Thursday, June 19, 2014

Be A Cowgirl (A Guest Post)




Be a cowgirl
There was a period in my life that I was a cowgirl. Well, a wanna-be cowgirl anyway. Pictures from that long ago era embarrassingly reveal my living room decorated with a fully decked out saddle horse and gun holster with me in all my glory wearing a long denim skirt and cowboy boots. No kidding. Truly a sight to behold. My “Little House on the Prairie” days were inspired by visiting a working ranch in Colorado and watching real cowboys ride and lasso calves. The calves would be running full speed until that rope captured them and brought them down under the control of the wrangler.

My blonde little brain can run faster than any calf hands down. Did you know that research states that people have 12,000 - 50,000 thoughts every day? The overachiever that I am, I imagine I'm on the higher end of that scale and it's exhausting some times. I have a tendency to get caught up and carried away by them, keeping me quite entertained for hours. Depending on what I'm thinking about they can either make me happy, anxious, angry or content.

Have you heard the Proverb, “Be careful what you think because your thoughts run your life.”?
Sarah Young, in Jesus Calling writes, “Keep your focus on me. I have gifted you with amazing freedom, including the ability to choose the focal point of your mind. Let the goal of this day be to bring every thought captive to me. Whenever your mind wanders, lasso those thoughts and bring them into my Presence. In My radiant light, anxious thoughts shrink and shrivel away. Judgmental thoughts are unmasked as you bask in my unconditional Love. Confused ideas are untangled while you rest in the simplicity of my Peace.”

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God ’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God ! Run from evil! (Proverbs 3:5-7 MSG)
Today, I will practice lassoing my thoughts, capturing them and refocus on listening to his voice of Peace.
“Capture every thought, make it give up and obey Christ.” 2 Cor 10:5
The above devotional was written by my sister Robin. I wanted to share her wisdom on lassoing our thoughts. Hope you enjoy.
Blessings
Jill


Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

God Can Use ANYTHING

Repurposing  


An old trampoline turned into a cute little hide out. An old car turned into a beautiful and unique garden. Old dryer lint turned into fire starters. What do all of these things have in common? They have been repurposed.











My sister Robin and I have been talking recently about this journey called life. Robin is a wise woman. She's also smart and really really funny, along with cute and being a blonde.  If I didn't love her I would hate her for having the perfect body. That girl can eat 3 chocolate covered almonds a day to cure the chocolate craving. Seriously, who can eat three of anything that has chocolate in it? Not me which is why I don't have the perfect body!

Anyway, Robin and I have been chatting and we talked about what life lessons we hold dear. This is her mantra," I'm grateful for every minute of my past because it reminds me that He reclaimed it, redeem it, and is now re-purposing it for HIS glory! He is doing that for you too and I am blessed and privileged to be a witness to your re-purposing. YOU and "IT" is a beautiful thing to behold." 

So the question becomes how do we reclaim, redeem and now repurpose the "stuff" that gets thrown our way? 

Let's start with reclaiming our past. How in the world do we do that? Now for those of you who had idyllic childhoods this next part is not for you. I honor you and call you blessed who had that childhood. For the rest of us, how do we take the past and reclaim it?

I am reminded of the Apostle Paul. He was so sure he was right in persecuting the Christians. He thought he was honoring God by rounding them all up and having them either thrown in prison or killing them. He was so sure he was right when in fact, he was dead wrong. He killed God's people including Stephen.

But God had a plan for Paul's life. He would take Paul's life and reclaim it for His purposes. He struck him down on the road to Damascus to get his attention. Paul spent the next three days blind both physically and spiritually. God took his life and turned it upside down. God directed him in making a 180 degree turn. 

Paul could have been so overwhelmed with grief over the deaths he had caused that he would have been rendered useless for the kingdom if he hadn't reclaimed his past. Listen to what he says later in his journey with God. 

"Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus as made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do; forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize o the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" Philippians 3:12-13


In this journey we call life, we can rest in the fact that God can use anything to help mold and shape us. He did that with Paul and he can do it with you and I. What are you struggling with today my sweet friend? What holds you down and holds you back from your past? God can use the uglies in your past for his good purposes. Like the old rusty car in the picture above that is filled with beautiful flowers, God can use our broken down lives and make something beautiful.

Join me today as I learn anew how to repurpose my life.

In Christ Alone,
Jill



Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Gratituesday A Picture








Pictures are worth a thousand words. It is very rare that my husband and I are in a picture together. He is usually the one behind the camera, which he would prefer. This past Sunday we celebrated Father's Day at his folks new home. They are in the process of moving from Tennessee to Michigan. So a camera came out while we were sitting together and presto, a picture of the two of us.

We are actually going to be celebrating our anniversary soon and I was thinking perhaps we could get a professional picture taken. For now this will do. I love my husband. He is the strongest man I know. He has endured horrific pain 24/7 and he still loves and serves God.

Pictures are truly worth a thousand words and today I am thankful for this snapshot of us.

Blessings to you today. I would love to know what you are thankful for.




Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Where Is God?




The question gets asked a lot, where is God when bad things happen? If you have ever experienced a loss that makes you drop to your knees then you have wondered about God and where he is. Is he going to show up? Can he hear my pleading for help? Does he care?  Am I just wasting my time? Those are all honest questions to a gut wrenching loss.

In the news there have been senseless shootings lately. For some reason it seems there have been quite a few the past few weeks. A child goes off to school and the unthinkable happens. They never walk back through their doors again.  What about the Dad who kisses his wife and kiddos good-bye and dies on the way to work? What about the parents that get terrible news at the birth of their child and as the weeks go by they endure the long good-bye?

Terrible things happen every single day whether we are touched by it or not. There are so many people who are walking around grieving that we have no clue about.  It may be the loss of their marriage or the loss of a dear friend. Where is God? Will he show up for me and will he show up for you?

I don't know why my life has been littered with loss. Most people don't ever have to bury one child let alone two. Most people get to know their Mother's at least long enough to remember them. I remember when Rich and I started our family. I begged God to allow me to live long enough that each of our children would remember me. I didn't want them to go through what I did. Thankfully God has honored that long ago request. I have now lived long enough that at least some of my grandchildren would remember me if I were to leave this earth right now.

Loss can either eat you alive or force you to grow beyond what you think possible. Did you know that the divorce rate for those couples who have lost a child is double what the divorce is for regular couples? Why do you think that is? The stress and strain of grief can be overwhelming. It can tear a couple apart instead of building a relationship stronger.

We as Americans don't really talk about grief much. In fact, we as a community are terrible at walking with grieving people. I remember a woman from our church came up to me about 2 months after our son David died. She wanted to know if I was ever going to smile again! Are you kidding me? Two months after the loss of a child only gets you to the point where you can breathe without willing yourself to do it, and that's only on a "good" day.

People can say stupid things without meaning to. I remember being told that God wanted another angel so he had to come down and take our daughter Celeste. I also was told by someone (all church members) that God said that all things work for good so our precious baby dying was good in God's eyes. Now I don't know about you but this is crazy talk. If God wanted another angel he didn't have to come down and take our daughter. He could have willed in his mind another angel and presto there another angel would be! What is good about a child dying? So it takes me back to my original question, Where was God, did he care? Why did it seem like he didn't show up?

Our lives can take turns in the blink of an eye. I am just one of many who blinked their eyes and their world turned upside down.  So what do I know?

I know that God loves me. Not just the kind of love that is a meaningless word. I know down in the very core of my soul that God grieves with me and loves me. I know that God loves every single Mama and Daddy that will go to bed tonight with a broken heart. I know that all the children around the world who will go to bed tonight without a parent are grieved over by God.

God did and does show up. He has NOT left his children as orphans. It may seem that way sometimes but that is just a lie from the pit of HELL. Every moment there is a battle for the souls of each and everyone of us. Satan is alive and well today. He wants nothing more than for those of us who are grieving to turn our backs and walk away. I am here to say I will NOT walk away.

There are many important lessons I have learned along the way. I cling to a favorite scripture of mine found in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
"Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."

I have seen this verse come to life recently in my own life. Nothing that happens to us is wasted, nothing. We can take the lessons we learn and turn around and help someone else. We understand what it feels like when we experience _____________ you fill in the blank. When God shows up, and he will show up in his own time then there are  lessons we learn. I don't claim to have all the answers. These are all really hard questions. I know the journey I have been on and I know the lessons that I have gleaned from them but there are not easy answers. If someone spouts easy answers to you then don't listen. They probably have no clue what they are talking about!

That is my challenge for you today. If you are reading this and you have suffered a loss that God has comforted you in then reach out to someone else and comfort them. And if you have suffered a terrible loss and need someone to walk with you then please reach out. There are people who won't say stupid stuff and there are people who won't offer you easy answers but they will walk beside you. What ever the need is I am living proof that there is hope. Hang on to that hope till God shows up.

Blessings for the journey.




Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Gratituesday





People are more important than any fancy house, big bank account or snappy car can ever be. I am working really hard to not be a pit dweller right now. If it were not for my real friends and family that support me I would be sitting in a padded room drooling.

Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration but you get the point. It is the people in our lives who nourish us and encourage us to be better than we are. Rich and I had the privilege to travel for the first 22 years of our marriage all over the country and overseas. In almost every place I was blessed with a kindred spirit. Those special people who can be away for years and yet pick up right where we left off.

My birthday rolled around this past week. I have hated my birthday since the day I turned 16. Guess how I celebrated my 16th? A swim teacher made me a cake and sang me happy birthday. That was it. How pathetic is having a birthday cake made by someone other than your family. The message I got, you are not worth a drop and therefore celebrating your birthday is not important.

I remember when I met my future in-laws, they wanted to know when my birthday was. I wouldn't tell them. The thought of going through that all over again was just too stinking painful.  Now I love celebrating other peoples birthdays. I try and make my children and grandchildren feel special along of course with my husband. I don't do it perfectly but they know they are loved and cherished. I don't like missing any of my family's birthdays.

So what does a potential pit dweller do about her birthday? She goes to her precious grandchildren who love me know matter what I do in life. They hug me and kiss me and tell me happy birthday. They even sing to me and help me blow out all those candles.

So what is important? What can I be thankful for today? For the people in my life who love me and encourage me to be better than I am. When I would rather curl in a ball they encourage me to come out and play!

What are you thankful for today? I would love to know.

Blessings
Jill




Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".

Monday, June 9, 2014

I Am Not A Quitter


I do some of my best thinking underwater. I am a swimmer and have been since as long as I can remember. Under water I feel safe and secure. Perhaps it has to do with being in my mother's womb. Sounds kind of crazy I know but it feels safe and comforting under the water.

The past 9 months have been some of the toughest I have experienced. I faced things I never dreamed of. I experienced difficult relationships that challenged everything I thought about who I am. I have questioned God like never before.

Grief has become my middle name. I can remember some years ago saying that I never wanted my life to be defined by loss. I have known bone numbing grief since a small child. Grief can rob you of your joy faster than anything.

I stopped writing thinking that I had nothing to offer. I am a perfectionist by trade. It's not that I am not honest in my writing because I think I am. It's the energy it takes to write things down on paper that has been beyond my scope of things to do. So my writing has just sat.

In March we passed the 5 year mark on my husband's illness. We have had many ups and downs. In the five years we have added more symptoms and more diagnosis. His newest is rheumatoid arthritis pretty much in most parts of his body. More medicine, more tests and more pain. It's the pain that I hate, it is the enemy in my thinking. Yes, we may get an hour or two that actually seems like life could be normal again and then BAM, it evaporates as quick as the rain on a hot day.

All the hope vanishes just as quickly. All the dreams we had of ministering together in a small congregation now that the boys are grown and gone have disappeared. Are there people worse off? Absolutely and I get that. But for my husband and I of almost 37 years our reality is quite different then we ever imagined. It's a grieving process.

Loss, loss again.  How to you function when grief comes knocking at your door once again? Do you curl up in a ball, which sounds like a great idea to me at this point or do you transcend the grief? It would be so easy to quit. Life is hard. Life is not what I had imagined or anything even close to it.

Those are the thoughts I had the other day as I swam lap after lap. Typically when I am about at lap 30 I think it might be time to wrap it up and be happy with two-thirds of a mile. It is in those moments when I realize I am NOT a quitter. I don't stop the workout at almost a mile, I go the distance.

I remember the time my brother came with me to ride my first 100 mile bike ride. The temperature in St. Louis that day was 106 degrees and about 95% humidity. At mile 90 I just wanted to quit. By that point I hated my bike and anything to do with it. I questioned my sanity. The ground was so hot that day the tar roads were melting onto my tires. I wanted to take that bike and throw it as far as I could and walk away. But I didn't because I am NOT a quitter.

I refuse to quit. No matter what life throws at me and right now there is a lot I am not going to quit. I will not give up before I get to the finish line. It would be so easy to quit right now but I won't. I finished that mile in the pool. I swam and I swam and didn't give up.

Here is the verse that I am holding onto today. As context, Jesus has been talking to his apostles. It is the last things he is telling them before he goes to the cross. The apostles are not only afraid but bewildered. They don't know what to do or where they should go. So here is the verse;

John 16:33 "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."

Till next time.




Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My Small Group Gratituesday





Good morning everyone. Once again Tuesday has rolled around. A day to stop and count our blessings. It's interesting, my blog was never intended to just be about Gratituesday. The past few months it has turned into that and I intend to change. This ties into what I am thankful for.

I have found myself wandering in a desert the past few months. Ever since I got back from Haiti I haven't gotten my bearings. My apprenticeship has been rough since getting back. I have been gone from the body of believers so many Sundays and Wednesday night services I feel like a visitor.

My small group that I am a part of hasn't seen me much either. So many changes in life right now. SO many decisions to make about the future. I have found myself eating more and praying less. It's been five months since I got back and at times I have felt like I am disappearing.

Thankfully the other night I was able to go back to my small group. What a blessing it was. I have truly missed being a part of the group. During prayer time I shared my struggles in several areas of my life and once again I was reminded why fellowship is so important.

I have walled myself off from those who are most important to me. The stress of the apprenticeship and the long hours have taken a toll on my mind and my body.  Today I am so grateful for a group of people in my life who keep the heart and arms open for me.

For this group of believers I am thankful. What about you? What are you grateful for today? I would love for you to share with me.
In Christ Alone,
Jill



Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".