Sunday, November 11, 2012

When all else fails...

We, as humans, have expectations of others. The problem with expectations is that they lead to disappointment more times then not. I believe expectations are the work of the enemy. Who else would "create" a mind set that enables humans to assume that another human should or would do what we think they should or would do? Who else would "create" a mind set that allows for heartache and disappointment to creep in when what we think or feel should happen falls through? Who else would "create" a mind set that allows for inevitable failure? When all else fails, Jesus stands.

We, as believers in Christ, have hope. Through His grace, I'm allowed to stumble. Through His grace, I fall upward towards him. And it's that same grace that we should extend towards our loved ones. When our loved ones fall, do we extend them the same grace Jesus extends to us? Or do we wallow in the disappointment of our expectations of them? Do we look at them and see them through the eyes of Christ? Or do we look at them and see only their "failures"? When all else fails, Jesus stands.

For the last 10 years, I have sat under the teachings of two Godly pastors who preach the truth of God's word. I've learned more about grace in the last 10 years then I did in the first 22 years of my life. I never really knew what grace was to be honest. Because of their teachings, I've been able to look at those around me and show them the grace I've been shown. I haven't always gotten it right but I've tried. Now, just in this last year and few  months, I've learned more then I could ever imagine. My walk with the Lord has been stronger, all though admittedly it could still use some work. The expectations I put on myself are far worse then the expectations anyone else could ever put on me. I'm working on that but I've learned...when all else fails, Jesus stands.

This last year has been full of laughter and joy, with bits of tears and sorrow sprinkled in. I've developed new friendships that I hope to carry on for years to come. I've seen some frienships change for the negative. I've seen some friendships grow and flourish. And I've seen some change in ways I never would have thought possible. I've struggled with knowing what to do in these situations. How do you talk about negative changes in friendships with those closest to you when you know you're the only one who sees them? What do you do? When all else fails, Jesus stands.

I have seen the enemy at work in my home and in my relationships over this last year. He truly is out to "kill, steal, and destroy". This world may not be my home but it certainly is my battlefield. It feels like a constant battle for the life of my family and the life of my relationships. I have prayed through rivers of tears for my family and seen God answer those prayers as only He can. I have cried out to Him for peace and guidance and when He does answer, the enemy fights back harder. It seems the mortars the enemy is throwing at me are hitting closer and closer to the bunker I'm hiding in. Their booming explosions are deafening. But through it all I know Jesus is leading the way. When all else fails, Jesus stands.

My hope is you Jesus.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Just in time, Lord!

Ah! The first day of school. Wow! I can't believe it. Kristian starts 9th grade (high school!) today and Courtney starts Kindergarten. My, oh my, how time flies!

I awoke at 6:00 this morning to be sure I was up and about when Kristian left for school...wanted to be sure to tell him 'bye'. Also, wanted to have enough time for myself...emails, quiet time, journal time, etc...before Courtney woke up and we started her school day. After Kristian left, I gathered my things to begin my quiet time. I like to write in my journal before beginning my bible study...I know, I know...I MIGHT have that backwards but so far it's worked out well for me. As a matter of fact, the Lord has used the journal writing time to point out verses to me that little did I know, I needed to read for that day.

I, for one, am someone who never really knows where I'm supposed to be when I open God's word. I struggle with knowing where to begin in my bible study time...what verses the Lord wants me to focus on that day. Does anyone else struggle with the same thing? Anyway...I found with the last journal entry that the Lord uses that time to show me verses. The journal I use has a different verse written at the top of every page and I've found that the last two entries (today included) the verses at the top of the page fit so well with the entries I've written that day and laid bare before the Lord. Here's what I mean:

Today's entry focused on the first day of school for the kids. Kristian is off to High School and Courtney will begin Kindergarten home school today. My prayer for both of my children is that the Lord would guide their steps and thoughts as they walk through the day; that He would help to remind them who they are in Him. That He would also guide me as I schooled Courtney this year; to give me the wisdom and knowledge to teach her the way He would have her to learn; that my words would be His words and that He would give her the knowledge to understand what she is learning. I prayed against the inadequate feeling I have in teaching Courtney, although, I strongly feel this is what the Lord would have me to do for her. Above all else, I prayed that the Lord would be with all of us as we walked through today...that He would guide our paths.

With that said, know what today's verse was in my journal? Deuteronomy 5:33 (NIV) "Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess." Wow! Awesome Lord! How amazing it is that you would send this to me as an encouragement to my soul! It still blows my mind that the Lord of the universe hears my prayers, hears the silent longings of a mother's heart and answers ever so gently in the way only He can. What a mighty God we serve!

"Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth, would care to know my name, care to feel my hurt? Who am I, that the bright and morning star, would choose to light the way, for my ever wondering heart?...I am YOURS!" I am a mother, a wife, a friend, a sister, a daughter...but more importantly, I am a HIS! A child of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. A princess adopted by the Holy Spirit and loved beyond words. When my heart cries out to you, oh Lord, you answer with a love and truth only YOU can provide. Just in time, Lord!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Strange how the Lord works sometimes...

How many times have you prayed about something, or for someone, and felt like "nothing is happening", or "the Lord's not answering"?  Or how many times have you been telling yourself (or others) that you're praying about something/someone but you haven't been as faithful to prayer as you should have been? Be honest with yourself in answering these questions.

The Lord showed me this morning that I've done that a few times here lately. How can I expect the Lord to answer prayer when I haven't been praying "without ceasing" about it? I've just been "trusting that He knows my heart" but haven't been lifting the needs up to Him daily in prayer. What a lesson to learn.

In my quiet time this morning (which is another thing I haven't been doing lately), I was brought to Romans 12:1-3. Before I get started on that, let me share a little background. Lately, I've been struggling with some things that I just didn't know how to deal with. In those times, you would think that I would pray about it and turn to the Lord. Well, I would "talk to the Lord" in my head, but never actually found a quiet place and took time to come before the Throne and verbally say it out loud and place it before His feet. I needed to say it "out loud" for myself to hear so that I would know truly what I was facing. Sometimes if we keep things to our self, we don't truly recognize the magnitude of what we've been dealing with unless we say it out loud. It's easy to "forget" how small thorns can become BIG thorns when you cover them up for so long. So, I shared them out loud with the Lord this morning and through that I came across Romans 12:1-3.

Romans 12:1 (NIV) - Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. 2. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will. 3. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.

OK, I know what you may be thinking..."How do these verses pertain to praying without ceasing?"...well, they don't really but they do pertain to certain areas of my life where I've been struggling...not just with myself, but with others in my life. Refer back to the God's word above and I'll break it down for you below:

Romans 12:1 - Do everything as unto the Lord. What I say, what I think, what I do, how I treat others, how I think about others, should ALL be done as unto the Lord. Would the Lord want me to say that, think that, do that? Would he want me to treat others how I want to be treated, how HE would treat them, or would He have me to just treat them as a stranger? I need to give others the GRACE that He gives me. It's not about me or them, it's about Him.

Romans 12:2 - The things of this world don't matter...focus on Jesus! Now you would think that's a 'given'...that I would know that already. Well, I did. There are times when I need reminding of that, and I'm thankful for those times, but other people were brought to mind when I read this verse. I wish other people would remind themselves of this verse. I pray the Lord reminds them of this verse too.

Romans 12:3 - I'm no better than the next person. I am the chiefest of sinners. So, while I'm "thinking in my head" about the person/people that I wish the Lord would "deal with" I'm forgetting that I have my own problems that I need to deal with. I'm forgetting that I am the chiefest of sinners. I need to make sure my own problems are dealt with before I go thinking others need to deal with theirs.

How strange do things work out sometimes? I went before the Lord placing all the "potatoes I've been throwing in the sack" and carrying around for so long before Him and these verses are what comes out of it. It seems I've been reminded of a few things I had no idea I needed to remember right now.

I hope and pray that I will continue on the path of wisdom I've stepped onto this morning. I know it's going to be a battle as the enemy would have all of us live in ignorance. Ignorance of what the Bible says, what the Lord says, and how we are to apply that to our lives. If you've taken the time to read this blog, I ask that you would please take a moment to pray for me and my family. Please pray for wisdom in all things as we travel this journey of life. God didn't promise the journey would be easy but I do know it will be worth it in the end. Remind me who I am, Lord...I am YOURS!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Update on the Gardner's

Wow! A Saturday morning where I'm all alone, with nothing to are gone, hubby still sleeping...only the noise of the keyboard as I type this to keep my company. So, what's a girl to do??? BLOG! Only remotely productive thing I could think of to do, really. Actually, if I'm honest with myself, there's a TON of legitimate productive stuff I could do around the house...just don't want to do them right now.

Anyway, it's been a while since my last blog, so let me update you on the happenings of the Gardner family...

Kristian starts his FRESHMAN year of high school this year. August 20th is the start date of the new school year. I took him to Freshman orientation and was immediately taken back to my high school years as I sat in the gym and listened to all the information they gave us...diploma options, diploma requirements, schedules, blah, blah, blah. I immediately wanted to get up and leave! The memories of my high school years (mostly the bad memories) flooding back to me and now I'm about to send my baby into that battlefield???!!! No way! I wanted to grab him and run...BUT, I know the world does not revolve around me or what my wishes are. Against my wishes, he is growing up. So the only thing I can do for him now, is pray for him, keep him accountable to his choices, his responsibilities, and to the morals and beliefs we carry in this house. Wish us luck! :-)

On to Courtney...she starts KINDERGARTEN this year! Talk about a shock to the baby girl is starting school this year! Oh! And does anyone remember the previous blog I posted regarding whether or not I should homeschool her or send her to public school? Well, I "won" that round and per my hubby's permission I am homeschooling her this year! I'm so thankful he is allowing me to do this, as I truly feel this is what is best for her right now. Next year, we will discuss it again and we'll see if I can go 2 for 2 in that round. ;-) I'm a little nervous about schooling her but I know I can do it with the Lord's help. We'll see how it turns out but I'm confident she (and I for that matter) will do a great job!

Jason is continuing to work as hard as he ever has. His company has started a  mandatory 12 hour workshift for all employees, so that means management (that's him) will have to work at least 13-14 hours a day. Can you say OVERLOAD??? Don't know how he does it, except for the grace of God. Today is his first weekend off in a month so he's spending it sleeping...for right now. Who knows what today holds though. Pray for him, and for us, if you think about it. My sweet hubby really needs encouragement and to be lifted up to the Father as he works this crazy schedule.

As for me, I'm still enjoying being at home with my babies. It's been quite a summer though. The older the kids get, the more they fight/bicker and the LOUDER they get. Am I the only one that sees that? Anyone else dealing with that problem? Bickering over mundane things..."Mama, he's changing the channel!" "Mama, she's been on the computer longer than she's allowed!" Agh! But honestly, I wouldn't trade it for anything. Right now, I'm also dealing with a bone spur in my neck that's causing pain in my neck, shoulders, and arms. It started back in March but I was just recently diagnosed with the problem. I started physical therapy at the end of July and so far I've seen some progress that gives me hope. Physical therapy is only a temporary fix to a permanent problem but I'm learning some new excersises so hopefully that will help in the long run.

On to happier of today, Jason and I have exactly 35 days until our cruise! I. Can't. Wait! I've been looking forward to this trip since we booked it in February. Look out Nassau, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten! The Gardner's are headed your way! (I don't think that cruise ship will know what hit it when we step onboard! ;-) )

Ok, I think I've caught everyone up now. On to my day...until next time! :-)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Where do you belong?

"Sometimes it feels like I'm watching from the outside
Sometimes it feels like I'm breathing but am I alive
I won't keep searching for answers that aren't here to find

All I know is I'm not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong"

Wow! What powerful lyrics! The opening words to the song "Where I Belong" by Building 429. This song has become one of mine and Courtney's favorite songs. Every time I hear it on the radio I have to turn the volume up and praise God. It's such a blessing to hear my baby's voice singing the words from the back seat. These words have been running through my head these last few days. "All I know is I'm not home yet, this is not where I belong, TAKE THIS WORLD AND GIVE ME JESUS, this is NOT WHERE I BELONG". I just want to shout it from the rooftops! I don't need or want anything of this world, Lord. Take this world and give me Jesus...I'll glady trade dung for gold!

"When the earth shakes
I wanna be found in You
When the lights fade
I wanna be found in You"

My wonderful brother in Christ, Pastor Tony, has preached many times on groaning, longing to be home with the Lord. I used to think that I wanted the Lord to delay his coming so I could accomplish what I wanted to in life. My wants needed to come first in my selfish mind and heart. Tony said something during one of his sermons one Sunday that totally changed my heart. I will paraphrase but he basically said that as Christians, our hearts should GROAN and LONG to be in the presence of Jesus. If we are not groaning or longing for His return, have we hardend our hearts towards Him? To not groan or long for His return is like telling your spouse (or significant other) that they are no longer "good enough" for you...they are no longer your true love and you are going to look else where for fullfillment.

Wow! Now that stomped on my toes. Okay, okay! Uncle! I give up! You're right, I'm wrong, Lord. I'm sorry; please forgive me. I had to ask forgiveness from the Lord after hearing those words because I knew they were meant for my ears to hear. I knew I was wrong in what my heart desired up until that point. Now with that realization, the enemy knew he had to get to work...he was losing ground on a major issue. Lies and deception still creep into my mind at times and I have to rebuke them, ignore them, not give them any ground in my life. I refuse to go back to that selfish point in my life where my wants came before my desire for the return of the one true King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Where will you be when the earth shakes? Where will you be with the lights fade? Will you be found in Jesus or will you be found hiding in a corner hoping He doesn't see you? I know where I will be. I will be found in Him and I thank the Lord everyday for looking past my selfishness and ugliness and loving me anyway.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Home with me or out in the world?

So, it's been a while since I've posted anything on here. Not sure what to post now but we'll see where this goes.

My mind seems to be running constantly lately...always thinking, praying...wondering. As many people know, I left my job to be a stay at home DREAM "job" come true. I believed (and still do) that home with my children is where God wants me. I'm content, happy, at peace here and I believe my relationship with my children has improved because of where I am today. My hearts desire was to be at home and here I am...yay! What I may not have shared with some people is my hearts desire is to also home school my daughter. My son is in public school, and has been all of his school age years. While he is doing wonderfully academically, the influences of the world around him concern me.

Have you really sat down and counted the number of hours you spend with your children every day? Even though I'm  home now, I really only see my son from 3:30 to 9:00 (bedtime) during the week. That's only 5.5 hours a day...yet he spends 7.5 hours a day at school. With that said, who really influences my son? Me or his friends at school? Who does he spend  more time with? Who is he socializing with? What are the beliefs of the children that he's hanging out with? What kind of godly, Christian examples is he seeing (and setting for others) at school? How much of a "hold" do I have on him in the daily battle of "good vs. evil"? Is he prepared for what the world may be like when he graduates? Academically, probably...he's a very smart kid. But the better & bigger question is what kind of man of God is he growing up to be when he's surrounded by the "things of this world" at school? Who is showing the love of Christ to him in a PUBLIC SCHOOL where it's illegal to pray out loud? Who is holding my child accountable to show the love of Christ to others while he's at school? I can't be there to follow him around, reminding him to love others as Christ loves him, to treat others the way he wants to be treated, etc. And when he's in a bind, a scary/worldly moment, when he has to decide if he's going to respond to the situation as a Christian, or respond the way he sees and hears others around him respond, what do you think he will do? I can only hope and pray he would respond the way we do here at home, but how would I know? Who is there to hold  him accountable? Who is there for my child?

All of the above fears are now doubled with my daughter nearing school age. Everyone has told me raising a boy is different from raising a girl...for various reasons; "girls mature faster", "boys can take of themselves easier then girls", "girls in school are mean", etc. I can vouch for that last opinion for sure. Growing up in public schools, girls are mean and hateful towards other girls. Children in general nowadays are just plain mean towards each other. With the almost daily stories of bullying in schools, no wonder children are suffering. Times were just different when I was growing up. Even though it wasn't easy then, it's far worse now.

For anyone who knows me, you know my relationship with my daughter is unique. She is my shadow, my best friend, my sunshine. Don't get me wrong; I love BOTH OF MY CHILDREN EQUALLY. My son is the first "love of my life". Raising him as a single parent for 4 years was an exhausting, mind-opening, scary, time in my life but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. For 4 years, we had each other to lean on and I learned more about myself then ever before. I will always treasure those years with him. With that said, he is now at the age where "mom's not cool, she doesn't know anything," etc. You know how it goes...we were all kids at one time and thought the same thing. Don't lie! You know you did! :-) Anyway, he's at the age now where he's off doing his own thing and not really concerned about me or what I'm doing...I'm okay with that though because I know one day I'll be cool again.

Now, back to the home schooling thing. Since my daughter was born, we've been stuck like glue to each other. I've always been there to protect her, guide her, love her through all life has thrown at her in these short 4 years. Now that she's nearing Kindergarten, I'm having to face the reality of letting her go...and I can't bear to think about it. Tears come to my eyes (as they are now) and I get a lump in my throat, nauseous on my stomach, when I think of sending her to school. I can't do it. I would need to be heavily medicated in order to make it through the day. The thought TERRIFIES me. When my son entered school, we were not in a financial position to allow me to stay home and home school. And even if we were, I'm not sure that I would have home schooled him; I didn't know that much about it, especially the benefits, at that time. My Christian walk was not where it is now. I'm still lacking in a lot of areas in my relationship with Christ, but I can honestly say now that I'm more aware of the dangers of this world towards Christians then I was back then.

My husband, on the other hand, is completely against home schooling our children so now I'm stuck dealing with the fact that I'm standing alone on this issue in our household. Back to the mind constantly running thing I addressed earlier...this is why. I don't know what I'm going to do besides trust in the Lord. I'm  hoping and praying that when the time comes to prepare my daughter for Kindergarten I will no longer be standing alone.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

What to do?

Have you ever found yourself in a crowded room yet you still feel lonely? What about sitting next to your spouse, or significant other, yet you have nothing to say? What do you do when loneliness creeps in like a fog? You never really see it coming but you know when you're in the middle of it. That's where I think I find myself today. As a Christian, I know I'm never truly alone...I have Christ with me, in me, at all times. I guess that's also why loneliness can also be one of the forbidden topics Christians shouldn't talk about..."What!? YOU'RE lonely??? I just don't see how that's possible if you know Christ." But guess can happen and does happen thanks to our ever present enemy....he always seems to know when and how to swoop in and steal your joy.

After nearly 9 years of marriage, I still find myself struggling with loneliness sometimes. It is in these times that I'm constantly reminding myself that I am never alone (not an easy thing to remember when you're in the midst of the "woe-is-me" feelings). Christ is all I need, all I'll ever need, and more. He supplies my joy, my love, and my peace. Yes, I know all the right answers, I know what I'm SUPPOSED to say and how I'm SUPPOSED to try applying those thoughts and feelings to your personal life when you feel at your lowest (or close to it). Let me know how that works out for you...

I am married to the love of my life, my best friend. He is a wonderful husband, provider, and amazing father. I know anything, and I mean ANYTHING, I ask for, he gladly gives. But still after all these years, I'm still trying to figure things out. How do two totally different people communicate in a way that is pleasing to both parties involved, and keep Christ at the center? Ah, ha! The million dollar question.  My husband and I have a great relationship. He is my best friend, he makes me laugh to the point of tears, brings a smile to my face and butterflies to my stomach every time he walks into the room. Knowing the closeness of our relationship, still I struggle. Outsiders looking in tell me we are "two peas in a pod", "fit like a hand and glove", etc, and for the most part we do...yet we still have some struggles like any other couple. No one's perfect, right?

Jeremiah 29:11