There is too much noise.
Have you ever had days or even weeks like that?
My brain won’t be quiet amidst the whirlwind of life going on around me.
I am a thinker. I love to think on God’s word. I love to think about life lessons He has for me. I love to voice my thoughts to God as I pray.
I love moments of quiet with Jesus.
What if life isn’t quiet though?
Morning until evening. Constant.
No time to gather your thoughts or be still with God.
I tend to assume that my blog suffers at times like these. I fret. I can’t seem to focus on what I should write about because I can’t seem to gather just a few moments to think, and when an opportunity presents itself, my brain strays and I end up focusing on everything else that’s going on in my life at the time. I find myself wishing for a miracle. I find myself begging God in the late hours of the night to give me a message of hope, but often I strive in my own strength.
Trying to think. Trying to push past the noise.
The noise hasn’t all been bad. There has been beautiful noise. The laughter of grandchildren. Wedding songs and vows made. The fellowship of extended family. Ladies discussing the study of God’s word. Church services and beautiful old hymns being sung.
But then there has been the noise of other things. Things that push past quiet moments and steal away my thoughts toward God. The noise of traffic as we travel. The noise of packing and unpacking and packing again. The noise of responsibility and to do lists screaming at us to get finished before the noise of hospital stays next week. The noise of worry over my husband’s upcoming surgery. The noise of wondering and what ifs.
And I just want to stop.
I yearn for the quiet. I yearn for God.
But my brain doesn’t want to be quiet.
This morning I stole a few moments from my day. I turned on my Bible app and I sat and made myself listen to God’s words. I quietly asked Him to speak to me. To speak past the noise. To speak past the whirlwind in my brain.
He never fails.
Today He showed me the simple passage of the blind man in Mark 8. Jesus took him away from all the noise. Away from the city, (v. 23) and then He touched him.
It didn’t happen right away~
that miracle God had just for him.
Jesus asked him a simple question.
“Do you see anything?” (v. 23)
But things were still blurry to the man. So Jesus touched him again, and that’s when the miracle happened.
The man could see.
In that moment as I read, I knew that I needed to stop talking AT Jesus. I knew I needed to stop asking Him for something to write. Stop begging Him for a message of hope that might help others. I needed my brain to get away from it all and allow Jesus to speak to me. I didn’t need just the right words to share with the world, (Mark 8:26) I needed His words to see things clearer. I didn’t need a message of hope to write for my blog, I needed a message of hope FOR MY OWN HEART.
In that moment, I heard His message.
Do you see? Do you see me? I am here.
It was blurry at first. Like the blind man, the noise still seemed larger than life to me. Like looming trees. (Mark 8:24)
I read that passage and then read it again.
And then the miracle happened.
I could see. So clearly.
I didn’t need the quiet.
I was the one who needed to be quiet.
I needed to look at Jesus and listen to Him.
It never ceases to amaze me that I can read scripture countless times and miss a tiny morsel of knowledge that God has for me and then suddenly He touches me with His words and miracles happen. My eyes are opened and I see exactly what I need at the exact moment I need it.
The blind man didn’t question God and ask why he couldn’t see after the first attempt, Jesus questioned the blind man. Sometimes we just need to be quiet, stop striving and just listen to God and apply His words to our souls so that are eyes are opened to His truths.
Maybe some of you might feel like your life is out of control right now. The noise is deafening and your heart is crying out, but you just can’t seem to focus on God. Let me encourage you today.
Stop trying. Get away from it all, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Then, stop talking AT Jesus and allow Him to speak to you. Get yourself a bible app and listen to His miraculous words.
Your chaos. Your busy. Your overwhelm and your noise will all be silenced in awe of Him and you will feel His peace wash over you.
What do you see?
Imagine opening your eyes amidst the chaos that looms over your soul. Imagine opening your eyes and seeing Jesus there. Smiling back at you.
That’s the miracle that can happen if you just stop to listen.
I can remember sitting in Cobo arena with my parents.
Thousands of people were there to hear one man speak. I was probably only in 7th or 8th grade but I can vividly remember looking at that crowd and thinking how amazingly beautiful it would be if I were in that man’s shoes, reaching and encouraging thousands for the Lord. I prayed that someday, somehow I could glorify Jesus that way.
I finished high school with a longing in my heart to be a teacher. I enrolled in college with a major in elementary education. I loved teaching and I loved children. I just knew God placed that desire within me and I prayed that someday that desire would be fulfilled.
I got married and we started a family. Since grade school I had dreamt of becoming an author and publishing a book. I started with a course on children’s writing. I had so many thoughts in my head that I wanted my pen to tell. I prayed that someday, when my children were grown and my life was less busy God would allow me that dream.
In each instance I asked God~
Would You allow this for me? Could You? But as the years went by~
I thought His answer to each of these was no.
I have never gotten to reach or encourage thousands of people in an arena.
I never was an elementary school teacher. I never wrote or published a book.
I married a pastor and eventually we moved to a small town in the thumb of MI. No huge crowds. No large arenas. A pastor’s wife at a tiny church of less than 100.
The years went by. I raised my children and watched and prayed as each left our little home and then one day...
as I sat and listened to the broken heart of a woman seeking counsel, God whispered to my own heart to begin something new.
That was this.
The beginning of Holding Hope.
And so, yesterday as I thanked Him for this beautiful privilege He has allowed me~
He showed me.
and He did.
40 years after the quiet prayer of a shy girl in the midst of thousands, He answered.
He didn’t answer in the way I expected.
No, I don’t get up in an arena and talk to thousands. From my very small town in the Midwest, God chose to use social media as His platform instead. Holding Hope.
No, I never taught in a school. God brought me to a church where, for a long time I was the only teacher for the children there. For 25 years He has allowed me to fulfill that dream and today I teach along side my own children in that very same church. And no, I have never published or even written a book, but every week God allows this pen to write the stories He puts in my heart.
Don’t give up. Wherever you might be right now, whatever your prayer, whatever your dream~ God has your answer. It might not come tomorrow or next week or next year. It might take 40 years, but He will answer.
Hold on to that hope.
You might be a student, sitting in a classroom wondering if God could ever use you to reach and encourage others.
You might be a mama, sitting in the middle of babies and bottles and diapers with a “someday” dream tucked away in your heart.
You might be a grandmother who hasn’t even realized that God has already answered your prayers.
He has always been faithful, even in my unfaithfulness.
My no was His yes.
Search your heart for His yes and when you find it, you will find so many more answers to the prayers you have whispered through the years.
Prayers you may have forgotten~
but He never did,
and He never will.
*Repost from 1/23/20
I was upstairs brushing my teeth when I heard it. My husband was still downstairs, and as he left the den he said~
”Alexa, turn off the lights please.”
He said “please” to Alexa. 😂
In case you aren’t aware, (according to Google) Alexa is a ‘virtual assistant technology smart speaker.’
My rough and tough husband said please to a little, non human speaker.
(I love him so much 🥰)
I started laughing so hard that I had to sit down. I wasn’t sure he even realized he said it, so I didn’t bring it up. The next night as we were both heading upstairs, he again asked Alexa to turn off the lights. I stopped and looked at him~
and I knew he knew.
He was trying to hide the smirk on his face. He innocently asked “what??” Trying not to laugh I responded
“you forgot to say please.”
And we both burst out laughing.
The whole Alexa incident got me thinking about our lives and all the technology and answers that are right at our fingertips. You can Google anything nowadays and get an answer in minutes. As long as it is plugged in, I can ask Alexa a question and get an immediate response.
Somehow this need for immediate results has crept over into our
We want answers from God right NOW.
Technology has wonderful benefits, but when it comes to the way we think and perceive life, it can have its downfalls. The news is constantly bombarding us with the horror this world throws at us~ all within minutes of when it happened. We fear. We self diagnose. We binge watch. We covet. We buy more. We fear more. We get depressed. We worry.
Mental health has spiraled downward.
And then we end up questioning God’s love for us.
My daughter and I were having this conversation a few weeks back. She made the comment that she didn’t think God ever intended for us to have this much information at our fingertips 24/7.
I remember responding that ‘back in the day, all a woman had to think about was taking care of her family and Jesus.
Eyes and heart always on the Lord, because nothing else was around to take His place’.
It’s time for us to get back to loving God. A tender, fervent, personal love. Get back to digging deep into His word. Get back to seeking Him with our whole heart. Get back to giving our families to Jesus and raising them to love Him with their everything. Get back to talking to Him continually. Asking Him for the answers. Trusting Him for the outcomes. Being still in His presence and having faith in His unbelievable love for us. A love that is ALWAYS for us and NEVER against us. A love that can’t be measured or bought. A love freely given because of His Son.
(John 15:10, Romans 8:31-39, Ephesians 2:8-9, 3:18)
We are too wrapped up in today. (Revelation 2:4) ‘Loving God with our everything’ has become a passing Christian phrase with no real meaning. And because our love has waned, our laughter has been lost. We often treat God like He’s Alexa, and quite often we don’t even say please. We have forgotten that the joy of the Lord is our strength and in His presence is fullness of joy. (Nehemiah 8:10, Psalm 16:11)
Today I want to encourage you to take a sabbatical from technology. From our phones and laptops and kindles. From the 24 hour news. From binge watching. From Amazon and Google. From Alexa.
This summer focus on being still in His presence and growing in our love for our Savior. When we are plugged into His power, He will give us all the answers we need. We will find rest in His presence, comfort and peace.
And our laughter will return.
When I think about that night my husband spoke to Alexa, I smile when I recall his words but I laugh when I remember the laughter we shared together. When I look back on my life I don’t want to remember all the bad. I want to remember my soul being filled with laughter. My greatest happiness being loved by my Savior. A life completely filled up with the joy of the Lord. (1 Peter 1:8)
Long summer days await us my friend.
Feed your soul. Fill those days with the love of God and with laughter.
(Psalm 16:8-9, 11, 89:15-17, 94:19, 126:2-3, Romans 5:5, 8:38-39, Ephesians 3:16-19, Philippians 4:4, )
I’m going to take a small commercial break in my series of late to tell you a story.
It was 1982.
My junior year of high school, and I had made the cheerleading squad. We were a small, tight knit Christian school, and the friendships that were formed have lasted my lifetime. I wore a pleated skirt that touched my knees, saddle shoes and a constricting, long sleeve wool sweater. Looking back I cannot believe that was the uniform of choice. I probably lost 10 pounds every game just from sweating so much. I didn’t care. I loved every second. That year I was determined to make 1st Team All Conference for my squad, and I worked hard toward that goal. When the time came for names to be announced and awards given, my name was not on the list. I can honestly say that I was truly happy for my friends. They were seasoned cheerleaders, and I knew they deserved the acclamation.
My senior year I was fueled to try even harder. I did everything my coach told me to do. Every game, every routine. No mess ups. 1983. This would be my year. I was confident in the work that I put in. When the names were called, I waited anxiously to hear my own, but I didn’t even get an honorable mention~
and I was crushed.
Somehow, almost 40 years later I still feel like that cheerleader at times. Trying so hard to do it all right. Listening to what I’ve been taught my entire Christian adult life. Putting the hard work in, confident that I’ve got this servanthood thing in the bag.
Until I don’t.
And sometimes I allow it to crush me.
I compare myself to others.
(2 Corinthians 10:12-16)
I press toward my own prize.
I become weary. (Galatians 6:9)
I envy and grumble. (Hebrews 13:5)
And then grumble some more. (Philippians 2:14-15)
As I have studied the topic of surrender to God and our love for Him, many things have come to my attention.
Why do we continually mess up? In our Christian walk, in our relationships, in our attitudes?
Well, there’s the obvious… sin, duh.
But, as I prayed about this more, I came to the realization that a lot of it has to do with the specific sin of ‘my love for myself.’
I can say that I’m doing the things I’m doing (ie~ you know being a good servant and all that 😉) because of my love for the Lord, but when I am serving and someone rattles me with an off hand comment or speaks praise over others and not me~ I find myself right back in those saddle shoes. I throw myself my own pity party. I either feel like I will never be good enough, asking myself why I wasn’t picked, or I start to lift myself up with the~ ‘I’ve worked so hard!’~ mentality. This is a place I wouldn’t be if I was truly being a servant of Christ and doing everything out of my love for Him.
Somehow Charisse always gets in her own way.
The times I hear myself saying “Nobody loves me. Nobody notices. Nobody cares. I’ll never measure up. Why can’t I be like her?” Are the very times I’m loving myself more than Christ. I am making it about me and not about Him. I am putting on MY uniform and then sweating in my own strength trying to achieve something for myself~
and not for Christ. (Romans 13:14)
It’s His armor that should take precedence. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
And so, (this might be stretching things a bit~ no pun intended 😉) I believe that even cheerleading can teach us some lessons.
On our squad, I always ended up being a part of our “base” when we did mounts. I’m 5’9” so obviously I wasn’t going to be at the top of a mount~ and I understood that 100%. That was my spot.
If only I could apply that understanding to my life now!
In cheerleading, it was never supposed to be about the girl at the top, or who got the most recognition. It was about our love for our team. Cheering them on and encouraging them to keep fighting for the win~
Isn’t that what our Christian life is all about?
It’s not about us. It’s all about Christ. Our love for our great God. Some girls might be center stage in their service and others might be serving in ways no one ever sees.
Both spots are equally important.
Our love for Jesus is what will shine.
And if we tumble. If we can’t hold the weight. If we become constricted because of our love for ourselves. If it feels too heavy or we get weary in the well doing, let us not forget that He is the one holding us all together. It’s not anything that we do, it’s His strength working in and through us.
Take off that constricting uniform of self service in the name of Christianity, and
Put on Jesus. (Romans 13:14)
Plain and simple.
We are on the same team! So, cheer your fellow sisters on as they fight the good fight. (1Timothy 6:12) Make no mistake~ it is a battle and Satan knows exactly how to get us to love ourselves more than each other and more than our Savior. (2 Corinthians 10:4)
Next week, I hope to end my series with some encouragement on how we can go about loving God more and finding the laughter in our lives. I felt the need to address the fact that we cannot take steps forward toward truly loving God until we realize the battle we are in with loving ourselves.
When I look back at my cheerleading days, I’m so glad I was a part of it. Winning All Conference doesn’t even matter to me now, but the relationships that were forged and the spirit of unity we had is a memory I will cherish forever. I feel the same way about all my sisters in Christ. My sweet friends who have worshipped and walked along side me, fighting the good fight for the love of our Savior. The ones who have been a part of my life from day one, some not even realizing the impact they have had on my life. I’m over here cheering you all on and the good news is~ we already know Who wins!
Ephesians 4:1-4, 7, 12-13, 15-16, 24
Quite often when we read articles on the topic of trust we think about the big, sometimes overwhelming things in our lives. Our finances or future, our country and politics, our children and families, our health or the health of our loved ones. The quotes~ “Trust God, He has a plan”, or “God is in control” come up time and time again. I have used those very words myself. Big issues like these can definitely steal our happiness, and when disaster strikes in one of these areas~ it’s often hard to trust God or try to understand why.
What I don’t think we realize is that our entire lives should be enveloped in the trust of God and His power.
All those petty little things I talked about last week (the ones we can’t let go of) are also the petty little things we should trust God with.
I seriously think I could write a book about all the different phases a woman goes through in her life, and all the different areas that come to mind when I think about all the little things that so quickly rob us of our joy.
Sometimes we allow those things to completely destroy our happiness. We focus on the problem at hand instead of the big picture. In the grand scheme of things, that little bump in the road is just that~ a bump in the road, but we turn it into a ten car pile up.
So let me ask you this ~
Do you truly believe in the power of God? Do you truly believe God can do anything?
I have heard the argument that~ yes God is all powerful, but man has a free will and his sinful nature can often mess things up. It is true that man has a free will, but what we don’t take into consideration is that God is more powerful than any human’s will. If God so chooses, He can change any situation~ no matter how badly we have messed it up.
We are human. He is God.
Our God of the impossible.
How quickly we forget that in our day to day encounters.
So here is where the rubber hits that bump in the road: FAITH.
Do you have faith in God’s power in your life?
You know that old saying~”Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill?” Let’s talk about those mole hills~a few of those small petty things. Small things that can erase every ounce of faith in God’s power within seconds. The things we don’t even think about handing over to God and entrusting Him with~
Interruptions in our schedules, our weariness, our relationships, our sadness, our hormones, broken appliances, unexpected guests, long lines at the grocery store, traffic jams, blizzards and thunderstorms, that caramel mocha frappe that slipped right out of your hands, a burnt meal, a crying baby, a stubbed toe, a power outage, a toilet that over flows, overwhelming ‘to-do’s’ and lack of sleep. The flu=sick days, sick babies, sick spouses. Sore joints, acne flare ups, period cramps, menopause and bad hair days, weight gain, insecurity issues, fighting children and inconsiderate spouses…..
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but you get my meaning. If we allow it, all of these things can irritate us. All of these things can steal our laughter, and make us impatient with life.
What if we changed our focus? What if we looked at each thing as a divine interruption. What if we stopped and asked God what He was trying to teach us through each situation. What if we learned to let things go? (See lasts week’s post) What if we truly believed that God knows exactly what is going on every minute of every day of our lives and He has complete control over it? What if we chose faith over complaining and what if we asked God to make His power real in our lives through every crazy thing that happens to us?
Because if we ask, He will.
We just don’t ask.
We don’t think about God in the small petty things. We think we can control the situations ourselves. Why do we do that to ourselves when He is literally right there next to us saying~ “I can take care of that for you, you don’t have to do it alone.” But when we choose the irritation and complaining, we’re pretty much telling God~ “I’ve got this. I don’t need you.”
Today I would like to encourage you to make two lists. One list will be all the areas you consider BIG in your life and one will be areas of interruption or annoyance. Small petty problems you’ve never really thought about giving God control over. Keep adding to that list and then make it a habit to pray over it and hand it over to God. I mean really hand it over. No take backs.
It’s never silly to go to God over things we might feel are insignificant in the grand scheme of life. God wants us to know His power on a personal level in every single area of our lives. I’ve said it before and I will continue to preach it to myself~when we truly hand everything over to Him, even the small silly stuff~ when the seriously hard stuff hits we will have that automatic peace that passes understanding because we will be so familiar with trusting God in every detail and knowing He always pulls us through.
God will take care of it. You and I will always have the hard days. Today I can look back at so many of them and smile in the realization that they weren’t as hard as I thought at the time, and I can praise God for the countless times He pulled me through.
The times We find ourselves in the middle of our own pity party let our cry be this~
“Lord I believe. Help my unbelief”.
Then grab a hold of His hand, stand up, dust yourself off, ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with faith and walk away. Smile in the complete surrender and knowledge that God will take care of it all.
Things to remind yourself today:
*I believe, help my unbelief.
*God will never leave you.
*Faith the size of a tiny mustard seed can move mountains.
*Without faith it’s impossible to please God
*But, all things are possible with God. Keep asking Him to strengthen your faith
(Mark 9:23, 10:27, Matthew 17:20, 19:26, Luke 1:37, 18:27, Jeremiah 32:17&27, Philippians 4:13)
*Don’t worry about tomorrow or tonight or the next five minutes.
*God is all powerful.
*Only God can give us the peace that passes understanding.
*Today is a new day. A gift from God. Rejoice in it. When you’re tempted to focus on the bad, praise God for ALL the good. Over and over and over.
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
“And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
“Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.” I Peter 5:7
“And Jesus said unto them…If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”
“I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” Psalms 34:4
“Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest.” Joshua 1:9
“They reel to and fro…and are at their wits' end. Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, And he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, So that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; So he bringeth them unto their desired haven. Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, And for his wonderful works to the children of men!”
“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”
“…be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear What man shall do unto me.”
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
“…that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,”
Ephesians 1:12, 18-20
“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, Neither have entered into the heart of man, The things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”
1 Corinthians 2:9
Remember those mole hills we thought were mountains? Have faith my friend. Trust God. He can move mountains and make all those little mole hills rejoice. 😊
“…And the little hills rejoice on every side.” Psalm 65:12
Live, Love, Laugh, Leave Me Alone. Learning To Surrender Control And Truly Enjoy Life
*This is my second post on this subject. If you missed last weeks, I encourage you to go back and read it.
LET THINGS GO AND LAUGH
I’m very bad at letting things go.
I didn’t think that I was, but the more I prayed about it, the more I realized I was an A-lister in that club.
I hold on to everything.
I hold on to good memories like they’re a precious commodity.
Sometimes that’s a good thing, because sweet memories can bring a smile, or much needed laughter. When I am having a personal pity party over harsh circumstances happening in my life, clinging to good memories isn’t always the best thing to do. In that fight or flight scenario, I’m always the flight. I want to check out. I want to go back to those happy memories and camp out there. Times like this I can relate to David so much when he penned the words:
“And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! For then would I fly away, and be at rest. Lo, then would I wander far off, And remain in the wilderness. Selah. I would hasten my escape From the windy storm and tempest.”
Instead of giving God control over whatever situation I find myself in, I feel sorry for myself and wish for “the good old days”. I forget God’s words to me~
“…but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
I hold on to grief.
This has been a hard one for me. I can’t seem to grasp the reality of it. It’s almost as if my mind tricks itself and forgets that reality. Over a year later and still, I have fleeting, random thoughts about inviting my dad over for dinner, or sitting on his porch to watch the sun set together. Of course, I immediately remember he is gone. And then I weep. Too often I hold on to that brokenness and sit in that grief instead of letting it go and glorying in the fact that no sunset here on earth can replace the beauty my dad is beholding even now.
I hold on to bad habits.
Oh not my own, just everyone else’s haha. (Which actually is a really, really bad habit) My husband’s for instance. You know, the small, insignificant things that happen on a daily basis. The ones that build up tensions in marriage after 37 years. Dirty clothes that don’t quite make it into the basket. A kitchen that’s left a mess. Dirt tracked through the house. Toothpaste all over the sink and mirror. You know, seriously stupid little things that shouldn’t bother me. But I let them. I allow them to irritate me instead of focusing on all the good and rejoicing in the day that God has given me, because my tomorrow with the love of my life is not promised. (Refer to last week’s post)
“This is the day which the LORD hath made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.”
Which leads to my next point.
I hold on to bitterness.
I try to control it, but it eats away at me. It pops into my head in the middle of the night, or first thing in the morning.
“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit…”
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
I get out that sword~God’s word, to battle against it, but it is continually there and when I am not careful to bring it to God and ask the Holy Spirit to safeguard my heart, every little thing I am bitter about is magnified~ and the person I am bitter with seems to anger me more and more. Everything they say or do is scrutinized and seen as wrong in my eyes. Relationships can be ruined by one tiny seed of bitterness.
I hold on to fear instead of trust.
This is my topic for next week.
I hold on to lies instead of laughter.
All of these things I’m feeling, all of these things I’m holding on to so tightly are areas I try to control on my own. When I can’t control them, I find myself believing Satan’s lies about each one. I find myself checking out or getting angry, and before I know it I am sitting in a pile of pettiness. Laughter is no where in sight. The joy of the Lord is long gone.
God has used the wise words of two women to help me in each of these areas. The simple words~ “I don’t let it bother me anymore”~ had a profound impact on me. What if I chose to live that way every day, in every area? Could I? Remember our scripture from last week? You know the one God repeated quite often?
WITH GOD NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE. (Mark 9:23, 10:27, Matthew 17:20, 19:26, Luke 1:37, 18:27, Jeremiah 32:17&27, Philippians 4:13)
Yes we can live that way, but only by surrendering that control over to God and allowing Him to do the impossible in our lives.
And the second set of wise words~
”I had to learn what was important and let go of the rest.” We choose to put pile after pile on to our human shoulders and carry our baggage with us everywhere, until we feel like we are sinking in despair. Sometimes we convince ourselves that we can’t possibly let it go. The things we’re holding on to become prison chains around our necks. In our human frailty we cannot break those chains, but our mighty God can. Remember? Our God of the impossible. “…for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds…”
(2 Corinthians 10:4)
The things you have a hard time letting go of might be completely different than mine. Perhaps you can’t let go of the past. Maybe you can’t let go of unmet expectations or unanswered prayers. Maybe it’s a hurt that’s had you deeply wounded. Maybe it’s the broken dreams of what you thought your life was supposed to be by now.
Whatever you cannot let go of~
God wants us to give ALL of it to Him. He is the only One Who can handle it.
The things we DO need to hold on to that are important?
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
The peace that passes all understanding. (Philippians 4:6)
The joy of the Lord. (Nehemiah 8:10)
Praise God He understands that we are human. We are weak. Praise God that he shows us He understands this by giving us one example after another in scripture of others who are just like us. Praise God that He gives us promises of Heaven and eternal life through His Son. Praise God that He doesn’t hold our continual bad habits over us, but has mercy and grace when we seem to fall back into those habits on a daily basis. Praise God for the Holy Sprit who can go to battle for us against bitterness and ALWAYS overcome. Praise God for the fruits of His Spirit that He freely gives to us, no matter how often we ask.
Praise God for laughter.
What are you holding onto my friend?
Let it be the sweet laughter of total surrender.
Praise God for laughter.
Have you ever had one of those weeks or months or maybe even years? Whether it’s small stuff that continually goes wrong in a 24 hour time frame, or horrific stuff that leaves a cloud of despair hanging heavily over your head~the circumstances suck all the joy and laughter from your life. It’s times like this that you begin to feel utterly alone, and sometimes even a little afraid that you won’t ever laugh again.
My daughter in law sent me a snap chat the other week with the title of this post. We laughed, but there was a certain heaviness to it. And that’s what prompted my topic for my ladies banquet, as well as this post~
Live, Love, Laugh, Leave Me Alone. Learning To Surrender Control to God and Truly Enjoy Life.
After much prayer, I decided to share it with you all. My heart is burdened to help you laugh again. My heart is burdened for you to know the lasting happiness that produces that laughter, genuine laughter~ you know…the kind that makes you cry or pee your pants a little. 😉 Good old fashioned joy.
I’m going to break this series down into five topics:
Live For today
Let Things Go
Learn to Trust in God’s Power
Love God and Allow Him to Love You
This week we will focus on LIVE (For Today) and in the weeks to come I hope to share 4 more areas that will help you to laugh again.
LIVE FOR TODAY
This isn’t something we usually hear. Normally we are told to live with eternity in mind, and we definitely should, but God also tells us to find joy in the day to day and not to fret about, or fear our future.
Quite often, we have no control over our futures. We might think we do, but every moment of every day is an uncertainty. There are no guarantees. Every thought we have, every action or reaction we choose, every breath we breathe, every moment spent with God and with loved ones could be our last. We could have the perfect plan for our lives, but when we try to control every aspect of that plan and cling to it tightly in our fists, any time something goes wrong~ our joy and laughter will slowly be sucked from our souls. But, when we surrender each day to God and give Him control of our days, we know that whatever happens tomorrow or the next day or even the next year, is for our good~no matter how hard the circumstances might be.
“Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Matthew 6:34
“Sing unto the Lord, bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day.” Psalm 96:2
It really seems too simple, especially if life kicks you when you’re down. The little things that get to us in a 24 hour time frame can easily be given over to the Lord, and we can lay in bed at night with the full assurance that tomorrow is another day. The times it is most difficult is when the hard hits. The diagnosis, the failed marriage, the job loss, the wayward child, the death.
Those are the times we want to scream at the world~ “LEAVE ME ALONE!”Those are the times that joy and laughter seem impossible.
My sweet friend, with Jesus, nothing is impossible.
“With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.” Mark 10:27
“With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”
“For with God nothing shall be impossible.” Luke 1:37
(It’s pretty clear God wanted us to get this point)
When you have fallen to the ground with no fight left in you, He is laying right there on the ground next to you, holding your hand. He is whispering to your soul that He will pick you up when you are ready. He doesn’t rush you. He simply wraps you in His comfort. Joy will come again in the morning, even if He has to lay with you there all night long. He will never leave you. The joy of the Lord is your strength.
“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
“I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Hebrews 13:5
“For the Lord thy God, He it is that doth go with thee; He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee….He will be with thee, He will not fail thee, neither forsake thee…” Deuteronomy 31:6,8
“The Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” Joshua 1:9
“For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.: Isaiah 41:13
“…Neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10
“This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24
Rejoice means to feel joy or great delight. It also means to give joy to.
Here are some ways to feel joy and delight in today:
Find something to be thankful for~ every single day.
Give God glory and praise~ every single day.
Uplift someone else~ every single day.
Don’t just seek joy for yourself,
look for ways to give joy to others~
every single day.
Look for joy in the little things.
Laugh with God. Laugh at yourself. Laugh with loved ones.
View every day as if it could be your last.
Focus on Jesus. When you feel your heart drifting search for Him.
Pursue God. He is there next to you in every beautiful thought and happy feeling you have ever had.
Think on things that bring you laughter, and then laugh again.
Remember that your joy gives your great God the greatest glory.
Find joy in today with eternity in mind. Every day is a gift, a new opportunity to find happiness and laughter. Fully surrender your days to God and ask Him to help you to focus on today, leaving your tomorrows with Him. No matter what those tomorrows hold, this life is not the end. Jesus is waiting for us with open arms. He gave His life to give us new life. A life filled with joy because of Him. The true joy that brings genuine laughter~
the kind that makes you cry or pee your pants a little. 😉
Good old fashioned joy.
Have you ever thought about who helped Adam and Eve raise their kids? I mean, let’s get real here. No Bible, no books, no TV, no church setting, social media or podcasts. Not even parents who had been through it before and could give advice, or babysitting services, or just a shoulder to cry on. Nada. Zilch. Nothing. Just Adam and Eve.
How often do we forget about God in the mix. We run to all those other things on our journey of the perfection of parenthood, but often forget about the most important One we need to run to.
Whether it’s questions about pregnancy, labor and delivery, terrible two’s or the horrible teen years. Whether it’s tears caused by an empty nest due to college or marriage, or tears due to a wayward child.
We feel lost in the questions and uncertainties. We get fearful or fretful and we just want help. Somehow in the quest to be the best version of mom we can be, we forget to go to God first and we run to those who can say~
“Been there, done that.”
Do you realize God is the ultimate parent that can say “Been there, done that”? Look at EVERYTHING He has gone through with His children. 2 Peter 1:3-4
You want to know something else we often overlook? Despite having complete, unfiltered access to God and all His wisdom, despite not being influenced by the distractions of this present world~somehow Eve’s first born was still messed up.
And mama. That’s not on Eve.
And it’s not on you.
It’s a result of sin.
The reality of that can leave a mama feeling pretty helpless, if not for the fact of one thing.
God is still in control.
You might believe you have everything under control because you have read all the right books and listened to all the right podcasts and followed all the right people on social media. You might think you have it all under control because your child is in every church service, you pray with them and read the Bible to them daily. You do all the right things.
But you are not in control. God is.
Does He want us to do our best and strive to raise children who honor and glorify Him? Who love Him and truly know Him? Does He want our children to have a relationship with Him?
But He never wants you to forget that He is the One in control. Ephesians 1:11 Not a manipulative control, but a control with our ultimate good in mind. A control spawned from love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, comfort and peace.
Sin is real. It’s hard and it’s scary and it’s strong. Especially when it involves our children.
But God is stronger. He knew your child before the foundation of the world was ever laid. Before sin had ever cursed it. Before Eve’s eldest ever messed up. And all along He has had a plan for your children.
God’s ultimate plan is the salvation of all mankind. He can use your children for His glory and that very purpose.
2 Peter 3:8-9
The irony in the story of Eve’s firstborn is that he had the wrong heart attitude. He wanted to do things his way. He wanted to be in control of what he gave to God. That’s a powerful lesson to us as moms, because we are still doing that today.
The best thing we can do is to let go of that grasp of control we have on our children and hand them over to God. It might seem like a risk we aren’t willing to take. Our children are our everything.
But God is so much more.
And sometimes as parents, that’s a place we aren’t willing to go to.
Love God more.
Whatever stage of motherhood you are in right now, determine to go to God above all else. Pray over your children. Read scripture to them. Take them to church. Don’t get discouraged. Remind yourself daily that despite everything that could go wrong and might go wrong, despite the strong curse of sin~God is stronger and His promises to us will never fail.
One of the sweetest promises we can cling to as mamas is this~All things work together for the good to them that
LOVE GOD. Romans 8:28
It’s not on you mama.
Do your best.
And in the moments you fear you have failed, remember~when we truly give our children to the Lord~
It’s all on God and He’s got this.
Love those babies.
Love God more.
I listened to his breathing. Tears fell unashamedly from my eyes. It was excruciating to hear the labor with every breath that was drawn.
My heart yearned for heaven for him.
I didn’t want him to leave, but I did not want this pain for him.
So many of us have lost loved ones in the last few years. Death seems to be on the forefront of social media, as well as the prayer chains in our churches. Sorrow upon sorrow have hit so many. It has hit me more than I care to think on.
I saw a picture recently that brought it to my mind once again. The sign read~”We know you would be here today, if heaven wasn’t so far away”. I understood the heart behind the words, but I rejoiced in the truth of God’s word and what a difference it can make in the believer’s life.
If you have lost a loved one this might sound like your reality, but my friend~it is not. Heaven is not far away at all. Heaven is only one breath away for the believer. One last breath and you are in the presence of God. There is no waiting.
2 Corinthians 5:8
Just a breath.
My scripture reading has been in the book of Job lately. A book that I desperately need God’s help to wrap my mind around. God never fails. I asked my husband why some preachers act like it’s so wonderful that in the end, Job got a double portion of everything he had previously lost.
Everything except his children.
Every one of Job’s children had been killed. I could not wrap my mind around the idea that yes, Job had more kids, but they could never replace the children he had lost. My husband’s answer convicted me.
God did not replace the children that Job lost, because they were not lost. He would see them again. 2 Samuel 12:23
How often do I forget this when I think on all those that I loved so dearly who have left this earth?
They are not far away at all.
They are as close as my last breath.
Sweet friend, Jesus died on the cross to give us eternal life. Do we dare look at the cross and tell Jesus it is not enough? That what He endured for us wasn’t enough? When we work harder at being good, always hoping it’s good enough. When we give more to the church, as if trying to buy our way in~that’s exactly what we are telling our Savior. The words of Jesus become null and void in our representation of earning our way to heaven.
His words~”It is finished”.
God tells us that absent from the body is present with the Lord, and that the only way to be in His presence after death is through Jesus finished work on the cross. I John 5:12-13, Luke 23:43, Hebrews 7:25.
Our repentance, His forgiveness. Romans 10:9-13
Once that’s our reality, Jesus tells us that no one can pluck us out of our Father’s hand. John 10:28-29. We have a home in heaven one day with our God of mercy, grace and love. No question.
Immediately in His presence.
And so my friend, rejoice in that truth. We might not understand why God chooses to take our loved ones when He does. Job 42:3 We weep, but so did our Savior. He understands our emotions because He lived them. John 11:35 We sorrow because we love, but we sorrow with the hope of heaven bringing light to our sadness. 1 Thessalonians 4:13
And knowing this~ we don’t ever have to be afraid of death, or feel as if God and Heaven are far away. Psalm 49:15, 1 Corinthians 15:54-58
If you are sorrowing today, ask God to bring the light of hope to your sadness.
Your loved one isn’t far at all.
Heaven is only one breath away.
I realized some things about myself this week.
I go through seasons where I tend to be too self centered. I tend to feel sorry for myself. I tend to make excuses. I have a worship/me complex that I call being a “people pleaser”. The reality is that I just want everyone to like me. I over analyze and under appreciate.
And I take an awful lot for granted.
Too often in these seasons I wallow in “me”.
When I take my eyes off of Jesus, even for a split second, Satan creeps into this overactive mind of mine and convinces me of a thousand and one things I should be bitter, or angry, or sad about.
This week, despite Satan’s efforts to thwart my joy, God’s faithfulness and love outshined any attempt Satan could have at disarming me.
God continually showed me how much He loves me and how much I have to be thankful for.
Over, and over, and over.
I got to spend the week with my family. My husband, children, their spouses and my grandchildren. All in the same house. We got to come to our favorite little island in the Carolinas. The same place we’ve been coming for 37 years. It never gets old and we cherish every single memory it holds. The time spent with extended family is icing on the cake.
I got to sit with my husband and children our last evening together and talk about our Savior’s goodness. I got to pray with them all, as we shared our hearts together. And I felt His presence. We cried and we laughed and all I could think was “Thank you Jesus”.
God showed me that He doesn’t bless me because I do good things. This week was evidence of that. I was momentarily wallowing in self pity before we ever left for vacation. He doesn’t bless me because I check off all the “good Christian” boxes, ie church attendance, bible reading and prayer.
He does it out of sheer love and that in itself brings me to my knees, because I know I don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve any of it.
This week He gifted me with beautiful, selfless friends. He gifted me with inconsequential items I’ve been wishing for for my home. He gave me happy days playing on the beach with those I love most. He gave me precious uninterrupted time with my family. He gave me multiple hugs and kisses from grandchildren. He gave me a fresh perspective and memories I will cherish forever.
So today, my only desire is to glorify Him and say thank you.
A thousand times thank you.
If you find yourself in a place you don’t long to be, if your heart is sad and you can’t seem to get past Satan’s attempts to thwart you, fix your eyes on Jesus.
Fix your eyes on Jesus~
and say thank you.
Thank you Jesus.
I was blessed to have a very unusual high school experience.
I know many others could not say the same. When I look back on those years, I truly believe God used every incident to produce habits in my own life for years to come. For that, I am forever grateful.
I went to a very small Christian high school that was a part of our church ministry. The friendships that were forged are the kind that last a lifetime. One thing about those years that really stands out in my heart and mind is this~
I never felt alone.
I felt loved by a community of believers and friends who always had my back. Through grief they comforted. When I fell away from God, they lovingly picked me up. When I laughed, they laughed with me. When I cried, they held me close. When God moved in hearts, we celebrated together.
There was never a feeling of loneliness, unworthiness or judgment. I never felt the need to be something I was not.
Many years have passed since I was that impressionable teenager. Sadly, through the years a few people have now and then made me feel like I didn’t quite measure up.
I know that I am not alone in this area, and yet it’s an incredibly lonely feeling.
There have been times I have fallen away from God and felt shame. Times I would never dream of sharing my failures with others, or even ask for help because of that shame. I was all too familiar with the inevitable reaction of shaking heads and disapproving judgment.
There have been times I find myself knee deep in the insecure feelings of “not good enough”, convinced that I’m doing it wrong, saying it wrong, writing it wrong or sharing it wrong. Convinced that everyone else has their act together and knows what they’re doing in their Christian walk, except for me. Convinced I should be someone else. A much better version of me.
What have we become? Why are so many churches filled with people that look the part but have no empathy or compassion for others? Who continually find the speck of wrong doing in others, but can’t even see the log homes of pretense they themselves are building? (Matthew 7:1-5) Churches filled with people, often women, who make others feel “less than” and alone.
Our church communities should not be this way. I have found that many churches tend to lean one way or the other. Too many churches are made up of people playing a part. People who look down on others who don’t outwardly measure up. The Bible calls them Pharisees. (Matthew 23:25-28) On the other hand there are churches filled with people who share the “come as you are” mantra, but don’t follow through with biblical teaching on how to grow beyond where they linger. There is no solid ground of repentance and forgiveness, encouragement and change. It’s all just a “feel good” atmosphere. The Bible calls this the seeds that have fallen on stony places. (Matthew 13:4-9, 18-23) Both can leave a person feeling very alone.
Jesus never intended any of this to be our reality.
What was my high school reality? I can remember a friend sharing scripture with me on the bus ride to a basketball game. I was going through uncertainty, and she lifted me up with God’s words. When I found out my grandpa was diagnosed with cancer, I can remember the comfort I felt in the embrace of a friend as she held me in silence and allowed me to cry. I can remember a group of us sharing tears of joy in the bathroom after a revival service at our church. I can remember testimonies of God’s working in front of bonfires. I can remember sharing the gospel with a new student and friend in an empty room off of the church sanctuary, and her prayer asking Jesus to save her. I can remember that Jesus was real to us, and we were real with each other.
What habits did my high school years teach me? That we could be truthful without feeling “less than”. That we could share in the good without the worry that others would think we were bragging. That we could cry without being made to feel weak. That we could share our struggles without condemnation. That we could talk about God without feeling like others viewed us as trying to appear “better than”.
That we could be real.
Real and never alone.
Just like Jesus taught.
Just like Jesus was here on earth~
and still is today.
That should be our reality.
A fellow sister in Christ should never feel alone. We should have each others backs instead of sticking knives in them. We should lend a hand when they fall, and give our heart when they’re hurting. We should rejoice when they rejoice, and weep when they weep. (Romans 12) We should reach down and lift them up. We should be the hands and feet of Jesus, and have the heart of Him who saved us from the wretched sinners we all are. (Romans 3: 10, 23)
Somehow I think too many forget that part.
Today, search your hearts. Look into someone’s eyes and tell them it’s going to be okay. Give them your hand and your heart and lift them up. Share God’s words of love with them.
Empowerment as women should not be our goal.
Making sure that others never feel alone should be our calling.
Just like Jesus.
A habit we should never, ever forget.
What Hinders Prayer
Fair warning~this will be a long post, but it is one that I feel is so important and needs to be addressed.
Please bare with me…
*My mind has been ruminating on the words I wrote last week. The little things that God kept nudging me about.
Why did my prayer life feel so hindered again today?
My mind seemed to be everywhere, except on the words I longed to speak to my Savior. Everything kept it wandering, from what I needed to do that day to my grumbling stomach~ and even my grocery list.
And I pondered.
Why was I so easily distracted?
Along with that, my ladies Bible study was on the topic of pride for two weeks in a row. Then the preacher (aka my husband) touched on it in his message. The verse of the day warned against it and I knew God was obviously trying to show me something.
I searched deep within my heart. I truly did not feel I had a pride issue, (even though I now realize how prideful that sounds) and yet God continued to bring it up. I almost argued with Him. I know everything I have comes from Him. I am nothing. The words I pen are not my own, they are His. In my humanness I was searching for pride issues in the wrong areas. But still He nudged, so I continued to ask Him to please show me.
Today He did. My eyes were opened to something I never even realized.
Despite my arguments, I knew I had pride issues. And I repented.
I cannot tell you the amount of times in my 56 years that I have “felt” as if God was silent. Times where prayer seemed like a struggle or like my words were just bouncing off the ceiling. The closeness with Jesus was not there. Yet, every single time God was there. He was not far away, despite my feelings. He always made this known to me~sometimes He showed me the reasons in big ways, and sometimes He showed me in the tiniest ways.
Today I give you some of those reasons to ponder. Things God has revealed to my own heart in times like these.
The first and most important reason we may feel as if God is far away~
We aren’t truly His child. This isn’t a “religion” thing. This isn’t a “come to my church” thing or become my “denomination” thing. This is God and His words. We are NOT all God’s children. (John 1:12) The world might like to repeat that feel good phrase, but it is not true. God in His word tells us that the ONLY way we become God’s children is through His Son Jesus Christ who died for our sins on the cross. (John 14:6) No religion and no amount of confessionals can get you to heaven. No good works can help you gain favor in God’s eyes and no amount of repetitive prayers can magically turn you into His child. (Ephesians 2:8,9) Only Jesus. Jesus and His forgiveness of our sins through grace. The end. This is the absolute most important thing you can ever do. If you cannot recall a time in your life when your heart truly believed this and you asked Jesus to forgive you of all your sins and to save your soul (Romans 10:10-13), please friend~ get that settled today. Become God’s child.
The second thing that hinders prayer is unconfessed sin. (Psalm 66:18) When we become God’s child we don’t automatically stop sinning. We are human. Whether it is intentional or something we don’t even realize, we will fall short because we aren’t perfect. (Romans 3:23) Only God is perfect. Because of this, it is important to always check our hearts and make sure we aren’t holding on to something that needs our repentance. Just like my pride. Ask God to show you. Believe me, He will. And once He does, tell Him you’re sorry. (1 John 1:5-10)
I cannot emphasize this next one enough. DON’T. GIVE. UP. Too often when it comes to our prayer life, we give up too quickly. If we don’t feel close to God or our prayers aren’t answered in a timely fashion, we just stop praying. (James 4:8) Don’t allow this to be the case. Keep on praying and don’t stop. Even if you feel like you are talking to a wall. You aren’t my friend. God is right there. There are a myriad of reasons you might feel this way, so don’t give up until you get a hold of God and He breaks through the walls that are hindering your prayer life.
And speaking of reasons why we “feel” this way is exactly that. Our feelings. Too often we base our prayers on the way we feel. Sometimes we need to look at it like marriage. I mean, let’s be honest~ I don’t always “feel” like being married. I don’t always “feel” like talking to Mike and let me share a little secret with you~ I don’t always “feel” like listening to him talk to me. Does that mean we are no longer married or that I no longer love him? No. It’s the same with our prayer life. We can’t base it on our feelings because we are sinful, wretched humans with crazy, sometimes erratic feelings. But, praise God we are loved and forgiven humans. Humans that God has unlimited grace, understanding and mercy on. (Hebrews 4:15) From the time we become His child, we forever remain His child (John 10:28, Jeremiah 31:3, 1 John 3:1) and He forever remains our daddy who never, ever leaves us no matter how we might “feel”.
So what do we do when our feelings do get in the way? When we don’t feel that closeness despite our persistence in prayer? We dig deep into God’s word. The Bible is literally God’s love letter to us. (Psalm 1:2, 104:34, 119: 48, 97, 99, Joshua 1:8) I can guarantee you that if you take the time to sit and read His words of promise, comfort, peace and love~your heart will change. (Matthew 6:21)Your prayers will have the solid rock to be built upon.(Matthew 7:24-27, 16:18, Psalm 18:2, 61:2, 2 Samuel 22:2-3) A strong foundation instead of weak feelings. Don’t trust your feelings. They lie. Trust God’s word. (Proverbs 3:5-6) God will always show you something new in His word to help you, if you stay consistent in the asking and don’t give up. I can’t even count the number of times His word spoke directly to my heart. It felt like my eyes were opened. Almost as if I was seeing something for the first time and a heavy weight was lifted. Giving everything to God is so freeing. The more you read, the more you get to know Him and the closer to Him you become. And you love Him. You suddenly realize He isn’t a far away God up in heaven somewhere but is as near to you as your very heart. Always with you. Lean in to Him. He never left. Our feelings just got in our way.
And last, why does my mind wander so much? I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s one of two things. I’m either anxious and worried, so my thoughts continually stray to the things I’m worried about. If that’s the case then I’m probably not trusting Christ with the situation and having faith that He will come through for me. Instead, I’m trying to figure out how I can fix it somehow on my own. And the second reason is simply because I’m a spoiled, unthankful child living in a generation full of other spoiled, unthankful children. I don’t have to beg God for my safety from another country bombing my town. I don’t have to beg for food or shelter. I don’t have to hide in order to read my Bible. Instead of being heavenly minded, I sit in my warm bed with a hot cup of coffee in my hand, an iPhone on my night stand and a bible on my lap. And my mind wanders to earthly things. (Matthew 6:21, James 4:2-3) Funny how our prayer life can change drastically when heart ache hits close to home. Our minds don’t tend to wander when we’re on our knees before God begging for His help. If we would just remain faithful in every season and learn to be thankful in remembering the thousands upon thousands of ways God has blessed us, our minds would be on Christ and not everything else. Too often we simply take Christ for granted.
If you search your heart and none of these areas seem to be an issue for you then I encourage you to hearken back to my words from last week’s post. Perhaps through it all your Savior just wants you to stop and to be still in His presence, until His presence is fully known and you realize all you ever needed was Him.
I realize this post may have stepped on a few toes. Truthfully, my toes needed stepping on. Prayer should never be ritualistic. It shouldn’t be about what we get or don’t get. It should be about spending time with our closest friend. Laughing with Him, crying with Him and being still with Him.
Just like every other area of our life~
It should be all about Him because He is everything to us.
It has been an emotional week.
My dad has been gone for a little over a year and yet, thoughts of his passing have come to the forefront of my mind for no particular reason. At times I can hardly wrap my mind around it. My dad went home to heaven the day after the funeral of one of our dearest friends, who had unexpectedly passed away just the week before.
The friend whose birthday would be this Monday~the day before my dads. They entered this earth a day apart and left this earth a week apart.
Thoughts of the trials my children have faced, and continue to face have also weighed on me. Thoughts of missing my sister-in-law as I watch her son get married tonight have brought tears of happiness mixed with tears of sorrow.
And then, thoughts of the horrors other countries are facing have been a constant, even as I write this.
I have struggled with what to post this week. I have prayed and asked God for words to encourage, and yet He has been silent.
And I couldn’t understand why.
I wondered if perhaps he didn’t want me to write a thing. Certainly I don’t want to post some cliche story that God never intended I share.
Sometimes you may wonder why continual “bad” hits you from every direction and God seems to remain silent.
Here’s the thing.
For me, He hasn’t been silent. He has been speaking to my soul, but my mind was screaming too loud to hear Him. My eyes were focused on the emotions I was feeling instead of on Him.
My scripture reading landed on Job this week. I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to read it. I complained. I told God I needed something uplifting, but He knew exactly what I needed.
Quotes that I had scheduled a month ago popped up on my Holding Hope page all week, and it still didn’t hit me. Quotes suggesting I pray about what my mind wanders to. Quotes reminding me to keep praying, even if all I have left is a whisper.
(1 Thessalonians 5:17, Philippians 4:6)
Quotes that told me to just Be Still.
My mind was anything but still. My thoughts were running a marathon inside it. But today in the tiny moments of quiet I had, I prayed again.
I finally heard Him.
His whispers through the cracks of distractions touched my heart.
(I Kings 19:11&11, Matthew 14:28-30)
He kept telling me to be still and as much as I argued that I was being still, I knew deep down I wasn’t. So I stopped. I stopped trying to figure out all the answers on my own. I stopped and I just sat. I sat on my bed and I asked Jesus to sit with me. Just to sit there and hold my hand and still my heart. (Matthew 28:20, Jeremiah 29:11)
And He did.
And He told me to tell you to do the same.
How easily I allow circumstances to weigh me down and steal my peace and joy as I wonder what’s going to happen. How easily I miss my loved ones and fall into a sadness I don’t want to climb out of, instead of realizing the comfort and hope of heaven.(1 Thessalonians 4:13) How easily I try to control situations and find myself in continual unrest. How easily I focus on the bad and miss all the good.
I miss Him.
We’re all looking for hope. For answers.
We scroll through social media looking for that quote or devotional that will give us those answers we’re seeking. We even open our bibles, as if a verse will magically appear to answer our “whys”. God often uses all of these things to help those in need, myself included, but sometimes in the looking we are striving in our flesh to find the answers that only God knows. Sometimes the answer is simply Him, and that’s all we need to know.
(Hebrews 6:18 & 19)
Once we get to the place of that realization our eyes are opened. We see life through Him and in His stillness, everything is changed. We suddenly understand that we don’t have to know all the answers, we just need to be still with Him. (Ephesians 1:18)
Don’t stop praying sweet friend, even if it feels like God is silent. He is not. Keep seeking Him in the stillness until His stillness pushes out all the distractions and it is just you and your Savior~
And through faith, you once again see your life through His eyes. The eyes of of Him who loves you and gave Himself for you.
(Galatians 2:20, 2 Corinthians 4:17 & 18)
Laughter is the best medicine, especially in marriage.
Years ago, my sister and brother-in-law told us a funny story. Back when cell phones first came out, before texting or caller ID, my sister-in-law was in the kitchen and got a call on her new cell phone. Thinking it must be very important she answered, only to discover it was my brother-in-law calling from the bedroom upstairs and asking her to bring him a bowl of ice cream. At the time that was unheard of, and we all got a good laugh out of it. Now couples text each other while they’re in the same room. Back then it seemed so silly~and even lazy~ that he would call her instead of just getting up and getting it himself, and that’s what made us laugh so hard.
Yes, it’s funny how time can change things. I think over time we can all get lazy in our marriages if we aren’t careful. And that’s when it seems that the little things really start to get to us.
I’m reminded of the wise words of a friend during our Ladies Bible Study one week. We were talking about husbands and habits, and how certain things can drive you crazy after a while. Her simple words had a huge impact~
“I just don’t allow it to bother me anymore”.
I was dumbfounded, but then I let her words sink in. What if I decided to not let it bother me anymore? All the silly, little things that I let get on my last nerve. Things that I didn’t allow to bother me in our first years of marriage.
Could I possibly do that?
With God’s help, that has been my goal.
That goal was put to the test the other day when I asked my husband to do something for me. Fifteen years ago his reply might have fueled a fight~ depending on the time of the month or the circumstances of the day. The thought of that makes me very sad. How easily I let things fuel the fire. As women, we don’t like to admit it but we do allow little things to dictate our emotions. In the moment we feel completely justified for our anger, and we don’t like it when our time of the month (or menopause) gets the blame for the words we say to our spouses. My time of the month is a time of the past now, and when I look back I know that 75% of our fights during that time could have been avoided. As wives, we need to be honest with ourselves in this regard.
Somehow as the years pass we adopt this behavior in marriage as ok. If we aren’t careful, we can allow little things that really don’t matter to slowly chip away at the foundation of something that started as a beautiful dream come true.
And so, I think about my sister-in-law and friend. She passed away at the early age of 35 after giving birth to her 6th baby. None of us could have imagined this would happen when we were laughing about that cell phone call and her husband’s request for ice cream. I’m so glad I have that memory. It always brings a smile but it also reminds me of her husband’s words after she passed away. “I wish I had never fought with her about the stupid things that made us fight”. As much as he cherished the laughter, he deeply regretted the fighting. Just like my older friend’s wise words, his words had a big impact, unfortunately I didn’t let them sink in deep enough. At the time I can remember looking over at my husband and thinking~
‘I’m never going to fight with him again’.
Almost twenty years later and there have been too many fights to count.
Because I let the little things get to me and I got lazy. I got lazy in fighting for the foundations of first love. And in my laziness, I got selfish. I didn’t want to talk things out or pray, too often I just wanted to be right.
What a waste.
Ladies, twenty years from now don’t look back and realize how much better your marriage could have been. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up “in the moment”. We don’t know how much time God will give us with our spouses, so make the very best of every single day you have together. Look at each day as if it could be your last. Don’t let the little things bother you. Don’t let the circumstances of the day or the dot on the calendar dictate your emotions. Give your marriage to God every single day. Don’t fight with each other, fight for each other. Talk things out. Spend time in God’s word. Pray together. Love on each other.
And most importantly laugh.
Always laugh together.
My husband’s reply the other day?
I chose laughter. I laughed and I hugged him and we laughed together. And it was sweet. And I just pray that God allows me many more days of laughter with this man I love. Because all those little things, those are the things satan will use to destroy that laughter. Determine today that with God’s help you won’t allow him to do that.
We hear the world’s words “choose your battles wisely”, but oh how sweet our marriages would be if we chose never to go to battle to begin with. To have on the armor of God continually, fighting off the wiles of the devil.
In the moment we can choose to be stubborn, miserable and right, or we can choose to look past all the silly, little, irritating things that don’t really matter~ and just laugh.
God wants us to laugh.
Choose the laughter ladies.
One day you will look back and be so thankful you did.
Happy memories can dance through the recesses of our minds and bring so much joy to an ordinary day. Memories give us hope, because we can see the entire picture that the happiness was painted around.
Tears can stay with us as well. Just as much as the happy memories can linger, so can the memories that brought us tears.
When I set my mind on one or the other, it amazes me how many of those moments come flooding back. The good and the bad. The moments that brought tears are so distinctive to me. Some have stayed with me from a very early childhood. They are etched into my brain and I can remember them like they were yesterday.
Kindergarten and the first death of a beloved pet.
The stinging words of a supposed friend.
Having to move for the first of many times.
My parents fighting.
My parents separation.
Leaving all my friends and moving far from our country home to a city filled with people.
A heart broken by young love.
The cool girl with her mean words.
The word cancer and the death of my grandfather after a year of hospital visits and treatments.
Watching the agonizing pain and heartache my mother was going through every single day because of it.
Leaving my family to move 700 miles away.
The words “your child will have birth defects. Termination is an option”.
Losing my best friend.
The mama tears of watching your children through every phase of their lives as they face all the same heartaches you did.
A crushing betrayal.
10 wasted years of unforgiveness.
Losing my mama.
Death upon death upon death.
Losing my daddy.
Unanswered prayers of a begging heart.
Too many tears to mention.
In those moments I did not want to hear~
“God does everything for a reason”
“We can’t have rainbows without rain”.
Or any of the cliche things that people say, because they don’t know what to say.
In those moments I just wanted to cry. And I wanted someone to cry with me and understand my pain.
Tears are very lonely.
Tears have a profound impact on us. Heartache can shape our souls if we allow it. Our days will be filled with misery or bitterness, anger or resentment, self pity or loss of hope. Sometimes even the loss of our will to live. And when the tears beat down on us day after day after day, sometimes we give up the fight, because there’s no fight left in us.
If we continually look back at our life we can have hope again because we can see that somehow when we truly believed all was lost, God brought us out to the other side. We were never alone. (Joshua 1:9) He was always with us, we just lost sight of him through the tears that blurred our vision and blinded our hearts.
Whatever might be causing your tears today will be a memory for your tomorrow. God does not just paint the beautiful pictures of happy moments. He paints His goodness and peace and comfort into every heartbreaking moment we go through. One day you will look back and see the entire picture God had painted.
His word tells us that He puts every one of our tears in a bottle, and writes them all down in a book. A bottle is a container. It holds things. Every single one of your tears are precious to Him and when you thought you couldn’t hold it together any longer and it was the end of your story, He was holding you and writing what you didn’t think you could. (Psalm 56:8&9)
Yes, if we set our minds on the heartache we will be overcome by the grief and so, our loving Heavenly Father and Friend bids us~ set your mind on things above. (Colossians 3:1)
Time passes so quickly and the moments that I thought would break me are the moments I see God putting His loving arms around me, picking me up and carrying me through.
(Psalm 34:18&19) I feel the comfort He gave and the peace that overcame the heartache. (John 14:27) I see that He did answer my prayers, despite the tears that blinded me in those moments. And I look ahead to the day I am in His presence when His loving hand will wipe away every single tear that has fallen from my eyes. (Revelation 7:17, 21:4)
Each tear He holds in His bottle sets my heart on things above. Each tear reminds me of my Savior’s love. Each tear reminds me that He wept along with me and understands.
(John 11:35) Each tear reminds me that my Savior suffered for me, yet He did it with joy.
(Hebrews 12:2) Each tear reminds me that I am never ever alone, and as I look back each tear reminds me of the beautiful happy moments God created for me through it all.
Because each tear makes every happy memory so much sweeter. And the happy far outweighs the sad. (Psalm126:1-3)
Don’t hold on to the tears. Let Jesus hold them. You hold on to the good. Every single good memory~and just believe. You will see His glory. (John 11:40) because everything good and everything perfect always comes from God. (James 1:17)
And because He is writing your book, and every story He has ever written always has a beautiful ending.
(2 Peter 1:19, Psalm 139:1-18)
We don’t like weakness.
It’s pumped into us from early childhood that we can do anything we put our minds to.
We don’t like to ask for help. We want this persona that we can do it all.
That we’re strong and capable.
I recently found myself in a weak situation.
I didn’t want to bother anyone, so I didn’t ask for help. I thought I could do it alone.
I may have screamed a little in the frustration of the moment.
I was determined to put a storage container larger than myself (and filled to the brim with heavy outdoor greenery) up onto a shelf that was above my head. I assessed the situation and came up with a plan. I got the container up and balanced onto the first shelf and then with a heave, lifted it above my head to slide onto the next shelf up.
For a split second I was proud of myself.
Until I realized the container was too big to slide onto the shelf. And so, that huge container that was larger than my body frame rested on top of my head and I screamed (just a little) in anger and frustration. I could almost feel my spine turning into an accordion. I was home alone in 5 degree weather out in my garage. This was going to come crashing down, and me along with it.
I was weak.
Somehow in that moment I prayed and asked God not to allow me to fall off the ladder I was balancing on, and to be able to set that container down without anything breaking. Bones included. To be honest, I don’t even know how I got it down and looking back, I wish I had just prayed ahead of time and perhaps God would’ve shown this proud, stubborn woman that there was no way that huge container would fit on that shelf. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
I placed all power on myself, and guess what?
I am powerless.
We all are.
I used to quote that verse in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10~’when I am weak, He is strong’,
but it dawned on me recently that that is not what the verse says. There is truth in that statement, but the verse actually says~ when I am weak then “I” am strong.
It almost doesn’t make, sense until you read the entire context.
When we realize we have no strength, we have no power and we are weak~ that’s the moment we become strong, because it’s in that moment as a Christian that we come to the realization that the power comes from Christ alone.
It’s not something most people would brag about. In fact, I am sure many would see that whole idea as being weak. The world is constantly shouting at us that we are strong, and how utterly ridiculous it is to have to lean on Christ for our strength. Too often we allow their screams to drown out God’s promises to us.
So my question to you is this~
Why do it alone?
Why try to muster up the strength to conquer every thing this world throws at you~
Most likely~ pride. (Proverbs 16:18)
Do you know how often Christ tells us that through Him we can have peace (Philippians 4:6-7) and comfort (1 Peter 5:7, 11 Corinthians 1:3-5) and love (John 3:16) and strength
(Isaiah 41:10-13) and power (2 Timothy 1:7)? Throw any situation in the mix, it doesn’t matter what it is~Christ will take that yoke upon himself and bear it right along side of you.
(Matthew 11:30, Psalm 55:22)
You will never be alone. (Hebrews 13:5-6)
Not even in 5 degree weather in a garage. On a ladder.
With a Christmas container perched on top of your head.
Satan knows our weaknesses. Sometimes he knows them better than we do. He fools us into thinking we are strong on our own, and it isn’t until that moment we fall apart that we realize that our weaknesses are much stronger than our resolve.
Don’t let pride harden your heart, (Hebrews 3:8, Psalm 95:8) and quite literally make you fall. (James 4:6, Psalm10:4) Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re being humble by not asking for help.
Humility is not weakness, humility is strength wrapped up in Jesus. (Isaiah 41:10-13)
Ask God for help today. Ask Him to show you areas that you are weak, not physically but spiritually. Ask Him for His strength and power. Don’t wait until you are broken to finally beg God for help. (Hebrews 4:16, Psalm 34:18) And then, allow yourself to ask others for help as well. Put aside your pride and let someone be a blessing in the serving.
One day you will look back at whatever problem you find yourself in at this very moment and say~”I honestly don’t know how I got out of that situation except for God. He heard my prayers. He strengthened me and gave me the power to overcome. He did not leave me broken and because of Him, I am strong.
Because of Him, I can do anything.” (Philippians 4:13)
It’s all Him.
Realize that now, rather than later.
Ultimately you show your strength by showing your weakness.
The strength that only comes from God.
Remember when they wanted to be held?
Remember when they snuggled?
Remember the make believe days when fairies were real?
When bad became good with just one kiss?
When beds became forts,
and pillows were made for happy dreams?
Remember when they thought they could fly?
They believed in fairy tales and kingdoms.
They played with dolls, and built cities with Lego’s. They played outside for hours.
On tire swings and monkey bars.
Or just staring at cloud shapes that came alive to tiny eyes.
And you loved the innocence their lives beheld.
Remember when you would tuck them in and they would smile and giggle and say this was the best day ever?
Remember when they were little?
Remember when they got sick?
One child after another? When fatigue had you crying right along with them?
Remember when they were sad and the tears of their tiny broken hearts was more than you could stand?
Remember when dreams became bad, and they didn’t want to go to bed at night?
Remember the peer pressure and teasing and the sadness that ensued?
And you hated that sin had made life so cruel.
Remember when you tucked them in, and they begged you not to send them to school in the morning. Remember when they realized they couldn’t fly? Clouds were just clouds.
Fairy tales weren’t true. Dolls were for babies.
Remember when they weren’t little any more?
Remember them now.
Remember the times they had to go through heart wrenching circumstances in their lives, with their own little families? With their spouses? Remember the nights you sat alone with your husband in the very house they were raised in, and shed tears for the heartache your adult children were facing?
Or could be facing even now.
And you cried more than you ever did from fatigue when they were little.
Remember the helplessness you felt because this was life? This was adulthood.
This wasn’t something a kiss could make better.
And you hate that sin has made life so cruel.
Let them be little mama.
Let them be little for as long as possible.
Don’t fall into the trap of making your oldest responsible for your youngest,
when he’s just a baby still himself.
Don’t tell your children to grow up.
Don’t yell at them for ‘not thinking’.
Don’t expect them to react like an adult.
Let them be little, because you will blink
and the heartache this world throws at them will break your own heart.
And then you will wish they were little again.
Don’t dwell on the bad days.
You are mama. The same mama who helped them believe in fairytales and made their childhood days the best days ever.
Remind your adolescent and adult children of the beautiful days. Show them there will always be a kingdom, one far better than a fairytale could ever capture.
Luke 1:33, Isaiah 9:7, Psalm 145:13, Daniel 7:27.
Show them the sunshine through the clouds. Encourage them to see those beautiful shapes. To lay down and rest once in a while.
To play and to believe in good again.
Because God is always good, and his kingdom is being prepared for us even now.
John 14:2, Psalm34:8, Psalm 100:5, Psalm 107:8, Psalm 145:9,
And His goodness will always, always prevail against the bad.
And He loves them more than your mama heart ever could.
And then, as hard as it might be, choose to believe that yourself.
And give Him those tears you cry for them.
Knowing how much He loves you as well.
Let them be little mama.
Show them they can fly.
Even when they aren’t little anymore.
Remind them of how much God loves them.
Remind them that He will never leave their sides, that He is in control even when they can’t see the good. Help them believe in that good again.
And remember that He is holding them when you no longer can.
And as they fall asleep at night, be that mama that made them believe that pillows were made for happy dreams again. The mama that whispered encouragement to their grown up hearts. The hearts that once held so much innocence.
Be the mama that continually reminded them that day~
That every day can still be the best day ever.
I lay in bed in the darkness, listening to my husband pray.
It’s been a week.
But tomorrow, tomorrow looks promising.
I have a well thought out plan of how it will go~
New Year’s resolutions I want to start on.
Organizing my home. Getting on the treadmill.
But most important, spending time with God.
Writing my blog post.
Surely He will bless me.
My blog is for Him after all.
My words of hope. Words of encouragement.
But then tomorrow comes.
Notifications screaming at me to be acknowledged. Writers block. Cold coffee. Interruptions.
Phone calls, texts and seemingly wasted hours.
And I get frustrated. I get irritated.
Not one prayer uttered and not one word written for my blog.
This wasn’t supposed to be my tomorrow.
I often find it easy to preach this idea of “divine interruptions” to my adult children~those moments when you have a well thought out plan. A course of action. Limited time. Goals to achieve. A project to start or finish.
someone bumps into those plans and your entire day is rerouted.
When my children get frustrated with moments like this, I remind them that it’s all God. He knew exactly what was going to happen. He knew exactly who was going to bump into those plans and change the whole course of the day. Moments like these are divine interruptions and we shouldn’t be upset with them.
But when it happens to me?
It’s not divine.
It’s difficult. It’s displeasing. It’s depressing.
It’s “drive me crazy” interruptions.
Because~ isn’t my scenario different?
I’m doing God’s work.
But I’m not.
When I get in those moods, it’s all about me.
I’m doing Charisse’s work.
I argue with myself that I’m justified in my irritation, because I’m looking for those perfect words to write and that perfect story to tell. I’m looking for something to encourage people and give them hope.
God’s hope for His people.
The whole goal of Holding Hope.
And that’s when it hits me. People.
People ARE God’s work.
Why did Jesus come? For people.
To seek and to save those who are lost.
People are the plan. Whether that’s your husband, your children, your parents, your neighbors~or even a complete stranger.
All that other stuff comes second.
If I never write another word because my life is interrupted with people and my moments are made up in ministering to others, then that is all God. That’s His plan.
I’m not saying that having goals or making plans is wrong. It’s not. But putting your plans and your projects before your people is wrong. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so that we could achieve those New Year’s resolutions. He didn’t die so that we could get into better shape or organize our homes or get that promotion at work.
He didn’t even die on the cross so that I could write an amazing blog post for Holding Hope.
He died for people.
His amazing, unending, grace filled love of people.
And so, my New Year’s resolutions will look a little different this year. I will look for God in every interruption. He knows exactly what’s going to happen as each new day unfolds. He knows exactly who needs to cross my path and who’s path I need to cross. He knows exactly who needs to bump into my plans.
His plan is the plan I want to be a part of. God’s project. His divine interruptions. There will always be projects to accomplish and plans to achieve, but there is not one moment in time that is wasted when that moment is given to people.
We do not know what tomorrow holds~
but God does.
In His sovereign, omnipotent love He interrupts our days, because of that knowledge.
Resolve to remember that God’s plans are so much better than ours. Our people may not be with us tomorrow~
So please remember that when they bump into your plans today.
“…And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again…”
We are all familiar with the lyrics to this classic Christmas song, except I wasn’t that mom. I didn’t want school to start again. I wanted to hold on to every minute I had my children home with me during Christmas break. I was the mom watching school cancellations on the television during every snow storm, hoping the name of our school would come across the screen. Snowy days in front of a cozy fire. Hot chocolate and sledding. Movie Mondays where we’d all pile into our tiny den with a big bowl of homemade popcorn.
My family. My kids. My heart.
Yes I had those days when they would drive me absolutely crazy, but I wouldn’t trade one second of this glorious ministry God has placed me in.
The ministry of motherhood.
A ministry I often messed up.
Motherhood is a high calling and one that far too many take too lightly. Every single second God gives you with your child is of utmost importance and will make a lasting impact on their lives. The words you say, the reactions you have, the love you give and the prayers you pray will mold them into the adult they will one day become. They will notice what is important to you without you ever saying a word, because mama that old saying still holds true today~
”Actions speak louder than words”.
Far too often my actions spoke louder.
I wanted that clean house. I wanted that 5 minutes of peace. I wanted time to do projects and to write stories and to fulfill dreams.
Today, I have all of that. I have all the time in the world to keep a clean house. To sit in the peace and quiet and write. Today the same rooms of this old house gaze back at me. The rooms I thought had to be cleaned and organized “right now” or I might lose it. The rooms I allowed to get between me and my children, because they were constant interruptions in my schedule. The rooms now empty of toys and children and laughter.
Today I realize God did fulfill my dreams.
He wrapped them up in four beautiful souls.
All that other stuff was just stuff.
The furniture has been arranged and rearranged and the paint in this house has been changed multiple times in the past 27 years and I will have multiple moments to change it all again, but those moments with my children are gone. And yes, that can break my heart.
I messed up a lot in this ministry of motherhood. At times, we grandmas can often feel that pain of wishing we could have a “do over”.
I know I do.
But then God reminds me of the little miracles He made of the messes. He reminds me of the laughter. Of holding our breath as we wished for snow days, and the squeals of delight when they were gifted to us. Of playing hide and seek in the house and Barbies in the bedroom. Of making homemade popcorn and cookies and fudge. Of four little bodies snuggling in with mama on the couch. Of the prayers I prayed as tears flowed from an abundantly blessed heart.
Yes I messed up, but God was in each one of those messes. He heard my sincere heart as I cried out to Him for the ‘now’ and for the ‘futures’ of my children. He was the God of my mundane days. He was the God Who sat with me as I cried out in prayer. The God Who was next to me as I washed dishes and vacuumed and painted that room one more time. The God Who made my home a safe haven of coziness for my kids. The God Who somehow allowed my children to look at my heart and not just my actions. The God Who turned my little beings into my best friends and my mistakes into lessons made. The God Who answered my prayers despite my problems.
My God Who takes this ministry of motherhood seriously. I wasn’t the one who made this house a home. I wasn’t the one who raised my children to love the Lord. It was Jesus in me. Jesus in the messes and Jesus in the beautiful moments. Jesus in the very middle of this ministry of motherhood.
No matter what that ministry looks like for you today~Invite Jesus in. Invite Him into every single thing you do. The cooking and baking. The laundry and dishes. The dusting and vacuuming. The painting and the rearranging. The bath time and the bed time. The prayer time. Fall to your knees for that newborn, that toddler, that teenager and college student. That wayward adult. When you invite Jesus in, He makes miracles out of messes.
It is a high calling mama.
One we need be on our knees for continually.
It is a ministry that never ends.
A beautiful, glorious, life changing ministry.
That sweet, sweet ministry called motherhood.
It’s going by too fast. Faster than I want it to. Fear of the swiftness grabs a hold of my heart. I try to reach behind me and grasp at it, but it has already moved past me. Time. I want more time. Time with my kids and grandkids. Time with my best friend of 36 years.
What happened to this year? What happened to this Christmas season? What happened to yesterday?
I want it to slow down, but it pays no heed to my desires. This year I watched as beloved friends lost their best friends and soul mates, and it crushed me. How could they move on? Is that the reality of what we thought would be our “Happily Ever After”? To fall more in love as each year passes, to grow old together and then to face the heartache of losing one another? Of losing your whole life?
And then, the other night I watched as the story of Christmas came alive on television. And the message spoke to my heart. It went beyond the good tidings of great joy to a message of hope for all mankind.
A message of hope because of Jesus.
Do not be afraid.
That message was spoken to Zacharias, to Joseph, to Mary, to the shepherds.
The beautiful message tucked away within the pages of Christmas.
Do not be afraid.
That message spoke to me.
I watched the television as Mary, the mother of Jesus, lay close to death. I couldn’t help but think how excited she must have been with the knowledge that her life was drawing to an end. The fear of death did not grip her. She did not try to grasp at the past, because she knew Who was waiting for her.
Her Son and her Messiah. What love her heart held for Him. And it humbled my own heart that the love I have for Him does not reach that level as it should.
I used to pride myself in the fact that I wasn’t afraid of death, because I had no doubt a home in heaven awaited me. Not because of anything I had done, but because of everything Jesus did for me. As each year passes, the reality of death has changed for me. I realize that there is a fear~not for myself~but a fear of loss. Loss of what I hold so dear. And I do not want to face it.
I fear the loss of my husband. I fear the loss of time. Time that goes too quickly. Time that I want back. Death has become so much more real to me as the years go quickly by. If my eyes are not on Jesus, fear can consume my thoughts.
But the angels words whisper to my fearful heart over and over again. Do not be afraid.
God speaks those very words so often in His word, that it is easy to pass them by. Just like time. To not be intentional in the regarding. The regarding of every minute of every day. The regarding of choosing to truly hear God’s words spoken to a fearful heart. Do not be afraid.
If God allows, next year I will be writing words of encouragement as another year ends. Next year. It will fly by even faster. I will look back and wonder where the time went. And so, I will purpose in my heart to let the message of this Christmas season soak into my soul.
Do not be afraid.
I don’t know what next year holds. So much can change, but God’s words will never change. They will be a constant until I behold Him in glory. I will cling to His unchanging promises as I step into the future and I will choose to believe them.
Do not be afraid.
Today is Christmas!!
Today we celebrate the day that changed the entire course of all mankind. The birth of our Redeemer. How we celebrate will look different for everyone. Whether you are surrounded by the squeals of happy, little children, whether you are yearning for the cries of a newborn of your own, whether you are holding the aged hand of an elderly parent~ who once held your tiny hand in theirs, whether you are awaiting the arrival of adult children and looking forward to a house filled with laughter or whether you are alone, perhaps looking at the empty seat of a loved one you lost this year. Whatever your story~ today is the celebration of THE story. The story of good news. The story of glad tidings. The story of great joy. The story of hope, and not of fear. And so, whatever story this day holds for your heart, let us celebrate the JOY that came down from heaven for us and let us grasp the gladness that story holds. No matter how different your story may look from that of others~
God’s story is the same for us all.
The story of sacrificial love for you.
Allow the story of Christmas to wrap around your happy heart, but also your hurting heart. Lean into it and let it’s gift illuminate a weary soul. Let it’s wonder light up your room and let it’s message move you to merriment.
Today, allow your soul to sing that glorious message along with the angels~
Good news. Glad tidings. Great joy and~
Our children’s Christmas play might look a little different this year. Sickness has seem to hit our little town very hard. School activities have been canceled and our children’s midweek program has suffered. Attendance has been light to say the least, and because of this our Christmas program has also suffered. A program that we look forward to every year. A program that fills our little church with parents, grandparents and friends. A program that tells the good news of Jesus birth.
As I prayed about this Sunday, my heart wondered who would even attend? We only had a handful of children participating ~ half of whom were my own grandchildren. I thought about empty pews, and how that might affect them.
But as I prayed God whispered to my heart that it would all be fine, because He brought to my remembrance the very first Christmas. The night the good news of Jesus birth was proclaimed by an angel. Not to a large auditorium full of people, but to shepherds in a field who came to a manger and worshipped a Savior.
Thousands of people were in Bethlehem that night, but God came into the stillness of a silent night and spoke to the humble hearts of shepherds.
And I knew that whether one person came and sat alone in our little auditorium, or 100 people came, God knew all along that the ones who needed the message would be there. Listening to the words of children proclaiming the good news. Watching the faith of a younger generation and having hope again in their hearts.
And I knew that God would be there. Jesus among us~ no matter how small the attendance might be.
This year your Christmas might look a little different, for one reason or another. Lack of family and friends and empty chairs might affect you. Don’t be tempted to look for Jesus in the big. Don’t look for Him in the parties or in the shopping and wrapping. Don’t look for Him in the Christmas music and movies. Don’t look for Him In the festivities filled with all the big Christmas things. Don’t look for His joy and peace in a place. Look for Him in the silent night, with the faith of a child.
That’s where Christmas will be because that’s where God will be. His love fills all the empty places.
Jesus among us.
The precious gift of Jesus~right here in the stillness of your humble heart.
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
When my kids were little, they would “practice” Christmas morning. It was the sweetest thing to watch.
They would come up with “what-if” scenarios, then practice their solution to each.
~what if Michael wakes up first…
~what if Andrea wakes up first…
~what if Jessica WON’T wake up…
~what if Kathryn sneaks downstairs…
~what if it’s too early…
Then they would act out their solutions. Michael would go in to wake the girls, Andrea would wake Michael, all of them would jump on Jessica, Kat would be strictly admonished to stay upstairs until given permission, and if it was too early they would tell mom and dad they had to go to the bathroom and couldn’t wait any longer.
Funny thing is, all that practicing for the perfect Christmas went right out the window once that day arrived. The excitement made all the perfect planning and good ideas disappear, but that was alright. They will forever hold memories in their heart of running downstairs in complete chaos on Christmas morning and in their eyes, it was always perfect.
It seems like so many Christmas movies revolve around someone trying to pull off the perfect Christmas, and utterly failing in one way or another. Apparently this is a hot topic during the holidays. As I look back on my little family and all the Christmases we have shared, I realize that too often I have fallen prey to practicing the perfect Christmas myself. My goal to make everyone happy ended in me being miserable at times, because my focus was misconstrued.
I have come to the Christmas conclusion that you will never make everyone happy and~
only Jesus can give the gift of true happiness.
I certainly am not Jesus.
Year after year I got caught up in striving to make things perfect for everyone, and ended up taking my focus off of Him. Instead, my focus was placed solely on others. I found myself in tears last year because I was afraid that Christmas wouldn’t be special enough for my kids.
That old saying~’practice makes perfect’ doesn’t always hold true. 35 years of practicing and planning to make the perfect Christmas for my children, and in my eyes I have yet to perfect it.
Now that my kids are adults, they are no longer oblivious to the amount of work that sometimes goes into the perfecting of the perfect Christmas, and they are fully aware of the stress it can bring IF your focus isn’t on the entire reason for celebrating. Last year my girls bore witness to my little breakdown of emotions over my felt failures and they didn’t like it, because they now wish for ME to experience (and not just provide) the perfect Christmas as well.
So what is the key to the perfect Christmas if it isn’t in the practice? The key is the peace that passes all understanding. My words might seem counterintuitive but when pleasing others becomes more important than pleasing Christ~we have no peace. Aren’t we always told to focus on others and not ourselves? Yes, we certainly should. I’m not saying that focusing on others is wrong, I’m saying that if that is our only focus, Jesus will become an afterthought.
The words to the song Silent Night hold so many truths we need to grasp when December comes around…
All is calm.
All is bright.
Holy infant so tender and mild.
Sleep in heavenly peace.
When we keep our eyes on Jesus and remember that He is the ONLY reason we celebrate the season, things will change. Christmas might be chaotic, all the perfect planning and good ideas might go right out the window, but that’s alright. Our hearts will hold the peace that passes understanding...
All will be calm.
All will be bright.
All because of the Holy Infant born for us.
And we will forever hold memories in our hearts of what a truly perfect Christmas is all about.
I could hear their little feet tiptoeing down the stairs. They were trying to be quiet, but the old stairs could not lie. Each step made their presence known. I looked over at the clock in the darkness~4:30am. Hadn’t I just gone to sleep a few hours before?
(New rule this year, they will not be allowed out of bed until at least 6am.)
I rolled over and nudged my husband. “The kids are awake”. He let out a quiet groan, but didn’t move. I slipped out of bed and went to the stairway door. It was still shut, at least that rule stayed in tact. I opened it slightly and saw 4 little faces. Excitement was written all over them. “It’s 4:30 in the morning!” I whispered. They giggled and squealed~
”But mom! It’s Christmas!!!”
That’s all it took. Yes, I gave in. That old saying~”I’m only a morning person on Christmas” is 100% me, and their excitement was contagious.
Nothing compares to Christmas morning. When you are a child, it’s the most wonderful day of the year. For a whole month life becomes magical. Christmas countdown calendars are made. Letters are written, cards are signed, cookies are baked, presents are wrapped, music is blaring, lights are twinkling, snow is wished for and excitement abounds. Smiles and dreams lay on pillows at night, and every new day is more exciting than the last.
Oh to be a child again at Christmas.
Oh to be a child again for the entire month of December.
We forget. We grow up. We have responsibilities, and the list of things that brought so much magic and joy to December when we were younger are now on a long checklist of things to do that cause us stress. We have shut the door on December excitement and groaned in the darkness of “to-do’s”.
Yes, we have forgotten that we are still children.
There is so much hope in the wonder of a child. No matter your age, there is still wonder to behold and there is still magic and joy in that beholding.
Because we are GOD’S CHILD.
That in itself should be so exciting to us. This is the month we celebrate the birth of our Savior. This is the month we celebrate the gift God has given us of eternal life in Heaven one day with Him, all because of His gift. The gift of His Son who would take on every sin~ past, present and future~ and die on the cross to take that sin away. If we have received that gift with humble penitence, our lives should be different. Excitement and joy should permeate every day and December should be the most wonderful time of the year.
Don’t lose that excitement as you head into December. Determine in your heart to find the joy of a child in the “to-do’s” and the wonder in each thing December brings.
Instead of dreading the calendar and how quickly each day passes, ask God for the childlike wonder and thankfulness for the gift of salvation that became yours. Experience the happiness in baking and wrapping and Christmas music and yes, even snow. Each thing that makes December so special to a child can be a reminder of all God has done for us~
Blessing us with the delicious ingredients that go into those Christmas cookies, reminding us of the gift of His Son as we wrap each gift we will give this year, gazing at the soft, twinkling lights and remembering the star that shone over a manger so long ago, looking out over a winter wonderland and thanking God that He has washed our sinful hearts and proclaimed them white as snow. Go to sleep each night with smiles and dreams upon your pillow. Dreams of a different December because of a different heart attitude.
The heart of a child. God’s child.
Be a little Christmas crazy. Be contagious in your excitement over the most wonderful time of the year, and when others look at you like you are a Christmas lunatic, smile and respond~
Because that truly says it all.
A Guaranteed Happy Thanksgiving
A Thanksgiving Devotional
For weeks I had been planning this holiday with an excitement that could not be contained. My family would be traveling 700 miles to visit me for Thanksgiving. I poured over magazines with pictures of beautiful holiday table settings. Wonderful memories flooded my heart as I remembered the countless Thanksgivings spent with family, sitting around just such a table. Despite my apartment being tiny, we would all squeeze in and make it work. Mike and I had been married less than 3 years, with one child and another on the way. Morning sickness prevailed but I didn’t care~I missed home, I missed family, I missed all of us sitting around the dinner table together.
Everything began just as I had planned, but it all went downhill on Thanksgiving day. One family member after another came down with the stomach flu~in the very worst way. Everyone ended up sick except for me. It is an understatement when I tell you that our apartment was tiny. There was barely enough room to walk by each other and with only one small bathroom and 5 sick people… well you can only imagine. I had a lot of cleaning… and then more cleaning to do, with no time to rest or even celebrate. Add morning sickness to the equation and my picture perfect Thanksgiving turned into a nightmare. No sitting around a table filled with a cornucopia of delicious foods and thankful spirits.
We all want that picture perfect Thanksgiving dinner, Martha Stewart style. We have high hopes that the Turkey will turn out a beautiful golden brown, that family will all get along and that laughter along with delicious pumpkin pie will ensue.
That we will all truly be thankful.
Sometimes life just doesn’t work out the way we hoped, especially during the holidays. The turkey is too dry, we burn the biscuits, we wonder why we’re the only one doing all the work, the stress levels in the kitchen are at an all time high and that one family member gets on our last nerve.
And then we lose it. Our frustrations boil over just like our mashed potatoes.
And so, as we approach this week of gratitude I would like to challenge you to focus on a different table setting. That of the last supper. There is so much we can glean from the scripture passage in John 13, and it stirs my heart. Who is sitting at your table? The focus in John 13 was not the food or even the fellowship. The focus was Jesus and the example He set for all of us as we sit down to our Thanksgiving meals.
I would like to leave you with five things to meditate on this week. It might seem lengthy, but if you choose to focus on one every day~ it’s a guarantee your Thanksgiving supper will be a happy one.
1. A gift in the gratitude~Jesus gave thanks despite knowing what was ahead. Despite the wicked betrayal in the heart of Judas, despite the foreknowledge of Peter’s denial, despite the coming abandonment of the disciples who professed their love for Him. (Luke 22:17-18, Matthew 26:26-27, Mark 14:22-23.) Maybe you are excited about Thanksgiving, or maybe you are stressing over it~ whatever your case may be, you can change your outlook by choosing to give thanks. There is so much to be thankful for, starting with our Savior. How could He possibly be thankful in that moment? And yet, He was. Emulate His gratitude. Find something to be thankful for every day leading up to the big day. A habitual heart that beats a thankful rhythm will not easily be dissuaded when faced with difficult circumstances or people. Look to Jesus and just be thankful.
2. A gift in the giving~ Jesus became a servant. He never complained, but in humble love washed His disciples feet~ even the feet of the one who would betray Him. (John 13:4&5) Prepare your heart to be a servant this Thanksgiving, even to those you feel don’t deserve it. Judas certainly didn’t deserve it, but that didn’t stop our Savior. Serving others should never be viewed as an unwanted duty. Choose to bless others by the love you put into that service. Determine not to have a grumbling heart, but instead a thankful servant’s heart that God can use. Have the heart of Jesus.
3. A gift in the guidance~Despite knowing Judas would betray Him, Jesus chose to love and serve him and told us that we should follow His example. (John 13:11, 14-15.) We are human, there will always be that one person that annoys us (because they are human too) despite the little idiosyncrasies that get on our last nerve, none of them compare to sitting at supper with Judas. As you sit to supper this Thanksgiving, remember Jesus example and His words to us in admonishing that we follow that example.
4. A gift in the getting~Jesus actually told us something simple, yet profound. By following His example we will in turn be blessed with happiness. (John 13:17.) Okay, who doesn’t want happiness during the holidays? Who doesn’t want to fall into bed at night after a wonderful meal and precious moments with family and friends on Thanksgiving, and have your heart full of happiness? It doesn’t have to be something we wish for. Happiness can be our reality this Thanksgiving if we put into practice the steps He outlined for us in His word. Become a servant of love.
5. A gift in the glorifying~The last thing I want to leave you with in preparation of your week ahead is the very gift you will give to others by following Jesus example. (John 13:31&32, 34&35) You will be loving others with a true servant’s heart and in the doing, that love will glorify God. Isn’t that the ultimate goal? It’s not about us. It’s not about the food or the Pinterest perfect table setting. It’s all about the joy in sharing the love of Jesus. It’s all about the happiness in the serving. It’s all about the glory of God.
Remember that Jesus is sitting at your table with you this Thanksgiving. He is all you will ever need in making beautiful God moments and memories. As I look back at that Thanksgiving so many years ago and the disaster that it was, it still holds precious memories to me. I can even laugh with my brothers at the events that holiday held and cherish the time spent with my mom and dad, who are no longer with us. Yes, there was a lot of serving, but there was also so much love; and the happiness my heart holds at the time we had together is one that I will treasure forever.
A gift in the gratitude. A gift in the giving. A gift in the guidance. A gift in the getting. A gift in the glorifying. All because of Jesus.
A Thanksgiving gift of God.
1 Thessalonians 5:18