Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Favorites // Food, Bags, Zoey & Courage

This is where I show you my current favorite things. Friday is fun day and it's fun to find new things. Enjoy.

Betsy Life
I just found this treasure yesterday, thanks to her tweet about this pizza. Holy canoli. Make this. Tonight. For Dinner. Or lunch, lunch is earlier.

Wedding Chic: $10 Totes 

Customize your own totes for only $10! A quirky thing about me is that I really really really like bags. And I try to categorize my bags. Thanks to this little deal, I can literally have a name for every bag. Ok, too far. 

Zoey Deschanel, heard of her? She's in this movie, has this show, in this band, married to this guy, and pretty much my new obsession. And if that wasn't enough, she started this blog. Hello Giggles is the ultimate media, musical, fashion, entertainment place to go. You'll love it.

A new friend of mine started this tumblr with inspirational photos to give her readers a little extra boost during the day. I loved the idea and wanted to share it with you. Make sure you bookmark this one ;) 

Happy Friday! 

What are your plans for the weekend? 


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Writing Prompt // On Love

Practicing writing is becoming more and more second nature to my life. I love writing about nothing and everything. But sometimes I do get stuck and need a little nudge here and there. So I've compiled a list of writing prompts that I refer to in times where all words and letters have escaped the trap of my mind. 

Here's what I'm writing on today in my Morning Pages:

Do you have to choose love or does it just happen?

What do you think?


Monday, September 26, 2011

The Morning After // Dating Dilemmas

*Disclaimers: 1) This series is in response to our Sunday Night service series on relationships. 2) This video is a little longer than usual. 3) Tyson makes zero facial expressions when he's not talking. :)

1. How to Choose the Right Person.
    -2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For awhat partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 
    [What to seek in a women] 
    -Proverbs 31:10-31 An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life...[Read more]
    -1 Peter 3:3-5 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.
 [What to seek in a men]
   -Ephesians 5:25-33 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water jwith the word,  so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, lwithout spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. [He is the pastor of your home.]

2. How Far is Too Far.
    -Ephesians 5:1-21 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints...Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord...Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise [Read more]

3. How Do I Know He/She is the "One"?
    -Romans 8:1-11 ...but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on tthe things of the Spirit. For to set uthe mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace...[read more] 
    -Romans 8:26-27 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit fintercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he jforeknew he also kpredestined lto be conformed to the image of his Son...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I Love What I Do

Photo Credit: Tina Borquez

I woke up grateful this morning. Grateful that I get to do what I love week in and week out. 

This is the bridge and chorus for a song we're doing this weekend. Reflecting on it this morning. 

Teach me a song to rise to You, When temptation comes my way
And when I cannot stand I'll fall on You, Jesus You're my hope and stay

Lord I need You, Oh I need You, Every hour I need You
My one defense, My righteousness, Oh God how I need You ~

Happy Sunday.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Saturday Obsessions: Trader Joe's+Flowers+Lunch Bag CD's

Trader Joe's
I am in love with everything TJ. From the packaging to the quality of food [including the organic ones], it is an overall solid store. I bought two sparkling juices from them yesterday solely based on the fashion of the bottles. haha. Crazy right? But if you saw their bottles you'd do it too! The juice turned out to be pretty good anyways. Mmmm. Do you shop at Traders? What's your favorite item[s] there? Please, feed my obsession! haha.

Fresh & Easy Flowers
$5 for a bundle. $5! I got the bright purple, green, and yellow bunch and they've been alive for over a week. That's some good quality flower right there. And it's cheap joy. 

Lunch Bag CD Cases
It was super duper late and I was singing at a bible study the next night and I hadn't bought CD cases for my music. Ugh, I was so bummed. I wasn't going to hand out my CD's off a spool and expect people to buy them. I was rummaging through the pantry for a late night frustration snack [not recommended] and saw a giant stack of brown lunch bags. The CD's fit perfectly in there and I just printed a logo, mod-podged a little dot to keep it closed and voila! I've been making them ever since :) I should buy stock in lunch bags. 

What are you obsessed with lately?

Happy Saturday! Go to your local farmer's market! 


Thursday, September 22, 2011

For the Men: 10 Things You Should Know

I will never again assume an exact demographic of persons who read this blog. 
And this is why: Whenever I write, I use to assume it was all women reading here because I write about some pretty girly things. But in the last couple weeks I've had a ton of men comment on something said or written here at JM. Whether it was about something their wife read, or something that helped them understand their woman a little better, I was shocked that they were even interested in the first place. [And by interested, I mean, I'm sure the women in their lives said, "Hey hon, come read this!"] 

Plus, I also know that the male readership has grown a bit because of the Morning After series, based on a service at Antioch Temecula. When it comes to relationships and figuring out singleness vs. dating vs. marriage, all genders are interested. 

So male readers, this post has been handcrafted especially for you today. 
10. The style will always have a feminine spin, but the content is good. Push through.
9. My husband approves MOST of the posts. And he reads all of them. [Right babe?]
8. It's ok to cry at the really touching posts, even if it's tears made of rocks. 
7. Unlike the male tendency to "get to the point", we take our time telling good stories. Like a couple paragraphs worth. 
6. When generalizing a person or group of people, I may refer to them as "she/her" but think of it like Bible times when they say "sons/men". It means you too. [Most of the time.]
5. Every woman is different, but we all want the same thing: to be valued. I write about this a lot. Take notes and you're welcome.  
4. Some posts will have no benefit for you, as a man, so don't feel obligated to read. 
3. I will always tell it like it is, maybe with some bigger more sophisticated words.
2. The emotion/rationality ratio will always be a little off balance. Favoring emotion, of course.
1. I love God with all my heart, soul, and mind, and hopefully this will always come through the words and images I portray. 

So glad you're here :) 

Monday, September 19, 2011

On Singleness // The Morning After

Quotes of Note:
"I don't want to help you cope with being single, I want you to thrive in this season and be equipped and sent out to do things are just not possible in a marriage."

"Don't be so consumed with future plans that you miss what God wants to do right now." 

"God is the God of now.

Scripture references from the message.
1. God's Love
Psalm 32:10  "the LORD’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him."
Psalm 139:13-18 "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you."

2. God's Sovereignty
Psalm 84:11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.
Isaiah 55:8-9  For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

3. God's Wisdom
1 Corinthians 7:6-7 But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.
1 Corinthians 7:32-35 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

Every Monday we be here friends. Next week is DATING. 


Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Morning After // A Relationship Series

So, I meant to do this in video form, and I might post one tomorrow morning, but I got back from a couples retreat just now and don't look video ready so I'm just gonna have to type it out. :) Oh vanity.
Ok, so this series I am so excited for! Antioch Temecula just finished the God Delusion and have begun the relationship series titled, Status [a play on Facebook]. Each week of the series we will tackle the different relationship statuses. 
Since I love talking about relationships, I thought it would be fun to do a follow-up on Monday mornings to whatever the topic was the night before. Hence the title, The Morning After. 

I am also gonna have guest posts by different perspectives of the night. 

So tomorrow, tune in for my first response post on tonight's topic: Singleness. 

Happy Sunday! Take a nap for me.


*For more information on Antioch's events, go here. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Real Life Women of God // That's a Wrap!

Well my dear friends, I hope you were as encouraged as I was this week, hearing from the perspectives of real life women of God. I think the main 3 things I took away from all the ladies are:

1. I need to seek hard after God
2. Struggle is for the refining of our beings.
3. These women are just like me!

There is no difference between us and them. We are women seeking to know God more. They are women seeking to know God more. They struggle with sin, depression, insecurities, emotional roller coasters, etc. And so do we. They came out on the other side, and so can we. 

If you didn't get to read all the posts, I've linked them up below for your review and enjoyment :) Feel free to share them with friends and family and the comments will always be open for dialogue as well!

Real Life Women of God // Meet the Ladies...Real Life Women: The Gardening Analogy [Kathie Boyd]Real Life Women: Where is Your Identity? [Tamara Clare]Real Life Women: Seeking Hard After God [Kelly Bell]Real Life Women: Because He Lives [Alma Hallworth]

Have a happy weekend and tune in tomorrow for our next series preview. 


Friday, September 16, 2011

Real Life Women: Alma Hallworth

How long have you been a Christian?
At the age of 8 years old I attended a children’s Christian camp through our church for a week and it was during that time that I accepted the invitation to ask Jesus to come into my heart! 

Yet, it wasn’t until about the age of 26 that I truly understood my need for a Savior and who Jesus wanted to be in my life and who I needed Him to be in my life as my Savior!

My life had not turned out like I had dreamed, partly because of the poor choices that I had made and they were now affecting not only me, but also my precious children. 

During that dark time with 3 beautiful children and a failing marriage, I turned to Jesus and for the first time in my life, cried out to Him and said, “Jesus, I want to know you!  Please reveal Yourself to me!  I need to know that You are real.  I need You and I can’t and don’t want to live another day without knowing You!” 

He did reveal His love and forgiveness to me and from that moment on I knew that He was real and that He loved me and had loved me since the beginning of time and was waiting patiently for me to come to realize that!  I knew from that moment that I had met my Savior and that He would watch over my children and I.

What has been the biggest lesson you've learned or toughest season you’ve had in your journey with God so far? 
Well, we are promised that we will have trials and tribulations in this life, but up until age 26 when I fully embraced who Christ truly was in my life, those trials leading up to that point were indisputably rough because I was fighting the battle on my own strength, but once I accepted Him as truly the Lord of my life and the captain of my life, He took over and everything that I or my family has endured in hardship wise after that point has been overcome by His blood and His grace!  That is the biggest lesson that I have learned and there is a song that reminds me of this very important truth.  I love the song, “Because He lives!”   The lyrics go like this:

“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow;
 Because He lives, all fear is gone; 
 Because I know, I know, He holds the future
 and now my life is worth the living just       
 Because He lives!”

 How does your relationship with Jesus affect the entirety of your life?
Jesus is my life!  He is my all!  He is my Shepherd and my Lord!  He saved me from the enemy’s intentions of destroying my family and I know that our life would not be as it is today without Him. 

He leads me and guides me and directs and re-directs my paths and makes the rough places smooth!  He is faithful and never changes!  My decisions are based upon His leading!

What do you do when you need encouragement or uplifting?
I seek Him!  I know in my heart that He is sovereign and that nothing happens in my life without His first hand knowledge of the circumstances that are pressing upon my life.  When disappointment comes my way and usually it is unexpected,  I do feel the pain and the sadness, but I know that He is with me and will strengthen me and anchor me in His love and grace and build up my faith in Him especially through His Word!  He also raises up His children to encourage me with their words of love, encouragement, admonishment and exhortation in my life!

What encouragement would you give to other ladies who are trying to pursue God?
God is real and He loves you so much that He sent His one and only Son, Jesus, to take our place and die on the cross for our sins!   He hears your cry, He sees your pain, He knows you by name and He will speak to you intimately through His Holy Spirit with words of life, hope, and everlasting love!  One of my favorite portions of scripture is:      
“I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise tour God.
Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.
Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust…”     Psalms 40:1-4a

Seek and wait patiently for Your Redeemer! He is there and He. Loves. You!
*Have a question for Alma, Kelly, Tamara, or Kathie? Leave it in the comment section and they'll answer you!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Real Life Women: Seeking Hard After God

How long have I been a Christian?  I accepted Christ in 1979, so 32 years!

What has been the toughest season or the biggest lesson learned so far?
Well, I’ve had a few rough seasons! But I think the toughest season I’ve had was when I went through a long season of depression. I didn’t walk away from the Lord, but it was all I could do to function. I felt paralyzed, like I wanted to crawl under the covers and stay there. Everything was hard. In my mind, everything was distorted. It wasn’t always rational. I withdrew from people. I was dealing with a lot of fear because of some specific circumstances.

Sometimes I would just hug my Bible and cry out to the Lord. I couldn’t bring myself to open it, but I was comforted by even holding it. The Lord was the only thing that got me through that time. He really walked me through “the valley of the shadow of death.” I’m so grateful that as I tried my best to cling to Him, He was holding tight to me. He never left me or forsake me. I only functioned and kept any form of sanity because of Him. Yep, that was my roughest season.

I am so thankful for what I learned about my God during that time. Never before had I ever sensed His love and concern for me like I did then. The Lord was my only strength and hope during that time, and not only was He faithful in brining me through, He continues to uphold me every day of my life.

How does your relationship with Jesus affect the entirety of your life?
Well, it is my life. I would like to say He is the very center of my life but sadly, I fall very short of making Him that; yet that is my goal. That’s what I pray for and strive after. I’m constantly asking Him to make me more like Him.  My relationship with Him affects how I think, how I feel, and what I do. It changes my perspective on people; it changes my perspective on the situations in my life; it changes my world view. I look at everything differently because of Jesus.

My life verse is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  (Matthew 22:37)  Not because I always do that, but my goal is to keep learning how! 

What do you do when you need encouragement or uplifting?
Well, I wish I could say I always just “run to Jesus” because that sounds so spiritual and right. And a lot of times that's true. Sometimes I may go to a friend or family member first who I can count on to encourage me. I like to read devotions and books that I find uplifting. But eventually, I always come to the realization that true encouragement comes form the Lord through his Word.

I rely very heavily on the Word of God to find my help. Really, God encourages me in a way that no one else can, because even when my friends try to relate, the comfort somehow is still lacking. Or short lived, I should say.

It really doesn’t seem to matter what area of my life I need encouragement in, He always has the best words of advice, comfort, or healing.  Friends help, books are awesome, sermons are great. Going to retreats and conferences are always refreshing and challenging. They are all fantastic tools that I find help and comfort in. But bottom line, the Word of God speaks to me like nothing else.  Very specific and personal.

What encouragement would you give to other ladies who are trying to pursue God?
First, I would encourage them to seek the Lord with everything they’ve got. (Don’t give up when you don’t “feel” Him.) Discipline your time to be in God’s Word every day. There is really no other way to grow. I believe that pursuing God means to follow after Him and do what He says. If we honestly want to follow Him, we have to learn “who” He is, how He loves, how He forgives, how He shows mercy, and how He lived His life while here on earth.

Scripture says that we are to “have the mind of Christ.”  But as we read His word, we have to do it with the intent of obeying it. It’s not pursuing God if you simply are reading His Word without making the decision to follow it. There must be action in the pursuit. Sometimes that may be acts of service, sometimes that may be changing our attitude or the way we think about someone or something. Sometimes the action is showing mercy and forgiving someone when we have been wronged. Usually it’s adjusting our will to align with His!  Learning and doing the things which Christ commands is what pursuing Him is all about. Learning more of Him, loving Him with all you got, and obeying Him at all costs.

On the flip side, it isn’t trying to make God into what you’d like Him to be. It isn’t praying about things to get our own way. It’s not pursuing our own “things” and then asking God to “bless” them, or writing our own agenda for our life. It isn’t coming to God on your own terms. It’s learning who He is, and then what His will is for your life, not visa versa. I love what Paul said when he met the Lord on the road to Damascus. His first 2 questions were  ”Who are You Lord” and then “What do You want me to do?  (Acts 9:5-6) Those are the questions we should be asking every day.  That’s what pursuing God is all about.   

Secondly, I would tell ladies to study His Word and learn what it means to “pray without ceasing.”  They should allow themselves to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, understanding that in themselves, they are nothing. I would tell them to get into a church that teaches the Bible consistently and doesn’t stray from that, find some friends that can encourage them in their faith by holding them accountable to Scripture and friends who also have a desire to grow. I would tell them to ask God to “break their heart for what breaks His” and to always pray to have a heart for the lost. Always. Through His Word, find out what’s important to God, and make those things important to them as well!

*Have a question for Kelly, Tamara, or Kathie? Leave it in the comment section and they'll answer you!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Real Life Women: Where is Your Identity?

How long have you been a Christian?
I have been a Christian since July 16, 1993, a little over 18 years.

What is the toughest season/biggest lessons you've had in your journey with God so far? 
Becoming a Christian I never realized just how many “tough seasons” I would go through in my walk with God.  I also never realized just how much I would grow and know Christ more through them.  One of the toughest seasons was understanding my identity, my identity in Christ, not in the world.

I was raised with the notion to believe in myself and to strive for success.  Everything I did was a direct reflection of who I was in this world.  My successes and failures defined not only my contribution to society, but me as a person.  If I failed a test, made a financial mistake, if I didn’t get the promotion, I not only failed in the action, but I was a failure.   For many years my identity was so closely tied to the world, my career, my education, my outward appearance, my assets, that any separation from them would take away from me.  Having this perspective, my identity in the world and my accomplishments, gravely skewed my priorities.  I loved God, my husband, my children, serving God, helping others, my job, learning, all of which are great things to love.  However, when the premise of my every action was to succeed, to do good, to be a value so that my identity was approved, it was more of a detriment than good. I was striving to appease the world, to be valued by the things of this world and it was never enough, I was never enough.

In 2007, God began a great work in me, stripping away my distorted identity in the world and revealing it in Him.  I became very ill, unable to live life as I once knew it.  I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and my body was literally being starved to death.   I had lost a lot of weight, slept for hours on end and began a very difficult journey of restoring my health.  Through that process I was able to do only about 1/10 of what I was used to doing. I was a failure.  I don't think I've ever so low, empty and of no value to myself, family or even God.

The amazing thing about being so empty and depleted of self is that it leaves a wide open door for God to fill you up. He began to reveal who He was and who I was in Him.  That no matter what I have done, no matter if I succeeded or failed, He was enough, and I was enough in Him.  He showed me that I am not defined by anyone, or anything I do but I am defined by my Creator. He showed me that He loves me and that His love is sufficient for me. 

My identity is in Christ.  I am a new creation.  I am beautiful.  I am His daughter.  I am loved.  I am an heir to the King.  I am everything in Christ my Savior.   No one or nothing can take that away from me.  He is sufficient for all my needs.  Apart from Him I am nothing.  I am in the world, but not of it!

How does your relationship with Jesus affect the entirety of your life?
When I look at Scripture and know that apart from Christ I am nothing, then I know that my relationship directly affects my entire life.  As I abide in Him, He abides in me and His love and grace radiates throughout my life.  It is amazing to watch the Spirit overflow from my life into others when I surrender all I am to Him and submit to His Will.  

However, there are plenty of times when I neglect my relationship with the Lord and choose to do things my way, within my own power.  It’s meaningless and brings me down and those around me.  It’s a daily, sometimes hourly choice to abide in Him. Every day I see more and more how much His ways are higher than mine and that a sweet relationship with Christ is the only way.

Through my relationship with Christ He allows me to not be defined by my circumstances.  He gives me the peace I need when I am anxious.  He comforts me when I am broken and sad.  He strengthens me to do all He has called me to do as a wife, mother, friend, and servant each and every day.  He protects me from the evil one and keeps me safe.  He gives me wisdom and the words to say when I cross paths with people all day long.  He gives me grace when I forget my son at the fields, lose my temper or say something hurtful to someone.  Most of all He gives me joy that carries me throughout my day and overflows onto my family and makes it all worthwhile!

What do you do when you need encouragement or uplifting?
Depending on the given day or depth of encouragement needed I do several different things to be encouraged or uplifted.  Sometimes, I lose myself in His divine nature.  I will go to beach and sit on the sand as I listen to the waves roar against the beach and admire the vastness of His creation.  His Spirit calms me, and lifts me up as I get a glimpse of Him and His Greatness.  I also like to walk around a nearby lake that is surrounded with beautiful, swaying trees as I listen to the fountain in the lake and the birds chirp, while feeling the sunshine on my face.  I put on worship music and walk praising God and experiencing His peace.

Sometimes I call a dear sister in Christ and share with her my weary or burdened soul and God will use her to speak truth to me, and lift me up through her love and encouraging words and usually laughter.

My favorite thing to do though when I need encouragement is to sit and dwell in His Presence.  I will find a quiet spot, grab my bible, play some instrumental music and get lost in His Word.  I have no rhyme or reason of what I read, but I always find that whatever it is, God meets me where I am at and speaks to me through His Living Word.  A personal favorite though is reading the Psalms when looking to be uplifted~

What encouragement would you give to other ladies who are trying to pursue God?
I would encourage you to seek God with all your heart, mind and soul.  
To daily look to Him through His promises and meditate on them day and night.  Our faith is not just about knowing the Truth, but believing the truth and that takes spending time with God.   We are all broken and sinners and fall short of His Glory.  However, through Christ we are made new and are forgiven.  Allow yourself to be transformed by His likeness as you know Him more and more.  

Don’t fight what God is trying to show you, or how He is trying to change you.  Embrace His ways, yield to His plan and enjoy a life with Christ on this earth until He takes you home.  Give yourself grace when you fail, don’t let the enemy make you think ANYTHING that is not TRUTH.  He has a plan for your life, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.God is faithful and loves you.  He wants you to love Him too.  He wants you to enjoy Him and all He has to give you. 

*Have a question for Tamara or Kathie? Leave it in the comment section and they'll answer you!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Real Life Women: The Gardening Analogy

How long have you been a Christian: 
Although I didn't get baptized until 1996, I have sought the Lord all my life. Unfortunately the seeking was sporadic, lacking Truth and instruction, and often misguided by complacency and the plateau that can occur organized "religion". I consider 2007 a pivotal time in my faith, a "leap" year so to speak, where the fire began to rage so fervently it makes the first 11 years of my walk seem like a spark! But many a fire begins with a spark!

What's the toughest season you've had in your journey of faith so far? Or what is the biggest lesson you've learned?

The biggest lesson I have learned Is that what we call the "valleys" or pits, are not "death" or dead ends but as the Word says are but a "shadow" (Ps 23:4). They appear more ominous than they can be if we can courageously defer to Truth over emotions and remember that HE is indeed with us (referenced in so many places but I love Joshua 1:9 since he uses "commanded") as we walk "through" (Ps 23) not "to"  them! I visualize the valleys as part of the course, not the circumstantial destination. 

I also realize that I spent too many years thinking "valleys", or hard seasons were "detours" in my course of sanctification. I realize now they are a natural part of the topography, my life course. I also try to remember what any map will show, that some of the best communities are built in the rich soil of the valley floor. The valley floor is the lowest point yet often the ideal place for growing crops, and growing hearts. So I strive to encourage (and be encouraged by -2 Cor 1:4) my brothers and sisters by loving them, wherever they are in their walk, be it on the crest or more often, in those inevitable valleys. (1 John 4:7-12)

How has your relationship with Jesus affected your entire life?

I think I finally realize what "prayer without ceasing" is. It affects the entirety of my life because I dialogue with Him in all thoughts, choices and decisions. The "dialogue" can occur in prayer, in study, in devotion, worship and/or praise. It can be with others, but must also occur when I am alone. If I put on an "attitude of gratitude"  (1 Thes 5:14-18)  I find my days minutes, hours and consequently days and seasons are so much more fruitful.  My flesh often battles my mind, but I hold onto a life philosophy that when my heart and mind are not in agreement I  need to defer to my mind and what I KNOW (Romans 12:2) to be True.  The entirety of my life is impacted by entirety of these Truths, but I also know that there are going to be battle zones, and I must daily put on the only armor which strengthens and equips me for being victorious (Romans 13:12-14).

What would you say to encourage ladies seeking God?

Of course it depends on the context of her pursuit; and her mind set in the pursuit.  Is she well "planted" and trying to have her roots go deeper, or she she a seeking as a new seedling, braving the elements without the depth of knowledge and experience from which seasoned believers draw. Is she confident in her faith, or questioning? Is she in a season of struggle, feeling weak, or in a season of robust growth?

At the risk of over using  the gardening analogy,  I often think in this context as I pray and let God lead me in encouragement.  Some relationships we are attempting to pull weeds together, helping each other find out which big and thorny (or little and discreet) things  have taken root, and may have been "weed whacked" but remain firmly planted.  In this circumstance there is Truth, often painful, always shared in love and held to Scripture, diligently but hopefully extracted. These relationships may have me in more of a "mentor" role but I strive to never assume the weeds i see haven't left seeds my own garden box (Matthew 7:3). Inevitably my garden ends up cleaner as a result of our time on our knees pruning together.

God brings others into my life who have been well pruned and are blossoming, sometimes those just need affirmation that their blossoms are indeed fragrant by loving on them with material or emotional needs. The encouragement is just "fertilizer" on an already prosperous garden.  This encouragement may be anonymous, surprising the recipient or sought, but my main role in that is definitely encourager, not teacher. I find these relationships always have a mutual benefit as well.  As I praise the Lord for His faithful servants, my focus turns from the minutia of life to greater cause, from worry about the predators who may be lurking in the garden to awe of the beauty the Lord produces in His time (Eccle 3:1).

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