Monday, December 27, 2010

Following directions

My husband, Greg, and I set off on an adventure yesterday afternoon. The day was clear and crisp, we had internet directions in hand so away we went. Our destination... Peaster, TX. We had never been to Peaster but the directions said it should take about an hour. The directions had a long list of turns down country roads that we'd never heard of, with only one or two sounding familiar. So in order to save some time, we ignored the beginning directions and took a short cut to the road we were familiar with and started there.

As we drove down the familiar road, we kept looking for the illusive country road turn off we were supposed to be turning onto. It never came. Greg began to doubt my navigating skills as he checked and double checked the direction list again. Fortunately we were going to intersect with a highway we had heard of before so we decided to go ahead the way we knew to find the highway.

Success! Now all we needed to do was head west until we were able to pick back up with the internet directions. As the miles and minutes passed, the mood in the truck began to change. Our 'it's all good' attitude was being replaced with 'let's just get this done'. By now we were about 30 minutes behind our scheduled meeting time in Peaster.

From that point on, every direction I gave was met with hesitation and second guessing. We made it to our destination, but we were very late and our confidence was a bit shaken.

Ever been there? Have you ever run ahead of God by taking short cuts? Ever felt that you knew a better way? We found out later that day that if we had followed the directions from the beginning we would have ended up in the right place. Our short cut didn't take us far enough down the road to intercept with the country road we needed to take. Instead we went numerous miles and about 30 minutes out of our way. Some short cut!

God gives us directions for a reason. They often don't make sense at the time and we feel we can do it in a more efficient way but they always result in something good. By not following directions we wasted time and lost our confidence. When we follow the directions God puts before us, we are able to balance uncertainty with faith. The will of God will never lead you were the grace of God will not protect you. Let God write that on your heart. Now, are you ready to hit the road?

Be blessed,
Jennifer

““For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.” Isaiah 55:8

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Rest in Him

My feet hit the ground running early Monday morning. I had a busy week ahead, my 'to do' list was long and my available time was limited. Work, appointments, meetings, Christmas shopping, car pool and birthday planning had all found a spot in the schedule. By Friday I was beat but I was finished.

My in-laws all came into town to celebrate Christmas making a total of about 25 Mersbergers in the house. Oh, and we also celebrate birthdays too. 8 of them! It's always a good time to see everyone but, like every family gathering, it gets a little hectic. Needless to say I was completely unprepared when an extra guest arrived for the party, the flu bug.

Throughout the week I was so busy trying to get everything done, I hadn't taken any down time for myself. My days all started early and ended late as I tried to cram in as much as possible. I kept my daily appointment with God for my quiet time, but I hadn't allowed time to just rest.

Normally my arsenal against germs would be fully stocked. Vitamins, anti-bacterial soap, plenty of water and rest usually do the trick. I was so busy checking off my list that I never stopped to think about what I needed to stay healthy.

Ever find yourself in the midst of your situation before you realize you're not prepared? Attack comes in many ways: germs, thoughts, words, emotions. Are you prepared for battle? I might be fighting germs right now but my thoughts attack me just as often. The things that I will think or say about myself can be the direct opposite from the truth God is showing me. I find myself blaming Satan but have found that I've become really good at tearing myself down without his help.

My message for you this week has two parts. First, be certain you are equipped for battle. Regardless of what form it comes in, attack will come and you can overcome it! Second, allow yourself to rest. Even the mightiest warriors understand that they have to rest in order to persevere in battle. These two ideas seem to contradict each other but are, in fact, in complete balance. God equips us to fight the good fight and then rejuvenates us as we rest in Him. How's your battle going?

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14

Monday, December 13, 2010

The gift list

The Christmas season is in full gear. If you haven't trimmed a tree, decked the halls or jingled bells yet, you're definitely running behind. You don't have to be finished but you really need to have started by now. That goes for shopping for Christmas gifts as well. I have friends who are already done with all their shopping. They have the gifts purchased, wrapped and tucked neatly under the tree. Then I have another friend who hasn't slowed down to make her shopping list yet. She's been busy with work, decorating and other Christmas activities. I'm somewhere in between. I have some gifts purchased and wrapped but there's still a few I've yet to buy.

My gift giving seems to fall into categories. As a make my list I group the gifts accordingly to be sure I haven't forgotten anyone. I have gifts for Greg and kids, my extended family, Greg's family, close friends and our small group from church. Then there's smaller gifts for neighbors, teachers, the mail lady, etc. Not to mention the five birthdays that our family has right around Christmas... whew, someone pass the eggnog!

It's easy to be overwhelmed by all the gift giving but I've learned how to keep the stress of Christmas at bay. At the beginning of the Christmas season I start off by giving one gift right away. I go before the Lord and offer the only things that I could possible give Him – my love, my praise, my time and my attention. You see, when I pledge to love Him, He helps me love others. When I give Him my praise, He shows me things that are praiseworthy. When I give Him my time, He multiplies it. When I give Him my attention, I hear His voice and my heart is drawn to His. I remember that no gift can compare to what He's already given me. That starts the whole feeling of love for Him again...what a great cycle to get caught in!

Putting God first on your list will be a blessing to you and to Him. The stress will be gone and you'll have time spent with Him...isn't that the reason for the season?

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you; I will praise your name, LORD, for it is good.” Psalm 54:6

Monday, December 6, 2010

A slow cooked life

It's gotten chilly in my little corner of the world. In Texas you never know what kind of weather you're going to get. But the low temperatures are becoming lower and lower each day. That only means one thing in my family... it's time for soup!

My family is very particular about their soup and not just any kind will do. If the soup isn't hearty and full of meat, I can forget about bringing it to the table. There are few exceptions to this rule! So when I gathered the ingredients for my Chicken Tortilla Soup yesterday, my family was thrilled.

I grabbed my trusty 3 qt slow cooker and got to work. As I rinsed, chopped and sautéed my mind started to wander a bit. It's amazing how I can throw a combination of raw ingredients into the slow cooker and a few hours later it becomes a tasty meal.

It's just like what God does in our lives. He tosses in a mixture of talents, skills and abilities that he knows will develop over time. He adds weaknesses and trials so the mixture is not over powering. God then sprinkles in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control to season our lives. The ingredients He uses are unique for each person. They are put in raw and develop over time.

I learned early not to take the lid off of the crock pot except if you're draining, straining or turning meat over. Every time you take the lid off, you lose about half an hour of your cooking time. You actually undo what you've been doing. I think our lives are that way too. Every time we take our 'lid' off to do something our way, we loose just a little bit of what God's been working on. Just like the expression “Three steps forward and two steps back”, we have to keep regaining ground God has already conquered for us. We have to resist the temptation to pull off the lid and start mixing things up.

In time the raw ingredients become something wonderful. Just as the aroma of the soup fills the house, the aroma of God's work in us is evident to others. I love to ladle out the soup and see my family's reaction to what they receive, they are always so excited and thankful! When the time is right, God will begin to pour us out so we can fill other people too. While they will definitely appreciate what you give them, perhaps you'll find that you are the one most thankful for your slow cooked life...

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 1:4