A Note Deer to the Wise!

deer.jpgOn December 31, 2014 I was over my best friends house and she had this really cool, black wrought iron, copper horned Christmas deer that still had the tags on it.  I admired it so much and after complimenting it she just handed it over to me and said “here, you can have it”. I felt so grateful and honored.  This is a truly generous friend who gives me things all of the time.  But this seemed different.  As if it was a sign. 

I already started to put my Christmas stuff away so I figured I would just put this away and enjoy it next year.  I decided to write myself a note and attach it to the deer.  For me that was random and I wasn’t sure why I had this urge but I decided to stop what I was doing and write.  At this particular time in my life we had just moved down to North Carolina from New York and we were just coming off of 3 years of financial and personal hardship, loss and tough times.  We were living in a rental home with very little financial resources and desperately trying to rebuild our lives.  Christmas that year was running on a very tight budget and the fear of no money for the New Year was lurking in every purchase.  I was raised abundantly spoiled at Christmastime and with a family that overspent for Christmas every year.  I was OK with not spoiling my children as it was a nice reality check for them, but if our accounting had its way, we would have needed to skip Christmas altogether.  Although life was starting to look uphill and I stayed loyal and trusting in the Lord, I still felt stressed out and struggling with each and every day.  I prayed my heart out but some days I forgot to be patient and listen for God.

Yet this weekend, as I started to unpack our Christmas décor, excited about bringing in the spirit of Christmas, I came across the forgotten deer and the forgotten note.

 The note read as follows:

Jodi, remember how you were feeling on this day December 31, 2014.  Ken wasn’t sure about his job with Oracle.  We were still broke and unsure of the future.  Lauren gave you this reindeer which you admired and it should serve as a reminder that even in the lowest of lows, fear and uncertainty, God is with you and loves you and you will be safe with him. True friends, family, church, and love is stronger than your fears and God is stronger than your circumstances. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, acknowledge him in all your ways and he will send your paths straight”. Proverbs 3:5-6.

I was amazed and overjoyed as I read this note as I felt the presence of our Lord in every word.  An epiphany of sorts and a poignant reminder that he doesn’t abandon us during our difficult times.  He is right there seeing us through and he is so proud when we acknowledge our worries through trust in him.  As a result, he gives us exactly what we need.  He reminds us we can’t enjoy the sun if we don’t endure the storm.  We must appreciate our place in life as it is God’s way of helping us grow and giving us that gift of wisdom that he does not spread around lightly.

At the end of the day, that Christmas was just as beautiful as any other.  It didn’t have the material gifts we were used to but it had something better, gifts of friendship, family, fellowship and love.  Yet regardless, we still had some gifts to share, food to eat and most importantly a Lord to praise with much gratitude. 

My husband received his offer letter one week later and by June of this year we were able to purchase a beautiful home where we can continue to spread our roots enjoying the company of our new friends, our beloved family and our new homeland down south.  By all means, this is the not the only way the Lord has shown up in my life, it’s just one of the many few that I have yet to share of his continuous Grace.  Life is Good!  God is Good!

We are still faced with financial challenges and uncertainty for our future but our homage is to our Lord as it has proven that worry and fear get you nowhere.  He will show us his will in his due time.  We just have to trust in him and ask for peace throughout any storm we are weathering.  He ALWAYS get us through.

Philippians 4:6-7

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

I encourage anyone who is struggling in their life to write themselves a note, bury it away and bring it out one year later.  Start trusting that the Lord has your concerns in his heart and he has amazing plans to carry you through to a place of peace and understanding so you can look back and say, “oh I get it and Thank you God”!

 

 

 

 

 

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Lost In Translation

Lost in Translation!  

Does hearing the name “Jesus” intimidate you?  Does the very thought of thinking about him or mentioning his name make you uncomfortable?  When something good happens in your life is he the last one you think of?  Or when something horrible happens is he the first one you blame?  I remember coming across radio stations playing Christian music and feeling the need to turn the channel quick.  As if it was going to brainwash me and I was going to be converted quickly.  Even hearing people (like me) rant about my love for Jesus Christ made me cringe & feel weird.  It was a foreign concept in my mind!

If like the old me, you answered yes to most or all of these questions, guess what, you’re not alone.  At points in my life, Jesus Christ was the farthest thing from my mind.  He was a catholic “staple” during church, holidays & religious education; but that was it.

Psalm 19:7

The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.

Most grew up with some spiritual teaching.  Regardless of denomination, we heard there is a God and he is important to know.  Maybe you would go to a religious education class or Sunday school and whatever your week endured, you were required to give 1 hour, 1 day a week to God.  But most just considered him as important as the Tooth Fairy or even Santa Clause.  A childhood literal fantasy that at certain times throughout the year would show up in church or conversation.  If we lost a tooth, we counted on the Tooth Fairy to fill our piggy banks.  Of course Santa Clause speaks for himself as the rockstar of Christmas past.

I was raised to believe that Jesus Christ was to be honored at Christmas, Easter, weddings and funerals.  And if you did “very well” in honoring him during those events, you were “good to go” for the next time.  He was not an investment, he was a necessary character within your family and upbringing.  Yet when life would throw me major curveballs, the Tooth Fairy or Santa became irrelevant!  Their immortality became apparent.  Even friends and family could take the edge off, but were small in comparison to being miracle workers.  Yet the magic of the holy spirit, (the gift that Jesus left us) nudged me at times of deep despair and when I had nowhere else to to turn, he entered into my conscience and I would turn to God!  Not fully, but with much curiosity and a childlike need for her Father.  You gotta love God’s plan because he works in mysterious ways.

I simply found this fascinating that people lived this way.  That their last ditch effort was to contact the one truth that is capable of magnificent possibilities within their lives.  That their only way to sanctity and peace was to ask for prayers or start seeking God when the going got rough.

“The greatest faith is born in the hour of despair. When we can see no hope and no way out, then faith rises and brings the victory.” – Lee Robertson

Yet I was able to see past this at a time in my life that not only did I have nowhere else to turn, I had unanswered questions regarding my purpose in life and a curiosity as to why people would turn to faith & spirituality only when they felt at their lowest of lows.  I thought this to be self-centered and I too was guilty.  Doesn’t God deserve better than this?  Or was there a bigger message I was missing?  Possibly God was ok with this selfish need for him?  I soon figured out he simply wanted a relationship with me and is a patient, patient God.

The ability to trust in God during the hard times and praising him through the good actually brings benefits, yes.  But that seemed like a lot of work.  Not that I’m lazy, I just didn’t feel capable or worthy.  Society says to turn to God and scripture during pain, suffering, depression, anxiety or fear.  You can even send a few prayer request through social media or family, or even surf the net for some hopeful inspiration.  If you are miraculously healed, God will just wait around until the next crisis.  After all, isn’t that what he is here for?  Not exactly.  When we are in periods of happy times we tend to get too busy to stop and say “thank you Lord”.  We are wired for this but we are a selfish generation with so many entitlements that we believe we are entitled to blissful happy lives; pain-free existences.  Not according to the bible.  Some of the most influential people in biblical history lived the most challenging lives.  Lives filled with heartache, despair, imprisonment, death, you name it.  Yet, they did have one common denominator.  Trust.  Trust that through any difficult circumstance, God had their back.  Pain was a secondary thought because their loyalty brought Gods loyalty with an added benefit; strength.  And with that came wisdom and an inner peace.  A peace that only God provides.  They too held onto gratitude during that peace, praising God through their storms.

What’s the benefit of keeping God in your good graces when it’s all good in your life?  Well, first of all, he keeps you humble.  You tend to have more empathy towards people and situations.  You might start considering people more and trusting more.  You actually consider forgiveness as a way for you to heal, not something you bestow upon others.  You become more intrigued with Jesus and Gods word and you start to want to express this through love and devotion.  You find church to be a place to worship and seek fellowship, not a tasking event to check off your weekly “to do” list.  And so on and so forth.

The best part of all, during ordinary days, hours and moments, you get this feeling of great pleasure and happiness.  Do you want to know what that is?  It’s JOY.  I believe Joy is a feeling, a gift if you will, from God that only people who truly love Jesus can actually feel.  I know first hand that I never felt joy until I found Christ.  I thought I was living a pretty good life filled with some happiness and pleasure, yet it was empty without Jesus.  That I know to be true.

John 15:11

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

My goal for this blog is to simply enlighten.  I don’t ever want to come off claiming I have all the answers and my life is now perfect since I became a believer!  Oh sweet sisters and brothers, it’s far from that.  I still deal with the same junk, sin and human emotions we were made to experience.  The only difference is I give it up to God and he gives me that peace I yearn for.  Peace he promises his children who trust in him and follow Jesus.  For that I am forever grateful.  And the good news is God wants to meet us where we are and totally understands why some of us take longer than others to see him more clearly.  Sometimes we just get lost in translation.

Love and Grace.

Be still and wait to hear from God!

A huge lack of perspective hit me in big doses this week.  In conversations no less.  No sooner would one conflict end then another would be lurking right around the corner.  I was even accused of being “dogmatic” in one moment where my words were intended to heal a friend’s suffering not encourage it.  Hurtful, no doubt!  But I decided not to take it personally because I knew that sometimes when God does a work in you, it can come in the form of tough love.

I often struggle with knowing when God is speaking through me or is it my own need to control the conversation by inflicting my views to feel more important and religiously sound!

From relationships to world views, when we think we have the right answers to life’s toughest questions or are unwilling to see another view or lack compassion for people’s vulnerability; ignorance can take over and we fall into a trap where we end up speaking before we think and that can lead us into a terrible spotlight showcasing our lack of accountability.

This happened twofold.  Yes, two different scenarios with two different people.  They were unrelated yet parallel and I walked away feeling emotionally exhausted.  At the time I was convinced I was proclaiming gods work by trying to get these two individuals to understand their “constant complaining” over their monotonous (yet clearly painful) situations was getting them nowhere.  That Proverbs 3:5-6 says that if we are trusting with all of our heart, we need not worry.  If we think we have all the answers, we are not trusting.  If we don’t wake up everyday, give our days and worries to God, we will lack a peaceful heart and the proper guidance to get through each day.  I truly don’t believe this scripture works if you do not apply it wholeheartedly.  Not majority, with some wiggle room for fear and worry.  Not partially, with a small allowance to cry to a friend with continuous ranting of your many misfortunes.  So on & so forth, you get the picture!

Even though I believed my words (with underlying convictions) were strongly needed at their designated  times, I began to second guess my actions.  No doubt God was speaking to me but in his way he needed it to come with a clear, hard lesson in humility.  That was a hard pill to swallow.  Couldn’t he have given me a learning curve so I could gingerly change my points of view one circumstance at a time?  Sleep on it, dive into his word a bit and seek council for a few days?  Nope, that was not the case.  It was to come in waves so his message chimed like bells at Christmas.  God wanted a humble heart to come quickly, even if I needed to feel red on the outside and regret on the inside.  It even reminded me of my earthly father’s sound advise, “think before you speak”.  Both my fathers were right!

I’m not saying we are to follow God’s word and eat, sleep and breath in an emotional suit of armor.  That worries and fears are unnatural or childish.  That we don’t hurt when our kids, families or friends are hurting.  That we don’t have the innate ability to want to fix broken pieces surrounding us.  Undoubtedly, we all have the need to lean on people.  It’s indisputable that we will hurt and cry many times in our lives and we need to feel understood and supported.  I even believe that from time to time we are allowed to throw ourselves a pity party.  But most parties I’ve attended have lasted approximately 2-4 hours and then you go home to face your own reality.  When your pity party moves from hours, to days, to years? a new perspective needs to come from your next invitation.

Worry and anxiety are real but Gods words and promises produce the best medicine.  The Bible tells us this in Phillipians 4:6-7

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.

Wow, that’s some powerful scripture isn’t it?  It’s basically saying there is a promise of peace in our hearts if we pray and give our concerns to God.  That he will heal us through this suffering?  He will also make it clear why we are suffering?  With a promise of protection for us from the enemy who is most likely inflicting this doubt and pain to begin with.

Now I know from truth that it’s OK to lead with his word and trust in your heart to help heal the pain of a sister or brother in need.  Just pray about it first.  God will give you the right words to say at the right times.  His message is clear and his words never fail.

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” – Exodus 14:14

Love to you all!

Give it all up! (just one of my stories)

Give it all up and follow God!

Now why would I do that?  I go church when it counts?  I pray once in awhile about the things that I need?  I believe there is a God and he has a son named Jesus?  I’m spiritual? I’m religious? Oh and by the way, I am so NOT a sinner like everyone else!  Isn’t that enough! Besides, I like my things, my life, myself.  Why does being a good Christian require me to give it all up? Would I have to change my friends, job, personality?  Sell my house, my possessions, go door to door?  Would I be labeled a Jesus freak, born-again, crazy christian?  Will the chatter around me assume something really, REALLY bad has happened to me and I had 3 choices, self-inflicted death, an evil pathway or accept Jesus as my savior!

Or do I simply not understand exactly what following a Christian life really means?

Exactly!  I had no clue.  In fact it scared me to the core.  I was a Catholic girl.  Still dabbling here and there at my local church.  Truly adoring the people, priests and programs, but not getting a clear message.  The traditional forum was getting to be monotonous.  I knew there had to be something else.  Something deeper and it was tugging at my heart for years. 30 plus to be exact.

Enter a true emergency.  I got sick.  Mentally ill in fact. Firstly, during my college graduation I unfortunately had my first of many Panic Attacks.  Having no idea what was going on, I thought I was having a heart attack.  At 21?  Yes, I was convinced and embarrassingly led out of the large graduation ceremony to a medic room to watch 4 years go by without that proper acknowledgement.  To this day, my mother still thinks I “slept in” and blew it off. Geesh!  Those attacks were a few and far between and lasted only a few months.  Then they were gone.  Fast forward 3 years, a new city, wedding engagement and full-fledged panic disorder overtaking my life.  And without health insurance to heal it properly.  Somehow, that faded away too.

Faster, faster forward to my 39th year. And you all know what comes next, the big 4-0! For some reason THAT scared me to death. Literally.  It was the unreal and that really haunted me. Simply watching a TV medical drama and seeing a 39-year-old male have chest pains and die due to a heart attack freaked me out.  Reality that a young (I still think 40 is young) mom with 2 kids in the car, getting into a deadly car accident then autopsy reports saying it was due to a heart attack, that was petrifying.  And, on and on and on.  Why my fear was around the (cardiac) heart, I have no idea.  It did prompt me to see a cardiologist and get a full work-up. BTW’s my heart is in great shape. That helped.  Well, a little.

But the turning point was in that 39th year and my overwhelming fear of getting older that my mind started to race.  And it was going faster than I could keep up with.  For no real reason at all.  No death in my immediate circle, no incurable illness, no financial burdens, kids were good, marriage was good.  I, should have been good.  On top of the world.  But I wasn’t and a reality check set in that changed me for the long-term better while enduring the short-term worse.  Enter full working panic disorder with general anxiety and attacks every waking moment and during my precious sleep too.  I couldn’t sleep, function, eat.  I lost several pounds (that was slightly a highlight).  My family & doctors didn’t know what to do because I was adamant about not taking medication.

One day my mother came over fearing my condition was worsening and asked me to go visit a friend of ours.  A woman I had known most of my life.  She had worked with my mother and watched me grow up through my odd teenage years, prom, college and weddings.  We had lost touch over the years but I would run into her around town.  She was a true friend of my family.  But moreover, she was a true Christian woman.  One that was intrigued by the Proverbs 31 woman.  She modeled that.  But she was real, modern and seemed to “get this” world we live in.  Faults, sins and all.  A beautiful married woman, with a beautiful family of 3 kids, husband, and a successful business, she was a working mom who seemed to have it all.  I wanted to model her. I didn’t know why, but I did.  Did she “give it all up” too?  I found out she didn’t, while she actually did!

My mom set up the date and I awkwardly accepted.  I was to go to her house and talk to her.  Just that.  Weird right?  No premise, no specific topic, no wine, just ladies who lunch.  Eek.  I had no idea what we were going to say.  Come to find out, neither did she.  I respectively brought over lunch and we sat at the table and chit-chatted for a while.  Mainly about life, a little about my condition, stuff.  Then, enters the Lord.

My friend had a sister whom was a Christian warrior and so loved the lord that on her deathbed she was still full of grace and praise for our king.  My friend had just spoken to her sister before my visit and her sister was praying for us during our time together.  When the conversation turned “jesusy”, I got uncomfortable.  I never thought of him as a solution to my problems let alone I needed to build a relationship.  But through the grace of my friends love for Christ (and me), her sisters prayers and petitions and Jesus’s presence right there at that table, my curiosity sparked.

From there I was asked to partake in a bible study with a Christian starter kit/guidebook and 3 ladies who love coffee and the lord.  We met weekly and through a baby step, open-minded approach, I started to realize, I have been very lost in the way I was living my life.  I thought I had a good life but discovered I had a bad, covetous attitude.  My world view was way off and my self worth was ignorantly displayed by the things I possessed, flashed and displayed for all to jealously admire!  I wasn’t living my best life because I was convinced I was in charge of my life.  Oh what the foolish at heart are capable of manifesting in our heads.

Through medicine and therapy (and of course the Grace of God), I do have my Panic Disorder/Anxiety under control.  But still, on occasion, when those attacks happen? I no sooner dive into my bible and they seem to go away.  Hmmm, go figure!

The lord started to do a work in me and brought about more chapters I hope to share with you very soon.

Grace and Love,

Jodi

Why are you suffering?

Matthew 11:28
Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens and I will give you rest.

It’s a question I often ask myself day in and day out.  Not so much for my own self but for people that I meet along the way or have known and loved for years.

You see, I know a secret.  Apparently the best kept secret in life.  I mean it must be a secret because if it was common knowledge there would be less suffering in this world and less suffering in our hearts.

His name is Jesus Christ and he is magnificent.  He was sent from heaven to die for our sins.  To heal our suffering and give us eternal happiness.  He also left a huge present here on earth.  The Holy Spirit.  All you have to do is ask for him to come into your heart and he will happily oblige and you will be at peace.  Could it be that simple?  Well, sort of.

Jesus so badly wants a relationship with each and everyone of Gods children here on earth and all we have to do is ask him for that.  Who knew it was the most simplist of answers to the hardest of hearts?  Best friends with Jesus?  I’m in.  I’m scared, but I’m in!

I’ve added a scipture above that is a beautiful way to start a conversation with Jesus right now.  But if you’re new to this journey with Christ and not comfortable with scripture (yet) feel free to say the following words:

“Jesus I am weary and burdened.  I am so tired of chasing after my life. I am scared and feel hopeless and don’t know what to do.  Please come into my heart and give me peace, understanding and the promise of a life filled with Love and Joy.  I want to know you more.  Please give me rest.  In your name, Amen!”

That was so easy wasn’t it?  But it doesn’t stop there.  Like every relationship we value and want to last a lifetime, we have to invest and work hard.  But he makes it easy. It probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to you right now but once you get going you will be amazed.  The work that he does in your life actually enables less work that you actually have to apply to your everday life.  We are all guilty of overworking our hearts and minds with worries, fears and negativity.  He manages that.  Trust me on this one.

So the short answer is you have to Love Jesus and Trust in God.  The long answer is you have to talk to Jesus from time to time (in fact waking up and giving your day to him first? Yes, that helps and can work wonders).  You also have to read the Bible.  It’s imperative to hear Gods words in order to understand his purpose and his purpose for us. Its truly fascinating reading Old Testament parables, meeting Gods prophets & Jesus’s apostles, memorizing his proverbs, learning about Jesus’s story and his second coming and so on.  Seems like a lot now doesn’t it?   It’s like any great book, once you get started you get drawn in like a good series on Netflix.  You may not start by binge reading all 66 books in the bible in one week, but just start wherever you are led.  I recommend you start with the book of Proverbs.  It’s one of my favorites and it’s an easy read.  It’s God “instructional booklet” for our life and it is really good.

The good news is you don’t have to do all of this in a day.  In fact it may take you years and years and years and that’s OK.  I’ve been learning the Bible for years and years and years and I am nowhere near where I hope to be someday.  I have also been building my relationship with Jesus Christ for years and years and years and I am nowhere where I hope to be someday.  We are all a work in progress and never completed.  We should yearn to learn each and every day.  God knows that and he doesn’t care about what pace you take it at.  He is ready to meet you where you are.  He just wants you to know him on earth and come to heaven one day to live in his promised eternal paradise.  The only way to achieve this is to love his only son, Jesus Christ.

Start with the above prayer and then let Jesus take the wheel of your life.  You will be so amazed at what he can do in your life.  In no way am I claiming that you will have an easy journey through life.  Nor would I claim that you were going to get everything you want out of life or think you deserve.  So sorry, it doesn’t work that way.  I thought the same thing.  Oh Lord, did he set me on the straight and narrow. God knows the only way we are going to become stronger and wiser is to give us trials and tribulations and see how we pull through.  It’s only in those storms that when we call upon him, he gives us the peace and understanding as to why we are hurting and how to prevail with him in charge.  Wisdom is gained through understanding, acceptance and learning from those who have made it through the rain by always seeing God behind those clouds.  He actually brings people into our lives whether it’s to “do life with” or to learn a little something along the way to inevitably bring you to his open arms.

The enemy has a powerful way of blinding us to seeing his goodness.  Just deny Satan in Jesus’s name and he will go away.  No seriously?  He literally will leave your mind and the trouble he is causing disappears!  It’s amazing and it’s fullproof.

Once in a while we tend to forget who our Lord is and where he belongs in our lives. We get engrossed in the rustle and bustle of our crazy lives thinking we have to please everyone around us and that we have full control.  He then throws us curveballs to remind us that we are not focused on him and then gives us a big “Hello, come back to the one who knows you best and can set those pathways straight”.  You will feel it when you steer far away from Jesus.  It’s a crappy feeling but when you reconnect, you then feel an ease only he can provide.  What other relationships in your life offer that?  Not many!

I can speak these truths to you because I have lived them in conjunction with grace. I do know that God will give you what you need and those blessings are beyond any materialistic belonging, tainted relationship, tortured heart, daily failure and hopeless feelings that you may be experiencing prior to this personal revalation.  If you enter this journey without doubt or fear and simply trust, your life will change for the better.

That, my friend is the best kept secret.  So what’s keeping you from Jesus’s truth and grace?  You!