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He Calmed My Storm

At the age of 25, I woke up each morning feeling lost and abandoned into a difficult situation.  After a year of desperation, I began to search for God in a new way.  I was desperate.  I needed something, someone to hold my hand and walk me through this hell on Earth, and I found Him.  God was always there, He never left, and He saw me when it felt like no one else did.

With God by my side, I found a way to live in Contentment and Peace amidst the storm.  Although I was living life within a whirlwind, “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet!  Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. Mark 4:39”.  

So it was with my heart.

My head and my heart learned a new meaning of PEACE, and a new definition of JOY.  

It is this same Peace that He gave me during that storm that I long for now.  As I walk through this season’s new set of trials and storms, it is that same sense of PEACE that I am longing for.  

Maybe you feel the same?

As I encourage myself, maybe I’ll send some your way as well. Gina, spend time with your Father.  You are designed for intimacy and relationship, and you are made in His image.  He desires closeness with you.   

HE is Peace.  So if HE is with you Gina, He will impart Peace into your heart.  Dwell in His presence.  

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Adventure

I thought we were buying an investment property already filled with paying tenants.  Little did I know, that God would instead take us on a wild ride.  Adventure excites me, it always has.  If you know me well, you wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Nathan and I once stopped our car to trek down the side of an embankment because I was SO SURE that I had seen an alligator.  I just had to know if my eyes were deceiving me.  However, we shall save the ending to that story for another time!

God.. He is the one that designed ADVENTURE.  He is the author of CREATIVITY.  He is the one that continually puts these wild desires, these crazy ideas, these exciting adventures into our hearts!  And as we grow and learn to walk next to Him, He shows us how to fulfill each and every desire that is lingering within us. 

If you think that God is boring..if your heart cannot fathom the idea of Christianity because the thought of all those rules makes you sick to your stomach..if you have pondered Jesus, but feel so drawn towards a fun life, that you find yourself rejecting him..  Let me submit to you if I may, that you might have possibly come to know RELIGION, not JESUS.

I didn’t know Jesus.  I knew religion.  I knew of God, I knew of Christianity in a religious sense, and I knew rules all too well.  I spent most of my life teetering between “being good” and seeking something more fun.  Neither side seemed completely appealing, and I think it is because my heart longed for adventure, but neither side appeared to completely fill that desire.

But God..  He pursued me!  He WILL pursue you too.

After a divorce from an abusive marriage, now newly married to my husband Nathan, in a new home and living in a new city with two babies, I felt lost/lonely/unseen.  I could be sitting in a room full of close friends and feel completely alone, lost inside of my own head.  At that time, I was involved in a Pink Group (a ladies bible study group) at Gateway Church, and my group was invited to participate in prophetic ministry.  I had never been prophesied over, and I wasn’t even sure what I thought about it.  I was open to it, but a little on guard.

Prior to meeting for the prophetic event, three women prayed for each of us, for weeks in advance.  They did not know our names or anything about us other than a participant number.  On that day, those three women poured into my heart all that it longed to hear.  For the first time in my life, I felt that I understood why God made me, I knew that there were BIG plans that were for me, JUST ME!  I felt seen, I felt loved, and I felt.. excited!!

Through that experience, I truly felt God’s love for ME, and I felt encouraged and excited to discover what these new adventures were that He was speaking about through these ladies. I began to seek Him, truly seek Him by reading His word and waiting to Hear when the Lord had something specific to say to me through His Word.

During this first exploration of what God truly had for ME, I was sitting in church one day when our pastor referenced a scripture.  Genesis 28:16+ “When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.  He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place!  This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”  He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz.

While reading this scripture, I knew deep within me that someday God would give us a place called “House of Bethel”.  I did not understand what this meant, nor what the place would be for.  In fact, at the time I pondered if it would be a safe house for trafficking victims.  I was clueless to understanding the purpose, but I did know that it was for a later time.  So I placed it onto a shelf in my heart.

Fast forward to 2018, and I am tested with trusting my husband’s notions of hearing from the Lord- that our new investment property is actually supposed to be a VRBO.  I reluctantly chose to walk in faith, asking God to show up big time if this was truly Him.  And He did!  

While painting inside one day, God revealed to my heart that this was our House of Bethel.  And THAT was the game changer for me, because as I mentioned already, I love adventure.  I was clueless what to do, but I took one step at a time seeking His guidance.  I wanted House of Bethel to be all that He desired. 

As I began to trust God and walk patiently through each step of this unknown path, He began to speak to my heart what we should do to create our House of Bethel.  We spent countless hours in prayer and worship throughout every room in the house, and around the property.  We gathered a devoted group of men and women, known as our House of Bethel Prayer Team.  This group consists of 12-15 people that are dedicated to praying for every single person and group that stays here.  The prayer team prays for the people, and then leaves letters with affirming words and anything encouraging that God places into their hearts for that group.

The stories of what God has done in unsuspecting people’s lives are beginning to pile up.  I am forever grateful to that group of Gateway Church women that prayed and spoke encouraging words into my heart that day many years ago.  May their encouraging words multiply into the lives of all that enter House of Bethel.

Ask

My kids and I are walking through the book of Exodus right now.  After we read Exodus 3 one morning, I asked my 7 year old to pray for us.  I had a feeling that he would not want to.  As assumed, he squirmed away from this suggestion and offered dozens of other ideas as to whom should do it.  My initial thoughts were of frustration and disappointment that I must be doing something wrong since his walk with God is now seeming more distant.  My insecurities turned into accusations running through my head that look a bit like a person pointing a fire hydrant hose at a child, trying to wash him off.  It doesn’t work real well without making him lose his footing, and will probably cause some destruction to his delicate skin.

As Jimmy Evans puts it, Jesus simply fills his hands with water and very gently pours it over our heads, he does not hose us down.  So I hesitated from speaking the words that were circling in my mind and I paused.  

I told my child, son, to follow Jesus is to know Him.  If you can have conversations with me, then you can also have them with Him.  Do you always know what to say to me?  His response caught me off guard when he responded with NO.  

So I responded that when we don’t know what to say to a friend, we can ask him what HE wants to talk about.  Why don’t you try that?   

So he did.  “God, what do you want to talk about?”  

I paused and we sat there in silence for several moments.  I then asked my son what was running through his head.  He responded, CHURCH.  

Confused once more, I told him to ask God another question.  

“God, what do you want to talk about regarding church?”  So he did.

We sat in silence again.  I then asked him what he was thinking about.  He responded that he was thinking about “talking to people in church”.  I asked him what he felt like this means and he immediately had an answer.  

God is telling me that HE WILL BE WITH ME when people talk to me at church.  

Everything inside of me was leaping for joy.  We had just read in Exodus about Moses, when God was calling out to him from the burning bush.  The scriptures read “WHO AM I, that I should go to Pharaoh”.  You see these are the words from an insecure man that does not believe he has the qualities or qualifications to do something so big and so scary.  And do you know how God responds to him?  “I WILL BE WITH YOU”.

We are all just trying so desperately to take each day and each step.  Each of us has a mountain of hurdles that we are working to leap over, and each of them look different from one person to the next.

For my 7 year old, it has become a great task to respond to people as they speak to him.  He becomes nervous and anxious and if I do not prompt him beforehand, he will often look at them without speaking a word.  

The God of the universe cares about my 7 year old and each hurdle that he is facing each and every day.  There is no problem too small.  He also cares about you and your struggles.

The Bible reads that “YOU HAVE NOT, BECAUSE YOU ASK NOT”.  It only took 8 words spoken through the mouth of a child to prompt the Lord to give to my son.  Through his personal invitation to let the God of heaven into his day-to-day, my child received a special response prompting him to have confidence in climbing his mountain, because God told him I WILL BE WITH YOU.

And through this experience, I have seen the Lord show up in his day in special ways just about every day since.  

He is and will constantly show up in our lives.  

ASK.

You Have Not, Because You Ask Not.  James 4:2-3

He Wastes Nothing

I grew up in church, but I didn’t understand that God is real and in our day-to-day.  I spent my days and weeks sitting in a pew, but I didn’t have a concept of Him working in my life.  To me, he was just up in heaven.. watching and waiting. 

As a teenager I was asked to join a group on a mission trip to Russia.  It sounded exciting, so I went.

On the plane trip to Russia I became ill and as each day passed, I got more and more sick.  My team took me to the local hospital in Dubna, Russia, and I spent just about the entire time there laying in a hospital bed in a foreign country.  

Although I was unable to do much to help our team in forming relationships or set out to work on our plan of reaching the people there in Dubna, God wasted nothing.

Through my time spent in the hospital, my church gained new partnerships with this hospital, forming new ways to reach and love on the people of Dubna.  

For the first time in my life, I felt that my life had purpose and meaning.  I could sense that the Lord would take anything we had to offer, even a sickness, and use it to make something beautiful.  

As you walk through disappointments or frustrations, look around.  Take a look, and wait until you see what God is doing. 

What others mean to you as evil, God promises to use for good.  He wastes nothing.  —Chuck Swindoll

(Genesis 50:19-20)

The God Who Sees

I was reading in Genesis one day when I read this, “When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless”.  Those words stuck with me and I couldn’t let them go.  If you’re not familiar with the story of Leah, let me catch you up a little.

Jacob fell in love with and desired to marry a woman named Rachel.  Rachel’s father agreed to this, and Jacob began to work several years for her father in order to later be permitted to marry her.  After years of servitude, Rachel’s father tricked Jacob and gave Leah (his other daughter) to him in marriage in the evening hours.  He awoke in the morning to find that he had mistakenly married and slept with Leah.  Jacob then worked this issue out with his father-in-law, and agreed to work an additional 7 years for him in order to marry the woman he always wanted to marry, Rachel.

My heart stopped as I pondered what it must feel like to be Leah.  I have sisters.. what if my brother-in-law chose to marry my sister.  What if my Dad was worried no one would choose me for marriage, and so he tricked my brother-in-law into marrying me.  

I can’t imagine the look of disappointment that Jacob gave Leah as he looked into her eyes in the morning light.  I can’t fathom the metaphoric knife that undoubtedly pierced her heart as he looked at her with disappointment.

Leah, the one that the Bible describes as weak eyed, in comparison to her sister Rachel whom is described as beholding a lovely figure and beautiful.  I sit in these words a bit and wonder if Leah had worthiness issues even prior to this betrothal mess.  

And my heart just begins to ache for this woman.  

Leah has been mistreated by her father in his insensitive dealings, and now she is married to a man that does not want her.

But God, the faithful one, leaves the 99 to find the one.  

In Matthew 18:12, it reads “If a man has 100 sheep, but 1 of the sheep gets lost, he will leave the other 99 sheep on the hill.  He will go to look for the lost sheep.”

When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless.

Leah was that lost sheep and God saw her.  He saw her.  Let that soak into your heart for a minute.  

When life becomes unbearable, it can feel like I am drudging up a mountain in solitude.  But much like He did for Leah, God faithfully shows me that I am never alone, and He is for me.  God sees the pain in her heart, and he weaves redemption into her life.  

He also sees YOU. 

It was an odd season.

For months, I began to have memories or visions randomly throughout the day of things that someone from my past did or said to me that I had blocked out of my mind for years.  Impressions that hurt my heart.  Memories that were so real, that in that brief moment they took me right back to that place of discomfort.  

They didn’t go away.  Instead, they increased in number, and I began to also have painful dreams.

I began to realize that the memories were revealing hurts that I had stuffed deep down into my soul.  I had buried them, but they were not lost, forgotten, or forgiven.  Each memory was tied to the person that had hurt me in some way, some big and some small.  

All these years I think I had completely misunderstood the entire concept of forgiveness.  Just because you still talk to someone or on the contrast are able to forget about someone, that does not mean that you have offered forgiveness.  

It is only forgiveness that will set you free, and I was most definitely not set free.  These memories had me bound in shackles.  

I began to start a new journey of asking God how to forgive.  Every time I had a memory or a dream, I would take that as an indicator of someone I might need to forgive.  I would tell God that I wanted to be released from that person.  I wanted to forgive them. 

Can you relate?  Do you have memories that make you feel tied to another person?  Disappointment, frustration, abuse, neglect, the sins of another person can damage us.  But when we don’t talk to God about that pain and ask him to take it, we are allowing ourselves to be shackled to the pain giver.  It’s time to be set free.

Faith the Size of a Tylenol Pill

Chris Seidman once said that we often put more Faith into a tiny white Tylenol pill than we do in our God.  This statement has stuck with me for years as I have pondered its meaning.  We believe in the Tylenol and trust it, we know that it will take away our headache and provide relief.  Yet there are so many times in our lives when we can’t offer that same type of trust to our Creator, our Father.

As I’ve worked to change this within myself, there are days when I Trust Him well and weeks when I struggle greatly.  But He is so faithful and He continues to grow me through each struggle and every victory.  

But it’s the monuments that I choose to cling to, reminding me of what He has done in my life.

When Van was 4, I turned my ankle one day as we were walking out of a building and off of a curb.  It was a trying season with loss in various forms, and as I sat on the ground wincing in pain, I felt burning anger towards God for not defending me.  

The moment of accusation towards Him quickly turned as I heard Him speak into my heart these words.  

HE IS GOOD.  It was NOT Him.

I looked at my 4 year old and with tears running down my face, I asked him to pray for me.  With love in his voice, Van began to pray for healing of my ankle.  When he finished his simple prayer, he did something that normally would make me laugh or smile at the “cute” action.

Van turned to the curb and said with great authority, “Street, you can NOT hurt my Mommy!”

All of a sudden it was as if the Earth stopped moving and a scripture was brought to my mind.  

In Luke 10:19 it reads that He has given us authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; that nothing will harm you.

He has given us authority over “scorpions and snakes” and the authority to overcome ALL the power of the enemy.  And just like that, I felt EMPOWERED.  I realized that I just needed to use my authority, and have more Faith in my Father than in the Tylenol in my purse.  I prayed out loud and thanked God for His authority, and I asked Him to heal my ankle and foot.

The discoloration and swelling didn’t change, and it hurt like crazy with each step that I took.  Yet something inside of me had an inkling of Faith.  So I spoke out loud that my foot would be good as new the next morning.  I went to bed with my foot on a pillow and an Ibuprofen in my mouth, and I set my alarm to meet my friend to go jogging early the next morning.  

We ran only a few miles that next morning, but my Faith grew exponentially.  

He cares not only about the big issues of our lives, but also about the small ones, even a hurt ankle.  If you, like me, have more faith in a white pill than you do your Father, I encourage you.. take a risk the next time He urges you to.  You won’t be disappointed.

Trust That He Has Already Figured It Out

Emery and Van were little, around the ages of 1 and 3.  I was staying home with my kids but would occasionally take tutoring jobs here and there to help fluff our budget a bit.  Unexpectedly, a woman contacted me via e-mail inquiring if I was interested in tutoring her daughters.  We had just walked out of a tiring season, and every bit of me wanted to say NO THANK YOU.  Sure, the extra money would be nice, but I was mentally exhausted.

Nothing inside of me wanted to take something extra into my already busy life, but something told me that I should speak with the woman.  I humored her and responded to her questions, and she kept pursuing me.  Reluctantly I met with her over coffee to discuss the job.  

The job that she offered was for me to tutor several hours a week, again, something that I was not interested in.  I threw out an hourly price for my work that I knew she would never accept.  But then she did.

It wasn’t more than a month or two into the job when life again got interesting.  

One of our rental properties became a burden as our tenant moved out unexpectedly.  We had always counted on the monthly income for this property.  The loss of expected income from no longer keeping a tenant coupled with a last minute decision to update the property and sell, created a potentially hazardous financial drain on our family.

But God.  

I’m a little slow at times to see the obvious.  But thankfully a week or so later it occurred to me that the loss we were incurring each month from losing our tenant was an exact match to the gain we were receiving with my new job.  

It was literally a financial swap.

God had provided the exact amount of income that we needed, and He did it a month in advance.  

God is ALWAYS on time.  He never leaves us and He won’t forsake us.  As we learn to trust Him and truly believe that He has nothing but good things in store for us, blessings unfold all around us.  

I’m a work in progress, because my obedience often looks like a toddler reluctantly obeying.  But He is so gentle and patient in taking my hand to guide me, and I am ever so grateful for it because every time I take a step of obedience, the grace and blessings fall upon me like nothing I’ve seen before.

Keep It Simple

If you’re like me, this season has caused you to grow and stumble, and all at the same time.  Though it has been trying time and time again, one thing has remained the same within my heart.  

I truly desire to live my life in a way that points others to Jesus.  Lately I find myself pondering the question of HOW I can achieve this.

Maybe you can relate with me, or perhaps you have had a different experience.  Maybe prior to this year you were living your life from day to day without giving much attention to the specials plans and purposes the the Lord has for YOU.  Perhaps this season has stirred something within you. 

Whatever season you find yourself walking in, I have good news for you.  We can truly make a difference in the lives of others and plant seeds of LOVE straight from the heart of Jesus, and we can keep it simple. 

My children and I love to gather rocks as we go on walks together.  (Or you can easily buy them on Amazon).  Then, we come together and pray and create LIFE ROCKS.  We say a simple prayer and ask the Lord what He wants to speak to His children.  Next, we have faith that we can hear Him!

We write down one encouraging and uplifting word onto each rock with a Sharpie.  My children do this too, so messy handwriting or misspelled words are frequent, but the love is genuine.  Next, we pray again and ask the Lord to highlight people to us as we go about our day.  Again, we have to take a leap of faith and believe that we can hear Him.  

Let me give you a reason to offer grace to yourself.  Even if you get it wrong, is it ever really a bad thing to show love and encouragement to someone?  Irregardless of “getting it right” or not, your heart is to love on people, and that is right along with the heart of Jesus.

Various Ways To Hand Out Life Rocks

*When you’re in the drive through at Starbucks, ask God to highlight a rock for the barista.  Hand the rock to the woman (or man) and tell her you prayed this morning and asked God to choose the right person for this rock, and you believe it is for her (or him).  

*While shopping at Walmart, ask God to point out a car.  Did you take notice of the red Jeep?  Go place a rock on the ground by the driver door.

*When you are waiting to pick up paint at Home Depot, ask God to highlight someone that is in proximity of you.  Walk up to the man that you take notice of and tell him that you feel this message is for him.

*While at the park, ask your son if he’d like to hand a rock to someone that he has noticed.  He might be excited, or he might be nervous.  If he is cautious, he is looking to you to be a model of this love act.  Walk over together and hand it to the child or grandmother that you son noticed.  

Rock Message Ideas

I AM CHOSEN I AM LOVED FAVOR

I AM BEAUTIFUL FORGIVEN WISE

ARTISTIC STRONG WARRIOR

GRACE COURAGEOUS KNOWN

CREATED HOPE FAITHFUL

VALUABLE PROMISE JOY

HONORED ANOINTED ADOPTED

Begin With Thankfulness

It was the day that three strangers spoke encouraging words into my heart that I decided I wanted others to receive that same gift. Their gentle and warm nudges spoke so much encouragement into my tired and weary heart. It forever changed me and it didn’t take long before I had a desire for my husband to receive that same type of encouragement. I spent a few weeks longing for my husband to have that same experience and I was frustrated that others were not providing that for him.

I soon realized that it was ME that needed to take action rather than waste time in complaint.

The problem is, I had no idea how to pray and hear from the Lord. Yes I could pinpoint dozens of times when I saw God moving in my life and even nudging me to do things. But to sit down and actually pray for someone and seek to hear the Lord was completely different and foreign to me.

I was terrified.

We were in a season of our 3 year old getting out of bed after we laid him down for bed each night. I would sit ouside his door for about 20 minutes and take him back to bed multiple times until this transition and routine was set. I decided that every night as I sat outside of my 3 year old’s bedroom, I would utilize this alone time to pray for my husband. It was challenging for me, and I had to practice understanding how to hear His voice as well as having the Faith that I could actually hear the God of the universe.

In that season, I realized that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17). If my intentions to pray for my husband were pure and full of love, then the words of encouragement and affirmation were good and perfect gifts.

My Father did not need me to be perfect, He only needed my heart.

He would use my willingness and desire to please Him through loving my husband. That understanding grew my ability to hang onto Faith the size of a mustard seed; Faith that I could pray and hear affirming words from the Lord to share with my husband.

Faith in my ability to hear encouraging words from the Father grew as I began to act out my new knowledge of the verse in James 1:17. If every good and perfect gift is from above, then I wanted to start taking notice of everything around me that was good.

My mind began to shift to an act of thankfulness in every moment of life.

My posture changed to a heart of gratitude for everything that was good. If someone unexpectedly paid for my coffee at Starbucks, I would whisper to myself, “Thank you God”. When I’m running late to an appointment and the traffic light turned green, “Thank you God”. There were always those tiring days when I didn’t know what to cook for dinner and I had not been to the grocery store. Yet I would open the freezer and oftentimes receive a quick thought about what items to use to create a quick and tireless meal. “Thank you God”.

I began to realize that there are so many things in my life that are good, and they all came from my Father. The more I took notice, the better I could sense His presence. As I postured my heart to thank Him for daily provisions, my mind began to grow in understanding just how good He is. As I pondered all the goodness that He continually pours out into my life, I began to grow in my ability to hear His heart towards me and those around me.

Begin with thankfulness.