Twists and Turns

Welcome to the new blog!!! There are a few finishing touches that are coming but I’m so very thrilled with its beautifulness! Be sure to check out Little Web Writing Hood (she is pretty awesome!) I hope to begin offering Words with Winter next week as a link up party so be sure to follow me to be the first to know!

This post is dedicated to to a really special group of kids. A group of kids that I am honored to have been apart of most of your lives since 5th grade. A group of kids that have blessed me more than I likely have them. I have watched you grow into such amazing young men and woman and am so blessed to have been your Sunday school teacher and later, your youth leader. You have blessed me by being so very patient with me as the Lord has grown my teaching and speaking skills. I have been blessed and challenged to dig into God’s word, to be a planner and organizer of events, to love each of you more than you know. You have impacted the Kingdom so much already in your young lives, and I know that you will accomplish great things in the future.

As you head into the future, don’t be discouraged if life twists and turns. It will likely take you in directions you didn’t plan. I certainly didn’t plan to stand where I am now when I was your age. Each year I watch kids tell their plans and see the eagerness that only the young can have. I always want to tell them don’t lose that, even through the twists, don’t lose the eagerness and hope in the future. For even if it looks different than the plan, there is greatness.

When I was a graduating senior my plan was to get married that summer, attend a commuter college and major in elementary education. Prior to that I wanted to be a doctor so that I could grow up and heal my grandpa, well he passed away, and I took chemistry so the new plan was born.

I did get married that summer, but I did not begin college. I can admit now I was just too afraid. Afraid of meeting new people, of failing, of not being able to afford it, of not being able to keep up with working and studying.

I began working at a local optometrist office, being trained on the job as a technician, vision therapist, and scribe. Nearing 14 years later I am still in this field part time.

Even though this was fun and challenging, I admit that it didn’t fill all the dreams.  So I dreamed of photography. It was creative, it allowed me to meet new people (I had gotten over my fear of new people),and it allowed me to be the boss. It also was highly competitive, not financially consistent, and became all about supporting my family and no longer about being creative.

If you have visited me before, most of you will know that during the time of photography dreaming, God really got a hold of my life again. I had given my life to Christ at age 14. I loved to serve, by age 16, I was already organizing youth events, and encouraging people to grow deeper in their faith, even at that young age. Unfortunately I attended a church that, at least at that time, didn’t believe in women leading and quickly put the lid on my leading any youth events. That caused me to grow distant and unsteady in my faith. I questioned my purpose in His Kingdom, if I felt passionate why wouldn’t the Lord want me to do these things I questioned. Thankfully by 2005 the Lord lead us to another church home, one that I found a place in youth ministry at.

Through that time in youth ministry God grew me. He showed me how to love a group of kids like my own. He showed me how to teach, how to dream, how to serve, and showed me my very passion-encouraging others to grow deeper in their faith. He also showed me difficult lessons, how to love when it’s difficult to love and when to let go because He is calling you someplace new.

I find it amazing that the Lord took my dreams from early childhood and early twenties to create who I am today. I wanted to be a doctor, I now hope to bring healing through His words. I wanted to be a teacher, I am able to teach His word. I wanted to be creative, I now create with words and photography.

I tell you all of this graduates, so that you know life gives twists and turns. That good, purposeful turns happen. That God is with you each step, He will guide and direct you even if you don’t see a way.

James 1:5 tells us, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”

wisdom

 

 

Did you get that guys, He wants to supply you all the wisdom you need! He won’t think your crazy, He won’t ignore you, He will supply it.

You are created as the Lord’s masterpiece, He has plans for your life. It can be easy to forget this, I say that from experience too. It took me a long time to see my worth and purpose. You, my lovely seniors, helped me to find it.

So to Alec, Bre, Corynn, Keaton, Madison, Mike, and Nick you all are so very loved by me. I definitely find myself feeling sappy as I write this! I am only and have always only been a text a way. So as you move into a new phase in life remember these things:

You are created for a purpose and through the grace of the Lord you will accomplish what He has for you to do.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

You are loved by the very creator of the universe, He cares for the sparrow so He definitely wants to bring good to you.

“So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” Matthew 10:31

He doesn’t promise the easy life but He does promise to always be with you.

“You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth.” Psalm 71:20

You are the masterpiece of the Lord, that truth can only be found in Him.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10

Don’t live as the world does but as He calls you to live.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2

In the footsteps of Alec I must end on an analogy. Life is like a twisted gravel road. Don’t speed, you just might wreck or miss beautiful scenery. Don’t get lost in the dust cloud that those in front of you leave, and don’t be surprised at the twists in the road, just lean into Him. Most of all, stay hopeful of the view that can be found around the next corner.

 

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Secret Wonders

I have been having a very busy May, lots of fun things happening! My children are finishing the end of school with all the activities that seems to bring, the school carnival, a school wide field trip to a baseball game. Rachel also had a wonderful end of the year dance recital this past weekend!

Ballerina

I have a few exciting things happening here on the blog and in my speaking ministry. I currently am working with an amazing designer on a new blog layout with a custom domain name, let’s just say I’m pretty excited to reveal that! I also had the opportunity to speak to a lovely group of women this past weekend, on how the Lord makes us a captivating beauty that rises above the unnoticed. I hope to be able to share some clips of that soon!

I also had my post Faith Bigger Than Fear featured on Women With Intention, a great blog I link up at on Wednesday’s. I will also begin to host my own link up, Words With Winter, so once my new blog is up and running be sure to follow me and be the first to join the party! I also want to take a quick second to say thanks so much to all you readers. I am honored that you would stop by and I pray that you find encouragement at this little corner of mine. So on to today’s blog post:

I’ve always had a secret question, a secret wonder. Why do we need to pray about something more than once? After all aren’t we supposed to have faith in God’s power? So to repeat a prayer over and over I worried showed a lack of trust in God’s abilities.

Jesus says in Matthew 17:20  “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” 
Now I do pray for things over and over like loved ones battling hardships, my son waiting on testing for a diagnosis and an explanation of his hair loss, those I know facing challenges and changes in their lives. I do this because the word also says:

“Pray without ceasing” in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 pray without ceasing

I don’t want my wonders to get in the way of prayers being answered, so I pray. I pray every time they enter my mind, I pray until I have peace over the situation. Yet I do still wonder.

Every week on Wednesdays I drive half an hour to the next town over for coffee with my girls. A few weeks ago, as I’m in the car praying and worrying over my son as only a mom can do, that question popped into my mind. I started thinking about that secret question and how I’ve always wondered if I was supposed to pray the same prayer over and over, and if so, why did I need to pray more than once.

While driving down highway 15 God gave me an answer, it wasn’t audible but it was a mental picture. It was as if I was standing facing a thin, almost see through, wall that pressing blackness was approaching. Then I saw other believers and we were sending prayers and each of those prayers seemed to fly against the darkness and beat it back. The thought came we don’t know of the unseen spiritual battle, I can’t see it, but it is hard and it’s a battle to the death. So with each prayer I send out, and other believers send out, they keep the blackness of spiritual darkness away.

Once I arrived at the coffee shop my mind was still a little wowed! I immediately tell my girls about this and Amy reminds me of a story I’d heard before. It was of a woman stepping up to the king to present her request and instead of going home she gets in line again. She makes her way to the front to present the same request, at her arrival the king remembers her vaguely. She continues to do this all day and by the end of the day the king remembers her and knows her request before she speaks it. He realizes that she is persistent and grants her request.

I don’t present either of these pictures to lead you to believe that God is a willy nilly granter of “wishes” nor do I think every prayer is a spiritual warfare defense.

I do present you with the idea that God longs for a continual conversation with you. He wants you to share your worries, fears and even questions. He hears each one. God knows the worries of our hearts and when we turn them into prayers over worries we will be filled with a peace that passes all understanding. worries into prayers

So sweet friends, pray without ceasing, no matter how big or small the Lord is only waiting to remove that worry from your shoulders. Pray until you are filled with peace, peace that comes when we no longer pick back up our worry, but we leave it at the King of Kings throne.

You can find me on these awesome blogs! 

Desert Places

Have you ever been stuck in, or maybe you’re there now, a dry lonely desert patch of life? A patch that seems like no one hears you, no one sees you, even God seems distance, quiet or having abandoned you. This patch could look like loneliness, a marriage that lacks communication and intimacy. A womb that has yet to carry a baby or children that seem out of control. A job that you dread going to everyday. A desperation to find a mate for the rest of your years. A schedule that runs you so ragged you can’t spare a moment to think of your desert place.

God is with us through those desert times, maybe he seems silent because we have forgotten to seek him. Maybe he seems silent because we have spent all our time talking about our desert with everyone else that we haven’t given it to him. What if he has lead you to the desert because you are in a season of growing, stretching, and drawing closer to him.

Instead of complaining we need to seek him, to look for the purpose, the beauty of the desert. Some of the most beautiful flowers bloom in the desert, but how many get to see them because the desert is viewed as harsh, ugly and desolate so people are unwilling to go there. Gods desert

Our desert could be that we are unable to find our purpose, the plan He has for us, or we are hesitating to take the next step. The beauty in our desert is trust, trusting the Lord, and taking the next step realizing we won’t have the entire path shown to us but we are willing to step anyways.

My tendency is to run through these patches of desert as quickly as I can, they are painful! (Can I get an amen!) What if instead of trying to run through the desert we slowed down, sunk to our knees, cried out to the Lord. Wailed our truest thoughts. Because I promise you girls, God can handle the gut honest truth of what we are thinking. He really already knows it we just need to confess it. We need to tell Him and give to Him what is happening in our life because He will meet us there. I think of Job, when he tore his clothes, shaved his head, yet he worshiped. That was the beauty of Job, his desert was loss; his family, his possessions, his servants, through all of that he worshiped. Can we find the strength to worship in our desert?

You can find me on these awesome blogs! 

Faith Bigger Than Fear

I’ve long been drawn to the story of the bleeding woman mentioned in Mark 5. She represents so many of today’s women including myself. When I’ve longed for healing from a sickness that I’ve battled over the last five years (another story for another day) I,like her,only have my faith in the healing powers of Jesus.

I then wonder what this bleeding looks like in today’s woman?

Are you bleeding financially?

Are you bleeding from an overbooked schedule?

Are you bleeding from past failures?

Are you bleeding from health issues?

Are you bleeding in your marriage?

Are you bleeding from infertility?

Are you bleeding from children who are making bad choices out of your control?

Are you bleeding from your own laziness/undisciplined choices?

This woman fought years,12 years according to scripture, for healing. She could almost be our entire list from above.

She struggled financially because she spent all her money on doctors.

She couldn’t have intimacy in her marriage if she was even married.

She couldn’t be hugged or kissed by her children if she had any.

She couldn’t have friendships because she couldn’t go out in public.

See in her culture she was labeled unclean, she couldn’t touch others, prepare anyone else’s food, be seen in public. She was a total outcast.

Yet she hadn’t run out of faith, she still had the reserves to reach out to Jesus. I know I can start to feel my faith waiver long before the end of a 12 year journey. That is a long time to pray, cry out, to beg the Lord for an answer and hear silence.

Until one day – one glorious day – the prompting to reach out. To take the shaky step of faith for healing. Verse 28 tells us “she thought to herself, If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.”

Then can you imagine her thoughts? “Oh my, really, I’m healed? Uh oh, he noticed. I’m unclean. Will I be punished?”

But she was only met with love.

I believe Jesus knew her heart. Along with those watching. That the healing couldn’t go unrecognized, this healing needed to be public because her shame had been quite public. So He stopped, turned to the crowd and said, “Who touched my robe?”

The disciples responded with, “in this crowd, who knows, lets go.” They were in a hurry to get to the house of the local synagogue leader, his daughter was dying. But Jesus wasn’t in a hurry he knew the importance of this moment.He kept searching for the one who had touched Him.

She then came, trembling and fell to her knees at His feet to confess what she had done. He responded with “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.” What a miracle, complete and instant healing. See Jesus isn’t just in the business of healing bodies but our spirits as well. He wanted to make sure that the crowd and this woman saw the healing. She had been isolated for 12 years unclean, untouchable. It’s hard for me to grasp the heartache that amount of loneliness would bring.daughter faith

I think the greatest thing is the teaching that came from the healing. While He was ministering to this woman, the child He was on His way to heal, died. The crowds are probably beginning to mumble “this distraction cost a good man’s daughter’s life. Look what this unclean, unworthy woman caused.” One response was “there is no use troubling the teacher now.” Such hopelessness.

Oh how sweet is the knowledge that our Jesus is bigger than 12 years of bleeding and of death, we only need faith. This child awoke from sleeping as Jesus called it, restored and healthy. Hope restored.

Are we allowing ourselves to be defined by what we bleed, our problems, our past, our brokenness? Will we have the faith to cry out to the Lord for healing, restoration, and hope, with faith like this woman? Our healing may not be instant, it may not be public. But it will come. It may not be your version of healing. But it will come.

faith bigger  than fear

Jesus will bring the healing you need and seek when you continue to have faith in Him. So press on dear sisters, the Lord is always close.

Love and Blessings

Winter

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Grace Comes

I blogged yesterday about my admiration for Peter’s heart. I also love how Jesus showed his love for Peter, how Jesus knew even before it happened, that the disciples would desert Him that Peter was going to deny even knowing Him. Peter is outraged by Jesus’s prediction, he says in Matthew 14:33 “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will NEVER desert you.” Can’t you just see his red face, hear his indignant tone, I sure can. Because I can hear it from my mouth. How many times have I said I will always follow You, I will always listen for Your voice, I will always run hard after You. Yet I get distracted, lazy, and filled of myself.

Jesus’s response to Peters’ outrage is “I tell you the truth, Peter – this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” Peter says “even if I have to DIE with you, I will never deny you!” Yep, he is so outraged he is declaring his death over denial. 

We know what happens don’t we, sure enough Peter denies Jesus. All… Three… Times. I picture as soon as the third denial slips past his lips the horror of what he has done swallows him and he drops to his knees in his guilt and tears. Don’t we do this in life, we vow to follow, to chase after Jesus, even die for Him? I certainly have done this, I have chosen to live selfishly instead of dying to myself.

Then the sweet, sweet voice of grace comes. After the beatings, after the cross, after the death, came the grace.  grace

John 21:15-18 recounts for us the grace that Peter experienced. At the beginning of the chapter Peter and a few of the other disciples headed out to fish, I picture they are craving the peace and comfort of the sea. That is the place where they know all is right in their world. While they are in their boat, catching nothing, they see a man on the shore, just the outline of a man wanting to know if they are catching anything? Their response is a shout of “NO,”  a frustrated no I would guess, this is the place they know, they are doing what they have always done best and nothing seems to be happening. Until this man on the shore tells them to cast their nets on the other side. I know I would be thinking, “I know what I’m doing and I don’t need the help of a backseat fisherman.” I’m sure they are feeling a bit frustrated and are willing to take a chance on that, maybe this outline of a man on the shore can be of help to them. What do you know, it works! They throw those nets over the other side and can’t even pull them back into the boat they are so full.

John was the first to recognize that the blurry figure on the beach was Jesus. He quickly told Peter, who again I see tripping over himself in the hurry to get out of the boat and to they shore. He had much to say to the Lord. After breakfast Peter and Jesus found a moment alone. Jesus dives into the conversation with “Do you love me more than these, Peter?” “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” said Peter. Then feed my lambs,” Jesus repeats the question “Do you love me, Peter?” “Yes, Lord you know I love you” came Peter’s response. “Then take care of my sheep,” one last time Jesus says “Do you love me, Peter?” At this point Peter is getting his feelings hurt, Jesus asking THREE times if Peter loved Him? Of course I love you, you know everything about me runs through his head I have think. He responds with “You know that I love you.” Jesus again says “Then feed my sheep.”

The grace of Jesus to ask three times of Peter’s love, to cancel out each denial that tumbled from Peter’s lips. I find it amazing, perfectly offered over a man that had a heart to run after the Lord and in his hurry found himself tripping over his feet. Aren’t we offered that same grace, that same chance of grace to be poured over our mistakes? Absolutely! I praise Jesus for that because I certainly find myself tripping over my own feet at times. Not always in my hurry to do what the Lord has called me to do I will ashamedly admit. I have found myself being tripped up over my laziness, walking the path that is easier than the one I’ve been called to. I have found myself in the recent past on a path that wasn’t a bad path, only one that I wouldn’t leave. A path that God had called me to step off of and head a different direction but instead I dragged my feet for months. It was easy, it was comfortable, and familiar. This path that God has placed me on is hard, only because it requires faith, patience, and walking out onto the water. 

Jesus's grace over mistakes

I don’t know where you find yourself today, a path of comfort or laziness, a spot that is hard to see Jesus from or maybe you are running full out at Him. Regardless of where you are the grace of Jesus is right there, let it wash over you, listen as Jesus asks, “Do you love me?” and responds with, “Because I love you more then you can imagine.” Be ready to respond to His love, because life is going to overflow. Not overflow in perfection without trials but it will overflow with peace, joy and grace.

You can find me linked up at:

w2wministries.org,

somuchathome.blogspot.com,

holleygerth.com,

jenniferdukeslee.com,

spiritualsundays.com,

countingmyblessings.com,

donnareidland.com

Getting off the Boat

If I was asked to choose a biblical character that I related most to, it would have to be Peter. His passion and full on sprint towards Jesus connects and relates to my heart unlike any other.  I love that he wasn’t afraid to get back up after failure. He had some really public ones that all generations get to know about and learn from. I’m so beyond thankful that my failures aren’t remembered and talked about for generations! With all his failures I have to believe it only caused him to fall more and more in love with Jesus. To vow to chase after Him harder, love deeper, learn more of Him, because I know that is certainly what it does for me.

When I read of Peter in Matthew 14:22-33, this is when the disciples had left at Jesus’s instruction so he could go into the hills to pray alone, they find themselves in a bit of trouble out on the water. These are experienced sea men, not the casual Sunday boater, so this is some really serious crashing waves and wind.  At three o’clock in the morning which I find significant, this isn’t just night but the dead of night, the loneliest stretch of night, and the waves are crashing all round. Does this ever sound like your life? It sure does mine, the darkest of dark when everything is happening at once, crashing in on me. But behold sisters, who is on the horizon of edge of the boat, Jesus. Oh Jesus, He arrives at the perfect moment but the disciples are afraid, they think he is a ghost.  Hmmm, again much like life, we call out, we want His response to our crisis, but when he shows up it and isn’t how WE planned, we are alarmed with how his rescue looks.

So Jesus responds in verse 27 with “Don’t be afraid, take courage. I am here.” Well Peter responds with a response I think would be like me “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” Yep, like me I want proof, I want to know that He has really arrived, I can’t just trust one sense, in this case for Peter it’s his sight-I mean Jesus is STANDING in front of him….ON the water.

Don't be afraid

Jesus, in his loving and grace filled, ways went along with Peter’s need for an extra step of proof. He said to Peter “Yes, come.” So Peter dove over the side of the boat, in my mind I picture no hesitation, just gathering up his robes in one hand and feet almost tripping over the other in his hurry to get onto the water. He takes a few steps probably the thought of “I’m doing it, I’m WALKING on water towards Jesus!” races through his mind. Then the edge of a wave catches his attention out of the corner of his eye, he then full on looks to his left and sees these huge waves feels the strong winds on his face and panic flutters in his chest. His eyes remain on the waves, he forgets to focus back on Jesus. Just like that his toes are under water, that panic grows its filling him now, more of him is falling under the water. Full panic has set in yet, his eyes haven’t landed back on Jesus yet. He calls out “SAVE ME, LORD”  From our vantage point it seems obvious we are mentally saying; “Peter look at Jesus, TRUST Jesus, and you wouldn’t find yourself sinking.”

Jesus replies while reaching out to grab him “You have so little faith, why did you doubt me?” Oh I think how many times has Jesus said this about me. “Winter, why do you doubt me. Winter, why do you have such little faith when distractions happen?”

I love that Jesus doesn’t criticize him for getting out of boat, for taking those initial steps on the water, or even wanting to have that proof, that it was really Jesus there on the water. He does draw Peter’s attention in the form of correcting him of the fact that he knew Jesus was right there, that Jesus has already shown that he is capable, heck just that day Jesus had fed 5,000 people on 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish all of which came after Him healing the sick. Yet Peter removed his eyes from Jesus, he showed little faith. He allowed his fear to be bigger than his faith. Faith comes at a great cost, it comes at the expense of being willing to get out of the boat. To try again and again, to chase after Jesus in ways that others will believe you to be crazy.

faith

Faith is tested in the storms of our lives. If you’re in the place that the waves seem as if they will drown you sweet sisters, let me tell you, Jesus is in the midst of the waves and wind. He isn’t on the shore or up above looking down. He is IN it with you, His hand is already extended out, ready to grab you. If you are on the edge of the boat, on the precipice of stepping out in faith will you be like Peter scrambling to follow Jesus out onto the water? No matter which position you are in you’ll notice that Peter had the wind and waves, on the boat or on the water. We are not promised a life or faith walk without waves or wind only that Jesus will be found in the midst of our storm. He promises to rescue us, to wipe our tears, listen to our fears and to stand over us in protection.

You can find me linked up at:

http://www.w2wministries.org,

http://holleygerth.com,

http://somuchathome.blogspot.com,

http://jenniferdukeslee.com/