Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Good Lesson from a Cold

Hi, everyone! Happy December 28th to you, and a big Happy Anniversary to two of my best friends in the world: EE and JE. Love you guys!! :)

The Christmas this year was absolutely amazing. I got to spend my first holiday with the Mighty Man's family, and we had such a blast. For a girl who is used to Christmas-hopping to about four different places every 12/25, it was a big dose of amazing to stay in one place with one family and just hang out for a day. That was incredible! (Memo to my family: I love you guys, and this doesn't take away from the crazy amazingness of our typical Christmas routine.) The biggest blessing, though, was actually realizing that the Lord has surrounded me with such a godly family on both sides. MM's family is just filled with the love of Christ from top to bottom, and my family is building a godly heritage that has been up and down depending on generations. I'm so proud of them, especially my Momsy, PPB and sis/bro-in-law. It takes work to break chains and barriers and to respond when the Holy Spirit calls you to faith. And they have answered. I loev it, and I'm super thankful for what my Father is doing. Thank You, Lord.

Today is a little challenging. Okay, the last two days have been super challenging. I'm sick. And it's no fun at all. It's been a while since I've been too sick to run, and this is the first time in a very long time that I will take my second consecutive day off from the daily discipline of pounding the pavement. It's hard!!! My mind is so used to it that when I am sidelined, it takes a big amount of mental energy to realize that IT'S OKAY not to run once in a while. (Runners out there, you will most likely understand this.)

But, the good thing is that when times like this come up, I get to re-examine why I do love to run. Isn't it true that when something you take for granted is taken away, you realize what it means to you?

For me, running is a wonderful outlet for so many reasons. One, it challenges me. Running isn't easy, so it's a great way to challenge myself and build mental/inner strength. Two, it's a great way to maintain health and fitness. (Duh.) Three, it's a WONDERFUL way to get away from all distractions and to enjoy solitude. And this leads me to four: It's a fantastic time to communicate with the Lord. He meets me in so many ways out on the road. I've blogged about it many times in the past, but I often forget just how many different ways this can be an experience of worship. It gives me a chance to pray and to listen. If I put on music, it gives me a chance to praise. If I listen to a sermon, it provides time for teaching. And, regardless, it gives me the chance to use the physical gifts and abilities that He has given me. Endurance isn't something everyone is passionate about, so I know it's a gift from Him that I enjoy it so much and can take to it so naturally.

So, today, as I sit here guzzling down my umpteenth cup of hot tea, I want to celebrate the art of running and thank my Father for such a good gift. May I hold it loosely and always allow it to be His, and may He restore it in His time. (It's just a cold, so I don't doubt it will be soon. It just feels like it when I am in the midst of it. haha!)

You know, I want to encourage you all with a little spiritual spin on this and broaden it up to life in general. God gives us all gifts, and when we experience them daily, we can really begin to take them for granted--even to dislike them at times. When I'm tired or lazy, I totally don't like running. I fully admit it. But that's because I'm focusing on the difficult parts of it instead of the good things that provide it's base. I focus on the fact that it's hard work and that I'd rather stay in a warm, cozy bed, when I could focus on the awesome fact that I have two legs that can carry me for miles and an opportunity to spend some quality time with my Lord. Super cool.

This really applies to relationships in life. Maintaining relationships is hard work. Many relationships are constant, and when we are in them continually, we can stop seeing them as blessings, taking them completely for granted. Why did we start this relationship to begin with? Wouldn't it be easier just to not participate in it? Can't I just take a break from it altogether? Can't I just leave?

When these times come, we need to refocus. We can choose to recenter on the good aspects of these dynamics instead of the challenges. When can realize that there are so many wonderful things about these relationships and see that the challenges are more than worth it. Then, when we do this, our perspective will shift and we'll get a renewed passion to love and serve these others with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Today, let's all celebrate the gifts that we are taking for granted. Running, working, serving, relating, whatever! Let's examine the good gifts we've been given and reflect on why they are GOOD. That way, when the challenges come up against them, we'll realize that they are truly worth every amount of effort.

Love and hugs to you all! And Happy New Year!
- Jill

Monday, December 12, 2011

Weighing in on Tebow Time

I can't not blog about this. It's burning a hole in my heart. After yesterday, I can't not say something.


I'm totally serious. haha! I've been a Christian sports journalist for almost 10 years now, and I've seen so many great stories in that time. God is certainly manifesting Himself through Tim right now and leading a LOT of people to ask questions about faith. And the character of Tim himself is proving to be one of great division and opinion as well.

But let me assure you all. This is all good. Romans 8:28 says that in all things God is working for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. From all we can tell, Tim Tebow is a child of God. It would be seriously difficult for someone who isn't sold on his faith to make such a stand in the face of tremendous opposition. Obviously, I don't know his heart, but I can observe just like the rest of you.

All I want to do is give him a big hug and tell him to keep it up. That God is with him. That he can do it. That he's not alone. That the body of Christ is standing with him. That we're in his corner.

He's taking a beating right now, I assure you. Yes, things are good on the field as the Broncos keep winning, but there is tremendous pressure mounting. I'm personally praying that the Lord protects him from the pressure. From what he says in the media, he certainly seems to "get it," that it's not about performance. That God loves him regardless of fumbles, touchdowns and pass completions. I pray that takes root in his heart like never before.

I read an article on Relevant Magazine's website this morning, and it made a great point. This isn't just about Tim Tebow, but about the body of Christ together. While Tim is the one who is setting the example, we are the ones who are going to be answering the questions of those who observe him and start asking. Are we ready for those conversations? When Tim thanks Christ in the post-game interviews, are we prepared to talk with our buddies who are sick of hearing it? Are we prepared to talk to others who question the point of sports and faith in general? We need to be. Because regardless of what happens on the field, we are in this together. Tim's setting the example and doing his part to raise awareness. We have to be willing to do our part to follow up with those around us.

1 Peter 3:15 says that we always need to be prepared to answer questions about our faith. I'm going to copy it below as an encouragement to all of us today to get ready. I don't care what you think about Tim Tebow. (Personally, I love the kid and am finding myself cheering for the Broncos more than the Chiefs on the weekends.) But I do care about what you say when others ask you questions about why he's saying what he does.

Let's remember that we're in this together. Pray for Tim and prepare your minds. Seek the Lord and get ready to talk about what's going on. But, as Peter this with gentleness and respect.

Love and hugs, y'all! Verse is below!
- Jill

1 Peter 3:15-16
"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Truth and Cliche

Hey, y'all! (I say in my best Paula Deen voice.) Merry Christmas!! Don't you just love this time of year? It's funny. Every year I start missing Christmas even before it's here--especially the music. haha! I could listen to Christmas music all year and never get tired of it. Sometimes I set my Pandora station to Bing Crosby in July and just enjoy it. :)

Another great thing about Christmas? Jesus. Sad that it's gotten to the point of saying that He's just "another" aspect of Christmas. Isn't He Christmas itself? Not if you ask the media. The point of Christmas to our world stops with family, fireplaces and more cookie recipes than you can shake a stick at. (To a habitual baker, though, that's definitely a perk.) :)

I read a devotion today about familiar Scripture verses and how we tend to dismiss them. Ones like John 3:16, Philippians 4:13, Proverbs 3:5-6, etc. We hear them so much that they become cliche. But the whole reason they're so familiar is because they are powerful and true!! John 3:16 says that God sent His Son to bring anyone who believes in Him eternal life. Wow! That's true and powerful!

Philippians 4:13 says that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. WOW! What a promise! We are empowered by the Savior of the world to do whatever He sets before us. No excuse of "I can't" in His economy. That's awesome!!

Proverbs 3:5-6 says that we are to trust in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding. If we look to Him in all things, He will make our paths straight. LOVE it! What kind of peace that can bring if we take the time to let that sink in!

It's so funny how we dismiss cliches. Why? More often than not, they're cliche for a reason: because there is truth in them! You know what? The grass does always seem greener on the other side of the fence. You really can't make a horse drink even if you lead him to water. And, to my knowledge, there is no such thing as a tree that grows money.

Cliches have gotten a bad rap. Especially when they are snippits of the Word of God. Those, most certainly, have no place being skimmed, skipped or allowed to become stale. Even if we've read them a thousand times and heard them even more, they are still part of the LIVING and ACTIVE Bible. One that, according to 2 Timothy 3:16, is entirely God-breathed and useful. Every word.

Yes, it's Christmas again. And, yes, you might hear the Christmas story again whether you read it or just hear it from Linus as you watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. Either way, don't let it go in one ear and out the other (haha! True cliche!!). Let it sink in and serve the purpose that it was indended to serve. Let it remind you that you have a God who loves you enough to become flesh, and live to die for you. Wow. Now, that's true and powerful.

Big hugs!
- Jill

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanks Thanks Thanks!

I can't believe it! I never win anything! But I totally just got a call from a local spa saying that I'd won their giveaway for a free one-hour massage. Hallelujah!! Praise God! haha! He must know that I need stress management. :) Um, yes. Scripture does tell us that He knows what we need before we ask. I'm super blessed by that. :)

What a great week it's been! Thanksgiving was awesome. I got to see my wonderful family and be with my Mighty Man the whole time. And, of course, turkey leftovers are my favorite. My tummy just growled thinking about them. . . sitting there in my freezer. . . waiting to be devoured with dallops of mustard. . . Oh, joy. :) :)

Can you tell that phone call just made my day? I'm in such a great mood!

So many good things have happened lately, too. I had the blessing of a great phone interview with Les Norman of 810 Sports Radio and host of "Breakin' the Norm" this morning. (Thanks, Les!!) It was awesome! It's always a blessing to talk to guys who are out in the world, but who have a faith in Christ. He's got a tough spot as a Christian in secular sports radio. But I have no doubt that God is using him to make a difference there. If you ever get a chance to tune it, do it!

What's funny is that this whole idea of thankfulness has been recurring in my life and in my times with the Lord lately. It's like He's trying to tell me something. haha! :)

I don't know about you all, but I have a tendency to dwell on negatives a little too much. If I have a great day but one little thing sours it, I will ruminate on that one thing instead of seeing the bigger, greater picture. It's a bad habit, and a total hindrance to my ability to walk in the joy of the Lord.

One of our FCA staff girls out in Maine wrote a great devotion this week about that. She talked about the ability we have to rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS even if for no other reason than that we are continually covered by His grace.

Shouldn't that be enough for us? It most definitely is, we just don't choose to see it that way. We (and by "we" I mean "I") tend to expect every day to be completley problem-free, and when that doesn't happen, we dwell on the little things that go wrong. All the while, God is blessing our socks off with His love, grace, mercy, power, forgiveness, and so much more! Daily blessings like total redemption from sin, unconditional love by the Creator of the Universe, constant care and protection from evil. . . What on earth do I have to complain about? Ever!

It isn't just Thanksgiving. It isn't just Christmas. This is a life lesson. I want to rejoice in the Lord. He asks us to do that continually, and I fully believe that when we really understand who He is and what He's done/is doing for us moment by moment, we will walk in that attitude of gratefulness. Lord, forgive me for focusing on what I view as "bad" in my life and for not trusting You and thanking You as I should. Help me to see life from Your point of view and through the lens of salvation in Christ.

If we really want to get into theology there really is no "bad" or "good" at all. It just is. Romans 8:28 says that in ALL things God is working for our good, so that means even what we think of as negative is actually something that can and should be positive according to His ultimate plan. Kind of mind-blowing, isn't it? Now, that's something to rejoice about. Even the most devastating of news can be sent to the Lord in praise if we truly trust Him. Not saying we can't be sad when things hurt or cause us anger/frustration/pain, but we don't have to dwell in it as the end of the world. We can trust Him with it to care for us and redeem it for His glory.

Okay, I'm a little nervous that He's going to test my mettle in this message. haha! Lord, have mercy! :) haha! Oh, well. You gotta practice what you preach, right? Faith in action. Walk the walk. All the cliches you can handle!

Anyway, I hope this has encouraged you a little today. No matter what you're going through, there is always a reason to be thankful when we trust in the Lord. His love, His grace, His salvation, His eternal home for us in Heaven (if we've trusted Christ as our Lord and Savior and engaged in a relationship with Him). All things that nothing here on earth can touch. No matter how "bad" the day gets.

Hugs to you all!
- Jill

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Motivation from the Mighty Man

I am so fantastically proud of my Mighty Man today! :) In an act of unbelievable strength and courage, he ran his first half marathon without walking a single step. It was a goal he'd had since the beginning of the year, and he completed it today on one of the most dispicable courses in the area and in the November cold. Way to go, Mighty Man. I'm so proud of such a strong warrior.

I can hear the "gag me's" now. haha! Don't care! I love him!! And not just because he ran today (my sport of choice), but because he did something he said he would do even though it was hard. That takes discipline and integrity.

It reminds me of another story he has from his childhood. He recalls jumping from a tall tree limp into a pond because he promised a girl he would. (Of course he was trying to impress her. He's quite the charmer.) :) But, he almost didn't. He was pretty confident on the ground, but when he got up to the limb itself and realized how high it was, he climbed right back down.

Eventually, he dad got wind of this, though, and instructed his son to be a man of his word. He had to make good on his promise. And so he did.

I'm sure the little Mighty Man was terrified, but his word was important. And I'm so thankful to his dad for teaching him that important lesson. It goes straight back to Scripture and the many times that God instructs us to keep our words. Over and over He tells us and others in the Bible to keep our vows and to, like the Mighty Man preached a week ago, let our "yes" be "yes" and our "no" be "no." That's in Matthew from the Sermon on the Mount.

But it's a sad reality that our world isn't very familiar with the concept of following through. We see it all the time. People just give up when things get hard. Especially in relationships, right? We've gotten so used to relationships breaking apart that we have started to believe that they're disposable.

My Momsy and I had this conversation a while ago. We have a similar fear of people abandoning us when emotions get flared. It's what we've seen. It's what we learned. People walk away when there's a fight.

And we are NOT the only ones who have this issue. Because it's true! This is how many relationships end up today. People just choose to leave instead of sticking together and working through tough patches.

But this is where we, as Christians, have a chance to show the world something different. In the power of the Holy Spirit, we CAN stick with a relationship no matter how hard it gets. It's the supernatural love and grace that He gives us. When we choose to accept it and give it to others, we can fight, argue, weep and wail and not have to worry about whether or not the relationship will end. If both parties are committed, through the Lord, to seeing it through, there's no abandoning. Even if it is absolutely horrible for days, weeks, months, whatever. There's a shared supernatural ability to stick with it until it's resolved.

Why? Because we understand the grace and love that we ourselves have been given through Christ and that we are shared holders of that same love and grace. Jesus died for us even though we were/are guilty, sin-stained and broken. But He loved us so much that He paid the price for us so that we could be forgiven, saved and free. And when we receive Him as our Lord, we become recipients of the Holy Spirit, who enables us to love like He did. Forgive like He did. And in that power, no relationship is doomed.

Today, I'm thanking God for the perseverance of my Mighty Man and for the hard-earned sweaty salt he earned that covered his face. It was tough, but he did it. He stayed with something that was challenging and made good on his commitment. And Jesus did the same thing. He stayed with it until He had been crucified and risen again so that God's Word could be fulfilled and His children restored.

Thank You, Jesus. May we all follow Your example of perseverance and commitment. May we learn to ditch the concept of abandonment and to walk forward in the freedom of Your love and be willing to share that with others. No matter how hard it gets.

Oh! And, yes, I did run too. haha! It was not one of my PRs. I will NOT mince words. I hate this course. But it wasn't bad at all. It was a great long run with 2,300 of my fellow runners who all experienced the same thing. And, lo and behold! I did get 2nd in my age group. I guess we all felt it a little today. :)

Enjoy your Sunday!
- Jill

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Extent of Belief

Is it bad that a small part of me wants to skip my own book signing to go meet Martha Stewart? Haha! She's speaking tonight at Unity Temple, which is about 500 feet from Barnes & Noble, where I'll be signing copies of the book from 7-9 p.m. (subtle hint to come on out!). And, I'm like, "It's Martha Stewart!!! Let the hallelujah chorus begin!" haha! I don't get star-struck, but, um, I just might around her.

It's been an interesting week, I won't lie. I've been in a battle mentally, spiritually, emotionally, physically. Just one of those weeks. And a lot of it has to do with how much I really trust the Lord. I'm finding that just because Jesus says something in His Word, doesn't mean I believe it.

I believe He's the Son of God. I believe He died on the cross and rose again. I believe He is the Savior of all who believe and trust in Him. I believe His death paid the price for our sins.


When He says that we don't need to worry about things? I don't buy it. When He says that God will provide all the money we need and that we don't need to waste time worrying about it? I don't take that literally. I still would, 9 times out of 10, choose to take a safe money route instead of following Him.

For almost a year, now, I believe God has been telling me to step out in faith on a few things. But I just won't do it. There are a lot of contributing factors, but one of them is the "need" for money. Of course I don't want to be foolish, but I don't believe what God is asking me to do is all that foolish, it's just risky to me. And how much am I willing to believe Him when He says that He will take care of me so much more than the lillies of the field and the birds of the air? (Matthew 6)

I won't belabor this very much, but it's on my heart to share with you all the passage from Matthew 6 and ask you to evaluate what YOU believe. Does your belief stop at a certain point when it comes to Jesus? Do you stop at who He is and dismiss His teachings just because they are difficult or counter-cultural?

If we believe that He's the Son of God, then I believe we should be free to take Him completely at His Word. If we're willing to believe that He was/is the Messiah, then I think we could be okay believing what He instructed. Doesn't that make sense? Why would we believe the hard truth of His divinity and then throw out His message? That makes no sense.

So, here's the passage (Matthew 6:25-34):

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

What are you worrying about today? It's time that we stop worrying and start seeking God. Trusting Him. Believing Him. I'm going to believe Him today. Tough teachings and all.

Love to you all!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Our First Calling

Hallelujah!! I can't thank the kind folks at Millstone Coffee Co. for their Holliday Peppermint coffee. Um...Let's talk about taste buds rejoicing. Especially after battling the wind and cold on the run this morning. I got pistol-whipped by a hard NNW wind this morning--so much so that I could literally barely make it up the hills--so I gave myself the gift of opening my new bag of java, which I'd gotten with a coupon, of course. $2.00 off just made it taste even better!

I had a great Bible study last night. I got to visit the precept study that a group from my former church is doing on 1 Peter. It was awesome! I just love those folks. And the lady who leads it might be one of the most passionate women of God I've ever met. She teaches with authority! And I just love that. It reminds me of God's power and fires up my heart to love and be loved by Him.

It's interesting what message God shared with me through the study last night. I've been doing a lot of thinking about my "calling" lately and examining it with a magnifying glass. What did God put me here to do? Am I doing it? How can I fulfill my purpose here? Questions we all ask ourselves periodically.

Anyway, last night was awesome. God spoke straight into that question through my girl--since I'm into funny blog nicknames, I'll call her C-Lo. She actually shared in her message that if we were wrestling with those questions, we could rest. If we were always wondering where God would place us and where we should go and what we should do, we needed to relax and understand that our first and primary calling is to know Him and let Him conform us to the image of Christ.

Wow. GREAT reminder.

It's part of life that we all question what we're here to do. If we're where we're supposed to be, doing what we were created to do. But I personally don't believe that matters as much as we think it does.

Don't get me wrong, I fully believe that God has specific plans for each of us, but I think those will happen naturally if we are faithful to latch on to our primary role of knowing Him and becoming like Christ.

Matthew 6:33 is one of my favorite verses. It's one of those verses that pretty much sums it all up. I'll paraphrase, but it says that we are to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to us, as well. He's talking about our basic needs in regards to what we will be given, but I believe it applies to life in general in a great way.

Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and He'll take care of the rest. I needed that reminder last night. It's not so much about "doing" for God as it is about knowing Him--being in relationship with Him and allowing Him to conform us into the image of His Son. That's why we're here on this planet: to bring Him to earth. How we do that is by allowing Christ to live through us--to love others and to let them know that He loves them. To live in that loving relationship with Him ourselves. Man, it's so simple when we really look at it from God's perspective. Just seek Him and let Him take care of you.

Today, I'm reflecting on that. How am I allowing God to change me into the image of Christ? Am I more like Christ today than I was yesterday? What exactly does it look like to be like Jesus? Do I know enough about Him to walk and live like Him? Great questions that we all should ask ourselves. Moreso that where we should be going or what we should be doing. Those are okay to ask, but they're not the first ones we should be posing. They should fall in line after we have examined our hearts and allowed God to reveal His will for us in living and loving like His Son.

Love and hugs to you all. :) Be encouraged knowing that God loves you more than you can ever know.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Oven fires, emotions and HGTV. :)

Okay, don't tell my neighbors or my apartment complex ladies, but yesterday I totally set my oven on fire. haha! :) I had spilled something in the bottom, and wouldn't you know it, it actually caught fire! I was on the phone in a deep discussion with the Mighty Man at the time, and all of a sudden I just said, "Um, babe, I gotta go. My oven is on fire. haha!" It was casual because it was surprising. But that was a funny moment. I just opened the oven door and let the air kill the flame (it was small). But that was definitely a first for me!

Don't let that fool you, though. I'm still a killer baker. And I'm learning about the cooking thing, too. I'll get there. :)

So, these past couple of weeks have been very enlightening for me. I'm learning so much about who God created me to be, and I had the most wonderful self discovery the other day. I'm so tired of trying to be a boy. :) I want to be a girl!! :) :) And that's okay! :)

Here's the story because that sounds funny.

Growing up, my dad didn't really know how to handle girls, so he involved me and my sister in his interests as a way of showing love. He taught us all about deer hunting and football. (I can throw a wicked spiral...just sayin.) But that really had an effect on me. I know he didn't intend it do, but I grew up believing that Jill the little girl wasn't worth approval. Jill the little girl who loved My Little Ponies and Barbies and games of Candy Land--she wasn't going to be accepted. I would have to pursue other avenues against my nature if I wanted to be approved.

Thus, I became a jock. I played sports to please my dad. I got involved in athletics in college to please my dad. (And, by this time, all men.) And I took a job in the sports field to please my dad. I'm living, as a 31-year-old woman to please my dad, who probably didn't care one way or the other, but who couldn't express that to me.

Wow. Okay...Can anyone relate here?

This is getting deep for a blog, but I want to share it because I think it's something that a lot of people struggle with. My dad was an amazing man. I respect few people more than I respect him. He was a brave man who served in Vietnam, and he came home and worked so hard every day of his life in order to provide for his family. The only trouble was that he never expressed or validated emotions. Thus, I kind of made up my own assumptions about what he wanted from me. And I also learned that emotions weren't really okay to have. They needed to be tucked away and stuffed down with distracting sources.

Now, I KNOW I'm not alone there. Especially with the emotional part. That's why addictions are so rampant! We don't want to feel the things we're experienceing--the pain, the anger, the fear--so we distract ourselves with a thousand different things to take our minds off what we're really experiencing. But that's SO not healthy.

Emotions are so natural. We all have them! And we need to learn how to experience them and allow them to be sources of wisdom. It's okay to feel angry. What does it tell you about the situation you're in? It's okay to be afraid. What does it tell you about the situation you're in? Is your fear even necessary, or is it irrational? Only by feeling it can you examine what's going on and how to handle it.

Interesting, huh?

Anyway, I think I blogged about something totally different than I'd intended to. But let's just go with it. Let's finish up by talking about distractions. I've blogged about keeping busy before and getting absorbed and consumed by to-do lists. I think for me that's been one way that I try to deal with difficult emotions. I do things. What about you? Are there emotions that you don't allow yourself to experience and try to stuff away? Here's my challenge to all of us. Let's start pausing when we feel an emotion going on inside of us and ask ourselves what's going on. Why do we feel that way. Then, let's take it to the Lord! He's the One who gave us emotions to begin with, and He is the One who will administer peace and truth to us in the midst of them. Especially if we are willing to open His Word. We'll find that He's in control, working for our good and madly in love with us. Thank You, Jesus!

So, if you'll agree to do that, I'll agree to start being more girlie. (Is that girly or girlie?) I'll embrace that inner Paula-Deen-lovin-coffee-drinkin-Better-Homes-and-Gardens-reading-fru-fru lady that I wanna be without guilt or remorse! I will feel unashamed when I get bored of ESPN and turn it to HGTV. (No, I probably won't abandon SportsCenter altogether, but I won't feel bad for changing the channel if I want to.)

Be free, friends! Be you! Be who God created you to be! :) He didn't mess up. He loves you and made you for a purpose! :) Live it up!


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An Ode to Family

I am not a big fan of fruit. I admit it. When I eat it, I like it, but it's not something I'll just voluntarily choose. BUT, this morning, I was being bold and trying to incorporate fruit into my day by making a smoothie. Man, I messed it all up. haha! Smoothies are an art, aren't they? I didn't use enough yogurt and put in too much milk, so it was basically way to liquidy. Oops. Noted. I guess that will be a craft I'll have to work on a little bit. It's not nearly as good as my vanilla cream pie. haha! :) I wonder what that would taste like blended in a Magic Bullet. :)

So, this past weekend, the Mighty Man and I went down to Oklahoma to visit his sister and brother-in-law and to meet their brand new baby boy. YAY!! :) It was such a wonderful trip. It was quick, but it was such a blast. Their household is so full of love and energy. It's fantastic! They now have five kids ranging in ages from newborn to 10, and they are each so wonderful in their own ways.

The oldest is one of the smartest and respectful young men I've ever met. I felt so honored when he came straight out to the car and gave me a hug first-thing when we arrived.

The next is a marvelous young princess who is independent, yet, fully alive in relationship--and is definitely a natural mama in the making. One of my highlights of the trip was just coloring with her. I LOVE her. :)

The next is my little stud-muffin of a 5-year-old. He will tease and taunt, but at the end of the day, is one of the most tender little men I've had the blessing to love.

Ah, then there's the 2-year-old, who is as patient and curious as can be. And so full of love. He's so affectionate and expressive and he loves to wear mismatched cowboy boots and a cowboy hat around while wearing nothing but a t-shirt and diaper. haha! I did get a picture. It was classic. Oh! And he also provided us with some wonderful entertainment on Monday morning by treating us to an exploding diaper disaster. haha! Talk about a thrillingly awful odor! haha! Welcome to parenthood! Can't wait for that someday in my life. haha!

And finally, there is the newborn little boy. Born on Friday afternoon and just as tiny and precious as can be. I loved just holding him and smelling his head. :) He's got the softest hair and is just the most precious gift from God. Thank You, Lord, for a safe arrival!

What was even more amazing was watching MM's sister handle the whole thing. By kid #5, you can tell that she's got this thing down. She's the most patient and peaceful mom I've ever seen in action. I don't think I have a code name for her on this blog, yet, so I'm going to call her Lady Green. :) Well, I just gotta say that watching her in action was just amazing. I'm so used to seeing the challenges that new moms go through (because it is HARD), so to see someone who handled it like any other life situation with complete peace and grace was just amazing. Lady Green, I can only hope to be half as peaceful when I have kids someday. You are a model of the peace of Christ that surpasses all understanding. Way to go, lady!

How fun. I like that code name for her. And I think I'll dub MM's younger sister as Queen Biz. :) Lady Green and Queen Biz. My two new sisters in Christ. I just love them both. It's been such a blessing getting to know them as MM and I have grown together. Queen Biz had her first child not too long ago, and this little gem of a girl is just about the cutest thing you could EVER see. Maybe I've blogged about it before, but she's a miracle baby, and you can tell that her parents understand the gift they've been given with her. They treasure her in a very real way and really model how all parents should view their children: as GOOD GIFTS from God. So proud of King and Queen Biz and how they are already bringing up a strong woman of the Lord who KNOWS she is loved.

Anyway, I didn't have any major lessons to share this morning other than by saying how awesome it is to be coming into such a wonderful family. I'm so thankful for MM's family and their love and acceptance of me. And a big shout-out to his mom and grandma who displayed such love and grace in helping out Lord and Lady Green while we were there, too. Kudos on the Sunday night dinner, ladies! And great salsa Lord Green! :)

And, MM, thank YOU, my love, for bringing me into your life. You bless me so much every day, and I look forward to many more road trips with you in the future. May we be blessed with miles and miles of Garth Brooks and Dave Ramsey, holding hands all the way. :)

Love to you all today! Don't forget that Jesus loves you!
- Jill

P.S. To my wonderful family: Know that this only makes me value YOU more. Spending time with the new family enhanced my love for my Momsy, PPB, "Famous" and the others who are near to me already. You guys are truly the most wonderful blessings to me. :) I love you dearly!!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Power to Choose

haha! I just love it when I surprise myself in the mornings with specialty coffee. Last night, I ran out of regular coffee as I was filling the tank for the morning brew, so I supplemented by adding a little of my favorite pre-ground flavored coffee: Starbucks Cinnamon. Yummmmmmmmmmmm! Anyway, when I got up this morning and poured my first cup, I was so pleasantly surprised to taste the sweet cinnamon in my cup instead of just the daily blend. It was awesome! :) What a great way to start the morning. Especially on long-run Fridays! :) Way to go, Thursday-night Jill. Good call. haha! :)

So, yes, this morning I had a wonderful time out on the road. It was a little breezy, which made it appropriately challenging, but it was a great run all around. And it was good timing for a long run thought-wise, as I've had a lot on my mind and plate lately that I've needed to process with the Lord. But that's for my heart to know. Not the entire internet. :)

But there is one thing that I had to share on the blog this morning. One lesson the Lord is really teaching me is how to set and keep priorities, especially when it comes to how I spend my time.

I had coffee with a reeeeeeeally good friend, yesterday, and she was talking about how busyness distracts her from intimacy with the Lord. And I totally identified. If we want to develop intimacy with the Lord, we have to choose to cultivate it.

There is ALWAYS going to be something to do. There are always chores to do, errands to run, appointments to keep, entertaining events to attend. That's just the way of life. We will never have a reason to be bored in today's world. (Ladies, can I get an amen to the phrase that a woman's work is never done?)

Since that is the truth--and it is--we have to CHOOSE to spend time with the Lord. Let me say it again: WE HAVE TO CHOOSE IT. The things that vie for our attention and beg us to pay attention to them immediately will always scream at us. We have to choose to say no to them. And we can!! Do you realize that? You (and I) have a choice in the matter! You have a choice as to how you will spend your time.

Yes, there may be groceries to buy. There may be a car to fix. There may be a coffee date that needs to be kept. There may be trash to be taken out. There may be a project that has to be done. But do any of those come before Christ? NO! The world screams at us to obey it while the Lord waits for us to choose Him.

We have to! We can say no to the things of the world in order to spend time with Him. It may seem like we don't have a choice, but we do. And it's our responsibility to take it. No one else will make it for us. If we're waiting for life to slow down, we'll be waiting forever. And meanwhile, our relationship with God will grow stale and our souls will dry out. We will become barren wastelands spiritually and feel completely empty and burned out.

BUT...If we choose to ignore the world--to put it on the second tier of priorities--we will find that our souls are filled. I believe that those tasks on the to-do list will probably be a little more enjoyable, too, because we'll have been reminded that we are loved and have a purpose. God, our Father, is with us in them all. If we don't spend time with Him, we'll tend to forget that and lose sight of the meaning of the tasks. (Yes, even laundry can bring Him glory, but we won't realize it if we don't spend time with Him beforehand. See what I'm saying?)

Today, I totally want to encourage you to CHOOSE to say NO to the world. Do it regularly. You have to! No one else will do it for you. People won't stop asking for your time. Tasks won't stop demanding that you conquer them. It's only going to happen if you make the choice to do it. You have that choice. You do! It may not seem like it, but you do. Make the wise choice!

You'd be proud of me. I actually just realized that I hadn't been doing that myself, so I carved out some Jesus time tomorrow and postponed my car appointment until next week. Thank You, Lord, for the power to choose. Help us all to choose You! :)

Joshua 24:15 - "But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve...But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

Love you all! Big hugs!!
- Jill

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Love Tank

Yee haw!!! I'm so excited! I just checked out the results of yesterday's half marathon, and I have to share this. I stinkin' placed 2nd in my age group! It wasn't a PR. I was three seconds shy of that, which I'd set back in June. (I think it was the presence of my Mighty Man at that one that spurred me on.) :) But it was still a great race! Clocked in at 1:35:20. Not too bad! Thanks so much to the awesome Prairie Fire Wichita Marathon organizers for putting on such a great event. I love this race! :)

And a HUGE HUGE high five to my girl, AMac who set a new PR in the full marathon. 3:46:46, baby! Way to go, lady!! :) She's a stud. My little marathon mama. :) Hugs, friend! :) Love you!!

So, after the big race yesterday, I was blessed with a day of rest this morning, which was such a blessing. With the time, I was able to spend an extended amount of time in the Presence of the Lord this morning. And, oh, how I needed that. He really, really blessed me.

Last Sunday, the Mighty Man started a new initiative at church called "The Bridge," in which the congregation would come together an hour before service, divide into small groups and begin studying different subjects. I'm SO blessed because our group is going through the 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. This is going to be awesome! :) I'm so excited to learn how to give and receive love based on how God created both me and the Mighty Man, and to apply it to family and friends, too! And huge thanks for Mr. and Mrs. P for leading. You guys are great!

One of the things that we talked about in the first session was how full our love tanks were. Man, that is a great question to ask the people who are closest to you. "How full is your love tank and what can I do to help fill it?" That really makes you think! I've asked MM that, and I've also asked my family. It's really interesting to hear the answers they give based on how they give/receive love. Like last night, I asked my PPB, and he said, "Just give me lots of hugs." :) No problem! I can do that. :) Now, if I asked MM that, it might be to offer verbal affirmation or just to sit with him for a while based on how he gives and receives love. It's totally awesome! And it's such a testament to Psalm 139 and how God created each of us uniquely and specifically. It really makes me appreciate the specific and wonderful design of those in my life.

The MM and I, as part of our homework for the class, took a survey from the book to discover our individual love languages. While my man is actually tri-lingual (way to go, babe!), I had a clear frontrunner: quality time. That's apparantly the biggest way that I receive and give love. Totally not surprising to me. But what WAS surprising was how little I actually employ this love language when it comes to the primary relationship in my life: the one with God.

This morning, as I was able to spend an extended time in His presence, the first thing that came to my mind was how incredible it was just to be with Him. No agenda. No rush. Just be with Him. Just sit with Him. Just let Him pour into me. Just let the conversation go where it would. I rarely do this. Oh, but how I need it.

It became so clear to me just how "purpose-driven" my times with Him had become in my daily routine. I don't know about you, but my "quiet times" are often just about checking off the daily devotion reading and making sure I've skimmed some sort of Scripture. I make sure I address the necessary prayer requests so that I'm covered for the day and my loved ones are, as well. Don't want to leave anything unprotected! And then I'm off to tackle the day on my own. The relationship aspect of just being with God goes undone. Wow.

How full is my love tank? Pretty empty. Not based on the actions of others in my life. MM is awesome at filling me up and has the most amazing heart to seek how he can do that effectively. My family is amazing at filling my love tank. But, to some degree, it comes down to me allowing them to fill it. If my MM wants to spend time with me, I actually have to let him. If my family wants to hug me, I have to let them. If my God wants to love me, I have to open myself up to Him. Sure, He can crack through, but He wants me to want Him. He wants me to choose to engage with Him. And I just don't do that very often in a real way.

But wow. When I just came to Him without an agenda this morning, it was the most love-tank-filling, overwhelming, consuming love-fest that I'd had in a long time. Sure, I tried to start it with my normal, "What do You want me to do in my quiet time today, Lord?" kind of way. But He was so quick to say, "Just be with Me." For someone who is so agenda/task oriented, that was hard at first. But it was amazing.

I won't go over the details of what we shared. That's private. ;) But I will say that He filled my love tank. Psalm 139 was part of it, as was just His voice. And it was the most enlightening way to realize just how much I need this kind of quality time with my Father. Thank You, Lord, for showing me. Thank You for wanting to engage with me on this level. Thank You for being my Lord, my Friend, my Father.

So, I'll ask you today. . . How's your love tank? If it's a little empty, I totally encourage you to strategically carve out just TIME with God. Time just to sit with Him and let Him pour His love into you. Oh my goodness do you/me/we all need it. Only through these times can we really receive just how much He loves us JUST AS WE ARE. We don't have to do anything, be anything, fix anything. We can just know and believe that our Father loves us unconditionally and considers us His beloved children.

Rest in that truth today and let Him speak it to you. He LOVES you. . . just as you are.

Hugs, friends!
- Jill

Monday, October 3, 2011

Get real.

Okay, so yesterday, because I couldn't sit still long enough to just watch the Chiefs game, I decided to busy myself in the kitchen doing one of my favorite activities: baking! It was a perfect fall day for it, so I just grabbed the big Betty Crocker cookbook, looked up a recipe based on ingredients I had on hand, and started cookin'! What came out was the most beautiful, homemade vanilla cream pie I'd ever seen. :) And all from scratch! Crust, filling and meringue. All homemade! :) :) SOOO awesome!

I wanted to challenge myself a little, and I didn't want to take any shortcuts or use any premade junk. I wanted something REAL--something like grandma used to make. So, that's what came out. haha! Funny thing was that I didn't realize it would have to cool for, like, ever, so I can't try it until tonight. I'll have to let you know later if it tastes good. But I did cut into it this morning to check and see what it looked like inside, and it looks AMAZING! :)

Real. . . This word has been playing on my heartstrings since Saturday. I took a whirlwind trip back to my hometown to participate in our library's 90th anniversary party (thank you, ladies, for the wonderful event!!) and sign some books, and, in the process, I had a LOT of think time in the car.

It was funny. For most of the six hours, I tried to find things that would occupy my mind or keep me entertained. Sports talk radio, football games, NPR, classical music, sermons, country music, and, of course, worship CDs. All good things. But none of them kept me permanently entertained. I'd get bored of them eventually and have to find something else to keep my attention.

Eventually, I began to get frustrated. Why wouldn't anything keep my mind engaged? Why wasn't I able to find something that would just keep me completely satisfied the whole time? Why did I have to constantly keep switching around in order to keep things fresh or find new fulfillment?

This is where the Lord spoke. Eventually, I just shut everything off. Radio off. CDs off. Silence. Just me and the Lord. "God, what do You want me to do? What do You want me to listen to? What on earth will make this ride more enjoyable?"



"Just me."

Um, wow. Okay.

It was like so many lights went on. Why couldn't I keep satisfied? Because it was all just temporary entertainment. It wasn't Christ. It wasn't God. It was just earthly stuff that wasn't meant to provide lasting fulfillment. I would wear out on each different thing because it couldn't provide the longterm satisfaction I was looking for. Only God can do that. Only in my relationship with Him am I able to be completely filled and at peace. That's it! It's the only thing that has lasting value.

After that, I started looking at my life and seeing how this played into so many other areas. I do this all the time. I look to other things to find fulfillment and then get disappointed or frustrated when they don't live up to expectations. I'll keep seeking after them and expecting them to fulfill me, only to find that I have to keep seeking after more of it if I want to keep being satisfied. When I look to these outside sources, I always need more of them. They never are enough. They're not real.

Let's put it into an example. I can run and run and run and run and run (and I have done this), but I will never be fulfilled by running. There will always be a greater distance, a faster time, another race. And I'll always want more.

Same thing with money. I can earn and earn and earn and earn and earn (and I have NOT done this), but there will always be a bigger house, better car, more luxurious vacation. It will never be enough.

These things aren't real. They are substitutes for the only REAL thing we can have: a relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ. That is the absolute ONLY thing that can satisfy our souls.

My quiet times with the Lord are when I experience this the most. It's during those moments that I realize, "Oh, hey. This is real. This is where I am fulfilled. This is authentic. Nothing else today has been able to satisfy me. Jesus, You can."

It's a great day when we realize that whatever we are seeking here on earth won't ever meet our needs. When we realize that, we will truly understand just how precious our relationship with the Lord truly is. Intimacy with Him is the only thing that can touch the places in our hearts that are crying out for lasting love and peace. Other things may work for brief amounts of time, but they will never keep us satisfied forever. But what they can't do, Jesus can. And He will.

Somehow I was going to tie in an analogy using the realness of Jesus by using the realness of my pie, but it just doesn't seem appropriate anymore. I was all about using REAL ingredients instead of shortcut premade stuff, but even my homemade vanilla cream pie seems pretty insignificant after examining the eternal fulfillment of Christ. haha! :) He's way better than the pie! No matter how good it is, it won't fill me up forever! :) I'll still have to eat again. And I'll probably still want another piece after the first is gone.

But here's the thing: Once we understand that Christ is what we really want, we can be free to enjoy everything temporary as the blessings that they are! When we release them from the expectations of fulfilling us, they become sources of joy that He gives us as blessings! I can enjoy a piece of pie knowing that it won't keep me satisfied forever. It wasn't meant to. But I can enjoy the serving and thank Him for the experience.

Anyone else hungry? haha! Hope you have a great Monday, friends, knowing that the Lord of all creation loves you and wants to develop an eternally fulfilling relationship with you. I hope you let Him!

Big hugs!
- Jill

Monday, September 26, 2011

The love of peanut butter can be deadly...

hahaha! Okay, so this is funny. Yesterday, the Mighty Man and I were having lunch with two friends from church and they were telling us about their recent encounter with a rat in their home. This wasn't just any rat, though. It was white with a black face, which led them to believe that it was an escaped pet from a neighbor. Regardless, his color and cuteness couldn't save him, as our friends were forced to put an end to "Charlie's" (the name they gave him) fun by sending him to rodent heaven. :) RIP, Charlie.

The funniest part of the story, though, was when our buddy, whom I will affectionately call Q-T not only because she's a cutie, but because she also is one of the amazing managers of a Quik Trip (Side note. I LOVE that she's part of the most outstanding convenience store chain in the world! All those $.59 summer fountain drinks? Oh, hallelujah! Way to go, lady!! Keep up the great work!)--Okay...What was I saying before I got sidetracked by my love of Quik Trip? Oh, yeah. The funny part of the story.

Anyway, so she was telling us how they'd caught Charlie, which had been by using a trap laced with peanut butter. "It just goes to prove that the love of peanut butter can be deadly," she joked. haha! We all laughed about it, but inside I was, like, REALLY laughing because I was thinking about my recent encounter with this, my favorite nut butter. :)

So, I'd been trying to put on a little weight recently, and I wanted to do it healthfully. I wasn't willing to just eat a bunch of junk food that would turn into fat on my body and clog my arteries. I wanted to do it by eating something that would benefit me physically while giving me the most calories for the fewest bites.

Enter peanut butter. It was a cinch! I just started eating a tablespoon of peanut butter like a pill every night before I went to bed. And, wouldn't you know it, as expected, the scale started to move in the forward direction.

However. . .

It didn't turn into the kind of weight I'd actually wanted. I'm all for a little body fat, but I'd been hoping for muscle instead. Um, memo to me...Protein builds muscle, not fat. haha! Duh!

When I'd been plotting my attack on my BMI, I had just kind of gone with an easy fix instead of really evaluating the goal. Well, it worked in one sense, but not in another. I did gain weight, but it was squishy. haha! Far from being the solid muscle mass on my legs and arms that I was going for.

Anyway, so I decided that my peanut butter pill was not the solution anymore. I'd need to get those extra calories from lean protein sources instead. But what was funny was that in that short amount of time, I had subconsciously developed a love for my peanut butter pill. When it came time to quit, it was hard! I really missed it, and I went to bed with my lower lip sticking out like a little girl pouting that I wouldn't have the taste of ground peanuts in my mouth as I drifted off to sleep. (Don't worry, I'd brushed my teeth beforehand.)

Truly, the love of peanut butter can be "deadly." haha! :)

Isn't it funny how we get attached to things in life like that? And it happens with anything, really. Anything that we look to for fulfillment outside of Jesus Christ can be sources of unhealthy attachments and can, in a sense, be deadly. Not that my peanut butter pill was going to kill me, but it illustrated the point overall.

While the peanut butter was a good thing in helping me put on weight, it wasn't a long-term solution. When it came time to give it up, I needed to be able to release it. But I'd become so attached to it that it wasn't as easy as I thought, and I had an emotional reaction. If I'd kept proper perspecive on it all along, I wouldn't have felt anything but, "Okay, cool--whatev," emotions about it. Small scale analogy of a big-picture truth.

Every good thing in life is given to us by God, and we are to steward them. The Bible says that everything belongs to God, and we are pretty much just renting. When we begin to hold onto these gifts and cling to them as our own, we find ourselves in a bit of a pickle. Eventually, God will call us to give them up, and we will have a really hard time letting go after becoming so attached to them.

I'm sure that's happened to all of us because it happens with EVERYTHING. God gives us relationships, jobs, hobbies, skills, etc., that we can enjoy and use here on earth. But, because everything outside of Him is temporary, we have to give them up at some point. People die and/or leave (sorry if that's blunt). Jobs come and go. Our bodies grow older, forcing us to give up hobbies or abilities. It's all temporary--everything! Everything except the Lord, whom we will eventually join in eternity. And, unless we want to be devastated when we are called to release these gifts, we have to understand that they weren't ours to begin with. They were/are God's.

The best illustration I've heard about this came from Pastor Brett Fuller, who is the pastor of a church in D.C. He talked about how we needed to hold everything with an open hand instead of a closed fist so that when God needed to remove it, He didn't have to break any of our fingers in the process. Don't you love that? It's so true.

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of making God break my fingers when He needs to remove something from my life. And, after my little peanut butter parable, I'm praying that He'll help me to maintain proper perspective when it comes to the good gifts He's given me. May I be willing to hold them all with an open hand and allow Him to give and take as He sees fit! Even if it is something as small as peanut butter. :)

Maybe if Charlie had kept this perspective, he'd be with us today. :) I'm sure Q-T is quite happy that he didn't. haha! :)

Ciao, friends! Hope you have a great week!

Monday, September 19, 2011

No Fences!

This weekend I attended my first revival! :) I totally didn't realize that people still did revivals, but I tell you what...I'm so glad I went! First, because the preacher was my Mighty Man. :) And second, because the word he shared was unquestionably what I needed to hear. God just shot an arrow straight to my heart through my man's words.

MM shared about the topic of holiness from Romans 6, and as part of his illustration, he told the story of a dog he used to own named Keira. (MM, did I spell that right?) Now, Keira was a German Shepherd, and was apparently one of the smartest dogs in the history of the planet. MM said that he had a fenced-in back yard and that she'd get out all the time, prance around the neighborhood, and be back in the yard by the time he got home at the end of the day. haha! What a stinker! :)

In order to combat this problem, MM set up an electric fence around the base of his yard knowing that Keira would get a little shock when she tried to escape. Well, get a shock she did! Apparently is scared her so bad that she hid under his house for three days without coming out for even food or water. The girl got bit bad! (FYI: If you have never been shocked by an electric fence, know that it is AWFUL! I got bitten many times when we had them for our horses. It doesn't hurt, per se. It is just the most awful, awful, frightening sensation I've ever had.)

After MM rescued her from her hiding place under the house, Keira clearly wasn't the same dog. Still smart, active and a great pet, but she'd been scarred for life by the shock of the electric fence. No longer would she even go near the spot where she'd experienced the pain. MM said she'd even cry when she got close to it.

Seeing that he no longer needed the fence, MM took it down. But do you think Keira started testing the waters of escape again? Nope. She was done. She continued to avoid the perimeter at all cost.

What a great illustration of how we sometimes behave as Christians! I TOTALLY identify with Keira. There have been areas of sin in my life that have stung me so badly that, even though the Lord has removed them, I still won't walk in the freedom that is now mine.

When I placed my faith in Christ and asked Him to be the Lord of my life, sin lost all power over me. By accepting His death and resurrection, I was liberated into complete freedom from sin and given the ability to walk in confidence and joy without sin holding me back.

Romans 6 says that we "died" to sin with Christ and were raised to life again with Him. When Jesus died on the cross and rose again, He defeated sin. Completely. Destroyed its power. By placing our faith in Him, we get to be part of that victory. Through Him, we are freed from the slavery of sin!

Have you ever felt "enslaved" to a sin? Like you had to do it? Like it was your master? Addicts feel this way a lot. If you've never been addicted to something, you probably don't know what that's about, but it is a bugger of a problem! I've never battled drugs, alcohol or many of the common addictions, but I do know what this is like. I know just how powerful our minds can be when telling us that we HAVE to do something--that we have no power not to.

But, friends, that is the beauty of the gospel!! Jesus eliminated that for us! We truly are dead to sin! Like, literally! :) When we place our faith in Christ, we literally get to be part of the results of His death and resurrection! :) That means that any sin that formerly held us captive completely loses its power over us. WE ARE FREE!! :) :) All we have to do is believe it and walk in it! He gives us the power to do so! :) (1 Corinthians 10:13--NO temptation has authority over us because of God's power and faithfulness!)

So, what does this mean? It means that if we have Christ, we can walk in freedom knowing that there is no chance we'll be stung by any electric fences of sin. They're not there! He removed them when He died and rose again! We don't have to be afraid like poor Keira was. We can live the full, abundant life He intended us to live!

I'll be honest. I behave like Keira in several areas of my life. I desperately don't want to be stung again by areas of sin that have crippled me in the past. And the enemy wants nothing more than for me to believe that they are still issues for me. But through Christ they are not! I have been set free! Do I still have to be careful how I live? Of course! I have a responsibility to walk in His ways. But the beauty is that He will empower me to do that. I don't have to do it on my own anymore. Sin had power over me when I walked on my own, and I did have to be afraid. But because Christ set me free from the power of sin, I don't have to be afraid anymore!

Ladies and gentlemen, freedom is here!!! If you have placed your faith in Christ, then this is for you! You are FREE from the power of sin! Anything you've struggled with in the past can be eliminated from your life. You may still be tempted, but you no longer have to obey sin. It is NOT your master. Jesus is! His grace and truth is your new way of life!! :)

Yes, we will still struggle. Yes, we will still face temptation. But we don't have to give in anymore! Jesus is so much more powerful than that! And we can live without the fear of giving into the sins of the past. (1 John 4:4)

Mighty Man, thank you for ministering to me this weekend. I have NO doubt that He used you to speak words of truth and life into so many others, as well. I am so thankful for you--a man who knows and believes the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ!! :)

Final thought...If you have yet to experience this freedom in Christ and want it for yourself...If you feel enslaved to anything you don't desire to do...If you want peace and joy and a full, abundant life...If you want a deep, intimate relationship with the Savior and Creator--the author of love itself, you can have it!! It is as simple as receiving Jesus Christ as your Savior and asking Him to become the Lord of your life. If you have questions, I will direct you to FCA's website for this kind of thing. Go to (If you're a sports fan, you're in for a treat! It will totally speak your language.)

Love you all! Walk in the freedom that Christ gives you! And if you want to read all about this for yourself, PLEASE read Romans 6.

Hugs, hugs!
- Jill

Monday, September 12, 2011

Running vs. Walking

I just have to say that this past week has been amazing running-wise. Lower temperatures usually equal faster times, and they certainly have for me. Last week, me and my running buddy (I need a good nickname for her...) clocked a SUPER fast 15-miler, and there had been almost nothing different than what we'd done the previous week other than the temperature, which was 20 degrees lower. It's amazing what a difference it makes when you aren't fighting heat and humidity! Praise God for fall! :)

I tell you what...One of the most amazing feelings in the world is teaming up with God to embrace and maximize the physical strength He provides, and that can happen in so many different forms. For me, it's distance running. I love being able to run at a relatively fast pace for miles and miles. :) When you team up with God on those long runs and pray through it with Him, you learn so much about His power and how true it is that it's made perfect in our weakness. (See 2 Corinthians 12:9.)

As part of my morning times with the Lord, I've started going through a new devotion book for runners. Last week, it posed an interesting question about the difference between walking and running when used in spiritual terms. Great question! I've thought a lot about that this week and have come to an opinion (no surprise there, haha!).

At first, it seemed like the obvious answer was that it was always better to "run." To run hard and fast in the faith like Paul said in the Message version of 1 Timothy 6. To run with perseverance the race marked out for us (Hebrews 12). To run in the path of God's commands (Psalm 119). To run/flee from evil (2 Timothy 2).

But the most interesting thing started to happen when I thought about always running. I got exhausted just sitting there! haha! I could feel my pulse start to race a little bit. Run, run, run! Run everywhere! Run from this! Run from that! Run to God! Go, go, go! And, I had to literally tell myself, "Whoa." haha!

So, I stopped (literally, I stopped running circles in my head.), and I started thinking about just walking. How nice it is just to walk sometimes and not be in a hurry. How I love to take walks on Sunday afternoons when it's my off-day from running. How I love to take walks in the mornings after a long run whenever I can. How I love just walking anywhere with my Mighty Man while he's holding my hand and we're just talking. Truly, walking is remarkable in many different ways.

Walking implies peace and tranquility in a way that running doesn't. Yes, running can be very peaceful and tranquil, but that's not generally the core purpose. To me, running is a way to engage with God and allow Him to strengthen me through a challenge. I know that it's an activity that will require a great amount of energy for a short period of time. (Short, relatively speaking.) Everything about the activity requires boldness, courage and strength, even getting ready to run. That's often the toughest part mentally, actually. Running is simply an all-around energetic activity.

When it comes to walking, though, there's a different mentality. Now, obviously I'm not talking about walking for exercise. I'm talking about walking in the "stroll" sense of the word.

When you go for a walk, it's about rest. It doesn't require much mental energy to slip into a pair of flip flops and go out for a stroll. It's all about peace and rest. No times to beat, no cares about proper hydration, no mileage to mark. Just chillin and enjoying the activity, either with someone physically or with God by yourself.

Ah, I love walking. :)

Ah, I love running. :)

So, I came to the conclusion that they are both dynamic aspects of our faith. There's a time for both and God uses each in very different ways. There are times when we need to run--to run to God, to run from evil, to run a race of activity. There is time for that, and God will use it to show His strength in us as He provides the energy and power to persevere.

Then, there are times to walk--to walk slowly with Him and enjoy His presence in a restful mentality. To walk with others through whatever trial they are experiencing. To walk out a long-term journey. To simply walk for joy in the company of the Lord, enjoying the world He has given us. I believe He uses those times to refresh us and to remind us of His peace.

It's funny how in our driven society we automatically jump to the conclusion that faster is always better. But I'm so glad that the devotion book posed that question. It gave me another reminder that there is a time for fast and a time for slow. There is a time for powerful strength and a time for restful refreshment. We just need to seek the Lord and find His balance between the two. Too much or too little of either won't be ideal, but when we stay in "step" with the Spirit, we can trust that He'll lead us to walk or run at the proper time and with the proper pace. :)

Hugs to you all!!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Hidden Treasures

If I were a cat like my little (okay, fat) Fanny I would be stretched out on the floor purring with contentment. What an incredible morning! :)

Of course it's Labor Day, so I am not at work today, which means I got to sleep in. And because the temperatures have dropped so much, I could do so without worrying about beating the heat for the run.

I went out at about 9:00 this morning, and it was like stepping into runner's Heaven. Gorgeous!! Not a cloud in the crystal clear blue sky. Sun shining. Birds singing. Cool breeze blowing. And 60 degrees!! In early September!! You have GOT to be kidding! hahaha! :) It was the most wonderful experience. :) I went a nice 8.5 and kept a killer pace, which was highly encouraging since the last two runs had been so disappointingly slow. This reassured me that my speed wasn't defunct. :) And that's always nice. :)

So, I have to blog about the amazing weekend. I tell you what, if you are ever feeling discouraged about life, hold a book-signing and invite all the people who influenced you in the past. That will make you feel just about as encouraged and loved as you can possibly get. And, make sure that your Mighty Man comes along with you to put the most wonderful icing on the cake of the experience. (MM, having you there was unreal. Thank you for making the trip!)

Saturday, my friend Jerry at The Well in McPherson, KS--which is home to some of the finest coffee you can possibly taste--set up an amazing book-signing event for me. It was so first-class! :) He and Jenni (the store manager) had a great display set out, plenty of books, and a great set-up to where people could sit and mingle and hang out. It was fantastic!

Right away, I knew it was going to be a blast when the first person through the doors (after my family) was my 5th grade teacher. I LOVE THAT WOMAN!! :) :) She's such a ball of energy, and truly was one of my favorite teachers of all time. :) (btw...SU, you don't look a day over the age at which you taught me. How the heck do you do it? Kind of thinking it's the hair. You look amazing!)

After that, the day just unfolded like a dream. People like that from my past kept coming in and hugging me and telling me how proud they were of me. And, because my spiritual gift is encouragement, I had a BLAST encouraging them back and telling them how much they'd made a difference in my life. That was probably the highlight for me. How often do I get to tell my high school business teacher (who taught me how to type) that she was one of the most positive influences on me during very formative years? (B, that's so true.) How often do I get to hug my FCA Huddle Coach that he was one of the first men to truly model Christ to me? (SL, that's so true.) How often do I get to see the young woman I babysat and her fabulous mother and tell them how much I loved the summers I spent with them? (IO and KM, that's so true.) And to everyone else who came out, especially folks like Cameron and Kim who shocked the pants off of me by being there, thank you so much!! I want to thank each of you individually, but I'll probably use Facebook to do that. Just know that you were SO loved and appreciated. And you truly made Saturday one of the most special days of my life.

And, to my Mighy Man...Words, hugs, gifts--I don't think there's anything I can say or do to tell you how much it meant to have you there. You are my good thing. :) :)

You know what else rocked about that day? My family. . . My Momsy, my Jamus, my second mom, the Commander in Chief and First Lady. They were my crew. First ones there. Ready to support their girl. Family is so key, you know? I can't thank God enough for the arms in which He placed me. All of them. :) :) I love you guys so stinkin' much!

Where was Papa Bear, you ask? Well, he was manning the grill! haha! Exactly smack dab in the middle of his element. :) Being a servant to the family in a very different way. Which leads me into my next blessing of the weekend...

Every Labor Day weekend, we have a massive family reunion for my PPB's family. This year, instead of everyone invading a local restaurant, PPB decided to grill a TON of pork and beef brisket for everyone so that we could all just eat together and hang out at the hotel. And it was so much fun! :) What a great change of pace. It allowed us to eat some AMAZING food (PPB, you rocked it!) and just relax around tables in our own big room, mingling as we could and enjoying the company of each other.

You know, I don't know what it was about this year's reunion, but I had the best time I'd ever had there. I think I'm starting to learn the true meaning of family, and this group TOTALLY gets it.

My family dynamics were a little different growing up. There was a lot of divorce and remarriage that made for some very interesting separations. I didn't exactly learn that family was made to stick together or that it was supposed to be a blessing. I, quite honestly, learned that family was an obstacle to be hurdled and that most holidays were to be dreaded. (Now, not always. If my family is reading this, know that I'm not saying I hate you. I'm just saying what I think we all feel sometimes.)

When Momsy and PPB got married, I really wasn't excited about having another family that would require additional time on Christmas and Easter. I was already stretched pretty thin. So, I think I tried my best to keep them at arm's length. But you know what's weird? That's changing. I'm regretting that I'm 31 when I'm learning this, but I'm starting to understand that family can be full of love and joy. It's a little bit awesome. :)

Part of this is definitely God's timing with the number of different situations going on in my life. First, my Might Man comes from a solid family who really does love each other. I think since I've started dating him, I've started to open my eyes to see my own family as blessings as a result. Does that make sense? MM's view of his family and their view of him (and now me) has opened my eyes to consider that the people in my family might just be blessings, as well.

If that doesn't make sense, it's because I'm still processing it. That's what blogging is about, right? Writing it all out and making sense of life. (Unless you have a food blog like that Julie & Julia woman. Then it's for sharing inticing photos and recipes and make us all wish we were brave enough to cook duck.) :)

Anyway, so the PPB family reunion turned out to be a truly wonderful afternoon. For the first time, I actually made an effort to talk to the people in my family. And you know what I discovered? They're awesome!! :) :) I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations, the jokes (the guy cousins are ornery!!), the hugs...the LOVE. :) So, to the family, I want to say thank you. Thank you for teaching me that family is a good thing. I do love you all!

And MM...Thank YOU for being a part of the day. I know it was a whirlwind, but it meant more than I can say that you were there. :)

Today's blog is nothing but praise to the Lord for what He's teaching me. I'll be completely honest. Last week at work was TOUGH. I didn't know if I had the strength for the book-signing and the reunion, but as always, God knew so much better than I did what I needed. He knew that the events would be the blessings I needed in order to rebound and be refreshed. Thank You, Father.

So, because my of my encouragement gift, I will leave you with some, um, encouragement. :) If you are feeling blue or discouraged, just trust God and keep going forward. He has your steps ordered and knows how to bless you if you just say yes to Him. And truly, the bigger lesson I want to share is this: If you have ever viewed your family as anything but good gifts from God (which I am 100% sure that we all have at some point), I want to ask you to consider looking at the good things they bring to your life. Yes, of course, there are actual negative situations in family that are not positive, but search for the hidden gems that are certainly there waiting to be discovered and treasured. Family is God's gift to us. It's full of indespensible relationships, and it's our joy to discover the beauty of each one. :)

Thanks for the time today, all! :) Sending you big hugs. :)
- Jill

P.S. If you missed the book signing and live near my folks, I would be happy to sign one for you next time I'm home! Just order a copy online at (Sharing the Victory: Being Your Best for God) or pick one up at The Well. Let my Momsy know, and we'll hook you up with a signature! It would SO be my pleasure to write some encouragement in the inside cover. :)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Blessings and Boundaries

This weekend was just fantastic! I got to spend all afternoon yesterday with my Mighty Man and his family celebrating the church dedication of his 13-week-old niece. What a precious gem she is (and a true miracle--just ask her folks)! I think I'm more enamored of her every time I see her. :) (*sigh*) Bliss. :)

After the fabulous post-church party with the family and friends yesterday, I headed back home in time to read the Sunday paper. The cover story in Parade magazine was very interesting, and it inspired today's blog. It talked about how, as Americans, we've practically let our weekends become more exhausting than our weekdays. We fill them with activities, chores, errands, trips, sports--you name it! When, back in the day, it used to be a time of refreshment--time for enjoying fellowship, rest and relaxation like I got to experience yesterday.

It's so funny. One of the TV shows my Mighty Man watched as a kid was Andy Griffith. And he's totally turned me onto it. haha! I watched my first two episodes this weekend on, and I'm totally hooked! :) What an incredibly simple and marvelous lifestyle! It totally makes you long for the "good ol' days," even if you weren't alive to live them. :) Am I the only one who wants to just jump in a time machine, grab a fishin' pole and follow Andy and Opie down to the creek? Like the Rascal Flatts song says, "I miss Mayberry." :)

So, here's the deal. We can't go back in time, and we can't undo years and years of technological advancement. We can't escape the number of options we have regarding what to do with our time. What we CAN do, however, is stop letting our calendars dictate our lives. I know it's a little touchy, but I think one of the most important books that's been published in the last decade is the book Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend. (If you have issues with it, that's totally okay. I respect that and will agree to disagree with you.) The subhead of the book talks about knowing when to say yes and when to say no, and I believe it's a great skill that we all should develop.

No matter how super-human we think we are, saying yes to everything will leave us strung out and miserable. And I fully believe that, as Christians, that plays right into the hands of the enemy. He totally wants us to be exhausted, frustrated, burned out, and all-around useless for the Kingdom of God. He knows that we will be highly destructive to his plans if we are operating at full strength, and he will do everything he can to keep us from feeling up to carrying out God's calling on our lives.

Think about it. No matter how much you love your family and friends; no matter how great of a job you have; no matter how much you love your church, do you really want to participate in activities surrounding any of them when you're tired and busy? Nope. Who can? I fully admit it: I have an amazing job with FCA, but when I'm exhausted, I don't recognize it. I find myself going in and out the door out of obligation instead of a genuine desire to serve God. And that's not fair to Him, to me or to anyone around me. It's not fair to the magazine readers and FCA volunteers and staff, either. My lack of boundaries can affect so many others, even if I don't realize it! That's why it's so important to maintain a balanced and healthy schedule!

So, here's the bottom line: We all have to start making better choices with our time. We have to learn when to say no, when to say yes and how to make wise decisions. It's the only way to truly carry out the calling God has given us and to do so with the joy and peace He offers. Anything else will just lead to our going through the motions and being miserable.

I'm preaching to the choir today, for sure. I do feel rested after this past weekend, so I'm actually sharing this message out of a tiny success story. But I think that victory is what has heightened my awareness to my previous/lifelong struggles in this area. I want to start honoring God with my time more and with my energy level. I want to live with passion for the tasks He's given me. I want to enjoy life and embrace the abundance of a life in Him!

Care to join me? :) Let's lock arms and do it together!

Have a great week, everyone! :) Big hugs!!

Monday, August 22, 2011

All you have to do is want it!

Okay, I have a confession to make. I've been slightly uninspired lately and I think my last two blog posts have been a little forced. I've been blogging just for the sake of blogging. They've been great messages that I believe in, but I haven't put a lot of thought or creativity into them, which has probably made them less-than-exciting to read. My apologies!

This morning, however, I'm feeling jazzed up. Which is great! Especially on a Monday. Sometimes those are the most challenging days, but today I just knew it was going to be a good day when my head sprang off the pillow at the sound of the alarm. It was weird, but awesome! Like, literally, my I just sat up like I'd been awake the whole time. I was instantly ready to do without any drowsy feelings at all. Totally surreal. haha! You can imagine how great that made the run this morning. SUPER awesome. I even was able to do some up-tempo work without the aid of my iPod's inspiration. Just silence. Me, God and the strength He'd given me. SUPER cool.

Man, this past weekend was awesome. I got to kick-start it with some girl time (EE and AMac) and a little Keith Urban. Oh my stars! That guy puts on the BEST concerts. He's one of the most talented guitar players I've ever seen in my life! And, with him being most likely one of my favorite artists of all time, all of the songs he sings are just "my favorite." haha! Anyway, great stuff to start the weekend.

Then, on Saturday, my Might Man had a birthday, and we got to celebrate with his sister and brother-in-law and their tiny, adorable 12-week-old daughter by tossing around some bowling balls and trying to knock down pins. Okay...that's just how I bowl. The rest of them were actually rolling the balls down the lane like they were supposed to. haha!

Yesterday was the bread and butter of the weekend, though. If you read last night's blog, you heard a little about it, but it was just the best day. My man preached a GREAT message about the Beatitudes (Matthew 5) and about how they are so much more than a Christian to-do list. They are attitudes and situations in which Christ wants to meet us and reveal His love for us, even in challenges. If you have time today, I totally encourage you to read Matthew 5:1-12 and ask the Lord to show you His Truth about what it really means to be "poor in spirit," "meek," etc.

One of my personal favorites of those Beatitudes? That those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled. To me, that means that if we merely have a genuine desire to live according to His Word--a true, honest desire--and then do our best with that, He will meet us in that desire and take it from there! Praise God! He can do a marvelous work even in our simple desire to honor Him. All we have to do is want it, and He can equip us to live rightly.

I don't know about you, but if you're like me and have trouble living rightly all the time, that is GREAT news! Because I do! I want to live for Him! I want to honor Him! I want to glorify Him and use my time here on earth to build His Kingdom! It's just that I sometimes really slip and fall. I battle the flesh. I battle my pride. I battle the world. But my heart is there!

Hallelujah that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled.

Today, I'm praising God for meeting me where I am, even in sin and shortcomings. I'm praising Him for taking even a seed of desire and making it grow into something beautiful for Him. I'm praising Him because He knows our weakness and chooses to reveal His strength and love through it. :) Awesome. :) Thank You, Lord. You truly are amazing.

So, for what it's worth, take it from me today. If your heart is truly to bring Him honor and glory, know that it is all He needs. Bring it to Him and ask Him to build on it and make that desire something glorious in you that will reveal Him to the world!

Love to you all!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Just as we are. :)

Ah, Sundays...SOOOO good. :) :) Today I'm thanking God for a day of rest, and just for the ability to finally experience rest on a Sunday at all. It's been a full last couple of weeks, and it will be another full couple of weeks coming up, but thank God for a tiny break in the action. His Sabbath. What a blessing! Though, honestly, the ability to actually enjoy Sundays is a relatively new thing in my life...

I don't know about you all, but I'm a recovering productivity addict. haha! :) I'm still learning, of course, but I used to be one of those people who could NOT stop doing. I would constantly be moving around, doing chores, checking email, etc. because I couldn't justify taking a break. It was the most miserable and insane lifestyle, and I'm so thankful that the Lord is showing me how to rest.

For me, part of that mentality stemmed from having something to prove. I never felt quite accepted by God just as I was, so I felt like I constantly had to be doing something to earn His approval and the approval of others. Over time, and with the help and encouragement of a certain wonderful Might Man of God who pointed me to the TRUTH of God's Word, I have learned more about how much the Lord loves me just as I am. It doesn't matter if I am productive or completely useless; He loves me simply because He created me and I am His daughter. Hallelujah!!

Now, that's not to say that I don't want to be productive still. It's just more balanced. There's a time for productivity and a time for resting. If I didn't produce anything ever, I would be living outside of my God-given purpose and disregarding the gifts He's given me to use while I'm here on earth. I definitely don't want to be useless. I want to fulfill that destiny for which He created me! But the point is that even if I didn't, He would still love me. That's His character. He created me with His own hands and in His image, and He loves me just because He can. :)

Do you know that the same thing is true about you? It is! You were created by a God who loves you so much that He died for you (John 3:16), and you don't have to do a thing to earn it. All you have to do is receive His gift of love and salvation through Jesus Christ and begin a relationship with Him as your Lord. It's the most wonderful, beautiful, compassionate, gracious truth you will ever know. And it will be the best decision of your life. You won't ever have to do or prove anything again in order to find your worth and value!

Today, if you are wrestling with always having to produce and never being able to rest, I want to encourage you to read God's Word. Take a look at what He says about how much He loves you and REST in the knowledge that you don't have to do a single thing to earn it.

Happy Sunday, everyone!
P.S. Thanks so much to Scott and Christy with DayBreak USA for the great interview this week! I just love talking faith and sports with Scott. He's a blast! Check it out here:

Monday, August 15, 2011

Win Win!

Today, I was reminded of a very simple lesson. It's one that Moses spoke to the Israelites in Exodus 14:14 when they were being pursued by the Egyptians.

"The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still."

Wow. Praise God.

I'm so thankful that I don't have to rule the world, aren't you? We have a sovereign God who fights our battles for us, even when we don't recognize it or understand it. Today, I fought a battle that I was trying so hard to win. In fact, I was confident that I was fighting for the Lord's will. In the end, I had to surrender. I thought I had lost, so I gave up. In my case, it was an act of submission that was respectful, and I simply had to entrust it to the Lord.

Wouldn't you know it? Once I surrendered, He played the trump card. :) He changed the situation altogether and created the path I couldn't create on my own. Thank You, Lord!

I say all of that to remind you and me both that the LORD--the God of all creation who LOVES YOU--is in complete control. He cannot and will not be defeated. Even when we feel like we are losing a battle that He wants us to win, we can't forget that He has the final say and He knows the bigger picture. God ALWAYS wins. He already has, as a matter of fact. Jesus already defeated the enemy by what He did on the cross and the fact that He rose from the grave! Because of His victory and the fact that we are God's children, we can rest in the knowledge that He never fails. Even when the situation looks like an impending defeat, we can trust that He will get the ultimate victory and that He will bless us through it.

Today, whatever battle you feel like you are losing, don't be afraid to turn it over to Him. Yes, do the best you can to carry out His will, but don't be discouraged if the situation doesn't go according to your definition of victory. Trust the One who sees the end at the beginning. He will fight for you; you need only to be still.

Ciao, friends!

P.S. Thank you so much to Lanny Slevin at WPLO in Illinois for the fantastic interview this morning! I really appreciated the time and conversation. :) Keep sharing HIS victory!!

P.P.S. Thanks also to my Mighty Man, who prayed for me to be inspired for this blog. :) You rescued me today, my knight! These words are partially the result of your prayers. :) Thank you so much, my love. :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Why Influence is AWESOME!

Ah, what a beautiful morning! My co-worker and I walked into the office today talking about how much of a coffee-and-porch-swing morning this is. (*sigh*) Alas, we are inside working on computers, staring out the window at the amazing day unfolding. It's okay. :) God will redeem it, I have no doubt. :) And, who's to say we can't take a few breaks and hit up the picnic table for a few minutes here and there? They say that taking frequent breaks at work makes you more productive. I think it might be time to test that theory. ;)

MAN! What an exciting day yesterday! Well, okay, this whole week! First, thank you SO much to everyone who left such encouraging and thoughtful comments on Facebook after the KCTV5 interview. That just made me want to cry. Praise God so stinkin' much for the blessing of being able to share His truth and love. It's ridiculous, really. And the fact that each and every one of us has a chance to do that in whatever career we're in is the REAL blessing. (I'll preach in a minute. haha! First, more fun...)

So, yesterday, my Mighty Man--after so selflessly and heroically driving all the way up north to sit with me at the Honda dealership while my car got fixed and serve as the "man-power" to make sure his lady didn't get swindled--and I went out for coffee after work. Before we did, though, we made a side trip to LifeWay, a Christian bookstore. Neither of us had seen the book on any shelves, yet, so we were getting curious. But Mighty Man's little sis had just texted me that she'd talked to a rep at another store who had already sold out of them, so we KNEW they were out there somewhere!

Anyway, we popped into LifeWay and...

YES!!! :) :) Hahaha! How awesome is that?? We stood there like little kids taking pictures with our phones and being all giddy about it. :) That was so fun! (Thanks for being there, my wonderful, amazing Mighty Man of God! That was so special to share with you.) Praise God for the opportunity to put something like this on a shelf and maybe, just maybe, encourage folks to better understand who they are in Christ and how much He loves them. Again...Ridiculous. Thank You, Lord!

So, for the preaching. Though, I'm sensitive about that word (um, we'll talk women in preaching roles another time), so I will say encouraging. For the encouraging today, this is what's on my heart.

Some of us are put into roles here on earth that are publicly highlighted, and our world tends to value that. I'm part of that world system. Um, hello! Did you read how I freaked out when Billy Blanks walked into a room? I totally do the same thing. It's just human nature. We respond to things we've seen in the public eye. What's funny about this book project is that there are many folks who want to talk to me about it, but the only reason they do is because they want to know about the athletes and coaches we cover inside. Really, they aren't interested in me (and that's not a Debbie Downer statement at ALL, it's totally just observation), they are interested in the people that I've talked to. A case of the celebrity fascination.

But that's what makes this book so stinkin' powerful! The people who are in the public eye ARE role models! They set the standard for our society, and we follow their lead. And, if you ask me, I believe that God sets it up that way to a certain degree. It could almost be compared to a role of authority in a way. Though they don't officially have authority over us, they are leaders and we do follow them. We don't have to, of course, but we do.

Why do we do this? Maybe because of the success factor. I haven't really thought about it that much, but it could be that we think we'll be successful if we follow their patterns and do what they do. Does Albert Pujols eat only egg whites and oatmeal for breakfast? Well, maybe that will work for me, too. Does Josh Hamilton work out five times a day? Maybe I should, too.

Where this gets even better is when it gets to lifestyle. Does Colt McCoy go to church? Maybe I should, too. Does Tamika Catchings read her Bible? She's one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Maybe I should read my Bible, too.

How amazing is that??? The power of influence! And regardless of our motives for following in their footsteps, God totally redeems it. Scripture says that His Word doesn't "return void," meaning that even if we read it with selfish ambition or because we think it will help us be successful, God can still use it to change our hearts.

Working for FCA, I hear this kind of story ALL the time. "So-and-so was my favorite athlete, and I heard him talk about how Christ had changed his life. I wanted to be like him, so I started reading my Bible. Pretty soon, I realized that it was all about living for Christ and allowing Him to be the Lord of my life, and I surrendered my life to Him." It's crazy how that works!

So often in Christian circles we berate the influence of celebrity. Yes, it does have its downside when our kids start following the examples of public figures who live worldly lifestyles. But, it has SUCH a tremendous upside too! That's why I'm thanking God so much for this book. Not because I get to put my name on a bookshelf. (Um, hello. I also have to prepare for the humbling that will eventually come when it makes it to the bargain bin.) But because God is using this to influence others through what He has done in the athletes and coaches they respect and admire.

So what if people buy the book because Josh Hamilton is on the cover? That's awesome!! Praise God!! He raised Josh Hamilton up for a reason--part of it being so that they WOULD buy this book and read about his faith in Christ. Maybe someone who is battling a drug addiction will read his story and find the hope they've been needing. "If Jesus healed Josh Hamilton and redeemed his addiction, maybe He can do the same for me..." YES!! HE CAN! :) :) Praise God!

Oh, man! Now I'm fired up. haha! :)

Anyway, the point I'm making is that influence is a good thing. Celebrity can be a good thing. In fact, I believe it is when it comes to Christian figures who genuinely want to love and serve the Lord. Are there posers in the Christian celebrity world? Definitely. But there are also some amazing men and women of God who truly understand that it's not about the fame/stats/material, but about bringing glory to the Lord and sharing Him with others.

Will they mess up? Undoubtedly. They are human. That's why Jesus protected the sinful woman in Scripture by telling her condemners that if they were without sin they could throw stones at her. They all dropped their rocks and walked off. Christian public figures are still human. But that's why we don't WORSHIP them, we respect them and learn from them. We worship the God who has worked IN them, and we thank Him for doing the same for us.

Today, I'm praising God for the men and women of ANY vocation who aren't afraid to share their faith with others. It's risky putting yourself out there as a follower of Christ. You might mess up and lead people astray. You might find out that people don't like you because of it. You might be held accountable to live a Godly lifestyle. PRAISE GOD! :) Any and all of those situations can bless and grow both your faith and that of others if you place them in the hands of Christ! :)

One more point for the day, and then I'll stop.

Whoever you and and whatever you do, know that YOU have influence, too. It's not just something reserved for the Albert Pujolses of the world. It's something we ALL are given as Christians. We are called to stand out for the Lord as lights in a dark world. Regardless of whether or not you have a TV camera on you or a microphone in your face, people are watching you and learning from you. Why not embrace the chance to show Christ to them? Live it out! Sure, it's hard, but you're certainly not alone. You have the entire Body of Christ doing the same thing and fighting the same battles right along with you. And, most importantly, you have GOD ALMIGHTY fighting FOR you! He's on your side. Who on earth can be against you? (Psalm 27:1)

So, go for it! Live it up and live it out knowing that you ARE making a difference. :)

Love and hugs to you all!! :) :)