Navigating Life

navigating-life“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!” (1Corinthians 13:12 MSG)

My brother is a pilot. Lately he has been flying charter flights. After piloting through tough weather the other day, he was discussing the adventure with my mother. “Mom flying in those clouds sometimes makes me feel uneasy. I feel like I don’t know where I’m going and the thought crosses my mind, what if my instruments aren’t right, what if I’m not where they say I am.” What a terrible feeling! To be the one commanding the plane and your only “eyes” are those instrument panels. But after a brief moment of panic you just have to trust in what you’ve been taught, trust that those instruments and navigational skills you learned will get you to your destination.

It’s a lot like our journey in life. Sometimes we feel like we are in the midst of the clouds just hoping that we aren’t on the road to disaster. We even have brief (sometimes not so brief) moments of panic. But reality is we have to trust in our navigational system as well. God’s Word, his guidance and the Holy Spirit working through us.

I love how The Message Bible states the 1 Corinthians verse above. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. Much like my brother, the pilot, we are straining to see if we are really on the right course. But just like planes come through the storms and the weather clears, we too will see clearly one day.

Until then we trust our instruments. We trust in an all knowing God. There is a song written by Babbie Mason entitled Trust His Heart. The following are some lyrics from that song:

When you don’t see His plan  When you can’t trace His hand  Trust His heart.

When you can’t trace His hand, trust His heart. When it seems like you might not be in the right place, like your instrument panel might be failing, trust His heart. What is his heart? Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that His plans for us are good. Romans 8 tells us that he works all things together for our good for those that love God and are called according to his purpose. Now it might not look like what we imagined. It might not even be exactly what we like, but we have to trust what we know about God. Get in His word and cling to his promises. Keep remembering that He has it all under control. He is our instrument of peace.

Father, I pray that we would continually trust in you. When the clouds move in and our vision dims help us to trust you, knowing someday we will clearly see your plan. Amen.

Amanda Keller

Amanda is a homeschooling mother of two great children and wife to Nathan. While Amanda grew up in Jordan, Montana, their family makes their home in North Dakota. Amanda's passion for leading others in worship shines through along with her love for Jesus, her family and laughter. Their family loves to support Compassion International in whatever way possible. Amanda holds associates degrees in both music performance and office administration from Trinity Bible College. "Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do but something you raise." ~Andy Stanley

Amanda is a homeschooling mother of two great children and wife to Nathan. While Amanda grew up in Jordan, Montana, their family makes their home in North Dakota. Amanda’s passion for leading others in worship shines through along with her love for Jesus, her family and laughter. Their family loves to support Compassion International in whatever way possible. Amanda holds associates degrees in both music performance and office administration from Trinity Bible College. “Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do but something you raise.” ~Andy Stanley

Are You Pretending?

Ladies, hello! Trust God today. He is working in your life, and if you are going through a tiresome, weary, discouraging time, trust Him! He IS working! If you are living in energetic, top-of-the-mountain times, trust Him! He IS working! Amen?!

What I want to talk to you about is a story in the Bible that many of us have probably heard many times. If not, it will be an exciting revelation of God’s love for you, so let’s go there!

modern-woman-at-the-wellIt’s a story that takes place in the New Testament, in John 4. Jesus finds himself tired and stopping in Samaria, resting at a well. Just to give you a little inside story, Jesus was a Jew and He was resting at a well in Samaria. Jews did not associate with Samaritans. But isn’t it just like Jesus to come searching us out in the most unpleasant places of life?! I love how he pursues me, no matter where I go. It says in Psalm 139:7-8 that there is no place we can be in life that He won’t be there with us! He loves us! And that’s just what He was doing for one Samaritan woman in this story.

He (Jesus) is sitting at the well and a Samaritan woman comes to get some water, and he asks her for a drink. She is taken back by this, as she knows he is a Jew. They have a conversation. Jesus talks to her about spiritual water, and she keeps coming back to the physical water. Then he does something so unpredictable; he asks her to go get her husband. What?!

So she responds that she has no husband, and Jesus, if you will, reads her mail. You know, that stuff that we don’t want anybody to know, not proud of, create some kind of façade so that we can hide it and somehow hide our brokenness and put on our best face so that people don’t ask? Or maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, he tells her that she is indeed not married, but has had five husbands and the man she is living with now is not her husband. Talk about putting it all out on the table??!! Why would he do this to her?

Because…Jesus can’t heal, redeem, and set free who we pretend to be! He can only heal what is really hurting and broken! But he is so desiring and willing! That’s why he brought up this hurt and brokenness of her life that she was trying to hide.are-you-pretending

They have some more conversation that brings her more revelation of his love for her. Like when she tries changing the subject (ever tried that?) about where it is proper to worship, and He breaks down all walls (remember she’s a Samaritan), and says that one day it won’t matter where she worships, but that she will worship in Spirit and in truth! I love that!! Sometimes we get so stuck on the physical form of our worship and God reminds us that’s now what matters, it’s the condition of our heart!!

After she mentions that the Messiah is coming and he will reveal the truth of all these matters, and Jesus says, “I am He.”

Her heart is forever changed. He, the Christ, the Messiah, knows the truth about me and yet breaks down all these walls with such love and acceptance that her heart cannot deny it!! Look what she does next!

She goes back to her Samaritan friends and family (maybe, if they hadn’t shunned her) and tells them in verse 39, “He told me everything I ever did.” Have you ever been so excited to share your weaknesses, hidden sins?? This woman is so excited to share openly, because her heart has been changed by his love. She no longer has to hide her sin and live with a ball and chain! What relief! What love and acceptance! And what happens because of her REAL testimony? Many Samaritans came to meet and believe in Him and became worshippers of Jesus Christ! What an incredible exchange of “beauty for ashes” he makes out of our lives, huh?!

Ladies, I want to encourage you that when Jesus opened up the subject of the woman’s marital status at the well he was going there to heal this woman and set her free from something that had held her captive for so long. And He wants to do the same for you. So allow Jesus to sit at the well with you, look into your eyes, and deal with the real issues of your heart! Redemption is waiting. And He does not waste these moments, for look at the harvest of souls she reaped because her heart was truly changed and set free and now she knows real love! All because her Savior is TRUTH, and the “truth shall set you free.”

Jesus, thank you for seeking us out at the unpleasant places in life. Thank you for waiting for us at the well and seeking us out to set us free and love us from the pains and decisions, life that has happened to us that we are not proud of. And instead you turn it into power that brings people to the cross and that no longer has a hold on us! THANK YOU! I pray for all the ladies that are reading this that you will call out these hidden ball-and-chains and break their hold over us! Set us free with your love, forgiveness, and incredible acceptance. And, may others come to believe in you because of your touch in our REAL story. We love you and we trust you! Thank you, Amen.

Karissa Nelson

Karissa has one of the most beautiful voices you will ever hear, but on top of that talent and gift God has given her, she is a mother to three beautiful children and a helpmate to her husband, Shane. Together they raise their family and minister in Milton-Freewater, Oregon where Karissa grew up. Her passion for worship and family surround her daily. Isaiah 30:15, "This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: 'Is repentance and rest in your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength'" (NIV).

Karissa has one of the most beautiful voices you will ever hear, but on top of that talent and gift God has given her, she is a mother to three beautiful children and a helpmate to her husband, Shane. Together they raise their family and minister in Milton-Freewater, Oregon where Karissa grew up. Her passion for worship and family surround her daily. Isaiah 30:15, “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘Is repentance and rest in your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength'” (NIV).

Moments

momentsI just finished reading “A Beautiful Mess” by Danielle Strickland.  Just the title intrigued me…it’s a little oxymoronic and just what I needed (yes, I recommend it). It’s one of those books that has questions to answer at the end of the chapter – yeah, not really my thing either.  I always tell myself that I’ll “come back to it later” when I have more time and can really delve into those deep questions.  Hasn’t happened yet, but I’m always optimistic.  Anyway…I do at least read the questions and ponder, albeit briefly, my answers.  In a chapter titled, “Think Bigger,” one of the end-of-chapter questions (and these were by far the simplest, easiest-to-answer questions in the book) asked, “What do you enjoy most about life?”  I was completely stumped.  Most of the questions in the book I at least had a random thought or two in my head as I pretended to answer the question.  This one…nada.

Which in itself is telling, right?  Exactly.  So I figured I’m a failure.  That’s it God, take me out.  How can a 52-year-old, walking-with-Jesus, happily married, gainfully employed in a job I love, mother of four healthy and relatively-happy young men, not have an answer to what she enjoys most about life?!  I was so frustrated with myself.  Goodness-gracious, I teach psychology to hundreds of students each year and I’ve got nothing for this?  Okay, I’m rambling now…but you see why I would be frustrated with myself on this one, right?

So I kept that question – what do I enjoy most in life –  in the back of my head through the next few days waiting for some momentous ah-ha moment when I would realize what I enjoy most.  Many things came to mind that I do enjoy…laughing with my family, walks in nature, sitting by my pond reading, scrapbooking, being with friends and family…the usual, but nothing of the “most” enjoyed caliber.

At one point I read Psalm 90, which, in case you’re not aware, is the only Psalm written by Moses.  Now Moses is quite a guy.  First, he had 40 years as a Prince of Egypt, living in the lap of luxury, having and doing pretty much anything he wanted to do or have, the best education money could buy, riches, palaces, servants…he had it all!  Then he spent 40 years basically alone as a shepherd; he had time to ponder the last 40 years and the present, and what the future might hold.  The last 40 years of his life he was the leader of the Jewish nation, dealing with not only his own issues, but everyone else’s!  He went from not knowing diddly about God to having face-to-face conversations with God.  I figure he’s got to know a whole lot more than I do about “enjoying life”.  As Moses puts it:

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.  Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”  Psalm 90:1-2

God is good.  Really, really good.  He is God, before all, creator of all, eternal, and he loves you!  As our dwelling place he’s a shelter, a refuge, a place we can be safe and secure.  God is definitely good.

“You turn men back to dust saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men.”  For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.  You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning – though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered.”  Psalm 90:3-6

Life is short.  If you had a yardstick of the existence of humanity in your hand, your life is barely a sliver of time.  Your life, my life, everyone’s life is short.  Which brought me back to what do I most enjoy about this short life I’ve been given?

Life.  I enjoy life.  All those small “moments” of our days add up to “life”.  There’s the big moments of course, but even big moments, like getting married, a long-awaited vacation, graduation, a child’s first step…all just moments in life.

When I was younger I wanted to have this awesomely huge life that wasn’t just enjoyed but reveled in!  I thought I’d do amazing, wild things, crazy-change-the-world kind of things.  Go everywhere, see everything, do it all!  I have done a lot of things, went some places, seen a number of things.  But I haven’t done anything amazing.  I haven’t changed the world.

Yet God gave me a “moment” the other day, a moment that was definitely “most enjoyed.”

A former student, a young lady that had some challenges to overcome in the last few years, brought her younger brother to meet me because he was a bit nervous and was enrolled in one of my classes later that day.  She introduced me with these words: “This lady changed my life and if you let her, she can change yours too.”  Just a little moment for me…a little moment here and there when I had this young lady as a student…and yet God used me to change her life.  Wow.

It’s okay that I haven’t changed the world, but the tiny pebble “moment” of my impact in that young lady’s life that I wasn’t even too cognizant of, had a ripple effect.  A moment here, a moment there…God has blessed me with these moments in life to enjoy because life is short, and He is definitely very, very good.

Lord, please forgive us our selfishness and blindness.  We look only at our own lives and don’t see what you have laid before us.  Help us to enjoy each moment you give us on this earth; to see what you see and reach out with your love, grace and compassion to those around us. “I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever.  Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom…the Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.  The Lord is good to all…” (Psalm 145) 

Stacey Ray

Stacey is the mother to four sons ages 15 to 21, and the wife to Rex, one very understanding husband.  Stacey has a passion to help people become the best that they can be and she currently does that as a community college instructor in psychology and human development.  With this same passion in mind, her family supports many other outreaches including Children’s Vision in Bogota, Columbia (an orphanage and school) and She is Safe, India (a ministry empowering women and children to avoid human trafficking by giving them value and worth in their communities). Originally from California, Stacey and her family currently make their home in northern Minnesota where they are actively involved in their church’s mission of seeing real people make real change. Stacey’s favorite quote is by Chip Ingram:  “I am nothing without Jesus. But in Him and through Him I can do great things!”

Stacey is the mother to four sons ages 15 to 21, and the wife to Rex, one very understanding husband. Stacey has a passion to help people become the best that they can be and she currently does that as a community college instructor in psychology and human development. With this same passion in mind, her family supports many other outreaches including Children’s Vision in Bogota, Columbia (an orphanage and school) and She is Safe, India (a ministry empowering women and children to avoid human trafficking by giving them value and worth in their communities). Originally from California, Stacey and her family currently make their home in northern Minnesota where they are actively involved in their church’s mission of seeing real people make real change. Stacey’s favorite quote is by Chip Ingram: “I am nothing without Jesus. But in Him and through Him I can do great things!”

The Sweetest Name I Know

“Mama! Cup on the floor!”

“Mama! Mama! Mama! See, moon!”

“Mama! Where’s Sissy?”

My two-year-old son, Jabez, says my name no less than two hundred times a day, and that’s conservatively.  He calls my name sometimes just to say “Hi!”.  I think my name is his favorite word, and that’s saying a lot since he asks for a certain cartoon mouse all day long!

sweetest-name-2My family thinks it’s hilarious.  I have other people comment “Don’t ya just want to change your name at times?”

I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately.  I remember the days when I longed for someone to call me Mommy.  Now I have four of them! Throughout a day, I hear “Mom. . .”, “Mama”, “Mommy”, and even the baby gibbers “Ma-Ma”.  It’s so sweet! And yes, sometimes it’s annoying when an older boy is tattle-telling. . . again.

Or when I’m on the phone and I hear “Mama, mama, mama, mama. . . Hi!”

Or if their Daddy is in the same room as them and they are fussing for “Mama” and Dada would love to cuddle or help!

But truly, I love it.  I love that my kids, all of them: two 8-year-olds, a 2-year-old, and a 1-year-old can call on their Mama! They want to share things with me, tell me stories, show me the moon or a boogie on their finger.  They want to give me a snuggle or get my help with something.  They desire for me to be around and need to know I’m near.

I’m sure my mom feels the same when I call her regularly and she hears me say “Hey, Mama!” I can’t imagine ever getting over my children call for me.  What I really love about it, however, is that as much as I love my kiddos and as much as I want to hear them call for me, how much more does our Heavenly Father love to hear from us?  To hear us call on him?  You see, I imagine he gets lonely for us.  Sure, he’s the God of all the universe and there are billions of people in this world.  But he loves each of us as if we were the only one.  And he longs for us to call on him, to show him our hearts.  He desires to have constant communion with each of us.

But, oftentimes, we get too busy.  We wait until Sunday (or Easter) to think of Him or call on Him.  Sometimes, we only say his name when we’ve stubbed our toe.

Scripture is full of verses regarding prayer. God wants to hear from us!

  • We can have confidence He hears us:  1 John 5:14, “This is the confidence we have in Christ Jesus, if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”
  • He listens.  Jeremiah 29:12 “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me and I will listen.”
  • We should pray continually and always give thanks: I Thessalonians 5:16, “Rejoice always, praying continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
  • He is near: Psalms 145: 18: “The Lord is near to all who call on him, who call on him in truth.”

There is power in the name of Jesus! We can have confidence in Him! He is near to us and he listens!

sweetest-nameMama, when you’re overwhelmed with all the demands on your life, when you’re so excited about the new things happening, when you have a need that you just can’t figure out how to meet it, or when you just need a friend: Call on Jesus.  It’s the sweetest name I know!

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.  I ask that you forgive me for neglecting our time together.  But I call out to you now! I give you thanks for all that you have done for me! I ask that you move in the areas of my life where I lack.  I pray that you draw close to me and comfort me.  Help me to remember to always draw close to you! You are the sweetest name I know!

Tiffany Heth

Tiffany is the mother to four amazing children, all God's miracle to their family, and she cherishes every moment given her to be with them.  John, Tiffany's husband, and their family make their home in Iowa, where they minister to a congregation of fellow believers.  Tiffany is not only a breast-feeding, cloth-diapering mother and a pastor's wife, but she takes great joy in nourishing her family with the wild game that they have been fortunate enough to harvest.  "How great is the Father's love for us that we shall be called children of God, for that is what we are!" 1 John 3:1

Tiffany is the mother to four amazing children, all God’s miracle to their family, and she cherishes every moment given her to be with them. John, Tiffany’s husband, and their family make their home in Iowa, where they minister to a congregation of fellow believers. Tiffany is not only a breast-feeding, cloth-diapering mother and a pastor’s wife, but she takes great joy in nourishing her family with the wild game that they have been fortunate enough to harvest. “How great is the Father’s love for us that we shall be called children of God, for that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1

He Walks Us Through

through-the-valleyWow ladies! Summer is definitely winding down to a close for this year, and we can feel it in the weather. I live in northeastern Oregon, and to be honest we usually get some pretty big heat numbers in the summer (over 100). This summer I felt God’s grace with some much more bearable numbers for this girl. I feel loved.

So I very quickly knew what I wanted to share with you for this article and time together going after God. What a blessing, to have other people investing and encouraging each other to go after God, press through the hard times, trust in God, and celebrate and give God the glory at all times! He WILL get us through, amen??!!

I was having an incredibly knot-spinning-in-the-tummy time not even a month ago with a situation that was not involving me, but I knew that God had put me in to be an influencer. Talk about scary and nervous.

I was walking around doing some jobs (really trying to keep myself busy so I could have some time to think), and I was asking God for a word because I needed to hear what He wanted to say for the situation. He gave me three words- “through the valley.”

Have you ever got an instant revelation from the Holy Spirit? Something that might normally take a whole sermon at church He somehow downloads into your spirit in a split second! It was like that! And, oh-how-I-needed-that-word!

Many of us are familiar with the Psalm from David in chapter 23. In verse 4, he says, “even though I walk through the valley…”.

That was it ladies. The victory that we desire and need is found when we go through the valleys in our life. Not sitting down and wishing the valley gone, or trying to dig and manipulate our way around it, but trusting God to get through the valley! He is faithful to complete that which He has started in us (Philippians 1:6). He will get us through.

Let me tell you, I faced the situation with these other people, and I can tell you today, that God walked everyone involved through the awkward moments, the frustrations, and the hard conversations, and the healing moments. And the victory is so much sweeter when we trust Him!

Can I encourage you today to trust Him with those hard spots, hurting spots in your heart? He loves you, and He is for you not against you (Jeremiah 29:11).

God, I ask for your help today with the spots in our heart and lives that hurt, are maybe calloused over and we need your help to go through our valley(s). God, we declare our trust in You, so we give you our hand and ask you to help us. Thank you for your faithfulness to us and the journeys that life has taken us on. Only with you can we sing of hope and victory, and we give you the glory and honor!! In your name, amen.

Karissa Nelson

Karissa has one of the most beautiful voices you will ever hear, but on top of that talent and gift God has given her, she is a mother to three beautiful children and a helpmate to her husband, Shane.  Together they raise their family and minister in Milton-Freewater, Oregon where Karissa grew up.  Her passion for worship and family surround her daily.  Isaiah 30:15, "This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: 'Is repentance and rest in your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength'" (NIV).

Karissa has one of the most beautiful voices you will ever hear, but on top of that talent and gift God has given her, she is a mother to three beautiful children and a helpmate to her husband, Shane. Together they raise their family and minister in Milton-Freewater, Oregon where Karissa grew up. Her passion for worship and family surround her daily. Isaiah 30:15, “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘Is repentance and rest in your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength'” (NIV).

Dear Mr. Postman

mr-postmanI imagine the scene as something right out of the movie The Sound of Music. I’m talking about the scene with the children laughing and hanging from trees along the roadside. Truly, this is what my children confessed to doing, and they were proud of why they were doing it. They were shooting rubber bands at our mailman! I got there a little too late to actually catch them hanging from the trees and shooting at him, but the evidence lay all around the road and the base of the trees. Why would my children disrespect our dear postman this way? And where did they get all those rubber bands?

According to my children, he shot them with rubber bands whenever he was delivering our mail. They’d saved up all the rubber bands and waited in the trees to ambush him in retaliation. So, I sat back to watch the next time the mail truck pulled up. He placed our mail in the box, he greeted the kids warmly, they all ran down to greet him, a pile of rubber bands flew out the window at their feet, and there was a moment of calm while my kids armed themselves before the rubber bands flew back and forth. The laughter and goodhearted bantering went on for a minute or so then our mailman let out a playfully evil laugh and announced he’d get them next time before he moved on.  And so the battle continued and still continues to this day eight or nine years later.

This is our mailman. He is the antonym of disgruntled postal worker. He does some crazy things people aren’t too sure of sometimes. He sings with classic rock songs at full volume while he is driving his route. He knocks on our doors using his head. He starts rubber band fights with the children.  He will “race” me using his mail truck when I am out walking. He even shoots me with rubber bands if I’m not paying attention. Somehow, in all this he is an encouragement. It seems to me that he at least subconsciously knows this is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24).

The kids and I attended a field trip at the Post Office a few years ago, and we were able to share how much we appreciate our mailman with them. I shared the story of my kids ambushing him as a cute anecdote of how well he interacts with the people on his route. The manager responded with a smile and said he would have to talk with our mailman about misuse of work materials again. I was concerned we had caused our mailman some trouble, but when I tried to explain my reason for telling the story, the man stopped me with a smile and explained that it was more of a joke to discipline our mailman because he has been working there over thirty years which is longer than any other person working there right now, even his managers, and he loves his job; he is surely not going anywhere any time soon.

God willing, I hope that’s true. How many good examples of someone loving one’s job to the fullest do we get to show our children these days? So often we are surrounded by people who are counting the minutes until their shift is done. Store clerks do this out loud in front of my kids all the time. Job loyalty seems to be a thing of the past as well. It seems as if people take every job as if it is simply a stepping stone on their way to something “better.” Some able-bodied people in our community even consider unemployment “better” than a lower level employment opportunity. Where is the contentment in this? Where is the grateful heart in all this? Where is the joy?

In Hebrews 12:2-3 we read, Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Jesus stepped down from the glories of heaven and was the ultimate example of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control while he lived and worked among men. In his earthly ministry, he was not concentrating on what each job he did would gain him, nor do I believe his thoughts were ever on when his shift would be done and he could kick back and relax. No, his focus was on where his purpose, power, and strength came from. This is where job satisfaction truly comes from, this is where we find our joy as well. Jesus focused on the big picture, and we can as well because He has shared it with us. We may not know all of the details, and things will always catch us by surprise if we are not armored in the power and strength of his Holy Spirit and armed with the Scriptures, but we can be confident and know joy when we work for God and not self or man.

This is what I am trying to pass on to my children. They are at the age now where they are entering the work force. They have been picking up odd jobs and helping wherever they can. Yes, they like the part where they can make a few dollars, but quite often they enjoy learning new skills and doing the actual work more. Once or twice they have complained about someone they have had to work with or how they have been treated. I point out to them that some of our neighbors have called to complain about our mailman and his odd behavior, but he still chooses to do his job with a smile on his face and rubber bands flying. Jesus was abused in so many awful ways and then he was sacrificed and conquered death as part of his service, and he did this in peace for the joy it was to fulfill His plan and promise. “We can only decide for ourselves,” I remind them. Then I ask, “Who are you working for? Man or God?”

Lord God, I thank You for being the author and perfecter of our faith. I thank You for your life gift. I thank You for the work you have given each of us. I have read and believe that the main principle You were trying to teach us with the book of Ecclesiastes was that the human quest for meaning and purpose can never be satisfied through earthly pursuits, but only by embracing an eternal perspective. I pray that today we your children may eat and drink and find satisfaction in our toilsome labor; please enable us to enjoy what we do have, to accept our lot and be happy in our work, and to see this truly as a gift from You (Ecclesiastes 5). Amen.

Lorinda Freeman

Lorinda has a passion and desire to teach children about the love of God.  She is a homeschooling mom of four and together as a family they work within their church with the children’s programs making sure the hearts of all the children are being taught God’s love for them.  Lorinda and her husband, Chris, make their home in Hibbing, Minnesota after Lorinda had endured extensive travel growing up as a Navy “brat”. 1 Thessalonians 2:6-13, “We are not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else.  As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.  We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.  Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.  You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed.  For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

Lorinda has a passion and desire to teach children about the love of God. She is a homeschooling mom of four and together as a family they work within their church with the children’s programs making sure the hearts of all the children are being taught God’s love for them. Lorinda and her husband, Chris, make their home in Hibbing, Minnesota after Lorinda had endured extensive travel growing up as a Navy “brat”. 1 Thessalonians 2:6-13, “We are not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

Seemingly Insignificant

“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:12)

Recently, I had a minor finger injury on my pinkie finger. While it wasn’t anything to obsess about, I had to keep it clean, wrapped, and dry for about 48 hours. Throughout the day I began to realize how much I used my pinkie daily without even noticing it. It was becoming inconvenient to have it out of commission for those couple of days. In the midst of trying to cook a meal on one of these days God brought the scripture above to mind regarding the body.

I pondered my day with an injured, what seemed insignificant, part of my physical body, and began to correlate the same principles to the body of Christ. Sometimes we think we hold an insignificant role in the body; nobody would notice if we were missing or didn’t do our part. Can I encourage you right now? Sometimes we don’t notice things until they are gone or out of operation. Just like a little pinkie finger I took for granted, it’s easy to take some positions for granted within the body of Christ and only notice when the job is not getting done.

So what can we do?seemingly-insignificant

My challenge today is two-fold. First, if you are the one that feels neglected and unappreciated, take heart, you’re probably doing such a good job that it’s a seamless part of the church. Although sometimes seamless feels more like seenless. I want to say to you, thank you! We appreciate you! Keep going!

The second part of the challenge is to commit to pay attention to things that operate within the body of Christ that you might be taking for granted and show your appreciation. Does someone clean the toilets for you? When was the last time you thanked them? How about the person that turns on the lights or programs your heat & air? Have you appreciated them? What about the person making the bulletin or sitting in the nursery? The list is endless. It’s time to make appreciation and gratitude part of our daily lives. It’s so easy to complain when things don’t get done or aren’t done the way we would like them to be yet so hard to say a word of thanks.

I survived my pinkie ordeal and boy was I grateful for full use of a seemingly insignificant part. Let’s not make the same mistake within the body of Christ.

Father, thank You for all the parts of the body of Christ. Open our eyes to see the positions and tasks we take for granted each day. Help us to have an attitude of gratitude. Amen.

Amanda Keller

Amanda is a homeschooling mother of two great children and wife to Nathan. While Amanda grew up in Jordan, Montana, their family makes their home in North Dakota. Amanda's passion for leading others in worship shines through along with her love for Jesus, her family and laughter. Their family loves to support Compassion International in whatever way possible. Amanda holds associates degrees in both music performance and office administration from Trinity Bible College. "Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do but something you raise." ~Andy Stanley

Amanda is a homeschooling mother of two great children and wife to Nathan. While Amanda grew up in Jordan, Montana, their family makes their home in North Dakota. Amanda’s passion for leading others in worship shines through along with her love for Jesus, her family and laughter. Their family loves to support Compassion International in whatever way possible. Amanda holds associates degrees in both music performance and office administration from Trinity Bible College. “Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be something you do but something you raise.” ~Andy Stanley

They Didn’t Show

they didnt show b“What is wrong with me?” “Why don’t they like me?” “Did I do something wrong?” These are just a few things that were running through my head as I drove home alone in my Durango.

Ladies, I am thirty-five years old and I still struggle with the desire of wanting people to like me; wanting to be around me and be “friends”. I know that my worth is not determined by those who “like” me, but there are times that I feel worthless if someone doesn’t want to like me. I immediately go into a place of questioning myself.they didn't show b

I have always had a hard time dealing with rejection. This rejection would sometimes come from others, but mostly it would be from myself making something out of nothing. My brain often says one thing when it was not that way at all. Has this happened to you? I know I am not alone in this.

Here is the simple truth: I am worth more than silver and gold. In the eyes of Christ, I am worth more than diamonds. I am being continually refined. So are you.

There will always be moments where you don’t feel like you measure up to the status quo of those around you; like you don’t fit in. You may not fit in, but that is how God made you to be. You are made to be a different kind of woman. A woman who lives in truth and speaks that truth with how she lives her life. We are no more perfect than any other woman, but we know the truth of living a life in service to God in EVERYTHING we do and say.  Titus 2:7 and 8 says this: “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”

What I am getting at is this: If I am having feelings of rejection and worthlessness, what good can I be to the woman next to me who doesn’t know that truth of her worth? How can I encourage her and tell her that she is worth more than gold when I struggle to see that truth in myself?Rjection B

I don’t have to be liked by everyone and, let’s face it, that will just never ever happen. I will disappoint. I will say the wrong thing. I will not act as everyone thinks I should. I will not be the best friend to all. I don’t have to be the best at everything to please all people. I was not designed for this. I was designed to be a vulnerable woman who speaks life and truth and love to those around her in the only way that God has shown me how. I live life loved and I try to love those around me. Yes, even those deemed unlovable. Because those are the ones who need the most love.

They won’t always show up. You will have feeling of rejection. You will not always be liked by everyone. That is okay! You be the one who shows up. You be the encouragement to the rejected and you work toward liking the unlikable; OR at least pray for them. This isn’t an easy calling, but it’s worth every effort.rejections Arejection C

Lord, my heart isn’t always a happy love story of friendships and encouragement. Often, I feel left out and unlikeable, but that rejection does not define who I am in you. I ask that every woman who is feeling rejected, broke down, and unwanted see the truth of their worth in you and a path is brought to light for them to walk as a woman who lives a life of love for others. Bless lives as they walk past the unlikeable and open eyes and hearts to you because of their words and actions. Amen.

Tara DeMaris

Tara is the founder and president of Titus II Woman Ministries as well as the wife to David and the mother to their four children. Together, they make their home in Southeast Idaho. She is a graduate of Crown College and most passionate about reaching the hearts of women of all ages and customs. She loves to write and teach God's Word. Favorite Quote - "Make history with God and He will make history through you."

Tara is the founder and president of Titus II Woman Ministries as well as the wife to David and the mother to their four children. Together, they make their home in Southeast Idaho. She is a graduate of Crown College and most passionate about reaching the hearts of women of all ages and customs. She loves to write and teach God’s Word. Favorite Quote – “Make history with God and He will make history through you.”

 

For Them

ZzzziiiiiiinnnG! SnAp, CrAcK, sNaP, FssswwwhkhwwwiaK… Sniper fire accompanies the screeching hot tires and the roaring engine of a racing VBIED (Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Device) are obvious signs that the ‘Escalation of Force’ was “not adhered to” as the driver races toward the Hesko barrier ECP (Entry Controlled Point).  The sounds of the Ma-duce (M2)… ratta-tat-da-tat-da-tat, ratta-tat-da-tat-da-tat-da-tat, ratta-tat-da-tat-tat, and multiple M16s… ta, ta, ta, tatata, tatata, some with grenade launchers attached, resonated as they bounced off of the weighted vehicle and lit up the morning sunrise while the incoming attack sirens sound.  As I jump from my bed, and my feet land on the floor, ‘THwuMP’, I don my bullet-proof vest and Kevlar helmet, grab my M16 rifle and head to the concrete bunker for accountability and my orders.  This is an all too familiar routine, but it’s my life now.

The ‘Incoming’ sirens sound louder today.  They usually aren’t that loud. I’ve heard these sirens MANY times before, but this time… ‘BOOM’, “1 ONE THOUSAN…” ‘BOOM’, “2 ONE THOUS…” ‘BOOM’, “3…” ‘BOOM’, ‘BOOM’, “I didn’t hear the outgoing cannons go off this time” my ‘battle-buddy’ says ‘BOOM’, “THAT’S SIX” someone yells from over ‘there’ on the other side of our office trailer.  “Damn, that’s close!” someone else yells.  “Too close!” says another person.  “They’re walking them up on us… straight toward us.”  As the trailer floor shakes, it throws the computer screens around like an earthquake and the sound of dirt hitting and falling down from the metal siding reminds me of sleet falling on a tin roof.  As the “Iraqi drive by” concluded “we need accountability of everyone NOW” our XO, the commanding officer of the ASP (ammunition storage point) ordered.

As radio communication begins and reports of “’Pvt Snuffy with 6 accounted for, Sgt Sargent with 3 accounted for, 8, and then 2…” come rolling in; a few minutes after “in sequence, report” was given, I fade back to my family, the birthdays that I’ve missed, and the first steps of my 3rd daughter that I had to watch on the webcam.  I think of their first dates that I’ll miss, playing catch with my son in the lawn, teaching them how to shoot guns and change the car’s oil… this is my life now.

david uniformSacrifices are made, regrets and sacrifices.  My fellow Soldiers need to be accounted for and protected, that is my first priority… then, and only then, AFTER that can I be concerned about my family… “back home;” “Duty First” was our motto.  “Home…” now that’s an interesting concept.

I’ve heard it said… “home is where your heart is” or “home is where the Army PCS’ (moves) me to next.”  Growing up though, “home” never meant that SO many adjustments had to be made, so many apologies given to the family, or that so many friendships having to be limited, because you KNEW that “home” was one PCS away.  Those that said, “home is where the Army PCS’ (moves) me to next,” usually have a ‘family tree’ style sign, you know the one that has the chain linking all of the boards together.  This military version shows all of the locations that they’ve been assigned to and possibly the unit also.  For example: Main board – Last name, second board – Basic training – Ft. Benning, GA, assigned unit – Ft. Lee, VA, etc.  Mine would be: SSG DeMaris – Ft. Leonardwood, MO – Aberdeen, SD. 452nd Ord. Co. (x1 deployment), 593rd RSC – Ft. Lewis, WA. HHC, 80th Ord. BN., – Ft. Riley, KS. A Co. 601st ASB, CAB (x2 deployments) – Ft. Richardson, AK. HHC, 725th BSB, 4/25 ID (Airborne).  “Home”… ya, that’d be nice… I’d like that, maybe someday!

After my injury from the truck’s roll-over, my life changed, I never saw myself as the same person!  The picture is how I saw myself; I couldn’t run like I used to, I couldn’t play with my kids like I used to, I couldn’t even stand at the sink to do dishes… like I used to.  The deployments had changed me too.  A little bit more irritable, a little bit more on edge, a little bit more aware… ALWAYS angry and not knowing how to not take it out on my family!  After all, it was never their fault!  for them1

After the back procedures and all the paperwork was ‘finally’ done, only 2 years later, I thought that I was done with the Army… ya, no!  The PTSD truly set in and my acceptance came to a realization when the SFC, Sergeant First Class, sat in front of the platoon telling us a story that sounded like he had been reading my journal.  Ha! Ya, right, like I wrote in a journal, I was too “manly” for that.. but if I had written one… he stole it and read it aloud for everyone to hear what I was and had been going through.  But… how did he know my thoughts?  I didn’t tell anyone, not even my wife.  This way I had “protected” her, and the rest of the family, from all of the… ‘ekhem’… “bull *crap*” that I had gone through or thought that she’d be better off not ‘experiencing.’  “Dude, you gotta talk to someone, anyone! or this will eat you alive” the SFC said over lunch.  (The above is a picture of an unknown soldier.)

for them2I never really knew that every time I suffered… she suffered either with me, for me, or in her own way and for her own reasons.  I never really considered that.  I tried SO hard to protect her, but I finally realized I wasn’t the strong one… never was.  She was FAR stronger than I could have ever tried to be!  THAT is why God brought her into my life!  So when I FINALLY got enough nerve to talk to her, she replied “ya… I know, I figured as much and when you were ready, you’d tell me.”  She didn’t see me any differently, she just loved me and tried anything to help me with what the Army had changed about me.

We all join the military, or don’t, for our own reasons.  Some because it’s in our bloodlines: our dad, grandpa, uncle, brother, etc. all joined, so…; some the feel of an obligation to… (fill in the blank); some to take on the world’s terrorists; some for the adventure and “excitement;” some were persuaded by the recruiter; like me, some for educational benefits; some out of love for our country and fellow American(s).  Whatever the reason, we all go through our days after our military service for the one reason that we have in common, good or bad… for Them!

I now wake up to the rooster’s crow, go out and check on the goats, feed the cows, say “hi” to the kittens and bunnies, and let out the turkeys, ducks and rest of the chickens.  All while knowing that my wife is working hard not only in the home, but also at her new job where she recently got promoted… Dang she’s so good!  And Hot!  I hear a lot more laughter these days versus the initial days after a return from a deployment or when I didn’t want to accept my new limitations.  I’ve learned how my mind and my body is coping and reacting to things differently now, but I still have those “bad” days, hours, minutes… I can’t seem to shake them.  It still is frustrating!  However, I am empowered by two things in my life.  First and foremost is God.  With His mercy and grace, I can and WILL overcome!  And ONLY second to God is my amazing wife and kids, who give me the love and strength to set new goals, reach beyond the reminds of the pain in my back and to fight for the laughter of tomorrow.  For them, THIS is my life now…

David DeMaris

David is a graduate of Crown College and is currently pursuing his Master's degree from Idaho State University. Ministering to teens through everyday life is his passion and what he has sought out to do no matter where he has been placed. He is the father to four beautiful children and strives to teach is children to see God in every moment of the day and lean on Him. David was in the Army for sixteen years and endured three deployments before being medically discharged in 2013. We welcome him this year as a guest writer.

David is a graduate of Crown College and is currently pursuing his Master’s degree from Idaho State University. Ministering to teens through everyday life is his passion and what he has sought out to do no matter where he has been placed. He is the father to four beautiful children and strives to teach is children to see God in every moment of the day and lean on Him. David was in the Army for sixteen years and endured three deployments before being medically discharged in 2013. We welcome him this year as a guest writer.

Kitty Love

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”  2 Corinthians 1: 3-4

kitty love

Our family has two cats (I apologize to those of you who are NOT cat people…we also have a dog and a pond full of goldfish and a crested gecko if that helps).  Princess Buttercup (aka Miss Butt) and Pepper are sisters that my two youngest sons adopted a few years ago.  These girls are opposites in personality, but they love to be together.  They play, snuggle, and groom each other.  Even as one walks out of the house and the other is coming in, they stop and smell and give a little kiss to each other.  It’s all very sweet.  Miss Butt is not a wanderer, but she is now missing.  It’s been over a week and chances are she’s gone for good.  Pep’s has been lamenting the loss of her sister.  She searches in the familiar spots for her snuggle partner, confused that her sister is nowhere to be found.  I see her hesitate each time she comes in the house, waiting for that familiar comfort.

Pepper is a very unusual cat.  She actually acts more like a happy puppy.  She follows when I take the dog on walks, greets all the neighbors as they walk by our house, and rolls over on her back for a tummy scratch, but she’s pretty independent like most cats.  She doesn’t mind if we love on her, but it’s not really her first choice.  Her first choice is to sleep curled up with Miss Butt on someone’s bed or in a sunny window.  But with her sister missing, Pep seeks out a member of the family anytime she’s in the house (even the snarky dog).  She chooses to seek comfort with any warm body, because she doesn’t have the option to get comfort from her sister any longer.  She stretched out on me this morning as I was reading my Bible (in the dog’s chair!), and I couldn’t bear to make her move when I was done…

As I sat in the chair with this warm kitty on my lap, sun streaming in the window, I thought about all the times I sought comfort in places that weren’t my “first choice” just to feel not so alone in the world.  When I was young, it was being “friends” with people who weren’t always kind, didn’t share nicely, and didn’t care that their teasing hurt me deeply.  As a teenager in a new town, it was people that offered drugs and alcohol as comfort for the woes of adolescence.  As a young college woman, it was in the arms of young men that had even less idea than I did about what real comfort was and how to give it.  The physical comfort, like drugs and alcohol, are only momentary and leave behind more regret and shame than anything else.

As a young, married adult who now had a relationship with Jesus, I sought comfort from my husband (not that this is bad…he just can’t always give me the comfort that I need).  As a mother, with an empty tank that needed replenishing to refill my little ones’ tanks, I sought comfort in things that the world saw as acceptable:  food, daytime television, Christian romance novels, gossip, and material objects like clothes and household goods.

Not that I’ve arrived, but It’s times like this morning that God brings to mind how far I’ve come.  Life is so busy sometimes that we forget to reflect on all God has done in us.  That first acceptance of a changed life is all well and good, except we often move forward and forget to stop and reflect on all we’ve become through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  This morning it was one of those times, and it was good.  Realizing just how good God is.  Our lives are a process and through that process we can discover that God is always good and He always has our best in mind.  He alone should be our first choice for comfort, because He alone is perfect and safe.  No thing or activity, no substance, no person will ever give you comfort like Jesus does.

Some days, maybe most days, it’s a real challenge to believe that.  Our entire society bombards us with so many different things to comfort us, to make us feel good and fulfilled.  But God says, “I am”.  I am everything you ever need or want.  I won’t ever change.  I won’t ever reject you.  I won’t ever have something else more important than you.  I want to be your first choice for comfort, no matter when or where or why you need comfort…I am.

I’m so thankful that Pepper chose my lap this morning to get her comfort, because in that quiet time I was able to reflect and praise God for all the comfort he has given me over the years. I see how He has used the troubles and pains of life to help me grow to a place where I know it is only through Him that I can truly be comforted.

Lord, please forgive us from turning to other people and things for comfort.  You promise us comfort and we can trust that promise.  Remind us that when we’re alone or troubled or hurting that You alone can show us the compassion and comfort that we so desperately want.  Help us to take that comfort that you have shown to us and share it with others.  Open our eyes to see the hurting people that need You and your comfort.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Stacey Ray

Stacey is the mother to four sons ages 15 to 21, and the wife to Rex, one very understanding husband.  Stacey has a passion to help people become the best that they can be and she currently does that as a community college instructor in psychology and human development.  With this same passion in mind, her family supports many other outreaches including Children’s Vision in Bogota, Columbia (an orphanage and school) and She is Safe, India (a ministry empowering women and children to avoid human trafficking by giving them value and worth in their communities). Originally from California, Stacey and her family currently make their home in northern Minnesota where they are actively involved in their church’s mission of seeing real people make real change. Stacey’s favorite quote is by Chip Ingram:  “I am nothing without Jesus. But in Him and through Him I can do great things!”

Stacey is the mother to four sons ages 15 to 21, and the wife to Rex, one very understanding husband. Stacey has a passion to help people become the best that they can be and she currently does that as a community college instructor in psychology and human development. With this same passion in mind, her family supports many other outreaches including Children’s Vision in Bogota, Columbia (an orphanage and school) and She is Safe, India (a ministry empowering women and children to avoid human trafficking by giving them value and worth in their communities). Originally from California, Stacey and her family currently make their home in northern Minnesota where they are actively involved in their church’s mission of seeing real people make real change. Stacey’s favorite quote is by Chip Ingram: “I am nothing without Jesus. But in Him and through Him I can do great things!”