Saturday, December 13, 2014

it's beginning to look like.... Christmas???

The other day I put up a "couple of" Christmas decorations.

Yes, you read that right.

This December baby is thinking 'bout Christmas BEFORE her birthday!
 What can I say? I must be mellowing.

Actually, what happened was this: our church sponsored a Ladies Night Out Craft Fair last week but I was sick and missed it so the craft kit was sent home to me via my sweetie. So, one day last week with nothing else to do I got my craft on. The blocks were all of the Christmas variety and I chose Joy, partly because that seems to be my focus these days, but also, (full disclosure) it was the shortest of words to choose from!! I'm just not the craftiest person. I think it looks like a lot of fun until I burn myself with the glue gun and end up with crooked bling and glue gobs in my hair and my fingers singed and stuck together. Honestly, me and crafts have a way of doing battle. I've tossed away more crafts than I care to admit, because they turned out so sad looking!

But, somehow I pulled it off. I got these 3 little blocks painted, and glued and the end result is something I felt good enough about to post on facebook. That's saying something.  I set the blocks up on my little entry table and felt pleased with it.

Then, as I was putting my crafts away, I found a string of Christmas lights tucked into a box and I thought, Hmm. I love lights! We'd just this past week turned our outside lights on and I thought having some lights in the house would just feel nice. I planted them carefully inside a stained glass vase we have and viola! Soft, pretty lights! Feels so cozy and inviting,

Today, with an uninvited internet shut down, and a house to myself, I decided to dig the rest of the decorations out of storage. My first intent was to just have them on hand because we've talked about actually getting a tree this year, thinking perhaps the grandsons would be able to help us decorate. But realistically I don't know when or how that will take place since it wasn't thought out with more advance notice. Perhaps next year.

The last few years we've improvised on trees. Meaning, we've had some unusual things in their place. As I was dragging the box of decorations into the house, my eyes fell on the plant stand hibernating in our greenhouse and, no pun intended, but I had a sudden epiphany! The end result is....

So there you go.... 2 days before my birthday and I have my Christmas on! I'm even thinking I might go shopping for some Christmas themed clothing... but I'll have to draw the line at Ugly Sweaters. I might be mellowing but I still have standards.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

More Than A Feeling

In my daily devotional reading the other morning I was reminded that we are so much more than our feelings.

I don't know about you, but these are the kind of reminders I need on a fairly regular basis.

 Feelings play such an important role in everything we do. I am a person guided primarily by my heart. Common sense is a precious commodity and being a realist in a world of optimists and pessimists has its advantages. While I do possess common sense, it's still my heart that takes charge 99% of the time.

Being led by the heart isn't always a bad thing.... but I have learned how it does need to be balanced with good judgement.

I let my heart lead when I decided to give that tall blond quiet guy a chance 20 some years ago.

 Thankfully, it was one of the best decisions my heart ever made.

Where being led by the heart has it's downfalls, comes when my heart is filled with fear, anxiety, anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, resentment, pride, selfishness and so on. Fear is probably the biggest one for me. Because I have found that when I feel fearful, that's when anxiety, anger, and the rest of those emotions come crowding in to stake their claim.

When I allow those negative, unhealthy feelings to rule, what follows are the equally negative feelings of guilt, shame and self-contempt. And if I let those feelings settle in, and they start to define me, well, friends, that's a path that can only lead to a dark dark place.

That is where this reminder that I am so much more than my feelings gives me hope.

When I remember that I am a child of God, a
powerful, wise, beloved, child of God, 
I  then also remember that I can do whatever I need to do in life because through Christ, He has told me I can!

When my heart is filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control, I can let my heart lead 100%.

What feelings are you letting define you?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Peace, Peace, Perfect Peace

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about peace. 

Um, no. Not that kind.

It's the kind of peace Jesus talks about when He said not to be troubled or fearful. The kind of peace he promised when He said ..."the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give." (John 14.27)

I know there are times when I am guilty of approaching God like a vending machine/genie. "I need/I want..." I also recognize there are times when my approach is deep, no frivolity attached. Still, I always come away from the prayer time with something I cannot measure. Peace. 

Over the years, many of my prayer requests have not been answered exactly as I asked. People with illness have not been healed, (at least not here on earth.) Reconciliations, forgiveness, important life changes, have yet to take place. Requests for a myriad of things have not been honored according to the way I envisioned, or wanted. Sometimes even the things I have prayed for, things I truly felt I needed have not come to pass. 

It can make me wonder if I'm doing it wrong. It can make me question if God is listening to me. To be completely can even make me feel I might be... wasting my time


In Philippians 4. 6-7 we're told, "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. 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."

Nowhere in this verse does it promise to answer my requests. 

Yet, God DOES want us to come to Him with the burdens on our heart, the things that we'd otherwise fret about. But He never says, “Tell me what you need so I can fulfill it." No, He says tell me what you need and give me praise for what I have already done. THEN, you will... what? Receive all you asked for? Um, nope. It says then you will experience God's Peace... which is like nothing you can comprehend. Peace that transcends understanding. Peace that goes beyond the range of limits! 

God does command us to pray. If we want to be obedient to His will, then prayer is an important part of that. I am blown away by the fact that we are also invited into conversation with Him. He wants to partner with us! And not just so we can dash in for prayer as if He's a 7-11 Jesus, grabbing the things we need (safety for my husband on the job, healing for all those people on my list-- you know who they are Lord, and please make things go smoothly for my friends who are struggling...) 

He longs for us to come into intimate relationship with Him, spending time communicating, and communing with Him. Could the point of prayer be then not so much about seeking His power as it is about seeking His presence?

I am reminded of  that wonderful, tender hymn "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His Glory and Grace."

Time spent in the Presence of our Holy God is life changing. Regardless of our circumstances, and regardless of the outcome of our prayer request, the time we spend gazing on His face, soaking in His presence, THAT is what prayer is designed for. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Giving Thanks in ALL Things.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love the traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings (except for a green bean casserole-- I'll pass, thanks). I look forward to the gathering of crazy relatives and friends.(As long as the house is big enough to accommodate us all.)

I think the reason I favor this holiday over any other is because it's so pure. It's Thanksgiving whether you are a Christian or not. Easter has been corrupted by a bunny, the birthday of Jesus upstaged by a jolly man in a red suit. Halloween is controversial, Valentine's Day brings sadness if you don't have a sweetheart, and the 4th of July is overrated. But Thanksgiving... there's no competition. It's just focused on being thankful (OK, and pie!!)

 It's good to stop and really appreciate all the blessings we have. And we all have something to be thankful for. Regardless of whatever this year has brought, there is always something to be thankful for.

I heard a testimony in church this weekend that knocked my socks off. The woman in the video shared how when she was going through a divorce and raising her kids alone, she still felt blessed. She said those were precious times because of how dependent she was on God. She said those were the times of such sweet intimacy with the Lord, that sometimes she misses that.

I think of all the tough stuff I've gone through in my life and how God was there for me. I think about the things I still struggle with, from the physical to the emotional, and can see how God uses this to shape my character, to stretch me, challenge me, grow me. My life is far from perfect but how boring life would be if all was perfect, right?

Thanksgiving is a great time to pause and reflect on all the blessings, and the Giver of those blessings. At some point during the day, we will take time to ask and share what we are thankful for. There will be lots of laughter and eating and more laughter, but above all, there will be gratitude.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Jehovah Jireh!

The Lord will provide.
Plain and simple that's what Jehovah Jireh means.

I've learned a lot about God as Provider over the years. His faithfulness knows no bounds.

Remember how He provided daily for the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness? Each day He sent them quail and manna and told them to gather the manna-- just enough for that day. They didn't need to worry about tomorrow (though they often did)

I'm no different. I guess I am guilty of some short term memory loss because it's so easy for me to get worked up about my needs for tomorrow. I get to the end of my rope and start to freak a bit, forgetting how God always steps in and provides what I need, just as I need it.

I love this translation from Matthew 5.3 in the Message: "You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule."


How about verse 5...  "You're blessed when you're content with just who you are-- no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought."

Things that cannot be bought...

We won't find any of those on sale this Black Friday.

I'm working on not worrying about tomorrow. I'm working on a lot of stuff lately, but mostly... mostly I'm letting God work on me.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

A sobering realization hit me the other day. There is a lie buried deep in my subconscious that I have taken as truth. Its probably been there since childhood and it has shaped how I interact with God and live my life in relation to Him.

To get this, I have to bring some background into the picture. I was raised in a "God-fearing" church environment. When I say "God- Fearing" I mean just that. I thought of  God as Mighty King and Judge because that was how He was presented to me by the men who preached each Sunday. When I was nine years old I prayed the prayer asking Jesus to save me. I prayed it because I was afraid I was going to go to hell and burn forever.

It wasn't until I was in my 30's that I came to understand that God was more than just someone to fear. I got my first taste of the loving-kindness of Jesus when in my broken state of pre-divorce, with all my ugly hurts spilling out and consuming me, I needed His Grace, Love and Mercy so desperately.  Crying out for Him, He responded: "I want to restore your soul. But I have to have all the pieces."

Full surrender on my part was the key and in that moment I was able to turn to Christ in a way I never had before. Instead of my cries for help based on fear and desperation, I was brought to my knees by His abundant love for me and His desire to have a real relationship with me. That was the turning point and when real growth took place in my walk with the Lord.

Many times of significant healing took place over the next several years and I could feel the chains being broken, link by link, and each day my wings unfurled just a little bit more, allowing me to fly by His grace. Yet, a damaged wing would continue to keep me flying close to the ground, never rising up as high as He or I would love for me to go. I figured this was "OKAY" because He said that in my weakness, I am strong, His grace being all sufficient.

So back to the lie buried inside me that I was accepting as truth. Somewhere, somehow, I came to believe that many of the mistakes I have made are living on in the form of punishment. Punishment from God the Judge. I made a lot of mistakes in my teen years. Running away from home. Marrying at 17. Choices in that first marriage that resulted in years of emotional damage and psychological abuse. I made a lot of mistakes in the years following the divorce, regarding my children and other relationships. And I GET that from choices come consequences. That despite forgiveness we will still have to live with the repercussions of our actions. But it was more than that for me. I was/am still living under the banner of punishment to some degree.

For example. I have had periods of estrangement with both of my children. My son was 13 when I left his dad and things have been strained (to put in mildly) between us since then. The guilt I carry over the way things played out has crippled me in my ability to rebuild a bridge between us. Even though I know that I did the best I could given the broken state I was operating from, and even though I have sought forgiveness from God and from my children, I still struggle with guilt. On some level, I must still believe that I was/am a horrible mother. On some level, deep down, based on all the bad decisions I made, I must think I don't deserve to have a good relationship with my children.

For example. I have had issues with money management from early on. As a single mom I got myself into some deep doo-doo financially. Then I married Bruce and continued to make some poor choices. I'm not talking credit card debt or high stake loans, just every day un-wise, over-spending on things.  A few years ago I got some good prayer council that turned things around for me and I have been able to work with the monthly budget and stick to it. Yet, I realized the other day that on some level I have come to believe the lie that says our current financial issues are a direct result of my past mistakes. That our current situation is a punishment from God the Judge.

Like I said; this has been buried deep inside me, causing me to operate on a subconscious level effectively stunting my spiritual walk. It is time to go back to the basics.... If I confess my sin He is faithful and just to forgive my sin... and He removes my sin as far as the east is from the west. In His eyes I am now forgiven. Righteous.

The enemy would have me believe otherwise, in an attempt to rob me of my joy and of my ability to live in the fullness of Christ. I am coming to see how thinking I should be punished has caused the broken wing that keeps me flying so close to the ground. Yes, I have to live with the consequences of my actions-- if I spend the paycheck unwisely we wont make it to the end of the month-- but facing financial chaos isn't punishment from God. The consequences of my rebellion as a young woman, ultimately resulted in estrangement from my children, but it's not punishment from God.

I am prayerfully committing to having this lie removed from my heart, mind and soul. I am choosing to believe that I am forgiven. I am choosing to live like I am forgiven. In Christ I am a new creation.

I may need (daily) reminders of this until it sticks, but blessedly I know where to go for it.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Focus, Focus, Focus!

Managing my emotions has always been an area of challenge for me. I mean, come on! God made me a passionate woman with strong feelings about certain things. It's not just my streaks of red hair talking when I get worked up about something. It's coming from a place deep inside me and honey, if you can't handle it, get outta the way.

I remember the days of PMS and the hormonal rage I swung through on a regular basis. I remember too the erratic mood swings in the weeks that followed my hysterectomy in my 30's. After years of being stifled  and monitored in my previous relationship, it was with a certain streak of pride that I let loose all those pent up emotions and just laid 'em out there for the whole world to see and hear. I chuckle about this now but I also shudder because I know the way I acted those days were really nothing to be proud of.

Then, there are the days where the depression puts me in a place I often refer to as 'beige'. Days of feeling nothing. Not weepy sadness, not explosive anger, and certainly not joy. I think sometimes those days of feeling nothing are much worse than the days of highs and lows.

What I take away from all of this is that while God created me with a fiery personality, with emotions that can and do take me from one end of the spectrum to the other, He also created me with a brain.    Hello.  
I can manage my emotions rather than allowing my emotions to manage me.

Let me say that again. I can manage my emotions rather than allowing my emotions to manage me. 

I have the ability to CHOOSE my reactions to life. I have the ability to CHOOSE how I face today. If I decide that today is gonna suck, guess what? Ain't no amount of new shoes or chocolate gonna make me smile. The shoes'll be the wrong color and the chocolate won't be dark enough. If, however, I decide that today is going to be a day of rejoicing, I can rest assured that this day is gonna bless me and I will be able to bless others because of it.

It all comes down to making up my mind that this day is going to be joyful. I have no control over whether I get a flat tire, or my purse strap breaks while I'm shopping causing it to slide across the floor with me in hot pursuit, but I do have control over how I react to that. I can remain calm and call Triple A for the flat tire. I can laugh as I chase down a tube of lipstick that has rolled away like a bowling ball. That feels so much better than sitting on the side of the road crying or worse, kicking the tire and cursing. I. Have. A. Choice.

My bible study reading today reminded me that if I am willing to focus and make my decisions not based on feelings alone, I can count on God to be faithful to give me the strength I need to face whatever comes at me.

"That's why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in insults, hardships, persecutions and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong."  2 Corinthians 12.10

It might take some extra focus on days I feel especially vulnerable but it is still a choice I can make. And I will choose JOY.