Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Be the Reason People Want God

Today I am not writing about me.  Today I am writing about a man that I have grown up with who is an inspiration to everyone in my family.  To put it bluntly, this man is like a modern day Job.  His faith is humbling, inspiring, and real.

I won't share much about his story simply because it is not my story to tell but I will ask that you all pray for him and his family right now.  They are going through a very tough experience and throughout every update, throughout every text, every conversation, he says things like "Jesus is LORD of ALL! By His stripes! Our God is Greater! Jesus is there, He is Lord & He is mighty! I will never lose hope, trust or faith in our Lord."  As I write those out it brings tears to my eyes to know what he and his family are going through but it also inspires me to know that this man would tell you right up front that it is not through his own strength that he is able to handle this but it through the strength of his Lord and Savior.  No matter what kind of news he gives in his update he always ends it with hope.  

This man is the type of person that when you meet him or walk away from a conversation with him, regardless of whether you are a Believer or not, you know you want whatever it is that he has.  You know he truly believes what he is saying and he lives and breathes it.  He will be the first to tell you that the reason he has an everlasting hope is because of JESUS CHRIST.

Larry, I commend you and I want you to know that we are praying for you.  Not only are we praying for your family and your baby girl but we are praying for strength and encouragement throughout this experience.

Father, right now I lift up Larry and and his family and specifically his Princess.  Father I know that you are the true healer and counselor.  I know that you have strength beyond anything we can fathom and I know more than anything that you have a plan for this family.  I know you have a plan for this Princess and Father throughout this struggle I pray strength and encouragement to her.  Lord, we know that you can do anything and work miracles, Father we pray that your will is done and you are continually and forever glorified through this.  Lord we lift up the Dean's and surround them with prayer and strength.  May every one of them be fully suited in the whole armor of God today as they continue through this battle.  We pray that the Devil releases his stronghold and any control he may think he has over this family.  We rebuke this sickness and weakness.  We rebuke failure and illness.  Father, we pray that in all of this YOUR divine will is done.  While we may not understand the reasoning behind any of this right now, we know that you planned this day and this journey for Princess and we know you are working RIGHT THIS MINUTE.  Be with everyone struggling and do Your might work.  In your name I pray, Amen.    


Readers, today I challenge you to look at your life and see how you would respond in a time of crisis to your God.  Would you ignore Him?  Would you blame Him?  Would you shun Him?  Would you seek Him?  Would you love Him?  Would you praise Him?  I hope in each of your lives you have the opportunity to meet someone like Larry and know that their hope comes from God up above.  In fact, I challenge each of us instead of hoping to meet someone like Larry, to BE someone like Larry.  Someone that loves God with every fiber of their being.  Be the person that has that everlasting hope in Jesus Christ because you know what you believe is true!   Be the person that others meet and wonder "What do they have that I don't?"  Contribute to the reason that people seek God.  It's time that we act out our faith, and instead of just having people like Larry be far and few between, we make it the norm! 

Again, please join me in our brother and sisters struggle today and say some prayers.  Let's carry each others burdens today because we all know that God put us here to help each other and love one another.   Be grateful for where you are at right now and know that no matter what happens - GOD IS ALWAYS ON YOUR SIDE. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"Do you ever feel like you are putting up a front?"

Earlier in my blog I wrote about how I don't like to be seen as weak.  I have often felt like it is a negative reflection on me as a person and my strength.  Ever since I wrote that post however, I have felt myself working on that and focusing less on personal strength but rather focusing on God's strength.

In our small group recently we were talking about joy and how sometimes it feels like it has to be a choice rather than something that just comes naturally.  Sometimes there are days when you just don't feel happy.  For me, joy is different than happiness.  Joy is looking at the things around you and seeing the blessings God has put in your life in the past and present regardless of any negative things happening at the current moment.  It is focusing on those things instead of focusing on negativity.  When I was sharing that sometimes I need to choose joy my friend asked me a really convicting question.

He said, "do you ever feel like you are just putting up a front?"

Suddenly I understood how what I was saying could come across the wrong way.  Luckily, my wonderful husband jumped right in and responded saying he doesn't think anyone could pretend if things are really that hard.  If you have a heavy enough burden there is no way you can just pretend to be joyful.  It is something that comes from the Holy Spirit and through God's grace.  Trust me, there are times when I have felt weak and it is apparent but it is also during those times that I seek God and try to focus on the blessings in my life.

This friend that asked the question is very aware of the fact that we would like to have a baby.  He knows what our struggle has been and he knows us both as individuals very well.  His question convicted me, not because I was putting up a front but, because I realize how important our reaction and our response to this trial in our life is.  Our walks will be a reflection of our faith.  It also convicted me in the sense that I know I need to be very real throughout this journey with those that are close to me because I know they are watching.  It is important that I be a witness to God's plan for my life and let people witness my walk with God on the good days and bad days.  I don't want people to think I am just pretending or acting like I am happy.  I want people to know that in spite of what my someday hopes are, my true hope is in my Savior, Jesus Christ-always.  Our friend's question will hold me accountable to letting God work through Jake and I as individuals and as husband and wife.  Hopefully, while we may not know what God's plan is for our personal life, we are doing everything we can to be active in His plan for reaching those around us. 

May God bless you today.  May you realize that while you feel like you can't see the movement in your life, there may still be movement in someone else's life as a result of your walk with God.  Be strong in your faith, be faithful in your walk and be real in your testimony.  Be a witness for Christ in good and bad.  You never know who is watching.  God is faithful. 

Encouragement through Irony

I haven't been to service at our church in a while and today I took some time to catch up a sermon that I had missed.  It was titled Caution: Expectations They Change Everything.

Ironically, everything in my life lately has been based on expectancy or the hope of expectancy or pregnancy but that is not what this was about.  The pastor spoke about change and how we need to be open to change and let God work through our lives.  We should expect God to use us every day.

The main portion of this sermon that stuck out at me was the line (or something similar to this) "God doesn't change but our expectation of His spirit and His presence does."  He referred to the fact that when people go on mission trips and church camps that they always come back with this incredible spiritual awakening and noted that it makes you wonder why it isn't like that all the time.

He then asked, "when do you have a heightened sensitivity to God's spirit?"  My alternative to this question would be, when do you try to block God's spirit?  For a few months I had been thinking, poor me, woe is me, because I am not getting what I want or Jake and I aren't getting what we want.  I fill my head with so many thoughts of my own that I can't hear the Words of God.  Then I think about how God feels so far away and He probably isn't too worried about what I am going through right now so He is just being silent.  The fact of the matter is, I am just making too much noise myself that even if God tries to speak to me, I drown Him out.

There are days or weeks when I feel incredibly close to God and those times are because I am seeking him continually.  If I have a spare moment, I pray in it rather than check facebook or go on pinterest.  Yes, I'm guilty.  Or, I look up devotionals or spend more time searching God's word or looking for meaning in my life.  The truth is that sometimes I am just more interested in my faith than others.  How does that sound?  Awful.  How would I feel if my husband said to me, "sometimes I'm just more interested in you than others."  I've recently thought about how that makes God feel?

I mean, this is the God that pursues me 24/7.  He wants me all the time.  He loves me all the time.  He cares about my well-being all the time.  It's time for me to stop blocking God's pursuit of me and to keep up that heightened level of sensitivity.  I want to begin to expect to meet him on a daily or even hourly basis.  

I challenge you to have a heightened sensitivity to God's presence for an entire day and see how it affects your demeanor, your mood, your entire day.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Unanswered Prayers

Let me explain my absence.  The thing that has been convicting me most in my life was something that my husband I had decided not to share with everyone but we've recently changed our minds. Actually God changed our minds.

Have you ever had a God moment?  A moment where there is no other possible explanation for what just happened besides the fact that it was God using someone, some thing, or some experience to speak love into your life.  My husband and I had one of those a few weeks ago and that is what changed my mind about coming back to this blog.  (I'll go into the God moment in a different post.)  You see, my husband and I are trying to have a baby.  I won't say how long, I'll simply say that it has been long enough that because it hasn't happened yet, we have been getting worried.

Let me be completely open with you about this.  God has given married people the blessing of sex and intimacy within marriage and it is an incredibly wonderful thing!  Being intimate as husband and wife is a way to show your love for one another in a way that no one else can see or be a part of.  It is the most intimate thing in the entire world.  When you are trying to have a baby and at some many other times that I won't go into, the devil can try to steal that from you.  God isn't dumb and He wasn't messing around when He designed the way our bodies create another human being.   Knowing that is how it happens though makes it very difficult to focus on the intimacy aspect of sex rather than the technical aspect of sex when you want a child.  Especially if it's taken you longer than you were expecting it to.  At one point for me, sex wasn't exciting because I so focused on "doing it right" or "making sure it worked" that I wasn't longing for my husband in the loving way that I normally would.  Thankfully that has changed but my attitude had to change first. 

For a while, we didn't want to share that we were trying to have a baby because 1. we didn't want to be like "hey everyone, we are having lots of sex and hoping to make a little human" and 2. in case it took longer than expected, we didn't want people to know it "wasn't working" or want everyone to know something "was wrong." 

First of all, yes, we have sex and we are allowed to because we are husband and wife.  So there it is! It's out there.  :)  Second of all and to address my quotation marks, there is nothing "wrong."  You know what, our bodies may not work the same way others people's do or on similar timeframes but they are still our own and God created them the exact way they are supposed to be. God will use them, if He chooses, to create life when we are supposed.  For those of you that can't have children, please know that God has a plan for you.  Please don't discount yourself or your place in the kingdom of heaven because, according to medical definitions, something is different about you. 

Let me just say that it hasn't been easy for me to come to the conclusion I just wrote above.  I have been going through a continual spiritual warfare because of this.  I serve an awesome, powerful, loving, and all knowing, God.  He has always been faithful in providing for me and creating a path for me.  Right now, because this is a prayer He is choosing not to answer in MY time, does NOT mean that it won't be answered but the Devil sure does like to tell me that.  There has been so much disappointment and brokenness associated with this journey and I am done hiding it.  I want women to know that there are other people that struggle with this and that there is HOPE. I am going through this experience, you are going through this experience, because God has it in the plan for our lives.  While there have been times, lots of them, that I don't understand and hurt, there are times when I am joyful because I know that my life is going according to His plan and not my own.

I think back to all the times in my life when I tried to take control and I am happy they didn't work out the way I was expecting or wanted them to.  I am POSITIVE that this will be one of those things I look back on and then understand why His timing worked out so perfectly.  Today I challenge those of you who still have unanswered prayers from God to look back on your life and look at the timing that things have happened in.  Are you happy that some things did not work during the time frame you wanted them to?  Apply that to this situation.  Yes, I know, this is SO hard to understand but the fact of the matter is that we are not supposed to have all of the answers.  I know you ask why isn't it our turn?  Why are some people receiving this blessing and we are not?  Do we not want it bad enough?  Is something "wrong"?

I understand, I'm there with you but I want to realize that JOY is a CHOICE.  I beg you, just as I have to do on a daily basis, CHOOSE JOY.  CHOOSE HOPE.  SERVE GOD through ALL of your circumstances, the good and the bad.  DON'T be ASHAMED of your emotions at this time but rather cast your cares upon the Lord and let Him work in your life right now as He so longs to do.

If you struggle with this, please feel free to email me your prayer requests and I will pray for you.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Today I am struggling with a large feeling of disappointment.  I had gotten my hopes up so much for something that I stayed up late last night day dreaming certain situations and scenarios.  I was so certain that things were going to go my way this time.

Today, that changed and I am brought back to reality.  The scenarios I played out in my mind last night aren't going to happen.  I don't get to see the things I had dreamed of...yet.

The thing that I am struggling with is, "Why not God?  Why can't I have this? Why do I have to wait?  When will it be my turn?"

I am having a really hard time getting past feeling sorry for myself.  Right now is a time when I just need a kick in the pants that says, "Dana, get over yourself."  Well, not really in those words but God probably should say that to me.  I know I deserve it.

I am so focused on my sadness, resentment and disappointment that it is making me blind to the present. This is why I am choosing to shift my attitude.

Again, I don't know what is going to happen in my life but I know that the Lord knows the desires of my heart and He is always with those who are faithful.  Today, I am choosing to remain faithful.  Today, I am choosing to pick myself up, brush myself off and ask, "Lord, what can I do for you today?"  Maybe today I can forget about myself for a moment and remember that God created me for His plan, not my own.  His plan is good.  His plan is faithful.  His plan is the best thing for my life, even when I don't feel like agreeing with it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My Lesson During Physical Unrest

Tonight I want to share something with you that probably the most important part of my relationship with God throughout my walk.  It is the peace and calm that I receive from Him. Tonight I am talking about a specific instance.

Tomorrow I have a doctor’s appointment.  My body has not been acting normal and there just seems to be something “off.”  With the way my body has been I’ve been nervous, frustrated and just uneasy.  I wasn’t getting answers to the issues and it was making me upset.  Now, on the eve of meeting a new doctor with whom I will have a laundry list of things to “check out”, I have such an incredible peace that I’m not even worried.  The ironic part is that my body has been acting even more strange these past couple of days than it has in the past few weeks but the difference is, I’m mentally (or should I say spiritually) ok. 

I know that no matter what happens at this appointment that God will be by my side throughout the unknown.  I believe in God’s healing touch and awesome power.  I believe He is the great physician.  I believe in the skills and talents that God has given people to use to help others.  I know that God has put people in my life as support. 

Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not expecting to come out of this with some type of morbid diagnosis but what I am saying is that for the first time in approximately three months, I am confident in the path that God is guiding me on medically.   Whatever process I will need to go through to figure out or learn about what is going on, I’m willing to do it.

If for some reason there is something seriously wrong, I want you all to know that I am willing to fight this battle fully suited in the armor of God.  I want you to know that I have been continually praying and seeking the Lord’s will in my life – no matter what the circumstances.  I also want you to know that in my journey through my life there are going to be moments where I seem weak, at those moments I ask that you pray with me.  I ask that you pray that my walk, no matter what I am going through, always honors my Lord and Savior. 

For anyone that may be going through a dark or confusing time physically, I am praying for you.  My heart goes out to anyone suffering from any uncertainty with your health.  If you need prayer, please don’t hesitate to send me a message or note.  I will pray for you.  I know how it feels to have something strange going on but I also know what it is to have God whispering, “I will take care of you.  Trust me.” I want to help you get that peace.

Dear God, I want to take a moment to say thank you for giving me the strength and abilities you have during my lifetime.  I pray that I use them to glorify you and your word.  If for some reason they ever get taken away, I pray that you still use me for your glory and to relay your message.  Father, I lift up my physical issues to you right now and say thank you for this lesson.  Thank you for teaching me in times of uncertainty to depend on you.  Thank you for giving me a peace because I know I can truly trust in your plan, your ability and your will for my life.  In your name I pray, amen.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Opportunities for Grace

Hi Everyone!  Sorry I haven't written in a little while but as stated before I write when the Holy Spirit prompts me to and I don't want to just write for the sake of keeping up my blog.  I want to write when God tells me he has something to share with everyone.

I've been encountering a lot of opportunities for grace in my life in the past week.  I'm sure you are all aware of God's grace and his forgiveness to each of us here on earth but do you think about the times that you have the ability to show His grace to others?  In my walk I have always said I want to be more like him, one of those qualities that Jesus has is the ability to give grace to others.

In Sunday school this week with my five year old kids the theme was Proverbs 17:17 - "A friend loves at all times..."  The focus was on the fact that even after we have done something bad, God still wants to be our friend and loves us.

When I review my nursery lessons I try to treat it as a devotional time with God.  I ask that he speaks into my life through the lesson so that I can speak into the kid's lives on his behalf.  When reviewing the concept of Proverbs 17:17 God asked me to examine my friendships.  He asked me if I have loved my friends at all times or if I have ever pulled away from them.  He also asked me to look at all of my relationships in the same manner.

There are a lot of times, whether at work, in the nursery, with my husband,  or with my family, that I have the opportunity to offer grace and don't.  For example, when my boss is frustrating me am I graceful in receiving criticism or am I graceful in the way I approach the daily tasks at hand?  With the five year old kids I work with, (we all know that they can really challenge your willingness to give grace) am I living this verse out with them throughout teaching the lesson?  Do I discipline them out of love or do I discipline them out of frustration?  With my husband, am I graceful in understanding that there are times when neither of us feel like doing the dishes or keeping up on the chores but we both have to be willing to assist in them? With my family, am I understanding of the different life phases that we are all going through?  Do I offer grace when we have a difference of opinion or do I get easily angered?  I hate to list all this stuff out but I wanted to share with you scenarios in my life that sometimes require grace on my part that I don't necessarily feel like sharing.

Last week I had the opportunity to pray with my boss when the Holy Spirit called me to do so.  My boss showed my grace in accepting the prayer willingly and not looking down upon faith in the work place.  In negotiation with family members about a job for my husband, I was able to be graceful and let him take over the negotiations.  I showed grace in trusting his judgment.  With a five year old in Sunday school, I prayed with her over a boo boo she got (after not listening to me) jumping from one chair to the other.  Rather than scold her, I took the opportunity to lift the boo boo pain to Jesus.  I am actively choosing to love at all times.

I received grace from a friend this weekend when I confessed my competitive childish nature toward something specific.  She forgave me.  I received grace the other night from my husband when I told him I just didn't feel like doing the dishes.  

What opportunities do you have in your daily life to offer grace to others?   Have you had the opportunity to pray with someone?  Have you had the opportunity to offer a helping hand?  Have you had the opportunity to forgive someone?  What can you do to be more like Christ and offer grace in your day to day life?

There is one more thing I would like you to think about today.  When have other people offered you grace when you may not have deserved it?  Each of us struggle at times and there are plenty of people in this world, most importantly God, who offer us grace and forgiveness more times than we can count.  Is it time you returned the favor?

To workout? No, to worship.

I don't know about any of you but I will admit that I have a hard time getting motivated to work out. When I first think about working out my motivations sound something like this; If I work out, I'll be able to wear cuter clothes.  If I work out, I'll be more self confident.  If I work out, I'll be skinnier than so and so.  If I work out, I'll look prettier. 

Do you see any common thread in those motivations?  I do, they are all about me me me.  They are also very self centered.  My focus seems to be more about how I can make myself feel better. 

God has been speaking to me lately and reminding that He created me.  He created my body as a blessing to him.  He also created me to worship him.  That is where a change in mentality has occurred for me.  As a head's up, I haven't started my work out plan but I am telling all of you about this so I can be held accountable.  Even thinking about being held accountable to the number of strangers that read this freaks me out but I want you to hold me to this.

I've always known that God created me to worship him.  I guess I've just never tied it into my health. Romans 12:1-2 commands us to "present your bodies as a living sacrifice..."  Have you ever thought about this concept?  How often do we do things or eat things because we want them or crave them?  How often do we eat something due to a need for instant gratification?

God has been calling me to examine my heart, my body, my mind, and my motivations for certain actions.  He has made me aware of my gluttonous behavior recently when it comes to food.  He is reminding me every day that I am not to feel down on myself because regardless of my shape, I am still made in his image. However, He is also reminding me that this body is the only temple that I have while here on this earth so I better treat it with respect.  As such, it is time for me to get active!

On my drive to work this morning God asked me to examine the ways in which I serve him.  I thought about my job, I thought about the five year old kids I work with in the nursery, I thought about activities I do with my friends and I thought about my husband and potential family.  In each aspect of the ways I serve God he showed me how I use my body to worship him.  In my job, I am always moving and traveling and it requires a lot of energy to keep up with the fast pace of the office.  With the five year olds I am on my hands and knees playing games and jumping around or "going on adventures."  I show God's love to these children by being an active participant in their world.  With my husband there are various ways I actively serve him and with my kids someday I want to be able to play with them and run with them and serve them in the ways I do with the kids in Sunday school. 

Think about the ways you serve God.  Think about the improvement that can be made if your energy level was higher or your activity level was higher.  Is there anything you are missing out on because of your physical condition?  How can you worship God with your body?

From now on it is my goal to view working out as an act of worship.  In taking care of my body and the temple that God gave me, I will be able to be an active participant in people's lives around me.  You never know, that run or walk you ask your friend to go on could be an opportunity to discuss your faith and share your testimony or to be a much needed listening ear.  That piggy back ride to a child could be the opening for them to discuss asking Jesus to be a part of their life.  The chores you do to help out around the house could be a way to serve and love your family in the way God serves and loves the church. 

Colossians 3:17 "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Don't be Afraid to Ask For Prayer

Today in church my pastor discussed the concept of spiritual strength and he gave guidelines of how to maintain and renew your strength. (II Timothy 2). It was an excellent sermon and it came at the perfect time. I have felt spiritually weak these past couple of weeks and I was happy to hear ways that I can tone my faith muscle.

One thing that wasn't mentioned in his sermon, that is always key for me in rebuilding my spiritual strength, is prayer. I'm not only talking about praying to God but I am talking about asking others to pray for you. Sometimes you just get worn out. When I feel weak I find it integral that I ask people around me to pray for me, which, goes back to surrounding yourself with people who lift you up.

Another aspect of asking people to pray for you is the humility that is required to actually do the asking. Sometimes when I know I need prayer, I have a hard time asking for it because it feels like failure or a sign of vulnerability. Luckily, the book of James talks about prayer a lot. I've listed some of the verses that are helping me through this.

James 4:6 "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

James 5:14-16 "Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

Do you have people in your life that you are willing to go to to ask for prayer? Are there people in your life that would be willing to pray with you and help you carry your burden?

I am thankful for the people in my life that I can ask to do this for me and right now I need them. Be confident in your humility and understand that asking for prayer is another aspect of trusting God. I don't know about you, but I am a control freak so I prefer to do everything myself. When I ask others for prayer, I am branching out my faith and allowing God to use other people to work in my life. Let other people work in your life today and ask for prayer if you need it. We aren't meant to go through this journey alone so don't try to.

Finally, I'm humbly asking that if you remember, please say a prayer for me. I am going through some things that are draining on me and I could use prayer for strength and trust in Gods plan for my life, also for his timing. Thanks everyone!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Stages of Life: Are you where you're supposed to be?

At my age I am encountering people who are at all different stages of their lives.  Something that I've struggled with is comparing myself to others in the sense of where I'm supposed to be at my age.  I am slowly realizing that is crazy - ESPECIALLY at my age.  People around me are dating, married, engaged, single, having babies, having more babies, changing careers, changing relationships, changing homes, changing locations, you name it, someone is doing it.

As humans we constantly compare ourselves to others and, depending on how the people that surround us grew up, we think we are supposed to do it on the same timeline as others.  I remember on my 24th birthday driving to work listening to the radio and crying the entire time.  If someone would have seen me they would have thought someone died.  I was crying that day because I thought I wasn't where I was supposed to be at 24This is just not where I planned my life going. How am I supposed to do things if I am so behind my timeline?

At the time, I had just broken up with my boyfriend six weeks before, moved to a small town two hours away from all my friends and family and accepted a new job.  The reason I thought I wasn't in the right place is because I was comparing my life to my parents.  I've always looked up to them and I always knew the age they got married at, the age they had kids at, etc.  Naturally, I thought my life was supposed to move at the same pace.  I thought I was doing something wrong because my life seemed like it was in a different place than is was supposed to be.

Turns out, 24 was one of the best years of my life so far.

Looking back, I know the reason that 24 was a great year for me.  Sure, I got back together with Jake, started a great job, moved to wonderful area and got engaged but those only supplemented why it was truly great.  The reason it was great was because it began with me crying out to God asking him to comfort me and guide my path - wherever it is supposed to go.  He had plans for me that I was too distracted to see.  I was too caught up in comparing myself and my life to others.  That day I prayed that he would help to stop comparing my life and age to other peoples' experiences. 

God taught me that day that he works in my life in Dana years.  Just like a year in a dogs life is a different amount of time than it is in ours, a year in your life, your parents life, your friend's life and my life are completely different.  God works in my life on Dana time.

Now I take joy in the fact that my life may not be right where everyone else is because I know that God is laying the foundation for my future.  Right now, in this moment, he wants me to focus on spending this time in His presence soaking up the grace he has given me for this day. 

Today my prayer is that each of you let God work in (Insert your name here) time.  I pray that you realize how special it is that he works everything out perfectly in your life at the right moment.  Don't lose hope!  Just because he is doing something in someone else's life that you want doesn't mean he doesn't have that planned in your time.  Let him work in you right now as you are. You will be pleasantly surprised when you look back and see what he's done and the path he created.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Will they see God?

Tonight in my family we didn't just celebrate Easter we also celebrated the life of one of the most inspiring women of God I have ever met. I am proud to call her my aunt.

We have a tradition in our family.  When it is a persons birthday, everyone there celebrating has to tell you in front of the whole group three reasons they love you.  It's wonderful.  I feel inspired every time we do it. It is an annual reminder of the impact the birthday person has on those surrounding them.

A couple of times with friends we have discussed the hypothetical question: what do you want people to say at your funeral? Tonight, I've decided to take a different look at this.  Instead of making this a discussion about what people would say about you let's think about what people would think about the life you would leave behind.  If you died and a stranger came and only observed the people and activities of your life, what would they see?  Would they see God?

I'd like to think that someone could do that with my life but I don't know what they will see.  One thing I am sure of is that I want to be a person that tries my hardest to love like Christ loves. I want to forgive as he did and in the end, I actually hope that it won't be my life they see but rather Christ working through me to show His love to others.

God says to me: I want you to know that this life is not your own but mine.  (Isaiah 43:1) I knew you and have had plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11) since before you existed.  You are mine to use and know that it will never be in vain. Let your light shine upon men (Matthew 5:16) on earth and it will be worth it.  You are my child, carry my legacy through the ages.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Where did you grow up?

As I think about today and approach this Easter weekend, I am reminded of what God has done for us.  It practically brings tears to my eyes thinking about the suffering that Christ endured for my sake, for your sake, for my friends' sake, for my enemies' sake.  Jesus Christ became human.  Not so he could walk the earth to prove he was better than us, he became human to be with us and to BE human.  He went through trials, tribulations and temptation while he was here on this earth - but got through them all! He was without sin when he died on the cross.  He took the burden of my sin because he loves me that much.  It makes me speechless. 

It says Jesus Christ was only 33 when he died on the cross - think about that?!  33. That seems SO young, especially in Bible times.  Think about your age compared to Jesus' age when he died on the cross, doesn't that make you stop and think...

The Bible states in Matthew, Mark and Luke that it is good to be childlike in your faith. I often question whether people want to hear my story or my opinion simply because I haven't physically lived that long.  I see people with so much wisdom in this world but along with a lot of that wisdom came suffering.  However, just humor me and take a look at 2 Timothy 3:14 which states, "But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."  

I don't know about you, but I did not see one word about being old as a prerequisite for wisdom in that verse. Actually, all I saw was something that mentioned the knowledge we have had since infancy.  And another thing, I do know what I have learned and I know what I am convinced of because as the verse says, I know those who have taught it to me.  While I may not have gone through many hard trials, yet, I know that the people who teach me and give me this wisdom have learned from their trials.  There is a lot to be said about that.

This month God has said to me so many times, "Dana, age is NOT a disadvantage to your spiritual walk.  Keep faith like a child and see what I can and will do.  I don't promise its going to be easy but I PROMISE I will be right there with you all the days of your life."

As a final thought, the woman that I have been staying with this week brought up a life changing point.  She said that she physically grew up in Augusta but she spiritually grew up in a different part of Georgia.  Think about that in terms of your life - where have you spiritually grown up?  What is your spiritual age? 

Now think about this in terms of Jesus' walk.  Not only was he God's son but God chose to have him spiritually grow up on earth, among us.  HOW POWERFUL IS THAT?!

Today, I pray that all of you are reminded of your importance in God's plan.  Regardless of your age, I pray that you know that God is using you in mighty and powerful ways to reach those around you.  God bless and Happy Good Friday!!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

God is Not Through With You

Have you ever felt disconnected from God?  Do you ever wonder if you really can get that connection back? 

Let me tell you my story.  In college, I started out with the best intentions of “keeping the faith.”  I participated in a Bible study, eventually became a leader and tried to attend church on a fairly regular basis.  That didn’t last long.  There were different reasons for which I became disconnected to the Bible study that aren’t important.  There were also the reasons you may expect – drinking, partying, boys and the “social” aspect of college all together.  I won’t say that I was entirely disconnected all through college but I definitely had my rough patches. 

A friend of mine said tonight that she didn’t know if she could re-connect with God in the way she used to.  I have good news!  Not only can you reconnect with God, your connection will be even better than before.  Why? Because you are not coming back perfect! 

Unbeknownst to you, God has just put you through a refining fire.  The Bible states that we are like clay in the potter’s hands.  I don’t know if you are familiar with the process of refining clay but its not simple.  It takes a lot of heat; a lot of patience and plenty of waiting then it takes more heat, more patience and more waiting.  Do you get the picture? 

When I went back to God after I was broken – I came back to a different God.  In life I have served a different kind of God at different stages of my life.  For example, in high school I was the goody goody – I served a very powerful and strict God who did not like drinking, fooling around or partying.  After college, I learned that I serve a very forgiving God.  Think about it, what type of God are you serving right now? 

Embarrassingly, I did not approach God after college with humility.  Rather, I had to “pray it out” with him.  Somewhat similar to the term you may use called “duke it out.”  I spoke at Him instead of to him and I had a pride about me, mainly because I didn’t want to admit my failures. 

Lovingly, God heard me out and accepted me back with open arms and now we are here today. 

I want you to know that no matter where you are at today, young or old, broken or all put together, happy or angry, God is not through with you! He is ready to “pray it out” with you in whatever mood you are in.  Trust me, he’s the best listener you will ever meet in your entire life.  Also, keep in mind that we serve a God of all different attributes and through these times in your life, he is showing you just how very interesting he can be.

Love as I Love

I was on my way to go visit my family and ready for a trip away from the hustle and bustle of my normal life.  Recently, my normal life had begun to feel like it was something out of a Christian guidelines book.  I was going to church, I was attending small group, I was volunteering my time and money but I just wasn’t feeling it.   This past week, something changed. On a day this week yet another one of my many attempts to share my faith with a friend of mine had failed.  I was heartbroken, my feelings were hurt, and I was practically speechless.  On any other day I would let something like this roll off my shoulders but not this day.  This day was different.  My feelings were hurt and my heart felt broken.  My feelings weren’t hurt as Dana, the outspoken Christian that always talks about her faith, who typically could care less if you disagreed with me.  My feelings were hurt as Dana Gustafson, the child of God. 

Let me break this down, you know that feeling you get right after someone says something offensive about one of your family members?  The “I can say anything I want about my family but no one else can…” the one that immediately makes you angry and puts you on the defensive?  Yeah, that one!  I figured I’d feel like that, I mean, this was my Father in Heaven you are talking about!  The guy who knit me in my mother’s womb, who knows the numbers of days I have on this earth and the exact amount of hairs I have on my head!  This. Is. My. Eternal. Father!

My friend had just blatantly disregarded what I had said in such a nonchalant way that they didn’t even realize they did so, and surprisingly, I didn’t feel angry or ready to throw down.  I felt sad, I felt helpless and I felt like I was grieving something, rather someone. 

I called my husband and my dad in such a state of despair that neither of them really knew how to comfort me.  I started balling on my drive home, so much so that I considered pulling over for safety reasons.  It was then that I realized, in those moments, that God was showing me what it means to love people as he loves them. 

I realized that God doesn’t get that defensive/angry feeling when someone says something bad about him.  His heart breaks.  His heart breaks like your heart breaks after a break up with someone that you know will never be a part of your life again in the same way.  His heart breaks like your heart breaks when you feel rejected.  His heart breaks like your heart breaks when you see a family member in pain.  His heart breaks like your heart breaks when you know someone just won’t give you a chance.    

Do you want to know the most amazing thing about God?  Even if you try to cut ties with him, he will still pursue you.  Even if you reject him, he will still want you and love you.  Even after you have caused him pain he will say, “I forgive you.” Even when you won’t give him a chance, he won’t give up on you. 

God loves you and wants you ALL THE TIME.  He wants your wholehearted and undivided attention.  For those of you that are skeptics, I’ve got news for you, even if you aren’t ready to give him a chance, even if you’ve written him off, rejected him or refused him… on that one day, in that one silent moment when you cry out to him, he will hear you, he will welcome you with open arms and he will love you.  Why?  Because our God is an awesome God.

Do Not Be Ashamed

Let me just say right off the bat, I don’t think I handled this the right way.  For that reason, I am going to share my story so that others of you who read it may know that 1. Doing something like this isn’t always easy, 2. You’re not the only person who tries to negotiate your way out of it, and 3. Maybe it won’t be as bad as you think.

What am I talking about you ask?  I’m talking about those moments when the Holy Spirit prompts you to do something and you delay it as much as possible in hopes that you can get out of it. 

My moment was on a flight to Houston, Texas at 9:00 p.m. on a Thursday night.   I was on my way to a family trip.  I’m sure everyone is familiar with the post seat selection drama that occurs on the airplane after you’ve been seated and there are still two open next to you.  The limits are endless as to the type of person you could end up spending multiple hours of your life with, in close proximity.  Are they going to be a talker? A snorer? A techy? Awkward? Or will you end up with someone normal?   I’m aware that normal can be defined differently to other people but this time I lucked out.   This girl was close to my age, relatively quiet, left one seat in between us and kept to herself.  I thought this was going to be an easy flight… Boy, was I in for a surprise! 

Suddenly, there it was! The Holy Spirit tugging at my heartstrings.  It was prompting me to strike up a conversation with her.  Quite honestly, I just didn’t feel up for it.  First, I looked over and to check to see if she was sleeping, if she was sleeping I couldn’t strike up a conversation. She wasn’t sleeping.  Next, I looked over to see if she was reading, if she was reading, I wouldn’t want to interrupt a pivotal moment in the plot of the book.  She wasn’t reading.  Suddenly I saw it! The iPod! That was it. That was my ticket out of this prompting.  She’s listening to music; it’d be rude if I interrupted. I sat quietly for a few moments thinking I had gotten out of it and tried to fall asleep. 

Do you think I was able to fall asleep? Absolutely not.  Actually, I was so full of guilt that I started thinking of scenarios where the plane would go down, we would all die, and I would be face to face with God and he would say, “Dana, in the final moments of your life, I wanted you to tell that girl next to you that you are willing to pray for her and you didn’t.  You were ashamed of me.  Now, here we are at the gates of heaven, do you think I should welcome you in?  I mean, if you couldn’t even tell someone you would pray for them and show them my love in that way, what makes you think you deserve to come and praise me here?” 

That was all I needed.  The thought of having a one on one with God right after I avoided speaking about him to a stranger made me do it.  I was now committed.  I was even going to tap her arm and have her take out her iPod to talk.   Please note, God has a funny sense of humor because when I looked over, she only had one headphone in and it was on the opposite side of me.  I had had an opening the entire time. With hands shaking and heart beating a million miles a minute I said, “You’re probably going to think I’m crazy and its ok if you do.  I don’t normally do stuff like this but for some reason I feel led to tell you that if you have anything you need prayer for, I would be happy to pray with you.”  Woo, deep breath after spitting that out.  Much to my relief she smiled and said, “Its ok, you’re not crazy.  If anything it’s nice to know that someone is willing to do that.”  That is where the conversation was left.  Or so I thought…

I took a few deep breaths and thought to myself, “Ok Lord, I did it.  At least she didn’t treat me like I was nuts.” 

Suddenly she turned to me and said, “I’m sorry, do you mind if I ask what made you do that?” 

This led us into a conversation about the Holy Spirit and then I told her about my conviction about the plane crashing and my hypothetical face to face with God.  I also said, “God says that if you are ashamed of me, I will be ashamed of you. (Mark 8:38) I need God to know I am not ashamed of my faith.”

She said, “Wow, that’s really interesting.” That was the end of our conversation.

I don’t know if this conversation was supposed to go further or not and I probably could have done more.   I do know one thing though, this stranger that I met on the plane will probably go and tell her friends or family about this weird girl who offered to pray for her because of this thing called the Holy Spirit.  In my opinion, that is a seed that has been planted.  May it come to fruition in God’s time and may that woman know that even though she didn’t have any prayer requests, I am still praying for her. 


A Spirit of Fear

2 Timothy 1:7 “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”

As soon as I published my blog for the very first time, I had one of the most restless nights of sleep that I have had in a long time.  The reason for this is because I know that I have just declared a spiritual battle.  I am a firm believer in spiritual warfare.  My mother has always taught me that the Devil wants to try to bring firm believers down, especially those that are public about their faith.  God doesn’t promise us an easy life, however, the Bible states that we will get criticism and have trials throughout our walk here on earth.  Last night I began to worry too much about that.

Don’t get me wrong; if you knew me before this blog you would know that I have always been public about my faith.  To some of my friends, almost annoyingly public but they realize that that is just part of me.  Where the fear comes in is that I am now vulnerable to people who don’t know me.  Some of you may come across this and read a couple of sentences and think you know all of me, my struggles, my fear and my discipline or lack there of depending on the day.  That is not the case but regardless, welcome to my life.   

The good news is that as it states in 2 Timothy 1:7, God has not called us to be afraid.  While I may have had a restless night, He was sure to address my concerns first thing this morning.  Earlier I had to drive a co-worker to the airport and I managed to find a Christian radio station.  Right after I dropped them off the song that was playing was Stronger by Mandisa. 

A line in the song is, “If God has started this work in your life, he’ll be faithful to complete it.  If only you believe it.”  It reminded me that God doesn’t want me to be afraid of the skeptics.  He wants me to support the believers.  I am doing this for him.

James 1: 2-4 "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. "

From this point on I am not making any promises of a blameless walk of faith.  I do promise to be real and honest with you.

I realize that there will be some of you who don’t like what I write for an assortment of reasons.  That is ok.  I am not here to make you like me.  I am here because God wants me to be.  I am obeying a call from my Holy Father and I will continue to do this until he instructs me otherwise. 

If this is the one and only time you stop by My Twelve Stones I want you to know that even if I don’t know your name or your story, you are in my prayers.  Remember, there is a Father that loves you and adores you.  His name is Jesus Christ.  

If you decide to stick around - thanks!  I can't wait to see what God has in store for us!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

My Christian Man - An Anniversary Reflection

Anniversary – the meaning of it all

Today my husband and I celebrated our one-year anniversary.  We celebrated by going to the first round of the 2012 Masters tournament in Augusta, GA.  Thanks to work for a fun way to spend the day.  It was a beautiful, sunny, southern day.   

As the day came to a close I had to get back into the swing of work before he even left my side.  It was unfortunate that the end of our anniversary wasn’t spent lovingly in each others arms (we’re married, I can say that :))– it was spent at a McDonald's near the bus station.  It was a wonderful day but at the end of it all, it got me thinking about the meaning of an anniversary.  It lead to some reflection on the past year.  I know that God has blessed me with such an incredible man.  I used today to look at him and the man he has become just in this past year. 

Ladies, when God says that the man is supposed to be the head of the household – he means it.  Also, if you pray for your husband or future husband to become the spiritual head of the household, have faith!  God is a good and gracious God who answers prayers.  At church on Sunday I heard the Pastor say, “We pray prayers to God and when he answers them we say ‘Unbelievable! I can’t believe he answered that prayer!’”  In our very beings we doubt God’s ability to answer the very prayers we pray! 

Matthew 7:7 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks the door will be opened."

Matthew 21:22 "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." 

1 John 5:14-15 "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of him."

All my life I have prayed for a man that would take up his cross and lead our family.  I now have that man! I really say this to give you hopes that God can do wonderful things and great work within a short time period.  I am not saying that my husband was not a good Christian before, he was.  Now he is just an even better and more motivated Son of God! 

The next time you look at your husband, I challenge you to look at him through God’s eyes.  Try to see the incredible work of art that God is constantly changing and evolving in front of your eyes.  Remember how lucky you are to be a part of this man’s life and remember what a blessing he is to yours.  My prayer is not that women just see their men as their own but my prayer is that women see “their” men as gifts from God, on loan.  On loan for the duration of our lives on this earth – til death do you part.  See the incredible person that God has been, and is, creating for you and don’t take it for granted.  Remember that he is not only molding this man to be more like him on this earth, he is molding this man for an eternity in Heaven!!  What a powerful thought?!

Praise God for honorable, courageous, humble Christian men. I love you babe. 

God's Red Lights

This past weekend I went to a retreat called Living Waters Via De Christo; women of all different ages and walks of life surrounded me.  I went into it thinking, “this will be a nice vacation away from the ordinary pace of life” which, lately, has been quite chaotic.  Honestly, I wasn’t completely there.   

Do you remember those requests I had asked God for a little while back? Well, I am still asking for them and I was holding back from getting too involved in the retreat because in a way I was angry.  Today I am writing to tell you about the ability that God has to speak into your life indirectly.  Now I know there are some people who will say, “I’ve never heard God’s voice.  I don’t hear that loud tone speaking to me telling me what to do.” 

For you, I like to think of it in this way: God’s “voice”, AKA the Holy Spirit, is like traffic control for Christ.  Sometimes you will ask for something and you get the green light, its immediate and you know the direction you are supposed to go and you go from 0 to 60 in 2 seconds flat.  Other times, you get the yellow light which says, take a few steps forward and I will guide you the rest of the way.  While doing so, I recommend you check back with me, God, every so often to make sure we are on the same page.  Then there is the red light.  This, for me, is the worst. 

Think about how inconvenient red lights can be in your life.  In my life, most of the time, God thinks he is pretty funny and on days when I need to be somewhere or I am running around like crazy, I manage to hit every stop light on the way to my destination.  As frustrating as it is, it is in these moments that God reminds me that nothing is so important for me to risk my life getting there – besides Heaven, of course. 

I would like you to think about the purpose a red light serves in the real world.  It keeps people safe, it controls traffic, guides people at the right time and in the direction they need to go.  If you are sitting at a red light it is usually for good reason.  This is how I have begun to look at God’s red lights.

I am sitting at one of those spiritual red lights right now; however, I realize that it is in these moments that I am supposed to let God speak into others peoples lives and give them their “green lights” while I wait for my turn to proceed safely.  God is preparing the road ahead of me and it isn’t quite ready yet.  As such, I am seated at a stoplight and until God gives me that green light or provides an “alternate route” I will be waiting for him to finish up in the construction zone ahead. 

Are you asking with the right motives?

It is going to seem strange that I am writing a blog post about blogging but after you read it you may understand why I did this.  I have been hesitant to begin this blog because I feel like everyone has a blog these days and its not necessarily for the best reasons.  It is hard not to wonder if there lays an ulterior motive to blogging – becoming famous.  I want to let you know that when I write a post it is not because I think people care so much about my personal life they just can’t wait to hear more.  This is not a platform for me to glorify myself, this is a platform for me to glorify my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  The reason I write a post is because God prompts me to do so.  I don’t think I’m any better or any holier than the rest of you.  Every person’s walk with Christ has its own path.  I am sharing parts of mine because if it touches one person, or encourages one more brother or sister in Christ, it is worth it.  We are commanded to love one another… serve one another… encourage each other… this is a way I can do that for people I may not even really know. 

This weekend I encountered a feeling that I haven’t had in a long time; I wasn’t trusting God.  Often in my life, I tell my friends and family members that God’s timing is everything.  Someone once said, “God’s timing is perfect, its never late and its never early.”  My dad always reminds me of that.  

It’s easy to tell other people that but what about when it comes to my own life? Right now I am waiting, not so patiently, to see if God will grant a prayer request that I have.  In church this morning God challenged me.  He said, “Dana, even if I don’t give you what you are asking for, am I good enough for you?  If I am all you get, is that enough?” 

On earth we see so many things that we want or think we need.  Imagine how that makes God feel.  If only I got that car, I’d be fulfilled.  If only I got a new job, life would be better.  If only we had a baby, we’d be happier.  If only we had more money, we’d be able to do so much more.  If I worked with all Christians it’d be so much easier to live a Godly life, etc.  You get what I’m saying. 

Right now I am guilty of saying to God, “Hey, thanks for dying on the cross and all but I really think I need a little something more.  Could you do that for me? And fast? Thanks!”  Wow.  I’m a jerk.  I live in such a culture of immediacy that I expect God to work on that pace.  Who the heck am I to tell HIM when to do something and am I really asking with the right heart?   

James 4:1-3 says, “What causes fights and quarrels among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  You want something but don’t get it.  You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.  You quarrel and fight.  You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

I challenge you to look at the reasons behind your prayer requests.  Seek God and ask him to do HIS will in your life.  Submit your requests to him with a humble heart and remember that even if he doesn’t grant your request right away, he still hears you.

For those of you that have been waiting for something for a long time, the truth is that nothing will be more fulfilling than a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Absolutely nothing on this earth will compare.

Give Me Words to Speak - My Prayer

Dear God,

This is my prayer for this blog.  May all those who read this see that you get the glory.  I pray that you use me to speak life, love, mercy, and courage into other people's lives.  May all those who wander know that they are not lost in YOUR kingdom.  I pray that my stories, struggles, successes and challenges help people realize that they are not alone in this world.  They are not alone in their walk; you have brought all of us here to further your kingdom and walk through this world together, with you as our guide.  Please give me the words and use the Holy Spirit to speak your message through me.  In your name I pray, Amen.