Letters For the Heart

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This Summer has been at time of reflection for me. I’ve written in previous posts about the twists/turns, the crossroads, influences in my life as well as the trials that come with life. In this time of reflection, I have seen my life divided into multiple chapters of  being molded by my Father in heaven.  It has been a time of grasping the why’s and the how come’s and seeing the pieces of my life fall into place.

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What stirred up this reflection was coming across some old letters/cards from various friends from years pasts. Some of these letters are in an old photo album I came across while Jim and I were cleaning out the attic. Others I just happened upon while cleaning out a drawer.  And, there are those I no longer have but I  have them treasured in my heart.  As I  have read the ones I still have  a memory will leak out of my eyes along with a smile will come on my face and in my heart. What makes them special is the fact that that specific person took time out to write to me, to encourage me and simply let me know they were thinking of me.  Thus, a special footprint of love and friendship has a permanent place on my heart.

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Before social media, cards and letters were a common way of keeping in touch with those you lived a distance away from as well as sending an encouraging note to the neighbor down the street.  Growing up in a Methodist Minister’s home meant moving every four or five years.  I can recall watching my mom sitting down and writing friends from other communities where we had served. As I learned to read and write, she would sit down with me and help me to write certain people from those places as well.

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When I think of letters I think of the Letters of Paul. After his transformation from being a persecutor of Christians to becoming a Believer. Not only did he transform into being a Believer and Follower of Christ, he shared the gospel.  As part of his ministry, he would write letters to fellow Believers encouraging them in their walk with God. He would tell those who were lost about the gift of salvation. He encouraged people like Timothy in their ministry. Not only did he share the gift of salvation and encourage people, he would also have letters of correction written when Believers would begin to lose their focus on the purpose of being a follower of Jesus Christ.

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Just as the old letters I have stumbled on have touched my heart, the letters of Paul have touched my heart in a special way.  There are times when his letters have brought conviction to my heart. Other times, I have experienced healing, peace and forgiveness. Then there have been times when I my eyes were opened to direction just as Paul gave direction to the early believers.

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Once Paul became a believer, he became very passionate about sharing Jesus with others. It is because of his passion that we have these beautiful letters to which I can open my Bible.   These passages are words of wisdom, comfort, guidance and encouragement anytime I choose. As I turn the pages and read, it is like reading those old letters from the past all over again. My heart is touched and the footprints of our Savior walk all over my heart.

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Maybe you have some old cards or letters from years past stored somewhere. I encourage you to get those out and just read through them. They are blessings to be cherished by the heart. These cards and letters may give you opportunity to see how the chapters in your life have fallen into place. I can promise that you will see where God has been at work in your life.

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  Maybe God has recently placed someone on your heart. I encourage you to sit down and write them a note of encouragement. Let them know that you are thinking of them and praying for them. After all, there is nothing better than a praying friend.

Last but not least. I encourage you to read The  Letters of Paul. Maybe you have a favorite of his writings that you like to read. As you read, keep your heart opened for God to leave his beautiful footprints of guidance, encouragement and wisdom on your heart.

“You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Corinthians 3:2-3

 

Until next time, I encourage you to click the link below ( The Words I Would Say)

 It’s my letter to you.

The Words I Would Say SideWalk Prophets

Blessings,

April

 

 

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Butterflies and New Beginnings

In my previous post, It’s In The Little Details, I shared how this one would be about beginnings. The word beginnings has been on my mind in recent days. The reason is the family vacation I take this time each year.

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For the last fourteen years my family has been vacationing together at the Butterfly House at Lake Junaluska.  My mom  began renting the Butterfly House at Lake Junaluska, NC. for it to be a time for our family to come together to enjoy fellowship with one another. Not only has it been a time for fellowship for one another but an opportunity to get off to ourselves and just be still.  Thus, this explains part of my affection for butterflies. Our family has made many special memories in the Butterfly House.

The butterfly symbolizes beginnings for me. I recall my first grade year in grammar school  when my parents and I found a cocoon.  Dad gently took the cocoon and placed it in a mason jar with holes punched on the top of the lid.  I took that cocoon to school to share with my class. My class and I watched that cocoon everyday until one day we arrived to class with a beautiful butterfly fluttering around in the jar. Needless to say, we set it free to its new beginning of a new life in nature.

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Each year I sit on the porch of the Butterfly House and reflect on days gone by and things of recent. I reflect on the new beginnings I have encountered around this very lake. These beginnings include friendships of meeting people from various places not just in the United States but from around the world. I have witnessed the beginnings of men accepting the call to ministry and others being called into the mission field.

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Along with the friendships and seeing other lives being transformed into God’s plan, this is where I experienced my first job away from home. In a sense, a new beginning of independence at age 19. This is also where my immediate family began. My husband’s and my story began here about thirty-five years ago. I have also made decisions that were new beginnings as I have sat on the porch of this Summer home.

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Summer 2016 

 

Last year (2017) marked a new beginning for our family at the Butterfly House. My mom had lost her battle to cancer in December, 2016. As Jim and I unlocked the door to the Butterfly House, we took a deep breath. We knew that it would not be the same as years past because Mom would not be here. The torch had been handed down to me to carry out some of the rituals and traditions that our family had established over the last fourteen years.

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As I had planned for last year’s week for the family, I wanted to make sure things were just right for the rest of the family on their arrival. Beds were made, the table was decorated, themes were planned for the nights I would be host, and matching shirts for July 4th were purchased. All the things Mom had done I tried my best in doing to honor her.  Though it was not easy, our family made it through the week creating memories just as we had throughout the previous years. I admit we did have to choke a few tears back and spent a lot of time in prayer and in song to console our hurting hearts. It was during this week where I think we each learned how to take that next step forward without Mom here as a family and as individuals.

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Butterfly taken outside my kitchen window.

In the midst of leaving our home in Kentucky to head to North Carolina, I looked out my kitchen window. Out my kitchen window was a big butterfly on my butterfly bush.  I took it as a sign from above that all was well and Mom is with us in our hearts. Since our arrival to the Butterfly House this week, I have seen more butterflies than I ever remember seeing in all the years I have come to Lake Junaluska. A reminder that each day is a new beginning and a new page to the story God is writing through me.

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New beginnings can be scary at times.  There are times we may have to choke back a few tears as we take those steps in the direction God is leading us. It is in these moments we must remember that God is the author of our story. He is in the business of transformation and making us into his likeness. Each day is a new day and a new page to the story God is writing through us. May we be like the butterfly and share the beauty of his love and grace with others.  Until next time, may you experience God and the beauty of his love and grace.

Blessings,

April

Because of the LORD’S faithful love we do not perish, for his mercies never end.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!

Lamentations 3:22-33

It’s The Little Details

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God is in the business of constantly molding us.  Take a moment and reflect on things that have happened in the past or even in recent days. As you look back, I imagine you can see God’s hands all over a situation. Maybe some things have fallen into place and you know that the only it could have happened was God at work. God is good! All the time!

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There are some things that have happened in recent days and weeks where I have experienced God’s fingerprints on my life.  Words and stories share with me from my youth by mentors, missionaries I heard speak and friends have been brought back to the forefront of my mind. As these words resonate within me, I can hear and see God at work in my life. I see him involved in every aspect of these words. Words spoken to me years ago are now coming to surface and I sense God has something on the horizon for me. I don’t know what his plan is for me and I just have to trust him.

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God showed me spot on this morning how he is involved in every little detail of my life. This God moment took place as I was seeking a quiet corner to have a little God time and to write out some thoughts God had placed on my heart. In my search for that perfect spot, I was reflecting on all of the new beginnings that I have had over the years. Not only was I reflecting over the new beginnings but I was reflecting how God has transformed me through these events.  I knew I wanted to write about new beginnings and how God transforms a person in the process. Yet, I wasn’t sure of how to put into words of what was being whispered into my heart.

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I found myself seeking refuge in the very hotel lobby of the hotel I had worked in as a youth at Lake Junaluska, N. C. (we are vacationing here this week).  It was the perfect spot. As I began to pull items out of my backpack, I continued to think about the whispers that God was putting on my heart. All the while, still struggling to figure out where to begin.

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Once settled into this utopia of quiet time, I opened my Bible. The Bible automatically fell onto a devotional on the very topic that was being whispered into my heart. Not only did it fall to the perfect devotional but to the scripture that I needed to read and hear God speak to me. As I begin to read this devotional, scripture and have time with God, I turned on my praise music playlist. Of course, I hit the shuffle button on the playlist thus not knowing what song would be played first. Yes, God had decided which song I would hear first. The song was Tenth Avenue North singing, I Need You, I Want You, I love you. Non-the-less, it was exactly what I needed to hear and fit right into the words God wanted me to read.

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During this morning quiet time, God was engaging in conversation with me. My heart had to tune into him to be aware of his presence and guidance. Otherwise, I would have missed an opportunity for God to lead me to words that will help me share the thoughts whispered on my heart.

God is constantly engaging with us. Yet, are we engaging with him? To be engaged in relationship with God means that we have to be in constant awareness of his presence. It also means that we must seek him in all that we do and in all situations.  When we are aware of his presence and seek God we will experience evidence of him at work in our lives.

The pages that opened for me to read this morning were no coincidence.  The praise song that played first was no coincidence. The whispers I heard with my heart prior to this quiet time were no coincidence, either. God knew my heart. In turn, I was tuned to him and was seeking him and everything fell into place.

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Matthew 6:8 tells us that our Father knows our every need before we even speak a word to him. He is constantly whispering to our hearts.  Isaiah 30:21 tells us that ‘our own ears will hear him.’ We simply have to trust him and be open to his leading us.

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It is when we are in tuned to the voice of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit that our Bibles fall to the words God wants us to read. Our playlist will pull up a song that we need for that moment. Or, something from years past will come to mind and resonate in your heart. These are reminders that God is involved in every little detail of our lives.

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In the beginning of this post, I shared that God whispered words  on my heart about beginnings and transformations being a result. I encourage you to stay tuned. There is more to come. In the meantime, I want to close with this quote from my morning devotional.

He is the story. His fingerprints are on every page, His faithfulness is unwavering from beginning to end.

( She Reads Truth Bible/From the devotional: ‘From Beginning to End page 2198)

Until next time, seek God in all you do. Experience God working in every little detail of your life.

Blessings,

April

Take A Back Road

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Jim and I love a road trip more than anything. Along with enjoying a good road trip, we enjoy taking back roads. During the summer months we will find ourselves going out for a quick errand or ice cream. The  little errand/ice cream trip turns into dropping the top on the convertible and taking a few back roads before we get home.  It is on these spontaneous back road trips where we have seen so much of the beauty of our Master’s handiwork.  I guess you can say it our way of stopping and taking a deep breath and in a way taking time to seek the not so ordinary blessings in an ordinary day.

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Not only do we enjoy spontaneous back road trips around the area we live but we have found ourselves taking back routes to other destinations. About a year ago we grew weary of the interstate drive from our place to the Smoky Mountains. Jim did some research and mapped out a new course from our home to the Smoky Mountains.  Part of route takes us through the Cumberland Gap area. It is on this route we have seen some of the most breath-taking scenery. Now that we take this route, we shake our heads and wonder why we have not done this sooner.

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These back roads remind Jim and me of how God has placed blessings in our path to enjoy.  They exemplify the simplicity of life.  These roads have stories to tell in the places that we pass along the way. There are so many things that we have learned about  people, places and each other while on these back road. We have heard some of the best stories. And, we  have shared some of the best stories with one another. Also, there is nothing better than finding an old country store and grabbing a cold COKE in a glass bottle. ( Now, that is getting right with one’s soul!)

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These days we live in a very fast-paced world.  We are inundated with constant information that we go into the overload mode.  I recently heard that information doubles these days every half hour. (Whew! If that doesn’t make your head spin, I don’t know what will. ) Life can get so busy that we become like the car stuck in a traffic jam on the interstate. We become stuck and spinning our wheels. And, I don’t think this is the way God intended us to live. He created us for his enjoyment to be in fellowship with him. Yet, how can we be in fellowship with him if we are stuck in the traffic jam of life?

In Ecclesiastes 8:15, Solomon is encouraging us to take some time to enjoy the things God has given us. When we stop to enjoy the things God gives us we become renewed. It is stopping to breathe and being renewed we are able to fulfill our purpose/work God has for us.

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Today, you might be finding yourself in a brain fog due to information overload.  You may be weary of the pace you have had to keep up with family and work. Or, you feel like you are just spinning your wheels because you are booked with so many things to do that you don’t know how you will accomplish it all. My friend, I encourage you to just drop what you are doing, put your favorite play list on the stereo and go take a back road. Simply stop, breath and soak up the simplicity of life and the not so ordinary blessings in an ordinary day.  You will be amazed what God will place in your path along the way.

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As the Rodney Atkins song Take A Back Road says, “Get lost and get right with my soul”, that is what taking a back road can do for you. I encourage you to go get a “little gravel in your travel.”  Who knows, you might find an old Red Dirt Road  ( Brooks and Dunn) that will bring back a few memories or a story from way back when.

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Until next time, enjoy the ride!

Blessings,

April

So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.”

Ecclesiastes 8:15 NIV

 

 

To Walk Where Jesus Walked

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As You therefore, have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6

Over the years I have had family and friends who have taken trips to the Holy Land. I always marvel at their pictures and wonder what it would be like to walk where Jesus walked. I recall seeing a video on Facebook of gospel singer,  Karen Peck standing at the tomb of Lazarus and singing her popular gospel song, Four Days Late. I can only imagine what it would have been like actually being there in person to experience that moment.

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As we walk through the Season of Lent, I think about the places Jesus visited and taught as he began to make His journey to the cross. I think of  the streets where He walked and place my feet in the very spot He placed His footsteps as He healed and told people  they have a God who loves them.  Then to put my feet on the path He  took to  Golgotha. I can only imagine what one experiences as they look at the hill where our Savior took on the sin of mankind so that man can have eternal life.

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Going to the Holy Land is on my bucket list. I understand that once you have experienced being where Jesus walked that you never read the Bible the same way again. I don’t know if I this bucket list item will ever be marked off and that is okay.

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You see, I may not get to the Holy Land to walk where Jesus walked but because I have invited Him into my heart and life. I get to walk with Him every day.  This daily walk starts when I rise up in the morning and I invite Him into my day. He walks beside me in all that I do. He not only walks with me but He talks with me in my quiet time and through study with others and daily life experiences.

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Though I may not make the journey to the Holy Land, I know without a doubt that I am on a journey that is far  greater. It is the journey to the place where it won’t be where Jesus walked. But the journey will take me to the place where I will stand in His mighty presence and stand right before Him. I won’t walk where He walked but I will be on the streets of gold where He is walking and reigns forever. Oh, how my heart leaps for joy!

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Hymnal Page, In the Garden, Printable Vintage Sheet Music, Instant Download, Aged Antique Hymn, Christian Wall art, Church Decor ----------------------------------------------------------------- This listing is for an INSTANT DOWNLOAD of the JPG file Dimensions: 8 x 10 inches

Abundant Life

 

Therefore Jesus said again,, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal kill and destroy; I have come that they have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

In this verse from John 10:10 the following sentence has been quoted many times. I have come to that they have life, and have it to the full.” There are translations that word this sentence as to having abundant life. I have heard comedians such as Mark Lowry use this sentence in his routines about having abundant life. There are so many interpretations and thoughts regarding what Jesus meant in having abundant life.

Abundant life. As the year 2017 nears to a close, I honestly say my husband, Jim and I have experienced abundant life. It is because of the abundant life I have experienced this year that I have gained more understanding of Jesus’ teaching in this passage.  This is definitely one year for the books.

Rewind December, 2016

Jacqueline Ward Daniel Hill
November 2, 1943-December 27, 2016

Before 2016 ended I found myself sitting in a hospital room with the rest of my family absorbing all the time we could with my mom. We said good-bye to my mom on December 27th. She had fought a long and hard battle with cancer. On New Year’s Eve afternoon, the remainder of the family that had been at Mom and Dad’s departed. Thus, leaving my dad and I alone in a very quiet house. It was as though time stood still and I wondered to myself how I would take the next step and how would time move on without my mom by my dad’s side.

Memorial Day 2017

The calendar did flip over to 2017 and little by little I learned to take new steps and learn a new normal without having my mom around.  Memorial Day approached and as tradition has it for Jim and me we would attend the Gaither Family Fest in Gatlinburg for the weekend.  This would be a weekend of Jim’s family and friends from Louisville and my family would meet up for a time of music, spiritual renewal and fellowship. It was a wonderful weekend and a time for healing for my family.

When Jim and I attend these weekends we usually prolong our stay in Gatlinburg for another day or so just to avoid the holiday traffic. Yet, Jim’s schedule would not allow for us to prolong our trip this year. Thus, we departed for home Memorial Day morning along with the many other travelers.

Jim and I usually take back roads from Gatlinburg to  the interstate that would lead us to home in Kentucky. However, as we approached the interstate there was no movement. It was one big parking lot. At this moment, Jim decided this year we would try an alternate route. In the words of a James Taylor song, “Home by Another Way”, we would go home another way.

There was a parkway that Jim and I needed to watch exit signs to take on this new route home. However, we did not realize that the name of the parkway had changed and somehow or the other we missed the exit.  Jim pulled over and googled  how to resolve this mistake without us backtracking and losing time.

We ended up on a two lane road that took us through some  beautiful Kentucky territory that really had Jim and me captivated.  We passed a lake with a beautiful camping area and were curious as to the name of the lake. I began to google our location to find out specifics of the area. Just as I looked down at my phone Jim shouts to me, “hold on!”. Coming straight at us is a camper that had become disengaged from the truck that was pulling it. The camper was in our lane. From that moment all I remember is seeing a grove  of trees that our car was heading for and nothing but white rushing passed the driver’s side.

The car finally came to a stop and I looked over to the driver’s side anticipating seeing that half of the car gone as well as Jim. Thankfully, the car was in tact and Jim still had a tight grip on the steering wheel. He looked over at me and said, “we are blessed because we were almost killed.” As he spoke those words, I looked in my side mirror and saw the camper go over the car that was behind us. My reply to Jim was “and we have just witnessed an accident and I don’t know if there are going to be survivors.” Once again, Jim looked over at me and said, “stay here because you know what I have to do.”

Jim along with other motorist who had witnessed the accident sprang into action. After busting the back window out Jim and other volunteers began checking the victims. There were two small children with their grandparents. The grandmother and three-year-old were responsive and did not seem to have many injuries but the grandfather/driver and the baby behind him were not responsive.  Jim felt for a pulse on the driver and he said it was very faint for only a minute and then the driver was gone. Jim said all he could do was pray over the victim and for the family.

Once the status of the driver was established they began pulling the other victims out of the car. As Jim lifted the baby out and handed to a nurse who had witnessed the accident, he knew the baby was most likely brain-dead. The baby was life flighted to a Children’s Hospital and passed away a few days later. The grandmother and three-year-old were taken to the local hospital and were treated and released.

As you can imagine this was a horrible event for us. One of the most heartbreaking moments of the ordeal was watching the emergency personnel telling the lady that her husband did not survive the crash. I can still hear her screams in my head as I go back to that day. The other heartbreaking moment for Jim and me was when learned that they were not believers. Their family had tried to witness to them about Christ.  I believe that afternoon and evening Jim and I prayed more from the gut than we ever prayed in our lives as individuals and as a couple.

Mr. Snapping Turtle

Mid-summer Jim and I arrived back into our neighborhood after Jim had worked a weekend shift at the hospital.  As we came around the curve approaching our home, there was this huge turtle in the middle of the road. I told Jim we needed to move Mr. Turtle so that he would not get hurt or worse crushed by another car.

Again, Jim to the rescue.  At first we thought it was just a regular old turtle but soon learned by seeing his tail that he was snapping turtle.  Jim tried to think of how to approach this turtle to get him moved out of the street. He thought maybe he could slowly approach the turtle from behind but soon learned that was not an option.

Jim walked up to the house to get a shovel as I stood guard by the turtle so that no one would hit him or a child dare try to approach him. Jim was able to scoop Mr. Turtle up with his shovel and place him in a nearby ravine where the turtle would be safe and people would be safe from the turtle.

Four Day Weekend Turns to Thirteen Day Stay

This past October we celebrated our granddaughter’s first birthday.  Campbell was so precious in her birthday dress.  We all cheered her on as she attempted to stand up by herself and as she tried to figure out what to do with her birthday smash cake. It was a fun celebration.

Monday arrived and it was time to depart from my Dad’s home and head for Kentucky.  As part of our routine, Jim and I always stop at the QucikTrip just before getting on the interstate. We made our stop. I got my sweet tea.  As Jim was paying for the gas, my phone rings. It is my dad.

My dad is calling to ask  about  where we were as far as  location on our trip. I found this odd since we had left him only forty minutes earlier.  He began to explain that he was having some chest pain and was not feeling very well. The blessing was he was on Chaplain duty at the hospital and one of the nurses he knew was wheeling him over to the emergency room.  Dad began to tell me not to worry if I could not turn around and come back.  Jim gets in the car and I give him the details and instead of turning right to get on the interstate we take a left and head back into to town. Our four-day weekend turned into a thirteen day stay.

Dad ended up having open-heart surgery. It was so hard to for me to see him go through this without my mom by his side. Mom was always the one who could calm any of us down in a tense situation. She always knew the right words and knew just what to do at any moment. Yet, she was not there. My brother was on a trip with his family. Thus, it was up to me with Jim by my side walking through this procedure with my dad.

Again, a stressful moment but as we walked through this journey I could hear the words of my mom, “we will get through this.”  And, we did get through it and we were not alone.  God blessed us with wonderful doctors, hospital staff but most importantly loving/praying friends that over the years have become like family to us. It was all of these people along side God doing His work that we got through Dad’s surgery.

Life Abundantly

I have mentioned a few life events that have occurred to the Hawkins’ this year. In the midst of these events taking place and coping, every day life that we all deal with took place as well.  Needless to say, life happened in its abundant form for us this year.

Jesus said, I have come that they may have life, and have it full.”  What have I learned from this verse in John 10:10? I have a saying, “God didn’t promise us perfect days but He promises us A perfect day.” Each one of these experiences that Jim and I went through this year the thief (Satan) could have had a field day if we had let him. Yet, as a couple and as individuals we chose to keep our eyes on the cross.

In each situation, we sought God’s blessings. As hard as it was losing Mom, we know she is in a better place and we have the hope that we will see her again because we believe in Jesus Christ. The blessing from the Memorial Day wreck  was seeing a group of strangers pull together to help a family in crisis.  We had the opportunity  to pray with the family at the hospital and we continue to pray for the survivors each day and that they will become a believer.

Is there a blessing with the snapping turtle? Yes. The blessing was we found the turtle before a child found it and had their finger bitten off. It also gave us something to laugh about after going through some stressful days. Regarding my dad’s surgery, we experienced God’s love, grace and felt the prayers of praying friends and family.

Being given life abundantly doesn’t mean everything goes our way, we have everything we want, nor we are free from trials.  Life abundantly through Christ means experiencing His power and seeing His hand at work not only in the trials but in the everyday living of life. It means taking God by the hand and trusting Him as we walk this journey on planet earth. Through our trusting God, having Christ in our hearts, and involved in all we do we experience Him in abundance and we live the abundant life He has given us.

Yes, this has been a year for the books for the Hawkins. We are ready to put the year behind us. Yet, before we move forward to 2018, we will stop and count our blessings even from the storms we encountered this year. We will give thanks to God for bringing us this far and will take Him by the hand and follow His leading in 2018.

Today, I challenge you to stop and reflect on your 2017. Seek the blessings that were in the midst of the trials you may have experienced this year. Take God by the hand and tell Him that you trust Him and will follow His leading in 2018.

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If you have not asked Christ to come into your life, right now at this moment I invite you to accept Him into your life.  All you have to do is say, “here I am, Lord.” “I give you my heart and I want you to come into my heart.” Pray the prayer below and then begin to live a life of abundance that will ultimately be filled with many blessings.

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Have a blessed Christmas Season and a blessed 2018!

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The Next Step of Faith

“One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around Him and listening to the Word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then He sat down taught the people from the boat. When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’ ” 

(Luke 5:1-4 NIV)

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The words Jesus spoke to Simon have become powerful words for me. Have you ever been in a worship service and suddenly you feel as though you are the only one in the room and the speaker is speaking specifically to you? This happened to me as I sat in the closing worship service at the 2016 Women of Joy Conference.

It was Sunday morning and the friends I was with decided we needed to sit on the front row of the closing service. Lisa Harper would be giving the morning  message to a room filled with thousands of women and a few men who were most likely recruited to be the designated driver for this event. I could not wait to hear Lisa speak and enthralled with the idea that I might have a brief opportunity to meet her after the service.

Before Lisa began to speak, she introduced her sweet daughter, Missy whom she adopted from Haiti. After Missy had wooed the group of ladies, Lisa began to speak. She began to talk about how people can feel unclean to the point they feel unworthy to approach God and receive his amazing grace.  Lisa gave several testimonies of people who felt unclean and how God met them right where they were, picked them up and loved on them. Needless to say, these lives were changed for the better.

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As Lisa continued her talk, she expressed how there were people in the very room we were sitting in that had not taken that first step of faith of approaching Jesus and inviting Him in and allowing Him to pick them up, love on them and give them a new hope. Then, she walked across the stage and began to say that there were people there that had taken that first step of faith but it was time to take a next step of faith. As Lisa spoke these words, she looked right at me and pointed in my direction. I felt as though she was pointing right at me and it was only she and I in the room at that very moment.

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Heavy conviction fell on my heart because I knew God had been placing a specific calling on my heart. God had been working on my heart for the last couple of years to mentor other women in their Christian walk.  God would nudge and I would push back. Yet as Lisa said; “there are some of you here that need to take a next step of faith, I knew at that moment it was not Lisa Harper speaking to me but it was God giving me a point-blank call to take a next step of faith.

At the time of this conference and worship service, I was already assisting our Pastor’s wife with leading Women’s Bible Study in our church. I more less followed her direction. Yet, God was beginning to push me out of my comfort zone all the more.  Our Pastor’s wife kept encouraging me in my leadership role and she would nudge me out of my comfort zone.

God’s plan unfolded. May, 2017 our Pastor and his wife took a new call to a new church. The next step of faith was in front of me. My passion for mentoring women in their faith walk became even stronger. Yet, I was shaking in my boots as I began to move forward to keep our Women’s Ministry going during the time of our church’s transition. I knew that being a leader/teacher is a huge responsibility and accountability is important.  Yet, God was nudging me and telling me; “it’s time to take that next step of faith.” 

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Patriarchs and other people of great faith and their stories began to enter my mind. (Read the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11).  I recollected their questions and how they would try to tell God they were not qualified.  Yet, in the end each were obedient to God and God provided what they needed as they took that next step of faith.

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When I begin my day each morning and take that first step out of bed I can still see Lisa Harper pointing in my direction and saying; “it’s time for some of you to take that next step of faith.”  God reminds me at that moment that he will provide what I need for that day.  As each day comes and goes, I can look back and see where God provided, where he blessed me and where he gave me strength in my weakest moments. ( Philippians 4:13)

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Strength. To me I believe the word strength is the key word when it comes to taking that next step of faith.  In Nehemiah 8:10 we read; “The joy of the LORD is my strength and I will serve him with joy in my heart.”  God will give us the strength we need to put that next foot forward. As we take that next step, we should do it with joy in our hearts because we are honoring God’s call for our life.

Maybe God has placed a calling on your heart. Yet, you meet God with resistance as he pushes you to take that next step of faith. Let me encourage you to take a deep breath, take hold of God’s hand and take that next step of faith. Trust God and cast out your net just as Jesus instructed Simon in Luke 5:4. Then, as each day passes, acknowledge where God has provided. Allow God to be your strength when you think you can’t take that next step. And, as you take that next step of faith, I encourage you to serve with joy in your heart and seek the blessings God has planned for you to receive.

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Faith is when the dots don’t connect but you say, ‘at your bidding’……cast out your net.”

Priscilla Shirer…ARMOR OF GOD Bible Study