The Crossroads of Journey and Growth

The lead photo is of two rings I bought in the past that represent my life quite easily. I don’t make purchases of things like that without it having meaning to me. Don’t get me wrong, I have to like the look of them true, but they also need to have some significance to me if I am going to spend money on reminders that will be in my life forever. This picture represents where my up and down and around type of journey and my growth meet.It is a crossroads we all will have to choose. So, let me ask you a few questions and see if you have intersections like this in your life.

Way back when in your younger days, what did you think your life would look like?

Did you kind of plan it yourself, or did you ask God to show you what He had in mind for you?
Did you experience a close enough relationship with God to ask Him that hard question?
Did you have your own ideas and thought God would help you reach those goals?
Did it work out the way you planned?

You see, if I was honest, I would have to say that I had my own goals and worked toward them really without thinking of what God may have planned for me. And even at times when I really kind of knew He was saying no, I am a goal orientated person and just kept going toward my end game. It has taken many twists and turns and ups and downs of my journey through life to get to where I think God wants me to be and do what He wants me to do. I still have to seek Him for direction every day, and for the same determination as before, for me to do what God has called for me to do. Some of my downs have been pretty deep valleys. However, I have had also some awesome mountain top experiences.

But to get into that kind of relationship where I go to Him first, ask His direction, and the obedience to step out and do it????? THAT is where the growth comes. Those leaves on the ring above represented to me that I must always keep growing and learning. Learning from my mistakes, seeking the changes I need to make, and picking myself up after falling down means that I am free to try again. No condemnation or feelings of failure. I learned something valuable. I have to “trust the process” as the saying goes in sports. It means that things may not look how we want them to look, but God has a plan to make it better. We have to trust Him to do that.

I think of countless ways he has done that in my life! Just recently, God answered a prayer that I have prayed for over 20+ years. Not only did He answer it in a single way, but he blessed my answer with my cup overflowing, which in turn I can share that answer with the people in my life. Why would God do that? I believe that when we stay in close relationship with God, we ask things unselfishly of God, walk in relationship and obedience WITH God, He will answer; not always will it be more than, but He will answer in the way He thinks is best for us. In that we must be satisfied. It will also be a way in which, if we choose to, we can certainly give God the glory for the answer.

I have given Him the glory! It is such a miracle that only He could have done it. I have another ring to honor this climb to see His glory revealed and it reminds me every day that He wants to show us these things; not rings or stuff, but His love for us and faithfulness to each of us. You see, I was happy with the first answer. But when He went over and above all that I asked, I believe He wanted to remind me again of His ability to give over and above what we ask or think! How cool is that?

Where does your journey and growth paths intersect in your life? Because they have to do that. We will always have the ups and downs in life…that is just what life is. God tells us to expect that in His Word. However, He is right there to show us what it means, and if we trust the process of relationship with Him, then He WILL show Himself faithful to work in our circumstances! He SO wants to do that. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t about things for me, but He knows the things and experiences that will speak to me personally.

Don’t give up on the prayers you pray. We don’t know when He will answer, and we also have to accept His timing and what answer He gives. 20+ years is a long time to wait for an answer. However, The reason I think I had to wait that long is the lesson of never giving up. The s second reason is that He could do an even greater thing by the time that passed. I think He loves nothing more that to see us walking in faith with Him, so that, He can show Himself mightily in our lives! He is mighty in my life, that is for sure. Over and over again He is faithful.

Do leave your thoughts in the comments below and let me know how God spoke to you through the above thoughts.


Until next time…

~JoAnn

ps: Want to see my new reminder? Ok…here you go! Keep in mind, my rewards are usually small but significant to me. However, this was a total miracle that took place and that is certainly something for me to celebrate in a big way in life and the story of this ring will be passed on to someone else in my life as a reminder to them!

Open Hands and Pens

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Have you ever had the feeling that things were going so well in your life that you felt like the captain of your soul?  If you even thought about that statement for a moment without saying no, then you are in trouble because we are NEVER the captain of our soul.   Our lives aren’t something that we have a map for.  There is no map.  We may even feel that sometimes there is no compass.  There is no set route for the journey, that much we know.  The only way we can recognize a route in our life, is what is left behind us when we look back.

I just finished a study with a group of ladies who did the One Thousand Gifts study.  It was so interesting to see how God used each one to affirm the other.  Thoughts and ideas different from my own, yet similar in content.  Our hearts became one as we explored what God wanted to teach us individually.  God showed a side of Himself that many had not seen before, and… lives were changed.  Some even had a hard time explaining HOW it changed them, but they felt a shift inside themselves.  It might have been a different way to start each day, or depending on God for the right place to live, or transition after loss, and another who said, she has been in many studies, but none that have changed her like this one.  I’m sure there were many other thoughts too!  Wow!!  THAT is what we want to have happen when we devote ourselves to learning.  We discussed what servanthood looks like and how we can be the blessing.  So we asked ourselves, “Am I a blessing?  Do I bless?”  Our answer was agreement with Ann Voskamp, the writer of the study, we ARE blessed.  We CAN bless.  You see, we need to pass blessing along.  If we receive the blessing and it stops with us, then we have lost the flow of the blessings to others.  That trickle down effect is lost.  We need to pass it along in the flow of life, and let the goodness of God flow on and on and on.  It’s like Andy Andrews talks about in his book, The Butterfly Effect.  We may never know the outcome of something we did or said, nor how it will affect the future.

Another thing we shared with each other is the power of the pen.  Whether you are a journal writer or not, there is power there.  Maybe you just list your gifts or blessings.  Which ever it maybe, “satan hates pens because he doesn’t want you to count
IMG_5020the blessings you have been given.” (Ann Voskamp) Do you get the picture?  THAT should make us want to go find everybody we know and make sure they have a pen handy.  That is our weapon against feeling defeated about our life.  Invite God in and put that pen to paper.  I am a pen freak.  I love pens and I like GOOD pens.  So, I’m always looking for a pen that is a good brand, looks good AND writes well.  Now, I have another reason for a good pen…it’s my weapon and the power to stay in gratitude!  I’m going to wield that weapon!!

This thought was so important in our weekly discussion:  we want to be empty, to be filled.

  • I want my hands to remain open for God to fill them for His purpose.
  • I want Him to find me about His work and doing well.
  • I want to be maintaining an attitude of expectancy.
  • I want to be found continually looking to the future with hope.
  • I will live a full life because I am intentional in how I live each day.

In all the changes we talked about in this group, the best part was being reminded that a changed life is a life full of joy!  We found that to be true in the last five weeks.  He wants our personal character to be guided by the Holy Spirit and not our own flesh.  He wants to find us being diligent, eager, and zealous in our relationship with Him.  We have found that aspect of our relationship with God to be renewed during out time together.  We experienced a lot of laughter, but there were tears also.  We shared hugs of encouragement, pats on the back to say, keep going.  Please share.  We are listening.  THAT my friend means something BIG is about to happen.  When we lean in and listen, God is going to do something BIG when we let Him change us.  I encouraged each person there to write today’s date down in their Bibles or journals, because we all felt we were on the cusp of something great that is about to happen.

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And lastly, I think we made the decision to be like the Sea of Galilee, that flows forth fresh water.  We do not want to be like the Dead Sea that has no movement and is stagnant, as she talks about at the end of the last chapter.  And the kicker?  Those two seas are fed by the same river!!!  Which one do we want to be?  These ladies wanted to flow out fresh water!  His gifts come from above and we want them to flow through us to others.  I think we all agreed, that we want the kind of attitudes and character that mark the life of a person who loves to serve, give and to share what we have with others.  And…let’s give our best.

I am thankful to each heart that shared in this journey of gifts, and I pray that you will be blessed also by this glimpse into what God did in a small group of women who were faithful to the idea of open hands.

Walking the journey with you…

~JoAnn

Why Does It Have To Take So Long?

Trust In THe Lord
Trust In The Lord

 

This new year has been monumental for me! I have spent many years praying for certain things to come to fruition and was placed in “waiting mode”.  Been there?  Nothing seems to be going on and you don’t see any answers?  Did you give up?  Think God wasn’t listening? Lose your joy? Get all negative?  You can’t see where it’s going so you aren’t even going to take the next step?

I have seen and read a lot of negative things around me lately.  Lest we forget how blessed we really are, I want to share some personal thoughts with you.  Did you know that sometimes we have to wait for the answers for MANY different reasons? I have found that God sometimes is teaching me things that I need to know during those times when I think He isn’t doing anything. BUT…in reality, He IS doing something! It all depends on whether I am willing to be obedient to what He says to me during these times. I may gripe, complain, get a short fuse, even get discouraged about my whole life, but, all the while, God is working on the solutions. I can’t seem them.  Shoot!  I don’t even know they EXIST yet! BUT GOD…is faithful. He never let’s go of my hand. The only time our lives get in this situation is when we have pulled our hand away. Possibly, we have tried making things happen on our own rather than waiting.  Oops…never a good thing.  But then, when we put our hand in His, all of a sudden, things become a bit clearer. We start to see things through His lens and view-point. We see His hand at work and we can begin to see the wheels turning toward what God has in mind for us.  In my case, I am much more willing to step out with Him.

These last several months, I have seen God…

  • Bring us to a point of being debt free.  We have been praying and working on that for about 8 years.  Something always seemed to happen that kept us in debt. But we began diligently seeking God about this area of our lives, and asked Him to help us, AND we got some Holy Spirit gumption and determination!
  • Bought a house that had lots of work to do on it.   He has helped us accomplish that the work.
  • We sold a house that took many months to sell which meant we were making double payments.  But after many offers falling through, He brought the EXACT right couple.
  • We made additions to our home, that under normal circumstances, would seem impossible.  Yet, God did it.
  • Money unexpectedly coming to us to pay debt down.  Also, through scrimping to make extra payments, somehow the money spread around to all expenses.
  • We were faithful in our giving.
  • We even enjoyed some “get away” times together.

God just did it!  The important part of this whole process was, OUR involvement with Him. We prayed and listened.  We were obedient to say no to ourselves,  in order to say YES to God.  So, He was faithful to honor our needs and some of our wants.  We can’t ask Him to be debt free and not be willing to do our part to get there.  THAT was our process.  We listened.  We learned.  We followed.

Next BIG point?  We thanked Him ahead for what He would do.  We thanked Him for

The Perfect Reflection
The Perfect Reflection

being debt free, we thanked Him for the appliances, we thanked Him for the items we needed to save on daily living expenses, and we thanked Him for the savings that we had.  We thanked Him for how He made the money stretch.  You know what?  He did it over and over again!  We might find just the right thing for our home (the mirror in the picture) and He blessed us with a way to make that happen.

Now before you think it is all about “things”, He will do those exact same things in ANY area of our lives.  AND, He cares about the smallest desires of our hearts.  I love that about the Lord!  In this process, I have learned to love the daily, simple things that come my way and never take them for granted.  I have a Gratitude Jar that I am keeping this year and every time anything good comes my way, I am putting a heart in my jar with the written word of my blessing, and at the end of the year on New Year’s Eve, we will take that jar out and read what God has done.  Anyone coming into my home may add to that jar.  Last week, my grandson asked if he could add another heart to the jar!  Now THAT does a grandma’s heart good!

So don’t let the devil get you all tied up in knots over time lines.  Know that God is working the night shift, and He KNOWS what you need.  But you need to walk in faith “in the mean time” and trust His timing too.  Leave your cares in His hands because He cares about you.  ALL about you!  Don’t put your mind to the negative.  Find the good in your day.  You are alive here on this planet today to enjoy your friends and family and to be a light to others.  Make it count!  Count your blessings one by one so you SEE what the Lord has done!  Remember that song from when you were younger?  It is true.  It will bring joy to your heart.  I promise, and God promises that very thing to us in His Word.  “This is the day that the Lord has made.  I will rejoice and be glad in it.”  THAT is the best way to fight the good fight.  Be a warrior and start wielding the sword of the Spirit!!  Don’t let the evil one whisper in your ear anymore.  Bring out your Sword!

Bottom line?  I have walked this journey with the above ways for most of my life.  I can tell you it works.  Do I get discouraged?  Sure I do!  But not for long, because my experience with God tells me that He knows.  He cares.  He is always working.  What He has done before, He will do again!

Give Him your cares, SO THAT, He can show Himself faithful.  Don’t give in, give it up to Him!  Walking the journey with you…

“Don’t Let Go” Can Be A Good Thing!

I took this photo about a year ago, and it has quite a story to tell. When I moved to Lynden over three years ago, there was a wonderful place that I could walk each day.  One day on my walk, I saw this leaf stuck on the barbed wire fence. It was green at the time, and held there by the barb in the wire. I just stopped and looked at how it was hooked, and then went on with my walk. However, the picture, for some reason, just stuck with me. I would walk by there each day and it was still hanging on. Each day it would get a bit drier, a bit more crispy and began to turn the color of fall. But over and above that… it was STILL there. As I thought about that leaf, two ideas came to mind and I thought this is something I need to write about, but it never got down on paper.

So, in the last several weeks, as circumstances in my life made me think again of that leaf that wouldn’t let go, I thought I need to write it down. The interesting part about this leaf? It stayed through the Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer seasons for well over 2 years! Curled now, but secured by the barb. So what were the thoughts that came to mind?

  • Number one, Satan loves to get his digs deep into our hearts and minds, and he doesn’t easily let go of us. In fact, he can have such a hold on us that even the high winds of winter and the snow won’t loosen the grip. Just like this leaf made it through all those high winds of one particular winter season, it still remained entangled. As the leaf curled up, so can our lives wither if we don’t have a grip on the hand of the Lord. We will let the struggles of everyday life engulf us, and we can no longer feel the Son. Others may even try to help us loosen the grip of the struggles, and yet we don’t let go.
  • Number two, God is also One who never let’s go of us. The storms may hit, winds may blow, the chilly winters come but He never let’s go of us. He will put His arms around us and protect us and help us hold on. And when I am ready, He will help me let go. I never saw when that leaf finally gave in and let itself be taken where it needed to go, but I know it did because it is gone. God will keep us where He wants us to be, and when the time is right, He will let the wind of the Holy Spirit carry us to the place He wants us to be. We may have a scar or two from the barb, but it doesn’t keep us from going where we need to go, and because of that scar, we may be able extend a hand of understand, to another.

I need the determination of that leaf in this season, whether it is to not be caught in satan’s snare, or to remind me not to let go of God’s hand. You see, if I had tried to help that leaf to let go, it would have broken to pieces. That is what satan wants; to break us. But God… God wants to encourage us to hold on and never let go of His hand and He will gently help us let go of what we need to let go of in order to travel where He wants us to go.

Isn’t it interesting that God uses the simplest of things to lead us if we are just aware of what is around us, and we listen to His voice. That leaf stayed right there for over two years! So… your season may not be a short one. Hang on! If you do that, you won’t fall to pieces, and He will give you what you need to hold on to Him.  Are you watching? Are you listening? Let go of what you need to let go of, but never let go of His hand! God help you to that end.

Walking the journey with you…