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April Showers Bring May Flowers

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As I listen to the pitter- patter of rain outside, I couldn’t help but bask in the joy of God’s Word and the powerful promises He has woven throughout scripture. But every promise is only made pure through the One who has promised them. If we allow ourselves to just be still and not become caught up within the business of life, the Holy Spirit has opportunity to speak to us – to encourage our hearts and reveal His specific Word for our lives.

A couple months ago, I was reading my devotions and was prompted to read in the book of Joel. As I was reading a book that appeared small and insignificant and particularly unfamiliar to me, I came to a screeching halt in Chapter 2:23. “Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains for He is faithful. He sends abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.

As I read this verse, the Holy Spirit stopped me. I knew that I knew that I knew I must find out what this verse means and my starting point was to first figure out the significance of the autumn and spring rains. You see, in Israel, there were two seasons of anticipated rain – the autumn and the spring. The autumn rain fell within the months of October and November, while the spring rain fell between the calendar months of March and April.

A land void of adequate irrigation, Israel depended on God’s faithfulness to provide these seasons of rain for the livelihood of their crops, livestock and well-being. The rain signifies God’s faithful provision.

Now, I have previously shared how God has provided for Jesse and I – provided a new house and new employment time and time again, which all coincidentally (or perhaps not coincidentally) fell within these seasons of rain. I knew that God was reminding me of His faithfulness in our lives. But what I haven’t shared yet was the new and deeper revelation He gave me just days after. As it turns out, His faithful provision was only the beginning.

When Jesse and I first met, I knew he had a coach’s heart – he has a passion for the development and success of young athletes and it is evident that football has and always will be more than just a simple game of X’s and O’s. Jesse’s coaching career began early in our marriage. Oh, how those first football seasons tested my ability to share my husband’s time and commitment. Then came a profound moment in our lives, marriage and future – a defining moment of prophetic promise.  After Jesse and I were married a couple of years, my mother returned home from a women’s conference and told us the Holy Spirit spoke to her there. And He had a message for us.

She said, “the Holy Spirit told me ‘begin to call forth coach Jesse.'” At the time, we didn’t fully understand this, as Jesse was already coaching. But it wasn’t long before we realized that maybe coaching wasn’t just an interest or even a job. Maybe God was planning to use Jesse’s coaching as his platform for ministry – furthering God’s kingdom, one football call at a time.

As I read back through this verse in Joel, I felt as though there was more that God wanted me to understand. And so I began to dig a little deeper and study the Hebrew meaning of the autumn and spring rains.  When Israel came out of the dry heat of the summer, they were desperate for the life-giving autumn rain. But rather than send a heavy rain, God sent the autumn rain (yoreh), which means “a soft rain.”

I couldn’t help but wonder, in a land so parched, why did God only send a soft rain?

Because of the brittle, dusty ground, a heavy rain would only cause devastating floods. The soft autumn rain allowed enough water to gently absorb and soften the ground in order to allow the people to work in the soil. The autumn rain was preparing the ground for the spring rain (malkosh), which means heavy rain. This heavy rainfall brought the spring harvest, hence April showers bring May flowers.

It was through this meaning that I realized Jesse and I are in our autumn rain – our preparation season – and in due time, God would bring forth the spring rain. But what was God preparing us for? What have Jesse and I gone through all these years that is bringing us to a divine pinnacle?

Continuing in my study, I came across an article that spoke of the Hebrew meaning of the word rain. References of rain in the Bible have a couple different historical meanings, but the most common use for the word rain derives from the Hebrew word gashem, which is the root word for lehitgashem. Lehitgashem means “to fulfill; to call forth something into existence that currently does not appear to exist.”

After reading the final word of this definition, I recalled the promise God had spoken into existence about 7 years ago: “begin to call forth coach Jesse.” Just as God had spoken to Abraham and said, “I will make you the Father of many Nations,” so He was calling something into existence that did not currently appear to exist.

Abraham and his wife were childless and past child-bearing years when God spoke this word into Abraham. Just like a seed being planted – the seed is placed beneath the earth and covered. Does that mean the seed doesn’t exist? It exists! – it just hasn’t come to fruition yet. It’s a promise of what’s to come and in due time, God will send rain and call forth what He has spoken.

We don’t fully understand what exactly God plans to do, we just know that He has faithfully provided for our needs, He is preparing us for His glorious purpose, and He will fulfill every seed of promise He has planted in our hearts.

If you ever question the faithfulness of God, look to His word. If you feel like you’re walking in a dry season, the God who brought the autumn and spring rain to Israel is the same God who faithfully meets your needs today. For His word proclaims, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:8). If you feel God has laid a specific promise on your heart and you are anticipating that promise to come to fruition, His word says, “He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23). And if you believe you have a calling on your life, you are patiently in your autumn rain, God is preparing you, and you wonder when will the spring rain come, His word says, “He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion” (Philippians 1:6).

I want you to think about something for a moment…talking about Israel and its complete lack of irrigation – why did God choose Israel? He didn’t choose Egypt with its mighty Nile or Assyria with its Euphrates. No – He chose Israel because He wanted to be their source. He wanted His chosen people to look to heaven for their life-giving water. And to depend on the faithful God who brings the autumn and spring rains, as before.

God’s promise to the Israelites to enter the promised land:

“The land you are entering to take over is not like the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end. So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today – to love the Lord your God and serve him with all your heart and with all your soul – then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains” (Deuteronomy 11: 10- 14).

God is faithful to His Word, to His promises and His people.

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

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There Is Life in the Valley

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The lowly valley –  dry and dreary – void of life and sustenance. Despair hangs in the air – thick and suffocating.  The winding path ahead feels twice as long as the path behind and you’ve already reached your point of sheer exhaustion. Oftentimes, God teaches us our most profound lessons of faith and perseverance not when we are sitting along the warm, sunny hillside, but as we walk through the bleakness of the oppressed valley.

The wondrous hillside would not magnify the splendor of God’s majesty without requiring our eyes to gaze upon the valley

Having spent my own sufficient amount of time following God through the valleys, I learned that while it may seem that we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” there is life to be found – planted, cultivated and preserved. We often don’t know how we end up in the valley, but the valley doesn’t merely exist for us to always understand.

As  we wrestle with our burning desire to flee for the hills and away from the valley as quickly as humanly possible, sometimes God keeps us a while longer so we can stop running in circles and just remain still. Without knowing the way, our stillness forces our perspective not only towards what lies behind us and before us, but to closely observe the valley around us. And in those still, quiet moments, we discover that we are not abandoned. God was indeed right there the whole time.

 “Don’t fret in your valleys. Farm them.” – Lester Roloff

So perhaps the secret to learning the lessons in the valley is resisting the urge to sulk in our own feelings of discouragement and frustration. Rather than barrel through the valley with clenching fists, we ought to pause, open our hands and cultivate. Every season provides new opportunity to reap a rich harvest of His lessons and His presence. In every valley – as we thirst for answers – there is something to be found, if only we sit still long enough to discover them.

I can testify that I have basked in the presence of God the most during the sun’s absence. Within the darkness of the dry valley – when we feel the most powerless – God demonstrates His divine authority and grace. The valley is not a time to retreat, worry, and doubt. It’s a time to press in to God. Only then can we stand the chance to unveil His glory and His purpose for leading us there.

In Psalm 84, David writes, “blessed are those whose strength is in you (God), whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.”

The Valley of Baca – also known as The Valley of Tears – was a very dry wasteland and therefore incommodious for travelers in those hot countries, especially during hot seasons. The journey through this squelching, desolate valley was an incredibly difficult highway for those trekking towards Jerusalem. How appropriate the valley is also known as “The Valley of Tears,” considering it’s the valleys in our life that often bring us to our defining points of pain and sorrow.

David writes in this Psalm that on one particular journey, Jewish travelers, who were passing through the Valley of Baca on their way to the temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem, chose to relinquish their struggle to press on and did the unthinkable. Through eyes of faith, they wisely concluded that maybe the valley was not just simply meant for us to aimlessly pass through. Maybe there was more than meets the eye.

Instead of seeing the valley as the abandoned, death-ridden land it was, these travelers dug and cultivated the earth until their efforts led them to cisterns supplied with life-giving water.  God honored their efforts two-fold by multiplying the valley’s water with the help of the autumn rain. God-given life had sprung up in the midst of what seemed like a forsaken valley. Not only did these pools provide necessary water for these weary travelers, but it encouraged more people as they made their way to Jerusalem.

As we walk along our own journey through the valley – if we stop searching for the exit door, remain there and farm the valley instead – we not only find our source of strength, but we encourage the many other weary travelers who are also making their long journey through their own valley.

While everyone’s valleys may be distinctly different from one to the other, God can use the valley to replenish our strength and our faith in Him. If we are willing to cultivate the valley, He will surely cultivate our hearts. And if we allow God to dig through the dry, weary, dusty soil of our hearts, He will fill our cisterns with His Spirit – the living water – so that we are full of His blessings and wonder as He continues to pour into us in our most desperate time of need.

Even when the road is winding and we feel as though the mountain is far in the distance and we find ourselves walking from one valley to the next, we can go from “strength to strength” if we learn to find God where we’re standing. Sometimes we have to dig to find our answers. But when we seek, we shall find. We find His truth, His promises, His provision, His faithfulness – right there in the valley – He brings forth life.

And perhaps one day, as we rest upon the hillside with a new vantage point, we can look down at God’s splendor in the valley and exclaim, “what great things He has done.”

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker

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Secrets From A Target Mom

For every Mom in the free world, there is nothing like a trip to Target. Maybe it’s because Target is our convenient one-stop shop for everything. Maybe it’s Target’s irresistibly adorable style. Maybe it’s a little something extra they’re adding to our Starbucks. Whatever it may be, we can all agree that it is nearly impossible to visit Target and walk out empty-handed. But unfortunately, over-spending has become a regular occurrence for most of us moms who are always trying to be budget-conscious.

I’m not one for conspiracy theories, but I’m fairly convinced the Target sign is really a trick of hypnosis – disguised as a simple brand logo- that disorients our ability to rationalize and shuts off our capacity to refuse anything shiny, sparkly or marked with a red sticker.

Only at Target, can you walk in with full intention to buy milk and leave with two shirts, flip flops, new bed sheets, a dish set, and a beach ball, while somehow manage to completely forget the original purpose for your visit. And yet, we’re still utterly mystified when we hear our total at the checkout.  So how can we take more advantage of Target instead of Target taking advantage of us?

Pay close attention. What I’m about to tell you just might change your life – or at least your next Target experience.

  1. Purchase Items According to Their Scheduled Mark Down. That’s right. Target marks down prices on particular departments each day of the week:

Monday: Accessories, Kid’s Clothing, Electronics, Baby, Stationary, and Books

Tuesday: Women’s Clothing, Pets, Market Food Items, and Domestics

Wednesday: Health and Beauty, Men’s Clothing, Lawn/ Garden, and Furniture

Thursday: Housewares, Shoes, Toys, Décor, Sporting Goods and Luggage

Friday: Cosmetics, Hardware, Jewelry and Auto Items

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  2. Pay Attention to Clearance Price Tags. The price tag says a lot about item mark-downs. The lower left-hand corner of the price tag says the original price, while the upper right corner says the discount percentage. More importantly, if the price tag ends in $0.06 or $0.08, the item will eventually be marked down again. But if the price ends in $0.04, the item has reached it’s final mark down.

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3. Opt For the Debit REDcard than the Credit REDcard.  Retail credit cards are infamously high on interest. You will receive 5% off at purchase, but will pay 17-24% more if you don’t pay off your balance by the end of the month. Instead, go for the debit card. This card is simply linked to your checking account and will withdraw the purchase funds within 2-3 days – free of charge – and still saves you the 5%, even on Starbucks purchases!

4. Target Offers Price-Match. If you find an item you want in a competitor’s ad, you can bring it to Target and they will price match it – no questions asked. Then you can use your REDcard to save an additional 5% off.

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   5. Download/Check Cartwheel. Just in case you’ve been living under a rock the past couple of years, Target’s Cartwheel app brings the power of savings right to your fingertips. If you have already downloaded the Cartwheel app, be sure to check it before you head out to Target in order to take advantage of receiving discounts on your necessary purchases.

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6. Shop the End Caps. Most avid Target shoppers are well aware of the clearance isle, as well as the $1/$3 isle at the front of the store, but did you know sale items are also found throughout the store at the end caps of most isles? Yes, it’s true! Make sure you don’t cut corners on saving by turning the isle corners too quickly.

  7. Combine Manufacturer Coupons with Target Deals For Ultimate Savings. Combining coupons is one of the best secrets to big savings. But considering ad hunting and coupon clipping is tedious and time consuming, what would you say if I told you someone else has already done the work for you? Go to Couponmom.com to match weekly Target deals to manufacturer coupons. Couponmom for the win!

8. Take Advantage of Holiday Clearance. Shopping at Target after a holiday can mean big savings, especially when armed with the knowledge of holiday mark down schedules. While every Target may vary some, there is a general schedule for post-holiday sales:

 50% off – the day after the holiday

75% off – three days after

90% off – one week after

    9. Grab Daily Deals. Target.com lists up to five discounted items on it’s Daily Deals page each day.  Plus, these items ship for free! So if you find something you need to purchase on here, you’ve just landed a great bargain!

   10. Shop at Goodwill. You might be wondering what shopping at Goodwill has to do with saving money at Target – a lot more than you may realize – considering that Target frequently donates their unsold merchandise to Goodwill. And since Goodwill is a thrift store, you can guarantee the savings are big – maybe even better than Target’s clearance isle!

God’s Blessings,

The Humble Homemaker