What's in a name?

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

As most of you know, we are expecting baby #5 at our home. And, the conversation of late has been in choosing a name- especially a name that Brian and I can agree upon without the kids breaking out in groans! When we first had Andrew, we had no intention of naming all of our kids with a beginning letter of "A." We loved "Andrew" and always had "Ashley" picked out for a girl's name. Well, when Ashley came, we knew exactly what we would name her. (I don't even remember IF we had a boy's name picked out!) When Aly came, both Brian and I loved the name "Alyssa," so she joined the ranks with an "A" name, too. By baby #4, we knew we had to keep the A theme rolling, or else the child could have a complex- being the only child without an "A" name. So, we choose Aaron. Needless to say, we have pretty much depleted our inventory of "A" names that everyone likes!

And, choosing a baby name is hard work! There is so much to think about when you are deciding a name that will follow the child around for the rest of his/her life... We have lots of ideas for girl's names. It is the possibility that the the baby is a boy that is "throwing" us. Is that name masculine enough for a boy (Brian's concern!) And, with all the girls today "stealing" boys names, every suggestion I have makes Brian think "girl," and he says, I like that for a girl. And, since I was a school teacher, there are a few names I can't use because I had a "___" in my class- no way! So, here is our dilemma. I have said we may have to name a boy Brian Jr. and Brian says we may just pick out a different lettered name, place an A in front and tell everyone the A is silent. Hmmmmmmm....

All of this pondering made me think of the names of Jesus. And, as we focus on our precious Lord at Christmas, I thought it would be wonderful to ponder upon a few of His names.

Isaiah prophesied, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

When Job was devastated and in a place of destitution, when his "breath was offensive to his wife, when he was loathsome to his brothers, ridiculed and detested," he said, "I know my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth, and after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes." No matter what we are going through, we have a Redeemer who LIVES. He will redeem our lives from the pit. He will place us on level ground. He will wipe away every tear. He will redeem our lives from the ashes.

John said in the beginning of His gospel, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Through Him all things were made." Jesus is the Living Word- the Word to trust upon, to believe in.

Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End- Do you need a new beginning? Are you worried about the end, how it will all turn out? Jesus is the Beginning- He makes all things new. He is the "fresh start" you are looking for. He is the End. He is the confidence, the security, the "final word" we need. And, because He knows the Beginning from the End, and understands the End from the Beginning, we can completely trust in Him. We can lay everything aside, resting in Him.

Ponder with me, especially over these next several days other names given to Jesus:
Immanuel- God with us
King of Kings
Light of the World
Morning Star
Lamb of God
Savior
Good Shepherd
The Way
Lord of Lords
Anointed One
Bread of Life
Chief Cornerstone
Great High Priest
Holy One
Righteous One
Lord of Glory
Messiah
Teacher
Truth
Friend

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:5-11)

Amen and Amen and Amen!

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus- what a beautiful name!

Give a “little Jesus”

This Christmas, give a “little Jesus” everywhere you go!
Shine the light of the Savior to everyone you know!
Tell everyone about this incredible Gift and His amazing love,
Share the Light, the Hope, the Joy and the Peace
that only comes from Above.

Greetings, all! May you be experiencing the excitement of Advent as we are preparing our hearts and lives for the celebration of Christmas!

I was talking with Andrew recently. He is such a little evangelist- wanting to share Jesus with everyone and desperately wanting everyone he knows to be saved. I have watched him grow so much this year, as he is realizing he can’t “push” Jesus onto people, but has to “shine” Jesus, lighting the way to Jesus by his love, his actions, his words to others.

We have been praying for one boy at Andrew’s school for two years now, for his salvation, that he would come to know Christ. Andrew learned the hard way that he can’t just tell this boy, “You need Jesus or else you are going to hell!” (That was his approach in the beginning! Things are so simple to a child!) But, he has learned that he needs to build a relationship with this boy, showing him what it means to be a Christian. Andrew has been so surprised to see this boy opening up to him as Andrew shows him kindness. On Fridays, they have “Friday Fun” and can bring fun snacks and drinks for a fun time. Andrew brought this boy a Propel drink and shared his snack with him and you would have thought that Andrew gave him a million dollars! Andrew told about how the boy just couldn’t understand WHY Andrew was being kind to him. (The boy doesn’t have many friends.) Andrew is understanding- he shared with me that he knows he has to build a relationship with the boy, asking God to open doors for him and give him opportunities to share Jesus and Christian love with him.

But, what I have been explaining to Andrew, and thinking about myself, is that we need to give people the “whole picture!” You see, Andrew is in a place of “I want people to know Jesus because I don’t want them to go to hell!” But, what I am trying to help him understand is that is only part of our faith! Yes, as Christians, we have this wonderful hope of the glory to come- we have the promise of Heaven and living eternity with our awesome God! Hallelujah! But, that is not the “whole story!” When we have a relationship with Jesus, we experience this incredible hope, joy, and peace NOW, here on earth, no matter what our circumstances are! When we have a relationship with the Savior, we get a glimpse of eternity right here and now! When we are walking with the Lord, we experience true LIFE right now, and it is amazing, wonderful, incredible, and wild! What I am trying to teach Andrew is to tell people THAT, too! When they accept the Savior, they will not only “escape hell,” but they will experience never ending hope, unfailing love, abounding joy in any circumstance, and indescribable peace. Jesus is an incredible gift to share with all the world!

"Mary" Christmas!

I have been meditating on Psalm 62 this morning. Let me share with you.
"My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
...Find rest, my soul, in God alone, my hope comes from Him. ...Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God ALONE is our refuge. Selah (think on this!)"

Yesterday I heard an awesome message preparing us for the very busy season of advent- the preparation of Christmas. Our pastor talked about keeping Christ the focus of Christmas. He also told a story of a little church in Wisconsin. Someone had vandalized the church, stealing the baby Jesus from the outdoor nativity scene. To make things worse, nine months later, the thief spray painted on the church, "I have your baby Jesus."

Pastor used this story to point out the many things that steal the baby Jesus during the Christmas season- busyness, materialism, even pushing out "Christmas" by replacing it with the politically correct, "Happy holidays." He reminded us to that the true meaning of Christmas is NOT loving mankind, spending time with family, and peace (although those are all important and come as a result of the TRUE meaning), but that it is Jesus Christ. Let us focus on the true meaning of Christmas- the gift of Jesus Christ, our Savior, the only reason why we hope, our true LIFE. Share with everyone you know the amazing gift of Jesus this Christmas season!

I was reminded of a devotion I wrote last year, and I would love to share it with you again.


Have a “Mary” Christmas!

As, we begin to jump into the Christmas season, and all of the activities that surround it, I am again reminded to keep grounded on what Christmas is all about- the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is so easy to get caught up in all of the busyness, the things on all of our “to-do” lists, the shopping and entertaining… As I catch my breath, and remind myself to slow down, God again uses “Mary and Martha” to teach me these lessons.

One of my favorite Bible stories is the story of two sisters, Mary and Martha. Both sisters loved Jesus, and He would often come to visit them. Now Martha, the older sister, had a servant heart, but could get caught up in all of the details and become distracted by her many tasks.

One day Jesus came to visit the women. Martha was preparing a meal for them while her sister, Mary, the Bible tells us, sat at the feet of Jesus. Well, as Martha was busy with all of the preparations, she allows her heart to go from serving joyfully and selflessly to getting angry that she is doing all the work alone. As I read the story, I can picture Martha clanging the dishes, hoping to get Mary’s attention, banging the cupboard doors, and sighing loudly- you know, the “huhhhs”- expecting Mary to hear and get the hint! And, why do I think this? Probably because this is MY typical behavior when I am feeling sorry for myself in these situations!

Well, Martha finally blows, and she storms in the room where Jesus and Mary are sitting, and whines, “Lord! Don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” Boy, do I hear my own whining voice in this story, especially at this time of year. “Lord! Don’t You care that I am doing all of the work by myself? You know? The cleaning, the shopping, the wrapping, the cooking, the decorating, the baking… Make Brian help me!”

But, Jesus is not concerned with the fancy dinner, the decorations, the fluff. He tells Martha, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. But, only one thing is needed and Mary has chosen what is better and it won’t be taken from her.” You see, sitting at the feet of the Savior, drawing near to Him, listening to Him, being still and knowing Him- that is what is important and it won’t be taken from you. It is the “one thing” our stressed, tired spirits need! It is the “one thing” that I NEED!

This Christmas, we can get caught up in shopping for the gifts, stringing the lights, decorating the tree, singing the songs, attending the parties, the details and distractions. But, my prayer for you is that this Christmas, you will experience THE gift- the Bright and Morning Star, the Prince of Peace, the Wonderful Counselor, our Hope, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, your Burden Bearer, Our Strength, and Our Salvation, Immanuel- God With Us. My gift to all of you is the message that He loves you, you are His Beloved, and that He wants to fill you with all joy and peace, both now, at Christmas time and for the rest of your life!

“May the God of all endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with ONE heart and ONE mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This Christmas, this New Year, and forever, “May He bless you and keep you. May He make His face shine down upon you. May he be gracious to you and give you peace.” Amen!


Merry Christmas!

More lessons from a 10 year old!

A few weeks ago Andrew and I had a wonderful conversation while riding in the van. I love these talks because there are few distractions, his sisters are in the back, taking it all in, and everyone is "stuck" there- no one is going anywhere! We were talking about two other little boys, and Andrew was trying to "figure out" a conversation he had with one of them.

There is a little boy, we'll call him "Lost" who would be considered a "bad boy!" He is "trouble-maker" at school, makes fun of kids, is very disrespectful, is very mean at times, and is obnoxious and inappropriate. He tries to "shock" the other kids doing really "out there" kind of stunts, like licking other boys' faces, jumping on them and doing obscene things. Andrew has been praying for this boy for about three years.

Andrew has a friend, we'll call him, "Christian," who really DOES NOT LIKE "LOST!" Well, one day Andrew and Christian were talking, and Christian told Andrew that he hated Lost. Andrew told him that he shouldn't hate Lost. But, Christian said it was OK "because of the many sins Lost does." Andrew (which again blew me away!) told Christian that it isn't our place to judge to Lost. He said, "We do lots of sins, too." Christian couldn't believe this! He didn't do sins like Lost did!

Well, as you can imagine, what wonderful conversation came from all of this! I didn't know what to address first!

My first comments were to point out to Andrew that no matter how "awful" Lost is, Jesus tells us to love him. He says to "Love your enemies and bless those who persecute you." We talked about the verses that say, if you only love those who love you, you aren't any different than the "pagans" or those who don't know Christ. How can we save the lost without showing them love? Andrew commented, "I wish I had known those verses then!"

We also talked about "sins." And, though Lost's sins were obvious to everyone around, God sees our hearts and knows our hearts. We can look pretty good on the outside, but if our hearts our ugly, God sees that. We talked about sins that are doing sins- the "bad" things we do, the sins of NOT DOING something, when we know it is the right thing to do and God is telling us to do it. We talked about sinning in our thoughts. We talked about the sin of unforgiveness. Jesus COMMANDS us to forgive those who hurt us, so in NOT doing that, Christian is also sinning. And, we talked about how important it is to KEEP OUR EYES ON JESUS AND ON OURSELVES! We need to look at our own hearts, our own actions and thoughts- not others. And never think, "I am so good because I'm not as bad as that person."

We prayed for Lost again. I know someday that little boy is going to meet Jesus and it will change his life!

As I have thought about our conversations, I thanked God and praised Him for His wisdom. I felt so grateful because I don't have the answers- but I know the One who does! I thanked God for His Word, because it was His Word that came out of my mouth! And, God's answers are very different from typical "parental" answers. My first reaction (and we did talk about Lost's behavior. Andrew knows that it is wrong, and not to laugh and encourage him) as a parent is to say, "Stay away from that kid! He is no good. Where are his parents?! Blah, blah, blah." My reaction may be, OK, Andrew, you and Christian get in a little bubble and talk about God and don't play with anyone else on the playground!

Oh, sisters, what a responsibility we have as parents, "training up children in the way they should go." It is not easy! That is why I am so grateful for His word, like I said. These are not childish games, but this is life we are teaching our children. They want to know how to sort things out! They want to know how they should respond and react and live! Let us as parents give them Life- THE LIFE!, and Truth!

Father God, thank You, thank You, thank You! Thank You for these precious ones You have entrusted to us. At times, I feel so inadequate as a teacher/mother (especially when I struggle myself with a trial and the enemy is right there to point out my failures!). But, I know You are there to help me, to lead me, to guide me! And, I have Your Word that teaches not only me, but my children! God, we cry out to You on behalf of our children! We pray for their protection. We pray that You bind the enemy, in the name of Jesus, against every scheme the enemy would use against them. Lord, give us wisdom!!!!! Help us teach them and train them, reflecting You, Jesus, in our every thought, motive, and action. We praise You, God! Praise You! In Jesus Name we pray! Amen!

Andrew has given us so much to ponder on this morning!

Bless you all today. "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Go shine your light!

Lessons from a 10 year old!

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

I was talking with Andrew, my 10 year old recently. God uses Andrew to teach so many spiritual truths to ME! Anyway, Andrew was telling me that a girl at school told him that he shouldn't talk about God so much. She said that God was for church and it wasn't appropriate to be talking about Him so much outside of church. I, of course, explained that God is for all the time! Jesus is our best friend. I asked Andrew if he would do this with any of his friends- only acknowledge them for an hour once a week and the rest of the time you don't talk to them, think about them, etc. If we truly love someone, we can't hide it! We want to talk about that person- how great they are. We want others to know that person. We want the whole world to know that person!

It goes back to the question, do we have "religion" or a relationship with the One who so desires us? Do we fit God into a neat little package that we bring with us on Sunday morning, but leave Him at home the rest of our lives? Is He the One that fills us with joy? Are we WILD for Him? Can others see His light shining through us? Do we talk to Him all the time (as the Bible says, "Pray WITHOUT ceasing!)? Do we give Him all of our problems and concerns? Many times we go to our friends when we have a problem, but do we go to our Friend?

John 3:16 tells us that God loves us so much that He gave His one and only Son to die for us, to forgive the sins of all who believe, so that we may have ETERNAL LIFE. But, John 17:3 says, "THIS is eternal life- that we may KNOW Him." WOW! Jesus died for us so that we may KNOW Him- have a relationship with Him, right here, right now. He wants to be ONE with us. You see, we can know about someone, without KNOWING that person. We can know a famous person. We would be recognize him if we saw him. We may even know all about him- all the details of his life. We may even know private details about this person, thanks to "gossip" magazines. But, we don't KNOW that person. We are not intimate with that person. We don't know his heart, and he doesn't know our hearts. We are not ONE with that person. Jesus doesn't want us just to know about God, knowing all of the "facts," but He wants us to experience God, to have a living, breathing, REAL relationship with Him. He wants to be personal to us.

Father, may we KNOW You! May we be ONE with You. Father, may we know Your heart. May we have this intimate relationship with You. May we grow closer to You everyday. May others see You through us! May others tells us we are talking Jesus too much, and may we be prepared to give an answer- the hope to which we are called! May we share Your love with the world! Lord, forgive me for the times when I have placed You in a box, limiting You to just "religion." Fill me with Your Spirit- fill me with more and more of YOU! In Jesus' name we pray. Amen!

Wisdom!

As I am moving slowly this morning (either from all the walking last night or the sugar crash!), I remembered that today is the first day of November. On the first day of the month, I like to revisit "Proverbs" and begin reading this book again. Because there are 31 chapters in the book, I can read a chapter a day for each day of the month. Now, I don't always do this everyday of the month, but, over the course of the year, I will have read pretty much of the whole book.

I love "Proverbs" because I am a simple woman. My bible says, "According to the prologue (purpose and theme), Proverbs was written to 'give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young, and to make the wise wiser.' It bases wisdom solidly on the fear of the Lord. Here you will find wisdom that works and insights that will not wear out."

I love that! Here are some of the benefits of godly wisdom (just from chapter 1!):
1. You will know the heart of God! Verse 23 says, "I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you."
2. I will become wise in GODLY wisdom (verses 2,3,4,5,6).
3. I will have victory(verse 9) - wisdom will be like a garland to grace my head (the victor's crown) and chain to adorn my neck (the victor's medal).
4. I will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm. (verse 33)
5. I will be saved from those who would want to entice me from sin- to lead me down a wrong path (verses 10-19)

The first chapter says the "fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." But, what is the "fear of the Lord?" The fear of the Lord is simply loving Him with all of your heart, soul. mind, and strength. It is trusting Him, above all else. It is seeking Him above everything. It is a reverence and respect and holy awe for the only One who is worthy of these. It is coming to God, humbly, surrendering and submitting ourselves to Him. It is looking to Him and His ways, not our own. It is believing His Word and accepting His commands, no matter how different they may seem than what is going on around us. Psalm 34 say, "Come my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and our lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it."

Father God, we praise You! "I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice." Father, this "fear of the Lord" is a little confusing in our day. We don't hear about it very much, and many are confused as to what it is about. I can't even explain it into words! It is something I know in my spirit, and that I seek. But, Father, I pray that You would teach all of us how to fear You. Grow in all of us "the fear of the Lord." Help us to reverence You that way You deserve (like that would be possible! Thousand of angels in Heaven are falling down on their faces crying "holy, holy, holy" while Your temple is shaking!). But, help us Lord! You are worthy! You are worthy! Father, we pray You would pour out Your godly wisdom on us, and that we would have ears open to hear! Give us hearts that are soft and pliable, ready to be taught. We love You, Lord! We praise You. We give You all glory and honor and praise! In Jesus' Name we pray. Amen.

Blessings to you all!

"Happy" is NOT a "dirty" word!

Greetings, dear sisters!

Hopefully, the title of today's message got your attention! Why is it that we think we are NOT supposed to be "happy" as Christians? There is so much dispute between "happiness" and "joy." Joy is within in our spirits, while happiness relies on our circumstances. You've heard the same things, and sometimes, (admit it) you have felt guilty because you are happy! And, even though I can't be "happy" all the time, 24/7, I do experience happiness regularly. I believe God wants us to be happy! Remember that song, "Don't Worry, Be Happy"? Jesus had a great sense of humor, and I find myself laughing at loud at times reading some of His parables. And, what a sense of humor God has! For instance, why is it that God gave me a husband that is so DIFFERENT from me, but children who are exactly LIKE me? I know so He can get a good laugh at the "fireworks" sometimes!

While "happiness" may be fleeting, and depends on our circumstances, joy comes from who we are in Him. No matter what is happening in our lives, we still experience the joy of being His, knowing that He is getting us through, holding our hand. Jesus tells us to "remain in His love so that His joy may be in us and that our joy may be complete." Paul, who should have been the most depressed and unhappy person according to his circumstances- beaten, stoned, imprisoned, and shipwrecked twice- was full of BOUNDLESS JOY- he said "in all my troubles my joy knows no bounds." He says, "In spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit." When he is praising in jail and the chains fall off, I can't picture a man who is sad, but full of praise for His God! Paul prays for us, "May the God of hope fill you with all JOY..." Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Peter tells us that even though we haven't seen Jesus, we love Him and believe in Him and are "filled with an INEXPRESSIBLE AND GLORIOUS JOY." And, John tells us that through our fellowship with Father and with the Son our joy is complete.

But, what about "happiness?" Should we be happy? Psalm 128 says, "Blessed (happy, fortunate) is everyone who fears, worships the Lord, who walks in His ways and lives according to His Word. For you shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; happy (blessed) shall you be, and it shall be well with you." Psalm 144 says, "Happy and blessed are the people (who trust in God) who are in such a case; yes, happy are the people whose God is the Lord!" Psalm 146 says, "Happy (blessed) is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God." Proverbs 17:22 says, " A happy (cheerful) heart is good medicine." We don't always "feel" happy, but we can turn our thinking around! What makes you happy? A child's smile? Talking to a friend? A beautiful sky with puffy white clouds? A flower arrangement? What about making a craft for a neighbor and sharing happiness with someone else? Colossians tells us to "set our minds on things above, not on earthly things." We can choose to focus and keep our minds on what is making us unhappy, or we can renew our minds in the joy of the Lord, counting our blessings and thinking on the many things God has provided for our happiness- chocolate, lovely flowers, leaves turning in the fall, puppy dogs, a warm bath, a child's embrace...

Mother Theresa said, "Joy is prayer. Joy is strength. Joy is love. Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. God loves a cheerful giver. one gives most who gives with joy. The best way to show our gratitude to God and people is to accept everything with joy. A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love. Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of Christ risen. This I tell you my sisters. This I tell you."

Pregnancy Story

Greetings, all!

Grace and peace to you all in abundance!

Some of you asked, "What was the 'pregnancy story' you were talking about in your last email?" So, I thought I would copy it and send it.

From "Don't Waste Your Life,"

As I have talked to women, there seems to be a common desire among them- to find out and fulfill God’s purposes for them. Nobody wants her life to be a waste! Most women want to leave a fingerprint on the world, to make a difference, to have an impact on others’ lives. We want to our lives to be special. Have you ever wondered what God wants to do with YOUR life? What His purpose is for your life? Does He have a plan?

Yes, God does have a plan for our lives! Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans for hope and a future. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you.” So, YES!, God does have a plan for our lives!

Now, the funny thing is (and ladies we just have GOT to laugh at it at times!) our plans are not always God’s plans! His plans for us can look very different from our own at times. We are expecting our fifth child, and I can definitely say, A NEW BABY WAS NOT OUR PLAN! In fact, we were taking precautions to prevent any chance of another baby. We sold all of our baby things- carseats, strollers, clothes, bouncy seats, everything- in a huge garage sale last summer. We found out in July after a trip to Adventureland Amusement Park. We went when it was really HOT- in the 90's. Several times, I had to sit down because I thought I was going to pass out. I thought I had heat stroke! Well, when I continued to be sick Saturday, Sunday, and then Monday, I told Brian I needed to get a pregnancy test. His response was, "Why?" He just figured birth control was 100% accurate!

I can laugh now, but I have to be honest, when I first took the pregnancy test and it was positive, I did NOT see the humor in our situation! Since this is my 7th pregnancy, I have taken MANY tests. For the first time, that positive sign did not fill me with exuberant joy. In fact, if I were to be completely honest, I felt disappointment, anxiousness, and fear.

You see, I had my plans all figured out. I had thought, Aaron, my youngest starts preschool this fall. I am in new season of life! I finally have a little independence, I can concentrate more on writing and speaking. I can volunteer at school. I could even go have coffee with friends for the first time in 10 years! A new baby was the farthest thing from "my plan!"

You see, God’s plans may look so different than ours! We have an idea of what we’re going to do, how it should be done, and the timing of it all. The Bible says, “God’s ways are not our ways. But, God's ways are perfect." And, reminding myself of Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you (God knows what He's doing!), plans for GOOD and not evil, plans to PROSPER YOU AND NOT HARM YOU, plans for hope and a future." If God's plan was a new baby, then that was good! Even though it took us by surprise, it was a good plan for our family.

What really turned my thinking around, though, was Psalm 147 that says, "Sons are a heritage from the Lord. Children are a reward from Him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate." Wow! I looked at my pregnancy in a whole new way! God was rewarding me! And, I felt badly because I had not seen this child as a "blessing.'' It was like that saying, "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth." I had taken God's gift for granted and wasn't thankful for it. Boy, does the Truth have a way of changing your thinking! I replaced the lie the enemy and my flesh had been deceiving me with, stealing the joy from this pregnancy with His Truth! Thank You, God for Your Truth!


As I was writing this, it occurred to me that if you are going through something similar (you may be thinking, "I hope I'm not pregnant!!!!!!!!!!)- living out God's plan when it is different from your own- what YOU had imagined or expected, always remember that He loves You. Remember that He sees the end from the beginning, and that He is "working all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose." Rejoice in hope, be steadfast and patient in suffering and trials, and be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:12)

"Forget what is behind, strain toward what is ahead and press on" my dear sisters! Be blessed!

In Him,
Tracy

Blessings!

Greetings to you all!

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ!"

Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your prayers for me before and during the retreat! How I saw His mighty hand move!

Ladies, how I encourage you, also, to take inventory of your life and see how He is working! Let us open our eyes to see His mighty hand and power working in our everyday lives- in the ordinary things!

Psalm 40:5 says, "Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things You planned for us no one can recount to You; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare."

Blessings:
Time alone in the van to praise Him, worship Him, and prepare for my talk.
His love endures forever!
A beautiful, sunny day to drive there on Friday.
His love endures forever!
As I noticed the sunshine and was thanking Him for it, it occurred to me that it could be raining, storming, snowstorming... And, I REALLY thanked Him for shining such a beautiful day down onto my trip!
His love endures forever!
When I arrived to Okoboji, I called Brian and he said it had clouded up about an hour after I left, and had been raining all day. But not where I was!
His love endures forever!
There was no one around when I checked in, so I didn't know where to go. After about an hour of waiting, walking around, calling Brian a few times, he suggested I drive down to the lake. So, I did. It was BEAUTIFUL! I sat in the sunshine on the sandy shore, wind in my hair, praying and reading His Word.
His love endures forever!
When I returned from the lake, the office person was back and she directed me where to go. When I arrived at the lodge, a few of the women were there. After getting settled, (in my own room! The other ladies shared a room, about 4 to a room) I had the opportunity to sit and listen to women, getting to know them personally.
His love endures forever!
There was wonderful worship time Friday night. How beautiful 20 women and one piano sound singing to their King!
His love endures forever!
I had been wondering if I would be able to fit everything I needed to say in the morning into the time frame. I had been praying about this, asking God to be over my time and to help me say everything concisely, and still saying everything He wanted me to say. On Friday, I introduced myself and felt God lead me to speak about the first 10 minutes of my talk. I spoke about God's plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11), sharing with them our pregnancy story, and how God's plans are very different from our own!
His love endures forever!
Everyone laughed at my jokes!
His love endures forever!
Two women came back on Saturday to hear as much as they could of Saturday's talk BECAUSE of what I said on Friday. They had other activities they needed to do, so thought they would just come for Friday night. But, they returned on Saturday!
His love endures forever!
One dear woman told me that HER daughter is also expecting her fifth child. The daughter is very anxious, not excited, struggling with the pregnancy. The dear woman told me, "I know God had me here to meet you, hear your "pregnancy story" and share your words to encourage my daughter!"
His love endures forever!
Two other women laughed as they told me the one woman was contemplating not coming to the retreat. But, her friend said, "You have to come, because you invited me and that's why I was coming!" The first woman told how the Holy Spirit reminded her of that, and how thankful she did come! She said it was she needed!
His love endures forever!
What she may not have known is that my dear prayer partner and I prayed before the retreat that He would bring all that needed to be there, drawing their hearts and placing an overwhelming desire in them to be there! This was answered prayer!
His love endures forever!
Every woman there made a commitment to seek Him more and more and to be faithful in daily prayer and bible reading.
His love endures forever!
His message of how much He loves us so ministered to the women who so desperately needed to hear it!
His love endures forever!
The weather forecast called for snow on Saturday for Okoboji. NO SNOW!
His love endures forever!
I got a little "turned around" when driving home, but God led me the right direction!
His love endures forever!
I felt His protective hand watching over me the whole way home, stopping at gas stations and "truck stops", feeling completely safe and at peace.
His love endures forever!
When I called Brian and told him I was on my way, he warned me that there were terrible rain showers in Cedar Rapids, so be careful on the roads. I do not like to drive in rain! I lifted this up and prayer, asking God to keep me dry! I drove the WHOLE way home without one drop of rain on me! I experienced my first rain drop (drizzle) when I got about 2 blocks from home!
His love endures forever!

May the peace that passes all understand keep and guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus!
Bless you all in abundance today!
Love,
Tracy

Word of God Speak

Grace and peace to you all today in abundance!

I pray that you will have an awesome day praising His Holy Name!

from Psalm 19:

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands."

Yes, Lord! The heavens declare Your glory- from the incredible sunrise filled with rose, pink, and purple, from the amazing clouds rolling like waves...

"...The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul (Word of God, come revive my soul!).
The statues of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple (Thank You, God, for I am but a simple woman!)
The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. (Yes, Lord, there is JOY in seeking Your Truth and walking in it!)
The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes." (God, Your Word, spoken to our heart through Your Spirit and the written Word gives us eyes to see! Glory to You!)

I have been meditating on a popular song, "Word of God Speak"- meditate on the words with me as we prepare our hearts today for worship and learning!


"Finding myself at a loss for words, and the funny thing is- it's OK.
Last thing I need is to be heard, but to hear what You would say..
Word of God of Speak, would you pour down like rain.
Washing my eyes to see Your majesty.
Be still and know that You are in this place...
Please let me stay and rest in Your holiness.
Word of God speak!

Finding myself in the midst of You, beyond the music, beyond the noise.
All that I need is to be with, in the quiet, to hear Your voice.

Word of God speak!
Would You pour down like rain?
Washing my eyes to see Your majesty.
Word of God speak!"

"To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen."
Bless you!

Praising His glorious Name,
Tracy

Sweet Significance-Finding My Worth in Him
Women’s Weekend Retreat

I Am Loved By Him!
God loves each one of us so much and is drawing us near Him into a love relationship. Learn how He woos us and speaks to us through His Word. Hear his love letters through Isaiah, the Song of Songs and Psalm 139.

Forgiven In Him!
Receive the forgiveness of Christ through the work of the Cross and the blood shed for each one of us at Calvary. So many times we say we are forgiven, but haven’t truly accepted His incredible gift of grace. This moving presentation takes us into the hearts of two women who were forgiven, the “sinful women” of John 8 and Luke 7. This powerful, often emotional presentation allows women to bring to the cross anything that is hindering them from having a full relationship with the Lord.

Transformed By Him!
“Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” Romans 12:2 Women learn that by offering themselves as “living sacrifices” and seeking God in all areas of their lives, they will be transformed into the women they were created to be. This powerful talk illustrates how to implement this message, what the information looks like in our lives, and how to “walk it out.”

Princess to the King
Women’s Conference

Discover how we, as daughters to the King of Kings are “Beautiful in Him,” “Healed by Him,” and “Forgiven by Him.” Learn the secret to be “Content in Him.” This powerful, transforming conference uses many different forms of media to illustrate that we are His Beloved princesses and that we are indeed “precious in His sight.”

A Make-Over of the Heart - A Heart Transformation
Women’s Weekend Retreat

A Heart Transplant
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”- Psalm 37:4
Our make-over begins with a complete heart transplant. Allow God to take out your old heart full of its selfish desires and replace it with a new heart, delighting in Him. Take a glimpse into the hearts of Jabez and King David, and learn what it means to truly “delight yourself in the Lord.”

A Healed Heart
“Trust in the Lord and you will enjoy safe pasture.”- Psalm 37:3
So many hearts today are crying out for love and are carrying wounds of the past that so desperately need to be healed. Allow God to reveal your hidden pain, to heal your broken heart, and replace sorrow with joy by trusting Him. Surrender to His amazing love, accept His forgiveness, and release those who have hurt you.

A Whole Heart

“Commit your way to the Lord and He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn.”- Psalm 37:5


God wants our hearts to be fully devoted to Him. Learn how He has given us power, through the Holy Spirit, over sin, temptation, and the desires of the world to live as free women completely committed to Christ.

A Prayerful Heart
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.”- Psalm 37:7
God wants a natural, living, breathing relationship with you and prayer is the way to that relationship. He also wants us to slow our lives down so that we can be still and listen! Learn practical ideas to incorporate prayer into your daily routine, including praying Scripture into your life.

Everyday Celebrations
Women's Weekend Retreat

Do you long to be a woman of joy? Does it seem difficult to be filled with joy when walking through daily struggles? Tracy delves into this topic, exploring things in our lives that steal our joy and brings us back to what God's Word says about joy. The last session is a fun, idea-filled presentation, exploring practical ways to fill our homes with joy.

Walking in His Light
Women’s Conference

The Alluring Light
Jesus, the Lover of our soul, is calling us out to the darkness into His wonderful Light. Hear His heart of love wooing us into a more intimate relationship with Him.

Freedom in the Light
No matter the darkness, the Light overcomes it. Jesus wants to set us free to be all He created us to be. He came to heal the brokenhearted, to release us from the bondage of sin and death, and restore dignity, honor, and virtue to His beloved daughters.

Reflecting His Light
We were born to be Children of Light. And, as dearly loved children, we are to “put off the old self and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Often the Light points us to our own cross. Women learn in order to be like Jesus, we have to “pick up our cross and follow Him,” which may mean enduring trials and hardships, but that this suffering makes us more like His reflection.

Walk to the Light
Although they separate us from the love of God, we often choose to hold on to things that keep us from growing close to Him. This moving, often emotional presentation allows women to nail to the cross anything that is hindering them from having a full relationship with the Lord.


Additional Topics

Don’t Waste Your Life!
Have you ever wondered what God wants to do in your life? So many women today have fallen into the BUSYNESS trap and have lost their true focus. Explore how to make time for a meaningful relationship with God through lifestyle choices, spiritual disciplines, and prayer.

Becoming a Prayer Warrior
Do you struggle with prayer, not quite sure if you are “doing it right?” Learn why it is so important, like Mary of Bethany, to sit at the feet of Jesus. Experience the heart of prayer while learning ways to incorporate it into your daily life.

The Perfect Gift
So many of us spend countless hours trying to find “the perfect gift” every Christmas. This holiday season, learn ways to keep Christmas centered on THE perfect gift, Jesus. Tracy also shares her personal story of how Jesus moved her heart to share the gift of forgiveness.

One Heart
Finding Jesus in Faith, Family, and Friendships
Explore how a relationship with Jesus Christ transforms relationships with those around you. Learn the importance of forgiveness of others and how God turns our “messes into miracles.”

My “professional” bio for speaking engagements follows, and I would be honored and thrilled to speak at any of your events. But, I wanted you to get a peek into my “real life” and get a glimpse of who I am everyday.



The “Real” Me…….

This is the love of my life. Brian and I have been married twenty incredible years. We have grown up together, been through lots of “ups and downs,” but we’re still mushy enough to make our kids groan! Brian is an incredible encouragement to me, supporting not only my speaking ministry, but also my first ministry as wife and mother. He is incredibly patient, putting up with my occasion temper tantrums, my procrastination of laundry piles, and my stubborn streak. I love his sense of humor, his gentle spirit, and he makes an awesome pot of chili.




I am a mother to five amazing kids. They keep me busy and our house can get crazy and very loud, but, oh, so wonderful. God has taught me so much through parenting my children. It can be challenging at times, but I have learned that I need to daily surrender them to the Lord and pray for them continually. I am so thankful and honored that God has entrusted me to nurture and mother these precious blessings.

This is our wild, crazy, and energetic dog. Although he doesn’t have any manners, he is such a sweetie and we love him to pieces. God has taught me many lessons through this member of our family, too!My hope is that when people think of me, they say, “She loves her Lord with every fiber of her being.” I want to be remembered as a woman who loves the Word and encourages others by her passion for Jesus Christ. My heart’s desire is that I am a light shining for Him. I desire to live an ordinary life with my extraordinary God.



Speaking is my passion and I am so blessed every time God calls me to share my life and my love of Him to a group of women. I am thankful and honored for every opportunity God brings to me. Thus, here is my professional bio……….



Tracy is a wife and mother of five children, serving in small group ministry and children’s ministry in Cedar Rapids, IA. She is a graduate of Proverbs 31 Ministries’ “She Speaks” Speakers’ and Writers’ conferences, has spoken at women’s conferences, retreats, workshops, Bible studies, and MOPS meetings, and ministers to many women through an on-line devotional.

Tracy’s lively and enthusiastic presentations are excellent for ministering to women at conferences, retreats, and banquets. Each topic is approximately 50-60 minutes in length and several may be woven together for a conference or weekend retreat. For information on booking Tracy for your next speaking engagement, contact tracyberta@mchsi.com.


~Inspirational~ Motivating~ Challenging~


Tracy’s passion for the Lord is contagious! Her heart’s cry is to lead women to a more intimate relationship with the Lord through prayer, reading His Word, and walking as free women in His glorious Light.

Through honest, warm, and Biblical teaching, Tracy encourages and inspires women to pursue an authentic, passionate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Her desire is that women are not satisfied with a life of mediocrity, becoming comfortable in the “world,” but that they live abundant, transformed, joy-filled lives. Tracy shares her personal story of childhood tragedy and adult failures, motivating audiences to seek the face of Jesus and walk empowered by His grace and forgiveness.

Tracy is passionate about God’s Word, and believes when women apply these Truths to their own lives, the Word becomes life-changing. She believes God has answers to all of life’s questions in His Word, and openly shares insights and applications of Scripture in her own life through examples that have audiences laughing and crying.

As a prayer warrior and firm believer in the power of prayer, Tracy gives many practical ideas to help women make prayer an important part of their daily routine, including the benefits of praying scripture into their lives.


What Others Are Saying About Tracy:

"Tracy illustrates so well how God can be seen in the little every day moments of our lives. Her compelling testimonials give a personal encouragement to women in any stage of their spiritual journey."- Kay Burns


"When Tracy speaks, my heart truly listens. Her messages have inspired me to be still and listen to God. She has challenged me to seek God's will, not my own!"-Laurie Sloterdyk


“Tracy truly loves the Lord. The messages she shares are Bible based, laced with personal reflection and humor. She inspires others to grow in their relationship with God and make changes of their own”.-Carrie Munsch


“Tracy’s insight and spiritual wisdom has been a great source of strength, peace and guidance in my life. She speaks from a heart that has such a passion and love for the LORD, and she wants to share the message to anyone she meets.”Kathy Moser

“I’ve had the honor of hearing Tracy share from her heart and speak to women with passion and purpose. She has no pretense but rather speaks with humility, grace and authenticity. When Tracy spoke recently at a women’s retreat, it was as if she were speaking directly at me. The attentiveness and tears of the other women revealed that they, too, were being touched by her words. It was evident that God was blessing the women through Tracy.”- Le Ann Harbaugh


“Tracy is one of those dynamic leaders that every church longs to have. I would highly recommend Tracy Berta to you for any speaking or leadership engagement. She will bring a combination of love and nurture with heartfelt spiritual growth challenges.”- Reverend Perry Fruhling