Pressure

We bought an old mirror for about 8 dollars at a thrift store. I securely attached it to the wall, adjusted the placement (twice actually) and a few nights later we had heard a noise but didn’t realize what it was.

The pipes in the walls shake a bit as evident by some sounds, and perhaps also I installed it with some uneven pressure.

Maybe it was both. Don’t know.

Either way the next morning this is what we found.

It was broken.
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This broken mirror happened during some of the most intense pressure in our lives EVER. We have been walking through fire.

There has been judgment without conversation, hate without understanding, gossip without much thought of damage, and yet in the middle of it all God has been providing blessing after blessing in ways we can’t even explain (we pray to some day share in writing.) We will choose to praise Him.

Sometimes it’s not about what happened or an event in life that is the actual heaviest part that threatens to break you.

But the weight of the heavy judgment

from almost everyone –

or sometimes even from just one person – can be SO heavy.

Lay it down. You don’t have to carry this weight.

It’s sad that this is even a thing because the truth is people don’t have to be mad or mean to each other because I will stand before God for my choices and you will stand before Him for yours. This includes the way we treat ourselves and others. Perhaps life is a lot about learning to become more healthy and help other people heal too.

 

AS IF my kids and I had needed a visual aid, this cracked mirror happened right on cue.

Sometimes pressures ON you

(possibly some self-inflicted pressures – in the view of eternity,)

IN you

(stuff you don’t take captive and make obedient to Christ,)

and AROUND you

(happen to you and some have nothing to do with your choices but rather choices that have been made for you,)

in life will either break you and produce curses from your mouth

or refine you and produce praises from your mouth.

It’s so cool (and by Design) that nobody or no thing that happens has the power to take this away from you.

The choice

has always been

and

will always be

only

yours.

 

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And some day, when a homeless teenager looks into my eyes

Yesterday I stood on the edge of the Washington pier just looking at the water.

A big boat that said “Alaska Ferry” was just a few feet in front of me.

Every once in a while,

like for one moment every few months,

I experience an “I may throw up now because this is so much bigger than my whole life and what in the world am I doing?” moment.

Yesterday was one of those.

(I’m good now.)

About 7 years ago, God placed these words in my head, “YOU ARE MOVING.”

I’d love to tell you that I listened and obeyed that day…

but… not so much.

The thing is… I think we all have a bigger Calling than we realize and many times we miss it because we’re doing stuff WE want to do instead of waiting on The Lord and asking Him what HIS plans are for our lives.

It’s not that He can’t eventually help His plans work out for His Glory but choosing to really follow Him is a choice we each have to make for ourselves. The whole “die to ourselves thing” and “follow Him” are real, every day choices.

And that includes giving Him our time.

And I’m not talkin’ about just going around doing good things for people. That’s cool and there are many benefits to that but I’m talking about ASKING God to guide us.

If a coach stands on the sidelines and we don’t constantly ask for his help or listen to His coaching… what’s THAT about?!

Pray without ceasing.  Try this.  Pray to God all through the day and at night any time you wake up.  Prayer unlocks things that no other key can open.  (I know this because there were many weeks and years of my life that I didn’t pray much at ALL.)

The Alaska Ferry is HUGE.

I don’t even know what is across that water waiting for me.

But God put this fire in my heart and the pull is so strong that I am lookin’ like a fool, following Him – a thousand miles away from my comfort zone.

As I stood there, I wondered about people talked about in The Bible and when God showed them something bigger than themselves.

I thought about how a person felt when nobody else knew yet what God’s plan was.

I thought about the people watching Noah build that ark.

I thought about Mary who knew Jesus was in her belly but how silly did she sound when she told anyone else?

I thought about Joseph and that he didn’t believe her.  He didn’t believe so much that he was going to quietly divorce her.

Can you IMAGINE the loneliness Mary must have felt just then?

I thought about David going to face Goliath.

Was he afraid?

The very Power of God was in those rocks as David took down Goliath.

And THAT Power is with us today.

Jesus said The Holy Spirit is with us to guide us.

What does that look like today in 2016?  How does God “Call” us?

When someone tells you he or she feels called by God, who is to say it’s not truth?

God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

I know that until God did this work in me, while I did believe He COULD do this kind of thing, I had never experienced it for myself before.

So I can understand why some people would wonder if He really does still work in our lives like that.

He does.

Following Him is lonely.  But it’s worth it.

The Alaska Ferry costs $8,000 to $9,000 for our family of 4, the truck, and our camper trailer to go from Washington to Alaska.

God does not need money to accomplish what He wants to do.

WE may feel limited by money or other resources but God is not limited.

I cannot limit Him.

And it’s not even that.

I mean, it’s not even just the ferry getting us TO Alaska.  It’s after we’re there, then what?  God is MORE than capable of leading and providing land, help, money, people, and everything needed to do this work He’s put on our hearts.

The actual homeless camp or whatever it will be probably will cost millions of dollars.

And THAT reality makes the ferry tickets seem insignificant in comparison.

I don’t know HOW He’s doing this.

If I could SEE how, would that be called faith?

I cannot SEE how this homeless teen place can happen but He’s given me assurance that He’s doing this work with our family so we will keep praying and keep walking in faith as He leads.

And some day, when a homeless teenager looks into my eyes asking for some reason to live, and wondering if anyone loves her, I will read this blog post to her and tell her God put her in my heart before I ever met her.  And somehow He will make it all enough.

And I will tell her I almost threw up yesterday standing by the water wondering how God will finish this work He’s started in me.

I will tell her how God moved mountains and turned our lives upside down just to move our family to celebrate her life.

I will tell her I’m sorry I wasted time not understanding that SHE was why God’s message of “YOU ARE MOVING” was so important to listen to.

She needed a safe place to stay and people who would care what happens to her.

I will pray with her and hold her hand while we ask for God to lead her life and show her His plans for her.

And I will praise Him there, living more than a thousand miles away from my comfort zone (maybe almost throwing up.)

 

“Unplanned Pregnancy” is not in God’s vocabulary.

Psalm 139:13  For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Parenthood is a Calling.

Some people turn it down.

Some people turn it down many times. Please stop.

God can and does forgive. He’s very good at it. Talk to Him. He’s listening right now. He takes all the broken pieces of our lives and creates something altogether beautiful. It’s what He does. Stop hiding and start living again. HE ADORES YOU. You cannot confess ANYTHING that would make Him love you less.

I was moved to write this because I’ve seen how abortion does more than kill ONE life. It ALWAYS kills more than one life. Being alive but walking through life ~> dead <~ is not living how God intended us to live. Life is a gift from God. EVERY life is a gift from God. God wants every person to have an exuberant life.

John 10:10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

We have a desire to be with God. Because of this, when we do something sinful, it makes us want to hide just like Adam and Eve hid in the Garden of Eden.

But somebody needs YOU. Get up. Get up. Please get up.

Somebody else may be going through the very same decisions and thoughts you went through and you may be the very right person God wants to use to help them. Ask Him for courage. He’s got you. He’ll show you when to share your story.

When we talk about stuff that’s happened in our lives sometimes people get defensive.

WHY?

It’s NOT about YOU. Well, wait. Kind of, it IS about you because satan is AFRAID of what YOU can become. But it’s NOT about you because sin is designed to trick you, steal from you, and keep you isolated; sometimes just isolated in your own mind because you never talk about things you need to talk about so that you can be free. (And this applies in ALL areas of our lives; not just about abortion.)

Make NO mistake.

Holding secrets makes you grouchy. (Any secrets. Again, this applies to WAY more than abortion.)

Like, every day grouchy and even if people don’t know WHY you’re grouchy they still sense something is very broken. We CRAVE freedom from the prisons we get trapped in. When we’re stuck in hell on Earth, we don’t have peace.

Please hear this now.

It’s about what satan did TO YOU. That enemy is so very clever and custom designs traps to enslave us FOREVER. Whether you chose to kill your baby or someone talked you into it, it’s a lie and is not “an easy way out” AT ALL. And sometimes people take a sin and never bring it to light SO THAT it can be forgiven and redeemed. There is freedom in confession. There is freedom when the chains that hold us are broken by Jesus’ Blood.

Yes. We have choices we make every day and we are to be held accountable for everything; even the words we speak. BUT what satan wants, and unfortunately many times he gets, is to knock us down and KEEP US DOWN.

Sometimes people need to find a better way to talk with others about sin and I find it’s best to confess our sins to someone else before trying to help someone else with theirs. That whole take the plank out of our own eyes before pointing out the splinter in someone else’s… Yeah THAT one.

BE KIND when dealing with other humans or they tend to shut you out!

Matthew 7:3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

When you feel loved by someone and have a relationship with them it’s easier to be heard and we MUST speak in love and not in condemnation to each other.

When we talk about this sin specifically, people often say, “You’re making me feel guilty.” (Actually I can’t MAKE you feel ANY way. But I get what this is saying.)

Good.

Guilt is a GOOD thing. Guilt shows your conscience is working and the Holy Spirit is tugging at your heart to bring you back where you belong.

Guilt is not bad.

ABSENCE of guilt is bad.

God loves you so very much. He forgives. He saw that we would mess up in this life and He loves us SO MUCH that He sent His ONLY Son to redeem us and bring us back to Him.

Now, please, YOU forgive you and ask Him what He wants you to do with your life because He had a plan for you when He knit YOU together in YOUR mother’s womb.

READ THIS AGAIN: God already loves you so very much. He ALWAYS has. Talk to Him.

I’m very sorry when well-meaning people take murder and make it into a sin worse than other sins. Sometimes people may not articulate well that we are all sinners.

ALL sins nailed Jesus to the Cross. We EACH held a hammer.

And Jesus didn’t set us free so that we can keep doing the same sins over and over again. He paid the Ultimate Price SO THAT we can be free from the sins that try to keep us from living.

God takes our broken stuff and makes it into a ministry. Ask Him what He will do with you. He has a plan for YOU and when He “knitted you together” He knitted His plans for you into you and many times, the very thing that held us down is the VERY thing that God uses to pick us up and help others.

 

Automatically we were signed up for war.

We were born into a battle. It’s not like we had a choice to sign up for war or anything but the moment we were conceived we were in this broken world and automatically we were signed up for war. It doesn’t matter if we consent to it or not. There is a war going on all around us every day between good and evil.

But before we were even conceived in our mothers’ wombs, God ALREADY had a plan for EACH of us. It’s like… impossible to even wrap my head around this but that doesn’t make it any less true.

When someone signs up for military in this world, we EXPECT he or she will go through tests, training, pain, and we KNOW to expect all of this. When military people complain and cry or whine, it’s kinda like people lose respect for them.

But the training is really hard and it’s okay to be sad and to cry. It’s not weak to cry. It’s healing.

In life, we sometimes have forgotten that we are automatically entered into a battle and God wants to train us, He will test our faith, and use the pain we go through for something bigger than ourselves. And OH how we do go through pain!

The training is really hard and it’s okay to be sad and to cry and to grieve and there is no rhyme or reason to it. It’s chaos. Know why?

There is an enemy. And this enemy is satan. Sin is real and satan designs custom-made traps for each of us. It’s not like we mean to fall into them but it’s seductive and we are human.

Traps look different for everyone. It’s nothing to laugh about and we all need help breaking the chains that hold us in prison. It could be that we fell into a sin like pornography or drugs or chasing money or even we could have faced the death of a child or a divorce and these can knock you down like for what feels like an eternity.

You matter. Your story matters. All of it. How you feel about it matters and the most important thing is what you do with it. You can hide it or let the enemy keep you down – and he’s GOOD at it because that’s what satan does – or you can stand back up and ask God to cover you and send the Holy Spirit with you everywhere you go and keep giving you His strength and leading you to know what He wants to do with your story.

We each have a choice to follow Him or not. Nobody can make this choice for you EXCEPT FOR YOU. Nobody.

And we will each stand before God on Judgment Day – by ourselves – and we are accountable for how we lived.

God did not expect perfection from us.

If He did there would have been no reason for Jesus to die taking our sins on the cross. But Jesus did die and Jesus did get down off that cross and that tomb could not hold him!  God sent Jesus to redeem us which if you think about it, if He expected us to be perfect, there would be no need for this.  We’re not perfect and that’s okay.  This is why Jesus is perfect.

I know stuff happened. I know someone has hurt you. I know people betrayed you. I know you have faced unbearable pain that nobody can fully understand because every situation is different. Get up anyway. Don’t let the enemy win. Please, please get up. God has such plans for your life and when you keep asking Him what He wants you to do every day, He will keep leading you and ALL the experiences you’ve been through in life will make more sense and all your talents and gifts will make sense and life becomes better (not necessarily easier but better.)

God loves you SO very much.  Talk with Him.  He’s listening.

You want to make this a fight of flesh and blood. But it’s not. It’s spiritual with the powers of darkness.
The enemy is AFRAID of what YOU can truly become. – the movie King’s Faith

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

Dear Daughters, I’ve noticed.

An Open Letter to My Daughters.

I hear the way you pray over your days, friends, enemies, and choices. I see how you love others and want good things for them. I see when someone hurts your feelings and hear you pray for blessings for them and for God to heal you and use your pain.

I just want you to know that I’ve noticed.

You know where your strength comes from and you keep sharing that it’s from Jesus when anyone asks what is different about you and sometimes even when they don’t ask. You are warriors for Christ and with the Holy Spirit’s Power, you are doing great things every day.

I’ve noticed.

It’s absolutely beautiful to see how you face trials and adversity and you don’t retaliate. You could be angry. You could try to get even. You could wish bad things on people who have hurt you.

But you just don’t.

You can know for certain that I notice.

I see you forgive but not necessarily forget because as God uses experiences He’s brought you through, He reminds you of the passion behind your drive to love others.  You have understanding beyond your years.

God has taught me a lot through allowing me to be your mom. Being a kid in 2015 is tough (probably way tougher than when I was a kid.) You are learning to walk in grace and beauty that can only come from Jesus. I see His peace covering you.

You are world changers.

I’ve prayed over your whole lives, marriage, school, work, friends, enemies, and faith. I don’t have all the answers (and that’s okay.) Together we will always ask the Guy who does. Please come talk to me and Daddy when you make mistakes. (We were kids too and we made plenty of mistakes too.)  It’s okay to cry. God made tears and crying helps people heal.

I just wanted to be sure you hear that I notice you girls developing your own faith in Jesus and it’s beautiful to have a front row seat to this work He’s doing in your lives.

You are surely storing up treasures in Heaven and THAT means everything. These are the treasures that will last forever.

I love you.  Love, Mommy

~

Here is a prayer I wrote when you were little. I think it was around 2a.m. once as you slept while I was unpacking at a new house. I wrote it under your art desk. Whether the desk stays with you or not, the prayer and blessings will follow you no matter what.

Dear God,
Bless my children this night and from now on as they sit at this desk and help me always see their individual talents and encourage them for You. This night as I carefully set up all their art things in our new house keep them safe always.

Let me always remember the goal is Heaven no matter what comes in their lives and use me to help them see You. Through friendships and boyfriends and broken hearts let them look to You.

Let them have peace that You have a plan for each of their lives and not get sidetracked by the world.

Protect their minds and eyes and ears and bodies. Please keep them from harm.

Let me listen to them and remember that this time is for a season and not a lifetime. The dishes can always be done later. Lord, help me just learn to enjoy play time with my children and not organize anything. Just play!

I pray again this night for their husbands and their Christianity that they always look to You and are gentlemen to my girls You gave me. I cannot imagine anyone ever loving them like You and I do. Will they wipe their tears? Will they listen when my babies speak?

Oh, God, take care of my precious children in Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

You are NOT damaged goods! YOU are worthwhile!

What if, instead of a one night stand, we call it what it really is?

Instead of a pick up line what if someone had to ask the “real” underlying questions?

Would this change anything?

“Hey, you’re cute. I’m feeling selfish. I know God gave you a beautiful gift and it’s not really for me but I’d like to take some of what He wants you to save for your husband.

Would you please lower your standards and let me tear off a piece of your beautiful wrapping paper? You could just lie to your future husband or act like nothing ever happened with me.

I’m lonely tonight and you don’t even know your husband yet so how about you give some of HIS treasure to ME?”

OR maybe it goes like this:

“Heeyy. What’s up? I’d like to give you some of what is supposed to be my wife’s some day.

I know you’re not my wife but since she’s not here yet, she probably won’t care. I’ll tell her she’s so special later, “blah blah blah…” but I’ll make it sound more meaningful than that, of course. Honestly, you don’t mean enough to me to mention you to my future wife anyway.

Right now, today, you’re the ONLY one I want. But tomorrow, who knows?!

I’d like to steal from your husband and yeah, I know that one day you’ll wish we didn’t do this (and I will too.)  So whatdaya think? Want to?!”

 

There is not enough cologne or make-up to make this be anything other than what it is.

What if we did think about this for what it really is?

I did NOT know I had value. I honestly did not understand that even though my innocence was stolen when I was 9, I STILL had value. Throughout my life, some stole from me and some I gave away; truly not having any understanding that I mattered. That old devil is clever and designs custom-made traps for each of us.

But I wouldn’t change my past because everything in my life has brought me to this place where I will spend the rest of my time telling you that YOU MATTER.

~~~> If people stole some of your beautiful gift OR even if you voluntarily gave it away, you are NOT damaged goods! YOU are worthwhile! <~~~

Check this out.

Recently we replaced the broken face on a phone. About 2 weeks later we noticed it was cracked again. We took it and paid for a new protective cover for the broken phone.

When the guy walked to the counter with the phone, it went like this, “We have never put a cover on an already cracked phone before.”

Just because the phone has a broken part does not mean we want to trash the rest of it.

We want to cover it with protection so that it does not get more broken.

Just like when we mess up, we don’t want to KEEP messing up and making bad choices.  We want to “cover” our lives in prayer and protection.

When we are in a car wreck and the bumper is crushed and the tire busted, we don’t smash out the windows and slash the other tires.

We don’t hope for another wreck.

We try to avoid more damage to the car.

Purity is beautiful. YOU are beautiful.

All of your story matters. And God will take all the broken pieces and make them into something worth sharing. It’s called your testimony. And it’s really important.

When you see people giving themselves away, it’s very likely that they do not know their worth in Christ yet. Saying a prayer for God to show them their worth in Him can help change the world.

[Note: I wrote this as if a guy is speaking to a girl (or a girl to a guy) but if you’re having a sexual relationship with someone of the same gender, I’m here to tell you that you matter and you STILL are giving away (or people are stealing) something that does NOT belong to them. You don’t have to prove something.

Please don’t let people treat you as if you are less than the beautiful person you are.]

[Note 2: This story can be read as a woman speaking or a man speaking pick up lines.

The value is the same. It does not change. We ALL matter. And we are not supposed to be using each other because God has a better plan.

When we understand the reasons WHY to (or not to) do something, it makes a whole lot more sense than just telling someone to (or not to) do it.]

[Important: THIS is not FOR or AGAINST political stuff.

A sin is a sin. I’m not going to argue with people about what sin is. Our conscience shows us that. Usually when we are healthy we realize something is a sin and we hide it (like Adam and Eve hid in the Garden of Eden) or we may even become belligerent about it, trying to justify it to people. The Holy Spirit will convict our hearts to show us what is better for us and when He does this, we want Him to lead us more. When we know better, we do better.

God made sex. And He made it to be a beautiful part of a relationship. We messed it up.

But just because it’s been messed up, doesn’t mean to KEEP messing it up.

Purity is beautiful.]

You are NOT damaged goods! YOU are worthwhile!

You are NOT damaged goods! YOU are worthwhile!

He’s not mad at you.

People know that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

God led people before the Bible was written to write the Bible (which is actually proof that He led people before the Bible was written because how can we believe that the Bible is God-led unless God led them to write it?)

He led people during Bible times which is clear in the Bible.

And since His Word is a Living Word and He is a Living God, He still leads people today.

The same people who profess that God is the same yesterday, today and forever are some of the same people who will adamantly tell you that God does not really lead us today in 2015.

How can that be?  If He is the same always and He led yesterday, then it is obvious that He still leads today.

The Bible is not just a history book. It is a book showing us God’s Love, Redemption, and Grace for mankind. And just because we can read how God saved (or wiped out) people in the Bible does not mean He could only do that work ONE time. He can and DOES STILL save (and wipe out people.)

People will argue.  And the sad thing is that so much of the church seems to be so busy arguing like Pharisees that people who don’t know Jesus yet may wonder if He’s a good thing or not.

He is.  He is good.  Jesus is The ONLY Way to Heaven.  And I apologize for how we Christians sometimes mess things up by making stuff sound too complicated.  Because it’s really not.

~~>  Jesus loves you.  <~~

You are here on purpose and for a purpose.

But God is a jealous God and we’ve made idols that come before Him, we’ve turned the beautiful sex that He made into pornography under the disguise of “entertainment,” put sports games before worshipping Him, plastered our walls with posters of movie stars and musicians, and pretend that WE are to be praised for how well our career is going instead of praising Him for the job AND for the talents to do the jobs.

Praise Him – in good AND bad times.  Amazing things happen when we do this.  It’s not about me or you.  Life is about God.  We are made by Him and to bring Him glory.  He created us with the very talents needed to do the jobs He’s planned for us since before we were born.

Have you heard the Good News?

Jesus is not still on the cross. He is RISEN!

Let’s celebrate that He is risen when we share communion.

Many times the atmosphere during communion (at least in most church buildings where I’ve attended) feels much more like a funeral than a celebration.

~~~>  REJOICE! HE IS RISEN!  <~~~

Ask God what He wants you to do today and follow the tugs on your heart.  Then ask Him again tomorrow what He wants you to do tomorrow.  He wants to hear from you every day.  He will lead you.  This, I know.

Don’t know if God can use you or your story?  He can.  He will.  And many times I’ve witnessed the very things that threaten to hold us down are the very things God uses to lift us up to help and save others through and from the same experiences.

God knows we mess up.  He knew our best and our not so wise choices BEFORE we were made.

We hide sin from other people and from Him because deep down we know it’s sin;  just like Adam and Eve knew and hid in the Garden of Eden.  There is nothing new and nothing you do or think will surprise Him.  He sent Jesus to die on the cross and take YOUR sins with Him SO THAT you can receive the gift of Heaven for all eternity after this life.  You can’t be “good” enough for Heaven or “bad” enough for Hell.  You are forgiven enough when you receive Him and are baptized under water.

Heaven is a GIFT.  You are redeemed!  Heaven will be filled with forgiven sinners.  Hell will be filled with people who denied Christ as their Savior and who walked away from God.  God doesn’t leave you.  You have to leave Him if you don’t want Him.

~~>  And in case nobody has ever told you,

THIS is THE most important decision of your whole life.  <~~

He sent the Holy Spirit here to live INSIDE you and guide you.  This stuff is real and Heaven and Hell are real.

The greatest words ever will be to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” Matthew 25:21

He’s not mad at you.

He’s madly IN LOVE WITH YOU and He has a great plan for your life.

How will you know what that looks like unless you keep asking Him to keep leading you?

 

God, teach Your people to stop the fighting and start uniting.  P.S. And please could You teach us what that looks like because as soon as we try, we start arguing (like the children we are.)  Just please keep leading us.  Please forgive us when we mess up and always remind us how much You love us.  Thank You for never giving up on us.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

What Does it Mean to Walk by Faith? ~Guest Post by Dena Johnson

[This article first appeared on crosswalk.com here: http://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/what-does-it-mean-to-walk-by-faith.html August 14, 2014. Guest Post by Dena Johnson.]
 –

For we live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7

Those words seem simple enough.

However, I am learning that fleshing out those words, that simple concept, can be a much tougher assignment. It requires tremendous courage and strength. You must be willing to be misunderstood and even abandoned. You must be willing to give up any semblance of control of your life that you thought you might have. You must be willing to look like a complete fool.

But, it is a journey of tremendous blessing and reward. It is a journey that is exciting, life-altering, and mind-boggling. It is a journey that will allow you to see and experience God as he was meant to be: in all his fullness and grace.

Walking by faith and not by sight requires you to go to a place you do not know, one that God will reveal as you walk in obedience. Just look to Abraham as an example (Genesis 12:1).

Walking by faith means that you continue to cling to the dreams God has planted in your heart, even when you’ve been thrown away, taken to prison for crimes you didn’t commit. Just look at all Joseph endured (Genesis 37-50).

Walking by faith requires a strong determination to follow God’s plan regardless what life throws your way. Look to Daniel to discover how to have the resolve not to sin (Daniel 1:8).

Walking by faith means you have the courage to stand up for the hurting, broken, and down-trodden, to face death yourself for the good of others. Look at Esther and how she risked the death penalty to save the Jews (Esther).

You just may have to play the part of a fool. Think about Noah building an ark for a flood when it had never even rained on earth. Think about Abraham clinging to the promise that he would be the father of many nations even though he was childless at the age of 100. Think about Moses standing before the Israelites in the wilderness telling them they would eat meat until it disgusted them but having no idea where that meat would come from. Think about Joshua marching around the walls of Jericho as God had told him to and wondering what good it was going to do.

If you choose this path, you must be willing to get out of your comfort zone, to run from the Americanized brand of Christianity that so many of us have known our entire lives. You must be willing to let God take your world and turn it upside down, shake it up, and start all over again. You must be willing to let God out of the neat little box that you have put him in, to let him show up as he sees fit.

Maybe it will be a calling to do something you never dreamed before: foster or adopt children, leave your job and become a missionary, trade in the worldly comforts for heavenly treasures.

Maybe it won’t be that clean and neat and socially acceptable. Maybe, like me, your world will be turned upside down by the pain of adultery and divorce. Or, maybe you will be faced with infertility or addiction. Maybe you will have a prodigal child that completely changes the direction of your life. Or, maybe you’ve experienced the loss of a child—a hurt like no other.

I don’t know what your shake up might look like, but I know that if you will give it to God—throw up your arms in surrender and ask him to use it to change your life—he will honor your request. He will take you on a journey, teach you to walk by faith, entrust you with some of life’s most treasured moments.

He will build a faith in you—faith that moves mountains and moves God’s hands. He will teach you to live this life with abandonment, giving you a freedom to walk in all his fullness and grace. He will prepare you to be used mightily in this life for his glory.

Perhaps you’ve already experienced your life being turned upside down, toppled without any control. Perhaps, like me, you’ve found yourself wandering in the wilderness, watching his fire direct your every step by night, a cloud lead you by day. Perhaps you sense you are on the edge of the Promised Land, just waiting for him to give the command to take possession.

And yet, you are tired and weary. You’ve lost friends who don’t understand how you can continue to cling to a promise that is so obviously dead and gone. You are so close and yet feel so far away. You are struggling with temptations to just settle, even though you know it is less than God’s best. You simply don’t know how much longer you can stand.

You are not alone. I see God raising up a remnant of believers, those he knows will be obedient. He is looking for those with clean hands and a pure heart, those who will choose obedience even if it costs them everything this world has to offer. He is looking for those who will throw caution to the wind, believe that he has an abundant life (John 10:10) waiting if we will follow his ways. He is looking for those whose hearts have been purified, whose faith has been strengthened by the trials of this life (James 1:2). He is looking for those who will cling to his promises even when it seems there is no hope.

Be strong and courageous, my friends!

God has specifically chosen you to be a part of this remnant, those who will allow him to take their lives and mold them into what he wants. He has chosen you to have your faith tested and tried, and he promises that the fire will only purify you—not burn you. He has promised that he will be with you every single step, walking with you, carrying you, supporting you. He promises that he is still in control even when life seems to be spiraling wildly out of control.

He is teaching you to trust him so he can do something bigger and better than you ever dreamed possible (Ephesians 3:20-22). He is teaching you to let go and trust him with your heart, your soul, your life (Proverbs 3:5-6). He is teaching you to walk every single day in the spirit so that he can do even greater works in you and through you (John 14:12). He is preparing you to be a beacon of light and hope to a world which desperately needs to see Jesus.

I don’t know where you are on this journey of walking by faith, but I encourage you—beg you, plead with you—to wave the white flag of surrender. Let God take your life, your pain, your loss and use it for his glory. Ask him to do an amazing work in you so he can do an amazing work through you.

Get out of that boat and step onto the water…and never take your eyes off him. It is a decision you will never regret!

Thank you, Dena Johnson, for these incredible and powerful words.  Thank you for your permission to share this encouragement.  You know I needed it.  May this bless thousands of lives!

I’ve gotta write about this amazing customer service!

Thank you, Gigi, Jax, Ashleigh, and Nora.  Ladies, you made my Christmas extra special this year. And thank you, Erin, for telling us about this store. Thank you, Chloe, my daughter, for caring about me and being a noticer. Thank you for pushing me to go to this store (because we both know I wasn’t gonna.) You are one of my best friends (even if the world says parents and kids can’t/shouldn’t be friends. When you think about it… the world says a lotta stuff that doesn’t make much sense and makes life more difficult.)

When I receive good customer service I OFTEN write to the company or to an employer praising the great way an employee exceeded expectations. (And when I get crummy service I only occasionally write and am very careful what I say. Maybe the person was having a bad day. Everyone has bad days.)

My husband recently took me shopping at Torrid. Torrid is a women’s clothing store. They have cute jackets, tops, bottoms, shoes, jewelry, undies, bras, and even a few nighties to choose from. AND they have gift cards so you can give this wonderful gift to someone.

I visited there once before and received the same quality of service as this time.

THAT time I was just buying a bra that would fit me (because mine was squeezing me like a corset and I was barely able to breathe.) Thank you, Erin. You are my hero! (I know the correct word is “heroine” but I like the word “hero” better because it sounds cooler.) Because you took my daughter shopping with you for your birthday, she told me about Torrid and now I can breathe again. You made a difference in my life when you shared this amazing treasure of a place with my daughter.

THIS time I tried on about 50 items of clothing.

And they did not hurry me. Not even a little bit!

I just had to write about it.

From the moment I walked in I was greeted by a smiling face and she asked if I was looking for something specific. I was. For many years I haven’t found cute jeans that would fit me. She found a couple pair of jeans and then asked if she could reserve a fitting room for me. (They even wrote my name on the door.)

Every time I’d get a few more hangers over my arm, someone would ask if she could take them to my dressing room. “Yes, please.”

At one time I noticed a woman waiting with an employee near the 4 dressing rooms. 3 were occupied. My room was just holding my clothes in it (I wasn’t ready to try stuff on yet) but they were not letting anyone use my space. They prepared a place just for me! Of course, I offered the room to the customer and she accepted.

I believe every person working spoke to me and nobody rushed me. Since I’ve had kids, many days I have been rushed. That’s not fun. Somewhere in the middle of mommyhood, we realize we better sit down a while because we just really need to. As a mom and wife, I hurry to help my kids, my friends, my kids’ friends, my husband, church, school, and then don’t remember that I haven’t taken time for me to be refreshed.

This shopping visit did just that!

After I was there maybe 10 minutes, tears came to my eyes.

What’s THAT about? OHHH! I’m not being rushed, pulled on, pushed, guilted into, needed, volunteered, or anything but pampered.

PAMPERED! WOW! THIS feels GREAT! I could do this every day! (I won’t do this every day. But I will remember the feeling and take moments for me more often.)

(I LOVE being a mommy and wife. These 2 things are all I ever dreamed about being when I was younger. I absolutely love it. It’s okay to need time to re-energize and regroup. Any job requires that for someone to be able to give more again.)

The employees were all kind to each other. There was no “attitude” when they spoke to each other or to customers. There was a genuine respect in the atmosphere that many companies don’t have between employees.

THAT says A LOT by itself!

I wasn’t in a hurry. They let me keep adding clothes to the room.

When I finished looking through all the beautiful choices and was trying the clothes on, every once in a while one of the girls would ask if I needed a different size or how things were going. (They did this with everyone ~ and it was very kind.) Someone would trade out one size or color for another while I was trying on clothes.

It was like they were there to REALLY HELP me shop!

The girls were professional, fun, silly, friendly, real, polite, and would offer their opinions about an outfit.

I LOVED that!

Even if someone doesn’t like a certain style or color on me, I may still buy it because I like it but I really do appreciate their opinions about whether something looks good on me or not. (I’d always rather hear someone who cares about me or cares how I look tell me in the store if it doesn’t look so flattering than for a hundred people to think, “That looks awful on her,” after I buy it.)

It’s not a reflection of my worth or beauty if a certain style or color does or doesn’t look great. Every body is a different shape and it’s pretty cool that we have so many choices to find the most flattering patterns to fit our body shapes.

At Torrid, (I have to admit this) clothes are a little pricey for every season shopping for me, but they’re good quality and the experience, itself, was WORTH EVERY PENNY to me (and to my husband!)

After deciding on final choices (with the help of my family and 4 sweet employees,) they took the time to find if my mailer coupons or if the in-store promotions were better for me.

It was just a special experience from the beginning and it stayed that way until I went home. I listened to the way they talked with other customers. Every person was treated with respect.

Thank you, ladies, for making this Christmas (and bra shopping a few months ago) a fun and special time. Thank you for NOT rushing me. Thank you for actually caring about my day and for offering your opinions when I tried on clothes. YOU made my Christmas more special this year. I know wherever you work, you will shine and companies would be honored to employ you! Thank you, Gigi, Jax, Ashleigh, and Nora.

[Note: This is not a story about thrift stores but I have to mention how much I LOVE thrift stores. Most of my adult life I have bought my clothes and my family’s clothes (not undies or socks) from thrift stores and garage sales. It’s okay to spend money on clothes sometimes but it’s very fun to be able, when someone compliments my cute shirt, to tell people it was only $2 at a thrift store.

But I’m pretty sure I’ll be visiting Torrid again; maybe for my birthday!

Oh, and I did find some cute jeans, too!]

[Note Too: I find it degrading that some people call some women “plus” size. I believe it would be equally degrading if people called some women “negative” size. It sounds unkind either way to me. Like “You’re too much woman.” or “You’re not enough woman.” There’s a lot I wish would change about this world.

Torrid mostly “sizes” clothes in 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4. And it’s a fun experience just to not see PLUS (or minus) on a sign.

We’re women and we’re ALL beautiful. Period.]

[Note Too Also: You know all those clothes we keep in our closets for 10…20…30… years kinda hoping to wear them again?

I cleaned them out.

THIS actually feels GREAT! (I’ll admit I never could bring myself to do this until now. Not really sure why that took so long. And any small step toward being healthier is better than looking a certain size.)

Try it! Say Merry Christmas to who you are NOW at the beautiful size you are NOW.

It’s actually a LOT of fun!! I never thought it would be. But it’s freeing! And once you really look at who you are and how beautiful you are NOW, no matter what size you are, it’s easier and easier as you go through the closet! I’m so excited for you! It may even turn out to be your favorite Christmas gift to yourself.]

 

Hey teenagers and pre-teens, we are proud of you.

Teens, and pre-teens, since I know there are a few of you guys here online, I just wanted to tell you I am SO proud of how you stand up and share your faith!  This is a REALLY tough time to be a kid. I am proud of your modesty and how you stand up and speak out when friends are talking you into and making not great choices. It’s really tough. You have GREAT courage!! I just wanted to be a voice thanking you for standing out instead of trying to fit in. You guys are making a difference.

That being said, PLEASE Please talk to us (parents and grown ups) when you do mess up. We will love you through mistakes. Yes, we may be sad and a little disappointed just as you may be when we mess up as grown ups, but we ARE here for you and we DO get that life is really tough as a teenager in 2014. We do not expect you to be perfect and I apologize to anyone who feels like you are held to a “perfect” standard. We mess up as parents and we know you guys mess up as kids, too. I love you. And I just wanted to tell you that you DO have people to talk to when life gets you down.

I’ve Been Burned

I won't hide it. This will be my ministry. Genesis 50:20

I won’t hide it. This will be my ministry. Genesis 50:20

When I started asking God what HE wants ME to do every day instead of showing HIM that MY stuff was so important and my “to do list” was more important than whatever He had in mind, do you know what He did?

He has been giving me everything I need to do the job He’s asking me to do. He’s been leading me and equipping me every day.

One thing He’s done is that He gave me confidence.

WHO can give the gift of confidence? I can’t. You can’t. I mean, we can help lift each other but to actually GIVE the GIFT of confidence? Who can do this?

I can only think of ONE.

I haven’t had confidence since it was stolen from me. I have not had confidence since I was 9 years old and playing Hide and Seek with my cousins then my uncle decided to lift the sleeping bag and tell me, “Hide under here!”

WHAT a great hiding place!  They’d never think to look under here!  Thanks uncle.

Or maybe not.

I didn’t move. I knew if I moved then they’d find me and then I’d lose the game of Hide and Seek.

That’s how innocent I was.

That was the beginning of many years of satan convincing me I was nothing. That little devil was busy at work to make me believe his lies. I must have been quite a threat for him to work so long on me. Maybe you are a threat to him, too?

God allows bad things to happen to people. I don’t blame God. We all have free choice to eat the fruit the same way Adam and Eve ate it.

And we all have the same free choice every day NOT to eat it.

I have even forgiven my uncle and I am still not going to have my children around him. That would not be wise. (I’m not arguing this point with anyone.) This is my choice because I am my children’s mom and God does expect us to use the discernment He gives us.

See this picture of our table? There are many names on it. (Maybe I’ll write about why we let people sign our kitchen table in another post.) This can represent my heart and people who have come and gone through my life. Some have faded and some are bold, still.

They ALL are written there for a reason.

Now let’s talk about that big, black, burn mark in the middle of the table.

That burn mark is something that everyone sees or senses… but many of us don’t speak about it in our lives.

If I don’t talk about it because that’s uncomfortable or it would make someone else feel uncomfortable (especially at church because unfortunately that’s usually frowned upon and people are often gossiped about when we DO have courage to share our stories) then quite possibly the pain, and the wisdom I’ve gained through this pain, isn’t being used to help others.

I’ve been burned, right? God takes those very ashes and makes them into something beautiful that He will turn back around to glorify Him. He will use my pain and not waste it. I have peace in this.

You can have peace in your pain, too.

What God has been leading me to do (well, part of it) is to be online (which is more than a few zip codes out of my comfort zone) and speak blessings over people, challenge them to ask themselves “WHY” they believe and do what they believe and do, and then the bigger one of moving to Alaska to open and care for a homeless teen place.

I could not do this on my own. Ever. Period.  Any of it.

For the past 6 months every morning before my feet touch the floor, I pray, (sometimes silently and sometimes out loud) “God, what do YOU want me to do today?”

One day a couple days ago when I woke up, (or rather when God allowed me to wake up ~ and we may all do well to remember this about life when we open our eyes in the mornings) I thought to myself, “What if I STOPPED asking God, ‘Hey, God, what do YOU want me to do today?'”

UM, THAT’D BE A QUICK, “NOPE. I’m not going there!”  There’s no going back.

Submission to God’s will and plan for our lives can actually be a fun thing. It’s very exhausting and trying at times and sometimes it’s lonely. But this is so worth it. It’s fulfilling my soul in a way that’s never happened before.

God will use YOUR pain for His glory.  Your pain will not go to waste.

I hope you choose to try this.  It’s simple. (I didn’t say it’s easy though.)

Ask God, the Creator of YOU, the Creator of all your talents, of all your likes and dislikes, what HIS plan is for you today.  He KNOWS you.  He LOVES you.  He’s got wonderful plans for your life.  Do you have the courage to just ask Him to show you those plans?

I know you do.  He will make beauty from your ashes.

He’s led me this far and I will keep following Him.

This is real stuff.

Jesus. Take Him or leave Him. It’s YOUR choice. It happens to be the very most important choice you can ever make.

You better choose. Because your choice will lead to either Heaven or Hell.
Can’t sugar coat that.

I am not going to be the person who didn’t tell you about Jesus and that you need to choose Him. I will tell you every day and plead with you to choose Him. It’s part of my job and I won’t be afraid to do it.

You matter WAY too much for me not to tell you.

If you want to delete me from your computer, email, Facebook, Twitter, please know that I will miss you terribly.

I’m not going to shut up and I’m going to have the courage to write what God puts on my heart even if I’m afraid sometimes that it will make somebody mad. I’d rather have a person mad at me instead of God mad at me for not doing what He’s led me to do.

I will use any platform and tools He gives me. I’ve had death threats. I’ve been used and lied to and laughed at for years. That old devil will NOT cover my mouth ever again. I won’t hide any more and I will keep having courage to write what God’s laying on my heart. I am here to stay. God has very big plans for me. He opens doors that no one can shut and He closes doors that no one can open. He’s led me this far and I will keep following Him.

In Jesus’ name, I claim that I will not be a coward any longer.

I don’t know about you but I’m NOT gonna be the person who stands in between Jesus and a soul needing Him.

Who are YOU to stop someone from accepting Jesus in baptism?

Jesus speaks to someone’s heart. She wants to be baptized and accept Jesus into her life and follow Him.

Who are you to stop her? Who are you to tell her she has to wait til she knows more. Who are you to decide when she knows “enough” to be baptized?

I would not want Jesus to ask me why I told someone “No” or “Not yet” when she said she was ready. Yikes!

Check this out. Acts 8:34-38
In the bible someone heard the Good News about Jesus and decided to follow Him. “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” He was not told to wait til he knew more.

I don’t know about you but I’m NOT gonna be the person who stands in between Jesus and a soul needing Him.

I believe God can do anything He chooses to do, of course, and MAYBE if that person died before they got to be baptized, God still knows her heart and will gift her Heaven anyway but I’m just putting this out there.

I would NOT want to be in standing in your place when God asks why you stopped someone from coming to Him.

Entertainment? (Celebrities and Fame)

When we celebrate when celebrities fail or fall, WE are part of the problem.  When we mock, tease, spread gossip, and laugh when celebrities mess up (or when anyone messes up, for that matter) we are hurting them; not helping them.

If we were 15 (or whatever age) and we had no privacy because of fame (which we may or may not have wanted) all our lives are on display; mistakes included.

Think about how a kid answers questions…

“Want your own show?”  “Sure!”

“Want a puppy?”  “Sure!”

I’m certain that most kids who get into show business do not understand the world they’re now part of and how damaging it can be.

And if we had Hollywood with its lack of any moral compass telling us that this really NOT good stuff IS “right” or “fun” or that we “should” or whatever… how would WE react?

This lifestyle these kids are in just breaks my heart. I cannot IMAGINE.

~~~>  And the adults who promote it and stuff… There aren’t enough words in any vocabulary to say how angry and sad that makes me. Oh, how the adults are going to be held accountable for leading kids away from Jesus!  <~~~

I’m just REALLY not sure anyone could say that these famous kids understand all they’re doing. (Probably no kids understand all the stuff they do.)

I’m NOT saying they’re not accountable. They ARE accountable.
We ALL are accountable for stuff we do and say. (Ours is mostly not in the public eye and THAT would make a huge difference.)

I AM saying that I remember in my 20s thinking that I knew some stuff when I was younger.
That’s funny.

Then I remember in my 30s thinking I knew some stuff in my 20s. That’s even funnier.

But now in my 40s I thought I knew stuff when I was in my 30s… Just wow!

–>  What I know is that God keeps teaching me.  <–  I have gray hair and I’m still learning all the time.

I’m praying for these young “stars” who are made to dance and act and say lines from someone’s script for “entertainment purposes” because I just REALLY don’t think they understand all of it.

If we were in the same situation, I’m not sure we would either.

(Grace and forgiveness. Yes. But we are accountable for all the moments of our lives. All that being said… I’m NOT okay AT ALL with what many young “stars” are doing. I am NOT excusing it.)

I AM praying over celebrities lives instead of spreading the rumors and pictures and I’m asking YOU to do the same.

Because if people stopped calling it “entertainment” and paying for it as “entertainment” maybe stuff would change.  Please be part of the solution.

Who’s Your Daddy?

Do you have a kid?

Does she like chocolate milk or white milk or no milk at all?

If you give your son a choice between carrots or broccoli which will he choose?

What if your kid has a choice to take the cigarette or other drugs the other kids test him with? Did you MAKE him choose to or not to? No.

If you have a child, most of the time you KNOW what your child will choose
BECAUSE YOU KNOW YOUR CHILD.

People argue that just because God KNOWS your future that means He MAKES you do stuff kinda like a puppet. But this just isn’t true.

God does not MAKE you choose something. He KNOWS you.
He KNOWS which you will choose

BECAUSE
YOU
are
HIS
CHILD.

Get it?

If our kids believe 2 + 2 = 7

We’re just gonna let our kids make up their own minds about math. We don’t want to force math on them. My parents and teachers forced math on me and I resent them for it. We don’t want to make the same mistake with our kids.

If they believe 2 + 2 = 7 maybe that is okay with us. We think every kid should have the freedom to choose how they feel about math and make up their own belief system.

NO. No. No. No.

You don’t leave deciding about math up to your kids. That would be silly. You teach them 2 + 2 = 4. Period.

I am not a Bible scholar. I will always be learning more as God teaches me more.

~God is God. Period. If you have ears to hear I pray you hear. Accept Jesus as the Lord of your life, be baptized under water for the forgiveness of your sins and say with your mouth that you believe Jesus is the Son of God.

~Give. Ask God where He wants you to give. Start with 10% and go up from there. It’s not an option. That is just something God says to do. Where do you think your money comes from? Where do you think your job comes from? Where do you think your talent to DO your job comes from? You give because God said to give. So do it. He doesn’t say when you feel like you have extra, then give. He says GIVE your FIRST gifts.

~Then, as you learn more, you live it. It’s not complicated.

And after you do this it does not mean your life will be easy. The enemy doesn’t go after people he’s already got. The enemy goes after people trying to obey God. But you have the Armor of Christ and that is everything you need to fight the battles that will come. Many times in our family we ask the Holy Spirit to go with our children when they leave the house. The Power they feel with them on these days is not of this world.  #notw

~
One day you will die. That’s not a question. That’s not a sad or happy thing. It’s just true.

I know there are exceptions and that’s up to Almighty God whatever exceptions He makes. Enoch and Elijah, for example, did not die but were taken directly to Heaven.

Hebrews 11:5
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.” For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.

2 Kings 2:11
As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.

~This is THE ONE MOST IMPORTANT decision of your entire life.

God does not force you to choose. You have choice. You have the choice to love him. If He MADE you choose Him that would not be love.

You can be mad all day long and argue how it’s not FAIR that God gives you the choice to love Him then if you don’t you go to Hell. Go ahead and waste your time fussing over that. He’s not going to give you more time just because you’re throwing a tantrum.

I am not going to argue the details and rules with you but there are many other people who are happy to do that. Just START by loving Jesus.

I do know that if you lead someone AWAY from Christ, good luck with telling God you did that, when you stand all alone with no one to hold your hand in front of the One and Only King of Heaven…. . . Let me know how that works for you.

I love you with a vengeance. I believe Jesus does too.

I pray you choose Him before it’s too late. Because some day it will be one day too late.

It doesn’t offend me if you don’t say Merry Christmas

Some families are buying their kids every piece of plastic or metal or electronics they ask for this Christmas. That’s great if they want to do this, especially if they don’t go into debt doing it because debt is slavery.

BUT are they giving their kids THE BEST gift? Are they teaching their kids that Jesus is THE way? The Bible doesn’t say Jesus will tell you the way. It says He IS the WAY.

It doesn’t offend me if you don’t say Merry Christmas. I don’t care if you hate Christmas. I’m not going to get in your face and yell at you. It doesn’t offend me if you say Happy Holidays or Merry X-Mas, UNMerry Christmas or anything else. I do not care. Wish me Happy Hanukah, Blessed Mary Day, Sparkly Kwanzaa, Snowy Frosty Day, or you can say nothing at all.

I do not care.

No matter what someone says or doesn’t say does not change this fact. Jesus is the reason for the season. And do you know what else? Jesus is the reason for EVERY season.

What you decide about God is up to you and it’s YOUR soul you’re bargaining with if you don’t believe. Not mine. He ACHES for you to know Him.

It’s really your choice.  And He loves you VERY much (even if you’re not aware of who He is to you yet.)