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, 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, Women's Ministries

Storytelling….

I love to tell the WHOLE story!  Much to the chagrin of the folks who love me and know me best, sometimes they get more information than they bargained for.  It’s just how my brain works.  It’s also how my heart works!  I want to talk about my day from beginning to end, and I will admit, sometimes in the midst of my telling, I remember that the beloved family member I’m talking to asked me a question and I still haven’t answered it. Then I have to stop and ask, “What was it that you asked me?”  At other times, (okay…MOST of the time!)  I know I’m giving a lot of detailed information, but I really feel that’s it’s all relevant to the question asked.  Again, my sweet family’s opinion may differ from mine.  But that’s okay!  However……Please tell me friends that I’m not alone here!  I find it very difficult to respond with a one sentence answer….I love the story!

In Psalm 107:1-3, King David writes, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.  Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story— those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south.”

Yes!  These are my people!!  I realize this verse is basically talking about how people should share their testimony of how God encountered their lives and made a difference in their lives.  But seriously…sometimes I’m desperate to tell the story of how I found a parking place in a crowded Trader Joe’s parking lot; or how the drive on 5 freeways (to get just about anywhere!) was redeemed when the crazy driver didn’t crash into me like I thought they would. And dagnabit…sometimes I want to share the story of how I feel redeemed as a homemaker at the end of the day and regale my darling husband with my tales of finished laundry (yep…folded and put away!), a sparkling bleach cleaned kitchen sink, dusting & vacuuming the whole house, AND have a meal in the oven made from scratch!  Can I get an amen!!??!!

I’ve been doing a bible study with a few mom’s at the high school where my daughter attends.  These are precious women to me and I love sharing Monday mornings with them.  This semester, we’ve been going through the book of Acts.  We read through each chapter and answer just a few simple questions…but they really make you think.  We pick out one or two verses from that chapter and then observe how we see God’s truths in that verse, and then we think about how to apply what we’ve gleaned from that verse into our lives and then follow it up with prayer.  I’m discovering that part of the reason I’m loving reading the book of Acts this time is because it’s a DETAILED STORY!  I’m truly interested and captivated by the minutia of how Paul traveled, which path he took, why he took it, how he got to the next location, etc.  I’m fascinated as well because God decided that these details were worthy enough to be put into scripture for me (and YOU!) to read today!

In Acts 10:9-23, we read about a vision the Lord gave Peter.  It was a very specific and very deliberate word from God, telling Peter how he needed to be ready to accept anyone and anything who had been declared clean by God.  That it was not up to Peter to judge.  This was in preparation of being called to the home of a Gentile of the day(Cornelius), who requested Peter to come to his home and share the Gospel with him.  The Holy Spirit could have just as easily whispered to Peter’s heart, “When Cornelius’ servant comes to you and requests your presence, just go.”  Or the Holy Spirit could have waited until the request was made and said to Peter, “Yes…go here.”  But no! The Lord told Peter a story.

In Acts 11:1-18, Peter has now gone to the home of Cornelius (which by the way…when Peter met Cornelius, he told Peter a very long story of how an angel had appeared to him and told him to send for Peter).  Before the reconciliation through Jesus, it was not lawful for Jews and Gentiles to have community.  The Jews in Jerusalem (ch.11, vs. 1-3) criticized Peter for meeting with a Gentile in his home, for many Jews still didn’t believe that the Gospel was for the Gentiles as well.  So what do we see now in Acts 11:4, “Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story:”

I totally love this!  And Peter did….he told the WHOLE story of his vision that the Lord gave him. And no one interrupted him.  No one bothered him.  No one told him to stop and “get to the point.”

The whole story IS the point!

In a nutshell, the Bible could just say: God made everything. Earth was perfect. Humans messed it up. Jesus came to earth to live, die, and rise again. Jesus’ resurrection made salvation possible. We are saved from eternal death. The end.

How boring would that “story” have been if that had been it!  I am beyond tickled that God wanted to tell us His beautiful story.

It is a story of creativity, grace, tragedy, unspeakable horror, indescribable miracles, mercy, reconciliation, and full restoration!  Because of God’s immense love for us, He wants us to know how very much we are wanted…how very much He wants to know us…how very much He wants a relationship with us.

And you know what ~ God wants you to tell YOUR STORY!

He has created  you to be unique and no one can tell your story except for you.  No one else can display the graces that God has bestowed on your life, like you can. No one can share with others how the great love of the Father has changed your life, like you will be able to.

Blessings to you as you embrace the story of your life.  

2 Corinthians 13:11, “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”

Strength and courage of the Lord be yours as you boldly share the story of your life!!

Blessings,

René

2 Corinthians 13 verse 11

 

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

Reboot….

This has been my mind set pretty much all day, which is why I’m finally getting to my writing at 7:30pm!

Yesterday, when I went to open my “blog ideas” list on my Notes app…I panicked!

 It.Was.Not.There!  

Like, at all!  Tons of other non-essential lists to myself are there, but my “go to” blog ideas list was gone.  My wonderful husband looked up some ideas on google and then we just decided to call Apple tech help.  Sweet Ashley from Austin, TX led me through the process of erasing my iPhone (yes…I said, ERASING!!), which at first totally freaked me out, but she assured me that if I followed her directions, talking out every step of the process, my phone would reboot in about 5 hours.  Then she said, “But wait…before we go through this process, do you have an automatic back up set up on your phone?”  Thankfully, I did (hard lesson learned from the last time something like this happened!) ~ I was confident that Ashley was going to be my saving grace and I’d get my LIST back!

I hope I haven’t lost you with this computer talk of erasing, rebooting, back-ups ~ but hang in there….

The one thing she kept asking me was, “Are you sure you saw your list before the last back up at 6:33am this morning?”  I was fairly sure I’d seen it that afternoon, so we chose that back up to reload.  There was also a back up performed 12 hours earlier ~ were my notes on that one?  Well, we’ll never know!  As I went to sleep last night, my phone had completed its 5 hour long reboot…everything was there right where I left it…except for my list!

Today was an odd Monday in that I didn’t have a concentrated day of writing, but it did give me a lot of time to think about what I would write, what could God bring to my mind, what could I remember from MY LIST!  (Another panic moment!)

Then a friend of mine, who encourages me on “blog days” checked in with me.  I texted her my tale of woe and she had the audacity not to join my pity party!  She wrote back, “Guess you have to reboot your thoughts?”  My eloquent ~ and most Christian-like ~ reply to that was, “Dangit!”  To which I got her response, “An exercise in trust and patience.”  I’m so thankful that God keeps friends in my life who keep me real and keep me grounded!

So, with my day of school activities and committee meetings, my brain kept tossing around the idea of “rebooting my thoughts.”  What does that look like?  How could I tap into that today?  Or any day for that matter?  What does a reboot look like for you?

In the dictionary, reboot refers to literally shut down and restart.  Yes, this phrasing was coined in the early 1980’s with the dawn of the computer age, but read that again ~

“to shut down and restart”

But here is the twist my dear friend….you cannot undertake this process alone.  You must consult with a professional…with one who knows how the manual works…with someone who can guide you through the rebooting process with minimal (or without any!) loss of information.

Had I tried to figure out how to reboot my iPhone, I may have lost precious photos (uh..yeah…I am currently downloading all my photos to my computer while I write this!), or other various apps and programs on my phone.  But because I followed Ashley’s directions, and did not try to second-guess her (she’s the expert here!) or jump ahead of the process, the reboot was successful.  My precious list didn’t show up (it’s floating around in cyberspace I’m sure!) but the reboot was a success.  Everything that was on my iPhone during the last back-up, was returned.

Can you see where I’m going here?  I hope so….it took my all day to figure this one out!

What is it in your life that is out of whack?  Just a hair off?  Something slightly damaged?  What is God asking you to shut down and restart?  What “data” is God asking you to erase?  NONE of these things are easy or comfortable…they are sometimes downright frightening!  But when the God of the Universe, the Father who loves you dearly, is asking you to trust Him through the process of “rebooting and starting over,” He can absolutely 100% be trusted!  He is the expert of your life!  He is the professional that you can run to in times of trouble and distress!

But before you can reboot anything successfully, you have to have made a back-up plan.  Now, my iPhone can be set to do it automatically so I don’t have to think about it.  Seriously, if I have one more thing I have to remember every day…ugh!  Not a good thought!  But with the Lord and His Word, it’s not an automatic anything.  We have to be actively involved in uploading (I know….another computer term) the Living Word of God into our hearts and minds.  When we are daily in process of reading God’s Word, praying throughout our day, we have a back-up of truth that we can draw from when we have to shut down and restart.

We have Old Testament truths in Deuteronomy 11:18-19, Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” and in Psalm 26:2, “Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind;” and in the New Testament we read beautiful verses like Mark 12:30, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” and a favorite of mine and so many others, Philippians 4:6-8, Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.””

I would like to challenge you right now, when you are done reading this, to go to the Lord in prayer.  Part of this time in prayer can most definitely include time spent in His Word (the best ‘owner & operator’ manual you’ll ever have)!  This is not a “get an answer quick” kind of attitude here, but one of reverence for the fact that the Lord is the ONLY one you can turn to who can help you to be confident through the rebooting process.  Allow Him to take out the thought patterns that are filling your mind with “spam” (sorry…I couldn’t help but get one more computer reference in there)! Let Him clear out the filters of lies that the enemy has been feeding your way. And then…FOLLOW His directions!  This is key!

Jump in and let the professional erase the unnecessary and damaged views you may have about Him, about your life, about the world you are living in.  Allow the Lord (yeah..the professional!) do His work in your life so that you can be made new again.  So that you can move forward freely to accomplish the tasks He has for you, and so that you can do them well.

The rebooting process takes some time.  Just like my iPhone, some of the apps came back right away and worked fine, while other more detailed areas took longer.  There is no way to rush the process ~ because if you try, you will negate the process and it will have to start over.  But thank you Lord Jesus that you are a patient Father, who desires to take the time (when I choose to place my life in His very capable hands) to get me back on the path to restoration and wholeness.

My friends, trust Him today with your reboot!  It’s worth it!!

Blessings,

René

Philippians 4 verse 7

 

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

Life Quakes

Have you ever experienced an earthquake?  If you live in Southern California….I bet you have!  With the current El Nino going on, there’s been a lot of information in the news lately about natural disasters ~ floods, rains, winds, and even some earthquakes.  In fact, yesterday (1-17-16) was the 22nd anniversary of the devastating 1994 Northridge Earthquake.  I will never forget that event.  And I still can’t understand how they went from declaring it a 7.9 all the way down to a 6.7 ~ it’s got to do something with insurance and what they pay out after a certain pointage.  But that’s another blog for another day.

That day, in the wee hours of the night, my husband and I awoke to the most violent shaking and rolling ~ it was absolutely terrifying!  I remember standing up in bed because I couldn’t get my footing on the floor; I jumped off the edge of the bed, through the doorway and landed in the hallway.  Still haven’t figured that one out yet, but that’s really what happened. Our oldest daughter was only 4 months old at the time and in her own room.  Because the quake was rolling up and down, AND shaking side to side, we couldn’t get her bedroom door open.  We finally did and it took us a bit to find her…bouncing all over her crib.  Those minutes we experienced are something that will always live with us; and will always be thankful we survived!

My parents and sister were living just a mile from the epicenter.  My sister woke up looking out her bedroom window…which was about 5 feet ABOVE her bed!  True story!  My parents have a CalKing bed and they weren’t able to grab on to each other because the shaking was so violent.  Once they could get out of the house, they ended up staying in our little 600 sq. foot apartment for about 8 days before they could go home.  One day when I came in from the daily washing of bath towel, everyone was watching a video clip of a man shoveling the bits and pieces of kitchenware into a trash can, items that had previously been dishes, bowls, platters, cups, mugs, and family heirlooms.  Now, when I had left the apartment to put the towels in the dryer everyone had been watching the news.  So, upon returning and seeing the video clip, I thought they were still watching the news.  I commented on how awful it must be for that family who’d lost everything.  My husband, parents, and sister all turned and looked at me as if I’d said something odd.  I reiterated that I felt really bad for those people and how it’s going to take a long time to get back to normal.  That’s when my Dad looked at me, tears in his eyes, and said, “Rene’, that’s OUR house.” I was stunned….words failed me.  It did takes years to recover, but recover and rebuild they did!

A few years ago, when I was homeschooling our youngest daughter, we were studying earthquakes in her science book and it talked about the Northridge quake…so of course, I recounted the story of our experience.  🙂

While we continued studying together, it was interesting to me as I read through the points and terminology they used in the science book as it related to earthquakes: focus, fault, creep, and epicenter.  We’ve all heard those words before, and living in California, we hear those words A LOT!  But as I was reading through the definitions with my daughter, I couldn’t help but feel the nudge of the Holy Spirit revealing to me how these particular words relate to us in a spiritual sense.

Let me share with you these definitions:

Focus: the point underground where an earthquake starts.

Epicenter: a sudden movement of Earth’s crust.

Creep: slow movement of Earth’s crust along a fault.

Fault: a crack in the Earth’s crust.

So, have you had any “Life Quakes” lately?  Anything been creeping down a fault line in your life?  I found it very interesting that it is not the epicenter that is the place where the earthquake begins and originates – that is called the ‘focus.’  So where is our focus? What is at our center – what is centered at the core of our heart?

Earthquakes happen when there is too much pressure in the core of the earth and along the underneath area of the earth’s crust.  When pressure builds up near a fault line, there is sometimes a sudden movement (epicenter) or a slow movement (creep) in the earth’s crust to relieve that pressure.  Earthquake!

I bet you didn’t think you were going to get a mini Science lesson this morning when you woke up!  Well, hang in there with me…by the time I’m done writing this post, I hope you can see how we experience “Life Quakes”, but thinking in terms of the above definitions.

When we have cracks in our facade, and the pressure builds from all the stuff we have going on underneath, my friend, there is gonna be movement that happens ~ some will be a slight little shudder that we barely notice; some will be a shaking so intense we cannot help but to seek cover and rebuild.

Life Quakes come in many different shapes and intensities ~ car accidents, bounced checks, losing a home, losing a family member, difficulties with friends or children, job loss, marital issues; and the list can go on and on.  Sometimes when God shakes things up in our life, we wonder “Where the heck did that come from?” And sometimes, we know exactly where it has come from.

Sometimes the pressure that builds up in our life is from our own doing ~ worry, fear, anxiety, sinful actions, etc.

Sometimes the pressures comes from spiritual bondage or warfare.

Either way, the Lord IS going to allow a “life quake” to happen in order for that pressure to be released; for the sake of rebuilding to occur!

Isaiah 43:1-3 says, Now this is what the Lord says— the One who created you, Jacob, and the One who formed you, Israel— “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you.  You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you. For I Yahweh your God, the Holy One of Israel, and your Savior, give Egypt as a ransom for you, Cush and Seba in your place.”

These verses have long been a calming passage to me.  It’s not “if”, but “when.”  Our response to the shaking is not only an indication of where our focus is but it is a visible sign to those around us of how we are choosing to deal with those events that shake up our life…those life-quakes.

If we go running and screaming into the unknown, we may experience severe injuries by falling debris.  But when we stand firm, under a stronghold, with our head down and our neck covered, we can walk away from the disaster virtually unscathed.  We can walk through the rubble, out into a clear space.  We can look back and get rid of the unimportant stuff that was causing confusion, and we can sift through the pieces to find what really has true meaning.

Psalm 9:9-10, The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.  Those who know Your name trust in You because You have not abandoned those who seek You, Yahweh.”

Psalm 18:19, He brought me out to a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.”

During the Northridge earthquake, numerous new stations shared a variety of survival stories.  Some were humorous ~ yes, there were plenty of folks who ran outside in their birthday suits!  Some were terrifying.  Some were extremely tragic. Everyone had a story to share. Everyone experienced the very same earthquake, but depending on how close they were to the epicenter of the quake made a difference in what kind of story they had lived through. My little family and I were 14 miles away from the epicenter.  We had a few things fall off shelves, but did not have any damage or loss.  My parents were less than one mile from the epicenter and lost everything in their kitchen, most of all their photos fell from the walls, their house moved off the foundation, and every single window in the house was shifted out of their framing.  Because of the varying proximity to the shaking, our rebuilding and recovery time was vastly different.

Psalm 34:17-18,The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit.”

When those tremors begin in our spirit, we must pay close attention to them.  The Lord is getting ready to do some remodeling ~ and maybe even some relocating.

LET HIM!!

God has brought me nearer to Him in the past decade as never before, and it’s all due to a variety of life-quakes our family has experienced.  But the remodeling and rebuilding I have personally gone through with the Lord is completely worth it!  It doesn’t mean that I’m not freaked out a little when I feel a tremor.  However, in the back of my mind I can choose to be excited to see what God is going to do next!

Read the following verse and let it wash over you as a balm to any “quake wounds” you may be experiencing today ~ Psalm 19:14, May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.”

Just as we cannot predict earthquakes, we cannot necessarily predict life-quakes.  But as with earthquakes, we can be prepared for them when they occur.  We can do the same with life-quakes ~ we can prepare our hearts and minds as we daily read God’s Word and choose to trust Him with our life.  We can put on the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) so that we are protected in the stronghold of the Almighty Hand of God.

Take heart my friend ~ He will provide a way out!

Psalm 34 verse 17 and 18

Blessings,

René

 

 

 

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

Are you friends with Doubt?

It’s mid-December and we are in the midst of celebrating “the most wonderful of the year.”  At least that’s what the popular Christmas song says.  But for many, it is not.  For some, it is a time of sadness, depression, fear, anger, loneliness, angst, and a season filled with doubt.

You long for companionship, family, a loved one who’s passed away, financial stability.  You long to be happy and filled with joy.  But whatever the reason, the sense of doubt is easier to cling to than the reality of what the Lord wants for you.  I have seen so many in my life make the apparent choice to be friends with doubt.  I have watched myself fall into the same trap that doubt puts forth ~ and here’s the scary part ~ doubt will never let you down.  What’s that?  Come again?

When you cling to doubt and it becomes a dear friend, all of the negativity that comes with the feelings and attitude of doubt, will always be there to make you feel insecure, insignificant, unseen, unknown, alienated, and desolate.  Those are the promises that doubt carries with it.

Literally, this is what doubt is summed up to mean: to be uncertain about; consider questionable or unlikely; hesitate to believe; to distrust; to fear; be apprehensive about; to be uncertain about something; be undecided in opinion or belief; a feeling of uncertainty about the truth, reality, or nature of something; fear; dread.”

What part of that very enlightening definition makes us want to have doubt as our friend?  As our companion? Lies of the enemy my friend ~lies of the enemy!

Jesus knew that we would struggle with doubt and wrote about it a handful of times in His Word.  James 1:5-8 says this about how to deal with doubt,Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.” 

Our Lord is constantly available to us and hears us when we call out to Him.  It may not always feel like we are being listened to, mainly because sometimes we aren’t willing to hear the answer He’s giving us, but He DOES hear us.  Every time!

The words in James chapter 1 are an incredible encouragement to me in that God instructs us to ask God for wisdom (in all things) no matter what the situation and He will not criticize us and He will give that needed wisdom to us generously.

Did you catch the part in there about what we have to do in order to get that generous wisdom?  Or what we owe Him for giving us what we ask for?  Nope?  Well good!  Because there isn’t anything we can do to earn it ~ we simply have to have faith in our asking.  Oh, I know, bringing up faith!  It’s so hard sometimes to have faith!!  And that’s what satan is counting on ~ if we give up on faith, then we welcome in doubt…which brings on fear, sadness, depression, indecisiveness, instability, etc.

Just like I don’t have to tell my lungs to take in air to help me breathe, or tell my blood which veins to flow through, or instruct seeds to grow ~ my faith in God’s love and grace has to be something that is a part of me; a part of my heart, mind, body, and soul.  And when I feel that my faith is waning….that is something I can ask the Lord to refresh in me.

If a child ever came up to you and asked you to teach them to become wise and trusting, would you laugh and turn away?  Absolutely not!  You would do whatever you could in that very moment to come alongside that little one, and encourage them in what they’d asked.  God the Father does the very same thing.  He is so excited to meet you right where you are and give you what you need.

He can give you peace that passes understanding.

He can give you joy overflowing ~ Philippians 4:7

He can shower you with mercy ~ Deuteronomy 4:31

He can lift away the sorrows of your heart ~ Isaiah 35:10

He can save your soul ~ Galatians 2:20

He can restore in you a clean heart ~ Psalm 51:10

He can reconcile you back to relationship with Him ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17-19

…All because you ask…

So now I ask YOU ~ do you want to be friends with doubt any longer?  Or do you want to live in the freedom and peace that comes from knowing and trusting the Lord Jesus Christ?

During this season of never-ending parties, family get-togethers, bell ringers, and carolers ~ remember that these are not what our focus should be centered on.  Cast off the distractions and the doubts that the enemy is trying to foist upon you! He only goal is that you miss the peace, the mercy, the joy, the reconciliation, and the love of the Son of God who came to bring us life…true life and joy with not a seed of doubt in the mix! 🙂

And just for fun ~ take a quick listen to this beautiful song by Bethel Music ~

Blessings,

René

James 1 verses 5-6

{All verses are from http://www.biblegateway.com}

Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Deuteronomy 4:31, “For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.”

Isaiah 35:10, “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
2 Corinthians 5:17-19, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”