Evidence of LIFE

Sometimes the chaos seems to overshadow the calm and gratitude. Doesn’t it? 

In this era, it seems that people are SO BUSY on a daily basis. This kid has to be here, this kid has to be there…. there is this appointment, and that deadline, and a big dinner party to plan for then…it seems never-ending for most!  

On top of all the constant activity, we have to keep our homes, cars, pets and selves tidy and clean! This in itself can be a full time job! 

I personally am not a parent, but most people I know are. However, I have had a little guy and his Mom living with me at my house for two years. He just turned six last month. 

It has been amazing having them live with me, but I must admit this has been quite an adjustment. It was just me and my tiny little dog for years on our own. If I put something away or cleaned something, or left something out – whatever I did – it would stay that same way until I changed it. This is not so when there are other people in the house! Especially little ones! Now I get it!  

Spills. Random stuff on the wall. Finger prints on glass. Crumbs on the floor. Shoes left here and there. Constant clean up.  

Sometimes I get frustrated. Really frustrated. 

Recently, God knew I needed a word. 

The other day I was listening to Christian radio in my car, and a message from Proverbs 31 Women’s ministry played. She talked about how one day she counted 14 pairs of shoes strewn throughout the living room and kitchen area where they were not supposed to be. She admitted to her frustration and said she felt like her kids were not grateful and were disrespectful. HOWEVER, she said that God gently reminded her that is was a joy to have those healthy, vibrant children in her home and in her life, and that these frustrations were trivial. The perceived chaos could be viewed as beauty instead, and gratitude is in order!

In fact, all that mess was EVIDENCE OF LIFE.  

This message really set in with me. Sure, without other people (or even animals) in my house I would have less to clean. It would be quiet. Things would stay as I left them. 

But, I can’t imagine my life going back to that now. The noise, the laughter, the messes, the constant movement…. they are all EVIDENCE OF LIFE.  

I guess I am learning to feel blessed by the mess! It means we are alive and well!  

I imagine God, our Father, looks down from time to time at our messes and could be frustrated with us. Thankfully, His mercies are new every morning, and He created us, and He sees our messes as evidence of life and beauty. He is gentle, patient and kind. Though He expects us to continue to learn, grow and improve, He waits on us with great joy and compassion.  

In wisdom He made each one of us, and all creatures. Let us try to have His perspective as we press on through the beautiful mess of life.  

Psalm 104:24 “How many are your works, LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” 

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THANK YOU, LORD

In reading the Scriptures listed under the thanksgiving title in the concordance, I notice that most of them begin with an admonition to be joyful and sing!

Well…….I like that for sure!!!

When I am weary or discouraged and I start singing, or listening to praise music….the joy and thanksgiving in praise wells up within me.

I love God’s creation of animals and natural places in our world. Do you think they thank God for their existence? Ha! That may be taking it a bit too far! However, the “trees of the field clap their hands”  in praise to God, and, if we don’t praise Him, even the rocks will cry out!!! He provides food and water for His animal creations! The seas roar and the stars sing!

These alive plants and animals……all of earth and the heavens know who their Creator is. And God cares so much for His creation He even knows and cares about the little sparrow that falls.

HOW MUCH MORE HE CARES FOR YOU!!!

GIVE HIM THANKS…..FOR HE IS GREAT, AND GREATLY TO BE PRAISED!!!

Psalm 100  “Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands! Serve the LORD with gladness; come before His presence with singing. Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;  We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name, for the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.”

Karen at Cannon Beach ~ Haystack Rock

Karen at Cannon Beach ~ Haystack Rock

Choose Joy

Last week a friend and I got together and I had worship music playing in the background. She was talking and sharing with me all that God had been doing in her life recently. She was in such awe of God and how he had been providing for her and showing up in unexpected ways.

As she was sharing with me I felt God say, “Praise me. Thank me. Worship me.” I stopped her and said, “God wants us to praise him and thank him for his goodness.” I turned the worship music up and little did I know what would happen next.

We were sitting on my couch worshipping God and I felt so at peace. I prayed aloud praising and thanking God for all he has done for us and she did as well. After praying I got hit with laughter. I began laughing uncontrollably. I was laughing so hard I was crying. Shortly after I began laughing, my friend sitting next to me began laughing as well, so hard she was crying. Every time I would touch her, I laughed even harder. The Holy Spirit was in the room and present in both of us!

As I was sitting and laughing God was telling me things. He told me

“I have big plans for both of you.

“Trust me.

“Keep your focus on me and I will show you where to go next.

“I know the desires of your heart.

“Trust me.”

It was beautiful! Although I was laughing I felt such peace and comfort.

Last night this same friend and I were talking and she was sharing with me that she has been experiencing so much joy and she doesn’t want it to ever leave her.

I asked her this question, “What are you doing now that is causing you to experience that joy?”

She answered with, “I am praising God no matter what and thanking him and keeping my focus on him.”

I responded, “Well, joy is a choice, and when you feel like you have to choose joy more than ever at a certain point, do the things you are doing now. Praise God, thank God, and keep your focus on him.”

I say this to you as well. Joy is a choice. You must choose joy every day. No one can do that for you. It is your responsibility. If you are struggling with choosing joy, praise God in the midst of the storm, worship him, put on worship music and sit in his presence. Allow the Holy Spirit to touch you. It’s not scary, it’s comforting, and renewing!

“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

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As Your Day, So Shall Your Strength Be

Some days are easier than others.

Some days you feel great, the sun is shining, everyone seems to smile at you, you get paid, no bills come in the mail, you get your workout in, make a delicious dinner, and everyone does their “homework” and gets to bed. Nothing major happens.

Some days a huge, unexpected wrench is thrown into the mix, and your life story takes a turn. This happens to all of us – it is to be human. We receive a bit of bad news, or we have to deliver difficult news to another. Our schedule gets thrown off, we may exist in a state of shock for a day, or more, depending on the severity.

Some days come with an event or moment that has been planned and anticipated. There may be a huge buildup, and much preparation, sweat and tears put in to that day. These days are planned, but any number of variables may occur once the time comes. This still causes stress and requires poise and strength.

Such is life. We bring some of our “storms” upon ourselves…. and others just come because we live in an imperfect world.

Fortunately for us, God promises, even with the self-imposed circumstances, that He will never leave nor forsake us. Whether we are suffering through the consequences of our own actions, the natural valleys of life, or difficulties other people have imposed upon us, GOD WILL NEVER FAIL US.

Part of His promise is that we will have the strength we need for whatever we must face.

“May your bolts be made of iron and bronze, and may your strength be sufficient for each day you live.” (ISV)

“On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul.” (NASB)

My dear Grandmother was born on January 15, 1919 and Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 just ten years later. These are two of the people I have most admired, and their words of wisdom have always topped my list of words to live by. We all just celebrated Mr. King’s life and contribution to our world this week. Imagine the days he faced, and the strength he needed to be so courageous and change the world. God gave him the strength he needed for each day. What an example of power and light even amidst great struggle.

I’ll conclude with a few words from a sermon titled “Weariness” that my Grandmother Gladys Johnson preached in the late 1980s:

“As your day, so shall your strength be. You may find peace in the Lord even amidst the bad day. He only gives us what we can bear. We can have joyful days regardless of circumstance. Use the Lord’s instruction and resources to have peace, strength and victory.”

Me with my Grandma on her 90th

Me with my Grandma on her 90th

Amen. And so, as you face what each day brings, may you always turn to Him, hold your head high, and draw on the strength that He gives to conquer what comes your way.

Make Each Moment Count

I cannot believe another year is coming to a close! In a few days we will celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and then in a week we will start 2016!

As I reflect on the past year, one thing stands out to me.

Being present.
Here. Now.

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I am trying to learn this skill. It takes some of us more practice than others.

As a society we are all so caught up in our schedules, phones and devices that we tend to only be “half-present” when we are in the actual company of other human beings – thinking about what we have to do next, or what is happening on social media. Studies even show that having a phone, even when it is off, sitting on the table when you are dining with others or having a meeting makes the other person(s) feel as if you are not fully present with them.

I have a friend in stage 4 breast cancer. 3 1/2 years ago they gave her 6 months, and she is still with us even though the cancer has spread to her bones and now into her liver. She continues to defy everything the medical community has said to her. She still jogs, swims, leads a Bible Study group,  does her hobbies, and remains positive. She continues to try new treatments to hold the cancer back as long as possible. She is an enigma to her doctors.

I have visited with her a couple times this year. And here is what I have learned from her about being present and making each moment “count.” I believe this is why she is still thriving despite the cancer cells present throughout her body. She wakes up every morning appreciating the fact that she has been given another day to make a difference in someone’s life. Somehow, without being morbid, she impresses on each person she comes in contact with that we are not promised tomorrow. None of us are. We are in fact here on this earth for a purpose, and only God knows the number of our days, hours, seconds. Our job is simply to live in the moment we are given. To share our faith, joy and love with everyone we meet. To be grateful for each and every second given us. She uplifts every person she meets by being 100% “present” in that moment – her focus is entirely on that person and their interaction.

Apparently many people with terminal illnesses say that they have actually enjoyed life much more than they did prior to being diagnosed. This is a story I’ve heard many times, both from people who have been diagnosed early and are beating cancer, and from people like my dear friend who one day had a pain in her shoulder, and the next learned that she was already in stage 4. She tells me often that cancer is not the enemy, Satan himself is the enemy. She challenges me to remember this as difficulties come up in my life. He wants us to be distracted by ill health, gossip, disappointment – but these things are not our enemy, for we do not fight against flesh and blood.

So, it is up to each of us to gain a new perspective on life. Will we be those who are constantly feeling defeated by life and its trials? Will we be those so caught up in what’s happening next or the notifications on our devices?

Or will we be those, like my friend who continues to defy all human logic knowing God can heal her completely if He chooses to do so, and live a life of gratitude and triumph in every moment we have? Will we be those who fully engage with the people in our presence?

So, as you enjoy Christmas, the last week of 2015, and bounce your way into the New Year – remember to be present. Savor each moment with your loved ones. Make sure each of them feels that you are 100% “there” with them. This means more than all the presents, goodies and smiley photo posts you can make. For we truly do not know what day will be our last. All we have is now.

Rejoice and be glad IN THIS MOMENT and treasure it! Celebrate this life God has given you, and Jesus who died to give you eternal life as well. Share life, joy and love with all you meet!

Here’s to 2016!

‘Tis the Season to be…

Christmas is a season of many things.

Busyness, people are running in and out of stores trying to find gifts and going to holiday party after holiday party (those are fun don’t get me wrong).

Stress, they don’t have everything ready for Christmas. Presents aren’t wrapped and it is only a week and a half away. Or they have deadlines that need to be met before the year is over.

Excitement, they are traveling or seeing loved ones.

Holiday cheer, decorations are up and lights are on the tree.

One word I see often during this time of year is JOY. A 5 year old girl asked me what J-O-Y spelled because she was seeing it written everywhere. It made me stop and think about this word and the meaning of it.

Joy is the “feeling of great happiness and delight.” There are songs sung during this season with the lines “ ‘tis the season to be jolly…” and “Joy to the world the Lord has come!”

Where does this jolly and this joy come from?

It comes from giving to others out of selflessness. It comes from loving each other not because we have to but because we want to. First and foremost it comes from God.

God gave us his son as a baby on this earth. He brought JOY and HOPE into this lost, busy, chaotic, selfish world. Because God loves us so much he was separated from his son and gave him to us as a gift.

What are you going to do with that gift?

Are you going to keep it for yourself?

Sure you can have Jesus, but don’t keep him all to yourself. God intended for us to share the gift that we have been given.

Isn’t it more enjoyable to share a gift you have been given with a friend or two or more? Well that is exactly how it is with the love of Jesus. Share it! Give it to everyone!

In all the chaos, let’s not lose sight of the true gift of Christmas and the reason we celebrate. Don’t get lost in the presents and the wrapping paper. Enjoy the love and the joy and the hope that is all around you even if it’s hard to see at times. Stop and look for it, because it is there. Look for the signs that say JOY. They are good reminders how Christmas is supposed to be. God is all around you no matter where you go. And this is a gift that keeps on giving, not just during the holiday season!

 

You are loved.

Merry Christmas!

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.'”                                                                                  Luke 2:10-11

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”        John 3:16-17

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3 Days, No Food

Last week my church did a 3 day fast and I decided to join them. I decided to join them by only drinking water for 3 days. Crazy, huh? This is something I had never done before but always thought about doing. The pastor talked about doing water only fast and it intrigued me so I thought, “Let’s do this God!”

The night before the fast I spent with Jesus worshipping, praying, and preparing my heart and mind for what I was about to do.

I have to tell you the ONLY way I was able to make it through all 3 days with only drinking water was JESUS! He really was and is my strength. I would not have been able to do it without him! I am still in awe of how I made it through 3 days without food or juice and I had a lot of energy to make it through each day.

The first afternoon was the hardest. I got home from working an 8 hour day feeling tired and low on energy, but I know what I needed…time with Jesus. I took a little nap and then the time I would spend preparing dinner I spent with Jesus, journaling, listening to worship music. It really filled me up! I went to bed and woke up the next morning feeling great! I had energy and was excited for what God was going to teach me in that day!

The energy only increased the more time I spent with Jesus. It’s a beautiful thing!

I made it through all 3 days and was reminded how much God loves me, cares for me, wants what’s best for me, and is taking care of the details in my life even when I can’t see them. He has blessed me and will continue to bless me because he loves me and I am doing my best to listen and obey him. I am not perfect and there are many times I fail at obedience, but when we do obey God, he will reward us and bless us beyond our imagination.

I came out of the fast on a complete high of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I was full of an overwhelming and overflowing amount of joy and more in love with Jesus!

If you have ever thought about doing a fast or even if you haven’t, I would highly recommend it! You don’t have to do a water only fast. You can fast from social media, something that you enjoy like chocolate, or coffee. Whenever you want those things say a prayer to God instead. Seek his face and ask him for strength. He will give it to you. You will not be disappointed during or after fasting. It is a rewarding experience.

God loves you and all he wants is time with us. Take away some of the distractions in your life and spend time with him.

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My first meal after 3 days of fasting! I am thankful for food!

One-Liners and Fun!

(My Grandma thought she’d type out some “one-liners” to share with me on March 3, 2006. I wanted to share them with you today! She still uplifts me with her words, and she’s been gone from this earth for years! The photos are of her in my dorm room in college being her awesome, fun self, and of me putting my hair on her head for a laugh on her 90th birthday! She was SO FUN! I love you Grandma! Thank you for a heritage of faith, joy, humor and love! – Kristin)

Basketball Grandma 1996

Basketball Grandma 1996

GMA

Don’t let your worries get the best of you; remember, Moses started out as a basket case.

Many folks want to serve God, but only as advisors.

It is easier to preach ten sermons than it is to live one.

The good Lord didn’t create anything without a purpose, but mosquitoes come close.

People are funny; they want the front of the bus, the middle of the road, and the back of the church.

Opportunity may knock once, but temptation bangs on your front door forever.

Quit griping about your church; if it was perfect, you wouldn’t belong.

God Himself does not propose to judge a man until he is dead. So, why should you?

Some minds are like concrete. Thoroughly mixed up and permanently set.

Peace starts with a smile.

I don’t know why some people change churches; what difference does it make which one you stay home from?

We were called to be witnesses, not lawyers or judges.

Be ye fishers of men. You catch them – He’ll clean them.

Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.

Don’t put a question mark where God put a period.

Forbidden fruits create many jams.

God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.

God grades on the cross, not the curve.

God loves everyone, but probably prefers “fruits of the spirit” over “religious nuts!”

God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.

He who angers you, controls you!

If God is your Co-pilot, SWAP SEATS!

You can tell how big a person is by what it takes to discourage him.

The best mathematical equation I have ever seen:
1 cross + 3 nails = 4 given

(And at the very end of this email she wrote……)

I may not be perfect in this lifetime, nor do I expect to be, but that does not stop me from trying!

 

When’s the Last Time You Twirled?

I took a day off yesterday to go to the beach. I haven’t had a real beach day for close to 5 years and my heart has been crying for one, but it’s just not fun to go alone. Every year I talk about it, and every summer ends with the disappointment that I didn’t make it to the beach. Again.

So, when the opportunity arose, I jumped. My schedule was rearranged and my lunch was packed.

Emotions flooded my mind as we walked through the tunnel under Pacific Coast Highway and reached the sand. The beautiful, wonderful, warm soft sand. I brought along the usual “things to do” for a beach day: magazines, book, journal, phone and even some work, along with my swim fins and a towel.

And then my niece and I decided to walk down the beach to look for life in the tide pools.

As we were hopping from rock to rock, she suddenly put her sandals down and started dancing. And singing. And leaping, and twirling. On what little patch of sand there was between the outcropping of rocks, my little joyful Jenna saw her opportunity and she couldn’t contain it. So she danced.

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Photo by Tami Romani

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Photo by Tami Romani

I moved closer to catch a better glimpse of her joy… and she was TWIRLING!

Photo @TamiRomani

Photo by Tami Romani

I’m ashamed to admit I can’t remember the last time I danced, or twirled like that. Or even hummed a tune without there being some professional version of it playing in the background.

Just me sending my voice into the atmosphere? Nope. Not in years. Just me dancing and twirling for the joy of it? Nope again.

As I watched her joyful outburst, I was saddened that I wasn’t more like her. I’ve let the cares of my world and my pursuit of all the good things get in the way of pure joy. But the thing is, being surrounded by that kind of joy is contagious.

I smiled as I thought of all the ways I could prompt myself to twirl and dance. How I could learn to push aside that pursuit now and then and just BE. How I could enjoy life, instead of hurrying through it.

Twirling is not so much an act, as it is an attitude. Especially for grownups like me.

It occurs to me I don’t need to be spinning in the grocery store, arms flailing, to be able to see the beauty of a young mom and her laughing baby. I don’t need to sit on the beach watching the fun. I can join in. I can choose to twirl.

The shore breaking waves were not right for body surfing, so I had the thought to stay in my chair on the sand, but when my nephew Jack coaxed me into jumping in the waves by saying, “C’mon! It’s just not fun without you!” it was time to twirl. We laughed so much, Jack said his new nickname for me was going to be “Mrs. Fun Time.” Really. I’m gonna have to hang out with kids more often.

Mrs. Fun Time. It’s got a lovely ring to it. And I guarantee you, living up to that name involves more twirling.

When’s the last time you twirled?

“Let them praise his name with dancing
    and make music to him with timbrel and harp.”

Psalm 149:3  

God is in Control

I don’t know what I would do without God in my life. Life is tough and throws curve balls at us, but life would be much harder if God wasn’t in it.

 

Without God, I would not be following my passions and having him pave the way.

Without God, I would not be the joyful person I am today!

Without God, I would be worrying about the day to day.

Without God, I would be stressed about my future.

 

I can think of many times I planned something and it didn’t end up happening. I wanted to get my EMT and move to Tahoe to be ski patrol. I wanted to go grad school to get my doctorate in Physical Therapy. I have planned to do many things that have not worked out, but God ends up making them even better. Instead of moving to Tahoe, I lived in San Diego and met amazing, life-long friends. Instead of going to grad school, I traveled to 11 different countries.

God has better plans for us then we have for ourselves, we just have to give him complete control of our lives and be willing to say YES to what he wants us to do.

Life without God is hard. Life with God is so much easier. I don’t know where or who I would be today without Jesus. I would probably be super stressed, not know where to go in life, and I wouldn’t be living a life of abundance.

Giving God control and trusting him is something we must do daily, hourly, every second. We have to choose Jesus over wanting to have control of our lives. If you think about it, there is not much you can control so why not have someone who is greater than anything in all the earth be in control? Let go and let God take over.

 

God knows what he is doing…Do you trust him enough to give him complete control of your life?

 

“The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8:6

 

“TRUST in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

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(This picture reminds me of joy and celebration in living a life with Jesus. This was taken after winning a volleyball game on the beach in Nicaragua.)