Be REAL!

Words…

  • time…
  • changes…
  • feelings…
  • pressures…
  • struggles…
  • determination to grow

We all deal with these words.  We have time.  Goodness knows, we have changes.  Our feelings react to what is going on.  Pressures?  Yes we have those often too.  God tells us we will have struggles.  What about a determination to grow?  Do we have that?  Are we determined not to stay in the pit some of us are in?  Are we willing to do the shoveling out that needs to be done in order for the changes to occur?

This is where my thoughts have been lately.  If I want any of the above to occur, I must be willing to take on the path of peace and joy.  I have to forget living in the past and what has been done to me.  I have to leave the hurts where they belong…in my past, and at the feet of Jesus.  Why?  Because God tells us that we are to give it ALL over to Him when we accept Him.  We don’t have to carry them anymore!  What a blessing that is!  And…when we do carry them, guess what?  We know that satan has entered the building.  He is the author of confusion, doubt, and disbelief.  Don’t let him rob you over and over again by reliving it.  Open the door wide and I mean WIDE open, and let Jesus take it on!  If its everyday you have to do it for a while, its everyday.  One day it won’t be that way.  A life surrendered, is a life of joy and peace.

It makes me sad to see believers getting big on hype only.  We run around in our lives seeking this and seeking that.  I see this, so I must worship like that.  I see that, and think, I have to do it like that.  That hype can even start looking like the Holy Spirit.  But I say it is not.  There is a big difference in celebrating what God has done for you in your life, and getting caught up more in the world then in the Spirit.  It isn’t about showing anyone else, for the sake of the hype, of how it looks to love Jesus.  It’s personal.  You know what people want to see in us?  They want real.  They want you to have something that is different from what their lives look like, but it isn’t hype and isn’t fake.  Give them a life that shows Jesus.  It should look the same in ALL areas of our lives.  What if we got real with God, and admitted that a lot of what we think is right to do, is not effective.  What if we ask God to come to us in a complete and personal way into our lives.  No hype, just plain relationship.  Not just raising our hands and then looking around to see who is raising theirs, or seeing what you think YOU should do based on what you see.  I believe it is what you feel when you come before God.  But more that, you are telling God in your very own personal and thankful way, how your love abounds for what God has done in your life.  It doesn’t have to look like Mrs or Mister Super Christian.  It just has to be authentic and true.  God knows any way.  Stop the hype and pretense and be who God has made YOU to be.

It sure takes the pressure off and you will find your heart more at peace with yourself.  Because God DOES love us, He wants to change us to be come more like Him.  It requires something of you though.  It requires you and me to live our lives in such a way, that they see Jesus in us in ALL circumstances.  All that you see out there in media world, is NOT the real world.  We DO however, have a chance to be a change agent; a steady example of how to live for Him.  The best thing is, you will have a relationship grow between you and God that is unshakeable.  What do you see?  What is your chosen perspective?  Do you trust God enough to know that He is with you through it?  Do you see it as a necessary journey or circumstance in order to push you through to the other side?  The more we feel shaky in our faith, the more advantage the devil has to plant those thoughts in your head.  Get with people of faith and share what God has done.  There is nothing more faith building than to hear and see God working in the lives of those around you.  Be honest with yourself about where your trouble lies.  It is the only way the Holy Spirit can do his work in you.  Go some place where you can have time alone to have a good conversation with the Lord.  Mine is the beach.  What about you?  Where do you seem to hear from the God the best?  Special place in your house?  On the deck?  In the mountains?  Go there and talk God’s ear off!  He wants to hear from you!

What NOT to do?  Be on social media so much and believing everything on there!  Live life!  Don’t buy into all this junk going around.  If you truly believe God is in control, then you know how the story ends.  If we spend so much time dousing ourselves with social media negative

stuff, it just arouses that in you, AND the people you are sharing it with.   We all talk to ourselves and there is statistics out there to show that we you say to yourself actually changes how you think.  And…it effects you immediately and has an impact on you.  So if you are speaking negative and bad comments, posts, or telling people off in your thoughts and words you say out loud, then you are changing your thinking and the feelings follow.  Then when ever you think about that person, you think about what they have done to you, or said to hurt you.  And THAT my friend, is just what the devil likes.  He is rubbing his hands together and saying, “This is actually working!!  Can’t believe they bought that one, hook, line, and sinker!!!”  *insert ugly snicker here*.

I want more and more to have God’s perspective as my own.  I want Him to keep shedding light on my path to guide me.  After listening to the messages the last few Sundays on James, that is enough to make me say, “Wakey, wakey, JoAnn!”  I have become more diligent to ask Him daily to show me what to say, what not to say, and how I need to act.  I don’t always get it right.  I can be critical of people at times.  I can get real down like this last week.  I can say things in a way to my hubby that doesn’t exactly show the kind of love I want to show.  But I don’t have to live in regret of that.  My pastor said last Sunday, “If we learn to control our tongue, then other bad habits will fall way”.  I have become very quick to ask forgiveness of God for those things.  And I am wanting to be quick to ask forgiveness of others.  Then, I can move on in joy and allow Him to take away those down feelings, and…take action!  I turn on the good music, read an uplifting book and scripture, working on a Bible Study, and God will bring me out.  Stop trying to do it yourself.  You can NOT.  You just beat yourself up trying.  Don’t look at things that take you there.  Don’t hang with people who take you there.  Don’t do the things in your daily life the same way anymore.  Do something different.  Ask God to show you what it is, and then do the thing!

I don’t know who this is for today, but once I started writing, it just came out.  So maybe it was just for me.  But I kind of doubt that.  So I hope someone finds help, encouragement, or a kick in the behind out there from this post.  I speak from a place of experience and have had to do all of the above at some time in my life.  Actually, I lot of times in my life.  But I have a Holy Determination to never give up and never give in.  And God, He has been my Rock.  Stay close to the Rock, and you will see your feelings of despair flowing down stream, away from you and in to God’s capable hands.

Until next time,

~JoAnn

Don’t Forget Your Directions

Do you think God allows us to go through tests?  Do you feel like you are passing the test?  Or, do you feel like you might need to study more, maybe even get yourself a mentor?

This last Friday, hubby and I were going down South of our home to attend a training about helping people walk through the process of grief.  I was all ready on Friday night with only toiletries to put in my bag, take the direction paper from the fridge, and grab my purse as I went out the door.  However, hubby sees no need to get all excited about getting ready…after all, we aren’t leaving until tomorrow morning. :p.  So… it made it rather rushed going out the door on time Friday morning.  As we drive and are way too far out to go back, I realize that the post-it note with the name, address and phone number of the place we were staying that night down south, is not with me.  Now, I tried to think of the name of the place, but couldn’t recall it for the life of me.  I looked at recent calls on my phone because they had called to confirm.  But when I call them, they have turned it to fax-line.  As hubby is telling me that we need to have an address or name to know where to go, I’m saying, “Ya think??!!??”  I’m searching the internet to see if a name rings a bell…nothing.  It’s a pretty helpless feeling when you know the area is very busy with many conferences and you have “one chance place” to stay and you can’t find it.  I thought I recognized a name as I looked, but looking at the picture, that didn’t seem like the right one.  I prayed and asked God to open the line back up for a phone call.  I tried four other times to reach them and the same thing happened.  Finally, by the time we were about thirty minutes out, I reached them.  I got the name and address, and put it my phone maps and we were able to drive right to it.  Given that there were a couple of large conventions going on in the city, there was not another room to be had…so I was one happy lady to finally get through to them to confirm.  Now… even though it is me who has to handle all these arrangements, and usually my fault if I forget something like this, somehow, it seems like if we were all ready like I was the night before, things would have been smoother going out the door, and I would have remembered all that I needed to.  So was this another one of those lessons that I am being taught?  What do you think?

 

As I contemplated this whole scenario after it was over, I realized there really is a lesson here.  We go through our lives and let our circumstances dictate what is going to happen.  We don’t plan well, our time gets rushed, we aren’t prepared as we should be, and it can very easily fall apart.  We go about our life and hurry here and hurry there, going sometimes with no direction or map to help guide us get to our destination.  If we would consider the advice of seeking God in all we do, He will give us the directions and address through His Word on the way we need to go.  I won’t have to panic and try to find it myself.  If I ask Him, He will work on my behalf, just like He did to open the line up to be able to reach the place where we were staying.  We ask first.  However, we can also be like my hubby and say, I will have tomorrow.  It’s no big deal.  I will get ready then.  Well, we may not have a tomorrow.  God wants us to live in a preparative state; especially in these times.  Know where to go for direction and guidance.  Talk to the right person Who can make all things work out.  In my case, I sweat it out for a few hours as I tried unsuccessfully to reach them.  I finally prayed for the solution about thirty minutes out!  What?!?!???  It should have been my first response!  Kind of funny, isn’t it?  Even when we KNOW what to do, we try to do it ourselves instead of asking God to take care of it and then leaving it there!  The way I WAS going, we could have been room-less with a big headache on top of it.

God wants us to give it up sooner.  Why?  So He can show us that every little thing matters to Him where we are concerned.  He wants to show Himself faithful.  That grows our faith.   Note to self:  Ask God sooner so He can show you another time of His love and power to change things in my life!  Note to YOU:  Don’t wait to turn things over.  Be in the Word so you recognize Him and build trust in Him for the Lifetime Trip He has you on.  Know where you are going before you leave home.  If I had turned my morning over to Him before even getting upset over not being ready to just go out the door as I planned for us, then maybe my head would have been in the right place, and I could have avoided it all!  Our journey may look like this ring that has its ups and downs, around a mountain or two, but that journey goes up and that’s how I wear this ring!  I do like the other ring too that says, pray always, and I know my prayers go up.  What I’m learning is how quick I send my prayers up determines how free I am going to be from the stress of the journey!

 

Isn’t He great to teach us when we are willing to lean in to hear what He has to say.  It’s not always easy, but it is always worth it!

Until next time…

~JoAnn

Sojourners to Norway, Part 2

First I must apologize for taking so long to put this post together.  So much as been going on in my mind and life since then, that I found it hard to focus on writing.  I also found it difficult to decide on the subject of this post.  However, sometimes unexpected events in our lives, have an effect on our lives.  Last week was one of those.  My niece’s fiancé was killed in a motorcycle and pickup accident.  When you have someone taken so unexpectedly, the shock of it is hard to deal with.  It also makes you think of how quickly our lives can change…in a split second.  How that day will forever be etched in our minds and hearts.  My niece’s sorrow becomes my sorrow.  We realize how short life can be, and that we are never guaranteed a tomorrow.  Once again, I am reminded of the importance of living in the moment.  It could be my last minutes with someone I love.

God isn’t afraid to take us to school when we need it.  So what are we afraid of when we hear living in the moment?  It almost sounds irresponsible, or flying by the seat of our pants, doesn’t it?  But really, that is not what it means, or at least not what I refer to when I talk about it.  What makes us so afraid of it?  And…why is living in the moment so hard for us?  It could be that if we stopping running, or stop our hurried steps, we might FEEL.  We don’t want to feel.  So we keep so busy with life and responsibilities so that we don’t have to reflect on our true feelings or hurts.  All our “tries” never seem enough.  We may feel that we don’t measure up or we don’t feel worthy enough.  But all this running is keeping us from dealing with the fact that it is a heart issue.  We don’t want to deal with the feelings or the knowledge that comes from understanding that we really do know that we need to change something.  So to keep from doing that, we keep busy, put a smile on our faces, and keep pretending things are ok.  My hubby and I made a “live in the moment” decision for me to make the trip to Norway, and take my son and grandson with me.  I called on ticket prices, asked my son if he would want to go and if my grandson could go, and booked the tickets.  That all happened in one day’s time.  If God gives you an idea, let Him work out the details.  He put this opportunity to go on my hubby’s heart.  God will work it all out when it’s His idea and His will!

However, instead of getting bogged down in the mire, we would instead start noticing what is RIGHT in our lives, we can begin to see the blessings that are before us.  On my trip to Norway, as is always the case when I get alone away from the daily life, next to the water and beauty of nature, I find God settling me down.  He positions me to listen.  When I listen, He will gently remind me of areas I need to change and clean up.  Some are easy to do and others are a struggle; either for me or for me to deal with issues with another person.  He brought to mind some of the old carpenter tools I saw in my Great Grandmother’s house in Norway, and what a carpenter’s tools do in the hands of the carpenter.  The tools of the trade are used to mold and shape wood into a piece useful and purposeful for the house/project they are building; a little like our lives.  Sometimes chipping off those old chips can be painful…you think you have endured enough and there won’t be much left.  But the Carpenter knows what He is going for, and after all, we ARE His masterpiece.  So just like that example, I ask God to reveal what is keeping me from happiness or joy when I have those feelings.  He will then tell me and start the whittling process…chipping away at those things in my life that need to fall off.

Some of the path’s we go on, can be oh so painful…and lonely.  He may separate us from people we love and care about.  Our circle of friends may change because of what is happening in our lives. But the one thing that I took back home with me from my trip to Norway is the connection with family and friends.  How important it is for me, and for those around me to stay connected.  It makes my soul happy and contented, even when life gets hard.  Sharing life together.  We need it.  Dinners together, drives to do something as a family, and even putting down our phones long enough to really listen and share with each other.  Making the effort to drive several hours two times in a week or so to be with your niece to love on her in a most difficult time in her life.  God designed it that way.  When we are running so busy that we don’t have time for stopping to comfort a child who is having a bad morning because we have things to do, or when we listen with our ears only instead of listening with our hearts to someone who is hurting, we are not living in the moment.  We are too busy to even notice when God gives us an opportunity to minister to someone who needs it.  Maybe not even with words, but just a hug or holding a hand.  It can unlock the heart of the one who is needing a listening ear.  That’s what slowing down our lives can look like.  I saw those examples of support and listening when I visited Norway.  They make an effort even when they may live further away from each other to stay connected.  Connection is important to them.  It is to me too.  I take every opportunity to stay in touch with friends and family.  One never knows when your call or text, or not in the mail, will be the one thing that gets them through the day.

There is a saying we have all probably heard that says to “live your one life well”.  That means that where ever you are, be right there.  I think the Norwegians have things right in that they work hard, and relax, and play hard.  They know that the balance is needed for them to have joy in their lives.  They balance the long, dark winters with being out in the light and sunshine as much as possible when Spring and Summer come.  I saw a man in a large city in Norway sitting on a bench on a busy street with his shirt off just taking in the sunshine while it was there.  Eyes closed, soaking in the sunlight.  He lived in the moment.  They make the coziness of their homes a priority so they DO enjoy the those long nights during winter…warm fires, candle light, and coffee or hot chocolate abounds.  Knitting cozied up by the fire.  They plan and do the things that prepare them for the winter months.  They also look forward to the Holiday of Christmas and all being together.  Balance…the key to joy.

Here is another piece to my trip that surprised me…my photography.  When you are going on this type of trip where you are trying to get in as much as you can while you are there, it can be difficult.  You want to meet by relatives to have connection, and THAT turns out to be priority.  However, it took me some days to get that message.  I was mad at myself for not getting better photos when I took them.  I mean, who doesn’t want to come home with fantastic photos from such a beautiful country????  I missed some, and others were like on tours where you are moving through an area, and spending time setting up a photo isn’t necessarily what you have time for.  I got pretty upset with myself.  As I prayed about it, God showed me that the pictures I was taking were to remember.  I’m not in a contest for the best photo.  The connections are what is important and remembering them.  So even though many of my photos were from a car window, that was ok.  Because I had that memory.  It also transferred to when I am at home.  It isn’t important for me to be some great photographer.  What is important, is that I DO hone my skills, but it is to take better photos in what ever circumstance, not to be in any competition for the best photo of the day or to BE the best.  I love photography and I want to keep enjoying it.  When I start putting undue pressures on myself to do it differently, that is when I realize, that I’m getting off course.  A person could see my whole life through my photos.  That is what I want with my photography.  That others will see how I live and my philosophy and maybe be encouraged to take some of the steps I have taken to have joy in living.

I believe, I’m in another chipping off season in my life, and that is ok.  He gave me a trip to Norway to show me what is important in the way I live MY life.  So I leaned in close in Norway.  I learned about the ways of making coffee can be an art.  Now I know that from coffee shops, but it can be like that at home also.  I don’t like coffee that much, but I learned to like it the way my cousin made it.  So I asked how she did it.  I loved many of the foods I ate, and I asked how to make it.  I wanted to absorb as much of the culture as I could.  Not just BE there, but to live in the moment of every day there.  I learned about the history of the immigrants, like my grandparents on both sides of my family and why they made the decisions that they made to move away from everything they knew to come to the unknown in the U.S.  How those that were here in the U.S. would work so hard so that they could send money home or tickets home for their family to come to the U.S.  I learned how some couldn’t stay in the U.S. because they missed the beauty of Norway and they came back home.  Some were so destitute living here that they took their lives before admitting to family at home of their despair.  We as kids who grew up around our parents talking about the depression, and all the fun many of us made out of them walking to school with holes in their shoes and walking miles to school, isn’t so far of a stretch.  I know it to be true of my father’s parents and even his older siblings.  I have found a new respect for each of them searching for a better life, and their tenacity to keep going.  It’s amazing, actually.  I don’t take that for granted and wished as young child, I would have known more about what they went through.  I think I would have been a much more attentive granddaughter.  But they didn’t talk about it at all.  Neither did my parents.  As children we missed so much.  I don’t want my kids to not know about them.  Thus, I took my two sons and my grandson with me the two times I have gone.  I want all my ancestor’s hard work to make a life for their families, to survive as a story and testament to their courage.  I am here because of the hard work of all who came before me, including my parents.  What work ethics they had!  Families stuck together through thick and thin, and helped each other.  That is legacy.

I hope this last trip is not my last.  I have more to learn…more to experience…more time on the beach in Norway with neighbors and relatives around a bonfire!  More letters to read.  I copied  some of my mother’s letters to relatives in Norway that were written to my cousin.  Sometimes I find out more about my mom through reading them.  I took pictures of old pictures so that I can share them with family, and they will know who they are.  I have decided that writing on as many of the pictures I have, is important, since many of my parents’ pictures did not have names on them.

Yes.  When we open our minds to what we can learn by not just talking about doing something, but actually doing it, we will find our lives changed forever.  Mine sure has….to the point of teaching myself Norwegian.  Not easy, but exciting to see when I actually understood a few words or recognized at least the subject of the discussion when I was there.

So I ask you, do you want to have more time with your family?  Make a trip somewhere?  A drive down the coast?  A get-away with family?  Family gathering or reunion?  Don’t put it off.  Plan it.  Do it.  Change what needs to change to make it happen.  But above all?  Let it change you in the process.  God can do amazing things with an open and willing heart.  Open the door to His leading…it just might be to your homeland.

Until next time…

~JoAnn

 

 

White As Snow

What is your understanding of your salvation?  Have you ever thought about what it really means for you when you accepted Christ as your Savior?  Or, if you haven’t accepted Him as your Savior, have you ever had thoughts about what you think it means for you and your life?

Recently at our home, we had a beautiful couple days of soft snow fall.  I loved looking out my cabin windows, which run all the way around my cabin, and watching the snow.  Everything is covered in a blanket of clean, white snow.  The Holy Spirit reminded me of how Jesus covers our sin through His death on the cross, and we are washed as white as snow.  I had just been reading something that came to mind as I watched that falling snow.  The thought was that our life changes at the moment we accept Christ.  It isn’t just about sin.  It means, that as an example, a new JoAnn is created at the time I accepted Christ, and now God has a relationship with that new JoAnn.  So.. it isn’t just about being forgiven of sins.  It is also about a brand new relationship as this new person.  As this new person, I now have a relationship with Him; not as the old me, but as the new me.  He relates to the new me!  

I love the snow. Always have. But the snow is temporary.  His love for me is eternal.  What a great reminder for me as I looked out my windows to watch the falling snow, and have it teach me a lesson at the same time!  Hearing Him speak to me brings a whole new level of excitement for me in my relationship with Jesus.

Along these same lines, I have been leading a study on prayer.  Boy!  We are seeing some great changes happening in the lives of those taking part.  We have been given nuggets of knowledge that we grab onto as life rafts in what can sometimes be choppy seas.  I am constantly amazed at what God will teach us through the Holy Spirit’s guidance, IF we are willing to spend time in His presence.  It’s kind of like looking in on a genealogy of relationship, and seeing answers to prayer.

  • If we are in His presence,
  •      we are in His Word,
  •         then, we are learning to know Him better,
  •              which means we are learning to discern His voice,
  •                   which in turn means we trust Him more,
  •                        and that means we will become more obedient,
  •                             and we WILL see big prayers answered.

We have also talked in this study about taking steps of faith.  I have been thinking about the idea of stepping in to the water before I see the waters part.  We want Jesus to part the waters so we can go in.  God wants us to step into the water in faith, and then see Him part the waters and bring us through.  

It is my hope that you are beginning to change the culture of your life with Jesus through some of the posts here on the blog.  This certainly isn’t me writing about these topics.  This idea of snow and relationship, and what prayer will do, along with stepping into the water, are all thoughts I believe God wanted me to share with you.  Challenge yourself to make the changes you need, to have the results you want.

May God help you to this end.

To your place of heart and soul escapes…

~JoAnn