Thankful Thursdays #1

Yes, this does say Thankful Thursday and it is Sunday.  If I have learned one thing the past few years, it is the importance of giving ourselves grace.  So, my first Thankful Thursday is being published on a Sunday.

Quick Background – several years ago, I noticed my friend took the month of November and posted one thing each day she was thankful for.  I loved reading her posts and decided I would do this myself.

This year, instead of posting each day, I decided to start #thankfulthursdays.  Each Thursday, I will spend a few minutes sharing how thankful I am for so many people and things in my life.


#ThankfulThursday #1:

  • My Mom – I am so very thankful God gave me to my mom.  I am thankful she was able to make it through her surgery this week, and is now home healing (with lots of stitches, staples & a sling…and a really great attitude)!  She has always been a great role model and continues to show her strength and compassion.  I love you, mom!
  • My Dad – I am also very thankful God gave me to my dad.  While my dad always pushed us to be the best we could possibly be, he also showed us how much he cares.  Throughout the past three years, our family has been through a great deal of health problems.  My dad shows his strength, and shows his love and caring for us.  I love you, dad!
  • My Sisters – I am so very thankful God gave me my two older sisters.  Each one of them were always there for me growing up, showing me the ropes, and helping me to find my way.  As we have all gotten older, we still know we are there for each other.  We love each other.  While we are all different, we are sisters.  I love you Tammy & Kim!

Here is my challenge to each of you:  Whether you post this on a social media site or you just take a few moments to bring to mind the people & things you are thankful for…

#Get Started  #DoThis  #ThankfulThursdays

When I started this, I focused so much on what I said about others, and if I would make someone happy about what I wrote or sad by what I may not have included.  The beauty is, that worry was all for not!  Everyone found the posts very uplifting.  And, the best part, this was one small way to keep my eyes focused on the positive, and the beauty, and on all of the blessing God has given to us.


Heavenly Father,

I come to You today in Thanksgiving for all you have done and continue to do for me and for those I love.  I am especially thankful for Your provision to ensure my mom was able to start the healing process with her shoulder.  I am thankful for the physicians You placed on her service.  I am thankful for the nursing staff You sent who were so kind and patient.  I am thankful for the successful surgery You ensured was completed and that she is now home healing.  I see Your work in every step.  Oh how I thank You!

Father, I also thank You for having me click into Facebook and seeing this post several years ago.  It has helped me to focus on the benefits, the positives, the so many things You provide that may go unnoticed or unappreciated.  While I know there is so very much I miss, I am thankful for the opportunity to share how thankful I am for all You are and all You do!

Father, please help those reading this post to bring to mind the people and things they are thankful for.  Help them to see Your handy work in those blessings.  Help them to shift their eyes to You, to Your blessings, to Your plans.  Help them see, even on the darkest days, Your bright shining Son!

In Jesus’ Name I pray.  Amen!

 

Purpose: #BeTheChange

It has been several months since my last post.  While I can blame the busyness of my life for that, the true reason is that I have had a sad heart.  I have been witnessing what has been happening in the world of identity politics moving away from a great way of bringing like-minds together to being twisted by some to pull this country apart.  I have wanted to write something, say something, do something, but I didn’t want to cause a greater divide.  Please hear my heart.

Let me start with – I am a huge advocate of affinity groups.  I see great value when those with similarities join together to help each other, support a cause, drive for change, etc.  That said, I believe we have overlooked one key element of these groups.

Within nearly every affinity group, there is diversity.

Let’s take a women’s affinity group.  While that group is focused on women & women’s issues, the membership may include women of:
  • various ages, races and sexual orientation
  • different religions and political sides of the aisle
  • different upbringings and current financial status
  • And, in some women’s groups, men are welcome and often show up in support of gender parity!

So you see, even in that one example, the power of the affinity group is bringing a diverse set of women (& men)

TOGETHER – Diversity AND Inclusion.


When our focus is on the differences,

when we don’t see the value in what those differences can bring,

when we don’t realize that we are more alike than we are different,

we can unintentionally take a very small difference and use that as a wedge to divide us from one another. 

When we look at someone who has a different belief set than we do and judge them as if they are not worthy or criticize them personally, we are tearing at the very fabric of what makes this such a great nation.  The United States of America.

United We Stand.  Divided We Fall.

We live in the most amazing country in the world.  There are people from other countries literally dying to step foot onto the soil we have the privilege and blessing of walking on each and every day.  And, for some of us, we may take that for granted.


Please know, I am not trying to say that there are not problems in our country.  There are.  There are REAL problems.  And, because we live in a free country, we have the right to protest…peacefully protest.  We should call out the injustices in the world so that we, together, can find a way to fix them.

Unfortunately, some protests have turned from peaceful to violent.  And, some protests that started focusing on one issue, one cause, one problem that needed fixing…others have joined voices and mixed the message.  So, while there are more voices, the overall message is not received.

 

Here is an example:
There are professional athletes who have chosen to take a knee at the beginning of their sporting events.  While I believe this started to highlight the social injustice in inner city communities, I have recently heard this may have evolved into a greater protest including the gender wage gap.  Now, it appears some are kneeling just because they were told they couldn’t or shouldn’t.

Here is the problem…  The focus IS NOT ON THE PROBLEM or the SOLUTION!

 

The focus and much of the media attention has been on who is kneeling, when they are kneeling, when will they stand up (and, yes, I am purposefully removing the discussion about the flag because that just clouds the issue).  As long on the discussion is about kneeling, we are missing the opportunity to truly solve the problem the protest was trying to highlight.

While I believe we live in the greatest country on the planet, we still have opportunities for improvement – REAL IMPROVEMENT.  And, together, we can find ways to solve the problems.

Whether you agree or disagree with when these individuals chose to kneel, I would say we ALL agree there are real problems in inner cities and we need real solutions.

Can we start focusing on that?

Because here is the real issue, there are mothers & fathers, brothers & sisters, friends & neighbors, real people – real Americans – WHO NEED OUR HELP!

Let’s stop talking about kneeling and start talking about solutions.

Let’s stop talking and actually do something to make a positive difference.

Let’s not let the world and identity politics divert our focus from what is important.

We can ALL get behind this.  We can ALL stand together & UNITE.  Together, We can #BeTheChange!

 

Heavenly Father,

I am so very thankful for Your Love, Your Patience and Your Grace.  Please help us to change our focus from what divides us to what unites us.  Please help us lock arms together to find a real solution to this very real problem. 

Lord, when we see someone who looks differently than we do or thinks differently than we do, help us to see that person through Your eyes.  You created each one of us as unique individuals.  You placed each one of us on this Earth for a special purpose.  And, You have great plans for each and every one of us individually.  And, I believe You have great plans for us collectively.  Together, we are stronger.  Please help us keep our focus on that.

Father, help us remember there are real people waiting for real answers.  Please help us find those answers.  Please help us put those solutions into practice to make a positive difference.  Please help us Be the Change.

In Jesus’ Holy Name,

Amen

Purpose: Being a Mom

I often get asked about when & how I was saved. And, while I know I committed my life to Jesus Christ in January 2001, I truly gave my life over to Him in 2006.

You see, what many people do not know is that it was really difficult for Paul and I to get pregnant on our own. We tried for a year on our own before asking for help.  We then tried a few round of Clomid with our OB that were not successful.  She then referred us to an infertility specialist who tried three rounds of IUI that were unsuccessful.  Based on his experience, his recommendation for our next step was was IVF.

While I was thankful this was an option for others, I wasn’t ready to take that step right then. Based on my diagnosis, I asked the doctor to try one more surgical procedure and then jumped off the infertility plan.

If you have struggled with fertility, you know what I mean when I say “jumped off”.  It is a lot to deal with. There are temperatures and doctor appointments and shots and ultrasounds and waiting…a lot of waiting. And praying…a lot of praying!

After 27 months of “not pregnant” results, I needed to jump off. I needed to remember why we got married in the first place. I needed to remember how much I loved my husband for who he was – not as the father of my children but rather as the love of my life. I needed to trust God to make this decision for us. We had given Him the decision of “how many” babies we would have – now, we needed to see if we were going to even have one.

It was December 2006. I had a surgery to put extra holes in my ovaries to allow them to release extra eggs each cycle. After a successful surgery, I went home and gave everything else to God. It was now up to Him. If Paul and I were meant to be parents, it was in His hands.

Truth be told – I don’t think it was the surgery that did it.   I do believe He could have helped us long before, but we were not ready. And, He knew we needed to be ready because He was ready to bless us with an amazing child that would change our lives!

It was a very difficult few months after surgery. While the world thought my next option should have been IVF, I believed God had different plans. It was then and there I truly gave my life to Christ. I knew that He had great plans for us, and if we were to conceive, we would need His intervention. In March 2007, our prayers were answered.

Please know it was not an easy road since then. While we had a successful pregnancy that gave us our amazing Paulie in January 2008, we had an unsuccessful pregnancy later that year. We then were blessed with two additional successful pregnancies – Noah in 2010 and Sarah in 2011. So, when we found out we were pregnant in early 2013, we were thrilled! Unfortunately, at what would have been our 9-week appointment, we found out the baby did not make it.

While we were so very thankful for the three healthy babies God had already entrusted to our care, we were heart broken about the two babies we would never hold on this side of Heaven. So, we both prayed for God to answer the question in our heart –


Would we have any other babies?

In July 2014, we received our answer. I was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cervical cancer, and the best chance of survival was a hysterectomy.

Please know – I did not see this as an answer right away. It took me a couple of weeks to come to terms with my diagnosis and what that meant. It wasn’t just a cancer diagnosis. This meant Paul and I would not have any additional children. I prayed for God’s “peace beyond understanding” while we decided what to do. It didn’t take us long to decide to move forward with the hysterectomy. While we wouldn’t be able to carry any additional babies, it would allow me to hold our babies here on Earth for many more years.


Why do I share all of this?

Because I now look at Mother’s Day so very different. I actually look at motherhood so very different. I realize how truly blessed I am to have and to hold these three amazing little babies each and every day. So, if you see me hold them closer, if you see me hug them longer, if you see me kiss them more than other moms, maybe this will help you understand why.

I know how very blessed I am to be a mom.   It wasn’t an easy road to become a mom. And, while we hold and pray for our three babies here on Earth, we still pray for our other two babies that we long to hold in Heaven.


Heavenly Father,

 I come to You today in thanksgiving! I am forever thankful for Your blessings of pregnancy. I am so very thankful for the three babies You have entrusted to us here on Earth, and I am thankful You are caring for our other two babies in Heaven.

Father, I know there may be some reading this who are still struggling with infertility. I pray You help them see Your divine plan for their lives. I pray You provide them Your peace beyond understanding through that trial. And, I pray You help them conceive – in Your time.

Father, I pray You continue to help me be the best mother I can be to these three babies. I pray for Your divine help in raising them to be the people You have created them to be. I pray for Your assistance in opening their eyes to see Your divine plan for their lives.  And, I long for the day when I get to hold our other two babies in Heaven.

Thank You for entrusting these babies to us!   We promise, with Your help, to be the best parents we can be – to guide them and help them to become who You created them to be.

Father, I also am so very thankful for my mom who You trusted to raise me and my mother-in-law who You trusted to raise my husband!  I am blessed beyond belief and am so very thankful each day for all You have provided!

In Your holy name,

Amen!

Purpose: What do you see when you look in the mirror?

Have you ever been in a conversation with a person who said something like, “Wow, you have got your stuff all together” or “You have it all figured out”? At that point, did you wonder,

“What does this person see in me?”

I have had several conversations with family, friends and colleagues these past few weeks talking about this very topic: times when we have been in conversations with others who seem to see more in us than we see in ourselves. I remember reading a passage in Liz Wiseman’s book, Multipliers, where she talks about this very topic. During strategy sessions at work, there would often come a time when a colleague would ask her to come up to the board and write out the plan. It happened so often, she asked why she always had to be the one to do this. Why couldn’t another colleague be asked to grab the marker and white board the strategy? Her colleague shared it was because Liz was naturally talented at taking really difficult and complex information and translating it in a way that all colleagues could see where the organization needed to go.

She didn’t see herself that way until it was pointed out.

Have you ever had those moments? Did you wonder, like I did, what did that person see in me? Or, even worse, did you feel like that person wasn’t seeing the real you? Maybe you felt they had been “fooled” by the appearance of success. Some have even named this “Imposter Syndrome” which is defined by Wikipedia as:

Imposter Syndrome:  a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”

This got me thinking – is it truly that we have “fooled” others into believing we are better than we are…or is it the other way around? Have we “fooled” ourselves into believing we are not as good as we truly are? Are we so focused on others who know more, do more, are more that we fail to recognize our own talents and accomplishments?

Please know – I am not trying to say that we should all be arrogant individuals walking around bragging about how great we are.

I am simply wondering if we are looking into a mirror and getting back a distorted reflection. Instead of seeing ourselves the way others see us, we see a lesser version. When we receive compliments, we push them off or feel unworthy. We question why someone would feel that way about us. We may lack confidence in our abilities, even when we have experience that demonstrates we would likely be successful in a task.


Why is this important?

Well, I feel this is important because if we cannot see ourselves accurately, if we lack confidence in our abilities, if we shy away from opportunities because we do not feel worthy – how can we fulfill God’s purpose for our lives?

As I have been praying for clarity of God’s purpose for my life, what I truly mean to say is how is God leading me to fulfill His purpose for my life?   I know what He wants me to do…it is what He wants each one of us to do:

 

How can we do that if we are not confident? How can we do that if we look into the faces of others and feel like an imposter?

God calls us to have confidence – not arrogance, but confidence.

God has great plans for us. He has put us here on this Earth for His purpose. He calls us to “make disciples of all nations” and to “not throw away” our confidence. In order to do that, we need to clearly see ourselves. We need to look into the mirror and see the accurate reflection of who we are – who God has made us to be.

With that in mind, I am asking for your help. I would truly appreciate your willingness to share one word (or a few words) you would use to describe me through your eyes. I have set up an anonymous survey, so you can enter your word there. I will share the feedback in my next post.  Please click on the survey link below and add the word(s) that you feel best describe how you see me.

Survey Link

I also ask you to give this some thought. Is there a way for you to do something similar? How can you better understand how others see you? How can you get a more accurate view of the person looking back at you in the mirror? How can you get a more accurate view of the way God sees you?


Heavenly Father,

I come to You today in Thanksgiving! You continue to bless me and our family. And, while things aren’t the easiest right now, You continue to provide Your strength and Your peace through the journey. You are always faithful! 

Father, I pray today You open my eyes and the eyes of all those reading this. I pray You help us to see ourselves more accurately. I pray You help us to regain our confidence, and not let it go to arrogance. I pray You provide the means in which to see ourselves the way You see each one of us. Please open our eyes, our ears and our heart to receive these messages from You – directing us on our journey to fulfill Your Great Commission.

Father, I love You, I thank You, I praise You! In Your Most Glorious Name I pray,

Amen!

Purpose: You are LOVED!

As this most holy week ends with the celebration of Easter, I am overwhelmed by just how much our Father must love each and every one of us!  Today, we celebrate Jesus’ triumph over death, rising from the dead, and providing each one of us the opportunity to enter Heaven.  Hallelujah!  He is risen!

This Easter season, I have been spending a great deal of quiet time with Jesus.  I have been asking about His purpose for my life, and trying to listen and patiently wait for His reply.

In my quiet, one thought continues to come to my mind…

“You Are Loved!”


I am not sure about you, but sometimes I can only see my flaws.  I focus on what I haven’t done, what I did or said that hurt someone, what I could have done differently, etc.  I think about choices in my past and wonder how far that took me off of His path.  I have felt guilty and ashamed of how far away I drifted from the One who created me.

All of these negative feelings put a wall up between Him and me.  It is difficult to hear His kindness and love when I continue to feel shame.  And, while I am certain He wishes I would have made different choices, I know that He would not want me walking around with my head hanging low.

I know this because I am a mother.  There is NOTHING my children can do to make me love them any less.  When they make mistakes (or make poor choices), I hope to help them learn from them to make better choices in the future.  I hope they know I always love them – No Matter What!

If I love my children like that, just imagine how much our Heavenly Father must love each one of us.  He sent His Only Son to Earth to show us His Love.  He demonstrated God’s love to so many people while here on Earth and ensured there were many of those accounts recorded for each one of us to read about.   Not only can we read about each miracle, we can also read about how He feels about His children.

I saw this posted on the K-Love Afternoon Show Facebook page and felt called to share it:

PLEASE STOP

 

Go back to the photo above and re-read each one slowly.  Take each one in, and try to hear God’s voice saying each one of these sentences to you.  Imagine Him standing before you, looking into your eyes, saying each sentence.

Wow!  I am not sure about you, but that is awe-some!  I didn’t get far down the list before my heart burst open and my eyes filled with tears.  Just thinking about how very much our Heavenly Father loves me, loves you, loves every person on this Earth.  How powerful!

When I truly take these in, I know that our Heavenly Father wants us to live feeling each one of these.  He wants us to live boldly, not because we earned anything ourselves, but because He loves us so very much that He conquered the world!  And, we should live like that…live like we are loved!

Hawk Nelson has a great song titled, Live Like You’re LovedClick Here

While I like the entire song, I especially like these lines:

I’m tellin’ you somethin’
This God we believe in
Yeah, he changed everything
No more guilt!  No more shame!
He took all that away
Gave us a reason to SING!

Heavenly Father,

On this most holiest day, I come to You in Thanksgiving!  I thank You for the love You have shown me and every one of Your children through the life, death and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus.  How much You must love each one of us!

Father, seeing and feeling that love, I ask for Your continued assistance in helping me live like I am loved by You!  I ask for this both in the calm times and in the more difficult times.  Please help me to always remember Your love, Your kindness, Your patience and Your strength.  Please help me to always hold my head up high, not because of me, but because I am Your child.  You have given everything for me.  Help me to always remember that You created me, and You have called me:

Beautiful
Unique
Loved
Special
Created with a Purpose
Cared For
Lovely
Strong
Important
Forgiven
A New Creation
Protected
Family
YOURS!

In Your most holy name,

Amen!


 

Purpose: Learning to say “no”

Like most people, we live a very full life.  I have a full-time day job and several volunteer roles.  We have three very active children, and my husband and I truly like to spend quiet time with each other.  This usually results in a week of early mornings and late nights, hours spent at sporting practices or events.  Late evenings spent catching up on work items that were put off until the kids went to bed, and possibly a few moments catching up with Paul before we fall asleep and start it all over again.   Weekends are just as busy and include sporting events, trips to visit family, and the occasional baby sitter for the kids so Paul and I can spend quality time together.

Please know, I am not complaining.  We are truly blessed.  And, I realize much of our busyness is due to me.  When we go on family vacations, I try to visit friends along the way that we haven’t seen in a while.  If we have an extra hour and can do something for someone else, I try to work that in.  We try to make the most of every moment we have, as we know the next moment is never guaranteed.

My challenge – I have filled our lives with so many things, that there is sometimes little room left for anything else.  And, when I don’t prioritize my time with Jesus, I may spend little to no time with Him.

That CAN NOT happen!


I have been starting each day spending time with Jesus.  My bedroom mirror has my prayer list and some of my favorite Bible verses.  Each morning, I spend quiet time thanking him before my feet hit the floor.  As I prepare for my day, I look in my mirror and pray through my prayer list, asking for specific help for each person and praising Him for the progress and miracles He has already provided.  This dedicated morning time helps me to stay more present with Jesus throughout the day.  When the stress of the day hits and I start to feel overwhelmed, I can stop and breathe.  I seek His Divine Guidance and take time to make more thoughtful, prayerful and present decisions.

Being more intentional and choosing Jesus first has made this much easier these past few months.  I can make more thoughtful decisions of what we will and what we will not do.  I know my priorities are:

  • God
  • Paul
  • Kids
  • Family
  • Work
  • Volunteering
  • Everything Else

So, when things come up that take me away from these priorities, it has been easier to say “no”.   Last week, I truly utilized this list when it came to blogging.  I was feeling quite sick and needed to spend more time in bed.  I choose to spend quiet time praying, and said “no” writing about this blog.  How appropriate!  I needed to practice what I was writing about!


But what happens when I am tempted…when my ego is challenged?

While I have been able to prioritize my life much better lately, a couple of weeks ago I was faced with a situation that was quite a struggle.  At work, there is an open position that I do believe I have the skills to do an excellent job.  I have experience from outside of the organization, inside the organization and the specific department to truly be successful.  However, I knew I really didn’t want the position.  I have a role where I can make a real positive impact for our team, our stakeholders and our customers.  I am truly excited about the work and believe we are on a path to make a difference!

The challenge I faced was different than you might imagine.  I wasn’t offered the job, nor was I asked to apply for the job.  It was the exact opposite.  When I was talking with an individual in the organization about the role and not wanting it, I was told that they didn’t think I had the support or experience for the role.

WHAT???

I spent 16+ years in another organization where I was asked to step up, stretch and lead in some of the most unclear circumstances and I continued to perform at the highest level, doing significant work for the organization.  When I accepted a role someone had before, I took their great work and made it even better for the person coming after me.  And, I always tried to bring others along with me so they would have the opportunity to learn, grow & develop.

Do you hear it?  My ego, my Earthly focus, my focus on what someone said I can’t do versus focusing on what God has planned for me?

Remember, I was telling the person that I didn’t want the role.  And, I wasn’t going to be asked to take the role – DONE!  No, not done.  At least not for several days…well, it may have been a week or so.  I was frustrated.

I needed to reflect on why I didn’t want the role.  In the conversation, I said I wanted to:

  • make a difference in the role I had,
  • do great work for the organization,
  • lead and develop the individuals on my team,
  • go home each night to be with my family,
  • be a good wife to my husband and mom to our kids.

What I didn’t include was that I wanted to follow God’s plan for my life, not my own plan and definitely not a plan someone else had for me.  And, while this role was intriguing, I felt it would pull me away from God’s purpose.

However, when I was told that I wasn’t supported, I felt my own PRIDE step in.  I was tempted.  I wanted to post for the role and prove to them why I was the best person for the role.  Why couldn’t they see my worth?  And, then it hit me.

I have been praying for God’s purpose for my life.  I knew this role would take me further away from finding it because my days would be filled with being excellent in this new role.  And, I would be seeking approval from people on this Earth as opposed to my Heaven Father who placed me here for a purpose.

So, where does that leave me now?

RIGHT WHERE I BELONG!  WANTING ONLY WHAT GOD WANTS!

I know I will be tempted.  I need to say “no” to myself.  I need to say “no” to my ego.  I need to say “no” to needing approval from those in the world, and say “yes” to only seeking guidance and approval from our Heavenly Father.   God has prepared us for this:

Here is a great song by Tenth Avenue North titled What You Want that helps me focus on God’s plans and not my own: Video Link


Heavenly Father,

I come to You today in thanksgiving.  I am so very thankful for all You have given us and for unanswered prayers.  I am thankful You have opened doors to help me build skills and talents to serve You, and You have closed doors that would pull me away from Your plans.  And, You have saved me from my temptations.

Father, I know You are always here with me and You will help me escape from my temptations.  Please continue to help me see You, feel You, and listen to You.  Please continue to help me overcome my focus on what the world thinks of me, and truly lift my eyes up only to You.  I know You have great plans for me, and for each person You have created.  I know You are providing the experiences to prepare me to step into that work.  And, that is where I need to focus.

Father, I love You!  I thank You!  I praise You!  And, I look forward to serving You in the very way you have designed me to do.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen!

Purpose: What kind of friend am I?

Lately, I have been giving a great deal of thought to my friendships.  Like most people, I have a variety of relationships. These relationships span from:

  • Those I share very little of my personal life or they share very little about theirs
  • Those who I share some, but am very guarded about how much I share
  • Those who listen, but share very little about themselves
  • Those who I share almost everything with, who know my innermost secrets, and I know theirs
  • And, my husband – who I can know say we share absolutely everything with each other!

As I pondered these relationships, I wondered…

What kind of friend am I?

  • Am I available for others?
  • When I am with friends, how much do I talk and how much do I listen?
  • Do I ask about their lives, or do I focus on my own problems?
  • When they have challenges, do I listen to them fully, or do I jump in quickly with advice?
  • Would others consider me a good friend?

So, then I started thinking about my truly great friends.  What makes them really amazing friends?

  • They are always available – day or night – no matter what
  • They listen…until it hurts!  And, as much as I talk, you can imagine how hard that is 🙂
  • They know everything about me.  They can reach back to previous experiences to help me with my current situation
  • There is no judgment – I can make the worst mistakes and they always help me see the way out of it
  • They help me see the greater plan – not just the situation I am in, but how the situation may help me in the future
  • They gently remind me that, while having a pity party today might be what I need, we are all placed on this Earth for a greater purpose

That brought me to my personal relationship with Jesus.  See, even though He is in Heaven, He is also right here with us each and every day.  And, when it comes to great friends, there is no greater friend than Jesus Christ.

  •  He is always there (Joshua 1:9)
  • He listens to everything…said and unsaid (1 John 5:14-15)
  • He knows everything about me.  He knit me in my mother’s womb (Ps 139:13), and have been with me ever since
  • He has forgiven all of my confessed sins (Eph 2:8-9)
  • He has placed me on this Earth for a specific purpose (Jer 29:11)
  • And, during the most difficult of circumstances, He helps me to see the greater picture and provides me His peace beyond understanding (Phil 4:6-7)

When I was in the hospital with Paul, I remember feeling so very close to Jesus.  I truly felt like I was sitting in His lap, wrapped up in His arms, and hearing His voice whispering in my ear…It will all be okay!


Why haven’t I felt that lately?

Sadly, the reason is that I haven’t been a great friend lately.  I have allowed the busyness of my day get in the way of nourishing my relationship with Jesus.  There is so very much going on, and I have filled each day with so many things that truly don’t matter.  What I truly need is to spend quiet time with Jesus.

There is a great song by Johnny Diaz, titled Breathe, that helps to describe the feeling I get during the day.  The pressure, the piling on of important tasks, the feeling of being overwhelmed, and then Jesus reminding us to Just Breathe:  Video Link

So, how I can I a better friend to Jesus?  He has already done more than His part!  Now, it is up to me…


Heavenly Father,

I come to You in Thanksgiving!  I thank You for all You have already done, and all You continue to do.  You have blessed our family with so very much, and You have helped me to see so many of them.  I know I have missed some of Your blessings, and I pray You help me to see them all.

Father, I am sorry that I have not been a great friend to You.  You have always been and continue to be an amazing friend.  You are always here for me.  You listen to everything I say (and to the thoughts in my head).  You help me to see beyond the current situation, to the possibilities for the future that You created (Jer 29:11).  

During my brightest times, I pray I always remember to thank You for Your blessings.  During my darkest times, I pray I always remember to thank You for Your guidance and Your peace beyond understanding.  

Father, please help me remember what is most important in life – my relationship with You!  Please help me put all other things into perspective, and not allow those things to get in the way of my dedication to our relationship.  Please help me be still (Ps 46:10) so I can hear your still small voice (1 Kings 19:12).  Help me to remember Your words:

Romans 12_2

Heavenly Father, I love You!  I thank You!  I praise You!  I will do my part to enhance our friendship, including my daily renewing of my mind through reading Your words and listening to Your plans.  This will help me discern Your will for my life, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom 12:2).

In Jesus’ Holy Name,

Amen!

 

 

Purpose: Hello, God. It’s me. It’s been a while…

Two years ago, when Paul was in the hospital, I felt closer to God than I did to people sitting in the same room with me.  It is difficult to explain that time.  Even though there were always people around, there was so much going on in my head and in my heart.  There were things that I couldn’t say…even to the people closest to me.  But, I knew I could tell God.  Well, He already knew everything I was thinking.

In the happiest of moments and the darkest of times, God was right there with me.  When my mind slipped to thinking of the worst outcome, He would gently move my thoughts to the positives, to the two steps forward, to walking out of the hospital hand-in-hand with Paul.  I would sit with Paul, looking at him in his hospital bed and looking at all the machines keeping him alive.  I was so very broken; yet, He kept me together.  He kept me focused on His work.  I may have been wrapped in a blanket, but it felt like I was wrapped in the arms of Jesus, holding me every moment, every breath.

Casting Crowns sings a beautiful song that can somewhat explain how that felt.  Here is a link to their video, Just Be Held:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIZitK6_IMQ


I remember feeling so very close to God at that time.  My eyes were on Him and Him alone.  Others would see Paul in that bed, but I would see the progress.  I saw God moving each and every moment to save him, to heal him, to bring him back to us.  I felt like I could hear Him talking with me, holding me in His arms and whispering in my ear,

“I have this.  Please don’t be afraid.  I know the outcome.  I know it’s scary.  Trust Me.  I have this.  He will overcome this.  Just breathe.”

So, what does that have to do with my purpose?


As Paul healed, I felt like I knew exactly what God wanted me to do next.  He had me writing down everything I could through the entire journey.  He ensured I had all the details that I certainly would have forgotten without His divine intervention.  He wanted me to write this story, His story.   And, as I did, I felt that same closeness.  I felt as if He was writing the story for me.

After I finished the book, I felt lost.

What was my next? 

What were His plans for me?

Within days, He seemed to provide an opportunity for me to do similar work to what I had been doing previously, but this time it was right down the street.  I was able to financially provide for our family, but now I could drive to work versus flying to another state 2-3 weeks every month.  I could do great work and be home every night with our family.  It seemed perfect.

Like usual, I dove right in.  I found myself engrossed in the work, the opportunity, the pressure and the performance.  There was a lot to learn and were even more opportunities for professional growth.  I was blessed to work with a great team of people and was responsible for their personal development, as well as the overall project successes.  While I was focused on building these new relationships, I neglected the most important relationship I have ever had – the one with Jesus.  As I did, that closeness I felt with Him seemed to disappear.

I feel it even now.  I have a great deal of conversations about Jesus.  People talk with me about Him or ask me to pray for them, and I do…immediately.  I have my prayer list written on our bedroom mirror alongside my favorite Bible verses.  Most mornings, before I leave for the day, I spend time looking in that mirror and praying for those listed and for others who I then add.  And, I have seen God working!

So, why do I feel so far away from Him?  Why do I feel like I am helping bring others closer, but I feel like I am slipping farther away?

It is because I am talking about Him, not with Him. 

And, when I do talk with Him, it is for the help of others.  I am asking Him to help me with words for others to help them see Him more clearly.  I am asking Him to heal others, to save others, and for others – to bring them into His Holy Kingdom.  While I have been helping others grow closer to Jesus, I have neglected to nourish my own, personal relationship with Him.

  • Talking with Jesus,
  • Asking for His guidance, and
  • Listening for His answers

are the only ways I will ever truly hear His voice sharing with me the plans He has for my life:

Jeremiah 29_11


Heavenly Father,

I come to You today in thanksgiving. You know all I have on my heart and all of the prayers I have for others.  I ask that You please hear those prayers today and answer them.  And, You know one specific prayer I have on my heart – please heal her!  Please God, I have seen You move mountains and part seas in the healing of Paul.  We need another miracle.  Please provide her Your peace as You guide the doctors and the treatments to heal her. 

Father, as I write these words, I see myself doing it again.  And, while I will always be others focused, I know You have plans for me.  I pray You help me to quiet my mind and the noise of the world around me so that I can focus only on You.  I long to feel that closeness again, to feel Your loving arms wrapped around me and to hear Your voice as clearly as I can hear my own. 

Father, I know You placed me on this Earth at this very time for a specific purpose.  I know You have great plans for me.  Why?  Because I know You have great plans for each one of Your children, and we are placed on this Earth for Your purpose.  Please Lord, help me quiet my mind so I can fully understand Your purpose.  And, please provide me the strength and courage to follow Your lead.

I love You!  I thank You!  I praise Your glorious name!  Your will, Your plan, Your time – not mine!

In Jesus’ most Holy Name,

Amen!

Purpose: Why would God choose me? I’m not worth it!

When thinking about God’s purpose for my life, I often find my mind wandering to – why me?  I mean, God did put each one of us on Earth for a purpose.  However, based on all the things that I have done – the mistakes I have made, and even worse, the bad decisions I have made – why would He still want to use me?  What could I possibly do to help Him?  There are so many other people more worthy of His love, His guidance and to fulfill His plans.

Now, I know that I shouldn’t feel this way.  As a mother, I cannot imagine my children doing anything that would lessen my love for them or my belief in them.  I would never want them to feel unworthy of my unconditional love and belief in them.  And, if I feel that way in my Earthly knowledge and love, just imagine how God must feel about each one of us.

  • He CREATED us
  • He picked out each part of us to make us one whole person (Psalms 139:13)
  • He specifically put us on Earth at this very time in history
  • He gave us specific talents to help fulfill His plans (1 Peter 4:10)

But, I have just done so many things that were not part of His plan.  I am ashamed of my past.  And honestly, I am ashamed of some of my current choices.  I do not feel worthy of His love, of His support, or of His forgiveness.

Do you ever feel that way?


One of the many reasons I love the Bible is because it helps us in all circumstances, and this is no different.  See, when Jesus was on Earth, he shared many parables about His love for all of His children – those who have followed Him from the beginning, and for those who were lost and then were found.  The Gospel of Luke, chapter fifteen, includes three such parables: The Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-7), The Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-10) & The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).  Here is a portion of one of them:

Luke 15:4-7 (ESV) – The Parable of the Lost Sheep

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’  Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”


So, when I find myself back in the grips of feeling unworthy, I remember these Bible stories.  I feel like God ensured they were added into the Bible for people like me, for times like these.  And, He didn’t just add one parable, He ensured several were in there to reinforce the point –

We can ALWAYS come home again!

Not only can we come home, He is waiting for us to come home.  He is right at the other side of the door just waiting for us to open it and jump into His arms.  He longs to celebrate our return home, our return to Him!

Matthew West has a great song titled “Grace Wins” that describes this struggle that I go through.  I love these lines in the chorus:

There’s a war between guilt and grace
And they’re fighting for a sacred space
But I’m living proof
Grace Wins Every Time!

Here is the link to the video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JXl1czvh7g

I do believe Grace Wins!  I believe that when we choose Him, He rejoices in Heaven – another lost sheep has found it’s way home.  And, I believe He cares that way about each and every one of us.  There is nothing we can do that could ever change His love for us!


God love us so very much, He gave His only Son so that we would have the opportunity to go to Heaven.  He chose us specifically to be here at this time in history.  He has given each of us unique talents to help fulfill His Holy plan.  And, Hebrews 13:21 reminds us:

God equips the called


Heavenly Father,

I come to You today in Thanksgiving!  I am so very thankful for Your unconditional love.  I am so very thankful that, when I come to You sincerely repenting of my sins and asking for Your forgiveness, You forgive me!  I am so very thankful You provided reassurance through The Bible parables; You rejoice when any one of us come back into Your Arms.  And, I am so very thankful for wonderful songwriters and authors whose messages point us back to The Bible, to Your words, and to Your promises.

Father, I prayerfully ask You to help me overcome my feelings of unworthiness.  I know You love me.  You love all of Your children. And, just as I would never want any one of my children to feel unworthy of my love, I know You do not want this for me – for any one of us.  Please open my eyes, my ears and my heart.  Please help me overcome my own self-doubt.  As I continue to seek Your purpose for my life, I know that I will need to overcome these feelings first.  

And, Father, I pray for each person reading this who has struggled or is struggling with similar feelings.  I pray that You please help each one of us as we overcome these feelings and see ourselves through Your eyes.  You have placed us here on Earth at this time.  You have a purpose for each one of us, and You have equipped us to achieve that purpose.  

I love You!  I thank You!  I praise You!

In Jesus’ Holy Name,

Amen!

Purpose: The Performance Review of My Life

I never realized that the Lenten season coincides with performance review time in many organizations. As I prepare to have conversations with both my leader and my team about 2016 performance, I am struck by the thought of a very different performance review – the performance review of my life.

See, at the end of the year, I spent time populating a document including all of the accomplishments for 2016.  In order to write a compelling performance review, I spent a great deal of time reflecting on each and every project I participated in. I thought about the project as a whole, my specific activities, the overall results, and any of my specific actions leading to positive outcomes. After this reflection time, I carefully crafted a performance review of my accomplishments and gave myself a grade.

Here is why that gave me pause – I took so much time and care drafting this document for my employer on the work completed in 2016, and I have done a similar exercise nearly every year for the past 18 years.

How much time have I spent on the performance review of my life?

These annual reviews for work provide documentation to support a merit increase and possibly a bonus check. The performance review of my life determines my eternal resting place!

When it comes to a performance review at work, I know what my goals are and what good performance looks like.

What about my performance in God’s eyes?

Before I continue, I do need to add one thing, The Bible is very clear on salvation:


John 3:16 (ESV):  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

However, according to

James 2:24 (ESV): You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone


With all that in mind, if I were to start writing the performance review of my life thus far, it would look something like this:

  • Belief:  I believe in Jesus Christ.  I believe He is the Son of God.
  • Faith:  I have faith that by believing in Jesus Christ, repenting of my sins and choosing to follow Him, I have received salvation.
  • Purpose:  I am still seeking the answer to God’s specific purpose for my life.
  • Works:  While I know I have done some good things, I am still not sure they are the right things.  And, regardless, I know I can do more.
    • I can give more time.  
    • I can share more of my God-given talents.  
    • I can be more generous.

This Lenten season, instead of focusing on “what I will give up”, I will instead focus on “what I will do differently” to draw closer to God.   I commit to:

  • Rejoicing in all circumstances and realizing that God has great plans for me
  • Praying continually for God’s Divine Guidance
  • Giving sincere thanks for all of God’s everyday miracles – both those seen and unseen

1 Thessalonians 5 16_18


Heavenly Father,

I come to you today in thanksgiving.  These past few days have been very clear reminders of the everyday miracles You continue to provide.  From Paul’s miraculous recovery (2/28/15), to my new job (2/29/16), to Paul’s mom’s successful surgery (2/27/17), You help us focus on what is good and rejoice…even in some of the most difficult trials.  

Father, this Lenten season, I commit to taking more deliberate time to be in conversation with You.  I ask You help me to see Your will, Your plans, Your time.  I ask that You help me discern Your plans from my own.  I know I cannot serve two masters – and I choose You.

And Father, I know so many who are suffering right now.  I pray they can see You the way I saw You when Paul was sick.  I pray they can feel Your loving arms wrapped around them and know they are never alone.  And, I pray they openly receive Your peace beyond understanding as they process all that has happened and walk down these uncharted paths.

I love You, I thank You, I praise You!

In Jesus’ holy name,

Amen