Thursday, March 29, 2012

It's Another Thankful Thursday!

Our God, our God!!! What a reason to offer up our thanks! Let's shout it from the housetops, let's tell all who will listen. I don't know about you, but I don't want any rock speaking my praise for me! I think I'll take the time to count the gifts in my life myself and name them one by one. And, oh what good it does my heart, how it changes my outlook and my perspective when I take just a few minutes to praise Him, to remember what He's done, what He's doing, and to claim the promises of what I can know for certain that He is already doing on my behalf.

As I am asking God to help me live more fully aware of the gifts that are mine as His child, to live with my eyes open, my ears attuned, my hands not clinched so tightly but instead ready to give and to receive as He whispers, my feet prepared to go and stop at His command, it really is simply amazing what my eye has not seen, what my ear has not heard, and what my mind has not conceived before. There is so much that God is doing right around me that I am sad to say that I have often missed because I just haven't lived fully right where I was. So, on this Thankful Thursday, I recount some of the gifts that have blessed me this week and my prayer has been that as I have been blessed I have in return been a blessing.

Oh, God, may I never live a day without realizing it is only a gift from You to be opened, to be lived fully-not for myself but for your glory!

38. While doing school with the girls, we had an unexpected delivery from the flower shop. My hubby sent me the most beautiful arrangement of spring flowers. The note on the card "Just Because." WOW!!! That made my day! He loves me, oh, he loves me. So, very thankful for a husband who loves me not only with his words but with his actions each and every day!!!! Thank you father for a man like that!!!!

39. WHEW!!!! Testing for the year is behind us. May not seem like a big thing to some people, but to this TYPE A momma, I'm so glad to have this hurdle done. I know my sweet daughter is too. But, I'm even happier that it's not the focus of what we do everyday, and oh so very happy for the positive atmosphere we enjoyed when we tested and for the perspective they emphasized behind the testing.

40. Wonderful Sunday school class with teachers who are AMAZING!!! So thankful that Bill and Sharon believe in the power of the Word of God to change lives, to make a difference in marriages and families. Thankful for how they invest in the lives of so many.

41. When my girls are hurting (physically or emotionally), they want their momma and their daddy. Nobody else will do. Thank you father for healthy relationships, for strong and loving attachments. Thank you that my girls know that they are loved and cared for, that mommy and daddy will always be there to love them through the hurt even when we can't make it go away.

42. Fun!!! I'm so very thankful that life can be fun. God blesses us with laughter, recreation, time to de-stress and relax. What a blessing!!!

43. A reminder that there is a time for everything and sometimes I'm putting things on my calendar (worries, anxieties, stresses) that God just doesn't mean for today. I need to leave that in God's hand, knowing that He doesn't intend for some things to even be on my "to-do" list. Thank you, God!!!!

44. A day spent with my mom and my girls. A wonderful time of making memories.

45. HOPE!!!!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thankful Thursday and Every Day

Honestly I let last Thursday get away from me and I failed to post my Thankful Thursday. Jason asked me about it late Thursday night or maybe Friday afternoon. My only comment to him was that I had been too busy living my Thankful Thursday to blog about it. Really, my girls and I have been so incredibly enjoying every minute of life lately. God has overwhelmed me with the beauty of His creation, with the joy of friendship, and with the simple pleasure of living life with my husband and children that I have been busy with life--not in a bad way, just busy. And, can I say this?? I'm absolutely LOVING it!!!!

As I've thought about Thankful Thursday, the video clip I included above really sums up what I want to get my mind around. I so long to get to a place where I can praise God in the good times and in the bad. I want to begin to trust Him at a level where I realize that what I see as bad is really not bad at all, it's Him working ALL things for my good, and while it may seem bad at the time, it's only His intervention, His provision, His protection in my life. I want to realize that often the reason He doesn't work in my time, giving me what I ask for, in the way I ask for it, is quite simply because I don't know what's good for me. He is GOD. He is sovereign. He is ALWAYS RIGHT!!! He is ALWAYS ON TIME!!! His NO is not about rejection or failure. It is to allow me to get to something better or to protect me from something awful. His discipline is because He loves me and wants something better for me, and if I must suffer here on this earth it is only for a little while and it is not without results. Oh, if only I could learn to truly see the depth and width and height of His blessings in my life.

Today my list may be a little longer since I was too busy living Thankful Thursday to write about it last week, so I hope you'll bear with me. Blessings, my friend. Oh, how I pray that we can all breathe in the wonderful work God longs to do in our life--whether it be through the sunshine or through the raindrops, through the healing or through the pain. He is faithful for He will not be otherwise!

25. Friday lunches with friends. Authentic conversation allowing you to be yourself, share your hurts, your shortcomings, your struggles, . . . Knowing they will not judge you but will bear your burdens.

26. Hearing my two daughters pretend to lead worship, inviting "the congregation to respond during the invitation", praising God for those present in worship, inviting the children present to come up and help. Wow!!! What this does to a mother's heart.

27. We were at a fashion show birthday party a week or so ago. All of the girls had to share a tidbit of information about themselves for the "red carpet moment". My daughter and one of her best friends both shared that the dream job would be a missionary. Thank you, God, for planting in their hearts a love for you and a desire to share you with others!

28. Brother Garry and Mrs. Cheryl Irvin who are relentless about loving children and passionate about sharing the gospel with them. My #27 is largely impart to Mrs. Cheryl's commitment to sharing the world of missions with the children on Wednesday night. Since first grade when Carrington fell in love with missionaries, she has believed that one day God may want her to go to the mission field.

29. The smell of fresh cut grass, even if it does make me sneeze my head off, because this means spring is here and the days are long and we have lots of time to play outside!!!!

30. A fresh Word from God whether that be from a sermon, devotional time, a book I'm reading, a conversation with a friend, prayer time. . . I love that God is faithful to speak to me again and again and again--daily, moment by moment.

31. A husband who protects and provides for our family and leads us by example.

32. A two-hour phone conversation with one of my dearest friends from college. We have only seen each other probably two or three times since we graduated college in 1997, but she is one of my dearest friends and my strongest spiritual accountability partners. I can call her and know that she will speak truth into my situation. I am so thankful God gives us people with whom we have a true heart connection and that time or distance can not separate.

33. Closed doors and a word from God that helped me understand that closed doors are not always signs of failure or rejection. Sometimes closed doors are simply provision and protection. Thank you God!!!

34. A reminder from God this week of how He is a God of second-chances (the life of Jonah). A challenge from God that because He gives others second-chances we as His people should too. We should constantly be an extension of His grace and mercy not judgment and condemnation. That's the kind of person I want to be!!!

35. My parents. So very thankful for the heritage I have!

36. Homeschooling--our life has simplified by leaps and bounds. I have learned to enjoy simplicity and to be less rushed and to understand how to keep the things that matter, the things that matter. Thankful for a few friends that God has put in my life to teach me to stop and smell the roses.

37. Seeing one of my former first grade students who is now a high schooler play the drums in worship. That's amazing!!!! He does such a great job. So neat to see God help teens find their place of ministry in the church.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Seeking Him

I had a friend ask me a question this week that I have spent days pondering. She sent me a text that said, "In my quiet time this morning I was challenged to 'seek His face. To find Him and hear His voice, I must seek Him above all else.'" She sent the text asking her friends to "think it over and respond back as to what it means and looks like to seek Him first."

First of all, I was so thankful that I have friends who challenge me to think deep about who Christ is, how He wants us to walk with Him, how I can know Him more, what it looks like to live a life that is passionate for Him. . .

Second, I started thinking of what it really means to seek Him first, to seek His face, to seek Him above ALL ELSE. And, here are a few thoughts that I have arrived at as a result of those moments spent meditating on a simple text from a friend that sent me to the feet of the Father, asking Him to help me see with His eyes, to hear with His ears, to understand what I can only understand when He makes me smarter than I really am.

A simple search for the word 'seek' provides a wealth of verses that support that Biblical concept of seeking God. I'll provide a few here, but I'd encourage you to do this little exercise yourself and find a few verses that speak to you. Indeed God wants us to seek Him, and when we seek Him, He will be found. I have always held to the simple truth that since the beginning it hasn't been Him who was "playing hide-and-seek". No, in the garden, when He came looking to fellowship with humanity, it was Adam and Eve who were hiding. God didn't create the hide-and-seek game. That would be us!!! His word clearly teaches and proves again and again that when we seek Him, we find Him (Proverbs 8:17, Matthew 7:7). Most often we find Him running for us, pursuing us, seeking us out!!!

So, read through these verses and see what you think about the idea of seeking Him. I'll share my thoughts; I'd love to hear some of yours.

Deuteronomy 4:29 But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.

The manner/condition in which we seek Him really does affect whether we find Him. There is an indication here that we will find Him "if" we seek Him with ALL of our heart. I wonder how often I seek Him in a half-hearted, distracted, self-promoting fashion. I wonder how often I seek Him with my plans in mind all the while praying for "His will" when really I want His will to match my plans. This weekend He and I had to have a loving father-daughter talk about this one. I found myself at a tough place with some BIG STUFF in our life and I realized that I was telling Him I trusted Him while really I was kinda throwing a little fit about the possibilities of it not turning out the way that I thought best lined up with His will. He had to let me know real quick-like that I was really wanting to control this thing and that maybe I was too worried about the "end result" instead of so many things He had already taught me through the process. What a blessing comes when I stop seeking the results/answers and just seek Him.

2 Chronicles 7:14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Seeking God's face involves humility, repentance, and turning from wickedness. Seeking God's face is a lifestyle that engages heaven and affects earth. The effectiveness of my prayer life has the potential to radically change the course of my generation if I will approach God's throneroom with humility yet boldness, with repentance, with clean hands and a pure heart.

2 Chronicles 12:14 He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking God.

Psalm 119:10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.

Wow! If the potential of seeking God's face is that I can keep His commands, then the extreme opposite of that is the potential for evil if I do not set my heart on seeking Him.

Psalm 9:10 Those who know your name, trust in you, for you, O Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

What a promise!!! Seeking equals security!!! God promises that if we seek Him, He will never forsake us.

Here are a few other verses you can look up: Psalm 10:4, Psalm 105:4, Psalm 119:2, Psalm 63:1, Psalm 27:8, Jeremiah 29:13, Proverbs 8:17. . .

I think for me, seeking Him first means a lot of different things. . .

It means seeking Him early in the morning, asking Him to bless the day, asking Him to use the day for my good and His glory. It means seeking Him early in the morning, acknowledging that He is my only hope and that I am desperate for His power, wisdom, and strength to make anything other than a mess of the day He has given me.

It means seeking Him in ALL situations for direction, for what I should say, how I should respond (or shouldn't--that's usually the hard part for me). It means asking Him to OPEN my eyes to the people around me, to those who are hurting, to the opportunities around me that may seem like interruptions or inconveniences that are really DIVINE APPOINTMENTS.

It means seeking Him when I'm feeling less than who He would desire for me to be, repenting from the self-centered, narrow-minded, earthly creature that I am. It means hearing Him when He says, "Jennifer, that's just pride making you worry more about what they think than what I think. That's a control issue, give it to me. Jennifer, do you really want to live the gospel or just read it?"

It means seeking Him in the daily routines of laundry, groceries, homeschooling, conversations with my husband, bike rides with my girls. . . It means seeing Him in my parents, my brother and sister-in-law and nephew, in my in-laws, my best friends. It means seeking my direction, my choices in life from Him and His Word, from prayer, not from my best spiritual mentor or a billboard on the street or how I feel on Sunday following worship service.

That's what seeking Him first, seeking His face, hearing His voice looks like to me. . .

What about you? Would you share your thoughts? I'd love to hear.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Oh, So Thankful!!!

Psalm 52:9

I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good. I will praise you in the presence of your saints.

Oh, what a good word I received from the Lord this week as I browsed another blog I read regularly, and I could not resist sharing it with you on this "Thankful Thursday." It encapsulates the desire I have as I write these posts each Thursday--to praise Him in the presence of all who will meander over and read the words I scroll here, simple words of thanksgiving, words that praise Him for what He has done for truly He is my hope!

Just these last few weeks I was talking to a sister in Christ and I said, "what do people do if they don't have Jesus?!" I found myself in a tough spot, you know the kind of spot where you know you're backed in a corner, you don't have the answer, the world "screams run, flee, cry, pound your fists, give up, give in, feel hopeless, feel helpless." We've all been there. When you're a mom and you love with reckless abandon, with all that is in you, with the kind of love that would lay down your life, you're there again and again. But, when you have Christ and you're backed in the corner, you know you don't have to respond in any of those ways, not because you're "SUPERMOM" or because you have this thing all figured out, or because you ate your Wheaties, took your vitamins, had your bubble bath, and now you're ready to face ANYTHING!!! NO, the reason you can face the enemy, the situation that has you backed in the corner, knowing that you don't have a way out unless Christ intervenes is simply because He IS YOUR HOPE!!!! He has promised you that the power that raised Him from the dead is yours (Ephesians 1:18-20)!!! WOW!!! What else could we possibly need to face WHATEVER comes our way. We can say with Paul--"I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO GIVES ME STRENGTH!!" We can say with the Psalmist, "I WILL PRAISE YOU FOREVER. . .IN YOUR NAME WILL I HOPE!"

So, on this "Thankful Thursday", again I will choose joy, thankfulness, and hope!!! I will choose to see Christ right in the middle of my week. In the middle of the situations where I am backed in a corner and frankly it's just not pretty! I'll choose to see Christ in the situations that seem impossible because the longer I live I'm beginning to learn that those are the situations where Christ likes to show up. What I wish we all could learn is that we all have STUFF. No one's life is rosy, peachy, and perfect all the time. Often we look in on the lives of others and it seems just perfect, but the reality is "that's not reality!!" No one (let me repeat that), NO ONE, has a perfect life. I once mentioned in a Sunday school class that if your neighbor's yard looks greener it's because of 1 of 2 reasons: 1. they've been working really hard fertilizing, pulling weeds, etc. or 2. they have a whole lot of manure that you just can't see!!! It's never as green on the other side as it might seem with just a glance. Your brothers and sisters in Christ are choosing to trust Christ as their hope, their peace, their joy. . . Their life is not perfect, Christ is perfect!!! They have dark days, they fall flat and get up again. We all are on a journey. Our only HOPE is to keep our eyes on Him and to run hard after His heart.

So, let's spend our energy on PRAISING Him for FOREVER for what He has done (and who He is) for HE IS OUR ONLY HOPE. His name is GOOD!! Call on His name in the GOOD times and in the BAD. PRAISE HIM, PRAISE HIM, PRAISE HIM in the presence of all the saints!! It will do your heart good and the hearts of all who hear!!!

Counting God's Gifts to 1,000. . .

15. The gentle chirping of birds outside my window each morning reminding me of the promise of spring and new life and God's constant care for His creation. (Matthew 10:29)

16. The wonderful opportunity to homeschool my girls--engaging in amazing conversations with them. Seeing them enjoy learning. Anna Claire is learning to read. Carrington is learning so many things--seeing her learn about her country's history and understanding how God has been so present in all of that is a blessing! The high moment of the week has been a conversation we had about the SUN and how when Christ returns there will be no need for the SUN because He will be the light. They both were overwhelmed with that thought and in unison said, "Can't He come today?!" Is homeschooling worth it? YES!!!

17. The pride my daughter takes in wanting to show me something she's accomplished OVER and OVER, simply wanting to know that I'm pleased with her accomplishments, proud of how hard she's worked to learn what she's learned. I bet it thrills God's heart to see His children work diligently at the things He's gifted us at and use our gifts for His glory!!!!

18. Hearing my daughters pray for things that really matter--a situation that dad needs wisdom/guidance on, safety for their friends, healing for someone who is sick, salvation for a friend, a heart for their Papa--the faith of children, AMAZING!!!

19. Moments spent with an older couple, reminding me of the wisdom that comes in YEARS!!!

20. Corporate worship.

21. UpWard basketball celebration, seeing a packed worship center with families hearing the Gospel, grandmas and grandpas, moms and dads, boys and girls raising their hands that they accepted Christ. That's why we do UpWard!!

22. Friendship

23. Reminders that God knows our needs and provides for His children

24. A text from a friend reminding me that God is always working, drawing man's heart to Himself, we don't always understand how or when we may be a small part (planting a seed, watering the seed, tending the garden, pulling a weed. . .) So thankful for God's faithfulness!

"I praise YOU God for You have done AMAZING things. You are my only hope. Thank you for working on my behalf again and again. Please help me SEE, HEAR, and FULLY EXPERIENCE all the ways you are working in me, around me, and through me. To you be the Glory for you are WORTHY!!!!"

Thursday, March 1, 2012

It's Thankful Thursday!

It's Thankful Thursday at "Joyful on the Journey," and as I think about thankful living I am reminded today that thanksgiving is much like joyful living; it's a choice. It is something that we learn.

In Philippians 4:11-13, Paul instructs the Philippians on the secret to victorious living. Something that I find challenging and encouraging at the same time. I find this to be a lesson I need to learn to live and to live well. Paul explains that he has learned to be content in whatever the circumstances--while being in need and while having plenty, while being well fed and while being hungry, while living in plenty and in want. Then in verse 13 I think he sums up the crux of the matter. Paul had learned that if he was going to live life well, overcome the negative circumstance, face the enemy, endure physical trials and struggles. . . it would be not in his own strength, not because he had positive thinking, not because the stars lined up on his behalf, not because his abilities were sufficient for the situation. It would be because Christ power in Him was ENOUGH--he could do ALL things through Christ. The power that raised Christ from the dead was his. The power that healed the sick was his in Christ Jesus. The power that parted seas and tore down kingdoms was his. And there was nothing that he faced--being hungry, being in need, being up against a powerful enemy . . . (you fill in the blank) that was too great for the POWER OF CHRIST!!!!! Therefore, he could CHOOSE to be CONTENT in WHATEVER CIRCUMSTANCE and to be VICTORIOUS in EVERY SITUATION!!!!

So, I've had to ask myself on this THANKFUL THURSDAY--"Jennifer, just how often are you choosing contenment? Are you choosing to be satisifed, resolved, victorious right where Christ has you? Are you choosing to stand up against WHATEVER it is you are having to face, to deal with, to fight in the powerful name of Jesus? Are you choosing to BELIEVE that HIS POWER is ENOUGH and that you can do EVERYTHING through HIM who GIVES you STRENGTH?"

I'm ashamed to say that too often I choose defeat. I choose self-pity. I choose to believe the lies of the enemy instead of the promises of my Saviour. On this Thankful Thursday, I'd like to sling a few darts at the enemy and tell him just how thankful I am that even when I am faithless, my God is faithful and for that I am forever grateful!!!!

Every Good and Perfect Gift is from Above!

(This is what I'm giving thanks for today!)

6. A text or call from a friend that you know is the result of God speaking your name into their ear. You needed an encouraging word and their concern or sweet word lifted the weight that was bearing down on you. You know it's not a coincidence that they call or text at just that moment--it's a God moment where heaven and earth collide on your behalf.

7. The heavy beating of rain on your window that is the lullaby you need to relax your mind and heart and still the heaviness that is threatening to overtake you. It's amazing what a short afternoon nap will do to refocus your thoughts.

8. Sunday afternoon dinner around my parent's dining room table. Laughter that is natural and authentic, just family being family.

9. My ten-year old reading to my six-year old each night at bedtime and enjoying it. I know that one day this will be a treasured memory for both of them.

10. Both of my girls coming into my bedroom in the morning, spending the first few minutes of our day together snuggled in my bed, laughing at the funny things that AC says. Thankful for the sense of humor that God has given her that helps lighten life's load for all of us.

11. Listening to C sing praise songs and mean every word. WOW!!! God has blessed her with a beautiful voice, but more than that, He's given her a tender spirit that is already running hard after His heart.

12. The love God gives us for brothers and sisters in the faith who aren't flesh and blood but who feel that way--when they cry we cry, when they rejoice we rejoice. What a gift!!!!

13. Those moments when my husband and I can finish each other's sentences or say something and look at each other and smile and say "I was just about to say that" or "I just had that same thought." So thankful for the way God binds your heart together in unity. Making the tough stuff more bearable.

14. Afternoon walks and bike rides with my girls are simply wonderful. There's just something about seeing them enjoy the beauty of God's creation!