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We are not Avatars…

Have you seen the movie Avatar? I will admit to you that I loved that film! To be real with ya, if I’m sitting down to fold a few loads of clean laundry and come across Avatar on TV, I’ll totally watch it. I appreciate the story. I appreciate the art design. I appreciate the animation. It’s just a fun film.

But we are not Avatars.

Yet, I think we sometimes try to live like we are.

The definition of avatar is: an embodiment or personification, as of a principle, attitude, or view of life. Digital Technology. a graphical image that represents a person, as on the Internet.”

There is nothing real about avatars.

Social media is an avatar of sorts. We all love scrolling through posts on Instagram and Facebook, and from what I hear you can get lost in Pinterest (it’s the one I won’t get on because I know I would get lost in it too!) But what do we see? For the most part it’s picture perfect living rooms with just the right amount of light that invites us in; it’s the luxurious master bedroom with loads of pillows that you can imagine sinking into; it’s the spa-like bathroom that begs us to have a ‘treat yo’self’ kind of day; it’s the country club backyard that beckons us to throw a party. You get the idea.

But what did all those rooms look like before the picture was taken? That space was crafted in such a way to convey a certain feeling. And after the photos were taken, the people could get back to “real life” and live in their homes like regular people. Toys, piles of laundry, stacks of papers and bills, backpacks and shoes by the front door, and unmade beds. Okay, okay…might sound like an extreme, but it’s true. The majority of the time, we make our bed every morning because I like the way it looks when it’s all done up. But today, today I was okay with pulling up the sheets & blanket, and then smoothing out the comforter on top without all the extra pillows and cutesy stuff on top.

What about our self? How do we ‘avatar’ ourselves?

We take a bunch of selfies to find just the right one to post. No one tells you that the pic they finally posted was ‘take 50’ or that they used about three different filters to find just the right lighting. We put up the version of ourselves, the image that we think is going to be acceptable to those taking 3-5 seconds to scroll past our photo.

I mean, no one really wants to see pics of your dishes piled high in both sides of the sink or how your dog threw up all over the couch. We want to put our best self forward to others, and I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that. The danger lies in the desire to become the image we are putting forth with such an effort as to hide our real self.

Not to ruin the movie for ya…but that’s what happens at the end! For a lot of reasons, the guy decides he’d rather become the avatar-being than to go back to the real world of being human. He leaves it all behind. In the movie, it feels very altruistic and makes sense. But what happens in our real-world situations when we are consistently walking around in a fake body?

We have all met someone, or have been that person, who walks around with a smile plastered on our face and everything is always fine. Or the other side of things, walk around with our head hanging down complaining about how life is unfair. These are both extremes, but I know there is someone coming to your mind right now that fit one or both of these caricatures.

Me too.

I’ve been both.

I think immediately back to a span of time that I realize I wasn’t able to truly build solid friendships with some of the people around me because heck, I didn’t even want to be around me. I was stuck in a cycle of depression, doubt, confusion, self-hatred…all of it! I was allowing those negative attributes to become who I thought I was. I repelled the idea from anyone who tried to tell me different. Admittedly, we were going through some difficult financial times but I was letting Satan tell me who I was instead of believing the Living Word of God tell me who I actually was!

I am beyond thankful that my husband, my daughters, and my true friends didn’t give up on me! I didn’t turn a corner until I CHOSE to believe that God created me to be a loving person, a competent mother and wife, a genuine friend, and one who was seen, known, and loved by the Creator of the Universe. Part of that transformation was in the form of some tough love from a good friend (Thanks Jenn!)

She told me that every day for a month, I was to look in the mirror and say (OUT LOUD!): “I am beautiful. I am loved. I am created by God for a good purpose.”

And then I had to call or text her to let her know that I did it. Those 30 days were the worst best thing that could’ve happened to me. The day I could say those things to myself in the bathroom mirror, while my husband was in the room at the same time, well, that’s when I knew I was beginning to actually believe it! That month was pivotal in the transformation God had in store for me.

I stopped wishing that my life was different.

I stopped dreaming away the day with all my “When I ___________ then I’ll be happy.” kinds of self-talk.

I stopped imagining what life would’ve looked like had we made different financial decisions.

What did I START doing?

  • Choosing to honor the Lord with my “yes” before my feet hit the floor every morning.
  • Choosing to have a view of my life and of the community I lived in with a Biblical view instead of a world-view.
  • Choosing to believe that I was worth loving and that I was enough.
  • Choosing to trust that I was who God said I was.

I’ll be honest, there are still days that I have to really fight to choose, let alone BELIEVE, all of those truths. But when I do it’s totally worth it!

My encouragement to you today ~

Start living into the life that God has called you to.

Trust that He has a good plan for you…better than you can imagine.

Give the Lord your ‘yes’ every single morning and look for opportunities to be a light for Jesus during your day. 

Read God’s Word and pray every day ~ keep Him the foremost part of every thought!

All of these things take active participation in the life that you are currently living. Put away the ‘avatar’ version you’ve created of yourself and your circumstances.

Real life is better than an imagined one.

Blessings,

René

avatar blog - theme - What do you imagine_

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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

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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

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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

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

 

 

 

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…And at the Right Time…

For most things we get in life, they are preceded by a time of waiting. It can be as simple as waiting for a tray of chocolate cookies to bake to gooey perfection, or as difficult as waiting for a health diagnosis to come in. And so many experiences in between.

I remember when we were getting ready to have our first child, we immediately were trying to figure out when the baby would be born. We were off a little bit according to the doctor, but we had our due date! I was beyond excited ~ not to be pregnant all summer long, but that faded in the dreams of that little one arriving. At our check-up the following month, I was devastated to find out the due date had changed. I was now told I’d not be delivering for another ten days. I cried all the way home, which completely baffled my husband.

He lovingly reminded me that just as God had allowed me to become pregnant, He also knew the exact day and time of her birth. It wasn’t in my control. It was all in His perfect timing! Thankfully I listened and changed my attitude…because that baby girl arrived TEN days after my due date! And it was of course, in the Lord’s perfect timing.

It’s so great to know that we can learn from the best when it comes to waiting for the right time!

1 Timothy 2:5-6 AMP gives us the example about Jesus. He was God and man for his whole life. Yet, Jesus paid attention the Father as to when it was the right time to reveal Himself as our Savior that had come to rule and reign. Because Jesus was so in tune with the Father, He was ready for the time when it came for Him to complete His task on the earth and become the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.  These verses read:

“For there is [only] one God, and [only] one Mediator between God and mankind, the Man Christ Jesus,” who gave Himself as a ransom [a substitutionary sacrifice to atone] for all, the testimony given at the right and proper time.”

It wasn’t just the right time. It was the proper time. There was not a minute that came too early or moment that lasted too long. It was perfect.

You might be thinking, well of course it was perfect…it’s Jesus…there’s no way I can get to that level.  And guess what, you’re right! But that’s part of the reason Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross. Yes, it was to bring us into a reconciled relationship with Jesus but it was also to send us the gift of the Comforter ~ the Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:26-28 tells us this:

“In the same way the Spirit [comes to us and] helps us in our weakness. We do not know what prayer to offer or how to offer it as we should, but the Spirit Himself [knows our need and at the right time] intercedes on our behalf with sighs and groanings too deep for words. And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because the Spirit intercedes [before God] on behalf of God’s people in accordance with God’s will. And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose.”

There are so many beautiful nuggets of truth and promise in these verses…go ahead and read them again. What do you feel the Lord is whispering to your heart right now? What prayers are lingering there? What plans are you fretting over? Are you dealing with a situation that no one else knows about? Oh, my friend, especially that last one ~ Satan wants you to feel that you are all alone but that is a LIE! As a believer in Jesus, the Holy Spirit has made His home in your heart and soul and mind. He is with you ~ you are NEVER alone! Yes!  The same God that spoke the universe into reality, is the same God who gives you the power and strength to make it through the most difficult of circumstances.

When you don’t even know what to pray, the Holy Spirit is there on your behalf. I can recall a few times in my life where the pain in my heart was so deep, I thought I’d never recover. The sobbing was so intense and unending that I couldn’t even form the words to pray and ask God to help me. That is right when, at the perfect timing, the Holy Spirit comes in to minister to us and go before God with the groanings of our spirit. When those tearful experiences were over, what was left was a peace that I could not explain except to know that the Lord had truly taken care of my heart at that moment.

So, whatever you have going on in your life right now, and as hard at may seem in the moment, trust that God sees you. He hears you. And He will answer you in just the right and proper time.

And if you are coming to Jesus for the first time today, welcome! Praise the Lord that you have chosen to allow the Lord to reign in your heart. I’d love to encourage you too to find someone in your local community to walk alongside you in this new adventure of following Jesus! God bless you!!

Blessings,

René

At just the right time - blog post

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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

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

It’s my Blog-aversery!

Whoa y’all!  Today, August 31, 2019 is my 4th anniversary of writing my blog! To date I’ve written about 165,000 words. That’s a lot of words!

{cue the Confetti!!}

One thing that I love is to celebrate and everything is worth celebrating! My mother-in-law has often told me that she loves how I can make every holiday and any milestone a celebration. I mean, I’m a Type 2 on the enneagram, so go figure! But I just had to look up what the traditional anniversary gift for “year 4” was and amazingly, it kind of sums up what I feel about writing this blog.

So the traditional gifts are fruit, flowers, linen, and silk.

Fruit & Flowers ~ “…flowers represent the growth and blossoming of the relationship, and subsequent ripening as symbolized by fruit. Flowers nurture the soul, and fruit nourishes the body…”  The geranium & hydrangea are flowers associated with year 4…the more positive and meaningful symbols of the geranium are comfort and gentility of a true friend. The hydrangea’s more positive symbols [are] gratefulness, ‘thank you for your understanding’, pride and appreciation.

Linen & Silk ~ “In biblical times, garments crafted from fine linen represented truths from the Divine, given that fine linen worn by holy figures was of the purest white and also lustrous (eg, angels in the bible are described as wearing fine white linen), hence, the symbolism of truth…Silk…is connected with items that are…the comfortable flow and connection between [people]. The saying “as smooth as silk” further represents good times ahead in the relationship.

{https://www.eternityrose.com/4th-wedding-anniversary-gift-ideas}

Through this blog, I have experienced personal and spiritual growth, gained deeper friendships, and become increasingly grateful for this writer’s gift the Lord has given me. I strive to be someone who writes the truth not for self-gratification but for the joy of shining light on the goodness of the Father. I write how I speak. When I sit down, I imagine that you are sitting across from me at a cozy little coffee shop.

My hearts desire is to meet you right where you are at. To encourage you that you can stand when you are feeling fragile; to cry when you are feeling pain; to draw strength from the Lord when you feel discouraged; to firmly believe that you are fearfully and wonderfully made and God has a great and mighty plan for you right now!

I can tell you that every single word has been from my heart ~ prompted by a desire from the Lord to share my story with everyone who reads it, in the hope to point you to Jesus! When I am able to sit down at my computer and have a blog ready to publish in about 2 hours, I know that I do not write alone. It’s something that astonishes me every single time. I feel the Holy Spirit lay something on my heart, and my mind begins to swirl. I pray before each blog ~ to hear God’s voice and type it out on the page through my words.

I’ve written on so many topics; it’s hard to pinpoint my “writer’s perspective”. I’ve had people ask me “Well, what is your blog about?” I’m usually a deer in the proverbial headlights for a second and then answer, “Whatever God wants me to write about.” I’m in no way being glib…it’s just the truth.

From marriage, to kids, to empty-nesting, to friendship, to verses in the Bible, mistakes & triumphs, and topical issues ~ it’s all here…all 114 blogs worth.

My biggest encouragers & supporters are my fabulous family! They are so kind when I send out a family text with, “Hey everyone…I just published another blog” and add in the link.

After I had been writing for almost one year, my middle daughter saw me checking my blog stats for the millionth time that month. She quietly asked me, “Why do you check your stats so often? Does it really matter how many people are reading your blog?” Um, well, sure it does. I believed then as I do know that God leads to me write every single one. I rationalized that I was simply seeing how many were reading them since God gave me this gift, He must have huge plans for them! Right?! Even as the words to my daughter tumbled out of my mouth, I felt embarrassed.

Side note…having adult children is a trip!  Let me just tell you to hold on to your seats…it’s a great ride and it’s never dull!

So, my daughter gave me a challenge ~ to not check my stats for a month. I thought it would easier to simply take my app off my phone, but that would be too easy. I left the app there because I still wanted the availability to open it up real quick when inspiration hit. But I did it…I didn’t check the stats for 30 days and it was so liberating. I was able to come back to the place of writing for the audience of One. To write back to the Lord the words He was so graciously putting on my heart to share with you.

I’m so grateful how my oldest daughter sat with me for an hour (granted it was for a school assignment) and led me through a goal-making session. I’d never really done that before and it felt so good to accomplish those goals. I prayed over my accountability team and am humbled to say that all three of my friends are still “in it” with me! I’ve given myself grace when I haven’t kept up with my weekly blog posts…cuz…life. I’ve maintained connection between what I’ve written about and the validity of God’s word and the truth of His Scripture.

I write because I can’t not write.

I share my stories because I’m the only who can.

I become vulnerable with my readers to remind them that they are not alone in this world; they aren’t the “only ones” struggling.

I want to connect with you because we are way more than the house we live in, the car we drive, the schools our kids went to, the job we have or don’t have, the balance in our bank account, the fab Instagram pics on our feed…and so on and so on.

We are together a collection of beautiful creations made in the image of God. 

And seriously, I think sitting at a coffee shop with a friend for hours and hours, is one of love languages ~ so let’s meet up!!

If we were sitting across from each other sharing our hearts, I would tell you how much you are loved by the Lord. I would squeeze your hand and tell you that you are gonna be okay. I would thank you for listening to my words and I would thank you for sharing yours with me.

And huge thanks to my youngest daughter who has patiently taught me the basic nuances of canva and creating better graphics! I’ll be going to her for future graphic design help in the future (stay tuned!)

I can hardly wait to see what is coming next for me in this ministry. Writing, speaking, traveling, and some new things on the horizon ~ God is the great organizer and His timing is always perfect! I’d love for you to continue along for the ride ~ and to ask for your prayers as I navigate into this next year.

Psalm 121:8 declares, The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in [everything that you do] From this time forth and forever.

What is it that you are called to do? Why not start today! You are needed to share with your community and circles of influence. You are the only one who can tell your story, so tell it girl! Let today be your anniversary of saying yes!

Blessings,

René

Blog-aversary #4!
{Photo by Erik Brolin on Unsplash}

 

 

 

 

{Photo by Erik Brolin on Unsplash}

 

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

The Goodness of Being Uncomfortable…

“Well, Jesus hasn’t told me any of this, so you must be wrong.” This was my emphatic statement to my husband years ago, when he told me that he felt the Lord leading him to resign from his job and pursue developing his own company. Clearly, there was nothing spiritual about what I said to him. I knew it the minute I said it. It was my way of getting out of a prickly situation. A way of avoiding what I instinctively knew was about to happen to our lives. And I wanted no part of it.

We were about to get really uncomfortable.

That was back in January of 1999. Although its been quite some time since then {gosh, has it really been 20 years?} I remember the day that my husband told me of his revelation, like it was yesterday.

We went from a very secure six figure salary with benefits and tons of perks to complete financial uncertainty. My husband worked for a well-known entertainment company and God has blessed him with crazy talent for animation. He felt God calling him to leave his job and start his own faith-based company; a way to use the gifts God had given him to reach families with a message of Christ’s redemption and salvation through animation.

I finally came around because I was tired of dodging the Holy Spirit. Have you ever experienced that? No matter where you are, there HE is!

So, we jumped in, a bit trepidatiously, but confident that we were following God’s direction for our little family. And what could possibly go wrong when you are following Jesus…right?

Long story short ~ we emptied our savings and our 401K, joined forces with two other families in our church (who did the same), lived and breathed this calling from God, and lived our faith out loud in an industry that could care less about Christian ideals.

A week after our business plan was completed and ready for the 14 meetings we had planned with investors, 9/11 happened. We lost all but one meeting and at that, we were put off until the new year.

Seven years later, our company closed. Amidst an abundance of tears and sadness, the one thing that my husband and I, our daughters, and the other two families held firmly to was a spirit of contentment.

This is a story in itself, but suffice to say, during this time of our lives, we learned the true meaning of contentment. The Lord developed in us a strong determination to always seek after faith, trust, and belief that God is always good. Because of all that we endured, I have gained an unshakeable contentment that I serve a living, loving, good, good Father.

Philippians 4:11-13 {AMP} says, “Not that I speak from [any personal] need, for I have learned to be content [and self-sufficient through Christ, satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or uneasy] regardless of my circumstances. I know how to get along and live humbly [in difficult times], and I also know how to enjoy abundance and live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret [of facing life], whether well-fed or going hungry, whether having an abundance or being in need. I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]”

I’ve read this verse countless times in my life, but until those eight years, I had no idea what it truly meant to live a life of contentment. I know that part of the gifts I have from the Lord is the ability to believe that no matter what, everything will turn out okay. Even wavering a bit through difficult circumstances, I’ve always known it to be true.

The dictionary defines contentment as “the state of being contented; satisfaction; ease of mind.” The one part of these definitions that are most personal to me is the “ease of mind”. It is absolutely impossible to have a mind or heart that is content on your own. I tried it both ways, and I know Who gives me the ability to be content.

His name is Jesus.

Before this whole adventure of leaping out of our comfort zone, we had lived in a different kind of comfort zone. Consistent paychecks, all benefits, money was no object, beautiful home, my husband had an enviable career, I stayed at home with our children, kids went to private school, nice cars, the world-standard of a healthy bank account and investments ~ all of it. In the eyes of the world, and even in the eyes of our friends and family, we had it all.

And I was miserable! I was miserable because I wasn’t grateful. I was expectant of receiving good things, because well, I just did. I deserved them. It was my right to have a good life. I lived as a Christian well enough to hide my true thoughts. I led bible study groups, developed my gift of hospitality to host various events in our home, was the good wife and the doting mother. I was doing all the right things. But my heart was not moved to where God wanted my heart to be.

He wanted my heart to be moved by Him and for Him.

Instead of dwelling on all the things I did wrong and all the ways I did not act faithfully, let me tell you how this season of eight years shaped me for the rest of my life.

I learned that it is difficult to receive.

The first time I had to tell my husband that we didn’t have enough money for groceries was quite humiliating. We had come face to face with the fact that we could no longer deny the fact that following God’s direction meant sacrifice. What was even more difficult was to call up my parents and ask them to take us grocery shopping. For goodness sake, we were in our 30’s with three kids and a mortgage. What was happening to us? We were very used to being on the giving end…other families in need, gifts for friends and family, dinners out on us, and on and on.
It was very, very different now.

God was asking us to be open with our struggles. To ask for prayer for finances (ugh!) and for the Lord to lead us to new investors for our company. Life ebbed and flowed and sometimes we felt swept away on the current of the unknown, but we began to learn that it was only unknown to us. God knew exactly where He was taking us.

When confronted with challenging financial circumstances, like when we realized we had about $18.00 (yes… E I G H T E E N) in our bank account, instead of completely freaking out and despairing over our future (or the next hour!) we would hold hands and pray; together and as a family. The girls never knew the extent of the leanness of our finances, but they knew life had changed.

One morning, upon cobbling together a totally weird lunch for our girls to take to school, I went to find my husband to pray before we left. We distinctively felt that we were not to ask anyone for help.

We were learning true dependence on Him.

After I dropped the girls off at school, I pulled over, about to call my mom for help, but remembered what the Lord had whispered to our hearts. So instead, I prayed and asked Him for a content heart. As soon as I said “Amen”, my husband called and said that I needed to drive over to the office before going home.

When I arrived, with tears in his eyes, he handed me an envelope that someone had left on his desk chair. It was a “Thinking of You” card and it simply said inside, “You are being thought of today. Love, Jesus” ~ and there was a grocery store gift card for $100.00. We hugged and cried and thanked the Lord for this unexpected provision. Again, it was only unexpected by us…He knew all about it. He had prepared the heart of an anonymous person to bless us out of their excess.

I learned that it is worth it to look foolish in the eyes of friends and family.

So many times, when the Lord asks us to follow Him, to trust Him, to take that leap of faith, it will not look “normal” to the people around us. It was surprising to us that the initial support we received was from our church, not necessarily from our family. Some of it came out of concern for our well-being, but some of non-support came from those who claimed we were doing things outside of the will of God. The first few years of our business was extremely difficult in dealing with some of these family members and it caused us great sadness. It came to a point that we simply ceased any conversation with them about the business.

That experience helped me to shape other relationships in my life. I’ve come to understand, through loads of prayer and seeking the Lord, that not everyone needs to know every thing about me and my life. I need only share with people, whether I’m related to them or not, what the Holy Spirit spurs me to share.

I learned that God’s path is never easy but always worth it.

No matter what, it is always more important to serve the Lord than to care what others think.

Over the past decades, there have been plenty of times in my life that I have reverted to feeling the fear of what others might think about me and my decisions, only to realize that God’s opinion of me is what matters. When I am content in knowing who I am as God created me and in doing what He has created me for, then I can soar! It doesn’t mean that I will have a smooth path ahead of me, it just means that I have a loving Father who has good plans for me to follow.

I learned that teaching my daughters to trust the Lord for everything was in fact, everything.

This was probably the hardest one actually. Every parent wants to give their children everything they can. I can admit that I wanted to have more “yeses” than “no’s” in my vocabulary. The important part was in making sure that my girls knew why we were saying no or yes. We would have family talks and make as many decisions with them as we could. Obviously, there were plenty of things that we had to decide as the parents, but letting our kids know that we valued their ideas and opinions too was important.

As our middle daughter began to feel a shift in her future plans for after high school graduation, what could have been a difficult conversation wasn’t hard at all. She felt that the Lord was leading her to become a full time missionary instead of attending traditional college. As she shared her heart and what had brought her to this decision, my husband and I could see the contentment in her eyes and hear it in her voice.

Towards the end of the conversation, my ever-practical husband said to her, “Babe, why would you willingly choose a life where you are dependent upon other people to support you financially? You know what a hard life that can. It’s so unpredictable. Are you really sure about this? I mean, you know the difficult years we had spent where we had to ask for financial help on so many occasions and hope that God would intervene for our provision.”

I’ll never forget her face nor her response.

She said, “I know where you’re coming from dad, but that’s why I don’t have any worries about my future financially. First, this is what God is calling me to and I know He’ll provide. And besides that, I watched how the Lord provided for our family over and over and over again. You and Mom showed me how to trust God no matter what and how to stay content in believing that God would always provide what we needed exactly when we needed it.”

To be ministered to with wise words by your children is one of the most amazing and humbling experiences of my life!

I learned that loving my husband meant battle.

Thankfully my husband and I never battled each other, but we battled the enemy on the daily for stability in our marriage and in our family.

When the Lord asks us to follow Him, satan is going to do everything he can to distract us from the path. Especially when that path takes you down the uncertainty of finances, that can definitely have a negative impact on a marriage relationship.

When we were planning our wedding, we vowed to each other that: Plan A – commit our marriage and family to the Lord and that divorce would never be a part of any future conversation. Divorce would never be an option. Plan B – refer to Plan A!

And that’s what we have done for the past 29 years. Through the wealth of the first decade of our marriage, to the incredibly lean years of the second decade, to now the almost third decade of life together. Contentment in knowing that God brought us together for a reason and purpose, fuels our desire to impact others for Him.

I learned that being authentically vulnerable is what people want.

True contentment comes from knowing beyond a shadow of doubt that the Lord is for me, not against me. It is a deep commitment to follow Him wherever He leads, especially when it doesn’t seem to make sense to anyone else. People want to hear the authentic story of how God has moved in your life. Pretending that “life is good” will never bring anyone closer to a real relationship with Jesus. As we know, sometimes life doesn’t feel so great. But the Lord is always good!

As I live my life, I want to show others that I can be content no matter the circumstances. I honestly believe everything will turn out okay, not because I deserve an easy life, but because I know who I serve. The Lord does not change. He will always be drawing me to Him to experience a deeper love for the path He has for me.

I can be content in my life because I know

the Lord is my provider and protector.

Blessings,

René

Being Uncomfortable...
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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

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
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It only takes 15 minutes…..

When you think about it, there are so many things in our life that we don’t want to do, yet really only take about 15 minutes to accomplish.

Unloading and reloading the dishwasher, reading one more story to your child, collecting all the trash around the house and taking it outside the night before trash day, writing a handwritten note to a friend, praying for your family, doing a job search online…

So many things only takes 15 minutes.

Most days, we act like the thing in front of us is some huge mountain that will take away more of our time and energy than in reality of what it will actually take.

It’s so nice to wake up in the morning to an empty kitchen sink.

It’s a precious thing to sit with our kids for one more story or just watching them follow sleep, because those days don’t last forever. In all honesty, I totally tried to skip pages while I read those stories!

I can still remember that time period, being so exhausted and didn’t feel like I could be needed by one more person for one more thing, and all I wanted to do was to get my children settled in their bed and asleep so that I could, do what? Really important things like veg out on the couch with a bowl of ice cream! I would give all that ice cream, all those TV shows, and all of “my“ time back, to be more patients with my kids.

Especially at bedtime.

That is the time of day that would be the time my kids would open up the most about what was going on in their life. Usually, when they had been having an extremely rough attitude day, it would all spill out after we would finish prayers, about how they had had their feelings hurt by a friend for found out they didn’t do it well on the test or an essay they thought they did. I would finally connect the dots and realize why they had been having a difficult afternoon. It didn’t really have anything to do with it them wanting to be rude or disobedient to me, they were trying to figure out how to deal with their emotions.

For goodness sake, we are the adults don’t handle our emotions properly some of the time.

But we expect our young children and teenagers to handle every emotional so perfectly. When I’d slow down, I could take myself and my own emotions out of the equation and ask questions of my kids then we could more easily and much quicker, and get to the bottom of why they were there acting up.

If we want our children to be able to know how to deal appropriately with their emotions, then we have to do the hard work while they are living in our home. We cannot leave it up to teachers at school or church, or the latest podcast, or self-help book.

Teaching our kids to deal with their emotions is as important as how we teach them to use the toilet, brush their teeth, and put their dirty clothes where they belong. They will not “get it right“ on the first try or the second or the 10th time. But if we do not give up on teaching our kids how to have healthy habits at home, we need to be that much more vigilant in sticking with teaching them how to do the hard things of life.

We are created in God’s image and we know through scripture that the Lord has all of the emotions and all of the feelings, but He knows how to deal with ALL of them. We have this opportunity to live a life full of emotion, securely gleaning from God’s Word how to live our best life in the midst of all of those areas of emotions. Dealing with our emotions on our own is absolutely exhausting and it’s not how the Lord intended for us to live. We are called into community with each other, and the first community that our children become familiar with is the one within the four walls of our home.

There will be days where everything goes haywire but then you wake up the next day and as Scripture says, His mercies are new every morning {Lamentations 3:23}.

Start your day with prayer, not simply between you and the Lord but with all of your children too. Especially when morning’s are hectic, pray on the way to school. You can designate a certain point in your drive to school where the conversation stop, the radio turns off, and prayer begins. If you have never done this before, you can start by being the one to pray over your children, but as time goes by, what a beautiful safe space to teach your children how to pray out loud for each other as well as for the people in their circle.

Those are the parts of the morning drive to school that I miss the most. The older my daughters grew, the more meaningful and specific their prayers became. It’s a beautifully humbling thing to learn how to love and serve the Lord better by listening to how your kids pray. I still smile at the memory of praying one morning as we were careening into carline to get the girls to class on time, another parent suddenly stopped in the middle of car line to let their child out and I immediately complained and chastised that parent for “doing car line wrong.” In unison, my three girls said, “MOM! Stop it. Weren’t you just praying that God would give you patience today and a heart to see others they way He does.” Bam!  Right between the eyes!  Yikes….they were right!!

The Lord gave me a perfect opportunity to show my girls the power of confession and asking forgiveness…me to them, not the other way around. It was also then that I took a moment to look at the kid who’d jumped out of his mom’s car, head down and clearly frustrated. After I dropped my girls off, I knew God was giving me an assignment to pray for that family. I never knew who it was, and that wasn’t the important thing. What was vital for me was to see that family the way God did ~ people He loved, cared for, and wanted to see reconciliation with.

No matter what happens between those morning prayers and getting into bed for the night, prayer is the key to unlocking peace. In the evening, praying over your children at the end of the day is an amazing way to help prayer be the last things they hear before falling asleep. Sometimes you will feel drawn to going into your child’s room well after they’ve been asleep and pray for them again. God is calling you to battle for your kiddos ~ don’t miss it!!

Remember, it usually does not take very long.  And even if it takes an extra 15 minutes {or more!}, it will be the best spent minutes of your day!

Blessings,

René

It's just 15 minutes