Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Holding His Hand, Seeking His Face~








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Monday, December 30, 2013

Because of Jesus~

Maybe, it was because the messenger was an angel.

Maybe, it was because the message was beyond all human comprehension.

Maybe, it was both.

But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.
~Luke 1:30-32

But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.
~Luke 2:10

The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.
~Matthew 28:5-6

Mary.

The shepherds.

The women at the empty tomb.

All, greeted with the words "Do not be afraid".


As I ponder these three particular angelic encounters, I see something I've never noticed before.

There it is -
in each heavenly message,
the gift of salvation.

Conception.
Birth.
Death and resurrection.


Maybe, it was because the messenger was an angel.

Maybe, it was because the message was beyond all human comprehension.

Maybe, it was both.


Or  maybe,
maybe,
it was because of Jesus.

Because of Jesus, we don't have to be afraid.

Do not be afraid, you have found favor with God.
Do not be afraid, this is God's way of sharing the Good news of peace and joy with the world around you.
Do not be afraid, not even death can hold you back or separate you from what God is doing.

 Because of Jesus, we don't have to be afraid.

When God places a seed of destiny inside us, we don't have to be afraid.
When God is birthing something new in us and through us or around us, we don't have to be afraid.
When God has closed a door, buried a dream, or taken our very last breath, we don't have to be afraid.

The angel spoke it to Mary, the shepherds, and the women at the tomb.

God speaks it to you and I today.

Do not be afraid.

Whatever God is doing, we can trust Him.
Wherever God is leading, we can follow Him.
Whenever God is calling, we can answer Him with a resounding, "Yes, Lord!" -
because of Jesus.

Because Jesus was conceived in a young virgin,
because His birth was announced to shepherds on a hillside,
because He is no longer is in the tomb,
but in Heaven,
sitting on the right side of God the Father,
we do not have to be afraid!

Maybe this is the message of the angel:
the gospel of the Good News, proclaimed to the world.

Immanuel.

God is with us.

Jesus has come.

We have nothing to fear.

"Do not be afraid."









 
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Saturday, December 28, 2013

A New Year's Prayer~








 
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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Feliz Navidad~











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Thursday, December 19, 2013

What I've Learned in 48 Years of Life~ (A Birthday Post)

  1. Life is a gift. Don't save it. Unwrap it and live every minute of it.

2.Mercy given doesn't always come back to you from those you've given it to, but it does come back.

3. God can use anything in your life for His purpose and His glory. Let him work. 

4. Yes, we are different - unlike anyone else. That's what makes me, me and you, you.

5.  God can. God will. God does.

6.  Stepping out of your comfort zone is a good thing.

7.  God paints a new sky each moment. Look up. And, do it often. 

 8. To look your best, all you have to do is smile.

9. "It's OK" - Say it. Mean it. Believe it.

10.  Faith - You've got to have it.

11.  Life is full of little distractions. Keep your focus on that which matters most.

12.  Tears are the words of your heart. Don't hold them in. Let them speak when you can't.

13.  Give grace.  To others and yourself.

14. God first. People second. Everything else third.  Always. 

15.  Time doesn't heal all wounds; God does.

16.  Pain has a purpose.  Find it and make it count.

17.  JOY is one of your strongest spiritual weapons. Hold on to it with all you've got.

18.  Different isn't necessarily wrong.

19.  Life can make you bitter or better. The choice is yours.

20.  "I can't" never does.  "I can" usually will.

21.  What you do doesn't define who you are.  God does.

22. God gives. God takes. When we live life open-handed, it makes both easier.

23. Laugh. Every chance you get.

24.  We aren't called to be like other Christians; we are called to be like Christ.

25.  True happiness is found in true contentment.

26.  Accept others for who they are, not who they aren't.

27.  Let your love for God change the world, but never let the world change your love for God.

28.  Everything can be a gift - even cancer. (Thank you, Ruthie.)

29. You never know who is looking up to you.  Always live so your life points up to God.

30.  Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean you have to keep doing it that way.

31. Sisters -  (and sisters in the Lord)  are one of God's sweetest blessings.

32.  Praising God overcomes anything.

33. Be kind. Each word a gift.

34. We can have joy even though.

35. In spite of who we are, (amazingly!) God can use us to touch others.

36.  Meekness is not weakness.

37.  "I don't know" - it's ok to say it. Nobody knows it all.

38.  God does indeed grant us the desires of our heart.

39.  Memories - what a precious gift.

40. When things seem to be out of control, God is still in control. Rest in His faithfulness.

41. Eating and/or sleeping can make a "bad day" good again.

42.   Swings aren't just for kids.

43.  When no one understands, God does. Go to Him.

44.  Say "Thank You" - people never grow tired of hearing it.

45. God is good.  All the time.

46. Live in the moment or you'll miss it.

47.  Love them anyway.

48.  We are blessed to be a blessing.  Live to bless others.

Gracious Heavenly Father, 
On this day, 
the day you introduced me to the world 48 years ago,
I praise You.
Thank you for the gift of life.
Thank you for MY life.
Thank you for all of Your blessings - the happy, the sad, the good, the bad.
In each and all, YOU ARE and I praise You.
May I live for you, Father God.
Every moment of every day,
may You be seen in me.
I love you, Lord.
Today, I celebrate the gift of life.
Today, I will celebrate the gift of "me".
In Jesus' precious name,
Amen.








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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Face to Face~

"What are you thinking?"

I stand on the sidewalk leading to our front door, breathing in the unexpectedly cool air on a hot August
day that is now quickly headed to night.  My husband, seated a few feet away, knows me all too well. As I look at the clouds swirling overhead, the very ones who have brought this reprieve from the heat, I answer his question.

"I want to to see her.  I want to meet her, face to face."

I shift my eyes from the sky and look over my shoulder at my husband. Although this conversation seems to be coming out of nowhere, my husband understands. The look in his eye, the gentle nod of his head, all say what his voice doesn't need to.

The next day, I receive an email from her:

August 11, 2013
OK.  Stacy.  Remind me where you live.  I would so love to meet you.

I read her words, the desire of my own heart written there, spelled out in black and white, and I think back to an another email written almost two years earlier.

September 9, 2011
OK, Stacy.  One day we need to meet!  I can't remember where you live, but how great would it be to meet! I read your post "But God" and just loved it.  And if I remember correctly, wasn't it published in P31 Magazine?  And you don't call yourself a writer??????  Oh, honey.  My husband is sitting beside me and I just read your email to me to  him.   Words can't express my gratitude for keeping me in your prayers.  Our work this weekend consists of determining a course of action.  Another round of chemo or alternative methods.  We're praying for guidance and peace with our decision.  So if you're so inclined..... I praise God for my healthy body.  Well, the I-feel-healthy body.  I can't believe I have cancer as I feel 100% perfect.  Crazy.  So I will indulge in a busy, great weekend knowing that lots of rest and pjs will be in my future.  Stacy, thank you so very much.  Keep writing!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Writing. This is the way God chose to first introduce me to this precious friend three years before. Proverbs 31 Ministries was offering a chance to win a scholarship to their yearly "She Speaks" Conference. To enter, each writer linked up a post on a designated Proverbs 31 webpage.  Ruthie and I linked up within minutes of each other. I read her post. She read my post. The rest is a tale of a friendship too precious for words.)

Days pass and while chatting with my sister one night, I share the desire of my heart that will not go away.

"I've been thinking about going to California."
"Really?  What's in California?"
"Not what - who.  I want to meet her.  I want to see Ruthie face to face. I want to give her a hug. I want to pray with her and for her. I want to tell her thank you for being such a constant, faithful, friend and amazing source of inspiration to me."
"You should go."

Several  more days pass and while chatting with my sister once again, she shares the desire of her heart.
"I still want to take you on a trip. I know we've talked about doing New York City for Christmas and to celebrate your birthday, but I've been thinking. Where do YOU want to go? How about California?  How about in a few weeks? How about mid October?"

October 18, 2013 (three years after first meeting Ruthie) I ring the door bell. Three years and untold emails   of encouragement, faith, and the forever present "Keep writing!!!! xoxo" and I meet her - face to face. Amazingly, I hold back the tears as she opens the door. I give her a hug.

I sit in her living room, the same one I've seen so many times in photos from her blog. It's just as beautiful in person, but Ruthie, she is even more so. Thin, tired, worn from the disease ravaging her body, she talks and I listen. I talk and she listens. My sister, my sweet friend and I share in two hours of sweet communion. We talk about writing. We talk about blogs. We (well, more she and my sister - a decorator, I am not) talk about decorating and interior design. We talk about New Mexico. (Ruthie has never been) We talk about cancer. We talk about faith. We talk about God.

I give her another huge hug.  We take a photo together. We hold hands, and in a circle of three, with God's Spirit in our midst, we pray together.  I tell her thank you - for all she is, for all she has been to me.  I tell her that even though my sister and I are seeing the sights while in California, she is the highlight of my trip.  She quickly replies: "Honey! You've got to get out more!" We laugh, hug again, and my sister and I make our way back to our rental car.

I latch the seatbelt and simultaneously, unleash a flood of emotion.
And, I cry.
Right there in her cul de sac.
All the way to the hotel.
And, I marvel at such a God as this.

Yesterday, (one day shy from two months to the day when I sat in her living room)  my sweet God-sent friend passed away.

The night before she took her last breath, I wrote Ruthie one last letter.

Three years ago, a girl from New Mexico meets a girl from California....first through their love of God and their love for sharing His love through words . . . and then 2 months ago, face to face. Who but God could orchestrate that?! Who but God could love me enough to introduce me to you, sweet Ruthie, then grant me the desire of my heart to meet you in person, to sit in your living room and share my heart as you shared yours, to wrap my arms around you in a long-awaited hug, to hold hands with you and pray together to our precious Jesus. Only God. Who but God would graciously (amazingly!) intertwine my life with yours, inviting me into your story, into your journey, into your home, into your family, into your passionate quest to "use your gift." Who but God would send YOU to me as my personal, heaven-sent cheerleader to spur me on, to encourage my heart, to keep me believing in His dream for me, to keep me tapping away on my keyboard?! Who but God could have blessed me with you? Unbelievable. Yes, only God could orchestrate all that . . . and only God knows the forever thanksgiving I have in my heart. Only God knows how my life has been touched, changed, inspired, enriched, and so many words the English language has yet to create to truly express your imprint upon my heart. Only God knows. Only God and me. . . and you. I hope you know, too! I love you, Ruthie. As always, I'm on my knees . . . praying. you. through.

I sit on the edge of our bed, my husband wiping my tears.

"What are you thinking?"

"I want to see her.  I want to see her face to face again."

I shift my eyes from the floor of our bedroom upward to my Father God. I know He understands. The comfort I feel in my heart, the hope that is stirring within me, all say what His voice doesn't need to.

And, I cry.
And, I marvel at such a God as this.

 Dear Family and Friends: Our family is deeply saddened to announce that our beloved, beautiful, and inspirational Ruthie passed away this morning. She is now in heaven with her Lord and Savior - Jesus Christ. Ruthie was a tremendous example of how one lives a life with purpose and meaning even in the face of adversity. She made it easier on all of us and never once complained, questioned, or blamed anyone for her life with cancer. She welcomed cancer, embraced the challenges it brought upon her and focused on how to help others by sharing her faith and hope to everyone she encountered. She gave us strength through her words, her actions, and most importantly, her faith. She was a wonderful wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. She once said to me “ I’m just an ordinary girl from Panorama City trying to do extraordinary things for others”. I know she touched many people over these past few years and she relished every second of doing so as it brought her great joy and satisfaction when she knew she had inspired, rejuvenated, or changed another person’s life. Nothing compared or made her happier, not decorating, not sugar, not playing keno, nothing. When she knew she had made a difference in another person’s life (no matter how big or small) she lit up inside and out and it motivated her to do it over and over again. 

 Thank you, Ruthie . . . I can't wait to see you again.






 
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Monday, December 16, 2013

The Light Has Shined~









 
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Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Not So Little "Little Things"~







 
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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Quiet Resting Places~








 
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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Will You?~








 
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Monday, December 9, 2013

A Most Unlikely Place~

Sometimes, the message of Christmas shows up in the most unlikely place.

A young virgin.

A stable.

A Facebook news-feed.

Saturday night, I decided to hop on my computer and check Facebook one more time before heading to bed, before sweet dreams took over.

My younger sister was spending the weekend in New York City, taking in all the city and Christmas there had to offer. Me, I was "seeing the sights" through each post, (plus, keeping tabs on her in the big city - it's what big sisters do, right?! - no matter the fact that my sister is 38!)

It was hoping to discover where she was now that had me booting up and logging on.

Sure enough, she had left another post and another photo. Oddly enough (or maybe not odd at all) it was smack dab in the middle of these other three posts.

Anita:
Tears of sadness tonight. Breast cancer has taken the life of a dear friend. I sure do look forward to that day when all suffering ends. To those of you who knew Sheryl, she passed away at 6:30 tonight.

Shelly: 
"God's strength is fully revealed when our strength is fully depleted." ~LizCurtisHiggs

Laura:
Such a lovely sight! I love NYC! 


Danette:
My aunt Carmen lost her battle with cancer today. Prayers for the family are welcome. Rest peacefully Carmen. I love you.

Yes, sometimes, the message of Christmas is torn from the manager, hand-delivered, unwrapped and placed right in the lap of your heart when you least expect it, but need it the most.

As I read through each post, I thought of the baby born on that blessed night. Jesus, bundled in swaddling clothes, innocent, pure, all-God, yet all baby, oddly enough (or maybe not odd at all) hand delivered by Almighty God, through a young virgin, and placed smack dab in the middle of our world.

In the middle of our suffering.

In the middle of our sin.

In the middle of our weakness.

As my eyes stared at my computer screen, my heart found itself gazing upon the very heart of God.

This is why the herald angels sang.
This is why "we three kings" traveled afar.
This is why the little town of Bethlehem is still visited today.
This is why the night of this baby's birth, unlike any other night, was silent and holy.

Immanuel.

God is with us.

Not in some far away Heaven.
Not hidden from view, out of ear shot, untouched or unbothered.
Not there, but here.

Jesus came straight from Heaven,
into our sin-marred, heart-breaking, pain-inflicting world
so that through
His immaculate conception,
His lowly birth,
His spotless life,
His sacrificial death,
you and I,
in the midst of all this earthliness,
can taste and know the sweetness of Heaven,
that is found in only in God
and only when God is with us.

Hope.
Peace.
Strength.
Joy.
Love.
Salvation.
Everlasting life.

This is the message of Christmas to be lived out in our hearts all year long.

God with us when the diagnosis is cancer.
God with us when our tears fall beside the freshly dug grave of a loved one.
God with us when our strength is gone.
God with us when the world turns against us.
God with us when we stand and gaze at the lights of Christmas.

God with us here, now, forever.

As I re-read the posts left behind by those I love,
I pictured Anita and Danette
     wiping away tears,
                      longing for Heaven,
                                 comforted by the blessed hope we have in Christ.

I pictured Shelly
             sitting up a little taller,
                                 her courage and faith a little stronger,
                                                        strengthened by the power we have in Christ.

I pictured Laura
                smiling with delight,
                              her eyes seeing the sparkle of Christmas shining radiant and bright
                                            against the darkness of night,
                                                          overwhelmed by the joy-filled light we have in Christ.

I pictured God,
               wiping a tear,
                               sitting up a little taller,
                                         smiling with delight,
                                                   looking down on His own son lying in a manger,
                                                             defined by ALL we have in Christ.


This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. 
And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; 
by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. 
God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger,
 telling the world how bad it was. 
He came to help, to put the world right again.
 ~John 3:16-17 (MSG)


Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. 
If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, 
because you will have the light that leads to life.”
~John 8:12 (NLT)



Yes, sometimes, the perfectly perfect message of Christmas shows up in the most unlikely place -
the human heart.

And when it does,
a life is reborn -
a life that is not bound by time and space,
a life that is not limited to here and now,
a life that is not without help, not without spiritual healing, not without hope.

When the Christ of Christmas is hand-delivered,
unwrapped,
and given residency in the heart of a human,
God. is. with. us.

Now.

Forever.

Always.

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 
The light shines in the darkness, 
and the darkness has not overcome it.
~John 1:4-5 (NIV)








 
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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Jesus: The Best Solution~







 
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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Light~








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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

On Astronauts, Mary, and A God Who Knows~

If it would have been left up to me, moon travel never would have happened.



Let's face it.
Prior to these brave men leaving their footprints on this far away wonder in the sky,
there were too many unknowns.



How will ---?
What happens if ---?
What about ---?



And the biggest question of all -
at least in my mind:
Are you sure???



Before we step out, we want to know what we are stepping out in to.
Before we buckle our rocket seatbelt and jet into space, we want to know all about our destination, and we want some kind of guarantee that we will arrive there (and if need be, back!) in good condition.

We want to know about then, now.

Take me to the moon?  I don't think so. 

And yet, God wants to take me (and you!) to the moon and beyond.

Now to Him Who,
 by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, 
is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, 
far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think 
[infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]—

To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. 
Amen (so be it).
~Ephesians 3:20-21 (AMP) 

God longs to take us beyond our 
highest prayers,
our dearest desires,
our grandest thoughts,
our mightiest hopes,
our wildest dreams.

His plans for us leave the moon in the dust and because they do, 
we often find ourself asking

How will ---?
What happens if ---?
What about ---?

And - time and time again-
Are you sure???

Honestly, if it would have been left up to me, the birth of our Saviour might not have happened either.

Let's face it.
Prior to the wise men following the far away wonder in the sky,
prior to the shepherds worshiping a baby in the manager,
prior to a trip to Bethlehem,
there were the obvious questions.

How will ---?
What happens if---?
What about ---?
And, most likely the biggest question of all -
Are you sure???

Only Mary didn't let the questions stand in the way of God's desire to take her above and beyond her
highest prayers,
dearest desires,
grandest thoughts,
mightiest hopes,
or wildest dreams.

She didn't need to know how.
She didn't wait to find out what would happen if.
She didn't worry about.

And, instead of making sure God was sure, she simply replied that she was sure,
and then, she stepped out into the known.

Because what you and I don't always remember,
what you and I don't always see,
what you and I don't always understand is this:
NOTHING IS UNKNOWN TO GOD.

While we may not know, He does.
While we may wonder, He longs to fill us with wonder.
While we wrestle with the what ifs and the how wills, God already is and already has.
And, while we wonder if God is sure, God is simply waiting for us to be sure and say "yes".

Take me to the moon?
Thankfully, astronauts took this great step for mankind.

Birth the Saviour of the world?
Thankfully, Mary, the one chosen to be blessed among all women,
birthed The One, Jesus Christ, who came to save mankind.

Fulfill our God-given destiny?
Amazingly, God has entrusted THIS to you and me.

This same God who spoke the moon into existence,
and sent His only begotten Son into our very existence,
has a purpose and a plan for us, too.

No doubt it is beyond our
highest prayers,
our dearest desires,
our grandest thoughts,
our mightiest hopes,
our wildest dreams.

No doubt it will have us asking
How will ---?
What happens if ---?
What about ---?

But, when it comes to the biggest question of all,
Are you sure???
May we never let the uncertainty keep us from what is most certainly true:
GOD KNOWS.

Now to Him Who,
 by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, 
is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, 
far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think 
[infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]—



 May you and I be willing to take our Saviour's hand and step out into the known.

To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. 
Amen (so be it).








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Sunday, December 1, 2013

BE the Change~








 
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A Heartprint of God~

I sit in her chair, snippets of hair slowly sliding down the black cape as they make their way to the floor.

As she snips away at split ends, her words tumble out and drop to the floor along with my hair.

"I lost my father four weeks ago. Can you tilt you head down for me, please?"

I can't see her face, but her voice gives her tears away.  As I gaze downward, I lift my heart upward and whisper a prayer for God's comfort and peace to flood this salon; to flood this aching heart. I pray for God to open wide a door of opportunity for me to speak HIS name and to tell of HIS goodness.

As she combs and cuts and blow drys and styles, we exchange words, attempting to make sense of death. As she re-lives the events of the past four weeks, I find myself re-living the events of the past seven years.  As her eyes fill with tears again, I realize, in some ways, my heart is still just as raw as hers.

Time heals all wounds.

How much time, I wonder. 

As she reminiscences, she smiles.  I smile, too.  And I voice the thanks in my heart.

"Aren't you glad God not only blessed us with such wonderful fathers, but also with the precious gift of memory?"

It is the door my prayer (and God) was waiting to open.

For the rest of my time in her chair, we talk about God.  She believes in God, but her belief has yet to birth a relationship. 

Until this evening.  Until this moment.  Until now.

I share with her the only ONE able to heal her heart, and she listens.  And, she nods her head.  And, she smiles.  And she wants to know  more.  She wants to know HIM.

As she removes the cape and sweeps away the few strands of hair clinging to my blouse, she gives me a hug. 

"Do you like your new cut?"

As I look into the mirror, I see more than a new look, I see the heartprint of God.

And while my hair has a brand new look to it, it is the presence of peace in my heart I notice the most.

All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.
~2 Corinthians 1:3-4, The Message



It is not time that heals, but God.

God heals all wounds, in His time and in His way;
even in a salon.~


(Re-posting from 2-16-12)








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