A Fresh Start

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new”. – Socrates

 

A “fresh start” can be when someone is moving to a new state, starting a new job or even forming new relationship maybe. I really feel it can be all of the above and then some. A fresh start is really anytime you do something new or something that requires change in your life. Change can be tough for a lot of us, and a tad scary too. And for some, change can feel almost impossible to accomplish. Some would even go as far to say it’s plain out overwhelming!

I really think those feelings of fear, doubt, or frustration have to do with a couple different things. Things like not trusting in our ability to change (or His ability to change us), feeling that we are undeserving of change or maybe you’ve even attempted change before and got nowhere fast so you just gave up. A lot can factor into our emotions and if we aren’t careful, those emotions can and will keep us from our fresh start. Jesus offers new life through a relationship with Him, and it’s a wonderful way to have a life full of love, grace and hope. A hope that only He can give. I think there are some very practical ways we can start to make changes in our everyday lives to help us either begin to follow Him or become better followers of Him. Sometimes, that fresh start requires hitting rock bottom. But I will say, hitting rock bottom allowed me to discover a solid foundation on which I have now rebuilt my life.

Fearing Change

Isaiah 41:10 says, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand”, yet how many of us still fear change? He tells us many times throughout scripture to fear not but if we are all honest, we still have times we fear the unknown, the things we can’t control, the future even. But why? Why do we struggle with fear when He clearly tells us not to. It’s because we are human. We aren’t perfect. If we were, then we wouldn’t need Him. As we grow in our relationship, that fear begins to dissipate and we begin to understand that as long as we are grounded in Him, we really don’t need to fear the unknown. And, another thing is this; If we are completely honest, what we really fear is that our past will repeat itself and that is what haunts us. Stop letting that control you!

What would you do if you weren’t afraid? Do you think the fear of failure keeps you from stepping out and making a change? Have you ever asked yourself those questions? There have been many times I have attempted change and fell flat on my face. I Failed, miserably! But you know what I learned? All failure is, is an opportunity to try again but this time with a little more intellect. Instead of seeing it as a failed attempt, look at it as an opportunity to rebuild what you really want! Sometimes what feels like a break down, is actually just you breaking free. And besides, why fear the future when you know God is there waiting, pursuing you, showing you His goodness and unfailing love!

 

Ability to Change 

I think often times we get so focused on what we think we can’t do, we forget about all that we actually can do. We are guilty of putting limitations on ourselves when we don’t feel brave or strong enough to see something through to completion. Change is very possible! And often times very helpful. Sometimes though, that will require letting go of the things we are clinging to. At times, we even have to start over completely. Maybe because you’ve outgrown something or maybe it was all together wrong for you in the first place. Either way, there are times you have to give up your life as you know it to get the new one you are looking for. The one God intends you to live. And you know what the best part about it is? Every morning you have a new opportunity to become a happier, better version of yourself.

Dreams, prayers and grace don’t have an expiration date. Today is a great day to refocus on what you have the ability to change and what’s in your control. God has given us an open line of communication with Him through the spirit. You have the ability to pray earnestly to Him and to ask Him anything. So whatever it is you are struggling to change, talk to Him about it! Stop letting it hold you down. It’s time to remember what it feels like to be alive! To be happy! When I am finally able to understand that everything happening in my life (even the things I think are out of control) is only meant to draw me closer to Christ, it resolves a lot of anxiety. Why? Because when I know I can’t handle something, I take it to Him in prayer because I know He can and will help me see it through. And how awesome and satisfying it is to turn from our limitations to a God who doesn’t have any. So let go. It creates space for better things to enter into your life. Things that He intends to bless you with.

Making the Change

Change doesn’t happen over night! And often times we allow our own issues to stand in the way of making change happen. We have to be willing to say, Yes! I am ready for a fresh start no matter how tough it may seem. No matter how many times I have to pick myself up and start again. Jesus doesn’t expect us to figure it all out in one day, and He most definitely doesn’t expect us to do it alone. But no one can make the choice for you. You have to be willing to step out and just trust that what’s ahead is so much better than what’s behind.

There will be days you feel like it’s just too hard. That you just can’t stop that one thing He is asking you to leave behind. Or maybe you just can’t forgive that one person. Stop limiting God! Every time you say you can’t do something you are limiting what He is given you the power to accomplish. Be patient with yourself. Nothing God has said will come to pass ever fails. And He is at work in your life, helping you make the change, giving you a fresh start. Trust in His timing.

Final Thoughts

Change is tough. I won’t down play that at all. But, change is also very necessary. Without it, we can never become who we are intended to be. And your life will only change when you are more committed to becoming that person than you are to remaining in your comfort zone. I will say a fresh start can often be disguised as a painful ending, but don’t let that be the reason you fear change. Sometimes in order to discover who you are meant to be, you have to lose everything you thought you should be.

Lamentations 3:23 says, “Great is His faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning”. Hold tight to that truth. Just because today was a bad day doesn’t mean tomorrow won’t be the best day of your life. You just have to get there. And on those days when things don’t seem to go right no matter how hard you try, still end your day with a positive thought. No matter how hard things were, tomorrow’s a fresh opportunity to make it better. And I pray that these next few months are a period of magnificent transformation for you and for me as well. Keep dreaming your dreams. Then ask God to shape them, scrub them, and focus them towards His glory!

 Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God.
May your gracious Spirit lead me forward
    on a firm footing.

Psalm 143:10

Advertisements

From Here, To There

“The place God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the worlds hunger meets.”- Frederick Buechner

Every year I look forward to our family vacation. Time away to unwind, relax and just enjoy each others company. We typically go to the beach each year because well, I just love it! We do however like to change it up from time to time and go to a new beach we have not been to before. But, for the most part it always takes at least 5-6 hours to get to any beach we go to. While I know that really isn’t a very long car ride in comparison, it can still feel like forever to me. I am not the best at long car rides. I am not one who can sleep, reading makes me car sick and well to be completely honest, I am not the most patient person either. I want to just snap my fingers, and poof! we are there. Just doesn’t quite work that way though, does it? It takes time to get from here, to where ever we are traveling to.

When it comes to our journey of faith, how many of us are willing to be honest and say, it can be tough to remain patient? Patient that God is at work even when we can’t see it. Patient that God is going to see us through a difficulty. It can be very hard sometimes to sit back and just wait. To remain confident in His plan. To let Him direct our paths and to let Him take us to the place He is calling us to. Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NIV) says: “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” So, my question to you today is, Where does your confidence come from? And are you willing to be patient and let God lead you from here, to there no matter how long it may take? Are you like the tree planted and rooted in Gods word who can withstand all life throws at it? Well if you, like me, sometimes struggle in this area, I hope I am able to give you some encouragement today to keep trusting in His plan for your life no matter how impatient you may become.

God is Directing Your Footsteps

Have you ever felt like you are simply walking in circles? Or maybe you feel like you take one step forward and life knocks you back two steps? It can be so frustrating! But, I also feel like there can be a lesson in those moments too, If we will simply learn to accept the place where we are may just be the place God wants us to be. If you call yourself a believer, then God is directing your footsteps. And maybe, just maybe, the journey you are on right now isn’t actually about becoming anything! Maybe this journey is more about you unbecoming everything that you aren’t, so that you can later become who God meant for you to be in the first place.

You have been placed where you are right now for a purpose. And sometimes that purpose is to rediscover whos you are! It is often in the waves of change that we discover our true direction. So don’t lose hope in the midst of uncertainty. Instead, ask God what He is trying to show you about yourself or even about your walk, He may just be trying to grow your faith.

There are No Shortcuts

In Philippians 3:13-14 (NLT) Paul writes, “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us”. Sorry but, there are just no shortcuts when it comes to this faith thing. And honestly, if you think about it, there aren’t really shortcuts to any place worth going. And when we get to a place where we follow the conviction of the Holy Spirit instead of our hearts, we learn that we don’t really want to take the shortcut anyway.

A relationship with Jesus is one to enjoy daily, in every season. Jesus says pick up your cross and follow me. Jesus says trust in my timing. So, just relax and trust that God is at work in your life. Follow Him. You will figure out your specific calling. You will become the person you feel God intends you to be. Just learn to appreciate the in between, the journey. Because that’s where the relationship forms. You may not always end up where you thought you were going but you will always end up where God wants you to be, if you let Him be your guide. And lastly, Don’t listen to your Ego. It’s always going to tell you to wait. Wait until everything falls into place, and then you can step out in faith. No, listen to your spirit. It’s telling you that once you step out in faith, God will put everything into motion. You don’t need to know the ending, because there is One who already does.

Place Your Heart in His Hands

Sometimes to make the right choices in life, you have to get in touch with your soul. Which sometimes can equal solitude. Solitude can seem scary to some, but it’s in that silence that you may be able to hear the truth that you need to hear. And until you cross that bridge of insecurity, you will not be able to explore the possibilities that lie ahead. Remember, you -nobody else- can determine how your relationship with Jesus will be. Your relationship with Jesus isn’t your spouses, parents, or friends responsibility. It’s yours. As for me personally, I am learning everyday to allow the space between where I am and where I want to be to inspire me, not terrify me. And the reason I am able to feel that way is because of my relationship with Him.

To find your place, you have to be willing to lose your connection with the people, places, and things that keep you from moving into the place God is calling you. You will never heal in the same places that made you sick to begin with. But, I will say I have learned that who I am in Christ matters more than what I think or what other people think about me. And because I have placed my heart in His hands, He in turn is placing it in the hands of those who He believes deserves it. I have been able to grow through all I have been through. And I am looking forward to all He has in store as I move from here, to there. Those who move forward with a happy spirit will always find that things work out.

Final Thoughts

I don’t know about you but for me, it seems like whenever I stop looking is when I finally find what I’m looking for. Once you do find it though, you’ll often learn it was right there in front of you all along. Seems crazy right? Well, a relationship with Jesus is no different. He has always been right there in front of you, waiting. He has such a wonderful plan for each one of us and He is simply waiting on us to say we are ready. Ready to take a leap of faith and move from here, to there… no matter where there may be. It’s exciting, fun and sometimes a little scary too but once you discover what it is that makes you happy, you’ll wake up every single morning ready to see what He has in store for you. We have so much to learn, so much to share, so much to experience when we decide to make Him the center of it all. Set your mind on things above and watch Him work in you and through you. Make the move today!!

 “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.  Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory”. Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT)

Fierce Faith. Bold Love.

“Let your Christianity be so unmistakable and your walk so straight forward, that all who see you may have no doubt whose you are and whom you serve.”- J.C. Ryle

Alright, question time. When you hear the words “Fierce and Bold”, what animal comes to mind? First one that pops into my mind would have to be the lion and/or a lioness. The lion because he isn’t easily intimidated, stands boldly and rarely backs down, and the lioness because she is always fiercely protective due to how she loves her young. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the chance to be around either, maybe at a zoo or on some kind of safari, but I must say the few times I have, I was almost in awe of them and how confident they are. Nothing seems to shake them.

That to me, is a perfect example of how we should be in our walk with God. Not easily intimidated by the world, found standing up boldly for what we believe, not backing down and not giving in to peer pressure, protective and boldly loving others. Some may read that and say, how do I live out my faith that way? It seems so difficult. Well, what if I told you there are ways we can live that kind of faith daily. That we can boldly love others and be loved in return regardless of skin color, age, location, etc. Remember, God desires us to live a life so full of Him that there is no mistaking we belong to Him. And, He also desires us to love one another the way He in turn loves us, all of us. Today lets look at how to have a fierce faith all while still boldly loving others. I think you’ll be surprised by what I have to say.

Faithful Follower

When you are afraid, where do you put your trust? When life gets tough, where do you find your hope? When you feel weak, where do you find strength? The answer to all of those questions is the same, it’s Jesus. And the reason we have hope, strength and trust that things will work out, is because we have decided to follow Him no matter the cost. We are called to faithfully follow Him and Him alone. Often people say to me, “You take this Jesus thing pretty seriously huh?”. And my response is always the same, “Well, yea I do. But Christ took me pretty seriously when He died for me on the cross, so why wouldn’t I take Him seriously in return?”.

We have to get to a place as Christians where we decided we want nothing more than to live according to Gods word. Now, I’m not saying this will be easy or even the most popular choice but, I can say the decision to rely solely on Him will become easier when our will to please God outweighs our will to please the world. Remember, faith doesn’t make things easy, it makes them possible. What are you standing on? Faith? Or the world?

All too often Christians live out only what they choose to hear and read and not all of what Gods word says. We do not have that option. Ever. If we are going to faithfully follow Him, we have to follow it all. Not just what we pick and choose. It says to forgive all, love all and pray for all. Are you living for the world or for Him? There is no middle ground. We aren’t called to judge, hate or mistreat one another, but all to often that is exactly how some choose to live. Be different. Be bold. And live your life faithfully following all of Gods word. If we want to see things change, we have to be the change.

 Whatever you do, work at it with ALL your heart, as working for the Lord, NOT for human masters,  since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24

Fierce Follower

“My faith rest in not what I am, or shall be, or feel, or know, but in what Christ is, in what He has done, and in what He is doing for me.” I absolutely fell in love with that quote by C.H. Spurgeon the first time I read it a few months ago. How many of us can honestly say we still get fired up when we read something in the Bible that speak directly to us? Or when you read something amazing on Facebook that you know God was all over. All to often, especially lately, so much negativity floods social media, the news, papers, etc. but, every now and then you’ll see something good rise up from all that negativity.

The flooding in Texas has constantly been on all our hearts these past few days. Such unbelievable devastation. But, in the midst of all the pain and fear I saw something so beautiful happen. I saw strangers helping strangers, I saw families coming together to help other families, I saw rescue after rescue after rescue and never once did skin color or political stance matter. And it was in those beautiful moments I saw God. Everyone always asks where is God in the midst tragedy? Open your eyes and look around! He is right there in the helpers, in the medical personnel, the firemen, etc. That kind of stuff fires me up…in a good way!

God has given us all a fierceness that is holy and is to be used on behalf of others. I made a decision some time ago that I am going to passionately pursue God and that whatever He asks of me, I will do it. Have you wondered what it would look like if we all loved God so fiercely that when anyone is called to help others there is never any doubt He is the why behind our Yes? This is not the time to draw back from truth and Godliness, it is time to live our faith boldly in love and action. Jesus didn’t come and die on a cross to tame you. No, He came to give you life! A life full of opportunity. So what are you going to do? Stand up and proudly say, I am strong, I am fierce, I am determined to overcome and I will not fail. I am a child of God! Or are you simply going to back down and allow the world to keep you quiet. The choice is yours.

“My prayer is that when I die, all of hell rejoices that I am out of this fight.”-C.S. Lewis

Bold Follower

No amount of Christian activity compensates for an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ. You can go years without ever missing a Sunday and yet still lack a true relationship with Him. There are 7 days in a week and every one of those days count. What do your actions on those other 6 days say about your faith? Because let me tell you, a person’s character is shown through their actions in everyday life NOT where they sit every Sunday morning.

If you have truly encountered Gods love, then you are forever changed. I know for me personally, it wasn’t until I got lost in that love, that I was really able to discover my worth. And I now know that even though I am sometimes quiet, I am not weak. I fully believe if I go boldly to God, my prayers can move mountains. And I am not afraid to ask God for anything. I have a faith rooted in Gods word and am committed to pursuing Him with all my heart. I realized in that moment, that really I am not my own anyway. I was bought with a price and because of that, I choose to glorify God in all I do. My worth will never be found in anything other than Jesus. Period. Its not found in money, friendships, my job or anything else. It’s in Him and Him alone. If I know of nothing else in this life, I know for certain that God is still and always will be faithful. This is the kind of bold faith we should have.

“As for me, I look to the Lord for help. I wait confidently for God to save me, and I know my God will certainly hear me.” Micah 7:7

Final Thoughts

Some of you today have had unfair things happen, life has not turned out like you had hoped it would. Please don’t let this defeat you. God is there waiting and saying to you, “If you’ll only rise up out of those ashes, put on a new attitude, and refocus your mind on Me, I’ll not only bring you out, but I’ll bring you out with something so much better than before!”. A relationship with Him is better than anything we can or will loose in life. Why? Because He tells us in scripture, Never will I leave you, Never will I forsake you” (Joshua 1:5, Hebrews 13:5) . And the voice of God you hear telling you to come, be fierce, be bold, listen to it! Because the voice of God will never contradict the Word of God. So get your fire back! It’s not over until God says it is. Start believing again. Start pursuing what God has put on your heart. And, don’t look back. All that you need to have is a kind heart, a fierce faith rooted in Gods word and a bold love for others. God will handle the rest.

thI35PBKBA

 

 

 

 

 

Liebster Award: Encouraging Others through Blogging

Encouragement

Encouragement comes to us in many different ways. Sometimes it’s a kind word from a friend, or perhaps it can come when you are reading Gods word and He speaks encouragement to you through a certain verse. Quite often though, it comes when we either need it the most, or least expect it. For me personally, it came this week in the form of a nomination. A very unexpected one at that! The award is called The Liebster Award. It originated as an idea to promote bloggers with less than 2000 readers but has since been revised for bloggers with less than 200 readers.

The blogger, Cindy Barnes, who writes a wonderful blog called Go – Gather – Grow, is who was kind enough to nominate me. I have followed her blog for some time now and am constantly encouraged by her writing. She, just like me, hasn’t been a blogger very long, but feels strongly that this is what God wants her to do. She does a wonderful job of minister to you through Bible Studies. Go – Gather – Grow digs into the Word to reach the world for Him. I highly recommend you check her out.

I am both honored and humbled that she chose to nominate me for this award. And she spoke very kindly of my blog as well. All I want to do is be a light in a sometimes dark world and encourage others to seek Jesus first in all they do. So, for someone to nominate me for an award that is for those who encourage others through blogging means the world to me. Thank you for this opportunity, Cindy. And thank you for the encouragement you’ve give me to continue writing.

My Blog

I felt God calling me to blog sometime ago, but it wasn’t until February of this year that I decided to answer that call. The biggest set back I wrestled with was, the feeling of being unqualified. But through scripture, a few really good books and encouragement from friends, I decided to give this a shot.

With each new post, God has shown me more and more that I didn’t need to be qualified to start this journey. And I truly enjoy writing what He puts on my heart each week. My hope is to be an encouragement to those who read and to also show others that God can and will use them to do extraordinary things if they will simply allow Him to work through them.

I would love for you to follow along each week as I write. All of my posts have to do with things like Faith, Favor, Friendship, Forgiveness and well, anything that begins with the letter “F”! It can be anything I feel God is challenging me with and I hope that it in turn challenges you. Should you want to connect with me, please use the contact form to send me an email. I would love to hear from you!

My Favorite Blogger

There are so many great Christian bloggers out there to choose from, which I think is so awesome! I really had a hard time choosing, but after narrowing it down, I had to go with Sydney Meeks. Her blog, Meekly Loving, speaks to me in so many ways. I find many of her blogs very uplifting, and I feel you will as well. She writes beautifully and really knows how to connect with her readers.

Her blog post, “God where are you taking me today?” is one of my favorites. She reminds us that God is in control. I think you too will enjoy this blog, so go check it out when you have a few minutes.

Random Facts about Me

  1. My Favorite season is fall. I love the cool crisp mornings, the changing leaves, pumpkins and football on the tv. There is just something so beautiful about this time of year to me. I only wish it lasted longer.
  2.  My favorite Bible verse is Isaiah 40:31. I feel like this verse gives us so much hope and encouragement. I feel like we all have times where we feel worn down, and in those moments of weakness I feel like this is one of those verses that picks you up and renews your faith in Him.
  3. My favorite blog I have written so far would have to be “Flawed” yet still worthy. I just think so many of us struggle in this area and I feel like God really used me to reach others through this post who needed to hear this reminder.
  4. I love milk chocolate, not dark. And honestly, I don’t really eat a lot of chocolate so I think dark is just too rich for me.
  5. My favorite children’s book would probably have to be good night moon. And really that’s just because my daughter used to love me to read it to her nightly before bed. Sweet memories are definitely tied to that book!
  6. If I could travel to only one place, it would have to be somewhere with a beach! The beach is my all time favorite. There is just something so relaxing about the sound of those crashing waves, sand in between my toes and the sun on my skin. I just love it.
  7. My favorite book is hands down (Un)qualified by Steven Furtick. It was while reading this book that God showed me who I was called to be. And that I finally saw I was capable of starting this blog. If you have yet to read this book, I highly recommend it.
  8. I often end up writing my weekly blog on Tuesdays, which gives me Wednesday and Thursday to edit, reread and add to it if I feel it needs something more. I like to give myself plenty of time to make sure I am happy with how it turns out before posting on Fridays.
  9. My absolute favorite quiet spot is on my screened in back porch. In the cooler months, I often spend my mornings and/or evenings out there with a good cup of coffee and my Bible. It’s so relaxing and peaceful listening to the birds and talking to God.
  10. The thing in my life I am most thankful for, wow this is a tough one, but I’d probably have to go with my freedom. Without my freedom, I wouldn’t be able to do so many things, but mostly I can’t imagine not being free to worship God, or read my Bible or go to church. Sometimes, I think we take that freedom for granted. We are very lucky to be able to do all of those things when so many others can’t.

 

My Award Nominees are…

The Liebster Award aims to give excellent new or smaller blogs online exposure. It is so important (and also fun!) for bloggers to connect with others in the blogging community. Thus, each blogger nominated should nominate other bloggers in return. I hope that you will take some time and visit these other wonderful blogs whom I nominate. Please know that each of my nominees loves the Lord and love sharing the words He gives them to their readers.

  • Misty Phillip writes a blog called By His Grace. She does a wonderful job writing to encourage us to live according to Gods word. I have enjoyed many of her blogs and have to say she has made me want to be a better follower.
  • Inspire the Mom is another fabulous blog! She covers many different topics and I always enjoy her writing. One of my favorite posts of hers is “The app every parent needs”. It’s a great read if you have kids.
  • Cassie L Wilson – Learning to be the Light  is a wonderful read. It’s so full of love for God! She writes so well and makes you want to read more and more each time. I always get great encouragement from her posts.
  • Healthy Living Mom by Sonya Rottman. I’ve only recently found her blog, but am very quickly learning to love it. She writes about healthy living, both physically and spiritually.
  •  Every Day With the King is another one of my favorites. Always find this blog uplifting and challenging all at the same time. One of my favorite posts would have to be the one titled Follow the Shepherds. It’s a wonderful Christmas devotion.

 

untitled

Questions for the nominees:

  • Favorite season?
  • What is your favorite Bible verse?
  • Favorite blog article you have written and why?
  • sweets or savory?
  • Favorite children’s movie?
  • If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
  • Favorite book or author?
  • When do you find time to blog?
  • Favorite place to eat?
  • What in your life are you most thankful for?

What to Do if Nominated for the Liebster Award ~ From The Global Aussie

If you have been nominated for The Liebster Award and choose to accept, write an article with the following:

  • Acknowledge the person and their blog that nominated you and link back.
  • Display the 2017 Liebster Award on your blog.
  • Write a 150-300 word article about your favorite blog and provide a link.
  • List 10 random facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 5 – 11 blogs deserving of the award.
  • List these rules in your post.
  • Inform your nominees that they have been nominated for the Liebster Award and provide a link for them to your post.

 

Reference

The Global Aussie 2017, where you will find everything you need to know about this award and the rules for participating.

For Better or For Worse…

I do is one of the shortest sentences in our English language and yet it carries a promise that’s too vast to be measured by man.” Darlene Schacht

Ahhh marital bliss. Isn’t it wonderful? My husband and I have been married 13 years this coming May, and man it has just been a walk in the park! Never any issues, always agreeing, no fights…Ha! Who am I kidding! Marriage is tough stuff, right? You are taking two totally different people with two totally different personalities and sticking them in the same house and you really think it’s gonna be easy? Now, I’m not saying it’s awful or meaningless either, but it does take work and lots of it!

God designed marriage for a man and a woman, so that we could all have a life partner. Someone who will love us, support us and be there no matter what. And I can honestly say, I wouldn’t wanna do life with any one else. My marriage is far from perfect but I love my life, and who I get the privilege to go through it with. In my opinion, true love isn’t found, it’s built. And marriage isn’t a commitment or a contract, it’s a covenant. One that shouldn’t be taken lightly and shouldn’t be rushed into. The Bible speaks a lot about love and what it looks like and really, no other person that will ever walk this earth will demonstrate that love the way Jesus did. Christ loves us unconditionally, and that is a vivid illustration of what love in our marriages should look like. To love an imperfect person unconditionally. That is marriage. No one ever said it would be easy, but I do think it’s worth it. Every one of us desires to be loved, it’s just how we are created. So, today I want to talk about some ways we can strive to love our spouses, the way Jesus in turn loves us, unconditionally.

Weathering the Storm

“Real love is about weathering the storms of life together”.-Seth Adam Smith. I don’t know about your marriage, but I can say without a doubt mine has been through some stuff y’all! Man, for a while there I thought the storms of life would never let up. But, you know something, even if I could go back, I wouldn’t change a single day. Those storms, those struggles, those tears, well, it all made us who we are. It strengthened not only our marriage in ways you can’t even imagine, but it strengthened our faith in God as well. It taught us that there is NOTHING, no challenge strong enough to destroy our marriage. As long as we stayed focused on the why (the love), we were ok. I’m sorry, but we don’t get to simply abandon ship every time we encounter a storm in our marriage! Stick it out.

Another thing that has truly helped us during the storms of life is the fact that we kept God in our marriage. We both realized how much we needed Him to see us through. And while some may walk away from faith during hard times, we instead leaned in closer to ours. We realized we couldn’t have an extraordinary relationship with one another if we were going to simply settle for an ordinary relationship with our God. Look I realize it only took the two of you to get married! But I promise during those tougher days, months, years even, it will take three to stay married. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of THREE strands is not easily broken.” Keep God in your marriage. We need Him to be that third strand. If you are struggling in your marriage, maybe you need to stop and see if you have removed Him from your marriage. Because, ultimately the purpose of marriage isn’t actually to make us happy, it’s to glorify God.

Fight the Fair Fight

A strong marriage consists of two people who choose to love each other, even on those days you may struggle to even like each other! You are gonna fight. It’s just part of it. But, you’ve got to learn to fight fair. There are a few key things to keep in mind when you end up in a fight with your spouse. The most important thing to remember is, words hurt! And you can not take them back once they are said. Another thing, sometimes it’s best to walk away and calm down before you speak. Sometimes that thing that seems like a big deal when you’re mad may not seem so bad, if you give yourself some time to calm down. Hear each other out. Don’t speak over one another. Don’t belittle one another. And lastly, say I’m sorry when you know you should! All of these things will be hard to do in the moment, I know! But, I promise it will take the fight down to a much easier level to deal with. You don’t want to wake up the next day regretting all the awful things you said and did to one another.

Wives, do you think of your husband as a gift from God? A breath-taking, awe-inspiring gift? Or, do you sit around and gripe about all he fails to do? As hard as this may be, you’ve got to get your focus off of what he’s not doing, and put it on what he is doing. God hasn’t called you to fix your husband, that’s His job. But, He does call us to obey, trust and allow Him to work in us 1st. You will be a much happier wife if you make an effort to hold on to Jesus tighter than you are holding on to your husbands flaws. You and your husband are one flesh, one body and one marriage. Be thankful for him. Praise him for the things he does well. Build him up to others and NEVER speak harshly of him to anyone. Let him know he comes first. Submission doesn’t mean you’re a servant! It just means you will love, honor and obey your husband the way the Bible teaches wives to.

Husbands, are you striving to always give your wives the very best of yourself? Does she come 1st in your life? Do you give others your best effort at work and then come home with nothing left to give her?  She deserves your best, not what’s left over at the end of your work day. She doesn’t want the crumbs and leftovers of a busy day and/or life. And just like you don’t want her speaking poorly of you, don’t speak that way of her to others. Men you are called to be leaders. And the best thing you can do for your wife is to lead her closer to God than to yourself. Always strive to be the reason why your marriage looks more like Christ than like the world. Put her first, no matter what. Never cut her down, tell her she is beautiful every day, say I love you! She is a gift, start treating her like one. The Bible says husbands should love there wives the way Christ loves the church. Do you love your wife like that?

Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

God can Restore

Maybe you find yourself in a broken marriage. You feel lost, alone and ready to call it quits. I know we can face some pretty unimaginable things in our marriages. Like I said earlier, marriage is tough stuff. And there is no hurt quite like a hurt that comes from someone we love, someone we trust. But for just a moment, I want you to put all that hurt, all that anger aside. Think back to your wedding day, think back to that 1st time you kissed. Think about the butterflies he/she gave you. How do those memories make you feel? There was a time, maybe even not that long ago, that you said, or thought, you could never imagine your life without this person. You said vows, made promises to one another. Did you mean them? Words like, in sickness and health. For better or worse. Until death do us part. Those are pretty big promises to make. But, they are also big promises to walk away from.

I strongly believe if we let Him, God can and will restore our broken marriages. I’ve seen Him do it! And know He will do it again. Listen, I know it’s so hard to let go of all the hurt, and that the trust has been broken, but you still owe it to yourself to let God take control and let Him help you find your way back to each other. Why not try? Doug Larson puts it like this, “More marriages might survive if the partners realized that sometimes the better comes after the worse”. I think so many think that once you say “I do”, everything just falls into place. Truth is, a strong marriage isn’t magically created. It’s built on a lifetime of “I do’s”! I do love you, I do cherish you, I do chose you, I do forgive you. Please don’t give up just yet. Give God a chance to restore what is broken because He desires our marriages to not only work, but thrive.

Final Thought

A successful marriage requires work. No way around it. It also requires falling in love many times, always with the same person. And don’t be afraid to make your marriage the center of your family’s life. All to often in many homes, the children’s activities, work, friends, hobbies and even technology has taken the place the marriage ought to occupy. Don’t put your marriage on the back burner. One day, the kids, work, hobbies, it will all be gone. Invest in your marriage. And if you want a marriage that looks and feels like the most amazing thing on earth, treat it that way! Marriage is a wonderful adventure. And we don’t just get to grow old together, we get to grow up together. Don’t miss out on that!

Let others see your love for one another. Who cares if they don’t like mushy Facebook posts. Be thankful for one another. And, man oh man, Lord do I pray my children see a marriage worth imitating! But, I also hope people never look at my marriage and think, “She has a great marriage because she chose the right guy” or “Because he chose the right girl”. I hope they honestly realize, “WE have a great marriage because WE both choose to follow a great God!”. And that our marriage just like everyone else’s is far from perfect! That we simply choose to work at it every single day. My honest pray will always be this: Lord, may my marriage testify of your unconditional love for us. And may we never forget to keep You first in our marriage.

“Forward” is “Forward”

“It doesn’t matter how slow you go as long as you don’t stop.” – Confucius

 

Progress can be a tricky thing. You can end up really struggling with a lot of unanswered questions. Questions like, How fast should I grow? Am I growing to fast? Do I have a good long-term goal? What about the short-term? Why is he growing faster than me? Does he have more faith? Am I making enough progress? The list goes on and on and on. It can almost become overwhelming, and somewhat scary to question our progress. But, I must say, questions about your progress is better than finding yourself complacent.

For many years I had become what many would call complacent. I had reached many of my goals. Things such as weight loss, a strong family, faith in God, good friends etc. All great things to accomplish! And to be honest, I thought that was all there was to it. But, the problem with being complacent is, its really not how we are intended to go through life. Goals are great, and I would even say necessary in life. And meeting those goals feels awesome! But, God desires us to never stop setting goals…especially when it comes to our faith. A.W. Tozen puts it like this, “Complacency is a deadly foe of ALL Spiritual growth.” Now another thing I will say is, God also doesn’t desire my goals to necessarily be the same as your goals. And we aren’t meant to reach our goals all in the same manner. God has a plan for each and every one of us. A unique plan that involves growth and continually moving forward in our walk.

In today’s blog I want to tackle 3 things: Comparison, Moving Forward, and Comfort Zone. All 3 have to do with progress, just in different ways. I hope this blog challenges you to grow your faith in many ways. Some familiar, and maybe some new. If we aren’t in a place of growth we are missing out on all God has in store for us.

Comparison is the thief of Joy

How many of you have a friend (or five lol) that you often find yourself looking at their walk and thinking to yourself, “Wow! they have really got this faith thing figured out!” Or maybe you look at them and think, “Man, if only I was as close to God as they are, I would be doing good.” First off let me say this, I think it is a great thing to surround yourself with Godly friends who will not only encourage you to grow in your faith, but challenge you as well. BUT let me also say this, the surest way to lose your self-worth is by trying to find it in another’s walk. Your walk, your story, is unique and very different than any other persons. That’s how it’s meant to be. Can you be on similar paths? Absolutely! If fact, it can be helpful to have friends who are traveling down a similar path. That enables them to help you throughout your walk, and you to help them as well. But, keep in mind, you still need to make your journey your own and not someone else’s. When we truly walk with God daily, we should never doubt that we will always reach our destination. It may not look like our friends walk, or be at their same pace, but we will get there. Don’t get caught up in comparing your faith to someone else’s. Focus on your own faith instead.

The ONLY person you should try to be better than, is the person you were yesterday. Don’t get discouraged if you aren’t moving as fast as some do. What God has for you requires preparation, focus, commitment and patients. It doesn’t always happen over night. God simply asks us to daily seek Him and continually grow in our faith. Stop comparing your life to others. Be who God is calling you to be, not who He is calling your friends to be. We all have a calling, a unique purpose. Think about it this way. Does the moon and the sun compete with one another? No! They each shine when it’s their time. Your time is coming. Stay strong and focused.

 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else,  for each one should carry their own load.” Galatians 6:4-5

Keep Moving Forward

It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you are not. In this life we are often faced with choices. Spiritual growth is no different. You really only have two choices; Step forward into growth, or step back and remain safe. We all like safe. It’s warm, it’s familiar, it’s cozy. You know what else it is? Dangerous! Crazy right? How can safe be dangerous? Well, think about it this way, when we remain “safe” in our walk with Jesus we are unable to grow, to learn new things, or to become better followers. That is dangerous to your walk. God desires us to continually seek to know Him deeper. You will never have a deeper relationship with your creator if you are not moving forward in growth. No one will ever know all there is to know, experience all there is to experience, or read in the Bible all there is to read!

Another thing I want to remind you is this, just because you aren’t making progress as fast as you think you should doesn’t mean you aren’t making progress! Your speed isn’t what’s important. Forward is forward. Just don’t get to a place where you aren’t moving at all. A little progress each day adds up. Listen, I didn’t wake up one day and say, “Hey! I think God wants me to write a blog!” and then boom, that day start writing. It took months of Him preparing my mind and my heart, and also getting me to focus on what He was asking of me. So, I just kept taking step after step in my faith; allowing Him to grow my faith, and to grow my confidence in who He says I am! God really wants you to realize, He hasn’t brought you this far to only bring you this far. Be patient with the process and just keep moving forward. And whenever you start to feel yourself doubting how far you can go, just take a look back and remember how far you have already come.

…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

Step out of your Comfort Zone

Have you ever noticed when God wants you to really see some serious growth you end up being asked to do something a little uncomfortable? Have you ever thought maybe that’s because He wants you to trust Him more, and allow Him to work in you and through you? I can tell you from experience, it can be a scary thing to step out of your comfort zone. But you know what God told me? It’s ok to be scared! Being scared simply means you are about to do something incredible. And if we are honest with ourselves, deep down we know great things don’t usually come from our comfort zone. He isn’t asking us to have it all figured out. And He isn’t asking us to do it alone either. He simply wants us to trust that what’s waiting for us outside that comfort zone is something great. Something that can and will grow our faith in big ways.

So maybe your thinking, ” I don’t even know where to start.” All we have to do is start where we are, use what we have and do what we can. God will handle the rest. Once you step out and do what He is asking of you, it usually becomes your hearts desire. God knows us better than anyone else and He knows where we can and will shine. So whatever He is asking you to do, do it. And be fearless in pursuit of what sets your soul on fire! It will be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. Step out of your comfort zone and be obedient to Him.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

Final Thoughts

I’m sure you’ve seen or heard this before, but I am going to say it anyway. A flower doesn’t think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms. Are you letting fear of what others are accomplishing keep you from blooming? Please don’t. It’s not a competition. God has something so great in store for your life. And if you’re unsure of what it is, ask Him to reveal to you your gifts and your calling. As Bob Goff says, “We won’t be distracted by comparison if we are captivated with purpose.” What is your purpose? Your goal? What is God asking you to step out and accomplish for Him? Keep working at it. Keep making progress. Remember, forward is forward, no matter the pace. There is freedom in allowing ourselves to be a work in progress. I know I’ve come along way, but I also know God is not finished with me yet. This is only the beginning! Let today be your beginning and watch what God can and will do through you when you make the commitment to keep growing.

Where’s your Focus?

“A mind troubled by doubt cannot focus on the course to victory.”-Arthur Golden

So, I don’t know about you, but I tend to wait forever to get rid of certain things. Like for example, I still have an iPhone 5, I know horrid, but it still works people! Oh, and if I find a pair of flip-flops I love, I will wear them until they fall apart (Last pair literally fell apart walking into the store!) Well, I was no different when it came to contacts. I’ve worn glasses since I was 10, and was in my 30’s before I made the switch to contacts! While most other people couldn’t wait to switch, I was perfectly fine with glasses. They worked fine, why change?

The day I went to get contacts I remember putting them in and thinking, wow, why did I wait so long to switch! But, as the days went on, the contacts would move just a tad and suddenly everything would be out of focus. It was so crazy. One minute I could see clearly, and the next everything was blurred. I often found myself frustrated and thinking I’m done with this! I’m going back to my glasses. But, in stead, I kept at it trying different brands until eventually I found the right ones. I still wear my glasses often, but I now have the option of contacts as well. Which is nice.

Life can be a lot like that sometimes can’t it? Everything’s going well, you’re focused on being a good person, parent, friend, employee and Bam! Out of nowhere something comes along, distracts you and you lose your focus. It causes us to want to just give up and say forget it! Jesus knew we would face these types of situations in our life which is the very reason why there are several verses throughout the Bible to help show us how to refocus on what’s important to not only us, but to Him as well. I’d like to talk about a few of them, as well as some life application tools. Let’s see if maybe we can find a couple of ways we can remain focused on what’s really important in life.

What we Focus on grows

Have you ever noticed that when you focus on your problems, you only end up with more problems? So frustrating, right? Well, what happens when we focus on God? Let’s look at the story of David and Goliath. (If you’re not familiar with it, check out 1 Samuel 17) David could have easily focused on all that could have gone wrong. He could have let his mind convince him there was no way he could defeat this giant! Which would have created fear causing him to question his abilities and more than likely, it would have caused him to walk away feeling defeated before the fight ever began. Focusing on the problem would have only created more problems! But instead, he focused on what He knew to be true. You see, David didn’t need to worry about Goliaths strength or his own for that matter. Why? Because He knew about Gods strength and that’s where his focus was.

When we choose to focus on God and not the circumstances surrounding us, the enemy doesn’t stand a chance. But, let me warn you. When the enemy realizes he can no longer destroy you, he will still try to find ways to distract you, and try to make you lose your focus. That’s one reason why it is so important to stay in the word daily! Can’t stress this enough! What we magnify, we multiply. So don’t magnify your problems or your struggles! Because at the end of the day you can either choose to focus on what’s tearing you apart, or you can focus on what’s keeping you together. And I promise, you will only become frustrated if you try to make things better relying on your strength instead of relying on Gods strength. David knew that, and that’s how he defeated Goliath. He was focused on God, not himself. So again I ask, where’s your focus? Is it on God or on yourself?

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Romans 8:5

Count your Blessings instead of your Problems

When you think about your life, does the word blessed come to mind? Or instead, does stressed come to mind? It can be so easy to take a long look at our lives and only see the problem areas. We worry so much about the things we have no control over, that we miss out on the things we can control. Things like choosing to see the good in everyday. No matter what we are dealing with, there is always, always something to be thankful for. Some days, that’s hard I know. But all worrying does is worship the problem. Instead, allow your mind the opportunity to focus on something positive and I bet it will help you stop worrying so much about the things you can’t control.

If you will just try everyday to fix your thoughts on God, He will start to fix your thoughts as a whole. Less worry, more joy. Less stress, more blessings. You determine what your mind focuses on every single day. Stop focusing on how stressed you are and remember how incredibly blessed you are! I know it doesn’t always seem that way, I get it! But if you will simply take a moment and ask God to show you who you are in His eyes, you will see how blessed you truly are. Hebrews 12:1-2 tells us, Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus didn’t go to the cross so that we could live a life focused on stress. He said, lay all that mess aside and run! Run the race with endurance. Life is full of ups and downs, but, if Jesus could endure the cross and remain so focused on His love for us, don’t you think we can remain focused on what He’s called us to do for Him.. even when life gets tough? Count your blessings. And how about starting with how blessed we are that Jesus died the death we deserved to die!

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21

Pray instead of Over thinking

Most days I am able to push aside feelings of doubt, frustration, inadequacy, etc. And most days I am able to look around and see the good in all things. But, there are days when I lose my focus. We all have days like this. We are human, and we’re all far from perfect. As I grow in my faith, I will say I have less and less of these days for sure, but I have also learned ways to cope when these days do come.

No matter how hard we try, we simply can’t calm the storm. So stop trying! We have to learn to calm ourselves and let God handle the storm. Have you ever thought maybe God is trying to get us to focus more on the battle He wants to win in us and less on the battle we want him to win for us? Instead of always over thinking and trying to figure everything out, talk to God! Honestly, sometimes all He’s waiting on is for us to stop and pray. But, when we do pray, we must pray with our eyes fixed on Him and not on the difficulty. Listen, stop waiting until you have tried everything to fix your problems yourself before you go to Him in prayer. Pray first! Pray often. If there is nothing you can do about it, stop trying so hard to fix it and leave it to God. If we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed, we are simply forgetting how Big our God really is.

When Jesus told Peter to get out of the boat and walk on the water (Matthew 14:22-33), Peter didn’t over think it. He got out, and he walked. It wasn’t until He looked around and allowed himself to become overwhelmed that he began to sink. He lost his focus on Jesus and instead focused on the storm. Now, like I said we all have days when we lose our focus. It happens. But I hope you know Jesus is right there waiting with His hand stretched out to you. Don’t lose sight of that. Don’t lose sight of Jesus. And don’t let things get so bad that your overwhelmed and don’t know where to turn to. We tend to over think things in life. Focus on what you can control and give the rest to God. Over thinking and over analyzing the problem isn’t going to solve anything.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. … Matthew 6:25-34

Final Thoughts

I am sure some of you reading this blog are thinking, “Lady, you don’t get it. You don’t know what I’m dealing with. I’ve got bills piled up I can’t pay, my marriage is falling apart, my health isn’t great, my kids are disrespectful and I feel like such a failure.” Listen, I actually do get it. I have faced some things most would call unbearable. I have had times when I was so down I didn’t even see the point of getting out of the bed. And it wasn’t until I decided I could no longer keep living my life this way and finally said, Lord, I need You to carry this weight because I simply can’t do this anymore. I gave it all to Him and He gladly took it upon His shoulders. No, it’s not easy, no everyday is not perfect. But, I am stronger because I admitted I was too weak to handle it alone. So, no, I don’t know exactly what you’re dealing with, but I do know someone who does. Jesus faced mockery, a beating and death. I mean, one of His own disciples turned their back on him. Do you honestly think He doesn’t know how you feel!?!?! But, none of that caused Him to lose His focus on the why. You are His why!

Have you simply lost your focus? It’s easy to do. Life can really take a toll on us all. But remember, God never said that life would be easy just because we decide to become Jesus followers. If fact, He tells us in this world we will face trouble. But, He also tells us He has overcome the world. The biggest advice I can give you is this, when you find your life out of balance, check your focus. Is your focus on money, people, problems, things? Or is your focus on Jesus? Are you spending time daily in the word? If you want to get your life back in order, get your focus back where it belongs! On Him.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

img_2134-1

“Fight” the Feeling(s)

“The biggest obstacle you’ll ever have to overcome is your mind. If you can overcome that, you can overcome anything.” ~ Marc and Angel

Occasionally, my husband likes to watch MMA fighters. You know the ones who pound the mess out of each other until one either taps out, or is knocked out. Yikes! Usually, I can handle it for a few minutes, but then I either say “Geez! Change it, I can’t handle this!”, or I get preoccupied on my phone and tune it out. If you’ve ever watched these fights, I’m sure you’ve seen times where the one guy doesn’t stand a chance! He is just getting hit over and over by the same punches in the same spot. It’s like the fighter has found his weak spot where his defense is down and he is just having to take the punches thrown at him. You find yourself thinking Come on man! Do something, fight back!

Have your ever found yourself in that guy’s place? Not in a ring with another fighter, but in a real life battle. Feeling like you just can’t stop the punches, the attacks, the never ending blows. I think if we are honest, we can all say we’ve been there. Life knocks us down from time to time, but we can and will survive the fight if and when we learn to fight, and fight well. How do you respond in fights? Do you want revenge? Get angry? Say I give up, throw the towel in? That used to be me. Angry, hate-filled and looking for a fight. Let me tell you, that’s no way to live! When life throws a punch at you, you really only have 3 choices. You can let it define you, let it destroy you or you can let it strengthen you. The choice is yours.

Evil for Evil

Revenge. It is an ugly, ugly feeling. It can and will completely consume you. When someone wrongs you, says something untruthful about you or lies straight to your face, it can be so easy to take the mindset of “payback time”. They wronged you! They deserve payback, right? I mean, they may have started it, but I’m gonna finish it! Wrong. It will never makes you feel any better to have that mindset. Even if your mind tells you otherwise. John Mark Green puts it this way, “To respond to hateful acts with hatred is to become the very thing you despise.”

Look, I get it. I really do. I have been talked about by some of the people closest to me. And not just once, or even twice, but over a period of months. It’s no fun to be on the receiving end. But fighting back, seeking out revenge, isn’t going to change what’s been said, and it’s not going to make your relationship with that person any better. I was that person who went for revenge. And you know what? It never affected anyone except me. I was still just as hurt and angry and they didn’t change how they treated me either. We have to get to a place where we let these people and the wrong they have done fuel our strength, not our weakness.

Don’t stoop to a level of revenge. Don’t get mad. Do better than that. Become so engulfed in your own happiness, you forget it ever happened. Look, just because some people are fueled by drama/fighting doesn’t mean you have to attend the performance. And don’t ever let bitter, unhappy people drag you down to their level. Instead, you use their behavior as an example of how not to be. You want to get back at someone? Don’t let their actions have any control over your emotions. Be happy! Be you. And remember, conflict can never survive when only one person is participating.

1 Peter 3:9(NIV)

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

 

Rise Above the Negativity

Ever been around someone who is constantly negative? Man, it will weigh you down won’t it? As soon as you decide to change your ways and live life in a more Godly manner, here they come with all their negative thoughts about it. “Don’t you know you’ll have to stop doing this?” “Aren’t you tired of having to do the right thing? It’s so hard!” “God just asks so much of us.” “You’ll never be able to stick with it!” Listen, You had a purpose before anyone had an opinion. It’s time you rise above those negative thoughts surrounding you. Instead, believe what God says about you. He says, you are blessed, you are favored and you are loved. Listen to the one who created you, not the one who likes to create negativity.

When someone doesn’t understand your choice to change, to become more Christ-like, it can cause them to see this change in a negative light. The last thing you should do is try to prove them wrong through your words. Let them judge, let them misunderstand, let them be negative. You stay committed to change, committed to kindness, love and joy. Speak through actions, not words. No matter what they say, don’t you ever doubt you are making the right choice. Just keep shining for Jesus; Don’t ever let anyone dim your light, just because its shining in their eyes! And if they still can’t see that His ways are good and they choose to walk out of your life, first and foremost, pray for them. Pray that they will eventually come to know Jesus the way you do. And secondly, stay true to your heart. Don’t let their feelings change yours.

Going for the Knockout

Maybe you aren’t dealing with a fight that involves people at all. Maybe you’re in a much tougher fight. Bad news from the doctor, loss of a job, disobedient children, divorce, the list could go on and on. Life’s tough sometimes. And sometimes we feel like we have taken one to many punches. It can seem like they just keep pounding on you, one right after the other. You wanna look up to the sky and scream, “Can I please just catch a break!”. It’s in those moments we need to stop. Stop, and look up to where our help comes from. Turn to the only one who can truly help us through the fight.

God says many times throughout scripture that He is with us. With us during the fight. With us when we can’t take anymore. With us when we can no longer stand. He is simply waiting on us to step aside and let Him handle the fight. So many times we try to handle everything on our own and that’s when we become overwhelmed. God says come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest. So why are we all guilty of trying to do it all on our own? Let Him fight this fight for you!! I’m not saying it will be easy, but won’t it be nice to have someone in your corner who wants nothing more than your love in return?

Exodus 14:14(NIV)

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

 

Final Thoughts

Feelings are tricky. Especially when dealing with other people. People can be mean, judgmental and harsh. But, that doesn’t mean we have to be. We have control over how we react to others. We can choose to fight back or rise above. But I will say this, in those times where a fight is inevitable, you will never fight alone. You have an undefeated heavyweight champ in your corner ready to stand alongside you every time that bell rings! God tells us He will never leave us, and that He is fighting our battles. Sometimes we just need to learn to step aside and let Him do what only He can do. Knowing when to walk away takes wisdom and courage. But when you do walk away, walk away with your head held high in dignity. It takes a strong person to let things go. And anything or anyone that cost you your peace is just not worth the fight. I want to leave you with this passage. Read over this and ask God to reveal any of the traits listed that you may need to remove from your heart. Learn to be a peacemaker, it really will change how you handle your feelings when a fight comes along!

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. James 3:13-18NIV

 

 

 

“Family” Ties

“This is part of what family is about, not just love. It’s knowing that your family will be there watching out for you. Nothing else will give you that. Not money. Not fame. Not work. – Mitch Albom

Family (noun)- A group consisting of parents and children living together in a household; a group of people related to one another by blood or marriage; the children of a person or couple.

That is the formal definition of family. Now, I’m not gonna disagree with that, but I do think there is more to it than that. Family, to me, isn’t always blood. Being genetically related isn’t the only way to be a family, and doesn’t necessarily make you a family either. Love, support, trust, sacrifice, honesty, protection, acceptance, security, compromise, respect and loyalty, that makes a family.

For some of us, friends have become family. Our church is our family. I believe family isn’t defined by blood, marriage, skin color, last name or relation. Family is love. Love for one another. It’s someone who has been there for you during the hard times, and the good times. They have supported you through it all. Today, I want to talk about 3 areas that make up a “Family”, your immediate family, your friends who have become family and your church family. All 3 very important but for different reasons. Yes, the 3 can and often do intertwine, but they still have distinct purposes. Lets see if I can make you see “family” a little differently…

Immediate Family

Psalm 133:1 “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Isn’t that a beautiful verse? God desires us to live this way, unified. Your home, your family, this should be the place you feel safe, loved and cherished. A husband and wife living out a life devoted to God and to one another; raising children who respect them and God as well. Seems easy right? Hardly!! Family isn’t always the easiest to live in unity with. But, it is the most important unite in our lives. It should come before all other things. Before friends, work, hobbies, etc. The only thing that should come before family is God. And really, He should be the center and the foundation of your family. Our family, a circle of strength, should be founded on faith, joined in love and kept by God. When we live this way, unity comes naturally.

Now, I realize family for some equals a place of pain and feels far from unified. Family is supposed to be our safe haven. Unfortunately, for some, it is the place where we find the most heartache. Let me be the perfectly clear, I don’t want you to read this blog and feel discouraged or hopeless about your family situation. Unfortunately, some of us have inherited a broken family. But that doesn’t mean we are broken as well. We all deal with difficulties amongst family. No family is perfect. I could write a book about my dysfunctional family! But, I could also write a book about how God has broken the cycle of dysfunction in many families as well. You can choose to be different. You can choose to turn the heartache into fuel. Fuel to stop the cycle. Refuse to inherit dysfunction!! Instead, learn new ways to live where you don’t repeat what you lived through. We just have to find people, situations, that can and will provide for us what our family can’t. The BEST thing you can do in this kind of situation is pray. Pray for God to heal the brokenness you feel. And keep praying for your family. God hears you. And have patients with your family, show them Gods love through your actions.

Family of Friends

I love the people who have walked into my life and become like family to me. Like I said earlier, Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs. It’s people who love you no matter what. I honestly feel like God sends these people to us. He sees an open spot in our hearts and sends the perfect person to fill it. We just have to be open to who He has in store for us.

After I lost my dad in 2010, it left a hole in my heart I thought could never be filled. I was a daddy’s girl for sure! He was my hero. And while no one will ever take his place in my heart, God did send someone to fill the void. He sent someone who would support me like a dad. Someone who would encourage me like a dad. Someone who would help me like a dad. I just had to be willing to let God use this person to help me heal. In my opinion, this is what it looks like when a friend becomes family. God knew I needed someone, so He provided a friend to fill the need. I still miss my dad everyday, but I am thankful God sent someone to help ease the pain. And yes, I also have a Heavenly Father who will NEVER leave me, but I needed someone to fill the earthly void as well and God knew that.

I hope that you will love others. Not just the ones you live under the same roof with, but the people who you call “friend” as well.  You never know what someone has lost and may need you to help heal by being there, by being their friend. Be kind and serve one another, not because you have to, but because we are called to. When your friends become your family something beautiful happens. A bond is formed. A support system forms and you now have someone who will stick by your side and fill an emptiness you may not have even realized you had. Proverbs 17:17 tells us a friend loves at ALL times, not some, but ALL. Friends choose to be in our lives, they aren’t born or married in. So, there is just something special about a bond that comes from friendship. It’s strong, it’s unbreakable. They are family.

Church Family

Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us to consider how we may spur one another on and reminds us of the importance of meeting together and encouraging one another. Now, some may read that and think meeting together simply means filling rows in a church, which yes, we should be in service listening to the Word of God. I on the other hand, get something more than that. In this passage, I don’t separate meeting together and encouraging one another. And honestly, you can’t do that staring at the back of someone’s head.

Some of the closest relationships I’ve formed have come out of my church involvement. And that didn’t happen sitting next to one another listening to the preacher. It happened by doing life together. By sharing my joys, my ups and downs, my struggles, by being involved in a group of believers whom I trust. We meet together and encourage one another every week. Listen, if all you do is come, sit, listen and leave every Sunday, you are missing out on all the church family has to offer. Get involved. Serve. And do more than just fill a chair. You will only get out what you put in.

God desires us to be a unified people who supports one another and loves one another just as Christ loves us. If you don’t have a church family, a group of people who you are doing life along side of, find one. It will be one of the best things you’ll ever do. Our church family has been with us during some of our toughest times and has celebrated with us during the best of times. I wouldn’t trade these people for anything. And I pray that you are able to find a place where you feel that love too. And I promise, when you do find it, it will enrich your life in ways you never thought possible!!

Final Thoughts

Family is the center of life. Whether it’s your immediate family, your friends, your church family or maybe all of the above, I hope you feel blessed to have these people love and support you. We aren’t designed to go through life alone. And even if we don’t have a huge support circle, we have a huge God who will always love and support us. So no matter what, we are never alone. I hope you are encouraged by that. And I hope you are living a life dedicated to Him, and dedicated to loving your family. Years from now, your grandchildren will tell the stories of how you were the true example of what a family looks like. And that’s because you taught them to love God, love family and love friends.

 Let me leave you with this simple reminder, mother Theresa says, “If you wanna promote world peace, go home and love your family.”

 

“Faith” Building Blocks

“Faith is the art of holding on to things in spite of your changing moods and circumstances.” -C.S. Lewis

If you’ve ever watched a brick layer, I’m sure you’ve noticed the pattern they use. Always staggering the brick one on top of the another. They also lay a thick layer of mortar to hold it all together like a glue. Each layer of brick and mortar strengthens the wall so that it is able to withstand things like time and weather. 

To me, our faith is very similar. We want to build up strength by placing layers of truth, grace and forgiveness on top of one another, all glued together with Scripture. There are many ways we can build our faith up, but there are also ways we can tear it down or not build it correctly. When we make the mistake of not growing our faith, we leave ourselves vulnerable to attacks we aren’t ready for. Every person who calls themselves a follower of Jesus will face trials. But, if we have a strong belief, a strong built faith rooted in Him, we can take on anything life throws at us. 

The following 3 areas I feel are great building blocks for our faith. While there are many ways to build Faith, there are a few ways I think are fundamental to the core of faith building.

Read and Understand

Knowing the Bible is one thing. Knowing the author is another. When we spend time in The Word, it shouldn’t be to memorize scripture. We should read to build our faith in Him; to build our relationship with Him. One way we can grow our Faith is by spending time studying scripture. Understand, the Bible was written to help us to know Him better, to show us who He is. 

Being able to spout out scripture word for word isn’t a bad thing as long as you believe and understand what it is you are saying. When you know the author, everything you read becomes alive. When you sit down to read, come empty, ready to be filled. Commit to not only read His word daily, but to live it out and allow it to help grow your Faith. 

Jeffery Holland Puts it this way, “The size of your faith or the degree of your knowledge is not the issue,- it is the integrity you demonstrate towards the faith you do have and the truth you already know.” Make it a goal to start your day spending time with Jesus, studying the Word. And I promise it will grow your faith.

Know Him

Jesus didn’t come to start a religion. He came to have a relationship with you. Personally, I feel like too many people get caught up in the religion aspect, and they completely lose the relationship part. I wasn’t forced to follow Christ, I decided to. I don’t worship because I’m told to, I worship because he deserves it. I don’t read my Bible as a routine, I read to know Him better. I don’t pray to get my way, I pray to thank Him for who He is. That is what a relationship with Jesus looks like. A longing, a desire, to spend time with Him through worship, prayer and time in the Word. I call Him my healer, my way maker, my dream giver, my restorer, my, guide, my friend; not my rule maker.

Don’t get caught up in the rules, the do’s and don’ts of faith. When we focus more on the relationship, we don’t even sees the rules as rules! It becomes more about wanting to be a better follower, learning to be Christ-like. It makes us want to be better! People who love others, serve others, people who give because He asks us to. The relationship grows our faith in Him, which in turn grows our obedience. 

Our relationship with Him should be the foundation of why we believe. He came, walked this earth, died and rose again so that we could have a relationship with Him! A faithful relationship is really the only appropriate response to the grace He shows us. Be willing to set everything aside and pursue a relationship with Him and watch your faith grow.

Remain Confident

With growth of faith, comes trials of faith. It’s just how it goes. But, we can remain confident. How you may ask? Well you emerge yourself in the very things that gave you your faith in the first place. Prayer. A strong prayer life is fundamental to faith building. It’s our open line of communication with Him. It is how we ask Him to help us during trials. Scripture. Ask Him to show you verses to guide you during trials. Read over and over the verses that speak directly to you. 

You see, faith is like a muscle. It only grows if you use it. Have faith that He will see you through anything life throws at you. Have faith over doubt. Faith over fear. Faith over the unseen or unknown. When we remain confident in Him our faith grows deeper and stronger. Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” We may not see a way out during the trial, but He is our Hope, and that is the confidence we have in Him.

Final Thoughts

Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God. All throughout the Bible we read stories of faith, faith that God would do what He said. Do you have that kind of faith? Do you believe like Abraham or Noah? Are you like the farmer who prayer for rain and took his umbrella to work with him that same day? When we have a strong faith that He is who he says and will do what He says, everything changes. Our hope is stronger, we love deeper, we care more, we want to serve others, we pray and believe He will answer. 

In order to have that kind of faith, faith like Abraham or Noah, we have to be constantly working to grow our faith in Him. And remember, Faith without works is dead (James 2:17). So we must be willing to put our faith into action. Be ready and willing to act on that faith. And don’t ask Him to guide your footsteps if you aren’t ready and willing to move your feet! 

I don’t know about you, but I want to be found fit for His use, ready for the work, in shape and ready to go! The way I do that is by building up my faith in Him through scripture, a strong relationship with Him and by staying confident that He is who He says and will see me through anything!

“For we live by faith, not by sight.” Corinthians 5:17