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Spiritual Housekeeping…

Spiritual Housekeeping pic for blog 4-24-20

Photo by Anastasiia Chepinska on Unsplash

Confession time…every once in a while I watch the TV show “Hoarders: Buried Alive”. It’s awful and ALWAYS gets me up and motivated to clean house and find a few things to put in their place, give away, or throw away! I’ve seen enough of these shows that when I heard a quick sentence in a bible study that I was in the other day about spiritual housekeeping, immediately I saw a rapid-fire vision of mental images of hoarder households.

Those images are disgusting and beyond sorrowful!

So what do we do with this? I’ll tell you what.

We’ve got to clean the rooms of our spiritual home so the Holy Spirit can roam freely to do His will!

Just as the person in the hoarder tv-stories, there is always some kind of traumatic event that has occurred in their life. It always centers around tremendous loss. So many times these people know on some level that they hoard because of this loss. But they gave in to it and didn’t, or felt they couldn’t stop the devastating behavior.

In the house of a hoarder, neither the homeowner nor any visitor can safely navigate the home with stepping on trash and other discarded items. The creation of the hoard stems from an incredibly false sense of providing comfort and protection.

The people who hoarded mostly trash and stray animals were usually the ones who had been left by a parent as a child through death or divorce. Or they had been in an abusive relationship that ended in death or divorce. The stories the hoarder shares would be heartbreaking as they recalled moments where their abusive spouse would refer to them as trash. They felt they had been thrown away by that person who was supposed to love them. So instead of throwing things away that are truly trash, they just keep it. They don’t want to hurt anyone or anything by determining what is trash or not.

And the piles grow.

I noticed that the people who are hoarders of things are ones who used the high of purchasing items and “collecting” things to replace feeling unloved. They loved their things and the higher the piles became, the more they felt surrounded by love; by things that wouldn’t leave them.

We do this same thing on a spiritual level and if we are not careful, we will have a spiritual house that is filled to the brim with trash and unnecessary stuff.

Is any of this resonating with you today?

Have you been made to feel as though you were no more important than a bin of rubbish? Or a pile of insignificant things?

My friends, that is the job of the enemy. He wants your spiritual home cluttered about with the unclean and the unnecessary so that you don’t have room for Jesus to do the beautiful work in your life He intends.

I know this may be hard to take in because it is something that the Lord has been working intently on my heart as well – as to the task of cleaning the house of my own soul.

Are you feeling a bit uncomfortable right about now? It’s okay if you are – that’s the glory of the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart to face the things in your life that you have just been piling up in the corner hoping they would go away on their own.

As you know, it won’t.

It’s going to take hard work but here’s the blessing of it all ~ we don’t have to do this alone. We have the gift of the Comforter in the form of the Holy Spirit and He is ready and more than able to clean out the junk and the trash of your life. The Lord is so gracious to be passionate about showing us the joy and peace He wants to bless us with.

But just like the hoarders on TV, they have to come to a final point where they say out loud, “I want your help. I don’t want to live like this anymore. Let’s throw it all out.” We too have to say the same thing to the Lord – OUT LOUD – that we want and need His help. He will walk alongside us to accomplish this arduous task.

Getting rid of the hoard is full of emotional pain, but the ones who stay committed to the clean up thrive in orderly freedom!

Whether the hoard is physical or spiritual, we have the tools that we need to win the battle!

2 Corinthians 10:4-6 is so encouraging,

“The weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood]. Our weapons are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ, being ready to punish every act of disobedience, when your own obedience [as a church] is complete.”

The rooms of our mind and corridors of our soul can be lush soil where we plant God’s Word and what grows is the fruit that can nourish our life and the lives of those around us. Or it can be a vacant plot of land that is unkempt without any growth.

Think about times in your life where you have agreed with the lies of the enemy to make you feel unimportant and unloved, and how that transferred into bringing discontent and darkness into our hearts and our homes.

Now think about moments in your life where you have walked with a friend through a difficult time in their life, pointing them to the One who can heal their hurts. It’s a beautiful gift that we can give to one another when Christ is present in our life. When we are filled with God’s presence we can pour out His joy and peace. We have contentment and grace leads our actions. We are strong to move through this life with the power of the God who created the Universe because our spiritual home is filled with His light and salvation!

One of my favorite scripture verses is Zephaniah 3:17,

“The Lord your God is in your midst, A Warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with joy; He will be quiet in His love [making no mention of your past sins], He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”

Is this not incredible! Every bit of condemnation is from the enemy. Just as every decree of goodness and love is from the Lord. God’s Word promises us that when the Lord looks upon our face, the person He created us to be is what He sees. He delights in the creation of YOU! The Lord has phenomenal purposes for your life and there are things that only you can do.

When you are having moments of doubt, remember that He is fighting for you! The Lord is singing over you and rejoicing in your life!

So get that dustbuster out. Bring a trash bag or three. Clear out the cobwebs of your soul and open the window so the light of Jesus can shine through.

Keep up with your spiritual housekeeping so the Holy Spirit is free to roam!

Blessings,

René

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Defeat or Victory ~ where do you live?…

farmland view for Defeat or Victory blog 4-2020

Photo by John Reed on Unsplash

During this time of quarantine – how many times will I refer to this ‘stay-at-home’ season of 2020, I have no idea. It’s what is occupying everyone’s mind these days, so here we are. What was I saying? Oh yes, during this period, we have a lot of TIME on our hands. Whether you are doing at home what you used to do in your office building, or you are rearranging schedules on the daily with new homeschool duties, there is still time to think. I daresay, there is still available time to think too much.

As I know that the majority of my readers are women, I can confidently say that we are all too familiar with the mental battle we fight each day as to whether we are enough or not. Do we measure up? Are our children thriving enough? The meals we make could probably be healthier? Why can’t our home look like “that one” we always scroll past on Instagram?
And so on.

When our minds begin to wander, where to we let it go? Do you give it free reign? Does the temptation to allow negative thoughts to replay over and over again win out over what we know is the actual truth? Are there moments when you hear the Holy Spirit whisper to you to take those thoughts captive, yet you ignore Him? Thinking those places of defeat will somehow bring you comfort or closure? NO! They never will.

Friends, this is living defeated and it is no way to truly live.

Yet, in the same way that it is dangerous to live in places of defeat, it is much the same to live in places of future imagined victory. We cannot survive in either of these places mentally because it takes our focus off what we should be doing, which is living for Jesus. Living in the present time; in the season that God intends.

And that takes focus.

One of the things that came to mind when I was thinking of ‘defeat and victory’ was of farmers fields.

I visited some Amish farms in Ohio a while back and was fascinated to learn the necessity of allowing planting areas to rest. First of all, the patterns of these fields are mesmerizing; equal parts of growth and bare dirt. I realized the beauty was in the areas of rest and not actually in the rows of corn growing. There was just something about the emptiness that drew me in but in a peaceful way.

As I researched it more, I began to understand that these fields were not dead and bare, they were alive and resting.

Farmers will typically give various plots of their farmland a rest for at least one year so that it can be ready for a new season of planting. No wonder God uses so many farming applications in His word to convey the importance of rest and growth. That bare ground is not striving to be anything but content in its waiting. It has been allowed to regenerate.

I can’t think of anything more beautiful to consider in this quarantine season in our world right now.

Exodus 23:11 says,

“but on the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the needy of your people may eat; and whatever they leave the beast of the field may eat. You are to do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.”

There were periods that the Lord instructed His people to let their ground rest, not just for regeneration but allowance for people in need to gather food and nourishment. The land that was left to become fallow still held importance for the community around it.

I believe that this is a truth we can hold onto, that even in those seasons we feel bare, forgotten, and underutilized, we are still important to the people around us. We continue to hold value. We can generate sustainability for the future while we are resting.

This my friends in living from a place of victory!

In Hosea 10:12, God gives direction as to how we are to be proactive in cultivating fallow ground; in cultivating seasons of rest.

“Sow with a view to righteousness, Reap in accordance with kindness; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the Lord Until He comes to rain righteousness on you.”

Depending on the kind of crops that are being grown is the deciding factor for how long the ground stays fallow. Isn’t that how it is for us? The Lord knows the seasons that we have come out of, the ones that we are in, and the ones we are headed toward. Which means He knows how long our rest seasons need to be.

And it means that we can trust Him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Feasting or Striving…

Feasting or Striving - blog 3-2020

Photo by Rebecca on Unsplash

If you have a dog, then you know how sensitive their hearing is when it comes to anything that might possibly be related to food!

We have a little 8-pound Maltese/poodle/mutt rescue dog who just turned 10 years old. And not slowing down anytime soon. He lounges around the house sleeping away most of the day, but open any kind of package or clank around the mixing bowls, and he goes into a dead run, straight for the kitchen.

I was making a double batch of chili the other day for a meeting that was happening at our house, and there was a lot of food prep. I had just put fresh water and food in his bowls for our little Max, but that soon proved to not be good enough.

As I opened up cans of beans (no shame…I’ve got other things to do that soak four different kinds of beans overnight, etc. etc.), cooking the ground turkey, onions, and celery and portioning out the spices. Oh yeah, the kitchen was smelling fantastic! And Max was right there for all the action!

God is so good in giving me insight into my relationship with Him through everyday tasks, and today was no different. 

I watched Max scurry around the kitchen furiously searching for scraps or random bits of food that had fallen on the floor. I heard the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart, “You do the same thing sometimes.” What? Was the Lord really comparing me to my dog?! Then I heard Him say,

“I have provided all the nourishment you need yet you still scurry around looking for scraps that will never satisfy you.”

Whoa! He was right of course!

Let’s see if anything of these things resonate with you too…

When I get my feelings hurt (yes, even after 50 that still happens friends!) many times my first reaction is to complain about it to whoever will listen. I’ll call a friend, text someone else, or verbal vomit to my husband. I’m not looking for them to fix the problem, I just “want to be heard.” I want my side of the story to matter the most.

Honestly, I’m not looking for a solution to my heart issues, I’m searching for vindication in my quest to be upset. After all, don’t I have the right to be upset after being hurt?

Philippians 2:3-4 AMP,Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit [through factional motives, or strife], but with [an attitude of] humility [being neither arrogant nor self-righteous], regard others as more important than yourselves. Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

Hmmm…looks like I don’t have that “right” after all.

This is what I mean by ‘striving for scraps’: we will feel sad, hurt, frustrated, annoyed, mad, etc., but we do not have the right to stay that way. 

God has given us the most amazing gift of the Holy Spirit, and each time we choose our emotions over giving our hurts to the Lord, we are striving for scraps.

I Peter 5:6-8 gives us the perfect solution to whatever is causing us offense:

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God [set aside self-righteous pride], so that He may exalt you [to a place of honor in His service] at the appropriate time, casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully]. Be sober [well balanced and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour.

The Lord does not want us to come to Him some of the time, or most of the time to give Him our concerns. He wants us to come to Him ALL the time with ALL the things!

Years ago, after something happened with a friend, I felt offended and upset. I was venting to one of my daughters and she said, “Mom, you just need to give this to the Lord. It’s not doing you any good to be upset.”

I don’t know about you, but being parented by your adult children is not my favorite ~ especially when they are right!

I was immediately upset with her and unceremoniously replied, “Oh yes it does! I have a right to be mad, and I’m going to be mad for a while. Don’t tell me that I can’t be mad.”

Seriously, who’s the adult and who’s the child in this scenario?

Anyway, she was of course, right!

The Lord doesn’t want us to walk around mad, upset, or angry. It does not accomplish anything good! It is not beneficial to our life. And it can create more problems than you started with.

Instead of feasting on “the right to be mad”, what would have been better is to feast on God’s Word. Everything we need is right there. We don’t need to scurry around grasping for justification for our actions. We have to stop running around attempting to be filled by what the world says will work for our situation.

Turning to the Lord to answer us in various circumstances shows maturity. It means that we know our hearts will truly be filled only in His truth. By trusting what the Lord has taught us in scripture and by quieting ourselves to listen to the instruction of the Holy Spirit, we will not be tempted to scurry about like a dog looking for scraps.

Hebrews 5:13-14, 13 For everyone who lives on milk is [doctrinally inexperienced and] unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a spiritual infant. 14 But solid food is for the [spiritually] mature, whose senses are trained by practice to distinguish between what is morally good and what is evil.

We are mature when we eat the solid food of God’s Word. 

When we feast, we are taking our time to enjoy the company of our host. 

When we strive, we are completely ignoring the bounty set before us. 

If you were invited to a dinner party, you wouldn’t bring your own food or scurry about the kitchen attempting to make something “better” than what had been prepared. You would arrive, ready to be treated to scrumptious food and delightful companionship.

That is how it is with the Lord. He’s provided everything you need to rest and relax in Him.

Sit down and feast! 

So my friend, when you feel like you deserve to be mad, or right, or sense that life is spinning out of control; take a step back and really look at the situation. When you keep telling people about the same problems over and over again, but still refuse to take anyone’s advice; when you walk around feeling like you deserve to act the way that you are because you got your feelings hurt; these are moments the Holy Spirit is waving a big red spiritual flag in your face!

STOP!

Stop the striving. Stop the scurrying. Stop the selfishness.

Trust in the good words of scripture and feast on His truths ~ the Lord will never lead you astray!

Blessings,

René

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Alive and Rested…

girl sitting by water - REST - for 2-12-20 blog

Photo by léa b on Unsplash

Recently, I heard a fantastic word on festooning scripture. You may have read my previous blog (And then it was a New Year…) on this subject. So, I thought I today, I would share with you the reflections I experienced while using Psalm 23 to practice.

Pastor Christine Suh, Pastor of Spiritual Formation at Fellowship Monrovia, was the guest speaker at the Fellowship Moms Bible Study.

Festooning basically means “to decorate”. Pastor Christine then shared that she would teach us how to festoon scripture into our soul. That definitely caused me to pause. She also explained the beautiful benefits of time spent personalizing scripture to our current life circumstances.

I’ll also add, that God’s Word is not a merely a story book. It’s not a place where we can see how scripture fits into our life, or how God fits into our life. Quite the opposite. Spending time in God’s Word shows us how we are to live with God as the center of our life and how we can live so as to honor Him and glorify Him through all that we do. 

To festoon is to personalize. And because God’s word is alive, He can personalize it to us every time we decide to spend time with Him. That’s the heart of the good Father. He knows His children and what make each one of us respond to His voice.

As Pastor Christine continued with her teaching, she also showed how most passages have three parts:

  • Orientation
  • Disorientation
  • Reorientation

I love this so much because these three qualities speak of how He works in our life to show us our path and purpose. God is the God of order and not chaos, so in no way do I want to confuse you at all. Let me be clear ~ God is ALWAYS oriented perfectly! We as humans are the ones who get disoriented and confused. This is why scripture is written the way it is:

  • God gives us perfect direction ~ every time.
  • When we get disoriented, God is there to keep us stabilized with the truth of His Word.
  • Finally, God is there to refocus us and remind us Who is He, what He can do, and what our path is.

With that, I welcome you to join me in this exercise of festooning scripture! Go ahead and first read through Psalm 23 (printed at the bottom of this blog using the Amplified Bible version). After each verse, these are my first initial thoughts and feelings as I personalized this scripture.

Here we go ~

(Orientation)

Vs.1 “The LORD is my Shepherd [to feed, to guide and to shield me], I shall not want.

~ Thank you, Jesus, that You are always faithful to lead me on the path You have set forth for me to travel. In that path, there is no fear of being lost, in danger, or abandoned. No matter what, You will always provide for me all that I need. It may not be what I think I want, but it will be exactly what you have planned to satisfy my needs.

Vs.2 He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still and quiet waters.

~ I’m grateful that You take me by the hand and gently lead me to places where I can find rest from my weariness; to places where I am able to rest in a peaceful state, and my mind is given rest from the distractions around me. I am thankful that there are opportunities that You provide for rest, and when my eyes are on You, I am able to see those times for what they are.

Vs.3 He refreshes and restores my soul (life); He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

~ You are gracious Lord to bring refreshment to my soul through your Living Word, through prayer, all with the opportunity to bring You glory & praise. I’m so thankful that by pausing in my day to read scripture, pray, and apply it to my life, that I can be refreshed even through the storms when they arise.

(Disorientation)

Vs.4 Even though I walk through the [sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort and console me.

~ You know there will be times where I will allow my thoughts to wander away from Your truths & promises, causing confusion, disorientation, doubt, and fear. BUT ~ Your loving discipline will bring me back & Holy Spirit will wash my heart & mind clean with God’s truth over & for my life. I am grateful for Your gift of a comforter in the Holy Spirit.

(Reorientation)

Vs.5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You have anointed and refreshed my head with oil; My cup overflows.

~ I’m humbled Lord by how You want to celebrate me; how You intend to gather me to Your presence to bless me beyond measure with all Your love and protection, guidance and rejoicing. With You there is nothing that I lack. When I’m filled with You, the overflow of my life will be unmistakably filled with You.

Vs.6 Surely goodness and mercy and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life, And I shall dwell forever [throughout all my days] in the house and in the presence of the LORD.”

~ You have called me by name, You have reconciled me to Your heart, You have come to save my soul and not condemn me. With You there is safety and joy, and that whatever trials and events come my way to cause disorientation, You will cover them and bring me to a place of peace. Forever!!

Whoa ~ such refreshment! Praise God!

I would love to encourage you to choose a scripture, maybe start with your favorite Psalm, and give it a try. When we truly meditate on God’s word and what He has to say to us, our soul cannot help but feel refreshed and renewed! Our soul and spirit long to be with the Father and what a beautiful privilege and blessing we have to openly read scripture and share with others what the Lord has done in our life.

Let your soul be festooned with the everlasting and perfect Word of God!

Blessings,

René

(Psalm 23 AMP) The Lord, the Psalmist’s Shepherd.

A Psalm of David.

23 The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, to guide and to shield me],
I shall not want.

2 He lets me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still and quiet waters.

3 He refreshes and restores my soul (life);
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
for His name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk through the [sunless] [a]valley of the shadow of death,

I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort and console me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You have anointed and refreshed my head with [b]oil;
My cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and mercy and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell forever [throughout all my days] in the house and in the presence of the Lord.

 

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

We are not Avatars…

Have you seen the movie Avatar? I will admit to you that I loved that film! To be real with ya, if I’m sitting down to fold a few loads of clean laundry and come across Avatar on TV, I’ll totally watch it. I appreciate the story. I appreciate the art design. I appreciate the animation. It’s just a fun film.

But we are not Avatars.

Yet, I think we sometimes try to live like we are.

The definition of avatar is: an embodiment or personification, as of a principle, attitude, or view of life. Digital Technology. a graphical image that represents a person, as on the Internet.”

There is nothing real about avatars.

Social media is an avatar of sorts. We all love scrolling through posts on Instagram and Facebook, and from what I hear you can get lost in Pinterest (it’s the one I won’t get on because I know I would get lost in it too!) But what do we see? For the most part it’s picture perfect living rooms with just the right amount of light that invites us in; it’s the luxurious master bedroom with loads of pillows that you can imagine sinking into; it’s the spa-like bathroom that begs us to have a ‘treat yo’self’ kind of day; it’s the country club backyard that beckons us to throw a party. You get the idea.

But what did all those rooms look like before the picture was taken? That space was crafted in such a way to convey a certain feeling. And after the photos were taken, the people could get back to “real life” and live in their homes like regular people. Toys, piles of laundry, stacks of papers and bills, backpacks and shoes by the front door, and unmade beds. Okay, okay…might sound like an extreme, but it’s true. The majority of the time, we make our bed every morning because I like the way it looks when it’s all done up. But today, today I was okay with pulling up the sheets & blanket, and then smoothing out the comforter on top without all the extra pillows and cutesy stuff on top.

What about our self? How do we ‘avatar’ ourselves?

We take a bunch of selfies to find just the right one to post. No one tells you that the pic they finally posted was ‘take 50’ or that they used about three different filters to find just the right lighting. We put up the version of ourselves, the image that we think is going to be acceptable to those taking 3-5 seconds to scroll past our photo.

I mean, no one really wants to see pics of your dishes piled high in both sides of the sink or how your dog threw up all over the couch. We want to put our best self forward to others, and I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that. The danger lies in the desire to become the image we are putting forth with such an effort as to hide our real self.

Not to ruin the movie for ya…but that’s what happens at the end! For a lot of reasons, the guy decides he’d rather become the avatar-being than to go back to the real world of being human. He leaves it all behind. In the movie, it feels very altruistic and makes sense. But what happens in our real-world situations when we are consistently walking around in a fake body?

We have all met someone, or have been that person, who walks around with a smile plastered on our face and everything is always fine. Or the other side of things, walk around with our head hanging down complaining about how life is unfair. These are both extremes, but I know there is someone coming to your mind right now that fit one or both of these caricatures.

Me too.

I’ve been both.

I think immediately back to a span of time that I realize I wasn’t able to truly build solid friendships with some of the people around me because heck, I didn’t even want to be around me. I was stuck in a cycle of depression, doubt, confusion, self-hatred…all of it! I was allowing those negative attributes to become who I thought I was. I repelled the idea from anyone who tried to tell me different. Admittedly, we were going through some difficult financial times but I was letting Satan tell me who I was instead of believing the Living Word of God tell me who I actually was!

I am beyond thankful that my husband, my daughters, and my true friends didn’t give up on me! I didn’t turn a corner until I CHOSE to believe that God created me to be a loving person, a competent mother and wife, a genuine friend, and one who was seen, known, and loved by the Creator of the Universe. Part of that transformation was in the form of some tough love from a good friend (Thanks Jenn!)

She told me that every day for a month, I was to look in the mirror and say (OUT LOUD!): “I am beautiful. I am loved. I am created by God for a good purpose.”

And then I had to call or text her to let her know that I did it. Those 30 days were the worst best thing that could’ve happened to me. The day I could say those things to myself in the bathroom mirror, while my husband was in the room at the same time, well, that’s when I knew I was beginning to actually believe it! That month was pivotal in the transformation God had in store for me.

I stopped wishing that my life was different.

I stopped dreaming away the day with all my “When I ___________ then I’ll be happy.” kinds of self-talk.

I stopped imagining what life would’ve looked like had we made different financial decisions.

What did I START doing?

  • Choosing to honor the Lord with my “yes” before my feet hit the floor every morning.
  • Choosing to have a view of my life and of the community I lived in with a Biblical view instead of a world-view.
  • Choosing to believe that I was worth loving and that I was enough.
  • Choosing to trust that I was who God said I was.

I’ll be honest, there are still days that I have to really fight to choose, let alone BELIEVE, all of those truths. But when I do it’s totally worth it!

My encouragement to you today ~

Start living into the life that God has called you to.

Trust that He has a good plan for you…better than you can imagine.

Give the Lord your ‘yes’ every single morning and look for opportunities to be a light for Jesus during your day. 

Read God’s Word and pray every day ~ keep Him the foremost part of every thought!

All of these things take active participation in the life that you are currently living. Put away the ‘avatar’ version you’ve created of yourself and your circumstances.

Real life is better than an imagined one.

Blessings,

René

avatar blog - theme - What do you imagine_

Photo by h heyerlein on Unsplash

 

 

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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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Becoming Unoffended…

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

Then it happens. You’re offended.

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

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

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

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

It was all them; never me.

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

This is right where the Devil wants you to live.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings,

René

Unoffended blog{Photo by Caleb George on Unsplash}