Sep 12, 2018

Hey you....

Hey you.

I know how you feel. I know the questions. I know the doubts.

I have been there. So many times.

You wonder if it will ever work out. You wonder if doing the "right" thing will actually pay off.

You wonder if this is just all for nothing. You wonder if this is some kind of cruel joke...this Christian walk.

I get it.

Oh, do I get it.

I have journals and journals of these thoughts. These doubts. These questions.

Why is being good so hard?

Why does it seem like those that choose wrong paths actually come out better sometimes?

Why does it seem like you will always be the one at the wishing well instead of the dance?

What good is it to pray and fast, and believe, and repeat that sequence only to have nothing happen. Zilch. Nada.

Why does it seem like everyone gets what they want so easily, while you sit with hands held out grasping air?

Your story is not over.

Let me say that again, your story is not over.

When these thoughts run rampant through my mind, I have to go back.....and remember.

I have to grab my Bible and read about Noah, and David, and Ruth, and Esther, and Abraham, and Moses, and Paul, and Peter, and....

Jesus.

No one escapes suffering. No one escapes loss. No one escapes heartbreak. No one escapes pain.

Yet...

Few find the fruit of those things.

They give up too easily.

They walk away from God.

They walk away from church.

They walk away from good.

Because....it's just not working.

Oh, but what if Joseph would have walked away? What if he would have burned with hatred for his brothers and spent his life trying to find revenge?

What if Noah would have given into the peer pressure and the nay sayers and not built the Ark?

What if David would have given up his pursuit to rise above King Saul's hatred and jealousy and take matters into his own hands?

What if Ruth had turned from God and her mother in law out of her deep grief and loss of her husband and not stayed with Naomi?

What if Moses had not gone to Egypt and approached Pharaoh?

What if Jesus would have turned back around from that walk to the Cross?

NONE of these people wanted to do these things. None of these people felt equipped to do what God was asking.

NONE of them could have ever imagined what the outcome of their obedience would be. Not one.

But....

What if they had given up.

What if they thought it was just too hard.

What if they turned their back and hearts from God.

Your story is still well under way.

Do. Not. Lose. Hope.

Do. Not. Lose. Faith.

Do. Not. Stop. Doing. The. Right. Thing.

Your time will come.

When you least expect it.

You will see the fruit.

You will experience the bounty.

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9


not giving up, 


jill

Aug 31, 2018

Dear Annie Ruth.....

Dear Annie Ruth,

I remember the first time I saw you. You were buying a coffee at the local coffee shop. I was right behind you. It was a Friday morning.

I was meeting up with my prayer girls. We meet there every Friday to talk, read God's Word, and pray.

You had the biggest smile on your face as you were talking with the lady at the register. You turned around and just gave me the biggest welcoming warm smile.

I knew immediately that you were a Jesus girl. I could see it a mile away. Your face was literally shining. Psalm 34:5 came to my mind, "Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces will never be ashamed."

We began chatting. Somehow or another I invited you to come to our little prayer group table.

Our group has not been the same since.

You shared your story. Addiction, divorce, fornication, homelessness.....decades of it.

You told us that you fell to your knees on a concrete ground and asked God to heal you.

And, He did.

Annie, I wasn't sure what to think of you at first. You were so bold. And loud. And you talked so much.  We never could get a word in. You talked and talked and talked.

For a while, I wasn't sure if it was the right thing to do to ask you to join our group. You made us all feel uncomfortable.

Your words pierced us.

They still do.

You prayed loud and made us stand up and hold hands to pray, because you said, "God always stands up for us."

You challenged me, Annie.

You opened my eyes to something that I did not even know I needed.

Your words resonate with me. They are not your words, they are God's Words.

They literally slice me.

I began to see something about you. Something I saw all along, but I could not quite understand at first.

You remind me of Jesus.

Jesus made everyone uncomfortable. Jesus spoke Truth. Not just pretty words.

He revealed the inner workings of the Pharisees hearts....He called them "white washed tombs."

Oh, Annie. How could you know that we needed you?

You tell us that we are your only friends. You tell us that everyone else says that you talk too much.

Well, it's true. You do.

But, Annie, we need your words. We need your stories. The world needs your words. The world needs your stories.

You speak Jesus.

You speak what you have read, and lived, and what you believe with all of your heart.

You have challenged my faith in ways that I never knew I was weak.

I have begun to write down the things that you say.

Like, "Parents pray for their kids to be doctors, lawyers, business men and women. Instead, what we need to be praying is for our kids to be like Jesus!"

Or, when you said that when people tell you that you talk too much about Jesus you tell them, "Well, what else is there to talk about?"

Or, when your friend asked you why you went to church every day and night and that it was just too much. You replied back to her, "I need all of it. And then some."

You are like Jesus, Annie Ruth. More like Him than anyone I have ever met.

When your friend surprised you with a new grill, you began saving and collecting money and food to have a hot dog cookout for all of the neighborhood children.

You love all people. You take every dime of what God has given you and you give it right back out to a hurting world.

You remind me of the poor widow in the bible that gave, "all she had to Jesus."

Your example put a mirror to my heart and I did not like what I saw.

Thank you for coming to our table.

Thank you for not being afraid to be exactly who you are.

Thank you for showing me that even with an 8th grade education, you can be a wealth of wisdom and knowledge. And you can make a difference.

You are making a difference, Annie Ruth.

I hope Jesus will show you one day in Heaven the impact that you have made on so many of us.

I will never be the same.


keep talking, Annie,


jill







Aug 16, 2018

When life is a mess....

I have been meaning to write for a while. 

But, I haven't.

It is hard for me to find the time to sit still these days. Or maybe, I just don't like stillness.

My mind is always racing of a million and one things that need to be done. Or started. Or finished.

Never. Ending.

Our kitchen is undergoing a renovation. What began as a small, two week job....

Has turned into a not so small job.

We have been without a kitchen for several weeks now.

Hey, don't get me wrong, it has been nice not sweating over a stove. But, whew, the chaos of the dust, the mess, the constant in and out of workers....

Is getting a little old.

However, I  am trying to keep my eyes on the finished product. The end result.

It will be worth it.

One day.

Parenting is a lot like this kitchen renovation. The excitement of a whole new adventure begins when you are pregnant. You dream about what it will be like....to be a mommy.

You plan and you pray....

But, parenting gets messy. Oh so messy. Beginning at day one.

Your sleep never will be the same. Ever.

When you have a newborn, you get no sleep.

When you have a teenager, you still get no sleep.

Many a night, I will go to my kids' bedrooms just to look at them. To make sure they are still there, and breathing.

The worry and fear do not get easier,

No matter the age of your child.

The days are messy. Chaotic. Unplanned events.

Just like this kitchen renovation. Like, when some workers stepped through, yes through, our ceiling. Three times.

The job lingers on..

Just like parenting.

Days can be so long. So hard. So confusing.

I feel like an utter screw up as a momma most days.

I pray and I pray.

But, I still have no idea what the outcome of all of these days will be.

I pray that these long, hard, prayer filled days produce a harvest of fruit.

I pray that the ugly messy days will somehow become beautiful.

I pray that God will never allow me to be lazy or unintentional as a momma....even when my children roll their eyes and seem to close their ears to my voice.

It's so easy to want to throw your tired hands up and say, "I GIVE UP. Does it EVEN matter? Lord, can you EVEN hear me?"

Sometimes when I get home to this mess of a kitchen and all of the workers and think, "What in tarnation? I thought we were renovating....not destroying!"

Then, a few days later, I will see some progress. I think to myself, Ohhhhh, so that's what's going on there.

It's hard to tell when you are in the thick of it, day by day.

But, when you step back and take a breath....

You begin to see.

God is building something that human eyes cannot see.

God is chiseling some hard places on my heart  and my childrens' hearts.  It can be painful at times.

Sometimes I want to throw that chisel to China and never lay eyes on it again.

Oh, but without the chisel we are not changed.

Lord, help us to remember this.

Help us to not give up on this parenting thing. Help us to not lose ourselves in something else because we just cannot take another day of being intentional in this motherhood thing.

Lord, help us to not be lulled away by distractions of the enemy but to stay dead set on this job of ours. This calling. This entrusting.

Help us to not give up on the hard days....or on the not so hard days. Help us to not get bored, but to stay plugged in. To stay alert. To stay all in.

Help us to keep the end in sight.

Help us to persevere.

Help us to lean into You and not into a life of escape.

Our children need us to stay intentional.

They need us  to not give up.

They need us to show grace....especially to ourselves.

Mistakes are going to be made. And many.

The outcome of all of this will be worth every ounce of these hard days.

When we finally meet Jesus face to face....It will be worth these days to hear the words, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

Well done is not perfect...

Well done is done well....

With intention.

Regardless of how God chooses for this story to end....it's our part to show up and do what we can.

Our children may stray....

And when they do, we stay the course, We never stop praying. Until we draw our last breath, we are entrusted with this calling. This purpose.

Hang in there, momma.

There will be fruit from your tired hands.

He is faithful.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Jul 10, 2018

Unplugged.....

Last week we went on vacation.

It was so nice being unplugged. Like, really, unplugged.

We had zero in internet or even phone connection. Well, we could have paid a gazillion dollars to have phone service, but we declined.

I was worried about not being able to be in contact with my kids. We were on a huge cruise ship and we had four different rooms among our family members.

Without phones, how would we communicate??

We survived.

In fact, we thrived.

For 7 days we figured out ways to communicate with each other. It was nice. Real nice.

Mornings we would meet at a designated place and time for breakfast. Same for lunch and dinner.

After a few days without phone service, I could feel the anxiety release, and I didn't even miss my phone. (shocking, I know)

Even though my children probably will not admit it, I think they kind of liked being unplugged as well.

Without my phone, I had more time to think. To pray. To laugh. To enjoy the moments with my family.

I had almost forgotten what freedom there was without being connected at all times of the day.

It feels good to be out of the loop. It feels refreshing to not be able to be found. At least for a little bit.

Of course, as soon as we touched land my phone was up and going again. I mean, I had to post pictures on my Instagram account. Duh. (eye roll)

Just as quickly as my anxiety had released from being unplugged, it returned when I plugged back in.

Emails. Texts. Catching up on what I missed on Instagram. (double eye roll)

The world was still spinning. Everyone was still breathing and beating to the drums of their days.

Nothing had changed.

But something inside of me changed.

A longing for quiet of the soul.

A longing for the peace and distraction-free life without the constant buzzing of my phone.

I thought of all the reasons I wanted to ditch my phone all together.

Visions of flip phones raced through my head.

Then, I thought of all of the things I would miss on social media. The pictures, the posts. Being in the know. Not missing out.

Double minded. That's how I felt.

I wanted peace, but I also wanted to be included. Noticed. Liked.

But, is Instagram really the answer to that longing?

No.

For me, it is an excuse.

An excuse to escape. To brag on my children. To display the "good and pretty" of my life.

I felt this ickiness rising in my chest. This feeling that it was too late. I was too plugged in. I could never not be. I mean, I have a SHINE Girls instagram for Heaven's sake. Who would I be able to encourage without posting every day on social media? (eye roll for days)

Again, icky.

As I pray, "Lord, what is the answer? Do you want me to be unplugged?"

I hear and see this verse everywhere as I pray, "Be still."

Not the answer I want to hear.

I want a yes or a no to my question.

Isn't it just like God to just give us a scripture??

This is where that hearing His still small Voice comes in.  Sometimes things are not black and white with God.

Sometimes it just boils down to the state of the heart.

How's my heart doing?

Is it clouded by the distractions of the world?

Is it searching for contentment and fulfillment in places that it will never be found?

So, that's where I am today.

I want that stillness in my soul.

I desperately want to hear God when He speaks so tenderly into my soul. The still, small Voice of His leading.

But, I cannot hear it when my heart beats for something other than Him.

This morning I read about the woman that poured a very expensive jar of perfume on the feet of Jesus.

The disciples were bewildered and disgusted that she had wasted such an expensive thing to wash someone's feet.

Jesus was honored and praised the woman for giving all she had to Him, instead of the world.

This resonates with me.

The distractions of this world will lure us and convince us that what we have to give is wasted if we serve and honor Jesus in ways that don"t make sense to the world.

This woman could have made much money off of her possession. Yet, out of her love and gratefulness she gave all she had to Jesus. Every last drop.

What are we giving to the world instead of saving to present to Jesus as a love offering?

He can do so much more with our offerings than we ever could.

Sometimes serving Jesus doesn't make any sense. Just ask the disciples. They were often dumbfounded by what Jesus asked of them. They didn't understand His ways.

We don't either at times.

But, if we quiet our hearts, read His Word, and earnestly seek Him.....

He will lead us.

Sometimes we must unplug to do this.

Maybe even just for a season...

**a little update after writing this post: I reached for my phone to check  it.....and  it went DEAD. Dead as a door nail. Hmm....**


quieting my world,


jill



Jun 25, 2018

Do Not Open, yet......

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 
Matthew 6:21


There's an envelope in my bedroom. It's tucked away in a safe place.

I haven't shown it to anyone except my son.

The envelope is filled with his senior picture proofs.

Normally, I would show them to all the world, smiling from ear to proud-momma ear.

This time is different.

I am not ready to show them to anyone yet. I am still treasuring them in my momma heart.

Eventually, I will show them to people. In my time.

I remember a scripture in the bible about Mary, the mother of Jesus. I think of it so often.

It reads: But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19


Jesus had just been born. The Shepherds had come to visit. They were worshiping and praising the baby King Jesus. Mary looked around and must have felt the most overwhelming love swell in her heart. 

A love that escapes words. 

A love that can only be understood in the deepest depth of your soul. 

A love that only God Himself can understand. 

Mary treasured and Mary pondered. 

With the world of social media, treasuring and pondering is a rare commodity. 

We don't have time to do either. We instantly express whatever emotion we feel at the moment and blast it out for all the world to see. 

But, there is something precious about treasuring and pondering.

There is something holy about a love so deep and a feeling so strong that we have no desire to share it yet with the world. 

A sacred love. 

Mary surely felt this. She alone was the mother of this baby King. She alone was the woman that would get to raise this child and watch him grow into an adult. 

Sometimes, words are not meant to be spoken. 

Sometimes, words are meant to be treasured and pondered. 

Between God and between us. 

Just the two of us. 

There are moments in my marriage that I feel this sacred love. Moments that I bury deep into my heart to store. Hidden treasure. 

There are moments with my children that I feel this sacred love. When I don't log on to instagram to document it. When I just sit and treasure up the moment. Hoping that for one second the world will stand still, and this memory will stay buried in the treasure chest of my heart. 

There are other times. 

Like, when we do something that no one else sees. Serving someone that cannot return the service. Helping someone that will never give us the credit for the sacrifice. 

These times are sacred and holy. 

These stories are often just to be known between us and God. 

Sometimes we can even treasure grief. 

We can feel so much pain over the loss of someone or something that the pain can only be understood by God. Our words fail us. But God sees. He hears when nothing is spoken. 

We treasure not the grief, but the memories. We remember. We ponder. We bury more treasure into our heart chest. 

So, I will keep those senior proofs in that envelope for a little while longer. 

I want to continue to treasure and ponder.

Until the time is right.


holding those pictures close for now, 


jill











Jun 21, 2018

Who's King of your heart?


The one thing I ask of the LORD--the thing I seek most--is to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, delighting in the LORD's perfections and meditating in his Temple. Psalm 27:4


My daughter's voice teacher, Christa, is working on a new song for Presley to sing. The song is called, "King of my heart". 

As I listen to them from the other room practicing the words, the tune, the technique of this beautiful song, I pondered this question...

Who or what is the King of my heart?

I can tell you with honesty it hasn't always been Jesus. 

He has been a close second at times, but I can look at a calendar and point to a particular year and tell you exactly who or what was king of my heart at the time. 

I remember not too long ago one king in particular.

I wanted more children. I so badly wanted to adopt. I felt this stirring in my heart and I prayed for years and years for God to fulfill this desire. 

My husband did not have the same desire. I begged and pleaded with him to pray with me about this and he was very adamant that he did not feel like we should add more children to our family. 

I was devastated. 

I began to have bitterness towards him, and towards God. 

Why would God put me with a man that did not share my same desire?

Tear stained journal entries filled the pages of my life. 

My heart began to grow hard toward the Lord and toward my husband. 

My desire for more children became an idol. 

It consumed my thoughts. It weighed on my heart heavily this emptiness I felt that could only be filled by more children. 

I could go on and on...

There have been many kings of my heart. 

However, until I began to truly desire only One King...my life was not fulfilled. 

The Lord slowly began to help me unclench my fingers from this desire. It was a long process. 

I didn't want to give up that desire. It had become an addiction almost. It had put a wedge between me and the Lord and me and my husband. But, I didn't care. I just wanted what I wanted. 

I began to pray the same prayer as David prayed in the verse above in Psalm 24. Over and over I prayed this prayer. 

I also began to pray, "Lord, your will be done. Not mine."

Those are some of the hardest words to pray. 

I began to see how God was fulfilling the desire for more children in different ways than I had imagined. Like, when kids from the neighborhood would constantly be in and out of our house. Sitting at our table night after night for dinner. Or, when my nephew came to live with us for 3 years.  Or, helping in the classrooms that my kids were in. 

I began to see that the stirring to help children was much broader than I had initially thought, and much different than I had planned. 

Isn't that always like God? 

We must trust God with our desires, and trust Him with His timing. This will come much easier when He becomes our first desire. The King of our heart above anyone or anything else. 

Desires are good, but they must never be bigger than our desire for Jesus. 

We must constantly stay in the Word and in prayer in order to untangle the desires that stir our hearts. 

Who or what is King of your heart?

Ask the Lord Jesus to be King. Every single day seek Him and talk to Him. Ask Him to put in your heart desires that only come from Him. 

Ask the Lord to remove any desire that is not from Him, and be willing to lay it down. 

He has better things for you than you could ever imagine. 


dethroning any other king of this heart, 

jill



Jun 19, 2018

Maturing Momma...

Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. Matthew 14:19



I am really, really trying to cherish every second this Summer. My oldest will be a senior this upcoming school year. Did I hear you gasp? Yeah, me too.

Today, I looked at my calendar and it said, June 19th.

What???!!!

Already the time is getting away from me. Once again, Summer makes its entrance and just as soon as it does, it bows back out for the school year.

Back in my day, you know the world of black and white, we had 3 full months of Summer. School did not begin until after Labor Day.

Ugh. Don't even get me started.

Ok, moving on.

My son works during the week, then of course, he wants to hang out with his friends as much as he can when he is home.

Which leaves not a whole lot of cherish-y time for dear ol' momma.

Here's what I am learning though...

I am thankful for the moments I do have with him. Even though they are few and far between many days.

Instead of trying to manipulate time and break my back trying to force things the way I want them to be, I tell the Lord I am thankful.

I am thankful when I see him laugh.

I am thankful when I see him work.

I am thankful when I see him act silly.

I am thankful when I sit across from him at the dinner table.

I am thankful that I get to check for change and who knows what in his shorts pockets when I wash them.

I am thankful when he comes to me and sits down next to me and just hangs with me on the couch.

Having teenagers forces you to change your focus. I could whine and cry all day about missing my "baby", however what good is that going to do?

Instead, I choose to smile and say a prayer of thanks to the Lord.

Life moves on.

It continues to change.

Day by day.

Hour by hour.

We may as well accept it.

Maturing in motherhood changes your vision.

You begin to see the child become the adult.

It is really quite amazing.

The talks you have with your growing up kids....gosh, they are just priceless.

As I was reading in Matthew this morning, I came across the scriptures of Jesus feeding the five thousand.

The disciples were anxious and doubtful. They wanted to send the crowd of people home because they did not have enough food to give them.

Jesus assured them they would have enough.

Jesus gave thanks to God for the food....

And they all ate

20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. Matthew 14:20-21

"and they were satisfied."

When we give thanks, we become satisfied.

Giving thanks creates a peace in the soul that brings contentment.

I am satisfied with my children growing up.

I am content with the way things are now instead of hanging on to memories that will never return.

A thankful heart frees up discontentment and it allows joy to harvest.

Is there an area of life that you are struggling with?

Maybe a child? A marriage? A friendship?

Commit that person to the Lord and give thanks for them. God will do a miracle in your heart.

Just like He did with the five thousand.


still maturing,


jill











Jun 14, 2018

Who do you hang with?

The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'  Matthew 25:40

For the past several Summers I have veered away from my bible reading plan and read instead the  gospels of the New Testament.

Each and every day that I read a passage, I have to stop. Take a breath. Take it all in.

I read slow. Sometimes I don't even finish a chapter. I look deep into the words. I try to visualize the scene.

With each passage, another treasure uncovered. Just when I think there is no possible way of getting anything else out of a scripture, the Lord reveals something else to my awaiting heart.

When I read about the Pharisees, I tend to tighten my lips and feel a pang of oneness with them. I have been like the Pharisee. I have been like a whitewashed tomb. White and clean on the outside, but full of dirt on the inside.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. Matthew 23:27

I cringe ate  the thought.

The times when I thought that rubbing elbows with church people could make me clean. The times  when I thought that if I said the right thing, and did the right thing, then that was all that mattered. Forgetting that God saw my heart.

Before I found the Grace of Christ, I thought I had to muster up goodness. I thought I had to strive and work, and pretty up for God.

I remember the first time I served in a homeless shelter. For the first time in my life, I felt home.

It was the strangest thing.

I felt free.

I felt like I belonged.

I felt like I had found my people.

What in the world?

Yet, as I read through the New Testament, I am reminded of who Jesus spent his time with. Certainly not religious folks. They knew the old testament inside out but had no idea the true meaning. Their lives were on display for humans instead of on fire for God.

Jesus hung with the least of these.

The ones who were forgotten.  The ones who were shunned. The ones who were not thought highly of. The ones who society did not accept.

Those were Jesus' people.

When Jesus heard this, he told them, "Healthy people don't need a doctor--sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners." Matthew 23:27

Jesus knew they needed Him. Jesus knew they were hungry for Him.

The religious people were too starved of humility to realize their need for Christ.

White washed tombs. 

Something awakens in our hearts when we hang with people that cannot do anything for us. Something happens in our souls when we hang with people with no agenda and no desire for something from us--except maybe a warm meal and a kind word.

A flame ignites.

We become closer to Jesus when we get closer to the least of these.

Who are the least of these in your life?

Is it someone you see but have never really "seen"?

Lord, open our eyes. 

Let us see what You see. 

Ignite our hearts with the desire to be in the company of those that the world rejects. Because, those are the ones you welcome, Lord.