Love is amazing.

Love is simply amazing…

I was thinking today of my mother and something she said to me years ago.

She was very ill at the time, enduring the ravages of kidney disease and the debilitating effects of dialysis. Despite all the physical pain she was enduring, she was thinking of me when she said these words.

“Jill, I hope I live to see you happy.”

I had no idea the depth of love that she had for me when she spoke those words, but I eventually came to understand. I discovered that when you love someone more than you love yourself you are willing to do anything to provide what they need. Whatever sacrifice is required you are more than willing to offer it. In fact, you don’t even hesitate or blink. You just do it.

When it became necessary, I offered my kidney to give her the life she so desperately needed. I wasn’t scared or even concerned about the implications. I just knew I couldn’t wait to do it. Even though my mother’s earthly life ended five months after our surgery, I still feel that it was more than worth it to see her living without dialysis and enjoying life.

During my mother’s funeral, I met the man who later became my husband. I certainly wasn’t looking for him, yet he was there for me when I needed someone the most. The grief of losing my mother was excruciating and I don’t know how I got through that period of time without his love and support. It was my mother’s hope that she would live to see me happy. Even though it was her death that ultimately brought us together, I feel that she did see me happy, as my husband and I have been happy together for 12 years.

Sometimes we think we know what we want for ourselves, but more often than not, it is those who love us the most who know best what we really need. It may not be what we think we need or even want, but ultimately, it is always what brings us the most blessing in life.

God is like that. The depths to which He loves us, we cannot comprehend. It was because of His enduring love for us that He sacrificed his Son to make a way for us to spend eternal life with Him and experience love that we cannot imagine and blessings that we never even dreamed possible.

He loves us the most, so He knows exactly what we need when we need it.

Isn’t Love amazing?

–Jill

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Trust Me.

Trust Me.

Right before I heard these words, I prayed for God to speak directly to my heart.

I was experiencing a whirlwind of emotional struggle all around me, and I knew that with all the turmoil, I needed to quiet my mind and open my heart for God to speak to me. What surprised me was that it really didn’t take long to hear from Him.

Why do we think that God is so far away when He really is just a whisper away?

I am currently on a journey that I am hopeful will lead me to my goal of good health.  I started this journey almost 6 months ago, but several delays (or maybe God’s intervention) have kept me from where I find myself at this moment.

I have struggled with my weight my entire life. I have gained and lost weight more times than I can count, but last year when I found myself at the highest weight that I have ever been, I decided that it was time to take a serious look at my health. In October 2013, I began the process to be qualified for lap band surgery. After six months of jumping through one hoop after another, I finally qualified for the surgery in March 2014 and recently received approval from my insurance company. My surgery is scheduled for early June.

As I step out on this path, I felt I needed confirmation that God would be with me. He had always been faithful to me in the past, but the level of emotional struggles I find myself enduring was unlike anything that I have experienced before.  I had to admit that I have tried to deal with my emotions in my own strength and failed, turning once again to food to cope.

I am not perfect, but I know I serve a perfect God.

He is a God who understands me and never fails to sustain me. It is me that tries to carry this burden alone, telling myself that “I’ve got this”, but that is not what He wants for me. He wants to be there for me.

Why do I doubt His unfailing love for me?

As I prayed and asked God to speak to me, it was those two simple words that spoke volumes.

Simple, yet so very profound.

 

Trust Me.

–Jill

The Walk Through

A friend and I recently found one another after many years and many paths that took both of us in different directions, but we both know that it was God that brought us together for a purpose.

Michele is currently living in California and found me through my book Hide and Watch. After she discovered my Hide and Watch page on Facebook and recognized my name, she ordered a copy of my book from Amazon. A few days later, she contacted me to let me know how my story encouraged her to share her own story of childhood tragedy and how she has found peace through the love of Jesus Christ.

Since our first contact, we have shared several messages and texts and were eventually able to meet in person when she returned home to Kentucky to visit her family early this summer.

This past week, she was visiting again and we planned to meet for lunch.

During our lunch, Michele shared that she had been deeply entrenched in writing, but that she was now at a place in the story where she couldn’t seem to go forward. She could see in her mind’s eye where the story picks up in the future leading to where she is now, but she had found herself at an impasse at the most difficult part of the story–the childhood tragedy that ultimately changed her life forever. She saw this place as a large dark arena that she must pass through to get to where she is now, and I sensed that she needed help in taking that first step.

As I listened to her, it suddenly occurred to me to share with her something that I do that might help her work through this.

I have developed my own form of visual imagery to help me relax and focus when I am writing. I call it a “walk through”, in which I close my eyes and imagine myself standing at the front door of my childhood home. My family moved often, but I always go to the place I considered “home”. In my mind, I step up to the front porch, open the front door and step inside. I can remember every detail, as I gaze from room to room.  If I choose to, I can step forward into the living room, or I can turn right or left to enter that room, or I can ascend up the stairs. It’s all there in my mind, every detail just as I remember from the peaceful time I experienced while my family lived there. The point is that I feel especially safe there as I walk through every room. When I am there, nothing can harm me and I know that as I step forward from that place, I am still safe.

The place that Michele and I both have in common is our elementary and junior high school, so I shared that I also do a “walk-through” there, hoping that she would remember that as a safe place for her too. As I recalled stepping through the front door and walking down the long hallway of our elementary school, I could name every teacher’s room on the first floor, how many steps I had to descend to reach the next level and name every teacher’s room on that level. In my mind, I was completely there, just as I had been when I was young. It didn’t matter that it was 40 years later—I could remember every specific detail and it gave me a sense of peace as I returned to happier times in my life.

As I shared this with Michele, I could see her start to envision that place in her past that she could go to that she considered safe before this horrible event happened in her life. I encouraged her to take small steps as she progressed forward, making especially sure that she felt safe at every stage as she begins to recall and share these emotions and courageously continue forward on this journey.

When I recall sharing my own story of pain and struggle in my book, I know from personal experience how God sustained me as I allowed deep emotional pain to flow out of me like warm blood from a fresh wound. Yes, the pain was raw as I relieved the moments of loss and grief, but I felt Him so very close to me, loving me and caring for me in a way I had never experienced before. Every painful step I took, He was there taking that step with me and loving me through it. I was never alone as I traversed that emotional path and He remains with me to this day.

*                      *                      *                      *

Father God, please be with my dear friend and sister in Christ, as she continues on this journey. Please freely give her the love and courage she needs to share those words that will impact and encourage other hearts, despite the searing pain of reliving those emotional hurts buried long ago.

In Christ’s love,

Jill

~JHL

“Climb out of that Pit you’re in”

Those words were given to my good friend Jill, who shared them with Loretta and I. When we are down in a “pit”, we want to blame anyone or anything around us for the situation we’re in. Anything to prevent us from looking into our own hearts to see the darkness we’ve allowed to cultivate there. But only we can allow ourselves to be put in the pit.

This is where I’ve been. Down in the “pit”. The pit of loneliness, sadness, and regret. And it wasn’t my fault I was there. (At least, that’s what I kept telling myself.) It was the fault of those who have betrayed me. Lied to me. Broken my heart. Manipulated and used me. I allowed myself to be scarred.
It didn’t happen in a day. It happened slowly and noiselessly over time. When I’m focused only on what’s going on in that moment, how could I see the bigger picture of what I was allowing to happen to myself? I continued praying, so I thought I was okay.

Boy, was I wrong. How can prayers be answered when we aren’t real with God? My prayers were generic, rehearsed. I didn’t allow myself to pour my soul out to Him. I was afraid of letting go.

I didn’t realize this at the time, but I was afraid of letting go of the hurt, the anger, abuse, mistrust, resentment, feelings of abandonment. Instead I let them build in me.. slowly and over time.

See, that’s how the Devil works. He sneaks in oh so quietly to steal your joy. Why would he make any noise and give you a chance to fight back? This is why God commands us to be sober and vigilant. 1 Peter 5:8 says: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” Lions aren’t loud when they are on the hunt. They are quiet and stealthy, ever watchful for the weakest link.

Well, I was the weakest link. But not anymore. God gave Jill those words for me. Only I can climb up out of this pit I’ve put myself in and allow God to heal me.

I’m so thankful that my prayer sisters never give up on me, and pray for me even when I don’t pray for myself. I’m so thankful that the Lord is my Savior and He is ever kind, loving, and forgiving.

I’m also so thankful that He gives me the words to share. I know it’s been a long time since my last entry. I hope it won’t be as long for my next.

I hope this inspires others to climb out of the pit they may find themselves in, and back into the Lord’s loving and eagerly waiting arms.

~Amanda

Believe and You Will Achieve!

Believe and you will achieve!

Mark 10:27

27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” – New International Version (NIV)

27 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”  – New Living Translation (NLT)

As we begin this new year of 2013, our thoughts always seem to turn to new opportunities- opportunities to change for the better and to grow and achieve all that we feel we have yet to achieve in our lives. Doesn’t it feel good to have a clean slate; a blank page just waiting for us to fill with renewed hopes and dreams?

Perhaps you have already begun to make those usual resolutions to be healthier. I am right there with you, as I have renewed my determination to make those changes in my life to lose weight (again) in order to be a better version of myself.

If you are beginning down that same path, I want to share with you some encouragement as you begin this journey.

I recommend that you read this as if God were speaking these words directly to you today—

“Believe and you will achieve!”

“Listen only to Me and not the doubting voices swirling around you. I am your Father and your Creator and you are beautiful to Me. You are more than worthy to receive the blessings that I want to bestow upon you.

Reach deep inside you–I will be there to strengthen you through the hard, difficult times and will rejoice with you in the blessed times. Love yourself as I love you, my child, and love others as I have taught you. I love you. You are my masterpiece and my creation. You can do no wrong in My eyes. You will be who I say you are and will achieve all you hope to. Trust Me and I will not leave you nor forsake you.

Try not to focus on your outward appearance, but focus on the heart that I have placed inside where I live. This is where you should focus your energies and time to develop and strengthen. I will take care of the rest.”

Believe and you will achieve, because with God, ALL things are possible.

Love and Peace to you for a blessed New Year!

~ Jill

Be Still

So lately I have been pondering many aspects of my life. “What if I’d made this decision?” “What do I do now?” “What path should I take, choices should I make?” One can drive themselves nuts with ‘what if’s’ and ‘mighthavebeens’. Then a friend of mine sang a beautiful song in church yesterday. “If We Could Only Be Still” by The McKameys. (The song can be played here: http://grooveshark.com/#!/search/song?q=The+McKameys+If+We+Could+Only+Be+Still). 

God spoke to me during that song. It is based on Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” Then I began to think about all the times in the Bible God commands us just to ‘be still’. Psalm 37:7: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!” Exodus 14:14: “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Psalm 131:2: “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” Psalm 1:1-6: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous..” There are many other occasions when the Bible refers to the benefits of being still and trusting the Lord. 

Why am I worrying so much about what I should DO? God wants me to be still. To trust, obey, and pray for His guidance in His PERFECT time. God cannot lie and will NEVER fail us. We may be discouraged, but He says there is hope if we wait on Him. So that is what I am doing. Today, I am working on simply praying and listening. I will listen for the Lord’s guidance and do what I feel He leads me to do. Or go where he directs me. I’ve made so many wrong decisions in the past by leaning unto my own understanding and trying to fix things on my own. It’s time to try it God’s way. 

~Amanda 

A single woman’s secret list

The last few months have been sprinkled with moments of great realization, thoughts that made me pause and give thanks, thoughts that made me pause and say wow, and thoughts that made me appreciate the seemingly insignificant moments even more.  One of those moments just happened and I am so compelled to write about it that I can hardly type fast enough.  Before I share the great realization contained in that moment, I must give you a brief history so you will understand where it comes from and hopefully appreciate the realization as much as I do.

Every single woman has a dream in her heart of what she wants her ideal mate to be.  He must be tall, dark, and handsome, or have lots of money, have a twisted or cheesy sense of humor to match her own, a love of children so he will help take care of hers, a sense of obligation so he will be a great provider, a hard worker, and the list goes on.  Whatever is on that list, you can be sure she is mentally checking off each item every time she is on date with a potential mate.  She will ask all the necessary questions to get enough information to compare to that list, and then some.  Yes, guys, you are on an interview every time.  But this interview has the potential to offer rewards and fringe benefits far beyond any job.  This is an opportunity to find and join forces with someone who will forever be your partner, your confidant, your soul mate, your love slave, the person who completes your world, the person who helps you reach your dreams and seek out new ones to achieve together, your heart’s desire, the reason you rush home, and the reason you are late for work, the person who can finish your sentences, put words to your thoughts, and a melody to your song.

My list was made several years ago after writing many lists titled “what I don’t want in a man.”  Unfortunately, I have never experienced the good things about marriage, you know, the honesty, the fidelity, trust, companionship, loyalty.  However, I could talk for days about the opposite of all those things, which is why my lists always consisted of things that I absolutely did not want.  That is, until 2006.  My entire outlook changed as I began thinking about what I do want.  This change in thinking was brought about after I was blessed with a new home.  Suddenly I began seeing everything in a positive light.  The divorce in 1998 made me very bitter and angry and it felt wonderful to finally let go of all that negative energy that I was unknowingly holding on to.  My eyes were open in that area and it was a new day for me in 2006.

With the new house came the hope that I would find someone to share it with.  I had faith that God would bring my soul mate to me soon.  I just knew that somehow he would miraculously show up at my front door and we would automatically know that we were meant to be together forever.  Yea, I know it sounds like a fairy tale, but God can do anything.  A fairy tale is like a walk in the park for Him!  Armed with this new positive attitude and dreams of my soul mate, I set out on my dating journey.  I was determined to get it right this time.  I started accepting offers from friends with good intentions who wanted to fix me up with someone they knew.  I even explored the option of online dating.  Everything was a flop.  Instead of writing a fairy tale, I have journals filled with horror stories about blind dating and smokin’ hot guys that turned out to be ugly on the inside.  How could this happen?  Six years later and I still have no fairy tale to write about.  And now, I have lost my house.  The thing that I connected my fairy tale to, the place where I imagined my fairy tale would be lived out…is gone.

Even though all seems lost, I do not accept that.  I refuse to take on the pity that so many of my friends and family members have for me.  I appreciate their kind words and prayers, but I don’t think they know that I can also hear their pity.  I have said many prayers about my current situation as well, and I know pity does not have a place in my present or my future.  Previous plans, hopes, dreams, and fairy tales may not happen the way I had envisioned, but they will happen.  God did not put these things in my heart, only to take them away.  He has a better plan to make these things happen than what I had envisioned.  My list has changed over the last few weeks.  And it is all due to those realizations that I have been given while going through this difficult time.

Today while thinking about the list, I began to feel discouraged.  I was remembering all the things that I had added to the list.  There were little whispers God had given me so I would know my true love when we met.  He would have a love for jazz music, “My love loves jazz,” God once told me.  He would also be very strong and confident in his walk, he would be a missionary, he would be a singer and songwriter, he would be a painter and an artist.  He would be a mason, a carpenter, a farmer, a businessman.  He would have a true and genuine love for all people, and be a servant to all people.  He would have a great respect for all women, honoring and protecting them the way all men were meant to.  He would have a sense of humor and constantly seek out reasons to laugh.  He would be a servant leader with a great vision of how good the world could be.  He would see the good qualities in all people and encourage and inspire all people to see what he sees.  I was discouraged after thinking on these things because I wondered if it was even possible for one man to be all of this.  And that is when the latest and greatest realization hit me…God is all of these things.  He is all this and more!  That is where my deepest longings and desires can be fulfilled—with God.  He is the Source of all love and all that is good.

It is very freeing and empowering at the same time to fully understand this fact.  I have read many books on Godly love and marital love and thought I had a grasp on the two.  Today, I have realized that they are not separate.  One is an extension of the other, and nothing is real unless it comes from the source.  There are many imitations of my God and many imitations of true marital love, but there is only one true God and only He is capable of putting true marital love in our hearts.  He created it and He will distribute it.  In Him is my worth and value along with my hopes and desires for the future.  He holds all of my past, present, and future in His loving and capable hands.  He knows the desires of my heart and He will give them to me in His time.  How has my list changed?  Well, it no longer exists.  I am free and I am empowered, and my trust is in Him, Jehovah Jireh.

~Loretta