A Season of Pruning

Today with the activity at Bayshore House, I was reminded of a lesson that I think is good for all of us to remember. God planted the idea in my mind as soon as I saw the view before me. We all could use a little cutting or trimming. We get hair cuts, beard trims, lawn mowing and all kinds of daily life trimmings and cuttings. But none can give us a better visual than a tree cutting. The ones doing the felling are referred to as Tree Feller or Arborist, to name a couple names used. My father worked in the logging industry when he was a young adult, and later in his life he liked nothing better than to get out into the woods and fell trees to cut up for our wood stoves. It was something he seemed to really enjoy doing. Then when we got back home, we would stack it all in the woodshed. I remember asking him while we were out felling trees when I was little, if it hurt the tree when he cut limbs off or cut down the tree. He assured me that the tree didn’t feel it, that it was alive, but didn’t have feelings like we did. I didn’t feel so bad seeing him cutting the trees down and making wood for the fire after that.

A Feller must have knowledge to do it the right way. He has to know about the tree; what kind it is, how it grows, gauge the height of the tree, where to cut and where not to cut so it will fall right where it needs to. My dad would tell us right where the tree would go and he was always right. We would yell “Timber!” as it went down. A Feller may work with others on a job and may need to give instructions to a less experienced Feller to make sure that he is going at the process in the right way. Particularly in a neighborhood, you can’t just fall a tree any where but where it needs to go because it could cause you to be a VERY bad neighbor, and power companies wouldn’t like you much either. So it is important to have a experienced Feller come for that kind of work. A Feller knows how to trim a tree in order for it to grow in a certain way in the Spring. When it comes to taking the tree down, the Feller must know where he wants the pieces to fall.

It’s like life. We have seasons we go through where God is trying to prune a few things out of our lives. Man!!! That can hurt! It feels like there might not be anything left by the time He is done. We cry out in pain as we let go of parts of our life. God knows where to trim the excess off because He knows where he wants us to grow. It is always good to ask God where He wants to work in us. As an example, we can go out on our own and just start cutting on the trees in our yard, as the previous owners did here, and cause more issues for the future. We can also make the decision to ignore where God is working in our lives and not want to go through the pain of learning about ourselves, or dealing with the the areas God is telling us we need to deal with. Either way, it is a hard process. But if we look at it from the standpoint of where He is taking us, we can better understand that it is best for us to let Him guide the job of pruning and excavation. Our job then is just to be obedient to work with Him.

The trees in our yard that got trimmed do not look very attractive right now. In fact…they are pretty ugly. But when Spring comes, it will be growing in a much healthier way, as the Feller said the trimming is designed to. It is the same for us in our pruning process. The process is painful because admitting we even HAVE a problem in an area is not something we are willing to admit. But when we submit to the Master’s hand and allow Him to prune, trim, or cut down, we will be given a new healthier way of living and a new view of life.

In our case, no more droppings of “presents” on our cars or the neighbor’s yard. Now, is it a process that comes at no cost? Not EVEN. It is quite costly. It can also be costly to us if we allow God to work in our lives to trim or cut what is necessary out of our lives. We have had years of maybe growing in the wrong way, dropping our “presents” on those around us. People in our lives withdrawing because of letting our branches (getting involved) go in areas we shouldn’t. Let God lead and be the Master with the chisel and hammer, or as in our case, the chainsaw, the chipper, in your life. As I mentioned before, when the tree comes down, he starts at the top and takes a length at a time to bring it down. That’s not a bad place for us to start either, right? It starts at the top for us too…right in that ol’ noggin’ of yours. We have thought a certain way so long, that we are comfortable with ourselves as we are. But… if we want to be a person that keeps learning and growing, then we will often have to also be the type of person that is willing to allow the pruning, or even the cutting down, to make way for something new. Think of the small growth on tree trunks that pop out called “suckers”. They look cute, and new growth is always so healthy looking. But if they aren’t trimmed off, they take away from the nutrients of the tree and cause damage to the growth of the tree. Don’t let the enemy plant suckers in you by such things as staying busy, social media, over involvement, or any number of things that cause you to lose out on time for the important things.

As I watched the elder explaining to the younger, he is teaching him the craft and why it is done a certain way. The younger/student than does has the elder/teacher tells him. We need to be doing the same thing in our lives. Listen to the Master. It is for our well-being and it leads to a more joyful outcome. Now we can begin to plant anew in our lives all the things that bring joy instead of frustration. We can change our view entirely. Change doesn’t bother me too much because I know that eventually I will come out the other side with a more contented view of daily life. I might be a bit weary from the process, but I know I will be a better person from what I left behind in the chipper, along with the disappearing wild suckers that were trying grow in me.

When they have completed the process here, we will have one ugly tree, and some big spaces to fill. But the cost is worth it. We can gain a new perspective and view, and we can plant in our yard that which will bring joy to us. New life begins in the same place where old life was taken out and sent to the chipper. I for one am very glad that I know the Master of the process. Just like the Feller today, God knows best how to handle it all. We count the cost today for the work we won’t have to do, and for the natural beauty we will have eventually. It is the same for our pruning process of getting back to what we enjoy the most…healthy soul living.

Let our trimming begin!

Next step is coming down.

Until next time…

~JoAnn

Leaving the Good for Better

Let what needs to fall off, fall. New life is coming!

God is in the whisper! We may not always think about that. The verse in scripture where we are told to be still and know? That’s it. Leaning in so we listen for God’s whisper takes special tuning. If we are missing the whispers, we are living with static and losing opportunities to see God working. So, with that said, let me share some thoughts that I believe God has planted in my heart lately. We need to be able to believe that God is faithful; not just when things are going right, but when things go wrong. Also, when things see too big for us to handle. If we can get to the point where we are hearing God whisper, then I think we are reaching a level of relationship with God that will lead us to deeper faith. That is what’s required in all times of life, no matter what is going on.

There are times when we have a feeling that we are to begin something, move forward in something, or end something. However, just because we get that feeling, doesn’t mean we should go forward. If we feel that God is giving us direction, then He will open doors or confirm in some way what we are to do. It isn’t good to go ahead on our own steam without those confirmations. It can get us into trouble. God will give us confirmation so that we will know without a doubt that it is Him. If we are not to go ahead, He will tells us that too, but we have to be willing to abide by the warning He gives us.

So…over this last weekend, I closed down a group on Facebook I had called Faithline. It was an online group that studied from where ever we were located and learned from each other and supported each other on our walk with the Lord. Great people, great encouragement. I have led the group for several years and in the last year, found myself a bit restless and unsettled with it. Usually when this happens, it is accompanied by a lifting of the grace to do whatever I am doing, along with the feelings I described above. For me, I know that God is working on me with a message. So I sought Him in prayer over it and felt Him leading me to step away from leadership for the group. I didn’t make the decision quickly. It has been coming for a while. I have given it much prayer and thought. We are sometimes asked to leave what is good, to do something that is better. Enter…faith. Where am I headed? Instead of leading right now, I feel that I am to make some changes in my own life. Change isn’t easy. I even found myself saying that I could keep it open just to encourage once in a while. But as soon as I said that, I got a quick check in my spirit that said, “That isn’t what I have told you to do.” Well, that answered that for me. I closed the group. I am to become a student and learn from others that can deepen my faith and knowledge of Christ. Here is what my season will look like now:

  1. Changes are difficult and take some time to learn new habits. In my case, I have cut back my FB friends and keep it to family and a few friends…ones that encourage but don’t post negative posts all the time or often. It gets to use more than you realize. It means less screen time, and not living by what I need to answer or post. I even find myself lost at times, as I find I have much more time on my hands. Exciting to me because now I can do some of those other activities that bring joy to my heart.
  2. I am getting back into activities that bring me joy, such as: music, playing instruments, reading, writing poetry, singing, working on genealogy, baking bread, trying new recipes, and more one on one coffee meet ups to share what God is doing in the lives of people. I have read through the Bible this year and I am almost done. Next year I will do it with a study bible and a commentary to read through comments for clarification, or insight. I even have a contact for a flute that I might be able to buy to play again, which I haven’t played since my late 20s or early 30s. I had to sell mine at one point so that is exciting for me! I play for my own amazement with: guitar, mandolin, uke, flute, accordion, working with my dad’s harmonica, and piano. I am not proficent at any one instrument but I hope to improve my skills with my investment of time in this activities.
  3. Going to school (from my studio) as a student in Bible study and life. Always an exciting journey for me.
  4. I am going to up my photography skills and learn from online options and the books that I have in my library. I always thought, “I need to be better”. I have told myself many times that I need to get with the program and learn how to be more professional. But you know what?? I found I was listening to voices outside myself telling me what I should being doing. Comparison. It is not a good thing. And it can take the fun and joy out of photography. Here is a quote from David duChemin, a well known photographer, who I feel is the voice of reason in the photography world: “What if we all want different things? What if I want to do this professionally, and all you want to do is photograph everything you see because it brings you joy and makes you feel more alive?” That my friend, can apply to any area of our lives. But you see, I am a lot like that quote. I want to photograph everything! It keeps me in the moment. It helps me stay grateful for what I have around me and what I have been given. I’m also leaving a story behind for my family and future family through the photographs I take. I don’t need to put pressure on myself for anything else.
  5. Writing from my blog rather than leading a group. I can share from this corner of the world that God has given me just as easily.
Take time for special moments.

You see, we can get tied up in comparisons and lose our joy and contentment. What if your crossroads have to do with how often your read your Bible? Or, when you read your Bible? How about how often you pray? What you do with your kids? How you appear on Facebook? That check list that you feel you have to mark off so you can feel like you are accomplishing something? Who is that for? It doesn’t really prove anything. Some of that isn’t real life anyway. It is what gets inside you that is more important than checking it off a list. I feel more and more that we are to get back to the basics of life. Shut out the “shoulds” and begin doing it for the right reasons…our families, our well-being, our inner joy, our homes, our marriages, our relationships. As we have seen from this year, those are what’s really important to our happiness. Grab a camera and get into nature. Teach your children or grandchildren how to cook and bake. Let them see that the life you live is a legacy they can have. Show them. Show yourself. Is it easy? No. The world is consistently putting the brainwashing message out there that we have to have more we have to DO more; do more to have more. So we get on the wheel and run like a gerbil, when deep in our heart we want something laced with contentment. It gnaws at us little by little. Stop the wheel and get off. Now, if you think about the gerbil, it is not going to jump off while the wheel is spinning fast. Nope. It will slow the wheel down and then get off. That means this is a process of slowing down, one step at a time. I’m going there. How about you? If we are doing things we love, we are happier, and our life looks and feels a whole new beginning. I love new beginnings and chances to start again. It just feels right. It is one of those “inside” changes that totally changes us in our outside of us and our lives. Yes, it is true. Even your appearance changes when you are happy and content deep in your heart.

In gratefulness for all that God has done and continues to do in my life, even with VERY hard circumstances going on, I look forward to adding some exciting changes and new joy to this season of my life story. I hope you too, are inspired to do the same, however that looks for you.

Until next time…

~JoAnn

Going For It!

My new guitar!

I just wanted to pop in on you tonight before the weekend hits and encourage you again to make some changes just like I talked about in the previous post. (Check the listings on the blog for the previous post.) Here is why…it is exciting, it feels great, there is joy in the process, and you feel like you are making headway in your life for positive change! Let me share my day with you!

This morning The Captain and I made a drive back to the area I grew up. The trip down was glorious! The clouds and smoke lay heavy in the mountains and at times the sun was shining through the trees making for a beautiful morning drive! I felt alive just experiencing it. I came to the flat lands in the Skagit and that fog was laying low across the farmlands. Again…it was inspiring. For me, this is again part of the change I am making. When I am not preoccupied with “stuff”, I have the time to enjoy the moment I am in. Doing more with photography brings me joy and that was a goal also. So with anticipation and a generally happy feeling, I drive to my first stop.

Skagit Flats

That little side stop was to give a little blue chair to my niece for her first grandchild. Magnus will now have his own little chair to sit on at Grandma’s house. One of my goals has been to share what I have with others and I want to tell you it feels great to do that. The memory of this chair will live on for days to come for Magnus. I got a hug from my niece and I’m on my way.

Next stop was Starbucks and a visit with my older brother. Love that guy! We had a long visit and shared life and laughter together with family and we don’t do it much anymore. That is lacking these days. We as a society used to take the time to be together and now we get so busy, that time do gather goes to the back burner, and maybe never happens. Not for me anymore. Life is too short and spending time with family is too important not to make it more of a priority. Today made me happy to do just that. And…25 bonus stars at Starbucks on top of it! Win, win!! 🙂

Remember me talking in my last post about getting back into music? That was my next stop on my agenda. I have had a Takamine guitar for well over 25 years. Up until the last few years, it has suited my needs. However, for whatever reasons, it has become more difficult to play and thus I haven’t played it as much. So…I stop by my favorite music store and see if they do trade-ins. Yep, they do!!! I asked what I could get for mine. He looked it over and told me he could trade it straight across for the guitar I had been considering. WELL…sign me up! So I walked out with a new Taylor 12 Academy with a bag for ZERO dollars! Now that is something to end my day with!!! And yes…even a happy dance in the parking lot!

I guess the reason behind sharing my day is this: when you decide to make changes for the inside of you, life is just better on the outside of you. Ask yourself why this couldn’t be you with different circumstances. It can! Decide you WANT to change and then begin to make it happen step by step. I started a couple days ago and have been working on it each day since. Don’t get discouraged when it feels like you are slipping back into old habits. It takes a while to make the changes permanent. That and… a lot of fortitude. You CAN do it.

What a way to end a day!

To many more days like today in my life, and may it be so in your life as well! Here’s to living the dash with joy and contentment!

Until next time…

~JoAnn

Renewal Starts Within

I am learning the art of rest.

It’s the start of something new! It’s a new beginning! I am going to make some changes! I am going to lost weight! I am going to read my Bible every day! If any of those statements have been made by you, then you probably have many others that you have said to yourself. Maybe you don’t feel like you have gotten very far toward those changes. Or maybe the change happened for a while but then came to an end. It could be that you got discouraged and gave up.

You see, some times we think that if we make everything else right around us, we will accomplish those changes. It might be having a perfect house, drive a nice car, try to make ourselves look younger, a hair cut, new glasses, manicure or pedicure, or new golf clubs, the latest coffee house cup in our hand, or any number other outward appearances that we think will make it happen for us. But we are putting all our attention on the outward appearance, how we look, to make us feel better. We think if we look a certain way or appear a certain way, surely then I can be successful in how I feel inside and happiness will follow. The biggest misconception is that it doesn’t matter what we look like on the outside…it is what is on the inside of us.

Lately, I have been feeling the pull to make a decision to use less of my time on Facebook and to trim down my list of friends. It means less distraction and weeding through all the notifications that can get overwhelming and time consuming. After some prayer, I decided to make that change and made an announcement that I was trimming down the friend list. But I was concerned for what others may think if I unfriended them. What would they think of me? They would probably say, “Why would you want to do that? Everyone likes staying in touch with family, friends and classmates on Facebook!” So… let’s look into this a little deeper.

Music Corner

I have found that when I have to make big decisions, for me it is about asking the right questions. What is it I want to accomplish? What is God telling me regarding this decision or situation? Why do I feel this way? What would be the advantages to my making this change? You see, as an example, it meant me also closing out an online bible study for ladies that I have been leading for a few years. That seems like something God would want me to continue to do, right? In this case, I felt strongly that my focus should be less on what I wanted to do, or thought I was supposed to me doing, to more of what God was calling me to now in this season. It seemed that He had some plans for me to get back to a place where I was investing time into more study. Bible Study, yes. But also study of music, photography, and study through reading, and genealogy…activities that bring me joy.

Here is the kicker… God wants me to be doing things I enjoy, as well as, what He has called me to do. He placed those desires and giftings in me and I need to be diving into those areas with more time set aside for that. My online presence was taking up more of my time than I wanted and definately more than God wanted. I would get a few minutes here and there for my hobbies that I love but rather haphazard in my attempts. My quiet time is always a must. So get ready for this long thought: If God wants me to dive into study more in order to strengthen my walk, so that, I might continue to be able to help others as He gives me opportunites, then I need to do that. There is something He wants to teach me. There is a fullness of joy that He wants to give me through what I put my time, energy, and hands to.

When He places a new desire in our hearts, He wants to DO something inside of us. If we change what is going on in our hearts, then we will see the results of strength, confidence, joy, and blessing. It will change how we appear on the outside also. We are never too old to learn from ourselves, as well as others. I want to be teachable, and able to help someone that might be in need of it. I can’t hear the needs if I’m so caught up in Facebook land. It’s called balance and I felt the pull toward less online time and more “living” time.

My take away in this last decision is this: I want to always be in a place where God can do His best work in me. Sometimes that means giving up something you felt was a calling. But maybe it was a season he called you to, and you need to be able to gracefully bow out. Maybe He has someone else in mind to take your place. In that season, you did your best work for Him. You helped, encouraged and directed people to who God is, and now He wants to further school you to give you even more influence and joy toward others. Exciting thought isn’t it? He wants to help you become even MORE effective than you are currently? We might have to take some risks with these new decisions, but even in those diffiuclt times, He is right there leading the way and encouraging you on!

Wisdom Corner

So…I am on a journey to explore just what He has for me. I feel the excitement building because I have been here before and it changes me every time! Deal with what is going on with you inside, because that makes all the difference on the outside. We don’t need to impress anyone with what we have. We don’t have to be perfect, or put on airs to appear that way. I certainly am not perfect by any means! But I do know the joy of obedience, and that my friend, is the key.

Stay with me here on the blog. This is where you will find me more active. I believe it is because I may be asked to share some of my journey as I go. God’s goodness to me requires a response. I am responding. Will you? Will you begin the excavating process in your heart to see what you might need to do to operate in total trust and joy with what change means in your life with Jesus? I hope so. I would love to hear if this touches your heart, and what you plan to do in your heart to make a change. Blessings!

My creative/study place.

Until next time,

~JoAnn

The Power of An Image

I love to take photos. I take photos of everything I see and experience. When asked what my photography niche is, I would have to say that don’t really have one that I enjoy more than just the joy of taking the photo and being creative with them. I love to take photographs of many things. But a good friend once told me that my gifting was in the area of vignettes… those pictures you take of a moment in time that invokes a feeling from looking at the photo. It isn’t of someone, a landscape view, nature, an object, or animals. However, it may include some of them in the photograph. It’s like a puzzle photo you put together to get the look you desire. It invokes a feeling. It is something I see that causes me to take a moment and feel what I see, maybe even ask why I am seeing it, and then, what I should do with what I see. It makes you think. It tells a story. I had a strong urging today to write a bit about this. So…here it goes!

Quiet Time

I enjoy catching those moments in my story each day. It is my reminder of the good in my day. It also reminds me to be grateful that I can enjoy those moments. Each photo holds value to me, and my hope is that they encourage others. It may give someone hope, a bright spot in their day, or a view they haven’t seen. A reminder of good things. In my case, it reminds me of a legacy of a life well-lived. I can just be sitting there and then I see a photo in my mind’s eye and I have to set it up to create it.

Homemade Vest from Childhood

Pictures help us to see the present moment and encourage us to reflect on it. We have heard the saying…a perfect moment in time. That is what a photo is all about. Even if it’s not the best one, it is the one you have. Sometimes you totally miss getting it, but I have learned to say that the photo I missed, God gave to me for my eyes only that time.

Tradition in my home growing up that I make because I love them!

There are many taking pictures now days that spend an inordinate amount of time taking selfies in all kinds of situations. That is a fun way to chronicle a special event or circumstance that is a part of your story. But when we put out all these self-made glamour selfies out there, we aren’t always living in the reality of every day life. Sure, everyone wants to look their best, but you are concentrating on the love of self a lot more than what may be necessary. We all want to look a certain way, show our family a certain way, and project a certain image. Our cameras that we can so easily hold and take with us, are a very valuable tool in the hands of the owner. It will be your past that speaks into your future someday; a gift left to your family and friends. What pictures do you have more of? What is going on in the moments of your life? If someone scrolled through your cell phone pictures, or computer pictures, will they find more of your selfies and you doing something that spotlights YOU, or would they find pictures of what your life and memories have been?

Fun at the cabin.

You see, as believers, we want to highlight ourselves less, and Him more. So what IF we started taking pictures and photos that showed our gratefulness for what we have? The beauty of His creation? The love of family gatherings? Special items you have that speak of your growing up years? What brings you joy? What makes you sad? What if we move others through our photos? What if we didn’t post the ugliness of things on Facebook, but posted the positive and funny experiences? Because…well…it doesn’t help to post things that we can’t do anything about, such as, all the sadness and abuse out there that we most likely can’t change. That doesn’t help anyone. When we are out taking selfies, we also teach our children that it is all about ME. When we post every little thing, we suddenly become all about the “posing”. Even little kids know how to put their little hands on their hips and act in a certain way for a picture. I would rather see them in the real life experiences where a memory is made. Maybe it will be them enjoying fun and laughter, eating ice cream, fun with a pet, camping in the back yard, learning something new or being with their grandparents. Those are valuable pictures. Picture yourself sitting at some point and a child asks to see your pictures, and all they see are dozens and dozens of pictures of you. That doesn’t tell them anything about your life, dreams, loves, feelings, or what you think about the life you have lived so far.

I know that I post a lot of life pictures. Pictures of thoughts during the day, my collection of mocha cups, a candle lit for ambiance, a picture of beautiful nature, a flower, my home as we make improvements, various great “finds” that I come across shopping, something I have read, music, where I have my quiet time, challenges that I go through that may help another when their times comes for a challenge, and the fun my hubby and I have together, just to name a few. Those are the things that make a picture valuable. You can’t get those moments back without the pictures. You may even get to the point where some are forgotten and that picture brings it all back to you.

It’s like a ministry to me. I hope someone sees my pictures and thinks they can do that, or I want to do that, or what a great idea, or maybe… Lord, help me to put that as a priority in my life also. We each have a story. We are time managers because we are making a lasting moment with a picture.

Home ambiance that is important to me.

God has changed my life through pictures. It keeps me present and grateful. Know the value pictures hold for you and I encourage you to use that tool; your cell phone or camera, to the utmost. You may not like to journal but pictures are a great way to do that instead of writing. God has given us technology to work with, let’s use it for something good, something true, and something valuable. Make something magic happen with it. It becomes like time travel, and that, we can all identify with! The nostalgia of looking through the archives of photos!

Dial back a few years and enjoy the journey through your story and maybe re-evaluate the power of your images. With renewed intention, we can change everything!

Until next time…

~JoAnn

Thoughts From My Window

So what outcome do we line up with? I believe just like the firefighters have to blaze a ditch at times to keep the fire from hopefully moving into another area, we have to draw a boundary or two in our we lives. We have to chose our attitude toward today, be thankful for what we have and not complain about what we don’t. Enjoy what you have every day. Don’t put it away and never enjoy it. Remember, it can be gone very quickly and if we still have it, hold it lightly. We can’t take any of it with us. As I always say, drink from the good glasses. They do not give joy sitting in the cupboard.

Today as I finished my quiet time, I was reading in Lamentations and reading about their response to the consequences of their actions that they had chosen. It seemed a bit like a paraellel to some of the fires going on in the areas where I live and south of me. It made me think of what is important, and what is less important. I was so thankful too as I sat in my little corner of the world, and looking out my window to see God’s provision right in front of my eyes. How often do we take for granted all that we have, along with the surroundings we enjoy? I think it happens more often that not.

I have been thinking of how quickly our lives can change. From cohesive relationships to drama and pain. How we can take everything for granted until we don’t have it anymore. In some areas, we can find it really isn’t missed and those are good eliminations. That can even be freeing. But there are circumstances in our lives where it hits you and life changes quickly. It can be as we see in the news where families and communities have lost everything! That means all the memories and possessions are gone in just a short time. We can have broken relationships that are there one day and next day they are gone. It’s a hard life at times that we are called to live.

I have had some rough times recently, and I am having to make some rough choices in my thoughts and actions. It is hard. It is work. It is giving some things up. It is drawing a ditch in front of my life so I can tell the devil to take his messes elsewhere. Oh… he will try to jump the ditch…for sure. But I have the hose ready to spray my ditch with the power of the God’s Word. I can tell him JUST what God says about it. I go back to last the post where I talked about pray, pray and pray some more. That is where my focus has to be, and where my power to live each day comes from.

As I turn from my window, I can come away with a renewed thankfulness, and determination that I will make it through this also. God hasn’t left the situation or my life. So as I sat at the window this morning, I dug the figurative ditch. I will continue to stand with God right beside me holding the line!

Will you allow God to stand with you and hold the line with you in your life? He wants to, you know.

Until next time…

~JoAnn

Sideswiped Faith

I observed in myself this last week what I can only describe as having my faith sideswiped. If you have ever been sideswiped in a car, or watched it happen, you know that it isn’t expected and it is very hard to avoid the crash that comes with it. That was my experience, or at least, what it felt like to me.

To be honest, I was heart broken. I looked back on it and thought I had led well to the best of my ability, but it appeared in many ways that I had failed. What I hoped would be a good example of faith, was in fact, not very convincing or evident apparently. I had failed the ones I loved the most it seemed. I wasn’t looking for this revelation, didn’t ask for it, and yet it was handed to me.

How do you handle being sideswiped? You have to get the facts straight. What happened? How did it happen? Did I not pay attention? Was it my fault or the fault of someone else? Am I willing to take responsibility if it was me? Or was it no fault of my own? We have to do the work. By doing that, it becomes clear in our minds, as well as those involved, as to the course of the outcome. However, that is hard when you are shook up from the sideswipe. You are shook to your core and not always thinking clearly. You say things and act too much out of emotions. It takes asking yourself the right questions.

That’s what happened to me a couple weeks ago. As believers, we try to navigate our life in terms of being an example of how to live, how to pray over our decisions, how to make good choices, how to love others, and be Jesus hands and feet. We trust God with everything. We may not always like the outcome, but we trust that He knows the end from the beginning, so we can trust the outcome. We try to parent in such a way that our children, family and friends see Jesus in us and thus come to see God. We live with that purpose of showing others what God looks like, and serve God with our lives. But we also know that it doesn’t always go the way we want it to. We, or our family and friends, don’t always stay in the same lanes with the parallels of our lives. We test the boundaries, we go too fast, we get distracted, we miss a road sign, and maybe we are distracted by the life of the very person we have tried to lead. Sometimes this can cause a “crisis of faith” in us. This isn’t just in families, but it can be in friendships, and church families as well.

What I came to understand as I worked through my thoughts and emotions in prayer, was that I felt like a failture at this point. God is not the author of those kinds of thoughts and feelings. He tells me that I can come to Him with anything, and He will hear me. So I listened after I shared this with Him. I came to understand it in a different way. I know there are times I could of handled things differently. We ALL have that in our lives. The key? I have always asked for forgiveness of those things, and I know God forgives. I have asked of those that I love to forgive me. So it’s done. I have done my very best, I have changed and corrected my future with what I have learned, and I know that the Holy Spirit lives in me to bring correction as I need it.

I was reminded that God has given each person a free will. They use that free will to make choices for their lives. Friendships that they choose, even how much of what their friends believe that they begin to belive. I can’t make the choices for them, nor an I responsible for the choices they make. I can direct, correct, encourage, but as they get older, they are now making their own choices. If they make choices based on their belief ideals, then they must live with the consequences of those choices. We would all love to see them live good lives, and love others, and put God first in their lives. But without the acceptance of God and of the Holy Spirit in their lives, they are living a spiritually blind path where they don’t see it like you or I may see it. Until the time comes in their lives where that becomes real to them, they can’t see it. They also have a tendency to listen to who they spend time with, rather than someone who has imparted into their lives at home. I have had years of experience with God where I can say He has shown Himself faithful every time. I KNOW His provision.

So… it came down to this, I can only keep living my life in a way that shines God’s light to those around me. Even in my messed up ways at times, He can still use me to let others see. If I am honest and open about the way I live, and I ask God to use my life toward guiding others, that is the best way to handle it. What I feel God spoke to me during this experience was this: “You can pray, and keep praying, and never give up praying. That isn’t the last thing you do as if it is your last resort. It’s your first thing you do every day. It’s your priority!”

In otherwords, devil, you aren’t going to drag me down through the ditch for something that God is using to teach me again. It isn’t easy to hear, and it means some more trust and faith on my part, but I will keep shining. That’s what I hope to do. I keep believing, I keep trusting, I keep asking. I keep living. That will be a part of my story.

I will keep my eyes on the road of life, and watch carefully for those times when I know it is the devil trying to discourage me and side swipe my faith. I can better avoid what he tries to hit me with. I won’t give up. My relationship with my people is all good. I just have to leave the ending of their story in the hands of the One Who knows.

Will you give up when hard times hit? Or will you try to live an authentic life for Christ? I hope it is the latter; the former is what satan is after these days. Don’t open that door. Slam it and lock it! Kick that devil to the curb. Then, thank God for leading you, assess the damage, repair what needs to be repaired in prayer, wipe the dust from your sandles and walk on.

Until next time…

~JoAnn

The Power of Words

Have you ever experienced words said to you that made you feel like they had just thrown a big pitcher of ice water over your head? It might have taken your breath away, or made you feel the shock of the words, or even like, you might not recover from it. You thought about it again and again, even after they had left you? You replay it in your mind and you find it hard to let it go. It can send you in a spiral downward. But the same is true if it comes out of your mouth to someone else? Do we pray first about what words we use? Do you ever call yourself names, or try to win an argument you had with a person and THIS time, you tell them just exactly what you think?!? 🙂 I know you have. I know I have.

Words have power! Do you know how many words you say to yourself each day? The average person speaks 7000 words a day! Some speak even more than that! What are you saying to yourself all day? What is your inner dialog? And…what do you believe about those words you say to yourself? Are they affirming? Angry? Name calling? Condemning?

I am a “word” person. I love words, I enjoy learning new ones, and I have them up all over my house. Why? Because I need reminders of good words and uplifting direction in my life. I need reminders that God has good for me, not bad. That He loves me right where I am, and just like I am. That doesn’t mean He doesn’t want me to grow and change; He does. But He loved me enough in the very beginning before I did work on changing. He loved me enough to say, “Come.” He loves me enough to help me move forward toward wholeness.

I heard a word today that fit for me…the word was GRIT. Do you need GRIT right now? Is what is going on all around you sanding away at your GRIT? You feeling overwhelmed? Here is a definition of GRIT:

Grit – courage and resolve; strength of character.

Do you have grit? Do you NEED some grit?? Maybe your word is different. Whatever it is today, ponder this idea, and see what word God may have to encourage you today, or this week, or this season. What will give you courage, resolve or strengthen YOUR character?

Staying connected with those things or people that help us keep our words affirming and loving, and our attitude more positive, is important. In this day and age, it seems people are way too free with their words. They are often times not the least affirming or loving. You don’t have to like someone possibly, but you don’t have to slander them either. Your best way of loving might be to just zip your mouth and fold your hands and keep your fingers from moving over your keyboard. Pray instead. Pray for THEM instead of putting something out there that slanders the person. Remember words have power. When we speak them out, we are showing who WE really are also. Ding, ding!!

So I am sharing a little grit of my own in this post, but I think it is necessary for us all to realize how words have impact on ourselves and those around us. Find some good ones! Put them on the walls of your heart to soften it. Ask God for direction towards words that have deep meaning for you…search. He is waiting.

Until next time…

~JoAnn

Do You Have Hope In the Darkness?

 

Here I am writing to you from my new space today. We have moved and are still settling in. However, I am writing from my desk where I have a very peaceful environment and space. A true answer to prayer! I’m sharing it with you along with this message because I believe the two go hand in hand. Let me share with you why I think this way.

We have long known that our environment has much to do with how we feel.  That means how our surroundings feel to us, what is going on in those surroundings, the relationships going on in the surroundings, and the messages spoken. So if that is the case, why are we not doing everything we can within our means to make that a priority in our lives, as well as, those who live or come into our environment? Why don’t we make a priority for OURSELVES? We know its value to us and to our future and daily lives.

Enter this present day: with everything that is going on around us, isn’t it even MORE important for us to have a place where we can feel safe? A place where our souls find rest and comfort? It sure is! It makes a big difference in how we think and navigate these times. Today, I have the light shining into my room, candles burning as rememberance of what He has done, a line of twinkle lights lit that just make me happy, a tall glass of ice tea, and surrounded by things I love. I don’t want to have my face anywhere but looking up, and as I do, then God reminds me to look around.  He wants me to see what I have; what He has done for me. He doesn’t want me concentrating on what I witness in this chaotic life around me. I came across a photo I took a few years back. As I looked at it, I felt in my heart that God was reminding me that HE sees in the dark. When the fog of chaos rolls in, when the darkness is more prevalent than the light, He can see where we are in the dark! He knows where I am. He wants to be my light.  He IS Light. I believe He was telling me to look to Him as the Light in the darkness when the times around me seems overwhelming. Where there is light, there is no darkness. You can go into a room that is dark, and when you turn the light on, the darkness goes away and the light enters the room.

So I make my sourroundings a continuation of that message. I always have. I spend a fair amount of time in my home, and now, even more so. Because of that, I want it to be a place of refuge for me, my husband, and anyone else that needs it as they visit, however long that may be. I want them to leave with a feeling peace that tugs on their hearts when their visit ends. I want them to be encouraged and uplifted. They may not even know what it is that makes them relax, but I do. God is here. Jesus is here. The Holy Spirit is here. AND…this house was given to us by God; without a doubt. I feel a little like Abraham and Sarah when they got a child at such an elderly age as they were. They never thought it could happen. But God. He blessed them with a child. I feel the same way. At the age of my husband and I, that God would so graciously gift us with what I feel is the best home we have had yet. Not just the home, it’s surroundings and all, but also what we have been able to do with this home. The sense of peace here. So… I know it has purpose in our lives beyond our daily living. Isn’t that how God is? He wants the best for us.

So trusting Him means that I have to trust Him all the time. Just because we have this wonderful house, doesn’t mean we aren’t going to have troubles. This is where I think we get mixed up. We think that because we are followers of Jesus, that He will then give us rose ladden paths and nothing bad will happen because He will take care of it before it does. Don’t we think like that? Yes many of us do. And so when the storm hits, we are immediately asking God why why THAT happened. He is the same God in the storm as He is in the calm. He is the same God who was with me during skin cancer surgeries as He is when He gave us this home. So… blessing = Nothing bad happens? That is NOT the case. I think we even know it, we just don’t want to reconcile it. That is our darkness. We are thinking about only the room we are in that is dark. But outside that door stands Jesus…knocking. If we open the door, the Light will come in and it’s not dark anymore. We may still have shadows at times to deal with, but He hasn’t left us in the dark without being there with us. Sometimes maybe we get battered and bruised up because we have taken our eyes off of Jesus. My times of feeling distraught is usually when I am looking more at what is going on around me then what He is doing right in the spot where I am; even what He may be trying to work on WITHIN me.

If we believe the Bible is true, we know what’s coming. That means that we need to keep our eyes on Him and let Him direct our lives more than we trying to control it. How, you might ask?

  • Turn off news and Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or anything other means of places that feed your fear base.(Or anger base)
  • Quit following half the places or people you follow, so that, you aren’t bothered or upset by their posts, opinions or reteric if that is causing stress or fear for you.
  • Reading His Word daily. God wins!
  • Reading devotionals and good books.
  • Listen to good uplifiting music.
  • Surrounding yourselves with others who encourage you in these directions.
  • Share what God is doing in your life with others.
  • Continuing to enjoy the places around you that give you peace.
  • An online Bible Study opportunity.
  • Invite a friend over and distance if you are one that feels this is necessary.
  • Take a hike or walk. Stay active.
  • Do some projects that need to be accomplished.
  • Do a car picnic with your family by the water.
  • Not be afraid. Fear is a weapon satan uses to keep us from trusting and having faith. Keep doubt at bay.

It’s not a perfect list, but it can go a long way toward giving you a more peaceful feeling each day. I’m thankful that God has given me ways to keep going and following His path instead of running willy nilly in every direction. Confusion IS fear. Nope, not going there. Satan wants to keep us in the dark; to keep us afriad. But I am much more powerful than his darkness, because I have the Light.  I have Jesus right with me through it all. I can speak out the Word. If I believe it, the darkness and fear leave and He will direct my attention else where to places I can serve or encourage.

Let the Light shine into your dark place. Don’t ever give yourself over to the power of darkness in any situation. If you look at the lead picture in this post, you will see my car sits there. How approprate for the message He gave me since my car is called “The Captain”. The area is surrounded by darkness but The Captain is lit by light and headed into more light as you can see up ahead of the car. That’s my Jesus. Leading me into the light of life. I just have to get behind the wheel and drive where He leads. He wants to pull up to your door today and get right in the middle of your darkness and turn it into Light. A place of light where you can see Him walking it out with you.  Only…you have to actually give Him your hands on the wheel and let Him lead. Jesus isn’t your co-pilot. He is in charge. Too many times, we take the wheel and go where we think we should go, when God wants to take the wheel and give you the ride of your life!

That is why my car is called “The Captain” because I let Him take hold of my hands on the wheel. I pray before I drive The Captain anywhere. I am willing go! I give Him my best effort every where He takes me. I might make excuses here and there along the way sometimes, but He patiently waits while I take a short detour to ask for understanding, and then I get back in the car so to speak. I find it is much better to let Him drive. I’m more likely to get to my final destination that way.

What about you? Do you need hope in your dark place? Do you know and believe He is there with you? It is my hope that this message is a voice of encouragement for you today.  You CAN have hope without fear, and I also want to remind you of what you know…that your hope is with God, not this world.

Until next time…

 

Ever Wanted A Life Map?

 

Today I have some time to write a bit in the midst of unpacking boxes. Sometimes we push oursleves beyond what our bodies can take, and we are forced to rest. So I thought I would write about a couple things on my heart today. It has been a good day to reflect.

A life map...don’t we all have times when we wish we had a map for our life? It would tell us where we are going and how we can get there.  We could even determine how long it might take for us to reach our destination. Why would we want a map, you ask? Because most of us want to know what is going on in our future, and what our life is going to look like. We can’t see where our life is going. But we have certainly seen where it has been and would like a few clues for what’s ahead. Kind of rough for us not to have one of those maps, isn’t it? The truth of the matter is, we don’t get to have a detailed map. We aren’t the captain of our souls. If we could see ahead, It might be something we can’t handle right now, but God will enable us to handle at some point in our future. It may be way to scary for us to see further down the road. Look at it this way…if it’s in your rear view mirror, you can know what your life looks like, but ahead is risky for us. We all have an average of 75 years or 27, 375 days. We are given points in life of: birth and ending with death. If we have found Jesus, then we have a wonderful life touch point to help direct us. It is how we live in between those points that counts the most. We know that. But we don’t often examine it. Each point in our life is very important to our life story and the person we become. Often times, the road we travel is preparing us for a new season; whether it be a long one or a short one. Unfortunately, we don’t have a life map to tell us how long it will be. We have to give Him the wheel of our lives to help direct us.

I don’t know about you, but when I come face to face with Jesus, I want Him to find me doing well; faithful and living my life with adventure and joy. It won’t be because of something I make happen, but because of what He has given me, and the His love FOR me. It will be about how willing I am to be obedient to what God has for me. Our move is a prime example in my life. The hardships are hard. If we had known about some of the hardships in our lives before hand, we may not have accepted the adventure period. However, when we do, He is faithful to bring us back to the road He has set before us. I want Him to find me more dependent on Him for direction in my life, as well as, obedient to His leading. What we would have missed out on if we had let our “moving again attitude” take over what God was going to graciously give us? Wow.

The question: How is God going to find me when the time comes? Does that question stir you up, or challenge you a little bit, as you think about what God is going to find in you when the time comes? Are you ready? Will He find you continually looking, searching, and maintaining an attitude of expectancy? Or, will he find you down in the dumps, feeling disappointed in your life? It could happen anytime, you know. We are seeing in the world around us that life can change in a moment.  A life of change is an engaged life, so stay engaged! Ask yourself, “How will He find me?”.  Ask it often, I do.

What are some of the keys to this kind of living? Here are a few:

  • Be of good personal character. Is it guided by the Holy Spirit, or your flesh?
  • Be diligent.
  • Be eager.
  • Be zealous.
  • Be found in peace.
  • Be determined.
  • Be in total trust of God’s plan
  • Be in a harmonious relationship with Jesus.
  • Be a life long learner.

If we want to have a good relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we need to be a consistent, ongoing learner. Ask God for wisdom about who and what you listen to. In these times, we can easily get side-swiped by some off-the-wall teaching, or someone taking the Word out of context. Ask the Holy Spirit to be your teacher.

Another area to consider that will have bearing on your relationship with God is grace. Get your Bible out and read Romans 5:15. Sometimes, we think that if we sinned this much, we get this much grace. But… that isn’t true because as sin increases, grace abounds! If you think about grace as a bath, for example, you would drown. Wow! Jesus wants us, and there is no sin, scandlous act, or darkness, that Jesus won’t give you an exit out of it. How would it be if you had all the grace that God can give you? It covers more than you have ever done. Now that is some good news!

The Captain – the name for my Mini because God is my Captain.

So don’t live in worry and doubt. You may not have a map of your life in front of you, but you certainly can know Who walks your road with you as you travel. He pulls up to the curb of your life, opens the door, and invites you in for the ride of your life! We will have some big curves on our road at times, which means we have to slow down to take those curves, but boy its great when we hit that straight-a-way! We can let the wind blow on our faces and feel the freedom that God gives us as He navigates us through. Remember as a child when you might have rode in the back of a pick-up truck? It was fun and you felt so free being back there. We feel that joy! We can lift our arms through the windows of our life and let the wind catch us and blow our hair straight back not caring what it looks like, and yes, let the laughter bubble over! Yes! We can celebrate that we have a God that cares about it all; everything.

GET. IN. THE. CAR.! Happy adventures!

Until next time,

~JoAnn