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

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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…