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

Filling broken places…..

When you feel broken, what do you fill yourself up with?

There are so many ways that we can feel broken…

  • A friendship goes away
  • The family we desire to have isn’t coming to fruition
  • The job we are anticipating doesn’t happen
  • Our life is hit by addiction; from ourself or from others
  • The marriage you have isn’t like the ones you see on social media
  • It seems like the life you have will never include financial freedom of any kind

And the list goes on and on…

What happens when those broken places happen? How do we fill that void?

Have you ever heard of the Japanese method called Kintsugi? It’s super cool!

“Translated to “golden joinery,” Kintsugi (or Kintsukuroi, which means “golden repair”) is the centuries-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with a special lacquer dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Beautiful seams of gold glint in the cracks of ceramic ware, giving a unique appearance to the piece.

This repair method celebrates each artifact’s unique history by emphasizing its fractures and breaks instead of hiding or disguising them. Kintsugi often makes the repaired piece even more beautiful than the original, revitalizing it with new life.

There are 3 predominant styles of Kintsugi: crack, piece method, and joint-call. While, in each case, gold-dusted epoxy is used to fix the broken pottery, the methods themselves vary. Objects mended using the crack approach are touched up with minimal lacquer, while works restored with the piece method feature replacement fragments made entirely of epoxy. Finally, pieces fixed using the joint-call technique employ similarly-shaped pieces from other broken wares, combining 2 aesthetically different works into 1 uniquely unified product.”

{https://mymodernmet.com/kintsugi-kintsukuroi/}

I just love this concept. And to me, it translates perfectly as to how God repairs the broken places of our life. We are so precious to Him ~ when we break, His heart breaks for us too. He doesn’t simply open a bottle of super glue, squirt some onto the broken pieces and shove them together hoping that the glue will do the trick. He cares too much for us to be so cavalier with His precious creation.

Since God is the one who put us together, He’s the best one to turn to, to be put back together after a season of brokenness. But there is much patience involved on our part. The Lord uses those moments in our life to refine us; to bring out the shine in our life. The rough parts are softened and the pieces that don’t necessarily fit back into place are removed. That’s when our patient heart needs to be on high alert!

While the Lord is working on the “golden repair”, we must wait.

The. waiting. is. so. hard.

We don’t want to hurt. We don’t want to feel broken. We don’t want to look busted-up in the world’s eyes. We want to give the appearance that we are okay…that we’re “fixed.”

In that impatient effort of so desperately wanting to look “normal” and unbroken, we look to quick fixes. We seek a relationship that we think will fill our aching soul. We turn to food, or sex, or pornography, or drugs, or alchohol…so many things…and we allow the lies of the devil to invade our mind. We begin to believe his lies that those earthly things will fill the void left by brokenness.

All that we’ve done is attempt to fix our own brokenness with something that won’t last…like wax. Wax was created to melt…not to be an agent of repair. Wax is temporary. When our brokenness comes to the surface again, and the heat of life is turned up to full blast, the wax will melt and all that comes out of our heart is hot anger and all the sadness that we’ve been trying to keep hidden.

What was meant to be a lesson in our life, ends up burning the people around us.

When we take a step back and truly wait for God to handle our life-repair the right way, then our brokenness is filled with the goodness and the shining glory of His love and connection. He brings the broken pieces back together and we become an even stronger version of our self. We become a force to be reckoned with {if you will} who had entered a battle and came out victorious!

Ephesians 2: 8-10 For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation]. For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].”

Don’t be afraid of the broken or cracked places in your life ~ God is getting ready to fill it with the refined gold and silver of His great and mighty love! And for heaven’s sake, if God fills you with silver and someone else with gold and someone else with a whole new piece ~ don’t compare your gift with someone else’s!  God will absolutely repair you the way that YOU need to be repaired! Your “work order” won’t ever get mixed up with another person’s. You are in great hands with God doing the repair work!!

Blessings,

René

 

 

 

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

Authentic Joy…

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

Candy ~ Almond joy?

Songs ~ Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me tell you a little story ~

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

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

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

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

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

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

That made me FEEL so mad!

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

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

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

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

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

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

And for what….a house?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We had the support of our church community.

And I still loved my husband.

Things were looking up.

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

Really?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello! Life changer right there!

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

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

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

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

What’s a momma to do…pray!

So I found things I could be joyful about…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He provided more than enough.

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

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

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

We have known plenty and we have known want.

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

That is true authentic joy.

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

Blessings,

René

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

Active Patience….

These words just do not seem to go together…Actively patient? Patiently waiting? Eagerly awaiting?…

Active: engaged in action characterized by energetic work, participation, etc.;

Patience: an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay.

So if we play the old teacher trick of learning how to use words properly and write a sentence using those words…so here’s mine ~

To be engaged with energetic participation while at the same time being willing to keep annoyance at a distance when faced with task of waiting. {rab}

Doesn’t that sound like fun? 🙂

Our brains just don’t seem to work that way to think that these words could actually be a complement one another. The season that our family has been in for the past several months has been one of excitement and sorrow, anticipation, joy, and sadness. As the day drew closer for her daughter’s wedding we were eagerly anticipating that special day and praying that God would be honored in that day. And He absolutely was! It is a surreal for sure to watch your baby get married and pledge her life to the man that you have been praying for years since she was a child. To see the reality of those prayers, those 24 years worth of prayers, come to fruition is joyfully humbling. To see how their lives have been shaped by a variety of events, how their paths crossed so many times, how they could’ve met on many different occasions…But God knew the exact moment that He wanted to bring them together and it was perfectly timed.

That is the kind of anticipation we all dream about and become giddy about when we see it coming true.

But what about the anticipation of knowing a loved one has the proverbial one foot in this earth and one foot at the threshold of heaven? When you know their heart is eagerly awaiting a moment of being Jesus and with those who have gone before them? How do we put that together in our mind? There is nothing you can do except to be patient while your loved one appears to be helplessly waiting for their time to come.

Twenty-five short days after the most joyful day of our year, watching our daughter as she got married, we watched my father-in-law and my grandmother called home to be with the Lord ~ within one day of each other. The sorrow that overcame me in those days was real, but just as real was the joy that they are whole and complete in the presence of the Lord…their Savior they both so dearly loved.

In the midst of all of that, my husband developed a terrible case of shingles on his face just a mere six days after the wedding. I’ve had my own issues with shoulder pain that seemed to come out of nowhere. And then we added some more joy (TRULY!  It’s fabulous!!) in the form of a new job opportunity for my husband and a very quick transition of our youngest daughter moving away to her dream college… finding ourselves in the proverbial beginning of being empty nester.

That whole empty nest part of life, well, I can tell you honestly it is not something that I have been eagerly awaiting. It is not something I have been longing for. Sure, there are days that I remember what our three girls were small children, and I would fantasize about having the house to myself…More importantly, having a clean house to myself. But I do not like the quiet. I do not like it at all. But this is where God is going to meet me and I suppose if I am being honest with myself, and with you as you read this maybe you find yourself in the same place, I am not necessarily eagerly awaiting to be alone or to be quiet with God.In so many ways it is nerve-racking to admit this. I have been a Christian for 40 years, I love the Lord and my heart is to serve Him, and besides that, are we supposed to admit these times when we are a little nervous or maybe even afraid to be alone with God?

I can say that I am nervous about what I will hear from the Lord.

What does He want from me in this new season of my life? What will he require from me in order to serve Him? Will it be hard? Are there decisions ahead of me that will be difficult to make? All of these things ramble around in my mind and I am grateful that the Lord is patiently awaiting my availability to be with Him. Oh sure, I will read devotionals, I will read inspirational books from fantastic authors, I will read the youversion Bible app verse of the day… but I know God is calling me to much, much more.

Psalm 37:7 {AMP} “Be still before the Lord; waitpatiently for Him and entrust yourself to Him; Do not fret (whine, agonize) because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.”

God is calling me to a place where I can be patiently waiting – actively patient – dare I say, eagerly awaiting even?

God wants me in a place every morning where I can honestly pray and tell the Lord, “Use me today however You want to, in the way that You need to, in order to bring You glory.” Even now it is really easy to write this because I have followed the Lord for so long, I know the right answers. I know the right things to say to make me sound as though I have my “Christian walk” all together. But until I put all of that knowledge to work, nothing that God has called me to do will be accomplished the way He intends.

I have researched hundreds of verses that talk about being patient, being eager, about waiting…And all of them point me to the same place.

I must seek him first. Always every day.I need to trust the voice of the Holy Spirit when He whispers to me an idea, something to pray about, someone to pray for, even the thoughts that come to me for ideas about writing a blog post or writing a book. After seeing how God has created so many opportunities in my life for His glory to shine through because of how He has provided for me and for our family, it is a wonder even to me that I doubt the call that God has placed on my life.

Where do you find yourself today? Are you in the same place that I am right now? Are you wondering how someone can call themselves a “good Christian” and have these doubts that I have? {but please please remember that our salvation is NOT based on works…we are only saved through the grace and favor from the Lord Jesus Christ ~ John 14:6}. What part of the journey that you are on, the call that God has put on your life, where are you at with it?

Are you simply sitting back waiting for God to show up and do something or are you eagerly anticipating thoughts and ideas that have been whispered to your heart in a way that is filled with actions and excitement? The beginnings of a new year are always full of resolutions, new promises to ourselves and others, and a sense of renewed hope for the future. But the one common denominator in all of those things, for any of those things to happen in the way God intended, is for us to be active participantsin the adventure! If I want to see God working in my life I have to be in direct communication with Him so that I can recognize those moments when they come.

This reminds me of a conference I went to last year where I met with the main speaker afterwards. She spoke a word over my life and shared an image that God gave her for me. She said, “I see you in a hot air balloon and God is asking you to become completely untethered. Let go of all those things that are keeping you safely on the ground. Trust Him to take you to height that you have never imagined…but God is asking you to cut the ropes.”

That word absolutely excited and terrified me at the same time! As you can well imagine I’m sure. I believe that there are several of those rope tethers that I have cut loose. But even now as I write this blog, God is showing me a picture of that hot air balloon still halfway tethered to the posts on the ground. It is off balance and the fire that is needed to lift the hot air balloon properly off the ground cannot be fully realize because if it is, it will simply burn a hole through the side of the balloon, and I will not be able to take off.

All of the ropes need to be untethered so that I can fully let the Holy Spirit’s fire burst forth in my life. I have to trust that that fire will not burn me…It will only shine a light and bring glory to the Lord as He leads me to the places He intends for me to be. When I sat down to write today, actually I am voice texting all of this into my Notes app on my phone while I drive home from Orange County. Honestly, sometimes the only time I feel that I have to myself, even though I am now an empty nester, is when I am driving in my car somewhere. Especially in Southern California there is a lot of traffic to sit through so it works out pretty good.

That aside, when I was beginning to say is that I had no intention of going so deep but this is what happens when I let go of my intentions, my agenda, my expectations, and let Jesus truly take control.

Psalm 130:5 “I wait [patiently] for the Lord, my soul [expectantly] waits, And in His word do I hope.”

My goal and prayer is that these words will cause a fresh wave of God’s peace to wash over you. Maybe that wave needs to knock you over like it does for me today, but He will not let you be overwhelmed. Have you ever done one of the “trust falls” ~ that’s what it’s like trusting the Lord a lot of time…lean back and trust that He will catch you when you lean back and/or pick you up when you fall.

My prayer is that you hear God’s voice in your own life, right now, telling you what your next step needs to be, what rope you need to cut and become unattached from. And of course, the verses that I am sharing with you today, I pray that you will find rest and solace in the truth of God’s Word. Don’t just take my word for it, go to His Word and dig deeper so that you have the awesome experience to encounter with what the Holy Spirit has been trying to tell you for so long.

Today is that day that you can start again……Where you can embrace the opportunity to patiently yet at the same time eagerly, a wait and see what God has for you!

Blessings,

René

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

Your View: Windshield or Rear-View…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our past is like those smaller mirrors.

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

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

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

So how does that this translate into our spiritual life?

What side glances get you off track?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings,

René

 

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

Expectancy…

For many years now, I’ve heard stories from friends, read countless social media posts, and heard it talked about from the pulpit…”God gave me a word for the year.” Then I would listen as each person unpacked what it meant to them that God gave them a word.  Well, why did I never receive a word from the Lord for my life? For the year ahead?  Goodness sake, for the DAY ahead!

Simple answer.

I never asked for one.

Yeah, I know…kind of a “duh” moment.  Honestly, I never asked for it before because I thought it was just the trend of the decade.  Everyone was doing it and I didn’t want to follow along with the latest “Christian thing to do.” If I’m really and truly being honest with you though, I also never asked for God to give me a word because I was afraid of what it would be and what would be required of me to live into that word He had for me. I’m guessing y’all might be feeling the same way.

So…what to do?

Pray…and ask!

I John 5:14 is quite clear about this and says, Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

There is so much in the Christian arena that has it backwards about asking the Lord for something in prayer.  There is absolutely NOTHING in the Bible that tells us that all we have to do is ask and we get whatever we want.  This is making God into a wish-giving genie and that is definitely who the Lord is.  The verse above says that whatever we ask that is in line with the plan and purpose He has for our life, that is what He will give.  And when we are close to Him, when we lay down our wants and needs at the feet of His throne, then the depths of our heart, mind, and soul are completely immersed in desiring what HE wants for our life…and we in turn want that too.

In January of this year, I went trembling before the Lord and asked Him to give me a word for the year of 2017.  Immediately I heard God breathe the word “Expectancy” into my heart.  “Did I hear You correctly Lord?  Expectancy?  Oh man…what do you mean by that?  As long as you don’t mean that I’m literally going to be ‘expecting’ then I’m good with your plan.”

{I’m in no way diminishing the joy of being pregnant and bringing a child into this world…we have three daughters and they are 23, 21, and 17…our oldest is getting married in November…and I’m 48 years old…that would totally freak me out to have a baby at this stage in my life!}

So, expectancy…okay…

The only questions from above that I felt I had a clear answer about was ~ Yes!  I did indeed hear the Lord correctly.  And No! Not a literal baby would be joining our family.  Whew…okay…lets roll!

This word has lingered in my heart all year long so far and every time something wonderful was about to happen or actually happened, I would smile up at my Father and thank Him.  But I felt like I wasn’t getting the full gist of what God intended with this ‘word of the year’.  I kept feeling like something is coming but I have no idea what that is.

I’m a planner.  I like to make lists.  I like to cross off tasks from my lists.  I am known to add things to my list that I accomplished just so that I can cross it off my list!  To walk around with a sense of expectancy every day is actually kind of frustrating and a bit mentally exhausting because I find myself In a constant state of waiting.

I don’t like to wait.  I really hate waiting.  No, like, I really really hate it!

But that my friend is a HUGE part of being expectant.

The Psalms are filled with wonderful verses to encourage us in the wait…

27:24 ~ Wait for the Lord; be strong and courageous. Wait for the Lord.

33:20 ~ We wait for Yahweh; He is our help and shield.

39:7 ~ Now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You.

40:1 ~ I waited patiently for the Lord, and He turned to me and heard my cry for help.

130:5 ~ I wait for Yahweh; I wait and put my hope in His word.

So much of our life is spent waiting and expecting.

You take a test in school to see if you will pass on to the next grade level or if you’ll make it into a Graduate program…and then you wait for the results…expecting the outcome you hope for.

You find out you’re going to have a baby…and you wait a long 9 months and wonder what incredible miracles are going on underneath the expanding skin of your belly…and  you wait…you are quite literally, Expecting!

You are dating and you are sure that the person you are with is “The One”…you wait for the proposal to come…expecting to have your dreams come true.

But what happens when the waiting lasts way longer than you want it to?  What happens when the outcome you expected to happen, doesn’t?  Do you feel like you’ve wasted your time, efforts, or prayer time? Especially when you feel like the thing you are waiting for, that event that you are so full of expectancy for, doesn’t come to pass…or at least not how you imagined it would?

What do we do then?  I know I have had those seasons in my life when absolutely nothing seemed to be going in my favor in that of our little family. Constant worries about finances, health, personal issues, and the future.  Would anything ever work out for us?  Would life be okay again? What kind of witness am I to unbelievers when they know I’m a Christian but it appears that God isn’t hearing me in the wait.

Look carefully and see the difference between what I just wrote above and the verses I’ve shared with you below.  What do you see?

Psalm 5:1-3, 11-12, beautifully captures the heart of the one who is waiting…

Listen to my words, Lord; consider my sighing. Pay attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for I pray to You. At daybreak, Lord, You hear my voice; at daybreak I plead my case to You and watch expectantly. But let all who take refuge in You rejoice;
let them shout for joy forever. May You shelter them, and may those who love Your name boast about You. For You, Lord, bless the righteous one; You surround him with favor like a shield.

The difference is the focus of my heart.

When it’s all about me, the scope of life is quite small. When I remember that my focus needs to be on the Lord, my whole world opens up to see what it is that HE wants me to be interested in, focused on, who crosses my path that needs encouragement, and so much more.  Suddenly, the wait isn’t unbearable any longer.  I can walk confidently throughout my days and have a heart of expectancy because I know that I serve a God who created the Universe and has created a plan and purpose just for me!  That’s pretty amazing people!!

We won’t always see the fruit of what we’ve been waiting for.  We don’t always get the answers we want.  But we have a secure hope in the Lord that He has the answers and He knows what is best.  We also have the gift of His written Word…the Bible…which is full of encouragement with incredible stories of those who have gone before us in the wait.

Abraham and Sarah were actually told what they could expect to happen…but they had to wait for decades to see the promise. (Genesis 12 and 21).

Moses was saved from certain death because his mother hid him, Pharaoh’s daughter found him, God called him, he came up with every excuse in the book, and then trusted God would give him the strength to accomplish the task of setting the Israelites free. Although Moses knew the promises that would happen, he was disobedient in the wait and was able to move fully into the fruit of the promise. (book of Exodus). But he remained expectant.

Saul (of the New Testament) had an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus ~ WHILE he was still beating and torturing Christians. Immediately Saul was blinded by the glory of the Lord, soon after was healed through prayer from a man who feared him (but completely trusted Jesus), and became Paul…a man whom the Lord built His church (Acts 9).  In Acts 9:15-16 says of Paul, But the Lord said to him, “Go! For this man is My chosen instrument to take My name to Gentiles, kings, and the Israelites. I will show him how much he must suffer for My name!” This is just one story proving that God sees the whole picture and He is trustworthy in His promises, His decisions, His plans, and in what He asks us to be expectant for.  It is not an easy task to do what God has set forth for us to accomplish, but it’s not about us and it won’t be easy!  That’s why we must constantly lean into the Lord and follow His plan!

Today, be bold in the Lord and ask Him to whisper to your heart what He wants for you.  Be it a word for the year, a task He wants you to undertake, a promise He has for you in the future…whatever it is, ask Him to show you how it is you are to move forward in the time of waiting, in this season of expectancy. When you are in line with His plan, He will be oh so good in showing you HOW do wait in Him.  How to rest in Him.

He will be faithful to bring you a sense of peace and calmness while you are expectantly waiting for His promises to come to fruition.  If for no other reason that your faith in the Lord will grow by and extraordinarily large amount!!

And whatever it is, it will be well worth the wait.

Blessings,

René

~~ Psalm 37:5-7a ~~ Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act, making your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like the noonday. Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for Him;

Psalm 37 verse 5

 

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

Abundant Heaps…

When you read that title, what are the images that come to your mind?  Something that  you collect?  Something that has been given to you?

Is it the ominous laundry room with the floor scattered with heaps of clothes and towels and everything that came out of your child’s closet…that is really clean but they didn’t end up wearing it but didn’t feel like hanging it back up again? Do you see the pile of bills on your counter that need to be gone through to figure out which one needs to be paid first…Or which one you can pay at all? Is it the stack of stuff that ends up piling up around the house with things that you haven’t had time to take care of yet… The magazine stack, that project you’re working on, the Bible study book that you been looking for and it’s at the bottom of one of those piles? We all have those kinds of and piles around our home. We’ve all been there, we’ve all taken that day to clean up and get everything put away and in order. But in the blink of an eye…they are back!

Thankfully, there are better kinds of “heaping abundance” that we have the opportunity to fill our lives with.

The first heaping abundance gift that can be strewn across our life is grace. The second heaping abundance that we can allow to pile up in our soul is kindness. And the last one, certainly not the least one that we can carry around is an abundance of love. His Love.

OK, so picture with me that pile of stuff on the kitchen counter (you know you have one)but now imagine it was a pile of grace. Think of grace as something that you can see, something you could touch, something you know you would never run out of. How wonderful it would be when you found yourself in a stressful moment of your life, there was a magnanimous amount of grace offered, all you had to do was to go to that pile of grace on your counter and take what you needed!  And lo and behold, there was so much you were able to give some away at the same time. To be able see that pile of grace out of the corner of your eye and be comforted to know that God gave you that abundant heap of grace to use in your life.

I will admit that the times in my life when I have been far less than grateful, it is due to my own selfish desires.  I allow myself to get caught up in what I think I deserve and many times hold the people around me to standards that are impossible to reach. Over the years in a variety of circumstances God has humbled me and reminded me that there is nothing  more powerful than for me to be able to show grace to others. The beauty here is this is when they will see Christ in me. I do not want to reflect an untrue representation of Who the Lord is, but I do that every single time I do not show grace.

One of my daughters recently pointed out to me in an extremely passionate way, to remember that we have no idea what other people are going through and it is up to us to react in a way that is pleasing and honorable to the Lord. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.”  It’s not about us…it’s about how we serve those around us while honoring the Lord at the same time.

I don’t believe it’s just talking about a 9-to-5 job scenario. It is in all that we do. It is in the carpool lane on the freeway. It is in the line at the grocery store. It is in the way that we discipline our children when they are young. It is in the way we treat out teens as they are growing from child to adult. It is in the way that we support our husbands after a long hard day. And it is in the way that we treat those around us on a daily basis. Don’t you want that abundant heap of grace around your home… Around your life?  Every day!!‬‬

That brings us to kindness.

What if our soul, the deepest part of our soul had kindness flowing out of it like the never ending pile of clothes in the laundry room? How would your life be different if you pretended that you were carrying around a basket, burgeoning with kindness!  If you bumped into someone they were bound to get some on them. If you tripped and fell, kindness would spill out all around you. If you were sitting having coffee with a friend and you began to quietly attend to the “laundry” in that basket, more than likely your friend would be able to join in and share in that moment…they would be encouraged to participate in an act of kindness. You know how a bunch of clean towels fresh out of the dryer feels so scrumptious & warm? What if you offered your child, your friend, or your spouse, the opportunity to be wrapped in the warmth of your kindness?  Doesn’t that sound delicious!!

With our heaping piles of grace and the warmth of kindness…we dive into love!

I will admit that my favorite part of any meal is dessert. Who doesn’t love to peruse the dessert section of the menu!  When I think about having a “heaping abundance” of love, I will tell you that the first thing that comes to my mind is the huge ice cream sundae called “The Zoo” made famous by Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor in Southern California. It has so much ice cream in the bowl that it borderlines on the obnoxious. As my 6th birthday was drawing near, all I wanted to do was have my party at Farrell’s so that my mom could order The Zoo. Because this ice cream sundae was so heavy it was actually carried in by two employees on a specially made tray that was secured on two poles. The two waiters would put this contraption on their shoulders and then two other waiters would lift The Zoo Sundae onto it. But the spectacle didn’t stop there…not by a long shot!  As they emerged from the back of the restaurant, The Zoo was lit up with sparklers and there was someone walking in front of it banging on a huge drum. There were whistles and shouts and everyone in the restaurant knew that someone special was about to be celebrated. At this point, any available wait staff had joined in the parade, and they would all come to the table, march around the party goers, then stop where the birthday person was sitting.  I’d seen it a bunch of times, but this year it was my turn. One waitress helped me stand up on the chair and encouraged everyone in the whole restaurant to sing “Happy Birthday” to me. As the sparklers died down, I blew out the huge candle on top and got to choose the first scoop. I think there was about every kind of ice cream in that thing and at least five kinds of toppings oozing over the top. And of course the crowning glory of it all was probably an entire can of whip cream and a handful of cherries tumbling down. I probably still have all of the plastic zoo animals that hung around the edge of that big silver ice cream bowl, tucked away somewhere.

So considering that this was about 40 years ago, you can see the impact is still there. I can hear the drums and the whistle, I can hear the excited shouts of the waiters announcing that it was my birthday. I can still see my little self standing up on the chair because I wanted to see what was in the bowl. This is the kind of heaping love, the love of Christ and the love we have for Christ that should be brimming to overflowing in our life.

How would it feel?  How would it be to life with the overflowing love of Christ? We could move forward in every part of our life with that much more kindness and that much more grace. We would be able to walk into a room and be ready to celebrate everyone we come in contact with. Whether we are meeting with one friend at a coffee shop because they’re having an extremely difficult time in their life. It can be when we walk onto the campus of our kids school with a ready heart to show the love of Christ to other parents, teachers, and the staff. We can walk around our neighborhood, the grocery store, the gym, everywhere… And people will see that there is something different about us. The way that we carry ourselves. The countenance on our face! Is it daunting to think that some of the people we interact with in our life, that we are the first or possibly the only picture of Jesus that they will see? Absolutely! But it should not be a burden to carry all of this love. It needs to be a joy! Something to share at a moments notice so that people can hear about the love that The father has for them.

Heaping Abundance of Grace.

Heaping Abundance of Kindness.

Heaping Abundance of Love.

Today ~ maybe your grace, kindness, and love are more of a small stack rather than an abundance heap. The best way to grow in all of those areas is simple really. Just practice those characteristics. Do little things to show others that you care, even if you don’t know them.

Let the person behind you who only has one or two items go in front of you at the grocery store. When you notice someone is trying to move lanes on the freeway, slow down a little bit and wave them over. Instead of pointing out the one or two things that are still a mess in your kids room, compliment them on the part that they DID complete. Tell your husband “thank you” when he empties the dishwasher or take out the trash or walk the dog or gets up in the middle of the night with the baby.

All of those things will speak volumes to the people around you and they will have a glimpse of what it is to be covered by the warm, inviting, generous joy of the abundant heaps of grace, kindness, and love that is shown through us by Jesus.

Blessings,

René

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

Sewing and Stitching…

Last week, I was working on finishing a quilt for my oldest daughters’ 21st birthday. She wanted me to make her a special T-shirt quilt using her favorite tees from high school ~ and there were A LOT!  So this past week, she turned 23! Yeah…its been that kind of project!

I found a quiet place to work on this lap quilt {which actually turned into a QUEEN SIZE quilt} and a location where I could spread out. I went to church! I unloaded everything from my car, set up three 8ft banquet tables, plugged in my sewing machine and went to work.

About two hours in, something went very wrong. Suddenly, the machine wasn’t working. If you’ve ever worked with a sewing machine, you know how crippling it can feel when “for no reason” things stop working.  And when you are in a time crunch, that is a sickening feeling.

My. Heart. Sank.

The machine got stuck…SIX TIMES!  Needle stuck in the fabric, fabric jammed in the lower mechanism ~ nothing was moving.  Like, not one thing!  Very, very carefully I had to lift the fabric up enough to cut away the thread. I could be frustrated AFTER the fabric was free…I didn’t want to cut the wrong part.  I was on the brink of packing it all up and quitting. But I didn’t. I prayed so I wouldn’t  cry & then…then I called my mom! She’s an amazing seamstress & I knew she could help me. I told her what the displayed “code” on the machine said every time it jammed…she looked it up online since I didn’t have wifi, and she started laughing. I did NOT see the humor. She said, “Well, it says that E6 means that the machine is jammed.”

No duh!!!

[Insert scream here!]

She encouraged me to take a deep breath & keep looking for the problem. I got some scrap fabric & that machine jammed about FIVE MORE TIMES!!! Then on the sixth attempt, the machine didn’t jam but the thread coming from the bobbin was a complete mess on the underside of the fabric.

That’s when I saw the problem.

The bobbin was the wrong size and was bouncing around inside. Oh, and I had set the stitch size improperly.  It was at this point the Lord began to reveal to me the similarity between a jammed sewing machine and a jammed life.

I realized how sometimes, on the outside of my life “the pretty side,” everything looks great but underneath the surface my life is stuck, out of control, and operating with improper settings ~ I’m stuck.

So how do we get “unstuck?” We have to allow the Lord to gently lift our tired souls away from the problem and cut away all that is wrong.

If I had yanked the fabric instead of being gentle with it, I would have ruined the top part of the quilt that I had spent countless days and hours stitching together.  Had I hastily cut away the bad thread, I would have cut a hole or two in that same fabric.

When we are “jammed,” the Lord does not toss us about to and fro, yanking or tearing.  We may feel that way, but let’s be honest…aren’t we the ones causing us to be tossed about underneath the careful hands of our Maker?  When we feel cut to the core or ripped apart, could it be that sometimes we are not willing to be held gently and allow the Lord to take His time to remove those parts of our life that are causing us harm?

While we’re still here in this land of symbolism, let’s think about what parts of our own life are not in sync with each other?  Do we have parts that we have borrowed from other people?  Are we trying to be a different “model” than who God created us to be?

When you put the wrong size bobbin in a machine and try to sew, it just won’t work.  Well, it may work for a while when the bobbin is full-up with thread, but as time goes on, that thing is just gonna spin in circles, and not the good kind.  It’ll get to spinning so fast that it will come unraveled.  So many times I have been ‘unraveling’ and didn’t realize it until it was too late and life got majorly jammed!

Just because another friend, a fellow church member, your ‘mom friends’ at your kids’ school, or a an office mate can function at a particular “life speed” ~ it doesn’t mean that you can too!  And you know what…that’s okay!  God has calibrated your life to run at a certain speed ~ the only fuel you need to run at top speed is what you get from spending time in His Word and time in prayer with Him.

You have been created for the purpose that God has FOR YOU!

Just like a quilt, each square is painstakingly measured and planned out.  The fabric pieces that are chosen are done so ON PURPOSE in order to enhance the quilt as a whole.  Each fabric square that is created for a quilt is done so ONE at a time.  It is truly a fascinating experience to put one together, and as each row comes together, the beauty of each separate square becomes more intense as the pieces are sewn together.  For as much time the front side of the quilt takes to put together visually, I actually think more time is spent looking at it from the back side; the side with all the cut edges, the ends of threads, the reverse side of the fabric looking faded.  If all I focused on in sewing that quilt was the back side, I think I would have become dismayed at the true beauty it beheld.

My friend, God spends a lot of time on the underneath side of our life.  The side we don’t want anyone to see.  The side we feel is unkempt and faded.  HOWEVER….if we allow Him to show us His purposes for how everything is ironed out and stitched together, we are given the spectacular privilege to have a front row seat when God turns our life right-side out, and we see the beauty of our own “life quilt” ~ the beauty He already knew was there.

Blessings,

René
{My daughter Caitlin & I with her quilt💗}