Don’t pay for the Fancy Water…

On our recent trip to China {totally love that I am able to tag along with Tony on his business trips} I noticed something at each of the hotels, each room we were in had at least two free 16oz. bottles of water. With tags or coasters that encouraged the guests to take the water with various sayings…”stay hydrated” ~ “water is life” ~ “hydrate your mind”.  Although they offered these free water bottles, that  by the way, were replenished daily whether the original bottles had been drank or not, there was also one illustrious extra-large bottle of “fancy water” – a well known name brand.  But that one you would have to pay for.

So each day, the guests have to choose – drink the free water or pay a ridiculous amount of money for the name brand water.

Hey, I was just excited that all of these hotels offered the choice…and yes, I’ll take the free water. Every. Day.

Once we arrived at our 3rd hotel, and the free bottles of water continued to appear, I couldn’t help but think about the life-giving water that we are freely offered by Jesus.

How often have I gone for “the fancy water” & by-passed what the Lord is offering to me as a gift?

So what do I exactly mean by “fancy water”?

I want to be very clear here that the examples I’m about to give are NOT bad or wrong…it’s just that sometimes we place a higher level of dedication and interest in the name brand stuff.

When an author comes out with a new book, I’m clicking on amazon to buy it faster than I should. {Seriously…if y’all are interested in reading/studying just about any Christian book/devotional/study that’s been released in the last ten years, I’m sure I have it & I’ll let ya borrow it!} Sometimes I make myself stop & simply place it in my “book list” for a future purchase.

  • I’m on email lists for online bible studies and daily/weekly devotional.
  • I’m in several different bible study groups on Facebook.
  • I follow a myriad of amazingly gifted & talented speakers, authors, and singers.

All of these things are good.  All of these groups are beneficial to my spiritual growth. All of these people speak/share scriptural wisdom, and are also vulnerable enough to share with thousands of strangers via their insta-stories, what God is helping them work through in their life at the moment.

However…..

When I count on scrolling through social media to get my fill of God’s word through inspirational quotes, meaningful scripture verses, or heartfelt stories ~ I’m drinking the fancy water. 

But wait you say…social media is free! 

Yes ~ but I’m paying with my time.

I’m paying with “quick fix” mind set. 

Let’s be real, if someone were to ask you at the end of the day what the most inspirational post you “liked” that morning was…would you be able to answer them? I know most of the time I couldn’t. I might remember the basic gist of a few but not word for word.

John 4:10, “Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would ask Him, and He would give you living water.”

So what’s the “free water”?

It’s Jesus. It’s Him as the Living Word. It’s Him as the fountain of Living Water.  

It’s Jesus. The One with whom we will never thirst again.

When I spend my time reading the Bible ~ apart from bible study time ~ and truly dig in deep asking God to reveal to me what I am to learn that day about His character, then I am truly refreshed. 

The best moments of reading my Bible come when I am searching to know more of who God is and not “what’s in this for me” mode.  The more I know about God, about the Bible, about the story of the Bible…the more that God will reveal to me about who He wants me to be…who He has created me to be for Him.

The Living Water Jesus freely offers to us came at a great price.

It is free to us because we can never {like. Ever. Ever. Not. Ever.} come close to living a life that would earn our way to eternity. Jesus died on the cross, along with all our sin, and rose again so that we could have the gift of bring free of the death that sin brings…the permanent separation from Him will not happen to those who receive the free gift of salvation from Jesus Christ. 

John 7:38, “ The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.”

Read your books.

Attend bible studies in your church or online.

Follow your fave people on social media.

Just don’t stop there. 

Actually, don’t start there either.

I’m guilty of this more often than not, so this blog is for me just as much {or more!} than maybe for you. I honestly appreciate the time you have given to read along with my musings of the day. 

Stay hydrated with the Water of Life and your heart and mind will be hydrated as well.  Enjoy the time you spend with  the Lord, praying & reading scripture.

You will come away refreshed without one iota of regret for the time spent with your free water. I promise!

Blessings,

René

John 7 verse 38

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrations and Preparations…

I absolutely LOVE to have parties & get-togethers!! To the point it drives my sweet husband a bit crazy. 

I mean, what better way to get your house clean than to prep for a party! Right? In our almost 27 years of marriage, we have moved 14 times…yep…fourteen! And every single time, we’ve hosted family & friends for a birthday party or holiday celebration within a month of our move in date. My family indulges me, even in the midst of my crazy, to help get the house in order.

Boxes are unpacked, items put away, pictures are hung on the walls, and drawers are filled. And okay, whatever I don’t know what to do with in the moment, stays in the box and goes into the garage! Come on…you’ve got a few (or 20!) of those boxes in your garage too!! 

But inevitably, “crazy-town mom” would rear her ugly head & the beautiful event we were preparing for would be scarred with one of my freak outs. It’s hard sometimes to look at photos of various events from past because they are marred (in my mind at least) by my unrealistic expectations that I poured out on my family like boiling tar over the walls of a castle onto the enemy. It still makes me cringe, and I once again have to give those guilt feelings to the Lord and ask Him to touch my heart & mind with His grace…and grace for my family too.

Over the years, the intensity of planning parties has lessened for me because the true value of these times of celebration is about the people. It’s not about the platters & bowls matching perfectly on an expertly laid out serving table.  And thank the Lord, I stay away from Pinterest…no judgement for you if you have all kinds of things ‘pinned on you party boards’…I just know that for me, it would be more of a burden than a joy.

But I LOVE to celebrate….like, EVERYTHING!  I have boxes in the garage for every holiday…Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Fall, Thanksgiving, and of course Christmas (those take up the most space).  And yes….there is a difference between “Fall” and “Thanksgiving” decorations!!

I’ve been known to put in silly  notes to my kids lunches all the way through high school!  I love to arrange tea parties and coffee dates with friends, just because. Surprising a special teacher at school with treats or their favorite Starbucks drink. Baking cookies during the holidays and throwing old-fashioned “cookie exchange” parties.

I simply LOVE to CELEBRATE!  After all these years, I’m finally getting better at the “pre-celebrations” part!

Several years ago, September 9, 2013 to be exact, my husband’s first book was released!  It was so exciting!  He had worked on it for over two year in-between his day job and keeping up with all of our family adventures.  So of course, I wanted to throw him a party to show him how proud we all were of him.  We wanted to celebrate his accomplishments!

He wanted to go out to dinner with just our family.

So of course, I organized a surprise party for him with our friends and family!  Appetizers for the guests to enjoy until we got back home and yummy desserts to enjoy after we arrived.

I had the task of making sure he didn’t go out to our “garage fridge” so he wouldn’t see all the goodies. Then, I had to figure out how to get him out of the house. The errand I created wasn’t one where we would get dressed up, and I thought, “What does it matter? We’re celebrating his achievements, not our wardrobe!”  I had our three girls ready to spring into action to set up food & decorations after we left. I remember how surprised they were when I told them, “Y’all know where all the serving platters are, you know what food we’re serving, have fun with it, get creative & use whatever you want.”

They just stared at me like I’d spoken in a foreign language. Finally one of them spoke up and said, “Anything? Are you sure? I mean, usually you want things in a specific way.”  And they were right…they’d seen “crazy-town mom” one too many times. I assured them that I would be happy with whatever they did & wanted them to use their creativity. The best part…I meant it…and they believed me.

Oh, and my sweet husband was completely surprised & loved the party. No stress. No craziness. Just celebration!

But what really has spurred my recollection of that party was the “party weekend extravaganza” we recently enjoyed. 

Yes…ENJOYED…every minute of it!!

I enjoyed it thoroughly because I let go of my unrealistic expectations & control. I remained completely present at every event. Not allowing myself to jump to the next one. Each celebration was unique unto itself & could not be repeated.  The help that was offered, was gladly received.  The friends who helped set up and clean up were immensely appreciated. Dirty dishes in the sink for days…didn’t matter because that’s what a dishwasher was for and there was plenty of time later for that.  The people were the important parts of each celebration to focus on.

Within three days, these were the fabulous memory-making parties our family was involved with:

Friday night – High School Baccalaureate for our youngest daughter, followed by a family dinner, and a 10pm showing of “Wonder Woman.” ~ which was amazing!!

Saturday morning/afternoon – High School Graduation (our last daughter graduated..so this was really “it” for high school!), followed by her party.

Saturday evening ~ drove an hour-ish to my nieces “California Baby Shower”…she is such a cute pregnant momma!  So wild that I’ve known her since she was 3 months old and now she’s married and about to become a Mom!

Sunday morning ~ Family Wedding Shower for our oldest daughter.  What a joy to meet with all of her fiancé’s side of the family.  And seriously….my first baby is getting married!  WOW!!!  This shower was lovingly given by his side of the family,  and it was truly a blessing to simply “showing up” and celebrating my girl and seeing how loved she was by her new soon-to-be family.

Sunday afternoon ~ Visit with my father-in-law for his 94th Birthday.  It was worth the hour long drive to see him for a quick bit and tell him how much we love him.  He is not a great health right now, so it was important we go and see him instead of just calling.

Sunday evening ~ Visit with my parents, brother and sister-in-law to celebrate and early Father’s Day (another hour-ish drive).  Our middle daughter was in town for the graduation and Tony and I would be out of the country on the actual day.  Since this was the busiest day, we decided that we would have dessert and coffee instead of a full meal.

Then….back home! Exhausted but happy!

Each of these events were special and worth celebrating fully!  We made it to each one on time (um…yeah….first time to get to graduation ceremony and did NOT have to take the satellite parking shuttle service back to the venue thank you very much!) and I allowed myself to have fun at each one.  Because I was not thinking of the next one!

It was a whirlwind weekend for sure, but absolutely none of the photos that were taken have even a hint of “crazy town mom.”  I love that!

I’m thankful that the Lord is helping me to grow in this area because He created me with a love for celebrating my people!  What I do with that gift is either honoring to Him or honoring myself.  We all know which attitude is better to have.

When I’ve tried to prepare for a party with the intention of impressing those in attendance, it has rarely gone how I expected it to go and end up regretting choices, being ashamed of a negative attitude I allowed to take hold of me, or worse yet, making my family feel like they cannot do anything well enough or good enough simply because it’s not how I would have done it.

I believe God will bring back this “Celebration Weekend” to my mind whenever I start giving “crazy town mom” the keys to the party bus!

God wants us to celebrate…it’s in our nature because it is in HIS nature to celebrate!  The Bible is full of celebrations and feasts, and not one of them was to glorify the host or the party planner.  They were to honor Him….for His goodness, His mercy and grace, His protection, and His joy and love that He has for us.

In no way have I reached perfection in the party planning adventures…but I’m getting much better. I’ve become an expert of the “quick clean” ~ which is nothing to really be proud of…just being honest here…seriously though, don’t open my bedroom door!

But when people leave my home, I want them to go away from the house with a smile on their face, a lightness in their heart, and a feeling of being refreshed because they had been celebrated…they had been warmly embraced and made to feel welcome.

Don’t be afraid of the celebration…of the party planning…of the organization of it all.  Once you have the idea of a party, give it back to the Lord and He will guide you in the steps of the preparations. He really does care about you and how you want to celebrate the people in your life.

So go plan that party!  It’ll be fun!!

Blessings,

Rene’

Celebrations blog

 

A New Calling…

Today, I am living in an “in-between” frame of mind. It is Wednesday morning in Shanghai and it is early evening at home in SoCal. My mind is in two places at once and so is my heart.

I had to write this fine before the memory subsides…that is, if it will.  I wasn’t even sure that I was going to post this for “all to see” but that is the point of sharing what God has laid on your heart.  Let others know so that they can partner with you!  Our stories and our experiences are meant to be shared.

I left the hotel after having breakfast with Tony (my man!), to walk down to the local Starbucks. Yeah, I know….but sometimes you just need the smells & tastes from home.

As I stood outside at the corner waiting to cross the street (or should I say, waiting to play tag with the myriad of cars, pedestrians, scooters, and bicyclists) I was struck by this thought….

“How many of these people know the Lord.” 

I can tell you that I normally don’t have that question running through my mind unless I’m in a situation that I’ve prepared myself to be in. Does that resonate with anyone else? I think living in America, I just figure that everyone at least knows who God and Jesus are. They may or may not believe in Him as their Savior, but they have heard His name.  I mean, I am a “tag along” on Tony’s business trip, not on a purposeful, planned for, missions trip.

The next moment, the Holy Spirit begins to whisper a directive to my heart…a promise of sorts. One that I’m totally unprepared to hear. 

“These are my people and I am calling you to love them. I am calling you to be available to serve my people in ways you have only begun to imagine. I am calling you to love my people around this world who are desperately seeking Me but don’t know how to find me.”

I began to feel completely undone in my heart, the tears started to well up in my eyes, and I was both thrilled and terrified to begin to ponder what all this means.  So I guess I was terrifrilled?

So, not wanting to scare anyone around me as I walked down the street, I let my heart ask the questions.  I was already crying, talking out loud would bring way more attention than I wanted to garner.

“What are You talking about Lord?” 

~ I’m telling you to love my people. You have Me so you have the ability to do that.

“How am I supposed to do what you’re asking?”

~ I gave you the gift of writing and conversation, so use that.

“Do you mean I’m literally going to travel the world?”

~ You have a passport & a 10 year travel visa to China, don’t you?

….ps….I love it when the Holy Spirit has a sense of humor in His answers…

“Okay, what do I do now?”

~ Just listen to My voice and you will know My plans for you.

Um….okay….

But being me, I want to know and I want to have it all figured out…now. 

I will tell you that even now, sitting at a window table in Starbucks, the tears are once again pouring down my cheeks. My heartbeat quickens as I think again about what I feel God just told me. And once again I think, “But what does that mean??” 

The Lord is so good…because as soon as I ask that again, He begins to bring memories to my mind of past conversations.

I’m remembering a conversation I had this past September with a sweet godly woman, Mrs. Trevor Yaxley, as I sat with her in a lovely restaurant overlooking a small pond that was mostly covered with water lilies. I met her because I had the privilege to travel with Tony on a business trip to Snells Beach, New Zealand.  {seriously…it’s so cute!}

Her husband owns a Christian animation company that Tony is connected to via one of their films.  On one of our last days in town, she asked to take me to lunch. It was one of those moments where you meet someone for the first time but feel like you’ve known them your whole life.  

We talked about our kids, stages of life, and what we saw the Lord doing in our life.

If you know me, you know that I love to write and speak/teach within church ministries to women of all ages. My hearts desire is to be a published author and speak to women all over. Admittedly, when I shared this with her, I meant “all over” to be just around the country…the US…safe places. 

She said to me, “Why not the world? What about China?”

{insert sound of tires screeching here}

Wait now…what?!

I just about spit out my coffee! What in the world was she talking about?? What do I want to do that for? I’m a stay at home mom with stuff to do at home. {side note…don’t let anyone make you feel like you are “just” a mom….it’s the hardest job!}

You see, she & her husband have contacts all over the world including China. With their company, they do a lot of business with people in China. That coupled with knowing that Tony travels to China sometimes, she said, “The next time Tony goes to China, you should go with Him. God has a plan and I see you speaking to women all over the world about how much God loves them & wants to pursue them.”

Women from all over the world? Well, living in Southern California, that is definitely possible because of the melting pot of culture we live in. So, okay, sure…women from all over the world.  Check!

To be honest, when Tony found out that I could accompany him on this current trip to Shanghai, I didn’t remember that conversation with this lovely woman. I thought… “Yay…free trip to China? Let me go get my travel visa!”

Which brings another memory swirling to my mind.

When I picked up my Visa at a little Chinese travel office in Pasadena, the man & woman that were there were so happy to see me. I was greeted with smiling faces, “We have been waiting for you Miss René.” What? They are just being good business owners. But still…it totally caught me off guard. I got my wallet out of my purse to show them my ID & receipt of purchase, they checked all documents, and handed me my passport back. 

It was open to the page where my new 10 year visa had been secured. The gentleman said, “You have many trips ahead of you. Please enjoy my country and my people.”  

Um….okay….

Is that something he said to everyone? The woman behind the desk seemed just as enthusiastic in wishing me many good travels ahead.

Back to reality….My heart is once again struck with this memory, more tears are threatening to fall down my face. 

Isn’t that basically what the Holy Spirit just whispered to my heart a short bit ago as I decided to take a walk instead of going back to my room to read?

“These are my people and I’m calling you to love them.”

Right before we left for this trip, I took a friend out for a pre-birthday lunch at one of my favorite places in San Marino called Julienne’s. {If you go…buy a loaf of their Rosemary Currant bread…it’s amazing!!}

I was telling her about a funny thing that had come up for the trip. Tony actually has events & meetings set up with three different companies & the schedule was packed! So much so that he was double-booked one of the mornings. Lo and behold, the contact for one of the meetings asked if I would go in Tony’s place. Well sure, happy to help out. 

Then a few days later, I found out that I was expected to give a speech…in front of 50 members of the press, and about 150 other attendees. Good thing I’m not afraid of public speaking!! Thank you Jesus!!

I shared this with my friend at our lunch, and jokingly said, “My first speaking gig in China.” Haha!! She finished her bite of meatloaf and said, “Why are you laughing. It could be the first of many. You don’t know what God is going to do.” My friend Carla is one who hears so clearly from the Lord, speaks with conviction, and does so carefully as to only share what she hears the Holy Spirit says to her. When she has prophetically spoken over me, I know it’s something to pay attention to.

I didn’t end up giving my 5 minute speech but that was fine.  However, I felt a stirring in my heart during the mtg, but didn’t know why…until I heard God tell me that Tony & I would soon visit this city. Really? Me too? That doesn’t make any sense?  Tony is the business guy. What will I be there for?

Nonetheless, I did my job as VP of our Animation company, and all was good. Then our contact came over to me & said, “Come over here. Someone wants to ask you a question.” Turns out that “someone” was a local newscaster from the city that was hosting the press conference; and along with my interpreter, we had about a 5-7 minute interview. All I know is, there were far more then 200 people who saw that.

What does God have planned??? 

I don’t have anymore to go on right now, but I tell you what…I’m gonna be paying extra attention from now on!  I never have really had an experience where God’s plan has been perfectly laid out before me to follow.

I’m not nervous about the future. I have lived enough of life’s joys and challenges, that I EXPECT to be surprised by God and how He chooses to work.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit sometimes I wished that He worked according to my time table; but I’m always more grateful that He doesn’t. My journey of faith has been one of great triumphs and desperately low defeats. But my faith has grown stronger with each step. Strong enough that even when I get freaked out about life, I know beyond a shadow of doubt, that His plans are the best…that His direction for me is the most fruitful.

So now, I wait. And I watch. And I dig deeper into God’s word to receive His direction.

I share this with you to ask you to join me in prayer ~ to see God’s path & to boldly walk through doors of opportunity, to love His people all over the world. 

Thank you for reading this & thank you for your prayers!!

Blessings,

Rene’

Street in China by hotel