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And then it was a New Year…

 

New Year blog - Refiner text - 1-16-20

For the past few years, I have prayed and asked the Lord to give me a word or scripture that would be an anchor of sorts for me in the new year.

I used to think it was kind of a silly Christian trend; especially with how popular and influential social media has become over the last five years.

Until the day in March of 2015 when I was sitting at a day retreat at our church and right before the speaker began, I clearly heard the Lord whisper to my heart, “I have set you a part.” At first I thought it was my own thoughts because I was literally the only one sitting in the front row. I hadn’t planned on it, and just as the enemy was tempting me to feel sorry for myself that I was sitting alone, that is when God whispered His promised to my heart. Then, as He is a good Father, He said it to me again but with a bit more clarity, “I have called you to be set a part.”

Immediately I knew that the Lord had given me a word for the year. He was going to be leading me down a path that would be new for me but I knew I could trust Him. That was the year I began to believe I was a woman with a mission. A woman who wanted to seek after the Lord and truly be called a friend of God.

I have received a ‘word of the year’ every year since then. It is still both a bit nerve-wracking and exhilarating at the same time.

Before I share what my word is for 2020, I wanted to share what I heard at a bible study I attended in December 2019.

Pastor Christine Suh, Pastor of Spiritual Formation at Fellowship Monrovia, was the guest speaker at the Fellowship Moms Bible Study. The title of what she shared was “Festooning”. I have not heard that word in a very long time and by the quizzical looks on the faces of most of the women in the room, I wasn’t alone.

Festooning basically means “to decorate”. She then shared that she would be teaching us how to festoon scripture into our soul. That definitely caused me to pause. If you know me, you know that I am a woman who loves to decorate!  I’ve got the décor boxes (for just about every holiday) in my garage to prove that point. I had never thought about decorating my soul with God’s Word.

Before we started, she had us ask the Lord what He needs from me personally. Then Pastor Christine asked us to take a few minutes of contemplative prayer. In those holy quiet moments that filled the room of over 100 women, there was an incredible peace that washed over me. I felt the Lord say, “You need to get fully awake. You are not awake enough yet! Do not be afraid to be fully set on fire for Me.”

WHOA!!!!!

My eyes flew open because there was a part of me that expected to see someone saying those words out loud to me. It was not a quiet whisper of the Holy Spirit, it was a directive from the Father.

This word meant so much more to me since my 2019 words were ‘Awake and Arise’. At the beginning of last year, when I prayed for a word, the Lord said, “I need you to wake up so I can rise you up.” 2019 was definitely a year that I woke up to A LOT of spiritual reality regarding where the Lord was taking me. My word in 2018 was ‘Rise Up’ ~ and that was a year of rebuilding and refocus for me. There was a lot of introspective challenges the Lord brought me through.

Jude 20-21 says, 20 But you, beloved, build yourselves up on [the foundation of] your most holy faith [continually progress, rise like an edifice higher and higher], pray in the Holy Spirit, 21 and keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously and looking forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ [which will bring you] to eternal life.”

The bible studies, personal reading, contemplating on scripture was that foundation that the Lord was using to rise up the Holy Spirit within me. There were several significant moments in 2018 that the Lord used to clearly speak to my heart as to what seed had been planted.

Now, back to the present, I realized that all of those ‘words of the year’ prayers were way more impactful than I understood in the moment. As I prayed that day at Fellowship Mom’s, I had one of those “aha” moments!

This is what festooning the scripture on our heart means ~ to allow God’s living word to drape across our soul in order to bring delight, clarity, joy, celebration, and purpose to our life.

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 helped us go through a festooning of Psalm 23 ~ time spent personalizing this scripture to our current life circumstances. It was a beautiful thing to then sit and hear form the other 8 women at my table and see how these same verses were personalized totally different for each of us. God was in the midst of us, speaking to us uniquely and purposefully.

So, my word for 2020? Well, is currently mid-January and I just recently prayed for a word. It stunned me and it humbled me. Remember what the last few words were of what I felt God say to me in that contemplative prayer?

~ “…to be fully set on fire for Me!” ~

My words for 2020 are: Fire and Refiner

At first I wasn’t sure I heard the Lord correctly. But of course I did. I would not have come up with those words by myself. My first thoughts were honestly ones of trepidation, “Oh Lord…what are you going to burn away from me this year? What do I need to die to and give up? Where and when is this refining going to take place.”

Then I was reminded what I heard in that prayer and I felt such a peace come over me.

This will be a year where the things I do not need to hold on to in my life, will be cast away. Admittedly a bit of control freak, this is not going to be easy. But I so trust the Lord with what His plan and path for me in 2020 is. When I researched the word ‘fire’ in scripture, most of the time it’s in regard to God burning things and throwing things in the fire due to His wrath. But there is another side of fire scripture speaks about:

  • As a visible form of guidance for the Israelites in the wilderness ~ Exodus 13:21-22, 21 The [presence of the] Lord was going before them by day in a pillar (column) of cloud to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, so that they could travel by day and by night. 22 He did not withdraw the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from going before the people.
  • As a showing of God’s power & protection for those who trust in Him ~ Daniel 3:25-26, “ 25 He answered, “Look! I see four men untied, walking around in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt! And the appearance of the fourth is like [d]a son of the gods!” 26 Then Nebuchadnezzar approached the door of the blazing furnace and said, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, servants of the Most High God, come out [of there]! Come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire.
  • As a sign of God’s covenant with the Believer’s ~ Acts 2:2-4, and suddenly a sound came from heaven like a rushing violent wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. There appeared to them tongues resembling fire, which were being distributed [among them], and they rested on each one of them [as each person received the Holy Spirit]. And they were all filled [that is, diffused throughout their being] with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues (different languages), as the Spirit was giving them the ability to speak out [clearly and appropriately].
  • As a reminder of God’s power within us ~ 2 Timothy 1:6, “That is why I remind you to fan into flame the gracious gift of God, [that inner fire—the special endowment] which is in you through the laying on of my hands [with those of the elders at your ordination].”
  •  As a reminder that our words can speak life or death ~ James 3:6, “And the tongue is [in a sense] a fire, the very world of injustice and unrighteousness; the tongue is set among our members as that which contaminates the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life [the cycle of man’s existence], and is itself set on fire by hell (Gehenna).”
  • And as a reward ~ 1 Peter, 1:6-9, In this you rejoice greatly, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, which is much more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested and purified by fire, may be found to result in [your] praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and though you do not even see Him now, you believe and trust in Him and you greatly rejoice and delight with inexpressible and glorious joy, receiving as the result [the outcome, the consummation] of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

As for the word ‘refiner’, for the first few days I didn’t look too deeply into that word because I felt that it naturally went with the word fire. But over the past week, through more prayer and contemplation, I’ve come to realize that not only will the Lord continue to refine me as I seek after Him, but He is going to put in me in situations where He will use me to refine those around me. That is a daunting and humbling task. That is partly why James 3:6 is so pertinent to my thought processes.

In my 51 years on this earth so far (yeah, I said it…) I have walked through enough joys and trials to be able to speak with authority in a refining manner. I’m still learning, but I’ve also learned a lot! Sharing my story will hopefully help those who come behind me to learn from my mistakes. But more so to learn that God is a very loving and patient Father!

Before I go, I’ll share a link to a great song called “Refiner” by Maverick City Music. Trust me that I listened quite a bit more intently to this song in the last few weeks!

{https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGFCbmvk0vo}

Blessings,

René

{Photo by Joshua Newton on Unsplash}

 

 

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Closer than you think…

Closer than you think - blog with text

The promises of God are closer than we think.

More often than not, we have to fully give our dreams and hopes back to God and trust that He will sustain us and bring them to fruition in His perfect timing.

Reading through the book of Ruth, it could seem at first glance that life for Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi was destined for brokenness. But when you dig deeper and really look at all they went through, you see the perfect picture of redemption, healing, and promises fulfilled.

Check out these verses with me in Ruth 4:4-6, 12, 17, and 22 {AMP}

“So I thought to let you hear of it, saying, ‘Buy it in the presence of those sitting here, and before the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, redeem it; but if not, then tell me, so that I may know; for there is no one besides you to redeem it, and I am [next of kin] after you.’ “And he said, “I will redeem it.” Then Boaz said, “The day that you buy the filed from Naomi, you must also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of the deceased, to restore the name of the deceased to his inheritance.” The closest relative (redeemer) said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, because [by marrying a Moabitess] I would jeopardize my own inheritance. Take my right of redemption (purchase) yourself, because I cannot redeem it.”

Further, may hour house be like the house of Perez whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring which the LORD will give you by this young woman.”

The neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “A son (grandson) has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed (worshiper). He is the father of Jesse, the father of David [the ancestor of Jesus Christ].

Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David [the king of Israel and the ancestor of Jesus Christ].”

If you aren’t familiar with the book of Ruth, I would definitely recommend you taking a few moments to read it the four chapters. The significance of these verses above are a culmination of Ruth and Naomi (both widows) being provided for and taken care of; essentially being saved from a life of poverty and despair.

In the midst of Naomi’s sadness, she knew the only thing left to do was to go back to her people. Even with this plan, she had zero confidence that the town would accept her back into the community.

As someone who has moved 14 times since getting married in 1990, it’s never easy. It’s a strange mixture of excitement and pure terror! Dealing with all the new things ~ neighbors, grocery store, restaurants, different ways to get to church, work, or the kids’ schools. All the things!

But Naomi made sure that everyone knew that she knew, her life had changed. And not for the better. She tells everyone in Ruth 1:20,

“She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi (sweetness); call me Mara (bitter), for the Almighty has caused me great grief and bitterness.”

Thankfully I’ve never moved with that kind of greeting to new neighbors!”

Even though Naomi was beyond distressed, she obeyed the whisper in her heart and moved back to her people. That first step of obedience brought her to the next one and the next one and the one after that. Good things began happening for her and Ruth.

In the passage I shared at the beginning of this blog tells a brief story of how Ruth came to be able to marry Boaz. Prior to this gathering of town folks, it is clear in scripture that Boaz was enamored with Ruth. There is an age gap, and he was a man of great authority in the community, so this meant that he had to remain above reproach. There were enough signs of his affection to encourage Naomi to tell Ruth how to let Boaz know she would return his affection. Even so, there were still hurdles.

Naomi and Ruth could’ve chosen to fall full force into despair and doubt, but they remembered that they served a mighty God.

Can you imagine the tension though at that town meeting? Boaz and Ruth wanted to be together but they had to go through the proper channels. Too long to go into {so yeah…go read Ruth!} but these two decided to trust the Lord that there would be a good plan for them.

And indeed, there was! This next step of obedience on all the parts of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz brought the world one step closer to the celebration of Jesus being born.

The birth of the Savior of the world was closer than they knew.

It would take seven more generations before Jesus was born, but His lineage was written by God since before time. {In all, from Abraham to David was 14 generations.*}

What is that thing you are waiting for? Anticipating? Dreading?

The Christmas and New Years’ seasons are full of so many different emotions for so many of us. As you read this, I’m sure there is a lot going on in your life and in the lives of those around you.

Waiting is hard.

Moving is not comfortable.

Change is not always what we want.

But God…

He will not let you fall.

He will not abandon you.

He simply calls you to take the next obedient step. Then the next one and the one after that. The answer to what you are questioning is most likely closer than you think. It also will most likely not come when you want it to come, but it will unfold at just the right time for you.

Especially as we have a new decade beginning ~ 2020 ~ it’s a perfect season to seek God and find out what He has for you. Spend time in prayer, reading the Word, and reflecting on what He says, and you will not be disappointed.

Be patient, defeat the temptation to become bitter, invest your heart in trusting God’s goodness for your life.

My prayer for you today and always is to remember that Jesus is closer to your heart than you might think. Trust Him.

Blessings,

René

 

 

 

 

‭‭Ruth‬ ‭4:4-6, 12, 17, 22‬ ‭AMP‬‬

https://www.bible.com/1588/rut.4.4-6,12,17,22.amp

“So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen; from David to the Babylonian deportation (exile), fourteen generations; and from the Babylonian deportation to the Messiah, fourteen generations.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭1:17‬ ‭AMP‬‬

https://www.bible.com/1588/mat.1.17.amp

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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_

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Plans Fulfilled in Faithfulness…

It is one of the biggest blessings in my life to have people I can count on to encourage me and to challenge me. The Lord has placed a small but mighty group of women in my life who do just that! They each bring out something different in me because of the gifts and talents God has given them, but the common denominator…they always point me to Jesus!

And that’s what we are supposed to do as friends and confidantes! Right!!??!!

I’m in a season of hearing the Lord speak clearer than ever as to what my “yeses” are and what my “no’s” are. And they don’t necessarily make sense to other people, but that’s because God doesn’t always call us to the same things. I mean, we are basically all called to seek the Lord, to preach the Gospel, and to point others to the saving knowledge of Jesus. But the way in which we do that will look different from others.

And it’s supposed to be that way!

We are created uniquely and have opportunities to be in front of certain people that others wouldn’t. I mean, I’m not gonna be sitting down and having a chat with Kanye any time soon ~ although, it would be fascinating to hear his story of transformation! ~ but I am confident that there are people who obviously had that opportunity and they are a part of his story of salvation.  That’s so cool!

But it doesn’t have to be a famous person that we interact with.

That’s where God’s plans fall perfectly in place.

He is the one who puts in places to influence and minister to those in our circle…our neighborhood…our community at church…where our kids go to school…where we work out…and so many more places.

You are exactly where YOU need to be because it’s exactly where GOD put you!

I remember years ago we toured a beautiful estate in the Nashville, TN area ~ in the summer! I just love the architecture, the stories of the people who lived there, the photos of grand balls and afternoons of High Tea!  My husband teased me that I would’ve loved to have been a Southern Belle “back in the day”. To which I quickly replied, “Yes, I would’ve but God knew this girl can’t handle a house without air conditioning!” Although living a grand life as a Southern Belle would’ve been fun, I honestly think I may have died young from heat stroke. Or I would’ve been the outcast in the female circles because I’d be constantly trying to figure out how to where something cooler!

But seriously, we are all right where we are supposed to be.

You may not like where you are, but you are there. 

Let me encourage you to call out to the Lord, whether it be in desperation, frustration, anger, or apathy…call out because He will hear you! If you don’t understand why you are in the situation you are currently in, take a moment to be still and listen to His answer. There WILL be an answer.

I began this blog taking about friends who help keep us accountable, and this is where they come in. After prayer, reach out to a friend who you know will absolutely go before the throne and pray for you. And if you are that friend, ask the Lord for a word of encouragement to share ~ that means so much!

I recently had a day where I needed to be encouraged and after reaching out for prayer, I received this verse from my friend Christine,

“Such is the confidence and steadfast reliance and absolute trust that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficiently qualified in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency and qualifications come from God. He has qualified us [making us sufficient] as ministers of a new covenant [of salvation through Christ], not of the letter [of a written code] but of the Spirit; for the letter [of the Law] kills [by revealing sin and demanding obedience], but the Spirit gives life.” ~ 2 Cor. ‭3:4-6‬ ‭AMP‬‬

It was like water to my thirsty soul! And as soon as I read it, the Lord reminded me about the ‘verse of the day’ that I had read that morning and how the two went together,

“O LORD, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will praise and give thanks to Your name; For You have done miraculous things, Plans formed long, long ago, [fulfilled] with perfect faithfulness.” ~ Isaiah ‭25:1‬ ‭AMP‬‬

This is one of those glorious moments to me that reminds me that God’s Word is truly ALIVE!!  It is not a dead text that was written thousands of years ago. It is the Living Word of the amazing Living God that I serve with my whole heart.

The plans that God has for me have been formed FOR ME before I was formed in my mother’s womb. And the same goes for you.

Let that sink in for a bit!

God thought of YOU before you were formed. You were real to Him before you were held by your mother or father. You were loved by Him before anyone else.

You were planned for!  You are planned for even know!

Even when we don’t feel like we matter or that we could possibly make a difference in this world, the fact is that you do matter and you can and are making a difference!

My friends, this is where we must stand firm. For as much as God plans for us to shine for His glory, the enemy (Satan) wants us to fail and fail hard!

God qualifies ~ Satan wants to disqualify

God raises us up ~ Satan wants to diminish us

God sees you ~ Satan wants you to feel invisible

God knows you intimately ~ Satan wants you to feel unworthy

God loves you for being you ~ Satan wants you to feel unlovable

But guess what…in case you didn’t know…

GOD HAS THE VICTORY OVER EVERY PART OF OUR LIFE!! 

Satan loses…and he loses every time!

Oh, just in case you need a bit more convincing, here’s one more promise for you from Philippians 1:6 AMP,

“I am convinced and confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return].”

The Lord will not let you down. In every moment, easy or challenging, He is there right by your side. Worthy of praise and desirous of being in relationship with us!

My prayer for you today is that you can stand firm in the truth of God’s Word; to know that you are qualified through the Lord to do what He has called you to do. The Holy Spirit will give you sufficient grace and direction to follow the plans the Lord has for you, you just need to listen! God will bring about His plans for you in His timing as we are faithful to be obedient to Him. 

And those plans will be perfectly fulfilled by His faithfulness!

Blessings,

René

Plans Fulfilled in Faithfulness

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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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