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

When the storms come…

I’m a California girl through and through. People don’t think we have weather in SoCal but we do! In the summer we’re wearing light weight clothes but at night, it can get cold…enough to put on a sweatshirt with our shorts! And once you hit September through March, you’re experiencing Winter when you first wake up, Spring in the later morning, Summer in the afternoon, and Fall by the time the sun goes down. Yeah, yeah, I know…but it’s all the seasons!

One thing that I’m used to living in SoCal is the earthquakes. I like that I don’t know they are coming. I like that they only last a minute or 90 seconds. I like that when they happen, I’m usually with people. I like that we can talk about a 30-90 second event for the next few days like we survived something tremendous. I’m thankful that I’ve never lost anyone in an earthquake, but I know plenty of people who have lost almost all their belongings in one. Including my own parents. They stayed with us in our tiny 600 sq. ft. apartment for a week after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake. Unbeknownst to me, they had popped in a video of the aftermath in the house while I was out doing the daily load of towels. When I came back inside, I thought they were still watching the news and I said, “Wow, those poor people. They are literally shoveling their kitchen belongings into a trash can.” My parents and husband looked at me and my Dad said, “Poor people? Well, yeah. That’s our house.” It was completely unrecognizable.

But we were in it together.

A few years later, I was visiting my sisters-in-law and their families when they lived in Naperville, IL. One of sisters-in-law had recently had twin girls and we had come for a visit. We convinced her to come out with us, just the moms, and have a day out to have lunch and do some window shopping in the cute downtown. And then it started to sprinkle. Then it started to rain. Then it began to pour like mad. And then it happened…the sirens started blaring for a tornado warning! My sister-in-law did the driving & was trying to reach her family to make sure her husband and my husband had gotten all the children down to the basement. It wasn’t funny, kinda like Mr. Toad’s wild ride and I’d never experienced such crazy rain!

But we were in it together.

That brings me to my experience last night and the inspiration for this blog.

I was alone.

I’m in the Dallas, TX area right now for a conference (shout out to The Declare Conference!) for Christian Communicators. As I was almost at my hotel, it was sprinkling a bit and the lightning show was incredible! After I was settled in, I realized I had time to get to the nearest Trader Joes to grab something for a later dinner. Then I heard a HUGE clap of thunder. I looked out my window…the rain was going sideways because the wind was so bad! Needless to say, I just went down to the lobby to see what they had; not much by the way, and I ate my frozen dinner with two coffee stirrers like they were chop sticks…it worked!

I wasn’t worried until the TV signal went out. Oh, and it cut out right after they declared a tornado warning.  WHAT???!!!! The rain, thunder, and lightning got worse. But I could still get text messages out. I didn’t feel quite so alone as I asked a few friends and family to pray for me and the whole weather situation. After about 20 minutes or so, the TV came back on and I felt confident that it’d all be okay. Some time went by and then my phone buzzed to life with a “Your area is experiencing a tornado. Please seek appropriate shelter nearby.” And then the sirens began to wail!

Are you kidding me? I was going on over an hour with this crazy weather! I called my husband just to hear his voice and he was very kind to comfort me in my fear.

So, I grabbed my phone, the charger, my clothes and tennis shoes, and my tote bag with my id and laptop in it, two of the pillows off the bed and holed up in the bathroom.  I was so thankful that my phone was charged and that through it all, that TV signal may have died, but I could still talk with my husband. I didn’t want to think about what was going on outside so I asked him to tell me every detail of an event he had gone to that night. Seriously, I wanted to hear it all. I felt safe enough to open the door after about 20 minutes because I heard the TV go back on. That must mean the tornado had passed. And indeed it had.

But in those moments…okay that 90 minutes…I was fearful and I was going through the storm alone. I didn’t want to be in that hotel room by myself. What if had been really bad? What if the tornado ripped through the place? I kept texting with my family and they kept encouraging me. They were with me, but I still felt alone. Finally around 2am I was able to fall asleep. Praise the Lord for that!

My hotel was fine, our area was totally fine, but seeing the news in the morning, it was not fine for so many people. A church, a home depot, schools, homes ~ most with their rooves blown away and trees that had landed on top of the rest. My heart broke for those who were coming back to their homes and businesses, only to find them demolished. Yesterday they had plans, but today, they are entering a season of unplanned rebuilding.

This is why we need our people in a storm. 

We need a hand to hold, a hug to comfort us, or a text to remind us that our people are praying for us. We are not built to weather a storm alone.

But through the storm last night, I wasn’t truly alone. I know the Lord was with me, but He has created community and that is why we have such a strong desire within us to be surrounded by our people. The ones who support us, calm us, laugh with (or at!) us, ugly cry with us, sit in silence with us…the ones who know what we need in those stormy moments.

We will go through storms in life, that is promised but we are also promised that they will not overtake us. The Lord will always be with us. {Isaiah 43:1-3a}*

The Lord has used storms to protect His people {Exodus, chapter 14}, to bring the Word to the unsaved {Jonah, chapter 1}, and He has used storms to remind us of His power {Luke, chapter 8}. The storms that the Lord allows to come into our lives don’t always make sense and sometimes they are extremely painful. But there is always a purpose. There is always a way out and an opportunity to bring Him glory through the stormy season He brings us out of.

I’m thankful that the One who calms the storm lives in me.

Blessings,

René

we are not alone in the storm - blog - 10-21-19

Photo by Gavin Spear on Unsplash

Isaiah 43:1-3a But now, this is what the Lord, your Creator says, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you [from captivity]; I have called you by name; you are Mine! 2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. “For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

 

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

Soil and Roots…

On a recent visit with my in-laws, my mother-in-law was pointing out the great job that her gardener had done on the new landscaping and sprinkler system.  But we noticed that the parkway planter area that held a large beautiful tree, was quite dry.  She told us her gardener assured her, “Even though the soil doesn’t seem like it’s being watered enough from the top, the roots were getting plenty of water from the surrounding soil UNDER the ground.”  He told her what to look out for with the tree to make sure it was growing and not suffering from lack of watering.

I have not been able to get that story out of my head for weeks now.  And here I sit at a new coffee shop and I realize that the mural on the wall in front of me…it’s a painting of roots!  Okay, Lord, I get it!  I’m digging in!!

Jeremiah 17:8 say, “He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

This is exactly the verse that came to mind when my mother-in-law was telling us about her tree.

I would not say I have a green thumb…nor a black thumb…just hands that are really good at purchasing new plants when the old ones die.  Why do you think they sell plants at the grocery store?!  But I have managed to keep quite of few philodendrons alive (and mostly well) in my kitchen and living room.  Indulge me a bit while I share my “gardening” observations.

I have six plants in my kitchen and four plants in my living room.

The 6 plants in my kitchen are fabulous!

One of them I received from a friend who was moving out of state and couldn’t take it with her…my “Jenn plant” has managed to stay alive and green for the 5 years since her family moved. I think it thrives because I notice it more and water it more often…it reminds me of my friend and I pray for her and her family every time I see it.

The larger plant on a stand by the window is the one that thrives the most. I believe because it’s closest to the sunlight, it grows the best. It has the benefit of weekly watering and is daily bathed with the rays from the sun. There are two other plants on the little kitchen sink window ledge that live well with partial sun as well.

Now, the two to the left of my kitchen window, that’s another story. They are in smaller pots, which means that there is not a lot of space for their roots to spread out. But the pots are just so cute…and the shelf they sit on doesn’t really have space for a larger vessel. They are little out of my line of sight, so I know I wait too long to water them. They look quite wilted and give me little hope that they will “spring back to life” just because I water them  But every single time I take them down and give them a good watering, a few hours later I look up at them and they’ve been revived!  It’s amazing what a little water can do!

Well, then there’s the plants in the living room.  We don’t really get any sunlight in there, at least where I have the plants. Those pots are regularly the ones I have to repurchase new plants from the store. They start out full and lovely and after time, I’m watering pots of dirt with one stalk of three or four sad leaves on it. And they don’t perk up at all after the watering.

So what kind of plant are you?

Do you put yourself in a place where you are being watered and cared for?  Do you soak in the sunlight when it’s available?

Do you slowly lose your stamina until there’s almost nothing left?

Or are you the tree planted with deep roots?

When we make the decision to stand firm in our relationship with the Lord, and let Him water the roots of our life in Him, we can withstand ANY kind of storm or drought. Even when the topsoil of our life is dry and dusty, we can still grow and bear fruit of who God is in our life. We need not fear anything because we know Who we are rooted in.

Taking time each day to be rooted in God’s Word ~ that is the only way to remain standing and not sway or break with the ever-changing moments life will bring.

Think of a palm tree. I’ve lived in Florida – palm trees galore. I’ve witnessed the strength and remarkable flexibility of these trees during storms. Being born and raised in Southern California, what is more iconic than the palm tree lined streets of the city suburbs and beaches? Here, the greatest characteristic of these trees is that depending on where they are planted, they are either straight and tall, or they seem crazily slanted…but both features are simply because they desire to be in the full gaze of the sun’s light.

Palm trees are amazing to me when you see them bending like crazy-straws during a hurricane but when the storm is over, it regains its composure.  How?  They have an incredibly fibrous root system that goes down into the ground very very deep.  The palm has roots that keep growing, that continue to gain nutrients to sustain their life, and a leaf system that overlaps the branches all coming from one common trunk.

I mean, I am so excited just thinking about the similarities here between my life as a Christian and how God made palm trees.  I mean, besides how cool they are, what a life lesson they are to us ~ and I know that God does not do anything haphazardly.

Do we remain steadfast and let our roots go deep with God? Do we yearn so earnestly to be in the light of the Son, that we may look a little like a “bendy-straw” to those looking at our life? Do we look like we’re going to simply break in half during the storm of life? Do we regain our strength and stand tall when the storm is over? Do we continue to bear fruit in the midst of a drought?

I know these plants.

Sometimes I contently sit in my “little pot” waiting to be watered but slowly dying inside because I don’t go where the sunlight will strengthen me. But I want more of those times when I’m seen, watered, and cared for by Gardener. Unlike a plant in a pot, I have to be an active participant in the watering!

I know this tree.

More and more I am the palm tree. I know the value of sticking close to God’s Word and burrowing deep so that the roots of my heart and soul are planted securely within the truths of the life He has intended for me to live.

I am this tree.

I’ve been the tree in the desert, the tree with the dry topsoil, the tree that still survives because the roots are deep. It doesn’t mean I have it all figured out. I don’t have the market cornered on staying strong in the midst of the storm. I just know that trusting in the One who refreshed me with water from the spring of everlasting Life in Him.

So even when I look a bit slanted, or a bit like a crazy bendy-straw, just know that I’m in the process of reaching out to be as close to the Son as I possibly can! Come join me!

Blessings,

René

Jeremiah 17 verse 8

 

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

Seasons change….

Well, it’s officially been the “Fall” season here in SoCal for almost a month.  And do you know what that means? Well, it means something different here than it does in almost every other state in America.  It means our brownish lawns (due to the water shortage) actually look acceptable.  The brownish hue to our mountains seem to be promising that they are just in hibernation and will burst forth with beautiful green come the Spring.  It means that we still hit the 90’s several times a week.  Literally, I’m serious…at this very minute, my weather app tells me it’s a balmy 89 degrees outside, with tomorrow and Friday promising to hit in the low 90’s, then by the weekend it’ll creep down to a chilly 80 degrees on Sunday.  Really people, my heart just did a little happy dance because on Monday & Tuesday next week, it says we’ll have a high of 73 degrees and…wait for it…RAIN!  TWO DAYS of RAIN IN A ROW!!  A change of season…

Okay, okay….I’m calm now.  Honestly, I know that just because it is forecasted to actually be cold (yeah I know…72 isn’t actually cold, just go with me here) and rainy next week, it could change.  I won’t be too surprised, but I’ll be disappointed.  When we think of all the seasons in our own life, we could say the same thing.  The things that we have planned are amazing and exciting.  Then things that are completely out of our control happen, and we are sad, angry, irritated, feeling let down, and may walk around in a fog for a bit wondering if the sun will come out?  Will our season change to a better one?

Even though we are surprised and challenged by the seasons in our life, God never is.

The verses in Psalm 139:15-16 are a perfect and beautiful example of what I mean by this.  Actually, the entire chapter of Psalm 139 is full of promise and faithfulness.  Read these intentional words and let them sink in to your soul…

My frame was not hidden from You when I was being formed in secret [and] intricately and curiously wrought [as if embroidered with various colors] in the depths of the earth [a region of darkness and mystery]. Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book all the days [of my life] were written before ever they took shape, when as yet there was none of them.” (Amplified Version).

God saw our whole life before we were born; before we began to add to our own story; before everything!  He is absolutely a loving God and His heart breaks when we sin, when we choose to walk a different way than what we know to be right.  He does not rejoice in our suffering.  He does not anticipate with glee any hardship we go through.  He is good…He always has been and He always will be.

There are plenty of times in my own life when I doubted God’s goodness.  When kids in high school spread rumors about me and my friends did not come to my defense.  When the people I thought were my friends actually began believing those lies and never came to talk to me about it.  When the boy I thought wanted to marry me, changed his mind and moved to another state. When plans would not work out like I wanted them to and it meant taking a harder road to accomplish various goals.  When our family hit hard times and had major financial difficulties.  When other kids were horribly mean to my children and appeared to get away with the damage they caused. When my mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, and good friends, all went through cancer (and thankfully beat it!).  When my aunt and other other friends and family members were ravaged by cancer and did not make it through.  So many things happen in our life that we don’t understand.

In all these seasons, God was there.  God knew what was going to happen, how it was going to happen, why it happened, and how it was going to end.

And all of these tough seasons have brought incredible fruit to my life that I wouldn’t have otherwise tasted.  I know the importance of speaking up when lies are being spoken.  I know the indelible imprint you will make in a friends life when you believe their story.  I know the vigilance that is needed to keep our kids safe.  I know the joy and harmony that God brought me in the man that HE intended for me to marry.  I know the humble gratitude of the anonymous grocery store gift card arriving in my mailbox at exactly the right moment.  I know the peace and relief when a friend or family member is healed of a disease.  And I know the mourning of friend and family member, will turn to dancing when I see them again in Heaven.

I’m not going to sugarcoat anything here and tell you that I always handled myself in a spiritually sound way.  Nope!  Many many times I cried to God how unfair life was.  How unfair He was!  After all, if He loves me so much that He sent His Son to die on the cross for me, why in the heck do I have to go through a bunch of garbage in my life?  Why does life seem to be easier for other people than it does for me and our family?

Sadly, many times I reverted to a season of being a whiny little baby.  Instead of going for the meat of God’s Word to fulfill and sustain me, I chose ice cream and candy bars.  And where did that get me?  In a new cycle of self-hate and doubt that I would never matter to anyone or amount to anything.  I vacuumed up all the lies Satan was sprinkling out before me. He was tickled pink by my decisions toward destruction, while my loving Heavenly Father was heartsick that I was not turning to Him.  How selfish I was.

The brightest star that God created is the Sun.  It is one singular orb that illuminates the entire world.  Not all at once, not all with the same intensity, but with distinct purpose, direction, and intention.  If we had sunlight all the time we would suffer from heat exhaustion, burns, and drought…just to name a few.  We would not know the joy of a cool evening breeze on our face, or the intense radiant beauty of a sky filled with stars on a cloudless night.

Think about your favorite season?  I personally love it when it stays between 65-75.  I am not a heat-loving person.  But if I never experienced heat, I wouldn’t know the complete bliss of wrapping up in a warm blanket with a cup of tea on a chilly night in winter. (Yeah…it happens a few times a year!).

Even when we are encountering a stressful season, where things seem bleak and spiritually torturous…God can and will bring the rain, the cool breeze, the warm blanket.  It is possible to have peace within the storm.  I’ve lived through enough storms of every level, that I undoubtedly know this is true.  When I am faced with tough seasons now, I am much quicker to run to the Father.  To read His love letter of scripture, to pray and allow the Holy Spirit to pour out the oil of gladness over my soul, to fix my eyes and gaze on His holiness ~ that is the beginning of living peaceful in the midst of the storm.

Every part of the earthly creation comes to play with our spiritual story.  God created the world very specifically with incredibly detailed functions.  He created light and dark, day and night, man and woman, and seasons.  We are created with the same distinction and purpose.  We are meant to grow and change, to rejoice in the knowledge of who God is and how we are to honor and glorify Him with our life.

Reading through a bible study on Ecclesiastes is a wonderful reminder of just that.  Christian or not, most everyone is familiar with the beginning words from Ecclesiastes chapter 3, “To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven:” ~ not just some moments in time, but in every single moment.  In some ways going through this study, I feel like I’m reading Ecclesiastes for the first time and I’m loving it!  It is proof once more that the scripture God fashioned into the Bible we have known for centuries now, is just like He is…the same today, yesterday and forever.  Take a moment to read through the book of Ecclesiastes and see what I mean!

I believe the main purpose for the changing seasons of our life is to constantly bring us back to the knowledge that God alone is the sustainer of our life and the ONLY ONE who can fill the gaps and emptiness we experience.  Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He also has planted eternity in men’s hearts and minds [a divinely implanted sense of a purpose working through the ages which nothing under the sun but God alone can satisfy], yet so that men cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”

God alone satisfies our every desire, wish, want, and need.  He is the director and perfecter of the seasons in our life.  Allow Him to till the soil of your heart, to plant the goodness of His Word, and to harvest the completion of that work that He started in you before you were born.

Live blessed and live loved, in every season, by the God who created the Universe.  He took His time with you ~ now take your time with Him.

Blessings,

René

psalm-139-verses-15-and-16

{all scripture verses are taken from the Amplified Bible Version}

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

In the Shadows

On a recent trip out of town with my husband, we took a bunch of photos…and of course posted them on social media!  In many of them, I was in the shadow of my tall husband because the sun was so bright.  I couldn’t open my eyes in the photos, and I don’t like taking photos with my sunglasses on.  I know, I know…big problems of life here!  One of my darling witty daughters commented on one photo saying, “So sad that you’ll always be in dad’s shadow.”  It actually made me laugh since I had CHOSEN to be in his shadow so I didn’t have to squint into the sunlight or leave my sunglasses on.  I wrote a reply saying, “I like to think of it as shelter from the heat!” And the next moment, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart, “In MY Shadow is exactly where you are supposed to be.”  Whoa!  I love it how God can even speak to my heart through social media!  LOL!!

I’ve been mulling over this whole idea between “in the shadows” and “in shelter of” for the past two days now.  And here I sit now chatting with you!

Shadow ~ “a dark figure or image cast on the ground or some surface by a body intercepting light; shade or comparative darkness; darkness especially that of coming after sunset; shelter; protection.”

Shelter ~ “something beneath, behind, or within which a person, animal, or thing is protected from storms, missiles, adverse conditions, etc.; refuge; protection from blame or incrimination; a dwelling place or home considered as a refuge from the elements; to be a shelter for; to place under cover; to protect; take under one’s protection; find a shelter.”

Psalm 91:1, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

Isn’t that beautiful!  This verse in Psalms completely captures the unique quality of the beauty that combines being in the shadow AND being sheltered by the Lord ~ at the same time!

Take a quick look back at the dictionary definition of the word shelter.  Now think of this meaning in spiritual terms.  When we are sheltered beneath the wings of our Heavenly Father (Psalm 36:7*), we are able to sing with confidence!  He is able to protect us from the storms of life, from the missiles of discontent blasted off from the enemy, and from conditions in our life that are meant to distract or make us dissatisfied with the Lord.  When we make our home with the Lord, we can take refuge from the arrows of the enemy and trust that He will extinguish the deadly fires of dissatisfaction.

Notice as well what I’m pointing out here….the attacks from the enemy WILL COME!  They are inevitable simply because we are children of the Most High God.  We are reminded in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  And how do we maintain a sober and alert mind?  As we read scripture, we are sheltered by the Word of the Lord and all that comes into our mind from Him enables us to wage a victorious battle against the lies of Satan.  This verse maintains that the enemy is “like a roaring lion” ~ it doesn’t say that the enemy IS one…big difference there!  It also doesn’t say that we as Christians are like sitting ducks waiting to be picked off ~ we are moving targets that the enemy tries to pin down, but we are NOT to be passive!  NO my friend ~ we are to be ever-moving about our life, navigating the path that God has set us on, and be ready to press into the Lord when the battle wages.  And the battle will be tougher on some days than others.  There will be seasons of hand-to-hand combat, and seasons of less contention ~ but every day we should be ready for whatever comes our way.

Another reason to remember to put on the proper battle gear ~ the Armor of God!! (Ephesians 6). Oh, and here’s one of the most comforting pictures in scripture to me ~ I don’t have to worry about constantly looking behind me to see what’s coming.  I can use all my energy (mental, physical, and spiritual) to move forward knowing that I’m protected because God has my back!  Isaiah 52:12 says, “But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the Lord will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.”  YES!!!  My God and His angel armies are sheltering my life from all that I cannot see as I move in concert with what I can see and follow God’s leading in how to combat the enemy as he tries to throw me off course! I don’t know about you, but I gave myself chills here!

We have an endless supply of reminders in God’s Word of how the Lord protects, shelters, and shadows us.  But we have to be IN and involved in spending time in the scriptures to know this.

When the heat of battle is beating down on your head ~ hide in the cool shadow of the everlasting God.

Blessings,

René

Psalm 91 verse 1

{ photo taken on our trip as we drove through the Presidio in San Francisco }

 

All Bible verses found on http://www.biblegateway.com, NIV version
 * Further reference: Psalm 36:7, “How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”