What Fruit?

 

As I was writing my last blog about how God grows the Fruits of the Spirit in us in the midst of difficulties, I kept thinking about restoration.  Whenever restoration is mentioned in the scriptures we see opposites-joy for mourning, strength for weakness, salvation for sin, healing for sickness, beauty for ashes. If restoration is God’s gift to bring good out of everything the enemy intended for evil in our lives, wouldn’t it make sense that the fruits of the Spirit would be fruits of restoration.

Understanding the lies we believe about God, ourselves, and others helps to renew our minds. But what about our emotions? Again, the answer is in the fruits of the Spirit. Tamara Patterson from River of Life Church has a really good message about this. You can find it at

https://www.facebook.com/RiverofLifeCorpusChristi/videos/1284210381616590/

But for now, I will just share a brief summary about what I received from her message.

Keep in mind that love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, and self control are fruits OF THE SPIRIT. That means that they are imparted to us by the Holy Spirit, not through our own understanding or efforts. The Bible tells us that we have not because we ask not, so as you read the following I would encourage you to ask for the fruit or fruits you need at this time.

When in fear-ask for revelations of God’s perfect love

When you are anxious-ask for peace

When you are depressed or sad-ask for joy

When you are frustrated or angry-ask for patience

When you feel rejected-ask for opportunities to show and receive kindness.

When you feel less than or flawed( usually because of abuse, legalism, or perfectionism) ask for revelations of God’s goodness

When you feel like hiding your true self or are harsh to others out of self- protection- ask for gentleness.

When you feel out of control because of behavioral choices, entitlement, or feeling like a victim- ask for self-control.

God loves to meet us, heal us, restore us, empower us, and to bless us with good gifts. Ask Him to show you what fruits you need at this time. Then open your heart and receive.

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10 NKJV).

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law”.(Galatians 5:22-23 ESV).

 

 

A Life Well Lived-Karen’s Story

I was reading through some of my mother’s writings the other day, and I found this beautiful testimony about a woman named Karen. May we all live for Jesus as Karen did!

December 1998

Karen and I became friends over a prayer line at our church about three months ago. Those who pray together can not long stay strangers. Karen never spoke of her physical condition, and she never complained. I didn’t even find out that she was in a wheelchair until I invited her to go with us on an outreach. I had asked her whether she would rather go with us to nursing homes, children’s homes, women’s shelters, or juvenile detention homes and prisons. To which she had enthusiastically replied, “ALL OF THE ABOVE! But someone will have to drive my van. I can no longer drive it by myself.” That day I learned that she was wheelchair bound. I wouldn’t learn that she had Muscular Dystrophy until later.

Although we tried and tried, things always came up and Karen was never able to join us in ministry. But Karen and I continued to pray for others over the phone, and we saw God do wondrous things. Once, when we were talking about healing, Karen confided in me that she would be healed before a great crowd of people as a witness as to what God could do.

Two Sundays ago I finally got to meet Karen when I went to the later service at church. She had an electric wheelchair but almost didn’t have the physical strength to use it. We were instant friends. She had a bright smile and God’s love flowed through her to all who crowded around her to tell her “Hello!” It was evident that she was a much loved and valuable member of the congregation, and that she had many instant friends. The next week on the prayer line Karen shared that she was rarely home because of her volunteering. I was impressed.

I never got to know just how and where Karen spent her love-filled days because the call came. “Karen is in the hospital with breathing problems.” We prayed for her. That evening I spoke to her on the phone. She was weak so I made the conversation short and encouraging. I didn’t allow her to speak much. The next morning another member of the prayer chain spoke briefly with her. She reported that Karen was her happy self but a little “breathy”. Thirty minutes later Karen went to be with Jesus.

I really didn’t expect to see many people at the funeral, but the chapel was full to overflowing. There were people of every description, color, size, and physical ability. These were the ones with whom Karen had spent her days. A Man in a wheelchair pulled his chair up beside me. Many unsaved people were there, drawn by Karen’s life of love, caring, and sharing.

When our pastor spoke he knew that many in attendance did not know Jesus. After a short tribute to Karen’s life about how she had been a sharer of love and an encourager, he said something like this:

“How do you handle pain like this? Well, there are three ways. You can get drunk or take drugs and mask the pain for awhile. You can commit suicide and try to hide in the grave. Or then there is JESUS…. I don’t remember the exact words that followed, but I do remember that as he looked out over the group of silently weeping mourners he said, “How many of you had Karen share her Jesus with you?” Many of the ones ahead of me nodded their heads. The only gift that you can give Karen now is to accept the gift that she was offering you. Nothing would please her more than for you to accept God’s Love Gift through Jesus-John 3:16.”

What followed was so beautiful and so touching. The pastor asked with very special words and in a very special way for those who would like to have Jesus forgive them of their sins and come into their lives and take charge of their lives to silently repeat the words (the sinner’s prayer) after him. Many did. I know that the man next to me did.

As for Karen…She did get healed before a mighty crowd of Eternal witnesses, forever and ever!!!

In these days of national turmoil, shaking, anguish, and selfishness, even to the pint of challenging long accepted meaning of words, it is good to know that there are Karens in the world—Those who without fanfare, just go about sharing God’s Love and His Light wherever they go.

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11King James Version KJV).

Much Fruit

Sometimes when we are going through a trial it’s hard to see anything good coming out of it. Quite a few years ago I was going through a season of intense physical and emotional suffering. One day, as I was getting ready to leave the house, I saw a picture in my mind of a large bowl of fruit. As I thought about the meaning of the fruit bowl, I heard the Lord speak to my heart: “Thank you for letting me entrust you with this trial. Much fruit will come from it.”

Before then I had thought of trials as tests, not opportunities to trust and to be trusted. God is all about relationship. Relationships are built on trust, not tests. God knows our hearts. He is not trying to see what we can achieve. He wants to grow our trust so He can entrust us with all He has created us for.

He is a Good Father, not a strict teacher. Like any good father, He teaches through many experiences to grow us and to equip us. Not to see if we will pass or fail.

Knowing He is good allows us to rest in His love in the midst of unlovely circumstances. As we draw close to Him and trust Him He will bring forth much fruit—the fruit of our testimony and the fruits of the Spirit manifested in our lives.

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

 O taste and see that the Lord [our God] is good! Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man who trusts and takes refuge in Him” (Psalm 34:8 AMPC).

“But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge]” (Galatians 5:22-23).

 

 

Going Somewhere

Going Somewhere

Lately, it seems as though I am being pulled in many different directions. Before I leave for Virginia for a season I am trying to meet with as many friends as I can, as well as sorting, packing, selling my books I still have on hand, writing, preparing messages to teach next week, taking care of my special needs sister….you get the idea.

You would think I would be going nuts trying to get everything accomplished, but actually, I would much rather be busy than bored. Maybe that is why I like to walk at the bayfront when the wind is stirring the waters.

Right now, there is no doubt that I am definitely going somewhere soon. But there have been seasons in my life when I felt as if I were going nowhere.

 

Last Spring God told me to turn over the care of my father and sister and go elsewhere. I stepped out in faith and obeyed. After visiting in three different states, I returned and stayed with a few friends awaiting my next direction.

 

I was looking into renewing my teaching certificate and getting a “real job” but every time I made a move in that direction, God stopped me. In November I came back to my dad’s house for a week to take care of my sister while he went to a wedding in California. Unfortunately, the day before the wedding, he fell and broke his hip, and has not been able to live at his house since then. So to make a long story short, I am still here at his house.

 

After a few weeks of caring for my sister again, I, felt as if I were going nowhere. I thought that maybe my extended stay was keeping me from accomplishing the things God had put in my heart to do. My current circumstances reminded me of an experience I had had years ago when I was living in Arizona.

 

I was volunteering at the hospital on one of my days off and had just entered the elevator with a cart full of supplies I had gathered from the storeroom. After maneuvering the cart to the back of the elevator I pushed the button to ascend, but the elevator didn’t budge. I waited a minute just in case someone was exiting on another floor. Then I pushed the button again…Still no movement. Just as I began to envision myself being stuck inside for an indeterminate amount of time, the doors opened and to my surprise, I was staring into the face of the same woman whom I had conversed with in the hallway before boarding. That is when I realized I had been pushing the wrong button. My effort had resulted in my going nowhere.

 

Needless to say, once I recognized my mistake, I quickly corrected it, exited on the second floor, and made my way to my destination with no further hindrances. Although my extended stay in caring for my sister again and my elevator experience felt similar, I realized that there was a world of difference: On the elevator, I was pushing the wrong button. In returning to my dad’s home, God had pushed the right button. Repeating the same mistake didn’t take me anywhere, but obeying God always takes me somewhere, even if I do not recognize it at the time.

 

As I look back on these past seven months I am in awe of all God has done. I am thankful for all I have been able to accomplish at my father’s house, and I have been blessed in more ways than I could ever have imagined. Once again, God has shown me that when He puts me in specific places, the rewards outweigh the struggles. Whenever I am in His will, even when it feels as though I am going nowhere, He is always taking me somewhere.

 

If you are in a season where you feel as if you are going nowhere, I would encourage you to ask God for wisdom. He might show you that you have been pushing the wrong button and repeating unhealthy or unproductive behaviors. But He also might reveal that your seemingly nowhere season has been taking you somewhere you were not aware of. Somewhere you never could have gone without your present circumstances, even

if that somewhere is just to a deeper relationship with Him.

 

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

 

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Psalm 33:4  For the word of the Lord is right; and all His work is done in faithfulness” (AMPC).

 

Get Out of the Car (Revisited)

Get out of car

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog about a road trip encounter I had when I was helping my daughter Shanna and her husband David move to Virginia. In a few weeks, I will step into a new season as I return to Virginia for a longer period of time. Even though I know that God is going before me, my heart is beginning to ache at the thought of leaving my wonderful church, family, and friends. Today, as I was focusing on loss, God reminded me of some of the “God Adventures” we had during Shanna and David’s last move. I am posting one of them to remind me that although I am leaving much behind, there is always much ahead when we obey our Daddy God and step out into the unknown.

The moving truck had gotten stuck in the mud behind a pizza place in a dark secluded area. While Shanna and David were calling the rental company for assistance, I waited in the car and prayed. God told me to trust Him because He was doing something beautiful, so I after a while I quit praying for a solution and decided just to worship.

Within minutes, a friend called to see what I had been up to the past few months. I filled her in on our current situation, and she prayed a powerful prayer. After our call, the big dude who had been sitting in the car next to me got out of his car and walked behind the back of the building where my daughter and son-in-law were standing. Immediately, God told me, “He is the reason you are here. Get out of the car!” I did.

The man informed us that we were in a dangerous area. Apparently, a couple of pizza delivery drivers had recently been robbed, and one of them had been murdered. He was riding along with his wife to protect her when she made her pizza deliveries. We told him that we felt like God had also placed him there for our protection.

I felt a stirring in my spirit to pray for the man, so I asked him if he had accepted Jesus as his Savior. He had. Since I love to hear testimonies, I asked him if he would care to share. He looked at me warily and answered, “I was incarcerated at the time.”

“Praise God!” I exclaimed.

He gave me a quizzical look and said, “That’s not the reaction I usually get.”

“It’s not where you have come from; it’s where you are going,” I reminded him.

His eyes lit up, “That’s right, but most folks don’t see it that way.”

I told him that I kept hearing “Samson” in my spirit and asked if I could pray for him. I learned his name was Shadrack.

I explained to Shadrack that although Samson fell to the flesh and was imprisoned, when he turned to God and regained his strength, he defeated his enemies. The Lord told me to tell Shadrack that although he had made bad choices and had been imprisoned, because he had turned to God, God would empower him to defeat all his enemies—fear, unforgiveness, addictions, etc.

As I continued to pray for Shadrack, the Lord told me to give him a certain amount of money.

When I mentioned the money, his response brought tears to my eyes, “We just lost everything. Our house—everything!”

I said, “Shadrack, God loves you so much that He would let us get stuck in the mud just so He could bless you!”

His eyes began to tear up as he commented, “I will never forget this night for the rest of my life!”

Shadrack shared that he had been sitting in his car watching what was going on with the truck when God told him to get out of the car. He told God he couldn’t: “It’s night. I’m a big black guy and those are white people. If I go over there, they will think that I am trying to rob them.” Once again, God told him, “Get out of the car!”

While were praying, the tow truck arrived. After the moving truck was pulled from the mud, Shadrack helped reattach the car to the trailer. Then we ended up sharing more and praying for each other. Before we left, Shanna and David were also led to bless Shadrack financially, and we had the opportunity to pray for his wife as well.

“Get out of the car!”

What if I hadn’t obeyed? What if Shadrack hadn’t obeyed? We both would have missed out on a night that neither one of us would ever forget for the rest of our lives—a night where we opened the doors of our vehicles—and the doors of our hearts. It was a night where we both stepped out into the unknown and met Jesus in an unfamiliar place, as we encountered Him in the hearts and lives of each other.

When Shadrack was sharing how he chose to obey God and “got out of the car,” I thought about Peter getting out of the boat to meet Jesus. Peter might have started to sink, but none of the other disciples would ever experience what it felt like to walk on water, even if only for a few steps. God is waiting for us to step out and meet Him in the unknown. If we keep our focus on Him we can walk with Him on water, but even when our fears cause us to sink, His hand is always there to pull us up and draw us close.

Whether it is from our cars, our boats, our houses, or just our comfort zones, when God tells us to “get out” it’s always an invitation to come and join Him in an adventure.

When I first came to back to Texas, I begged God to let me leave. Now I am sad that it is time go. I came with almost nothing. But I am leaving with both a full heart and a full life.

Whenever you and I step out of our comfort zones it’s easy to concentrate on the loss of what we are leaving behind, instead of anticipating the abundance of what awaits us. God is a Good Daddy and He is orchestrating wonderful adventures for us—if we will only obey his voice and “Get out of the car!”

Matthew 14:28-29
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water”

29 “Come,” he said. (NIV)

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

 

 

Just Keep Digging

 

I once saw a cartoon that made me think about perseverance. A man was standing up to his head in a hole, shovel in hand, stating that he was giving up because nothing was there. When, in reality, just a few feet below him rested three treasure chests. If he had just hung in a little bit longer and dug a little bit deeper he would have reaped a great reward.

Boy, could I relate! Many times, when I have been on the brink of my breakthrough, I have gotten discouraged and wanted to chunk my shovel. When you and I have trusted, believed, and labored with still no results in sight, it often seems easier to bale than battle.

Speaking of a battle: Have you ever noticed that the battle intensifies just before the breakthrough? I used to believe it was because I was losing my mind, but now I realize it is because the enemy is losing his hold on me. When he sees that we are getting close to the treasures of God’s promises, deliverances, and blessings, he tries to back us off by raising his ugly head and roaring, and by filling our minds with lies (God doesn’t care about you! you will never be free of ______. You are a failure! etc.)

I remember one particularly intense battle when the Lord was bringing up some past hurts in order to bring me freedom. I was literally in such physical and emotional pain I thought I would die. As I kept crying out for freedom from the traumatic memories that were tormenting me, the Lord whispered to my spirit (persevere). Just when I thought I would break, I received my breakthrough… my treasure…a revelation of truth and wave after wave after wave of incredible joy.

After viewing the cartoon I looked up the definition of perseverance. Webster’s defines perseverance as steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.

I then wrote the following poem:

Persevere, my brother,
When you think you can’t go on.
Persevere, my sister,
When the night seems, Oh, so long.
When your mind is in torment, and your heart’s about to break,
Set your sights on the treasure and realize what’s at stake.
For God, in His faithfulness will bring the victory
Just keep on digging and His riches you will see.

Whatever comes your way, don’t give up, my friend. God’s got you and He has great treasures for you!

Galatians 6:9 “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (NKJV)

Be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

 

Scars into Stars

The enemy comes to kill, steal and destroy, but God gives life abundantly. Today’s post is a powerful testimony by my friend Cilinda. Thankfully, we serve a mighty God who brings beauty out of ashes and as Cilinda so beautifully says, “turns our scars into stars.”

I started out thinking I was going to write a very short rendition of my “autobiography” (which I have promised both myself and God, but have yet to do), but God has laid it on my heart to write my testimony in a much different fashion/form.

To cover my background and help it to make sense of where I am today, I will say my life has not been “the American Dream” in any manner. At the ages of seven and nine years old I was molested. My parents never knew because I was not capable of understanding what had happened to me, being so young at those times. It probably behooves anyone reading this, to think how something like that could’ve happened to a child and the parents not ever know. Fear and folly, I would dare to say, is what allowed me to keep it a secret for so many years.

My mother was forty-three years of age when she gave birth to me (my father was fifty-two years old). My precious mother had too many medical problems to mention, and needless to say, after having three daughters many years earlier in her life, was not “expecting” the birth of the fourth daughter (me)! But she and my father welcomed me into this world with love and their faith in the Lord knowing that my birth was His will and all would be right with the universe!

You may have heard the old sayings such as “ignorance is bliss,” or “what you don’t know won’t hurt you”… well, unbeknownst to me, as a child, I took those old adages and lived by them for several years. I kept the ‘secrets’ of what those two men did to me hidden as deep within me as I could possibly bury them. My life played out as I would consider “normal”, but as the years rolled by, I would find out that buried bones sometimes get dug up or uncovered.

As my high school graduation approached, I was more than excited over the life I saw before me! I was engaged to a military guy five years older than me. Our wedding was two weeks after my graduation, and I couldn’t wait to be married to the man of my dreams, have our own home and one day have children of our own! The “American Dream”, right? Well, all that soon changed and my vision of the “American Dream” was shattered into a million pieces and scattered to the uttermost parts of the earth, or so it seemed.

My fiancé and I were involved in a most tragic automobile accident May 2nd, 1978. A semi-truck ran the traffic light as we were crossing through our green light. The big rig hit our car on my fiance’s side, sending us spinning, striking another vehicle in our path, and leaving a mass of destruction in a matter of seconds! Four days later, I came out of a coma, to find out about my fiance’s tragic demise. The driver of the truck didn’t survive this horrendous accident either.

My future was ripped right out from under me; a feeling much worse, I felt, than literally having my heart torn from inside my human body! The one person I was about to vow to spend the rest of my life with… to have and to hold, from this day forward, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part, was gone. Death… such a sudden end to a lifelong future ~ one that never began!

I sank into the darkness of depression, not wanting to be in any social gathering with family or friends. I didn’t have a reason to go on, nothing to live for! I just wanted to die! Twice I tried to commit suicide – once by taking an overdose of my prescription. The second time I had to battle thoughts in my head of jumping into my mother’s car and driving off a bridge! But God had other plans, none of which I was aware of yet!

I went through counseling with a psychiatrist, and then more with a psychologist. The pastor of our church also generously counseled me through the word of God (which was, by far, the most valuable and rewarding counsel of all!)

Four months after tragically losing my fiance, a relative passed away, and my parents needed to go to the funeral. They knew I would not be attending with them, as I was not capable of holding up through a memorial service. One of my sisters and her three children lived just down the road from my parents and me, so they arranged for me to stay with her until they returned after the weekend. Little did they, or any of us, know that weekend would be cut short…

My sister was divorced and was enjoying the activities of what single life entailed – going out to the nightclubs on weekends to dance and listen to some good old-fashioned music! Well, her three children had made plans to stay with friends of theirs that weekend, and an old friend of hers happened to come for a visit and ask her to go out on the town. Not wanting to leave me alone, she said I would have to come along. Much to my negative response of not wanting to go, she continued insisting and I finally, begrudgingly gave in.

We went to a nightclub that we had often frequented in the past and stayed for awhile until she and her male counterpart decided they wanted to check out another place. I refused to go and spotted a former friend I hadn’t seen in a while and engaged in conversation with him. She spoke to him briefly and said they would just go for a little while and would be back to pick me up. I took it that she thought my friend would hang out with me until they returned!

An hour or so passed and my friend said he needed to leave, as he had to get up very early the next morning. I sat at the little round table in the corner alone, listening to the band until the bartender announced, “Last call for alcohol”. Next thing I knew, the bouncer walked up and told me I had to leave, “…time to vacate the premises & lock up shop!” I tried to explain that I was waiting for my sister to come back to pick me up, but he simply stated that I needed to “wait outside.”

I exited the building, not knowing what else to do. I looked around, hoping to see my sister and her friend pull up to pick me up. But not a sight of them anywhere! I noticed an army guy that worked with my friend I had talked to earlier and asked him if he could give me a ride to my friend’s so I could have him take me home. He said he was with other guys, but he would see if I could get a ride with them.

Without dragging this story out too long with daunting details, I’ll skip to where this “ride” lead. The car pulled up, and I got in with the “friend of my friend, the driver of the car and the passenger in the back seat. They took me to the dorms where “my friend” should have been, but after I checked his room, knocked desperately on the door (to no avail), I returned to the parking lot to see the three army guys standing by the car. I approached, telling them he didn’t answer and asked if they could take me to the police station so I could get a ride to my sister’s house. Their plans had already been decided. My night on the town soon turned into a night of terror.

During the next few hours, I was repeatedly raped and abused. Then I was taken back to the car. Instead of releasing me, one of the men then took me to another location. Fear enveloped me as questions ran through my mind. “Where was he taking me? God, why is this happening to me? Is this going to end? “How” is this going to end??? ”

Once again, I was raped. My captor then opened the car door, got out of the driver’s side, walked around to the passenger’s side, told me to slide behind the wheel, threw the keys at me as he slid into the car and said I could drive to my sister’s! My mind was not in a state of rationalization, nor did I remember the actions taken in driving myself to my sister’s house. All I can possibly accredit my safe arrival to is only the sheer grace of God!! As I pulled up in my sister’s driveway and grabbed the door handle to get out, he threatened me, “Don’t tell anyone what happened tonight, because the big guy WILL come find you!”

I broke down and told my sister and her male friend what had happened! Her male friend took me to the infirmary and the doctors called the military police. I was tended to & cleaned up, then taken to the crime scenes to verify my story. I had to return the next day for a lineup where I identified both guys.

Two years later I received a certified letter while I was living on a military base in Germany. I was married and we were expecting our first child. The letter was from the U.S. Dept of Criminal Justice, stating that the trial had taken place, and both militants had been tried and found guilty and were dishonorably discharged from the Army! But no sentence or jail time for either! I remember thinking, “Justice… is that what you call it?”

I continued to live my life, and raise two sons.  My first marriage lasted sixteen years. Thirteen years later I remarried. That one lasted four years. Although both of my marriages ended in divorce, I watched my two wonderful, blessed sons grow up and get married. One of my sons has given me two of the most treasured blessings I claim – my grandson & granddaughter!!

My family are my treasures and this life is where I am meant to be…The past? It’s dead & gone… buried! Those buried bones I spoke of earlier did get dug up… but not in the way you would imagine. Again, God’s mercy and grace prevailed!

I was approached at a random meeting by someone in the Criminal Justice Department in Texas (where I lived after I married & raised my children). I told my story and of how God brought me through everything with His protecting angels all around me. I shared how I could have died in these instances, but by God’s grace, I’m alive today and healthy and well, with bountiful blessings the Lord has bestowed upon me through His love for me – HIS child! His child… ‘that’ I am! I told him that God watched in pain as these things happened to me throughout my life, but He did NOT allow any of it to destroy me or take my life! He had guarded, guided, and protected me and brought me to a ‘safe’ place!’

After hearing my story, this official asked me if I would be willing to share my story with others and tell them about how it impacted my past AND my current life! I accepted, not knowing what I was getting into or the difference it would make in my life!

I spoke to parole officers in training, as well as “parolees” who were in prison for committing the same crimes that had been committed against me!  How powerful our God is!! This was another chapter of my life – the one I call “the forgiving chapter”! This is where I came ‘face-to-face’ with those who have hurt and caused pain and suffering to others like myself… THIS was GOD reaching out (through me and my life’s story) to these criminals (sinners) to let them know that HE is all-powerful, yet He is a forgiving God! He allowed me to witness to these men about how HE brought me through all of my past! And through this came “forgiveness”.I realized I no longer had the hate and anger ‘buried’ inside of me toward those men from my past for what they had done to me! In a sense, you could say “God brought me ‘to’ prison to free me ‘from’ my own prison!”

God had allowed me to be a part of a family who knew Him, served Him, and loved Him. My parents taught me how to believe in God. Through attending church regularly, I was taught about how we, our world, and everything in it and beyond was created. I learned about the hardships of people throughout the Bible and about how God delivered those who believed through it all! I learned about Jesus’ birth, His life, and all the torture, pain, and suffering He went through before dying on the cross for the sins of the world. And I learned about how Jesus resurrected back to life so that I/we could live beyond all the tribulations we have here on earth!

At the age of thirteen, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. I realized then that I was not alone on my journey and that He had been by my side in my “innocence of life!” Although I did encounter terrible tragedies later in my life, I now know that God was, is, and ‘always’ will be by my side no matter what my future unfolds!

Today, through my past, both good and bad, I reflect on where God was in my life. He was by my side, holding my hand, and carrying me through the parts of my life that I would not have survived – without HIM! I am blessed to attend a wonderful church who loves and serves God “wholeheartedly”. I too, serve in this church through ministries God has placed before me to show how awesome He is and how HE provides for each and every one of His children, through any and all circumstances throughout our lives!

Besides working in our church bookstore, I am a leader of a wonderful Life Group called “Challengers”. I also am a part of an amazing God-given ministry called God Behind Bars, which allows me to attend ‘our’ church’s service in the very same prison God took me to when He opened the door for my healing to begin, as well as my “purpose” to be revealed! God is so  awesome, and amazing beyond our comprehension, but totally within our acceptance!

There are precious memories I hold on to of years gone by – that I will forever reminisce and thank God for as I smile with much appreciation and gratitude…Thank You, God, for always staying by me, for preserving my life, for showing me there are greater pains than all I have ever been through, and for my life eternal – my salvation!

One day I shall see my parents who are in Heaven… along with my sister and other loved ones who have long since passed. But as long as I am on this earth, I daily thank God that I can minister through my testimony and I am grateful that He has molded me into a vessel that He so carefully and lovingly guards, guides and protects, yet employs for His services to others.

Forgiveness is the key to a faulty lock that you thought could never be opened! How did I get through all of my past, you ask? Not ‘just’ by the Grace of God, but by His genuine love, His purpose, and His plan for me…And now, today…I look forward to my future, watching my children and grandchildren as their lives change, grow, and unfold the way God plans… watching and living the rest of my life, as it, too, turns page-by-page, as my book is being written by the hand of our Almighty God, who turns our scars into STARS!

 

Looking Forward

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine who is single about the qualities she wanted in a future husband. She immediately piped up, “I want a man who works. My ex-husband was lazy and would not keep a job.”

Even though that was a good expectation, something didn’t sit right in my spirit. As I continued to talk to her I could hear myself. “I want _______ or I don’t want _______ because I don’t want someone like my ex.”

Sometimes when I am talking to people, God gives me little downloads. This was one of those times. I heard coming out of my mouth, “Instead of  making your decisions based upon what your ex didn’t do, focus on what God wants to do for you.” ” I immediately thought to myself, “That’s really good!”

One is about judgment; the other is about jubilee.

One is about problems; the other is about promises

One is about who hurt me then; the other is about who God has for me now.

Whether it stem from a family member, friend or ex, I have yet to meet anyone who has not been hurt from a past relationship. We often think if we keep our focus on the flaws of the people who have hurt us, we will be safe in our new relationships. However, I have learned that while it is true that we need to be aware of wrong patterns and wrong thinking, in order to move forward, we must also look forward. Instead of our plumb lines being based on what someone did to us in the past, they should be based on what God will do for us in the future.

The key to moving forward is to live in the now and trust God with the plans He has for us. If you and I continue to seek the Lord in the present and let Him heal us and bring us truth in His presence, then we will be ready to receive His presents (the best relationships He has for us.)

Be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise”  (Philippians 4:8 NLT).

“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires” (Psalm 34:7 NLT).

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,” (Philippians 3:13 NLT).

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

 

The Gate

Today’s post is about an inspiring encounter my dear friend Brandilynn had this Easter weekend. 

As I drove towards Tarpley, Texas on Easter weekend; an overwhelming sense of emptiness filled my heart. Like an empty cup turned upside down; I felt nothing left. I was excited for the weekend, yet felt afraid I wouldn’t fit in with the group. They all knew each other well and I was just new to this church group. They were like one big happy family that joked and bantered back and forth with inside stories I had yet to understand. The old familiar thoughts entered in. Was I good enough? Could I measure up? Would I be on the sidelines looking in? Could I make a difference? I asked God to equip me as I rounded the corner to “The Gate” that would forever change my life. I sat in front of this huge black iron gate that towered above me. As I entered the code and the gate opened; I couldn’t shake a sense of something great is about to happen.

 

I quickly unpacked my bags and got settled in. Everyone began arriving at the second of two cabins on the Lake Front Hill Country Getaway. …and so began my journey to receiving the greatest fulfillment in a group setting I can remember. This group is different I told myself. Everyone busily got situated into both cabins and later that night we sat around eating burgers and listening to Pastor Mark share a message on what it means for God to get the glory in your life. He shared that this weekend was about focusing on the Lord and leaving the worldly cares behind. We delved into discussions about God and Jesus in a way that felt different. James had been discussing feelings of LACK in the previous church meetings.He shared to take those feelings and just ask God…  “Hey, what is this Lord”?!  It amazed me that it could be simplified so easily into one action.

Problem: Feeling lack (of any kind)
Solution: Holding that up to God and asking him about it

Pretty easy concept! How I missed it all these years is beyond me.

That night, I had a lot of time to think about what God was doing in my life and in the lives of others around me. I woke up the next morning with only a few hours of sleep. I felt strangely energized as I met up with the others in the group. The day unfolded perfectly as we talked around the picnic table. Later we hiked a mountain that later became known as “Won Shoe Mountain” and at night sat around the fire in God’s presence. We laughed and cried and sang and talked. A sense of wonderment came over me when I realized that in our group of twelve. Like the disciples, Jesus sat among us! I could feel his presence like never before. I could feel LOVE, ACCEPTANCE, JOY, HONOR, HUMILITY, COMPASSION, FAITHFULNESS, COMMITMENT, ANOINTING, GENTLENESS, ENCOURAGEMENT, and DISCERNMENT, to name a few. I was amazed to hear, as we went around the campfire; the thoughts that others had formed about me. Nothing but the love of Jesus could allow them to see into my heart that way. As each person took their turn my mind ceased to function and my soul leaped forward. I realized this is a taste of heaven on earth, as I felt unending love in that moment. A sneak peak into the UNCONDITIONAL LOVE that God has in store for us all as we (in time) enter into the heavenly gates.

NO LACK existed!

The next morning I awoke feeling satisfied that I had opened my heart, mind, soul, body to God in a way that surpassed previous moments. I felt closer to God than ever before in a way that humbled; yet excited me. I drove out and back up to the gate with new purpose and an overflowing cup. I sat in front of the Gate for a moment… NOT wanting to leave.

I understand now entering the code to the gate…. symbolic for saying, God, I am here… ready to be in your presence. I leave everything behind at the gate entrance and enter into your kingdom and majesty and righteousness. I realized I had left ALL worldly things at the front of the gate. We can’t bring those things into his presence.

In closing, leaving you with one final thought. When you are sitting in front of that Gate… staring up and deciding whether to enter…  or sit back in the worldly things… will you decide to enter into God’s presence and feel his majesty and love surround you and change you in a profound way. Letting the world fall away off of you… your body, your mind, your heart, your soul. To renew and bask in the presence of God that seems to change you down to the very cells of your body… to fill your heart so full it is bursting with Love, Adoration, Kindness, and Acceptance for everyone and everything around you. …but even greater still a deepening love of the Lord your Father in heaven that cannot be contained or explained.

…as I drove out the gate… I looked on the side of the road and could see the worldly cares I had left when entering, still sitting piled up; that I had dumped right outside the gate. I paused for a split second in thought as my eyes welled up with tears of joy. I drove away… leaving the pile still sitting there. I won’t be needing those again I thought as sweet tears began flowing down my cheeks. A sense of an atmosphere shift lingered with me in the car. A heart overflowing and a feeling of pure love beyond measure.

To those that don’t know God….  the code you enter to “The Gate” is Jesus. Ask Jesus into your heart and the gate will open for anyone who will ask.

All the love in the world to you.

-Brandilynn Edgerton

Eggciting

Last Easter, a few of the ladies in my Bible study and I celebrated Easter with the women and children at our local women’s shelter. The message we shared was about the three eggs of Easter.

The first egg was empty. It represented the empty tomb.

The second egg had a marshmallow chick in it. It represented the sweetness and fullness of God’s love and new birth.

The third egg was a chocolate egg that was wrapped in gold foil. It represented restoration. After empathizing with the women concerning their current situations, and encouraging them that God could and would restore their lives, my friends and I handed each of the women a golden egg. The Holy Spirit moved hearts and tears began to fall. It was a beautiful experience!

The way I celebrated this Easter was very different from last year’s celebration. Instead of meeting with abused women in a park, I spent the weekend with my pastors and church family at the Yellow Rose Ranch. The weekend was so amazing and life giving it would take many blogs to share about it, so I will just refer back to the three eggs of Easter,

The empty egg: Although there was no Easter sermon, the message of Easter was everywhere as relationship with Jesus and the victories He has given us were present in every conversation.

The full egg: The sweetness and fullness of God’s love was mirrored in action as each person considered others better than himself/herself and truly loved his/her neighbor. Serving one another was easy because it was out of love and not duty. Protecting one another was natural because we truly cared and wanted what was best for each other.

The golden egg of restoration: There were some precious times, usually around the camp fire, when we spoke words of encouragement to one another. My church calls this “kisses from heaven”. As we affirmed each other and made agreement with the restoration God has for us, the Holy Spirit moved hearts and both laughter and tears fell. It was beautiful!

Two different Easter experiences, but the same three eggs: Victory in Jesus, the fullness of His love poured out to others, and the beautiful restoration that He brings to our lives.

Because the tomb was empty, our hearts are full!

Be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters”(1 John 3:16 NIV).