Change Of Plans by Kenika

As a little girl I dreamed of learning to play an instrument.  I had a one-year stint in the orchestra playing the violin, but soon discovered it really wasn’t for me.  As 5th grade year came to a close, the guidance counselor asked us to start thinking about what we wanted to do once we got into middle school. Whether band, orchestra, sports, or other clubs and activities.  I had an interest in volleyball, softball and band.  They had us try out different instruments to see what best suited us, but I didn’t have to look for very long, the flute was a clear choice for me. Shiny, mellifluous, and the ultimate girl instrument, I didn’t have any doubts that this was the winner!

I practically skipped home from school that day as I hurried to tell my parents the news.  I had to wait all summer until the start of the next school year to begin learning my passion.  On the first day of band class, many of us didn’t have our instruments yet, but that didn’t stop the director from placing us in our assigned areas.  We were giddy with excitement as we met our new section mates and potential friends.  Ready to start this new adventure, my mother went out and purchased my instrument.  When I walked into the house, I saw a black box with a handle waiting for me on the dining room table. Although I briefly thought to myself that it was little bit too big to be a flute, that didn’t stop me from unhinging the handles and opening the box with a big, juicy smile on my face.

Pulling back the top lid, I yelled, “Mom!”  She came rushing into the dining room and responded with an innocent, almost childlike, “What?”  I began to explain to her that what she had purchased was in fact a clarinet and not the silver, beauty of an instrument known as the flute.  She paused for a moment, looked at my dumbfounded facial expression, and then inspected the box.  These next few words will never be forgotten to me, as they were so dramatic in the moment. She looks up from the instrument and says in a sarcastic tone, “So…you’ll play the clarinet”.  Really? My mother’s response to my well planned out, much anticipated dream was to, essentially, get a new one.

Little did I know that this would be the blueprint for the rest of my life.   Proverbs 19:21 (NIV), “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”  So many times I’ve made plans or mapped out dreams, but ultimately it was God’s plan that prevailed and I had to be open to making that shift. I’ve had my heart completely set on something, but then God came along with a, “So…you’ll do this instead.”  That may sound too deep based on my little clarinet story but hopefully it provokes thought.  I have since decided to never get so set on one idea that I can’t entertain the notion of something else, especially if it has the potential to be greater.  I went on to play the clarinet for seven years throughout middle and high school. During that time I had a high chair placement, participated in many competitions, and met some incredible friends that are still in my life today.

The Uncertainty by Sonya

Uncertainty is something our family is going through right now. My husband’s job is having a 40% cut in his district and nearly half of the people will be losing their jobs.   These cuts are happening right before Christmas and we don’t have any certain facts that he will keep his job. As we look at our situation, we are a single income family and my husband feels the pressure to be the breadwinner. There are a lot of uncertainties as to what the future may hold.  On the other hand, you look at the internal factors of our faith, family, and support we have. God is certain and HE will take care of us and provide our needs. Why should we doubt Him when we are in a time of uncertainty? It is so easy to focus on the external factors that point us away from Christ and worry about something that won’t do any good or change our circumstances.  “Give all your worries…. to God, for He cares about you,” 1 Peter 5:7. We as a family have chosen to look at the internal factor, which is our faith and God giving us the comfort and peace that everything is going to be all right. Making that choice to focus on our faith in God and understanding who HE is, gives us comfort and peace.  No matter the outcome, we know for certain that our God is going to take care of us and when one door closes, He will open another one.

Our uncertainty has come to an end as we just found out, after writing the first part of this article, that God did answer our prayers and my husband did keep his job.  We praise God that He is in control and holds the big plan and picture in our lives. Standing firm on what is true and certain allows us to cast our cares on Him knowing He will work it out for the good. Our family is committed to following Christ.  Each day we trust Him to go before us and work things out for our good.  Today He did that for our family and He can do it for you!  Life is full of uncertainties and can cause us to worry or try to do things on our own to control the situation. God is a God of certainty and you can’t let life steer you away from HIM when it gets uncertain. Praise Him in the uncertainty and draw closer as He shows you the path of your life. He won’t lead you astray and will lead you to the path of certainty. Read Psalms when you wake up in the morning to help you through the uncertainty: “Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning, for in You I put my trust.  Teach me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul…Teach me to do your will, for You are my God. Let your good spirit lead me on level path.”  Psalm 143:8,10

The Life You Deserve by Kenika

Movies speak to me in a truly revelatory way.  Try not to judge me too much until you understand what I mean.  I recently saw a movie, which was somewhat of a commentary on teenage life with all the problems and drama that come with it.  There was a great line that is still challenging me today in a scene where this young teenager had seen so many people in his life allow the wrong influences to sway them, and made choices to be in terrible situations.  Searching for a better way he asks his father, “Why can’t we save people?”, to which his father replies, “Because we (all) accept the love we think we deserve.”  That line rocked me to my core!  How true is this in your life? There is an old saying that you teach people how to treat you, and it is so true.  We can pretend that we had nothing to do with it and take the victim approach of saying, “How did I get here?” or “Why did this happen to me?” or if you’re bold, “God, why did you allow this to happen to me?”, but the truth of the matter is we accepted it even in the smallest way.  Whether it’s a bad relationship where you saw all of the red flags, but you ignored them. Or if it was the friendship with a person who always took without giving, and you let them use you.  How about a dead end job that was taking you nowhere fast, but you couldn’t see anything else for yourself so you stayed.  Whatever it may be we didn’t have the understanding that we deserved more or better.

After I heard that line, I began to look over different relationships, friendships, associates, and acquaintances to evaluate how they reflected what I think I deserve. For some of those persons I shuddered at the idea that I felt I deserved so little. That I would allow myself to give so much, but be completely comfortable receiving so little in return.  Thank God that I can look at them in retrospect and majority of my relationships in present tense, do not fall under that category.  However, it could have been a completely different story if I had decided to stay in a place of who or what I thought I deserved.

This is not to say that we should have an overinflated idea of who we are or what we deserve, but it is to say that we need to know the value we possess. Whether as a woman, a man, a believer, or a person in general, we need to know that we are valuable.  We are so precious in the sight of our heavenly Father, and others need to appreciate that value as well.  Therefore, as we are at the top of another year, it is a great opportunity to make a determination to live the life that we deserve.  Let 2013 be the year that you obtain the career, the relationship, the home, the friendship, the new vehicle, and/or your dreams that you truly deserve. Don’t waste time with anyone or anything that does not sincerely represent God’s best for your life. This time around, choose to leave the deception and your previous perception behind. This time, live the life and accept the love you really deserve.

Heart Guarding by Bombi

One of my favorite things to do is read a Psalm and a Proverb a day. The book of Proverbs is like a daily devotional all in itself with its 31 chapters, making it perfect to reread it each month. There is so much wisdom in this book. One passage that struck me recently reads: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

I must be honest I have not always heeded this wise word. When I have not, trouble somehow was right around the corner. That’s why I need to get Proverbs inside of my head, heart and spirit. This book, although sometimes poetic, and mostly practical, is always wise. So recently I ran across another familiar passage in the Bible, but this time in Philippians. The topic was anxiousness:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;” – Philippians 4:6

The last time I read it, something new stuck out to me in the verse that follows: “7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

When I read this passage, I felt like I struck gold. Many times I’ve pondered the whole “guarding of my heart” thing, and I knew it was important. I knew it from experience and by the things that I’ve suffered in the past from disobedience. This verse however sheds new light on heart guarding. It tells me that when I am communicating with God through prayer, praise, and worship, that it’s God’s peace that will guard both my heart and my mind.  He does this through Jesus. Ahhhh I love it! So the idea of heart guarding is not just me trying to conjure up some type of a plan. This heart protection is really God’s plan. It’s my communion with God that comes in and does the job for me. It’s His own peace that works it out for me. My goodness, I hope I NEVER forget this!

So here’s my paraphrase, “Don’t trip”. When you are tempted to worry, instead talk to God, praise and worship Him. Talk to Him about it, and ask Him for help. His peace (it’s supernatural, your mind can’t understand, define it or contain it), that very peace itself will guard not only your heart, but also your mind. Communion with God is heart and mind protection insurance. The kind of insurance I am assured to have through Christ. The kind one cannot afford to go without. It’s yours as well for the taking. So come on honey and take it!