God's Presence: A Change From the Outside In?

My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, 
in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.
Isaiah 32:18

I have danced up and down the scale few dozen times in my adult life. My problem wasn't information; it was transformation. I could lose weight but it just kept finding me. 

Last spring I had some fairly significant health issues and decided to surrender my battle with food to God's capable hands. His presence gave me the present of health. 

Today I'm honored to tell my story at the website of national fitness guru, Wendie Pett. Come join me there and discover how His presence is a prescription for good health.

What Do You Want to Be?

Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man's behalf!
Psalm 66:5

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" Hannah (then 2) cocked her head to right and smiled up at us with the anticipation of our answer. My husband answered first.

"I already am grown up. I'm an accountant. I take care of people's money."

Hannah threw her arms over her stomach belly laughed and pronounced, "Daddy, next time pick something fun."

Over the years my girls have wanted to be veterinarians, dancers, fire fighters, hair cutter girls, doctors and police girls. They may end up being none of those things but I know with certainty I don't want them to wait for adulthood to be.

What I do isn't who I am. What I most want my girls to be they can right now, today, at any age. I want them to be women madly, passionately, wildly in love with God. 

When great passion for God meets any job, His partnership transforms work into purpose. 

I wonder where you are today.

Are you behind a desk filling out reports?

Are you walking the floor of a retail outlet?

Are you at home washing clothes or floors?

Wherever you are, you can be. Invite God's presence into your occupation and watch Him occupy all you are to become all you can be. 

What do you want to be? I want to be His.

Don't Wait for Marriage...

We don't want our daughters to wait until marriage. In fact we don't even want them to wait until the second date. We want them to go all the way with Jesus today.

Our kids spend much of their lives waiting - waiting for summer to end, waiting to get to high school, waiting to get their license or waiting for graduation. I sometimes wonder if all this waiting makes them reticent to dive into faith heart first. 

If you like me, want your kids to have a deep, abiding relationship with Jesus today and not wait for tomorrow, join me today at Encouragement Cafe to find out how... http://www.encouragementcafe.com/2012/09/26/why-wait-for-the-second-date/

Lesson Learned on the Road - Sometimes I Have to Slow Down

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, 
as some understand slowness. 
He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, 
but everyone to come to repentance.
1 Peter 3:9

A blue sky embraced me as I strolled from the cafe to my car. With one hand on my door handle and the other poised to answer my incoming call, I pulled the phone to my ear to the words, "You're right, Dear, I have cancer."

Life slowed down for me that day. I breathed in release as I held my husband, family and future up to God's capable hands. Three months later my precious husband would undergo a radical prostatectomy to eradicate the cancer from his body.

His recovery slowed him down. That first Sunday back at church I dropped him at the front door, checked our little ones into the nursery, used the restroom and still made it to our seats before he did. It took him almost 30 minutes to walk a few hundred yards.

His new, slower pace changed his perspective. He saw people he never noticed before.

The elderly woman struggling through the paces of her day.
The homeless man praying for generosity and the strength to navigate another hopeless day.
The wheel-chair bound youth staring into a future a few feet short of the one he'd imagined.

Sometimes when I'm running I have to slow down too. A slower pace is necessary to cover the distance. When I decelerate I see things I wouldn't otherwise notice. 

The man whose need for achievement shouts at his son to keep the lawn perfect.
My anorexic neighbor who walks with her companion self-loathing for hours every day.
The elderly woman who watches life pass but doesn't participate.

I have to slow down to see the hurting - to connect at their pace. I have to slow down to connect my heart to God's so I can see the people for whom He patiently waits.

Is life flying by you today? Whom might you notice if you just throttled back a bit?


You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:13

There are some things she's just better at than me. She's a more creative cook. She's a far better artist. She's also my oldest daughter. Sixteen years ago I couldn't imagine a point when she'd surpass my abilities, no matter how limited they may be. But the paradigm shifted somewhere along the way and I'm so thrilled it did. 

This fall I'm leading a Moms of Teens group at my church. Each Wednesday about 20 moms gather together to find hope, encouragement and wisdom for this journey called motherhood.  Prayer is such an essential part of this that I wanted our prayer box to be a prominent part of our room. I decided to fashion an "iPray" box that would resemble an iPhone. This was my way of making our prayers relevant to our teens.

I got as far as covering the outside of the cereal box before I called in for reinforcements from Hannah. I knew she'd have no problem penciling in some appropriate teenager-y apps. While I traveled to speak at a conference this weekend, she completed her assignment. She texted me a picture of her work and as expected it was bright and colorful.

Here's what I didn't expect to see. She had fashioned every app to relate back to our relationship with God. 

The Phone icon reminded me to phone "home".
The Message (texting) icon prompted me to read His message.
The Music icon encouraged me to worship.
The Camera icon invited me to picture Him.

I've never counted but I'm willing to guess I touch my phone at least 100 times a day. What if I formed a new habit of reaching for Him every time I reached for my phone? I could check my heart with every message. Send a prayer with every email. Every ding and ring would be a reminder to connect with the One with whom I most need contact.

So today I'm going iPray, iMeditate, iStudy and iConnect. For the next 24 hours I'm going to make a conscious effort to connect with God every time my phone calls. 

Want to join me in this 24 hour challenge? Tell me today what you think is going to happen and then check back in tomorrow with your results!

Pass It On!

Teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.
2 Timothy 2:2b

We were just one plane with a minor mechanical delay. Our flight wasn't even full at about 2/3 capacity. What difference did it make if 100 people were inconvenienced by a minor difficulty? The problem is 4200 additional passengers were likely impacted over the course of an average travel day at Chicago's O'Hare International. One impact leads to dozens of others. 

Everyday I am faced with dozens of little decisions. 

Will I speak kindly to the person who messes up my drive thru order?

Will I notice the person who needs a smile?

Will I take the time to talk to a lonely senior?

Just as a flight delay can ripple out to impact thousands more than the original seats on the plane, my seemingly insignificant interactions can have far-reaching fingers. 

Wherever we go today, our lives will intersect with others. We will pass something on to them. Let's allow those we bump into to have an encounter with Jesus because we met them at the crossroad and left them with a heart deposit they can give others.

What He Can Do With Lemons

She wore blue every day but she was buried in pink. She took painstaking care of her fingernails and piled her hair in a dizzying intricate pattern my young brain couldn't follow. She was a diligent writer, a capturer of life and communicator to whom every word had a different, deeper meaning.

My paternal grandmother was like a living mystery. A day with her was like stepping into the pages of an adventure where stories twist but end with predictability's comfort. She was comfortable expressing exactly who she was even if it was in a misunderstood vernacular.

When she passed, her seven grandchildren all asked for a single tin cookie press. He had molded thousands of gingerbread boys and each of our hearts. Her gingerbread boy wasn't content to stand idly waiting to be eaten. He was in a perpetual run - taking in all that was left of his life with wild abandon. 

Since I'm the youngest grandchild, I had zero chance of receiving the most coveted prize from her estate but I did receive this picture of her kitchen that could have been captured on  any day. She celebrated them all with the flare of the extraordinary. Her gingerbread boy was a lot like her. 

Inscribed on the back in her hand were the words:

"Any thyme life gives you lemons...make lemon pound cake."

Lemonade wasn't enough for Grandma. Liquid runs right through you but a pound cake is weighty and substantial. She wanted me to see the set-backs in my life as opportunities to engage my world as she had hers. She wanted me to take what someone else might call failure and fashion a future.

Today I wear turquoise as often as I can. I apply cuticle oil to my nails daily. And I have a passion for communication.

I face challenges as adventures knowing my life will twist and turn but end with predictability's comfort. Someday I will hobble my way to her home in heaven. And any thyme life gives me lemons...I'll make lemon pound cake.

What is your natural reaction when you face disappointment or loss? What difference could the presence of the One who turned water into wine make? If He can do that with water, just imagine what He could do with lemons...

From My Mind to His Hands

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7

The years I spent in Chattanooga prior to my divorce were motivated by one thing and one thing only. I didn’t want to put my baby in daycare. We moved there so my then mother-in-law could watch my baby.

She was a sweet, unassuming and quiet woman. Each day when I picked up my precious baby she would report the day’s activities. Nestled among bottles and bedtime were firsts. Firsts I didn’t see. My guilt was enormous.

Lately I’ve been experiencing a different kind of firsts – a first date, my first daughter to get her license. But nothing could top what my oldest brought home just two weeks ago. A brochure from school which contained an order form for a class ring.

We had just been looking at her baby pictures. My third, Clara who’s almost 7, interrupted us, took one look at the photos and asked, “Mom how come you never told me you used to be young?”

Serious. Ego. Blow. My “baby” was about to order a symbol of her independence to wear on her hand. My face tells the story of sixteen years of midnight worries and sleep that never was as sound again. 

Many years ago I ordered a ring emblazoned with school's name. For a few years it circled my finger but soon it slipped from my hand to make a permanent home as a charm. 

I wonder what would happen if I faced my worries the same way. If I saw them for what they really were. They circle my brain for a while but eventually they make a permanent home in His hands. They are a symbol of my dependence. They remind me how much I desperately need Him.

Can you name your worry today? Do you dare to slip it from your mind into His capable hands?

Lessons Learned on the Road - Run...At God's Pace

I am truly excited today for you to meet my new friend Wendie. She is in a word - inspirational. She dares you to dream bigger, pusher farther and go deeper with God. This weekend I will get to hug her neck in person for the first time at the Refine Conference. We'd love to have you join us and there's still time - http://therefineconference.com/ for details!

by Wendie Pett

When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; 
when you run, you will not stumble. 
Proverbs 4:12

I run, because I have to.

Or so it goes for those who live to run. As a fitness expert, however, I must admit that there are things I’d much rather do for exercise than run. But run I do, and for a number of reasons — the excellent cardio rewards, an opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors, and that lasting sense of accomplishment that stays with me throughout the day.

More importantly for me, however, is running provides as much time as I want to silently pray and listen to God. How often we pass through life without a thought Heavenward. The One who created us runs alongside us, every determined step of the way. Removed from phone, doorbell, TV, and the Internet, I am able to carve out a niche of time not only to hear from Him, but to experience His presence in the solitude of nature.

On more than a few occasions, I’ve found myself reaching out to pluck a lonely leaf simply to appreciate holding something completely God-made. Stretching my calves as I lean against a tree, I marvel at how the Lord thought ahead in ensuring we had everything we would need in this world. Trees, for instance, were created not only for ascetic appeal, but to construct houses, furniture, buildings, and to serve as a source of energy. I can’t help marveling at the Lord’s forethought in creating us for His purposes too.

While God never said this life would be easy, He did provide us with enduring families, friends, and mentors to help navigate our paths. Years ago, my own path appeared ideal at first glance:  a promising career in sales and marketing for a publishing company, followed by authoring my own book on fitness - the result of a tragic snowmobile accident that, in the end, equipped me to help others realize that their bodies are their gym and they’re self-healing if utilized properly.

The path I’d created would take a devastating turn for me in the years to come, however, when I lost my job, my company car, a steady income and even my home. Negativity pecked loudly at my heart. It was then that I forced myself to take a leap of faith and follow a new direction – one I’d prayed about and I felt certain was divinely orchestrated. Seven years later, God has continued to clear the path set before me, both on the running trail and in the running of my Visibly Fit™ business – in hosting a national TV show, speaking engagements, books, articles, radio spots, and popular fitness DVDs.

Whether we are running from something or desperately chasing the purpose for our lives, traversing a path alongside our Heavenly Father affords a pace that allows us to see the finish line He has envisioned. Faith-filled determination will get us there, and gratitude and thankfulness will be our rewards. Lace up those running shoes and be prepared to cross a magnificent finish line. Your name is on His banner.

WENDIE PETT is a nationally renowned fitness expert and coach, mother, speaker, author and creator of the Visibly Fit™ exercise program. Her many Visibly Fit™ instructional DVDs teach wellness maximization through the balance of mind, body, and spirit as well how to use your body as your gym To learn more about Wendie and her program visit -  www.wendiepett.com

Hello God! Goodbye Lonely!

"Hello, Starbucks!" Carynne bounded out of the car and threw her arms up into the air to punctuate her excitement. My heart smiled with hers as we walked hand in hand to our afternoon mother/daughter date. 

Somehow I doubt it was an overpriced vanilla milkshake that garnered her excitement. It wasn't even the sparkly sticker mosaic tucked in my bag. It was stolen moments alone in my presence.

With four kids, I look for every opportunity to spend alone time with one of my girls. Trips to Target, grocery shopping and sitting side by side sipping extravagant drinks are all opportunities to engage the heart. Ordinary, whipped cream mustache moments deposit love into their hearts.

I ran in a four mile race Friday night and for dessert did a 15 mile marathon training run Saturday morning. Monday morning my body is still crawling to keep up with my legs' pace. But still my heart thrilled. It was another morning I could greet God; another opportunity to steal away into His presence.

I threw up the arms of my heart and inside exclaimed, "Hello, God!" 

I knew today would be filled with ordinary, stress by surprise moments. I need His deposits to greet those moments with His response instead of my reaction. Already today I've navigated a difficult phone call, evaluated a n0-right-answer decision and glanced at a calendar with too many hours colored in. 

Saying hello God each morning doesn't mean good-bye to stress but it does redirect stress from my shoulders to His heart. It means facing my day hand-in-hand. So, "Hello, God! Goodbye, Lonely!"

Do you need to say hello to God today? What could you say goodbye to if you did?

You're So Mean...I Just Have to Be Nice!

This is a repost of one of my most popular posts...hope you enjoy this reprise!

For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.
Matthew 12:34b 

Photo Credit: imdb.com
In the movie You've Got Mail, the main characters are Joe Fox, President of giant retailer, Fox Books and Kathleen Kelly, owner of a generationally owned bookstore. Kathleen is a gentle, non-confrontational female who rarely can think of a snappy response to an unkind remark. Her inability to do so is suddenly resolved when faced with her adversary, Joe Fox. Joe liked her better when she said nothing at all.

So many of us have been taught the adage, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." That is the best one of us could do in our own willpower to be sure. I wonder if God would look at Kathleen Kelly, just like he does me, and long to empower her to a life better than silence-filled resentment or hurtful, regretful retorts.

Today's reading is the 4th chapter of 1 Corinthians. Paul is outlining the character qualities necessary to be used by God. In Verses 12-13, he gives four distinctives of he and his companions lives:
  1. Hard Work
  2. Bless Those Who Curse Them
  3. Endure Hardships
  4. Respond Kindly to Slanderers
Each of these represent an incredibly high life standard. For me, the last is the most difficult. When someone speaks hatefully to or about me (or worse my husband or children), I feel I'm quite noble when I just hold my tongue. God wants much more for me than I can imagine from myself. He can grow a heart of love in me so big, it returns gentle, kind words to verbal attacks.

Jesus, today I choose to want more from my tongue than I might ever think possible. Today I choose to speak kindly to hurting hearts who spew venom in an attempt to make others join in their pain. I trust you to transform my heart, which will transplant my words. Help me speak Your words of tenderness and love today.

When was the last time someone spoke unkindly to you? How did you respond?

I Bet You Can't Get Up Here

Come and see what God has done, 
how awesome his works in man’s behalf!
Psalm 66:5

"I bet you can't get up here." Clara's sweet voice called down to me and urged my heart up to hers. Never one to back down from a dare, I bravely climbed the rope ladder to join she and Carynne at the top of the playground. 

From my new height I gained new perspective. I saw farther. I soaked in the layout of their school and playground. Things look different when you get off the ground.

Do you ever find yourself wanting to go deeper and farther with God but are afraid to take that next step of faith? What if I dared you... 

I bet you can't get up here.

No matter how uncertain the footing of our climb, God is with us. When we reach that new height with God, our perspective changes. We see our situation more clearly. We see beyond our current problem to what could be. Things look different when you get off the ground.

When we climb higher with God, we see what He has done - how He has worked on our behalf. Come with me...and see what God has done.

In what situation do you need fresh perspective? Will you allow me dare you...I bet you can't get up here?

Less Planking Means More Core Strength

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye 
and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
Matthew 7:3

A committed runner, one of the keys to success is strong core strength. I've tried many exercises through the years but few are effective as the plank. By effective I mean likely to render me unable to walk completely upright the next day.

Doing the plank hurts my stomach.

There's another kind of plank I do that doesn't hurt my stomach as much as it does my heart. I find myself nitpicking the ones I most love while ignoring my own obvious flaws.  I find the tiny speck of sawdust in their life but totally ignore the gargantuan plank extending from my own. It's like a bad scene from a low budget remake of Pinocchio.

This plank maneveur is utterly useless and truly destructive to me. I need three body parts to align before I see clearly to remove my big old plank.

My Mind - Who's in my thoughts?

Have you ever listened to a sermon and thought to yourself I sure wish _________ could hear this? That is my early warning signal my heart's focus has wandered from home base. When I read scripture, pray or hear wisdom from others it is my heart that should be penetrated. Believe me, there is plenty of plank extending from my heart for the Holy Spirit to walk on. 

When I let God walk around in my mind, He opens the door to introspection.

My Mouth - What am I talking about?

Grumbling and complaining are the shortest path to hypercritical. As I measure the scales of fairness and equality, the weight tips toward negativity. My words drowned out the voice of God and soon the only thoughts I'm hearing are my own.

When I stop talking and start listening, He gently redirects my focus.

My Ears - Who am I listening to?

We girls can hop on the "My Bad Husband" or "My Horrible Kids" bandwagon with a speed that makes a cheetah look slothful. Not only do I need to drown out my own gloomy thoughts, I need to be careful what outside words I allow to pierce my heart. 

When I tune my ears to Him, I find my heart lilting toward praise.

The plank hurts. It hurts my relationship with God and my relationships with other. So the next time I lay down I want to make sure I'm laying down my flaws, my rights and taking up the core strength of servanthood.

Turns out when it comes to my soul, less planking means more core strength.

What flaw is easiest for you to see in others? How could you shift your focus inward instead?

Lessons Learned on the Road-Treat Injury Immediately

If I asked you where you were eleven years ago today, you no doubt could tell me. Were you clustered around a television at work? Did you watch in horror on a mall screen? Did you feel incredibly small and lonely as you witnessed terror within the walls of a home that no longer seemed safe?

Six thirty am that morning I boarded a plane leaving from Atlanta to Chicago. As planes were striking towers, we were sailing above the clouds. Havoc unleashed its fury on our health and safety, my plane was listed among those unaccounted for and potentially taken over by terrorists.

We landed at O’Hare to the hush of horror. One of the world’s busiest airports had halted to ingest the impact of a new normal. My new normal had boarded the plane with me that morning. After 8 years of striving for love in a loveless marriage, I teetered on the brink of an emotional affair and the end of my marriage.

Out of the ashes of destruction, hope sprang into my heart. What could birth passion in a marriage more than the threat of losing your spouse? As I snaked in my rental car from Chicago to Chattanooga, my heart dared to dream. I let it wander around my insides with wishes of a romantic reunion.

My dream didn't come to pass. It blended into a nightmare of too little counseling too late and a divorce in August, 2002. I learned something through 9/11 I'm often reminded of when I run.

Don't let injuries fester.

My first husband was a perfect match for my people pleasing non-confrontational personality. We had an unspoken agreement to have as little friction in our marriage as possible. If we didn't talk about our problems, we didn't have to admit they existed.

When you injure yourself while running, your best chance for containing that injury is to treat it immediately. Injuries that fester because you just keep running, have a longer-term, more significant impact than those you deal with.

Injuries in relationship are the same. Let's not allow our relational hurts to fester. Instead, let's invite God into our pain and proceed with an immediate treatment plan which might include painful conversations and uncomfortable situations. But the pain we experience now will be far less than the pain waiting for us later.

Treat injury immediately and avoid the pain of long-term hurt.

What's your most recent injury? What would it take to just treat it now? What's keeping you from doing so?

A New Way to Pray...

Pray continually. 
1 Thessalonians 5:17

Four kids, five schedules and one mom can leave your life in perpetual chaos. Most mornings I faithfully opened my Bible to drink in God’s word. I talked to Him, listened to Him and left that place contented and ready to face my day.

But many days my Jesus ran out before my hours did. I’d read Paul’s words to pray continually but with four daughters chattering throughout daylight, how could I even manage to get a word in? It was from a place of complete desperation I began to call out to God in one sentence prayers. Turns out short really can be sweet.

I wrote about this today at Encouragement Cafe. Would you join me there? http://www.encouragementcafe.com/2012/09/10/prayer-wimp-to-prayer-warrior/

You've Been Served

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!
Romans 10:15

I dreaded the ring of my door. The steps to mailbox were laden with worry. We were embroiled in a protracted legal battle over the custody terms of my divorce. All the mailman seemed to bring in those days was bad news. 

I'd been served.

I was newly married, expecting my third child and staying at home for the first time in my life. I had every reason to rejoice but instead worry wrapped my days. I just needed some good news.

In the course of life we all encounter difficult people. You know the ones I mean. They make you want to run in the other direction when you see them coming your way. They never have anything positive to say. Their sky is perpetually falling and interaction with them is consistently draining. They are like walking legal papers - nothing good is ever written on them.

We get served.

Slowly Scott and I began to realize we couldn't talk, maneuver or negotiate our way out of our situation. Desperation drove us to our knees. We began to pray out loud together every morning and every night for God's heart towards those who opposed us and God's deliverance from a situation we were powerless to fix.

We reached out to the One who came to serve...

Have you ever watched a pro tennis player in person or on TV? Their serve is so powerful it is difficult to even return. 

An adored child who leaves you physically or emotionally.
Hurtful words that leave you speechless.
An insurmountable financial loss.

Eventually we all get served. 

Legal papers. Irritable people. Attacks on our character. Unforeseen circumstances. Question is what do we serve up in response?

How beautiful are the feet who bring good news...

A legal battle is an opportunity to show mercy.
Irritable people give us a chance to love expecting nothing in return.
Attacks on our character give us practice at forgiveness.
Unforeseen circumstances develop abiding trust in God.
Have you been served recently? How will you respond?

A Little Jesus On Top

Visiting Grandma's house meant Honeycomb for breakfast. She stored it in a big glass jar so we were never sure just how old our cereal was. Worse every morning she sprinkled a little bran on top just to make sure we stayed regular.

Later my life became like that bowl of cereal - stuffed with activities, peoples and places. My life was full to the brim but it wasn't filled. I tried to sprinkle a little Jesus on top of my crowded life...

Intrigued? Read the rest of the story here: http://keepingitpersonal.com/2012/09/crawling-away-from-the-crowd/

Is Life Puzzling You?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9

I went through three children before I got one who echoed my passion for puzzles. Working a puzzle is one of my favorite ways to spend an hour...or two...or three and has been since I was a small child.

There's something satisfying about watching something get created from nothing.

There's something gratifying about seeing the pieces fit together.

There's something delightful about witnessing a complete picture appear.

At 5, Carynne can match me piece for piece, hour for hour, puzzle for puzzle. Working puzzles is one way we connect and intertwine our hearts. I nearly always enjoy these times with her but occasionally she returns with this puzzle:

I don't care for this one. Its pieces don't stay together. Its free form lines make it difficult to follow. Its edges rise up when I want them to stay down.

I sometimes wish my life were as nice and tidy as working a puzzle. I'd like to just snap all the pieces together and have beauty come forth. I'd like to transform the table of my heart in an afternoon. 

The jigsaw of my life is somewhat more complicated because I have...

Missing Pieces

Isn't it disappointing when you get to the end of the puzzle and discover you have missing pieces? Even if 999 are present that single absent piece detracts. It draws my attention and focus. It distracts me from what I have accomplished and focuses my mind on what I lack.

I see my missing pieces - my inadequacies, my faults and failures. When my heart's eye centers on my lack, I become inward focused. Instead I need an upward focus. The object of my mind and heart should be God. He fills in my missing pieces.

Rough Edges

Some puzzles are cut with a lack of precision. The edges are haphazard and keep disconnecting from their neighbor. My rough edges have the same impact.

I can be short-tempered, impatient and lack compassion. These qualities break my connection with others. I need God's love to flood my heart. His has master precision. He knows exactly what pieces of my soul need a trim.

An Incomplete Picture

Have you ever tried to work a puzzle without the box top picture? This is measurably more challenging than having a guide. I have an incomplete picture of my life and my future.

God holds the box top. He's sees what I cannot see. I need His corrective lenses to mold and shape my heart.

God is the only One who can create something from nothing.

He is the only One who can fit the pieces of my life together.

He's the only One with a complete picture.

When I find my life puzzling, I need to spend less time thinking and more time praying. 

When I find my heart in pieces, I need to hide my heart in His and wait for Him to complete the picture.

His thoughts aren't mine but they are the answer to all life's puzzles.

Lessons Learned on the Road - The Encouragement of Shade

We're continuing our series Lessons Learned on the Road with a guest post by Rachel Wojnaroski. Rachel inspires extraordinary faith for everyday living. She's a mother to seven, including a special needs child, so knows plenty about difficult moments in everyday life. If you need some encouragement in your ordinary life, I'd urge you to pop over to visit her often.

Also, I have some exciting news! Rachel's incredible book on prayer The Sensational Scent of Prayer is FREE on Amazon today. Click on the title to click over and order your copy!

Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. 
Prov. 12:25 ESV

The sun beat down on my brow and drips of sweat forced their way under my sunglasses. The heat slowed my feet and the temps rose higher by the minute. When I ran a half marathon in the spring, the heat served as my biggest running enemy. I had trained through the rain, through the snow, through the cold, through all types of weather, but not much heat. On this particular day of running, the rising temps were offering no friendship either.

Then I saw it, like a beckoning oasis, the row of trees was on the opposite side of the street; but they called my name. I ran toward their bidding, anxious to cool down, battling to continue to run with every single step. In one short block, my body felt encouraged to keep moving. The high temps were temporarily relieved- simply due to the shade provided by one small row of trees.

Some of us run, some of us play tennis, and some of us crochet. There are those who speak from a platform, those who quietly write, and those who read. There's the loud one in the room, the silent smiler, and the steady, dependable average one. God created humans with such variety that each one is unique and individual. But there is one thing that each and every one of us has the power to do; it's the same power as that single row of trees.

Anyone can be an encourager.

Being an encourager doesn't take a certain skill set. There are no qualifications. No travelling requirements. No business cards necessary.

Someone coming by your row could be struggling against the heat; the temporary relief you provide could be just what they need to finish the race.

Giving someone a cheerful word is providing shade on the run of life.

Who needs your encouragement today?

Love this post? Catch up on the series:

Lessons Learned on the Road - Don't Look Back
Lessons Learned on the Road - Run the Race Marked Out for You
Lessons Learned on the Road - Rest Days Fuel Your Run
Lessons Learned on the Road - Don't Stop Breathing

Rachel Wojnarowski is originally a small town country girl who converted to a suburban mother of seven by way of life happening. She and her husband, Matt, enjoy caring for their busy family, whose ages span 9 months to 21 years and includes a special needs daughter. Rachel leads community ladies' Bible studies in central Ohio and serves as an event planner and speaker for special needs parenting groups. She is a member of the Ohio Writers' Guild and the National MPS Society; and loves to inspire others through her blog by sharing faith, family, and fun. Wife, mom, reader, writer, speaker and dreamer, you can find Rachel on Twitter and Facebook.

He Labors for Us

This is an "instant replay" of a devotion that ran on Encouragement Cafe last year. If you haven't joined the Encouragement Cafe community, click over and find encouragement on Facebook, their daily devotions or their Friday radio show.

My heart rejoices in the LORD…for I delight in your deliverance. 
1 Samuel 2:1
(Hannah’s prayer of praise after God granted her long-desired baby)

The baby growing inside was a blessed surprise. My first, I talked to her at length before she was born. I narrated my happenings like the elevator music no one listens to. Perhaps this is why she was hesitant to leave the safety of the womb – she was afraid I’d talk her into insanity.

Her due date of January 10th came and went. By January 15th we were bursting at the seams. My discomfort culminated in a piercing pain in my right kidney. My old school doctor thought nothing of it. Five days and nights of extraordinary pain would follow, robbing me of sleep and nutrition.

The intermittent contractions were a relief from this constant agony. After twelve hours they settled into a steady rhythm and I arrived at the hospital ready to rid myself of both sources of pain. Once admitted, I was wired like the experiment of a mad scientist. 

The machine’s readings were not what they should be for my baby. A neonatologist was called in. My discomfort became the least of my worries.

When my “water” broke, it could best be described as sludge.  My overcooked daughter had defecated multiple times in utero.  Now her respiratory and digestive well-being was threatened. 

I pushed for three hours straight. Worry lined every contraction. In the end, she came out entirely in one power-packed push.

My breath caught in my throat. I could not celebrate for concern. Would my baby live? Would she be “normal”? The neonatologist whisked her away. I followed him like a hawk as I lay incapacitated and terrified for my child.

She passed every test with flying colors. As praise filled my heart and tears flooded my weary eyes, I saw him hold her close to his cheek. My highly skilled and trained neonatologist sang “Happy Birthday” to a baby named Hannah.

Your Labor Day pains may take another form. Are you worried about bills that strong arm your budget? Are you discomforted by a loved one who doesn't seem to return your love? Are you pained with concern about your children?

God is at work even when it doesn't seem or feel like it. He labors for us. In our moments of greatest pain, do we praise the God who is beyond our suffering?