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Making new friends…

We never stop making new friends…and I don’t think it ever gets easier.

Well, maybe except for a three-year-old at a playground in a local park. I used to be amazed at my girls (and all three of them did this) and how quickly they could become “best friends” with another little girl on the playground. I would watch them scope out the area and decisively walk toward another child and say, “Wanna play on the swings with me?” There wasn’t any doubt in their sweet hearts that the answer would be “No.” And I don’t think it ever was. But even if it was, that didn’t stop them from going to the next little kid and asking them the same question. They were hardly ever fazed by a ‘no’ answer. And by the time we were ready to leave, the question to me always was, “Can she come to our house to play now?”

Really? You’ve decided in a mere hour of play that you want some stranger to come over to our house? Then came the awkward eye contact with that child’s mother, explaining to our kids that we don’t know each other and maybe we’ll just see them again the next time we go to the park. The sadness that would overtake these new friends as they hugged and parted ways was always astonishing to me. My mother-in-law would always say, “Your girls always seem to make a new best friend every time we go to the park.”

As they all got older, the rush to make a new best friend became a little slower. They learned to gage who was kind and who made them uncomfortable. They learned to bestow friendship on those who shared common interests with them. Sometimes they got burned, sometimes they discovered a great friend, but I think mostly they realized that some friends are here for a season and only a few are meant to create a history with.

It’s just like that with us as adults.

I think the equivalent to the “Wanna play on the swings with me?” is the proverbial, “Would you like to meet up for a coffee sometime?” There’s just something about sitting across from a new friend at a coffee shop that makes it less intense. That steaming mug of coffee or tea is a wonderful prop! Many of my friendships started out this way. Some are mothers of my daughter’s friends’, some are from church, and some were through introductions by mutual friends.

We never stop making new friends…at least we shouldn’t stop.

No matter our age, even when it feels overwhelming, we need those connections in our life.

And guess what, those friendships don’t have to be with someone our own age. In fact, I would recommend that you find those who are both older and younger than you! I promise you it will be one of the most rewarding things you do in your sweet life! And yes, I’m using a lot of exclamation points (to the chagrin of all my grammar loving peeps!) but I’m that passionate about it!

I absolutely admire the young women who speak into my life on a regular basis. The minute you think you have nothing to learn from the younger generation, is the minute you become self-centered. There is always something to learn. When you genuinely show that you care about what that young women is going through or her perspective on what you are going through, friends, let me tell you that is a powerful experience!

The summer of 2018 held one of the handful of life-changing moments in my life. I attended a three-week conference* where I was literally the oldest women in the room at any given time. There might have been one or two others close to my age, but not many. The track that I was in was called Brave Love** and I had never felt so loved and accpeted by 60+ women in my life…and the average age of these women was about 21! I learned so much from them and gained such a heart for the struggles and challenges they face in this world today. God certainly used these young ladies to speak truth and joy into my life and I will never forget it.

Not that all of my endeavors into friendship have always been positive, but I’ve learned so much about myself through all of them…the good…the bad…and the ugly!

It’s so hard when a friendship fizzles out or simply ends. Especially when you are not the one who ended things, it can be quite difficult to move on. That’s when you really have to step back and ask the Lord to help you figure out what to do and how to respond.

Sometimes you have inadvertently done something to hurt the other person.

Sometimes you simply outgrow each other and go down different paths. 

There are times you are hurt by the other persons actions or inattentiveness.

There are times you are pursuing what you think is a real friendship only to discover you were simply serving a purpose in their life but not as an actual friend.

Some friendships don’t end but aren’t what they once were and some friendships pop in and out of our life depending on circumstances but feel like you just saw each other. 

I’ve run the gamut in all these situations. There are friendships that ended because of my lack of empathy and understanding…those are the hardest to move past. Even after apologies, many times it’s too little too late. When you know you’ve done everything you can, be it a friend or a family member, and the other person puts that boundary gate of “Thou shalt not pass.”, you have to move on for your own mental health.

On the other end of the spectrum are those friends from long ago who come back into our lives. This has recently happened to me with three friends from high school, one of whom was in my wedding. We had not seen each other for 16 years, yet having them and their family in our home to share a meal felt like we had not missed a beat. The other two I haven’t seen pretty much since graduation (and that was way more than 16 years ago!) but it was so easy to settle into conversation.

There is something to be said about shared experiences.

When a friendship ends or becomes less than it once was, the most important thing to remember is that God allowed that friendship to be in your life for a reason. He is not surprised by the changes and He’s completely aware that the enemy will try and make us feel as those we are unworthy of friendship.

There is always a purpose. We were created for friendship and for relationship.

John 10:14-15 says this about God the Father,

14 I am the Good Shepherd, and I know [without any doubt those who are] My own and My own know Me [and have a deep, personal relationship with Me]— 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father—and I lay down My [very own] life [sacrificing it] for the benefit of the sheep.

We are known and seen by God and He desires relationship with us. That is why we crave friendship…to be seen and known by others here on this side of heaven. We are not meant to live a solitary life.

Friendships are great, messy, meaningful, frustrating, significant, and heart-breaking. But they are all intended to bring goodness to our life.

That goodness might look like heart-break, but for whatever reason, God is removing that person from our life. We may never know why, but trusting in God’s goodness is far better than relying on our own perceived wisdom.

Good or bad, friendships are necessary to help us become the person the Lord intends for us to be. Hard moments in friendship reveal something in our character that God is trying to either soften or remove. Sweet moments in friendship are a blessing and salve to the soul and create confidence to go out and continue making new friends.

It might feel scary at the time, but the next time you feel prompted to meet someone new, know that it’s probably the Holy Spirit asking you to step out in faith to reach out to that person. Go make a new friend!

So, step into a version of your 3-year-old self on the playground, and say, “Hey, would you like to go grab a coffee with me?”

Blessings,

René

Making New Friends...blog 11-2019

Photo by Seemi Samuel on Unsplash

* 21 Project via Circuit Riders ~ https://21project.com/

** Brave Love ~ https://bravelovewomen.com

 

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Plans Fulfilled in Faithfulness…

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

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

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

And it’s supposed to be that way!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let that sink in for a bit!

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

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

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

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

God qualifies ~ Satan wants to disqualify

God raises us up ~ Satan wants to diminish us

God sees you ~ Satan wants you to feel invisible

God knows you intimately ~ Satan wants you to feel unworthy

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

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

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

Satan loses…and he loses every time!

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

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

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

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

And those plans will be perfectly fulfilled by His faithfulness!

Blessings,

René

Plans Fulfilled in Faithfulness

Photo by Bethany Cirlincione on Unsplash

 

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Holding Grief & Joy…

Is it really possible to hold grief and joy at the same time?

Yes, I do believe it is.

November is a precious month to me because of what happened two years ago. I learned to hold grief and joy, together in my heart, like a mother would hold two newborns in her arms. You cherish both, you learn from both…one does not have to win out over the other. But man, it’s so hard to hold them both.

Our oldest daughter got married two years ago at the beginning of November and it truly could not have been a more perfect day! After three days of torrential downpours (which in SoCal is always a shock!) Saturday dawned with a freshness in the air, a promise of the joy to come that day! The blue sky was dotted with fluffy white clouds, no sign of rain at all. Watching your child get married is a surreal thing. It brings you back to your own wedding day. I was keenly aware of this man who was marrying my daughter, I knew him before I knew him because I prayed for him for 24 years. I trusted that the Lord was watching over this man who would one day capture my daughter’s heart. What tremendous joy!! I get teary every time I think of this fantastic privilege to see a prayer come to life. It was a perfect day.

The weeks that followed however, I would not classify them in the “perfect” category. I think this is when I began to learn how to hold grief and joy in the same embrace.

The Friday after the wedding, my husband was struck with a terrible case of shingles…on…his…face! It was awful and painful and a bit terrifying. He was on medication and had many doctor and ophthalmologist appointments to make sure the virus didn’t affect his vision. It was so painful to watch him go through it all.

We had just come from such a high high and now experiencing a tremendous low.

On top of that, a few days before the shingles hit my honey’s darling face, I discovered why my neck had been hurting for a few weeks. I had somehow popped the top right back rib out of place. I would seriously rather give birth without drugs (because I have!) than feel the pain of having a rib put BACK into place several times before it finally stayed in place. Oh, the tears and the ugly-cry that happened in the chiropractor’s office for the first week or two of treatment! Thankfully it was where my now married daughter worked, so she was a bright spot in my day!

So, in the span of a few weeks, we’ve got…wedding…popped rib…shingles…we had enough riding on the emotional rollercoaster of life and were looking forward to things settling down.

At the end of November my father-in-law, Jim, passed away. It wasn’t completely unexpected but it’s still never easy. My husband and I were able to be there the night before and have our time with him and we knew that was a huge blessing.

As I sat at the funeral home with my mother-in-law and two of my sisters-in-law, my own mom called and said that I should make my way to my grandmother’s apartment as soon as I could. Again, not completely unexpected, but still came as a shock. Her goal was to make it to her great-granddaughter’s wedding and we’re so thankful she was able to!

As I drove the hour from Orange County to Burbank, I cried and pleaded with the Lord to give me one more day with my grandma. I knew our little family couldn’t handle two deaths on the same day.

God was so gracious and there was my sweet grandma Marie, fully dressed with her shoes on, resting comfortably in her lift chair. She was sleeping, but she had changed so much. My grief took over, and I bolted from the room. In the midst of my own mother’s grief, she comforted me in mine. I knew my amazing grandmother was so close to heaven and I didn’t know how I could deal with it all.

But let me tell you part of the secret of holding grief and joy together…it’s what my grandma said to me when I went back into her apartment.

I sat down next to her and held her hand. She opened up her eyes, that were still sparkling with all that grandma love, and said how happy she was to see me and patted the back of my hand. But she could see the grief in my eyes. Her next question, “How’s Jim?” She had closed her eyes after asking for a just a bit, long enough for me to try and pull myself together. When she opened her eyes and say the tears streaming down my face, she just said, “Oh honey, I’m so sorry. But we know where he is.”

This is how we hold grief and joy at the same time.

She knew was she was not far from seeing the Lord face to face, something she was joyous about, but she was still able to have a tender heart toward my sadness.

We cannot press down and suffocate the grief.

We have to face it.

We cry and we are sad. Maybe we are confused or mad.

Those feelings must both be experienced fully to come out of pain on the other side and be okay.

But in the grief, there was joy knowing that all the pain and suffering my father-in-law experienced was completely gone. He was wholly healed and I love to imagine my staunch Missionary Baptist father-in-law, dancing and singing praises in heaven to the King of Kings. That is joy!

I spent the rest of the day with my grandmother, and much of the family began to come in. We gathered around her chair and celebrated her. We told stories and every now and then, she would too. When she finally needed to rest in her own room, we were able to go in individually, and have some time with her. And I treasure the knowledge that she prayed for her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren every single day! What a legacy of faith!

Those moments too were held together by grief and joy.

None of us wanted to leave that night because we knew what was coming.

The next day, I arrived and checked in with my parents who’d gotten there a while before me. We thought we had a few more days. But as quickly as the hospice nurses arrived to do their assessment, days became moments. They rushed us in, my parents and I, and we had the honor of singing her into heaven.

Another moment held together with equal parts of grief and joy. 

Yes, equal parts.

The next few weeks were a bit of blur as we had services for both my grandmother and my father-in-law. And all of that in the midst of preparing for Christmas. Family coming into town, hosting dinners and being together as much as we could. Even in all of this, the experiences are different for everyone. Our oldest daughter was a newlywed. Our middle daughter lives out of state. Our youngest daughter was navigating her Freshman year of college. My husband was still dealing with the effects of shingles. And I could now get dressed without wincing in extreme pain.

The physical and emotional pain. The grief and the joy. 

They don’t always take turns.

Sometimes they arrive at the same time.

But here’s the best part, as I believe we are created in the image of God, He orchestrates our life and helps guide us through those times when we are required to hold grief and joy at the same time. He is in fact an expert at this.

That moment on the Cross, when His beloved Son took upon every single sin and all depravity of every human being that had been born and was still to be born, He had to look away. The grief that God the Father had to sit with is unimaginable to me. But He did it because of the magnitude of joy that was brought on by Jesus’ death and resurrection ~ the joy that we now had the free gift of reconciliation with our heavenly Father.

Here’s a passage from Matthew 27:45-54 ~ take some time and ponder this in your heart of how God the Father had to hold grief and joy at the same time…

45 “Now from the sixth hour (noon) there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour (3:00 p.m.). 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud [agonized] voice, [j]Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” 47 When some of the bystanders there heard it, they began saying, “This man is calling for [k]Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran, and took a sponge, soaked it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink. 49 But the rest said, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him [from death].” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud [agonized] voice, and gave up His spirit [voluntarily, sovereignly dismissing and releasing His spirit from His body in submission to His Father’s plan]. 51 And [at once] the veil [of the Holy of Holies] of the temple was [l]torn in two from top to bottom; the earth shook and the rocks were split apart. 52 The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints (God’s people) who had fallen asleep [in death] were raised [to life]; 53 and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, they entered the holy city (Jerusalem) and appeared to many people. 54 Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, they were terribly frightened and filled with awe, and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

The Lord has felt it all ~

Every feeling.

Every emotion.

Every hardship.

Every trial.

Every joy.

Every happiness.

With Him, we can do the same. We can experience grief and we can celebrate joy.

And we can do this at the same time.

We can hold grief and joy together.

Blessings,

René

Holding Together Grief and Joy - blog pic

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

 

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Weakness is a gift…

My weakness doesn’t faze Jesus.

I actually started this blog back in August and I got as far as that first sentence. It’s not a topic I really want to write about and I definitely didn’t want to come across as whiny. But here we are.

This past weekend, I had to walk through a situation that was super uncomfortable. Mostly because I made it that way.  Whenever I get a text or note from someone that says, “Hey, I need to talk to you about something. Call me soon.”, I immediately go to worst case scenario.

I immediately start replaying the last few times that I interacted with that person and start picking apart every conversation ~ what did I do wrong? was it my tone? was I too honest? was I being nosy? did I say something inappropriate? did I hurt their feelings?

UGH!

Seriously ~ this is where my head goes! E V E R Y  T I M E!!!!

I’ll tell you that part of the reason is because there was a time in my life where I was constantly being challenged by the people in my life. It became instinct to wonder “What did I do wrong now?” And not because I was actually behaving poorly, I was in a bad space where I was overly vulnerable, shared probably too much, but definitely gave off the vibe that I was a mess and clearly needed help. It took me years to be able to realize in most of these conversations, people were telling me about themselves and not about me.

But I still fall victim to that rabbit hole of doubt.

My sweet husband has seen me go through sleepless nights, puffy eyes from crying way too much, negative self-talk, and just plain old pouting. He gives me so much grace, but he doesn’t let me stay down in that doubtful place. His encouragement to see the reality of a situation is more helpful than he probably knows, because I’m not always super gracious or even readily accepting of his encouragement. He has an incredible way of redirecting my focus to what God says about the situation, the person telling me things, and about me. How does God really see me?

More often than not, and faster than in the past, I can step back and look at the situation and declare that I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m not a bad person. If I made a mistake, I can apologize for it. If something was misinterpreted, I can do my best to realign my comments to be more understandable.

And above all else, something that my husband is a master of, giving the other person the benefit of the doubt. To receive their conversation in such a way that I choose to believe what they are saying; to believe they are telling the truth.

This is yet another of my weaknesses that I must deal with. And I know where the root lies.

I was lied to and fooled by so many people in my past, it twisted my thought process to believe that no one really told the truth all the time. I allowed the enemy, the king of lies, to warp my thinking that I couldn’t totally trust people.

Once again, here comes the Lord with the blessing of my husband ~ literally the most truthful person I have ever met. In our 31 years together (2 years dating and 29 years married) I can tell you that he has never lied to me. NEVER. I am beyond humbled by the fact that the one thing the enemy tried to steal from me forever, was supplanted by the blessing of the most important person on this planet to me, and he has never lied to me. What a healing this has been to my heart all these years.

So back to this weekend…and my impetus to go back to this idea of weakness being a gift.

I got one of those “Can you call me.” texts and although the phone call didn’t happen and text exchange did. I had to choose to trust the Lord that what was conveyed in that message was the truth. I had to choose to combat the distractions and lies of the enemy that there was “more to it” and that the compliments given were not real. I hated it! I hated feeling like I did something wrong. I hated the feeling that I’d disappointed someone.

But as my husband pointed out, none of that language was in the message ~ it was all in my head! I was allowing the enemy to throw those fiery darts of doubt and they burned. I had to allow the tears to come to wash away those flames and trust the God was in the midst of it all. I had to choose to let Jesus be the truth that I rested in. I had to choose to believe that I had not done anything wrong, it was just a change in schedule and led of commitment that led to a relationship change.

Deep down inside I knew why the attack on my soul was happening.

I’m days away from launching a new ministry which focuses on mentoring young women, college age till about 30. I knew the devil would whisper to me one day, “Who do you think you are to tackle this? What makes you think that you can do this? Who says that you can start a new ministry? How do you know people even want this?”

It’s nauseating to think I allowed those thoughts to permeate my brain for even a few moments.

But in my weakness, in my sadness, in my disappointment, I had to choose WHO to listen to. I had to make a concerted effort to believe that I knew the answer to all those slimy lies the enemy was trying to make me believe.

God gave me a heart to minister to young women.

God gave me the desire to mentor young women and young moms.

God gave me the ideas for this new ministry.

God gives me continual direction as to the next right step to take. 

In my weakness there is God….and He is enough!

Today, I felt led to attend a worship service at One Voice Student Missions (y’all gotta check them out if you’re in the Pasadena area – https://ovsm.com/) and the leader, Brian Barcelona**, brought a beautiful message. And right there, the theme of the morning hit me like a ton of bricks.

W E A K N E S S

Man oh man…I knew exactly why the Lord prompted my heart to be there this morning! Brian shared so many truths & great reminders and I want to pass them on to you today:

  • Jesus saved us in our weakness – NOT in our strengths.
  • Weakness leads us to Jesus; weakness is not something to be feared.
  • Our woundedness and our weakness should draw us to the Cross.
  • The Bible isn’t pretty Instagram posts; it displays weakness and honors God’s healing through it. 
  • The frailty of my life becomes a container to hold God’s power.
  • My perceived strength is preventing God to work in through me.
  • God pours His anointing into empty vessels (aka – don’t be full of myself!)
  • It’s not what we have, it’s WHO we have!

These are just a few of the key things Brian shared this morning and it was all so good! Here’s two passages he used in his teaching too that I would highly encourage you to take a look at and truly ponder God’s heart in these verses (I like the Amplified version):

  • 2 Corinthians 12:9 (boast in our weakness)
  • 2 Kings 4:1-7 (when we think we have nothing; the Lord will fill us up)

Let me say once again what I began this blog with…

My weakness doesn’t faze Jesus. 

Not in the least bit. Ever.

In my weakness is where the Lord can do His best work in my life because I’m at a place where I can truly hear His voice over mine.

Let me encourage you to not run away from the weak places in your life ~ use them as jumping off points to take that leap of faith into the arms of Jesus.

He will never let you fall.

His strength will always be enough for you!

He will never let you down.

He will always be your Champion and your Victor!

He will never lie to you.

He is forever trustworthy and He will always lead you to the truth!

Blessings,

René

weakness is a gift - blog pic

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

** Brian Barcelona – One Voice Student Ministries, Pastor; November 4, 2019 message (https://ovsm.com/)

 

 

 

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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 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

Chaos is not the plan…

There is so much going on in our world today that makes me wonder how we are still moving forward as a civilization. Violence. Pain. Illness. Death. Gun deaths. Untimely deaths. Mental confusion. Crime. War. Injustice. It’s exhausting.

That’s exactly why I do my best to not watch any news programs…especially before I go to sleep at night. There might a quick 3-minute human interest story thrown in there, or the day’s most popular cat video, but for the most part it’s all just awful. I’ll admit too that I’m a bit fascinated with how the newscasters can read the teleprompter with a smile or at least with a pleasant look on their face when they are delivering the news items. Just words on a screen.

Chaos.

I have recently heard so many sad stories, friends going through difficult times, and the general turmoil of our country, that I felt compelled to share my heart and desire to encourage you ~ take courage! It’s not always going to be like this!
I’m not always quick to do it, but when I feel like the world is crashing in around me, I have to remind myself that God is not a god of chaos. I remember that from the beginning of creation, there was an orderly plan that God spoke into existence.

God is not a god of chaos.

How do I know this for sure? The definition of chaos is: “a state of utter confusion or disorder; a total lack of organization or order; any confused, disorderly mass;”

I think it’s quite comforting to read in Genesis 1:1-5

“‘In the beginning God (Elohim) created [by forming from nothing] the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void or a waste and emptiness, and darkness was upon the face of the deep [primeval ocean that covered the unformed earth]. The Spirit of God was moving (hovering, brooding) over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good (pleasing, useful) and He affirmed and sustained it; and God separated the light [distinguishing it] from the darkness. And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.”

The earth was formed from nothing and from the words God spoke, we have the earth. The waters of the sea have not dried up. Birds of the air and beasts of the field continue to thrive. The sun shines and the moon rises. All because He said so.
My favorite part of the verses above is where it says, “The Spirit of God was moving (hovering, brooding) over the face of the waters.”

This always makes me think of how I would quietly walk into my daughters’ rooms when they were little babies, and I would get as close to their crib as I could without walking them up; just to watch them sleep. I was hovering. I was praying. I was in love with this beautiful little baby girl {well, three sweet baby girls!} that God chose to give me and my husband.

There are some who wonder why “bad things happen to good people” or “how can a loving God do nothing against the sinister forces of this earth.”

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that God wants reconciliation with us and with this world.

He sent the Son, His only Son Jesus, to the earth to live as a man while retaining His Godhood. Jesus died on the cross, rose again, and broke the chains of the death so that we would no longer be separated from Him. Experiencing the saving grace of Jesus is instantaneous ~ we just need to ask Him to forgive us from our sins and be the Lord of our life. This earth will be reclaimed and made anew someday when the Lord returns and for that we have to be patient.

Psalm 27:14 promises,

“Wait for and confidently expect the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for and confidently expect the Lord.”

There are definitely times where I allow myself to spiral into the depths of despair ~ but that only happens when I take my eyes of the Lord. It’s like walking a tight rope. Have you ever seen someone do that? The success of their journey across the rope does not lay in looking down at their feet; it’s all about looking forward to their goal. They trust the rope is there, that they are wearing the appropriate shoes to walk in, that the balance they have trained to command is present, and the firm foundation they are walking toward is not a mirage.

Same for us. The minute we take our eyes off the Lord, our mind will wander to all the nefarious rabbit trails the enemy uses to confuse us. Satan’s goal is always, and I mean ALWAYS, bring confusion and disunity into every single situation and every single person’s mind. When one is wrapped in a massive cloak of disorder, we can’t tell what truth is and what is a lie. We fall deeper and deeper into despair and begin to believe the lie that there is no way out.

But God.

But God created the earth out of a dark and formless void.

But God created man out of dust (of the earth that He had just created by the way!) and woman out of the tender part of man (near His heart).

God created.

God created order and function and purpose. He brought to life the millions of flowers, trees, animals, habitats, water sources, seasons, galaxies, and so much more!

We cannot contain Him. We cannot rearrange what He has put in place. We cannot replicate what He has created.

Ephesians 2:10 reminds us,

“For we are His workmanship [His own mater work , a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above – spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us.]”

The Lord has created each and every person with a plan and a purpose. But He gives us the free will to choose that purpose or to deny it. He didn’t create robots. He created family. He created community. He created purpose.

God is the God of Order.

Life isn’t easy, we were never promised easy. We are promised life with Jesus and a peace that passes understanding. If you are struggling today to emerge from a dark place in your life, call out to the Lord and He will hear you. And if you don’t know the Lord, you can pray right now and ask Him to come into your heart. He’s waiting for you!

Blessings,
René

Chaos is not the plan - blog graphic

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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

Are we really Sheep after all…

My husband and I recently hosted a family dinner with friends of ours. We hadn’t seen either of the couples in about 20 years, and it was the first time we’d met their children, but it felt like no time had passed at all. The color of our hair, the reading glasses, and the wrinkles on our faces say otherwise. But it was spectacular! We used to meet with four other couples, including these two, when we first were married every month and it was fantastic! Sharing meals, playing board games, celebrating holidays and special occasions. Then life took us all in different directions ~ but thank goodness for Christmas cards and social media!  Am I right??

At any rate, one of our friends have now been sheep farmers in Wyoming for the past 9 years and they love it! We heard all kinds of new terms like, “Oh yeah, we like to lamb in the summer.  It’s way too cold for us and for the lambs to be born in 10-degree weather.” Jesse and Michelle have over 400 sheep at any given time, but lambing season is definitely a highlight. By the way…I’m totally planning some time in my schedule to go next summer and experience Fowler Farms for myself!

When I asked what the best/hardest part of being a modern-day shepherd was, they said that both aspects kinda went hand in hand. Taking care of hundreds of sheep is a major full time 24/7 job!

Then my friends’ husband said, “The hardest part is where the romance ends, and the work really begins.” Isn’t it always so enticing to think about having pets or adding animals into your home equation…until they actually arrive! And with a slight chuckle, they said that after all the years they have been raising sheep, they totally understand why the Lord compares us to sheep in the Bible! LOL!

My friend Michelle recalled a particularly difficult birthing experience. It was on Mother’s Day and she had to unexpectedly go out to help her husband help a struggling mama ewe. At first it made her so mad because after all, we momma’s look forward to Mother’s Day. But then, she and Jesse were able to save the babies and the mama. “The experience of that incredible birthing moment was in fact quite spiritual. And then you step back and thank God for letting you be a part of His great work!”

I did a little research via the old world-wide web too and found a great site that gave the basics about sheep and it was amazing to me to see the correlations between us and sheep and how the Lord shepherds both.

There are four areas where the shepherd must pay attention:

  • Flock Welfare
  • Protecting from Predators
  • Protecting Health
  • Shearing the Flock

Just as Christ came to be our salvation, the first thing a shepherd must be aware of is the safety of his flock. “The shepherd will graze the animals, herding them to areas of good forage, and keeping a watchful eye out for poisonous plants. Shepherds often live in trailers or other mobile quarters. As the sheep eat all the forage in an area, the shepherd will move both the sheep and his living quarters to fresh range. In most cases, the shepherd and his dogs will move the sheep out to fresh grazing each day and bring them back to bed down in the same area each night.” *

This is what Christ does for us every day. But the difference between us and the sheep, is that we activate more of a conscious choice about how and when we will listen to the voice of the shepherd. Each day, as we read God’s word, we are grazing in fresh areas of truth. Even if it’s a passage that we’ve read multiple times, when we are attuned to the voice of the Lord, we can experience the verse anew. When our focus in on the Lord and are following Him, we do a better job of avoiding sinful temptations in our life.

In terms of protection, “…a shepherd may use guard dogs or other guard animals.” * The Lord gave us the Holy Spirit for this same purpose. Read here in John 14 and 16,

John 14:26 “But the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will help you remember everything that I have told you.”

John 16:7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him (the Holy Spirit) to you [to be in close fellowship with you].”

When my daughters were younger and new in their faith, I used to explain the ministry of the Holy Spirit to them very simply. I would tell them, “When you have that ‘uh oh’ feeling in your tummy, that was the Holy Spirit giving them a warning that maybe what they were about to do or so was not something honoring to the Lord.” Hey, I still think that’s a good way to recognize the direction the Holy Spirit gives us. It’s not about emotionalism…it’s about learning to discern the warnings and guidance the Lord intends to give us through His Holy Spirit every day.

The same way that spending time in scripture helps us to learn more about who God is and what His plans for us are, it is always how we stay healthy: spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. Modern day shepherds must be vigilant in protecting the health of their flock and monitor their animals at all times and especially during the lambing season. The sheep, “…may also be bothered by insects, some of which carry disease. During lambing season, the shepherd will make frequent checks on the ewes at all hours of the day and night and may assist the ewe if birthing problems occur. Shepherds may also dock, or cut off, the tails of young lambs.” *

Hebrews 12:11 says it perfectly, “For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems sad and painful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness [right standing with God and a lifestyle and attitude that seeks conformity to God’s will and purpose].”

As believers in Christ, we belong to the Lord. He is with us always, so He is keenly aware when we need help going through trials, when there is disease {sin} creeping in to take over our heart and mind, or when we simply need to know that He sees us. Just as a ewe cries out alerting her shepherd that she needs help, we can cry out to the Lord and He hears us. We may not always get the answer we want, but He will always answer us.

Just last week I was having a terrible attitude going into church. I had allowed myself to fall prey to the temptation of irritation with others and self-doubt and spiraled from there. We got to church late, had to walk through to the middle of the row, and usually I love singing but I could barely get the words out, so I just stood there. But I was fighting a battle…a big spiritual one and I needed help. I asked the Lord to help me get out of this ridiculous funk because I wanted to sing, and I wanted to hear what our pastor had to share in his sermon.

I began to feel the sadness leave my mind as we sat down in our seats. In that moment, a sweet older lady that was sitting behind me, reached forward to hug me and give me a kiss on the cheek. Then she whispered in my ear, “Hello sweetheart! I’m so glad you here.” WHAT IN THE WORLD!!!!  I knew in that moment; Jesus was whispering those same words to my heavy heart. My sinful attitude didn’t deserve such a kindness, but in my quiet plea to the Lord, I knew He had heard me and wanted to gift to me tangible proof to show me so.

He is a good good Shepherd!

The last piece of being a good Shepherd is to know when and how to shear the sheep. The article* I read says this, “Unlike other animals that shed their hair in the spring, many breeds of sheep must be shorn – have their fleece cut off with shears or clippers. This task may be assigned to sheepshearers, whose primary occupation is shearing, or it may be the responsibility of the shepherd. Sheep may be sheared in the open or in holding pens. ”

If I’d not seen it myself, I’m not sure I could’ve truly understood the complete trust a sheep has in the shepherd. A few years ago, I was able to go with my husband on a business trip to New Zealand. One of the producers he was working with, asked if I’d be up for his wife to take me on a few adventures while we were there ~ you betcha!! Almost apologetically she said, “It’s kind of touristy, but would you want to go to Sheep World?” Um…yeah, I want to go to sheep world!  And it was absolutely amazing!! {here’s the website if you’re ever in NZ ~ http://www.sheepworldfarm.co.nz/}

Part of the show was to educate people on the nature of sheep and to raise them. It was fascinating to watch the sheep being called in by the shepherd…partly using his sheep dog to corral the sheep up on the hill and partly his own set of voice commands that the sheep recognized. Then he brought in a few sheep who needed shearing. He showed our small audience how to do it properly ~ how to hold these massive animals in such a way as to cause them to be calm while being sheared. It was remarkable. The sheep made no sound and didn’t struggle to get away. It was clear though, when the shearing was over they wanted to get back to the flock as quickly as possible.

And guess what…this shepherd gave folks an opportunity to do some shearing…and my new friend started pointing at me. I almost turned down the chance but figured I probably wouldn’t get that opportunity again! So, I sheared a bit of wool off this lovely creature and then a bit later I was able to hold a sweet newborn lamb and feed it with a bottle! I was in heaven!!

{Side note: there are many stories out there perpetuated by well-meaning pastors and speakers that state the idea that shepherds will break a leg of a lamb when they stray too many times, in order to teach it to stay with the flock. Not being able to interview someone who lived during the days of Jesus, and seeing a few articles about ancient shepherding, this possibly was done but not as an everyday measure. I’ve spent hours researching this concept on the website and asked my friends who’ve been running a sheep farm ~ all point to the fact that this hasn’t been a reality for a very very very long time! A good shepherd would not intentionally cause harm to a member of his flock. In the same way, Jesus our Good Shepherd, does not intentionally “break” us when we have strayed. He stays nearby, calling our name until we are able to recognize His voice again and in a spiritual sense (and maybe even a physical sense) rejoin the flock and follow the path He has for us.

If you have ever heard this other version and thus made the decision to leave Christ out of your life for fear that He will cause harm to come to you, please know that I’m praying for you to understand who Jesus really is. He is the One who came to save us from our sinful life that, without Him, leads to eternal separation from Him. He will give us lessons in order to have the opportunity to turn away from sin and follow Him. When we ask for forgiveness it is immediate and it is not brought up again. Jesus does not need to “break our leg” in order for us to follow Him. The Lord will always have His arms outstretched to gather us to Himself; when we are wounded by this world, He is there to carry us. He does not do the wounding.}

So, are we sheep after all? Yeah…I think we are.

  • We don’t always see well and tend to wander around with the rest of the flock.
  • We must learn to hear the true voice of our Shepherd to keep us from falling over a cliff or to know when danger is present and to run the other way.,
  • We need someone to watch over us; to pick off the diseased parts in our soul and to shear off the weight of coverings that we no longer need.

And most of all, we need a gentle Shepherd to lead us home to Himself.

Blessings,

René

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