Overwhelmed by Him

Have you ever been overwhelmed by God’s grace and mercies, forgiveness and love?

Has reminders of His faithfulness and provisions caused tears to flow and a smile to form at the same time?

That has definitely happened countless times throughout my life, but most recently the Lord swept me off my feet last Sunday.

We were visiting my family in Franklin last weekend and attended church with them.  Sweet Ginny Owens was leading worship and truly led us to the throne of God.  With the songs Sing to the King, Salvation is Here, 10,000 Reasons, Come Thou Fount, and Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus, God reminded my heart of His amazing goodness, faithfulness, provisions, and mercies.  He took me by the hand and reminded me that He is in control.  He has a plan.  He will provide.  He will never leave us.  He will be glorified in us and through us.  Our marriage, our family, our future, our everything is about Him and His glory.  I’m so thankful for the times when my sweet Savior gathers me in His arms and calms my so easily worried heart with the simple truths of His promises.  There were brilliant lines in each of those songs that caused my heart to overflow with gladness and my eyes to weep tears of joy.

At one point Spencer looked over at me and exclaimed, “Oh my! Are you okay?”  And I just smiled and said, “Yes, I’m more than okay.”

When we take our eyes off of ourselves and fix them on Jesus, His majesty is radiant and His promises are luminous.

May this Lord’s Day allow our eyes to gaze at our Beloved and our hearts to be captured by our Savior.

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The Redeeming Power of Pain

Pain in real.

Suffering happens daily.

Trials unexpectedly pounce from behind bushes and come screaming down the road from miles away.

We learn in childhood that life isn’t fair.

Some people are merely acquaintances with troubles, while others have been plunged into fiery furnaces.

But amidst the harsh conditions of this life, hope is alive.  Peace is at hand.  Joy is attainable.  

Pain can be redeemed.

And the constant truth is that there is always something to be thankful for.  And gratitude fosters joyful perseverance in amazing ways.

We can never lose sight of the gospel.  The whole gospel.  Christ came to earth being fully God and fully man.  He fulfilled prophecies.  He died on the cross.  He rose from the dead.  He ascended into heaven and sits enthroned now and forever.

While we face struggles, we must hold tight to the gospel and rest assured in the fact that Jesus Christ conquered sin and death.  His resurrection and ascension give meaning to the crucifixion.

And there is a redeeming purpose behind our pain.

Pain can grow us and mature us.  Pain can foster a heart of gratitude, compassion, and mercy within us.  Pain can help us turn our eyes from ourselves and to our Heavenly Father.

When I was in middle school a friend led me to read Joel.  And I will never forget it.

The prophet Joel witnessed an awful locust plague.  There are different opinions as to what the locusts refer to.  But nevertheless, calamity struck Judah.  But hope arrives in chapter two as the people are called to repentance and to turn to the Lord once again.

Then the Lord became jealous for his land and had pity on his people.  The Lord answered and said to his people, “Behold, I am sending to you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations.  I will remove the northerner far from you, and drive him into a parched and desolate land, his vanguard into the eastern sea, and his rear guard into the western sea; the stench and foul smell of him will rise, for he has done great things.  Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things!  Fear not, you beasts of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit; the fig tree and vine give their full yield.  Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before.  The threshing floors shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.  I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.  You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you.  And my people shall never again be put to shame.  You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else.  And my people shall never again be put to shame.  And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.  Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.”

–Joel 2:18-29

God restores the years the locust had eaten!  He sends His Spirit!  What joyous news!

The theme of my life has been that God is good and faithful.

No matter what we face, we can always look back on our lives and through Scripture and be reminded of God’s goodness and faithfulness.  God is Emmanuel.  He is always with us.

He is good.

He is faithful.

And He redeems our pain.

Nutrition Tuesday!

Did you know our bodies need 7-13 servings of raw fruits and vegetables a day? And if you are an athlete, you need even more (13-20 servings).

And at every meal at least half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants that your cells need to be healthy and perform well.

How do we practically accomplish this?

We have the answer!

Juice Plus has been out for 20 years and bridges the gap between what we actually eat and what our bodies need.  The nutritional quality is maintained in the fruits and vegetables that make up Juice Plus because of being juiced and dried at low temperatures.  It is NSF certified:  What is on the label is actually in the product.  What isn’t on the label isn’t in the product.  The Orchard Blend has 7 different fruits.  The Garden blend contains 8 vegetables and 2 grains.  And the Vineyard blend has 9 berries that are so very important.  There is no way to get this variety in your diet each day on a reasonable budget.

Vitamins do not prevent disease.  Whole foods do.

There are 10,000 nutrients in one apple.  Those are nutrients are bodies need and are tremendously lacking.

The FDA recognizes Juice Plus as a food source.  It has a food label not a supplement label.

Juice Plus is the most researched nutritional product in the world.  Seriously.  Check it out.  Universities and Institutions around the world have conducted third party research.  Research involving Juice Plus is published in medical journals around the world.  The research speaks for itself.  It is incredible.

A few proven benefits of Juice Plus:  

-It is absorbed by the body, not just eliminated.  

-Reduces oxidative stress (Oxidative stress leads to disease)

-Reduces systemic inflammation

-Supports a healthy immune system

-Helps protect DNA

-Supports cardiovascular wellness

-Supports healthy skin and gums

We are personally experiencing results and are at peace knowing we are preventing disease and illness in the best way possible.

It is totally affordable, especially if you look at it as part of your grocery budget and at the investment in not having as many doctor bills later on.

The Orchard, Garden, and Vineyard Blends (25 fruits, vegetables, berries, and grains) comes to less than $2.50 a day.  The Orchard and Garden Blends (17 fruits, vegetables, and grain) comes to less than $1.50 a day. 

And more great news?  Each adult on Juice Plus can sponsor a child for free!  Free!

So please ask us about it.  We want the people we love to not have to suffer from disease and illness, when most of them are preventable.

Check out our website:  sconnatserjuiceplus.com and email us at juice.plus.sarah@gmail.com for more information.  Ask about Juice Plus, placing an order, or about the business itself.  We want to answer your questions!

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Quitter by Jon Acuff: A MUST Read

I know very few people who actually love their job and know it is what they should do forever.  The usual case is that people are working in order to provide for their families.  And usually, people have some longing within them to do something else.  There is a hidden or suppressed dream they have convinced themselves cannot become reality.

Finances.

Age.

Location.

Time.

Risk.

Education.

Fear.

Some reason or another halts dreams and shouts they cannot be accomplished.

But the truth is dreams are meant to be lived not just quietly stepped over and ignored.

Jon Acuff reveals practical insight and mounds of wisdom in Quitter about closing the gap between your day job and your dream job.  He is a testimony to following your dreams in a wise, careful, and joyful way.  It’s not easy.  It takes time.  But a dream can be chased after and made into reality.  Filled with humor, you are sure to laugh and become a quick fan of Acuff.  You will follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook, and order his new book which released today, Start.  I have no doubt.  You will be equipped for the road ahead towards your dream.

We have dreams.  Some have been things we’ve desired for years.  Others have come about more recently.  We want to be able to live off of our Juice Plus business and upcoming photography business.  And it will happen.  We have no doubt.  It will take some time.  It will require lots of hard work.  But we will do it.  Living out these dreams will allow us to adopt, travel, write, live where we choose.

Everyone has dreams.  Many don’t see how they can practically be worked out.  Acuff provides the encouragement, hope, steps, and insight you need to make it happen.

Read Quitter.  Your life will be changed for the better.

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Thursday we Feasted, Friday we Mourned…All Week We Longed to Be Home

There have been certain things that I’ve endured in this life that have made me long for Jesus and His return in a extra real way.  Certain experiences have given me eyes to see what my heart longs for…to be home.  Truly home.  The home I was created for.  Some physical and emotional pains made me cry out for my Savior to come quickly.  But more recently, engagement last year and pregnancy this year have been the biggest earthly echoes of my heart’s longing to be with my Father.

People glamorize being engaged, but in all honesty, we hated it.  We were in this already but not yet state.  And it was awful.  For a nonbeliever, I can see how it would be just fine.  But for the believer, it is a very real picture of being on this earth and only wanting to be with our Maker in our true home.  Being in this place of longing and knowing there is something greater to come, is not easy.  It teaches you contentment, joy, and steadfastness.

Waiting for your child is the same.  Whether it is through a painful pregnancy or the long adoption process, you long so much for what is to come and have to learn to endure the momentary pain and heartache.

And finally, Holy Week has created in me a similar longing.  As I’ve learned to walk with Jesus and His apostles through this remarkable and absolutely crazy week over the years, my heart draws nearer to my Maker’s.

After escaping the season of Lent, we declare that Jesus is the King of Kings on Palm Sunday.

As he was drawing near–already on the way down the Mount of Olives–the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!  Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”  He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

–Luke 19:37-40

We begin to prepare our hearts for all that Jesus says and endures throughout the week on this joyous Sunday.

And then we come to Holy Thursday.  At our church, we celebrate this by having, what we call, Jesus Feast.  It is our version of the Passover meal.  We gather together to feast and celebrate the Lord’s initiation of the eucharist and celebrate the Lord’s presence with us.  We pray, sing, listen to the Scriptures read and blessings  over the food, fellowship, eat and drink deeply.  It is a night where we remember the mighty meek acts that took place right before our Savior’s betrayal.  We gather to remember, and we gather to anticipate.  On this Thursday, Jesus washed His disciples’ feet.  He feasted with them, even with the one who would betray Him in just moments.  He described what would soon happen to Himself, in His mysteriously divine way, as He broke bread and gave wine.

 And when the hour came, he reclined at the table, and the apostles with him.  And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.  For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide among yourselves.  For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”  And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.”  And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

–Luke 22:14-20

But the bright feasting and celebrating leads into the darkness of Good Friday.  We travel from feasting to mourning in mere hours.  Our joyous, conversing community on Thursday turns into silent, weary travelers on Friday.  We embark on the somber journey of the seven last words of Christ and remember the cross.  We watch the altar be stripped of the linens, banners, tablecloths, and candles.  Decorations and adornments are taken away.  Hope seems to be lost with the setting sun as our Savior breathes His last and gives His life.

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed.  And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  Then Jesus, calling our with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”  And having said this he breathed his last.

–Luke 23:44-46

As we head our separate ways on Friday night in silence, we long for Sunday to come.  And waking up on Easter Sunday morning is just the best.  We can declare that He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  We rest in the security of God’s prophecies being fulfilled in our precious Savior.

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.  But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness.  I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.  No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.  They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.  They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.  They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord, and their descendants with them.  Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.  The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food.  They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the Lord.

–Isaiah 65:17-25

There is no way to separate the resurrection of Jesus from the resurrection to come.  Death was defeated.  Sin was conquered. Hope was restored.  

And now we can daily live in that hope.  Hope that sickness and disease will be no more.  Hope that sin will not tempt us.  Hope that tears will not flood our eyes.  Hope that children won’t be left as orphans.  Hope that suffering will come to an end.  Hope that He is making all things new.

May the beautiful mercies, sweet forgiveness, awful agony, and hope-filled rejoicing of Holy week lead us to long to be home.  Long to be with our Savior.  Give us joy, hope, peace, and gladness.  May the Lord fill us with wondrous delight for His glorious return and joy to live for Him in the here and now.  May He grant us His peace as we endure and enjoy this life.

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13 Weeks Pregnant

It has been awhile since I’ve gotten on here.  It goes against what I was trying to do by writing more and being consistent with it, but sometimes life just happens.  And in our case, that meant welcoming the news of having a baby in early October.

We found out we were pregnant in February.  February 5th to be exact.  My first doctor’s appointment was the following week and we found out we were 6 weeks pregnant at that point.

The past two months have seemed to be a whole lot longer.  Not a day has gone by since then that I haven’t thrown up.  That might be a bit too much information.  But it’s true.  It’s been real life for us.  And it has only been this past week (which I’ve had off work for spring break) that it has only occurred about once a day.  I’ve been really sick and lost lots of weight from not being able to keep much down.  I have no appetite or energy.  And calling it “morning sickness” is a joke because it lasts all day long.  I’ve tried a lot of different things to help.  I had to have an i.v. from dehydration.  I can’t do much at work anymore. The getting up early routine and walking around lots at work wears me out and gets me sick.  From what I’ve heard, this isn’t normal for all.  Some just have it worse than others.  So we keep pressing on.  Spencer and I have had to adjust to this different way of life.

But the good news in all of it is that the baby is fine and healthy!  Praise God for that!

I used to be such a doer.  Someone who worked really hard constantly.  When there was a job to do at work or around the house, I just did it.  I’ve always had a hard time learning to rest and slow down.  But this pregnancy has forced me to ask for help, admit I’m tired, and slow down tremendously.

Spencer has been amazing through it all so far.  He has cooked when I haven’t been able to walk in the kitchen.  He has cleaned when I have no energy whatsoever.  He has taken care of me when I don’t have the strength to even take care of myself.  He has been an amazing encouragement and help.  Without complaining, he has served our family tremendously.  Spencer is going to be an incredible father.  He already is, and we haven’t gotten to meet our baby yet.

All the sickness might get better as we climb our way out of this first trimester valley, but it might not.  Either way, we will hold fast to the promises of our God and know that He is with us.  We will use the hard times to make our marriage stronger and more effectively share the gospel with the world.  Whatever may come, we will have joy.  We will continue to sing the songs of His mercy, grace, love, forgiveness, and kindness, in whatever may come.