"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