Your Past has Passed

This quote!


The other day I was talking with someone about a situation and they said “I remember when you responded like this….” The response she was referring to, my response, was NOT something I was proud of. It was the kind of thing you wished could be buried away, forever forgotten, never to resurface again. Ugh!! I couldn’t deny it, it was all me, so I laughed uncomfortably and opened the door for revived shame to beat me down.

After dwelling on and rehashing the situation for a good amount of wasted time, I had had ENOUGH. This was a past situation. I couldn’t go back and “fix” it. My perspective has changed since then. I have learned and grown since then. My heart is in a different place now. And I am confident I would approach the situation differently. Repeating these truths broke the cycle of the worry and regret. I am (and always will be) a work in progress and progress is a present thing.


Friend, your past has passed. Don’t give your past tolerances, reactions, words, mistakes, and actions the power to haunt you. And don’t use them as an excuse to keep doing the same thing over and over again. We’ve all made poor choices, some which come with weighty consequences. Don’t let consequences hold you in the shadow of shame and guilt. Care about what you can change. Today is a new day. A right-now opportunity!

You can….

  • set a new boundary
  • change your perspective
  • make a new goal
  • choose a different reaction
  • answer with kinder, gentler, or if necessary, more assertive words
  • stand up for your convictions
  • walk away
  • try again
  • ask more questions
  • take a break
  • learn from your mistakes
  • say no to unhealthy choices/influences
  • make a new friend
  • ask for help
  • choose joy
  • take a chance
  • start something new
  • forgive others
  • combat lies with truth
  • give yourself grace
  • keep moving forward one step at a time

All these things require courageous intention. Keep trying, keep learning, and keep going! ❤

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 3:13-15

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.- 1 Timothy 4:15 


Rain Clouds and Rainbows

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I had the most beautiful, most vivid experience this week. Every month, my church joins with other churches in our area to pray for families, churches, and our community in strategic and relevant ways. Each church takes one day to pray for twenty-four hours in what we call One Church-One Day. ¹

On Wednesday morning, at 6:00 AM, my church’s prayer chain ended. Morning time is my favorite time with its quiet, peaceful sounds and the songs the birds and insects make. I walked out onto my deck to sit down to enjoy the morning with my coffee and my thoughts. About fifty people from my church family had been praying, one hour each, over the twenty-four hour period, and I love to think about all those people united in prayer.

The morning was dark gray with threatening storm clouds hung overhead. The air was still and there was no sound. No birds tweeting, no crickets chirping, no crows cawing. Just stillness and silence. I thought it strangely wonderful to have such silence after  twenty-hours of offering up words and petitions to God.

At almost exactly 6:30 AM, the silent morning was abruptly transformed into a rushing, loud crescendo as the heavens let loose and rain poured from the sky. It was almost as if all of our prayers, every single word uttered, had saturated the atmosphere, collecting in a great cloud, and God replied in the music of the rain- as if saying I hear you, every word I heard, and now I will hold your prayers safe in my hands and will respond in my timing for my perfect plan.

What a comforting thought! God the Provider- Yahweh Yireh- sending the rain to refresh the earth, support new growth, and wash things clean. I enjoyed the rhythmic raindrops on the roof and side of my house. And peace washed over me.

Fast forward through a busy day of homeschool preparations, housecleaning, kid-caring, errands, and cooking. The rain had stopped sometime during the day and the kids had been outside playing, enjoying the sun. I was in the middle of making dinner when I stopped to glance out the window. Misty, quiet rain was coming down but only one side of our yard. It was an odd sight, and I wondered how a rain cloud could be so precise.

My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of my name, “Mom, Mom, come quick!!!” It’s a rainbow!!! Mom, Mom!!” I ran out of the house to join them and looked up…across the sky, right over our house was a bright, beautiful, complete rainbow!! If it wasn’t for my daughter, I would have completely missed it. Its sight was an extravagant gift, one more reminder of God’s promises and His faithfulness. God sees, God hears, He responds, and He is faithful.

I wanted to share this story as an encouragement. The Bible tells us:

1.) God hears our prayers. He listens to our concerns, our petitions for loved ones and He wants us to tell Him our desires. God cares.  

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 1 John 5:14

“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:12-13

2.) God responds… sometimes not in the way we want, sometimes not in the way we think, but He always answers. And when it seems silent, keep praying, because He is still listening. In His timing, He will break through the silence.

“He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.” Psalm 91:15;

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” Luke 11:9–10

3.) God uses others to remind us of His faithfulness and promises…and we all need reminders now and then. If you are reading this and do not have anyone who can remind you of such things or do not even know where to begin looking for God, find a local church. There are beautiful communities of Jesus-loving people who would love to tell you their stories of God’s faithfulness, pray with you and help you find Him right in your own neighborhood.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:23-25

“They all joined together constantly in prayer,” Acts 1:14

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¹ Here is a helpful information and an amazing model of One-Church, One Day that we used. http://onehopenetwork.org/about/


Quiet Reflections

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The quieter you become, the more you can hear. –Ram Dass

It couldn’t have been a more perfect ending to the day. The light breeze rippled over the surface of the lake creating a watercolor reflection of the peachy-blue, dusk lit skies. Gentle waves lapped up against the shore in a relaxing rhythm inviting me to slow my breath to its beat.  My family’s silhouettes bobbed up and down in a canoe as they paddled out toward the sunset. Echoes of their laughter bounced back to me with joy. I stood at the water’s edge to take it all in. The scene before me seemed like it was painted just for me. Painted with attention to detail and brushed with peace and love.

The rush to get to camp and the busyness of the day melted off every tense and tired muscle leaving puddles of unwanted, unnecessary stress on the shore. I felt lighter, freer. Peace quieted my mind and made space in my heart to hear. To hear is so much more difficult to do than to listen. At home, I listen to the noise of the world and responsibilities at high volume. But here, at camp, God had cleared my schedule and removed distractions. He quieted the noise and had my full attention. I was ready to receive and hear. And here are a few things I heard…

“Be still, know I am God.” Psalm 46:10

“Let me teach you and give you rest.” Matthew 11:28-29

“You are mine.”  1 John 3:1, 1 Peter 2:9

“I made you in my image, wonderfully and fearfully made, with a purpose.”  Psalm 139:14, Ephesians 2:10

“I delight in you.” Zephaniah 3:17

“I have great things planned for you and your family. “ Jeremiah 29:11

“Let me go first. You are not alone.” Deuteronomy 31:8

“Rest in the confidence of my faithfulness.”  Psalm 91:4

“Enjoy life and all I have given you.” John 10:10

And, “I love you. Abide in my love.” John 15:9, Jeremiah 31:3

God wants to paint a scene of peace and love just for you too. It might not be a lakeside sunset, but He KNOWS how best to get our individual attention with a pursuit of love, grace and mercy. God wants to help quiet our noisy hearts to embrace a quiet one, to move from half listening to wholeheartedly hearing.  So, be ready to be caught off guard (in a good way) and be ready to receive what He wants to you to hear.


“Don’t Weep”

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He was all she had left. Death had stolen her husband and now had taken her only son. It had robbed her of her family and her future, and left her in this hopeless, desperate position. What would she do? What could she do? A woman of her time had no ownership of anything, no control over decisions, and now she was alone. With a deeply troubled heart, she took a deep breath and continued walking along the dusty, crowded funeral procession, her cheeks stained by streams of tears.

At the city gates, the funeral procession was met by another large crowd. This crowd following and traveling with a great teacher and healer called Jesus. The crowd yielded to let the procession go by and one among the crowd waited and watched with loving eyes. He saw the grieving widow and knew. He knew every detail of her situation. Jesus always sees what others can’t and always knows what others don’t.

Deeply moved by compassion, Jesus went to the woman. Gracious and compassionate eyes met sorrowful and distressed ones. With care and gentleness, he spoke to her, “Don’t weep,” he said. Then he went to the open coffin, gently touched the side, and with the power and authority in all of heaven and earth, Jesus commanded the dead men to “Arise!” At the command of his words, the dead man sat up and began to speak. The crowd was stunned by awe and wonder, they glorified God as Jesus reunited the boy and his mother. Jesus miraculously restored a life, a family and futures at those city gates.

This is the Jesus I love and serve. My Jesus is full of compassion and power. He is watching, willing and wanting to bring restoration to our lives, relationships, and our futures too. His heart breaks for the hopeless, the mistreated, and the sorrowful. Jesus meets us right where we are, in the messiness of our situations, our pain, and our despair. Nothing surprises Him and no situation is too big or too hopeless for His touch. He has the power to turn weeping into wonder. Turn pain into praise. And turn fear into a faith. But we need to meet him and His gaze. Though it may be difficult and situations challenging, we need to keep stepping forward in faith, keep trusting Him as a Great Teacher, Great Healer, and Powerful Savior. A Savior that has the compassion to say “Don’t Weep” and the authority to say “Arise!” to bring life back to our most desperate and dead circumstances. So be encouraged, for nothing is impossible with God.

A Widow’s Son Raised to Life found in The Gospel of Luke 7:11-17


Love One Another

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“By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

We recognize people by their uniforms, identify people by their badges, and classify people by their actions. As followers of Christ, love is our uniform. It’s our badge, our mark of affiliation. Love is the driving force behind our actions, the effectiveness of our skills. Love is our testimony to the world that we belong to Jesus.

Yet, loving others can be difficult! I believe Jesus knew just how difficult it would be. Of all the things He could have said during his last hours on earth, some of his final instructions to his disciples were to believe and to love. Believe and love, two actions with supernatural characteristics, difficult to measure, and cultivated by effort and perseverance.

Four times, Jesus uses the word “love” in these verses. It makes me wonder if He repeated the word so it would make its way from our short-term memories into the long-term memories of our hearts. Love is an expression of the heart and sometimes expressions of love baffle our minds. The depth and cost of Jesus’s love is astonishing. He loved us so much that He sacrificed his life for ours and that is an overwhelming truth. It was the greatest expression of love. A love that redeemed us, restored relationship with God, and granted us freedom that set us free. It is in this love, He calls us to love one another.

On our own, loving others can be difficult. When abide in Him and believe in His trustworthy words, He supernaturally provides what is needed through His Holy Spirit, so others can know and experience forgiveness, grace, and love too.

This Easter weekend, how can we love others well? How can we live out love like Jesus? And how can we wear love as our a uniform, as a badge, so that others would know we belong to Him?


Advent-“Unwrapping the Greatest Gift” Day 1-2 Craft Ideas

 

Advent Crafts

The most wonderful time of the year is here. A time of anticipation, expectant waiting, and preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. I cannot think of a better way to discover the treasures and gifts of this season, then with Ann Voskamp’s  The Greatest Gift and Unwrapping The Greatest Gift. 

God has been using these two books to speak to me and my family in many ways. Each day, it seems the devotion was written specifically for me, to meet me right where I am. I know that sounds a bit silly and impossible but it is true. The words are composed so beautifully, so descriptively, and so vividly, that they prompt my thoughts towards better things, redirect my heart to those who are hurting, and provide a salve for the hurt and broken places in my own soul. This is the season of hope, love, peace and God’s great gifts.

In The Greatest Gift, the lineage of Jesus is explored through familiar Bible stories and the colorful characters in Christ’s family tree. Each day there is a Bible passage, a devotional, and reflection questions. I love that the devotions are only a few pages long so that there is no excuse not to read them daily. The reflection questions keep me thinking ALL DAY LONG! They are not questions like- Who was Sarah and Abraham’s baby? or How many brother’s did Joseph have? They are questions that require me to search my life and the state of my heart.  My favorite part of each chapter is the “Unwrapping More of His Love in this World” section. These are tangible things that a person can do to show their love to God and others by serving, blessing someone’s day, or worshiping God through letter and song.

In conjunction with reading The Greatest Gift, I have been reading Unwrapping the Greatest Gift with the kids. These stories follow the devotional but are written to engage the whole family. The illustrations are exquisite. Free, downloadable ornaments are available when you purchase the book. Last year, I had the girls color each of the ornaments as I read the story to them. This year, I wanted to up the craftiness with making our own ornaments. (We love crafts in our family!) I also wanted a more hands-on lesson illustration that a craft would provide.

You can find many ideas on the internet for Bible story crafts. Below are some of my original ideas and some that I modified from Pinterest. I gave credit for those craft ideas that I borrowed. If you decide to make and share one of my craft ideas, I would to love to see it. Tag me on Instagram or send me a link to your blog post. 🙂

 

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“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
    and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
    the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and might,
    the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. ” Isaiah 11:1-2

Materials Needed:

-wood disc

(You can find wood discs at craft store, the Target Dollar Spot, or use some power tools and cut the discs yourself. I went the power tool route because power tools are fun! )

-skinny sharpie markers, paint

OR a pencil, a wood burner, paint

We live next to a small patch of woods and searched for the perfect dead branch to make this ornament out of.  Searching for the dead branch (on a cold, damp, and dreary day) really drove home the idea as to how miraculous and impossible (for all but Jesus) is it to have life come from something dead. We talked about how Jesus is a miracle and how he goes to impossible lengths of love for us.

After the discs had been cut, we drew a shoot with a pencil, wood burned over the pencil marking and then painted the shoot bright green.  This project was time consuming but the time could easily be cut down using pre cut wood discs, sharpie markers and/or paint.

 

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 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

26 Then God said, “Let us make man[a] in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.  Genesis 1:26-27

Materials Needed:

-2-1/2″ styrofoam balls

-Mod Podge (Matte works best)

-blue and green tissue paper squares

-heart glitter paper (and heart punch)

-pipe cleaner

With paint brushes, we painted Mod Podge on the styrofoam ball and the stuck squares of blue and green tissue paper over the ball to represent the water and land.  Note: Larger tissue squares work better than smaller ones. And stick the pipe cleaner in the ball prior to doing the mod podge. It creates a handle to make gluing easier.

After the whole ball was completely covered with tissue, we gave it a generous coat of Mod Podge. Once dry, we added a heart-punched, glitter heart stuck on by pop-up glue-dots. “We were created by love, for love.”

I plan to post a few craft ideas at a time. Check back to see the new ones added and follow along with the fun.