Chambersburg, PA

Do This in Remembrance of Me

easter with words

Originally posted on March 30, 2015

For the past few Easters, my two oldest children find nestled next to their Easter baskets, or tucked on a shelf in their rooms, a Chocolate Easter Bunny.

They immediately know how it got there. They also know from whom it came.

Every year, for as long as they can remember, their dad would give them a large Chocolate Easter Bunny. The bunny was typically one item of many, but as the smaller treats varied from year to year, the large chocolate bunny was a permanent, reoccurring present.

Cadbury eggs, marshmallow peeps, and jelly beans may or may not have made an appearance in their baskets, but the bunny always remained a faithful fixture.

After their father passed away, the holidays became yet another reminder of their great and intense loss. As a mom I frequently felt helpless, wishing desperately I could make it better . . . knowing deeply I could not.

But still, I felt the need to do “something”. Something special for them that would represent their dad on what was once a day filled with his presence and joy.

I began to think about ways to remember their father on Easter. My thoughts drifted back to the very first Easter, and the events leading up to that blessed day. I pictured Jesus sitting at a table in an upper room, surrounded by His disciples, preparing to partake of His last meal. Jesus took some bread in His hands, gave thanks, and then He told the disciples a very strange thing . . . He said, “do this in remembrance of me.”

At that moment, Jesus knew exactly where He was going. He knew the cross lay ahead waiting for him, and He knew this was the last meal He would share with His friends. He chose His words wisely, “do this in remembrance of me.”

He was basically saying to the disciples, “there will be a day when I am gone, and when you come together, and when you break and eat of the bread, do it and remember me.

“Remember the days we spent together. Remember the times we shared. Remember the things I taught you. Remember the words I spoke. Remember what I have done for you. Remember my love and my care, and remember me.”

As I sat, the beauty of this truth unfolded in my mind, and I finally saw the “something” that I could do . . . the chocolate bunny.

I decided even though their father was no longer physically present to give his children their traditional Easter treat, I could step in and “do it in remembrance of him.”

Now on every Easter, I purchase them each a chocolate bunny. I write their names across the box, and sincerely sign, “Love Dad”. And while their sweet heads lay asleep, I position their precious gifts from their father for their eyes to see come Easter morn.

To some this act may seem very strange. I have had people say, “Why do you do that? They know it is you that bought and signed the gift.”

And this is true . . . they do know . . . but . . . I do it so they remember.

So they remember the days they spent with their father, and the times they shared. So they remember the things he taught them, and the words he spoke. So they never forget all he had done for them, all of his love, and all of his care. I do it so they remember.

I believe when Jesus was about to go to the cross, He knew His disciples would be so broken over the loss of Him. He knew they would come back to the very same upper room where they sat and shared their last meal together. He knew they would return, look at the empty seat where Jesus once reclined, and weep tears of sadness and confusion.

But He also knew it wasn’t the end. He knew they would be reunited again. And until then, until that day came, He said, “do this in remembrance of me.”

Perhaps this Easter, there is a chair that sits empty at your table too. And the holiday is yet another reminder of your painful loss. I understand this all too well, and my heart deeply goes out to you.

But this year, this Easter, remember this great truth and know that through Jesus we have been given eternal life, and you will see your loved one again. Until then, do “something” special in remembrance of them. Remember the times you spent together, remember the love you shared, and remember them until you are reunited again.

 

If you too have something you and your family does to remember a loved one, please share with us your act of remembrance below. We would love to hear your endearing stories.

Blessings to you dear, sweet sisters! May the love that took Jesus to the cross overflow in your lives this Holy week!

 

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death;there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

 

 

diane square Diane Swan is a Professional Christian Counselor, Speaker and Blogger who is passionate about using her God given gifts to assist ladies in living victorious lives in Christ. She enjoys sharing true life messages that relate to the complex lives of every day women and leaves them feeling equipped to be more than conquerors in all their battles. Diane and her husband Todd are the founders of Seven Swans Ministries, an organization devoted to living out the gifts of the Spirit by offering a unique array of services to encourage, edify and expand God’s kingdom. Connect with Diane anytime: Facebook Pinterest – Twitter – Website

How to be Successful

woman shoe with words

I was terrified!

I knew God was calling me, beckoning me to follow Him into unfamiliar and uncharted territory. I could see a glimpse of the goal at the end through what appeared to be a long, narrow, arduous path.

“How can I possibly navigate through that Lord?”, I cried with fearful tears.

As I looked around at everything that would impact the journey, I became acutely aware of the dangers and lack of resources.

No money, no training, no idea what step to even take next, not to mention the enemies that were quite literally attacking me. These were not the circumstances I anticipated would be present when stepping out to achieve a dream.

I quickly realized it’s one thing to have a God sized dream, it’s a whole other thing to go after it!

In those early days I was so desperate to hear from God. I needed a word for almost every moment of the day. I needed wisdom and an example to follow. A story from His book that I could read and reread every time anxiety and doubt swelled inside me.

Within that first week the Lord provided exactly what I needed . . . the book of Joshua.

I began to read about the task the Lord laid in front of Joshua, how he was to lead the Israelites into their promise land. Now this land wasn’t simply sitting there unoccupied and without obstacles to overcome. No! They would have to cross a river during flood season, enter the most fortified city of that day, and then conquer the giants that were inhabiting the land.

If that was me, I would have two words for you . . . panic attack!

But the Lord gave Joshua very specific instructions that were attached to a promise. One of those instructions was in Joshua 1:7, “Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you, do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.”

Do not turn from it to the right or to the left.

Those words rang in my ears and echoed through my soul. In this short phrase I felt the Lord show me the secret to success.

Prior to that verse I had been looking all around me, instead of focusing in on what He was commanding me to do . . . trust Him. He was telling me to trust Him. To follow Him. To walk in His ways and commands. To keep my eyes on Him.

He knew that if my eyes and my actions deviated from Him and His ways, He knew fear would cause me to freeze or flee.

It’s amazing how if you just take your eyes slightly off your focus, how far off course you will find yourself.

There is a true story about a large passenger jet that had left New Zealand with 257 people onboard for a sightseeing flight to Antartica and back. Unknown to the pilots, someone had modified the flight coordinates by a mere two degrees.

That slight deviation placed the aircraft 28 miles to the east of where they had planned to be. As they approached Antartica the pilots descended to a lower altitude to give the passengers a better look at the landscape. But since they did not know they were off target, they did not realize the incorrect coordinates had placed them directly in the path of Mount Erebus, an active volcano that rises from the frozen landscape to a height of more than 12,000 feet.

As they continued their flight the white of the snow and ice on the volcano blended with the white of the clouds, and by the time the instruments sounded the alarm warning them that the ground was rising fast – it was too late. The airplane crashed, killing everyone onboard.

A lot of sin we get into, struggles in our life, or fears that cause us to fumble happen just by taking our eyes off Jesus only a little bit.

God knows that our feet will follow whatever we fix our eyes on. He knows that if we fix our eyes on Him and His ways, no matter what obstacles and impossibilities surround us, we will achieve success.

This is His promise to us.

This is His promise to you!

So tell me ladies, what God sized dream are you looking at through a long, narrow, telescope view? What promise land are you desperate to attain?

Perhaps you are starting out like me, uncertain of the way or where to step next? Then remember this secret to success, “Do not look to the left or to the right, but keep your eyes on Jesus, He will reveal the way!”

 

If this is a topic that speaks to your heart, I encourage you to come back in the weeks to come as we explore more about the wisdom we can learn from the brave life of Joshua.
diane square Diane Swan is a Professional Christian Counselor, Speaker and Blogger who is passionate about using her God given gifts to assist ladies in living victorious lives in Christ. She enjoys sharing true life messages that relate to the complex lives of every day women and leaves them feeling equipped to be more than conquerors in all their battles. Diane and her husband Todd are the founders of Seven Swans Ministries, an organization devoted to living out the gifts of the Spirit by offering a unique array of services to encourage, edify and expand God’s kingdom. Connect with Diane anytime: Facebook Pinterest – Twitter – Website

When Sickness Wears You Down

bible with words

The worst part about being sick isn’t the wearing down of my body…it’s the wearing down of my mind.

On healthy days my mind is sharper. It can see the enemy’s traps and tactics in advance. But on days I am sick, it’s like the back door of my mind is opened for the enemy to sneak right in with a whole bunch of crazy.

The first thoughts that slip in under the radar are thoughts of being overwhelmed. Everything that could possibly need done over the next month comes crashing into my mind, creating a pile that appears impossible and screams the word NOW at me! If I had any clarity in the moment I would remind myself that the pile in fact does NOT need done now. I would see that I am surrounded by people willing to help. And most importantly I would know that I am loved by a God who is faithful to assist me in accomplishing any mountain size list of things to do.

However, when I am sick, all of those truths tend to hide from me under a thick illness induced fog where crazy thoughts grow rampant instead.

From there my mind takes a turn and gets tangled up in thoughts of how I can best control the situation. Instead of just letting go of everything and taking time to fully rest, I wrestle with figuring out how to get things done in spite of my illness. This is truly ridiculous. For hours I stressed about whether or not it was better to drag myself to the grocery store or have my husband take on that responsibility.

I contemplated my dilemma . . . which would truly be more difficult . . . going to the store sick while resembling a character from the Walking Dead, or sending my husband on what would inevitably feel like a wild goose chase as he tries to track down all the items on our grocery list in the labyrinth known as Giant.

I decided the world was not ready for the Walking Dead version of me, and once I stopped trying to control everything, I was amazed at how God showed up. Technically it was my friend Rachel that showed up at Giant. Seeing my husband staring blankly at the shelves, she graciously offered to assist him in getting the items on the list. Talk about a miracle in aisle 10!

But why did that have to be such a difficult decision? Why didn’t I think the good Lord would help my husband and return him safely from the grocery maze? Instead crazy thoughts ensued which led me to the next trap . . . irritability.

After my husband so loving retrieved all the items from the store, he was preparing to go to a Women’s Event where he was to be a part of the worship team. As he was getting ready to walk out the door he asks me one simple question, “Which jacket do you think looks best?”

You would think my brain could handle answering one simple question nicely . . . NOPE! “Why does it matter what jacket you wear, when you will take it off as soon as you get there!”

I totally snapped on my husband, who was getting ready to walk out the door to minister to friends of MINE at a Women’s Retreat!

Nice. Real nice Diane.

And from there I went into the final trap, the I am an awful person trap. There I tell myself what a terrible wife I am, that I am also a horrible mother, and that I basically stink at everything so I might as well throw the towel in and quit it all.

I imagine if you have ever been sick, you might relate to this scenario even if the details of your thoughts are different.

Maybe in the middle of your moments your thoughts tell you that you will never get better, that no one cares you are sick, or that you are all alone.

In the midst of this I am learning how very important it is, especially while I am sick, to ensure that I am focusing my thoughts on the truths from God’s Word, and not believing the many tainted thoughts the enemy slips in the backdoor while I’m feeling weak and worn down.

Perhaps we can all work on this together, and remind each other of this great verse,

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” Isaiah 26:3

 

diane square Diane Swan is a Professional Christian Counselor, Speaker and Blogger who is passionate about using her God given gifts to assist ladies in living victorious lives in Christ. She enjoys sharing true life messages that relate to the complex lives of every day women and leaves them feeling equipped to be more than conquerors in all their battles. Diane and her husband Todd are the founders of Seven Swans Ministries, an organization devoted to living out the gifts of the Spirit by offering a unique array of services to encourage, edify and expand God’s kingdom. Connect with Diane anytime: Facebook Pinterest – Twitter – Website

Confessions from an Ex-Mean Girl

road-10ith words

There was a time, years ago, when I was a very. very. mean girl.

The type of girl you hoped wasn’t on the same bus as your innocent child. The kind that was cruel with words, relentless with attacks, and sought out every opportunity possible to humiliate any vulnerable school mate.

A bully to be precise.

I fed off of the tears of my casualties, as if somehow it gave me power . . . but if you know anything about the truth of bullies, you would know that they are actually very. very. weak and insecure. And I was no exception.

My brokenness, fragile identity, and complete lack of self worth combined and created a monster that I presented to the world as my false front, hoping no one would see the truth about who I really was.

It wouldn’t be until I was 26 that I finally met my Savior who was able to remove the monster, heal the broken little girl within, and secure me in my true identity as a precious, loved child of God.

The old me was placed far away. As far as the east is to the west. And the new me was born. No more mean girl. No more bully. No more monster.

For years I had almost forgotten about my bullying days, until I bumped into her . . .

I traveled back to my hometown to celebrate a most joyous occasion. My mom was being baptized. After seeing the radical transformation that occurred within me, my mom decided that there was only one possible explanation for my transformation . . . there must be a God!

She handed her life over to Jesus, was taking the next step of baptism at Grace Assembly of God, and asked me to be the one that prayed over her in front of her new church family. It was and will always be one of the greatest privileges I have experienced in this life.

Afterwards we spent time in fellowship with her new church family, that is when I saw her . . .

Instantly I was back in eighth grade. I could see my former self spewing vile words of hate upon her. Visions of me tormenting the younger version of her over and over again. I felt the heavy weight of conviction pressing down on me when suddenly I became shocked at what I remembered next.

To my utter surprise, I saw her trying to minster to me. I recalled all the times she tried to share about her Savior Jesus. And I watched her walk away from that old yellow bus, holding her bible in her hands, as I yelled profanities at her out the window of the back seat.

There are many sins I had committed in my former life, but few have caused me to feel more disgusted about myself then this.

When I saw those memories in my mind it was like the scattered pieces of a puzzle came flying together to create one clear masterpiece. I felt Jesus speaking to me, saying that even all of those years ago He was pursuing me. He showed me how He used one very sweet girl to try to reach me, even when I was one very ugly monster. He reminded me of how gracious she was, how she didn’t lash back out at me, and how it didn’t stop her from continuing to shine His light. She was everything even way back then, that I was just falling in love with now.

I approached her and couldn’t contain my tears. As I poured out my heart and my regret for all the cruelty I had inflicted upon her, her grace poured back out onto me. She shared how this was the very church she attended when she was a child, and had attended all her life. I was so impressed by her strength and love, so humbled by her grace, so in awe by her ability to truly exemplify what it means to be a follower of Christ.

That’s when I really broke, for I realized in that moment who I was really attacking all those years ago. I realized I wasn’t just attacking her, I was attacking Christ. His word says,

“Whoever listens to you listens to Me; whoever rejects you rejects Me; and whoever rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.” Luke 10:16

I was rejecting the very Savior that would come and be the rescuer of my soul! The very one that would remove my monster, heal my broken heart and set me free all those years later, was the one I was attacking . . . and the realization broke me once more.

His love is truly amazing. That He would give up His life for a broken, rotten girl that would then in return reject Him for years. His love is so powerful that it strengthens His believers to endure the pains of persecution while they try to share the love of Christ.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven” Matthew 5:11-12

How truly great will her reward be, when she stands in front of the King!

Whether you find yourself today being a mean girl, an ex-mean girl, or a girl who is currently experiencing persecution, know this . . . there is a God that loves you. Who’s power is unstoppable. Who’s limits have no ends, and who desires to pursue you and bless you, and who has a great eternal reward waiting for all of those who turn to Him.

 

diane square Diane Swan is a Professional Christian Counselor, Speaker and Blogger who is passionate about using her God given gifts to assist ladies in living victorious lives in Christ. She enjoys sharing true life messages that relate to the complex lives of every day women and leaves them feeling equipped to be more than conquerors in all their battles. Diane and her husband Todd are the founders of Seven Swans Ministries, an organization devoted to living out the gifts of the Spirit by offering a unique array of services to encourage, edify and expand God’s kingdom. Connect with Diane anytime: Facebook Pinterest – Twitter – Website

Peace Be With You

chair with words

As a counselor, the number one thing people come to my office in search of is peace.

Peace in their marriage.

Peace on their job.

Peace with their circumstances.

Or sometimes just peace within their own mind.

And although I counsel them in their quest for peace, I am no different as well. I too go through times were my heart cries out for the comfort that only peace can bring.

Like many, I have gone through the searing loss of loved ones. I have endured the pain of tumultuous relationships on the rocks. And I have felt like a prisoner locked in the relentless maze of my own mind.

I have shut myself away, alone in a room, hoping the stresses and pains of life wouldn’t find me there. Perhaps you have done the same too.

You and I are not alone in this withdrawing activity. The disciples, after the death of Jesus, found themselves doing the very same thing. They hid away behind locked doors while their fears and grief surrounded them . . . that is until a visitor appeared.

The word says, “Jesus came and stood among them . . .”

That is the beautiful thing about Jesus, even locked doors can not keep Him from the ones He loves.

He appeared to them, just days after His death, and He spoke these first words to them, “Peace be with you!” John 20:19

Four very simple words, but with the power to transform the mood.

There was no peace behind those locked doors before He entered. There was no peace before He spoke those words. There was only pain and fear, confusion and regret . . . until He appeared.

He came with a proclamation. He came with a gift. He came as a victor with the power to issue them peace. He said it to them again. “Peace be with you!”

With those words He was saying, “Do not fear! Do not be troubled. Do not hide in this room any longer. Take heart because I am here and My peace I give you!”

Of all the things He could have came and said, of all the things He could have brought as a gift . . . He chose peace. He chose the exact thing they needed most.

I believe it is the same thing we are still in need of the most today. It’s the reason we lock ourselves away, hoping in the stillness of solitude we will find peace. There is comfort in knowing that if Jesus entered the disciples’ locked room, He too will come to us in our times of need . . .

“When we are grief stricken and mourning a loss,
when we are tired of fighting and living in chaos,
when we are tormented by the thoughts in our mind,
and when we are confused and don’t understand His plan or design . . .
He comes and enters our hearts and our minds, 
and leaves His gift of peace behind.”

Perhaps that is what you are seeking today . . . the gift of peace. My prayer is that as you read these words, in this very moment, you would feel His peace wash over you. Feelings of pain and fear, confusion and regret would start to fade away as peace takes up residence within you. And I pray as you receive this gift today, you would know that there is no place you can go, no place you can hide, and no troubles you can endure, that His peace can’t reach you and cure.

 

diane square Diane Swan is a Professional Christian Counselor, Speaker and Blogger who is passionate about using her God given gifts to assist ladies in living victorious lives in Christ. She enjoys sharing true life messages that relate to the complex lives of every day women and leaves them feeling equipped to be more than conquerors in all their battles. Diane and her husband Todd are the founders of Seven Swans Ministries, an organization devoted to living out the gifts of the Spirit by offering a unique array of services to encourage, edify and expand God’s kingdom. Connect with Diane anytime: Facebook Pinterest – Twitter – Website

My First True Love

love with words

Today I have been a mama for twenty years. Twenty beautiful and sweet years.

At this point in my adult life there is nothing that I have done longer than be a mama.

It has been my favorite job. It has educated me more than all my schooling combined. And it is what first taught me how to love.

She was my first true love, how appropriate that she was born just days before Valentine’s Day. When I first held her in my arms I was forever changed. It was like a chamber within my heart opened up and I was able to love in a capacity that I had never known before.

On this day I was no longer just Diane . . . I was Mommy!

It’s a day that marks one of the greatest joys in my life for the word says,

“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward.” Psalm 127:3

Truly a great gift is she! Far greater than I ever deserved!

Even back then I wondered why I would have been given such a great gift. I was not worthy of such a priceless treasure and yet the Lord gave her to me anyway. And although I did not know Him at that time, it was my love for her that drew me to Him.

She made me want to be better than I was. She made me want to be the best I could be . . . because she deserved better than I was. It was my great love for her that led me to the first true lover of my soul.

All these years later it still amazes me how the Lord uses all things for the good. How His ways are so much higher than our ways, and how He knows just what we need to make us take a turn towards Him.

He knew I needed her. He knew my love for her would save me from myself. And He was right!

How powerful love is! 1 Corinthians 13:8 says, “Love never fails!” There is nothing that is stronger than love, nothing that can overcome it, and nothing can stop it from fulfilling its purpose.

For some love is a mixed bag of pain and regret. Valentine’s day is just another reminder to them of hurts from the past or perceived emptiness in the present. And I would be lying if I said that love doesn’t hurt sometimes . . . because sometimes it does.

It hurts because when we love we are vulnerable, we are open to receive. It hurts when it is broken, and taken away. It hurts when it’s not returned and when it is rejected. And if you are like me you have felt all these many ways that love can hurt, but know this too . . . you are not alone . . . Jesus felt all these hurts and more.

He left the security of Heaven to make himself a vulnerable human. To offer himself as a sacrifice to the very people who were sacrificing Him. To accept into His kingdom those that had rejected Him, and to pay the price for all.

Yes He too knows just how much love hurts . . . but He also knows how powerful it is . . . it has the unique ability to set you free!

As Valentine’s Day approaches and as I celebrate 20 years of loving one very special girl, I am so thankful that I chose to not allow pain and regret to keep me from embracing the power of God’s love.

How about you? Which are you focussing in on today? Love or pain? I pray you choose the more powerful of the two, and fall deeper in love with the first true lover of your soul!

 

diane square Diane Swan is a Professional Christian Counselor, Speaker and Blogger who is passionate about using her God given gifts to assist ladies in living victorious lives in Christ. She enjoys sharing true life messages that relate to the complex lives of every day women and leaves them feeling equipped to be more than conquerors in all their battles. Diane and her husband Todd are the founders of Seven Swans Ministries, an organization devoted to living out the gifts of the Spirit by offering a unique array of services to encourage, edify and expand God’s kingdom. Connect with Diane anytime: Facebook Pinterest – Twitter – Website

Break the Stick!

snow woman with words

It’s so easy to say I am unqualified.

All you have to do is take a sneak peek into my life or my mind and it becomes painfully clear that I do not meet the qualifications.

I have this imaginary qualifying list I use as a measuring stick to determine if I am adequate enough to be used by God. I hold it up against all of my short comings and read the mark:

Spazzed on my children – DISQUALIFIED!
Grumbled at my husband – DISQUALIFIED!
Showed up late for church – DISQUALIFIED!

The list goes on and on . . .

Recently it reached its climax. After the completion of my credential examination I came home and my youngest son sweetly called me “Pastor Mommy”. The reality of my calling and the awareness of my shortcomings collided!

I thought about all of the times I had yelled and snapped at him in moments of frustration. The visual picture of myself resembled a crazy monster more than a credentialed minister.

I once again held that up against the stick and read the word – DISQUALIFIED!

How the enemy loves to scream that word at me. He loves to point out all of the things that would seem to make me ineligible to fulfill my call. He desperately tries to fixate my attention on my flaws so I miss seeing the one thing . . . the one thing that truly qualifies me . . . God!

The apostle Paul reveals to us this qualifying truth,

“It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant.”   2 Corinthians 3:5-6

It is not our short comings that determine whether or not we are qualified to be used by God. Nor is it our strengths and abilities that enable us to fulfill the call.

Instead it is simply our faith and trust in God. It’s the final mark on that stick, and it’s the only one that reads – QUALIFIED!

I often wonder if the saints of the bible were tempted to use the same measuring stick.

Paul a Christian killer, Rahab a prostitute, Moses an old man, and Mary a young girl I’m sure heard the disparaging and discouraging lies of the enemy hissing DISQUALIFIED in their ears.

Or maybe they made a really wise choice, and decided to break the stick!

How about you? Are you ready to break the stick? What are the things you are holding up against it, and hearing the word DISQUALIFIED shouted at you?

Maybe you, like me, have gone through your own list: too old, too young, not good enough, not smart enough, current struggles and weaknesses, or a past filled with mistakes.

No matter what your perceived short comings may be, the truth is this . . . God has already qualified you for whatever He is calling you to.

Let’s step out together in confident faith and trust in God, break that stick once and for all, and remember we have already meet the only mark that is needed!

 

 

diane square Diane Swan is a Professional Christian Counselor, Speaker and Blogger who is passionate about using her God given gifts to assist ladies in living victorious lives in Christ. She enjoys sharing true life messages that relate to the complex lives of every day women and leaves them feeling equipped to be more than conquerors in all their battles. Diane and her husband Todd are the founders of Seven Swans Ministries, an organization devoted to living out the gifts of the Spirit by offering a unique array of services to encourage, edify and expand God’s kingdom. Connect with Diane anytime: Facebook Pinterest – Twitter – Website

Winter . . . This Too Shall Pass

woman-snow-tree with words

If you live in Pennsylvania it’s not hard to tell what season we are in.

Snowmageddon has swept across the state leaving mounds of snow in it’s wake, and the reality that Winter is finally here!

For some they have meet this long awaited snow season with excitement. While others begrudgingly attempt to move through these days with the hope that a famous furry groundhog will soon report the coming of an early Spring.

In our home there was a mixture of emotions. Our young children squealed with delight, the teenagers gave thankful praise for a few extra days off school, and the hubby and I imagined some sweet moments cuddled up together by the fire.

For us we can handle the onslaught of winter storms when we know it will eventually come to an end. But it made me start to think . . . what happens when we are in a life season that seems to be lasting longer than the average four months of a wintertide?

I know I have gone through life seasons that felt like they would never come to an end. Like I was stuck living in Narnia during the time of the eternal winter in an oppressive state of depression. It’s not hard for me to relate that long, dark, cold, and dreary time in my life to winter because that is the season in which it started.

It began with the loss of a loved one in one winter. The heavy grief and depression carried through the year to the next winter only to be meet with another devastating loss. I felt like I was living in the land of perpetual grief, and at times I wondered if I would ever emerge into a new life-giving season.

Looking back now it’s easy to say it didn’t last forever. And as I was huddled up in my home this weekend I was reminded of some lessons I learned during that eternal winter.

First I learned to accept the season I was in. I didn’t want to be in a winter of grief. It felt completely unacceptable to me, and yet it wasn’t until I came to terms with it that I was able to move forward. I had to accept that it was what it was, and all of my distain for that time wasn’t going to change it.

Second I learned that I had a choice. I could either allow the eternal winter to freeze me and leave me stuck in the same place, or I could choose to do life even in the midst of it. During that time I intentionally choose to create moments of happiness in what felt like a season of despair. Just like this weekend when the snow came piling down, I made a choice to enjoy it with my children instead of viewing the snow as an unwanted guest.

Third I learned to find the beauty in winter. This was a hard one because during times of grief and loss, pain and strife, the only thing that seems beautiful is the times before all the pain initially occurred. But I forced myself to remember God’s word, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11. He was faithful to show me glimpses of beauty in the middle of my distress, and it gave me strength to keep moving.

And finally I frequently reminded myself that this too shall pass. The only things that last for all eternity are the words and truths from God. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away” (Matt 24:35). His word says that someday all things will be made right, all tears will be washed away, and we will be with Him in beauty and peace for all eternity.

Perhaps today you are finding yourself in your own eternal winter. Wondering when this long life season will ever end.  My prayer for you is that the lessons I learned from that similar time would bring you hope, and encourage you to move forward in faith until this season has come to an end.

 

diane square Diane Swan is a Professional Christian Counselor, Speaker and Blogger who is passionate about using her God given gifts to assist ladies in living victorious lives in Christ. She enjoys sharing true life messages that relate to the complex lives of every day women and leaves them feeling equipped to be more than conquerors in all their battles. Diane and her husband Todd are the founders of Seven Swans Ministries, an organization devoted to living out the gifts of the Spirit by offering a unique array of services to encourage, edify and expand God’s kingdom. Connect with Diane anytime: Facebook Pinterest – Twitter – Website

The Spirit of Competition

two-women-bikes with words

Have you ever played a friendly game while hanging out with the girls, when it became obvious that one of them was overly in-it-to-win-it?

If you have never had the frustrating pleasure of playing a game with me, you would probably not be aware that I am one of those girls.

All of my life I have had an EXTREMELY competitive spirit. ALWAYS.

Whether it’s cards, kickball, or Jesus help me if I am playing the game of Quelf, there is one thing you can be certain of . . . I play to WIN! (side note suggestion – if you have never played the game Quelf, go out and buy it now . . . HYSTERICAL!)

Perhaps I developed this tendency from growing up in a house full of siblings, all vying for the attention of our busy parents. Or maybe I sought the affirmation or authority I felt winning gave me. Either way this contending propensity became a strong component of my core character.

At first glance that might not seem like such a terrible characteristic, but the hidden ugly truth is this . . . the spirit of competition is actually the antithesis of the spirit of Christ.

This spirit is a self seeking, self serving, and self advancing spirit. In a moment of achieving a desired result it sneakily shifts one from seeking to glorify God to seeking to glorify man, in my case wo-man.

If my competitive nature stayed contained to recreational games and sports it would not be so terrible, but what happens when it starts to leak into other areas of my life?

How do I know when this is happening?

Well for me, there are a few tell tail signs. Once jealousy, irritability towards my advancing sisters, or critical thoughts of them start to enter into my mind, I know there has been a perimeter break in my competitive zone. At that point the spirit of competition has creeped it’s ugly head out and attempts to keep the spirit of Christ unseen in it’s shadow.

I am embarrassed to admit that I have struggled with this, but at the same time I am comforted to know that I am not the only one.

Even Jesus’s disciples struggled with this self seeking spirit. Many times they disputed about who among them was going to be the greatest in the Kingdom of Christ. James and John actually had the audacity to ask Jesus, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory” (Mark 10:37).

What they were really saying was, “Put us in higher positions than everyone else!”

The word says that when the other ten disciples found out what James and John had asked they were indignant. The end result of members in the Kingdom competing against each other is always strife and division.

It was never God’s plan for us to compete in our calling because the reality is that the Kingdom of God is not a competition, its a collaboration. Its the whole body of Christ coming together, and working together in unity on the same team . . . team Jesus . . . for the same purpose . . . to glorify Him.

My prayer, with this admission, is that the Lord would forgive me, forgive all us that has ever made our ministry about us instead of Him. Just like the disciples all those years ago, that fought to be first in the kingdom, may we always be reminded of Jesus’s words, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35

I pray we all grow in the spirit of Christ, for then we will surely see the advancement of His Kingdom.

 

diane square Diane Swan is a Professional Christian Counselor, Speaker and Blogger who is passionate about using her God given gifts to assist ladies in living victorious lives in Christ. She enjoys sharing true life messages that relate to the complex lives of every day women and leaves them feeling equipped to be more than conquerors in all their battles. Diane and her husband Todd are the founders of Seven Swans Ministries, an organization devoted to living out the gifts of the Spirit by offering a unique array of services to encourage, edify and expand God’s kingdom. Connect with Diane anytime: Facebook Pinterest – Twitter – Website

Self Preservation or Brave Determination

woman-mountains with words

I have a natural tendency towards self preservation. I suppose we all do, it’s an inborn instinct with the design to prevent harm and ensure life.

On the surface it doesn’t sound like a bad thing. We make choices, what appear to be wise choices, to keep ourselves safe.

We drive carefully, we avoid dark alleys at night, we park in well lit areas, and hopefully we follow laws meant to protect us. All wise choices, all done to play it safe.

But what happens when our playing it safe mentality transfers to our spiritual walk and keeps us from experiencing the miraculous?

One my favorite women in the bible is the woman with the bleeding issue. For twelve years she suffered with prolonged bleeding, and although she spent all her money on physicians, none were able to heal her infirmity.

At that time, because she was considered ritually unclean according to the Jewish law, she was not to leave her home nor touch anyone. For the average healthy woman this was not an issue, but since her blood flow would not stop, this law became an impossible burden. (As a side note on the law, it was at least in part created to be a benefit to the woman. During this time of the month Jewish women were excused from their normal duties. They didn’t have to cook or serve meals to their family members, amongst other things, and instead got to use this time as a “quiet time for herself”. . . ahhh . . . who made that stop?? Just saying.)

But one day this woman made a choice. What might on the surface look like a very bad choice because it meant she was breaking the law, she still choose to leave her house anyway. Knowing she could have been humiliated, knowing she could have been disgraced, she bravely determined to reach out and touch the hem of Jesus’s cloak, and she was instantly healed.

The law she was bound under was never meant to imprison her, it was meant to protect and preserve her. But when protection and preservation prevent your ability to prosper, it’s really not preservation after all.

Sometimes preserving ourselves keeps us stuck in the status quo. In that place we think self defeating thoughts, masked as wise choices, to prevent imagined disgrace . . .

“I can’t step out and do that, what will other people think? I’ll make a fool out of myself”

“I have been dealing with this for so many years, why get my hopes up that it could change only to watch myself fail and be humiliated.”

“There’s no way I can accomplish such an incredible calling, I might as well not even waste my time and try.”

Sometimes we are so busy trying to preserve ourselves, that we can protect ourselves right out of our calling. Whether that is a calling to be healed, a calling for restoration in a relationship or financial situation, or whether it’s your life calling, your divine destiny to fulfill . . . at some point we all have to make a decision and answer this question . . .

“Am I going to live in the shallow waters of self preservation, or am I going to dive into the depths of the miraculous with brave determination?”

The woman with the bleeding issue would never have experienced the miraculous if she didn’t bravely step outside, cross the line of fear and intimidation, and with FAITH grab ahold of the King.

So I ask you today, what side of the line are you standing on?

Are you standing on the side that is more concerned with self preservation, playing it safe? Or are you willing to step over the line with boldness into brave determination?

I know out of fear I have spent far too long in the shallow waters, afraid to cross the line and see what would become of me on the other side. But bravery is not the absence of fear, it’s the willingness to move forward in spite of it.

I want to see the supernatural, the miraculous, and I’m willing to more forward . . . how about you?

Let’s take this brave step together and remember the affirming words of the Lord,

“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” Jeremiah 32:27

diane square Diane Swan is a Professional Christian Counselor, Speaker and Blogger who is passionate about using her God given gifts to assist ladies in living victorious lives in Christ. She enjoys sharing true life messages that relate to the complex lives of every day women and leaves them feeling equipped to be more than conquerors in all their battles. Diane and her husband Todd are the founders of Seven Swans Ministries, an organization devoted to living out the gifts of the Spirit by offering a unique array of services to encourage, edify and expand God’s kingdom. Connect with Diane anytime: Facebook Pinterest – Twitter – Website