GIFTS

Have you ever been presented with a gift, so beautifully wrapped that you do not want to open it? Sounds silly, doesn’t it. But, the truth is, a gift only becomes a gift when you choose to receive it.

Think about the best gift you have ever been given. It may have had great material value, or possibly it had none at all.

I remember one Christmas when I was only 13 years old. I had asked for a stereo of my own that year. For those of you reading this and asking yourselves, what is she talking about? You are more than likely under the age of 40! A stereo was a turntable that played records and had two speakers. I thought that turning 13 (after all I had just turned 13, twenty days before Christmas), made me a “Big Kid Now,” and I needed a stereo of my own.

I knew my parents had always struggled financially, and this year was no exception, but I had asked for a stereo anyway. Christmas morning came and my three sisters and I ran to the tree. We opened the lovely presents underneath and when we finished there was a small sense of sadness that ran through me. I didn’t want it to be there, and I was sorry that it was there. But nonetheless, it was there. That feeling of disappointment and let down. I do not know if my parents could see it on my face or not. I tried to hide it and show my appreciation for what I had received, but it was still there. It nagged at me and made me feel guilty. All of sudden my dad looked at me and called my name, “Lisa Kay”, he said, “did you get everything you wanted?” I looked up at him and answered, “Yes, thank you.”

I imagine there was a bit of a catch in my throat as I uttered the words that did not hold complete truth. He told me to look behind the couch. I did, and there was my stereo box! It was the most beautiful gift I had ever seen. I just stood and stared and then started to cry. My Dad said, “if you don’t open it, you will never know what’s inside.”

I loved that stereo, and played it long into my twenties. I loved getting new albums and listening to them over and over. I have never been more surprised by a gift before, and never have I learned a more valuable lesson.

A gift is only a gift if we open it and receive it. Otherwise, it is simply a package. It may be exquisitely wrapped in the finest of papers and adorned with the perfect ribbon or bow, but unopened, it remains simply a package.

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A gift is simply a package if we do not open it and receive it.

It’s December, and more than likely you will be presented with a gift or two. They may be beautifully wrapped, but unless you open it and receive it, it will simply be a pretty package.

At one VERY special birthday party, three gifts were given. The first gift was GOLD.

The star they had seen in the East guided them, (the wise men), to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When  they saw the star they were filled with joy! They entered the house, and saw the child with His mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped Him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave gifts of gold….”                                     Matthew 2:9-11

Gold is a valuable, precious yellow metallic element that is not subject to oxidation or corrosion.

I love that the first gift given to The King of Kings, was given by an earthly King, and it had great value, but even greater was it’s ability to not turn or corrode. I also love that we are told that the Wise Man had to OPEN his treasure chest and take the gift out to give it away!

This reminds me, that I can give a gift to my King Jesus by opening up my time and commitment to love and serve Him no matter what. By giving Him myself and not allowing anything to get in the way to discolor my love for Him or corrode the time I spend with Him.

This is my gift of Gold to my King Jesus!

I look forward to this wonderful Season of giving and receiving that we are entering. I pray that we open ourselves up to both giving and receiving.

After all, It Is “The Most Wonderful Time of The Year!”

Speak Truth Love

GIVING THANKS, Week 4- Part Two

Last week I opened up the blog giving thanks to God for my greatest blessing from Him – My Marriage and Family! I shared part One of my blessing, my marriage, because it came first!

Today’s Blog is about Part Two, what followed next…

Three years after Jim and I were married, God blessed us with Christina Nicole. She has the most beautiful, round, sparkling blue eyes, (my mom actually told me that I should have named her Crystal because of her eyes, instead of Christina), and she has one of the sharpest minds I have ever seen and a loyal, tender, giving heart of gold, she is my TREASURE, my gift from God! Two and a half years almost to the day after she was born, God blessed us with James Tyler. He has beautiful big blue/green eyes that are almond shaped. He has a sharp mind that studies, thinks and ponders before he speaks. His heart is big, true, loyal, giving and holds nothing back! He is my HEART, my gift from God!

God blessed Jim and I with two beautiful biological children and showed us in living color the truth in His Word that says,

Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him.”   Psalm 127:3

God gifted us with two beautiful children that we did not deserve. Our commitment to God, each other, and them, was that we would raise them to know, love and serve God to the best of our ability. Knowing full well that the choice to do so, would eventually fall to them!

Children are not born with a “money back guarantee”, and no instructional manual is attached. The only knowledge or information given to us is ‘God’s Love Letter’, His Word, The Word of God. In it’s pages is all of the wisdom, truth, knowledge and guidance that we need to live our lives well and raise our children according to His will and purposes.

Direct your children unto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.”     Proverbs 22:6

This is a directive from God to parents. Truth imparted to us by The Living God. Instructions, knowledge and information furnished to us through God’s Word, with authority and wisdom.

Parents, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up in the discipline and instruction of The Lord.”                                                     Ephesians 6:4

Jim and I believed that our marriage and family was a priceless gift from God. We took that gift, treasured it and committed to do our best with God’s help to Raise A Godly Heritage.

Through many mistakes, triumphs, ups and downs, God has honored His promise to guide us, direct us, and keep our children close to Himself. He has enriched our family and added to our two children, two beautiful children by marriage, our son-in-law Craig, and our daughter-in-law Allie, two beautiful grandchildren and a new grand baby on the way!

Our promise to God to “raise a godly heritage,” remains strong as we continue to pour into the lives of our children and grandchildren.

WHY? BECAUSE:

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CHILDREN ARE A GIFT FROM GOD!

ON THIS TWENTY-SEVENTH DAY OF NOVEMBER 2018, I GIVE THANKS TO GOD FOR MY MARRIAGE AND FAMILY!

As this month of giving thanks nears its end, my prayer is that we would all retain a heart of Thanksgiving to God each and every day of the year!

Speak Truth Love

November: Giving Thanks, Week 3 – Part One

Last week I shared about the one thing I am most thankful for: The fact that God goes after me! That my God pursues me, no matter how far I may wander.

Today, I am giving thanks for my greatest blessing from God: My Marriage and Family!

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

1 Chronicles 16:34

My grandmother told me for years that she was praying for God to bring a godly husband into my life. My grandmother’s faith was lived out daily as she walked humbly and securely with her God. I believed her sincerity and trusted in her faith. Walking that faith out in my own life was a different matter!

I left a broken home bound for college alone and a bit frightened. I clung to the hope of the faith I witnessed in my grandmother’s life, and slowly but surly began to take my own steps of faith. I chose a Christian college over my dad’s attempts to persuade me in a secular direction. I knew that if I was going to make this faith my own, I would need to trust God with my whole life. I gave it to Him that day as I walked away from my father’s hurtful words, “that I would amount to nothing.” My heavenly father stepped in and changed and assured me that, “He was my father and He would never leave me or forsake me.”

That year he led me to my husband. We met in the youth group at the local church that I had walked to by myself and started attending. I asked where I could serve and they told me there was a class of 2nd grade boys that needed help. Many of those little boys were being bused to church from their lower income neighborhood. I was told that several young men were driving those buses, bringing those children to church each week. Little did I know that one of them would become my husband in less than two years.

While there is much, much more to the story, this is a blog about ‘Giving Thanks!’ I told as much of the story as I did, to truly give thanks to God for what He orchestrated in bringing Jim Swaney into my life.

The first time I ever laid eyes on him or heard him speak a word was when he taught a Bible Study at our college campus. I fell in love with his heart for God. It was clear to me from the beginning that his first love was God, and I only hoped I would come next!

Jim and I wrote our own wedding Invitation…

“Knowing that we are better together for Christ than apart, we commit ourselves to Him, His purposes and each other on this Eighteenth day of August…,”

This August will be our 35th wedding anniversary! We praise God for our relationship and give Him all the glory!

In a day and age when it is no longer considered “IN” AKA correct, appropriate, intellectual or accurate to repeat and commit to traditional vows that say, “What God has joined together, let no man separate.” I am glad we said just that!

God’s wisdom, God’s love, (not my self-centered, selfish love), God’s strength, God’s power living through us, and our steadfast commitment to His plan for our lives and not our own, has kept our marriage “Surviving and Thriving!”

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I do not take God’s greatest blessing in my life for granted! I do not share this blog post lightly or flippantly. I do not take for granted the blessing and gift of my marriage. I know that many others have a very different story than mine. I believe that God is also a God of Grace and forgiveness and His great love makes all things new. But this is my story and it is a true story that begs to give God all the glory. It also brings me to my knees daily in sincere THANKSGIVING.

Oh Lord, I will honor and praise your name, for you are my God. You do such wonderful things! You planned them long ago, and now you have accomplished them.”

Isaiah 25:1

We all have blessings in our lives that without God in them would be no more than good fortune. Those unique, defining moments that clearly mark the direct and divine hand of God in our lives. While many other parts of our lives may be falling apart or meagerly constructed, these blessings stand out as “ONLY GOD” activities!

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Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!

During this special week of THANKSGIVING, where our country still sets a day aside to give thanks, I thank God for my greatest blessing, my marriage. I pray you are thanking God for your greatest blessing this week. He deserves ALL the glory!

Wishing you all the Best of Thanksgivings!

Love and blessings,

Speak Truth Love

November: Giving Thanks, Week 2!

IT’S NOVEMBER! Yes, we’re still in November and we are giving thanks. I am thanking God today for the one thing in my life that I am most thankful for.

Today, November 13th, I am thanking God for going after me! In this crazy, busy, mixed up life, My God goes after me!

He seeks me until He finds me. He searches for me when I wander away from Him. He leaves everything and everyone else, to come after me. Me, Lisa, with my faults, inadequacies, and failures. Me, Lisa, who disappoints and let’s Him down time after time. Me, Lisa, who holds no value and worth in this world numerically or powerfully. My Heavenly Father drops everything to come after me, search for me, find me, and set me right again in His family.

He calls me His daughter and treats me with complete and utter respect. He calls me His own and goes to any extreme to bring me back to Himself.

If a man own a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not lead the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the ONE that wandered off?”                                                                                         Matthew 18:12

In this story Jesus told, He is using something near and dear to our hearts, to express His truth to us. He’s telling us that we are so valuable to Him that He will leave everything and everyone to go after us and bring us back to Himself!

When my son was 4 years old, we were on a family vacation in Lake Tahoe, our favorite family vacation spot. We were staying on the Lake that year and were there with my entire extended family. The guys had gone off to play tennis at the courts on the property and the girls had stayed behind in the cabin doing what we girls do best, talking, laughing, sharing and drinking coffee!

There were three small boys in the family at the time and they had all wanted to go to the tennis courts with the “big guys.” My husband said it would be fine, that the courts were fenced in and they could “collect the tennis balls” for them.

It had been about an hour after they left that I got a sick feeling in my gut! I jumped up from the chair and ran to the courts. My son was no where to be found. The guys were still playing tennis, the other two boys were collecting the tennis balls but my son was GONE!

I cannot begin to express the feeling of panic that ran through my body! We started running up and down the entire length of the Lake front, looking for our little boy. That Lake is long, and there was not one second that I thought about being tired, I could only think about finding my lost boy! We had literally run the entire length of the Lake when I came to the dock at the far end. I fell to my knees in the sand, and begged my God to bring my boy back to me!  I stood up and began walking back down the Lakes edge, where I had just come from. In the far distance I saw a dog walking beside a man, holding a little boys hand. I ran like I had never run before. Before I got to them the man let go of the littles boys hand, and my son slowly and calmly walked to me. He had such a peace about him. He was not frightened, alarmed or nervous in any way. I grabbed him and wrapped my arms around him and asked him where he went. He calmly replied, “I was picking up the tennis balls and one rolled outside the gate. I saw the ducks by the Lake and started chasing them. Then a nice man took my hand and brought me back to you.”

You can think what you want, and believe that it was truly a “nice man” who found my lost boy and brought him back to me. But I know it was God! He left everything and everyone else to answer my prayer, find my boy and bring him back to me. Tyler was too young at the time to know where our cabin was. He had gone so far down the Lake that there would have been no way for him to find his way back on his own. God went after my boy that day, and God goes after us each and every day that we wander away from Him.

God uses this story of a shepherd going after his sheep, so that we can understand that when He calls Himself, ‘The Good Shepherd’, He will come after us, his sheep, when we wander.

We are God’s precious lambs. He loves us, gave His life for us, seeks us, and goes after us each and every time we wander away.

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GOD ALWAYS COMES AFTER US WHEN WE WANDER.

We are almost at the half way point of November. I pray that you are using each day to give thanks to the One who goes after us, no matter the cost!

Have a great week friends!

Speak Truth Love

November: Giving Thanks, Week 1!

IT’S NOVEMBER!

November not only brings with it cooler days, warm cups of apple cider, leaves falling and pumpkin flavored EVERYTHING, but also a sense of Gratitude.

That certain feeling of “Thankfulness” that takes over after harder, more difficult days. That feeling of renewal and starting over.

During the month of October, the colors begin to change. We see green leaves left from Spring and Summer, turn to magnificent hues of orange, red and yellow. We drive for miles just to get a glimpse. Our eyes wander above us, and from left to right. The displays are magnificent! God’s Fall color palate right before our very eyes! It’s hard to take our eyes off of their brilliance!

Living in Sonoma County for two years now has brought a greater sense of Fall colors to my life. I realized the grape vines that surround, run through, and make up the majority of this county were beautiful in linage and verdancy. But the last two years have shown me the true color changes of fall in each and every vineyard. It’s hard to keep your eyes on the road as you travel by them, even on a daily basis. In fact, just the other day while returning from a hike at the coast, Jim nearly ran us off the road! As we barely escaped landing in the ditch, he exclaimed, “Wow, these colors are spectacular!”

“Yes, Honey, I agree, but I would love to live another day to see them again!”

In the almost ‘blink of an eye’, the colors seem to disappear and leave in their place a bare almost lifeless look. The golden leaves have fallen to the ground and in their place remains a barren vine or branch. From the onset, it appears to be dead or dying, but we know that it is the process of dormancy.

Dormancy  is the condition of being at rest or inactive to suspend metabolic processes in order for growth and development to be suspended for a short amount of time.

Why would plants do this?  In order for them to survive adverse conditions. Dormancy actually pauses growth and development during difficult seasons like WINTER, so that the plant survives and then thrives when the harsh conditions are past.

If God created plants to bloom and display gorgeous colors pleasing to the eye, then has them lie dormant through the rough season of winter, only to thrive in the Spring with color and fruit, would He not also desire the same for us?

I believe the answer is YES! God allows us a season of “dormancy” spiritually, to cause our bodies to rest, refocus and recharge.

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Dormancy with thankfulness allows us to renew, recharge, and refresh!

November brings with it the close to long sun-filled days, and replaces them with colder, shorter days, pushing us inside where it’s warm, cozy, quiet and still from the outside distractions.

The Cambridge English Dictionary gives ‘dormancy’ this definition: “Not active or growing but able to become active later.”

I love that God can speak clearly to us through His creation of nature, if we slow down and listen.

This theme of ‘dormancy’ goes against most of our natures. I know it goes against mine!

I’m a doer, a go-getter, I like to have a plan, work the plan, and complete the plan! But if my God is calling me to a time of rest, and recharge, then I need to listen!

I know from experience, that I will drive past those same barren trees in the Spring, and they will have green leaves and be blooming in all their glory.

That is the kind of life I desire. One that thrives and does not wither after a season of harshness. One that is green with growth even if that growth is produced through endurance and difficulty. And I definitely want a life that produces fruit for God and His kingdom. If ‘dormancy’ is required, than that is what I am committed to do.

Yes, November is a gift from God to us, causing us to slow down and look up! To pause and display our gratitude for all God has done, is doing and will do in our lives. It is a time to be thankful and a time to act on our thankfulness. To tell God we are thankful and what we are thankful for, and to tell those we are thankful for, that we are thankful for them.

This year I am adding an extra step to my season of THANKFULNESS. During the month of November, I am not only thanking God for someone or something each and every day, I am also telling that person or persons that I am thankful for them.

This spirit of THANKFULNESS not only reminds us of all the good we have, but also renews our spirits as we focus on that good!

I am writing in my devotional journal each day of November these words…

On this 1st day of November I am thankful for…

Then, I am following up by texting that person or persons, or emailing them.

Today, on the 6th day of November I am thankful for YOU! I am thankful that you read my blog. I am thankful that you encourage and support me. I am thankful for the time we share together each Tuesday. I am thankful that you allow me to be in your life in this small way!

I AM THANKFUL FOR YOU!!!

My heart is already feeling lighter and my spirit happy as I practice this all important verse:

Enter His gates with thanksgiving; go into His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name.”  Psalm 100:4

As you practice a season of “dormancy”, remember, you are not dying and you are not dead. No matter what you are going through, no matter how difficult or seemingly impossible, God is allowing you to be dormant to survive. To give Him thanks for all of the good in your life, and to come out of your dormancy and thrive.

Speak Truth Love

THINGS WE FALL FOR: FALLING FOR FEAR

Tomorrow is the day of the year that I dread the most! No, it’s not ‘TAX DAY’, it’s HALLOWEEN! I have often been quoted as saying, “NOVEMBER 1, is my favorite day of the year! I am so happy when I wake up on November 1! I rise with a big smile on my face and thank God! I plan a wonderful Fall outfit to wear and prepare for baking all things pumpkin!

It’s not a theological stance that I am taking. Even though, there is plenty of evidence in the scriptures to “stay away from evil.” This day of the year for many is as fun as reading a scary book or watching a scary movie. Neither of which I can participate in either.

For me it boils down to a sensitivity in my spirit. God speaks to all of us through His Spirit.

For The Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”                                                        Luke 12:12

The Bible is full of stories of people who were given the words God wanted them to speak, from the Holy Spirit.

When Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit, he spoke to the rulers and elders what God wanted him to say.” Acts 4:8

When Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit he looked straight at Elymas and said…” Acts 13:9

“…The Holy Spirit came upon them and they spoke…” Acts 19:6

These are just a few of the examples of God speaking to His people through His Holy Spirit.

Each and every one of these stories has one major point in common. They all had to listen to The Holy Spirit to receive the words God wanted them to speak.

Your FEAR maybe different than mine. Maybe you are not afraid of Halloween, scary movies or scary books.

Maybe you are afraid of the unknown. Trying something different than what you have always done is paralyzing you with fear. Yet, you feel the Lord trying to speak to you through The Holy Spirit to “try something new.” Are you listening?

Maybe you are afraid of rejection. The thought of someone not approving of you or something you do leaves you in a cold sweat. Yet, you have heard the still small voice of The Lord asking you to trust Him and not men. Are you listening?

Maybe you are afraid of Failure. The idea that you would try something and not be successful at it has you frozen and stuck in the place you are in. Yet, the nagging feeling that God is speaking to you to try something new, has not gone away. Are you listening?

You see, when we are willing to listen to God, it then calls for an action. Something else the stories about the people I shared above have in common, are that after they listened to The Holy Spirit, they were called to act on what they were told.

When I was very young, I had a nightmare that I have never forgotten. God spoke to me then to keep dark and evil images out of my mind. This called me into action. When all of my teenage friends were watching scary movies, I had to say NO! When it was popular to read certain horror books, I had to say NO! When Halloween came around each year and the costumes and the parties and the haunted houses became more and more frightening, I had to say NO! This left me feeling lonely at times and definitely made me a subject of ridicule. It still does actually and that made sharing this topic on my blog very difficult.

But, The Truth remains, when God speaks to you through His Holy Spirit, you have a choice to make. You can listen or not! If and when you choose to listen, you have a second choice to make, you can act on what you heard or not.

So, today, the day before my worst day of the year, will you pause and take a moment and ask yourself, What am I afraid of? And whatever that answer is for you, I invite you to share in THE TRUTH God speaks into all FEAR!

PSALM 56:3 “WHEN I AM AFRAID, I PUT MY TRUST IN YOU.”

PSALM 34:4 “I SOUGHT THE LORD, AND HE ANSWERED ME; HE DELIVERED ME FROM ALL MY FEARS.”

ISAIAH 41:10 “SO DO NOT FEAR, FOR I AM WITH YOU; DO NOT BE DISMAYED, FOR I AM YOUR GOD. I WILL STRENGTHEN YOU AND HELP YOU; I WILL UPHOLD YOU WITH MY RIGHTEOUS RIGHT HAND.”

JOSHUA 1:9 “HAVE I NOT COMMANDED YOU? BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS. DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED, FOR THE LORD YOUR GOD WILL BE WITH YOU WHEREVER YOU GO.”

AND MY FAVORITE

I JOHN 4:4 “YOU, DEAR CHILDREN, ARE FROM GOD AND HAVE OVERCOME THEM, BECAUSE THE ONE WHO IS IN YOU IS GREATER THAN THE ONE WHO IS IN THE WORLD.”

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NO NEED TO HIDE IN FEAR! GOD’S GOT THIS!

Live in the confidence friends that GREATER IS HE WHO IS IN YOU, THAN HE WHO IS IN THE WORLD!

Speak Truth Love

THINGS WE FALL FOR: Being “Less Than” Just The Way We Are!

Do you ever walk past the magazines at the checkout counter and view the “beautiful people” on the covers and want to run with your cart through the aisles frantically putting back half of the food items in your grocery cart before anyone sees that you had them there in the first place? I actually think that in this day and age of advanced technology the only reason they still print magazines with ink and paper is to guilt trip us at the check out counter.

Do you go onto your Social Media accounts and feel shame over the trillions of posts about what to eat, what to wear, how to decorate your house, how to raise your “tribe”, how to live a “perfect” life or a “messy” life, a “cluttered” life or a “simple” life?

Seriously, if anyones self-esteem can stand up to that daily bombardment, then I would question if they have a heart? Don’t get me wrong, I love the “Food Babe” and the “Paleo Community” as much as the rest of you do. But when my self-control is wavering and that cupcake is looking like the better choice than my kale salad with lemon juice squeezed on it, I feel nothing but defeated and “LESS THAN!”

I love the fact that people are using their god-given talents and passions and sharing successful ways to use them. But I fear that all too often we “FALL FOR” the lie that if we are not living this way or that, we are somehow “LESS THAN!”

God’s Words to us speak tenderly and firmly that we are “MORE THAN”, simply because HE CREATED US!

Psalm 139:14

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

The verse right before this one tells us that we were “knit together in our mother’s womb,” and that “God created our inmost being!”

God made you “MORE THAN!” You are His child and He cares for you! He created your “inmost being”, and that is the you He wants to see shine!

It is fine if you glean a healthier eating plan for yourself, but do not allow your weight or size to define you! God made you wonderfully and you are “MORE THAN” that!

It is fine if you acquire beauty and fashion tips from outside sources, but do not allow them to define your beauty. God knit you together and you are “MORE THAN” that!

It is fine if you gain organization in your home or office by simplifying your surroundings, but do not believe you are “LESS THAN”, if your home is full of clutter! God made you fearfully and you are “MORE THAN”, that!

If you live a “messy” lifestyle or a “coffered” lifestyle, embrace it because God knows you!

“He knows when you sit and when you stand, He knows your innermost thoughts, and He still says, “YOU ARE MORE THAN!”

So when we FALL FOR the lie that we are “Less than”, remember The Truth,

You are fearful and wonderfully made, and God says you are “MORE THAN!

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WHEN THE WORLD TELLS YOU, YOU ARE LESS THAN, GOD TELLS YOU, YOU ARE MORE THAN!

Walk in His Truth my friend. Know that you are MORE THAN ENOUGH!

Speak Truth Love