Monday, December 31, 2012

Aim for more than a "Happy" New Year

I have always enjoyed celebrating New Year's Eve with my family.  In the past, we would have everyone over and Chad and I would make our "famous" cream cheese stuffed jalapenos wrapped in bacon, along with other yummy snacks.  We started this tradition when our boys were very young.  We wanted to celebrate and have fun, but wanted to be off the roads and have our boys be able to sleep when they needed to.  When they were all under the age of five, we would watch Disney Movies and pop popcorn.  When the boys got a little older, we started inviting their grandparents, uncles and aunts and cousins over.  Every year, we would look forward to having the family over and sharing our favorite snacks together.  Here is a picture from one of those special New Year's Eve celebrations many years ago:
Of course, this New Year's Eve is going to be completely different.  I have the flu and we are 9 hours away from most of our family.  However, Chad and Zach are preparing a special meal including homemade cheesesticks for our supper. I really miss our family tonight and am praying for them too. 

I am thankful that the Lord is faithful and although everything else changes, He does not.

Hebrews 13:8

New Living Translation (NLT)
8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

However, my heart is burdened tonight for those hurting people out there that feel alone and broken-hearted.  I don't know what situation you may be in tonight, but I promise you that there IS someone that cares about you.  His name is Jesus.  Cliche' as it sounds, it is the TRUTH.  He can satisfy you like nothing else can. With Jesus, you can have more than a "Happy New Year", you can have a peaceful, joyful, and purposeful New Year.  New Year's Eve is often celebrated with alcohol, food, parties, entertainment and so forth.  No matter how you celebrate New Year's Eve, the New Year will never bring hope if you have a life apart from Jesus. Even if you are a child of God, but are trying to fill your heart with other things, you can feel lonely and unsatisfied as well.

I remember a time in my life, many years ago, when I was hurting and feeling very alone.    I had made some mistakes and felt my life would never glorify the Lord ever again.  It was then that the following verse touched my heart deeply:

Psalm 34:18

New Living Translation (NLT)
18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

Jeremiah 29:11

New Living Translation (NLT)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

Romans 8:38-39

New Living Translation (NLT)
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So, even though I felt alone and unloved, God's word said otherwise! God's word is SO powerful and true.  I am praying that if you are one of those lonely, hurting people tonight, that instead of turning to alcohol, food,or surface relationships, that you will turn to Jesus. Read over these scriptures and let them sink into your heart.  As you trust the Lord to be all that you need and want, He will give you a peace that no one or no thing can.  May God bless you and Happy New Year!


Monday, December 24, 2012

What are you looking for this Christmas?

Tomorrow is Christmas Day!  When I was a little girl, I loved Christmas and all the fun that surrounded it. I loved having the Christmas lights on our house that shined inside my window at night.  I remember my Dad and I would go shopping and walk up and down the aisles of K-mart for over an hour and then leave only buying a box of chocolate covered cherries.  My Mom often sent me really special chocolates; my favorite being a chocolate mouse from Swiss Colony. I guess you can tell our family loves chocolate!!

However, as I grew older and had our boys, Christmas began to be filled with more anxiety and stress.  Decisions about who we would spend what day with, what would we buy the boys, how we could afford gifts, who all we should buy for, etc, seemed to cause more anxiety than peace.  Not only stress, but often a feeling of let down or depression came almost the minute the last gift was opened.  Was it because we didn't receive what we asked for? No, in fact, most always, we all  received what we asked for.  So, why did we feel so sad and often empty?

During Christmas it often seems we are trying to find a "peace" or good feeling that we seldom experience any other time.  We spend a year full of anxiety and chasing after many things.  Suddenly, December rolls around and we turn our focus to Christmas.  We put all our energy in getting the right gifts, having the great food that brings back memories of precious times, and spending time with family we haven't seen all year. Don't misunderstand me, all these things are great!  However, when these things aren't grounded in and around Christ, we are always left empty.  We expect Christmas Day, and all the activity that goes along with it, to fill the void we have in our hearts.

Here is what the Lord is showing Chad and I:  We can have Christmas all year long because we have Jesus all year long.  HE is our love, peace, joy, patience, goodness, gentleness,kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.  The fruits of the Spirit are just that; fruits of HIS Spirit.  If HIS Holy Spirit is controlling our lives and we are walking with Him each day of the year, then we can truly have Christmas all year long.  After the last gift is opened, He is still there.  After we board our plane and come back home, He is still here. Who or what is our  main focus?  What do we want more than anything?  The Lord has been asking me these tough questions.  I have discovered that my peace is gone when the Lord is not the center of my everything.  Again, Jesus is the answer.  Letting the Lord fill the empty and hurting parts of your heart with Him is the ONLY way to have that peaceful and joyful Christmas we all dream about. 

As we prepare for Christmas Day tomorrow, I want to encourage you to read the following scripture and let it sink into your heart. 

Philippians 4:4-7  (NLT)

4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! 5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
Merry Christmas Everyone!!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Letting Go-Post 5 (Last but certainly not least)

I could probably go on and on about what the Lord has shown and taught me during this past year.  "Letting go" has definitely been my theme this year.  Of course there are things that I can't share publicly, but take it from me, God has done a major refining in my heart and life.  I had some things that have weighed heavily on my heart for over 20 years now and it seemed that God decided that it was time to deal with it all now. I admit, these heart issues I had to deal with caused pain and discomfort.  However, after the Lord opened up my heart and exposed the pain with His light and love, I have experienced  a freedom that I haven't had in the past.  During this journey, I have discovered, once again, that unforgiveness had crept in.  Bitterness is an ugly thing.  Sometimes I don't even realize that I have unforgiveness in my heart, but all of sudden everything just stinks. 

This year, I had a long-time friend make some choices that caused me and my family some deep heartache.  The choices my friend made caused alot of damage in the lives of my loved ones.  From a human viewpoint, we had a right to be very upset and perhaps even cause alot of trouble for my friend.  After all, everything this friend once stood for was gone and not only was the friend getting into a dark hole, they were dragging some of my family with them.  This was a friend I trusted and I respected.  Again, I went through alot of emotions ranging from anger to sadness.  Night after night, I would lie awake with an ache in my heart that I couldn't seem to shed.  I cried out to the Lord over and over to deal with this person and give them freedom once again.  One thing I couldn't escape from, was the Lord's Word.  I would hear over and over.....Matthew 6:14-15 (NLT)

14 “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.
When the Lord speaks that clear, I just can't ignore Him.  I thought of how Judas had betrayed Jesus and knew that the Lord understood my pain.  Oh, Judas, you backstabber!!  How could you do that??  It's almost as my life flashed before my eyes and I remembered many times I had turned my back on the Lord.  After all, He had created me, and had plans for me and I still turned away.  He offered me forgiveness and redemption and I turned my nose up and decided that I would do it MY way.  Not only that, I too, dragged people down with me.  WOW! The Lord can shine His light on things that you have totally forgotten about!  There is just NO way I could continue on holding this anger and grudge against my once close friend anymore.  I released my anger and unforgiveness, let go and ask God to take over.  Was it easy? No!  There were still times as my mind traveled through the past several months that I would feel that ache in my heart again.  However, after I had given it to God, agreed with Him that holding a grudge is indeed sin, that I could look back over this situation and see that Jesus' blood had covered not only my sin, but my friend's too.
Do you have someone that you are angry with?  You could be angry with a spouse, parent, friend, child, or even yourself!  Jesus loves us and forgives us and we don't deserve it or earn it.  If we truly want to be like Jesus, we MUST forgive.  Good news!!  The Lord won't only help us to forgive, HE will do it through us!  God is so good!  :)

Philippians 4:13 (NLT) I can do all things through Christ,  who gives me strength.


Friday, December 21, 2012

Letting Go-Post 4

 When the Lord showed us clearly to move in March, I had no idea how much I depended upon and cherished my circle of family and friends. I had lived in my hometown for 24 years and had been a member of our home church for 16 years.  I took for granted living in a town that most people either knew me, Chad, or our parents.  The people that didn't know us, knew our boys.  There was just something about Sulphur Springs that I felt amongst family wherever I was.  I really never realized or understood that until we moved. Even though I am  blessed to be able to call, text, and facebook my sons, family and friends, our new hometown is friendly and our church is filled with sweet and loving people.... the truth is, we are newcomers!  I sometimes forget that my new friends might not know my heart and sometimes worry I am taken the wrong way.  Where I once never felt alone, I am now at a place where loneliness often settles in. 

The weekend before Easter was my great niece's 3rd birthday party.   I remember that day so clear.  I was so sad. I sat on the couch in our quiet home knowing all our family was gathered back home celebrating. We were once a family of five and our house was filled with loud teenage boys and their cousins and friends.  We felt a deep ache in our heart that day.  Loneliness affects alot of people and that's something I seldom ever had felt before.  I was very anxious how we would spend our first Easter and worried Chad and Zach would feel sad too.  But, the Lord already had it all figured out.  A sweet family asked us to join their Easter Celebration after church.  We had such a great meal and even played games with their family like we would back home. At the end of the day, we felt such a peace and contentment.  We missed our family very much but the Lord provided some of our church family to fill that void.

Here is what God has showed me through this experience: First, back to the basics....God is with us and will never leave or forsake us.  Even when we "feel" alone, we are not.    "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

Second, the Lord doesn't want me to stay only in my small circle of friends and family.  I believe He wants us to open our circle and include people He brings our way or people He takes us too.:) We short-change ourselves when we don't get out of our comfort zone and reach out to people God brings into our life. 

I had a choice:  hide in my house mourning and missing my family or push myself to get to know new people that didn't automatically love and understand me.   It wasn't always comfortable or easy but always worth it. I had to let go of the way things use to be in order to take hold of what the Lord was doing in my life now. Do I ever have days where I really miss my family and friends back home?  Yes, almost weekly....but I have friends here that I love now and that have a special place in my heart too. When we reach out to others and love them, we are showing others we belong to Jesus.

John 13:34-35 (NLT) So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

 The people that have reached out to me here in our new town have made an everlasting impression on my heart! I want to encourage you to purposely look for someone that's new to your town, church, or neighborhood and reach out.  Pray and ask the Lord what He would have you do to let them into your world. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Letting Go Post 3

One of the hardest things I have experienced this year was the "letting go" of our adult children.  Now when I say "letting go", I don't mean turn my back on or cut off, I mean letting them go completely into God's hands.  From the minute a Mom hears the words, "You're pregnant", it's like something inside you turns on "Protector Mode".  Everything you do, from that point on, is with your new baby in you eat, how you live, your future....everything.  Your main goal is to love and protect that new life growing inside you.  As the years go by that feeling of needing to be Protector seems to intensify, as your child starts school, their first job, drives their first car, goes on the first date, etc. When your children are still under your roof, you still seem to have that sense that YOU are making sure that they are OK and all will be well.  Then one day, they are grown and they no longer live with you!  Not only do they not live with you, they live across the state. You still have "Protector Mode" turned on but they certainly don't want it and in reality it's useless. 

Well, this is what I am learning: It's really been a mirage that it's all up to me to "protect" them from all harm.  I have never really been able to, nor is it my sole responsibility.  God has been the One that has protected them using my husband and I.  Since the Lord has been their Protector all the time, then in reality nothing has changed EXCEPT in my mind and heart. While they were home with me, I had the false sense of security that it was in my power to keep them from any pain, bad decisions, or harm. Now that they are grown, I am finding it really hard to shut off that mindset that its up to me to protect and care for them. Yes, another "letting go"!  This, by far, has been my greatest challenge.  If I could go back knowing what I know now, I would still try to be the best Mom and protect, but I could have more peace and be more laid back realizing GOD is the ONLY One that is in complete control and I must trust Him more than myself.  This might all seem silly to you, but to me this has been HUGE!  Sleepless night after sleepless night, I would cry and pray and worry.  I felt so helpless and sad.  I felt like a big chunk of my heart was gone.  When people would quote Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he's old he will not depart from it", I would get irritated.  We did train our children up in the Lord!  I fretted and fretted until just recently.  God spoke clearly to me in Luke 18:6-8 CEV,  Think about what that crooked judge said. 7 Won’t God protect his chosen ones who pray to him day and night? Won’t he be concerned for them? 8 He will surely hurry and help them. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find on this earth anyone with faith?
God WAS listening and He IS faithful...but am I trusting Him....really trusting Him? I wrote the song, "I am going to trust You" but am I???  No, I was panicking and still trying to see what I could do to make my boys have the perfect Godly life.   Oh, I was praying and quoting scriptures but inside I was depressed and dwelling on the negative and trying with all my might to "fix" stuff. I have truly made my children idols.  Sound harsh? Well, it is.  I would pray, but if God didn't move like I thought He would, I would step up and do what I thought would help.  You know what? Nothing changed!  I must let go and let God....let God call, shape, love on, and woo our children.  So if I'm not their protector anymore, what am I to do?  The Lord, again, spoke clearly..."Love them".  As I pondered the Lord's words and thought back to my life when I was their age, I remembered how much I disappointed my parents, not to mention the Lord.  Weird, as it sounds, I never once doubted God's love for me.  I knew He loved me.  I want my boys to know I love them....NO MATTER WHAT.  Now, that doesn't mean to condone sin or to bale them out of trouble, it means to accept the fact that they are living "their story" and they are in a chapter of their life that the Lord will use to His glory one day.  (Romans 8:28)  So, when I loosen my grip and let go, THAT is when the Lord takes a tighter hold and can work like only He can do! 

Yes, it is a daily battle to remind myself that it's not up to me!  It's up to the Lord and my grown children.  I am here to simply love them and encourage.  I want to end today's post with a song that my youngest son, Zach, wrote right after we moved.  He had also left all he had ever known....his brothers, grandparents, friends, basketball team..etc.
As you listen to this song, let it be your prayer to press in to the Lord as you let go and really trust Him.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Letting Go-Post 2

  2012 has definitely been the year for "letting go".  In March, we moved 9 hours away from all of our family...including our older 2 sons.  I can't describe how hard that move was!  We had to let go of all that was familiar to us and take hold of what the Lord asked us to do.  Not long after we settled into our new home, my Dad began to rapidly go down hill physically.  He had planned to come see us and meet our new church family but hasnt been able to yet. He now is bedfast and is on hospice.  There are so many things that changed this year that I could write all night and not cover it all.  The bottom line is....well, this has been our toughest year yet.  But wait....I have good news..God still has been faithful.  He hasn't let us go or turned His head.  As we grew weak, God gave us the strength to press on.  As the months went on, I began to realize that I was right in the middle of a major "refining" chapter of my life!  Life, as I once knew it, was no more. I admit that I went through several phases, much like those of a grief process.  I spent days and weeks mourning the death of many dreams we had for our family.  My eyes were opened, as never before to the fact that I had such an tight grip on everything and everyone that was important to me.  Step by step, the Lord loosened my "fingers" that clung to MY life and My family.  I am seeing life in a way that I have never seen it before. Many things these last months have seemed confusing and unclear, but ONE thing keeps getting clearer and clearer....God is God and I am not.  We have shared our "walk of faith" with many of you since 2008, but this year the Lord took things to a new level.  Trusting the Lord for provision was challenging at times..but He provided, sometimes in ways that still blow our minds!  But this year, the Lord pressed me way out of my comfort zone and still is!  I have had many questions and not all have been answered. I am sure of this one thing, God is STILL in control and He STILL has plans for us.  Over the next few days I hope to share some of this year's journey with you.Through it all, I am learning more and more about the Lord's character personally and I wouldn't trade that for anything

Philipians 3:10-11 in the Amplified Bible says it all.....
10 [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [[a]which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope]

11 That if possible I may attain to the [[b]spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body].

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Letting Go

It has been well over a year since I have posted.  As we approach Christmas, I am reflecting on all the the Lord has carried us through this year.  Over the next few days, God willing, I will be sharing some of our journey this past's definitely been a season of "letting go".  I want to leave you with a scripture to think on:
I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.      
Philippians 3:13-14