Visit

Few things refresh the heart and mind like a good visit. My husband calls it face-time. Time to sit together and talk and listen and laugh and cry and pray and share. Time to be honest. Time to catch up. Time to be together. Time to enjoy one another. No distractions. No agenda.

God created us to need relationships. As soon as He created Adam, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2: 18)

A visit helps us feel more connected. It shows we care about one another. It encourages. And the benefits last beyond the time of the face-to-face visit. I think about that visit: what was said, the joy of being with someone special to me, the laughter, and the memory brings a smile to my face and a spring to my step.

In the interim, I stay connected by phone and text and Facebook. It helps, but nothing replaces sitting across from dear friends and family. Nothing replaces sitting across from Van, listening to his deep voice, watching his eyebrows go up when he shares something he’s excited about, being able to touch his hand.

We need each other, face-to-face.

Enjoy the blessings God gives by spending time with them.

 

Remembering to Pray

I am not a great prayer warrior. Spending an hour or even ten minutes praying is hard for me. Most people don’t know that about me. They think I am faithful in pImagerayer. And I let them think it.

But truth be told, I’d rather read and study and write than pray for long stretches of time. I tell people “I’ll pray for you,” and then forget until I see them again. I diligently write down prayer requests and then don’t look at my list.

This fact was eating away at me. How could I remember all these promises, all the people who need prayer?

Several years ago, my husband told me whenever he drove by someone’s home or neighborhood, he would pray for them. I started doing that and it helped me be more faithful, but only to a few. Unlike Van, who worked in the field and drove different places daily, my route was the same daily.

Years passed. Praying for others continued sporadically.

Until December 12.

Out on a gift walk, I noticed a bank of mailboxes in a business center. My daughter, Erin, works for the post office. She immediately came to mind, and I stopped and quietly prayed for her.  Image

Romans 8: 26-27 is one of my favorite verses. It reminds me of how much God loves me and does more than I can possibly ask or imagine:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

With this in mind, I asked God, “Lord, so often I don’t know what or how to pray for Erin, even though I love her so much. Whenever I see anything related to mail, a mail box, a mail truck, a post office, a letter, even a bill, I will say Erin’s name. Just Erin. I know You love her even more than I do. You know her needs and her heart. When I say her name, I trust the Holy Spirit to intercede for her however she needs. Thank You for Your mercy and grace.”

Since that day six weeks ago, I have diligently prayed for Erin. Most of the time, it is simply her name. Every time I say, “Erin,” I know the Holy Spirit is interceding for her. My heart fills with joy knowing she is covered with prayer.

I chose other prayer reminders for others as well. Motorcycles remind me to pray for my granddaughter, Robyn, and my son, Sean. Sport fields and schools bring my grandson, Zach, to mind. My granddaughter, Katie, is lifted in prayer anytime I see anything to do with art. My husband, whenever I see or use a computer. Since my mom and I find our best visiting time away from our homes, I pray for her whenever I see a shopping center. My dad gets prayer then, too.  A hospital, doctor’s office, or ambulance causes prayer for The Living Room, a hospice in Kenya.

God’s faithfulness in knowing my heart and giving me a concrete way to lift others in prayer is a gift. It is a reminder to me of His great love. More and more, I see His Presence everywhere. I trust Him to intercede for me and for those He puts in my life.

Encouraged by God

1 Peter 5: 6-7
6 Therefore humble yourselves [demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation] under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you,
7 Casting the [a]whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, [b]once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you [c]watchfully.

Many years ago I memorized these two verses, but I didn’t link the ideas together well. I relied on 1 Peter 5: 6-7 to remind myself in times of difficulty my Sovereign God would see my trouble and distress and bring freedom. It helped me to remember it was in HIS time, not mine.

Eventually, I realized that humbling myself meant letting go of my problems—to cast them on Him. Continuously worrying, trying to change myself, and hoping my problems would end soon was a fruitless endeavor.

In fact, truly humbling myself meant I cast all of my anxiety on God. I let Him carry it for me. I open my hands and release the anxiety. I open my heart and mind to His voice instead of my own voice or the voice of critics.

In October, I taught a new unit to my seventh grade English and History students. A unit that created a tsunami of complaint, parent meetings, and district investigation.

The response took me by surprise.

I met with parents and administrators to explain what and why I taught this—in my mind and heart—valuable and excellent unit. Some of the parents gave their concerns and helped me understand where my careful planning went awry. They also listened to me, understood my intentions, and graciously forgave me.

But two parents saw nothing but the problem. They refused to listen to my apology. They stayed angry and scrutinized everything I did from that point on.

I was devastated to know I stepped on so many toes. There seemed to be no way to change the situation.

My on-site principal and assistant principal encouraged me every step of the way. They complimented the way I handled the situation and let me know in a variety of ways they supported me 100%. That helped.

Wednesday night was open-forum conferences. I sat in the multi-purpose room with every other teacher and talked to any parents who wanted to discuss their child’s progress with me. When one of the parents I offended and who continued to criticize and see me as a monster who had no business teaching; a parent who flat-out said, “No I will not accept your apology,” approached my table, it took every ounce of self-control to stay in my seat and not run out the door.
Instead I got up and walked toward her to say “Welcome.”

Her response made God’s Word come alive:

6 Therefore humble yourselves [demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation] under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you,
7 Casting the [a]whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, [b]once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you [c]watchfully.

She asked for my forgiveness. She apologized for being unwilling to listen and harboring bitterness. We hugged; we cried a little—cleansing, joyful tears.

And then we sat down, talked and listened, and moved forward to work as sisters in Christ. We formed a plan to work together to help her daughter and my student to succeed better than she has been in school.

That experience encouraged me. I saw God’s mighty hand lift me up. In surrendering my anxiety, in refusing to quit and allow Satan to win the battle in my mind that I messed up and couldn’t be effective, that there was no hope for me for the rest of the school year, I allowed God to watchfully, affectionately, exalt me.

I did nothing but relinquish my entire burden to Him. I accepted His forgiveness for what I had done in hurting His Kingdom because others did not see me as a Christian.

What a wonderful, mighty, awesome God I serve. One who forgives, keeps me completely in His care, and then lifts me up to encourage me because my broken and contrite heart, my response to a difficult situation I expected to last until the last day of school, was to cast all of my anxiety on Him and keep walking forward with the goal of working for Him.

His Word is a solid rock to cling to in times of joy and sorrow, in times of victory and defeat.

He encourages. He renews. He cares. He works.

Count on Him to encourage you. He will lift you up in due time if you cast your anxiety on Him. He did it for me. He will do it for you.

Link up with lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday for more encouragement in your daily life.

Beautiful Just the Way You Are

 

 

 

ImageToday is my thirty-seventh anniversary. Many people didn’t think we’d make it through the first year.

 

But here we are. Celebrating. If only in our hearts.

 

We don’t need fanfare.

 

We need each other.

 

We need God.

 

One of the things I’ve learned over these years is my husband truly thinks I’m beautiful just the way I am. He’s always said it, but I didn’t always believe it.

 

I tend to focus on what I haven’t accomplished. I compare myself to others I think are better than me. When I hear Van tell me I’m beautiful—as a woman, as a wife, as a mom, as a nana, as a teacher, as a friend, as a whatever, I add the word BUT to the end of his sentence.

 

Not aloud, but I finish his compliment with what I know is missing.

 

I’m working on changing that

 

It’s not that I don’t have a long way to go. It’s not that there are many ways I fall short. It’s not that there are days when I irritate, fly off the handle, shut-down.

 

It’s that when Van says, “You are beautiful,” he means it. He appreciates what I did do. Even if there’s more needing to be done, he sees the work already accomplished. He knows I’ll get to the rest of it.

 

He sees the best parts of me. Even when I’m at my worst.

 

He loves it all. He encourages. He offers help. He forgives. He keeps loving. He thinks I’m beautiful just the way I am.

 

God loves me like that too. God sees me as beautiful. Just the way I am.

 

Just like Van, God sees the best parts of me. Even when I’m at my worst.

 

He knows I have a long way to go. He has plans to continue to change me into someone even more beautiful.

 

The only way to grow into that more beautiful me I want to be is to accept, to appreciate, to believe I’m already beautiful. Just the way I am.

 

I need to see myself as a flowering plant. Beautiful all by itself. Growing more beautiful with every flower that blooms. One flower at a time. Growth is beautiful.

 

I am beautiful just the way I am. My husband says it. God says it. I will live as someone beautiful.

 

And you? You are beautiful just the way you are. You are loved by God. He will keep working with you to make you more and more beautiful. But for now, believe you are already beautiful.

 

Because you are.

 

Want to read more encouragement about being beautiful just the way you are? Visit holleygerth.com and read Coffee for the Heart.

 

http://holleygerth.com/coffee-for-your-heart-love/

See (Mom, This is for you)

“See!” My first word.

That’s because my mom shared the wonder of the world with me from the first moment.

“See the flower, Debbie. It’s pretty just like you.”

“See the tomato. It’s red and tastes good.”

“See the dog? Dogs say woof.”

See. That little word speaks volumes about Mom’s view of life. A view I admire more and more.

See the person who can’t drive? Mom picks them up and drives them to the market, to church, to the doctor.

See the committee at church who needs help? Mom will be there to cook, clean, set-up, organize, or whatever else is needed.

See the family gathering for birthdays, Christmas, Easter, no-reason-except-we-miss-each-other. At Mom’s house.

See the possibility of doing whatever you think you want to do? Mom encourages, “You’ll be great.”

See a woman who loves God, serves Him through serving others.

See my mom. My hero.

See who I want to be when I grow up.