Posted in Uncategorized

Sweet Surrender

Our dog, Daisy, is seven pounds of butterscotch cuteness. She is a Morkie, a mix of Yorkie and Maltese. She is intelligent, sassy, loves people, and is the perfect size for snuggling. Staying true to her “little dog” persona, she can be a bit skittish of noises and tends to bark quite loudly at anything that threatens her peace. Unfortunately, this includes the Fed Ex guy, the garbage trucks, the school buses — you get my point. On a rare occasion it is the wind blowing the screen door or something randomly bumping around outside that scares her, and usually what follows is a total assault on my ears. This morning was one of those times. 

I was pulling my journal and Bible from our bedroom for some quiet time, and I heard her begin a barking tirade. I went to the door to see if someone had come, or a delivery had been made, but there was nothing there. I reassured her that everything was okay and proceeded to sit down. Her barking had decreased but she was still nervous and pacing around my chair. Finally she climbed up into my lap and snuggled in. I found myself continuing to pet her and reassure her that everything was okay. While her barks quieted, she still continued to remain alert and woofed every now and then just to let me know she was still feeling uneasy. I continued to reassure her that she was safe and that I was not going to let anything happen to her, yet still she woofed softly from time to time. Finally, at last she was able to relax and fell into a deep sleep. 

I thought about this situation in the context of my own relationship with God. I often come to Him in a frazzled state and He invites me into the calm of His presence, His lap, so to speak. He reassures me with His promises that I am safe and secure with Him and that I am deeply loved. Psalm 27:1 says The Lord is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?

Yet, just like Daisy, it takes awhile for me to trust in his protection and I continue to assault him with my personal woofs, the “Whys?” and “Are You Sures?” By doing so, I defy His request for me to “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) 

Are you having a hard time resting and being still in His presence? Do you long for the sweet peace of surrender where you can find true rest? Ask Him to help you surrender you heart, your mind, and your body to His promises. Remember that you have been saved by grace. There is no greater safety than that. Rest in His love and protection. Daisy will show you how it’s done. 

Posted in Faith, Inspiration, Womanhood

Crown of Glory

miss-universe

My husband, Bob, and I came across the Miss Universe Pageant while we were channel flipping before bed last night. When we first started watching, the top six contestants were being determined; but after two more rounds of elegant evening gowns and challenging political questions, we saw it narrowed down to the top three. The remaining three women were asked a final question, something to the effect of What is something that you failed at in life and what lesson did you learn from that failure? Whether it was because of nerves (which I’m sure played a tremendous part), international translations, or just the fact that these women have been pushed to succeed their whole lives, they all seemed to initially hesitate with their answers. It started me thinking about what I would have said if I had been in their shoes, and I realized I would have hesitated too, but not for the same reasons.

I fail daily. In 30 seconds it would be awfully difficult to come up with just one failure and one lesson that I’ve learned along the way. I’ve lost my cool and screamed at my kids. I’ve forgotten to acknowledge a dear friend’s birthday. I’ve gotten impatient with my extended family. Once, when our pizza delivery was running late, I called the store owner upset and learned I had mistyped the house number on our online order. Gulp. Instead of being supportive, I’ve rolled my eyes at Bob with a look that says “Are you kidding me?” I’ve overspent areas of our budget. I’ve told little white lies; in fact, I’ve told big lies in some stages of my life. I’ve been judgmental. I’ve been envious. I’ve failed to take care of myself. The list could honestly go on and on.

The most important lesson that I’ve learned from all these less than stellar moments, is that God’s grace is really BIG. Instead of being put on the spot in front of the world for 30 seconds with one chance at success, He watches me continually make mistakes and loves me despite them. No matter what I do, He is still there offering me the chance to share His crown of glory in heaven someday, and unlike the final three Miss Universe contestants, my chances are many because of His son’s sacrifice. What an awesome gift knowing I don’t have to be flawless because He loves me despite my failures! Today I pray for Miss Universe. That as she upholds the duties of her crown this year that she knows God’s love. While the world expects her to be perfect, He does not, and he offers the same gift to us all.

God Bless and  Easy Breathing!

Photo credit to People.com

Posted in Being a Friend, Dealing with Trials, Faith, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Lighting the Way Home

This past weekend my husband, Bob and I took part in a candlelight vigil for our neighbor and friend who went missing on December 16th under suspicious circumstances. The download-1search for clues has reached a feverish pitch for this husband, father of three, and township trustee. In minus degree temperatures, we gathered with his family and about 75 other supporters from our small community to share stories and pray for his safe return. There was such a mix of feelings during that vigil; of desperation and sadness to be certain, but also of hope, that our friend and community member would be safely led home.

This morning as I was reflecting on that event, it made me think about the times we turn away from a relationship with God, and how similarly, He must also desperately grieve knowing we are lost. Luckily, there too is hope. Just as the candles we held during our vigil lent light to the darkness, God gave us his son, Jesus, as light and hope for the world. John 12:46 tells us, I have come into the world as a light so that no one in me should stay in darkness and 1 Peter 1:3 says, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. God gave us Jesus to fulfill our hope, and the clues we seek in finding our way home are written within the truth of His gospel.

Today I pray that if you are feeling lost and don’t yet know God, you would invite him to help you find your way home through His son, Jesus. If you know Him, but something is holding you back from the truth of His love for you, I pray that you would again seek hope through His word. God bless and easy breathing!

Note: If anyone has any information regarding the disappearance of Bryon Macron, please click here for more information.

Posted in Uncategorized

This One’s Just For You

Recently, Meghan, our high school freshman, came home from school with the news that her Journalism teacher had decided to guest publish an article she had written in the school newspaper. After congratulations were shared, she and I were discussing some of the journalism assignments she had completed during the semester and how much she was enjoying writing. I was proud to learn that her teacher had encouraged her to join the newspaper staff as a writer next year. What tickled me most about our conversation though was something that I never expected. Towards the end of our conversation, Meghan’s eyes suddenly lit up and she asked me, “Mom, how come I never knew you had a blog?”

She explained that she had been researching online during class for a writing assignment she was working on and had come across my blog in her research. “Mom, it’s a real, live blog with awards and everything! That is so cool! I was reading a few of the articles and my teacher asked me what I had found and I told her I had found a blog my mom wrote.  She thought that was great.”

Then that light disappeared from her eyes and a slight frown crossed her face. “Mom, why did you stop writing? You’re a really good writer. How come you haven’t written in such a long time? You should really start it up again.”

That night as I was getting ready for bed, I thought about our conversation and how excited Meghan had been about my blog. I had been feeling the Lord tugging at me to get back to writing for some time, but couldn’t seem to put my finger on exactly what He wanted me to write. I even had friends praying about it for me. I didn’t know if Meghan’s discovery was a sign, but I took it as a reason to pray about it. I still don’t know what the answer is, but I take comfort that God does. He’s given me a passion for writing and now He’s shared it with my daughter as well. How can I encourage her to use her God-given talents if I don’t use mine? So today’s post is for you, Meghan. Thank you for reminding me to use my gifts. Thank you for being proud of me. I wrote this one just for you. Who knows what will come along next.

Posted in Christmas, Faith, Family, Inspiration

Eddie Walker Simple

TODAY’S CHRISTMAS FORECAST: SIMPLEEddie Walker Santa

Bob and I got engaged 17 years ago in November of 1997. That year we spent a great deal of time carefully picking out Christmas decorations together. He and I shared a vision from those first purchases that we would be creating Christmases for our family for years to come. I laugh now thinking about how seriously we took those first buying decisions. It was as if we believed we could preserve all our future happiness with the items we bought. That particular year, we both fell in love with a designer, Eddie Walker, who made carvings that reflected a simpler, country way of life. Her figurines are all retired now, but over the first few years of our marriage, Bob and I would collect many of them together.

Over the years, our tastes changed dramatically, and we opted for more modern expressions of the Christmas season. The Eddie Walkers found their way to back bedrooms or to the downstairs family room. Some years I just didn’t unwrap them at all. This year, however, I found myself desperately longing for those days when things were so much simpler. As I dug through the Christmas boxes and bins in the basement, I lovingly unwrapped those Eddie Walkers. I took them upstairs and placed them in plain sight for all to see who visit us this holiday. It was just one step, but in giving those figures a prominent place in our home, I felt like I was taking back a lost tradition from a time where dreams were big and expectations were few. Life already seemed a little bit simpler.

The question I had to ask myself was, “Why shouldn’t it be?” The birth of the child we’re celebrating was far from grandiose. The King of Kings was wrapped in nothing more than a cloth and laid among stable animals. Other than the gifts that the Magi bestowed upon Him, everything else was as simplistic as it could be. If such humble beginnings were good enough for the Prince of Peace, shouldn’t it be for us as well? In this age of instant gratification and constantly doing, isn’t Christmas the perfect time to catch our breath and find reasons to experience a bit of nostalgia and peace? Unfortunately, most of us do the exact opposite this time of year. I know I stand guilty as charged. I worry about the right decorations, the right gifts, the right food, the right time to go to church, the right outfit for each Christmas party. I become a product of my surroundings, a frazzled, hot mess! This year, I decided to take it back a notch. I did a lot of shopping online. I limited the number of social commitments we made, I even took Christmas dinner with extended family from a traditional, formal, sit-down to a finger foods and sandwiches party.

So I ask you, how can you simplify your holiday this season? Do you have your own version of our Eddie Walkers that you can dust off this Christmas? Or maybe you have a traditional recipe your family used to make when you were younger that you haven’t made in years. Maybe it’s turning off the phone for a few hours each evening or simplifying a usually complex meal. Whatever it is for your family, I hope that you can recover a bit of nostalgia this Christmas season that will help you to de-stress and remember a simpler time of joy and love. God bless you all and Merry Christmas.

Posted in Faith, Family, Inspiration, Uncategorized

Christmas Lists

I think I heard a communal sigh from some of you when you saw the title of this post, as in, “Gee Jen, could we get through Halloween first? Walking into any retail store and seeing it decorated for Christmas when it’s not even Halloween is disconcerting enough, but do we have to read about it in blog posts too?” Believe me, I COMPLETELY understand. I promise you all that the jack-o-lanterns are still burning brightly at our house as we gear up for Trick-or-Treat, Halloween parades and the like. It’s just that as November quickly approaches, there are those in both mine and Bob’s families who like to get their holiday shopping done earlier rather than later, so it is about this time every year that I hear the familiar call of “Christmas lists please!” and have to sit down with Bob and the kids to see what I can pull out of them.

Last evening as I sat down to begin to compile lists for our family, I titled my note “Christmas Lists 2013” and underneath listed each person’s name: Bob, Meghan, Jake and Jen. Even Daisy, our puppy, who is barely teetering on the “Naughty” into the “I’m going to have to find a new home” list found a place in my notes. As I began to jot down a few things for everyone, a quiet voice seemed to whisper at the back of my mind, “Where am I on your list?” to which I immediately responded by writing God at the top of my paper. I sat there pondering this a moment, feeling a little bit like the little drummer boy who claimed to have no gift to bring to the Christ Child. I began to think about what gifts I might give to God this coming holiday season and one finally came to mind, time.

Time I could certainly spare. Over the past several weeks I had realized that the time I had been spending in prayer with God had certainly dwindled. It was not until I was gravely ill and back in the hospital with health scares abounding, that I began to desperately call out to Him again and ask Him to help me keep my eyes fixed on Him. When I was sick, I received two devotionals in care packages from close friends. One is Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young. This book is uniquely written from the perspective of Jesus as if he was having a personal conversation with you. There are so many days when I have gone to that book now and the message for a particular day is exactly what I needed both emotionally and spiritually. The reading for each day is short and the supportive biblical verses are right there for you to examine more closely. I highly recommend it! The other is Prayers for a Woman’s Soul by Julie K. Gillies. For all your ladies out there, as busy moms and/or executives of our careers, it is easy to bombard heaven with prayers to meet everyone else’s needs. But how often do you pray for your own needs? As daughters of faith, we need to be open to a daily offering of our own needs up to God, and Prayers for a Woman’s Soul is a great way to begin.

Anyway, I’ve digressed a bit. The important takeaway here is that no matter how much time we’re currently spending in prayer, we could always give God a little bit more of our time. God is completely crazy about us and wants us to spend time with Him. Though He knows the interworking of our souls, He desires to hear our voices in prayer, whisper to us in the silence of our minds and hearts and bathe us in the joy of His presence.  Psalm 4:3 says, I know the Lord has set me apart for Himself; the Lord hears when I call to Him. Psalm 21:6 says, Surely you have granted Him eternal blessings and made Him glad with the joy of your presence. Did you ever think that you could make God happy just by being you in His presence? 🙂 Do you know that even in “seasons of silence” God is always listening to you and loving that You trust Him with your needs?

I know it’s not Christmas yet, but who says we have to wait? Give God the “treat” of your time at Halloween, share with Him the bounty of your thanks at Thanksgiving. Best of all, I dare you to include Him on your Christmas lists this year. What will you give to the Kings of Kings this year? I hope you will all challenge me to answer that question as well as we head toward these upcoming holidays.

God Bless and Easy Breathing!