Christmas: God’s Provision in Difficult Times

Mary Manger copy

+Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

**I first posted these words a few years ago, but I believe they bear repeating. May you be encouraged as you read today. :)**

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It has been said there’s nothing new under the sun. Things people dream up, actions carried out, sins committed, heroics undertaken—all have been done before

In all of history, one person faced something no one else would ever experience . . . Mary. She alone was gifted with the privilege and the heartache of being mother to the Son of God. And with unique opportunities to see God’s provision.

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Easy: When God Calls

Rock Wall 1 copy

+Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

My Five Minute Friday prompt this week is—EASY. This largely unedited “rough draft” form of writing stretches this perfectionist, in the best of ways. I write for five minutes on a given topic. If you’re interested in learning more about 5-Minute Fridays, check out our hostess, Kate Motaung’s site. Or, click on the link at the bottom of this post. As you read my simpler Friday posts, I hope you’ll join in the conversation!

EASY

When I took my first steps on this writing journey, I was pretty confident it would be relatively easy to get published.

I knew I’d have a big learning curve. I’d need to figure out how to create characters, plot, an interesting story, but I found great websites that helped me to learn that.

I stepped back from some ministry responsibilities at church, and assured people: I’ll be back in a year. This story burned in me, and I just knew I’d have it written, be represented by an agent, and have this book baby on its way to delivery shortly after that.

Fast forward six (yes, six) years. I’m getting ready to begin my fourth book. None of the first three are published (and yes, I’ve been asked about when they’re coming out! Don’t ask a writer this question).

I’m not agented.

I’m nowhere close to having something publishable.

Six years.

Many, many words typed onto the pages in my computer.

Heartbreaks. Disappointments.

This journey is anything but easy.

When the journey is hard

But the thing I’m learning? Anything God calls us to is worth sticking with, even when the journey is hard. (Click to tweet) 

When the obstacles look bigger than the possible outcomes.

When the disappointments feel like they’ll never be hurdled.

God is teaching me that on this step-by-step journey into the humbling hard, He is with me. He is teaching me about His presence. His constant presence.

When someone says no to the story of my heart, it hurts. But God is there to encourage. He uses people, but He also uses His word.

The “easy” journeys seldom are that . . . if they are callings God’s given us.

clouds and sun on rocks

Those callings God places on our lives are the ones designed to bring us to the end of ourselves, to teach us to depend on and trust Him, and to refine us so we reflect Him more clearly.

What about you? What is the “easiest hard journey” you’ve walked? How do you keep going when the disappointments overwhelm you?

I’m linking up with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday—Easy

Confidence: No Place For Comparison

Quiet morning

By +Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

Some days, I find it so easy to forget who I am . . . who God created me to be.

I was reading in Psalm 18:49-50 when it hit me. David knew, and was comfortable with, who God designed him to be.

No doubt, he endured derision from his older brothers when he was the one sent to the fields with the sheep. He heard the cutting remarks from those who were certain they knew better than he. And, he put all of himself into working with those sheep.

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Calling: Our Timing and God’s Timing—Guest Post by Jennifer Kolb

Kileaua lighthouse

 

By +Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

I’ve lived a lot of life—in person and over the telephone—with my dear friend, Jennifer Kolb. She is truly a lady of wisdom. As I talked through the ideas of knowing God’s best and what is good enough with her, her thoughts challenged me to really think through what each of these look like. I asked her to share some thoughts in a guest post. Please welcome Jennifer!

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I grew up watching “I Love Lucy” reruns. I watched them so often I memorized much of the dialogue. In one of my favorites, Lucy becomes the spokesperson for a miraculous tonic called Vitameatavegamin. “Are you tired, run-down, listless? Do you poop out at parties? Are you unpopular? The answer to all your problems is in this little bottle…”

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Priorities: Discerning God’s Best

Hollyhocks

By +Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

(This is part three of a three part series. In part one, I explored the idea of When Good Enough Isn’t and compromise). In part two, I shared thoughts on when Good Enough is Good Enough. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!)

When I met my husband, I was teaching third grade, serving in the nursery at church, serving in the high school ministry, leading worship at a start-up church, attending a home fellowship and sometimes helping with worship there. I was a busy lady.

As our relationship grew, we spent more time together. One by one, God encouraged me to set aside these other ministries. He was preparing me for the ministry of marriage. Was it easy to step back from all these ministries? No! I loved being a part of every single one of them.

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Calling: Dwell Where God Calls You

E. Cartier Dwell where God calls you

By +Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

Our pastor spoke these words on a recent Sunday, and they’ve stayed with me.

“Dwell where God calls you.”

God’s placed at least one calling on each of our lives. He has purposes that only we can fulfill. My friend might be able to fulfill my calling to a degree, but not to the the extent that God created me to do so.

But what about when I don’t like the calling, or when the calling is too hard, or when the calling is not the one I wanted?

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God’s Provision In Difficult Times

Image

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Kolb

It has been said there’s nothing new under the sun. Things people dream up, actions carried out, sins committed, heroics undertaken—all have been done before.

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The Difference Between Contentment and Complacency: Guest Post by Lindsay Harrel

Today, I’m so excited to have my good friend, and fellow aspiring author, Lindsay Harrel, on my blog. We met online and through My Book Therapy, and we met face to face last year at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Dallas. Lindsay never ceases to amaze me with her depth of insight and her encouraging words. I’m thrilled she’s here!

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A few weeks ago in my Sunday school class, we were discussing contentment and one of my friends asked a question that intrigued me: Can we be content and still strive for our dreams?

It made me stop and really think, because I’m currently pursuing the dream of becoming a published author. Is it wrong to go hard after a dream? If I do, am I not accepting the life God has given me? Does it mean I am not practicing contentment? That I’m not grateful for the good things in my life?

In my opinion, the answer is no. I believe there is a definite difference between contentment and complacency.

Reading one particular definition for complacency was an “aha!” moment for me. According to princeton.edu, complacency is “the feeling you have when you are satisfied with yourself.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t ever want to be satisfied with myself. I want to always be improving, bettering myself, challenging myself to be more like Jesus. A complacent person doesn’t bother striving for dreams because she is “happy” as she is – even in her ignorance. Even in her sin.

A content person, on the other hand, knows that God called her to something bigger than her current situation – even if that means having a better attitude IN that situation or living it out with God at the center.

A content person is allowed to dream. She knows that God planted big dreams inside of her for a reason, and that if she pursues them, she is being true to who God created her to be. She has a peace in the pursuit – and she has a peace if God tells her “no” or “not right now.”

Contentment means delighting ourselves in the Lord and getting the desires of our hearts – because when we grow nearer to Him, His desires become ours. What He wants is what we want.

It means constantly seeking God and what He wants for us and from us.

Complacency, on the other hand, means we wait for God to come to us – and that we ignore the signs that He’s been there waiting all along.

Complacency is also waiting for life to change, but having no real hope that it will. It’s living life with no greater purpose beyond what we can see today.

But contentment – oh, beloved contentment – is praying with confidence for our dreams, and knowing that God’s plan is ultimately better.

Contentment, whether you are pursuing a big dream or a small one, means being at peace with whatever God gives us. It’s trusting God to be God – and being okay that we are not Him. It’s relinquishing control. It’s knowing that He knows best.

Contentment is not an easy path. Complacency is much simpler.

Complacency means not striving for a dream out of fear.

But contentment takes courage.

Take heart, friend, and strive for your dreams, knowing that the Lord who gave them to you will not forsake you. Have peace in the pursuit.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3)

Your Turn: What dream are you striving for – and how has God spoken peace in your pursuit?

ImageBiography:

Since the age of six, when she wrote the riveting tale “How to Eat Mud Pie,” Lindsay Harrel has passionately engaged the written word as a reader, writer, and editor. She is a finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers contemporary category for 2013, and is published in the Falling in Love with You anthology released by OakTara in October 2012. Lindsay lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her husband of six years and two golden retriever puppies in serious need of training. Connect with her on her blog or via Facebook or Twitter (@LindsayHarrel).

Boot Camp

This story is a couple years old, but I keep coming back to it in my thoughts, so I am sharing it with you today. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

ImageMy son is in “Boot Camp.” By his own choice. He’s six. Recently, he asked a family friend, who is an officer in the Marine Corps, what Boot Camp was. With a tease in his voice, the Marine described “Boot Camp” as: 1) getting up before your mother to clean the house for her, 2) standing at attention every evening to do what your parents want, 3) working hard, and I added keeping a good attitude. This concept of Boot Camp captivated his imagination! He wants to be a Marine now, and for the first couple of days he insisted he was a soldier.

The moment we arrived home that evening, he asked what he could do for being in Boot Camp. He made his brother’s lunch for school the next day, set the table for supper, and helped clear it afterward. Daily, he reminds me he’s in Boot Camp, and asks what he needs to do. He has maintained a great attitude and touched me with the purity and beauty of his service.

Though we are a few days beyond the introduction of this concept, he’s still excited about being in Boot Camp. To him, it is something special, a secret he’s only telling a few close friends. He is passionate about it, about serving selflessly, being a part of something bigger than himself, and about being a Marine one day.

This morning, as I spent time with Jesus, this question came to mind: “Jeanne, what about you? Are you in My ‘Boot Camp’?” Startled, I realized I have a lot to learn from my son’s heart attitude toward serving.

Where his has been one of delight and joy, my heart tends to serve more out of obligation, because “it must get done.” My son’s attitude toward serving our family has been one of willingness, even when he’d rather play. I serve willingly, but my heart sometimes complains. My son has practiced being disciplined to do the right thing when it needs to be done. Sometimes, I put things off because I want “a little ‘me’ time.” My son has kept an amazing attitude of respect towards his parents this week. For me, I catch myself “talking short” to the kids more than I’d like to admit.

As a wife and a mother, service is a part of my life. But, can I serve Jesus by serving my family with a heart that rejoices? Can I have the same purity and fervor my son has shown me this week? To do so, I need to re-align my heart with Jesus, identifying with Him and seeking Him. He has called me to be a wife and mother, which involves more than cleaning the house and cooking meals. Being in God’s army is a calling that is bigger than myself. It’s going to be tough, but I think I’m going to sign up for “Boot Camp” right now.

Your Turn: Have you ever had a “Boot Camp” sort of experience? What were you challenged to change?