Monday, November 30, 2009

Making Your House a Home

It looks like Christmas has exploded in my house! For two days, the house has looked like we’ve just moved in. There were boxes stacked all over; empty shelves everywhere and little pieces of artificial garland all over the floor. But finally, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas (sorry, I couldn’t resist) and our house has once again become a home.

In the midst of the ribbon and red and gold berries, I began thinking about why I enjoy decorating for the Christmas season so much. It’s not just the smell of cinnamon pinecones or the twinkle of lights on the tree that I enjoy, but it’s the mix of excitement and comfort that we all can feel as well.

Let’s face it; Christmas is an exciting time of year! The sights and sounds create an energy that can’t be ignored. Whether you’re out hunting the best deals or spending time with loved ones, our demeanor begins to change. We become more joyful, full of promise and hope for mankind (as long as we stay out of the crowds).

The Christmas season seems to have a way of comforting us as well. It’s the time of year when we return to family traditions, have a more forgiving spirit and experience a renewed peace. We’re humbled by the birth of our Savior and hold the realization of His sacrifice in our hearts. Christmas is familiar and feels like visiting an old friend. You may not have seen each other in a while, but you pick up right where you left off!

That feeling of excitement and comfort is available to us every day. We have the opportunity to celebrate our Savior with our lives by allowing the Holy Spirit to live in us. When He takes residence in us, we also become not just a ‘house’ but a home. We allow God to enter our lives and show us things with new eyes. Only then do we feel the comfort and peace that comes from living with Him. Everyday can be a celebration of a new life…yours!

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“Jesus replied, 'If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.'” John 14:23

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Best Investment

Today I’ve got one hot investment opportunity to talk with you about! This investment has been performing like crazy and will produce returns beyond your wildest dreams…it’s your time.

Now wait a minute, hear me out on this. I already hear the grumbling… ‘Invest my time? I don’t have ANY extra time! I don’t have enough time for the things I have to do right now!’ Sound familiar? Or maybe you’re saying to yourself ‘Well I’d invest time in others, but no one ever seems to have time for me!’ Both are legitimate arguments, so let’s take a minute to talk them through.

If you’re the one who feels you have no extra time to invest in others, welcome to the majority! These days we are pulled in so many different directions between our spouses, our kids, our job, church activities…and the list goes on and on! But have you ever considered that you may be investing your time in things that God didn’t intend for you to be investing in? Or maybe you are simply investing too much time into an activity when some of that time is intended to be used elsewhere.

On the other hand, many people have more time to invest but aren’t sure what to be investing in. This group has usually doesn’t have the large time allotment that kids can take up in your schedule, so their time gets filled with other things. Or perhaps you get stuck in a bit of a rut in how you use your time and each day follows the same pattern. I have good news; there are tons of people who would love for you to invest your time into them…no experience required!

Regardless of which scenario best describes your situation, the final outcome is the same…we all need a little help when it comes to investing our time! So, I have a handy 3 step process that will help you reallocate your time to maximize your returns!

Step 1: Pray daily! Ask God to take your next 24 hours and use it for His glory. Ask Him to show you where you need to reallocate your time.

Step 2: Evaluate! Take a minute to honestly assess your schedule and see where you can trim the fat and decide if there are things you need to let go of.

Step 3: Do it! Make the changes He’s prompting you to make and follow through on the things He lays on your heart to do. It may be a little uncomfortable at first but it gets easier the more you do it!

When we let God be God in our lives and allow Him to open up windows in our schedule for His glory, we are blessed beyond measure! Every time we invest in someone else, God rewards our efforts. Whether you’re packing boxes, chatting over coffee, or just being a listening ear, you're giving them the blessing of your greatest asset…your time.

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers”. Galatians 6:9-10

Monday, November 16, 2009

A New Chapter

As the gold and yellow leaves begin to fall to the ground, the seasons are changing for my family as well. My husband, Greg, has finally completed his degree at Letourneau University. We have come to the end of a chapter of our family’s story and the beginning of a new one. My heart was filled to the brim with so many emotions - pride, excitement, gratitude and peace.

I’m filled with pride in the fact that Greg had finally accomplished the goal that he had set out to achieve. He had persevered through several seasons of our lives and continued to work hard toward the goal. For years he had to balance work and family responsibilities with the constant demand of homework and essay deadlines. The sacrifice that was involved did not make him bitter but refined the man he is, allowing him to trust that God rewards our efforts.

My gratitude comes from God’s provision for our family. While Greg was hitting the books, I still had to manage and maintain life for our family. On many occasions I felt like a single mom with too much to do and no help to get it all done! God continuously gave me strength that I didn’t have so I could be the wife and mom that I needed to be. It was in the times when I wasn’t getting my cup filled by Greg that God reminded me that He was my source and provider of all good things. God taught me to find my value in Him, not in what others said about me or would do for me.

Now we’re beginning the next chapter of our story. The winds of change have already begun to blow and it brings a great deal of uncertainty. However, being not knowing what lies ahead doesn’t mean that we have to lose our peace. We might not know what God is up to but we have full confidence that He is working out His plan in our lives. When God equips us, He then begins to use us in that way for His glory. No lesson or experience should ever be lost, but instead it refines us into the people we are meant to become.

So what’s being written in your story right now? Are you proud and excited about a new accomplishment or are you feeling overwhelmed by the task at hand? Is your heart full of gratitude for all God has been doing in your life or are you feeling a little bitter by the challenges you’re going through? Do you have a peace in your heart in the face of uncertainty or do you feel overcome by the fear of the unknown? Talk with God about where you are and where you want to be and then listen to hear Him speak to you through His word and the words of others. No matter what your situation is, take comfort in the fact that God never stops writing your story and He is unable to create anything less than a masterpiece!

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith…” Hebrews 2:2

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Flame

I’ve always been a fan of long hot baths! When the weather turns cold and I’ve had a hard day I love to climb into a steamy tub of bubbles and relax. I create a soothing ambiance with gentle music playing on my Ipod and several candles glowing all around. I distinctly remember a lesson I learned years ago from watching one of those candles as I soaked in the tub and am still thankful that God would meet me there in my bathtub to speak to my heart. I was a new believer at the time and was on fire for God. I just couldn’t get enough of doing things for Him, being involved in ministries and volunteering every chance I got. But the truth was that I was so busy doing for God that I wasn’t just being still with God. My heart was in the right place, but the newness and excitement about what I was feeling was keeping me very unfocused and I was stretching myself too thin.

That night in the bathtub I remember praying for God to show me what I was doing wrong and what He wanted me to be doing instead. That’s when two candles caught my eye. I noticed that the first candle, that I had just bought a few days before, had a flame that was big and bright. The flame stood tall and danced and swayed all around as if it were performing some kind of tribal dance. It was fun to watch and I imagined that the flame was doing its own happy dance for being ignited for the first time. Then I noticed the second candle. Its flame was steadfast and gave a warm consistent glow. This was one of my favorite candles that I had lit numerous times before but I had never noticed how still the flame was until I compared it to the new candle. I felt God speaking to my heart… ‘Focus on Me and your flame will become at peace. You will radiate a warm, peaceful light and I will use you for My glory.’ What sweet heart words from a loving Father! God was telling me that if I focused my excitement and love on Him, He would keep me centered.

What does your flame look like? Is it wild and dancing in every direction? Is it still and consistent? Or is it merely a small glow because you’ve been blown around by the winds of the world? We are created to be radiant for Him so praise Him for the flame He has given you! Maybe your flame needs to be centered or you may even need God to fan your flame… ask Him, He’s faithful!

Be blessed,
Jennifer

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” Matthew 5:14-15

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hilltops and valleys

Have you ever given someone a word of advice or encouragement and then realized that it applied to you as well? When our words of counsel are God-breathed they will bless both the speaker and the listener! This week I was sharing with a friend about the hilltop moments and valleys of our lives. As we talked I was reminded that fruit comes in every season of our lives, however we choose if we bear the fruit of bitterness and anger or of contentment and love. The attitude we have in each season of our lives will determine the kind of fruit we will bear.

We all love the moments where we have reached a pinnacle with God and for God. We feel as light as a leaf dancing on the breeze and we have such clarity as we take a glimpse of the bigger picture. Our hearts are so full of love and gratitude for God that we feel it may burst, it’s overwhelming! I believe this is just one way that God rewards us for being obedient to Him, and once you’ve had a hilltop moment you long to stay there with Him forever! Take a minute to think about your last hilltop moment with God. It’s a sweet memory isn’t it?

We also have times in our lives when we travel through valleys. These are the times when we seem to struggle more and hear from God less. We may be caught up in a stronghold of sin or God may be choosing to be silent. It’s during these difficult times when our faith begins to mold and shape us. How we act when we aren’t hearing God’s voice or seeing His hands move says a lot about our relationship with Him: Think back to the days in elementary school. Remember when your favorite teacher would be gone for the day and a substitute would come in? The substitute would not have the same rules and procedures as your favorite teacher but in the back of your mind you still knew what your teacher would expect from you. So were you the kid who followed the rules you already knew, or where you the kid who gave the substitute a hard time and pretended that you didn’t know better? Even when God is silent, we still know what He expects from us!

Regardless if you’re well on your way to another hilltop moment with God or if you’re camping out in the valley, God will use everything we go through for His glory if we let Him. Just think, even while the Egyptians were in slavery they were able to invent the concept of Geometry to get their job done. Talk about not wasting time! God used a season that lasted for years and years and gleaned something that still benefits the world today…amazing! Whether you’re in a season of victory or a season of defeat, God is working in you right now for His glory. We just need to embrace the season we’re in and let Him do what He needs to do in us! Hilltop or valley… it’s all for His purposes!

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:12