Daily Walking with God

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Plant City's First Baptist Church

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Just Thinking

This is a section of quick thoughts I may have throughout the day. You never know what you’re gonna get when I’m “just thinking”.

Here's a photo of the group of teens who came out to our home.  Not pictured are the adults:  Pam and Bud Bowden, Susan Sullivan, Jeanne Knotts, Susan Batley, Leecy Bowden, and myself.

Here’s a photo of the group of teens who came out to our home. Not pictured are the adults: Pam and Bud Bowden, Susan Sullivan, Jeanne Knotts, Susan Batley, Leecy Bowden, and myself.

Counting it all joy…after the Irma Aftermath.

James 1:2-3 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

Harvey and Irma were not kind to our southern states, but I do love seeing people coming together to assist one another and encourage others in any way they can.

People post hashtags like #houstonstrong #texasstrong #keysstrong #floridastrong and you can fill in your own #citystrong. I hope that through all this uniting, that we can post #AmericaStrong #HurricanesCannotStealMyJoy #Godwithus.

Some observances during the aftermath:

1) GRATEFUL FOR BOOBOOS: I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has: Gained a few scratches on my arms, blisters on my hands, and headaches from not drinking enough water during clean up; An appreciation for the benefits of living in a first world country…clean water, air conditioning, a roof over my head; Had a hamper full of clothes that were drenched in sweat from working outside (oh…that’s right…women don’t sweat, the glisten…#ireallysweat).

Unlike my family though, some folks have lost their homes, boats, cars, or other possessions. Unfortunately, over one hundred lives have been lost between Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. #Prayingfortheirfamilies. We were spared with just a few (well…more than a few…a LOT) of tree branches scattered in the yard, and rising creek and pond waters which overflowed and became one large lake in our backyard (click here to see). Praise the Lord that the water is receding.

While driving around, and speaking with others, I am amazed how many massive trees were uprooted, but…they did not land on homes. A few, yes, but for as many trees fell, people’s homes and lives were spared. #PraiseGod.

2) COUNTING MY BLESSINGS: My cousin, Jen, is currently in St Thomas acting as the Deputy Incident Commander for Response and Recovery in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. This is what she messaged her family on Wednesday: “I am safe. There is no electricity and very little food but otherwise I am good. The destruction on the island ranges from very little to extreme. Some areas are very sad and they may not get electricity for months or years in some parts. Long lines are the few gas pumps and to get food and water. Very little open or available. Irma beat them up pretty bad. Not a tropical paradise right now. We are doing what we can and making some progress. It is very eerie at night and we have to be cautious because of the desperation setting in. love you and hope to see you soon.” Did you read that??? Some may not get electricity for months or years. #gratefulfornoelectricityforonlyfourdays. Please keep Jen and all involved in your prayers.

3) SHARE LOVE: The other day, my friend posted on social media, “It really makes me sad to see how people are turning against each other with horrible comments and post on FB. This is a time when we all need to pull together. Lord only knows what we would of went through had it been a cat 3, 4, or 5! Get down on your knees and be thankful.” I have no idea what negativity people were posting but I simply replied with a screenshot of my morning scriptures. It was from 1 Peter 3:8-11, “So all of you should live together in peace. Try to understand each other. Love each other like brothers and sisters. Be kind and humble. Don’t do wrong to anyone to pay them back for doing wrong to you. Or don’t insult anyone to pay them back for insulting you. But ask God to bless them. Do this because you yourselves were chosen to receive a blessing. The Scriptures say, ‘If you want to enjoy true life and have only good days, then avoid saying anything hurtful, and never let a lie come out of your mouth. Stop doing what is wrong and do good.” Can I get an AMEN?! #lifeisshortbekind #aintgottimefornegativity.

4) UNSELFISH HELP IS ON THE WAY: The day after Irma passed, my family of five worked in the yard for about three hours. We made progress, but there was still more to be done. The next few days, Monday through Wednesday, we left our yard in disarray and went to help others.

It was a blessing to observe many youth (shout out to Plant City High School students and one from Strawberry Crest High) in our community helping out as well. My godfather became emotional when we finished his yard. He was so grateful and full of hope because of the compassion and service of many young folks.

On Wednesday night, we received a text to assist with another elderly lady’s yard. I must admit, at first, I was like, “I really need to get our yard done”, but then…God got ahold of me. My scripture that day was from Philippians 2:1-4. Check this out: “Think about what we have in Christ: the encouragement He has brought us, the comfort of His love, our sharing in His Spirit, and the mercy and kindness He has shown us. If you enjoy these blessings, then do what will make my joy complete: Agree with each other, be united in your goals and in the way you think. In whatever you do, don’t let selfishness or pride be your guide. Be humble, and honor others more than yourselves. Don’t be interested only in your own life, but care about the lives of others too.” (emphasis is mine) THANK YOU, LORD. When I dropped Cole off, I half-jokingly made the remark that when they finish, they can come to our home. The next thing you know, we had six adults and about fifteen teenagers in our backyard working for about an hour and a half.  I’d like to think that since we were obedient to Christ, He blessed us with those precious folks.

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38

This afternoon, I went to my dad and step-mom’s home. My 80 year-young dad was thinking he could do his yard all on his own. After working with him for a couple of hours, I looked around and texted the principal at the high school down the road from my dad’s home. Tomorrow morning, I’ll be meeting with some football players from Durant High School to help in daddy’s yard. (Shout out to DHS)

#hopeinouryouth

While serving others, I kept praising God that we are able! Ephesians 3:20, would be repeated in my mind, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Friend, because His power is in us, we are able!

HUGE shoutouts, go to those men and women who I see coming from Indiana, California, Canada, Missouri, TEXAS, and so many more states, and various counties across our state to assist in relief and recovery.  Whether you are an electrical lineman, tree trimmer, National Guard, Coast Guard,  any and all branches of the Armed Forces, volunteers from churches and many charitable organizations, FEMA, etc….please know that our state is grateful!

Let’s all keep serving together!…We who are able!

5) KNOWING YOUR ABILITY TO SERVE: There are many people who are willing to serve in various capacities. For example, it pains my mom, who recently had a total knee replacement, to not be able to assist in the yard at this time. But what has she done? She and my step-dad have had various visitors stay nights at their home while others were out of power, she’s prayed for others, and provided a wonderful home-cooked meal to our family. That’s huge! I reminded her that when I was down with my broken foot/leg, especially during the holidays and us moving in to our home, it was difficult to just sit while others waited on me. But what I could do at that time was pray and encourage others. I learned that when others want to help in time of need, #dontstealtheirjoy.

There are people who can give financially during a time of crisis. Others will lend a hand to others with their ability to do physical work. I’m grateful for my neighbors, Billy and Zack, for helping us with electrical issues pre-Irma and post-Irma. Whatever you can do to help others, do what you CAN and don’t fret over the fact that there are limitations to your serving, there are others who can and will step up to the plate. 1 Peter 4:10, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

I don’t know about you, but serving others helps me get out of any funks in life. I want to encourage to you serve others when you’re feeling down. I pray that you won’t only be blessing others through your service, but YOU will be the one blessed. I bet you’ll walk away with a happy heart.

6) JOY COMES IN THE MORNING: During this week, we have totally lost track of our days. I’ve heard others say, and think to myself, “What is today?” All I know is that with each passing day, joy will come in the morning. #nocluewhattodayis

7) DISASTER INTO BLESSINGS: I must thank Irma for trimming and thinning my trees. Even though there is much debris, I can visualize a better yard than before. You have to look on the bright side.

And leave it to me, while pulling large limbs, I found one that I’m keeping as a decorative piece. Why not? I’ll take it as a gift from Irma. #decoratewithnature

While preparing for possible days without electricity, we stocked our pantry with non-perishable items. #weareblessed. Instead of hording the pantry items for ourselves, GIVE! Oh my…this morning I delivered some groceries to our local United Food Bank. The director, and my friend, Mary Heysek, greeted me with a smile and a tour of the place. She loves what she does and has such a servant’s heart. There was a row of shelves bagged and ready for pick up. She said that those shelves will be cleared today by people who need assistance now. Many shelves were completely empty, which are normally stocked. There is a great need for your extra pantry groceries. If you are local, please take you non-perishables to 702 E. Alsobrook Street, Suite H, Plant City. If you are out of town, please find a local food bank and donate. Be blessing to others during tough times.

8) PRAY WITHOUT CEASING: During this time, it is wonderful to see people of all nationalities, social statuses, and political views come together. Our nation is in need of prayer. We are stronger than we think, and through prayer and with God’s great help, our nation can become united again. I just wish that our government officials in DC would put their own agenda aside, and do what is best for the American people. #USAstrong

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:4

Thank you for praying for Texas, Florida, Georgia, and ALL states devastated by the latest hurricanes. Please don’t forget about the states our west who are being ravaged by fires. #prayingforall

Have a wonderful day! Count your blessings and name them one by one. Be an encourager.  Count it all joy!!

Much love to you and yours, Stephanie

(How many hashtags did you count? The first person who comments on the website, and the first to comment under my Facebook posting will receive a “wake, pray, slay” tank, provided by me. This shirt will be purchased from my nephew’s new business in Cape Coral, Dynamic Athletic Performance. This is the first tank in their #faithandfitness series. All donations, from purchasing this shirt will be donated back to the following via gift cards: Collier County, Key West, and a Christian disaster relief nonprofit who are on their way to help Florida…if you want to see it or know more, visit the “shared” posting on my public FB wall from Elizabeth Ruth.)

My morning view.
My morning view.

 

Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow!

God’s word is so refreshing. Refreshing in times of joy, sadness, disaster, rebuilding, and _________ (you fill in the blank).

This morning I woke to these precious words:

“Always be filled with joy in the Lord. I will say it again. Be filled with joy. Let everyone see that you are gentle and kind. The Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks for what you have. And because you belong to Jesus Christ, God’s peace will stand guard over all your thoughts and feelings. His peace can do this far better than our human minds. Brothers and sisters, continue to think about what is good and worthy of praise. Think about what is true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected.” Philippians 4:4-8

See! I told you God’s word is refreshing and precious!

Here I sit on my front porch…a nice breeze, birds and butterflies flying, cows grazing (I don’t think they ever stop though), the American flag wafting in the wind, sounds of nature, generators (ours and the neighbors), and Christian music in the background…and counting my blessings. Thank You, Lord, for all!

When I scroll through social media, or catch a glimpse of the news, I see many of folks grateful for being alive through the storm (PTL!), and others are complaining about having no electricity. Yea, that stinks. I’m right there with you with having no electricity. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a room, flipped the switch, and shook my head thinking, “Oh, yea”. But, hang on…open your eyes…look around…we have what we need.

I know of family and friends who still are not able to return to their Irma ridden homes. Their areas are being assessed, and all they can see is a satellite view of their property. Some are home, and the waters are continuing to rise. (Prayers are appreciated!) I think about the taxi driver we had in the BVI (Tortola, specifically) back in February of this year. He was so proud of his island. His family has been there for generations. Tortola was/is their home and livelihood. In our conversation, I asked him about hurricanes through the BVI. The gentleman stated with pride how they have weathered the storms successfully with slight or no damage to their homes. I don’t believe I can say that now. After seeing photos from the islands, that we love to travel to, the devastation is horrific! Our prayers are with them, and so many others.

So, the next time you want to grumble about having no electricity (for those of us who are physically capable of going without), count your blessings. The electric companies are working around the clock to return service to all. Thank you, TECO, Duke Energy, Georgia Power, and all electric companies bringing light and luxury back to our homes and businesses.

Now, this doesn’t only apply to the millions of folks who are dealing with hurricanes and other natural disasters…this applies to any situation in your life when you feel downtrodden, having a pity-party for yourself, or are truly in the midst of some life changing turmoil.

Be joyful in all circumstances.   God provides us with all we NEED.

Remember…(emphasis is mine)

Always be filled with joy in the Lord. I will say it again. Be filled with joy. Let everyone see that you are gentle and kind.”

Don’t worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks for what you have

“His peace can do this far better than our human minds.”

“think about what is good and worthy of praise. Think about what is true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected.”

Have a beautiful day. Count those blessings, name them one by one.

Many thanks and prayers continue for our government officials, all Armed Forces, fire and rescue and police officers, electricians, building contractors, medical staff, and the list continues.

Much love and prayers to all, Stephanie

#survivingIrma #Godisgoodallthetime #soakinguptheson #bejoyful #countyourblessings

The sun setting through the woods.

The sun setting through the woods.

As the sun is setting on our now lakefront home, thanks to Hurricane Irma, I am reminded of what all has transpired over the past week.

This has been the longest week of preparation for a hurricane I’ve EVER been in. I’m a native Floridian, and I’ve witnessed and been in my fair share of them. From observing the beginnings of Irma, to seeing her devastate islands that I love to travel to; purchasing more water, food, and gasoline that I think I ever have for a hurricane; witness the most populated evacuation emerge; seeing family and friends have to leave their homes not knowing if they will even have a home to return to; imagining the worst, hoping for the best, and fresh off the heels of Hurricane Harvey…it has definitely been a rollercoaster of emotions.

If you read the bible verses and prayers that I posted, you could probably sense the uneasiness in my prayers. I was reminded of David, when he would write a Psalm and it almost sounded conflicting…“I need to feel Your strength, Lord. Thank You for Your strength.” Or in Mark 9:24 when the boy’s fathers exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”IMG_0948

Now, don’t get me wrong, I was totally believing that God was in control and is my Protector and Provider, but the size of Irma and the intensity of the storm was terrifying. My humanness was on an emotional ride.

It was a sleepless night, as Irma’s most powerful winds didn’t reach our home until well into the night. While my family was sleeping, I was a restless momma. Then…daylight came.

As the morning light became visible, it was time to assess the damage. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. I opened the door to see a momma deer with her fawn gallop across the pasture. A young buck ran on the yard side of the fence, about ten yards from our front porch. He must have gotten injured, because he had a slight limp as he paced the fence line, trying to reach the other deer. It was refreshing and comforting to see God’s critters.

There was still strong gust of winds throughout the morning, but our damage was very minimal. Large limbs down, but not on any structures.  Praise the Lord! Small branches and leaves were scattered all over the backyard. The nearby creek had overflowed, and the water increased throughout the day. We often have excess water, due to the fact that we live in the Green Swamp area, but this flow of water exceeded what anyone has seen in many years. So, our backyard now appears to be lakefront property. The water will recede, and the sun will always set (even when we can’t see it).

IMG_0918Through the storm…emotionally, physically, and mentally…God was in control.

Through the storm…I would turn my focus on The Creator.

Through the storm…I’d hold out for hope.

Through the storm…we made it, with God as our Protector.

At the end of the storm…joy comes in the morning.

Whatever storm you may be going through in your life, please know, and remember…God is in control, He will see you through it, call out to Him and grab His hand, and joy will come in the morning. Your troubles will recede, and The Son will always shine.IMG_0950

We have learned what to do and what not to do during and after a storm. Just like any storms/trials in life, growth happens.

I pray that you will hold on to hope, in the midst of your storm. Grow in wisdom, knowledge, and truth through it all. Joy will come in the morning.

#WESURVIVEDIRMA.

My God is my Rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and savior – from violent people you save me. I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and have been saved from my enemies.” 2 Samuel 22:3-4

Blessings to you and yours, Stephanie

#HeismyRock #ComfortinChrist #HurricaneIrma

 

photo from myfoxhurricane.com I is supposed to be a cat 3 when it passes just to the left of our home.

photo from myfoxhurricane.com
I is supposed to be a cat 3 when it passes just to the left of our home.

I will praise You, LORD, through the storm!

My precious home, the entire state of Florida, is in destress. Hurricane Irma is going to wreak havoc on our land. During this time of trouble, I pray that we will all seek His face, cry out to Him, find refuge, peace, strength, and comfort in the God who is more powerful than this storm in life.

If you have printing capability, feel free to print, share with your family and friends as you gather together, and take turns saying them out loud.

When you pray these verses, please believe that God’s word is true. It is everlasting, and His love is everlasting too.

Here are just a smidgen of bible verses turned into quick prayers for you to use and repeat as you go through a storm, or Hurricane Irma.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

Lord, YOU are my hiding place. You say You are not only present, but EVER-present in times of trouble. Please let me feel Your existence around me, giving me strength. Thank You for giving me strength and protection. Amen

“Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in You I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” Psalm 57:1

Dear Lord, disaster is here. Thank You for shadowing me with Your wings. I need to sense Your protection. I find security in You. Have mercy on me, my family, and my state. I love You, Lord. Amen

“The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet water, He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil my cup overflows. Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23

You are all I need, Lord. During this time of distress, I will find delight in You. Lord, You are walking with me through this storm. Thank You. Even though I’m surrounded my trouble, I will not fear because YOU ARE WITH ME. Comfort me, Lord. Thank You for comforting me. I am blessed. Yes, even during the path of destruction, I will count my blessings. I need You. I love You. I thank You for Your calmness and refeshness. Amen.

“May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blamesless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.”

Lord, You are faithful! Your word is true. Thank You for being the God of peace. I need to feel your peace within me now. Give me peace. Amen.

“My God is my Rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and savior – from violent people you save me. I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and have been saved from my enemies.” 2 Samuel 22:3-4

Lord, You are my Rock! You are solid when I feel weak. Thank You for saving me. Shield me in times of trouble. You’ve got a grip on me, Lord. Keep me tight in Your hand. You are worthy of praise. Help me to praise You in and through the storm. Amen.

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip – He who watches over you will not slumber, indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you – the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm – He will watch over your life’ the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121:1-6

Dear Lord, thank You for watching over and protecting me. I need help, so I look to You. You are my help. You don’t only watch over me now, but forevermore. Keep Your eyes on me and Your hand in mine. Amen.

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

Dear Lord, my mind and heart is racing. Help me to just breathe and find calmness in You. You tell me to be still and know that You are God. Yes, You are God. Thank You for calming my fears. I will praise and exalt You now and forever. I rest in You, Lord. Amen.

“Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.” Thessalonians 5:11

Lord, during this time of trouble and uncertainty here on earth, help me to comfort others as You comfort me. Thank You for your comfort. Amen.

The eye will be going over my home. We will actually be in the worst position to be, to the near east. Though my heart, stomach, head, and all may feel a rollercoaster of emotions, I will TRUST IN THE LORD. He is my anchor!

I love you all and pray for y’all.

Blessings to you and yours. And remember…even when you can’t see the sun, it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

#staysafe #survivingIrma #HeismyRock #ComfortinChrist #HurricaneIrma #HeismyProtection #prayingforIrmavictims #Heismyanchor

 

 

IMG_0840

The calm before the storm/hurricane.

Ahhh, the calm before the storm.

Stephanie, the encourager, needed some serious encouraging yesterday. With each update on Hurricane Irma, the latest had her zooming through central Florida (where we live).

I heard my youngest son (age 15) calling my name. At that time, I was sick to my stomach, knees to the floor, face cuddled in my hands as I bow down, eyes beginning to fill with tears, and praying Irma away! I replied, “I’m in the room praying.” While, still face down, I could hear the door crack open, and then quietly close to leave me in peace.

My prayer warrior brothers and I have been texting and keeping each other updated (one lives in the same town as me, and the other two live in Georgia). The latest text from me was, “Brothers!!! Cole just came looking for me and said, “Mom, where are you?” I’m in Holly’s room praying on my knees for wisdom and crying. Seriously! This just got real! Your strong sister is weak right now.” Within minutes, I knew the praying had begun on their end. As I was praying for wisdom, discernment, and peace, I could feel the release of tension and anxiety being lifted from my being.

I got up and had to busy myself with more preparations outside. With each passing moment, I could feel God’s gentle hand holding me and calming my mind.

This morning, I poured some hot tea and headed out to our Adirondack swings. Soaking up some Jesus, while the sun was rising, was just what The Doctor ordered.

A variety of birdlife was singing, squawking, and flying about. The wind was passive, the pond was still, and house was quiet with my peacefully sleeping family.

I reread my daily scripture, and just shook my head and smiled in agreement.

“Show me what you want me to do. You are my God. Let your good Spirit lead me over level ground. LOR, let me live so that people will praise your name. Show me how good you are and save me from my trouble. Show me your love and defeat my enemies. Destroy those who are trying to kill me because I am your servant.” Psalm 143:10-12

Do you see why I had to smile and shake my head? Exactly what I have been praying over the past eighteen hours. “What do we do??? Do we go or stay?” and sooo many more questions and thoughts that flood my mind.

My family has prepared and will continue to ready ourselves as Irma approaches us. (We are not in an evacuation zone.)

All I know right now is:

  • God is in control! Total control.
  • He knew about Irma a long time ago.
  • We need to be prepared. (Click here for entry titled “Are you prepared?”)
  • Reading God’s word gives me comfort and peace.
  • Love!
  • Serve.
  • Give.
  • Pray!
  • Rest in Him.
  • Cast all anxieties on Him and keep my eyes on Jesus.
  • Although Irma is the Atlantic’s most powerful storm to date, our God is MORE POWERFUL!

I pray for ALL those in the path of Irma, volunteers, government officials, electric companies, search and rescue teams, all Armed Forces assisting, police, firemen, and anyone helping get our great Sunshine state back to some normalcy. (As I just saw three rescue helicopters flying over my home…this is serious!) Dear Jesus…I have times of tears when I see scenes of the seriousness of it all…from those helicopters to a fleet of electric company trucks driving down the interstate this morning. Peace.  Peace.  Peace, dear Lord!

Please take time to say a kind word to others, help out your neighbors, embrace the calmness before the storm, trust in God, love big time, and say your prayers.

Note…if you are preparing for the impact of Irma, take photos and/or videos of your home. I hear it has helped Harvey victims.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. Psalm 94:19

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  Isaiah 41:10

Stay safe. Love to all, Stephanie

#prayingIrmaaway #goawayIrma #beprepared #guidance #Godismorepowerful #trustinHim

 

 

IMG_0833Today, I was messaging a friend…actually a lady whom I’ve never personally met, only her mother, and we connected, and now I feel like we are two peas in a pod…anyhow…she was encouraging me to write a few things as we (here in Florida) are preparing for Hurricane Irma.

First of all…can we just pause a moment to pray Irma away. Much like my sweet step-sister Julie posted on her Facebook wall yesterday, “Dear Irma, there’s a huge, empty ocean off to your right. I know you want to cool off. Go. Now.” And might I add, “In the name of Jesus! Amen.”

I believe that we here are either in panic-mode, prep-mode, or get-outta-town-mode (depending as to where you are located) as we await the direction of this massive and dangerous hurricane. Right on the heels of Hurricane Harvey, with intently and prayerfully observing what Texas went, and is going through, many Floridians are preparing one way or the other.

Imagine…two homes, side-by-side, and a catastrophic storm is heading their way. One home has been prepared since the foundation was laid, and they have gone above and beyond to secure all family members, pets, and belongings for the storm. If you were to look in their pantry, you’d think they were preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse.

The other home wasn’t built to withhold powerful winds and rain like their neighbor’s structure. The owners did prepare for a storm, but only as in a “Hurricane Party” mode, with a large sheet of plywood screwed to their home with the words painted, “Bring it on!”.

At the end of this scenario, the neighbors in the well-laid-foundation-prepared-home was secure and fully alive. The “Bring it on” neighbors…suffered severely with loss of a life.

As I type this entry, I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:24-27, “Whoever hears these teaching of mine and obeys them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. It rained hard, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house. But it did not fall because it was built on rock. Whoever hears these teaching of mine and does not obey them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. It rained hard, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house. And it fell with a loud crash.”

Friend, the situation between the two homes preparing for the hurricane are not so different from you and me. News flash… “The end is near”, “We are not guaranteed tomorrow”, “Jesus is coming”…you choose your well-known statement. Are you ready? Are you prepared?

Proverbs 21:31 reminds us that God is in control, “Do your best, prepare for the worst – then trust God to bring victory.” I thought The Message translation was more apropos for our current weather conditions.

No matter what happens with Irma, we hope for the best, prepare for the worst, but in the end…God’s in control.

If my life were to be taken by the ravaging effects of the storm, I know-to-know that my foundation in Christ is laid and I will be with Jesus when my time comes. Do you know where you’re going when the time comes? Don’t just hope for the best, but prepare yourself by believing in Christ and putting your trust in Him. Let God be The Boss of your life.

Thanks, Teri, for the encouragement.

Blessings to you and yours.

Stay safe. Love to all, Stephanie

#prayingIrmaaway #goeastwayeastIrma #beprepared #foundationinChrist

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give me your heartOver the past several days I have found myself fixated on watching the news report which were keeping America updated with the sights and stories from Hurricane Harvey.

My heart ached for those in Harvey’s path, and still does for all. Yet, I’m also encouraged by what I have been observing too. (Read to the end.)

This led me to ask two questions:

“What breaks your heart?”

“What makes your heart smile?”

The heart is a vital organ in our bodies. When someone has a broken heart, they can have similar symptoms to a true physical heart attack. Seriously! Read Broken Heart Syndrome from The American Heart Association. How we feel, whether our heart aches or smiles, is dynamic to our psyche and bodies too.

In Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The responses to my questions above were overwhelmingly unanimous in the matters of the heart. It was not things, such as a lovely home, car, or boat that made the list of joys or sorrows. It wasn’t someone’s status in life that made the roster of responses. No sir or ma’am. The treasures mentioned were more valuable than “things”.

Here are examples of what breaks folks heart:

  • Seeing a loved one suffer, or die, from a disease
  • Seeing homeless children
  • Seeing a spouse or your children hurt and not being able to help
  • Watching someone ruin their life due to an addiction
  • Seeing family go through tough times
  • When people reject Jesus, and not accept Him as their personal Savior
  • America turning from God
  • Child and the elderly abuse and neglect
  • Abuse of any kind
  • Human exploitation
  • Discord in families
  • After a spouse’s death, not being able to say, “I love you” to them daily
  • People not putting God first in their lives
  • Bullying
  • Being deprived of love
  • When people value material things over relationships
  • Time going by so fast
  • The judging and criticizing of others
  • Rejection, loneliness, infidelity, lack of being independent
  • Hate and discord
  • Lies
  • Being in a Christian/non-Christian love relationship
  • Loss of a child
  • Cruelty to animals
  • Lack of parent involvement
  • Divorce
  • Not living up to others’ expectations

Whew! Just reading that list makes my heart feel sad.

I often find myself saying to God, “Break my heart for what breaks yours.”

In Matthew West song, “My Own Little World” (video) , a verse says:

I’m going to break my heart for what breaks Yours Give me open hands and open doors Put Your light in my eyes and let me see That my own little world is not about me

The group Hillsong United sings the words “Break my heart for what breaks yours” as well in their song, “Hosanna” (video).

What about you? Does your heart ache for selfish gain or for what breaks God’s heart? According to the responses above, it appears that these folks have a heart for God.

Now, let’s get giddy. Read some responses on what makes folks’ heart smile:

  • When a child, grandchild, any loved one says, “I love you”
  • Holding and seeing great and grandchildren
  • Seeing our children succeed, happy, and enjoying life
  • True altruism, human kindness just for the sake of loving others
  • When someone accepts the Lord as their personal Savior
  • Going to church and spending time with family and friends
  • God allowing me to wake up each day and start fresh
  • My children
  • The Shuffs (this made me laugh and happy), spouse, and a two-foot birdie putt
  • Hearing parents laugh
  • Playing with grandchildren
  • Giving back
  • Hearing children and/or the elderly laugh and play
  • Adopting animals
  • Seeing a spouse peacefully sleep
  • Hugs
  • Puppies
  • Sunsets
  • Peace, love, and happiness
  • Nature
  • Children’s funniness
  • Kindness in others
  • Holding an elderly parent’s hand
  • Old hymns

Sweet Jesus! All those make me smile, well…I don’t have grandbabies yet, but one day not too soon, I can’t wait, but I can wait. You get it.

Again, the answers to the question had nothing to do with material “things”.

TEXANS, I want to commend you! THANK YOU for being an example to our nation proving that coming together, no matter the race, political party or religious affiliation, social or financial status, can be done. Well done! Keep it up. You give us hope and encouragement. I pray that we can do the same for y’all.

Yes, these will be tremendously difficult days, months, and years ahead. But if we can all do our part, much like those we’ve observed volunteering the victims of Harvey, and set aside all differences (!!!), there will be much growth and glory through it all and in the end.

Yes, there will be glory at the end of this season of life, whatever season you may be in the midst of right now, when you hold on to hope and fix your eyes on Jesus.

“My son, give Me your heart and let your eyes delight in My ways,” Proverbs 23:26

Whether you have heartache or a heart full of joy, give it to God and allow His ways to consume you. No, His ways are not our ways, and we don’t often understand why events in life happen when they do, but…one thing I do know is that…His ways are best. Keep your eyes on Jesus.

“through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 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 5:2-5

I pray that you will have a heart like God’s. I pray for our country to turn to Jesus. May we strive to do what is best for others, and agree that we don’t agree on many levels, yet desire what is best according to God’s plan. I pray for all those who are being affected by Hurricane Harvey…the victims, volunteers, rescuers, etc..

Blessings to you and yours.

With a heart full of love, Stephanie

#hurricaneharvey #whatbreaksyourheart #whatmakesyourheartsmile #struggles #texaslove #heart

 

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“Pray in the Spirit at all times. Pray with all kinds of prayers, and ask for everything you need. To do this you must always be ready. Never give up. Always pray for all of God’s people.”  Ephesians 6:18

“First of all, I ask that you pray for all people. Ask God to bless them and give them what they need. And give thanks.”  1 Timothy 2:1

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”  Romans 8:26-27

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Thank you for praying for ALL those in the path of Harvey.

#prayingfortexas

Sit.  Pray.  Be still.  Or simply go about your day...just PRAY.  Chat it up with God.

Sit. Pray. Be still. Or simply go about your day…just PRAY. Chat it up with God.

Prayer is a HUGE part of my life.

This past week I’ve been lacking on journaling, but busy about praying. While “busying” myself with chores or going about my daily life, God and I chat.

Pulling weeds. Driving down the road. Washing dishes. Singing. Being observant with others. Being STILL…God and I chat.

Thanking Him. Praising God. Crying out to Him for specific needs. Lifting others up to the Lord. You name it, God and I chat.

This morning, I sat in my comfy chair, picked up my bible, and I already had it opened to James 5. I specifically read James 5:13-18. While reading those verses, the names on my prayer wall came to mind.

Many names are people whom, when I asked the question “What are you struggling with?” on Facebook, back in April, they responded. Overwhelmingly responded! I have prayed for and thought of these folks often. They’re on my wall! When I recently message each one to let them know I still am praying for them and just checking up on how their struggles are going, or hopefully ceasing, it was refreshing to hear that some have been resolved, some are now on meds, some are still in the process yet great relief comes each day, and for one the struggle has gotten stronger and more debilitating. (Friend, I’m going to believe that when that occurs, and you are fervently seeking God daily, He has big plans for you. Remind Satan, “Not today.”, and keep your eyes on Jesus. He’s got you!)

Lately the prayers for my children have become more specific in certain areas too. I can’t wait to witness God’s power move in their hearts and lives.

I want you to know that when your name pops into my mind, God and I chat.

If you ask me to pray, God and I chat, and right then so I won’t forget.

When you tell me your heartache and/or your successes, God and I chat.

Now, let’s glance at those verses from James 5:13-18:

Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. 14 Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.

16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. 17 Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! 18 Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.

Here are some things I circled and underlined in my bible:

  • Suffering hardships…pray
  • Happy…praise
  • Sick…pray (even if God’s healing is not on this earth, yet complete healing with Him)
  • Committed any sins…confess…pray…forgiven
  • “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has a great power and produces wonderful results.”
  • Pray earnestly
  • Pray again

Notice that in these verse, you don’t have to go it alone. Share your heartache and joys with others. Include them in your prayer and praise time.

I guess my point is for today…pray! Chat it up with God.

My prayer is for you to be chatting it up with God throughout your day. See God work. Be earnest in your prayer life. Pray is a powerful and will produce wonderful results.

Oh yea, how can I pray for you today? God and I can chat about you.

Blessings to you and yours.

Love, Stephanie

 

 

 

boat 2I heard a thundering boom. When I leaped from the truck and overheard a friend say, “Where’s Tim?”, my heart leaped out of my chest. As I ran to the edge of the dock, getting ready to jump in and search for my man, Tim came out of the water, from about ten feet from the back of the boat, and must have heard and seen the panic in me. He calmly said, “Here I am. I’m okay.”

You see, the tide was extremely low when we returned from boating with friends. Everyone grabbed their belongings and helped clean the boat. Four friends went ahead and departed for the house, I sat in the backseat of the truck because we were to the normal part of simply raising the boat on the lift and leaving, and three remaining friends were standing by the dock waiting for Tim. Since the tide was tremendously low, Tim decided to pull it up as far as it could go into our slip, and raise it a little until he would return in a couple of hours once the tide began to rise. Tim was in the back of the boat removing the plug, when the back weight of the boat gave way and almost capsized backwards. The motor was submerged for about ten minutes, while the three men pushed/pulled/untangled the boatlift.

My hands were trembling for a while, heart pounding, breaths were deep, and tears followed once alone. I was so proud of my man’s reaction. That could have been a moment of tempers flying and word choices not so pleasing, yet Tim remained calm and focused. Yea, he was frustrated, but his reaction was stellar. He was grateful no one was hurt.

Those three men displayed great teamwork and encouraging camaraderie under pressure. Two neighbors and two of our friends who had already left returned to help. Supportive friends are much appreciated.

Reflecting on the boating incident, one of my favorite scriptures come to mind:

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.” Romans 5:3-5

Okay, when comparing strife in life, in our minds, there is just really no comparing. Yet, no matter the degree of difficulty one encounters, God cares. He also desires the same outcome…development of endurance, character, and confident hope.

I pray that you will choose to react in a way that sets you apart from others. Set apart in a way that is pleasing to God. Be a testimony for Him.

Blessings to you and yours.  Love, Stephanie

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