Thursday, December 6, 2007

My joy will not be stolen!

As can be seen from my 'testimony' post the other day -- I had a great weekend - full of joy, Christmas spirit, the Lord's presence, love, peace, everything..... and as usual, whenever a person is so delighted in the Lord, the devil will come to try to snatch that joy away...

but I totally recognized it for what it was (but not immediately)....I don't know why but I just had a down day yesterday. I started thinking about how we are not where we want to be with our goals and started to get some discouragement.

Then I started getting a little homesick -- a in missing my family and 'home' where I grew up. Most everybody knows that I never thought I'd raise a baby, so far away from my mom, dad, sister, brother, etc. etc.! I always thought we would raise our kids together! So I'm still sort of in shock how my life has played out. I am soo thankful for everything we have been given - and I know I have been extremely blessed - but really, I just miss my family - my side of the family.

I want to be the best wife I can be for Brandon - and I know that Raymond and Brandon are my family now and we will make decisions that are the best for the 3 of us....but I just wish a door would open for us to move to New Jersey. Grandma's house is sitting empty, waiting to go on the market - and I know it's going to be hard for mom to sell that house. I think we all always thought one of us kids would take it. Brandon is soo willing to move to New Jersey --- he, like me, just wants to fulfill his purpose - and he knows these jobs we have now are just temporary. We want to do so much more than any regular or even great job can give us. We are just using these jobs to get our foundation we need - we are searching for open doors into other opportunties!

So my point it....I was discouraged. And you know how negative thoughts work -- once you get one negative thought rolling - you keep getting more and more to support that though. I started thinking about family members on Brandon's side of the family that keep making horrible decisions that we haven't been able to help or encourage, discouraged with lot of different things really....

and I started having these negative, awful thoughts that were dragging me down - trying to get me to get discouraged and doubtful. At first I didn't recognize what they were.....but then when I spoke some of my feelings out loud to Brandon - I felt soo ashamed. We are all negative once in a while - but I am better than letting those negative thoughts crowd into my self talk. So I opened up my Bible for my readings that night....

And as usual, God answered my doubts and discouragement right away, through His Word. He was there to comfort me. Every single passage I had planned to read that night, was exactly what I needed to hear! For example: I was getting all down on myelf for not moving back 'home' to take care of grandma those last years of her life on earth...I opened my Bible and saw on a sidebar:

"We can't go back... we can only go forward into uncharted territory. To sit in our sorrow would lead to misery. Although regret that leads to CHANGE is a dear friend, regret that leads to SHAME is a treacherous ENEMY! So how do we live without allowing regret to rob us of our joy? "and lean not on our own understanding" (Pr 3:5). There is no guarantee that if we had done a part or our lives differently things would end up any different. We have to trust that the God of the universe who directs the outcome of all things, that He will do that which ultimately needs to be done (in spite of us, if necessary)".

Is that not awesome?!?! God can MAKE my decisions right! He can turn anything around for the good. And even when I can't see Him working - He is! He does have something big planned for me/us. That is what faith is all about --- it's believing when it isn't easy ---- believing when you can't see!!

I am so thankful for God's word and for the people who wrote the sidebars in this version of His Word. Thank God for His comfort right when I needed it. My joy is back! :) Devil doesn't have a place in this house or this heart --- so get out if here devil and don't come back.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Gifts, strengths, talents

Well I ended last night's LONG LONG blog writing about my talents and gifts. I really want to find out what talents God gave me, and then continue to strengthen them so my specific purpose (how I'm supposed to use my gifts and talents) will become very clear! ........ and as usual God reinforced what I was thinking through my reading today. Here was my email from Joel Osteen's website this morning:

Pursue Your Strengths
“Do not neglect your gift…” (I Timothy 4:14).

Today's Word from Joel and Victoria
God has equipped each one of us with specific gifts and talents. It’s up to you to not only to identify those gifts, but to be disciplined to develop those gifts. You have to learn to stay in your strength zone. What are you naturally good at? What do you enjoy doing? Take the time to identify your strengths and weaknesses and as the scripture says, give yourself to your gifts. In other words, don’t spend all your time trying to improve your weaknesses. Don’t waste valuable days pursuing things that are outside your main gifting. Focus on your strengths. There is something that you’re good at naturally—something you can do that comes easy to you. Step out into your area of gifting. Are you good with people? Are you good with your hands? Do you have a great voice? Find ways to develop those gifts. Know that your gifts and talents are a part of your divine destiny. If you’ll be comfortable with who God made you to be, and thank Him for your unique gifting, you’ll not only enjoy your life more, but you’ll be ready to receive the abundant blessing God has in store for you!

A Prayer for Today
Heavenly Father, thank You for equipping me with everything I need to be successful in this life. I ask that You show me how to develop the gifts within me for Your glory. In Jesus’ Name. Amen

Doesn't God just work in amazing ways!??!!?! I almost couldn't believe it when I started reading this devotional email this morning.

Some of my thoughts on the questions posed are:
What are you naturally good at? smiling, talking to people, reading, organizing, making people feel welcome, being enthusiastic, being a student, listening, making people feel appreciated, being passionate, not being scared to speak my mind, standing up for what I believe in

What do you enjoy doing? all of the above... plus playing the piano, singing, dancing, sports, competition, any sort of game, spending time with my family, coloring, swimming, enjoying nature

Are you good with people? I think so! I love people and love to make them feel like they are loved.

Are you good with your hands? I think I'm good with my hands - but I don't think I'm GREAT with my hands.

Do you have a great voice? Although I really feel like I was MEANT to have a GREAT voice... to be honest with myself it's only good...or maybe even not that good haha. I am soo moved by music - singing, dancing, playing the piano --- I can honestly say I WISH I had a really great voice. Sometimes I wonder why God gave me such a heart and love for music - but didn't really bless me with a lot of musical talent haha. Or maybe He did and I just don't know it... I don't know.....

Some things I am extremely passionate about are the elderly, babies in the womb, orphans, all little children actually..... I keep thinking about Ghana when I think of what I want to do with my gifts.... after spending time with and learning to love all of the nurses that took care of grandma, that were all from Ghana, I want to help them and their families somehow. I did quite a few lenghtly studies during college on Ghana - and have seen first hand through these ladies what life is like there. They have so many needs in that country that I wish I could help with.

but all these causes I feel so passionate about require financial assistance! I wish I was totally financially independent and could teach others to do the same so we could all help others more!! Imagine if lots of christians had as much time and money as billionaires in our country do -- or even those celebrities in Hollywood? We could do so much good. Not saying we couldn't do a lot of good now --- but just thinking of how much MORE good we could do is incredible!

But we sure could do a lot of great things NOW as well without all being financially independent.... Did you know that if everybody in our country that claimed to be a christian tithed 10% of their income like the Bible says we are supposed to do --- it would be enough money to eradicate homelessness and starvation in America with LOTS left over to spread to other countries. Anyway.. that was a digression...

Mom and other people who know me.... do you have any other insights into what some of my strengths, talent, gifts might be?!?! Anybody!? :)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

On fire for the Lord - my testimony! :)

I am just so on fire for the Lord! I can't even describe it but I just feel soo passionate! I've always been an extremely enthusiastic passionate person but I just feel so peaceful and joyful at the same time right now and I feel more passionate than ever!

I have been a 'baby christian' for a long time. I always loved God, and wanted to know Him like grandma knew Him. Growing up, I was involved at church, loved hearing the stories from the Bible....but I stayed a baby christian for a long time, for so many reasons. What do I mean by a baby christian? Well I just knew the facts. God wasn't my focus. It wasn't who I was -it was just a part of my life. Some days I would even have the whole day go by and not really talk to God until prayer at night. But the differences betwen baby christians and mature christians are for a different blog! But one thing I didn't really understand because I was a baby christian was that once I was saved (age 7), that doesn't mean I have arrived and that's that..... being saved is really just the way BEGINNING! That is why they call it born again!

So one of the biggest steps in my journey was thanks to a mentor Brandon and I came across "coincidentally" (totally planned by God) in 2003. After meeting him, we were surrounded by amazing amounts of people that absolutely loved the Lord and understood His success principles. Meeting them really was the catalyst to help us get our lives back on track. Our atheist and super 'educated' college professors and the general liberal aura of a college campus were being used to lead us away from the Lord --- but this man and this group shed Light into our lives again. They reminded us of what our grandparents,

(digression: grandma! I understand you more and more as I get to know the Lord better -- what I wouldn't do for one more day with you!!! I can't thank you enough for all you did for me. Ohhh how much wiser I would be right now if I could rewind time and ask you LOTS more questions and study you more! I know in heaven you have received all the rewards you deserved - I can't wait to see you again - I am taking your lessons and your legacy and continuing! I will make you proud! THANK YOU for always being the best example to me - even though I didn't appreciate or understand you all the time!)

(MomMom! the ultimate example to me of unconditional love, forgiveness and acceptance..... and Daddy Cat! the greatest example to me that life may not always be easy but that the hard times can make you better! His lessons taught me that we need to constantly try our best and that Right decisions won't be easy)

and church leaders had taught us growing up. They brought us back to the lessons that had been ingrained in our hearts, The Truth, The Bible. They challenged us to find a church --- and in late 2003, early 2004 - we found Southside Baptist Church and have been going there ever since.

Since 2004 I have been getting more and more fired up about the Lord. The more mature I get in my spirituality and walk with the Lord - the more I love the Bible! This year will be the first time I have ever read the whole Old Testament straight through. My goal was to read the whole Bible cover to cover because I had never done that before - but I missed that goal this year. Last year I read the New Testament and this year I read the Old. There is just SO much in there! Every other year, I have just skipped around and read my favorite verses - but now I can say I have read the WHOLE Bible! Reading the Old Testament this year, I just did a basic study - writing down my thoughts, journaling after I read, underlining passages that the Spirit made stand out to me. I can't wait to get even more in depth. I just yearn to really KNOW the Bible!

I started out wanting to REALLY start to study the Bible because I thought...when I go to heaven, I will be very embarassed if I meet xyz famous Bible character and not know their story! Then the more I read, the more I understand God.... and the more I understood God the more I understood me! I can truly say I found Randi in the past years from the Bible. I have gotten glimpses of Randi the way God sees Randi. Then after that realization, I yearned for the Bible because I realized it was my defense - when so many people are doing wrong - I want to lay out the black and white. When they ask me I want to say without a doubt... THIS is what is right. This is what the Bible says! See, there IS a right and a wrong and it is all laid out in the Bible. There IS ONE moral code no matter what the media or some politician tell you - there is right and there is wrong and it existed before you and I. This book will guide you, teach you the right and wrong and will teach you how to live! It will keep you out of the gray area that is so dangerous and only leads to a mediocre, average life. It will teach you to truly LIVE and go the opposite direction of the masses!

My grandma read the Bible all the way through every year. I will continue to have that as a goal! As all the people close to me know - I LOVE words. I seem to be BURSTING with them most of the time. My heart is almost always overflowing! I LOVE God's word.

The reason all this is coming out today - is because I just feel God's presence so much right now. More than I ever have. Today the pastor had an incredible sermon again! I just felt God's presence and God's words flowing through Him. God always affirms to me the lessons I am learning - because I will read a certain passage or blog about something the Spirit is nudging me on, and then the pastor will speak about that exact same thing the next Sunday! It's incredible! Through the pastor's words I can hear God saying to me, "great job Randi, keep reading, I want you to know Me even more! " That is how you know you've found a good church - and that is how God will confirm to you, that you are on the right path! There is SOO much potential in this church and I want to help it grow! I want to help all the people that flitter in through those doors to truly feel welcome and accepted -- and eventually challenged to become better and better daily.

During the sermon today, numerous times, I literally had the urge all of a sudden to stand up and shout numerous times, "praise God!" I wanted to shout --- "people do you feel that?! Is God piercing your hearts like He is mine!? He is calling us to action! He is calling up His army!" Nobody can say when the Lord will come back or not -- but I just FEEL something big is happening! The opposing sides are starting to gather more and more with each year! When I feel God's love and when I feel his joy -- I just can't help but smile which is why I'm always smiling! How can people who know the same truths that I do, not be joyful!?! How come they don't have smiles on their faces!??! HOw come they aren't more friendly to each other?!? How come they don't show the world what True joy and fun is!!! I want people to look at my life and lifestyle and I want them to how is she like that? What does she know that I don't!?!?

We sang 'Above all Powers' (I think that is what it's called) today.... and the Spirit was just all over me. I felt like it was just me and God and other spiritual beings not the flesh at all, I don't know if that makes sense, but that's what I felt ---- what an AWEsome experience! The songs just tore my heart... "crucified, laid behind a stone, you lived to die, rejected and alone. like a rose trampled on the ground. You took the fall and you thought of ME (RANDI)...above all...."..... How can you not absolutely break down when you truly HEAR those words. I can't even fathom the love God has for me. and all He asks is for love back --- He asks for me to Love Him and then Love others enough to tell them about Him. He just asks for me to make Him a part of my life. He wants my attention, my love my soul and I want to give it to Him! OHH the power I have been missing out on by not letting Him into my life! I want to be with Him during every part of my day!! I want to always be TUNED into his frequency - I want to be ever-aware of His presence!

Whenever I feel the Spirit - I automatically shed tears - and numerous times during today's sermon I had uncontrollable leakage from my eyes! They aren't tears of sadness - they are tears of absolutey pure JOY and PEACE. It's a spiritual high. When grandma went to heaven this May..... I had some lows in lots of areas of my life - but I got through those tough times waiting to feel like this! I knew God was there even in my lows and I knew that I just had to get through those lows and use it to built my faith because this time right now would come!

Thank you God for showing Yourself to me more and more!!! Thank you for this blog I started in February when I just had SOOO much to say but not a lot of people with time to listen!! I thank you for this outlet. I also thank you for the people I have met that have encouraged and taught me and grown with me. Thank you for the couples I am finally starting to meet at church that are finally ready to get serious about having a small group together!

I want to be used! I feel like I have SOO much to give! I feel like a bursting spring sometimes! After the sermon, sometimes people just switch back to "regular life" and I am just still floating - I want to continue to talk about what the pastor preached about -- I still have so much more to say! I know He gave me this heart and my passions for a reason. I know God is preparing something big for me! I want to use these lessons I have been learning to help others!

Thank you to all my blog friends who have encouraged my growth in the past year since starting this blog. Some of them only stopped by once and left a comment one time...some are always there (hugs!) and some never leave comments - only email me! and I am thankful for every single one of you!

God, what plans do you have for me next!?!? :) I know that You will know when I'm ready --- so when You know that I'm ready -- use me!!!! I'm willing! Which talents have you given me that I can use to bring others to you? I know you gave me a talent in encouraging others. I genuinely love people and love to make people feel welcome and accepted! God --- please help me strengthen the talents you have given me - and please make it obvious what my talents are so I can find what my specific purpose is!!!

That's all I have on my heart anybody who actually read all this --- WOW! I hope it was worth all the reading! I am humbled you would read all my words! I love you for it!!

These are some of my favorite blogs of my spiritual growth of the past year. Just thought I'd link them here for my own reference to remember some of the lessons I learned throughout the year:

March 2007:

April 2007:

June 2007:

July 2007:

August 2007:

September 2007:
October 2007:

November 2007: