This Is 40 by Bombi

Recently I celebrated a life milestone, I turned 40. From the moment I turned 39 I began to spend most every day in reflection of my life. I was taking inventory of my life and thinking on all of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. When I was younger, there were so many things I thought I knew about people, faith, or just life in general. I came to find that I knew so little, I’m still learning. What struck me was how sure I was about everything when I first became an adult. I was sure that I would be safe at all times in all situations. I was sure of who my friends were and would always be. I was sure that my family would all stay the same people. I was sure about so much. Little did I know how unsure life would be. How many funerals I’d attend, how many friends I’d never see again. There were years that I was sure I would never really laugh or smile again. Times in life that I thought that I would never find true love. So many ups and downs, so, so many of them.

I guess I’m at the so called “mid-point” or “middle” in life. If there’s anything I can say for sure it’s this, nearly everything and everyone changes. Jobs will come and go. Your pant size will fluctuate. Fashion, music, and celebrities will change throughout the times. Gas prices will fluctuate and more than likely go up. Presidents and political agendas will come and go. Homes and the place you call home will more than likely change.  Children will grow up and change, parents will too. Your life perspectives will change. The ones you considered friends and circles of friends will come and go as well. Everything and everyone will more than likely change in one way shape or form. Everyone except for one, Jesus. The Bible says in Deuteronomy 31:6 that, “he will never leave you nor forsake you.” There are so many promises that we have in Jesus and what’s awesome is that they will and do come to pass. I am so blessed to have Him in my life, I couldn’t imagine a moment without Him. He’ll never betray me, gossip about me, trick me, leave me, He’ll never do any of that. He’ll never stop being my friend. All He does and will keep on doing is being who He is. I praise Him forever for that. I pray that I can live out the second half of my life through Him in a greater way than I have up to this point. Maybe one day, when I’m fully grown, I can be more like Him.

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 (KJV)

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First Things First by Trish

It’s that time of year where most people are in the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. The focus has shifted to doing whatever necessary to making the season so perfect. Many are evaluating what was accomplished (or not accomplished) during the past year while simultaneously making new goals for the new year.

It’s so important for us to discern which season of life we’re in and not be disappointed if it’s not the season you’d like it to be. Different seasons demand different or specific seeds to be sown and each brings about its own harvest. If we’re not careful we’ll begrudgingly “endure” the season, instead of thriving in whatever state we’re in.

In whatever season or state, we must keep our priorities in check. Is our relationship with God thriving? Is our home life peaceful and growing in love? Are we being good stewards of the finances God has trusted us with? Just those three things alone can cause a train wreck if we’re not prioritizing correctly. I myself will lift both hands in the air for not managing any one of those three things well on multiple occasions.  Yet we still have the responsibility to come back to our core values and honor what we know to be priority.

Maybe it means setting a boundary in gift giving so that you’re not in debt financially. Perhaps it looks like going to bed earlier so you have time for yourself in the morning before the kids wake up, or even saying “no” to the church potluck so you’re not overwhelmed in the kitchen to present the perfect dish, when you could be spending time with your family.

I’m learning that when I keep first things first, I feel more at peace.  Then when life throws a curveball I can recover faster and push through if there is strength in the areas I’ve nurtured all along, be it with my walk with God or family.

My priorities may not look like yours and that’s okay. Determine what’s important to you and don’t get distracted by anything not helping you grow, learn, advance and become who you were meant to be all along. Remember, first things first, everything else can wait.

Reckless Love by Kenika

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you own a radio, television, computer or even just a phone, you have probably heard the 2018 GMA Dove Award winning “Song of the Year” “Reckless Love” by Cory Asbury.  It’s a Sunday morning staple all around the country and undeniably the world.  We belt out, at the top of our lungs, with no shame, the lyrics that speak to how God will stop at nothing to pursue us with His love.  It’s “overwhelming, never-ending, and reckless,” just to name a few words from the lyrics.  It breaks down every barrier and cuts through every obstacle just to pursue closeness with us.  We all get that tingly feeling in our hearts and spirits when we take a moment to let that sink in, and it touches a lot of us in our relationships with Jesus.  The thought that no matter what I do, or what attempts to be done to me, He’ll leave the “99” just to come after one, and that one is me.

The idea of the reckless love of God is very real to me, but through a conversation with a co-worker I came to understand it on an even deeper level.  She was telling me of her background and growing up in a different religion than Christianity. Throughout her lifetime she was very hurt by this organization and, as an adult, had sworn off all religion.  She was determined to never be involved with any god.  Then she met two friends.  One of them gently, and nicely invited her to church regularly during various activities they did together.  Then, another friend came in with a little stronger approach, letting her know that she needed to develop a relationship with God.  This went on for over a year when she finally gave in and visited a church service.  As the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was being preached, she couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed, to the point that tears were running down her face.  She realized Jesus had died for her sins, and contrary to what the other religion taught her, she could be close to and have a relationship with God as a result. Not through anything she had done or could do, but through what had already been done on the cross.  She made a decision to receive Christ as her Savior that same day and never looked back.

In the other religion she was a part of, everything was works based. God’s love and your connection to His people was predicated on what you do.  However the true Gospel turns all of that on its head in that, “But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 CSB) Before we could do anything right or wrong, He died for our sins.  Which means there is no amount of work we can do to earn God’s love.  He gave us His Son, as the sacrificial Lamb, because of His love.  Her story encouraged me in that it demonstrates how patient and loving God is in His pursuit of us. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, He stops at nothing with His reckless love. As we approach Christmas, we are reminded of the birth of Jesus.  Take a moment to thank our Father for allowing Jesus to be born, that He might die, in order to demonstrate God’s overwhelming, never-ending love for me and you.

 

photocredit: dreamstime

A Love That Conquers All by Trish

 

This month will mark two years since my mother’s transition to heaven. Some days it feels like it was just yesterday but most days it feels like it was an eternity ago. I still have vivid memories of her final days and the interactions, words exchanged and precious moments shared.

It was an urge or unction to be with her when she celebrated her birthday on November 14thof 2016 and I arrived at the University of Iowa hospital the day prior. She was pretty weak and groggy when I arrived and although her body was exhausted, she perked up when she saw me walk in her room. As we celebrated her birthday in the hospital, two of her grandsons sang to her “Happy Birthday” and she mustered up strength to smile and give hugs. I didn’t know that life would hit me hard two days following when a team of doctors and specialists surrounded her bed and said there was nothing more to be done. I don’t know if it was denial or ignorance, but I then asked what my options were for her home health care, or a facility.  It took them saying it twice as they were carefully trying to tell me she wouldn’t be leaving the hospital and we only had days left. My mom looked at me and said, “I’m going to die, aren’t I?” I nodded my head and then buried it in her pillow next to her face as she said, “At least I was able to go to your wedding.” I cried using the pillow to muffle the noise but when I lifted my head up, a supernatural strength and grace empowered me for what would be her last seven days. When I asked what her goal was for her remaining days, she said, “I want to be here for Jeremiah’s (my nephew) birthday,” which was November 20thand on November 21stshe took her last natural breath.

 

The days following November 21, 2016 has had its share of ups and downs. I found myself as a new bride, stepmom and now a daughter missing the only person who has known me since my life began. My mom was a single parent and so I felt this immense void when the one person who provided andprotected was gone. When days were tough, she was there, when days were good, she was there. No matter what, she was always there and now, well, she was gone. I had to adjust to a new normal.

Although I missed her dearly most of what I was dealing with came from external sources. I was having to balance many things at one time.  There were days I felt as though my back was against a wall with so much pressure pinning me there. I wasn’t depressed or emotionally weak, I was grieving.

Yet in the midst of all of that I would feel a strength on the inside of me pushing me to do what was necessary day by day. It was that same type of strength I felt come in the hospital room the day the doctors delivered their report.

You see it’s a strength that doesn’t make sense. It’s a strength that surpasses the natural and enables you to do what is uncommon.  Though I may have felt weak, God’s strength was being perfected in me as I leaned on Him.

My mom was not a perfect person she had flaws and frailties just like each one of us. Yet, she had this incredible and undeniable faith that even astounded the doctors as she transitioned. That faith, that strength and that hope can only be found in Christ and she shared that gift with us from the time we were born and testified of it until her last day on earth. In her final days, I saw love perfected in her. I saw love conquer so much of what she struggled with even in her physical being. I saw love surround her with such a peace that it filled the atmosphere and drove away all fear.

Two years later and I miss her just as much. The memories are so dear and I long for the day when I get to see her again. But until then I lean on the love that carries me and will see me (and you) through.

This love that encompasses such a strength is only found in the person of Jesus Christ. He is not a character we read about to children during bedtime story hour. This person, holy person of Jesus Christ came to redeem us and reunite our heart to the Father. The immense love He has for us will strengthen us in our time of weakness, give us hope when there is none to be found and conquer every battle we face. This love will chase us down when we want to run and hide. This love will break every barrier around our heart and not allow the pain we experience to harden it.  This love will bring healing to the very core of what you thought would destroy you. This love will hold you when you’re broken and will restore what you thought was lost forever.

You may feel pain and experience loss or hurt but lean on the love that is waiting for you found in Jesus. This love will conquer all.

As I close out this article I’m reminded of the lyrics to “Reckless Love.”  Read the lyrics or listen to this version of the song and be reminded of a love that conquers all and allows you to move forward in life  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjIsfyBzywg

 

Reckless Love -Songwriters: Caleb Culver / Cory Asbury / Ran Jackson

Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me
You have been so, so good to me
Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me
You have been so, so kind to me

Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah

When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so good to me
When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me
You have been so, so kind to me

And oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
And I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah

There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me

Photo credit: Freepik