Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Peace be with you

Merry week after Christmas! This is the calm week between the busyness of the Christmas and the excitement of celebrating the New Year. I always thought the week in-between the two was boring, now I just find it peaceful. Growing up in the Catholic church, I've heard the saying “Peace be with you” more times than I can count. But only recently have I taken time to stop and consider what God's peace is really all about.

P – Purpose

I know I quote the verse a lot, but Jeremiah 29:11 summarizes God's intentions toward us perfectly. He has a plan for our lives, we're here at this time in history for a purpose.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

E – Expectation

Having high expectations of what God will do shows we believe God is able. We may not know if God will choose to move mountains but we certainly know He can!

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2Corinthians 9:8)

A - Awe

I love that “A” is in the center of the word, peace, because “awe” is the center of the peace we have through Christ. Only when we stand in awe and reverence of our Mighty God will we ever truly experience His peace. Everything comes from Him!

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”” (Hebrews 12:28-29)

C – Contentment

I have a sign hanging in my kitchen that says “The secret to having it all is believing that you do!” We can't fully experience the fullness of God until we stop striving for more.

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)

E – Enjoyment

You may be focusing on following Christ's example, but are you having any fun? Jesus did. He embraced the experiences and people around Him. He trusted God's plan for His life.

Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

This may be a week of rest for you. Or, you may be right back into the rhythm of your regular routine. Either way, God's peace can be with you no matter what your situation. I believe it's a gift we should treasure and an attitude to carry us into the New Year. I wish you God's peace today and always!

Be blessed,

Jennifer

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I wish you and your family all of the blessings of our Savior this Christmas season!
Merry Christmas!
Jennifer

Monday, December 12, 2011

In a trance?

I conquered my fear of hypnosis. Well, more accurately, I avoided hypnosis and then ended up learning a thing or two about it. Confused? I was too until a few myths were dispelled. Now I have a better understanding. Trust me, you will too.

My husband, Greg, and I went to a comedy club over the weekend with some friends. This week's entertainer was a hypnotist. He began the show with a fairly lengthy explanation of what it means to be hypnotized. And wouldn't you know it, God showed me an interesting parallel.

“Everyone is capable of being hypnotized, but not everyone will allow themselves to be. Therefore, they feel like they are unable to fall under hypnosis.” the hypnotist explained. But then God whispered in my spirit, “The road to destruction is wide... only a few find the road that leads to life.” (Matthew 7:14)

The hypnotist further explained, “Hypnosis is not a trance. It is only a deeper level of relaxation. Your body and mind are far more relaxed, allowing you to be open to the suggestions I make.” To which God replied, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

“At no time will I suggest the participants do something harmful, embarrassing or reveal personal information that they would not normally share.” the hypnotist continued. God whispered, “ I plan to prosper you, not to harm you.” (Jeremiah 29:11)


Finally, the hypnotist explained while under hypnosis, people still have free will. They are very much in control of their mind and body. They cannot be made to do something they would normally be unwilling to do. God whispered, “who the Son set free, is free indeed.” (John 8:36)

I always thought that hypnosis was some kind of trance-like state that could be forced upon you, willing or not. I didn't understand. You have to allow yourself to be hypnotized. Unlike a trance, you still have full control of your mind, body and the choices you make. It's really about allowing yourself to be still and open to suggestions.


I believe there is a similar misconception when it comes to being a believer. People incorrectly think once you give your life to Christ, you enter a trance-like existence. They think God tells us all what to do, what to think, and how to act like a puppet on a string. That couldn't be further from the truth! God is all about free will. He freely gave His life for us so we could accept the gift and live for Him.

I'm not trying to make you uncomfortable by comparing hypnosis and our faith walk. It's just a little reminder that when you spend time alone with God and are open to what He has to teach you... you'll see God in your every day!

Be blessed,


Jennifer



Monday, December 5, 2011

How do you handle adversity?

As I enjoy a hot cup of coffee on this cold winter morning, a story I heard recently came to mind. You will never look at a cup of coffee the same way again.

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her.. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up, She was tired of fighting and struggling.. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her daughter, she asked, "Tell me what you see.."

"Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma.

The daughter then asked, "What does it mean, mother?"

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently.

The carrot went in strong , hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.

The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

"Which are you?" she asked her daughter. When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?!

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.

When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

Be blessed,
Jennifer

"The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD; he is their stronghold in time of trouble." Psalm 37:39

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's all your fault

With his jaw clenched and eyes glaring, my soon-to-be eighteen year old son stood in defiance.

“If you would have just made me do it, I wouldn't be in this mess!” Jordan informed me.

“I asked you to do this over and over again, but you always had a reason why you couldn't.” I explained, “Now you're feeling the pressure of putting it off.”

It's college application time in the Mersberger household. Truth be told, it's been college application time since the beginning of summer. In Jordan's busy schedule, he hasn't taken time to actually apply to the schools he'd like to attend. With the deadline looming just a few weeks away, he's beginning to feel the pressure.


As his rant continued, I began thinking about all the times I've had the same conversation with my Heavenly Father.

I complain to Him:

“Why didn't You just make me do it?”

“Why does this have to be so hard?”

“Why can't You just tell me where I'll end up?”


I hear Him answer in my spirit:

“I won't make you do something that's not in your heart to do.”

“I'm sorry it's hard. Unfortunately, you've made it harder than it needed to be.”

“I'm here to lead you if you'll let me.”

Like a teenager wrestling between freedom and dependence, I can be easily torn. I want to spread my wings and fly without giving up the comforts of my familiar nest. I want to stand on the top of the mountain but I don't want to difficulty of the climb. So why am I surprised that Jordan feels the same way?

Once he vented his frustration, Jordan and I were able to have a really good talk. Now he feels more confident in the decisions he's making and has a plan to complete everything on time. Even though some questions are left unanswered, Jordan is moving down the path again, waiting for God to direct his steps. I think I'll follow his lead...

Be blessed,

Jennifer

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11



Monday, November 21, 2011

The Pause Button

We spent months planning our London trip. We did research, bought tickets, made plans and waited with great anticipation. When we finally landed we hit the ground running, checking off everything we wanted to see and explore. Before we knew it, the week was almost over.

I was feeling a little overwhelmed by the rich history of everything we had seen. But as I sat in the middle of St. Paul's Cathedral, I found my pause button. I gazed at the magnificent detail of the domed ceiling and let God's glory wash over me. There was no audio lesson or list of details to be seen. There was only me and God in the house He inspired.

As I sat in the silence of the church, I reflected on everything we had experienced on our trip. While I appreciated each one at the time, only then did I actually absorb it. Like a dry sponge, my soul finally took in every moment of our trip and made it a part of me. My pause button allowed me to appreciate the moment before it passed me by.

Now that I'm home again, I'm determined to remember that day in St. Paul's Cathedral. The day that God allowed me to be still before Him and take in everything He had shown me. The day He revealed a pause button in my spirit allowing me to stop everything, just for a moment, and actually absorb the experience.

What a wonderful reminder, now before the busy holiday season, that we have a pause button. We can choose to stop for just a few moments to absorb the experience into our soul. In the midst of 'to do' lists and tight schedules, we have the ability to remember why we are doing all of this in the first place. When we think about the people we love and the God who loved us first, we write our own rich history. But they only become a part of our soul when we hit the pause button...

Be blessed and Happy Thanksgiving,


Jennifer

Be still, and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

Monday, November 7, 2011

Excess Baggage

This week I'm crossing the pond. Accompanied by my mom and two sisters, I'll be spending the week in London and Paris. I've been to London before. However, this time I will actually be leaving the airport.

Before I can watch the changing of the royal guard or climb the steps to Notre Dame, I have to pack my bags. Packing for seven days and variable weather conditions is a challenge. Dressing in layers is a good idea but takes up a lot more space in the suitcase. Maintaining the balance between looking cute and being comfortable results in more items to pack.

But how much is too much? At what point am I carrying far more than I need? Just because my suitcase has wheels doesn't mean it won't be hard to drag along. Once I've gathered everything I think I'll need, I realize I'm weighing myself down.

Some of us don't need to be traveling to have baggage. We gather up our hurt and pain and stuff it all into an emotional suitcase. We carry it along everywhere we go. Some things we carry as a reminder to never let those experiences happen again. Other things we carry because we don't know how to let them go. The bags get heavier over time and slow us down under their weight.

Determined not to take my largest suitcase, I begin the editing process. I make a pile of 'must haves' and a pile of the 'just in case'. The 'just in case' pile is much larger than I expected. In fact, in effort to prepare for just about any situation, I've managed to completely overwhelm myself with stuff. So I gather a few choice 'just in case' items and leave the rest behind—and take a smaller suitcase.

Anything that is not essential will only drag us down. Some life lessons teach right from wrong, good from evil and keep us from getting hurt. Other life lessons shame and condemn us, lock us in bondage and keep us from being happy. The good news is, we control the editing process. We get to choose what we'll carry around in an emotional suitcase and what we won't. With God's help and some serious soul searching, we may realize it's time to leave some stuff behind and finally carry a smaller suitcase.

Be blessed,

Jennifer


Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2


Monday, October 31, 2011

What character are you?

Halloween is not my favorite holiday, but it is fun to become someone completely different just for one night. But what are we putting on every other day? Are we giving any thought to our actions? Our attitude and behavior probably resemble some of the storybook characters we grew up with. What character has represented you lately?

1. Short tempered and irritated? The Wicked Witch of the West
2. Happy with a song in your heart? Snow White
3. Constantly running behind? The rabbit from Alice in Wonderland
4. Sacrificial with your time? Belle from Beauty and the Beast
5. Isolating yourself from others? Rapunzel

Halloween is only one night a year, but God's salvation is eternal. When we accept Christ as our Savior, we are changed from a witch to a princess, and a troll to a prince. The best part is...we never have to change back! Unlike a magic spell at midnight, believers will remain clothed in righteousness. As sons and daughters of the King, we are heirs to the throne. We became royalty and are given a new life.

But when much is given, much is expected. God wants us to choose Him every day. He wants us to put aside our worldly behavior and seek what is good. You wouldn't see a royal princess gossiping about someone with her friends. You wouldn't see a prince acting inappropriately with those he works with. Their behavior is different than those of this world because they've been set apart for the world to come. Sound overwhelming? Take heart, God has equipped us with the Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts and actions. He plans to help us find our happily ever after...

Be blessed,

Jennifer


You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24


Monday, October 24, 2011

Faith of a Child

It's time for one of my favorite Halloween specials ... It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! I love watching Charlie Brown specials. I remember sitting on the floor of our living room, hearing the signature Peanuts music start as the show opened with the NBC peacock. My tummy flipped and flopped with excitement as I absorbed in every minute of the show.

In this story, Linus convinces Charlie Brown's little sister Lucy to skip trick-or-treating to sit with him in the pumpkin patch. He is certain the Great Pumpkin will rise from the pumpkin patch and fly around bringing gifts and joy to children who believe in him. Lucy, intrigued by the gifts she will receive and more than a little enamored with Linus, agrees to wait with him. After waiting long into the night, the Great Pumpkin still doesn't show.

While I realize this is just a story, I still think we could all learn from Linus.

He believed. Linus believed with all his heart that the Great Pumpkin would appear and reward his faith. Right or wrong, he stayed rooted in his truth.

He shared his faith. Linus shared what he believed with all of his friends despite how they treated him. He wanted everyone to have the same benefits he was hoping for.


He was brave.
Here's a young boy who not only stood up to his mocking friends but also sat in a cold, dark pumpkin patch until the wee hours of the night. All because he had faith.

He was determined. Yet another year went by without the appearance of the Great Pumpkin (except for Snoopy dressed as a ghost). But Linus didn't give up. The end credits roll as Linus tells Charlie Brown about his plans to wait for the Great Pumpkin again next year.

Linus is a modern day faith warrior. He held firm to his beliefs, shared them with those he knew, endured the slings and arrows of opposition and went outside his comfort zone for his faith. I want to be like Linus, don't you? Oscar Wilde once said “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” So let's imitate some art together shall we?


Our God is mightier than any Great Pumpkin. He earned our faith in Him on the cross. He promises the gift of eternal salvation to everyone who believes. He rewards our obedience and He will come again to reign in Glory. Come friends, let's head out to the pumpkin patch...

Be blessed,

Jennifer


Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1


Monday, October 17, 2011

It's a marathon...

This weekend the city of Dallas hosted their annual Race for the Cure. The news reported thousands of women, and some men, donning their pink outfits and gathering at the starting line. Some are cancer survivors, others have lost loved ones with the disease. Everyone is determined to raise millions of dollars for continued cancer research.

I am not a runner but I have great respect for those who are. It takes a lot of patience and perseverance to condition your body to go the distance. Countless hours of training and striving for a little more: more distance, more speed, more strength. Learning to pace yourself to endure the whole race instead of running fast and burning out.

Our journey of faith is the same way. Our walk with God is a marathon, not a sprint. When we become believers we're so on fire for God that we want to take on the world. We can do too much and quickly become overloaded and overwhelmed. We need the patience and the perseverance to go the distance as well. Countless hours of 'training' will produce more distance, more speed and even more strength.

More distance

The more we condition ourselves to walk with God, the further we'll go with Him. Giving God our day first thing in the morning allows Him to balance our 'have tos' with His 'want tos'. He's able to use us throughout our day in ways we wouldn't have imagined. The glories He will show are truly inspiring.

More speed

I don't mean things will come to us faster. When we are allowing God to train us in His ways, He can accomplish His will more quickly. Each time we are used in His plan for His glory, we grow a little deeper with Him. Soon we allow Him to use us with no questions asked. He gets the glory and we're on the fast track to a more obedient life.

More strength

On the journey of faith, we'll hit a lot of bumps in the road. Illness, loss of jobs, loss of loved ones... it's a really bumpy road! But take heart, God is leading us through it. When we stumble and fall, God encourages our spirit and prompts us to get back up and try again. Our failure is not the end of our faith journey. With every bump we hit and every scratch and bruise we receive, we are learning to persevere. The longer we walk with Him, the more we begin to understand the journey.

Are you ready for the journey? Have you been sitting on the side of the road, tired from falling down over and over again? Or are you already in the full swing of training, allowing God to use your time and talents for His plan? Either way, we're on this road together. Let's lace up our shoes and starting walking in faith!

Be blessed,


Jennifer

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2


Monday, October 10, 2011

Under Construction

The lazy Sunday afternoon beckoned us on a road trip. The family piled into the van and we set out to visit a local restaurant everyone's been talking about. But to get there we'd have to go through Grapevine – the city under construction.

A new highway system is being built in the heart of the city. Large concrete pillars line the highway like trees. They stand at attention waiting to bear the weight of a new bridge. The highway twists and turns like a snake as we're diverted from old road to new road and back again. Bright orange cones warn that familiar roads now lead nowhere. Traffic crawls as drivers navigate the unfamiliar path. It feels like utter chaos.

“I wish I knew what the final design was going to look like.” my husband commented, “Maybe then all this would make some sense.”

That would be helpful in our lives too wouldn't it? The ability to see the master plan. But unfortunately we're stuck in the midst of the construction. A dead end job. Divorce papers. An unexpected diagnosis. These can all feel like roads to nowhere but are actually part of the Designer's plan.

We begin to feel disappointed and defeated when the road we thought was permanent proves to be temporary. Detours and diversions lead us into unfamiliar territory and we begin to lose our confidence and sense of direction.

But take heart...God knows where you're going. He also knows how to get you there. It's all part of His design. We just have to trust His plan and follow His lead.

Be blessed,

Jennifer

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19


Monday, October 3, 2011

Under the Skin

Layer by layer the skin is carefully peeled away. With great precision, the remaining meat is cut and scraped leaving it unrecognizable. This may sound like a scene from a modern day horror movie, but it was exactly what I witnessed when I watched a Halloween pumpkin carving contest.

Master craftsmen were chosen from all over the nation to compete in a carving contest for a prize of $10,000. They were given a theme and only a few hours to make it happen. The results were amazing! My years of silly little jack-o-lanterns could never hold a candle to any of these masterpieces.

Watching the show reminded me of another Sculptor. He was given the honor of Master craftsman for the work He did on the cross. He receives glory instead of riches and He is never hurries His masterpiece. He completes His work in His time.

With great precision, God carefully peels away our sin and flesh nature to reveal something completely different. While some changes are subtle, others can cut deep as a result of a deeply rooted sin issue. But Father God never cuts more than is necessary and always knows how much is too much!

The master craftsmen pick a pumpkin that best fit their design. God picks a design that best fits each one of us. He uses great skill and care to reveal what was within us all along. God doesn't pick us at random and try to conform us into a certain task or role, He builds us from the inside out and then exposes our inner ability when His timing is just right.

In the pumpkin patch of life, each one of us is unique. We may have similar qualities or be about the same size and shape, but there is an exquisite masterpiece just under the skin...

Be blessed,

Jennifer

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14


Monday, September 26, 2011

Out of Alignment

The phone rang at 7:45 on Friday morning. I heard my son Jordan on the other end.

Mom, Paige and I are fine but we need you to bring us your car. The tire on my truck is shot.”

Fifteen minutes later I was standing on the side of the highway, sipping my coffee and hoping that none of the drivers whooshing by noticed my morning hair. I watched Greg jack up the truck and remove the offending tire with manly finesse.

Sure enough, the inside tread of the tire was coming apart . A few more miles and the tire would have blown out completely. Fortunately, Jordan noticed something was wrong and pulled off the highway before it ended badly.

The interesting thing about the tire was the middle tread was still fine. In fact, it could have gone several hundred miles before it needed to be replaced. But this issue happened because the truck was out of alignment. The constant tug of war was causing uneven wear and now was a problem that couldn't be ignored.

I don't know about you, but I find that same problem in my own life. I play tug of war far too often. Right vs wrong. Need vs want. God's way vs my way. I pull and struggle and before I know it, I am out of alignment. By the time I notice something is wrong the damage has already been done.

Let's face it, while we are on this earth we will have to be aware of our alignment. The world constantly tries to pull us away from the blessings God has for us. But there's good news! God allows us to be in alignment with Him. When we keep Him as our focus, God navigates us through the bumps and potholes of this world and shows us the road He wants us to take. It's only when we decide to be in control or let our gaze wander off to something else that we begin to drift. We don't have to live in a constant tug of war! His way is what is best for us. No matter how hard we've pulled, He can always bring us back into alignment...

Be blessed,

Jennifer

Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths.” Psalm 25:4


Monday, September 19, 2011

Just three chords

Did you know that every song is basically made up of three chords? I'd heard that before but now I'm sure of it. My son's girlfriend gave him a bass guitar and he spent a good part of our Sunday afternoon rocking out to a few of his favorite tunes, all comprising of the same three chords. Over and over again.

Hearing the repeating pattern as the backdrop for my day got me to thinking. Don't we only have three basic chords as well? Okay, I know we don't live in 'chords' but we certainly live in patterns. Some patterns keep us busy: wash, rinse, repeat. Other patterns are destructive: lie, cheat, steal. And then there's the pattern God wants us to follow: listen, trust, obey.

Listen. Although the days of Moses' burning bush are gone, God has not stopped speaking to us. We may not hear a booming voice from above declaring “I AM GOD!” but we can certainly still hear Him. Before Jesus ascended into heaven He promised the wise counsel of the Holy Spirit. Pillars of fire were replaced with a still, small voice that speaks truth to us moment by moment. In my opinion, going from maybe seeing God perform a miracle one or twice in your lifetime to the miracle of having the Holy Spirit living within you is definitely an upgrade!

Trust. Now that we have the benefit of hearing the Holy Spirit's promptings, we have to actually believe what it says. Few things mourn the heart of God more than a believer who just won't believe. We all fall into the trap of disbelief at one time or another but some people never find our way out. They know God is present in their life but just can't trust that He'll is willing or able to change their circumstance. Has that ever been you? Is that you now? We have to trust that God is bigger than our current reality.

Obey. We can say we trust God all day long, but our actions speak louder than our words. If we have listened to His promptings and trusted Him to carry us through whatever He's called us to do but then failed to obey Him, we've lied to ourselves. Either we didn't take time to hear Him clearly or (more likely) we don't believe He will do what He says He will do. God has no option but to see that as an act of defiance. We heard Him. We said we believed. We didn't do it... now we can expect some consequences.

All three chords are necessary to play the song just as all three steps are necessary for a life that honors God. We can't pick and choose which ones we like best and put them in whatever order we like. God is creating a symphony, our three chords matter! The more we practice listen, trust and obey the easier they will come to us. Yes, we'll make mistakes but as long as we fall right back into the rhythm God created, we'll make a beautiful sound...

Be blessed,

Jennifer

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” Psalm 28:7

Monday, September 12, 2011

An Unobstructed View

Bob and weave. Duck and stretch. Watching the game required constant movement so I could get a clear view through the railing. This was going to be a long day.

I waddled my gimpy self to my daughter, Paige's, volleyball tournament this weekend. My knee is still in the post surgery healing stages so climbing bleachers was not an option. So Greg and I and a few close friends took the urine scented elevator up to the balcony area.

Initially I was thrilled. I was above the bleachers, had a good view of the court and could sit in a chair with back support all day. What more could a girl want? That is, until I sat down and noticed the balcony was surrounded by a cage of railings.

This cage wasn't protecting me from anything coming in, it was designed to keep me from going out. Every so often I would miss a play because the railing was in the way. Or I would question a call because I couldn't clearly see the foul line. Even with constant adjustments and movements, I wasn't seeing the full picture. While I was thankful to have a place to sit and watch the game, I longed for an unobstructed view.

So often in my life I've settled for the obstructed view. I allow sin, fear or even my own pride to keep me from seeing the full picture. Instead of removing the obstacle in my way, I adapt to it. Bobbing and weaving to look beyond the thing right in front of my face, pretending it's not there. Can you relate?

The interesting thing about my view at the game was the railing didn't go up very high. If I stood up I could see everything. No railing. No bobbing. No weaving. Just clarity. I would stand for a few minutes until my leg felt a little sore and then once again take my seat. Each time I stood up I was able to stand for a little longer than the time before. My longing for the unobstructed view became the strength I needed to stand.

What's blocking your view? Are you afraid if you stand up you'll get knocked down again? Are you afraid to bring attention to yourself or be embarrassed? Perhaps you're so busy bobbing and weaving that you haven't even noticed the railing you're looking through. You're so used to it, it's become your reality. The cage is designed to keep you in but all you have to do is simply stand up. Decide you want the unobstructed view and go for it! You'll be amazed by the things you haven't been seeing...

Be blessed,

Jennifer

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10


Monday, September 5, 2011

This too shall pass...

The land is scorched from 100+ degree temperatures. The oppressive heat and lack of rain has taken its toll sparking wildfires and bad tempers. As the mercury rises, the pressure builds.

Then one day, quite unexpectedly, the heat bubble breaks. The sweltering heat is ushered out by a cool breeze. Instead of breaking a sweat as you get the morning paper, you stop and take in a deep refreshing breath. The heat of summer has finally subsided.

Meanwhile your body is tense with frustration and worry. This issue has weighed heavily on your heart and mind for what feels like forever. What more can you do? How will this end? Your mind is filled with unanswered questions and the pressure builds.

Then one day, quite unexpectedly, you see God's hands move. He gives you exactly what you need even though you weren't aware you needed it. He replaces fear with peace. He tears down walls and frees you from your captivity. The storm has finally subsided.

I don't know about you, but I've been feeling oppressed lately. Fighting my way back after surgery has kicked up a storm of fear and frustration. Just when I think I want to quit, God sends a fresh breeze to restore my soul. When I begin feeling parched, He pours out His living water. My fear and frustration subsides.

Whether you're caught in a storm or just feeling weathered and parched, this too shall pass. Where you are is not where you have to stay. Trust God to reach into the middle of your situation and, quite unexpectedly, it just may subside...

Be blessed,

Jennifer

"For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning." Psalm 30:5

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Healing touch

The surgery was a success. I wasn't even home yet when the wave of pain and nausea hit me. I curled my body over and cried like a little girl. The first of many times...

My sweet husband, Greg, is a great caretaker. From the minute we pulled out of our garage at 4:30am, to the hundredth time of filling my water bottle, he was "all in". As we've struggled to find our new 'normal', he has jumped through hoops to try to make me comfortable. Who knew it would only take a touch.

In the midst of a very low moment, Greg did the only thing he knew that would make me feel better. He rubbed my hair. I could feel my body relax despite the maelstrom of nausea and pain I was caught in. His gentle touch calmed my storm.

Over the last few days when clouds of pain, defeat or fear came rolling in, Greg has grounded me back into reality with a gentle touch of his hand. Neither of us have liked experienceing the pain but, together, we're getting through it.

God uses each of us to be a comfort to one another. His word is a healing ointment to the hurting and we can apply His truth with a gentle touch and welcoming arms. A 'get well' hug for a dear friend or just being there to hold someone's hand as they cry can bring far more healing than we can imagine.

Do you feel God prompting you to reach out and show His love to someone who's hurting? Is something keeping you from it? Trust me, your healing touch may be exactly what they need...

Be blessed,
Jennifer

"Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength.“Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.” When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.” Daniel 10:18-19

Monday, August 22, 2011

Once bitten

I had my first run-in with fire ants when I was a little girl. I was running around in shorts and sandals in the Texas heat with my best friend Julie. After riding bikes and jumping on the trampoline, we decided to explore in the field at the end of the block. As we walked across the parched ground, my foot gave way into softer soil. Within seconds my foot was covered with hostile fire ants. Together Julie and I managed to wipe the ants off but only after we endured countless bites.

My foot felt numb as we hurried home. My mom knew how to help me feel better. I was lucky to not have more bites. I didn't know it then but people die from fire ant bites every year. But by the end of the day sores had formed all around my toes. We were told not to remove the poison from the bites so I endured the pain. Those bites left scars on my foot for years.

We can get emotionally bitten as well. The sting of harsh words can send venom coursing through our spirit. The more bites we receive, the greater the impact. And as long as the poison stays within us, it causes damage.

Now that I'm older I know if I don't remove the venom from an ant bite it will scar my skin. But how do we remove the venom from being bitten by others? We forgive them. But first we need to give a little TLC to our spirit when we're attacked emotionally. Words hurt.

Cry if you need to. I wailed like a baby as those ants attacked me. It hurt and I cried out in pain. So allow yourself a few cleansing tears. But then evaluate what was said: Is it true? Does it align with God's word? Would God himself say that about you? Were you in the wrong? Is it possible that their comment really more to do with them and less to do with you? In other words, were you caught in the crossfire of their own emotional battle? What else could have motivated them to say what they said?

Then finally, forgive them for it. Look, we are all human, flawed and imperfect. We all make mistakes and say things we wish we could take back. I know I have! It breaks my heart to think my careless words could cause an emotional scar. But they can. For all the times I've been bitten, there are several times when I've been the ant. Lord, please forgive my foolish words.

Are you nursing the wound of a pretty bad bite? Are you ready to get rid of the poison inside? Pray God's word and allow Him to speak truth into your life. It is healing ointment for the soil...

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.” James 3:7-9

Monday, August 15, 2011

Claiming the victory

Player #10 threw the volleyball into the air then made contact with a loud thump. The ball sailed across the court and sank into the net. They were another point behind. A mixture of frustration and defeat hung on every player on the green team. #10 dropped her shoulders as she made her way back to the bench fighting back tears. This just wasn't her day.

Four more points were lost to the blue team before the coach called a time out. The coach said a few words but then, surprisingly, #10 spoke up. Her demeanor was different now. She was determined. After a few words and team cheers, the players returned to the court no longer looking defeated.

One point at a time, the green team clawed their way back into the game. Soon they were tied with the blue team. Step by step the team celebrated every point won and encouraged one another when a point was lost. They were finally playing like a team.

In the end, the blue team won 27-25. But the green team celebrated another victory. They had overcome a great opponent that day...themselves. They may not have won the game, but they came away with a renewed confidence and a will to win. One player decided that she was not going to stay defeated, she encouraged her teammates to believe in themselves and her determination spread like wild fire. A positive attitude can spread just as quickly as a negative one. With their new found determination, the green team won the next two games...

Are you on the court wafting volleyballs into the net? Do you feel you keep missing the shots that come your way? Or are you sitting on the bench watching the game happen but not being in the action? Well then it's time for a team huddle.

Teammate, this is your time! God brought you to where you are for a time such as this.(Esther 4:14) He has a plan and purpose for you being in the game. (Jeremiah 29:11) You are not just another player to Him. (Psalm 139:13) Trying and failing is far better than not trying at all. Take it from a player that has shanked more serves than she cares to admit. Each attempt makes you better and strengthens your faith. If you aced every serve you may come to believe you don't need God to coach you. And trust me, you want to be on His team!

Try again, believer, try again. I have goals I'm striving for just like you. It takes time, practice and a lot of grace to get it done. But God is leading this team and, with Him, we cannot lose...

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“For I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

Monday, August 8, 2011

Reliance or compliance?

My family loves to cruise. We've taken a cruise each year for the last several years. The anticipation builds as we draw closer and closer to our trip. When departure day finally arrives, we are almost giddy as we reach the port. We're on cloud 9 when we finally cross over from land onto the ship, knowing the fun and relaxation that lie in store for us.

Maritime law requires that all passengers complete a muster drill. This drill walks us through the procedures we will follow in case of an emergency. They gather us in our assigned meeting place and walk us all up to the deck that contains our lifeboats. As you stand on the deck looking up at the lifeboats, it's a little daunting knowing they are our lifeline if the ship should go down.

While several passengers grumble at the required drill, I have come to appreciate it. It's not just about staying in compliance with the rules, it's relying on the captain's plan to keep me safe. The captain creates a plan specific for this ship and teaches his crew how to carry it out. Their primary goal is to lead us safely out of danger.

How do you see your relationship with God? Do you strive to comply with His word or have you come to rely on it? In this fallen world I know how difficult it can be to stay in compliance with God's instruction. I certainly have days when I feel His example is completely unattainable. I feel overwhelmed by how far away my sinful self is from Him. These are the days when I focus only on complying with His word.

But God doesn't just want us to follow His rules. He wants us to follow His heart. That's when we become reliant on Him. God knows it's hard to live in this day and age, so He wants to help us. When we come to the end of ourselves, we will always find Him. Following His rules come naturally as we follow His heart.

Are you feeling overwhelmed by God's rules? Are you trying to follow them but keep falling short. Take heart, God has a better way! Rely on Him and He will faithfully lead you through...

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” Psalm 86:11

Monday, August 1, 2011

The choices we make

Imagine walking down a path in the woods. You come across a fork in the road and have to choose which way to go. Neither option allows you to see the road ahead, so you have choose one by it's appearance or by stepping out on faith. Either way, you make a choice.

After choosing a path, you continue on through the woods. Soon you come across another fork in the road. Just as before, the path does not reveal its' destination. You have to make a decision without knowing the outcome. Once again you make a choice.

Throughout your walk you face the fork in the road time and time again. Each scenario is the same, the road does not reveal it's destination. Each time you make a choice. Now imagine that you stop walking for a moment and take a look around. Are you where you thought you would be?

Several times a day we're faced with forks in the road. We are forced to choose option A or option B. One option is usually better for us while the other may be temporarily more appealing. Each choice leads us down a path that presents even more choices. Depending on your choices, you may quickly find yourself off course.

Let's put this in the real world for a moment. Let's say you go out to lunch with some friends. You enjoy a light meal but still feel a little hungry. Someone suggests getting dessert.

Choice #1 – do I order dessert?

Everyone else is excited about having such a rare treat so you decide to have dessert too. As you scan the dessert menu your eyes fall on a description of the most decadent chocolate cake. It sounds so warm and gooey your mouth begins to water. There are other options like angel food cake with fruit or key lime pie but you really want the cake.

Choice #2 – do I order the chocolate cake?

Yes you do. You figure if you're going to treat yourself than it should be something you really like.
Later that afternoon you're scheduled to go to a class at the gym. Your stomach is still full from all the rich food and now you don't feel like going.

Choice #3 – do I go to the gym?

And so on and so on... Am I saying that one little indulgence will lead you to down a path of gluttony and laziness? Of course not! This just shows a practical example of the point I'm making. One choice leads to another.

I recently made a string of choices that I'm not very proud of. Choosing to skip my quiet time with God opened the door for me to fall into an old sin pattern. Needless to say, I didn't bring God any glory and found myself stuck deep into the woods. Believer, don't fool yourself to think you're not just a few choices away from your old self. Thankfully, we have a loving God who forgives and restores. Praise God.

Have you been making some choices you regret? Are you maybe not where you hoped you would be?Confess it to God. Ask for His forgiveness and help. He will open doors and lead you back to the path He has for you...

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

Monday, July 25, 2011

Stepping Out

The room has finally stopped swaying! After five days at sea, I'm finally getting my land legs back. Our family of 22 Mersbergers took a cruise to celebrate God's blessing in the various seasons of our lives. From retirement to birthdays to a vow renewal, we had a lot to celebrate!

My husband, Greg, was asked to perform an 'unofficial' vow renewal for my brother and sister in law's anniversary. He was so touched and then slightly terrified. He's not one for speaking in front of a crowd. And when you're nervous...22 people can feel like a big crowd!

“How do you do this all the time? I'm so nervous.” he asked me before the ceremony.

“Honey, if God has called you to do it He'll give you the words to get through it.” I said.

Greg had spent time in prayer and was equipped with God's word. I knew he was ready! My heart felt warm at the thought of how God works. If He calls, He equips. We need only be obedient to His calling.

The ceremony was beautiful. Greg did a great job speaking God's word over Charles and Ivona's marriage and with “no one's authority but God” he declared them man and wife. It was so touching.

Greg stepped out of his comfort zone that night. He trusted that God had a reason to choose him for the task at hand. The result was pure blessing. Charles and Ivona were blessed with a beautiful renewal service. The family was blessed by witnessing their re-commitment to one another and their marriage. Greg was especially blessed to be used by God for something so precious to his brother. He stepped out in obedience and the blessings flowed.

Is God asking you to step out of your comfort zone? Are you afraid you'll fail? Trust me, the only thing to be afraid of when it comes to obeying God is not doing it. Not because of receiving a punishment but for missing out on the abundant blessings that come from doing His will.

If He called you to it, He get you through it...

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling.” 2 Corinthians 7:15

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Out to sea...

For the first time in over two years, I am taking a week off from blogging! I'll be cruising the high seas with my family enjoying some much needed fun and relaxation. Please take a few minutes to check out some of my archived blog entries. There may be one your heart needs to hear!

Blessings,
Jennifer

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ready to Fly

A beekeeper once described how young bees are nurtured during the first stages of life. The queen bee lays each egg in a six-sided cell of the comb. She then fills it with enough pollen and honey to nourish the egg until it reaches a certain stage of maturity. The top is then sealed with a capsule of wax.

When the food is gone, it is time for the tiny creature to be released. However, the wax is so hard to penetrate that the bee can only make a very narrow opening. In fact, the opening is so narrow that in the agony of exit, the bee rubs off the membrane that encases its wings. When the bee finally does emerge, its wings are strong enough to fly.

The beekeeper mentioned that a moth got into the hive once and devoured the wax capsules. The young bees easily escaped the capsule but, because the membrane stayed in tact, were never able to fly.

While we may not live in the solitude of a honeycomb cell, we certainly live in the protection of the King. God provides for us, nourishes us and protects us as we grow. But like any of God's creations, we have to transition from milk and honey to spiritual meat. All the while we're growing, we push against that which protects us.

Choosing to live as a Christian is a difficult path. The 'right' choices are certainly outweighed by the 'wrong' choices and can even seem less exciting. But every 'right' choice we make squeezes us a little further through the narrow opening. Sometimes the choices are hard, they hurt, or even lead to losing a friend.

Are you struggling with what you want to do vs what God wants you to do? Are you having to make difficult decisions or create new boundaries because you want what God has to offer while those around you don't? Take heart, those decisions may be difficult now but God has so much more for you!

Your desire for God can continue to be stronger than your desire for the things of this world. As long as you keep your eyes focused on Him, the struggle and difficult choices will be worth it. He has plans for you to fly...

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Commando

In my family, I'm considered a country mouse. About four years ago Greg, the kids and I chose to build a house outside of the hustle and bustle of the city. We're drive almost 20 minutes to the nearest grocery store and 30 minutes to get to church. We've traded street lights and sidewalks for wide open spaces and starry nights.

The biggest benefit of where we live is being able to shoot off fireworks. Every year all of Greg's family come out to our house for a big cook out and fireworks. The littler kids dance around with sparklers while the big kids (like my husband) light the larger displays.

This year my nephew, Nikolas, was visiting from Wisconsin. He had been waiting all summer to light fireworks with Uncle Greg. He brought along a Commando Parachute firework. He was so excited to launch that rocket and see what happens. So with his Uncle observing for safety, Nikolas positioned the rocket, lit the fuse and ran back to safety.

ZOOMP! Something shot straight up from the rocket. BANG! A flash of color filled the evening sky. And then we saw the brave Commando drifting safely to the ground with his parachute. The kids squealed with delight as they ran to retrieve the airborne hero.

“Oh man, he's broken!” one of the kids proclaimed after the successful reconnaissance mission into the neighboring field. The Commando had lost a leg. Unimpressed, the kids went back to writing their names in the sky with their sparklers. But not Nikolas. He was still as proud of his Commando. He started creating the soldier's heroic story in his head as he brought it up to the house. He knew he was a mighty soldier capable of great things. He carefully put the soldier on the porch table and rejoined his cousins in the merriment.

That's how God treats us. He's excited for the hope of our calling. He is ever present as we go through the BANG of life. He assures we land safely. He embraces our brokenness. He creates in us a new story. He provides much needed rest.

In this world, we are all broken soldiers. But take heart, God has overcome this world! (Johns 16:33) He uses our brokenness for His glory and makes us whole once more in heaven. Until then, continue to fight...

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1Peter 5:10

Monday, June 27, 2011

Repurposed

As the 100+ degree temperatures beat down on our backs, my husband and I pressed toward our goal. This labor of love began about a month ago and we were finally in the home stretch. Remember me mentioning the fire pit project we began last month? Yep, this is STILL the same project.

Today we complete the final step, filling in the cracks. We were planning on coloring mortar to fill the cracks but it just didn't have the natural look we wanted so we created a new plan. We decided to use decomposed granite instead. I wasn't familiar with it, but online research proved it would be our best option.

I don't know if you're familiar with decomposed granite (DG) but it's basically chunky sand. The grains aren't as small as fine sand but small enough to get into little spaces. Once you compact the DG into the crevices, it will harden and act like a mortar.

As I sat on the flagstone pressing the DG into the cracks I felt a little sad for the granite. This was once a strong, solid stone created from magma. It's highly sought after for construction because of it's strength. I've seen such beautiful things made from granite and now it's here filling the cracks of our fire pit.

What a reminder of how temporary the things of this world are. The earth quakes, mountains fall into the sea and something as strong as granite decomposes into sand. Oh, how often have I built hopes and dreams on shifting sand only to have them fall apart! Building our lives on anything but the rock of Jesus Christ is meaningless, a labor in vain.

While I was feeling bad the granite had lost it's prestigious stature, I was extremely thankful for the job it was doing for me now. When you pack the DG into the cracks and give it an hour or so, it does become hard. That's exactly what we needed! Although the granite was no longer a strong slab, it was still useful for something else.

Do you have a ruble pile of broken dreams or ambitions? Even if it hurts you heart, you can take the pile to God and ask Him to use it for something different. Our broken stones can create a pathway for someone else to walk on. He can make it something beautiful...

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.” Psalm 18:2

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Family Tree

They say you can pick your friends but you can't pick your family. Our friends are the pressure value that allows us to vent, our partner in crime when we get into a sticky situation and our shoulder when life brings us to tears.

If your family tree is like mine, there can be a whole lot of crazy growing on those branches! With so many different personalities, it may seem that you have both apples and oranges growing on the same branch. But upon closer inspection, the fruit may not be as different as you may think.

Here's a few take-aways I had from a recent family reunion up north:

God rewards integrity. No matter if you're a business owner, high level manager, work from home or punch a timeclock, God blesses those who work with integrity.

You never stop parenting. Even when you raise your own kids, God may use you to help raise your grandkids as well. Give it all you've got!

We're stronger than we think we are. Things like divorce or the loss of a child may feel like the end of the world but God won't leave us there!

Every person has something to teach us. I know that opposites attract, but they're not the only people we can learn from. We can learn from every person we come in contact with. Even if the lesson is what NOT to do...

Don't take family for granted. This one's a hard lesson for me because I am so guilty about not spending time with my brother and sisters even though they live nearby. They may be different than us, but God will use them to bless our lives in ways we'd never expect.

As I said in the beginning, you can pick your friends but you can't pick your family. You may be thicker than theives and love spending time together or your personalities may collide and you seem worlds apart. Either way, I can't help thinking there's a reason God has placed you on the same tree. Although you may seem different, just remember...you're actually both nuts!

Be blessed,

Jennifer

"Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!" Philippeans 4:1

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sayin' not prayin'

I've been going through a spiritual drought lately. My routine hasn't changed but my attitude sure has. Instead of being filled to overflowing, I've been feeling a bit crispy.

I'm not sure if it's the heat, my family's summer schedule (or lack thereof), my husband's time consuming projects or my own insecurities making me more 'me centered', but that's where I've been.

I've felt very judgmental, been easily offended, and refrained from reaching out to people I have felt hurt by. (Lord, this confession is killing me!) Have you ever been there?

Each morning I come into my office and have some prayer time before I start my day. But honestly, I haven't been feeling it lately. Of course I'm still thankful for everything God has blessed me with and I still lift up my loved ones in prayer, but I haven't felt an emotional response.

Don't get me wrong, I don't believe that a person's relationship with God should be about 'warm fuzzies'. But genuine prayer seems to come from a deeper place in our spirit. Just saying “God, I need Your help...” is so different than when your heart cries “God, I need Your help...” That's part of my problem – I've been sayin' it but not prayin' it!

I came before the Lord the other morning and said “Lord, I want to not take things so personally. Please remind me that there are things going on in that person's life that have nothing to do with me. Their actions have nothing to do with me!”

The moment I said it, something stirred in my heart. As if a dam broke, emotions came flooding out as tears. Every hurt feeling, moment of anger and ounce of bitterness rushed down my face as I sobbed. Praise You God for hearing me!

I had finally broken through my spiritual clog! I had been so busy focusing on the speck of dirt in the eyes of others that I failed to see my own plank was clogging my spirit. It worked it's way in gradually until it had blocked me up completely.

I've talked to so many people who are frustrated with an unproductive prayer life. Just as I described, they spend time in prayer only to walk away feeling like nothing's changed. Ever felt that way? Do you feel that way now? If I may be so bold... maybe you're sayin' not prayin'!

Friend, God's going to change YOU long before He'll change your situation. When I finally realized I was camping in the 'me centered' valley, I had to choose to leave BEFORE God would move me. Now I'm following Him into greener pastures...

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD;” Psalm 130:1

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mixed Emotions

It's Graduation week! I don't have a kiddo graduating this year but so many of my friends do. I feel for the whirlwind of excitement and apprehension building in their spirits during this time. So much planning and hard work have finally come to fruition!
I wrote a story about this time of life about a year ago and I'd like to share it with you today. If you've ever invested even part of your life into a child, you'll relate. But be sure to stay with it until the end...

Mixed Emotions
The bags were packed and waiting by the door. The house was a buzz of activity with friends and family stopping in to say their goodbyes. My kids were leaving for college today. Jillian and Joel were starting the next chapter of their lives at Texas A&M.

As I watch the constant stream of people, my mind drifts back to the days when the kids were young. I remember all the warm summer afternoons playing catch with Joel in the backyard and staying up all night when he broke his arm during the little league game. Even after he fell asleep I couldn't bear to leave his side in case he woke up afraid or in pain.

Jillian and I had spent countless hours taking long walks and hanging out in her room listening to music. Jilli was so shy and never had much to say, but when she wanted to talk she would always come to me. I remember her first dance, first love and first heartache. She became a young woman right before my eyes, where had the time gone?

A windstorm of memories fills my mind as I try not to let my emotions show. I don't want to let on that my heart breaks a little more every time I think of them leaving. My life has revolved around them for so long, I can't imagine not seeing them after school or putting them to bed at night.

Before I know it, the well wishers are gone and it's time for Joel and Jillian to leave. As the bags get loaded into the car, Jilli buries her face in my neck and I feel her tear soaked cheek.

“I'm going to miss you so much, I wish you could come with me!”
“C'mon Jilli. We'll be back at Thanksgiving. We've gotta go.” Joel reassures his sister then gives me a smile and quick peck on the forehead.

Within moments the house is empty and I'm watching the car pull out of the driveway. My sorrow gives way to overwhelming pride. My kids have become adults and I am so lucky to be their dog!

Congratulations to all of our graduates for their accomplishment and to the parents for their faith and perseverance. May God claim all the glory! The best is yet to come...

Be blessed,
Jennifer

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Monday, May 30, 2011

More than I bargained for

My small fraction of Irish heritage basically allows my skin to be one of two colors: white or red. So, needless to say, when it came time to dividing my family's outdoor projects this weekend, I took the project shaded from the hot Texas sun.

My project was to pull weeds in the front flower bed...again. I'd recently planted some new tufts of decorative grass along the border but it seems I got more than I bargained for. Another breed of decorative grass was intermingled with the kind I chose and it was taking over the flower bed.

I was shocked to see it taking over so aggressively now, it had been several weeks since I'd planted it. But as I started digging it out I realized it has formed a complex root system beneath the surface before it ever made it's presence known. I was going to have to till up the whole area to get all of the nasty roots out!

This grass didn't magically appear, I brought it. I had unknowingly sown seeds that will cause a lot of damage to my other plants. I thought about all the times I have sown destructive seeds into my own life or the lives of others.

Sometimes we say things just to be mean. But the majority of the time, we don't realize how hurtful our words or actions can be to other people. We can offer up suggestions or comments without realizing how critical our words sound. While we feel we've helped someone, all we've done is sow seeds of doubt and insecurity. People are not machines, they don't need a constant 'fine tuning'!

I have been struggling with this a lot lately. Being self-employed and the parent of teenagers is ideal soil for bad seeds to grow in. The constant doubt, worry and lack of instruction can create the most destructive weeds. My critical nature can sow insecurity and resentment in myself and my kids. By the time the bad behavior shows up, a root system of emotion has already taken hold in their spirit. We then have to choose to live with the new growth or remove it at the root. Praise God that His word tends to us and can free us from our weedy infestations!

No matter what you're situation is, you have the opportunity to sow both positive or negative seed. Filtering the seeds will help you determine if they are good or bad: “Will this help them?”; “Does it build them up or tear them down?”; “Am I trying to 'fine tune' their behavior?”; “Is it necessary?” Filtering your words will keep the negative root system from taking hold. Especially in your own heart and mind.

God uses us to tend to His garden. We are supposed to sow into one another. Our friends and family will flourish if we'll only filter our seed. Only then will we bloom for His glory!

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you.” Hosea 10:12

“Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.” Psalm 126:5
(My heart needed to hear this!)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Tuning In

My alarm clock didn't go off this morning. I would probably still be snuggled into my blankets if Greg's phone hadn't started to ring. He darted out of bed and straight into the shower as I yawned a sleepy yawn and wondered when I'd be going to the store to replace the clock.

This happened yesterday as well. I needed to be up early to take care of a few things before church. No alarm. Fortunately my body clock woke me up in time for church.

I couldn't understand why this kept happening. The time was set for 6am (not pm), the alarm switch was turned to the 'ON' position, and there was no power outage. What was going on? I turned on the radio switch and that's when I heard it...complete silence!

Instead of the sound of friendly banter from the morning deejays, I heard nothing. I turned up the volume. Nothing. I wiggled the station dial and then there they were... my favorite morning crew.

I laughed to myself as I walked across the house to my office. God doesn't normally lay a message on my heart to share with you in a blog until Monday morning. Today was no exception! How many times have I missed hearing from God because I wasn't tuned in? Alarms He sounded in my spirit. Information or encouragement I missed out on. All the sweet music He sings over me. I miss it all when I'm not tuned into Him!

What are you hearing? Do you feel God speaking to you through the Holy Spirit in your life? Or do you feel that you're stuck in between channels and only hear silence? Pray that God would reveal anything that may be blocking the signal and help you tune into Him again.

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“... then listen to me; be silent, and I will teach you wisdom.” Job 33:33

Monday, May 16, 2011

Scoring the line

This weekend Greg, my son Jordan and I started a long awaited backyard project, building a fire pit. Well, rebuilding a fire pit to be more accurate. A few years ago the kids and I built a fire pit as a Father's Day surprise while he was out of town. We worked really hard on it but it still came out like a kid making a birthday cake... a sweet idea but kind of funny looking.

After unloading some of the flagstone from our pickup truck, we began creating the puzzle. Each larger piece of flagstone needed to be cut down to fit our needs. Jordan and I began with a chisel and sledge hammer. Excited for the new challenge, I banged away at the first piece of stone but quickly grew tired. The small sledge hammer grew heavier with every swing and soon my arm and shoulders were begging me to stop.

Telling myself I had picked too thick of a piece to start with, I moved on to another one. This time every whack resulted in a thin layer of the rock chipping off. Well that's not what I wanted. I wanted to hit the center of that rock with a few mighty blows causing it to split in half victoriously.

Noticing my frustration and complete inability to actual break the stones, Greg retreated to the garage only to return with an air hammer. Now that's more like it! I felt my excitement returning and my sore muscles relaxing.

After a quick tutorial I was laying into the center of the rock with a lot more power. But it still didn't seem to break the rock in half. It did, however, create a deep score line. We began using the air hammer to score all of the rocks so we could drop them causing a clean break.

Isn't that how we are with breaking strongholds in our lives? We get excited about the idea of being free from its burden but quickly grow tired by the effort it takes to break the chains. Sometimes we may see a little progress, like the chipping stone, but get discouraged that it is taking so long to see results. All the while our bodies grow weary and sore, crying out for us to stop trying.

Only when we apply God's supernatural power to our stronghold will we begin to see results. But it's still not an instant break. God's power will cut through the walls of the stronghold, scoring a deep line. This is the plumb line of His truth. This is the line to measure all things by. When we realize the lies we've been believing don't measure up to the plumb line He has created, the wall will finally fall. And because God created the scored line, it will be a clean break. You may choose to rebuild the wall of stronghold again later, but on this day, God creates a unmistakable line between truth and lies and you are free!

Do you have a stronghold creating a wall around you? Do you want to break that wall down and become free? Allow God to score His truth unto your heart and He will set you free...

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-4

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Main Road

You shouldn't have to set your alarm clock on a Saturday. Perhaps we need an agreement that all weekend activities will take place after we've woken up naturally and had a cup of coffee. Alas, no. The alarm sounded at 6:30am.

Today is the day my son Jordan takes his SAT. Weeks of me bugging him to take practice exams and his complete indifference to the magnitude of the event has culminated into this very day. I had butterflies in my tummy and I wasn't even taking the test.

The testing center was hosted in a high school on the other side of the lake near our house. Several unmarked roads twisted and turned their way around the lake to the main highway leading to the school. Since Jordan had never driven those roads before, Greg and I decided to lead him through the maze and get him to the main road. From there he could find the school on his own.

When the main road was in sight, we pulled off to the side and waved Jordan on. As he passed he gave us a quick wave and headed on his way. My heart was in my throat as I watched him drive away.

This began the last chapter of his high school story. Soon he'll be a Senior. Time spent with him will be filled with college applications and prayers for scholarships. We'll see him less and less as his school and social schedule fill up. Family hang out time will happen less often and become more precious. He'll be getting closer and closer to a new chapter in life. Just as it should be.

As parents, our job is to lead our kids to the main road. We equip them with what they will need for the journey and then allow them to take it. I sometimes forget that no matter how much I love my kids, God loves them even more.

There's no doubt that the roads of life are bumpy. There will be potholes and detours. But there's also a plotted course. God's not 'winging it' with our kids! He knows what the road ahead will look like for them...He's walked on it.

Watching our kids grow and develop can be so bittersweet. We love the talents and skills they acquire but miss their dependence on us. We begin to feel unneeded. But that's not true! They may not need us to make decisions for them, but they do need us to believe in them. That gives them the confidence to make the journey down the main road...

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“I will turn all my mountains into roads, and my highways will be raised up.” Isaiah 49:11

Monday, May 2, 2011

Making History

May 1, 2011 left its' mark in the archive of history. Osama bin Laden was killed by US Navy Seals in Pakistan. The al-Qaeda leader was responsible for the death of thousands of people beginning with the attack on September 11th almost ten years ago.

I know it seems a little abnormal to celebrate an assassination. However, his death brings closure to so many families who have experienced loss since the attacks. Countless lives have been lost since the war on terror began. Although precious loved ones can never be returned to grieving families, hopefully those families feel that “justice has been done.”

In the midst of the excitement, I can't help but feel a little apprehensive. History has proven to me personally that the highest highs can be quickly followed by the lowest lows. When I'm basking in the glory of a victory, I have a tendency to let down my guard. The enemy then pounces on the opportunity. But we serve a Mighty God who is able to protect and defend in our time of need!

Please join me in prayer as we lift our great nation to God asking for His direction and protection. God has a plan for the days ahead and can use every minute for His glory.

Heavenly Father,
We come to you today Lord to thank you for defeating our enemy. You alone have the power to crush the head of the serpent. Please surround our nation with a hedge of protection from our enemies. Guide our nation's leaders in the direction You'd have them go and claim every glory You are due.
In Jesus' name. Amen


Be blessed,
Jennifer

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

Monday, April 25, 2011

Following the line

His rigid frame held the steering wheel in place. The car was silent as my dad focused on limited visibility of the road ahead. The car never wavered from the left lane as he pressed on toward the hotel. When they arrived and were settled in their room my mom asked my dad why he had driven in the left lane the entire time. “The left lane has a yellow line...that's all I could see!”

As my mom told me the story of their road trip, I silently thanked God for keeping them safe. Such precious cargo being led through a torrential downpour by a single yellow line. Little did I know it would soon be happening to me.

His rigid frame held the steering wheel in place. The car was silent as my husband, Greg, focused on the limited visibility of the road ahead. We were hoping to avoid the storms just as we had on our way to visit his family in Arkansas. We weren't so lucky on the way home. The storm raged 4 ½ out of the 5 ½ hour drive. While watching the ominous clouds for signs of tornadoes, I stayed in silent prayer. We finally drove out of the storm and arrived home safe and sound.

This was not the first storm we've navigated, nor will it be the last. But there will always be a yellow line. The highway system was built years ago. The road was in place long before we ever traveled down it. There was a plan long before there was a need.

As we celebrate our Resurrected Christ, we should be newly awestruck by His plan. Long before we were in existence, Christ was born of a virgin. He lived on earth and was crucified for our sins. He ascended into Heaven on the third day to complete His plan...an eternity spent with Him. God had a plan long before we had a need. No matter how the storm rages or how lost we feel, we can look to the line of God's Word and find our way home.

Are you in a raging storm or feel you've lost your way? Ask God to show you the line and He will lead you safely home...

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 3:18

Monday, April 18, 2011

A spoonful of sugar

It has been a really long weekend. Up every morning by 5:30am and at the Dallas Convention Center by 8:00am. All to watch my daughter's volleyball team snag defeat out of the mouth of victory. Ya, we lost...several times.

So when the 6:00am alarm went off this morning, I was not a happy camper. Half awake, I made some coffee and started looking through my schedule for the day:
1.write the blog
2.fix website issue
3.write 2 days in my new study
4.lunch w/my girlfriends

Wait...stop right there. I have a lunch date today? YES! I get to spend time with some sweet friends. My demeanor instantly changed. Instead of groggy and uninterested I became energized and engaged. My mind clicked on all cylinders as I planned the days events.

Just like taking a spoonful of sugar with our medicine, we need to mix in some want to's in with our have to's. To do lists can be a monotonous but we can infuse them with a little joy along the way.

Got a long commute to work? Jam out to some of your favorite music on the way. You know, the stuff that you can't help singing along with. It makes you happy. Got a list of errands to run? First swing by your favorite little drink place and pick up something cold and icy. That way every time you get back into the car after each errand, you have a quick tasty cool down to keep you going.

God wants us to enjoy each day we're given. Not enjoy each day after our to do list is complete. But finding joy in the midst of the to do's is up to us...

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10b

Monday, April 11, 2011

Do you live like you drive?

My car stopped at the intersection. As I looked left and right, I noticed a police car in the turn lane. I drove forward and the police car followed a few cars behind. None of the cars driving around me dared to exceed the speed limit...not even one! Drivers kept both hands on the wheel and always used their blinkers when turning. Everyone was on their best behavior.

The very presence of the police car kept the drivers on the straight and narrow. No one was in the mood to pay for their poor driving habits so they played by the rules to avoid a speeding ticket. I know I felt a great deal of stress watching my speedometer to not go over 45mph. It was killing me!

The police officer soon turned onto a side street. I laughed out loud to see how the driving habits instantly changed. The cars around me all increased their speed and began cutting in and out of traffic (without blinkers this time). One driver, apparently inconvenienced by the slower pace, flew by me as if I were standing still. Where was the police officer now?

We may not always have a police car following us, but we are always in the presence of God. God doesn't want us to be uptight and nervous as we follow His 'rules'. But I have to wonder how our behavior would change if we kept His presence in mind. Would we still swear? Gossip? Look at inappropriate things? Lay around being lazy? Make excuses?

Or would remembering that God is with us throughout our day encourage us to try harder? Be more patient? Love the unlovable? Slow our frantic pace to hear His voice?

Are we doing our best to be obedient to God's expectations or are we living as if no one is watching?

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” Psalm 139:7-8

Monday, April 4, 2011

Failure to communicate

So is she coming over to spend the night?
I don't know, I haven't heard from her yet.
Did you call her?
I text her but I haven't heard back.
But did you call her?
Mom, she doesn't usually answer her phone but she answers texts. I'll hear from her...


If you have a teenager you've probably had this conversation. Text and IM has replaced all other forms of communication. Almost to a fault...

When I was a teenager my family had one phone line and my siblings and I would fight over it. I thought we were a big deal when we got call waiting, but soon learned it was only to preserve my parents' sanity.

I loved chatting away on the phone with my friends. My parents wouldn't put a chair near the phone so we wouldn't get too comfortable. But the floor was fine with me. I'd lay there for what seemed like hours as my friends and I talked about boys, school, other friends...everything!

But now, phone conversations are condensed into a language nibbles. They're not even bite size! Hearing your friend laugh has become LOL and we use :) to show we're happy.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate texting. Sometimes you just need to exchange some quick info without having a 20 minute phone conversation. It's a great tool, just not a great way to communicate.

Ever find yourself talking to God that way? 'Checking in' with bite size prayers or taking a nibble from His Word? I do. I then fool myself into thinking I've talked with Him that day when all I've done is send Him a quick text.

God wants and deserves so much more. As we're reminding our children to communicate with each other face to face, we have to communicate with God the same way. It's true, we won't see God's face until we go home to glory, but we can be in His presence just the same. He wants us to talk with Him. He wants to hear our laughter, see our tears and calm our spirit. He wants face time with us, nothing less will do.

This new generation will have to re-learn how to communicate with each other to maintain healthy relationships. Maybe we should start with how we communicate with God...

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity.” Jeremiah 29: 12-14a

Monday, March 28, 2011

Adoration or Expectation?

My dog has become high maintenance. Daisy is a 11 year old terrier-spaniel mix that has been in our family for 10 years.

When Daisy was young we trained her to bump the blinds with her head when she needed to go outside. When she wanted to come back in, she'll scratch the door with her paw and wait for me to let her in.

Lately, Daisy has less patience than she used to. Instead of tapping her head against the blinds, she now bangs them with a loud thump. She stares me down when I don't jump right up to let her outside. After moments outside (without taking care of 'business') she scratches at the door and barks at the top of her lungs.

In fact, everything she does to communicate with me has become a little snarky. To ask for food or water she will drag her bowls around the kitchen until I trip over them and fill them up again. She pulls her bed around the house, and growls when I try to move it out of the way.

You're probably thinking she sounds like a pretty smart dog. And she is. She's a smart dog who's developed a bad attitude. Once upon a time, Daisy adored me. She was so excited to spend time with me and she hung on my every word. Somehow over the years, the relationship changed. She no longer hopes for things, she expects them. She's no longer happy sitting at my feet, she demands I do things for her. When I finally do what she wants, it doesn't keep her happy for long.

Are you just like Daisy? Has your relationship with God turned from adoration to expectation? Do you still love to sit at His feet and spend time with Him? Or are you more focused on what God can do for you? When He does bless you, are you thankful or do you just expect more?

Daisy is a sweet dog. Despite her new attitude, I love her and want the best for her. God loves us beyond measure...are we adoring Him?

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made...” Luke 10: 39-40a

Monday, March 21, 2011

Our Daily Bread

My small group had a conversation about the manna God provided to the Israelites in the wilderness after leaving Egypt. It peaked my interest so I did some research and wanted to share what I found.

Did you know...
-Manna means “what is it?”

-Manna resembled a coriander seed – small, round white and sweet which represents the humility, perfection, purity and sweetness of Christ

-The Bible tells us that manna tasted like wafers made with honey

-Manna appeared with the morning dew. If it was not gathered in the morning, it would melt with the heat of the sun. Therefore we should spend time with God in the morning, before the day gets away from us.

-Each person was allowed 1 omer of manna which equals about 3 pints

-The Israelites gathered manna for only 6 days, on the 7th day the rested. God provided enough manna on the 6th day for both days.

-Aside from the 6th day, if the Israelites did not consume the manna for the day, it would spoil overnight. This reminds us not to hold on to 'yesterday's blessings'. God's mercy is new every day.


I don't know about you, but I'm always amazed by the craftiness of God. Not only did He provide the Israelites food for their bodies, He showed them a way to live. Praise God for His ways! I'm comforted to know that every gift that comes from God not only provides what I need but represents His love as well.

So, I have to ask...are you receiving your Daily Bread??

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.” Exodus 16:4