2

Seasons of Grace

img_3614[1]I gaze out window watching remnant leaves from the fall season gracefully skate across the surface of my ice-glazed deck.

They spin around and then smoothly skim the surface of the ice with occasional moments of being air bound before gracefully, flawlessly descending back to the icy surface.

And then, without notice, the edge of the remnant leave becomes caught in a crack. It fights to free itself to no avail. Suddenly a gust of wind dislodges it and it once again is free to glide across the surface of my ice-glazed deck.

We are all leaves fallen from grace trying to weather the seasons of life. There are winter season when we navigate across ice-glazed surfaces to keep our balance; avoiding cracks and thin ice.

Spring brings the emergence of new growth. We labor to recover from any losses in the wintry season of our life. The arrival of summer’s glorious, bountiful sunshine is welcomed. It’s a time of renewal, joy and reprieve. Our dreams for the future blossom, we bear fruit and flourish in preparation for fall.

Fall descends and the colorful sprays of leaves will soon fade and turn brown. A reminder of how we have all fallen from grace. It’s nature’s call for us to reconcile with the Creator of all things because winter is coming.

“In [fellowship with] Christ we have redemption [i.e., we have been bought back from Satan] through His blood, and have forgiveness of sins according to the abundance of God’s unearned favor,”
Ephesians 1:7

PRAYER FOR TODAY

Heavenly Father, no matter the season I face in my life, I ask for your guidance, encouragement and the knowledge that you go before me in all things. You have eternal purpose for each and every one of us whether we choose to accept it or not.

Open my eyes to see my life through your eyes. A life that is redeemed, rescued and full of plans directed and orchestrated by you.  In my bleak and barren seasons lead me, in those seasons of rejoicing may my feet dance in praise for your enduring mercies and endless kindness.

In all things, I give you thanks always.

Amen

0

Our Skyline is Forever Changing

IMG_4043
This morning’s skyline over the lake appeared ominous and threatening. But in a short time, I watched the skyline change to a luminous, vivid spray of color that welcomed the IMG_4064dawning of a new day with open arms and shouted to anyone that cared to listen, “There is hope if you are willing to be still and wait for the Creator of all things to showcase His glorious influence over how you perceive the day He has set before you.”

“This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us be full of joy and be glad in it.” Psalms 118:24

Did your day start out like this morning’s skyline? I encourage you to wait prayerfully and patiently before the Lord. He listens to us in our time of need and just when we believe all hope has vacated the skyline of our life, HE arrives in the most magnificent way and reveals hope. God has a way of turning our ominous and threatening moments into joy.

“You have changed my sadness into a joyful dance; you have taken away my sorrow and surrounded me with joy.” Psalms 30:11 (GNT)

TODAY’S PRAYER:

Lord, let me move and breathe with the knowledge that YOU go before me at the dawn of each new day. From sunrise to sunset, your grace is sufficient. You only want the best for me and no matter how dark the clouds above me, you are continually reshaping the skyline of my life into something glorious and beautiful. Thank you, Heavenly Father for caring about every detail of my life.

AMEN

1

The Beauty of Pain: It Turns Us to Love

quote-god-did-not-rescue-me-out-of-the-pain-he-rescued-me-through-the-pain-tullian-tchividjian-128-47-56
I listened to a play list of my favorite songs today.  Each song represented a season in my life. Some brought memories of reclaimed joy while others resonated with lyrics that held my emotions hostage to some of my deepest moments of pain.

Letting go of what no longer supports a healthy lifestyle or relationship can be painful. It may be a failed marriage, death of someone deeply loved, feelings of emotional abandonment or quitting an addiction. There are a plethora of reasons and life events that torment our body, soul and mind.

When we fail to seek the divine consult of God and pursue our own desires, there will be consequences. Make no mistake, our heavenly Father loves us deeply, but the outcome of our success requires obedience to HIS will and planned purpose for our life.

If you are like me, you will screw up and it will be a hot mess. But, there is beauty to be found in our pain. How can that be?

God stands ready at any given time to turn our pain into HIS love and take our ashes and replace them with garments of joy. Isn’t that so like God?

And so, as tears filled my eyes in remembrance of the painful times in my life, I remembered that I am a child of an Almighty God who will forever point my pain in the direction of HIS love. It is my heartache coupled with HIS unconditional love that has shaped me into the person I am today.

We all experience physical, emotional pain and challenges of life. The beauty behind that pain is Jesus. He can transform it into joy and love if we allow Him to actively engage in our heartbreaks, hurts, losses and grief.

There is beauty in pain when we give it all to Jesus! It brings to mind the lyrics of an Evie song:

Are you tired of chasing pretty rainbows?
Are you tired of spinning round and round?
Wrap up all the shattered dreams of your life
And at the feet of Jesus lay them down
(Chorus)
give them all, give them all, give them all to Jesus
Shattered dreams, wounded hearts, broken toys,
Give them all, give them all, give them all to Jesus
And He will turn your sorrow’s into joy

1

Let Patience Prevail

patienceWhat a joy to spend Thanksgiving weekend with my Mama. I love her so much, but it hasn’t always been that way.

Back in the day, mom and I could tangle like no others. Looking back, we realize that so much of what we disliked about each other was a mirror image of ourselves.

Yesterday, I helped her purchase and set-up a new iPad, make holiday wreaths and spend time with the grandkids. I was taken aback when she turned to me and said, “Denise, you are so patient. “ Patience has never been one of my virtues (at least through my eyes). All I could say was, “Thank you”.

Mom’s comment prompted me to look up the Biblical definition of patience, mostly because, as a pastor’s daughter, God considers patience a virtue. OMG, had I actually acquired a virtue in this crazy life filled with so many failures, disappointments and setbacks?

What is virtue?

I define it as a desirable moral quality that makes the best of any difficult or unsatisfactory situation; from that pothole in the road that never seems to get fixed, to the child crying on your flight to wherever. The Bible defines it as conformity of life and conduct with the principles of morality or simply stated: moral excellence.

Where does patience fit into the mix?

Good question.

  • I believe our ability to be patience is often based upon the person (or persons) with whom we must be patient.
  • That family member or work associate that annoys us just might be God’s gift to build our patience.
  • We grow morally (in virtue) through the daily grind of life. We can either retard or increase our virtue based on our response to daily difficulties and life experiences.

What stunts our growth?

A bitter and resentful spirit can certainly hinder our moral growth; as does anger. An unwillingness to see another person’s perspective also exacerbates our level of impatience, as does the inability to have an empathetic understanding of other’s weaknesses.

The old saying you must walk a mile in someone’s shoes to understand what they are going through is true even today.

So, what’s the goal?

Hopefully, it is a desire to be mindful of how God is at work in the details of our daily life, even in the tiny annoyances we encounter (like the crying baby on the plane). I am convinced Jesus endured nuisance and annoyance from his disciples on numerous occasions, but His patience was remarkable. He knew what it was like to walk around in their shoes.

As Christians, every aspect of our life should be to profile Jesus. Our purpose is to bring us into closer conformity of His image; to see people, situations and life’s challenges through His eyes. At the end of the day, our goal is to look upward and rest in content that God is working all things for His good and purpose in our life.

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”
Philippians 2:13

TODAY’S PRAYER:

Lord, some of Your people are hard to love. They can be moody, mean, difficult, and impossible to understand. They blame me for things I didn’t do and have expectations I can’t meet. Sometimes I wish You hadn’t put them in my life.

I need You to show me how much You love them. Reveal what You see under the surface, where they’re hurting, and tell me how to make a difference. Thank you for giving me your patience to be kind and compassionate when I don’t have my own and for loving me when I’m the one who’s difficult in someone else’s life.

 

3

The Inspiration Behind the Dream

kindness winsAs the founder of the Linden Pay It Forward Project, this post is written from my heart.

Many years ago I became a part of the Linden community by marriage. Some of you know the person I married, others may not; that is not important. What IS important is, after the marriage ended, I felt abandoned in a community I did not know.

I had to find my way and it wasn’t easy. But God’s grace is sufficient in our time of need and that grace was more than I ever hoped for.

ROLL BACKWARDS

For whatever reason, I believed my self-worth was based on my martial partner. Hmm…. any of you been down that path of misconception? Now, at age 63, I can’t even imagine that I gifted that former spouse a digit on my scale of worth. But it happened.

ROLL FORWARD

My point of sharing is to enlighten you that WE create our future; WE reshape the circumstances that we thought would define our destiny.

I started to step outside my comfort zone. I joined a gym where I met some forever friends. I became active in my community through a Bunco group with friendships still shared to this day.

My daughter’s participation in sports throughout high school brought new friendships with parents in the community. When I started a home-based global business, I hired students from Linden High to help out. To this day, these gals are like daughters to me.

Bottom line, I choose to reshape my destiny. I went back to college, finished my degree and in the process recognized that I was worthy. I finally got it.

GOT WHAT?

I finally got that my faith, the love of family, friends and community is what really matters.  Some of you know my deepest struggles, some don’t. Again, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the knowledge that whatever life throws at us, God’s grace and community friendships will see us through the pot holes of life.

FAST FORWARD

The community that once felt foreign to me is now my safety net, my fortress and my forever hometown.

PAY IT FORWARD

My reason for starting the Linden Pay It Forward Project had a dual purpose. It was inspired by an act of kindness by two high school boys within our community. On a more intimate level, it was a desire to make people feel like they belong. Perhaps, their life story differs from mine, but in the end, it’s all about a need to be accepted, appreciated and loved.

We all have stories of loss, personal heartache and remorse. I can think of no better way to recover, regroup and regain whatever it is we have lost than to reach out to others in their time of need.

0

Held to the Flame

flame

There are times in life when we are held to the flames. Perhaps it is divorce, separation or a battle for your health. Addictions, loss of a family member or job can quickly place our faith next to the flame.

I get it, and have experienced all of these ‘held to the fire’ moments within my life. Was it easy, NO! Was God faithful, YES! It is God’s holy fire that transforms us. When held to the flame, our spirit is transformed into something new.

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. (7) These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1 Peter 1: 6-7

We are valuable to God. Giving up His Son to death so that His blood would bring us forgiveness of sin is certainly proof of that. If your life is being held to the flame, God may be trying to tell you something.

Open your ears to hear God’s voice; He speaks to us through His Word. Read it!

Open your eyes to your surroundings. Are you hanging out in places and with people that give cause for concern?

Open your heart to change and the deep inner stirring of the Holy Spirit within your soul. That comes through prayer and meditation with our Heavenly Father.

Sometimes our life is held to the flame for no apparent reason. REJOICE! God is testing your faith for a divine purpose. You may not see or know that purpose while on earth, but eternity holds all the answers.

Dig in your heels, hold tight! Let your faith be increased and proven to be genuine because it has been held to the flame.

“So now, beloved ones stand firm and secure. Live your lives with an unshakable confidence. We know that we prosper and excel in every season by serving the Lord, because are we assured that our union with the Lord makes our labor productive with fruit that endures.” 1 Corinthians 15:58

1

Never Under Estimate God’s Purpose

quoteCleaning homes is not something I ever expected to be doing in my sixties. Heck, I had already retired from one job and sold a prosperous LLC company by age sixty.

It’s not that I consider myself above house cleaning; it’s just that the thought never crossed my mind. Apparently it crossed the mind of God and I was assigned to be a house cleaning missionary.

It’s true. Not only that, but God also hand-selected someone I had never before met to work with me in the mission field. Pretty crazy, isn’t it? At my age, nothing surprises me about God and the ways He will use us for His purpose IF we are willing.

THE STORY

A single mom, married multiple times, who didn’t finish college until later in life. A woman broken by life’s struggles; a woman, by the grace of God, who found a secure job with decent wages and benefits to support herself and daughter.

I am guessing many of you have a similar story to share that is filled with shame, regrets and 20/20 vision. It’s that history that gets us to the God-designated place we are today. It takes unplanned events, heartaches and, in some cases, losses to get us to where God wants us to be.

THE WHY

In hindsight, the why is very clear but since glimpses of our future are not made known to us, we impatiently choose to move forward without a God-ordained plan. That is me, even to this day. I want to see the road ahead but when it’s not visible, I forge a path in the opposite direction of what God has planned for my life. It’s what I do and I do it very well.

THE HOPE

Be still my heart for there is still hope for us wayward souls who tend to take the path less taken. The path filled with thorns, burs and barbed wire. The path that ultimately leaves us scarred, wounded and crying for help.

And, then there is Jesus. His mercy and grace beckons us in another direction. A path we never considered, but a path that leads us to still waters; where he can restore us anew.

THE REASON

The life paths and direction God has designed for each of us is as different as our DNA. Our divine purpose on earth is unique because it is eternal based. We can’t see the big picture; we only see what is here and now.

I often ask God the reason I’ve been chosen to be a house cleaning missionary at this time in my life; an age where I can barely step in and out of a bathroom spa tub and scrubbing floors can require knee pads. His answer comes in ways I never imagined.

  • The woman crying in her car across the street from one of our house cleans who willingly accepted our offer to pray with her because her mother was dying.
  • The widow who looks forward to our visits because we make her laugh.
  • The busy doctor and PA with small children who continually show gratitude and thanks for the service we provide.
  • The grandmother who acquired custody of her grandkids because of family addiction issues and needs a sounding board.
  • The single father who needs help with housekeeping.
  • The single mom at the corner store who needs encouragement; so, we left her a goody bag.
  • The guy who noted the name ‘My Magic Mop’ on our vehicle and his laughter when I replied, “I ride the Magic Mop to work.”
  • The retired military man, a widow, who needs help with cleaning.

THE MISSION

To remain sensitive to the needs of others and continue to joyfully serve in the mission field God has placed me in at this time in my life. There are days I come home sore and tired. Other days, I come home exhilarated by the small victories, the challenges I’ve overcome and the new friendships acquired.

Never under estimate where God places you at certain times of your life.