Apr 30, 2019

Our Great Assignment....

SHINE Reading Plan: Go here

Who's still with me on our Reading Plan?

 I know some days can be hard. Really hard.

But, keep going. Push through. You will be so very glad you did.

Today, we read about King Josiah. His father and great grandfather were some of the most evil kings in history.

However, Josiah was different.

Josiah's priest, Hilkiah uncovered God's law in the Lord's Temple. It had been sitting there for many years. Untouched.

Josiah quickly aligned the people he governed under the Law of God. He destroyed anything and anyone that was not in line with the book of God's Law.

He was a very successful King with a heart to serve the Lord.

Here is what sticks out to me here....

No wonder his parents and grandparents and so on were so evil....they had not been taught about God.

Not one father had passed the Law of God down to their children.

After all the Lord had done for this mighty nation, somewhere along the way, the teachings of Moses, given by God, had been forgotten about completely.

As a mother, this really resonates hard on my heart.

I have a huge responsibility here.

What am I teaching my children?

Do they know about Jesus?

Not just from sunday school, but from my own example.

Where are the bibles in my house?

Are they hidden on a dusty shelf, or maybe even on display but never open?

These passages from 2 Chronicles jolt me to life.

It starts with us.

Or it ends with us.

Which one will it be?

I want to leave my children with a legacy of faith.

No matter what path they choose, I want to know for sure that I led them to the Living Water of God's Word. That is my job.

The world will try its best to squash our teaching. To lead our kids down a path that seems shinier and more popular.

King Josiah knew it had to start with him.

He did everything in his power to follow God's Word and to lead his people to do the same.

Are we doing the same?

Oh, I sure want to.

But, sometimes its easy to get lazy. And tired.

Let King Josiah encourage you today.

Go, dust off that bible on the shelf.

Open it and let it breathe Life back into your weary lungs.

There is only way Way...and it's God's Way.

All else will lead to a path of destruction. Look no further than the Old Testament.

Parents, we have an assignment that is bigger than anything we could possibly imagine.

Are we leading our children to "Seek first the Kingdom of God?" Matthew 6:33

Let's encourage each other, friends.

The world needs a generation raised in the Lord and His Truth.

There is much work to be done.


forging ahead,


jill

Apr 23, 2019

The Hidden Life.....

As usual, this is not the post I was about to sit down and write. Nope.

There is no preparation for this post. Just a heart being bent a different way by the Holy Spirit as I write.

I was talking to a friend yesterday about motherhood. How hard it can be at times. How hidden it can feel at times. Meaning, so often, what we do is not seen. And, may never be seen.

But, God sees it.

 However, sometimes we want others to notice. To applaud us. To recognize the sweat on our brows and the exhaustion in our bones.

Often, it just seems like what we are doing as mothers will never inch us closer to the world's version of success. Or successful motherhood anyway.

I used to scroll Instagram seeing mothers which multiple children. Some even adopted or fostered With multiple playrooms. With multiple everything that I did not have. Mothers looking fabulous and of course always witty and enchanting.

It seemed so.....perfect.  I would look up from my phone and see my smaller house and two kids, and feel so......average.

I would look in the mirror and see the lines on my face and the aging in my eyes and think....wow. I really don't look successful. Or even average. I look....rough. 

Do you ever feel like this?

Do you ever feel that if you don't post a picture or a status update of your motherhood in motion and in action, that maybe, you don't really exist?

Gosh, I sure have felt this way.

It has seemed that if no one sees what happens here, it doesn't really count. If no one applauds me or nods their head in agreement to the thousands of words I let fall out of my mouth each day, some good and some not so good, then it must not really matter.

Through social media our lives have become open books. Open to the whole wide world to see, to interpret, to look into.

This has to affect how we live. How we mother. How we think.

Nothing is discreet or hidden these days. Everything is laid out for the whole watching world to see.

Hence, our children feel the pressure. To measure up. To look a certain way. To purchase filters for their pictures to enhance and edit their precious bodies. Because....

The world watches.

And what about the mothers?

We have felt it too.

We follow  mothers that we do not even know, quoting what they quote, buying what they buy, cooking what they cook, dressing how they dress....

At some point, we have to ask ourselves, what is reality?

Is there even such thing anymore?

The hidden life. The treasures found in a serving life. Away from the limelight. Away from the glare of the camera lens. Away from the approval and likes of others....

This is what I so desperately crave.

Like the woman with the alabaster jar of perfume.

Giving all she had...not thinking twice....and pouring it out on the Lord's feet. Washing his feet with her hair.

No accolades, in fact insults from the men around Jesus. "Why do you do this? You could have made money off of this to give to the poor..."

Jesus replied, "The poor you will always have, but you will not always have Me."

I am paraphrasing here. Look up the complete passage here in Matthew 26.

I want to be like this woman.

Wanting nothing on earth but Jesus.

Wanting only His approval and His eyes.

But, why is it so hard?

I think of John's piercing words here...

"He must become greater, I must become less." John 3:30

How do we become less in a world that shouts that we need to be greater?

Could it be that the greatest treasures are hidden. Away from the world's peering eyes. Away from the amount of social media friends, likes, and comments we have.

Could it be that the greatest treasure is actually found far away from all of it.

In the quiet of your bedroom. In the clink of pans in your kitchen as you prepare your one millionth dinner for the week. In the whisper of your child's breath saying her prayers each night. In the closeness of your spouse as you sit on the couch together watching the news. In the hello of your elderly neighbor as he sits on his porch watching the birds sing and dance around him.

The simple ordinary average  life. Just may be the greatest treasure we will ever unearth.

Maybe our lights shine even brighter when He lights them and we don't. Perhaps we don't even see the light, but others will and they do.

We can still be a city shining on a hill...

Like a lighthouse. It glows. It beckons. It shines.

And brings others ashore.

Without saying a word.


You matter, and He sees.


Embracing the hidden,



jill
















Apr 20, 2019

Seeing Jesus at The Dump.....

Reading Plan: Find it here. 

I had no plans to write this story today. None. However, sometimes the words in your soul are palpitating against your skin and they must come out to breathe the cool air of release.

Words hold such power. If we truly could see the healing or damage they do, we would probably never utter another solitary word without deep consideration.

I pray these words bring healing to those hurting, grieving, and broken.

On February 6th of this year, Lem and I went furniture shopping at a place in Atlanta called The Dump. Sounds lovely, right?

It's a HUGE place. Furniture everywhere. I mean, everywhere.

A little overwhelming for this small town girl to be honest.

We were walking around for a few minutes when I noticed a sweet family sitting on some sectional couches. I had to do a double-take because they looked so familiar. Without trying to look stalky, I looked each face over intently. I could not place how I knew them. Something though, was beckoning me to keep watching them.

Really, I am not this strange usually. I promise.

As Lem and I kept looking over all of the furniture, I kept glancing over my shoulder at this family. What was it about them that was drawing my eyes to them? Why was I so fascinated with these people?

Lem dragged me by the arm and pulled me off into another direction. He's kinda used to my weirdness.

About 30 minutes later, I saw the mother of that family on a sectional by herself. It was the same one my husband and I were looking at. I went and sat next to her.

Who am I, and why am I acting so crazy? I don't usually go and sit next to a perfect stranger as they are testing out a couch. I promise.

We quickly started chatting, and chatting, and chatting. I was so drawn to talk to her, to listen to her, and to know about her precious family.

Honestly, I don't remember much about the entirety of our conversation, but I vividly remember the end of it.

As we got off of the couch and said goodbye to each other, I casually asked her how old her children were.

She told me their names and ages, and ended with, "And we have a 17 year old that passed away in December."

I thought maybe I misunderstood her for a moment. But, the look on her beautiful face told me otherwise.

She went on to tell me small details about what had happened to her son.

It was a tragedy. A crime. A murder.

With tears spilling down my face, I grabbed her and wrapped my helpless arms around her.

How in the world had she been able to casually talk to me on that couch? How as she able to get out of bed that day, or any day for that matter? How in the world could she look that peaceful and beautiful in the midst of such horror?

Immediately, I pulled back from her and looked at her face again.

"You are a believer, aren't you," I asked her.

I knew what her answer would be before I asked her.

"Yes, I am."

She went on to tell me how God had been so gracious to her and how her church family, family members and friends had been a life-line for her and her family. She said they could not make it through without them.

I just sat there slack-jawed. Taking in the sight of this providential moment.

After saying our final goodbyes and assuring her I would pray for her family, Lem and I got to the car and I cried my eyes out.

I had left a piece of my heart right there near that leather sectional we were sitting on.

I had just witnessed the Peace and Love of Christ like never before.  It was all over my new friend's face. In her mannerisms. In her voice. In her stillness.

I had just seen Jesus.

God had drawn my eyes to her from the moment we walked in and would not let me leave without talking to her. He knew I needed to know her story, and He knew what it would do to my soul.

As a mother, when we hear of these kinds of tragedies, our blood runs cold. We stop breathing for a moment and picture ourselves in their shoes.

Empathy sets in and we cannot shake it without drenching it with prayer.

She has been on my heart heavy ever since.

As I picture the scene in my mind of Jesus on the cross, I see my friend's teenage son. I see the injustice. I see the horror. I see the inhumane tragedy of a life cut too short.

As I picture Jesus's mother, Mary, at the foot of the cross, I picture my friend's face.

She has walked in Mary's shoes. She is walking in Mary's shoes.

Daily. Hourly. Minute by minute.

My friend has had to walk through her own child being taken by the hands of evil.

Yet, she is able to have Peace. To have Comfort. To have Assurance...

This is not the end.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. Revelation 21:4

And, just like Mary, she will see her boy again. It will be sweet and it will be eternal. And, in the meantime, the impact of her life and the story of her son will draw many to the Cross. Even at a place called the Dump.

Isn't God just like that.

Making a place called The Dump, a place of Holy Ground.


Sunday is coming,


jill

(Originally posted 3/2016)





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Apr 16, 2019

Parenting with Joy....

Original post 4/3/17

A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22

I always hesitate to write posts on parenting. I am not an expert by any form or shape. However, I have learned some things along the way. Mostly from older women in my life who have been down this path and their lives and the lives of their children teach volumes. I am so thankful for these women in my life!

If you are an older mother, I encourage you to share your wisdom with those coming up behind you. We need you. We need your teaching. You may say, "Oh, I am not a teacher!". However, I believe we are all teachers in one way or another. Whether we intend to teach or not, we are teaching. And many are watching.

Something that the Lord is constantly having to remind me of is to have joy with my parenting.

Normally, I have a very joyful and sanguine personality. However, raising children can affect my joy if I am not constantly seeking the Lord for help in this area.

Mundane tasks, constant teaching and correcting, disciplining,  cooking, cleaning,  driving, and more driving....

Did I mention driving?

All of these things can weigh a momma down. There are times when my joy diminishes and my kids see a burnt out mother just going through the motions and checking things off her list.

We tend to think that kids don't notice these things. As long as we are "performing" and meeting their needs, the kids are good.

I don't believe this is true.

Kids sense when we are going through the motions. Doing things out of duty instead of joy. [Uh, husbands sense this too! Another post for another day...]

A joyful mom can stop in the middle of the daily grind and look her kid in the eyes and listen to their words. Laugh at their corny jokes. Be present when it would be so easy to be distracted.

 A joyful mom realizes that our kids much prefer us to be present over perfect.

Yes, we can spoon feed them scripture and lofty teachings telling them how to behave. However, I believe what sticks with them the most is how we respond to them. How do we respond when something doesn't go our way? Or when something turns out differently than we had planned.

Do we lose our joy and become bitter and hateful? Do we spew words of condemnation, hurt, anger, or sarcasm?

I know I sure have at times.

Joy is not dependent on our circumstances.

"The Joy of the Lord is your strength" Nehemiah 8:10

This scripture from Nehemiah was the first verse I memorized as an adult. It was soon after I had my first child. The Lord was reminding me to keep joy in my heart. In my home. Towards my children. In my marriage.

I wanted perfection.

A clean house. A good baby. A skinny body. A full bank account. A perfect husband who acted the way I wanted him to act. [ha!]

When those things didn't happen,  I fell apart.

I would lose my joy.

Depression, anxiety, fear, and sadness would set in.

The standards were set even higher when the second child was born. It was just too much to maintain all of these things that I thought made me a "good mom".

I would try so hard to do all the right things. Put a smile on my face in public. Keep up  the demands of being a mom with babies, a husband, two dogs AND a cat, and a house to take care of.

But, deep down, joy was nowhere to be found.

When the Lord opened my eyes to my need for His Joy instead of my "standards", it seemed almost too easy.

Have joy?

Really?

Too simple.

Surely, I would need to add 7.5 hours a day of prayer. Along with perfect church attendance. And attend two or three bible studies a week.

No, Jill. Just clothe yourself with my Joy. Let Me be your Joy. 

 I heard these words so clear in my heart.

I began to daily ask Him for Joy. I begged Him. I wrote it on my mirror with an expo marker. I taped scriptures about Joy all over my house. I set my mind every single day to be intentional about clothing myself in His Joy.

 Oh, y'all, I needed joy desperately.

Little did I know that Joy would change everything.

Joy comes  from the Lord.

Joy is not a feeling or emotion, it is a gift from the Lord.

Joy is the overwhelming contentment that floods our soul.

Joy is always coupled with gratitude.

Joyful people are thankful people.

 Instead of being bitter about our lot and season of life, let's be thankful. Let's be joyful! And heaven forbid even stopping to laugh once and a while! The bible even tells us that it is GOOD for us to laugh! [Proverbs 17:22]

And, hey, what if we really took the following verse to heart. Laughing, without fear of the future. Surely, our joy would be so evident to others. Especially our children!

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. Proverbs 31:25


Let's ask ourselves these questions:

Do our children see themselves as our joy? Or as our burdens.

Would they define their momma as joyful? Or stern and unbending.

Are we overflowing with joy? Or just overbearing.

How do we respond when life doesn't go the way we planned?

Our children are watching. Taking notes. Looking for us to teach them about joy.

Will our children be drawn to our faith in Jesus because of our strict standards of living and no-nonsense attitudes?

I don't think so

I think they will be drawn to Jesus through our joy.

In gentle words. In kind responses. In loving gestures. In having a servant heart.

In JOY.

Even in very difficult situations and trying times, joy is possible.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”  James 1:2-3

When doing the same tasks over and over each day, we can have joy. We just have to ask God for it, and set our minds on praise.

For you make me glad by your deeds, Lord; I sing for joy at what your hands have done. How great are your works, Lord, how profound your thoughts!  Psalm 92:4-5

I began years ago making it a habit to praise the Lord and pray over my kids as I fold their laundry and cook dinner. Praising God and praying over my people brings my heart JOY! It's like killing two birds with one stone. Multi-tasking at its finest.

 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

Our children will forget  a lot of the things that we said to them. But, they will never forget how we responded to them. How we loved them and listened to them. Looked them in the eyes and stopped for a few minutes to be present with them.

Will our children remember their mother being full of joy?

Oh, Lord, let it be so.

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23


seeking joy,


jill



Apr 9, 2019

Pray and Prepare....

Are y'all still with me on our reading plan? Raise your hand.

Just kidding.

But, really. I am fascinated by the Old Testament. Can we just shorten it to the OT for the sake of this post? Ok, good.

So, today we find ourselves in the middle of the OT in 2 Kings. We come across a prophet by the name of Elisha.

In a span of 4 chapters, God uses Elisha to perform 9 miracles. NINE.

We don't really talk about miracles anymore, do we?

I mean, sometimes we do. But do we really, really, really expect God to still perform miracles in our everyday mundane little lives?

We SHOULD.

Here is why....

Nothing has changed. He is still the same. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow...the same God.

"Is anything too hard for the Lord?' Genesis 18:14

"Nothing is impossible with God" Luke 1:37

But, are we preparing ourselves to receive a miracle.

Think about this.

What miracle do you need?

Are you preparing for it?

Read about the poor widow in 2 Kings 4.

The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.”
Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?”
“Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.”
Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”
She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.”
But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing.
She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”

Pay attention here. What did the widow do?

She prepared for the miracle. 

She had a responsibility.

She didn't just moan and groan waiting and pleading...she prepared.

Or, how about in 2 King 5. The healing of a man named Naaman.

Elisha told him to bathe in the Jordan river 7 times to be healed from leprosy.

God could have just healed him on the spot. But, He didn't.

Naaman had a job. To prepare for the miracle.

This takes radical faith. RADICAL FAITH.


Friend, what miracle are you asking God for?

Pray, Pray, Pray and Pray some more.

And then, prepare.

It will seem crazy to you, yes, it should and it will.

Prepare anyway.

I wonder if we are missing out on miracles because we are not prepared to receive them?

Are you ready?

Me too.

Pray. Prepare. Pray. Prepare.



collecting empty jars,



jill