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Holding Grief & Joy…

Is it really possible to hold grief and joy at the same time?

Yes, I do believe it is.

November is a precious month to me because of what happened two years ago. I learned to hold grief and joy, together in my heart, like a mother would hold two newborns in her arms. You cherish both, you learn from both…one does not have to win out over the other. But man, it’s so hard to hold them both.

Our oldest daughter got married two years ago at the beginning of November and it truly could not have been a more perfect day! After three days of torrential downpours (which in SoCal is always a shock!) Saturday dawned with a freshness in the air, a promise of the joy to come that day! The blue sky was dotted with fluffy white clouds, no sign of rain at all. Watching your child get married is a surreal thing. It brings you back to your own wedding day. I was keenly aware of this man who was marrying my daughter, I knew him before I knew him because I prayed for him for 24 years. I trusted that the Lord was watching over this man who would one day capture my daughter’s heart. What tremendous joy!! I get teary every time I think of this fantastic privilege to see a prayer come to life. It was a perfect day.

The weeks that followed however, I would not classify them in the “perfect” category. I think this is when I began to learn how to hold grief and joy in the same embrace.

The Friday after the wedding, my husband was struck with a terrible case of shingles…on…his…face! It was awful and painful and a bit terrifying. He was on medication and had many doctor and ophthalmologist appointments to make sure the virus didn’t affect his vision. It was so painful to watch him go through it all.

We had just come from such a high high and now experiencing a tremendous low.

On top of that, a few days before the shingles hit my honey’s darling face, I discovered why my neck had been hurting for a few weeks. I had somehow popped the top right back rib out of place. I would seriously rather give birth without drugs (because I have!) than feel the pain of having a rib put BACK into place several times before it finally stayed in place. Oh, the tears and the ugly-cry that happened in the chiropractor’s office for the first week or two of treatment! Thankfully it was where my now married daughter worked, so she was a bright spot in my day!

So, in the span of a few weeks, we’ve got…wedding…popped rib…shingles…we had enough riding on the emotional rollercoaster of life and were looking forward to things settling down.

At the end of November my father-in-law, Jim, passed away. It wasn’t completely unexpected but it’s still never easy. My husband and I were able to be there the night before and have our time with him and we knew that was a huge blessing.

As I sat at the funeral home with my mother-in-law and two of my sisters-in-law, my own mom called and said that I should make my way to my grandmother’s apartment as soon as I could. Again, not completely unexpected, but still came as a shock. Her goal was to make it to her great-granddaughter’s wedding and we’re so thankful she was able to!

As I drove the hour from Orange County to Burbank, I cried and pleaded with the Lord to give me one more day with my grandma. I knew our little family couldn’t handle two deaths on the same day.

God was so gracious and there was my sweet grandma Marie, fully dressed with her shoes on, resting comfortably in her lift chair. She was sleeping, but she had changed so much. My grief took over, and I bolted from the room. In the midst of my own mother’s grief, she comforted me in mine. I knew my amazing grandmother was so close to heaven and I didn’t know how I could deal with it all.

But let me tell you part of the secret of holding grief and joy together…it’s what my grandma said to me when I went back into her apartment.

I sat down next to her and held her hand. She opened up her eyes, that were still sparkling with all that grandma love, and said how happy she was to see me and patted the back of my hand. But she could see the grief in my eyes. Her next question, “How’s Jim?” She had closed her eyes after asking for a just a bit, long enough for me to try and pull myself together. When she opened her eyes and say the tears streaming down my face, she just said, “Oh honey, I’m so sorry. But we know where he is.”

This is how we hold grief and joy at the same time.

She knew was she was not far from seeing the Lord face to face, something she was joyous about, but she was still able to have a tender heart toward my sadness.

We cannot press down and suffocate the grief.

We have to face it.

We cry and we are sad. Maybe we are confused or mad.

Those feelings must both be experienced fully to come out of pain on the other side and be okay.

But in the grief, there was joy knowing that all the pain and suffering my father-in-law experienced was completely gone. He was wholly healed and I love to imagine my staunch Missionary Baptist father-in-law, dancing and singing praises in heaven to the King of Kings. That is joy!

I spent the rest of the day with my grandmother, and much of the family began to come in. We gathered around her chair and celebrated her. We told stories and every now and then, she would too. When she finally needed to rest in her own room, we were able to go in individually, and have some time with her. And I treasure the knowledge that she prayed for her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren every single day! What a legacy of faith!

Those moments too were held together by grief and joy.

None of us wanted to leave that night because we knew what was coming.

The next day, I arrived and checked in with my parents who’d gotten there a while before me. We thought we had a few more days. But as quickly as the hospice nurses arrived to do their assessment, days became moments. They rushed us in, my parents and I, and we had the honor of singing her into heaven.

Another moment held together with equal parts of grief and joy. 

Yes, equal parts.

The next few weeks were a bit of blur as we had services for both my grandmother and my father-in-law. And all of that in the midst of preparing for Christmas. Family coming into town, hosting dinners and being together as much as we could. Even in all of this, the experiences are different for everyone. Our oldest daughter was a newlywed. Our middle daughter lives out of state. Our youngest daughter was navigating her Freshman year of college. My husband was still dealing with the effects of shingles. And I could now get dressed without wincing in extreme pain.

The physical and emotional pain. The grief and the joy. 

They don’t always take turns.

Sometimes they arrive at the same time.

But here’s the best part, as I believe we are created in the image of God, He orchestrates our life and helps guide us through those times when we are required to hold grief and joy at the same time. He is in fact an expert at this.

That moment on the Cross, when His beloved Son took upon every single sin and all depravity of every human being that had been born and was still to be born, He had to look away. The grief that God the Father had to sit with is unimaginable to me. But He did it because of the magnitude of joy that was brought on by Jesus’ death and resurrection ~ the joy that we now had the free gift of reconciliation with our heavenly Father.

Here’s a passage from Matthew 27:45-54 ~ take some time and ponder this in your heart of how God the Father had to hold grief and joy at the same time…

45 “Now from the sixth hour (noon) there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour (3:00 p.m.). 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud [agonized] voice, [j]Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” 47 When some of the bystanders there heard it, they began saying, “This man is calling for [k]Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran, and took a sponge, soaked it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink. 49 But the rest said, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him [from death].” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud [agonized] voice, and gave up His spirit [voluntarily, sovereignly dismissing and releasing His spirit from His body in submission to His Father’s plan]. 51 And [at once] the veil [of the Holy of Holies] of the temple was [l]torn in two from top to bottom; the earth shook and the rocks were split apart. 52 The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints (God’s people) who had fallen asleep [in death] were raised [to life]; 53 and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, they entered the holy city (Jerusalem) and appeared to many people. 54 Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, they were terribly frightened and filled with awe, and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

The Lord has felt it all ~

Every feeling.

Every emotion.

Every hardship.

Every trial.

Every joy.

Every happiness.

With Him, we can do the same. We can experience grief and we can celebrate joy.

And we can do this at the same time.

We can hold grief and joy together.

Blessings,

René

Holding Together Grief and Joy - blog pic

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

 

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Weakness is a gift…

My weakness doesn’t faze Jesus.

I actually started this blog back in August and I got as far as that first sentence. It’s not a topic I really want to write about and I definitely didn’t want to come across as whiny. But here we are.

This past weekend, I had to walk through a situation that was super uncomfortable. Mostly because I made it that way.  Whenever I get a text or note from someone that says, “Hey, I need to talk to you about something. Call me soon.”, I immediately go to worst case scenario.

I immediately start replaying the last few times that I interacted with that person and start picking apart every conversation ~ what did I do wrong? was it my tone? was I too honest? was I being nosy? did I say something inappropriate? did I hurt their feelings?

UGH!

Seriously ~ this is where my head goes! E V E R Y  T I M E!!!!

I’ll tell you that part of the reason is because there was a time in my life where I was constantly being challenged by the people in my life. It became instinct to wonder “What did I do wrong now?” And not because I was actually behaving poorly, I was in a bad space where I was overly vulnerable, shared probably too much, but definitely gave off the vibe that I was a mess and clearly needed help. It took me years to be able to realize in most of these conversations, people were telling me about themselves and not about me.

But I still fall victim to that rabbit hole of doubt.

My sweet husband has seen me go through sleepless nights, puffy eyes from crying way too much, negative self-talk, and just plain old pouting. He gives me so much grace, but he doesn’t let me stay down in that doubtful place. His encouragement to see the reality of a situation is more helpful than he probably knows, because I’m not always super gracious or even readily accepting of his encouragement. He has an incredible way of redirecting my focus to what God says about the situation, the person telling me things, and about me. How does God really see me?

More often than not, and faster than in the past, I can step back and look at the situation and declare that I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m not a bad person. If I made a mistake, I can apologize for it. If something was misinterpreted, I can do my best to realign my comments to be more understandable.

And above all else, something that my husband is a master of, giving the other person the benefit of the doubt. To receive their conversation in such a way that I choose to believe what they are saying; to believe they are telling the truth.

This is yet another of my weaknesses that I must deal with. And I know where the root lies.

I was lied to and fooled by so many people in my past, it twisted my thought process to believe that no one really told the truth all the time. I allowed the enemy, the king of lies, to warp my thinking that I couldn’t totally trust people.

Once again, here comes the Lord with the blessing of my husband ~ literally the most truthful person I have ever met. In our 31 years together (2 years dating and 29 years married) I can tell you that he has never lied to me. NEVER. I am beyond humbled by the fact that the one thing the enemy tried to steal from me forever, was supplanted by the blessing of the most important person on this planet to me, and he has never lied to me. What a healing this has been to my heart all these years.

So back to this weekend…and my impetus to go back to this idea of weakness being a gift.

I got one of those “Can you call me.” texts and although the phone call didn’t happen and text exchange did. I had to choose to trust the Lord that what was conveyed in that message was the truth. I had to choose to combat the distractions and lies of the enemy that there was “more to it” and that the compliments given were not real. I hated it! I hated feeling like I did something wrong. I hated the feeling that I’d disappointed someone.

But as my husband pointed out, none of that language was in the message ~ it was all in my head! I was allowing the enemy to throw those fiery darts of doubt and they burned. I had to allow the tears to come to wash away those flames and trust the God was in the midst of it all. I had to choose to let Jesus be the truth that I rested in. I had to choose to believe that I had not done anything wrong, it was just a change in schedule and led of commitment that led to a relationship change.

Deep down inside I knew why the attack on my soul was happening.

I’m days away from launching a new ministry which focuses on mentoring young women, college age till about 30. I knew the devil would whisper to me one day, “Who do you think you are to tackle this? What makes you think that you can do this? Who says that you can start a new ministry? How do you know people even want this?”

It’s nauseating to think I allowed those thoughts to permeate my brain for even a few moments.

But in my weakness, in my sadness, in my disappointment, I had to choose WHO to listen to. I had to make a concerted effort to believe that I knew the answer to all those slimy lies the enemy was trying to make me believe.

God gave me a heart to minister to young women.

God gave me the desire to mentor young women and young moms.

God gave me the ideas for this new ministry.

God gives me continual direction as to the next right step to take. 

In my weakness there is God….and He is enough!

Today, I felt led to attend a worship service at One Voice Student Missions (y’all gotta check them out if you’re in the Pasadena area – https://ovsm.com/) and the leader, Brian Barcelona**, brought a beautiful message. And right there, the theme of the morning hit me like a ton of bricks.

W E A K N E S S

Man oh man…I knew exactly why the Lord prompted my heart to be there this morning! Brian shared so many truths & great reminders and I want to pass them on to you today:

  • Jesus saved us in our weakness – NOT in our strengths.
  • Weakness leads us to Jesus; weakness is not something to be feared.
  • Our woundedness and our weakness should draw us to the Cross.
  • The Bible isn’t pretty Instagram posts; it displays weakness and honors God’s healing through it. 
  • The frailty of my life becomes a container to hold God’s power.
  • My perceived strength is preventing God to work in through me.
  • God pours His anointing into empty vessels (aka – don’t be full of myself!)
  • It’s not what we have, it’s WHO we have!

These are just a few of the key things Brian shared this morning and it was all so good! Here’s two passages he used in his teaching too that I would highly encourage you to take a look at and truly ponder God’s heart in these verses (I like the Amplified version):

  • 2 Corinthians 12:9 (boast in our weakness)
  • 2 Kings 4:1-7 (when we think we have nothing; the Lord will fill us up)

Let me say once again what I began this blog with…

My weakness doesn’t faze Jesus. 

Not in the least bit. Ever.

In my weakness is where the Lord can do His best work in my life because I’m at a place where I can truly hear His voice over mine.

Let me encourage you to not run away from the weak places in your life ~ use them as jumping off points to take that leap of faith into the arms of Jesus.

He will never let you fall.

His strength will always be enough for you!

He will never let you down.

He will always be your Champion and your Victor!

He will never lie to you.

He is forever trustworthy and He will always lead you to the truth!

Blessings,

René

weakness is a gift - blog pic

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

** Brian Barcelona – One Voice Student Ministries, Pastor; November 4, 2019 message (https://ovsm.com/)

 

 

 

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…And at the Right Time…

For most things we get in life, they are preceded by a time of waiting. It can be as simple as waiting for a tray of chocolate cookies to bake to gooey perfection, or as difficult as waiting for a health diagnosis to come in. And so many experiences in between.

I remember when we were getting ready to have our first child, we immediately were trying to figure out when the baby would be born. We were off a little bit according to the doctor, but we had our due date! I was beyond excited ~ not to be pregnant all summer long, but that faded in the dreams of that little one arriving. At our check-up the following month, I was devastated to find out the due date had changed. I was now told I’d not be delivering for another ten days. I cried all the way home, which completely baffled my husband.

He lovingly reminded me that just as God had allowed me to become pregnant, He also knew the exact day and time of her birth. It wasn’t in my control. It was all in His perfect timing! Thankfully I listened and changed my attitude…because that baby girl arrived TEN days after my due date! And it was of course, in the Lord’s perfect timing.

It’s so great to know that we can learn from the best when it comes to waiting for the right time!

1 Timothy 2:5-6 AMP gives us the example about Jesus. He was God and man for his whole life. Yet, Jesus paid attention the Father as to when it was the right time to reveal Himself as our Savior that had come to rule and reign. Because Jesus was so in tune with the Father, He was ready for the time when it came for Him to complete His task on the earth and become the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.  These verses read:

“For there is [only] one God, and [only] one Mediator between God and mankind, the Man Christ Jesus,” who gave Himself as a ransom [a substitutionary sacrifice to atone] for all, the testimony given at the right and proper time.”

It wasn’t just the right time. It was the proper time. There was not a minute that came too early or moment that lasted too long. It was perfect.

You might be thinking, well of course it was perfect…it’s Jesus…there’s no way I can get to that level.  And guess what, you’re right! But that’s part of the reason Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross. Yes, it was to bring us into a reconciled relationship with Jesus but it was also to send us the gift of the Comforter ~ the Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:26-28 tells us this:

“In the same way the Spirit [comes to us and] helps us in our weakness. We do not know what prayer to offer or how to offer it as we should, but the Spirit Himself [knows our need and at the right time] intercedes on our behalf with sighs and groanings too deep for words. And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because the Spirit intercedes [before God] on behalf of God’s people in accordance with God’s will. And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose.”

There are so many beautiful nuggets of truth and promise in these verses…go ahead and read them again. What do you feel the Lord is whispering to your heart right now? What prayers are lingering there? What plans are you fretting over? Are you dealing with a situation that no one else knows about? Oh, my friend, especially that last one ~ Satan wants you to feel that you are all alone but that is a LIE! As a believer in Jesus, the Holy Spirit has made His home in your heart and soul and mind. He is with you ~ you are NEVER alone! Yes!  The same God that spoke the universe into reality, is the same God who gives you the power and strength to make it through the most difficult of circumstances.

When you don’t even know what to pray, the Holy Spirit is there on your behalf. I can recall a few times in my life where the pain in my heart was so deep, I thought I’d never recover. The sobbing was so intense and unending that I couldn’t even form the words to pray and ask God to help me. That is right when, at the perfect timing, the Holy Spirit comes in to minister to us and go before God with the groanings of our spirit. When those tearful experiences were over, what was left was a peace that I could not explain except to know that the Lord had truly taken care of my heart at that moment.

So, whatever you have going on in your life right now, and as hard at may seem in the moment, trust that God sees you. He hears you. And He will answer you in just the right and proper time.

And if you are coming to Jesus for the first time today, welcome! Praise the Lord that you have chosen to allow the Lord to reign in your heart. I’d love to encourage you too to find someone in your local community to walk alongside you in this new adventure of following Jesus! God bless you!!

Blessings,

René

At just the right time - blog post

Photo by Stefanos Kogkas on Unsplash 

 

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Keep On Keepin’ On…

Mom?

Mom?

Mooooooommmmmm!!!

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

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

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

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

Do you ask Him once? Twice?

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

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

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

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

Persistent Seeker…

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

‭‭Everyone who keeps on…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Persistent Seeker…

Let those words truly sink in.

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

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

But it was a great lesson for me in the art of ‘asking’!
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Before I sign off for today, let’s go back and really sit with The Passion Translation of Matthew‬ ‭7:7-8‬ ~

““Ask, and the gift is yours.

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

Seek, and you’ll discover.

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

Knock, and the door will be opened for you.

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

For every persistent one will get what he asks for.

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

Every persistent seeker will discover what he longs for.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings,

René
What door are you knocking on

 

 

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It’s all about Perspective…

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

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

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

No matter what, we would have a great time!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lord was reminding the people of His punishment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings,

René
perspective

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

You can’t push when you’re in Transition…

I recently heard this phrase and it really hit a cord within my deepest heart.

“You can’t push when you’re in transition.”

Um, yep…I’ve had first hand experience with this fact. The person who said it (and I wish I could give them credit for it but I heard it on the radio and don’t remember who it was exactly) well, they weren’t referring to childbirth, but that’s how it resonated with me. After having three children, one with an epidural and two without, I know the feeling of transition.

It was different with all three but the second birth I experienced was the one I remember the most of what it’s like to go through transition.

I started laboring around 5:30am and decided to sit in my rocking chair in the living room. I woke up my husband to join me but told him to go back to sleep on the couch. I was sure I was in for many many hours of labor ahead of me, but I wanted him to be near me just in case.

By 6am, things were moving along quite rapidly and I woke him up by throwing my slippers at him, told him to go shower and call the grandma’s…this baby was on its way!

By 6:30am, I was in full-blown transition. I just didn’t know it. This was nothing of what I had experienced with our first child and it was totally freaking me out!

There is not a lot of room in a woman’s body for the baby to do what it needs to do, so it still amazes me that the birthing process takes as long as it does. But God has a reason for that…He knows we are slow to take things in most of the time and our brain needs time to process the reality of what is happening.

I did everything I could do get comfortable.  The rocking chair wasn’t working, the exercise ball wasn’t working, walking or standing wasn’t working. So, by 7am, the way my husband found me in the living room was quite a shock…on my hands and knees doing “cat stretches”.  That was the only thing that was remotely comfortable…and I use that word sparingly. Ha!

What I was experiencing was in fact, transition. That sweet little babe of ours was making her way to meet us. And as slow as the process seemed, it actually happened quite fast. By the time we got to the hospital at 7:20am, I was in the birthing room at 7:30am and she was born at 7:48am!  Yep….very quick!

As much as I wanted to have that baby, I could not push in the transition phase. It wasn’t possible anyway. No amount of willpower could have worked.

I simply had to go through it!

So if you’re still hanging with me here through my story…here’s the tie-in for transitions in life.

You cannot make a transition in your life happen any faster than it is meant to be.

To graduate from college, you’ve got to take the classes and do the work and it will usually take ya about 4 years to accomplish this goal.

When you buy a house, it normally takes many months to find “the perfect one”, then you put in the bid, then you go through escrow, then it’s yours! Unless that first bid falls through and you’re back in the searching phase until you find the one that all falls into place.

If you’re cooking a gourmet meal, it takes more than a few minutes. You have to do all the prep of shopping for the ingredients, chopping, slicing, measuring, marinating, etc., then the cooking….and then the eating!

But the transitions that are something the most difficult is when there is not a specific timeline that you can count on. Those are the times where the faith and trust we have in the Lord’s plan for our lives comes in full force.

You can’t push past the lessons that need to be learned. I mean, you can, but instead of moving yourself forward, you are really taking tremendous leaps backwards. There are necessary reasons why the Lord takes us down one path and someone else down a different path. We are all different and we all have something special to learn and grow through in order to give us the story and testimony that God intends for us to have.

Transition literally means*: movement, passage, or change from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc., to another; change.

Just as baby must go through changes to become a toddler, then a young child, to a teen, then an adult (and various stages of adulthood!); we too have spiritual stages we travel through.

I Corinthians 13:10-12 describes transition to us this way, But when that which is complete and perfect comes, that which is incomplete and partial will pass away. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now [in this time of imperfection] we see in a mirror dimly [a blurred reflection, a riddle, an enigma], but then [when the time of perfection comes we will see reality] face to face. Now I know in part [just in fragments], but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known [by God].

Each phase of life we go through, transitions will come and go. They have to make us feel unstable though. Standing firm in the foundation of God’s truth, we will always find stability to make it through each challenge we face. It is in those moments we can cry out to the Lord and ask Him to help us, to hold us, to keep us standing in the midst of transition and difficulty.

When a toddler is learning to walk and falls down, their parents don’t say, “Well, you tried that walking thing and it didn’t work out. We’ll just carry you around forever.” Quite the opposite!  They applaud that sweet child for their efforts and encourage them to get up and try again. I bet you can look back over your life, or over the past month for that matter, and see how God has used others to encourage you to get back up and try again. Because He knows that as you grow and transition into new stages of your life, you can use your experiences to encourage other people to do the same!  Get up and try again!

Isaiah 33:6 AMP “And He will be the security and stability of your times, a treasure of salvation, wisdom and knowledge; The fear of the Lord is your treasure.”

The Lord will always be our stability at each stage of life; personal, emotional, spiritual, and everything in between. He is the foundation we need to stand on (or kneel on!) when we are weaving through the stages of transition in our life. Going through something difficult is when we must rely on His strength. We can find a prayerful position to be in as we go through the transition. The pain, exhaustion, questioning, frustration ~ it’s all worth it in the end when we realize what God was getting ready to birth within us or from us!

Don’t fight it ~ engage in it!  There are various amounts of struggle that comes with transition…that struggle doesn’t mean you are doing the wrong thing. God is stretching you and what comes to fruition because of it, will be glorious!!

I’d love to hear what God is birthing in your heart & soul today!  Feel free to share!! Because when we share our dreams out loud, they are given a new life and the freedom we can experience is remarkable!

Ephesians 4:15 AMP says, “But speaking the truth in love [in all things—both our speech and our lives expressing His truth], let us grow up in all things into Him [following His example] who is the Head—Christ.”

 

Blessings,

René

 

*https://www.dictionary.com/browse/transition

 

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

Are You Just a Tour Guide…

Recently, one of my daughters {who is a full time missionary} posted a video in her IG story with a poll question that went something like this…”Should I become a tour guide?”…as she showed people around the place where she works. I sent her a message back that said, “So what was the consensus? Tour guide or missionary?”

And then I got an idea for this blog post!

When we are sharing the Gospel, are we a tour guide? Or are we a missionary?

Think about the last time you went on a trip somewhere and hired a tour guide to show you the sites. Or you visit a friend who lives in a different state and they want to take you to “all the good spots.”

We’ve had this experience a few times and it’s always been amazing! But what do you see on a tour? You see all the special things, the highlights of the location you are visiting, you enjoy a special meal at a local restaurant, you see the places that make you think “you’ll never be here again so take the picture”, and so on. What you usually don’t see are the rough spots in town, the dangerous places, or the “I won’t be writing home about that” kind of places.

No matter where you are in the world, or what kind of tour you are on, where does the tour ALWAYS end? Yep…in the souvenir shop! Literally every tour, or even most rides at Disneyland for that matter, end up in the gift shop. You want a souvenir to remember your trip. You want to bring home a little trinket for your kids and hope they like it even though they would’ve rather been on the trip with you {lol! all time time!}

When you get home, you place your souvenir on a shelf or maybe it’s a piece of jewelry you wear on special occasions. But eventually it becomes a fuzzy memory of good times gone by.

Is this how you share the Gospel?

Do you get excited about something God has shown you in scripture, something that will bless your life, something that “sparks joy”, and you want to share it with someone? So you meet up with a friend for coffee and share all the fantastic details of this newly found joy in your life and how great it makes you feel…only to end the conversation without sharing the hard stuff in your life that makes the joy you have tangible? Do you leave them with just a trinket?

Now, I’m not saying at all that we have to walk around with our proverbial dirty laundry for all to see. That’s not what the Lord wants either.

We’ve got to get rid of the stigma of what we think it means to be a missionary because as followers of Christ, we are ALL called to be missionaries. A missionary isn’t just a job for a few people.

A missionary is literally “a person who is sent on a mission.”** In the New Testament, when Jesus was commissioning the Disciples, we see in Mark 16:15, “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Jesus did not intend for those 12 disciples to be the only ones who would share the good news of His salvation.

While Jesus was still on the earth, and after commissioning the 12, Luke 10:1-3 shares this about Jesus commissioning 70 more saying, “Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them out ahead of Him, two by two, into every city and place where He was about to go. He was saying to them, “The harvest is abundant [for there are many who need to hear the good news about salvation], but the workers [those available to proclaim the message of salvation] are few. Therefore, [prayerfully] ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest. Go your way; listen carefully: I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. ” 

Everywhere we go, we are to be missionaries of the gospel ~ as followers of Christ, He calls us to be sent out on a mission to tell people about the freedom that comes with salvation in Christ.

Yes, some our called to be missionaries that will go out into unreached people groups and to far off countries.

But we have ALL been called to share the gospel.

And not just the warm fuzzy parts. 

Did you notice that last verse that I shared from Luke? We are knowingly going out into the world “like lambs among wolves.” That’s why we need to be in community with other believers and why we need to cling to the Word of God to lead us as we go about our day.

If you’re a new momma at home with little ones, you’re thinking, “Oh great. I can barely get through a day without someone spitting up or peeing on me, and now I’m supposed to go preach the gospel to the world!!” Dear momma, you are exactly living in the mission field you are supposed to be in. Your home is the first place you can preach the good news. I can remember those days where I felt like I was the lone survivor simply battling to get everyone fed, bathed, and into bed at a decent hour. {Okay, sometimes baths didn’t always happen…especially in the summer…that’s what sprinklers and pool time is for!}

But trust me, you are right where the Lord wants you to be. New seasons of life will spring up as your children grow and mature and yes, eventually move out. I survived that and you will too. And might I say, it’s actually pretty fun to have adult children!  My daughters and my son-in-law are pretty cool people in my life!

We are all missionaries ~ God calls us to share the truth of the Gospel mixed in with the truth of how He has moved in and through our life. Our life is a testimony of the millions of believers who have gone before us…starting with those 12 disciples who chose to be obedient to the call of preaching the good news.

We are not called to be tour guides who only show the “Highlight Reel” to the people around us. 

I don’t want to sound cliché here, but truly, everywhere we go is our mission field. There are people around you who have only heard the name of Jesus used in a profane way. How awesome it can be to show those in your sphere of influence, who Jesus is to you. Of course, sharing the joys of what it means to be saved and have everlasting life with Jesus is a must! But even more important is to share with others, the joy you choose to have EVEN WHEN life doesn’t seem fair.

Jesus is not a genie in a bottle or a tour guide with the bright orange flag leading you down a delightful path of all the wonders of the world.

Being created in His image…that means we aren’t tour guides either.

We are made to be in relationship with Him and through that we can show other people the way to Jesus; the way of salvation. We have a mission {“an important goal or purpose that is accompanied by strong conviction; a calling or vocation” **} to lead people into the knowledge of who Christ is and what He has done for the world and for us personally.

To put it plainly ~ Your story is your mission. Only you can tell your story. God created you to be able to lead others in ways unique only to you. Whether in your family, your neighborhood, your kids’ schools, in third-world countries, or in bustling cities of fortune….you absolutely have something that everyone needs…you have the gift of salvation and you are called to give that away!

Tour guides are hired by the hour to put on a show and lead you to all the pretty places. Missionaries live boldly every minute of every day for the Lord no matter what that means. How do you want to be known?

Live out loud for Him every day…not just on the days where life looks pretty and ready for your Instagram close up.

Be real. Be authentic. Be truthful. 

Choose obedience. Choose joy. Choose to be transformed.

And watch what the Lord can do with a willing heart!

Blessings,

René

tour guide or missionary

 

** https://www.dictionary.com/browse/missionary?s=t

** https://www.dictionary.com/browse/mission?s=t