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. 


May 20, 2018

Silent Suffering...

"but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Romans 5:3-4

I have sat down to write this post a hundred times, at least. But, I just could not bring myself to do it.

Possibly,  because I didn't think I was smart enough or wise enough to broach this subject. Perhaps, I was even afraid that I was wrong. Maybe, everything I wanted to say was not the way it really is.

This afternoon, I left the grocery story and headed home. My heart started beating a little faster and my mind was filled with racing thoughts about this post. It was time.

In my late twenties I suffered from terrible panic and anxiety attacks. I had no idea what they were at first. After visiting every doctor under the sun to try to help me, I was finally diagnosed with panic disorder.

I remember being disappointed with the diagnosis.

It sounded so.....

Crazy.

I wanted it to be anything but a mental thing.

I began seeing a therapist. Two of them actually.

Like it was yesterday, I remember telling one of them, "But, you don't understand. I am a Christian. Christian's don't take medicine for things like this. Christian's should be able to trust the Lord enough to heal them and not have to see doctors."

He looked me square in my tear stained eyes and said, "Jill, I am a Christian too. I was called into this profession to help people. All people. Do you think that medicine and doctors are not  from the Lord?"

I gulped loudly.

My mind was spinning.

Peace suddenly filled my soul.

He was right.

If I had found a lump in my breast I would have gone straight to a doctor. I would have asked for prayer. I would have taken the medicine. I would have gotten the help I needed.

But, for some reason, this seemed different.

It seemed so shaming.

I was ashamed.

My life was good. I had a family that loved me and a husband that adored me.

Yet, I could not function.

I could not go anywhere without my heart racing, the room spinning and have a feeling of impending doom.

My mind was not well.

My brain was not functioning properly.

But, I was still ashamed.

I remember praying, "Lord, anything but this."

I started my first anti-anxiety medicine at 28.

It got worse before it got better.

But, finally...

I felt like myself again.

I could go to the grocery store without having to run out of it.

I could take my baby to the pediatrician without having someone drive me.

My life was coming back together.

I still never really talked about the medicine.

I was still ashamed that I had to take medicine to feel normal.

After about a year, I weaned off of it.

I did well for about 3 years, until it happened again.

This time, I was a mother of two.

What was wrong with me??

I went to a different doctor this time.

I remember crying in her office when she asked me if I had ever had suicidal thoughts...

I didn't answer her, I just cried.

She took that as a yes.

I remember her telling me that medicine would just help jump start my brain back into the normal way it functioned.

I was ashamed, again.

Why would God let this happen?? I was praying. I was reading my Bible. I was not in a season of sin.

So, why???

I was angry with God.

But, after the persuasion of my doctor and my husband, I started taking medicine....again.

I kind of just stuffed those angry feelings down deep. I didn't want to deal with them. I buried them deep into my heart.

I began to have serious trust issues with God.

If He won't heal me from this, He must not love me.

I convinced myself of this.

For years.

Until I started devouring God's word in 2012.

I started to trust Him again. Slowly.

He had proven Himself faithful time and time again.

But, honestly, I still did not understand why I had to fight mental battles.

A dear friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. Something about this made me see God differently.

I knew she was loved by the Lord. I knew she loved Him. I knew she lived a godly life.

So, why??

Then, things began to come into perspective for me.

Why did I think I would ever be spared suffering?

Whether it was physical or mental, it was still suffering.

From what I had read in the bible up until that point, all of God's most beloved people suffered from something.

David. Joseph. Moses. Esther. Ruth. Daniel.

Jesus.

Who was I to think that I would be exempt from suffering?

It has been a slow process for me.

I have had moments where I still question Him about this.

Then, I just surrender to Him. And, at times, that meant taking the medicine I did not want to take.

Listen, this is not a post about medicine.

It's a post about God.

And getting help.

And surrendering to what your husband, or parents, or wise doctors advise you to do.

When we are sick, we need the counsel of others. We need to have the faith of a child and let them help us. To take care of us and point us to what we need.

Of course, all of this should be covered in prayer. Much prayer.

But, I am so tired of Christian women feeling like they have to hide their mental struggles. They are convinced by themselves and sometimes other Christian's that if they would just be "more faithful", or "believe harder", they would be healed.

I have found along this journey, that many women suffer with anxiety, fear and panic. I have learned that they also hide it well.

I have found that they carry shame, just like I did.

We must be willing to talk about this. To get help. To get therapy. To ask our friends to pray for us and with us.

This journey has actually brought me closer to God and to others who suffer. Suffering creates a bond with others like nothing else.

Suffering gives you compassion that you could not have otherwise.

Please. If you are dealing with mental issues, reach out. Talk to someone.

God uses people. He uses doctors. Therapists. Counselors. Medicine.

Don't suffer in silence.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:10


pushing back the darkness,


jill




May 1, 2018

Before you fall...

A few weeks ago I found myself face first in a deep dark pit of fear.

I have been in that same pit before, but this time I thought that I knew better. I thought I was victorious over fear. I thought fear could not hold me captive again.

How very wrong I was.

It started by a very small thought. Then, I expressed this thought to a couple of people. Then, I turned this thought over in my head day and night, night and day.

Then, I started googling this thought. As you all know, google is a terrible place to look for something out of fear and desperation. Anyone been there? Ever had a sick child and googled their symptoms? Yep, full blown anxiety attack.

When we are in a place of captivity, we turn inward. We secretly think things and act on impulses that are completely irrational and against our faith nature.

We rely on flesh.

The last place we often turn is to the Word of God.

We think to ourselves, "I don't need scripture, I need an answer."

We look for peace and assurance in all the wrong places.

I imagine God is looking down thinking, "Daughter, you know you won't find the answer there. Come to me. Come to me, weary girl."

Often when we find ourselves in captivity, we are blind and deaf to the Lord. Sin separates us form Him. [Isaiah 59:2]

I remember thinking in this deep well of fear that I could not even remember what peace felt like. It felt so far away. I even blamed God for letting me get this far into the well of fear.

My own choices led me there. I chose to not take my thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. [2 Corinthians 10:5]

I chose to go my own way.

I chose to listen to the world and the lure of google to give me an answer for my worries.

God didn't push me away, I pushed away with the help of an enemy who roams around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. [1 Peter 5:8]

Here's the thing..

I know better.

I have been down this road more times than I want to remember.

I knew not to take the dark paths that lead to fear.

But, my flesh desired more. More answers. More information.

Remember what finally got Eve to bite the piece of fruit in the garden? It was her desire for more. She wanted to know more. She wanted to have full knowledge.

I wanted the same thing.

The world will never, ever, fulfill us. The world and its answers will only make us crazy, fearful, and empty.

We must turn to God when we find ourselves on the brink of any kind of captivity.

This is why the enemy loves when we fall into dark wells of captivity:

  • We turn inward.
  • We cease praying.
  • We cease reading God's Word.
  • We turn away from friends and family in our shame.
  • We do desperate things in order to fill the sin craving.
  • We cease being able to use our gifts to minister to others.
  • We cease to serve others because we are self-consumed.
Oh, friends, if I could look you right in the face and tell you something right now it would be to stop looking to the world for saving. The world will NOT save us. The enemy is out to steal, kill, and destroy us.

Only God can save us. Only God can wash us over with peace. Only God is our refuge and our strong tower. [Psalm 61:3]

The world will suck us in and it will feel like we are stuck on the spin cycle of a washing machine.

If you find yourself in this place. Stop. Immediately.

Go straight to the Father and repent of your sins.

Ask Him to give you the strength to stay away from things that will lead you straight back into the black well of captivity. You know the things that tempt you. You know them well and so does your enemy.

I can tell you with all honesty and truth that God will help you. He will rescue you. But, you must be willing to turn away. You must use the strength He gives you to walk back to Him and His Truth and Peace.

His Life Line is always there. Always. You just have to reach for it.

Coming out of the fog of fear, I look back and cannot believe how I fell again. I know better.

However, our enemy is relentless and he doesn't miss an opportunity to tempt us. Often when we are weak, stressed, vulnerable....is when he strikes.

Be alert! Be on guard! [1 Peter 5:8]

Clothe yourselves daily with scripture. Do not give the enemy an opportunity to trip you up. Put your armor on before the attack comes.

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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 6:10

Don't ever be fooled enough to think that you are so far along in your faith that you cannot be tempted right back to that place of captivity.

Paul tells us to not boast in ourselves, but to boast in Christ alone.

Therefore, as it is written: "Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord." 1 Corinthians 1:31

We must be intentional about waking up every morning and inhaling God's Word just as much as we like to inhale our coffee. We must be intentional about praying as much as we like to browse social media. And, we MUST be alert to the things around us that the enemy is using to trip us up. We must open our spiritual eyes and keep them open every single day.

The enemy is not just out to destroy us...he is out to destroy our husbands, our children, our families. Make no mistake about that. You are not spared. Be ready to take your stand against his schemes.

The good news is, we will always be victorious with God on our side. We cannot lose.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31

armor up,


jill




Apr 30, 2018

Finding Simple....

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.  1 Timothy 6:6-8

Do you crave a simple life? Do you just wish that your life had some kind of order and structure?

Me too. 

So, I am on a journey to find simplicity. 

If you are reading along with us on our reading plan then you are well aware that we are learning a whole lot about the Israelites. People so much like us. 

The Israelites were always trying to make things harder. To do things the hard way instead of the simple way of obedience. 

They were constantly trying to find short-cuts, which inevitably led them to 40 years of wandering in the desert. 

The journey to the Promised Land could have taken 2 weeks. It was a 200 mile journey.  Instead, it took 40 years and a whole generation of people dying before they reached their final destination.

Gosh, aren't we so much like those stubborn Israelites?  We are always looking for the fast track, and the easy way out. 

In our culture today, we have so many "things" to make our lives easier. Computers, cell phones, GPS, microwaves, self-driving cars (really?!!)...

In the search for simplicity, we have found anything but. 

Our lives are complicated by a million tv channels, thousands upon thousands of Internet search engines,  shopping online at any store in the whole world...

Too. Many. Choices. 

I tend to get anxious just thinking about all of the choices! Did I choose the right one? The cheapest one? The best deal?

Good grief. 

Remember when the Israelites were hungry and they asked God for food? 

God rained down "manna" from heaven. 

This was all they had to eat. And it was enough. 

The people were told not to hoard it or save it overnight though or it would be rancid and spoiled by the morning. 

Of course, many of the people did this very thing. And, to their bewilderment, they awoke with a mess of spoiled manna. 

They didn't believe that God would provide this food for them every day, so they took too much and hoarded it. Only to find that it would make them sick the next day. 

 Hello? Anyone see the comparison to us?

We don't trust that God will provide our needs, so we hoard. We over-purchase. We stock up and pile up "stuff" until we don't even know what we have. 

We long for simplicity, but it scares us. 

What if we don't have what we need when we need it?

Seriously? There is a Wal-Mart on every corner. 
 
Somewhere along the way we get attached to our "stuff" and it makes for a messy and cluttered life. 

Which leads to a cluttered mind. 

Every single time I see a bird flying in the air, I long for its freedom. Birds have nothing to hold onto. They live such simple lives. 

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  Matthew 6:25-27

How I long for that feeling. Of no attachments to stuff.  Or schedules. Or anything that makes me miss out on the present of my moments. 

To assist my journey of simplicity,  I am cleaning out my closet. I am appalled at how much "stuff" I have. I cannot throw it into a black trash bag fast enough to give away. 

It's freeing. 

It unlocks something in my soul to be able to let it go. 

But, there are other things I need to simplify. And, I am working on that. 

What about you?

What do you need to get rid of to have a simpler life?

When we are surrounded by clutter, our spirit cannot hear the Voice of the Lord for all the noise. 

We miss out on so much because we have too much to tend to. 

Will you join me on this journey? 

I am praying for you. To let stuff go. To be free from whatever it is that suffocates you and holds you back from freedom. 

Let's don't be like those Israelites....

Let's trust that God will provide for us so we don't have to hoard and stock pile anymore. 


back to my closet, 

jill

Apr 26, 2018

When you want to be known....


My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me (John 10:27).


As I scroll through my Instagram feed, I feel a heaviness in my spirit. I love pictures. I love stories. I love people.

However, for the past year or so God has opened my eyes to some things in my own life that needed pruning.

My desire to be known.

I think, deep down, we all have this desire.

Yet, the world twists it into something it was never meant to be.

God gave us this desire to be known, so He could fulfill it.

He wants us to know that we are known by Him.

We are adored by Him.

We are important to Him.

But, somewhere along the way, our flesh strives and screams and begs to be known by others.

To be regarded.

To be looked upon with fondness.

To be important.

To be noticed.

To be admired.

To be....

You fill in the blank.

I can put a lot of fills in those blanks. Through the years i have  filled those blanks with many things I wanted to be known for.

a good mom. 

a good wife. 

a good Christian. 

a good writer. 

I can go on for days, but I will stop here.

Social media is creating a monster in the hearts and minds of us and our children.

Thanks to the world wide web, you can get "known" for just about anything these days. And, I mean ANYTHING. Good, bad, and everything in between.

Things go viral in a hot second and suddenly someone is known by the world.

Haven't we seen this time and time again?

Deep down in the minds of our kids and maybe even us, we think if only we could be "discovered" and "known".  (I have definitely had this thought about being a writer. Many times. )

I have seen post after post of kids (and adults) asking their friends to like their post. To get the most likes they can possibly get.

Why?

To be known. 

We "follow" others on social media in hopes that they will "follow" us back.  We follow people we may not even know because they will follow us back.  The more followers we have, the more "known" we are.

It all goes back to one thing...

We crave being known.

Discovered.

Liked.

Thought of.

Talked about.

Admired.

How do we stop this crazy game that only leads to loneliness and lack of fulfillment?

We remember who we are.

We remember Whose we are.

We remember that we are known by the Only One that really knows us in the way we long to be known. The One who knows the exact number of hairs on your head. (Luke 12:7)

When we realize what a treasure we are to our Father in Heaven, we realize we don't want or need to be known by the world.

The fulfillment comes when we walk with the Holy Knowing of our place in Christ.

Heirs of the King.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ.

Chosen, Treasured. Dearly loved.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9

We are known.

Nothing on earth compares to being known by our Father. No person. place, or thing could ever replace the filling that comes with this knowing.

Let's walk in this knowing. Let's point our children to this knowing. Let's point the way to Fulfillment. Shall we?


fully known by Him,


jill

Apr 25, 2018

Will it really be okay?

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Lately, the heaviness of the world feels like it is sitting on my chest. I feel the panic rise some days, and I have to go back to what I know. God's Word.

When this feeling comes up through my chest cavity and into my throat feeling like I will most likely suffocate, I recite God's Word. Over and over.

Immediately the panic is gone.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. Hebrews 4:12

A few nights ago, I escaped to our back porch. The sky was pitch black except for the sliver of a bright and shining moon. I gasped when I saw the moon. So bright. So captivating. So affirming.

God is light, there is no darkness in Him at all. 1 John 1:5

As I stared at the moon and heard the words of 1 John repeating in my head over and over, my heart was washed over in peace.

Everything is going to be okay.

Everything is going to be okay.

Everything is going to be okay.

I felt the same way I did when my mother would tuck me in at night when I was a scared and frightened little girl. She would always say, "It's okay baby. Everything is just fine."

The warmth of her words washed over me.

Just as the warmth of God's Words washes over me.

I cannot be fearful when I am saying His Words.

I cannot be scared when His Word is being spoken, whispered into the depths of my spirit.

I cannot worry what tomorrow will bring when I know that He has tomorrow in His hands.

Do I think He doesn't know what I need? What my family needs? What our nation needs? What our world needs?

 ...for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matthew 6:8

It feels good to ask Him though.

It feels good to say, "Lord, is it going to be alright? Do you see our need? Do you see the state of our world? It will be okay, right?"

Just as a child asks her mother, we ask the Lord.

It affirms our faith.

It shows our dependence on Him when we can just stop dead in our tracks and say, "Lord, it will be okay, right?"

We need to talk to Him. We need to tell Him how we are feeling. We need to shed the thousand pound weight of worry on our hearts. We need to unload it on Him. He can handle it. But, we cannot.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:29-30

The truth is, I have no idea what will happen. No idea.

But, God does.

My job is to be still, and know that He is God. And pray.

Worrying, fretting, and incessantly talking about the fears we have, is not being still. It is in fact, quite the opposite.

We are to have a deep knowing of God's Hand in all things.

Our times are in His hands. Psalm 31:15

I am reminded of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. As she sat at the cross where her perfect Son was being crucified, tortured, laughed at, mocked, spat upon...

She was still. Quiet. Prayerful.

She could have wailed, pitched a fit, made a scene, plead His case....

Yet, she sat still.

Mary had a knowing.

A knowing that could of only come from her faith in Jesus.

She knew it would all be okay.

Surely, it didn't look okay in the moment...

Yet, she knew.

She trusted God enough to know that this was not the end.

Her faith kept her still, quiet, and prayerful.

Mary was able to see the fruit of her faith just a few short days later, when she would see Jesus in His Glorious arisen state.  But, she also had to see the absolute worst of scenarios right up until then.

Our children are watching us. Our neighbors are watching us. The world is watching us.

What will we do?

Will we panic? Will be feverishly try to figure out the outcome? Will we lose sleep, worry incessantly, and drive ourselves to a mad state of mind?

Or, will we be still. Quiet. Prayerful.

Knowing, that all things work together for our good. [Romans 8:28]


choosing stillness,


jill

Apr 24, 2018

In the Weeds....

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"The Lord lifts the burdens of those bent beneath their loads" Psalm 146:8

A few minutes ago, I stepped outside to sit on my front porch. I needed to breathe. I needed to see air and space and green grass. I needed to inhale the bigness of God's Creation outside of the sometimes bubble of my life.

I sat on the pollen covered front step. Black pants on, but not a care in the world for those pants that would soon be covered with yellow dust.  I just needed to sit and be still.

As I looked over our yard, a faint giggle came to my lips. We have weeds the size of a small toddler growing everywhere. I have recently teased my friends that they were secretly planning to start a "go-fund me page" for our yard.

Don't get me wrong, we have a great yard. However, with cutting a few trees down, we have dirt piles and we are majorly in need of pine straw for our flower beds.

We are patiently waiting for our yard maintenance company to squeeze us into his overloaded schedule for a major yard overhaul. My husband has declared he is not pulling one weed or wasting and ounce of energy on this yard until the extreme make-over of our lawn is complete.

I tend to disagree. We live right smack in the middle of town where everyone and their grandma drives by to take kids to school. [hello, humility]

A little weed pulling would not hurt, I assured him. He sticks to his theory. He says [with ALL seriousness], the worse the yard gets as we wait for the yard man, the better it will appear once it is finished. [I am still scratching my head over that]

But, as I sat there a few minutes ago looking at dandelions, weeds, and tall yellow flowers growing wildly about me, I began to feel a freedom slowly washing over me.

Who cares.

Really, who cares.

There is freedom in growing wild and carefree. There is freedom in not conforming to the norm or keeping up with the status quo set in our always- comparing -ourselves -to -others mind.

As I eyed the weeds, I began to see beauty. So much beauty.

Those weeds were finally able to bloom. To be set free from a life only able to live just above the soil until someone bends down and snatches them up by the root.

Gosh, don't we feel like weeds sometimes? Like, we just cannot bloom because something or someone is constantly telling us we don't belong. We are not quite enough.

The burden of trying to live up to a certain set of standards warps our soul and our uniqueness.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Everything.[Ecclesiastes 3:11]

Perfectly manicured lives can often be lifeless. Dead. And lost of all of God's beautiful design and purpose.

Because...

With perfectly manicured lives comes a burden. The burden of maintaining that perfection. It will not allow us to get messy with loving others. We won't desire anything in our lives that will mess with the life we have on display. The load will get heavy. The maintenance will grow our hearts cold and devoid of allowing others to frolic in our space.

Weeds attract footprints and an open invitation to step right on in and pick as many wildflowers as your heart pleases. There is no limit on the giving or the taking in a field of wildflowers. Take what you please. More will grow right back up in its place.

Oh, I long to live like wildflowers. Wild and free.

Perfectly content with who God created me to be. Where He created me to live. And all He brings into my space. With open arms waving for all to come in and sit down among the weeds and wild flowers.

Instead of apologizing for all of the weeds, allowing them to partake of a life of freedom right along side of me. Soaking up the beauty of messy love, messy yards, and messy lives.

There is beauty in the mess.

So much beauty.

We find our purpose there because our eyes begin to focus upward and outward instead of inward.

If you happen to drive by my house, feel free to come and play in the wildflowers. Pick them, blow the dandelions all over the place, and then come knock on my door. I will greet you with a hot cup of coffee or a cold can of La Croix. Depending on the time of day you come.

You are welcome here. Mess and all.


learning to love weeds,


jill

Apr 23, 2018

Do you remember?

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Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3-4


Since my children were little we called Monday's, "Mission Monday". We would look for an opportunity to serve someone. Usually a neighbor.

As the children get older, we forget about Mission Monday.  Life gets hectic. Schedules get crazy. Homework gets out of control. [can I get an amen?]

Every blue moon I will say, "it's Mission Monday! Find someone to bless today!" Honestly, I do it more for a reminder to me. To get out of my bubble. My to-do list. My self-centered life.

However, when I do take the time to stop and do something for someone else, I am filled in such a beautiful way. Suddenly, my to-do list seems manageable. My bubble seems silly.

Serving opens our spiritual eyes like nothing else. Serving allows us to see how Jesus sees.

Gosh, I want that more than anything.

I want eyes like Jesus. I want to see what I so often miss when I rush around looking down, looking inward.

We all desire to be intentional, don't we? I believe we do. We just forget. We get busy. We move on.

So many times in scripture, God tells us to "remember". He sure knows us well, doesn't He?

Not too long ago I was going through a spiritual battle. A battle that about knocked my lights out. Yet, I heard the gentle whisper of Jesus saying to me, "Remember my Faithfulness."

Remember.

How quickly I had forgotten the many, many times He had rescued me from myself. From fear. From anxious thoughts. From the enemy's lies whispered in my ears.

During that dark season I read over my prayer journals from years past. Desperately searching for a jog to my memory regarding His Faithfulness.

It didn't take long for me to find it.  Prayer after prayer answered. Some answered in days, some in weeks, some in years. But, answered none the less. In His way, and in His time.

How quickly I had forgotten His faithfulness.

What is it that you want to be intentional about?

Make it a priority.

Put a note on your calendar as a reminder.

Ask someone to hold you accountable.

Do it with your children.

A few things come to my mind of things I want to be intentional every single day about...


  • Reading God's Word
  • Prayer
  • Being a helping wife
  • Being an encourager
  • Being Kind
  • Serving others
These seem like they would be easy to remember...but they aren't always easy when life gets tough and hectic. 

We have to be intentional. We have to make it a priority. We have to remember. 

I encourage you to remember today.  Remember what you want to do with your life. Remember who you want to be. 

And do it.


back to mission monday,


jill








Apr 22, 2018

I have a thorn....

When I come out of darkness, I have this insatiable need to write. To let it out. To talk about it.

I desperately need to share what God has been speaking to my heart. My flesh just feels like it will burst some days!

For about two months, I have been in utter darkness. A season so dark I thought I would surely never see light again.

Here is the thing...nothing bad happened. There wasn't a colossal incident in my life that brought on this season of pitch black.

It came out of the blue and knocked me down like a ton of bricks.

It had been so long since I had been that desperate, and I do mean desperate for a Word from God. I needed to know that I was not forgotten. I needed to know that I was still on His radar. I needed to know that I was not alone in this battle. Oh, and battle it was.

If you have never had your heart beat so wildly that you thought for sure it would beat right out of your chest....

If you have never felt like the world was closing in on you...

If you have never had your head so filled with fear that you would rather die than open your eyes...

Then, this post will be hard to understand.

But, if you, like me, have had anxiety and panic attacks....you will be nodding your head in agreement.

I have prayed so many times that God would take these panic attacks from me and give me another weakness...ANYTHING but this.

Yet, the thorn has not been removed.

Let me say something here though...

This thorn is what drew me to Jesus. This thorn is what made me open God's word sitting on my shelf after sitting dusty and dormant for YEARS.

This thorn is the reason I have hidden scripture in my heart and can recite just about every verse on fear and anxiety. Not bragging here, just showing you the depth of this thorn.

I have been told that my faith wasn't strong enough. Or, I was not praying enough. Or, I just didn't read the Bible enough.

I have been told that I just need to think positive and retrain my thoughts.

I believe all of those things.

But, what if you are doing those things...what if it is not a prayer thing, or a faith thing at all?

What if it is just a thorn that the Lord is allowing for a greater purpose?

I sat happily eating my chicfila breakfast one morning last week. I glanced out the window and saw an elderly man with a severe handicap. He was by himself. Walking, more like limping his way into the restaurant. He used a walker. His steps were so small and so slow.

It took him 10 minutes to get into the restaurant.

I watched and my eyes filled with tears. Not tears of pity, but tears of joy.

In that moment, the Lord spoke so gently to my heart.....

Everyone has a thorn, Jill. 

Suddenly, after weeks and weeks of being in utter darkness, I saw Light. The Light of His Truth shining deep inside my soul. Piercing my heart in a way that it had never been pierced.

I remembered Paul. He wrote this...

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

His Power is made perfect in our weakness. BAM.

If I had never had this thorn, I would have NEVER drawn close to Jesus. I would have had no use for Him.

Gosh, how clear this has become.

We all have thorns.

Sometimes God chooses to remove those thorns, and sometimes He doesn't.

Let me assure you though, BOTH scenarios reveal His Power.

He will either choose to reveal His Power by removing the thorn, or He will reveal His Power in spite of the thorn.

Oh, y'all.

I cannot even tell you with mere words what this has meant to my walk with Jesus.

I have questioned Him for so long regarding this thorn...wondering why in the world I could not muster up enough faith to be free from it.

Could it be that this thorn is the very thing that keeps me in close fellowship with Him...

The very thing that brings me to my knees head over heels in love with His mercy, grace, and peace.

Despite the thorn, He comforts. Despite the thorn, He heals. Despite the thorn, He soothes me.

Oh, friend. I hope you will see God's great love for you despite your thorns.

I hope you will see that He loves you so much that He will stop at nothing to draw your heart to His.  Instead of asking Him to remove your thorn, thank Him for allowing it to draw you close to Him.

If He chooses to remove it, then so be it.

But, if not, keep walking with that limp. The world will see His power magnified in your life.

Trust Him. He is Faithful.


limping,


jill


Apr 9, 2018

Erin's Story....

Hey, SHINE friends! Gosh, I have I have missed all of you! Life has been a whirlwind...as usual.

I just have to share something with you on this rainy, bleak Monday!

My dear friend, Erin Davis, just adopted a precious baby boy, Ryan. I have been honored to be able to witness this entire process. From the moment God laid fostering and adoption on her heart [before God laid it on her husband's heart!], up until the day he was adopted, April 6th, 2018.

Erin's story is one of faith, patience, obedience, mercy, and GREAT love.

I will give you a small back story before posting her video....

Erin's mother died on April 7th, 2011. This grief brought Erin to the feet of Jesus, where she gave her life to Him.

Soon after, He stirred her heart to foster children. She decided not to tell her husband of the stirring because they already had two children. The youngest being one years old.

Of course, just like God, He eventually stirred her husband's heart.

Chad and Erin began the long journey of fostering. Never really knowing it would lead to this day...April 6th 2018.....Seven  years almost to the day of Erin's mother passing into Heaven.

Erin's story is one of beauty from ashes. A story full of HOPE.

I want to post it not just to shine the light on Erin and her family, but to shine the light on God's faithfulness and goodness. To encourage those of you in times of deep grief, sorrow, or valleys...to hold onto Jesus. He will bring something good from your sorrow.

He will turn those ashes into stunning beauty.

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory. Isaiah 61:3

Please take a minute to listen to Erin and Chad's story. It is not very long and it will bless you abundantly!

Click here for the story...

https://www.facebook.com/seeingsouthernphotography/videos/vb.1634685246774640/2052270638349430/?type=2&theater

Mar 27, 2018

You are not alone...

"He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven." Psalm 107:29-30

Have you ever found yourself in a dark place? A lonely place? A place of suffering? A place of waiting? A place of grief?

Recently, I was in a place like this. A lonely place.

My first desire when in such a place is to withdraw. Go inside. Lick my wounds.

However, something happened a few weeks ago that shed light into the darkness I was feeling. Something unexpected, yet healing.

I woke up with a heavy and anxious heart. I wanted to bury myself under my covers and never come out. I was tired and weary.

Yet, I got out of bed anyway. I got dressed anyway. I stuck to my agenda that day anyway.

"Take the next step, Jill. Stay the course."

The Holy Spirit was breathing these words into my heart each morning. "Just do the next thing..."

Okay, okay.

So, off I went to my morning yoga class. The very last thing I wanted to do was be surrounded by happy-ish people in a small room playing sad music. [eye roll]

But, I did it anyway. Staying at home just wasn't going to be an option that day. I felt pulled to move. To show up. To go.

I walked into my yoga class and to my surprise it was only the instructor and one other girl. A small class. Thank you, Lord Jesus.

The class was about to begin and the instructor looked me straight in the eyes with her smiling face and said, "How are you, Jill?"

Never one to hide my emotions [eye roll again], I spilled my heart out. Right there on that yoga mat.

After my heart was split wide open on the yoga floor, I felt foolish for offering it so freely. I mean, seriously? Like these girls really care about how I am doing. Ugh. Why did I do this??

I wanted to find the nearest exit and split.

But, before I could...

The girl next to me said, "Jill, you are not alone. I feel those exact same things. I have been struggling too."

Then, the instructor said, "Jill, I have been struggling as well."

The three of us sat on our yoga mats and shared our hearts.

We encouraged each other in those minutes...

We laughed, well, they laughed....I cried. LIKE ALWAYS. [EYE ROLL]

Eventually, we did yoga.

But, I felt lighter. I felt less alone.

I started to feel somewhat normal again....

They struggled too.

With almost the exact same thing I was dealing with.

Who knew?

God did.

He knew I needed to go to that class.

He wanted to show me that I was not alone.

There were others...

Perhaps many others...

Who struggle daily...with something.

We often overlook them because we are deeply buried in our own ordeals...

Yet, when we take our eyes off of ourselves and look up and out..

We see a suffering world.

A world that needs to know that they are not alone.

A world that needs to know that someone else understands their struggle and they care.

Once again I am reminded of the woman at the well in scripture.

Jesus sought her out, sat beside her, and loved on her.

He knew her...yet they had never met.

Perhaps we are so quick to hide our hearts that we miss the greatest opportunities in our lives...

To listen to another.

To pray for another.

To be vulnerable with another.

To share our hearts with another.

We tend to get wrapped up in our own suffering, that we forget what Jesus told us was the greatest commandment...


“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor :as yourself.  Matthew 22:37

Love God. Love your neighbor.

Could this be the key to our healing in suffering?

Serving in our suffering?

Loving in our suffering?

This concept was made clear in a text with a dear friend recently who suddenly lost her mother.

She is serving her widowed father in her grief. Tired and weary, yet she serves him.

While her instinct is to crawl under a rock and hide away, she tends to her daddy in his greatest suffering.

Oh, friends...

You are not alone.

Open your eyes and look out. Notice the one God puts in front of you.

Don't be afraid to share your heart, your story.

Someone needs to hear it. Someone desperately needs to feel the warmth of companionship and a listening ear.

I know I did that day in yoga class.

It was healing for my heart.

Jesus uses people..

He always uses people.

Look for them.

Search for them.

Seek them out.

Don't suffer in silence.

We were not meant to live alone.

"Now you are the body of Christ and each one is a part of it."1 Corinthians 12:27


love your neighbor,


jill








Mar 8, 2018

Fear not....

Fear.

The most horrific four letter word that I know.

Fear has haunted me for most of my life.

It comes without warning and stays until I decide to remember how to fight it.

Recently, I was plagued with fear. It kept me awake at night. It robbed me of joy.

I lived there in the fear for about a week. Then, I decided to do something about it.

I knew what to do. I knew very well the weapon to destroy it.

But, somehow, my flesh was hanging onto the fear and the lies of the enemy about this particular fear.

I found my note cards that I used to NEVER be without. Scriptures, so many scriptures. Tear stained and coffee stained scriptures that had been my weapon of destruction for years.

For some reason, I had put them away. I guess I  thought I didn't need them anymore.

I was wrong. So wrong.

"Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."-Ephesians 6:17.

How quickly we can forget.

We forget the Source of our strength when things are going well and life is peachy.

We forget to pray when life is doing okay and struggles are at bay.

We forget to give Him praise when our cups are overflowing.

Often, it is when our cups are empty, when struggles strangle us, and when life takes a sudden turn that we suddenly remember Who we need.

Honestly, I think the biggest test of our faith is how we do in the everyday ride of life. The days when things are going pretty good. It can be easy for us to get lazy with our time and devotion to the Lord. Our prayers get stale. Our words are memorized. We check off our God time and go on with our day.

We forget...

how we clung to Him when our child was sick and the doctors weren't  hopeful.

how we clung to His every Word when  we were faced with a scary diagnosis or possibility of a diagnosis for us or of a loved one.

how we clung to Him in prayer when our kids were on a path that was dark and ominous and it scared the living daylights out of us.

how we clung to Him and His Promises when our finances crumbled and we weren't sure what our future would hold.

I am reminded of Peter. Peter swore to Jesus that He would stick by His side no matter what. Peter pledged his allegiance to Jesus with loyalty and assurance.

Then, very soon after that pledge, Peter denied Jesus three times. Three.

Why did Peter deny Jesus?

Fear.

Peter was fearful for his life. He had forgotten about His love and devotion to Jesus in an instant.

Fear can make us cling to something that is not there.

Fear can make us hold on for dear life with our own weak hands instead of letting it go and placing it in the Hands of the One Who holds it all.....our Heavenly Father.

Fear makes us cowards instead Conquerors in Christ.

Friend, have you lost your way? Have you forgotten the very thing that led you so close to Jesus in the first place?

Do you still have the Sword that you used to slay the enemy?

If not, pick it back up.

Continue to slay the enemy daily. Not just when trial comes.

Listen, the enemy is always scheming. Just because you don't see him doesn't mean he's not up to something.

He is lurking. Be on guard.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

Put on the helmet of salvation, the breast plate of righteousness, the belt of truth, the sword of the spirit, the shield of faith and the shoes of the gospel of peace!

13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword cf the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:13-17

We must pray this prayer everyday! Our children must be armored with God before their little feet walk out the door each morning. 

We must be intentional even in the days where it seems all is well. 

Paul tells us for this very reason in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to "pray without ceasing!"

Don't let the enemy have any ground in any part of your day. As you drive, as you work, as you fold laundry, as you cook dinner...pray, pray, pray. 

The enemy is waiting for a place to enter into our homes and our families. We must not give him an inch!

Tape scriptures up in your house. Play God's word in your home all day long. Pray in your kids rooms. Pray in every room of your house!

Fill your house with prayer and with God's Word. 

Let it be known to all who enter as Joshua so confidently stated, "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24:15

I will end with the words of  David, my favorite man ever besides Jesus....


As for me, I call to God,

    and the Lord saves me.
17 
Evening, morning and noon
    I cry out in distress,
    and he hears my voice.
18 
He rescues me unharmed
    from the battle waged against me,
    even though many oppose me.
Psalm 55:16-18



armoring up, 

jill