#WORD2016 and #VERSE2016

What a year 2015 was for me and my family! My #WORD2015, BELIEVE, was somethijng that God challenged me to do in many spaces. At the core, I needed to BELIEVE Whose I was in order to move into the LIFE that God desired for me. It was when I didn’t BELIEVE that I “got into trouble” with doubts, fear, and anxiety. My Life Group from Gateway Church read and studied Neil T. Anderson’s “Victory over the Darkness,” which discusses your true identity in Christ. I hadn’t realized how many lies I had become accustomed to believing, and that allowing those lies to be present in my thinking robbed me of the TRUE abundant life Jesus promises in:

 John 10:10 (AMP)10 The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].

This year, prompted by our Worship Director at Gateway Church, I prayed and asked the Holy Spirit to please give me my #WORD2016, and the word SURRENDER immediately came to mind. I asked the Holy Spirit, “Did You just say, SURRENDER?” Is that my #WORD2016? Funny thing, the next worship song was, “I Surrender”….kid you not! I cracked up inside, and wondered if that was confirmation of my word for me. As I sang the song, and listened more, I believe it was confirmation, because I love the truths of this song. Its chorus says, “I Surrender, I Surrender, I want to know You more, I want to know You more.” For me, SURRENDER to Jesus means to be with Him more and more, and in being with Him more, then I’ll be more willing to do whatever He asks of me. SURRENDER means to truly die to myself, my dreams, my desires…and to humbly ask Him, “Lord what would you have me to do?” From the dictionary, it’s yielding one self to another. That is my #PRAYER2016…that I would yield to Jesus. And like the “I Surrender” song says: “Lord have Your way, Lord have Your way in me!” My life is His, because He died for me…I will live for Him. My #VERSE2016 sums it up perfectly!

Luke 9:23 Amplified Bible (AMP)23 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to follow Me [as My disciple], he must deny himself [set aside selfish interests], and take up his cross daily [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me].

 

 

#VERSE2015 and #WORD2015

I find it interesting that the last blog post I wrote was exactly around this time to highlight my verse and word for 2014. Was there nothing ‘blog-worthy’ that happened last year? Or was I just not intentional about writing here? Nevertheless, I write today.

Before launching into the new word and verse, I find it helpful to review last year’s: my #WORD2014 was ABIDE and my #VERSE2014 was 2 Peter 1:3 (NLT): By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. Learning to ABIDE in God and to stay with Him in intentional ways this last year has been challenging and also very rewarding! It was as if Jesus was teaching me, “as you ABIDE in Me and spend quiet, solitude time with Me, you will start to truly believe the truths of the 2 Peter passage.” I have all that I need in Jesus, and He has had me on an amazing journey! I certainly intend to continue to ABIDE this year, too. For me, these annual words and verses are to be continually valued and practiced.

Around Thanksgiving I started praying to God to reveal to me His #WORD2015 for me. I prayed that the Holy Spirit would give me a sensitivity to His voice so that I would discern what the word would be. Over and over, in different prayer times, I kept hearing the word BELIEVE. I sat with the word for several days and kept asking for His confirmation. God was probably amused that I kept asking for confirmation, when the fact that I kept sensing that BELIEVE was the word should have been confirmation enough. Ha! Once I started to believe that the word was BELIEVE, I kept finding it everywhere.  Of course, my sensitivity to the word heightened my awareness of the word. But I think the awareness of a word or verse is the point. Each time I see BELIEVE or I see my #VERSE2015 it will draw my attention to God and remind me of what He’s growing, molding, and/or pruning in me.

To find my #VERSE2015, this year I took the #WORD2015 that God had revealed and I did a word search for BELIEVE on www.biblegateway.com. In the New Living Translation alone, over 400 references were listed. And yes, I looked at all the verses. I wanted to be sure to find the verse that I sensed the Holy Spirit was directing for me to find. After reading the verses that specifically had the word BELIEVE in them (the search included verses that had “believers, believed, etc.”), I felt drawn to Ephesians 1:19-20 (NLT, emphasis mine): 19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who BELIEVE him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Wow! That’s a verse pregnant with meaning! One that will surely take a full year to understand and apply to different areas of my life. I’d like to say each area of my life, but I have to be truthful…I sense it’s going to be difficult to BELIEVE in those few areas of my life that I’ve come accustomed to walk in my own strength and not in the power that God affords me through Christ. 

So what in particular is God wanting me to BELIEVE? Where am I lacking in my BELIEF? How does BELIEVING God change the way I do life? Where is my understanding of God’s power, lacking? What does God’s power in my life mean for me personally? I think these questions and many more are what He will show me this year. Looking forward to another adventure with Jesus by my side!

#VERSE2014 & #WORD2014

I have dear friends, that follow Jesus, who have consistently asked God to give them a ‘Word’ to focus on for their year, and they suggested my doing so.  I have done New Years Resolutions tons of times, but never a ‘word’ for the year. I thought, what a cool idea. So I went to God in prayer, and asked Him for my #WORD2014. In my head, I quickly heard ABIDE. That word made sense; it resonated with what God has already been showing me this past fall. But honestly, I wasn’t thrilled with it. To me, it didn’t seem zippy enough. But I kept it and in my heart said to God, “Okay, I’ll continue to pray about this word in the coming days to see if by chance You want to change it for something a little more snappy.” Then a few days after that, I received an email from the You Version Bible suggesting to ask God to give you a #VERSE2014 to focus on for the year. I really liked that idea of having a verse and a word for the year. I began praying…Lord, what verse would you want my focus to be for 2014? I didn’t hear anything in that time of prayer. However, shortly thereafter, I received an email from a dear pastor’s wife at our church. She and I were part of an “Encouragement” email chain where you send a verse to a person. She sent me a passage of scripture that leapt off the page at me. I LOVED it, and I felt like God was saying, “This is your passage for the year, now prayerfully consider which verse should be your one verse.”

Sadly, my prayer focus changed in the next days, as they were surrounding my sweet Grandmother and her passing. Praise God, she knew Jesus and is now with Him for eternity! Yesterday, I had the opportunity to go to God again and ask Him for confirmations on my word and verse for 2014. I went to the Lord honestly, and said, “Lord, why am I fighting You about this word, ABIDE? Please confirm to me that it’s the ‘word’ you want for me.” I proceeded to do my daily Bible reading plan, which had me read Psalm 12. Verse 6 leapt off the page for me: The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times. I humbly read this verse and said, “Yes, Lord, Your words are pure and since You’ve given me the word ABIDE, so be it.” I was floored by God’s quick answer. I felt that experience was certainly blog worthy. I thought it would be handy to put Word Press on my phone, so I quickly downloaded and proceeded to just read over the titles of my previous posts. Imagine my AMAZEMENT when I found the below post (I’ve made no edits to it). It was a post I wrote in the Summer of 2010 and it was about the VERY SAME PASSAGE that my friend had given me and I highlighted verse 3, which I felt that God was saying was my #VERSE2014. God had already given me this passage! No wonder it resonated with me so. The other amazing thing God showed me was that shortly after that post in 2010, I was ‘derailed’ for a good season of time. You can see it in the following blogs after August 10, 2010.

It’s always been God’s desire for me to experience the FRUITS of this passage. He’s always wanted me to have this kind of HARVEST in my life. He was saying to me yesterday morning, “As you ABIDE, Raquel, you will have this kind of FRUIT in your life. Now live this out, not by ‘DO-ing’ these things but by ABIDING and ‘BE-ing’ in my presence.” Below is that original post from 2010. My #VERSE2014 is 2 Peter 1:3 and my #WORD2014 is ABIDE!

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3-4Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you—your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust.

 5-9So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can’t see what’s right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.

 10-11So, friends, confirm God’s invitation to you, his choice of you. Don’t put it off; do it now. Do this, and you’ll have your life on a firm footing, the streets paved and the way wide open into the eternal kingdom of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:3-11, The Message)

Wow…this scripture passage challenges me, excites me, motivates me, and affects me on so many levels. But I think the main truth that “pops out at me” for such a time as this is from verse 3: Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us.

Really? EVERYTHING that I need to please God has been miraculously given to me from God. Then why do I whine so much about “trying to please Him” in all aspects of my life? Why do I even think that it has anything to do with me, when really it has EVERYTHING to do with Him? Maybe if I started banking on the promises that it is God in me who helps me to live this life in a honoring and pleasing way unto Him, I would not struggle so much with “trying to please Him” in my strength. Living the Christian life, for me has been one that, quite frankly, is difficult to surrender to God’s direction. I want to do this Christian life. And scary thing, I’ve been this way since I started walking with God. I remember being a little Jr. High student bawling my eyes out because I didn’t fully understanding God and His life for me. God blessed me with a sweet teacher to talk to me.  She was my Jr. High cheerleading sponsor, Mrs. Baker who lovingly and wisely explained: Raquel walking with God is a daily thing, and little by little He’ll reveal more of Himself to you. And, no you’re not going to “get everything and understand everything” right away. The Christian life is a process, and one that is largely directed by God and His revelation to you. In His time, you’ll understand more and more about Him and the way to live this life He’s called you to.

That was life-giving and removed a lot of the pressure from me. It removed the anxiety and worry over me “making something happen” in me. I have never forgotten that conversation and that was at least twenty years ago. She was explaining the truths from the 1 Peter that I quoted above.

So now let me share with you the promise and truth from God’s word, the Bible. Don’t get all hung up “trying to please God”…you’ve got everything you need to do that. And don’t put off adding to what God has already so richly blessed us with – “everything that goes into a life of pleasing God.”

A GLORIOUS Prodigal Son Story!

5:00AM on Monday morning, December 23, 2013. I was spending time with God ‘getting quiet’ in His presence before the busyness of the day unfolded. After which, I started looking at my email and getting caught up on desk work. I saw there was a coupon for a Christian book store for 50% off their children’s Bibles. I printed it out. In my heart I was praying,” Lord, maybe I need to buy my son an ‘older boys’ Bible because he still hasn’t made a decision to follow Jesus? The one I bought a few years ago is for a younger boy. He has been asking some great questions, and appears to be close to making a decision, but perhaps it’ll take longer?”

6:30AM. I felt like God was wanting me to work on my Beth Moore Bible Study, “Jesus the One and Only.” We were looking at the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son. I focused particularly on the prodigal son parable found in Luke 15:11-32. Beth’s commentary on the response of the father receiving his wayward son hit me afresh. She writes,

“In one of the most moving moments in all of Scripture, Luke 15:20 records that the father “‘ran to his son.'” Scripture often employs anthropomorphisms–descriptions of God as if He had a human body. We sometimes read that God walked (in the midst of His people0 or that He rode (on the clouds like chariots), but this is the only time in the entire Word of God when He is described as running. What makes God run? A prodigal child turning his face toward home! How can we resist Him? How can we not reciprocate such lavish love?

I was so moved emotionally and spiritually by my study that morning. I wrote in the margin about a sweet time where I ‘felt the Father’s love’ and excitement to see me return home from a season of disobedience. I wrote in the margin, “Lord, I’m to blog about this experience, aren’t I?” I sensed the answer was yes, but I didn’t feel like it was to be done at that very moment. God knew a better time.

7:30AM my girl comes down stairs. We had a sweet time of prayer together. I read to her aloud, the “Power of a Praying Parent” prayer for that day-Releasing My Child into God’s Hands. It was powerful for her to hear God’s heart for her, my heart for her.

8:00AM my son comes down stairs and I felt compelled to do the same for him. I read over him the same prayer and it was beautiful to just speak out loud that I was giving him to God, including my concern for him not having prayed to receive Jesus as the leader and forgiver of his life. We snuggled together on the couch and visited. After a couple hours of reading and playing on the couch, he said, “Mommy, can we go upstairs and snuggle in my bed?” What Mom wouldn’t jump at that opportunity?!

10:00AM, my husband is at work at Gateway Church, my daughter’s playing in her room and I’m snuggling with our boy. After he was still for about ten minutes he says, “Mommy, can I play and you can rest if you want?” Again, I jump at that opportunity! So I can hear him playing with his Lego jet ski and I’m starting to fall asleep. I probably doze for about ten minutes. I start to stir and then he starts talking to me. Somehow our conversation and his questions got really interesting, really fast. He starts saying, “So what happens when we die?” I explained, that I believe that I will immediately go to Heaven because Jesus is the leader and forgiver of my life.” He says, “is Heaven real?” I said, “Yes…it’s a real place.” “So, how do I get to heaven?,” he asks. I say, “do you really want to know?” He says, “Yes, I do.” I quickly realize that I’m out of my league, and I NEED the help of God.

I stop our conversation at that point and explained to him that we need to pray. I said, “You know what? Mommy wants to ask the Holy Spirit to help me have the right words to explain this important information to you. Let’s pray together. Holy Spirit, thank You for being here with Will and I. I pray that You will give me the words to clearly explain these truths. And I pray Holy Spirit, that You will have Your way with his heart. Amen.” We then proceed to have a very simple conversation. Here’s what I recall of it:

“Now, Will, if at any point in our conversation you don’t understand something you stop Mommy. If I use a word you don’t know, stop me. Okay?” “Okay.” “You see Will, we are born with a sin nature…we are born sinners. Do you know what a sinner is?” He replies, “No.” “Do you know what sin is?” He explains, “yes, it’s not doing things like God wants.” “Yes! It’s choosing to go our own way, instead of God’s way. Sin is bad and because of it, God can’t be near sin. God is holy.” “What is holy?” “Holy means God is perfect, pure, and completely without sin. If we choose to continue to do what we want, and if we continue to sin, do you know what happens?” “No.” “If we don’t choose God, then we will be separated from Him forever in a place called, Hell. Have you heard of Hell before?” “Yes.” I explained, “the world may tell you it’s not a real place, but darling it is real. The Bible explains that it is a real place. BUT…God loves us dearly and He doesn’t want us to be separated from Him. He doesn’t want us to go to Hell. He wants to be in relationship with us and He wants to be near us. He wants to be in our lives, so He made a way to make things right. Do you know how He did that?” “No.” “Who’s birthday are we celebrating?” “Jesus!” “Yes, Jesus is the way that God can bring us back into His family. God came near to us in the baby Jesus. Now, what did Jesus do when He was on the earth?” “He died on the cross.” “Yes! Why did He die on the cross?” “He died on the cross for my sins.” [Will knows the answers because we’ve been teaching him these six years about Jesus. He attended Bible Study Fellowship for four years, he was in a Christian preschool at Hope Children’s Center. He’s been attending Hyde Park Elementary School, a Christian school, for two years. He knows the answers, but he’s discovering them for himself personally.] “Yes! You see someone had to ‘pay’ for those sins, those sins needed to be punished and Jesus did that on the cross. He was punished for our sins there. But what happened next?” “He rose again on the third day!” “Yes! You know why that’s important?” “No.” “Because Jesus rose from the dead, He overcame death, and sin’s consequences of Hell. Now we can be with God FOREVER AND EVER in Heaven and death is not our end. And we can now live a new life in Jesus. You know how?” “No.” “Well, once you tell God that you agree with Him, and believe that you’re a sinner, and when you believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross for your sins, THEN the person of the Holy Spirit will live in your heart! And you’ll live a new life!” “Mommy, I believe in Jesus, I believe He died for me…I want to be a Christian.” I started to hesitate a bit. I wondered…am I rushing this decision? My flesh starts getting concerned that I’m rushing things so I say,” How about this…let’s wait until tonight so we can talk with Daddy, too?” I figure that way Charles and I could both be in agreement that, in fact, Will is making the long-awaited and prayed for decision to follow Jesus. He quickly replied, “No, Mommy, I want to be a Christian NOW.” I said, “Okay, then…let’s become a Christian right now.” We both got on our knees, on his floor, and I led him through a very simple prayer acknowledging that he was a sinner, he needed Jesus to be his a Savior. He stated that he believed Jesus is the Son of God and that believing in Him would mean he’s now a part of God’s family. He repeated the words after me. We got up off our knees and I hugged him. He said, “Mommy you’re going to cry now, right?” I said, “Yes, but these are tears of joy!”

And just like the woman at the well, in the Bible, who had a special encounter with Jesus, Will, too quickly ran out of his room to go and tell everyone that he was now a Christian!! His very first person was his sister. Ironically, he quickly learned that not everyone is going to be as excited as him. His sister was a little annoyed that he interrupted her (of course). He came back to me with a sad face saying, “She wasn’t very excited, Mommy. She shooed me.” I explained that he didn’t need to get discouraged by her response, and that there will be many more times in his life when people will not respond nicely to the Jesus in him. The Holy Spirit quickly brought back to mind my Bible study from that morning.  I said, “You know what, Will? The Bible explains that when a sinner comes ‘home’ and returns back to God that the angels in heaven throw a HUGE PARTY! All the angels are rejoicing and having a party because you are now a Christian! (Luke 15:10)” He quickly said, “Mommy, do you think they would send me a piece of cake from heaven for me to have?” I smiled through my tears, and said “That would be cool if they could, but we’ll definitely celebrate with some cake.” Then he quickly said, “Let’s call Daddy!”

We proceeded to call and leave messages for our immediate family and his children’s pastor and wife. It was so much fun hearing him retell the story!! Now I know why God didn’t want me to blog about the prodigal story that early morning. He had an even more GLORIOUS prodigal story for me to blog about…our boy has come home and we will be together for ETERNITY because Jesus is now the leader and forgiver of his life! Amen! Amen!

My Identity Song – “For Your Splendor”

A week and a half after God had shown me my “shadow tree” at Town Lake, He switched from talking to me about my shadow side, to informing me more about my TRUE identity in Him. Of course, wouldn’t you know it…my identity had to do with a tree.

It was Thursday, 10/10/13 and I was running/walking with Him on Town Lake. I had my iPhone on Worship Playlist, Shuffle Mode. I was really enjoying the songs that He was singing over me as I ran and walked. Some of the truths in the songs were challenging, some of the songs were simply encouraging, etc. I got to the point in my run that I typically stop to stretch. I was not at all prepared for what God was about to sing over me. It was a song that I knew, but I hadn’t realized it’s significance until that moment. The words of “For Your Splendor” began playing and I was overwhelmed by God’s love for me. I had to go and sit down, overlooking the beautiful city of Austin, and weep while God sang what was TRUE about me through the words of this song. As I type this post, I’m still crying about it. It’s so dear of our loving Father to share His unfailing, unconditional love with us, the faithless.

You see, at the Destiny Project retreat, part of the work you do is to discover your “Identity Statement.” It’s no easy task to write an identity statement, but the retreat leaders give us four days of coaching to help us arrive at one. And we’re given opportunity to be still and to hear from God and His Holy Spirit about who He says we are, how He’s created us, and what He says is our true identity. I left the retreat with a sufficient, but small outline of an identity statement [I am the strong, beautiful tree that nourishes and bears fruit sharing the joy of Christ]. The leaders assured me that it was a good place to start, and that God would continue to communicate more when I was ready. They were right!

This video is a slide show of the words of Christy Nockels’ song “For Your Splendor” and it’s what God says is TRUE about me. He was confirming that what I heard at the retreat was my identity statement, so I need to start living life from that place. With His perfect grace, love and shepherding, He is showing me how “TO BE” the tree. That’s hard for someone as energetic and feisty as me, but it’s so worth being who He created me to be…that’s the ABUNDANT LIFE, Jesus promises in John 10:10 Amplified Bible (AMP) 10 The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows). This day was FULL of HIS ABUNDANCE. It’s no wonder that it was 10/10/13.

My Shadow Tree

My Shadow Tree

Yes…it’s ANOTHER tree that my sweet Jesus showed me!! This tree comes a year and a half after the first tree God showed me at Pine Cove, see “Don’t Be Like This Tree.”

I had attended the Destiny Project Retreat from Thursday-Sunday. [It’s an awesome TRANSFORMATIVE experience to say the least and I would highly recommend attending one]. It was Monday, and I went running at Town Lake to celebrate with God because of all that He had begun showing me at this retreat. I was on the look out for what God wanted to give me there, like a present. I knew He had something for me, personally. Imagine my surprise and excitement when I stop at the Lamar pedestrian bridge to get water and my eyes are quickly drawn to a picture of a dead tree on a flag type thing. [Keep in mind, God has been showing me trees for the better part of 1-1/2 years. The tree picture quickly drew my attention]. These women were just beginning to put together the “Thirst” art installation at Lady Bird Lake. I got a flyer and knew God had more to tell me about this tree. I asked Jesus, “what do You want me to know about this tree?” He said…”this tree represents your shadow side. Your shadow side makes you feel like you are disconnected from Me (God), your life source, just like this tree is disconnected from the water (it’s life source). But something redeeming about you, and this shadow tree is; there is still a THIRST! For you, a thirst for Me (God), and for the shadow tree, a thirst for water.” I needed to hear that truth, and I needed to show grace to that “shadowy” part of myself: even though I feel disconnected from God at times, and even when I sometimes in disobedience don’t connect with God, at the end of the day I can’t stay in that place for long! I still THIRST for Him (that’s a gift from God, in and of myself I wouldn’t choose Him). God has been faithfully showing me grace for all these many years that I’ve been walking with Him (30+ years), but I, like many others, have difficulty extending grace to myself. I continued running, and by the time I got to the opposite side of the lake, I noticed there was a barge in the middle of the lake. I stopped to look at it, and I promise…I heard “that still, small voice,” which I call the Holy Spirit, whisper…”there’s going to be a tree in the middle of the lake.” I shrugged it off, but thought, “How cool would that be?!”

Thursday morning I went and met two women in south Austin to talk about our Destiny Project time. I had gone south on MoPac so I hadn’t noticed what God had done for me. My friends and I finished a beautiful time of sharing together, and I began my trek back north via Lamar. I was on the phone with my husband, and I exclaimed, “GET OUT!! There’s a tree in the middle of the lake, Charles!” I’m sure he thought I was crazy, but then again…I kinda am, right?! I had already told him about the art installation and showed him the flyer. I told him I had to get off the phone and get to that tree. I was so excited God had granted me my heart’s desire to see a tree in the middle of the lake!! I wanted to hear more from Him so I quickly maneuvered through traffic to find a spot to pray and ask God for more.

He revealed to me that this tree represents my “shadow side.” Simply put, a shadow side is a part of myself that is still afraid, injured, bound up or in hiding. When I’m at my worst, Satan’s lies can bombard me and say such things as: “you’re no longer loved by God because you’re judgmental, impatient,______ etc.; you can’t even hear from God anymore because you are so disobedient; you aren’t worthy of God’s love because you’ve messed up so many times.” As I agree with these accusations, I can begin to feel like this THIRST tree. I feel separated from God, my life source; I feel dead inside, like this lifeless tree; I feel like I have no fruit to show for my life. But notice, I said feel. Not only do we have an accuser, but to add insult to injury, our hearts can lie to us, too and scripture talks about it: Jeremiah 17:9 (NLT) “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked.Who really knows how bad it is?” Next thing you know, you’re not living the life God intended–an abundant life. John 10:10 (AMP) explains it beautifully: 10 The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).

You see…I originally thought my shadow tree was the one God showed me earlier at Pine Cove (see “Don’t be like this tree” post). That tree was barren and looked dead, but it was still IN the water, still connected to it’s life source. God is helping me to understand the seasons of my life, via the illustration of all these trees. There are seasons of fall, winter, spring, and summer, and each season is necessary and has a distinct purpose. I can still rejoice in God in all these seasons…I don’t have to fret that I’m not always in Spring, blossoming and growing fruit. But I can do what scripture says in Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NLT): 17 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!

Tree of Life Necklace

Tree of Life Necklace

Seven months after God had shown me my “Don’t Be Like This Tree,” He finally showed me how to commemorate His undying love for me. I had the opportunity to go to a friend’s jewelry party. I really didn’t have the time to go that week, but felt prompted that I should make a quick appearance. As soon as I saw this necklace, I knew why I was suppose to go to this party. I was so excited!! I had been wanting to commemorate my special time with God at that retreat, and He finally showed me how to do it. This Tree of Life necklace reminds me of God’s UNCONDITIONAL love for me. Through His perfect love, and  through the power of the Holy Spirit, I, too, can grow into a beautiful tree that bears fruit for His glory and praise.

The Tree of Life

A few days after God showed me the dead tree in the middle of the lake at Pine Cove, God began to show me another tree. It was early morning of Good Friday. I woke up from a dead sleep at 2:22AM. I sensed God saying, “This isn’t just a time, but it’s a Bible reference.” So in obedience, I got up out of bed to find this Bible reference. I felt like it was the book of Revelation because at our leadership retreat we had spent some time studying the book of Revelation. So I went to Revelation 2:22, and I cringed to read about the judgment of a woman who hadn’t repented of her ways. I quickly thought to myself, “Lord do I need to repent of something?” The Holy Spirit didn’t confirm that I needed to repent, but to look up Revelation 22:2. I was so excited to read this beautiful description of the Tree of Life (I’m including verse 1, too for context): 1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. This tree of life looked nothing like the bleak tree He had shown me at the retreat. Wow! This tree is in the river of the water of life, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Later that day, my family and I went to our church’s Good Friday service. It was a powerful time on our church’s campus. I was so tired afterwards. I got the kids to bed, and I was dozing off on the couch. Then my sweet daughter came in the living room and woke me up. She said, “Mommy I just have to show you what I was reading in my Action Bible.” She flipped to the very end of her Bible and read to me about the Tree of Life!! I was so tired that I couldn’t even explain to her the amazing significance of her coming to read me that particular passage. I just chuckled inside to see how God had brought that passage to me again. The next morning, I was able to have a sweet time with my daughter to explain to her the full impact she and God’s Word had on me. I commended her for listening to the Holy Spirit’s prompting, and waking me up to read that passage. I asked her, why she did it, and she explained, “Mommy, it was so powerful and I just had to come and read it to you.” She is right…God’s Word is powerful! Below is the picture of the Tree of Life from her Action Bible. I loved how God was showing me more of His love by giving me a picture of His Tree of Life. The Tree of Life is always blooming, always healing, and always perfect in it’s provision.  God was showing me more of Himself, because I was praying to see more of Him and to know more of Him. I knew for certain, now, that God wanted me to find a tree, whether a painting, a picture, something, so I would be reminded of His loving tree messages.

tree of life

Don’t be like this tree

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It was a year and a half ago that God showed me this tree at Pine Cove camp. I was on a leadership retreat with my church for the weekend. I woke up early Sunday morning, and I felt like He was whispering to me, “Go outside; I have something I’d like to show you.” Keep in mind, it was early dawn and I could barely see where I was going. I sensed I was to go to this pier overlooking the lake. After time in prayer with God, I kept asking Him, “what do you want me to see Lord?” Finally, when the sun started to rise, He showed me this tree. I took a picture of it, and added the sun rays with a filter in Instagram. I sat there praying, asking God to tell me what He wanted me to know. At that point in time, I felt like He was telling me, “I don’t want you to be like this tree, Raquel. It’s in the middle of the lake, and yet it appears to be dead. Don’t live your life that way….connected to Me (the tree is ‘in’ the water and the water represents God), but feeling dead (having no leaves or fruit). I love you with an UNCONDITIONAL love, so you shouldn’t feel dead inside; you’re still connected to Me.” I really needed to hear that message from Him at that time. I was coming out of a tough season when I really didn’t feel vibrant, fruit-bearing, alive, or close to God. And God wanted me to know that He loved me, and because He loved me, He showed me a picture of what I was feeling. And He didn’t just leave me there to sulk in my feelings of drought. He was so gracious! There were five others on the pier near me. We all ended up gathering together, having an AMAZING time of worship and prayer for one another. It was in this community that I again sensed God’s love for me in a very tangible way. It was a powerful time for me! I didn’t want to forget what my Father was telling me and that experience. I wanted to commemorate this revelation that God had given me. In time, God revealed a way for me to “mark” that experience so that I would always remember His love for me. If you’d like to jump ahead in the story, you can read The Tree of Life Necklace. Otherwise, God wanted to show me another tree before I found the necklace.