Live the Dream!

Hello sweet readers!  Thanks for being faithful to read the posts here on the blog!  I appreciate you!  Your comments make it all worth while! 🙂  Where am I off to?  Norway, of course!

I’m having fun this week as I put together the last plans for our trip to Norway!  I have had a blast texting my son and grandson about the trip; counting down the days til we go!  Eight more sleeps!!!!  What a blast!  They are very excited about it, which thrills me to no end!  I have had pants hemmed, hair cut, shopped for toiletries that are new so I don’t have issues at the gate if it’s checked, ironed clothes, pre-packed so I know if it fits well into the suitcase, charged batteries, picked up new ones, SD cards…all the things I need to make the trip.  By the way, the packing pouches for your various clothes items is the bomb!  Helps so much in organizing the suitcase.  I think I will invest in another pair.  They work great!  The anticipation is so fun, and so is the planning.  That’s always the beginning of the fun part of the trip for me.

My hope is that Ethan can chronicle this trip with his camera and get it from his perspective.  To think of him going and making this a three generation trip, is very exciting to me.  I think of my parents when I go.  They always wanted to make the trip to Norway.  I’m excited to share how his ancestors lived and worked, as well as, what led to them immigrating to the United States.  It is hard for someone to understand the connection to your home country, but seeing it first hand is how we can learn it best.  THAT is a memory never to be forgotten.  I’m sure I will be burning FB with some stories and pictures.  I’m thinking of starting a page just for the trip so the pictures and stories don’t get lost in my personal feed.

Do you know what else?  I’m teaching myself to speak Norwegian!  It’s hard but I was determined to learn!  I will keep pressing on.  I will be paying closer attention to the Norwegian language this trip!  I have a group of people learning with me via Facebook.  We share a challenge each other to learn and practice.  Great experience.

So since this is a fun week to plan and dream, I decided it would be a good time to enjoy the deck and the sunshine too!  I sat out there today with one of my favorite magazines, enjoyed my mocha, looked a project my girlfriend and I are going to make together, walked around the yard to admire all the pretty flowers that are popping up, AND even did some planning to change-up the cupboard doors in my kitchen!  Came back to an original idea I had for them, so will see if I can make that happen!  I think I may add a rosemaling border to my kitchen above the cupboards too, IF I can find it!  My creative juices are in high gear!!!  Makes life fun and interesting.  I mean, who doesn’t love to make their home more inviting?  I know I do!

While I’m just having fun this week on the post, I want to share a gadget with you that totally rocks!!!  It like an external hard drive for your iPhone!!!  You can totally off load your photos on to this little gadget, and free up space on your phone.  When you want to access the pictures that you off loaded, then you just plug it back into the phone to use the picture.  So awesome.  I was doing some research for my trip and thought this is a great way to give me more space for….of course…more pictures!!!  Love technology!!  I have a couple extra chargers for charging my iPhone too, since I know we will be out for the day at times and I need my phone at the ready along with my camera.  Such a kick to have these memories to revisit and share when we come back home.

Why do I share these random thoughts with you?  I am here to say that dreams DO come true.  Write it down, pray about it, ask God to direct your steps and to open doors for that to happen.  You will be amazed at what God does to bring that dream about.  It really IS about how we think.  How we think, is the way our life direction goes.  It’s that serious.  What actions we take to change our thinking can really make great things happen in our daily lives.  I will look forward to sharing my trip with you.  I may not be writing a blog post, until after the trip, or it may be a short one, but you will be on my mind and heart.

Dream.  Feed your heart and your soul with good things.  Until next time…

 

 

 

This…Right Here, Is The Best!

Before I begin the post, I just want to take a moment to wish all the Moms out there a blessed and wonderful Mother’s Day.  You are amazing!  My mom was one of those amazing people.  She was there for me; behind me to support and to help when I needed it.  She went through a bad patch when I was in high school for a couple of years, but God took care of that matter.  She was always willing to help someone, and loved to craft and had many projects going at one time.  She was also known to have a completely different looking room or house by the time we got home from school.  It was wild a few times!  I will always be grateful for all she did for me, my home, my kids and my life.  Thanks mom.

How many joys and blessings do we miss out on because we don’t see them, or we take them for granted?  I have been thinking about that this week as I have pursued getting healthy after a horrible sinus infection.   I have a trip coming up in two weeks and I don’t want to deal with being sick while I am gone.  I am better but still not 100%.  As I rested and resisted pushing myself, I was thinking about the opportunities that God has given me in my life.  It’s so easy to get cruising with life, and forget that we have the life we have because of the blessings God has bestowed on us.  It has once again caused a shift in my thinking.  I seem to have had a lot of those shifts lately.  I think God has a plan.

Because of this shift, I found myself on my first drive out after being sick, pulling in to park at our home, and just feeling an overwhelming sense of thankfulness for our home.  God has been good to us, providing this home, and giving us many of the items we desired to have in our home.  For me, He has given me many of the dreams that I was looking for in a home for this season of my life.  That isn’t just happenstance.  I have found myself, in spite of the troubles with my eyes and sinus these last months, feeling very thankful for being healthy over all, and able to take this trip without worry or concern.  It has filled me with wonder as I consider God’s provision to take my middle son and my grandson on this trip. I’m also very thankful to have a husband who believes that this is important enough in my life and that of the boys, to help make it happen.  It means so much to me.  It is hard to describe how I feel when I go to Norway.  It is like going home.  It is hard to explain, but it is there non-the-less…that deep connection.

That anticipation has continued as the sunny days showed up this week and last weekend.  I loved being out on the deck and enjoying it.  I was out there most of the day.  Again, not missing the moments of flowers growing, a hummingbird coming to visit, the quiet, the breeze, and an overwhelming sense of feeling “just right” with the world.   I realized that I don’t want to miss any of those kind of moments.  I want to:

  • take the time
  • see the sunset
  • see what is around me that God has given me to enjoy
  • be a legacy example of how to live

I don’t want to just see it, but see it in the way that helps me experience it at that moment.    I want to have more and more of those times when I say, “Wow!  This right here?  This is living!  This is a great moment!”  As Andy Andrews talks about, “It is also about creating those perfect moments…”.  I agree.  I do that for myself and family whenever I can.  It is just a great way to live.  We have to become intentional about it, however.  I have become more and more aware of how God wants me to stay in tune with that.

I was even excited to get my old glass frames with new prescription lenses put in them, so I have glasses that not only work better, but I like them better than my current glasses.  So now, I feel better about that too each day.  Saved $200 by doing it that way too.  Score!  It’s in the little things that God does for us that makes up the whole of a life well-lived.

As I have thought about the upcoming trip, I am having fun planning and executing the schedule so it comes together well.  I have my ironing board out to iron this next week so I can finish packing.  I have connected with the airline to find out what time we need to be at the airport, and about checking bags, and all those little details.  What fun!  My youngest son is bringing his brother and nephew down to the airport, so we will meet up and have a nice lunch before going to the airport to check in.  The anticipation of going is pretty exciting for the three of us.  This will be Ethan’s first time on a plane, let alone traveling internationally.   I got a kick out of him as we talked about the money.  He thought it was so dumb that our money wasn’t the same as theirs, and that given one day or a few days later, could be worth even less, or maybe worth more.  So cute.  But he will learn all about that exchange first hand.   Learning first hand is always best.  I hope this trip will be something they will never forget.  I love the idea of giving them some historical background about where they came from.  I am also very thankful to those who make it possible while we are there, to meet up, and share history with us.  And of course, anytime I can walk outside and immediately see the fjord, I feel like I am getting a glimpse of heaven.  I thank God every day I am there for the beauty!

So grab those moments of joy where everything feels right.  Create them in your lives, as well as in the lives of those around you.  Don’t wait for the special times to come to you.  Instead create them.  Look for them.  Take pictures of them.  Write them down.

Speaking of writing them down… I now have a prayer wall.  I have a window between my cabin/office and the dining room.  It is a wavy glass window; not real practical.  I have my kitchen queen on the dining room side, and so I thought I might as well make good use of my side.  So I made it into my prayer wall.  It’s coming along nicely.  I’m digging in and not letting the devil get any foot hold here!  Prayers up!!!

While I am on a rabbit trail of good things to help make us strong, I am also reading Priscilla Shirer’s book called, Fervent.  GREAT book!!  That will fire you up!!!

I will close this post with a hope that you are finding more in your life to notice that is good, than what isn’t going the way you want right now.  It’s so much more fun to look for what is right than what is wrong.  A whole new perspective will come into view!  It is my wish that you think again about what makes life good for you and do more of it!  It’s all waiting for you…call it in.

God bless you to that end.

~JoAnn

 

Different? I Dare You!

What do you think it means to be different?  Does it mean that you think in a unique way from others?  What about how you take care of your outward appearance, is that what it means?  Or maybe it is the way in which you live out your life?  Or what about the kind of house you live in, or even the way you raise your family?  What is it that you think makes a person different?

I was just thinking about these questions over this last week, and then one of my books I have been reading talked about this very thing in today’s reading!  So I decided to explore this a little bit with you.  I think we have always had trouble being different.  We have grown up competing with each other.  If a child has a birthday party that is out of this world, then we think we have to do that too or kids wouldn’t come for our child’s birthday because it wouldn’t be as cool.  It might be a friend that has a really expensive prom dress, we feel we should too because she we feel we have to compete to make a statement about ourselves.  After all, we want to look good.  Maybe I am a home owner, and I see someone who got a new house… then all of a sudden, mine doesn’t look as nice.  I begin to desire to make some changes in my house to feel better.  Let’s say that I am a young gal, and I choose to make a choice to dress modestly, wear less make up or no make up at all, or I don’t go to parties and drink or smoke.  That would definitely put me in the “different” category.  What if I chose to follow Jesus no matter what the costs were to me or the changes I might need to make to follow Him where HE leads, instead of where I want to go?  Getting the idea?  We are constantly comparing ourselves to a standard that really may only be average at best.  Because if we are choosing to live differently, than we wouldn’t be comparing ourselves to the same people.  We  would look to other types of people to admire.  We would be looking for what is Godly, not what the world has.

Let’s look deeper…when we were young, we may have grown up with ideas of what our lives would be:

  • I’m going with this guy or gal, and I think its serious.
  • We will get married.
  • Have our own home.
  • Have children.
  • Be a close-knit family and enjoy doing things together.
  • He will take out the garbage, she will be a good cook.
  • We will have enough income and be able to travel here and there.
  • If you are a Christian, then you will marry a guy who is a Christian, or, you might even think that if he isn’t a Christian, he will come to the Lord after you get married.
  • Then…the kids…he will be a great dad and help with the children.
  • She will be a great mom and be able to handle the children and the house and cooking and washing and…

…and all these ideas of what our life would be like is what we sort of grow up expecting to happen.  We may have heard that there will be struggles, but we can handle that…together.  We love each other!  Right?

Then comes the struggles.  Let’s say for the sake of sharing, that you are now into that life of expectations and as you sit in your chair with a messy house, crying kids maybe, not even the house you planned because it may be an apartment, and you may be even asking yourself, “What you are doing here.?  Where did I go wrong?”  So and so seems to be doing just fine.  Here comes a thought…If I had what she had, I could do fine too. Maybe you experience a loss of a parent, child, spouse, or, just lost yourself in your efforts to make things better.  You begin asking yourself where God is in all of this.  For some reason, we don’t think God had THIS in mind when He was talking about struggles.  It’s not supposed to be that way for Christians or good people.  We get disillusioned.  Our thinking goes south, along with our faith.

You know, one day I was wishing something in my life was like my friends, and God very clearly told me, “If you want what she has, you would need to be willing to live ALL her life.  Do you want to live her life?  Then you have to take all of her life with it.  You don’t get to pick and choose what you want of hers.”  I thought about the struggles that have been part of her life, and decided I didn’t want to put that on my plate either.  I had enough of my own.  But it cleared up something for me.  We compare ourselves to someone or something, but we don’t really know much about what goes on in their lives.  Young people think another friend’s life is great, and that their life is really hard.  However, they don’t know all the trials that person goes through each night at home.  Or let’s talk about the home idea…we don’t know the sacrifices that a family has made together to have the home they have, or the trip to Norway they can take (Me).  Maybe there have been very frugal in all their family activities, so that, they can have a home that is debt free or a lower mortgage because of the choices they have been making all along!  You might think, “She has a closer relationship with Jesus than I do it seems.  She is always so happy.”  Well…you can bet it is because she has done something different from most…spent time with Jesus and she gets herself into the Word.  She has spent time in prayer and because of her commitment, she is seeing results in her spiritual life and her daily living.  Those that are considered different are different because they think differently, and live their lives differently.  They are different because…they are different.  It isn’t because we can’t stop comparing, we can.  But we have to change our the way we think; our perception.

In my life, I have chosen to live differently than most.  Some may even find my life a bit strange.  But I know the joy that comes from doing my life this way, and I wouldn’t change that for anything.  I have had some real hard struggles, no doubt.  I have times that I wish something wasn’t what it is, but I can always come back to God with the knowledge that He knows what is best in everything!  Personally, I would rather live in a tiny house, with little possessions, with love, my camera, and my family than anything else that money can buy. It’s kind of like the book I was reading.  The author talked about the fact that if I wanted to be different, I am going to have to be different!  I agree!

Let me share something you may not know.  When I was growing up, I wanted to be a pastor’s wife.  I felt that was a calling.  I also wanted to teach choral music, or travel with a group.  I also wanted a family orientated Christian man in my life.  None of those desires came to pass.  However, I made the choices I made, even when I think at times God was telling me to make other choices.  So what do we do with that?  I’m not disappointed.  I found other ways of being involved in those areas that have been very satisfying to me.  I come to understand God’s forgiving ways, and ask Him to make where I am MORE of what He wants for me.  Does that mean I haven’t made some other choices that I could have made differently?  Nope that’s not true.  But I ask God to make the choices I have made into more of what He would desire for me.  He has.  He has helped me have a life of joy and restored some areas that were difficult.  Not all of them, but many!  I have also determined that I go to Him first with any decision I am making and He helps me choose what is right.  Takes the pressure off of me!

We would be so much better off if we realize that if God has our lives in His hands, then everything we do or have, is from Him.  That includes the house we live in that isn’t quite what we want, or the car you drive all your life that you pray will start, but because you are diligent, he gives you your dream car later in life (me, because He gave me husband that thinks having a dream car is important enough to sacrifice for).  Or it may mean less of a wardrobe because you aren’t trying to impress someone with your clothes OR cover up insecurities by dressing to the “nines”.  Maybe less in all areas for the sake of a getaway with your sweetheart or family.  Living debt free, while so many others have credit card debt.  Not getting credit cars just because you can.  THAT is being different!!  Spending consistent time in the Word…that is different for many.  We often don’t give God enough of our time.  Let us not look to what isn’t in our lives, but to what IS!  Let those youthful ideas of how your life would be, go on the wind and let God replace them with the joys of what is today.  Live in THIS moment, not in the past, or in a world of constant comparison.  What is going on next to you isn’t for you.  God has a design just for you.  Live it out.  I have a good life, and supportive family that I love very much.  I don’t take it for granted.  And when I feel the rub of doing life differently, so that, I have a different life, I just ask God to help me do the next right thing with His grace.

GO BE DIFFERENT SO YOU CAN BE DIFFERENT!  Remember, God may even be the “instigator or the rub” because it is the only way to move you forward.  Step up!

From my Norgeshyatta (Norwegian Cabin) to your heart and soul…

~JoAnn

Journeys of My Heart… in the Kitchen

Want to settle in with some fun new ideas from your kitchen?  With all the rain we have had in my part of the world, getting in the kitchen is something fun and cozy to do!  It always reminds of me of mom when I try a new recipe.  I don’t collect recipes like my mom used to, but I do like new recipes that are simple.  My mom had a drawer FULL of them from newspapers, magazines, or hand written from friends, and her recipe box was full too!  But you know, money was tight and those recipe books weren’t out there so readily as they are today.  There was no internet to look them up either!  But… I find that the older I get, the more like her in the recipe department I get!  So let me share a couple with you!

This is something that could be used as an appetizer, or breakfast, or like myself tonight, I used it as our dinner.

Sausage Muffins

  • 1 cup Bisquick
  • 1 pound cooked sausage
  • 4 eggs beaten
  • 1 cup of shredded cheese
  • Blend together
  • Spoon into a muffin/cupcake tin to almost the top, and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Here is another one that I used on Easter as our dessert.  I was asked for this recipe also, so here it is!

Brownies Extraordinaire  (Don’t remember the exact name, but it fits!)

  • 1 package Duncan Hines Milk Chocolate Chunk Decadent Brownie Mix
  • Water, oil, and eggs called for on the brownie mix box (used the cake like brownie)
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup rice krispies
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and 8×8 inch baking pan.  (I used a round cake pan, because I wanted it to look like a cake)
  • Combine brownie mix with water and oil and eggs in a large bowl with a wood spoon until blended.  Spread batter into the pan.  Bake 35 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.
  • Sprinkle marshmallows on hot brownies and return to the oven for 3 minutes or until marshmallows are softened.  Remove from the oven and place pan on wire rack.
  • Melt chocolate chips and peanut butter in medium saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes or until smooth.  Stir in rice krispies.  Spread chocolate mixture over marshmallow layer.
  • Cool on wire rack 20 minutes and then refrigerate for 30 minutes or until chilled.  Cute into bars.

It’s fun to find these gems that are easy, yet unique.  And… anytime I can bring memories of home to my heart and mind, its a good thing!  I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

From my escapes to the kitchen, to your my heart and soul…

~JoAnn

You Got Prayer?

I have been going through some things in the last three weeks or so, and I think there is a lesson in this process that I am supposed to share with you.  I will share it in hopes that you too, may find hope and not feel alone when you are hit with it.

What happened, you ask?  I decided to get involved in my local church.  I accepted an invitation to lead a class for new believers as the class appears on the schedule.  I also decided to lead an online Bible Study.  As for the online study, I  have led many of them.  It is a great way to study together for those who find it difficult to get out to a study, or their schedules have conflict.  I love doing that.  But what happens when you decide to step out and serve God in any way?  You come against the enemy and his cronies! He doesn’t want you to serve, and least of all, help others find a deeper meaning in their relationship God, or to FIND Jesus.  His methods can be severe or just plain irritating.  He wants to keep you down at all costs.  Maybe it is with fear.  Maybe it is with a lack of confidence.  Maybe it is financial.  Whatever it is, he will bring it!  In my case, it has been with weird things like sores around my eyes, or horrible back pain, and most recently, a cut to my thumb that could have been serious.  You see, I don’t believe that all those circumstances are just random.  I believe that the enemy will use what ever he can to discourage us, such as, making us mad so we say and do things we shouldn’t, and then make us feel guilty and unworthy to do what we are being called to do.  Clever, isn’t he?  Most recently, since my husband and I will be leading a Grief  Share Group at our church, my husband has gotten sick.  I don’t want to be sick.  I’m leaving for Norway in a month, I don’t want that to happen to me.  Yes, he will use anything and everything.  He knows us and the buttons to push.  Has He been pushing yours???

Why do I share this?  Because I know it is no different for me than for you.  I also want to tell you that God knows, and God sees.  We have to pray down when these times hit us.  Actually, we should start praying even before we begin a new thing.   Ask for prayer warriors to pray for you because you are stepping out into service; you know what that can bring.  Ask God in your prayers to shed some light on areas you may need to address as you consider the next steps.  I got too busy in the process to give it the prayer cover I needed.  Oh I prayed about it.  Yes I did.  But I didn’t ask for the cover I should have.  We need to do that so our way is clear from satan’s whispers.  The more we push through in prayer, the more we will hear God’s voice and direction.  That is the goal!!  The whispers whispers of the enemy are subtle and can change your thinking in a moment.  All of a sudden, it can seem like a big mountain before you that you cannot climb!  When he comes knocking with all his sneaky ideas, just let Jesus answer the door!  It really is about the little things.  One small thing; the whisper of the name of Jesus.  I want my small thing to always be prayer.  Now, I know that prayer is no small thing.  It’s a big thing!  But the act of making a decision to pray is a small thing.  It IS action!  It will affect the outcome!  We sometimes think that our prayers aren’t that important, but they are!  It can change generations!  Your prayers will make BIG changes and moves for God!

So let me ask you today…are you stepping out into new territory?  Do you want to do something new?  Are you feeling like God wants you to become involved in a particular activity?  Or, maybe it is just changing something in your own personal life and/or relationship with Him.  Then, take heed to this message.  It may seem simple, and it is in head knowledge, I suppose.  But our heart and emotions can lead us in the wrong direction when it is led by the wrong voices/thoughts.  Ask for those cheerleaders to be in the prayer closet for the whole process from beginning to end.  Seek out your prayer warriors. Ask for that covering.  I pray my insight about this experience will be a light on your path today.

Encouraging the heart and soul escapes…

~JoAnn

Seeing Through The Fog

“…We must choose to see before having the opportunity to choose how we see it.”  Andy Andrews

Fog…it can be very difficult to see through if it is damp and wet outside.  You may have to slow your pace if you are driving.  You most certainly would have to watch more carefully.  It might make you a bit more tense too.  See how the clouds are rolling in as you look at the lead photo?  It won’t be long and the fog will roll in thick and low.

Thought:  We like to see where we are going, and would prefer not to have situations that keeps us from seeing clearly.  At least I think most of us are that way.

I had the great pleasure of spending some one-on-one time with my grandson this last week and what a joy that was!  We talked, giggled, belly laughed, played  together, learned together, and talked about things he needed to talk about.  It was a great time!  I hope he will remember it as much as I will remember it.  I rented a hotel room for just him and I with party snacks of his choice, and the TV didn’t come on once!  We played one game on his phone, which I can proudly say, I won!!  He of course wanted another challenge.  Hey!  I know when I’m ahead!!  No challenge for me!  I’m the winner!  He chose the snacks…a boy after my own heart.  He chose Salt and Vinegar Chips with Pepsi, and Hershey’s Kisses.  I mean really!  Be still my heart.  I had brought him a bag of Cracker Jacks which his papa and I had introduced to him long ago.  Snacks for later…all this was preceded with a Five Guy’s burger, of course.

In all the fun over the couple of days, there was a lesson that hit a familiar chord in me.  It reminded me of a post I did many months ago.  I think it bears repeating.  So many times, our lives take on some pretty heavy burdens on the journey.  We get so wrapped up in trying to maintain, that we forget that God should be our first stop, and not the last.  In these hard times and difficult places, we often have a murky view; a fog that makes it hard to see the road ahead.  We have had a lot of rain this year and driving around in the storm, reminded me that our lives can be like that.  At times, I couldn’t see much beyond the front of my car, and I have a Mini, so that isn’t far!  The rain came down in sheets in front of me.  Well…in the same way, our lives can be so hard that we can’t see beyond the next step.  However, just like when the rain let up a bit, I can see better, and I can feel myself relax.  Why?  Because, I can see more clearly.  We all want to see what is ahead of us.  The difficulty in our relationship with God comes into play when God doesn’t always show the way or direction.  It is uncomfortable for us to wait on Him to show the way and make it more clear to us.  But just like I could relax a bit when the rain let up, we can relax our turmoil when we allow God to work it out in His way and in His timing.

One of our excursions at the end of the day, was to go into a thrift store and look around.  It’s fun to see what he sees, and because he is still a bit shorter than me, he sees things I don’t always see.  I always look in the glassware to see if I see any of my grandmother’s dishes, or see any Farmers Rose, because I found a cup and saucer that way once.  So, lo and behold, I walk down the aisle and find a glass dish like my grandmother’s.  My grandson said, “Grandma, that doesn’t look like it’s a very good one.  It has stuff all over it and some spots on it.  It’s looks all cloudy.”  So I told him that when I get home, I will wash it all up and it will look like new!  Down the next aisle, I see this copper double boiler and another copper pot.  So cute!  So I put them in the cart.  The double boiler he was ok with, but the little pot had a couple of spots that were worn and didn’t look as shiny as the rest of it.

Here is the story: I told my grandson, “Here’s the story…this dish and these pans aren’t perfect as we look at them now.  The dish is dirty looking with spots and looks like it won’t even come clean, and the pans have spots on them that won’t ever look perfect.  But our live can look like those things.  When I don’t have Jesus, my eyes are kind of clouded, just like that dish, or like the heavy rain when we drove in today.  We can’t see very clear, and we don’t understand that we CAN be clean and new with Jesus.  I have sin in my life and things I don’t always do right.  So I have spots in my life that are just like that one pan.  But just like the glass dish, when I have Jesus in my heart, He cleans me up like brand new just because He loves me.  When He comes into my heart, I’m all bright and beautiful just like this dish will be when I wash away all the dirt.  Now, there may be times in my life that I have done something that isn’t right.  Because I did that, it has changed my life.   Those spots are like spots on this pan.  The spots will always be there.  But God has forgiven me for that because I asked Him.  They remind me that yes, I made some mistakes.  But the rest of my life is shiny and new, and God is polishing up those bad spots to make me shine, just like this pan will.  Just like I will clean the spots on the pan, they will still be there.  However,  now they are clean and polished because I gave them to Jesus.  These pans and glass dish weren’t so pretty to look at in the store, but I saw their value and I KNEW how great they could look.  Jesus knows how valuable our life can be if He is in our hearts.  He wants to make our lives better.  So I don’t mind the spots, because they remind me that Jesus loves me no matter what.  He doesn’t see my mistakes.  He sees me all clean.  When I look at these pots and the glass dish in my home, they tell me that story…”

I hope he will remember that story long after I am gone.  God is so like that!  If we ask God to help us notice His presence in our day, He will give us a story.  He will show His love for you in ways that will have meaning to YOU.

Given that this very activity of spending important time with family and friends (a goal for 2017) was what my two days were all about, the time I was able to spend with Ethan and short visits with a few friends was totally awesome.  It filled me up.  I am excited to see where God takes me as I am obedient to Him about these steps this year.  On top of that, I got all my software updated for my camera and lenses, so it is ready for Norway pictures when I leave in May!

Are you in a position at this time where the rains of life are so heavy that you can’t see past your feet?  Or the fog keeps rolling in on you and you can’t see where you are to go?  The enemy would like nothing more than to keep you in the fog bank, and drench you in the rains of despair, making you feel hopeless.  Don’t let him do that, my friend.  Ask God to send the Son to break through the rains and the fog bank, and lead you out!  He will!  That much I know!!  Keep your joy bank full, and pay it forward this week!

Until next time…

~JoAnn

Three Months In

This last week, I was sitting in my office and reviewing the first three months of this year.  As the year of 2016 came to a close, I felt some big things were going to shake out this coming new year and I anticipated that it would be life changing.  I certainly have not been wrong.  As I have re-evaluated my life, lifestyle, and where feel I need to be putting my efforts, doors have been opened, and I have stepped through.  I would like to share a few of those open doors with you in hopes that it will encourage you to press on. It is my hope that it will be an encouragement for you.

Here is a list:

  • Marriage – Begin praying for my  marriage each day and my attitude toward it.
  • Family – Be active in the life of my family on a daily basis…making the time to do it.
  • Study – Directive study in various areas.  Learn.  Use it.
  • Have some adventure…do things on the spur of the moment.
  • Live in gratitude and pay it forward.
  • Learn Norwegian.
  • Look for fun.
  • Consistent study of photography and practice.
  • Use my camera daily.

Let’s dig in!

Marriage/Family – I felt that God was emphasizing to me that with all that is going on in this world, the family is totally at risk.  We are too busy, too involved, too distracted and we are losing out.  We need to be really grounded to withstand the attack on our culture.  So in my case, I felt I was being directed to pray for my marriage, my attitude toward my marriage, and also be more involved the relationships in my family.  If these areas are aligned with God as the center, then I can better keep the enemy out of our lives, and keep him from sneaking in when I least expect it.  We can find ourselves in a place in our marriage where we are looking more at the irritating things in the other person than the wonderful blessings they are in our lives.  Our brains are very intricate.  When we start thinking in negative ways, it becomes habitual; the more we are negative the more negative we become.  We lose our perspective and find more wrongs than rights.  Our lives begin to look bleak, like there is no way out.  There are scientific facts that prove that negative thinking DOES affect our brain.  It is like a “wash” that comes over our brain when we have negative thoughts and emotions.  I am becoming more and more aware of my self-talk.  It hasn’t always been good.  I can win all kinds of conversations when I start thinking.  I should be praying.

I believe that God wants me to have a positive lifestyle.  Not some super happy fake kind of happiness, but a genuine happiness that comes from living right and knowing I am living the way that God would have me to live.  Thus, I am praying for my spouse, for my attitude which needs some attention every once in a often while.  I know that isn’t a proper sentence, but it says that we think we sometimes need something, when in reality, we need it much more often than that.  I’m not saying it’s easy, but I am saying I am leaving that door open for God to lead and guide me.   As for my family, I think it is also important to stay in touch and let them know they mean the world to me.  I’m sending out notes to my grandson, texts to my two younger boys, and praying for my oldest, and now, for the youngest son and his girlfriend.  I want them to have no doubt about how much I love them.  I want to show them how you can live through the hard times and come out of it a much stronger and better person.  I want them to see how I live, and maybe by example, they too, will want to make some changes in the direction of their lives.  Sometimes our silence and living it out is the best way to teach them.

Study – This is an area that has always been fun for me.  I love Bible study.  I love to learn new information about the areas of my life that I have deep interest in.  I like improving myself.  However, this has been more directed this year.  He wants me to study the Word more, as I have shared before, but some specific subjects this year.  I also feel God is leading me to lead and encourage those that He puts in my path.  I see Him doing that already.  If something I have learned can be of benefit to someone else, I am willing to share it.  I also want to learn to speak Norwegian.  Now THAT is not an easy task, but if I keep my focus, then I will learn.  It’s not that God is telling me to study Norwegian, but it is more about something that I have always wanted to do, and God is making a way for that to happen.  I will be joining the Sons of Norway this Wednesday and I look forward to that adventure too!  It’s all about the learning process.  He will open doors to help us achieve what we need to, but, He is also willing to help us do what we enjoy doing.

Adventure/Fun – I always enjoy adventure and doing things on the fly.  Going for a drive when we didn’t plan on it.  Planning a road trip across the states.  Sitting outside on a starry night with a blanket to watch the stars twinkling in the night sky.  It may be a trip to the ocean just to sit and watch the waves; very calming.  I had company this last weekend and it was fun to take them on a very short trip to the ocean and watch them enjoy being together, chasing seagulls, and putting toes in the water.  I loved watching my youngest son and how he treats his girlfriend.  I like to think I may have something to do with his gentleman’s behavior.  Its fun to watch them enjoy each other and life.  This week I will pick up my grandson and we will go somewhere and spend the night and have a party in the room.  He gets to be parent-free for a couple of days, and I get to pour into his life a bit.  Life is short, and God wants us to find the fun as we go!  I hope I never tire of the next adventure, and I have a BIG one coming up with my trip to Norway with my middle son and grandson.  God makes a way!  Begin praying about the desires of your heart.

Living in gratitude/Paying it forward – That is just what I do; its how I live.  I wouldn’t be where I am, if God hadn’t intervened and made it all possible.  I live  every day to thank Him for all He has done and will continue to do.  There is no way you can be sad and be grateful at the same time.  Where my brain goes, my emotions WILL follow.  I want my brain to be aware of the good.  Look for the small things that can change my circumstances.  In my case, I look for ways to bless people, as well as, ways that I can pay my blessings forward to someone else.  God knows the timing and I leave that to Him.  Besides…that can be an adventure in itself, when we open ourselves up to be used by Him.

Here is the kicker…do you see “ME” in any of these areas that God is directing me to?  I’m finding where God wants to lead me isn’t all about me.  I have never considered myself selfish and thinking only about me.  But it is important to look into these areas of life and review them so that I don’t become selfish in well-doing.  It is more about God positioning me to be better equipped to do what He has for me.  Why?  So I can serve or bless others.  It is never all about me.  It is exciting though!  Some of these areas are as much fun for me, as the reasons for the task He sets before me.  Like learning about photography, and using my camera daily.  That is pure joy for me!  But that is how God is; he gives us directives, but makes it fun along the way!!  I am to have fun doing life, and so I thank Him for that throughout my day.  He has made a way for me to enjoy my life no matter how difficult things can seem some days, and I have had those days.  The only difference is, I know where to turn and I don’t turn slowly!  I spin around to get back on track because I know what can happen in a slow circle; the enemy will try to distract me with my thoughts and emotions.  Nope!  Not happening!  I want a quick turn around to see His face for my direction again.

Why do I share this with you?  Because I know there are many that have buried the desire to enjoy life, either because they think they don’t deserve it, or because of something in their past.  But I want to encourage you today regarding how much God wants you to have a life of joy and enjoy your journey.  He wants a happy you…happy family…confident prayer life…healthy lifestyle for you.  What He shares with me, He will share with you, if you will allow Him in to speak to you.  We shouldn’t worry about our future and what it may bring, as much as we should steward the things that have been given to us right now.  Maybe you are disappointed with where you are in your life right now.  You wish it was different.  God wants you to know today that He sees where you are.  He is waiting for you to ask for His help, or maybe His forgiveness…whatever it is.  He is there.  Loving, patient, and adventurous!  Quiet your spirit today and ask Him to show you how YOU can bring some these elements into YOUR life.  He will.  He has promised.

Awaiting my next adventurous heart and soul escape…

~JoAnn