Extreme Joy

Extreme Joy

Friday, December 31, 2010

Who Would Have Thought

This time last year who would have thought. . .
  • that my daughter would spend this New Year's Eve in the bush of Africa - Turkana - watching God's starry light show in the skies instead of bought fireworks
  • that I would actually be a published writer, having published stories or articles in "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotions for Mothers," "In Touch Ministries," Focus on the Families "Thriving Family" Magazine, and have devotions published online at christiandevotion.us
  • that I would have attended my first Writers Conference and receive 2 awards
  • that I would have survived a very difficult year financially and by the end of the year my husband would have a new job he LOVES and is already excelling
  • that I would be getting up before the sun to row on a rowing machine 5 days out of the week and loving it
These are a few highlights that come to my mind as I reflect on 2010. Some people like to reflect on the previous year while others are ready to plow on through to the next year. For me and my family I would have to say it's been a rough year, but when I think of the accomplishments, the blessings, the changes, the pruning, the fruit, and the provisions I see that God IS FAITHFUL. This brief reflection reminds me that when I can't see His hand, I must trust His heart! And I must ALWAYS remember His Word that says, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jer. 29:11 NKJV).

May the Lord bless you and your family.
Happy New Year!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Spiritual Belt

I have a confession to make . . . I lose weight, then gain it back. Lose it again and gain it back again. I have a belt to prove it.

The belt has not one, but three notches that are well worn. Sometimes I come very close to throwing the belt away, but hold on to it because it's one of my favorites. When I am at my last notch I realize how close I am to losing the belt for good. When I am smaller and three notches into the belt, I smile as I remember I am not where I used to be  . . . larger.

If I had a spiritual belt, I wonder what it would look like? It think it would look the same as the belt I wear. Sometimes I am lazy, sluggish, and distracted. It is at these times I began to realize that I am getting near to losing something very special -- a close relationship with my Heavenly Father. When I am lean, focused and dedicated, I look at the last notch and realize I'm not where I used to be.

As the holiday season continues to march into my life to the tune of the March of the Toy Soldiers from The Nutcracker, I find myself looking at menus, marking the calendar with Christmas parties, and planning time in the kitchen to bake. I have to be very careful not to allow myself to get to the last notch of my belt, less I have to put it aside. The same with my spiritual belt, with the holidays, I don't need to get wrapped in food, fun, and parties but need to remember what the holiday season really means.

This year I am pulling my belt tighter -- "Only one piece of pie please. Yes, the small one will do" -- and spending quiet moments reflecting, praying, and thanking God for His love and most of all His gift to us, His Son Jesus.

What would your spiritual belt look like?

image courtesy of photobucket.com

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Lessons from my Garden

I thought she was dying. Her leaves were turning yellow and dropping and the showy white flowers that once adorned her with beauty were thinning in the hot summer sun. Try as I did to supply her with food and water, she wasn't fairing well. I had heard she was one of the toughest in her category and had decided to give her a try in containers on my deck.  As a person who pulls for the underdog I didn't want to give up on my "Snow Princess" Alyssum when she stopped producing the snowing white flowers.  With all the talk about heat tolerance, beauty, and long lasting color from spring to fall, I had to give her every opportunity to live up to the billing.

Summer moved into fall, the hot temperatures gave way to cooler temps and I began to see a difference in my plant. Her leaves greened up and once again she was covered with snowy white blooms that gave her the descriptive name she carried. By October my "Snow Princess" was as beautiful as she was in the spring. I was so thankful that I didn't give up on her. . . she became the delight of my fall garden.

My name isn't "Snow Princess" and I don't grace a deck with lovely white flowers, but I do find myself going through hot, dry spells in which I don't feel like I am being productive or living up to my billing -- that God loves me, has a plan for me, and delights in me. The Holy Spirit faithfully continues to feed and water me through the drought times until once again I bloom and flower like God created me to do. I am so glad that He pulls for underdogs and never gives up on me. But most of all I take extreme joy in knowing I'm the delight of His garden. 


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pumpkin Patch Photos

"I'll go with you, but I'm not going to get my picture taken this time." 

Year after year we we would take a family trip to the mountains to get apples, mountain cabbage and homemade jellies. The highlight of the trip was going to the pumpkin patch to pick out the pumpkin that would grace our front porch. I too wanted a pumpkin, but the real reason I planned this little excursion was to get some cute pictures of  my daughter. With camera in hand I would coax my daughter into the  middle of the pumpkins for a photo shoot. When she was small, it wasn't too difficult because she would gladly get in the middle of the patch searching for the perfect pumpkin. As she got older, it was more difficult and then came the year she was a freshman in college when she adamantly said, "I'll go with you, but I am not going to get my picture taken this time." As always, I made sure she did.

I loved going back over the years to see how much she had grown and changed. The bangs and pony-tail gave way to a more teenage look of long hair with no bangs. The braces came and went, and the glasses that were so adorable on her as a child disappeared soon after the braces. Each year was a noticeable change in the the appearance of my daughter as she grew into a lovely young woman.

I have often thought what changes God would see if He took a yearly picture of me -- same time, same place. Would He see a spiritual growth in me? Would I be growing in grace and knowledge, obedience and trust? Or would I try to get out of my spiritual evaluation by telling Him, "I'll go with you, but I'm not going to get my picture taken this time."

I want to go with Him and allow Him to search my heart and check my spiritual growth chart. But more than anything, I want Him to take my picture and be able to say "She's looking more and more like her Abba, Daddy every day."

Lord, thank you that You want me to go with You, spend time with You, and let You search my heart. I don't want to stay like I am, but I want to be more like You. So much like You that when others see me, they will see a reflection of You, my Father. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Tetherball anyone?

The saying goes "When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on!" Obviously a person must have some sort of control of their situation if they can tie a knot and then hang on. But what if you are a ball attached to the end of the rope, tethered to a pole with no control of your situation at all?

Oh, I wish I could have tied a knot and held on these past couple of weeks. One minute I was peacefully hanging at the end of a rope swaying to the rhythm of life when all the sudden I was hit with a force that sent me flying in circles through the air.

At first I wished I hadn't been tethered at all. That way, the force of the punch could have sent me sailing through the air to an unknown destination leaving the circumstances of the punch well out of sight. It would have been much easier to bear the pain and assess the damage. 

No chance . . . I was tethered -- while circling at such speed I didn't even see the pole until I felt the pain of impact and the tight grip of the cord. Tie a knot and hold on, why I couldn't even move as the situation unfolded around me. Why couldn't I have just flown through the air and away from the pain? Why did I have to be tethered?

Why? Because I am tethered! I am tethered to Jesus Christ . . . the One who will "Never leave me nor forsake me." As I felt the pain and helplessness of the situation, I began to feel the tightness of the wrapped cord as an embrace that kept me stable. As the race of my heart begin to decrease, I realized the pole in which I was I tethered was my anchor. Seriously, where would I have landed if I hadn't been attached to my anchor? What arms would have been there to embrace me through the pain?

Today, by the glory and grace of God I am being unwound at a slow gentle pace as the hurts and disappointments are washed away by the wind of God's Spirit. Soon I will once again be swaying to the rhythms of life THANKFUL that I am tethered to my Saviour and Lord.

And the next time I am hit with life's painful circumstances, . . . I will count it all joy. Because once again I will "wind up" face to face with the ONE who is my tether.

images courtesy of photobucket.com

Friday, July 23, 2010


 "Let's take a good look at the way we're living and reorder our lives under God" (Lam. 3:40 - The Message).

Milestone birthdays need to be celebrated and we had two in one family. My brother was turning 50 and his wife, whose birthday was on the same day, was turning 40. Two birthdays that deserved a party.

I had offered my home for our family to meet and celebrate but there was so much that needed to be done to my neglected house. So the work began -- dusting, vacuuming, sweeping, cleaning bathrooms, rearranging the deck. Then the party plans --  pizza was on the menu but we still needed balloons, cakes, candles (lots of candles), and confetti.

The day after the party I was resting in my favorite recliner when I looked up and saw them. Cobwebs. They were gracefully woven between the corner and a beam in my den ceiling. I thought I had cleaned my house. How did I miss those? How? -- I never took the time to look up. It was only in my resting that I looked up and saw the evidence of a neglected place in my home.

It is the same way with our "spiritual homes." How many times do we stay so busy that we have our heads down taking care of what we think is important. In doing this we never take time to rest. Not just a physical rest, but a resting that takes place in our hearts as we spend time with the Lord. It is during these times that He can show us the places in our lives that need attention and cleaning. The cobwebs could be a bad habit, an attitude, an unhealthy mindset, or unforgiveness. If we always have our heads down and never rest and look up, we will miss those places that need attention.

Take time this weekend and next week to rest in the Lord. Take a good look at the way you are living and let God help you not only clean out the "cobwebs" but reorder your life.

Friday, July 16, 2010


"And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart." (Ecc. 4:12 NASB).

image courtesy of photobucket.com

We have a tendency to think we have to face life all by ourselves. Peter tells us our adversary, the devil, "prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (I Peter. 5:8). If we are trying to face life alone -- without help, encouragement, or someone to talk to -- then we are setting ourselves up for the enemy to devour us. He is on the prowl looking for prey and this makes us an easy target.

He is a subtle enemy. One of the ways he works is by using the power of suggestion -- planting a negative thought in our mind or a lie -- and then he just lets us run with it. Another way he works is by taking our joy away. Also, he loves to plan the ever popular event called the pity-party. He will provide the cake, balloons and the confetti if we let him and he will even remove all clocks in sight so we will stay for a long time in our misery. Yes, he is waiting.

But, if we surround ourselves with others who will encourage us, friends who can and will shed the light of truth on the lies we have believed, and pray for us, the enemy won't be able to hold us in his grasp.

In this new season of ministry God is calling my family and me, I have allowed myself to roam around alone for a little while and the enemy has quickly come upon me with lies, suggestions, and has been able to take my joy away. I hadn't accepted the invitation to the pity-party yet, but I was getting close to the door. Not realizing at the time, I reached out to two dear friends who I know support me and love me and they have become my bookends.  Both of them in their own way helped me to see what God has been doing in my life, the blessings He has so richly given me, and the future He has for me. They have helped me see and embrace truths not lies from the enemy. Yes, my bookends, one on each side of me, the combination of the three making "a cord of three strands."

Today I put the enemy on notice by saying "I am NOT alone and you CANNOT overpower me, for two can resist you, but a cord of three strands IS NOT quickly torn apart . . . I now have my bookends!!!"

Are you walking this journey called life alone? Are the voices and the lies of the enemy taking away your joy? Well . . . go get your bookends! These will be your sturdy friends who will hold you up as you add chapter after chapter to your book of life. You don't want to live without them!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Surprised Freedom

". . . to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness" (Isa. 42:7 NIV).

I am lost. As I write this I am without my constant companion - my cell phone. So far I have thought about checking with a friend about possibly meeting for lunch, thought about later checking an earlier message I had saved from my daughter's dentist with the phone number for the oral surgeon I need to call today and make an appointment, and thought about how many messages I have waiting on me. All this during the first 15 minutes of my 30 minute drive to work.

I also need the phone number or email address for my brother so can wish him "Happy Birthday," both which are in my phone, and I need a way for the groomer to contact me and let me know when Maggie, my Shih Tzu, is ready to leave the "doggie day spa." I'm beginning to wonder what I did without this small piece of equipment that has so intricately woven itself into my life.

Fast-forward three hours . . . it sure is quite and peaceful. No "pings" to tell me I have a text message, no little red light blinking to notify me of a message, no temptation to pick up my phone and check my email messages or get on Facebook. Matter of fact, this is quite freeing. No one calling me, no one texting me, no thoughts in the back of my mind to check my phone . . . maybe this isn't such a bad thing after all.

Now that I think about it, this is the same way I feel when I finally let go of something I'm struggling with after I give it to God. At first I'm lost because the thing I so badly want to be released from has been my constant companion. At first I miss it and want it near me, like a security blanket. Take worrying for instance, I finally give my concerns about a situation over to the Lord during my prayer time in the morning, but during the first 15 minutes of my 30-minute drive to work I'm already worrying. I go through the reasoning of my concerns until I remember I've already let it go. It's not there, for God has taken it from me just as I asked him to do in prayer.
image courtesy of photobucket.com
Even when it is bad for us, we get so used to something being with us - worry, concern, fear, insecurity, a bad habit - that we miss it when it is gone. When we finally realize that it's truly gone, we begin to feel the freedom the Lord wants us to have in our daily lives. Isaiah told us Jesus would come to "to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness" (Isa. 42:7 NIV).

Fast-forward . . . it sure is quite and peaceful. No "pings" to tell me I need to worry, no little red blinking light in my heart to notify me that I need to be concerned, no temptation to examine the situation again. Matter of fact, it's quite freeing. So freeing I want to call and tell something how great this feels.

Opps. . . no cell phone.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


"Do you want to hear a secret?" 

I love for someone to tell me a secret. It isn't about the secret as much as it is the fact that someone knows me well enough and trust me enough to tell me something that is very important to them. I'm not talking about the secret that turns out to be gossip about another person, but something a dear friend has told me because they have found me trustworthy and faithful.

God has secrets. Deuteronomy 29:29 says "The secret things belong to the Lord our God . . ." (NIV). Does He want to keep these secrets to Himself? Absolutely not. We see in Psa. 25:14 "The secret [of the sweet, satisfying companionship] of the Lord have they who fear (revere and worship) Him, . . ." (Amp. Bible). The Lord wants to confide in us but just as we have to be worthy of a friend's trust, we have to be worthy of God's trust. Would you tell your secrets to just anyone? No, and neither will God.

Want to know God's secrets?
  • Spend time with Him, talk to Him in prayer and in quiet moments.
  • Get to know Him by reading the Bible.
  • Listen to Him as He speaks to you in whispers, through people, and through His Words. 
  • Be faithful in the things He prompts you to do, or say.
An intimate friendship develops over time and it's the same with our Heavenly Father. As you get to know Him and realize how majestic, awesome, faithful, long-suffering, and loving He is, you will begin to give Him the worship and reverence He deserves. This is the fear that is mentioned in Psa. 25:14. Not an unhealthy fear but one in which we realize that He is the creator of all! Yes He is all this, but He is also the One who wants to get to know you! And when He does, one day He will lean over towards you and whisper in your heart and ask . . . "Do you want to hear a secret?"

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Holding Tight

He was not about to let go. The knuckles of his little hand were turning white as his face began to turn  amber red. While grasping the handle of the cup his eyes were locked with his dad's and his little world went into a toddler lock down.  Cameron was not about to let go of the cup even though his 4 year old brother Hayden pulled on the opposite handle while screaming out. The more Cameron's dad told him to let go, the tighter the toddler grasp became until tears began filling his big blues eyes.

I watched as Cameron's dad took his large hands and pried the little fingers from the cup handle. This is not going to be pretty, I thought to myself as the squirming child was picked up and taken to another spot in the room. Cameron needed a moment to settle down and dad was going to make sure it happened. With Cameron cradled in his arms, his dad whispered words of comfort and correction and soon Cameron was no longer squirming, but leaning into the strong arms that were now a loving embrace.

Do I do the same thing? Do I hold on to something that is going to either get me in trouble or is something I don't need? And with tears in my eyes, I spiritually look at my Heavenly Father and hold on with all that is within me - even as I hear His words of wisdom telling me to let go - I only grasp tighter.

I thought of how inflexible and unyielding I can be as I hold on to certain things, be it lack of faith, fear, pride, unforgiveness or anger, until I simply reach a point of lock down. It is at this time that the Lord has to get my attention. Sometimes He pulls me away with a gentle nudge while other times He has to use circumstances to swoop down, pick me up and remove me from the situation in one swift motion. Once He has my attention I can began to hear His voice and His words as they pour over me while I am cradled in His loving arms.

And while He has me in His grasp . . . well that is the best part, He speaks into my spirit and tells me He loves me and He understands. This is what I want to remember the most . . . the closeness of those special moments as I hold on tight to Him.

photo courtesy of photobucket.com

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

His Eye Is On You

“Give all your worries to him, because he cares about you” (I Peter 5:7 NCV).

I love to be cared for, don’t you? Peter gave us a wonderful reminder that God not only loves us, but he cares for us. I especially like the way the Amplified Bible reads concerning the last part of this scripture, “for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.” Now, I can snuggle up to those words . . . He cares for us affectionately – tenderly, lovingly. Yes, that feels so good – to know that the creator of the universe cares about me and He cares about you. But that is not all, for He cares for us watchfully. He is watching us and He knows what is going on in our lives at every moment, what we are concerned about, and what is ahead of us that we can’t even see.
But then there are the first six words of this verse, “Give all your worries to him.” In examining my daily life, I must ask myself whether or not I give my worries to Him? Do I give Him ALL my worries? I can honestly say I am working on this part of the scripture. For as much as I snuggle up to the last part, I cringe at the first part.
Just yesterday I had a devotion post on an online devotional site that I had submitted back in April. The title of the devotion was “Faith and Finance” in which I wrote “we must believe God will provide during difficult situations, even regarding our money.” As life would have it, on the same day this posted, we were hit with a test concerning our faith in finances. I ended my day praying God would take care of the situation and woke up trying to pray and sing the words “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He’s watching me.” We are now on the other side of the situation and once again we survived. Did I pass “the test,” I don’t know, but it once again reminded me that as difficult as it is, I MUST give my worries to Him – especially when it is out of my control.  Oh, the “c” word – well we can address that another day.
What are your worries today? What seems so big it consumes your time, your thoughts, your energy and eats away at your joy? Remember God cares about you affectionately and He is watching over you. Give Him your worries, all of them. His shoulders are much larger and can carry your load much easier than you will ever be able. He is waiting – and remember, He has His all-seeing eyes on YOU.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


One of my favorite books that I read to my daughter when she was young was “Runaway Bunny” by Margaret Wise Brown. As we read together, the story unfolded as the little bunny kept threatening his mother that he was going to escape and run away. But, the mother spends time explaining to him the LENGTHS she will go to find her baby. One line in the book is “If you run away, I will run after you.” The baby bunny imagines all kinds of ways to escape, but realizes (with much comfort) he will never be able to leave his home or his mother. What unconditional love! What comfort!

We as adults have our very own “story” that can be read to us about our loving Heavenly Father who loves us unconditionally. Our “story” is found in Psalms 139.
     Is there any place I can go to avoid your Spirit 
          To be out of your sight?
     If I climb to the sky, you’re there! 
          If I go underground, you’re there! 
     If I flew on morning’s wings 
          To the far western horizon, 
     You’d find me in a minute –
          You’re already there waiting! 
     Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark! 
          At night I’m immersed in the light!” 
     It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you; 
          Night and day, darkness and light, they’re all 
          the same to you.
                                         Psalms 139:7-12 (The Message)

As adults, we do not have to fear being alone either. No matter what we are going through, trying to escape from, or run away from, we cannot go anywhere that the Spirit of God can’t find us. Actually, as the Psalmist writes . . . He is ALREADY there!!!

Friday, June 4, 2010


Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22).

I am a writer. I finally admit the obvious. I have submitted articles and devotions, I have had some devotionals accepted, and I recently received word that I will have my first article published in "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Mother's Devotional" due out this October. It is a new and exciting journey I am on right now – reading, learning, writing, re-writing, submitting, and waiting. I have prepared myself for most of these things, however the one thing I didn’t plan on was thoughts and ideas downloading into my mind and heart at all times of the day (and night.)

Since I work at a computer most of the day and am very familiar with downloading. I know I always have an option – click to download now or click to download later. Now if I can find a way to click download later in my mind and heart. But would I really use it? No way, I can’t wait to see what the Lord is going to download next. I am anxious to receive the truths He wants to reveal about Himself, the mysteries He wants to explain, or the promises He wants to point out. I want to be reminded of the conversations I recently heard, a real-life drama I witnessed, or a humorous situation I experienced so I can share with others how God is immersed in our lives if we will only take notice.

In downloading, God not only downloads thoughts, ideas, or truths, mysteries, and promises, He downloads information about who He is, what He did for us, and what He has planned for us. He downloads the love He has as a Father, the sacrifice of His Son Jesus, and the power that is available to us through the Holy Spirit. He downloads correction, rebukes, instructions, along with guidance and direction.

God is always downloading into our hearts, but to receive these downloads we must first have our computers on – our hearts have to be open to Him and be willing to listen and receive what He is whispering to us. Then you have an option to save or not. This is something that is in our control. If we allow Him to download into our hearts, are we willing to SAVE what we receive? It may not always be what we want to hear, but it will always be for our good.

The differences between Father God’s downloads and computer downloads is simple – no mass downloads. His downloads are designed uniquely for each of us, sent only to us, and has a special name on it. We don’t know the name yet, but one day we will. “ I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it” (Rev. 2:17).