6 Ways to Find Your Purpose

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I am in a battle today and I have a feeling that some of you are, too.

I am actually not referring to the health battle that has reared its ugly and evil head over the past four months … but I am talking about a different type of battle.

Often … I feel that I am in a battle with my destiny.  With calling.  With purpose.

Can any of you relate?

You know that you are “called” to something … but perhaps you are not sure what that “calling” looks like.

You are well aware of the fact that God has made you for something extraordinary … but your extraordinary seems lost in a gray haze of ordinary.

In the moments when facts battle with my faith for supremacy in my mind, I always go back to the basics.  I try to remind myself why I am so passionate about what I have been assigned to accomplish during my 80 or so years on planet earth.

And these are the six things that it always boils down to for me:

  1. I am called to make hell smaller and heaven bigger.
  2. I have a God-given mandate to bring the joy of His presence to women who are snared in the inky blackness of depression.
  3. I have been anointed to pray for women dealing with issues of infertility.
  4. God has given me permission to share my addiction with other girls who are dealing with the troublesome and relentless issues of life.  The addiction that I promote?  Why … it’s to the Word of God, of course!
  5. God has called me to raise up an army of women who are willing to pray even though all hell is breaking loose … to worship while in the heat of the most ferocious battles of life … and to live by the principles found only in the Word of God.
  6. God has charged me with the directive to teach the next generation of young women how to mother well.

Can you boil your life down to some basics?  Can you verbalize, in about six sentences, why you are on the earth today?

Because … if you are unable to do so … life is going to rush by in a meaningless calendar of days that drain the very life out of you.

You were made on purpose … for purpose … and with purpose.

You are not a mistake or a number.  I take that back … you ARE a number.  You are one in a million.

No one has your genetic structure … your fingerprint … or your calling.  No one.

I don’t care whether you are the young and inexperienced 20- year-old, wet-behind-the-ears, innocent and raw puddle of intimidated humanity … or … you are the 80-year-old, washed up, wrinkled, overcooked and curmudgeonly grandmother.

You are made on purpose … for purpose … and with purpose.

I dare you … write it down.  Write down your purpose.  Just six sentences will do.

Don’t waste another day in the frustration of not knowing who you are … or why you are.

And if words fail you … and you are unable to boil it down to six simple sentences … then just go and love somebody.

  • Pay for somebody’s coffee.
  • Write a note to a childhood friend.
  • Make your husband’s favorite meal.
  • Read a story to a child.
  • Invite a single mom and her kids over to dinner.
  • Take a widower out to dinner.
  • Call your mom.
  • Bring flowers home to your wife.

Don’t make “purpose” harder than it actually is.  You are here to make a difference in somebody’s life every day of your life.

Love turns a simple life into a masterpiece.

Caring miraculously changes a meaningless existence into a symphony.

Don’t get lost in the chatter of life but choose to love those you have been given without reserve and without regret.

Make a difference today.  Make a difference every day.

It is why you are here.  It is what will make your life meaningful and rife with significance.

If you want to live with passion … then forget about yourself … and look around you.

Who needs a helping hand?

Who needs an encouraging word?

Who needs a bouquet of love?

You got the job!  You were created to fill up someone else’s empty tank.

And while you are filling up others … you will find that you are being filled.

You will discover that giving … caring … loving … and filling others … are what it takes to build a life that is overflowing with joy.

The wonder of life is found when a simple human being decides to be a generous and extravagant giver.

So … if I could help you with your six basics … perhaps your list would look something like this:

  1. Love
  2. Give
  3. Care
  4. Bless
  5. Encourage
  6. Comfort

Now … get to work! 

And remember … you are one in a million in the heart of God!

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My Mothering Years Are Over...Or Are They?!

From time to time, this 60-year-old heart wells up with the ache to mother again.

I look at my arms and there is only emptiness where 5 precious babies used to rest their sweaty little heads.

I long to smell, once again, the sweet breath of a newborn baby … so fresh from heaven.

I yearn to sing lullabies … to rock the night away … and to gaze with awe and wonder at the miniature product of the love between my husband and me.

I want to read “Pat the Bunny” one more time … and to make grilled cheese sandwiches on a snowy afternoon … and to run through the sprinkler on a summer day with little people.

I have heard it said that motherhood is the season in life where the days never end but the years fly by.

I would love some more endless summer afternoons to go to the library … and to draw with sidewalk chalk … and then to let the melting juice of purple popsicles dribble down our chins.

I would love the opportunity to bake another birthday cake … to dye Easter Eggs … and to pull an April Fools’ stunt or two.

I would love to engage in a watermelon seed spitting contest … to sing silly songs … and to memorize Bible verses with the children that I have been given to disciple and to raise for the Kingdom of God.

But my season at mothering is over. 

 Oh … it’s true … I am now Marmee to 6 (nearly 7!) little lives that I just can’t get enough of … but my days of hands-on mothering are gone.

Or … are they?!

Recently, the Lord has been speaking to me about my calling … about my God-given assignment in life.

I believe that there is a reason that I love mothering so much.  My love of mothering was never meant to be lavished upon 5 growing children and then stopped up where no one could reach it after my miraculous and brilliant children were grown and gone.

Just because my children have left me (the nerve of those children!) does not mean that my love of mothering has left me.  Just because there are no children left to love at my home address does not mean that my love of mothering should lie dormant where no one can touch it or benefit from it.

I believe that the reason that I have been given this immeasurable love for mothering is so that I could teach the next generation how to mother well.

“Older women are to encourage the younger women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be keepers of the home …” – Titus 2:4 & 5

My mandate from heaven is to teach the next generation of mothers how to love and how to nurture frustrating 2-year-olds.

My God-given assignment is to teach young moms how to disciple and how to train whining 4-year-olds.

The Holy Spirit has charged me with the instruction to tutor frustrated mothers how to challenge and then how to coach independent 12 year olds.

My life destiny is to encourage worn-out moms how to tenaciously love challenging teen-agers.

I am now called to mother young mothers.  What a grand opportunity!  What sheer joy this will be!

I have been in a health battle with breast cancer for the past 4 months.  It has not been easy and it has not been pretty but God has given me courage beyond myself to bravely take on the schemes of the enemy and to fight the good fight of faith.

While in this battle, the Holy Spirit spoke to me through a precious friend and intercessor.  This is what he said to me …

“Carol, I don’t mean to be too personal but let’s talk about what a woman’s breasts were designed for.  They were designed to give nutrition to the next generation.  A woman’s breasts were made to give a solid foundation of nutrients to those who are too young to get it for themselves.”  

My friend continued …

“Carol, that’s what this battle is about.  You have been called to give nutrition to the next generation of mothers.  Your life, your teaching, your principles are meant to feed a starving generation of young moms who don’t know how to mother effectively.  The enemy wants to stop your impact but this is what we know … what the enemy meant for evil, God will use for good.”

Sometimes it is when you are in your darkest and most barren place in life that God will speak purpose and destiny to wrinkled hearts and to worn-down enthusiasm.  It is what God has done for me in these empty nest years that have been threatened with a cancer diagnosis.  He has reminded me that He is a God of purpose and that His plans do not come with expiration dates attached.

He has reminded me that He placed desires and design in my heart and that He will not waste one day of who I am if I am willing to partner with Him.

And so … my heart is beating with passion and with determination … My heart beats with a passion to train mothers that their words matter … they matter very, very much.  What you choose to say to a baby … to a 3-year-old … to a 7-year-old … to a 14-year-old … has the power to shape their destiny in life like little else does.

My mind is racing with ideas and a strategy how to teach young mothers that what they choose to do with their time during these early years of mothering matters … it matters very much.  Love to a child truly is spelled “T-I-M-E” … so it is vitally important to spend as much time as possible with the little ones under your care.

And my soul is longing to remind inexperienced, scared mothers that you don’t spoil a baby by holding … by rocking … by snuggling … or by singing.  Babies come into the world with one need only … the need to be loved.  Babies only have one desire beyond food and dry diapers … the desire to be cared for and cared about by those to whom they have been given.

If you are struggling with your destiny today … I pray that you would take some time away to listen to the One Who made you just the way you are.  Ask Him to reveal to you how He will use you at this season in your life.

And … if you are a young mom … stay tuned … because I have only just begun to leave a deposit of the enduring and beautiful legacy that is known as “motherhood” with all of you.

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Life is a Breathtaking Journey

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My heart is filled with joy and hope although I will admit that my body is still a bit tired and battered.

My spirit is overflowing with gratitude and possesses a quiet peace that has come “in spite of” and not “because of”.

In the months since the cancer diagnosis … in the weeks since 3 surgeries … and in the days that I have been slowly healing … I have been more aware of the presence of Christ than ever before in my life.

What joy!

I have been in an ambulance with God, the Great Physician, as my Chauffer.  He has covered me with His great love and has taken me on the most breathtaking journey of my entire life.

The scenery that I have been allowed to observe while on this journey toward healing has been rich and rare.  My view has been exquisite and I am in awe of His handiwork.

I know that the Holy Spirit, my constant Companion and dearest Friend, has been in the driver’s seat every single mile of this challenging route.

It has truly been one of the highest honors of my life to deliver the joy and hope of Christ to places where cancer has menacingly endeavored to torment people.

As the Holy Spirit and I have traveled over devastated wastelands of cancer and charred ruins of pain, I have been more aware of Who He is than of what the cancer has mockingly boasted.

I have experienced a powerful anointing while in doctor’s offices and when in surgical waiting areas.

I have walked through doors that only God could have opened and have had the honor of sharing my faith even while in medical testing rooms and in hospital corridors.

Fighting cancer has in no way limited my ministry but it has expanded it!

I have experienced the same power and awareness of His presence while wearing a hospital gown in a darkened room that I have experienced while wearing designer clothes on a stage or on a platform or on a television set.

I know that He has given me words to say and promises to pray when ministering to a nurse who was raw with the pain of divorce just as He did when I was teaching the Word of God to 1,000’s of hurting women.

I don’t believe that God’s perfect will for my life, or for any other life, is a cancer diagnosis but I do serve a magnificent and powerful God Who is well able to use everything for my highest good and for His greatest glory.

I don’t believe that God’s will is for His children to suffer … but when anyone of His dearly loved children meets the menacing enemy that causes suffering … He, the Lover of our souls, has promised never to leave us or forsake us.

What the devil meant for harm and destruction in my life … God the Glorious has used it for multiplication and for favor and for my ultimate good.

Cancer has changed me at my very core.  I am no longer the same woman that I was on October 30, 2014.  

I am stronger, not weaker. 

I am more joyful, although depression has knocked at my door a time or two.

I am more aware of His love and kindness and feel safe and secure in His goodness.  

I am not tormented by meaningless and answerless questions such as, “Why?!”

“Where are You, God?!”  “Where is Your goodness?!  Where is Your power?!”

Those questions are a mere waste of time and of strength.  They are a distraction from the important stuff of life.  (And, if I may gently remind you, those questions have already been answered by the Son of God upon an old rugged cross one stormy Friday afternoon.)

Perhaps the wiser questions to ask while in the battle zone are these:

“What can I do for you on the battlefield, Lord?”  “Is there anyone who needs my help in this place?”  

“Would you fill me with your power and with your joy?”  “Lord … would you make me become just like You?!”  “Lord … how can I honor You in this place of warfare?”

This is what I know to be true …

I am surrounded by a battalion of fighting angels who go before me and behind me.  

I am not afraid of what the future holds because I know Who holds my future.

I am determined to turn every day that I have been given into a miracle of the rarest and most beautiful kind.

I am focused on loving those whom I have been given and I am praying for those who are straying.

I am filled with excitement and anticipation of all that lies ahead!

I also know that I am not the only one who is traveling a road of challenge, of warfare and of pain.  For those fellow pain-inflicted, depression-fighting, battle-scarred warriors, may I pray for you today?

“Dear Jesus, we recognize You as the Giver of all that is good … of all that is righteous … of all that is healing.  Thank You for Your dear presence as we walk through the wasteland of cancer … of pain … of divorce … of poverty … of disappointment … of depression.  Thank You for the Holy Spirit, Who is a powerful healing force in the world today.  Thank You that You have plans for welfare for your children and not for calamity.  Thank You that by Your stripes we have all been healed.  Thank You that it is Your will that we, your children, would walk in health and wholeness and healing.  And thank You, Father God, that what the enemy meant for evil that You will use in your power for our highest good.  In Jesus’ Name I pray.  Amen.”
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When Your Heart Wonders

What moves you?  What fills your heart with the echoes of eternity? For me, it has always been words and melodies.  I remember as a little girl, hearing “The Christmas Song” sung on “The King Family Christmas Special” and it made my heart ache.  I was probably only 7 or 8 years old that December and it was the first time that the beauty of lyrics and melody made me long for more.  The voices of a 40-member family of 4 generations blended in deep and rich harmonies that made the tears roll down my little girl cheeks.  I knew in that moment that some things are so beautiful that they hurt.

About 20 years ago, I heard a song in a church cantata that moved me with the same type of deep and eternal beauty.  I remember that it was when I was in a daily battle with depression and most days my soul was a hollow vacuum of nothingness.  I went to church the Sunday before Christmas and was so content to sit near the back, even though my husband was the pastor.

The cantata was cheesy at best and most of the music was woefully off pitch and embarrassing.  The sheer inadequacy of the performance only added to my depression.  Then, the choir director, turned around and faced the audience.  I felt like she was looking right at me.  She lifted the microphone to her lips, opened her mouth, closed her eyes and sang in a rich contralto that echoed through the empty caverns of my heart.

“God is too wise to be mistaken

God is too good to be unkind

So when you don’t understand,

When you don’t see His plan,

When you can’t trace His hand,

Trust His heart.” - Babbie Mason

God spoke to me and I was never the same again.  He spoke through the lyrics and melody of a song written by one of His dear children.

These words have become more than lyrics to me ... they have become solid theology.  They have become a dynamic and powerful prayer.  They have become a reminder in the darkest moments of my life that I can trust a God Who is good and wise.

“God is too wise to be mistaken ...”

My soul rests in the assurance that God really is too wise to be mistaken.  God is never wrong ... not one time.  I never know better than He does ... never.  His wisdom never contradicts His Word ... and I rest there ... in that safe place of trusting an all-wise God.

God’s wisdom never changes because God never changes.  His mind and His heart toward His children thousands of years ago is still His mind and His heart toward His children today.  If the ache of your heart is to know the wisdom of God, then you must read and agree with His Word.

If you read His Word and then question it or doubt it, then you really don’t believe that God is too wise to be mistaken.  When my mind and my circumstances tempt me to question the wisdom of God, I am brought back to a place of trust by the lyrics of the life of David, the psalmist and the giant-killer,

“And those who know Your Name, will put their trust in You, for You, oh Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.” - Psalm 9:10

God’s wisdom is backed up by God’s power.  If He were only wise, with no power with which to move, than His wisdom would have a lesser effect upon our human lives.  But because not only is He the God of all wisdom, but also is He the God of supreme and eternal power, I know that His hand always moves with the wisdom of His Name.

“God is too good to be unkind ...”

When I read those words, I weep.  My heart melts within me at the goodness of the God Whom I love and serve.  There is no unkindness in God.  Everything that comes into my life is filtered through the wisdom, power and goodness of God.

Anything that God is, He is eternally.  God is eternally and infinitely good.  There is not one atom or cell of cruelty, unkindness or badness in God.  God has never had a bad thought about you or has ever been tempted to be mean to you.

He is infinitely and lavishly good.  He is powerfully loving and wisely kind.

“So when you don’t understand, when you can’t see His plan ...”

How many times has THAT happened in your life?!   You don’t understand what God is doing ... you can’t see His fingerprint in the dailyness of your day ... you don’t hear His voice or see the handwriting on the wall.   You scream out for understanding and He is silent.  You demand an explanation from heaven’s heart and get nothing.  You wonder whether He is in control or not ...

What do you do at that lonely moment?  Is there a place for your aching soul to land?

"When you can’t trace His hand ... trust His heart.”

This is what you do at that confusing, lonely moment when you wonder where He is ... you trust.  You trust His heart.  You trust His wisdom and His power.  You trust His goodness that is never unkind.  You trust that He is enough to carry you through.  You trust the same God whom David trusted.  You get on your face, open the Bible and trust.

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Let's Do This

Strong.

Peaceful.

Joyful.

As you read this today, January 29, 2015, I will be entering a hospital operating room to have a second cancer surgery in as many months.  I am still incredulous that the enemy would attempt to engage me in such a health battle but I am ready for it!

I am strong knowing that “no weapon formed against me shall prosper”. (Isaiah 54:17)

My friends … weapons will indeed be formed against us but they shall not prosper.  It is a promise found in the Word of God.

I am at peace knowing that God has promised “never to leave me or forsake me.” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

My friends … no matter what you are going through today … know that He is with you.

I am filled with the joy of His presence as I delight myself in all that He is and all that He does!  (Psalm 16:11)

My friends … linger in His presence today where there is ALWAYS fullness of joy!

How about you?  What are you going through today?

You may not be having cancer surgery but perhaps you feel alone … achingly alone.

Maybe you are a single mom with too many bills to pay … or a grieving widow with a broken heart … or an unemployed father wondering how to provide for his precious family.

Maybe you are battling depression … or discouragement … or bitterness.

Maybe your circumstances have mounted up until you are unable to see your way out or around them.

Maybe you are fighting illness and so the fear of the unknown is gripping your very soul.

This is what I know … this is what I have built my very life upon:

God is still on the throne!

God only has good for me because I am His beloved daughter!

God only has good for you because you are, indeed, His beloved child!

When you walk through the fire, He will be with you!

God hears us when we pray!

God is my Healer and my Provider!

God is a friend Who sticks closer than any family member!

And when my heart is broken, He stays close to me.

And … when your heart is broken … He stays close to you.

What do you know for sure and for certain this winter day, 2015?

What promises from the Word of God help to comfort your soul as you face difficult circumstances?

For me it has always been a powerful choice to declare the promises of God … to pray them out loud … to pronounce them … to talk about them … to write about them … to think about them … to embrace them as the greatest truth of my life.

I can choose to focus on the needles, the disease, the hospital corridors, the diagnosis, the prognosis, the treatment plan, the anesthesia, the pain and the disfigurement …

Or I can choose to focus on my Healer and on Him Whose word is final.

I have found that as I travel through life and encounter circumstances that I do not like and certainly would not choose that what I choose to focus on makes all the difference indeed.

What I choose to talk about makes all the difference indeed.

What I choose to think about makes all the difference indeed.

The biggest and most insurmountable challenge comes when I focus on the pain and not on the promises.

The true battle is fought in determining, with triumphant resolve, to keep my heart, eyes and mind set on the Author and Finisher of my faith.

If I spend even one day of my life playing the blame game, I am wasting the power of a miraculous day!

If I spend even one moment of my life focusing on the wrong stuff, I am wasting the delight and joy of an irretrievable moment!

And so, as I am wheeled into surgery today about 4 p.m. Eastern time, you better believe that my gaze and my heart will be firmly set on the Lord, my Healer and my Comforter.

As I drift off into an anesthesia-induced sleep, I will be declaring -

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy Name.  Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits;  Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases;  Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;  Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle!”
– Psalm 103:1-5

And, as men and women of science and medicine use their God-given gifts to remove cancer from my body, the song of my heart will resound high above the impact of pain and disease:

“Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,           Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heav’n and home,         When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He:                          His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;  “Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear, And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears; Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me; Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise, When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,  I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;                           His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;                         I sing because I’m happy!  I sing because I’m free!                             His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me!

Know that I am praying for you today, as you pray for me.

I can’t wait to write another book … to create a new Bible Study … to record more radio programs … to share my heart in a new blog … to travel across the nation and teach women the power that is in the Word of God … to go to foreign nations as an ambassador for Christ!

I can’t wait to partner with the Holy Spirit and make hell smaller and heaven bigger!

I can’t wait to pray for men and women in the throes of depression and believe that they, too, will discover the joy of His presence!

I can’t wait to stand in faith with women who are dealing with infertility and then hold their babies in my arms and bless them in Jesus’ Name!

I can’t wait for all that God has in the days and years to come!

I can’t wait!

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Living Life in Layers

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I often feel that I live my life in layers.

Perhaps it is not that I actually live my life in layers … but there are definitely layers that co-exist inside of me.

My external layer sometimes reflects what is going on inside of me … and sometimes it doesn’t.

I strongly believe in walking by faith and not by sight and often I am able to exude hope and joy on my face even when inner questions are causing indigestion of the soul.

Some people might call this being a fake … or exhibiting a disingenuous persona.  I prefer to acknowledge the fact that I don’t believe that every disappointment should rear its ugly head and diminish the person I was made to be.

Not every pain has the right to take over my countenance or vilify my speech patterns.  If I choose to mope my way through a glorious new day and verbally vomit on anyone who gets in my way … that is giving pain and disappointment way too much power in my life.

I was made for joy.

I was made for hope.

I was made for faith.

I believe that it is the circumstances and the events of life that often deceive me into embracing attitudes and emotions that don’t tell my true story.

My true story is that I have found a joy so pervasive and so amazing that nothing … absolutely nothing … is able to take it away.

Underneath that visible, external layer is the second layer of living that I deal with.

This second layer is the place where emotions or soul try to usurp authority.  This is where the trouble begins.  This is always where the trouble begins.

My soul often doesn’t like what I am going through and so it whines and complains.

My emotions walk by sight and not by faith and so I continuously must rein them in.

This second layer is the two-year-old part of me.  It is where the tantrums exist … and where the selfishness reigns … and where the right to be heard demands recognition.

But I am not sure that my soul is the best representation of me.  I think that I was made for more than emotional spasms and for more than outbursts of bluster.

I am sure that when Jesus said,  “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me,” that He was talking directly to me.  He might have been looking at the disciples, but He was thinking about me.

“Carol, if you really want to follow me, you must die to self.  You must die to your right to be heard.  You must die to your right to be sad.  You must die to your desire to let everyone know what you are going through.”

The truth is this … disciples of every generation are challenged to go to the deepest layer of self and discover that Christ is enough.

He is always enough.

He has always been enough.

He will always be enough.

The third layer of me is where I live by principle and not by preference.

The gut of me is where I know that I know that I know that He will never leave me or forsake me.

At the core of my being, I know that God is good and that He will always have the last word.

And so my third layer is actually the most genuine and truthful part of me. 

The part of me that really matters has attached itself to a Truth so dynamic and powerful that nothing is able to move me from it.

My heart of stone has been removed and a soft heart of compassion and trust has taken its place.

I have experienced His presence where there is always fullness of joy.

I have been to the Rock and water has come pouring out for me.

I have shouted, “Grace! Grace!” to my mountain and it is about to move in Jesus’ Name.

I no longer live in the darkness of emotional pain and disappointment but I gloriously walk in the light of His promises.

I have asked God the hardest questions that my human mind is able to conjure up and I have found Him to be enough.  I have found Him to be more than enough.

The third layer must have the last word, the loudest word and the deciding word. 

My countenance and my soul must recognize that they are not in control of the woman that I am.  I am a woman whose identity lies deep within and who lives for Christ and not for self.

Oh … I am well aware of the fact that my emotions and soul try to diminish the foundational principles in my inner being however day by day I am learning that I am not a two-year-old any more.

I am a woman who was made for more than disappointment.

I was made for more than ranting and raving.

I was made for more than being “real” and sharing my side of the story.

I was made to share His side of the story. 

From the cross of Calvary, Jesus looked across the millennia at my life, and said, “Carol, I am here, on this cross, so that you don’t have to be.  I am dying so that you can live abundantly.  Carol … I have taken not only all of your sins to the cross … but I am also taking everything that will ever cause you emotional pain to the cross.”

It’s time for you to figure out your layers.  What has the final say in your life?

Are you reacting to circumstances like a two-year-old?  Or like the person that God created you to be?

Oh … I don’t always get it right.  But my heart’s desire is to live to glorify Him and to keep my circumstances in their proper perspective.

The focus of my life is to rest in His grace and not in my emotional pain.

And so if you see me as only a girl with a smile on her face … a sparkle in her eyes … and a skip in her step … you will only be viewing that first layer … the visible part of me.  However, if you take the time to look deep within my layers, my heart’s desire is that you will see Him and not me.

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When It's Time to Say Goodbye

Tell me … how many times is it possible for one woman to say good-bye without having her heart irretrievably smashed into a million unmendable pieces?

How many times will I stand at the back door … or in the driveway … or at the airport … with my heart uncontrollably splashing down my cheeks?

Saying good-bye to someone I love has to be one of the most painful components of this journey called “life”.

I weep when I stand at the door and wave good-bye to my mom.  Really?!!  I am 60 years old and I still cry when I bid adieu to my mother!!  Will I ever grow up?!

And don’t even get me started on the absolute pain of leaving my children for long periods of time!

But since you asked … I will tell.

It all began in August of 1999, when our oldest son, Matthew, drove away in his burgundy Jeep Grand Cherokee to begin his freshman year at a Christian university thousands of miles from home.  His second hand vehicle, purchased by his generous grandparents, was packed to the roof with sheets, towels, pillows, a comforter, luggage, a waste paper basket, a laundry basket, books, pictures, and everything and anything else a young man of 18 years old could possibly need as he left his mom and his childhood home.

I stood at the door with both of his grandmothers, his 4 younger siblings and the family dog.  I don’t know who cried louder … me … his 5 year old sister … his grandmothers … or the dog.

I remember thinking, “My number is up.  Millions of women have done this over the course of history.  Millions of women have let their children grow up and leave home.  And now it is my turn.  I hate taking my turn.”

My very sensitive 10 year old son piped up, “Well, Mom … at least you are not sending him off to war.”

I cried louder.

Two years later Matt’s younger brother, Christopher, left home for that same Christian university located thousands of miles away.  The only difference was that Chris drove away in his silver Alero, which was also packed to the ceiling with stuff that I thought he needed.  I stood at the door of the home that used to house a mom, a dad, 5 incredible kids and a dog.  We were down to a mom, a dad, and 3 incredible kids.  Even the family dog was no longer with us.

Where had the years gone?  Why did the childhood years evaporate into thin air?  How could these brilliant, talented, adorable kids that I had given birth to and then raised have the nerve to leave me?

One by one they left me …

Jordan, that little boy with the infectious giggle and never ending energy left for college just before he turned 18.    Where had 18 summers … 18 birthdays … 18 Christmases gone?

Joy left 2 years later … the daughter who was named so aptly.  She was the little girl who had danced her way into everyone’s heart and filled our home with music.  Her absence left a lingering fragrance in a nearly empty home.

And then … finally … the baby, Joni Rebecca, who had come to us later in life decided to attend that Christian university halfway across the country.  There is no pain so real and raw as the pain of a mother saying good-bye to the last one.

Now what will I do?

Now who will I be?

Will there ever be anything as significant as being a mom?

Last week I stood at the airport and waved good-bye to Joni as she left to begin the second semester of her junior year in college.  We both wept.  When Joni turned to go into the airport, I gut-heaved.  It wasn’t pretty.

My heart was breaking with the pain of “good-bye” once again.

Why is this word, connected by the incongruous hyphen, so hideously agonizing for me?

“Good-bye” … adieu … farewell … see ya’ later, alligator … auf wiedersehen … 

You can spell it one thousand different ways in a myriad of languages … but I will never like its meaning.  Never.

As a human, I want life to stay the same.  As a mother, I want everyone to remain at approximately 10 years old and eat a nutritious, home cooked meal at my dinner table every night.

I want little girls to keep giggling … little boys to keep teasing … and birthday candles to stop multiplying.

But God has called us all to grow up and go.

We serve a God Who loves to see His baby birds flutter their as yet untried wings … and then begin to soar into their destinies.

Although we serve a God Who never changes … we serve a God Who loves to stir up change.

God’s plan has always been a plan of birth … growing into maturity … changing with the seasons … saying good-bye … and beginning again.

We serve a God Who makes all things new.

We serve a God Who wants our security to be in Him and not in others.

We serve a God Who loves the family unit but Who does not want the members of that precious group of people to replace Him on the throne of our hearts.

And so God treasures and encourages each good-bye we are forced to say.

God gives to us people for a lifetime but He gives to us Himself for all of eternity.

God gives to us children for a season but He gives Himself in limitless relationship.

And so … I blow my nose one last time …  stuff my tissue in my pocket … and wipe the dripping mascara off my cheek.

I put the car in drive and force myself not to look in the rearview mirror.

It’s time to begin again … to pray for purpose … and to discover the adventure of being 60 years old.

The empty nest is not nearly so empty when a weeping woman allows God to fill every corner of her heart.

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My Top 15 Books for 2015

Addiction.jpg

I have so many addictions in life that it is embarrassing.  I am grateful to say, however, that many of my addictions are healthy and perhaps even holy addictions.

You didn’t know that you could use the words “addiction” and “holy” in the same sentence, did you?!

For starters, I am a Christmas-aholic.

I am addicted to the beach …  the delicious company of children … and a steaming, hot cup of coffee laced with cream.

I can’t live without a piece or two of chocolate … a sweet phone call or quick text message from one of my kids … and the sheer human delight of watching college basketball games.

My soul aches for the sound of a symphony, worship music and a well-played piece by a classical pianist.  Preferably Gershwin or Chopin.

The reason I get up every morning is to read my Bible.  That is the greatest and most life-changing addiction charged to my personal account.

However, today, in this week’s blog of museful thoughts, I want to share with you a different addiction altogether.

I am a read-aholic.

I love books.

There is no shame in the fact that I have been known to barter with myself, “O.K., Carol, if you will do the dishes you can read for 20 minutes.”

“Carol … if you will clean your bathroom then you can allow yourself 30 minutes to read that book.”

My addiction started early in life …

I read the entire “Little House in the Big Woods” series by Laura Ingalls Wilder in the second grade.  It took me one month.  The entire series.  I was 7 years old.

I have an addiction.

When I was in the fifth grade, I had already read every single book in the elementary school library and so Mrs. Palevich, the librarian, made special arrangements for me to begin to check books out of the high school library.

I have an addiction.

When my children were babies and were up often during the night and then consumed every waking hour of every day, I would often drag myself out of bed at 5:30 in the morning so that I could read for an hour before they got up.

I would rather read than sleep.

I have an addiction.

In this age of e-readers, tablets, Kindles, Nooks, notebooks, and iPads, I still find it thrilling to hold a new book in my hands.  I am talking about the kind of book that actually has a cover and is filled with yet unread pages. 

I can actually open a never-before-opened copy of a book and feel my endorphins rise.

Oh! The joy of a new read!

My gift to you during this first month of 2015 is to gift you with a reading list.  These are some of the books that have changed my life.  I have also included a simple description of each book so that you will know what you are getting yourself into when you open the cover of said book!

These are the books that have wiggled their way down in my soul and have made a home for themselves in the deepest parts of me.

These are the books that have taught me how to live … have challenged my rigid thinking … and have softened my heart.

These are the books that I think about during the night and ponder during my daily walks.

These are the books that never grow dusty upon my numerous bookshelves.

These are among the published books that I wish I would have written!

(Side note … I have so many bookshelves in my house that it is a wonder there is anywhere to sit … or to eat … or to sleep.  A lesser woman would be embarrassed.  But not me … I am proud of my addiction!)

Here we go … 15 Books for 2015!

1 – “The Way of the Warrior Series” by Graham Cooke – Everyone is a soldier in the Body of Christ but not everyone is a warrior.  These 3 devotional books serve as a training manual in the art of spiritual warfare.  Don’t let the words “spiritual warfare” scare you away from ingesting these books.  Graham powerfully presents a vital and victorious way to live!  We all need that, don’t we?!

2 – “Fasting” by Jentezen Franklin – If you have been praying for years with no breakthroughs, then this book is for you.  Anyone in the Bible who was used by God significantly was well acquainted with the practical power of fasting.

3 – “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young – A daily devotional that will keep you focused on hearing the voice and heart of God.  I don’t go a day without reading these short devotionals!

4 – “The Zion Covenant Series” by Brock and Bodie Thoene – If you love historical fiction, prepare to be lost in Europe during the years preceding and then during World War II!  This 9 book series presents factual research and story-weaving at its finest!

5 – “A Severe Mercy” by Sheldon VanAuken – This book never fails to humble me and bring me to my knees.  Who is more important in my life?  My God or my spouse?  This is a true story written by a contemporary of C. S. Lewis.

6 – “You’re Made for a God-Sized Dream” by Holly Gerth – If you are struggling with purpose and why you were born, struggle no longer, my friend!  Holly Gerth has just given you permission to dream with God!

7 – “The Circle Maker” by Mark Batterson – God honors bold prayers and bold prayers honor God!

8 – “Two From Galilee” by Marjorie Holmes – I read this book as a senior in college in 1976 and it forever changed the way that I celebrate Christmas.  This is the love story of Mary and Joseph told in a fictional account.

9 – “Face to Face with God” by Bill Johnson – To behold God and remain unchanged is impossible.  This is a book that dares you to live a life of intimacy with your Creator and Savior.

10 – “The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom – The autobiography of one of the greatest women of the 20th Century.  Never married and a concentration camp survivor, God used this woman to teach on the power of forgiveness.  My life has forever been changed by the life of Corrie ten Boom.

11 – “Ruth: A Portrait” by Patricia Cornwell – The biography of Ruth Bell Graham.  Her life, her words, her integrity, her love for the Word of God are a beautiful challenge for everyone who desires to know what it means to relentlessly live for God.

12 – “Until the Day Breaks and the Shadows Flee” – by Christine Christopher.  Christy is one of my dearest friends and is a prayer warrior like no other.  This devotional is a love letter from the heart of the Father to those who are desperate for encouragement.

13 – “Cure for the Common Life: Living In Your Sweet Spot” by Max Lucado.  God made you in His image to accomplish a great purpose.  It’s time for you to discover that purpose.

14 – “A Disruptive Faith” by A. W. Tozer. – God interrupts a life in order to build genuine faith.  Not for the faint of heart.

15 – “Surprised by Joy!” by C. S. Lewis.  If you are searching for joy, allow the life story of C. S. Lewis to help you find it!

Now that I have shared with you some of my favorite books … why don’t you share yours with me?  Go!

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The Unmarred Gift of a New Year

Happy New Year 2015.jpg

Happy New Year, 2015!

It’s the time of year for wearing crazy party hats … for blowing ridiculous noise-makers … for counting down the seconds of the waning year … for lifting a toast or two … and for making unattainable, elusive, impracticable resolutions.

January 1 is the one day of the calendar year when making a new start truly seems possible, isn’t it?! The slate is clean and the calendar page is empty.  Dreams of heretofore unreached goals seem sure and certain.

A new year!  2015!

Every day is a gift from God but there is something bigger and more spectacular about the gift of an unmarred, exciting New Year.

Regardless of marital status, socioeconomic level, health concerns, behavior of children, academic degrees, stamps in a passport, or the tidiness of one’s home, we have all been given the exact same gift.

12 months of undiscovered possibilities.

52 weeks of being thankful.

365 days to unwrap with joy.

8,760 hours of His presence in our lives.

525,600 minutes of miracles!

What will you do with this rare and extraordinary gift that you have been given?

Will you make a decision to lose 50 pounds only to feel like a failure by January 12?

Will you determine to travel the world this year when you know that would take the financial provision that only winning the lottery provides?

Have you resolved to spend less … eat less … weigh less … and work less?

Is it within your heart to love more … live more … enjoy more … and sing more?

What will you do with these 12 untouched months?

Rather than making futile goals that will only frustrate the delight of life out of every day, I’d like to make a few suggestions that will enable you to wring the joy out of every day in 2015.  Because, after all, that is why God gives us 24 hours in a day … it is to experience His presence where there is always fullness of joy!

New Year’s Suggestions 2015

1 – Don’t allow one complaint to come out of your lips that were made for the sole purpose of praising the Lord and encouraging others.  Don’t complain about the weather, about politics, about the price of gas or about your mom!  Use your tongue for the purpose for which it was created … to encourage others and to worship the Lord!  Just think … by the end of 2015 you may have lost your ability to whine and complain!  How amazing is that?!!

2 – Memorize one Scripture verse every month.   That might not sound like a lot … but just think … at the end of 2015 you will have memorized 12 new Bible verses that will have enlarged your life exponentially!

3 – 15 in 2015!  What 15 people has God assigned you to in 2015?  Ask God to give you the names of 15 friends, family members or acquaintances who desperately need your prayers, your encouragement, your attention and your love.  Just think … by December 31, 2015, you will have changed 15 people’s lives for all of eternity!

4 – Read at least one book every month in 2015.  (Read my blog next week for a list of 15 books that you should read in 2015!)  Ask people whom you admire for a suggestion of a book or two to read this year.  Just think … by the close of 2015 … you could be a smarter and wiser “you” than you were in 2014!

5 – Become important in the life of a child.  So often, our human desire is to rub shoulders with the rich, famous and influential when it is children who actually deserve our attention.  Have some little girls over for an afternoon tea party … play kickball with the neighborhood kids … take a group of middle school boys to a baseball game … teach Sunday School … offer to babysit for a single mom.  Children are our greatest natural resource and have more treasure to add to your life this year than do silver and gold.  Time spent with a child is never wasted time. Just think … at the end of the coming year … there will be the imprint of new little fingerprints all over your heart.

6 – Read your Bible every day.  Go to www.justjoyministries.com and download the Daily Bible Reading Strategy.  The Bible has the power to bring out the best in you, to deliver wisdom to your life, to usher in peace to your days and to enable you to hear the voice of God!  What a divine possibility!  Just think … by the time a new year dawns … you might be thinking, talking and acting a whole lot more like God simply because you chose to read the Bible!

8 – Keep a prayer journal this year.  Write down the prayer requests that are shared at church, on Facebook, at Bible Study and from the hearts of your friends.  Don’t just pray for yourself and your personal concerns but pray for the people who God places in your life.  Just think … when 2015 ends … you will have an entire journal filled up with the miracles that prayer has accomplished!  You and God will have partnered in miracles too amazing for words!

9 – Do something kind for someone else every day.  Say an encouraging word to someone in your life every single day.  Do not let one day pass by without reaching out in kindness and in encouragement to friends, family members and even complete strangers!  What heavenly fun this will be!  Pay for someone else’s coffee … write an encouraging note … send dinner to someone who is in a health struggle … give that single mom at church a $20 bill … take donuts to the office … call your best friend from childhood and reconnect.  Just think … when 2016 begins … you will look back at 2015 and realize that when you give away kindness and encouragement that you are the one who is living a rich life indeed!

10 – Don’t waste one day in discouragement, anger or unforgiveness.  Remind your self that each new day is a gift from God with the expanse of heaven at its core.  Appreciate each day for the miracle that it is and partner with God in liberally splashing the joy of His presence everywhere you go!  Just think … when January dawns again … your life will be more than wonderful! Your life will be wonderful not because of things or stuff … not because of a number on the bathroom scale or the extravagant bottom line in your checking account … but you will be living a truly wonderful life because your life smacks of the purposes and plans of God!

Happy New Year, my friend!  Make it a great one!

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Christmas > cancer

It is Christmas, 2014 and the doctors tell me that cancer has invaded my body. 

Cancer, although angry and aggressive, does not own me.  It does not possess me. 

The message of Christmas defines me and the song of Christmas possesses me.  Not cancer.  Never cancer. 

Christmas is the dominating force within my human body … and oh! the indescribable joy of this blessed and holy season!

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The message of the manger is what gives my life definition and purpose.  The song of Christmas is a symphony that cannot be silenced and is more powerful than ever in this body that is expecting a Christmas miracle!

I have always been a self-diagnosed and proud Christmas-aholic.  Nothing, in my 60 years of living, has ever moved me in such a life-altering manner as the message and the song of Christmas.

I remember as a little girl of only 4 or 5 years old, looking across the street at the US Post Office in our tiny village in Western New York and feeling a deep ache within my heart because the Christmas lights on the little brown building were so beautiful.  My love affair with Christmas had begun …

I remember wiping away tears at my third grade Christmas choir concert as a group of 50 or so eight year olds sang the triumphant anthem,

“Hallelujah!  Oh! How the angels sang!

Hallelujah!  How it rang!

And the sky was bright with a holy light

‘Twas the birthday of a King!”

I remember hearing my father’s rich voice read the Christmas story from the Bible every Christmas morning of my childhood and teen-age years:

“And there were in the same region, shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night and an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them,  and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.”

I remember delivering clothes, toys and groceries to a family who lived on the edge of our town in a rundown old house that was filled to the brim with children who all had runny noses.  I remember, as we drove away from that unpainted, rickety unkempt home the feeling of sadness yet sincere joy that filled my tiny heart.

I remember, as a college sophomore, accompanying a powerful choir that proclaimed with deep conviction and with vocal excellence,

“Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,

When Thou camest to earth for me;

But in Bethlehem’s home there was found no room

For Thy Holy Nativity.

 Oh! Come to my heart, Lord Jesus!

There is room in my heart for Thee!”

I remember the joy and delight of celebrating Christmas with the rambunctious, enthusiastic and delightful 5 children that the Lord gave to Craig and me.  Stockings were hung by the chimney with care … Christmas cookies were decorated and then quickly disappeared into little mouths.  I remember the tender joy that always came on Christmas Eve when one by one the children would take turns reading a verse from the Christmas story.

“But the angel said to the shepherds, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Christmas has always given me purpose beyond pain … and has delivered glorious light in spite of deceptive darkness. The symphony that only Christmas triumphantly sings has delivered joy during days of depression.

Christmas is the most powerful historical event that has ever been notated on the human calendar.  All of history turns on this one momentous event. 

A baby was born and was laid in a manger.

And … it is because of Christmas that cancer has lost its power.

This year, my Christmas celebration has been different.  I have listened for the song of the angels in operating rooms, in hospital corridors, in doctor’s offices and in lonely examining rooms.

And … I have heard it!  The triumphant melody of Christmas has not been silenced by disease or by pain.

I have found the glory of the Christ child in the dominion where cancer has sickeningly and stubbornly tried to reign.

It’s interesting, isn’t it?  This year, Christmas 2014, I have not had to try to stir up the Christmas spirit or even look for the Christmas spirit.  The Christmas spirit in me has broken through the darkness and pain of cancer.

The Christmas spirit has bubbled up inside me in spite of cancer and because of that tiny baby Boy.

I find myself filled with great joy.

I find myself looking valiantly for opportunities to minister, to encourage and to bring that courageous spirit of Christmas to others who are battling cancer.

I refuse to waste one day of this miraculous, holy season.  I will not be ensconced in the dark dread of disappointment or discouragement.

I refuse to be distracted from the celebration that only Christmas deserves.

I refuse to wrap myself in somber tones or in a minor key.  I will sing and I will celebrate because Christmas is all that really matters in this disease-ridden, war-torn world in which we live.

How I wish that cancer had not invaded my body at Christmastime.

However, let me declare for the entire universe to hear … I will celebrate!  I will sing! Cancer has no power in me or in you because Christmas has come to our world.

God, the Father, sent His only Son, Jesus, from the splendor of heaven to the sickness and sin of earth.  And when Jesus came, He brought a powerful gift to be unwrapped by all mankind.  Jesus had the gift of healing tucked under His little arm and He brought it for people like me.

“The sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” – Malachi 4:2

Jesus came so that I could be healed … and He died so that I would be healed.

“… for by His wounds you were healed.” – I Peter 2:4b

I don’t know what you are going through this Christmas but I dare you to sing!  I dare you to bring joy to the world in which you live!  I dare you to encourage someone and to join in the celebration of this miraculous time of year.

This Christmas … 2014 … will be the best Christmas of my life because this year I have discovered His joy in the most unlikely of places.

Christmas is stronger than cancer and is more courageous than pain.  The joy delivered to this broken world by a baby Boy is why I can look ahead with hope.

This year, Christmas 2014, I sing with the angels and with the shepherds,

“Joy to the world!  The Lord has come!”

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Let There Be Joy! - Day 25

Let There Be Joy!

You may have heard the Christmas story thousands of times before, but do you believe it?  Have you embraced it as reality and truth?  Or have you filed it away under Christmas fantasy along with magical bags of toys and elves?  Is Christmas merely as significant to you as snowmen who dance, reindeer who sing and the false promise that all of your Christmases will be white?

The true Christmas story, the one that I have chosen to weave as truth into the fabric of my life is the story of a girl who was ordinary, young and unqualified.  God chose to place Himself inside her womb so that you and I could, one day, carry His presence inside of our lives as well.

God, the Father, the Creator of the Universe, the Instigator of everything glorious and miraculous, chose you and I as the vehicle through which our generation would receive its greatest gift.  It is our miracle that we have been called to demonstrate Jesus to the world in which we live.

The world will only experience the joy of His birth to the extent that I set aside my grief and pain and then embrace and exhibit His joy.  The world will only taste the peace of His coming to the extent that I reveal the authority of His peace.  The world will only know the hope of Christmas when I respond to pain and disappointment as an expectant believer.  The world will only see the Light of the world when I allow my life to become a shining beacon to humanity.  The world will only hear the song of Christmas when I sing it to the frozen, dark world of my culture.

Christmas was not all about Mary ... or Joseph ... or Elizabeth and Zacharias ... or shepherds and Magi.  Christmas is all about you!  It is about making yourself available at this time in history to reveal the presence and love of our Savior.  You are the present that today God is choosing to give to your world.  Your generation is desperate to know the glory of a Savior.  Without you, they may never know His name or the purpose of His coming.

As you now contemplate New Year’s resolutions and plans that will encompass the 365 days to come, will you recommit yourself to be used by God?  Will you decide this Christmas day to allow God to use your life as the manger upon which the Savior of the world may be found?

Will you allow the Father to use your life as the womb into which Jesus is delivered to the world?  God has planted a seed of Himself in you.  Will you respond like Mary with the submissive yet expectant words, “Behold the bondslave of the Lord, be it unto me according to Your Word,”?

Let there be joy!  Jesus has been born in you.  God is looking for believers who will be bold enough and joyful enough to embrace the miracle of Christmas not just one day a year but every day of every season.

Bible Reading:  (click on the Bible verse to open in reader)

Isaiah 9:2-7

Luke 2:1-20

Let There Be Joy In Me:

Now, after reading this devotional, define the word “Christmas”.  How has your definition changed after reading this devotional?

As you make your New Year’s Resolutions this year, resolve to be a receptacle of joy to a dark world.  Make a list of 10 people who need your prayers, your faith and your joy.  Resolve to pray for those 10 people every day and to bring Jesus into their lives.

HDonateello, World!

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Let There Be Joy! - Day 24

The Gift of Joy!

Christmas has given to all of mankind the possibility of experiencing heaven’s joy while living on earth.  When Jesus came to earth - He paved the way for joy straight into your heart!

One of the most important aspects of Christmas for a believer is to respond to the joy of His presence.  This is especially important if you are experiencing a circumstantial challenge or disappointment.  Don’t expect the festivities to relieve the pain - only His presence has the power to do that for you!

Nearly 800 years before the birth of Jesus, the Prophet Isaiah described exactly what the Messiah would do when He came:

"Surely our griefs He Himself bore and our sorrows He carried.”  (Isaiah 53:4)

Not only did Jesus come to take your sins to the cross, but He also came to relieve you of everything in life that has caused you to endure sorrow and to spend years of your life in deep grief.  Jesus took those emotions, sorrow and grief, to the cross and died for them so that you could live in joy!  God the Father knew that there would be things this side of heaven that would cause deep pain and deep grief in the hearts of His children.  God, in His great mercy and loving kindness was unwilling to allow you to bear the brunt of devastating emotions and disappointment.  And so, as the greatest Christmas gift of all time, He said, “Son, when You go to earth, not only will You take their sins to the cross, but You will also carry their sorrows and grief to the cross.”

Christ took our sins to the cross so that we would no longer have to carry them or be in bondage to them.  Christ took our sins so that our futures would not be determined by the sin in our lives.  He took your grief and your sorrow for the same purpose.  Jesus carried your emotional pain to the cross of Calvary so that you would no longer have to carry that pain.  He took your mourning from you so that you would no longer be held captive by it.  He took your deepest emotional pain from you so that it no longer had the power to determine your future.

When Jesus came, the calendar page of history was turned and joy, in its fullest, was delivered to earth.  Joy was given to you.  When Jesus came from heaven’s glory, He came to declare to your world, “Let there be joy!”

Bible Reading:  (click on the Bible verse to open in reader)

Luke 6:17-23

Isaiah 53:3-5

Luke 1:44 & 45

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What is the one event or circumstance that has brought emotional pain and grief to your life this year?  Can you give it to Jesus?  Pray this prayer:

“Jesus, I give to You my emotional pain and sadness.  I give to You my grief and my sorrow.  I relinquish it to You.  It’s Yours forever … I never want it back again! And today, Jesus, I receive the joy of Your presence!  Thank You that when You came to earth that You declared,” Let There Be Joy!”

HDonateello, World!

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Let There Be Joy - Day 23

Gifts Galore!

Did you know that Christmas is all about presents?!  Now ... before the self-righteous Scrooge of your personality rears its miserly head ... think about it for a minute.

Every joy-filled day of this miraculous season ... every holiday cookie that is lovingly baked ... every Christmas card that is hurriedly mailed is all about giving a gift.  Every Christmas party that you attend is about giving the gift of your presence to a group of people.  Every Christmas concert that you attend is about the gift of music being given to those in attendance.  Every meal that you bake is about giving your time and love to the people in your home.

The intent of the heart at Christmas should be to give a gift to someone who has been an important and vital part of your life during the preceding year.  Sometimes the gift is a loving sacrifice ... and at other times it is a necessary nuisance.

For some people you buy a gift because they feel that it is expected.  For others, you may buy a gift because you, quite simply, wouldn’t have it any other way.  Many people buy gifts out of tradition or out of family demands but most gifts are bought and given out of heart-felt love.  We give because we care and at Christmastime we long to express a small piece of our heart.

Heaven gave to every person in every generation the greatest Gift of all.  The Bible says, “A Child has been born for us!”  Imagine the miracle of that gift ... just drink it in the joy that God gave the gift of His Son for you!

No matter how much I love a person … no matter what value they have in my life … no matter how they have served me during the preceding year … I would never give away one of my children!  But God the Father, loved you so much, that He gave His dearly loved and treasured Son to you one Christmas morning.  You are the reason that God gave His Son.

The first Christmas, over 2000 years ago was all about presents!  It was about a Gift that came from heaven with your name on it ... with love, from God! It wasn’t wrapped in expensive red paper and tied with a bow of gold but it was a gift personally chosen for you just the same.

It was a present that Someone knew you were unable to live without.  He knew that any good thing in your life would be because of this precious Gift.  He intended that this particular Gift would change your life forever.

The gift has been given ... a Baby in a manger.  The Bible says, “God so loved the world that He gave His Son ... His only Son!”  When you love somebody ... you just have to give!  God loved you enough to give you what you wanted most of all:  unconditional love and a never-ending song in your heart.

Will you receive heaven’s gift this year?  The gift has already been given and is yours to receive.  It is the gift of a Father to His child.  It is a gift that will guarantee heaven’s entrance into all of your circumstances and a gift that will ensure your entrance into the joy of heaven.

Bible Reading:  (click the Bible verse to open in reader)

John 3:15-17

I John 1:1-7

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What is the most precious gift that you have ever given to someone?

Other than Christ, what is the most meaningful gift that you have ever received?

Write a thank you note to one person this Christmas season for the gift that their life is to you.

HDonateello, World!

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Let There Be Joy - Day 22

The Star in You

 “And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country.” – (Matthew 2:12)

When a man or a woman engages in wholehearted worship and gives something of value to the King of Kings, how easy it becomes to hear the voice of God!  Prior to this incredible event, the Magi had to depend on earthly directions and man’s best judgment.  Now, because they knew Jesus, because they had fallen on their faces in His presence and because they had given to Him that which was of value, the guidance of God was easy to discern.

Worship, in a believer’s life, always turns up the volume of heaven!  The Magi were accustomed to obtaining all of their knowledge from the patterns of the stars, from scrolls of the great minds of the day and from earthly governments.  Now these men heard the voice of the God of the ages!  These men are discovering the wisdom of obtaining their directions from God. 

Not only did they hear His voice ... they also obeyed His voice!  Quite a change for men who so esteemed academic prestige!

God warned the wise men in a dream to return home a different route from which they had come.  Herod intended to kill the newborn King of the Jews and was waiting to procure His location from the Magi when they returned through Jerusalem.

Worship not only enables a human being to hear the voice of God but worship often changes one’s direction as well.  Worship will give a new perspective on destiny and will determine the road that you should take in order to arrive at God’s intended location for your life.  Never underestimate the role that both worship and sincere giving play in enabling you to reach your ultimate destiny in Christ.

Just like the Magi, God may want you to hear and consider His voice alone and thereby change your direction.  Your part in life’s equation is to worship Him completely and give to Him sacrificially.  Worship and giving from the heart have always been, and will always continue to be, the most important parts of Christmas!

The wise men represent our culture and its misconstrued value of commercialism, humanism and materialism.  The wise men also represent humanity on a quest and on a journey for  true meaning in life.

I believe that when Christians begin to celebrate Christmas with sincere worship and in generous giving that our culture, however currently misguided, will begin to see the Star in us. When we are brave enough to celebrate Christmas with joy and with peace … with gladness and rejoicing … with love and purpose … commercialism will pale in comparison!

God cares about how you celebrate Christmas ... He actually cares very much about the choices that you are making this achingly beautiful season of the year.  God cares because Christmas is the greatest gift that He ever gave to those whom He loved the very most!

Bible Reading: (click on the Bible verse to open in reader)

Matthew 2:12

Let There Be Joy In Me;

What are some of the traditional ways of celebrating Christmas that you can let go of in order to celebrate it in a more genuine and worshipful manner?

Give the gift of prayer to someone this year.  Commit to pray for someone who is discouraged every day.

HDonateello, World!

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Give Me Another Mountain!

Joshua.  A leader.  A warrior.  An obeyer.  A mountain-moving man.

Who was this ancient man named Joshua and what does he have to do with your life … and my life today?

Joshua and his buddy, Caleb, were sent into the Promised Land along with 10 other men to spy out the land.  Moses, their statesman and leader, wanted these 12 men to bring back a report of what they saw in the land to which the people of God had been assigned.

While the 10 companions of Joshua and Caleb only saw the giants and the impossibilities in the land … Joshua and Caleb saw the infinite size of their God and the eternal power of His might!

Joshua and Caleb weren’t intimidated by behemoth human beings that they, too, saw with their very own eyes … but they were absolutely in awe of the God Whom they had chosen to serve.

Joshua and Caleb realized what you and I often miss … we each have a choice as we take new territory for the Kingdom of God.  Will we walk by sight?  Or will we walk by faith?

Will the giants in the enemy’s territory determine our perception of who will win?  Or will our flint-like gaze cast upon the power of God determine our courage and resolute faith?

Joshua knew that the giants of the land would be an easy prey for the people of God.  Joshua declared, in the face of insurmountable odds, “The Lord is with us … do not fear them.”

This man, Joshua, in his lifetime won too many battles to count.  He led the people of God into the blessings and victories of the Promised Land.

When others had seen only giants and defeat … Joshua had chosen to keep his eyes firmly set upon the strength and power of His God.

When others had fearfully exclaimed, “I can’t!”  Joshua declared, “God can!”

When others walked by sight … Joshua walked by faith.

When others disobeyed … Joshua obeyed.

When others ignored the voice of God … Joshua heard the voice of God.

When others turned tail and ran scared …  Joshua followed the Lord with his whole heart.

The years passed quickly by as Joshua followed God with his whole heart.  Joshua became an old man and had another choice to make.

Would he retire or would he keep fighting?

Would he put his feet up or would he lead the people of God to greater victories?

Would he buy a condominium on the shores of the Jordan River or would he ask God for more?

What do you think that Joshua did?  Consider the words of this man of faith:

Now behold, the Lord has let me live, just as He spoke, these forty-five years, from the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, when Israel walked in the wilderness; and now behold, I am eighty-five years old today.  

I am still as strong today as I was in the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in.

Now, then give me this hill country about which the Lord spoke on that day!”

On Joshua’s eighty-fifth birthday, he asked God for another mountain!  He declared that his strength had not waned and that he had the courage for more battles!

These days … I often feel like Joshua.  I know that I have been assigned to take new territory for the Kingdom of God.  I know that I will face giants in the land … but when I consider the power of God … the giants are like miniature fleas.

I know that I am not as young as I used to be … but I am begging God to give me another mountain!

And so … I want to ask you two questions today …

First of all … where are you in life?  Are you asking God for another mountain?  Or do you want riverfront property and a glass of iced tea?  You see … none of us can escape the call of Joshua.

Joshua’s call is a call of power and of faith. 

Joshua’s life reminds you and me that one man … or one woman … when filled with the power of God … truly can win battles too numerous to count!

What is the territory … the mountain … the enemy to whom you have been assigned?  Will you snore your way through life or will you wake up to the call and purposes of God?

And my second question for you is this … will you help me take another mountain?

My weekly blog is always for ministry … for encouragement … and for going deeper into the things of God.  But once a year … I have determined that I will let you know that I need you.

As you consider your year-end giving, would you pray about making a donation to Just Joy! Ministries?  Would you contemplate joining the team of this Joshua and of Just Joy?

Our mountains this coming year, in 2015, are exciting, huge and God-appointed! 

  • Just Joy! Ministries is taking a team of women to India to minister at an incredible women’s conference and to 100’s of children in impoverished orphanages.
  • Beginning on January 1, “Defiant Joy!” Radio will join Family Talk Radio on Sirius XM every weekday at 2:30 ET with the potential of reaching 28 million people per day!
  • The weekly blogs will continue to reach 1,000’s of people every week … the devotions on YouVersion will continue to go around the world with the power of the Word of God … Bible Studies, conferences, retreats, and worship services will continue to change the lives of women at this moment in history.

Hell will get smaller and heaven will get bigger.

Depression will be diminished and joy will be magnified!

Hope will live and breathe again in the hearts of desperate women.

Prayers will be answered and the voice of God will be heard!

All because you … and I … answered the Joshua call of God on our lives!

HDonateello, World!

Thank you for partnering with Just Joy! Ministries!

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Let There Be Joy - Day 21

A Change in Position and in Prominence

The Magi fell on their faces and worshiped Jesus.  This was full-blown, dynamic heart worship and not mere lip service in the manner of King Herod.  King Herod “said” that he wanted to worship the King of the Jews but it was lip service alone that was his intention.  While King Herod spoke of worship, it was murder that was in his ugly heart.

These learned and respected men, the Magi, who had possibly traveled as far as 800 or 900 miles to find the new born King, fell on their faces when in His dear presence.  Jesus was a baby, probably under 2 years old, when they arrived and yet still they fell down in wonder and in worship.  While Jesus was talking baby talk and babbling in a language only his mother could understand, these men who were known for solving the mysteries of the ages, lay prostrate in His eternal presence.

True worship always entails a change of position and a change in prominence.  In the presence of the Holy Child, these men cared not for tradition or liturgy.  They only knew that this little bit of a Boy was worthy to be worshiped and so they fell at His baby feet in heartfelt praise. 

Will you fall on your face this Christmas in the presence of Jesus?  True worship always involves joy!  These wise men had their academic world rocked with the joy that was found in the presence of Jesus Christ.  They had changed their academic regalia for a garment of praise.

Will you let go of your very human, emotional make-up and allow the joy of His presence to infiltrate all of the corners of your world?

True worship always involves a giving away of something valuable.  The Magi had brought treasures to the tiny King and His humble family.  What will you bring of value to Jesus this Christmas?  The Magi gave gifts fit for a King and what we offer Him can be no less.

Worship is the meeting place of God and humanity.  It is the moment when humanity falls on its face in joy!

The mistake that many of us make is that we are distracted by the “magic” of the season when what is actually occurring is the miraculous.  The miracle of Christmas is just one choice away.  Will you mistakenly yearn for snow, gifts and family?  Or will you lift your eyes to the miracle of Christmas?

You are loved so much … that a miracle has happened!  It is a miracle that divinity would be joined with our humanity!  It is a bona fide miracle that heaven would sing into our souls!  It is a miracle of heavenly proportions that where there was confusion and conflict and sin … now there is joy and peace!

Bible Reading: (click on Bible verse to open in reader)

Matthew 2:11

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What item of value can you give to Jesus this year?  Is it your time?  Is it a heartfelt gift to someone who is in need?  Is it the gift of encouragement?

Make a list of three people who need your friendship this year and then make arrangements to spend time with them over the holiday season.

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If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

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Let There Be Joy - Day 20

Violent Joy!

The star led the Magi to the Light of the World!  The wise men did not need the advice or navigation powers of King Herod and his best men - they just needed to follow the Light of the World. 

Whom or what have you been following this Christmas Season?  Are you so tightly bound to the whims of the culture that all you can think about are sales, calories, postal lines and parties?  If you use those temporary signposts as the compass that guides you toward all things Christmas, you are going to be quickly lost in the swamp of holiday fluff.  However, if you can fix your heart and your gaze on the Star of Bethlehem then you will assuredly be led to a time of wonderment and worship.

When the magnificent star stopped them in their wealthy tracks, the Bible says that these learned men, “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy”.  And what a celebration began that night! 

Only 6 words: “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” yet what richness their brevity holds.  These 6 simple words are some of the most expressive words in all of Scripture.

Rejoiced” is translated as “let the hope of future blessedness give you joy!  What rich intent and calling!  This word communicates to all of us, from every generation and at every moment in all of recorded history, that because of the Baby born in the manger, we can look ahead not with dread and worry but with hope and expectation.  When you encounter Jesus, there is reason to rejoice because of the many blessings headed in your direction.

Exceedingly” is defined as “greatly” or even “violently” or vehemently.

These first century professorial types did not just quietly bow down with their scholarly hands clasped in front of their wise faces.  The joy that they experienced in the presence of Jesus was an explosion of joy that knocked their mortarboards off their wizened heads! 

The joy of Jesus rocked their academic world!  These men were jumping up and down ... they were participating in the John-jump! 

The Magi were whooping and hollering because after years of study, after decades of hitting dead-ends as to the meaning of life, after a lifetime of frustrating nothingness … they had found the Creator of this miraculous universe … they had discovered the Answer to all of their unanswerable questions … they had at last discerned the wisdom of the Ages found in a toddler’s sweet babble.

These erudite men were participating in a violent explosion of joy!  The joy that Jesus delivers into your life should shake some things up a bit!

What needs shaking up in your life this season as a response to all that He is?  The magi had at last found a reason to celebrate because they had found the source of joy.

“Great” in this sentence means “with great effort of the affections and emotions of the mind.  It is significant that this particular definition of the word “great” includes the word for “mind”.  The Magi were men of scrolls and cerebral intensity; at the moment this star stopped in the presence of Jesus, all that they had ever learned or studied paled in comparison to this one momentous event. 

Being in the presence of the Creator of the Universe was such a life-changing opportunity that it infiltrated the very way that they thought and processed information.

And finally, but far from least in meaning, the word “joy” is rich in depth and in texture because it is defined as “the blessedness that the Lord enjoys”.  When these pedantic men discovered the location of the Baby Boy, they also discovered the mother lode of joy!  They hit a vein so rich and generous in joy that it changed every detail, both large and small, concerning their impressive lives.

Every blessing that the Lord has ... the Magi had … and you now have ... because of Christmas!

Bible Reading:  (click on the Bible verse to open in reader)

Matthew 2:9 & 10

Let There Be Joy In Me:

Does joy have anything to do with our circumstances at all? 

What has been the most joyful moment of your life?

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

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Let There Be Joy - Day 19

Academic Weirdo’s!

The Magi specialized in astronomy, the study of the stars.  These learned, cerebral men were not Jews but they were pagan astrologers from the East.  Today we would term these wise men “diviners” or “magicians”.  They were wise in the way of secular science.  They are probably the types of people that you and I would stay away from today.  Perhaps, in the 21st. Century, we would call them “humanists ... “the left side of academia” ... “weirdos”.  Quite frankly … these wealthy, esteemed men were little more than academic nuts!

These magic men came to King Herod asking where they could find the new king because it was their ultimate plan to worship and revere Him Who was born King of the Jews.

King Herod was perturbed at this news and gathered the scribes and priests to figure out where the Messiah was to be born.  These leading church scholars of the day were able to quote to King Herod a prophetic word from Micah that confirmed that the heaven sent Ruler would be born in Bethlehem.

King Herod then called for a second meeting with the Magi and sent them to Bethlehem, telling them to let him know when the Messiah was found because, he, too, desired to come and worship this new born King.

Now the question that should be asked at this juncture in this historical account is this one, “Was King Herod actually going to worship Jesus?” And the answer should be an emphatic, “Absolutely not!”

King Herod was plotting to kill the Baby who had come to bring peace on earth!  The worship of King Herod was mere lip service.  His heart had no intent of worshiping the Christ Child although his mouth construed a thoughtless and irreverent lie with the desire of manipulating the plans of the Magi.

What is your plan this Christmas?  Will you only give him your lip service?  Will you say that He is Lord while acting quite a different way?  Christmas is a time when the motives of our hearts are laid bare. 

Will you worship Him with only your mouth ... or will your heart and your life join in the high praise that He deserves?  Only you can determine this type of worship. 

You choose whether to worship Him with lip service alone or bring to Jesus, the Baby in the manger, the worship that is accompanied by a lifetime of loving actions.

Bible Reading:

Matthew 2:1-8

Let There Be Joy In Me:

Do you have anyone in your who does not believe of refuses to believe in Jesus?  What gift could you give to them this year that demonstrates your true love for them?

What does it mean to worship the King?  Does worship always involve singing?  If not, what are some other ways that you can worship the Christ Child this Christmas season?

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

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Let There Be Joy - Day 18

Do Not Be Afraid!

Angels are an intrinsic and dynamic part of the Christmas story.  Christmas simply would not have happened without these God-sent messengers from heaven.  We don’t know whether or not the angels were clothed in flowing, white robes, whether they had a halo that was sparkling or even whether or not they flew with wings into the Christmas scene, but what we do know is that these angels carried the heart of God concerning the momentous event that was about to take place!

Angels appear four times in the traditional Christmas story and each time, although they carried different pieces of information concerning what was to happen, their message is always the same, “Do not be afraid!”  It was what the angel said first to Zachariah, then to Mary, then to Joseph and finally to the shepherds on the hillside. 

“Do not be afraid!”

I believe that this just may be the message that heaven is sending to your heart this Christmas season.  Christmas plainly declares that Jesus and fear are mutually exclusive.  When Jesus arrives on the scene, there is no reason to be afraid.  His presence powerfully removes any reason for fear.

It is time for you to step away from your fear and into His presence.  I pray that this Christmas, and for every day of the coming year, that you will realize that when Jesus has been birthed in your heart, there is absolutely no reason for fear or for worry.  The message of Christmas has not changed much in 2,000 years and I can guarantee that the words of the angels are still ringing clearly into our 21st. Century world, “Do not be afraid!”

When your circumstances are falling apart, remind yourself, “Do not be afraid!”

When there is not enough money to pay the bills, remind yourself, “Do not be afraid!”

When you are dealing with disappointment, pain or loneliness, remind yourself, “Do not be afraid!”

One of the names that heaven has identified Jesus as is “the Prince of Peace”.  Jesus, the Son of God, has been given ruling authority in the realm of peace.  And in reality, there is no way you will ever experience peace without His presence in your life.  There is no way you will ever be the beneficiary of peace without allowing Him to rule and reign in you.

God has promised that He would give His peace to those whose hearts and minds are fully stayed on Him.  Peace is not the absence of trouble but it is the very real presence of God.  And because of Jesus, this Christmas, and every Christmas, you can rest in His overwhelming and satisfying peace!

Bible Reading:  (click on the Bible verse to open in reader)

Matthew 1:20

Luke 1:30

Luke 1:13

Luke 2:10

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What are some of the issues that cause fear to creep into your heart?  Today, apply Isaiah 26:3 to those issues.

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

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