Happy Thanksgiving!

Vacuum, dust, clean bathrooms, brine the turkey, prep the cranberry sauce, and on, and on…  This is exactly what was on my list leading up to today.  Oh, and today has it’s own lengthy list as well!  Is this what your “Thanksgiving” looks like?  Walking through the packed to the gills grocery section earlier this week I could see it on everyone’s faces.  Are we truly thankful, or are we caught up in the most beautiful and tasty meal?

And as I sit to write this, all I can think about is…  stop it Martha!  And no, I’m NOT referring to Martha Stewart.  I’m the Martha that Jesus talks about in the well known Mary-Martha story in Luke (Ch. 10:38-42).

Many of you know that I love to cook and one of my greatest joys is to cook the Thanksgiving meal and to host people.  I cook the same meal (in the same quantity) if it’s just my husband and myself, or if I’m having 8 people over.  And I like to clean as much as cook, so I’m whisking away and washing dishes as quickly as they are dirtied!  But am I truly thankful?  Do I put the time into counting my blessings as much as I put into making the perfect meal and being the perfect hostess?  Not. Even. Close.  Jesus wants us to “choose the good portion” like Mary did.

What does that mean when I’m still responsible for hosting and cooking?  I believe it means to not fuss over the small details and to be with those you love and truly spend time with them.  The dishes can wait.  The TV can stay off for 30 minutes longer.  Talk about your blessings with each other.  And don’t just say I’m thankful for “you” or for “everything God provides”.  Be intentional this year.  Tell the people in your flock exactly why you are thankful for them.  Tell God exactly what you are thankful for Him providing to you.

An exercise one of our pastors encouraged us to do is to use your fingers and list off 10 blessings that God has provided.  And not just on Thanksgiving day, but everyday.  How would our lives change if we started the day with 10 positive acknowledgements of God’s love in our lives?  I dare to say it would be transformational.  If you have an accountability partner, which I highly encourage you do, talk about that with them.  Have them hold you accountable.

Finally, Jamie and I are truly thankful for our flock of friends, readers, and students that we have made through this ministry.  You all bless us more than you know!

Cara

Happy birthday…….

Today my aunt would have been 73 years old.  I still keep her birthday on my calendar even though I haven’t celebrated with her in eight years.  She now celebrates her birthday in heaven where she happens to be saving me a seat.  We had an agreement that whoever made it first, the other one had to save a seat.

I dedicate November 20th of every year to remembering her more than the other 364.  Her life was full of challenges – poor health for the majority of her life, her father passed away when she was only 13 leaving her to care for my grandmother, not many earthly riches (but always enough to satisfy her), and finding love late in life celebrating only nine anniversaries with him.

Despite the battles she fought there was always one thing I could count on her for – unconditional love.  With the exception of my incredible husband, I have never felt such love here on earth.  Love that was never to be questioned, love that ran deeper than any ocean on the planet, love that saw past every single imperfection, love that knew what I needed before I knew it myself.

Where did she get this gift she gave to me so freely?  I firmly believe it was obedience.

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (ESV)

She had the most trusting childlike faith in the Father I have ever witnessed.  I know absolutely her earthly life was no picnic, but her spiritual life and relationship with Him gave her all she needed to demonstrate all encompassing love.

The witness of her life goes before me daily, helping when the rough patches hit, reminding me God is enough.

So happy birthday in heaven, Joyce.  Some day I will hear you say the words “little one” again.  Until then, save my seat!

Tend your flock well shepherdess (hearts, minds and bodies) – as my shepherdess aunt tended me.

Jamie

Imperfectly perfect…..

I saw an inspirational post yesterday on Facebook that said “You don’t have to be perfect to be amazing!”.  Most people would have just hit the “Like” button and moved on.  But that post was profound to me.  My first reaction was – “Ouch”.  That one hits home in many ways.  Let’s say I’m a Type A personality.  I personally hold myself to a higher standard than anyone around me.  I hate when something is not done to my standard and this has been a detriment for me.  You know it’s bad when your annual evaluation from your supervisor for multiple years specifically stated that I needed to stop being so hard on myself when I didn’t meet my own standard.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t strive to do good, or to produce quality work, but we must understand that perfection can never be attained.  NEVER.  Only One has been and will ever be perfect.  So what is my motivation for perfection?  Deep down, I want others to approve of what I do, to be impressed, to think highly of me, like me…which is a pride issue.  Life is messy, things come up, computers glitch, plans go awry, people disappoint, and we have no control over these things (which control is a whole other post for another time).  What does approval of our fellow humans gain us?  Our focus has turned to our left and to our right, not up.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man?
If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10 (ESV)

Dear friends, when we push for perfection, we are actually turning our eyes from the One above who loves us, no matter our imperfections.  He sees us as amazing, no matter if the spell check didn’t catch errors, or grammar is bad, or anything that fell short of our expectations.  All that matters is that we are a servant of His, doing His will and doing it to the best of our ability.  He will never disappoint us!

Cara

 

Life is like……….

Life is like a 22 benchrest match.  Now wait………don’t go anywhere – there really is a point to this story!!!!  Stay with me, be curious and please continue reading.

One of my hobbies is competitive shooting.  Most of the competitions I enter are more about shooting fast and less about accuracy, just having to hit the target anywhere.  I recently competed in a 22 benchrest match and fell in love with the format.  Unlike the other matches, this one is about slowwwwww and accurate.

Here is a cliff notes version of what happens at the match.  I am seated and my rifle is on a table (bench) and stabalized on a gizmo called a ‘rest’.  I will shoot at distances of 50, 75 and 100 yards using a scope to zero in on the target.  I have 20 minutes to shoot 20 rounds.  20 minutes is like – forever!

The idea is for me to put the cross hairs on the target’s center, calm myself to eliminate all body movement (aka being still), hold my breath, press the trigger, and trust the round goes where intended.  The body should be still enough that your heartbeat is the only thing that can make the rifle move (ideally pressing the trigger between heartbeats).  That, my friends, is still!  But it is a challenge – we are living, breathing entities, so by our very nature our bodies move.  Add to this challenge 1) distance (my eyes are old),  2) any wind that might be dancing around (I have seen wind flags blowing in opposite directions while being only 25 yards apart),  3) dampness in the air (damp air is thicker than dry air making it harder for the round to travel), and 4) gravity (which we all know ‘pulls’ things down).  Of all the skills that are needed for this match, being still is probably the most important.

So how does this parallel life?   This morning while driving to work I was contemplating this weekend’s match and thinking about the importance of being still so my chances of the perfect shot increase.  Psalm 46:10 came to me which begins with the words “Be still and know that I am God……”

Be still!

Be still so that you can hear God when He speaks.   Be still so that you can know God and recognize when something comes from Him.  Be still and rest in His peace.  Be still so that you can feel Him in your heartbeat.  Be still so that you have the best chance of hitting the target He intends you to find.

Life is stressful, it is fast, it can be overwhelming.  If this describes your world try developing these skills –  1) calm yourself (bring your heart rate down, slow your breathing),  2) adjust for the wind (life is full of gusts, let them die down before acting),  3) adjust for dampness (sometimes people and things try to rain all over us), and 4) don’t let gravity affect you (there are some who delight in trying to ‘pull’ you down).

Tend your flock well shepherdess, and remember to Be Still.

Jamie

 

 

My glass is full…..

My glass is full………of chocolate milk……and still sitting on the counter where I left it!  (Insert very long sigh here) Every morning I drink a glass of chocolate milk on my way to work (Fairlife Fat Free with sugar free Hershey Syrup=YUM!).   It’s a great way to start the day, you just can’t go wrong with chocolate ‘anything’ in my book!

So why is my milk still sitting on the counter?  Because my brain was thinking too far in the future to recognize where I was in the present.

This morning I was already mentally at the office, and I hadn’t even walked out of the door.  Matthew 6:34 tells us “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. “(ESV)  This verse tells us to think ‘present’, not ‘future’.  The result of this was – chocolate milk still sitting on the counter.

Now don’t get me wrong – planning is a great thing.  I plan almost every aspect of my life.  I love to make lists and love to check completed items off those lists.  The problem we encounter with planning is that we may get so wrapped up in the process or the plan itself that we are oblivous of the present.

Which is exactly what I did this morning – I was focused on the future and not on the present.  So no chocolate milk for me this morning.  Why was this so bad you ask?  I dived deeply into that question on the drive to work.  I can certainly live without my chocoate milk, it truly is a small inconvenience.  So again, why was this so bad?

Here are examples of  when this ‘in the future’ focus might turn into something big and potentially have dire consequences.

What if I am so focused on the future that I miss God’s message?
What if I’m so focused on the future that I fail to give my husband a goodbye kiss (I didn’t)?
What if I’m so focused on the future that I did not see that car coming as I was turning?  What if I’m so focused on the future that I did not notice the potential threat to my safety looming?
What if _____________________________? (you fill in the blank)

Focusing and making plans for the future are good things as long as you keep them in perspective, but remember we are not promised tomorrow.  Proverbs 27:1 tells us “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” (ESV)

Make your plans, look ahead, but stay rooted in where you are today.  Be observent of what is going on around you.  Tend your flock well shepherdess, the wolf or bear may come today and being present in your surroundings is key to safety.

Present in our surroundings is also how you will make certain that chocolate milk doesn’t spend the day on the counter.

Jamie

 

 

Ordinary people, extraordinary things…..

Oil and perfume make the heart glad,
and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.  (Pr 27:9 ESV)

A lunch meeting for some accounting help.  Who would have thought something so simple would have been so profound as to get the Shepherdess ministry from an idea that was brewing for years to becoming a reality.  That’s how God works.  He takes ordinary people and does extraordinary things, when you least expect it.  I did not go to that meeting expecting to have hearts touched and end up here a few weeks later, but our God works in mysterious ways.

Ladies, our relationships are paramount.  God created us to live in community with Him and with others.  Our flock isn’t just our family, but it includes those we live life with, your friends.  Don’t rush times with those friends.  That “quick” lunch meeting turned into a 3 hour conversation across multiple topics.  Of course, I kept looking at my watch, and thinking of the things needing to be done, and holding my friend up MUCH too long for a lunch meeting.  That’s NOT what He wanted.

Don’t rush God’s work.  It may be just what your friend needed at the time, even using words that you didn’t think would have a huge impact.  That’s exactly what happened.  I was just looking out for my friend and her faith.  But your words may just be what your friends need to affirm the Holy Spirit leading them on something.  It gave the courage to move forward with this ministry, of which I am so grateful, and pray that you all will benefit as well.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
(1Th 5:11 ESV)

Love and nurture your extended flock shepherdess!

Cara

Thank you…..

To our Veterans past, present and future – THANK YOU!

Have you ever stopped to think what your world would be like were it not for our Veteran’s?

Would we speak a different language?  Would we have different foods, homes, careers?  Would our family paradigm look different?

We have no true way of knowing if things would be different if our Veterans had not sacrificed life and limb in the face of evil, but I for one am glad I do not have to find out.

I enjoy many freedoms that are protected by the sacrifice of those brave men and women and the families who love(d) them.

Not just today, but every day, when you meet a Veteran, remember to thank them!

Beauty abounds…..

“let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy” Psalm 96:12 ESV

Fall is my favorite time of year.  The trees are turning, the nights are cool and the days warm up as the sun shares it’s warmth.  Even cloudy days have their place – the colors of the trees appear more vibrant on a cloudy day.

This year we have had plenty of rain and as the temps are dropping, the trees are outdoing themselves.  Every time I look outside I see glorious color!  The trees truly are singing for joy as they prepare to sleep for the winter.

While winter is NOT my favorite time of year (in fact it sits number 4 on the list after fall, spring and summer), it does remind me in ways of the death and resurrection of Christ.  He began his ministry (summer), He knew time was growing short as he prepared the disciples for what was to come (fall), He was crucified (winter), then He rose from the grave (spring).

As winter approaches, with it’s cold temps and gray skies, may we hold onto the promise of rebirth in the spring.

But until then, I plan to enjoy every single minute of fall.  Thank you trees for the joy you sing.

Tend your flock well shepherdess.

Jamie

 

 

In The Beginning……

This journey began about two years ago when God placed the desire in my heart to help others stay safe.  I had recently started learning to shoot, and discovered I truly enjoyed it.  During the process I recognized how important it is that we learn how to defend ourselves and that it was going to take time and training.

I have spent a good amount of time during this past year getting advanced training so I can be a good instructor to others.  Still in the back of my mind was how to help others stay safe.  The choice of having a firearm for protection is one that should come from seeking God’s guidance and is a different decision for everyone.  Many factors must be considered while thinking this through.

Understanding that the choice to protect ourselves is very personal and that some may need guidance with the decision, I realized it was time for this ministry to move from the back burner to the front.  God opened many doors for this shepherdess in one 24 hour period and sent continual affirmation that this is good.

The Good Shepherdess Ministry is designed to be a traveling ministry, taking education and information to others about ways to stay safe in today’s world, while walking in God’s will.  Our focus is helping a woman become a good shepherdess, one who has the knowledge and skills to keep her flock safe.  With my friend and training partner Cara, the work has begun.

Central to all of this is obedience…………listening and going where God leads.

Please enjoy the journey with us.