Keep watering your garden

by:Jennifer Ortiz

On this day last year I found out I was pregnant with my seventh pregnancy. It made for a very interesting birthday. Little did I know that almost two months later I’d be in the hospital fighting for my life as that pregnancy ended. That was the same month it was discovered that something in our then four year old’s heart sounded “not quite right”.

This past year was a pressing year, where God pushed me in my faith to levels I never imagined. All the while carrying through the things he had placed in my hands in the ministry.

Many times I struggled moving forward, but God continuously led me to keep going. He showed me clearly that he was very present in the midst of my struggles. So much so that one day as I was thinking about all the plans we were going to have to make for our daughter’s heart surgery, I heard this phrase very clearly spoken to my heart.

“Keep watering your garden.”

For those that don’t know, I am very passionate about gardening. It is therapeutic for me and so satisfying. I love flowers and I love to watch things grow. I see life in plants and most of all I see God’s hand and work of art.

So for him to refer to me in this way did not surprise me. I pondered on what that phrase meant and what God was trying to teach me. At the time I took it as God just wanted me to persevere in my faith. But through time I have realized even more the significance of that phrase in my life.

You see, many times in our lives, especially when we serve in ministry, we want to give up or stop doing what we’re doing to tend to our hardships. Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe strongly that there are periods of working hard and periods of rest. But what happens many times is we feel so overwhelmed in our humanity that we want to let go of the wrong things.

If I stop taking care of my garden it will die. The plants dry out and it never achieves its full potential because it stopped receiving the attention it needed. It requires perseverance to water, nourish, clean out and keep a garden. And this principle should be applied to the things we have in our hands that have been placed there as part of our calling.

What you are doing for the kingdom of God is a privilege. The opportunities you get should humble you and cause you to feel honored that God would entrust such an important task in your hands.

Persevering does not mean neglecting yourself or burning yourself out. Persevering means asking for help, reaching out in the middle of your struggles so that you can continue to move forward. Continue caring for the seeds you have planted. Water them, observe them, take care of them. God will be more than faithful to take care of you. I have seen it in my life. I see beauty beginning to bloom in areas of my life I once wanted to give up on.

Remember that we have a very real enemy, and that is exactly what he wants you to do. He wants you to divert all your attention to your struggle so you will forget who your God is and stop taking care of what he has paced in your hands.

If you are going through a hardship in the middle of your growth in serving God, don’t stop! Reach out for those God has placed in your path to speak life and encouragement your way, and to cheer you on as you overcome the struggles. Don’t try to do this alone, we were created with a need to remain connected to each other, and most of all to God.

I leave you with this, James 1:2-4 describes his process very well. It reads, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its course so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Perseverance needs to finish its course, and that wont happen if you stop what you are doing. Don’t stop.

The next time you feel you want to give up on what God has called you to do, remember these words. Keep watering your garden. In time you will see the fruit of your labor and perseverance. God is and will always be faithful to carry you through your struggles.

He will NEVER fail you.

 

God reveals only what you need.

(by: Jennifer Ortiz)

No one told me that within my first ten years of marriage I would endure four miscarriages, a daughter who had seizures and another who would go through an open heart surgery.

Thank God.

Because I would have said, “Ok then. I just wont have kids. Spare me that pain.” And I would have missed out on so much more.

God is so intentional in all that he does, that he only reveals to us what we need to know at that moment. Enough to keep us moving forward with our eyes fixed on him and his faithfulness. We know that our ending will be with him in eternity, should we choose to believe in and follow him. But sometimes we get so caught up in the “in between”. We want to know details, we want to know how particular seasons in our lives will turn out or claim that we will be “at peace” once we know more.

Would you really be at peace if you knew more? Would I have been at peace knowing all of these things were going to happen in my life? I think not.

But I thank God that he is so good in all he does. He KNOWS what he’s doing. I can trust what his Word says in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Even in the midst of trials, his thoughts are ONLY good. Do you believe that?

Even when he doesn’t answer your questions, can you believe that his thoughts are only good?

Even when the situation brings pain beyond belief, can you believe that his thoughts are only good?

Even when your prayer is not being answered the way you want it to be, can you believe that his thoughts are still GOOD?

There was a verse that carried me through processing the difficult news of our daughter’s heart condition and necessary surgery. It’s in Romans 8:28 and reads, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

It says ALL things. Not some, not sometimes, not once in a while…..ALL things work for the good of those who love him. Those who seek him earnestly and surrender their lives in his hands.

So even in the midst of my tears, immense heartache, and battles with my fears I chose to cling with everything I had to those words and believe that his thoughts for us and our daughter were ONLY good. That there is incredible purpose behind this painful process we had to endure.

I know it’s scary not knowing what will happen. The fear is crippling. But know there is purpose behind it all and God has a plan. He will not reveal all of the details to you, only what you need to know to keep going. Enough to keep you focused on him and strengthen your trust in him.

This trust in God’s Word only comes from my relationship with him. I have seen him be faithful in more ways I can count. Even when I have asked him, “What are you doing? How is this good for me? What is the point behind this pain?”, he has been faithful. This is a relationship that he longs to have with all of his children. That every single one of us would trust him enough to keep going without demanding answers.

It is not easy getting there, and all of our processes will be different. But it is not impossible. God is there present, never changing, stable and constant. My prayer is that you who are reading this would take a chance and trust God. He will not fail you. Choose to believe in his Word, he is not a man to lie. He does not make mistakes, it is all a part of his plan. Speak to him and open up your heart, he will not abuse it.

Believe, trust and rest in his love. His love is always faithful.

 

 

Is prayer your first reaction, or your last resort?

Is prayer your first reaction or your last resort?

The day our daughter had her cardiac MRI I was sitting in the hospital lobby waiting, when halfway through the exam her doctor comes out with two nurses.

They took me to a small private room where the doctor began to explain what they had found and what needed to be done.

Her condition was not something that could be easily corrected, it needed surgery.

I sat there as he explained to me the anatomy, the risks, the procedure etc.

It was a LOT to process, and the only thing I could say to him was “I’m processing all of this that you are saying. We are people of faith, would you mind if I just took a moment right now to pray?”

They graciously agreed and I prayed at that moment. Right there in that small conference room with the doctor and the two nurses.

And I can say there was a supernatural peace that allowed me to hold it together.

And continues to do so to this day.

Prayer should be our FIRST response. Sincere, genuine prayer can do amazing things in our lives.

We have a very real and loving Heavenly Father and prayer is our daily connection to him.

It is as crucial to us as the food we eat to nourish our bodies.

Do not let anything keep you from your conversations with God. They can be open, and real. You can cry it out and tell him exactly how you are feeling.

Angry, scared, terrified, ashamed….whatever it is.

Do not believe the lie that you are unworthy of speaking to a most loving and forgiving Father.

He is there waiting, ready to listen to every word you say. He knows even words left unsaid.

How good is our God ❤️

-P. Jenn

#nationalprayerday #prayer #firstresponse #faith #believe #power #strength

Why Is Honor Important In Your Family?

3, 2, 1…….. Have you ever said these words when your child disobeyed you? Through repetition, you’ve taught them that if you get to the dreaded zero in your countdown, then there will be some type of punishment. This had been my form of control and teaching my children how to be obedient. Because for me, obedience is very important. Who doesn’t want their children to obey their every command? But I really didn’t enjoy those times that I counted down to zero. As I counted, I’d have this internal conversation in my head. All I would be thinking was “come on kid, I don’t want to do this but I will.” Have you ever been there? Maybe you’ve had a similar experience in the disciplining of your child. Let me tell you about something that changed the way I disciplined my children.

It’s one word, HONOR! I know, I know. How can one word be so effective that it would cause me to leave my other discipline strategies? I was also skeptical, when I first heard it. Pastor Andy Stanley brought this idea that he experienced and is currently living out with his family. After teaching and studying the idea, and after practicing it myself, I realized how effective it was. So, let me break it down. In Ephesians 6:2 the bible teaches us that, children should honor their father and mother. Yes, as a parent you have the bible on your side but it goes beyond that. It’s possible that, you simply telling your child, “well the bible says you have to honor me” may not work. It requires more work on our side as parents. Honor in the new testament can mean that something is of value to you or it’s something you deem to have a price; but it also comes about through time. Who wouldn’t want their children to value, respect, and admire them? Before we get there, we have to Honor our children first.

The bible teaches us that, we love because God first loved us. He modeled that to us by revealing himself to us. In the same way how can our kids honor us if we don’t model it to them. Your children imitate you. They speak like you, and even act like you because they are learning from you. If we are constantly lying to our children, then we are not honoring them. If you say yes, I’ll take you to get ice cream tomorrow, and tomorrow comes and you don’t keep your promise, then you’re not honoring them. Instead, you’re teaching them that it’s ok to not follow through on what is said. Then they begin to lie to you, but remember where they learned it from first. As a parent we have the privilege and responsibility to teach, guide, coach, and love our children. Don’t take it lightly. If you do, someone else will teach them, and it may not be what’s best for them. I believe we now understand the importance we play on our children’s life, so let’s begin to teach honor.

We talked about how we must show honor to our children. Fathers, you can achieve this in the way that you interact with your wife. Do you value her in front of your children? Do you lie to her? Do you lift her up? Can your children see a healthy relationship between you and your wife? Fathers if you have boys, the way you treat your wife is the example you set for how they will interact with women when they are older. If you have daughters, the way you treat your wife will set an example of how they should expect to be treated as they are looking for their future husband. Mothers, the same go for you with your children. The way you treat your husband can bring him value, respect, and authority in your home. Our kids study everything, and the relationship between the spouses is a vital one. It’s the one they see throughout their life, and molds most of their future relationships. So, with that being said, parents honor your spouses. Not only does that benefit your children but it greatly benefits your marriage.

So, what do I do if my child dishonors (disrespects, lies, hurts, disobeys) me? Well here is the thing with honor. When you teach your children honor it leads to relationship. So, if you punish your children by taking away their cell phone, video games, YouTube, etc. all you’ve done is take something they like for some time. They might even resent you for it. It doesn’t feed or lead you to a closer relationship, but instead it serves to pull you apart. Now I know some of you are thinking “come on now” but hear me out. I come from a background where whooping is very common, and being familiar with a belt while growing up, but I think I turned out alright. However as a parent, I now know that it isn’t the most effective way. So, you might be asking “well then, what do I do?” Let me give you an example. Not too long ago my eldest dishonored her mom. When she got home, I asked her to go to her room and told her I would be in shortly to talk to her. When I got there, I asked her what happen. She told me a very non-detailed account of what happen. I told her what her mother told me and pointed out how she dishonored her. I reminded her how in our family we honor each other. I reminded her how dishonoring breaks the relationship we are building. Once she acknowledged what she had done, I then asked how she planned to fix it. I asked how can she now show honor after dishonoring. So, she threw out some ideas like making mommy a card, giving her strawberries with whip cream, and apologizing. I agreed and told her “so this is what you are going to do, PERFECT.”

When you lead your children to honor it always leads to building and protecting your relationship. If I take away YouTube, sure its effective for a while. But we never address the offense, the hurt that was done. By having them do something for the person they dishonored it leads to a reconciling and a building of the relationship.

Now teaching your children honor is not a one-night thing or a magical thing that works all the time. It’s something you must dedicate, focus, and prioritize on, if you want it to be a part of your family. Like we said earlier, honor is developed over time, so don’t rush it, just be consistent. When your children are trying to honor after a dishonor you might need to guide them through, on how to mend that relationship. At times, you might even need to strongly guide them in a direction you think is right; and as you do, be creative with it. The more creative, the stronger impact it will make, and they will remember it.

Now, teaching and upholding honor will take some work. It is far easier to take things away as a form of discipline but consider this, let’s stop taking away and start giving our kids practical ways to honor and treat people, and how to mend relationships. The end result should lead you to having children that even when they become adults, they are excited to spend time with you, because they honor you and cherish the relationship, they have with you. That destination sounds like a beautiful place to arrive at, as a parent. So, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work!

Let me encourage you with this prayer. Father God, I thank you for this teaching that has and is impacting my life. I am thankful for the honor and privilege you have given me, to be a parent. I pray for all those who reading this. Lord, may you encourage them and build them up as they are doing their best with what they have. Father strengthen them physically, mentally, and spiritually. Let them love what you have given them, the same way you love us all. Amen!

Written by Pastor Danny

Learn more about us @ Love Always Faithful

 

Rest for your soul

img_0753As a mother of three I have learned the value of rest….and how difficult it can be at times to attain it. All day long little voices call my attention for assistance in every task imaginable. When one little one is rescued the other soon cries out for what in their mind is a grave emergency. Thankfully through time I am seeing my children grow and become more independent in certain tasks. Hallelujah! However there are other things that still demand my energy and attention; bills, groceries, appointments, laundry, cooking….plus all the responsibilities that come from living a pastoral life. It can become a lot if I don’t know where and when to find rest. Not just physical rest, but rest for my soul.

Maybe your schedule doesn’t look like mine. Maybe you have a 9-5 or you work retail and have ever changing hours. Maybe you work on the road or are on call for long periods of time. Or maybe you are on the other side of the world working on research that requires your thinking at all hours of the day. Whatever you are doing in life, whatever your profession, whatever your status, you are human. And you, me, and every other being on this earth needs rest.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) Jesus is calling out to you. All of you reading this that are feeling exhausted, drained and running on low. Tired of surviving the day by just barely meeting the demands of life around you. Yes you, this is not the life God has planned for you.

There is more to this life, there is a greater purpose that you were meant to be a part of. And the enemy knows, if he can get you tired and lose your peace of mind, if he can make you feel the weight vs the blessing you are more likely to walk away and give up. But the hope of God , the refreshing of our spirit that we can find in him, overcomes all of this. That is why Jesus makes it an emphasis to call out to those specifically feeling this way.

He then says “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” A yoke is a wooden beam often used to connect large animals in agriculture when they need to work together. It allows them to go in the same direction and remain focused. Now Jesus is not calling you an animal, he is saying “come to me, connect yourself to me and I will teach you, I will guide you.” How refreshing it is when you are struggling and encounter someone who is experienced and knows just what to do.  God has given us a manual (his Word) and a counselor (the Holy Spirit) for this thing called life! We don’t have to figure it all out, all we need to do is answer to his invitation. He will reveal, teach and guide you to a refreshing river of life that will lift your soul. He promised! And what he promises WILL come to pass.

I encourage you, if you are reading this in desperate longing of rest for your soul, turn to Jesus. Everything you will ever need can be found in him. Peace, rest, love, joy, acceptance, strength, forgiveness, another chance….. the list goes on. He is everything you will ever need. Take a moment today and really connect with him. Tell him everything you are feeling and all that’s on your mind. Unload all of that heavy weight you have been carrying on your shoulders, it is not yours to carry any longer. Talk to him. He is listening with open arms, ready to refresh your soul.

He will not fail you.

To the grieving mom

National Pregnancy and Infant loss Remembrance Day was last month. But sometimes it’s the words of encouragement when you don’t expect it that leave the biggest imprint on your heart. Especially since this month we are focusing on being thankful, I’m going to take the time and boldly say that I am thankful. Thankful for the experiences that caused deep pain, because they brought me closer to my Savior. They allowed me to know him in a way I never had before.

Yes, I’m thankful for the pain, because it broke me down and tore my pride. It made me realize that my strength is not my own but His. And in His supernatural embrace I found peace, joy and rest.

So to the hurting mom who is still mourning her loss, I offer these words of comfort and pray they lift you up. You are not alone….

Though the empty feeling is one you are constantly fighting, there’s one that’s fighting for you. You are not alone.

He’s there to embrace you when the sadness comes. When thoughts of what could have been start to plague you, He reminds you the best is yet to come.

Don’t let the pain build a wall but rather let it break you down, so you can receive all He has to offer. He will not fail you.

This life is temporary. The pain is temporary. And one day there will be no more of that.

We will be in God’s presence, fully secure that nothing will keep us away. There will be no more sorrow, no more pain, no more crying. No more aching heart. Only God in his infinite love.

But while we are all here on earth, He is with us. He promised not to leave us, and He always keeps his promises.

Let him fill your life in abundance with joy, laughter, and the desire to keep going.

Don’t give up, he’s there.

Don’t give up, you are not alone.

Though you may feel misunderstood, he’s seen every last detail and he understands.

You’re not crazy, there’s nothing wrong with you. You are just facing the process, and you will get through it.

You’re not alone, God is there. He is love and his love is enough.

It NEVER fails.

You can’t escape the process.

Our God is a god of time. He has been teaching me that things well done take time, therefore, if there is a process that he needs to take me through it’s not going to happen overnight. Being a naturally impatient person I’ve had to learn I can’t fast forward the  process…..and if he needs me to go through it, then I sure can’t skip it.

I experienced this lesson heavily recently, as I walked the process of yet another miscarriage. This one far more painful and traumatic than ones in the past. As soon as we discovered that something was wrong I knew what path awaited. So in a defensive state I wanted to be done with the situation before it even really began, wanting it all to be behind me overnight. Through raw broken tears I quickly brushed it off and said “If I went through it once, I can do it again.” But this process was very different than the others.  The band-aid that I wanted to be quickly ripped off turned into weeks of testing, bloodwork, and more appointments. The pain that I so desperately wanted to be done with was being dragged out, and I had nowhere to run. I prayed, “Just let me move on, let’s just get this over with.”  In my spirit I knew there was purpose, but I battled my flesh aggressively each day that passed.

You see, there are no shortcuts to growth. God is a detailed maker and what he’s doing in you he’s going to do it well done. So it WILL take time. A process has steps and each is necessary to move on to the next. In life our growth is often messy. Perhaps the ugliest thing we’ll ever see, but the end result will be beautiful…if we are willing to go through it.

Grieving is such a process. No one wants to go through it, there’s nothing beautiful about it. You might try to push through emotions to continue moving on with your life and think that you are being “strong”. But you’re not, you’re avoiding the process. Being strong means enduring that process. Allowing yourself to feel, cry, yell, to bleed. And the strength surely doesn’t come from you, it comes from God through his grace. He’s not asking you to hold it together, he’s taking care of that for you.

God knows what you’re feeling, you’re not alone in this. Through the process he will show you things, reveal things that will change your life. He will share the depths of his Word and promises, and his love for you.

Through my pain I experienced God closer than ever before. Though there were days I felt him silent, I knew he was there. Though there were days I had no words to say and no tears left to cry, I knew not a moment escaped him. I learned when difficult moments come, to just brace myself and trust in him. Even when the wave hits he will not let you drown.

So take a deep breath and allow yourself to go through the process. It’s not meant to harm you, it’s meant for your good and the good of those around you. It will bring you closer to him and bring glory to his name.

A most beautiful promise in Romans 8:28 reads like this, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Don’t try to escape the process, embrace it. He will not fail you.

Why are you so afraid?

Fear is a constant battle we fight. It begins with our thoughts. That first nagging, seemingly insignificant doubt that begins to grow roots and like a weed drains the nutrients from the rest of our mind and soul. It is something that can, in the beginning, seem so small yet cause immense damage.

Fear keeps us from moving forward, it’s instilled in our nature and self defense to take caution or avoid all together something that could cause us pain, whether physical or emotional. But thank God he does not operate within our human limitations. You see, our God is a supernatural one, so everything that he is and brings into our lives goes beyond our own capacity. That is why we can have faith! How else would we be able to believe in something we can not see in front of us? Our entire Christian walk revolves around this very truth.

Which is why God takes fear very seriously. He knows and understands how we react to fear. How we allow it to stop us from accomplishing things, from making decisions, from loving without limits. He is in our lives working non stop so that we could live a life free of fear and completely in His fullness. Yet we constantly doubt, we let that one thought get in the way.

I’m reminded of this in the book of Matthew when Jesus calms the storm. (Matt 8:23-27) It says that as they were crossing “a furious storm came”. So strong that it swept over the boat! So I think it’s safe to say the disciples had a legitimate reason for being afraid. What is astounding is that through all this Jesus was sleeping. I don’t know if any of you have ever tried to sleep while being worried or scared about something. It’s practically impossible, yet Jesus slept during a terrible storm. Knowing that Jesus was also man we can conclude that in order for him to have been sleeping he must have felt peace. He had peace in the storm… That explains why when he woke up he said to them “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”.

Why are you so afraid? When there is clearly a storm around you, you can be at peace! You can sleep peacefully as Jesus did. The Word says Jesus “got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.” This all happened as they were crossing. Jesus in his complete authority over all commanded the wind and waves to calm. Did you know that he has given us in his name, that very same authority? John 14:12 says “whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things.” You may not be in a storm in the middle of a lake, but are you in a storm in your life? Are you crossing through a season of your life that causes you fear? Are you trying to reach a destination yet have been delayed by a storm? You have all authority as a child of God to command the wind and waves to calm. To rebuke that storm of thoughts that is causing you to have fear. The process God is taking you through may not be finished, but you can still be at peace, and continue forward as you cross to reach the other side.

I join you in prayer in this moment, that all negative, life draining and fearful thoughts be gone in Jesus’s name. I declare peace over your life, even as you cross through the furious storm, and that you would learn who you are in Christ and the authority he has given you in his name. In Jesus’s name, AMEN!

Peace in overload

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I love God’s Word. In a world full of chaos and stress his word is what keeps me grounded and quite honestly sane. It’s easy nowadays to share information, opinions, kind words, hurtful words, scary words…..you get the point. The power to share is literally on our fingertips. But have you ever stopped and thought about the validity of these hundreds of billions of words that are shared EVERY single day? Anyone and I mean anyone can make a video, type a blog or even news article to claim anything they want, be it for good or bad. How can we be at rest when we are bombarded by all this information? Who can we believe? What side should we be on? Should I worry, should I prepare, should I ignore? Thoughts that I’m sure cross all of our minds at some point as we process what we receive, sometimes overloading our brains unnecessarily.

Philippians 4:6 says “Do not be anxious about anything…”. Clearly God has seen the turmoil of the earth the last four billion years….so if he’s telling me I don’t have to be anxious I feel pretty confident I can believe him. He tells us to pray and present everything to him, and that includes our fears and the nagging thoughts of a world without him. I love what verse seven says next; “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding , will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Meaning the peace he’s able to give us surpasses every logical reasoning.

God has given us the Holy Spirit, who is a promoter of peace, a comforter. It is possible to carry out a very active and purposeful life while having a still and peaceful heart. It all starts with our thoughts. Fill your thoughts with good, and good will reside in your heart. Fill with fear and you’ll feel the life drained out of you.

So how can we get rid of the thoughts already inside our heads that don’t promote the peace of God? By thinking on the RIGHT things. We can’t control what happens in the world, what others do or say, even what nature decides to bring our way. But one thing we DO have control over is our thoughts. By changing one thought we change our emotion. Verse eight reads “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.” This will help us stay focused on God and his promises, which he is faithful to see through.

And as for every article, latest piece of news, blog, or social media post you come across, my advice is be wise. Don’t be quick to believe, react to and share everything you come across. Look at the source, is it reliable? Do your research, and ask God to guide you. He will. There definitely is good information out there, reliable and worth sharing. But in the webs of communication there are also opinions, bad intentions, fear, worry…. Listen to the GOOD things. I’m not saying be ignorant of the world around you, but stop and think how you will allow this to make you feel and react.

When in doubt turn to God and his word. The one who will never let us down, HE alone is our security. I can put all my efforts in preparing for every bad thing that might ever happen, but in the end it’s all in vain if I lose my peace and sanity over it.  Think on the goodness of God’s words and promises. Believe in his faithfulness, he NEVER fails.