I was born, was my parents. He has been sober for a very long time and has wonderful second family.  They do not know him as my husband knew him, so it’s difficult for them to understand. However I’m so grateful that he was given a second chance. What I pray for this man, is that someday he can truly rest in the power of God’s grace and forgiveness.

The second man ~ he is the man my husband calls “Dad.” He came into my husband’s life when he was a teenager.  This man loves my husband as his own son.  He was strict and loving at a time when I know my husband needed it.  He is the one who showed my husband what it meant to be a kind and loving father. We are blessed that he is still here on this earth to share his life, hear his stories, and learn from him how to love & serve the Lord with all your heart.

The third man ~ he is my father’s father. He was a hard man on all levels. To see what kind of person he was, and see what kind of man my father is, it is amazing to me that they are related.  Sadly, at least as much as I know, he did not believe in God.  He thought that he was “too good for all the Christian stuff.” He believed that following Jesus was for the weak. He fooled some, but to those who knew him, we didn’t buy it. When he passed away, my heart ached because he was now truly lost.

The fourth man ~ he is my mother’s step-father. He always seemed unapproachable, but I always knew that he loved me. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I literally saw the emotional walls come down. The walls he had so carefully built to protect his heart. Seeing him hold my daughter’s when they were infants, that man just melted. I think the final bricks came down when one of my girls, at the age of 2 (and without warning) grabbed a book and jumped into his lap and said, “Papa, I want you to read me this book.”  He looked over at me with tears in his eyes (which made me cry then, and is making me cry now) and began reading.   This went on for years every time we visited my grandparents.  It is such a comfort to know that I will see him again someday in heaven.

The fifth man ~ he is my father. Again, I believe the power of prayer was at work because I know my mother’s mother prayed for him.  Not by name, but the Lord knew who my mother would marry. I have learned so much from my father.  He has a heart of true forgiveness towards his father, which is miraculous to me. He could have turned out just like his father, but he chose to follow God the Father instead. I’m eternally grateful for that choice, and I am so blessed to have had a father who I knew then, and know now, loves me unconditionally. I know he will always be there for me and my family.

The sixth man ~ this man…he is my favorite…he is my husband. Just as my parents prayed for me to marry a godly man, I know they still pray for him all the time.  My husband has taught me so much about being kind and having patience.  I don’t always listen, but I’m getting better. I am humbled by his daily commitment to me and our daughters; and how he strives to follow the Lord and honor Him in all the decisions he makes in his personal and professional life.  I am blessed too with how he has shown love and support for our three girls.  They have all seen in him what to look for in their own future husband someday.  They know what it means to be taken care of, prayed for, and loved unconditionally.  And they know he isn’t perfect and makes mistakes, but they know they can always trust him. I love that my husband still tries to woo me everyday…those moments make me so incredibly cherished. My husband believes in me. My husband has never lied or cheated on me. I do not hold those truths lightly.

I know that this post has gone very long, and if you are still reading ~ Thank you! My prayer for you is that if you have been hurt by your earthly father, that you are able to ask the Lord to help you forgive so that you can move forward.  You don’t have to go physically to that man to tell him you forgive him, the Lord can stand in that gap for you. And as difficult as it may be, turn to your Heavenly Father and allow Him to heal those hurts and fill those voids that are in your heart and soul.

He is the only one who can do that.  

He is trustworthy.

He is kind.

He is gracious and merciful.

He calls you by name.  

You are His child and He is your Father.

2 Thessalonians 2 verses 16-17

Blessings,

René

{to listen to “Good Good Father”…check it out here… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djrY_eFDOwE }

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

If You’re Happy and You Know it……..

I bet you’ve heard that old song, “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.” I’m sure you know the rest….so are you?  Is your new year’s resolution to be happy? How about just wanting to enjoy every moment?  EVERY moment…really?  Or do you want to be better?  What does that even mean by the way?  To “be better”….better than what?

I looked up “happy” in my handy-dandy bible app and found that (depending on the version you like), being happy is mentioned between 20-45 times in the Old and New Testaments.  If you are apt to take verses out of context, you could argue that God wants you to be happy.  Well, you’re partially correct.  The ways in which we can be happy are:

* When we are saved from our enemies

* When we speak with wisdom

* When we experience the goodness of God

* When we receive correction from the Lord

* When we do not follow the path of wicked men

* When we take refuge in the Lord

* When we remember that God chose us for His own

* When we care for the poor & show kindness to our neighbor

* When we find our strength in the Lord

* When we delight in the Lord and praise Him continually

* When we walk in the presence of the Lord

* When we seek the Lord with all our heart, mind, body, and soul

* When we wait patiently for the Lord

Best thing that I see in all of these references ~ it’s NOT about ME!  It’s ALL about HIM!  Is this as much a relief to you as it is to me?  I cannot be happy on my own.  I will never be able to be happy simply because I choose to be and live in such a way to make that happen.  That is not the reality in which God has laid out for us.  When we put ourselves aside, follow the Lord’s leading, and walk in the direction He has chosen for us, praising Him no matter what comes along that path, THEN we will be happy.  THEN we will have happiness that comes from a place that is beyond our control.

But really…..is it happiness that you want and are striving for?  I think the underlying emotions that we are searching for so much in our lives is that of contentment and peace.  Now, hang on to your hat….contentment and peace are absolutely intertwined with being happy. However, BOTH come from resting in the Lord and trusting Him with all your frustrations, messes, irritations, sadness, and in your joyful times too.  In all of it!

There are over 300 verses that talk about peace, and again, there is absolutely nothing you can do to gain peace for yourself on your own terms.  Same goes for the 7 verses that speak on having contentment.

One of the most difficult times in my married life is when my husband and I (along with two other amazing couples from our church) felt called by God to start up a faith-based children’s animation company.  All six of us, with greatly differing personalities, were all on board for the entire time we had our company; that this is what God had called us to.  Had we not all had the unique commitment to find our contentment, peace, and happiness in the Lord, I don’t even want to think about where we would all be today.  Little did we know that God was going to ask our three families to truly live out the verses that Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11-13, I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Before we started our company, my husband had a very successful career with a major animation studio ~ pulling in a generous 6 figure yearly salary + bonuses.  And we left it because God asked us to.  Not quickly, but we did jump off the proverbial cliff of faith God called us to.

The lowest financial point when we had our company, was when we had about $80.00 total (like, yeah, eighty dollars….that’s it) for the month.  And then we were invaded by ants.  I seriously, VERY seriously, HATE ants!  Long story short, although my sweet husband was angry that he would have to use his $5 allowance for lunches (think Costco $1.50 hot dog special!) to buy me a can of ant-killer spray, he did it anyway.  That day, at a VONS in town, my man walked out of there somehow only paying .05 for a huge can of Raid.  Yep…no misprint there…FIVE CENTS!  We went back to the that location several times looking for the checker that helped him find the right store promotion and use our rewards card to get this deal, and never found her again.  Angels are real people ~ we met one and she helped us kill the ants!

Relating this very small part of our story, brings tears my eyes even now as I remember the hardship we experienced.  But the tears are not because I’m sad.  The tears are not because I am disappointed that God apparently didn’t mean for our company to last.  The tears are for the joys within the trials that we learned….individually and together as a family.  I honestly wouldn’t trade what we went through because it made my faith in the Lord stronger.  It made me know beyond a shadow of doubt, that God fully and completely cares for me and what happens to me.  It taught my daughters to know that God is always there because He loves us and wants the best for us.  We learned to live out in practical ways, “for my good and God’s glory.”  He cares more about my relationship with Him, than in what my bank account says!  🙂

God’s peace passes way beyond our understanding!  Our minds are incredibly finite when it comes to such things.  I want to encourage you to look up scriptures on peace, and read them over and over again.  Ask the Lord to wash over your heart, mind, and soul with the words of His promises.  His peace comes to those whose trust is in Him; to those who believe in His words; to those who reside within the borders of obedience to Him; who are faithful to follow Him.  Then peace, no matter the circumstance you find yourself in, will envelop you like nothing else.  It doesn’t mean you are skipping down the street throwing confetti & glitter in the air.  It means that your happiness finds itself generated in the overwhelming knowledge that God calls you His own and loves you more than you know.

Oh, and God has a sense of humor!  I have a TV channel playing a contemporary Christian pop music station.  A song called, “Happy” came on and I found it on youtube, so of course, I’m adding in the link to this blog.  My favorite verse is this one:

“No, I cannot count the ways
You have made my life so blessed
All I know is that You came
And made beauty of my mess”

Isn’t that beautiful!  I love music that reminds me of the greatness of my God and how very much He cares about me.  And no wonder ~ God is the creator of music! Part of the reason is written in Zephaniah 3:17 because He had something special planning for music and it involves YOU! It says, “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”  Just one more way that He wanted to connect with us on a spiritual level.

The days I want to simply stand in church and NOT sing, are the days I know that I MUST sing.  I can feel the groaning of the Holy Spirit calling out to me to lift my voice in praise ~ to unveil my mind from the prison of hurt, anger, or pride, and humble myself before the Lord.  There’s nothing that snaps me out of a bad mood faster than trusting my heart to a time of worship to the Lord.  The musical chords and words of the song, literally wash over my heart and shine the light of the Jesus on me!  Whew!  If you have ever had this kind of experience, you know what I’m talking about.  If you haven’t ~ my friend, get to your nearest radio and find a station that plays great praise music.  I’ll listen to just about all of it, but anything from Hillsong or Bethel Music will absolutely and positively minister to you!!

So I don’t want you to be happy ~ not in the way the world calls out to our sinful nature to be happy.

I want you to be happy because you have found peace and contentment in the Lord.  Because you have found delight in honoring the Lord and in obeying the call He has on your life.  Because you have chosen to put yourself aside and step out in faith as the Lord directs.

Then, you will be truly happy!

Blessings,

René

Psalm 34 verse 8

https://www.biblegateway.com/

http://www.metrolyrics.com/happy-lyrics-ayiesha-woods.html

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

Thanks in Giving

Today is the Monday before Thanksgiving ~ so appropriately, I thought I put down my thoughts about the subject with my own personal flavor.  Which means that I’m already imagining the table decor and myriad of tasty dishes that await my family and I in a few days.  Quite frankly, if all there was to eat was mashed potatoes with gravy, herbed stuffing, and homemade pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream ~ I would be completely happy!

At this time of year, much is written about Thanksgiving: being thankful, being grateful, having gratitude, etc.  If you are new to my blog, you’ll come to know that I love word studies; what words mean, and how to put them in perfect context as to what is being conveyed in a sentence or story.  To get started today…here’s a bit of basic definitions of words that I’ll be focusing on today.

Being ~ the fact of existing; existence

Having ~ to possess; own; hold for use; contain

Thankful ~ feeling or expressing gratitude; appreciative.

Grateful ~warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received; thankful:

Gratitude ~ the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful:

Thanksgiving ~ the act of giving thanks; grateful acknowledgment of benefits or favors, especially to God.

Giving ~ to present voluntarily and without expecting compensation; bestow:

Do you notice that all of these words are action oriented?  Whether it is physical actions or emotional/mental ones, that are all in movement; they are all in motion within or toward another person/entity.

 

We cannot be full of thankfulness and gratitude and be motionless and stagnant at the same time.  It is virtually impossible.

 

Colossians 3:17 has beautiful words to share with us ~ “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
This verse is clear and concise that no matter what we do or say, however we act and whatever we think about, in ALL of those things we are to be thankful to the Lord.  Are we to actually thank God for bad things that happen or difficult times in our life?  NO!  It means that we can choose to move through our life with an attitude of gratefulness and confidence, being alert to the power of God in our life. He will be walking alongside us in all things.  Some hard times in life last longer than others; sometimes years pass with a sense of darkness hovering over our life; and at times of difficulty it seems like it will never end.
How do we choose to live a life of thanksgiving when we feel utterly hopeless?  I’ll tell you one thing ~ you have to fight for it!  It is not easy to choose thankfulness and gratitude.  It is sometimes the most difficult time to choose to be joyful.  But I have lived long enough to know that when I begin to feel those daggers of doubt and fear to cloud my heart and my mind, I have a choice to make.  I can be gloomy, sad, feel sorry for myself, and decide that I’m not worth it.  OR…..I can ask the Lord to help me overcome those negative attitudes.  He can (and WILL) do just that!!  He won’t leave you lying in a puddle of sadness ~ He will scoop you up in His mighty arms and comfort you.
Better than any words I could choose…let these promises from God’s Word wash over your heart ~
Colossians 1: 9-14, 21-23:For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.”
This is why we can choose to be grateful.  We can have thanks as we give praise to the Lord for the fact that He has chosen us, to rescue us from true darkness and a life separated from Him.  In the midst of the bleak moments, we have the strength of the Holy Spirit inside of us to do the battle.  To wage the war against the mental and emotional attacks from satan, whose sole job is to make us believe that we are not worth Christs’ love.  To make us think that we have to work hard to do things, to live a certain way, in order for Christ to love us.  That when we sin and mess up, that we have lost hope of Christ really loving us.
Let me tell you friend ~ you cannot out-sin the abundant grace and forgiveness of our Heavenly Father.  You just can’t!
In the same way, you cannot be good enough or work hard enough to earn that grace.  You just can’t.
Psalm 98:1 “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.”
Did you see that?  HIS right hand and HIS holy arm.  
Not mine.  Not yours.
Only the Lord can provide salvation for us and He chose that for us BEFORE the creation of the world.  Before you were born, before I was born, before Adam and Eve committed the first sin ~ God put into a place a plan to have His Son Jesus live a sacrificial life and die on the cross, returning to the earth and graciously providing a way to be reconciled to God the Father.  His cross, for lack of a more imaginative idea, is the bridge connecting us back to the Lord.
We must be thankful at all times ~ no matter what ~ for the indescribably gift that is the salvation that the Lord offers freely!  (2 Corinthians 9:15)
We cannot pay for it ~ He already did!
We don’t put it on layaway and work it off ~ that only works at K-mart.
We cannot do one little thing to earn it ~ It is a gift!
What do you do with a gift?  What do you do when someone gives generously of their resources to you?  Do you pull out your wallet and offer to pay them back?  Do you make a list of what was given to you so that you can make sure and give that person a “better” gift the next time around? I really hope you don’t ~ because then you’ve missed the point.  A gift is not something earned.  A gift is chosen specifically for you from someone who loves you.  A gift is not something intended to be paid back. A gift is a reflection of the heart of a friend towards you.
I think my favorite word study definition from above is ~ Grateful: the Latin word grate or grātus means: pleasing. The other descriptive words “warmly” and “deeply” convey a cozy, peaceful, enjoyable place.  Like sitting by a warm fire drinking your favorite cup of tea and reading a good book.  Blissfully accepting the personal kindness someone has done to you ~ this is what it is to be grateful.  To have this attitude and live it out is what it is to have thanks in giving~ offering up to the Lord a song of thanksgiving for the gift of eternal life.
So this year, at this time of Thanksgiving, I want to encourage you to choose to be grateful; choose to be accepting of the gift that you cannot earn and that you don’t deserve.  Let Christ bestow on you the gift of salvation.  Living as a royal priesthood and as a child of the King, does not mean that all your problems will miraculously disappear.  God is not a genie!  But what it means is that you have the power of the Living God, the Almighty Creator of the Universe, holding you up in those times of trouble.  He is your strength, He is your dignity, He is your friend, and He is your Army!  God bless you with His magnificent peace and with His never-ending grace.
Blessings,
  René
Colossians 3 verse 17

http://dictionary.reference.com/

https://www.biblegateway.com