According to dictionary.com  perseverance means:   steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.  This word is how I would describe my Saturday.

Saturday morning, my eldest son, Hunter, shared a video on his Facebook page titled “Never Give Up!” .  It was an inspirational story about a paratrooper who was told that he’s never walk unassisted again due to injuries during the Gulf War.  Over weight, knee braces, cane, etc. were his encumbrances in life.  After numerous doctors and instructors giving him little or no hope, there was one person who believed in him.  This veteran, Arthur Boorman, persevered and overcame his obstacles.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  Romans 5:3. 

Then, on a lighter side, yesterday my mom and I went shopping.  (A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.)  I’ve been searching for about a year and a half for some new silverware.  Where do those spoons go?  Anyhow, being the bargain shopper that I am, after over a year of scanning the shelves, I persevered and made a purchased a 65 piece set of new silverware for a great price.  Success!

Finally, my Saturday evening was quiet.  Holly was with friends, Cole was staying away at a friend’s house, Tim was fishing on the east coast, and so it was just me and Hunter at home.  I enthusiastically asked Hunter, “Do you want to watch a movie with me?”  Hmmmm, his reply was, “No.”  Not the mother/son evening I would have wanted, but I get it.  A FIFA X-box game beat me out.  So it was movie time for just one. 

I inspected all the romance/girlie movies that were On Demand.  I came across one that I thought, “Yes, sounds like a movie for me, but the title sounds a bit cheesy.”  I continued searching for a movie, but ended up returning to the movie with the long title and four stars beside it.  What caught my eye were two things:  “Based on a true story” and “Executive Producer:  God”. 

I’ve always admired people’s testimonies that were drastic changes in their life.  This story was about a former drug trafficker/music producer who fell in love with a Christian girl, and the personal struggles he endured in his life before surrendering his life to God. 

The title of the movie was, “I’m in love with a church girl” .  (I told you the title was a bit cheesy.  But it caught my eye didn’t it?)

After watching the movie I was curious to find out more about the real Gally Molina and how true this movie truly was.  I watch an interview  he did with The 700 Club, read an article a reporter wrote about him, and other “stalking” searches.

I told my Sunday school girls about the movie, and even did a movie day with all three of my children after church.  Of course they were thrilled (haha) to watch it, but I’m sure that some of the relationship examples, confidence in God that “the church girl”, Vanessa, displayed, and the perseverance of a man’s search to know God will settle in their hearts and minds.

The second definition of perseverance from dictionary.com is:  Continuance in a state of grace to the end, leading to eternal salvation.  I believe that Gally found the theological definition of perseverance.  He is a man saved by grace and will spend eternity with Christ.

So when you are feeling discouraged, facing difficulties, or have obstacles to overcome, persevere.

I love the verses that follow verse three in Romans 5. Let’s put it all together and feel the love that God has poured over us through His word:

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  Romans 5:3-5

I pray God’s abundant love and blessings for y’all.

Some of the familiar actors in the movie mentioned are:

  • Adrienne Bailon (The Cheetah Girls)
  • Jeff “Ja Rule” Atkins (The Fast and The Furious)
  • Toby Mac
  • Martin Kove (The Karate Kid)
  • Michael Madsen (Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs)
  • Stephen Baldwin (The Usual Suspects)
  • Vincent Pastore (The Sapranos)

Proverbs 3:5-7 “Trust in the Lordwith all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Here I go again, another lesson/thought from a not so ordinary place.  This will now be the fourth journal entry I’ve written while dealing with my Invisalign. But stay with me while I “straighten” things out. (No pun intended. Who am I kidding…of course a pun.)

A conversation I had with my orthodontist comes to mind every time I put in a new set of Invisalign, and I can’t help but giggle to myself.  You see, on the Invisalign are these minute black numbers and letters.  I asked the doc what they were for.  He replied, “The numbers let you know what tray you are on and the letter helps you to remember which is for the upper and lower teeth.”  Seriously?!  He said this with a “straight” face.  Are you now thinking what I was thinking?  I quickly thought to myself, “If you can’t tell the difference between the top and bottom by looking at the trays, you have some serious issues with your teeth!”

It is completely obvious which tray is for the bottom and which is for the top. 

Then, as things usually happen for me, I thought about how we are often not so different with our walk with God. Think about it, it is completely obvious that we need God’s word in our lives to “straighten” us out.  But don’t we sometimes need a little “fine print” to remind us of the obvious?

If I were to wear my trays on the wrong teeth, the way they are not intended to be worn, it just wouldn’t work.  If I try to do things different/apart from what God, things just won’t work out the way God intended for them too.

We read in Proverbs 3:5-7 that we don’t need to try to figure things out on our own, we need God!

In John 15:5 Jesus stated that, “apart from me you can do nothing.  I believe it!  I’ve tried to do, and sometimes stubbornly still do, things my way.  Trust me…God’s way is soooo much better! 

“The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” 1 John 2:17

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. ”Ephesians 2:8

 “You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.Proverbs 19:21

I’m just stating the obvious.  Stop trying to straighten your life out on your own, let God do that for you.

I pray God’s abundant love and blessings for y’all.

Okay, I’ve noticed a pattern and have had confessions made.

It’s summer time.  Yes!  Teens like to sleep in every chance they get.  I get it!  But, Holly told me the other day, when I thought that she was just rolling out of bed at the crack of noon, that she’s been up since 9ish, she just has been viewing things on her phone and lying in bed. What?  Why not come on downstairs and eat or watch tv, or chat it up with mom?  Oh, I bet I know…she (along with the other two children of mine) are probably afraid that if they wake up and join me downstairs that I’d most likely give them a chore to do.  Aha!  Well, they’re probably correct.

This made me think about how we are with God.  We get all comfy in a certain way of life.  We may get a little scared to wake up from our “secure” lifestyle and actually get up and go do something that our Heavenly Parent wants us to do.

We read in Philippians 2:13,For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.  Brothers and Sisters in Christ don’t be afraid to do your “God chores”.  Remember, it’s not you doing it alone anyhow, it’s God working in and through you.

Wake up and get busy.

I pray God’s abundant love and blessings for y’all.

It wasn't all tears. Laughter and dancing filled the air.

Tim and I were sitting in what we call the “Shuff Backyard Oasis” listening to music and having various conversations.  During one topic I teared up.  My eyes became watery, yet when I looked up at our string of white lights, they seemed to shine in beautiful rays.

That vision reminded me of how God is always shining down on us no matter what the circumstances may be.

Corrie Ten Boom once said, “Let God’s promises shine on your problems.”  That phrase seemed to fit perfectly with what I had seen through my watery eyes. Our discussion wasn’t so much of a problem as a reflection on some life experiences.

We can find comfort in Isaiah 41:10Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.   I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

I pray that you will always remember and feel God’s presence in and through your problems, during the ups and downs in life, and, well, just always.

I pray God’s abundant love and blessings for y’all.

 

Wayne and Becky Shuff

 

This morning I came across a basket of Christmas photo cards.  The years were 2007 and 2012.  Wow!  The changes that had taken place during those time frames.  Hair styles…some have a little more hair and others have quite a few less hairs.  Family size…how exciting to see a family of three became a family of four or five just five years later.  Body size…no, we won’t go there. LOL!

Talk about changes…A few events have taken place this week that have been big milestones in peoples’ lives.  Yesterday, early afternoon, I received a phone call from one of my “other sons” , Landon.  His plane had just landed in Denver, Colorado.  I had tears in my eyes just knowing that he has moved on.  Literally, moved on.

 

I’m so proud of his accomplishments and am so excited to see what God has planned for him as he begins his life and football career at the Air Force Academy.

 

And it’s not just Landon on my mind.  Hassan will be heading to New York to play football for Marist College.  Christian will be moving to Tallahassee next month.  Maddie will be a Gamecock at the University of South Carolina. Hunter has registered for his college classes.  And the list goes on and on.  Where does the time go?  I pray for all you college students this upcoming year.  Be wise, smart, have fun (I’m sure you will), and remember that God is with you and loves you.

Another change that has occurred this week is an addition to our family.  No, I didn’t have a baby (THAT would be a miracle!) or rescued another dog.  What did happen was…after a year of a roller-coaster of emotions for my father-in-law, he got married.  Yep, it’s official.  As of July 14, 2014 at 10:30am, Mr. Shuff is now married.  Now he has a wonderful lady, who loved and admired my mother-in-law, loves the Lord with all her heart, and wants to take care of Wayne.  It is so great to see him happy and has a friend to share the rest of his life with. This will be a big change for us all, but grateful for their love for God, and I have complete confidence that the Lord is the center of their relationship. 

Congratulations Wayne and Becky.

Some things will never change...Landon and Hunter being goofy together.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says:

A Time for Everything

For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
    A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
    A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
    A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
    A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
    A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
    A time for war and a time for peace.

Yes, things change in life.  There is a time for everything.  Right now is the time to build up, laugh, dance, embrace, mend, and love.

I pray God’s abundant love and blessings for y’all.

 

Marley and Holly. (Looks like a stand off to me. LOL)

Building relationships:

Just a little over six weeks ago we rescued, our now dog, Marley .  At first when we would open our back door she would run to the far corner and stay.  When it was time to come in, we’d have to physically pick her up and bring her in.  It took her a little while to venture off to the other areas of the backyard.  Now, Marley never runs to her secluded secure spot.  She runs out to play, adventures to other areas, and when she is done, she now happily runs back into the house. 

The same thing with when we take Marley for a walk out the front door into the neighborhood.  She has her routine of where to go, but she doesn’t freeze or is so skittish at every sound or has to be picked up and turned in the right direction to come back home.  Nope.  She sniffs, does her routine, runs when you do, and then when she sees our home, she heads to the front door.  Whew!

I wasn’t sure what she was going to do the other day when the front door was accidentally left open.  She ran outside and sprinted across the park.  I told Hunter I just may need his help.  Well, as it all turned out, I was able to casually walk across the park, call for her, and put her leash on without any hesitation.  Double Whew!

Why? Why is Marley becoming more comfortable and not so timid around us?  It’s because we’ve built a relationship with her.

Okay, so some family members may say, “I beg to differ!  Marley’s still not real comfortable around me.”  True.  But the more time you spend with her, the better the relationship will be.

I massage Marley, pet her, give her treats, talk to her, give her attention, …

Just like any relationship  in life…the more time you spend with someone the closer and more comfortable you become with each other.

Psalm 73:28 says, “But as for me, how good it is to be near God!   I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.”  Amen!  Being near to God, building a relationship with Him, makes me want to tell others about Him even more.

When I read John 15:1-17, about “He is the vine and we are the branches” parable, I couldn’t help but think about the relationship we have with Christ.  People may come and go in our lives, and life goes on.  But when we are apart from Him, we are nothing.  We ache, fail, and get weak. 

I hope you choose to grow closer to God.  Work on your relationship with Him.  Massage your mind with God’s word, talk to Him through prayer, and give God lots of attention.  You’ll find yourself becoming more comfortable with Him.  He already loves you!

I pray God’s abundant love and blessings for y’all.

 

Our sunset on the final night of vaca in AMI. Ahhhh.

I LOVE the beach!  

The other day I was returning from observing The Most Incredible Artist paint the sky. While walking barefoot the sand, I could hear people laughing, children performing for family and friends, and still see God’s handiwork brush the sky with and ever-changing scene. I couldn’t help but have a peaceful smile on my face.

When I’m at the beach with family and friends, there are always many laughs.  People-watching is always a fun and curious past time.  Well, maybe a little scary and puzzling at times too. (Yikes!  What are some people thinking???)

There have been many insightful conversations, with laughter and with tears, with friends while at the beach.

Ecclesiastes 3:4a comes to my mind now, “There is a time to cryand a time to laugh.” Yep, lots of tears of joy and sorrow have occurred while having my toes in the water and tush in the sand.

As much as I enjoy chatting it up and lying around with friends, I get my most reflection time when I’m alone.  I get the largest part of time with God while sitting on or walking the beach alone. Some pretty perceptive thoughts and ideas occur when I’m doing this. Hey, I’m not alone in this thinking.  We read in Matthew 4:18a, “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee that some awesome things happen while walking on the beach.  Jesus called His first disciples when doing this activity.

You may not live near a beach, but hopefully you have a place where you can both gather with friends and be alone and enjoy insightful conversations and have reflective thoughts.  It may be the woods, mountains, neighborhood, the lake, riding on a tractor in a wide open field, or even the busy sidewalks of a metropolis area.  Wherever “that place” may be, I hope you always discover something new about yourself, grow closer to God, and be able to walk away with a smile on your face.

Think about these verse when you have your quiet moments:  “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9-11

I pray God’s abundant love and blessings for y’all.

“O Sovereign Lord! You made the heavens and earth by Your strong hand and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for You!Jeremiah 32:17

When I read this verse I thought of the song I used to sing with the kids in children’s church, “My God is so big, so strong, and so mighty.  There’s nothing my God cannot do. *clap clap* My God is so great, so strong and so mighty.  There’s nothing my God cannot do. *clap clap* The mountains are His.  The rivers are His.  The skies are His handy works too…”

I am so grateful that I get to serve a God that created the wonderful heavens and earth.  My mind cannot fathom how it all came about.  All I know is that God did it and that settles it. (Faith)

There have been times in my life that when I’ve felt that “I” couldn’t handle a situation.  But when I know to know that I’m in a situation because I’ve followed God’s direction in my life, how can I not say, “Ok, God.  This may be scary and difficult for me, but You can do anything, and I can do it because of You.” (Perseverance)

Now, if I go about life and do what Stephanie wants to do, and I get myself in a situation without it being what God wants me to do, then I just may have a problem.  (And, yes, I’ve gotten myself in those circumstances before and so regretted not going God’s way.) (Selfishness)

I hope that you will read this verse and feel the majestic power of our mighty God.  I pray that you will desire and seek out His plan for your life.  I wish for you to persevere through those tough times in life and know that God’s got your back. Don’t be selfish and do things your way, God’s way is so much better.

I pray God’s abundant love and blessings for y’all.

July 9, 2014 sunset

 

Yesterday.  Yesterday happened just like any other day.  Yesterday has now come and gone.  Yesterday was a day our family reflected on a loved one.  Yesterday was my mother-in-law’s birthday.  Jany would have been a young 64 years of age.

Many emotions, growth, and situations have occurred over this past year since her passing.  Praise God that He was and is present through it and in all.

Tim invited his dad to the beach to grill steaks.  Jany’s birthday was definitely on his mind.  How could he forget it?  He was married to the love of his life for forty-four years.  Wayne quickly agreed and even brought Jany’s favorite yellow cake with butter-cream frosting and pink roses from Publix Supermarkets. Not much was spoken, but you could see in Tim, Wayne’s, and others’ eyes, that this day was definitely a day of remembering our special loved one.

When it was time for sunset, Tim and I pranced ourselves (ok, maybe not pranced, but rode our bikes) down to the beach.  The water was so calm and the sunset was stunning.  I held Tim’s hand and asked him some questions.  He grinned and said that there’s not a day that goes by that he doesn’t think about his mom.

 

I can see in Tim’s eyes his year of reflection.  I can see a spirit about him that his momma would be so proud of.

My man.

When I read Philippians 1:3-6 this morning, I thought about our July 9th.  The scripture reads in verses 3 and 6, “3Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God…And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

I know that Jany is thought of often and I do give thanks to God for the wonderful memories and the traits that were handed down from her to her children.  The work that God began in Jany does continue through her family. 

Well, just like any other day yesterday happened.  I hope that each of you will live each day to its fullest, love big, and laugh often.  I pray that your heart is right with Christ so that you have Paradise to look forward to.  James 4:14 reminds us that, “yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”  Life is short, cherish each moment and bring glory to God in all you say and do.

Happy Birthday in Heaven, Jany.

I pray God’s abundant love and blessings for y’all.

A little over a month ago I was looking at my youngest child’s Instagram.  Cole doesn’t post most, follow many, or have many followers, but when he posted a picture referencing God, he received the most “likes” he’s ever gotten.  He was so excited!  I casually told him, “See, Cole, when you post good godly things, people like that.”

Then, a couple of weeks later he informed me that he created a new Instagram account called godly_pics_daily.  I was so proud of him.  His decision to share God’s love made my heart sing, and I’m sure God had a big smile on His face as well.

Cole has only posted 19 photos and he already has tons of followers and followings. His sister informed him that posting others’ pictures is plagiarizing.  Well, being the “rule follower” that Cole is, he was ready to delete his whole account.  So I suggested that he either take pictures himself and write a godly saying or verse or just use some of mine that he may like from my website.  He agreed and now his godly_pics_daily has merged with soakinguptheson.com.

Why is it for people to feel validated by how many “likes” they get on something they post on social media?  (Oh, that’s a whole devotional in itself there!)   I see it all the time with my middle school students and conversations between teens at my home.  A rollercoaster of emotions happen when others see how many “likes” they get compared to others.  Ugh!

I'm so proud of Cole!

One thing I do know is that Cole decision to share Jesus instead of self just thrills my soul.  I hope he gets all kinds of “likes” and “shares” or “favorites” or whatever you call those things so some Jesus will be getting scattered all over the world.

Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”  What about you?  What will you do to show others that you are not ashamed of the gospel?

I pray God’s abundant love and blessings for y’all.