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Monday, April 23, 2012

Standing Up After Being Knocked Down

I'm overdue to write my monthly blog ... for good reason. I just didn't feel like writing. Recently, like many others in my circle of influence, I feel like the "hits" just keep coming. My friend called to tell me she has cancer. It "knocked me down" for a few days. Then, I had to pick myself up and be her encourager ... even when very selfishly I didn't feel like it ... I was having trouble getting past my own sadness. Sometimes, it just "backs up" on you.

My husband's Dad had a stroke awhile ago and is still suffering the effects of it. When Paul visited his Dad a few weeks ago, he found his family still mad at God and wondering "why." Several of us tried to provide "answers" to assist him with family discussions. "Unfortunately, it's the human condition. God didn't MAKE this happen. He did ALLOW it to happen and He will use it for His glory, because He loves us. And, thankfully, because of His mercy, He offers us far better than what we deserve."

Another friend has a neurological disorder with no cure. She used to sing like a bird and play the guitar. Recently, I sat beside her in church and I noticed she wasn't singing or she couldn't. My heart broke knowing that music is her "gift." And, it was an amazing gift. She just leaned over and hugged me and said ... "I love listening to you sing. You're voice has matured so much. I'll just listen to you sing." She sat with her arm around me with her eyes closed, a peace-filled smile on her face, reveling in God's music and the gift of song ... in a new way. So, I sang my heart out for her and the Lord. She still finds joy and rejoicing in music. God is still at work in her.

So, remembering her strength and courage and knowing that God will use this as an opportunity, I look at the long road ahead for my friend with cancer. I can't lose sight of God and His will along the way. I pray daily that I will do the right things for her, say the right things to her and be the witness He called me to be ... making certain that others see His glory through this situation. His "road map" for this particular journey is found in the book of Romans ...

Romans 12:11-12
... be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation and devoted to prayer. '

I would be grateful if you would please keep these people in your prayers.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

While You've Been Away ...

Last week, I had coffee with a dear friend whom I had not seen or talked to for quite some time. We picked right up where we left off. We didn't "skip a beat." I miss her ... we need to get together more often. We caught up on each other's lives and offered advice on this and that. This morning, I had an email from her that said ... no, it screamed ..."I LOVE YOU! Thanks for sharing this wonderful life journey with me." That's what friends do ... time and distance can't keep us from loving each other.

It's the same with God. No matter how long it's been since you've "talked (prayed)," He's all ears and you can pick right up where YOU left off ... He's waiting for you to show up and lay it all on His altar. If you really listen, you'll hear Him ... "I LOVE YOU!"

Last night, I was listening to Paul and Sam who were upstairs having quite a conversation. Sam told his Dad, "I love you to as far away as the Star Wars world, and as far back as the dinosaur world."

That, my friends, is a whole lot o' lovin.' But, God loves us beyond measure or description. It's not a cliche ... God loves YOU. If you are not "feelin' it," you are not earnestly seeking Him ... He's there ... just waiting for YOU to "show up."

John 3:16
For God so loved you, that He gave His one and only Son. If you believe in Him, you will not perish, but receive everlasting life.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Life of Appreciation and Contentment

Some of you who read this may know that we have some friends who just left for the mission field. As I read their emails, tears well up in my eyes and my heart aches for them. They write about the struggle over learning a new language and try to deal without the basics of living -- food, water, supplies. They wait for rain that never comes to fill barrels for drinking. And, they haven't gotten to the most difficult part of their training yet.

Last year, a missionary spoke at an event I attended. She raised her family on the mission field in the Philippines. She spoke of what a blessing it was to raise her children overseas, in the jungle, without all of the luxuries that American children think they need. I've been struggling with this particular issue regarding our own children and those around me in our communities.

The "entitlement" attitude and always wanting more saddens me and to be perfectly honest, frustrates me to no end. People today never seem to appreciate all that they "have."  Because of a little thing called a "custody agreement," it isn't likely we will be heading off to the mission field with the kids. I am pretty sure God wouldn't call us to a life in missions just to "teach our kids this lesson" ... so, we pray. We pray that God will work in our children to help them appreciate God's blessings and those around them. We set boundaries and try to set an example.

My parents have always set this example for us. We always had just enough and when we had more than enough, they lived their lives the same way ... "the Lord has given us just enough." They are content with whatever the Lord provides.

We continue to pray that we be appreciative of His blessings, that we would be content with what God has given us, because He tells us in scripture that whatever He provides IS enough.

The woman who spoke about raising her family on the mission field, lost her husband in "the rescue." Two weeks ago, a husband and wife mission team in Mexico were killed for their faith. So, if you have time today, please pray for those on the mission field ... for water ... for strength and rest ... and also for their safety.

And pray for those around you ... for contentment in circumstances and learning that whatever God gives us is what we are entitled to have and we should never want for more ... easier said than done in our "human-ness."

I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. - Philippians 4:11

Monday, January 9, 2012

Living "At Home" Forever

5-year olds are just funny, aren't they?  They have such a different perspective on how life should go.

We inform Sam that we are keeping a list of all of things we are going to do at his house when he is old enough to own his own home (i.e. drop cereal on the floor, leave his little Darth Vader underwear on the coffee table, much on BBQ potato chips and let orange crumbs fall to the floor for someone else to clean up, smear sticky syrup on the sofa, etc). 

He comments that he just won't tell us where his house is ... to which we respond that we won't be able to bring him Christmas presents. Hmm ... He thinks about it and says, "Well, what about heaven ... you can't bring a list to heaven." I tell him, "Oh, My Love, but I AM bringing the list to heaven." He just looks at me ... no comeback for that one. He does a lot of thinking about these things.

At the dinner table, he often informs us that he is "never moving out! I will just live with Dad and Jen forever!"  Really? While that strikes terror into the hearts of any parent, especially the parents of teenagers, we know they would jump at the chance to be on their own after a certain age.

Sam's comment makes me think about the prospect of living with my Father forever. Not my earthly father (that wouldn't go over very well), but my Heavenly Father. At this very moment, He is preparing a place for us.

John 14:2   In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

I made an important decision in my life at the age of 9. I am thankful that someone led me to the Lord at an early age.  I am also confident in where I am going at the end of this life and that Christ is preparing a place for me.

In the meantime, we'll keep making the list for Sam, and no, I won't be bringing his list to heaven. Thank goodness I am forgiven and the Lord won't be bringing mine!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Ready Or Not, Here It Comes...

The presents are wrapped, the refrigerator is full, the lights twinkle on the tree and excitement abounds! It's almost Christmas.

Every night, 5-year old Sam studies the Nativity in the library and asks questions. Last night, he kept examining "the players..." and his little eyebrows kept knitting together ... he was perplexed. "Where is God? Is that God," he asked looking at Joseph. We explained, "No, that is Jesus' father, Joseph." We also told him that the woman in the Nativity was Jesus' mother Mary. "Hmm, I didn't know Jesus had a mother, he says."

He continued, "God isn't here, He's in heaven." I tried to explain to Sam that God is with us in our hearts, just like when he's not at home, he loves his Dad and holds him in his heart. To which he responded, "If you don't have God in your heart, you go down to be with the devil." He's trying really hard to understand how all of this "stuff" fits together.

In the Bible, the book of Colossians states, that there are mysteries of God that we, as rational human beings just won't understand, until we find ourselves in heaven. The Christmas story is not "rational," it's a miracle. Jesus is fully God, but He chose to come to earth as a baby, through the virgin Mary, to save us. So, yes, Jesus is both God and man.

My husband, Paul, has been teaching Sam a little science that we may have to use to explain God. Water exist in three states, a liquid, a solid and a gas ... water, ice and steam, but in any form, it's still water. In many ways, God is like a family with a father, mother and child - three persons, one family. Much like water, ice and steam, God exists in three persons: God, the father, God, the Son and God, the Holy Spirit ... still all very much God.

As we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate, God the Son ... Jesus. It's time to set aside our rational "selves" and embrace the miracle that came in the form of a birth and the fact Jesus came willingly as a babe to save us from our sins. What a tragedy if the "story" had ended differently.

Merry Christmas from the Canelos Family and remember to revel in the birth of our Savior this Christmas season.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Journey of Service

Thanksgiving is a memory and we look forward to the celebration of Christ's birth. I seem to become more emotional and a little bit sentimental, AND, realizing I haven't been a kid for a very long time, I think about the past and all of the changes since those growing up years.

We were recently invited to celebrate the 30th anniversay of the church in which I grew up. In his sermon, Pastor Mike discussed the church and what it really means when you say the word "church." In most mind, it conjurs the image of a building. However, no where in scripture does God use the word "church" to descibe a building. It's the people. When I look back at my childhood, my church was "the people." And they weren't just "the church." They were/are family.

While we are not with them regularly, what a fitting time of year to visit these people ... the church. It is like "going home"... to family. I can't imagine where I would be if God had not brought that group of people together to serve God and each other ... and be His church. I am convinced my life would have turned out very differently ... I would not be the same person.

Our church lost a dear friend early in 2011. And when I think about her role in my life and in the church, it was all about service. I know her family and friends miss her, especially during holiday season. But I also rejoice in my heart for her ... what must it be like to celebrate Christmas in heaven ... with Jesus?!

In heaven, there is no worry about putting on a few pounds from the Christmas ham or picking just the right outfit for the Christmas party ... no worry about selecting the perfect gift. HE IS the perfect gift.

My kids look at me like I am crazy when they ask me what I would like for Christmas and my answer is, "I don't need a thing." I have the perfect gift ... Jesus ... and, while God's plan was put into action long ago in a small church in southern Iowa, I am still on a journey of service for my King.

Monday, November 14, 2011

"A Lot of Stuff On Your Plate"

My 5 year old often says things that make me laugh ... it's amazing how profound he can be without even knowing it. Last week, he stopped coloring, looked up and asked, "Jen, do you know what Thanksgiving means?" He thought for a moment and his eyes narrowed and his little eyebrows met. "Well ... hmm ... it means having a lot of stuff on your plate!" 

I can't believe it is mid-November. Everywhere I turn, I see Christmas decorations, pre-black Friday sales, the stores extending their hours to "holiday hours" ... Each year, it starts earlier and the stress levels increase.  Even this little, 5-year old boy notices that stores have "pushed" aside Thanksgiving in an effort to increase their own profits before year-end. Stores even open on Thanksgiving to make sure they get their "piece of the pie."

When I look ahead toward the holidays, it makes me tired ... just thinking about all of the things that have to be done. Sam said it best when he used the phrase ... "having a lot of stuff on your plate." Each year, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep "all of those plates spinning" and the focus in the right place.

While others get sucked into and dragged down by the craziness of "the holidays," while people fight over the last "bargain,"  I find myself grateful in an ungrateful world ... giving thanks when no one around me is thankful. I am counting my blessings, when others around me feel less than blessed.

I have learned (the hard way) that the "stuff on my plate" just doesn't matter. I can't let it "fill me up." I have to be selective about what I place "on my plate, be careful what I 'eat' " and look past it to the Giver of all good things.  I am so immensely thankful for all that HE has provided ... not the world. That fact that God has blessed me beyond anything I could have ever hoped or imagined is ever present before me.

What's on your plate this holiday season?  I personally don't want to look back at Thanksgiving and Christmas with regret that I wasn't focused on giving thanks for all He has given me or celebrating the birth of my personal Savior.

So during this Thanksgiving and Christmas season, I am going to be very selective of what I "put on my plate" and start a new year with no regrets ... I hope you will too!

"I am too blessed to be stressed and too anointed to be disappointed." - anonymous