Nov 22, 2019

Windows...

As she burrowed her head underneath my arm pit, I felt the wet tears soaking my night shirt. Her hair was a matted mess. Blonde strands sticking to the side of her cheeks and chin.

I couldn't understand what she was saying through the heavy fog of tears getting caught up in her throat.

Finally, it was audible.

"I feel their pain, Momma. I feel it in my bones and on my skin. I hurt with them."

I knew exactly what she meant.

My 14 year old daughter was mourning with those who mourn. She was wearing the heavy blanket of grief that comes when death swallows up a life unexpectedly.

Early that morning, we had left our house to attend a funeral.

The boy was 24. Young and full of life.

The boy was our cousin.

His young wife, and his four year old daughter left behind to make sense of the broken pieces shattered around them.

When the call came, my breath left me. The air dissolved from my lungs.

I quickly remembered my breathing exercises. Shorter inhale, longer exhale. Repeat.

Two weeks before, another cousin had left the Earth the same way. A car crash.

He was in his forties, leaving behind a young daughter.

Fear can grip your heart like a clamp with news like this. Fear can make you crazy if you let it.

Fear has no place here, I kept whispering it over and over.

Fear makes you want to call all your loved ones and tell them to stay where they are. Or better yet, come home. Huddle together. And to never leave. Or drive. Or do anything that could harm them.

Fear is irrational at best.

Fear will drive a mother crazy.

As I sat in the stained glass funeral parlor on a soft pew, I heard these words in my heart.

O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55

I wanted to stand up and shout it from the rooftops of that place. 

I wanted to scream out loud, "death has no place here!"

My cousin was saved. He loved Jesus. He loved his family. 

As I stared at the windows around me, I saw prisms of light breaking through. 

A warmth coming in that cold room with a lifeless body. 

My cousin was no longer with us, he was in the Warmth of God's Arms. I knew this. I felt this. 

Those windows filled my heart with so much HOPE and even JOY through my snotty tears. 

I heard the sound of the preacher talking, but my eyes stayed fixed on those windows. The warm glow was drawing me in. 

For the first time in weeks, I felt a burst of Strength. And Joy. And Hope. 

It was filling my lungs, my heart, my chest wall, my entire body was being saturated by it. 

We will be okay. 

The smothering feeling began to lift. I felt lighter suddenly. 

We will be okay. 

With death comes a re-birthing of sorts for those left behind. 

It happened when my friend Heather died when I was in my mid thirties. Something changed inside of me. 

God used my friend's death to make me more alive. How is that even possible?

Only God brings beauty from ashes. Life from death. 

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

"Momma, we will see him again......"

My daughter's words were a balm to my soul. 

Of course, I knew we would. But, I was so focused on the horror of things left behind to sort through. I had almost forgotten...

Faith as a child. 

I get it now. 

They see what we cannot sometimes. 

As we snuggled close together in my bed, she whispered faintly...

"The windows, Momma. Did you notice the colorful light in the windows today during the funeral?"

I nodded, astonished that she saw too.

"Yes, baby. I saw...."



seeing the beauty in all these ashes, 


jill


















Nov 12, 2019

When you need HELP....

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As my husband and I raise teenagers, our constant prayer plea is this, "Lord, please give us WISDOM."

God's Word tells us that true wisdom only comes from God.

All wisdom comes from the Lordand so do common sense and understanding. Proverbs 2:6

We can search wordly books, talk shows and podcasts for wisdom in parenting, but true wisdom will only be found in God's Word.

Situations arise daily that I find myself asking again....Lord, I need wisdom here. I do not know what to do. What is the right thing? What honors You? 

If you have children of any age, you probably are asking the same questions.

Here are some things that Lem and I have done over the years. I hope it encourages you as you journey through the trenches of parenthood. Let me say, we are still majorly in the trenches. So, we are not experts by any means. Clearly.


[IT IS SO HARD TO BE A PARENT. Can I get an amen?]


1) Admit that you do not have all the answers. (Proverbs 3:5)

2) Admit your weaknesses to the Lord in this area. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

3) Seek God's Word. DAILY. (Matthew 7:7)

4) Seek God in prayer. CONSTANTLY.(1 Thessalonians 5:16)

5) Listen for His answer. (Proverbs 2:1)

6) Be still. Try not to jump on a bandwagon because other parents are doing it. Wait and hear from the Lord first. Just because it may be okay for their child to do something, does not mean it is okay for your child. Be still. (Psalm 46:10)

7) Seek out wise parents that have walked the path you are on. (Proverbs 15:22)

8) Ask for a heart of humility. Pride can eat us up if we are not careful. NOTHING is worse than the fall from pride. (trust me on this one!) (Proverbs 16:18)

9) Do life with fellow believers. Create community with those around you. You will learn so much just from doing life with others. (Psalm 133:1)

10) Walk the walk, and not just talk the talk. Ooh. This one is the hardest. (trust me again.) Often, what our children learn is "caught", and not "taught". This will take every ounce of the ones listed above to help you. You will still fail at times, and you will get right back up and keep persevering. (humility, remember?)  (1 John 2:6)


Lem and I are still working on all of these things. Every day brings new challenges it seems. Sometimes every moment! (my blonde is quickly turning gray)

However, we have a Helper. We have a Counselor. We have a Teacher.

His name is Jesus.

We are not alone on this journey. He called us to this mission....perhaps the holiest and hardest mission of all.

He has equipped us to do the work.

He will finish it to completion.


gray hair and all,


jill






Nov 11, 2019

Arise, Shine.....

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"Let your light shine before others." Matthew 5:16

As I was walking my dog, I found myself praying. Asking God again and again, "what is my purpose in this season, Lord?"

Recalling the long lengthy voice message to my prayer circle sisters earlier in the day, tears welled in my eyes. I had asked them for the one millionth time to pray that God would show me my purpose.

Have you been in this place?

Maybe life has always been crazy and dizzying and now you find yourself in a quiet home.

Or maybe your life has always been organized and happily predictable and now you find yourself in the spin cycle with kids, husband, dogs, work, and laundry.

I have now been on both sides.

And BOTH sides I found myself asking the same pondering question..."What is my purpose?"

I hesitated to write today because it seems the theme is the same. The season remains and it just seems it is getting old with the same song and dance as I write.

But, I also know that I am not alone. There are many of you that feel the same way.

The enemy would love for us to stop talking about it. To just shut up and keep it all inside. Buried deep in the dark.

The enemy loves the dark.

Jesus brings the Light.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. John 1:5

The enemy desires to extinguish us. And not just physically. 

He wants to suck every ounce of purpose and desire and community and joy right out of our lungs. 

He wants us to live in complete darkness. Hiding our gifts. Hiding ourselves.

The biggest affront to the enemy is to shine in the darkness.

I know first hand how easy it is to melt in the dark.

To lose hope and joy and faith all in one fail swoop. Or diagnosis. Or loss. Or divorce. Or disappointment.

I have had to FIGHT myself out of those thoughts. And yes, I do mean FIGHT.

Like a mad woman I would paste scriptures about Joy all around my house. I would say them out loud in my car and in the shower.

I thought so many times....I don't even know if  joy is possible....but I need it to be.

Earlier this year a friend gave me this scripture and I go back to it over and over.

Today, I want to share it with you.

It has been the LIGHT in the days that are dark.

It has been the HOPE when I have landed face first in hopelessness.

It has been the JOY when my heart was cold and lifeless.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
    and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
    and his glory appears over you." Isaiah 60:1-2



Friend, are you looking for your purpose?

You are in good company. 

As I was asking God these things on my walk, I felt this compulsion to go home and write. 

So, here I am. 

Writing. 

What is it in this moment that the Lord is asking of you?

It is probably something simple. 

Take the step. 

Change the diaper. Fold the laundry. Sing a song. Write a song. Visit a neighbor. Cook the meal. Call the person. 

Purpose is wrapped up in the smallest of tasks. 

Lord, help us to remember this. 

"Light shines on the godly, and joy on those whose hearts are right. May all who are godly rejoice in the Lord and praise His Holy Name." Psalm 97:11



finding purpose,



jill







Nov 6, 2019

Shut my mouth....

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How do I even begin? I am not even sure when it started.

It is so much easier to tell stories of my kids, or loved ones. The stories about what God is doing in my heart are harder to tell. They go deep into the crevices of my soul and often I have a hard time putting the experiences into words.

Alas, I will try.

A few months ago I felt the gentle pull of the Lord away from things that I enjoyed doing. Really good things.

I didn't understand it and even felt selfish for pulling away. I felt a lack of peace regarding things that I had so peacefully enjoyed before.

I questioned my heart. I questioned God's leading. Or was it God's leading?

At the time, I didn't know for sure. I just knew that I didn't feel the ease of peace.

It didn't make sense. I felt I had grown a lot in the past year and had much to share regarding experiences. I wanted to surround myself with people to be able to share what my heart was overflowing with.

But, the Lord asked me to stop. To be still. To be quiet.

Uh, what?

It was an odd thing. Aren't we supposed to live out loud our faith? Aren't we supposed to go out and make disciples?

I was confused. But, I knew that God was not the author of confusion, but of Peace. [1 Corinthians 14:33]

My mouth suddenly felt like it was taped shut. I felt the pull to be quiet, and to pray. And pray. And pray.

My fingers didn't even feel the pull to write. I had no idea what was happening in my heart, so I had nothing to write about. I had plenty of stories to tell, but my heart was drawn like a magnet to quietness and prayer.

I began to discipline myself in prayer. Prayer does not come easy. It just doesn't. It often feels pointless if I am being honest.

We are more prone to "do", and  to "talk" it out.

Or, at least I am.

I would discipline myself in prayer by making it a practice to pray over every single person I came into contact each day. EVERY one.

This led little time for me to talk about myself, or to talk about anything really.

It also led to a lot of listening.

Listening to my children more.

Listening to my husband more.

Listening to the lady that rings up my groceries every Monday morning.

We learn a lot by listening. A whole lot.

I can pray as I listen. It's much easier to do this than pray as I talk.

I thought so much about Mary, the Mother of Jesus, how the Bible said, "she pondered all these things in her heart."[Luke 2:19]

As I listened more intently to the spoken and the unspoken cues of people, I began to feel the deep pull for them to feel the warmth of Jesus. Without me saying a word.

This is hard for a wordy girl.

I mean, how would they know I was praying for them unless I told them? How would they know about all the great things Jesus was doing if I didn't tell them?

Oh, I shudder as I type.

It was all about me. Me, me, me, me.

Did I not think that God could speak to them apart from me?

I liked the feeling of leading someone to Christ. To pointing the way and being the "one" with scripture at the perfect time.

Oh, y'all...

God was [and is] working on my heart.

I began to see the working of God all around me as I sat back, listened more, talked less, and prayed more.

Recently, the most incredible thing happened.

I had been praying for a young mother that I see each week. Every day I would see her, I felt the urge to pray for her. I felt she had lost her way somehow and needed Jesus.  This lasted for several weeks.

Last week, she approached my friend and me. She asked my friend about what church she attended. My friend proceeded to tell her, and then an entire conversation pursued, between the two of them, about faith.

I sat there dumbfounded. And, like a third wheel.

I wanted to jump in so badly and say, "Hey!! Let ME talk to to you! Come and visit MY church! I have what you need! I have been praying for you!!"

So embarrassing to admit my true thoughts.

They continued in conversation, and I quietly walked away.

"God, what are you doing? I have been praying for her! Why did you use my friend to talk to her and not me?"

Slowly, my vision became focused. I saw so clear what God was doing in my heart.

Did it matter who led her to Christ? Did it matter which church she attended?

What mattered is that God heard my prayers, and He answered them.

And guess what? I got no credit. From anyone. NOT ONE PERSON.

But, God knew.

Was that not enough for me?

Oh, the pride. Oh, the stinking pride.

Are we willing to go behind closed doors, to be anonymous....and seek the face of God on behalf of those around us? Are we willing to step back and let God get the Glory?

Or, are we getting in His way. Is our pride keeping Him from answering our prayers.

Are our mouths bigger than our ears? Do we talk more than we listen?

Lord, change us.

Let us be willing to have hearts on fire with prayer, without one person knowing it.

There is a time to pray out loud, and a time to pray in secret.

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:6

How quickly we say YES when asked if we will pray about something for someone. And, just as quickly we forget.

Are we so busy portraying our wisdom and Christianity that we forget what is needed most?

1I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people- 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 1 Timothy 2:1-2

So often, in church and in the world, we are urged to be vocal. To let our intentions and our desires be known. To speak!

Could it be that our loud words are getting in the way of the gentle whispers of God?

In all of our efforts to be great missionaries, are our mouths drowning out our prayers and hushing the Holy Spirit?

Oh, Lord, change us.

Is it possible to lead obscure, quiet, prayerful lives?

Jesus sure did.

He made no commotion about Himself. He often was drawn to quiet places. Seeking the face of God. Often when everyone else was sleeping.

Lord, help us to be like Jesus.

Hearts bent on You and not ourselves.

Help us to be okay with not being in the spotlight. To live obscure lives. In Your Mighty Shadow.


shutting my mouth and opening my ears,


jill


(re-post from 11/9/17)








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