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It’s all about Perspective…

I recently joined my husband on one of his business trips to Sicily and it was incredible. I’m very grateful that I’m able to accompany him and have these opportunities to explore various countries that otherwise would be short of impossible. But it didn’t start out that way.

When we checked into our hotel, we noticed that the covering over the large sliding glass doors were actually metal. We found that a bit odd, but there were little holes throughout that let sunlight in. However, we then noticed we could hear people talking and saw their shoes quite close to our shutters. The ground was wet and we could see the legs of what appeared to be pool lounge chairs.

My first thought was, “Oh great, we are in a room that is directly in contact with the pool area. We won’t be able to open up this shutter at all on this trip!” After a disgruntled sigh, I reminded myself that we were in Sicily for goodness sake, and didn’t have to pay a dime to get there.

No matter what, we would have a great time!

We broke the cardinal rule of international travel and promptly took a nap. Later in the afternoon, we freshened up and went out for a lovely walk along the waterfront and had a wonderful dinner. We didn’t remember anything about our “horrible view” until the next morning.

We listened and didn’t hear anyone by the ‘pool’ yet, so we decided to open up the shutters. We’d since found the electric button that began to slowly reveal something far better than we had imagined. As we pulled all the curtains back and opened the sliding glass door, we were greeted by a large private patio with a balcony…complete with a chaise lounge, a table with two chairs and an L-shaped couch! And the view ~ WOW! We had a view of the ocean and the lovely city that we were in! What a difference it made to open those shutters!

My husband and I laughed (and I repented a bit again for my discontented attitude of the previous day) as we walked out on to the balcony, breathing in the fresh ocean air, thankful that we discovered the true reality of what a gift we had received in this trip. I swallowed hard as tears welled up in my eyes as I felt the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart, “What you see isn’t all that God wants to reveal to you. Open your eyes to His revelation and you will experience more joy and contentment that you can ever imagine.”

So many times we see what we want to see, not what we need to see.

Sometimes the Lord places us in situations where we have no choice but to trust in Him, that His plans are intended for our good. Not that we will run about rejoicing when hardship crosses our path, but keeping close to our heart the knowledge and truth that God is always good.

I thought of the verse, Jeremiah 29:11, that everyone quotes with abandon. It’s on t-shirts, mugs, blankets, and those darling wooden painted signs at your local Hobby Lobby:

“ – ‘For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the LORD, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster to give you a future and a hope.”

My friends, let’s not miss the importance of this verse in context. This is in no way a statement from the Lord that our lives will be always filled with earthly goodness and easy paths. We must remember to look at scripture in context to receive the full knowledge of the truths God intends to teach us.

The verses surrounding Jeremiah 29:11 are a reminder to the Israelites who had been exiled for so long in Babylon. The Lord had allowed them to become captives of the Babylonian Kingdom due to their disobedience to Him. He allowed hardship to be heaped upon their lives. It’s difficult to understand how He could do this, but the Lord is “the same yesterday, today, and forever”{Hebrews 13:8}. When we choose to go in the wrong direction, the Lord has to retrain our steps to go according to His will. How many times do we, and ridiculously so, think that our will and our way is better than His? That is a battle we will never win ~ and trust me, you don’t want to win that one!

Jeremiah 29:10 says, “For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years [of exile] have been completed for Babylon, I will visit (inspect) you and keep My good promise to you, to bring you back to this place.”

The Lord was reminding the people of His punishment.

And also the fact that His promise’s will come to fruition.

The story/lesson continues in verses 12-14, “~’Then you will call on Me and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear [your voice] and I will listen to you. ~ ‘Then [with a deep longing] you will seek Me and require Me [as a vital necessity] and [you will] find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. ~ ‘I will be found by you,’ says the LORD, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and I will [free you and] gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ says the LORD, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’”

Isn’t that beautifully reassuring? Wherever it states in the Bible that God will or will not do a certain thing, it is a promise that we can count on.

When we call out to the Lord, He will hear us.

When we have a deep longing to seek His will for our life, the Holy Spirit will fill us with the truth and understanding we need.

When we come back to the Lord after a period of disobedience, He will welcome us with open arms and restore us to full relationship with Him.

But think about this for a moment, there cannot be reconciliation without some kind of exile.

Whether we are separated from God for a moment in our day, or for a longer period of time, we cannot hear the wisdom the Holy Spirit desires to share with us for our life. When I allowed dissatisfaction to enter my heart about what I thought the view from our hotel room windows would offer us, I shut out God. It was as if that big metal shutter had come down over my spirit, squelching the light of God’s truth.

What if I had never pushed that button to raise up the shutter? We would have been ‘exiled’ in a sense to the confines of our room. I would’ve missed out on part of the generosity of our hosts. Part of their gift to us of having a private patio that overlooked the oceanside of Sicily would have been lost on us. How very sad that would have been!!

When I choose to trust God in the little things {like opening up a shutter on a window} it’s easier to handle the bigger things in life.

When my eyes are on Him, seeking His will, searching His heart, then the view of the world He has placed me in will always be one of contentment. Not because this earthly life is always good, but because my God is always good and He always has a good plan for my life!

Blessings,

René
perspective

Women's Ministries

Free Refills….

Our family went out for a special celebration dinner the other night, and our server was on top of the refills!  Our water glasses never completely emptied, and the lemonade our daughter sipped on was refilled several times.  When the server asked to refill it for the fourth time, my daughter politely declined, “Oh my no…but thank you. It was delicious though but I’ve had enough.”

Have you ever wished that your favorite macchiato or cappuccino would have free refills too? Oh yeah! Especially on those days when I decide to hole up in a local coffee shop and focus on my writing…a free refill would come in handy for sure!! But I’ll take the free cups of water you can get…probably better for me anyway!

So what fills you up? 

Is it the job you strive at day after day and feel you are getting nowhere?

Is it the daily responsibilities of being a mom? a wife?

Is it the accolades of the community you’re a part of?

Is it the message preached on Sunday morning at your church?

Is it how many “likes” you receive on your latest social media post?

What fills up your heart? your soul? your life?

I’ve gone round and round with ALL of the above questions and ALL of them cup up empty for me in the long run. Don’t get me wrong…I absolutely LOVE being a wife, mother, mentor, teacher, speaker, and yeah, I get sucked in to the social media game more than I’d like to admit. So what do I do?

Simple answer ~ God’s Word!

Simple solution ~ READ God’s Word and spend time in prayer with Him!

Reality ~ I don’t always make the time for it like I should!

And here’s the real secret….

JESUS OFFERS FREE REFILLS!!!

John 7:38 declares, “He who believes in Me [who adheres to, trusts in, and relies on Me], as the Scripture has said, ‘From his innermost being will flow continually rivers of living water.’””

Will you sit with me here for a moment and soak in this verse? Read it again and picture it? What do you see?

I see a beautiful meadow with a gentle river winding its way around the area, no beginning and no end. But it is continually moving! Which means there is a source from which water flows INTO it and there is a destination where it’s going to pour into. Jesus is the only person who can do this for us. I’ve struggled enough over the almost 50 years of my life to know that I cannot ever, like EVER, be my own source of a fruitful life! I just end up being poured out with nothing to fill me back up. When that happens, it’s like I’ve said to Jesus, “Oh…spend time with You in Your Word…not right now, but thank you. Those verses I read the other day were really great but I’ve had enough for a while. I’m good!”

Can you imagine that? ~ But we do it all the time!

Even for the most spiritual person that I know, I know they are not doing it alone. They rely on the Lord to fill them up with what they need for the moments they serve and pour themselves out to bless others.

I cannot be a healthy and happy wife, mother, mentor, friend, servant, teacher, or community member if I’m only relying on myself to do all of that.

I’m sure that whomever you are reading this, we are probably in different seasons of life. But there is a common strategy to keep you filled up…

…read the Bible and pray!

Here’s another secret…

There is no where (like…NO WHERE) in the Bible that says in order to be a real Christian, or to get a good spot in heaven, that we have to sit and read the Bible all day long!  So in the name of Jesus ~ be released from a prison of thinking you are under a time constraint!

He just simply longs to spend time with you! And that is going to look different for everyone in all the various seasons of life! 

Some days as a young mom, I’d run the shower to get ready in the morning and read a few verses ~ and then I’d pray them for the rest of the morning. Some days I would finally find some alone time after I got my girls to bed.  I love having the ease of devotional and bible apps that we have in today’s world and weave them into my daily routine. Now that my husband and I are basically empty-nesters (we just dropped off our youngest at college yesterday to begin her Sophomore year!) I do have more time. So I can take on that “Read the Bible in 90 Days” challenge. Which has been amazing to have started on that journey, using a journaling Bible for the first time has been so much fun!

But whether it was a few quick verses, a devotional book or app, or several hours reading a hard copy of God’s Word, there has been ONE consistent addition and that is prayer.

Prayer can happen all. day. long!

You’re simply having a conversation…but a conversation with the God of the Universe! The Creator of all things including YOU! He knows you intimately. He wants to hear how your day is going. He wants to hear what is challenging you and what is causing your worry. He wants to celebrate the big and little accomplishments with you.

If you’re having a hard time connecting with that, think about the conversations you have with your people…

You pick up your kids from school and your first question bound to be, “How was your day today?” or “What did you do at school today?”Really? Nothing? It’s so much more fun when they actually answer you instead of saying, “Fine.”, “Nothing.” Seriously!

When you talk with Jesus…TALK to Him! Share your joys and sorrows, your hopes and fears, your accomplishments and concerns, your wants and needs ~ He really does want to hear them all! And with any good conversation, there has to be a lot of LISTENTING too! Don’t talk AT Jesus…but WITH Him. Try this, before you begin to pray to the Lord, ask Him first to give you a heart and ears to listen to what He wants to share with you. As you pray, more often than not, He will begin to reveal answers and solutions to you about the problem you are bringing to Him.

John 4:10, 13-14 is the most beautiful picture of the living water the Lord gives {as He spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well},  “Jesus answered her, “If you knew [about] God’s gift [of eternal life], and who it is who says, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him [instead], and He would have given you living water (eternal life).” Jesus answered her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water that I give him will never be thirsty again. But the water that I give him will become in him a spring of water [satisfying his thirst for God] welling up [continually flowing, bubbling within him] to eternal life.””

Doesn’t that just make you take a deep breath and slowly let the truth of God’s words here rush over your heart? Go ahead…close your eyes, breathe in deep and let it out slowly…thank the Lord for His living water. The life of His words in scripture. Jesus wants to give you refills of His love and direction EVERY DAY! Your first “cup” was the day you received Him as your Lord and Savior, and it was free! Through your free gift of salvation, like a glass of refreshing water on a warm day, we can be refilled every time we seek Him out.

Whether through scripture or prayer, you are receiving your free refill every time!

It doesn’t mean that you will live a trouble free life. This I know for certain. But my life is much better lived within the continual flow of His salvation and in the bubbling in my spirit of His words, than when I try to use other things to fill up the space and void in my life. Not one thing can ever replace or refill what the Lord can give me. Nothing I strive for or earn, no fame, no pats on the back, no “free drink reward”, can ever truly fill me up.

Give yourself the freedom in Christ today to receive fulfillment from Him ~ it’s free!

The only thing it will cost you is your pride and stubborn resolve to “do it on your own”, but how’s that been workin’ for ya? How about giving that a rest, so that you can have true rest in the soul refreshment that Jesus can give!

Drink in the free refills from Jesus ~ and you’ll have all the living water you need!

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

Did God Disappear….

Have you ever felt this way? Like God has completely disappeared from your life? I will admit that the thought (and feeling) have crossed my mind. Especially when I’m going through a difficult situation.

I feel lost!

I want answers!

I need help!

Sound familiar?

There is usually a reason why at times, I don’t feel God’s presence in my life, and it does always lay at my doorstep. We don’t want to take responsibility most of the time, let’s just be honest here, but feeling far away from God usually means that we have continued walking on our merry way down a path that God has not intended for us to travel. There’s a saying I heard years ago, but it’s so true, “It only takes one step in the right direction to find God again.”

He is always right there when I need Him. Always!!

But sometimes, there might another reason why we feel that God has seemingly disappeared from our life. Maybe it’s because He’s shielding us. Maybe He’s behind us, protecting us from something coming, something striving to devour us. I Peter 5:8 {AMP} warns us to be alert, “Be sober [well balanced and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour.”

There is SOMETHING seeking to destroy us and his name is Satan. He and his demons really do have a plan to completely screw up your entire life.  He wants to get us so anxious, worried, depressed, angry, etc., that we think God has disappeared. All of those distractions become like a thick fog over our spiritual vision and we can’t see our own hand in front of us. But let me assure you…God is still at work in your life when things seem upside down.

If you go back into the verse above, you will see that the devil is “like a roaring lion” ~ he is NOT a lion though…but he sure makes us think he has that kind of power when he’s lurking about. The devil’s job is to poke around in our mind, confuse us, cause us to doubt the truths we know,  and quite simply bring us to a point where we lose hope.

Matthew 22:37 {AMP} says, “And Jesus replied to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’”, and we are told this because we are cautioned in Ephesians 6:11-13 {AMP} saying, Put on the full armor of God [for His precepts are like the splendid armor of a heavily-armed soldier], so that you may be able to [successfully] stand up against all the schemes and the strategies and the deceits of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places. Therefore, put on the complete armor of God, so that you will be able to [successfully] resist and stand your ground in the evil day [of danger], and having done everything [that the crisis demands], to stand firm [in your place, fully prepared, immovable, victorious].”

So although God is working on our behalf, He also calls us to be an active participant in the process of keeping the Lord close and the enemy far away.

But for those times when we are actively pursuing what God has called us to do, how He asks us to live, the way in which to raise our children, our attitude at work ~ whatever it may be ~ and we still feel alone, let me take you to the Old Testament for quick minute and give you some encouragement.

In Exodus 14:19-20 {AMP} we read, “The angel of God, who had been going in front of the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them. The pillar of the cloud moved from in front and stood behind them. So it came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel. It was a cloud along with darkness [even by day to the Egyptians], but it gave light by night [to the Israelites]; so one [army] did not come near the other all night.” 

To put these verses in perspective, the Israelites were in the middle of escaping Pharaoh. Now, the Pharaoh had let the people go with Moses, but then he had a change of mind when he realized that he no longer had anyone to do the manual labor around town. So he sent hoards of his chariots and armies to get them back.

The Israelites were already anxious about leaving the life they knew in Egypt (even though they hated it…it was what they knew), and God knew this too.  He knew the depth of anxiety they felt as they walked across the land. I’ve always thought that the people who were in the front of the pack, walking closer to Moses and Aaron, would’ve been quite a bit more at ease than those closing up the ranks. I mean, come on, if they were attacked, who was gonna die first?

But check this out…those folks in the front also could see the cloud that God was in, the one leading and guiding them, seemingly disappear. That must have been incredibly unsettling. Can you imagine the conversations, “Hey – did you notice the cloud left us?” “Um, I think God just disappeared.” “What do we do now…where do we walk?” Those people in the front were suddenly forced to believe that although the cloud was behind them and probably looked a bit smaller way at the back of the pack, it was still there!

It had moved but it was still there!

The cloud offered a massive amount of protection…one that was not even quite realized by the Israelites. It offered a source of light for them to walk by night and it appeared as darkness behind them so that the armies of Pharaoh could not see them, or each other.

The cloud that God was in, stayed there until the Israelites were safe!  The whole group (which was probably more than a million people) came to the Red Sea.  Once again, the people had to trust that God was still there. Moses had to trust that he was hearing God’s instruction. The sea parted, the people walked across on dry land…and that cloud stayed behind them all along the way to the other side. God caused confusion for Pharaoh’s armies and they were annihilated by the Lord when the sea walls came crashing back together. {Exodus 14:21-30}.

It only looked like God has disappeared, leaving the people to fend for themselves…but He didn’t.

And He hasn’t left you!

Look around your life and see where the hand of God has protected you? Shielded you from injury or attack? And if you can’t identify something right away, pray and ask the Lord to show you how He has protected you.  He WILL absolutely reveal to you where He has been in your life.

You left your keys in your unlocked car ~ and it was still there when you got back?

You left for work later than usual, causing great irritation, only to pass a horrific car accident on the freeway that possibly could have been you?

The anonymous grocery gift card that is dropped off on your front porch when you’re in need.

And so many others…

If you look hard enough, meaning, if you take your eyes off of yourself and lift them up, you WILL find the Lord. You will see Him guiding you, protecting you, shielding you. He is not far from you ~ just turn around and you will see.

He’s been there the whole time!

Blessings,

René

Exodus 14 verse 19

 

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

Don’t Eat the Honey…

In the summer of 2001, we downsized and moved to a new house.  It was move #9….little did we know that we had 5 more moves ahead of us!  Actually, I’m thankful we didn’t know because God gave us the grace we needed each time ~ another post for another time!

So in this house, although smaller, was still a fairly large home and we were very comfortable.  We had downsized because we had started an animation company and were making loads of changes!  For the first few months we were very happy and pleased with the house and believed that God led us there.  I still think he did but that house came with a lot of baggage that we weren’t aware of.  Even the home inspector and appraiser missed it…missed what you ask?

BEES!!!

One day our sweet next door neighbor (they owned a local bakery and would bring us amazing french pastries almost every month!!) came over and said that they would appreciate it if we would take care of our bee problem before their dog ended up being stung.  I had no idea what she was talking about.  Bees?  In our house?  So, she asked me to follow her outside and we walked down the side of our home and there they were.  Hundreds of bees flying in and out from a small opening in the siding of our house.  That’s when I realized that I wasn’t losing my mind ~ our bed was on the other side of that same outside wall, and every now and then when I couldn’t get to sleep right away I would hear a buzzing noise!

So, I made some phone calls for bee removal and it is pricey!  And bee relocation was more than double.  Money was super tight…so we didn’t schedule anything right away hoping the problem would go away and we kept praying the neighbor’s dog wouldn’t get stung.  God answered our prayer about the dog….not about the bees!

In the new year we finally had a bee removal company come out and take care of the problem.  Before he started digging around outside, he had to come inside to our bedroom and take a heat measurement of the wall to see how large the hive was.  How large the HIVE WAS????  Say what now?  Thankfully he didn’t have to go through the inside walls because it wasn’t “too big.”

Next thing I know, the guy is dressed in his beekeeper outfit, trudges a few buckets and a huge ladder down the side of the house and off to work he goes.  I asked him to not bag anything until I could take a look at what he found.  Of course, I wanted to take pictures to show Tony and the girls later too. However, what I wasn’t prepared for was how absolutely beautiful that honey was!  It was glorious!

In a moment those bees went from being a nuisance (and a possible danger to pets and my small children) to being one of the most magnificent creatures God engineered.  These little insects that, according to scientist, shouldn’t be able to fly, not only fly but they help to create something as amazing as honey.  A food that has numerous health benefits and bottom line, just tastes good!  God created something so fantastic…and I couldn’t touch it!

That day, the bee-guy removed over 150 POUNDS of bee, hive, and honey into 6 huge plastic bag lined buckets.  I took pictures of the hive, which was almost 2 feet long by a foot wide; I took pictures of the intricately lovely honeycomb too.  I was able to keep a piece of it in a plastic bag and promised the bee-guy that I would NOT take it out of the bag and that I would toss it in the trash after showing the kids and Tony.  We all marveled at this beautiful sight!  Oh, and if we could have kept that honey, I could have passed out a jar of honey for everyone up and down our street, to our entire family, and still probably had enough to keep our little family in honey for years.  It was so sad.

To go through this process once is bad enough….you guessed it! Two years later, they came back and brought some of the Africanized Honey Bee friends with them.  We did not wait once we saw those little guys…”Hello Mr. Bee Removal Guy?  Can you come over again?”  We found out that our house was in direct line with a large bee farm that was over the hill from where we lived.

Once bees are used to a pattern, they don’t like to alternate from it.  That day the Lord showed me that when I am in a pattern of reading His Word every day and spending time with Him in prayer every day, I am less apt to alternate from His path!

Okay, so this second time of bee issues….almost 200 POUNDS of bees, hive, and honey.  Yeah…and the honey seemed to glisten in the afternoon sun even more than the time before.  Man, I gotta find those pictures!!

Can you tell I still think about that honey?

It was a brilliant amber color, twinkling in the sunlight.  It was rich and thick and beautiful!  And you could smell how good it was.  If it was bottled up, you could sell it at a Farmer’s Market for a pretty little penny.  It just looked so perfect!  But if I’d eaten any of it, I would most definitely have fallen ill and quite frankly, I would have run the risk of dying because of it.

Because it was a bee-removal process, instead of a bee-relocation process, there were chemicals used to extricate those little honey bees, the hive, and the honey out of my house.  Trust me…it was sad but necessary.

How many times in my life, in your life, have you gone ahead and “eaten the honey?”  You dated someone that was completely wrong for you? You spent money on something that you shouldn’t have? You allowed gossip to spill out of your mouth? You went somewhere you knew you shouldn’t be going?  And that’s just to name a few.

But what about those times when things looked great?!  You wanted something so badly, and believed that after praying about it that it was God’s will that you have what you wanted?  The suffering we go through when we have walked off God’s path for us, when we’ve allowed our pride and desire to blind us, causes pain for ourselves and often times for those around us too.  Don’t be deceived by how good and beautiful something looks ~ it may be tainted so we have to pay attention to where the desire came from or from whom is making the tempting offer.

In the Old Testament, Proverbs warns us in chapter 25, verse 16 & 27, how too much of a good thing will indeed make us sick, (16)“If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it.” (27)“It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.”

I’d say that was pretty clear!

Having nice things isn’t a bad thing.  Driving a nice car isn’t a bad thing.  Having money isn’t a bad thing. Drinking fancy coffees in a posh little coffee shop isn’t a bad thing.

When those “things” become overwhelmingly shiny in the afternoon sun of our minds…that is when those things become a danger to our health ~ spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and yes, sometimes, physically.  Digging into God’s Word and eating the good food of His teaching is what will keep us healthy on many levels!

Psalm 119:103 is proof of this (and proof that God loves honey!!), “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”  There are over 60 verses where honey is referenced as something beyond good…but also something to be wary of having too much!

I would love to encourage you today that as you begin to ponder what that “thing” is in your life…what your “golden honey” looks like…stop looking at it as something that God is keeping from you.  Start looking at it for what the truth of the matter is….God is keeping YOU from that thing because He knows you will get hurt somehow.  He doesn’t want you to get sick, or get stung.  He loves you so very much!  AND…He will still be there to tend your wounds should you decide to go forward with your own plans too.

There is good honey out there ~ BEE patient and God will lead you to greater fulfillment of His riches beyond your wildest imagination!

 

Blessings,
René

Proverbs 16 verse 24