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Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You for all the ways You have blessed me and made a difference in my life.  Among the greatest blessings in my life are the people – my husband, children, loved ones, church family and friends.  Some of my friends I have not seen with my eyes, but have seen them with my heart as we’ve met online.  Lord, thank You for everyone you’ve brought into my life and for each person who stops to visit here at this site.  Please, bless them and tend to them, respond to the desires of their hearts.  Bring healing to those who are sick, comfort to those who suffer, hope to those who are struggling, and miracles to those whose hope is in You.  Help those of us who are strong reach out to those who are weak.  And may all of us strive to serve and glorify You by serving others in Your name.  Please help each of us to remember that what makes us different is what makes us special and that each of us in perfect in Your eyes, as we are Your creations and You created us because of Your everlasting love.   Lord, we love you, too.  To You my Heavenly Father I pray, with Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and with the love of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.  

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The story of Abraham and Sarah is found in Genesis, the first book of the Bible.  Abraham was a righteous and obedient man who found great favor in God’s eyes.  Sarah was his wife.  The Lord had blessed Abraham with great wealth because of his righteousness.  However, he and Sarah had not been able to have children.  Then when Abraham was 99, God promised Abraham and Sarah that they would become the father and mother of a great nation and that their offspring would include kings!  Abraham could hardly believe it!  Despite their advanced ages, God was going to give them children! 

Abraham trusted in the Lord, as always.  Sarah, however, did not.  Instead of trusting in the Lord as her husband did and waiting for God’s perfect timing, Sarah took matters into her own hands by sending her servant to ‘lay down with Abraham’ so that she could bear a child for Sarah and Abraham to raise.  (Please note this was an accepted  practice in those days.) 

Soon a son was born to Hagar, Sarah’s servant.  His name was Ishmael.  Ishmael struggled so much in Hagar’s belly, that she asked the Lord why he struggled so.  The Lord’s reply was that he would always struggle with/be at odds with his brothers. 

Eventually God did grant a child to Abraham and Sarah.  His name was Isaac and the Lord called for him to be the heir to Abraham’s fortune.  God also commanded that Isaac, not Ishmael, would inherit the blessings and promises given to Abraham, commanding that Abraham’s descendents would come from Isaac, not Ishmael. 

Ishmael went on to live a less-than-righteous life and became the father to the Arab nation.  His people were known to be hostile to the Israelites.  Isaac strived to lead a godly life, like his father, and through him came the descendents of David and eventually Christ.

In the end, God’s intended will was done through Isaac, but Sarah really complicated things and caused problems by trying to take matters into her own hands instead of trusting in the Lord.  Our world is still in unrest today because of the continual struggle of ‘Ishmael with his brothers’. 

I, too, have a tendency to want to take care of situations in the ways I see fit instead of waiting on the Lord and trusting that His way is better than my way. 

How about you?  Are there times you’d do better if you let the Lord take the lead?  If so, join me in trying to be better at letting go and letting God. 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; acknowledge him in all your ways and he will direct your paths.”        – Proverbs 3:5

Blessings to all,

Renee

A dear friend from our church women’s Circle is fighting stage IV breast cancer that has spread throughout her body.  Tara is young and beautiful, has a loving and handsome husband and two precious young children.  She is a very warm and giving person, devoted to her family and committed to the Lord.  Her diagnosis was sudden and unexpected, yet from the beginning she has comforted and witnessed to us through her strength in faith more than we have to her.   Of course we are lifting her with as much prayer as we can and have formed Tara’s Team to offer support in other ways, too. 

Are you  or someone you know battling cancer or struggling in another way?  If so, join Tara’s Team, in honor of Tara’s strong faith, by offering all the prayers and encouragement you can for that person.  Tara would be so touched to know that her efforts in her own battle were helping others, too. 

The Chaplain of our Circle sent the following lyrics, imagining Tara claiming them as she awaits her treatments, remaining ever strong in faith.  Maybe these words will lift and inspire you or someone you know, too.  The song is by Selah, a contemporary Christian group.  I think the title is “You Lift Me Up”.  (Someone correct me if that’s not right.)

“When I am down, and oh my soul, so weary.
When troubles come, and my heart burdened be.
Then I am still and wait here in the silence.
Until You come and sit awhile with me.
You raise me up so I can stand on mountains.
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas.
I am strong when I am on your shoulders.
You raise me up to more than I can be.”

If you’d like to know more about Tara, you can visit her site at www.caringconnections.lotsahelpinghands.com/c/14059

Your prayers for her are welcome any time, and especially on Thursdays from  10:30-11:30 when she receives her treatments.

 May the strong arms of the Lord enfold all who come to Him in need.  Praise be to the Lord who welcomes ALL who seek His arms. 

Blessings to all,

Renee

Today is a special day at our house.  My younger son is celebrating his 7th birthday. Wow.  Was it really seven years ago I was in the hospital at this very time, in labor and awaiting the birth of my second son?  I remember that day so well.  It began very early because I was scheduled to be induced.  Grandma had spent the night with us to help with my older son, then six years old.  

I remember the drive to the hospital.  Instead of being all excited and anxious in a positive way, I was sad and anxious in negative way – scared really.  You see, I had a very sweet relationship with my first son, and I knew as we drove away from home that nothing would be the same for us again.  Bringing home a second child would change everything. And I then I wondered if I would be able to have a special sweetness with my second child, too.  I began to cry. 

These feelings caught me by surprise because I was very excited about having a second child!  After trying to get pregnant for years and eventually being told by a doctor that I would not be able to have a baby without fertility treatments, we were thrilled beyond words when three pregnancy tests came back positive just two days before my first meeting with a fertility specialist.  My own doctor was in disbelief and later to called me himself to congratulate me and tell me how shocked he was after reviewing my tests to find out I’d gotten pregnant naturally.  We knew this baby was truly a gift from God.  So you can imagine how surprised I was to experience anxiety about bringing a second child home. 

Well, those feelings of anxiety quickly got lost in the shuffle of activity once we arrived at the hospital.  Once induced it was all about going into labor and having a baby!  At 2:07 our precious new son arrived.  He didn’t look a thing like his older brother.  He was a little boy of his own identity, and I was so happy to finally have him to hold in my arms!

Later that evening, when the two of us were finally alone (my husband had gone home to be with our older son), I reached over from my hospital bed to reach inside the little ‘baby warmer’ where my new baby lay sleeping.  He was dozing soundly, like babies do, yet when I slowly reached down to touch him, he sensed my presence and lifted his hand and wrapped his tiny little fingers around my finger, and pulled my finger down to him.  Oh, it was so sweet! And he slept for quite a while holding my finger close to him. Yes, there would be a special sweetness with this child, too. And yes, everything would change at home, but only for the better.

Soon we taking our baby boy home.  The two of us got comfy in the family room in the recliner while my husband settled beside us and my older son busied himself on the floor in front of us.  And it was amazing.  Sitting there with this new child gave our family a sense of completeness and made everything right.  We were a wonderful family before, but now we were even more so.  We were so blessed.

We are still blessed today and I pray often to thank God for each of my sons and the special things about them.  I also ask Him to be with them always to keep them safe and well, and to help me be the best mom I can for each of them.  For our family I pray that the Word of God will remain the solid rock upon which we stand and for Jesus Chris, our Lord and Savior, to always be the center post of our home and the cornerstone of our lives. 

May reasons for praise and celebrations be in your lives today, too. 

Blessings to all,

Renee

I am writing this morning as ‘momma tears’ fall.  My boy is growing up. 

At 12 he looks like a young teen and has all the earmarks of a soon-to-be teenager.  He’s starting to face decisions that are his to make and take on responsibilities that minimize his dependence on his father and me.  Up until this moment I’ve been proud to see him mature and grow, and I am still very proud of him, but today the pangs of having to let go set in.  And as is often the case, my emotions were triggered by a simple and seemingly insignificant moment.  He left for the school bus without me. 

For seven years I’ve kept him company at his bus stops, enjoying the time with him while we wait for the bus to come.  But today that all changed.   He’s a seventh grader now.  He sleeps in until the last minute, gets ready on his own, eats while he watches ESPN (what happened to the Disney Channel?), goes up to brush his teeth, then comes down ready to go. 

Because he was still waking up while eating his breakfast this morning, he didn’t have much to say, and then went up to his room to finish getting ready.  Moments later he came back down , grabbed his backpack, and headed for the door – obviously planning to go with out me.  He paused for a hug only because I stopped him to give him a hug, then went out the door giving me an “okay” when I said, “Goodbye!  I love you!  God bless you!”  Then he proceeded out of the house and down the driveway, looking like the cute 12-year old that he is, without giving me another thought, as he made his own way to the bus stop. 

I left the garage door open just in case he ‘needed anything’ or missed the bus and came back to say that he needed me to take him to school.  Actually, I left the garage door open because I couldn’t bring myself to close it behind him. 

This is all as it should be, I know.  And I’m grateful for all the mornings we had together in previous years, but for some reason I was moved to tears as I watched him walk away.  I guess because it’s not just about the bus stop.  It’s where he is in his life.  He’s moving on in his own life, becoming his own person. 

Surprised by my tears I came upstairs to seek the comfort of my prayer chair.  I needed to pray about all of this.  Before I sat down I opened the blinds. As  I did, I caught a glimpse of the top of my sons head bobbing up and down as he broke into a jog to get to the school bus as it came to a stop at the bottom of the hill.  It was as if God brought me up here just in time to see my son jogging to the bus so He could say, “He’s going to make it.  He’ll be ok.”  And I knew that wasn’t just about the bus, but also about all the other wonderful things he’ll pursue and challenges he’ll face. 

I guess it’s ok to close the garage door now

 Dear Lord,  Thank you for the wonderful reassurance You gave me this morning to let me know that my son will be ok.  It helps to make letting go a little easier.   But Lord, don’t let me let him go too much!  Please help us to stay connected, and most importantly, help us  keep him connected to YOU.    In Your holy name I pray.  Amen.

For a related reading, see one of my previous posts, “Coaching Kids for the Big Game” under the March archives. 

And to leave comments or responses, click on the word ‘comments’ under the title of the post for which you are responding.

Blessings to all,

Renee

“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress.  For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray.  But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying,  for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.  For we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for him.”  Romans 8:26-28

Fortunately and unfortunately, I have a high threshold for pain.  This is a good thing when I have back pain, dental problems, and was certainly beneficial I gave birth to my sons.  However, it is not a good thing when it keeps me from acknowledging physical problems that need attention.  That’s what happened this past week when a mild cold became a bad sinus infection. At first I treated symptoms myself hoping they’d go away on their own.  By the time I decided to see a doctor, my health had declined significantly and the doctor had to give me stronger medicine and prescribe it for a longer term.  Because the infection had advanced, it took 48 hours of medication before I started feeling better.  Had I acknowledged my symptoms sooner the situation wouldn’t have been as bad, I’d have had less medication, and would have responded to the medicine right away. 

Pain is a God-given alarm system for our bodies.  It’s designed to alert us to problems that need attention.  When we ignore pain we’re ignoring the problem it’s trying to warn us about.  And as you know,  the problems don’t just go away.  They continue to worsen until addressed.

Life is like that, too.  Often we ignore indicators of pain in our hearts.  We try to ignore or push our problems aside hoping they’ll go away on their own without any help or ‘medication’.  Or we try to treat them ourselves and often find our efforts are ineffective, causing the problems to worsen.  The problems we face might be caused by anger, resentment, jealousy, holding a grudge, loss, grief, fear, or depression; or maybe physical pain is taking an emotional toll.   

 Just as you would seek a doctor when you are sick, you can turn to the great Physician, Healer, and Counselor when pain in your life sets off warning alarms.  Don’t let problems fester inside you.  It isn’t healthy!  Take a few quiet moments and turn your problems over to God.  He is your Heavenly Father and He loves you too much to see you suffer!  He wants you to be happy and well. That’s why He sent an Advocate who prays for you even when you don’t know what to pray for yourself.  The Advocate is the Holy Spirit and it feels your pain.  We know this because the scripture above tells us the Holy Spirit prays with groanings that are beyond words.  So there’s no use trying to hide your problems from God because the verse above clearly states that God knows what’s in our hearts!  We have no secrets from Him!  Go ahead and open up to your loving Father.  He will take your pains and problems from you and help you find ways to cope.  He can even turn them around make wonderful things happen!  This is what we’re assured of in the words above from the apostle Paul when he tells us the Lord will take the bad and use it for the good of those who love him.

A friend at church once pointed out that if you leave an apple sitting out with a rotten spot, the rotting area will grow until it reaches the core, eventually ruining the apple.  However, if you tend to the rotting apple right away by cutting out the rotten spot, the rest of the apple will be good!  What are the rotten spots in your life?  Whatever they are, go to God in prayer and give them to Him.  Allow Him to cut them out so the rest of you can be useful and good! 

Dear God, You know our hearts, our hopes, our struggles, and our pain.  Please help me to stop pushing aside the problems in my life.  Take the things that I can’t bear or deal with on my own.  Your way is better than my way.   I put my trust in You to help me through my struggles, difficulties, and limitations knowing that You can make them work for good according to Your will and purposes for me.  In Jesus’ holy name I pray.  Amen. 

“So you see, it isn’t enough just to have faith. Faith that doesn’t show itself by good deeds is no faith at all – it is dead and useless.”

– James 2:17

You’ve probably heard the saying, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.” I agree with that, but…the ‘outside’ is important, too.

In my previous post, Pushing Past the Plateaus, I mentioned my recent determination and struggle to lose unwanted pounds. In addition to monitoring my diet, I started doing sit-ups and push-ups every day – LOTS of sit-ups and as many push-ups as I could eek out, usually just 12-15 but that was better than none! I could feel my abdominal muscles contracting with each ab crunch and would later have tenderness in that area indicating that the muscle was indeed responding to my efforts. I was thrilled to feel the progress on the inside, but discouraged to see that it wasn’t showing on the outside!

Unfortunately, the muscle was growing faster on the inside than the fat was going away on the outside. Abdominal muscles were growing and toning, but you couldn’t tell by looking at me because the muscle was hidden by the fat. To let the goodness show through from the inside, I had to work on the outside, too!

The same can be true for our faith and Christian hearts. We can hold all the good Christian thoughts, beliefs and ideas of faith possible in our heads and hearts, but they’re not much good if they can’t be seen from the outside! The Book of James tells us that faith without works is dead. That’s harsh, but it’s true. As Christians we’re called to share Christ with others in actions, words, and deeds. If we keep it all inside, we not serving Christ because we’re not serving others.

So, yes, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, but it only counts if it can be seen on the outside, too!

Sunny day blessings to all,

Renee

Over the past two years my weight has been slowly creeping up.  Being more careful with my diet used to help when I gained weight in the past, but this time was different. Despite my efforts to have better eating habits, I was still gaining weight.  I tried walking regularly after acknowledging that I’m 45 and at an age where diet alone isn’t enough.  However, I wasn’t able to walk enough to make a difference in my weight.  I became more discouraged.

Then we spent a week at the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  Despite eating MORE that week, I returned home to find that my clothes were finally getting looser!  Of course  I was delighted about this, but didn’t get it.  Why, after months of watching my diet, did my weight suddenly change?  I didn’t know but was happy to observe that my weight continued to decrease after getting home from our trip.

I was thinking about this subject again today when it finally dawned on me.  My weight had finally responded to my efforts because I did what we used to do in my days of weight training. I had shocked my system by changing my routine.  In weight training, when we reached a plateau in our training and our muscles were no longer responding, we shocked our systems by making a temporary radical change to our workouts.  Using our muscles in different ways challenged them in new ways and prompted them to respond again.

Yes, this made sense.  On our trip we stayed in a beach house that required us to climb three flights of stairs to get up to the kitchen and family room level.  I was going up and down stairs many times a day!  In addition to that, we climbed to the top of Cape Hatteras Light House, the tallest light house in the U.S.  That was a definite shock to my system!

Another shock to my system was my change in eating habits.  Although I felt like I ate more, I abandoned my usual not-so-good snack habits and was also getting the extra exercise I mentioned that helped burn off extra calories.

How about you?  Are you at a plateau of any kind? How about in your walk with the Lord?  Every once in a while I realize that I haven’t felt God in my life as much as usual, or that I haven’t had as many ‘God moments’.  When those times happen, it’s not because He’s pulled away from me.  It’s because I haven’t kept up the challenge of walking with Him!  Or maybe I’ve gotten into a rut doing the same old things but looking for different results.  A friend once told me that’s Alcoholics Anonymous’ definition of insanity – doing the same thing over an over and expecting a different outcome.

So what do we do when we reach a plateau in our walk with the Lord?  You got it! We shock our systems by making a radical change.   Have you ever taken a Bible study?  If not, find one that interests you.  And if you have been taking studies, try something different.

Are you spending daily time at home with the Word?  Find a new daily devotion book (See ‘God’s Purpose for Every Women’, the latest book from the Proverbs 31 Ministry  http://www.Proverbs31.org ) or commit yourself to reading a Psalm a day.

How about your prayer life?  Could it use a radical change?  If so, maybe you could set aside designated prayer time (if you don’t do that already) and pray every day for at least five minutes (more if you’re a prayer warrior).  Start a prayer journal or pray in a different way with a new focus or purpose.

What about your involvements?  Would it be nice to have new relationships and new involvements?  Churches and local charity organizations always have needs for volunteers and ways you can get involved.

Or maybe you’re over committed and would like to make a radical change by decreasing your demands so you have more quiet time for God.  If so, that would be a GREAT radical change to make.

Whatever it is that you want to do or feel led to do, commit your efforts to the Lord and they will succeed.  (Proverbs 16:4)

Dear Heavenly Father, Please help us to push past the plateaus that keep us from growing closer to You so that we can continue to move forward in our relationship with You.   Help us to always find ways to keep You present in our lives and see You in awesome ways.  In your Holy name I pray. Amen.

My son decided to try out for football this year. He’s never played on a football team before so he’s been practicing his passes in hopes of being picked as the quarterback. After his first practice he came home very discouraged. Instead of being chosen as the quarterback, he was assigned a lineman’s position. During their drive home my husband explained to him that, as a newcomer to football, he doesn’t yet have the skills and agility needed for the quarterback position. And because my son is big for his age, a position on the line was expected for him. Sensing the disappointment, my husband offered encouragement by reminding him that linemen are very important. Quarterbacks would get creamed if they didn’t have linemen to guard them.

Coincidentally, while they were at football practice, I was attending our church’s Ladies’ Night Out. Women with a knack for decorating had made the tables look beautiful. The catering staff had made a delicious meal. A friend blessed us with her incredible gift of song. And the highly revered Lysa TerKeurst of Proverbs 31 Ministries served as our speaker. In addition to being blessed by the gifted and talented women who took part in the event, I was surrounded by over 300 women who were all beautiful in their own way.

Seeing the beautifully decorated tables I admired those who had a knack for decorating. While enjoying the delicious food that had been served to such a large crowd, I marveled at the caterer’s ability to perform such a task. As my friend sang and witnessed for the Lord I thought about how wonderful it must be to have such a talent to share. Then, hearing Lysa speak I was awed by how gifted she is to do what she does and wanted so much to be able to bless others like she does. And, as you can imagine, being surrounded by so many beautiful women I couldn’t help but think about my own appearance in comparison.

In other words, I was having ‘quarterback’ moments of my own. Just like my son had been attracted to the glorified position of quarterback, I was being attracted to the impressive things others did and how they presented themselves in outstanding ways. My son longed to be picked as the quarterback and I longed for God to pick me to be a talented decorator, admired singer, gifted speaker, and someone who possessed captivating beauty. It would have been easy to feel discouraged because I hadn’t been picked for these things, but in my heart I knew the very things my husband had shared with my son while I attended this event.

In the eyes of the Lord, every position is important. Maybe I haven’t been called to certain positions on His team because I haven’t yet acquired the skills, abilities, knowledge and wisdom needed to do them successfully. Who wants to fail in the eyes of the Lord? And just like my son was assigned a position in football based on the assets and skills he’d been given, God has given me my position on His team based on the skills and abilities He’s given me.

I also know that God isn’t looking for superstars. He’s looking for teachable people who are willing to take the field when called and play their best game. When I focus on doing my best for the Lord, my goal is all about my performance, not my position.

When serving God, not everyone will be picked to be the quarterbacks. Most of us will be linemen or asked to serve from the sidelines. But if our hearts truly desire to please the Lord, we’ll see the importance of every position and find our glory in glorifying Him.

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