Following Jesus Takes Grit

Have you ever made a promise to God not knowing what kind of resolve it would take, but you were all in?

In my late twenties, God called me to follow Him into ministry. In yielding to His calling I promised God I would never turn down an opportunity to share with others about the mercy, grace, and redemptive power He granted me. I committed to following Him anywhere, anytime, and at any cost.

Little did I know what kind of grit I would need to keep my commitment.

There have been seasons when I wanted to retract my promise. Seasons that were too hard, too overwhelming, and too painful to forge ahead.

Have you ever wrestled with keeping your promise to God?

Click here and join me over at Contagious Joy ministries to read the rest of the story.2016-06-27-abigail-keenan-barnimages-008

 

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Choosing to celebrate rather than grieve on Mother’s Day

Caring hands

Mother’s Day is a bittersweet time of year for me. Is it for you, too?

I struggle with a mixed bag of emotions; Full of grief and celebration. I have said goodbye to two wonderful moms in my life. The first was to my biological mom as she lost the battle with cancer at the age of 46. The second was to my adopted mom (my mother-in-law) that lost the battle to congestive heart failure at the age of 58. I grieve that I cannot call them on the phone, sit with them on the porch, laugh at silly jokes, or contemplate life together.

While I grieve their absence, I celebrate that they are in a better place with the Lord. I celebrate that there were times that I could cry on their shoulder, laugh until we wet ourselves, talk about different paths of life, and dream together.

I celebrate that I not only had a mom that wanted me but also loved me.

I celebrate having a second mom that took me in and loved me as her own.

Celebrating life is far better than grieving it, but many of you have no celebration within to offer.

Maybe you don’t know your mom or have a strained relationship with her.

Sister, we can choose to grieve what could, should, or would have been, or we can choose to celebrate what is true.

  • Celebrate the life we were given by God and the life He chose to use to bring us into this world.

For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:13)

  • Celebrate the Moms God has given us:

MOM=My Other Mothers

Let me explain.

While I was blessed with two amazing mothers, God also gave me the gift of many other mothers.

My childhood girlfriends shared their moms with me.

A close neighbor that adopted my mom, as if she were hers, also loved me like a mom.

Women within the church have taken me in as a daughter.

My Step Mom of 28 years and Mother-In-Law of five years loved me as their own.

The many other mothers God has placed in my life have loved me with open arms, counseled me with great wisdom, taken me shopping, sat up late talking, and fed this hungry girl many times.

Who in your life has mentored you, spent time with you, shopped with you, cried with you, or prayed with you?

Celebrate them on MOM’s day (My Other Mothers’ Day) and let them know how grateful you are for them.

We will grieve our losses, but let’s honor God by celebrating the women He has brought into our lives. A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22)

This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let God’s Voice Be Louder Than Your Fears

 Woman and rain shower

Have you ever felt lost while traveling? You call out for help, but no one answers. My husband had military orders to move to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and we decided to save money by moving ourselves. He drove the U-Haul truck full of our meager belongings, and I followed in our car. We were all set to communicate freely via the CB radio and use an atlas to navigate. This was before cell phones, y’all! I knew if I could keep the truck in my line of sight, I would be okay. Before we would approach a turn, Chris’ voice would come over the CB radio giving me a heads up. I was comfortable following his lead, trusting he knew the path we needed to take.

It wasn’t until nightfall my comfort turned into intense distress. The heavy traffic caused us to separate, and I could no longer see the truck. I called Chris’ name over the CB radio several times. Panic gripped my heart when I did not hear a response. I had no idea where I was, the traffic was pressing in on me, and I started crying hysterically. My fears of the unknown jammed my logical thinking, and I became a wreck.

Have you ever felt alone in a situation and panic set in?

Have you ever cried out for help and felt like no one could hear you? It’s possible this is something only I have struggled with, right?

When we allow fear to grip us, we tend to react illogically. Analyzing what the outcome could be, we can get overwhelmed and let negativity sidetrack us. The noise we create in our panicked mind blocks us from hearing anything other than our inner voice. This can leave us feeling unheard, alone, and lost.

But here’s the good news: God’s word can comfort us and bring us to a logical state of mind:

  • Be mindful God hears us.

 In my distress, I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God for help;             He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry for help before Him came into His ears. (Psalms 18:6)

  • He calls us to be still.

Be still and know that I am God. (Psalms 46:10)

  • He alone is our calm.

When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, your consolations delight my soul. (Psalms 94:19)

  • He is always before us and will never leave us.

The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. (Deuteronomy 31:8)

I am a little embarrassed to admit, but that night on the dark highway, when I was gripped by fear, I was not calmly calling out for help-I was screaming! I was screaming so much so that I had to force myself to breathe before I passed out. It was at that moment I heard a voice.  It was Chris calling my name, “Jodi I hear you. You are okay. Please calm down.”

He then proceeded to navigate me to an exit where we reunited. I was so busy crying out for help I did not stop long enough to hear his response. Sometimes we do that when we are crying out to God and wonder why He has not responded. Perhaps during our crisis, if we instead paused long enough to listen for God’s response, calm and peace will fill our hearts and minds.

Let God’s voice be louder than your fears and louder than your inner voice. What He has to say will help you get back on course.

If you are like me and lose sight of God from time to time, just remember He is right there beside you. He is willing to respond to your cry, quiet you with His love, and navigate you to a place where you can become still and know He is God.

He’s got the wheel, and He’s got you, friend!

 

 

 

White Puff Balls And The Gospel

Young Woman blowing dandelion

I was honored to write this for Contagious Joy Ministries.

Wildflowers and weeds occupied the large lot next to the home where I grew up. I loved wandering around the turf searching for treasures. I especially liked to find dandelions. Their yellow petals transform into a white puff ball called a seed head. Finding my treasure, I would bend down, carefully breaking the stem without causing the ball to fall apart. While holding my breath, I held it close to my chest making a wish. Then, I would bring it up to my mouth and blow it as hard as I could. The white puff ball exploded in every direction as if carrying the message of my wish to a magical place.

As I recalled this childhood memory, I recognized that as believers in Christ Jesus, we are much like the white puff ball of the dandelion. To continue reading click here.

This was first published at http://www.ContagiousJoy4Him.com

 

Confessions From A Wife Of A Snoring Husband

 

Couple hand together touch with love vintage filter tone.

Sometimes a girl just cannot get a peaceful night’s sleep! The nights with greatest promise are often interrupted by the subtle beginning of a “snore fest.” My husband, Chris, begins like a gentle house cat but often ends up like a lion’s thundering roar! Tossing right and left while pressing the pillow over my head cannot muffle his deep sleep symphony. The longer I listen the more frustrated I get. I have been known to kick him (gently of course) in hopes of ushering in some ever-elusive silence; however, it usually leads to another performance. Since putting my pillow over his face is still illegal in every state and territory, I’m left praying for peace, endurance, love, patience, and self-control.

Can you relate? Are there things about your spouse that drive you a little crazy? Habits that resonate like fingers on a chalkboard? Everyone does! But sometimes life can bring us to a place of fresh perspective. With one major life event, my disdain was transformed to appreciation.

A few years ago, I found myself sitting next to his bed in the ICU. I never imagined my 42-year-old husband would have open heart surgery–but there we were. Seeing him labor for each breath as he worked off of the ventilator, I prayed to hear him snore beside me in bed once again. (No kidding… I really prayed this.)

Everything had changed, and nothing had changed…except my perspective.

During those laboring moments of silently waiting for updates from the doctors, I pondered things what I had taken for granted concerning Chris. Things like him making my breakfast each morning, arriving home safely each night for dinner, flirting with me in the kitchen as I cook, making me laugh with his witty charm, listening to me rant about my day, and yes, his snoring, too. All of that was now a heartbeat from being stripped away from my life. The reality that “we are not promised tomorrow” sinks in like never before.

What might you be taking for granted?

  • Assuming that you have tomorrow to make things right with your friend?
  • Making that much-needed phone call to a loved one?
  • Sharing the gospel with someone God places in your path?

Scripture offers great wisdom concerning our tomorrows:

Don’t brag about tomorrow,
since you don’t know what the day will bring. Proverbs 27:1 NLT

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. James 4:14

It is a difficult but necessary realization that tomorrow is not a promise for us. When we become comfortable in the assumption that there will always be a tomorrow, we often miss the value of our moments with family, friends, or loved ones.

In the ICU that day, once the ventilator was removed and we could speak, he soon fell asleep. Sitting next to Chris with a sense of relief, I heard it; A subtle snore! It was music to my ears; A melody I vowed to never take for granted or become aggravated with again. It reminded me he was alive. It meant he was breathing. (Okay, breathing loudly). It simply testified to another day of life together with him. Tears of gratitude streamed down my face.

What aggravation do you need to re-evaluate? Maybe it should become something for which you are thankful.

  • Clothes being left on the floor?
  • Lunch boxes needing to be prepared?
  • Last minute school projects?
  • Empty milk cartons left in the fridge?

Perspective. Often times it comes down to that. I’d love to say that I sleep peacefully every night and snoring is a faint memory, but I still find myself with a pillow over my own head. Now though, I consider that this mild interruption is a reminder of life and all the good that it brings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secret Walls That Limit Our Faith

Woman praying alone

Does your faith have secret walls?  Hidden limitations you’ve built around your life? For years, I refused to go on a mission trip overseas. I reasoned that God could send someone else, and that it was best for my children if I didn’t go. To be honest, I wanted to go but I was trapped by my fears.  My fears formed a fortified wall around my faith allowing me to go only so far with God. When I considered what was on the other side of the wall, I imagined horrible outcomes: Sickness, not being allowed back in country, orphaning my children, or not being with them if they needed me. The enemy had me right where he wanted me. Faithless. Ashamed. Controlled. Ineffective.

I imagine you have your own reasoning for your faith walls.

Maybe God has prompted you to witness to someone, but you felt inadequate, and decided to wait for another day.

Maybe God wants you to begin a new ministry, but you are insecure about your ability and decide to bury the dream.

Maybe someone you know suffers from a chronic illness, and because you haven’t seen improvement you doubt healing and your prayers have tapered off.

Maybe you have faith that God loves, forgives, or has plans for everyone else, but cannot believe those truths for yourself.

It is those feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, doubt, and a lack of self-worth that limit our faith.

God is not the creator of those limits. We are.

God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7) However, we choose to thwart that power and discipline when we allow our flesh to override God’s desires for us. Our hope and belief can waver when things seem impossible. The enemy plants the lie and waters it with doubt: Will God really make good on His promises to me?

Consider the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. This is an historic account of real men and women who struggled with their faith, but chose to knock down their walls of inadequacy, insecurity, doubt, and fear. When they did, God showed up in huge ways and made good on His promises!

I remember the day God broke down the fortified wall that had kept me from traveling on mission. God was prompting my heart to travel to South Asia with my husband, leaving my boys behind. As I was praying and asking God to help me take this step of faith, He simply stilled me with His love and spoke into my soul:

Jodi, you will never receive the abundance of life I have designed specifically for you if you continue to live in fear. I have plans to use you for My Kingdom. You may have given birth to your children but I created them and I love them more than you could ever dream! You can trust Me with them. Do you trust Me? Yes Lord, I trust You! I trust You for what I cannot see on the other side of my wall.

I went and I was effective! I was no longer faithless or controlled by the enemy’s lies.  But, I must be honest and tell you I prayed A LOT. However, the more I prayed, the more He strengthened my faith in His faithfulness. Peace ruled instead of fear. There was freedom on the other side of my faith wall. The enemy no longer had me where he wanted me. Instead, God had me right where He wanted me – trusting in Him.

Do you fear what’s on the other side of your wall? You don’t have to! There’s really nothing to fear when you trust God for the outcome. He will cause all things to work together for good if we let Him.

Secret walls limit our faith. Ask God to help you push down your wall so your faith can be without borders. It’s the life you were purposed to live … LIVE IT!

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

I See You, But Do You See ME?

i-see-you-but-can-you-see-meHave you ever had life circumstances hit you hard? I have. A while back I was blindsided by some circumstances causing me to become emotionally unstable, stressed, and weary. My thoughts were confusing and irrational. The more I tried to think clearly, the more deeply I fell into despair. I prayed, journaled, spoke with others, cried, and exercised hoping for a reprieve. I believed Isaiah 26:3 to be true so I pressed in and rolled the words over and over in my mind, “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.” But instead, my thoughts were inconsistent. I felt like my world was falling apart.

Can you relate?

Have you ever been desperate for God to speak, “Peace, be still,” so that your circumstances would miraculously change for the better?

During one of those trying days, God used a simple penny and a song to speak peace into my soul. He may not have spoken audibly but I heard Him loud and clear.

I made a trip to the store and prayed before I got out of my car, “Lord, speak. Help me.” I had hoped to make it in and out of the store without anyone seeing or speaking to me. As I pushed my cart along the side of my car a penny on the ground caught my attention. (Side note: The inscription on pennies, “In God We Trust,” reminds me to trust God. I always keep them as a reminder.) As I looked at the penny it was as if God said, “I see you, but do you see ME? I did not want to be honest with God but I was and told Him “No.” I was blinded by my circumstances, emotions, and confusion. I asked Him to open my eyes and mind to be able to see Him. After loading my purchase in the car, I got in and the radio was playing, “Just Be Held,” by Casting Crowns. Here are a few of the lyrics that spoke to me:

Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place…

If your eyes are on the storm

You’ll wonder if I love you still

But if your eyes are on the cross

You’ll know I always have and I always will

And not a tear is wasted

In time, you’ll understand

I’m painting beauty with the ashes

Your life is in My hands

Lift your hands, lift your eyes

In the storm is where you’ll find Me

And where you are, I’ll hold your heart

I’ll hold your heart

Come to Me, find your rest

In the arms of the God who won’t let go

This experience opened my eyes to see Him. To see that He was with me. To see He was in control. To see He was working my brokenness into something useful. To see He is holy and still on the throne. I began sobbing because I felt God’s love and His presence.

I was doing what had brought peace to me in the past: praying, journaling, seeking counsel and exercising. I was trying to trust God with words but not with heart.

When we completely trust in God with ALL our heart, He exchanges our unrest for peace. As I fully abandoned to God my self-reliance, expectations, control, and grip on my circumstances He graced me with peace; A peace that immediately calmed my storm. Though my circumstances did not change, I changed. And because I changed, I can now walk in Isaiah 26:3.

Because I trust in You God, You will keep my mind in perfect peace. (my paraphrase)

Do you see God? He sees you.

Ask God to speak, and then listen and look for Him in the simple things. He is there!