Monday, February 3, 2014

Fill in the Blank

Take a look at a blank wall. Go ahead. Turn around, find a blank wall. It might actually be hard to locate one!

Did you find it? OK...Are you inspired? Intrigued? Flummoxed? Or perhaps even...Worried?

Yes, blank walls are a little hard to locate. As pinterest, instagram, and the variety of photography and social media sites declare, blank space just needs to be filled with ideas and beauty and color!

But...Life sometimes feels like a blank canvas. Sometimes, you start planning or thinking about life and it just feels bland or unknown or scary or weird or... fill in the blank. It is at these moments, and really every moment, that we need to fill in the blank with a splash of LIGHT and radiance!

"Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy;
    no shadow of shame will darken their faces." ~ Psalm 34:5

As this year is filled with activities and "to do's," life just seems a bit gray or blank at times. I know for me, this is largely due to the lack of color and spice that was in my life with the presence of my momma, Lisa Furrow. It was always her opinion, her laugh, her wisdom, her rebuke, her genrosity, her silly habits, that gave a bit of color in my life. 

So when I feel afraid or lonely or inadequate or just blank, I have to look to Him. I HAVE to look to Him, stare straight in the SON-shine. How can I do this?

PRAY!! I need to be serious about praying. When Nehemiah heard of the destruction of Jerusalem, that all the gates were burned with fire, his response was not one of anxiety, he immediately sat down, wept, and prayed!  "When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven." (Nehemiah 1:4). 

When I read this recently, I had to really question, "When was the last time you truly fasted and wept over the condition that is troubling you?" Hmmm.... It's been a while. A note on fasting as well, fasting isn't always giving up food, it can be giving up other things that take away your attention daily. Things that could be replaced by prayer and seeking God. Media, computers, music, phone, etc. 

READ: The WORD of God is powerful, living and active. Commit to reading through the Bible and read it every day. It doesn't have to be legalistic, but read it! Then, think about it and use commentaries when possible. 

I love how Ezra was defined by his devotion, love, and obedience to God's Word. That is a great personality trait! 


"For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel." (Ezra 7:10)

Check out this post from Lisa Furrow: http://lisafurrow.blogspot.com/2012/01/hungry.html

OBEY: Ezra 7:10 really emphasizes the need to obey God's Word. When I read something in Scripture, and the Holy Spirit is convicting me, I need to do it!

"For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.  But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does." James 1:23-25

He is faithful to fill in the blank space. We WILL reap the rewards of the seeds that we sow. I want to sow tons of seeds in prayer, the word and obedience and watch the blank space be filled with color and light and beauty. 

He is waiting. Turn to Him and Fill in the blank!

Love you all!
Jess

Friday, November 8, 2013

Following the Leader

Who are you leading? Who are you following? Where are you going?

Literally, as a mother, I must lead my children. Everyday, across the street, into the car, through the grocery store, to bedtime, etc. Spiritually, they follow me! They look to my example and how I respond to situations and people. I hope I am leading them in all righteousness and integrity.

In the age of technology, leading and following could be as simple as a twitter account. The world is full of leaders and followers. The more predominant voice sometimes seems to drown out the honest, the genuine, the pure.

Reading the story of Ruth, Ruth’s determination to stay with Naomi shines through. Naomi, the infamous mother-in-law, does not seem to be the star of the story. However, she was the leader of the story! Ruth saw Naomi as a leader and someone worth following in all things. Ruth gave up her own family in order to make a new life in Israel with a bitter and broken Naomi.

“But Ruth said, ‘Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you." ~ Ruth 1:16-17


Naomi must have been quite a strong personality. Throughout the story, Naomi instructs Ruth where to go and how to proceed in her relationship with her future husband, Boaz. And Ruth follows. The end result? Ruth and Naomi go from widows without hope or home, to a family and heritage in the line of King David and the future Messiah, Jesus. Naomi led, she was willing to speak and lead her daughter-in-law and Ruth listened and heeded her advice. This is not always a good formula! We often lead and try to control situations in our children’s lives that we should just let go. However, this speaks to Naomi’s commitment and example. She knew God and through her, Ruth knew and experienced the hope and blessing of Christ. 

In the SON-shine

You see, we are all leaders and we are all followers. The question remains. WHO will you follow? This answers the question of HOW and TO WHOM you will lead. If you follow Jesus, if you are devoted to Him and meditating, singing, recounting His truth, those who follow you will be led to Him, to HOPE.

In Matthew 4: 19-20, Jesus calls out to two fishermen: Simon (Peter) and his brother Andrew, “And he said to them, “ 'Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.' Immediately they left their nets and followed him.”

Immediately, they followed Him. And their lives were never the same. They saw wonders, miracles, joy and life restored. They saw lives changed and they saw the Messiah die and rise again. They led thousands to follow Jesus and they even followed Jesus to the death.

Following requires some sacrifice. As a leader, are you willing to follow Jesus in sacrifice? Your kids, your friends will be watching. And they might just follow you, to life. If you won’t lead, they will find someone else to follow, maybe to destruction. Just take a look at the world and its current “twitter” leaders.

Be a leader. Jesus cries out: “Follow Me!”

Love Love,
Jess, the Musing Mama
 
These two Follow the Leader


 
*Lead and read! Read the Bible to your kids every night. Find ways to sing or say verses. I want to include a kids BOOK Review. If you are scrambling to find good books to read at bedtime or for storytime, this is one of the best! I would read this to children anywhere between the ages of 3 - 8. The concepts are deep and thoughtful, so the older kids would have a good time discussing the Biblical truth presented.
Fool Moon Rising written and illustrated by Kristi and T. Lively Fluharty

http://foolmoonrising.com/

In this rhyming short story, a young boy ponders the faulty actions of a foolish moon. This moon pridefully croons his own tunes of praise rather than realizing where his light ultimately comes from. This story sparks spiritual lessons on pride and humility in light of Jesus, the Creator. It also includes marvelous moon facts which show and illustrate the amazing design of our creator.

Enjoy and have fun leading your little ones!

Friday, July 12, 2013

You are my SON-shine

In a few short months my life has taken a course I never imagined. I have experienced loss, discouragement, pain, fear, anxiety, loneliness, aching emptiness all in the midst of joy, triumph, hope and a new-ness.

Yes, new-ness. As the summer heat beats on thirsty desert land, creating deep and painful cracks choking the life from the soil, my soul is aching for refreshing rains to fall upon my life. To fill the cracks and heal the hardness which has calloused my weary soul. I long for an embrace, a word, a note, yet dry howling, empty wind is all that meets my ears.

And then...the rains come. At first soft and hardly noticeable. Then they grow, and grow until the beating upon my heart is inescapable and the tears are mixed with fresh water descending from the soft, yet imposing clouds above. I am safe in the rain, to cry and sit and wonder why. And then, when I awake, the rains have ended, but the moisture clings to the air and the dry cracks are softened and soon filled with flowers.

When I awake and hear the soft babbling of my 9 month old son, I walk wearily into his pirate-themed room and look bleary-eyed at his soft and chubby face. He greets me immediately with a smile, three little teeth growing precariously up from the bottom of his gums. His eyes sparkle with joy just at the sight of my presence. He is my son, my son-shine.

My mum used to sing that son to me and my brothers, "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy, when skies are grey. You'll never know dear how much I love you. Please don't take my sunshine away."

The skies are grey, physically emotionally and spiritually. But grey skies bring rain and rain produces growth. I welcome the rain, and then when the rain is ended the sun shines through.

Through this rainy season, I find myself surrounded by "SON-shines." Friends, kids, family whose presence is my delight. Nothing needs to be said, just a smile, an embrace.

This is beautiful. If you have shone the love of Jesus to me, thank you.

"Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear." Matthew 13:43

You are my "SON-shine"

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Make Someone Happy

As I placed Evan in my mother's arms for one of the last times, he smiled at her and she sang, "Make Someone Happy" to him as she held his hands and bounced them to her tune. It was an unforgettable moment.



My mom was a person who liked to make someone happy. I wouldn't characterize her as soft spoken or necessarily sweet ;-), but she loved to do things which made others happy. Now three and half weeks since she passed, I am beginning to see how everyone was her project! She would see a friend in a crisis of fashion and help them buy a new wardrobe. Her ear was always listening and she was always offering the best godly advice. If I even mentioned needing...say, diapers...she would drop them off on her many errands!

Now as I grow and see my children grow in the gifts God has given to them, I see the opportunities all around. My daughter, who is always social and ready to make friends, has begun playing with a neighborhood boy in the area. At first, I was a bit hesitant to let her play with him, because, let's face it, there are psycho people out there! I see the opportunity to share the love of Jesus and make this neighborhood boy happy. We gave him candy canes and he helped make cookies, then he brought over some baked goods the next day.

It was my mom who always welcomed our neighbors and friends as an opportunity to love. I remember countless conversations she spent driving my friends home in her big toyota sequoia, giving them advice on their love life or high school admissions, etc.

"And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." Ephesians 4:32

Me and Emma (2009)
Today, I will look for opportunities to love. My Evan's smiles always make someone happy. Instead of looking for ways that I can be happy, I choose to love and maybe in making someone happy, I might even be the happy one!

Make Someone Happy by Jimmy Durante

Monday, December 31, 2012

Laundry and Gummy Bears

Wake up...rub eyes...brush teeth...bathroom time...run like mad...dress children...sort laundry...wash laundry...eat...drink coffee..move laundry...eat...sit down...drive...run like mad...eat...fold laundry...eat...laundry, laundry...eat gummy bears... laundry!...wake up....

Have you noticed how life can be a bit unrelenting? It knocks you when your down and doesn't stop! It is sometimes a bad record on repeat! 

Now, all of the mundanities of life are not bad. The routines bring special delights and comforts, like the morning greeting of a four year old or the cuddles and smiles of a new baby. But the truth is...no matter how much laundry you finish, there will always, always be more laundry waiting for you. It will never end.

My mom always...always did laundry. I think the only time her washer or dryer was not running was in the middle of the night, when she went to bed at 1am! (She was a night owl to the core!) That is one thing I missed when I moved out of her house was the smell she managed to perfect in her laundry. Some beautiful mix of Tide and Downey...just perfect! I can never manage to get that smell and may never smell it again...

We can rush through the laundry list of life or enjoy the quiet moments: the hidden sock or the refreshingly familiar smell of fabric softener, or the remarkable gummy bears that managed to stick permanently to the insides of my daughter's jean pockets (yep...should have checked that!). 

Tonight is New Year's Eve. A moment for welcoming new beginnings and making changes. Also, a night for making resolutions that we will probably fail. However, I guarantee that if the Lord prevails, we will be doing a lot of laundry in the new year!

Don't just let the dirty clothes pile up. Keep going, keep walking, keep running. I want my life to bring glory and pleasure to my Jesus! Even when I am doing mundane activities.

Here's the challenge in the New Year: Glorify God in the small things and be faithful...even to do the laundry!

"One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much" ~ Luke 16:10


Love Love, 
JessAshleigh




A Gaping Hole



As the holidays round the corner to a brand New Year, I peer into the distance with an odd mix of emotions. Anticipation for what God will bring, fear of losing others in my life, and loneliness from the missing mama in my life.

Christmas came and went. My dad made a decision to do Christmas in honor of mom. She loved giving gifts! She used to spend months finding the perfect gifts for everyone in her family. She would scour the internet, hit all the shops and peruse the aisles. Her favorite thing, my dad reminded all of us, was to set out all the gifts under the Christmas tree with one of her kids receiving remarkably less than the others. This son, or daughter;-)...would open presents, watch others open presents and sit slightly sullen in the corner. Little did we know that from the garage or bedroom or backyard would emerge a beautiful, bright, large or small gift! One year, when I was 11, it was a spectacular drum set for me (so I could play like Larry Mullen from U2!)

So this year, we exchanged gifts and my brother David received the secret present, a fantastic golf driver! It was an enjoyable time and Emma was especially hyper until 10:30pm playing with her new RC cars from Papa.

In the middle of the gift exchange, there would be moments we talked about mom and felt a little joy with a twinge of sadness. Christmas was so her "thing." I drove away feeling as if there was a huge gaping hole in the fabric of our lives, this hole that we all wanted to sew together, but it was just...gone.

Gone...it's hard to deal with loss. That emptiness will never be filled again. Yes, I know my mama is dancing and singing with Jesus right now and that I will see her again around the corner! But...for now, she is gone. No more phone calls, text messages, Bible studies, late night advice, silly words, surprising emails, encouraging gifts, divinely inspired blog entries... just gone.

I remember so many beautiful times with my mom, I just don't want to forget. I don't want to lose those memories. So I write them down or I look through pictures. How do you deal with loss of a loved one? What helps and what does not?

I am so thankful for the people who see me and give me a hug, or just smile and say, "I love you."

In the gaping hole of loss, it really helps to reflect on the power, might, and love of God. I take comfort in the fact that His Hands are holding us. Those nail scarred hands which made the deepest demonstration of love, are holding our lives together.

Yet I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
Your walls are continually before Me ~ Isaiah 49: 15b-16

Jesus, has inscribed you and me on the palms of His hands. The nail scarred hands (or wrists possible) serve as a reminder of the cost. Jesus laid down His life to give us eternal life, without which I would be utterly in despair. When I think of my mom, I have a peace and assurance that she is in heaven.

Colossians is a great book! It is all about the supremacy of Christ and how everything, literally everything, is held together by Him, the Creator God. In light of this knowledge, our only response is to gape in awe of His Presence! If we are living in His presence, then the natural effect will be that of holiness.

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.~ Colossians 3:1-4

Seek those things above. What a challenge!? Am I daily seeking Christ? In all that I do, am I bringing glory to Him? Hmmmm... it's a tough one. I want to say yes, but sometimes I am so caught up in examining others or trying to frantically run from one thing to the next that I miss sight of God! Amazingly, He will use me for His plan, but I don't want to be so nearsighted that I miss it!

So, as I stare into the New Year and a seemingly gaping hole, I am challenged to seek eternity. To step out in faith. To go to uncomfortable places and meet the needs of the people around me.

And at the core of all my life, I am comforted by the realization that His Hands are holding me. He will carry me through the difficult days and moments, He is big enough.

Do you have a story of how God is holding you right now? Share it!

The song of the day: "Your Hands" by JJ Heller. It was in my mom's recently added playlist titled "Worship." 

I have unanswered prayers
I have trouble I wish wasn't there
And I have asked a thousand ways
That you would take my pain away
You would take my pain away

I am trying to understand
How to walk this weary land
Make straight the paths that crooked lie
Oh Lord, before these feet of mine
Oh Lord, before these feet of mine

When my world is shaking, heaven stands
Lisa, sitting pensive and pretty (I think I look a bit like her here:-)
When my heart is breaking
I never leave your hands

When you walked upon the earth
You healed the broken, lost and hurt
I know you hate to see me cry
One day you will set all things right
Yeah, one day you will set all things right

When my world is shaking, heaven stands
When my heart is breaking
I never leave your hands

Your hands that shaped the world
Are holding me
They hold me still
Your hands that shaped the world
Are holding me
They hold me still


See you around the corner!
Jess

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Looking Up

"Merry Christmas! Jesus Loves You!" In a merry time that is shrouded with grief, those words bouncing happily off the lips of my 4 year old Emma are truly beautiful. As she misses her beloved Nana, she genuinely rejoices in the faith and hope that Nana is celebrating in heaven. Her joy is contagious.

As we visited a nursing home yesterday, Emma, full of sweetness and delight, placed candy canes on the laps and in the shaky hands of surprised residents. Some, would not remember her, others lit up the moment she entered with her bouncy, golden curls and saw them, not as old or sick, but as a person worthy of love and joy. I have never seen anyone so happy to give and bless others. She truly has a gift and I pray that gift remains.

While walking through one corridor, we noticed that there was a church service going on. We did not want to disturb those attending, but the nurse assured us we could quietly give them to those sitting outside the chapel door. One man remembered Emma from a previous visit, "Hi, Emma!" He smiled and she smiled back.

Just as Emma gives her third or fourth candy cane, the minister, reading from a script in a folder, begins to say, "Teach the children about the candy cane. Teach the children that the candy cane symbolizes the shepherd's staff. Teach the children that the candy cane symbolizes the stripes of Jesus blood shed for them and the white symbolizes the purity that comes only through His forgiveness."

It was almost as if it was scripted and Emma was cast to come in on cue! Really, God!? That's pretty cool. Here is a child passing out candy canes while the minister is reading and exhorting to teach the children about the candy canes. Beautiful and unexpected. I am so thankful He lets me see His presence in our lives.

I pray that God truly touches the people we met, Linda, Josephine, Marlene, Joseph, Emma, Kay, Carlos, Oscar, the man who loves chocolate and the woman with the earrings and so many others whose name is escaping me, but God knows their name.

In a time where I struggle to remember that God is good ALL the time, I glance at Emma and Evan. Their sweet faces bring me back to that place of faith. The faith that my own mother taught me and clung to until the day she died.

I read a card a friend of mine wrote to my mother about a year ago, thanking her for a gift card and a wallet with a picture of an anchor on it. The anchor truly spoke to my friend and reminded her to keep anchored in the hope that Jesus brings through truly difficult times, and my friend has truly experienced difficult times. I pray she still glances at that anchor wallet and is reminded of the anchor of hope.


"we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek." ~ Hebrews 6:18b-20

He is our Hope. My mom, Jake LaJoy, DeDe, Moses, Abraham, Rahab, Ruth, Mary, Joseph, Isaac, King David, and so many others have entered the Presence behind the veil.

Do you trust Him? My prayer has been that those around me grieving, my daddy especially, would be see His Presence in their lives, at unexpected moments and when crying out to Him.

I love you all so much. Seek His face today and I know He will be seen.

Click on the link for a beautiful song, "All I Need Is You, Lord"
When You said, 'Seek My face,'
My heart said to You, 'Your face, Lord, I will seek.'" ~ Psalm 27:8