We hear so much any more about movie reviews, book reviews, reviews when you buy something on Amazon and we sometimes take part. I was contemplating my life the other day and suddenly, it was like a movie playing on a screen; from my earliest recollections to the present time. It really made me take notice of the changes that have happened in my life up to now. I have found them to be great changes that God has orchestrated for my good. It’s a longer post than most, but maybe you can relate and be encouraged by some of them.
- Relationships: At a very young age, I had a great appreciation for the people who God placed in my life, whether it be family or friends. Even as a young girl I knew they were important. God gave me Godly parents. They took me to church every Sunday. They sacrificed in their life so I would HAVE. I was very involved at school, church, choir and youth group and also with friends. I was surrounded with family who always got together and shared life together. Family reunions and sharing food around the table with great conversations. Sometimes speaking norwegian so us kids wouldn’t understand the conversation. Although, we got to be pretty good at understanding it and surprised them often with our language prowess. They sacrificed other things they may have needed to get a travel trailer so we could go camping as a family; and camping we DID!! Shared weekends camping at the ocean or lake, digging clams, catching smelt and frying them up for dinner that night, swimming in the lakes, and the early morning smells in our little trailer. From my hammock above the couch in the trailer, I could watch as dad made his coffee in the morning and mom was cooking breakfast. I think on these things and realize that God showed me that family is important to the longevity of life. It gives us a sense of belonging. They have been instrumental in my life changes. To this day, the water is where I go to dream with God.
- Photography: God has changed me through my photography. It’s like He has given me a macro look into my life. He is showing me the beauty in my life around me, but also the areas that I need to improve my focus. I have learned to look at my life in a totally different way. I see things differently; I notice His beauty. I LOOK for the beauty that I didn’t see before. When He gives me that macro shot of where I need to change, I change that in my daily life. I think about my adult cousin, who loved photography, always shared his pictures and cameras with me as a young child. We spent time in his make shift photo lab watching him develop pictures. I didn’t think much about it then, but have come to understand now, that God placed that person in my life to plant the seed for what was to come with own camera experience. I always think of him when I raise my camera to take a shot.
- How I live: As those whom I loved so dearly left my world through various circumstances, I learned how to go on after they were gone, but always honor their memory and what they meant to me in my life. I have thought about their contribution to who I am today, even how I think, and what is important to me. It wasn’t always that way. As a young mother, I had to work a lot when my family was younger for reasons that are personal to me. But I always desired to be at home with my children. I loved being a mom and working was good, but it also brought a lot of stress into my home. I tried to keep all the plates spinning in my life and sometimes my kids suffered from that activity. God began working in me many years ago to take each day and live it out as my best. I might not have a tomorrow. As I lost my mother in 1991 and then my dad in 2002, I began to know that more deeply. After my dad’s death in 2002, I moved back home and made some changes. I have learned to live with less in order to stay at home. I know some families don’t feel that’s possible, but I have come to know that when we truly desire to do something that God places on our heart, He is faithful to provide ways to make that happen. Our faith in Him can project us forward to make it a reality. He has done just that. There were relationships to rebuild, a heart (mine) to mend, and a repositioning of my life and relationship with God that I needed to work on.
- My view of flowers: I don’t have a green thumb and never had a great place to enjoy a flower garden nor a desire to work in one. But in the last several years, I have come to enjoy them very much and want to have them inside and outside my home. God has really shown me that He made them for a purpose; not just to plant but to truly enjoy! I do that now and use my camera to remember.
- My relationship with the Lord: I always felt Bible study should be a part of my life and have really been faithful to do that. But God changed my heart to REALLY desire to walk deep with Him. I felt like I was to be a college student in my approach. So, I looked and researched ways I could do that without a lot of expense. God provided those ways. I trusted Him to show me and He did. I have never been the same since. He has taken me places I would never have gone if it wasn’t for quieting my life so that I could hear His whisper.
- My approach to reading: I have always enjoyed reading but He has changed my thinking from reading books, to learning from books. He challenged me to read so many books a year. I have gained a great education from the reading I have done and I’m a better person for it. My goal? Read a book a week. I have gotten pretty close but not there yet. What a difference it has made in me personally. I am very thankful for everything He has chosen to share with me through the pages of books, and thankful to the authors that write them! Where would we be without them?
- How I handle money: I made some bad judgement calls at times and over the last 20 years or so, He has slowly and consistently brought those areas into alignment. I save for what I want and pay cash. I don’t want to live with credit debt period. I trust God with my money and He has always come through beyond what I could imagine. And…He has blessed my obedience to live that way. I still have improvement to make with delayed gratification at times, but I am committed. I feel good about the control it gives to my life. It’s never worth it to live beyond our means, because it only brings bondage.
- Regarding boundaries: Setting boundaries in your life can free up a lot of heart space! What a liberating experience for me! I no longer have to be responsible for someone else’s reaction or choice. I can decide what I will allow in my life and let my yes be yes, and my no be no.
- What I am thankful for: God has taught me to be thankful for what I have; to be in gratitude for what He HAS given me. I might not have everything I want, but He has given me everything I need. I needed to get my eyes off of things, and unto gratefulness; for my house, my bed to sleep, warmth, food, shoes on my feet, clothes to wear, and a car to drive even IF it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. I learned to look at my life each day as a gift. I could have been born in a land where living for Jesus means I could die tomorrow. But, I don’t. That WHISPER tells me, “You have life and freedom, live it for Me. I will take care of your needs and maybe even some of your wants.” He has.
So… I am thankful for all the things I have learned. I have figured out that God wants me to use what I know. I have come to understand why He placed the deep desire to keep learning over my life. Through it, I have learned importance of my family and carry that legacy into my own. I can TELL the people who are in my life what they mean to me. I can share pictures to encourage others to take a moment to see the beauty around them. I can use encouragement to share what I have learned so that others can be encouraged. I want to be a good listener. My hope is that I am a light on the path of shaded areas, and the encouragement to keep you walking out your journey in little steps. Are there some choices I made in my life that I wish I had either listened to the advice of others, or listened to the Holy Spirit telling go a different way? OF COURSE! But I don’t choose to live there in that place. I would rather have some review of my life here and there, and then say, “I’m not that person anymore and that’s not where I live.”
My life hasn’t been perfect. So you can’t say, “Oh boy! JoAnn lives such a Pollyanna lifestyle!” I have had some real hard knocks, and those who are close to me know some of them. But God… He has been my constant and He knows my heart. He forgives me when I have been angry. He loves me when I have failed. He never turns His back on me…ever. Ask God to show you the areas where you might need to focus and change so that you can enjoy stepping forward into freedom with Him. May your life be changed by what you have experienced and learned.
I have learned. I have changed. I have been faithful to live my best life every day. And you know what? I don’t have a lot of regrets now. I like my life. God has taken me through and changed me. He has used them as a spring-board to launch me into a life I enjoy and I feel blessed to be a part of. I am excited every day to see what He has for me. I am listening to His whisper in my ear. I want to hear it. I am thankful for His love.
Walking the journey with you…