Joy in the Storm

A friend recently asked how I was managing with some challenges and all I could muster was that I was relying on God’s strength.  I said, “All I have is God … and He is more than enough.”  I also said that sometimes you simply keep placing one foot in front of the other.

Of course, my daily devotions spent in the Word of God and prayer are what sustain this weary heart on the difficult days.  Despite the storm clouds that surround, “My anchor holds within the vale.”  I have a deep, wellspring of joy on the inside that is not conditional on my circumstances but is a true gift from God.

It is possible to have peace and joy regardless of the dark clouds that rage.  This world is not our final destination.  During times of struggle, I especially love to listen to praise and worship music.  When we worship God, we are inviting His presence into our lives and into our situation.  I firmly believe that.  And, how I need Him.

John 16:33 says, “In this world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”

Life continually has its valleys and mountain tops.  We cannot prevent either from happening but we can control our responses to each.  We can determine in our hearts that no matter what happens, we will dig deep in His Word for wisdom, instruction and comfort.  No matter what, we will pray and praise God for Who He is, not just for what He does for us.

When we focus on our blessings more than our problems, there is a shift in our attitude and perspective.  Whatever we face, God is bigger.

What if we recall the countless times in the past that God has delivered us and answered prayer?  What if we praised Him in advance for all that He has planned in our lives?

What if, even through the storm, others could witness God’s strength and power demonstrated in our lives?

Joy is possible in the darkest of nights.

Peace is available too.

Faith is the seed that makes these a reality in our hearts.

…Instead of searching for the nearest exit during your storm, why not praise God for what He will teach you through the challenging circumstances?  Why not ask Him to shine through your darkness to be a blessing to others around you that they may glorify God?

What if you are going through a trial and it’s not even about you but to help somebody else?

When we are able to change our perspective, we are able to change our reality.

Trust God.  Pray.  Praise.  Watch Him work in your life in amazing ways.

Rinse.  Repeat.

Never Give Up!

Winston Churchill gave a famous speech where he uttered:

“Never, never, never give up!”

He also said, “If you’re going through hell – keep going!”

I want to urge you today that if you seem to be facing insurmountable odds and life is just too difficult to go on … Keep placing one foot in front of the other!  Baby steps.

One step leads to another and before you know it, you are in a new season of life.  Life is ever changing and things won’t always remain the same.

Sometimes it’s easy for our emotions to get the best of us and we can readily succumb to the devil’s lies that we should simply throw in the towel.  Life is just too hard.

Life is hard sometimes and its load can seem overwhelming, but you and I are here for a purpose.  God created each one of us and has placed unique gifts and talents inside each of us.

“And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

~ II Corinthians 12:9-11

I pray that if you find the pain of your life unbearable today, my friend, that Jesus would hold you close and reveal His love to you as only He can.  You are loved by an Almighty God, who knows everything about you and still chooses to love.  That’s love, friend.  He loves with an unfailing, never ending kind of love.  I pray that God’s peace, the peace that surpasses all human understanding, would so envelope your soul that you will find rest and comfort like you’ve never known.  Lastly, I pray for God’s grace to be with you during this trying time, that God will provide for your every need and that you will have renewed hope in Christ.

This world is not our home.  We are pilgrims passing through until that day when God calls us home.  Until then, this world needs you.  This world needs to see God’s love demonstrated through your life.

May we all be strengthened in His might and His power to be a blessing to a lost and dying world.

Never give up, my friend.

Greater things are in store for you!  Your miracle and breakthrough could be just around the corner.  Don’t quit now!  Keep walking this faith walk.  God will give you the strength.  Trust Him today.

Stewards of Time

Did you know that in a lifetime, the average American will sit at a stop light for six months?  Eight months opening junk mail?  One year looking for misplaced objects?  Two years unsuccessfully returning phone calls and five years waiting in line?

These figures seem impossible to fully comprehend, but somewhere in a sterile cubicle, a statistician has reduced our lives to such peculiar numbers.  If they don’t offer one the opportunity for pause, I’m not sure what will.  Seeing my life in these terms definitely makes me reassess my priorities.

The reality for each of us is, we don’t have nearly as much time on this earth as we originally thought.  We just get complacent that somehow time will stand still for us and that we’ll always have tomorrow to do things, when that is not necessarily the case.  Each of us are allotted a certain number of days and then our lives here on earth will be completed.  What we do in the meantime is up to us.

What will we do with that time?

It is incredibly amazing to me the amount of time people spend watching television, movies, playing video games, etc.  Of course, there is a time and a place for R & R.  Yes, there is.  But, not at the price of neglecting relationships, housework, and other priorities, etc.  And add to our obsession list, the advent of smart phones and we run the further risk of becoming a true ostrich.  What is one to do?

Psalm 90:12 says, “So teach us to number our days that we may have a wise heart.”

I think periodically it’s a good idea to reassess how we are spending our free time.  I am a stay-at-home mom but for those who work outside the home, we are targeting the time you have on your hands after you clock out.  For me, my work never ends as I have two teenagers, am married and care for an elderly father at home.  I still have a few moments to call my own.  So what do we do with those?

Are we using our time wisely?  What if we knew we only had a certain number of years remaining in our life cycle?  Would we skip vegging on YouTube or Facebook a bit more?  Would we reach out and call our loved ones on the telephone or even better, visit them in person more?  Texting is lovely but it can never replace our humanity.

Pause is necessary in our crazy busy culture.  What do you hope to achieve in your lifetime?  What kind of person do you hope others remember you being?  Are you that person?  If not, what steps can you take toward becoming that person?

With technology ever in the forefront of our lives, down time is increasingly important for reflection.  Take a walk in your neighborhood or by the lake or on the beach.  Breath in fresh air.  They say when we get out in nature, it has a relaxing effect.  I think we all need more of that in our fast paced society.

Here’s hoping you’ll be a wise steward of your days.

They say no man on his deathbed ever wished they’d spent more time at the office.  No, they often say they wished they spent more time with their family.  Maybe it’s time for a pause, a time of reflection to review priorities.

We are all given the same 24 hours in a day.  It’s how we spend it that is up to us.

 

Fear

Franklin Delano Roosevelt once gave the famous refrain in his first inaugural address:

“There is nothing to fear, but fear itself.”

That’s pretty true, isn’t it?  Some of us come by worrying and fear more naturally than others but I think the reality is, we’re all susceptible to feelings of fear at some time or another in our lives.  Now, our “fight or flight” reactions may spark fear but are intended to preserve our lives.  I’m talking about living in a constant, vicious cycle of fear.

I discussed in yesterday’s post the fact that you’re never alone and the fact that it has got to be one of the devil’s most overused tools on us, as Christians.  Well, fear has to be a close second.  It is a real bondage to be so wrapped in fear that you cannot face the future with optimism and hope.

When I was in my early twenties, I worked at an independent living apartment complex for senior citizens.  I was an administrative assistant and one of my daily jobs was to take Mrs. Augustine her mail as she was too afraid to leave her apartment for fear the mafia would come for her.  She was a sweet lady but clearly had some problems.

As outlandish as this may sound, we all have things we do or don’t do out of fear.  Now, some of those things are good.  For instance, we don’t walk in the middle of the street because we could be struck by an oncoming car.  That is a valid fear and one we should heed.  We do not submit our income taxes late for fear of being fined.  We do not place our hand on a hot stove for fear of being burned.  All very good things.

However, there are also things we do or don’t do out of an unhealthy fear.

We don’t attend church or a certain Bible study out of fear of being judged.  We don’t have a gym membership for fear of being ridiculed.  We don’t leave the house without make-up because we fear being inadequate.  We don’t volunteer for a project because we fear our talents are insufficient.

You get the idea.  These are negative fears that can impact us if repeated long enough.

This is one of my 2017 goals:

“Face life unafraid!”

Not afraid of what someone else thinks.  Not afraid of failure.  Not afraid of insufficiencies.   Not afraid of being imperfect.  Not afraid of what “might” happen.  Not afraid of someone else’s approval or response.  Not afraid of being misunderstood.  NOT AFRAID!

What if we all lived like this?

What if we took the shackles off and simply lived life the best we could?  … without all the mental clutter, all the “what if’s”, all the insecurities?

The reality is that no one is perfect.  No one.  So, your failures will not surprise anyone.   They are common place, my friend.  My goal this year is to live life to the best of my ability and rest knowing that, that is good enough.  My goal is also to face my fears, wherever I may find them, head on.  I have found that when I actually get around to doing a task on my “to do” list that I’ve been dreading, I often wonder why it took me so long.  We have to muster up our courage and run toward our fears, instead of running from them.  If our backs are facing the fear, then we are on the wrong side.

Sometimes we fear the unknown.  That is a valid fear.  After all, none of us know the future.  However, we must come to the place that, although we may not know the future, we know WHO holds the future.  And that is God.

It is said that there are 365 Bible verses on the topic of fear – one for each day.  I think that is so neat.  God knew we would need constant reminders of His presence and His grace in our lives.  He knows how weak we are.

Can I challenge you today to face your fears?  The days of sweeping them under the rug are gone.  Deal with the dust bunnies in your life and move on so there can be closure.  Don’t allow fear or anything else to keep you from forward progress in your life.  Forward momentum is what productive, happy lives are made of.  The moment we begin to get “stuck” is the moment we succumb to traps of the enemy and snares that bind us.  Determine today that with God’s help, you will move forward with His strength and face your fears.

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” ~ Isaiah 41:10

 

You Are Never Alone

This has got to be one of the devil’s most sharpened tools he uses against Christians.  Nobody cares.  You might as well give up.  And, all too often, we fall for it, hook, line and sinker!

Nothing could be further from the truth!  If we can dodge the “Woe is me” bullet long enough to look around us, most of us are surrounded by family who love us dearly.  Above that, God promises in Hebrews 13:5 that He will never leave us or forsake us.

James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

This is so true.  During times in my life that I have felt the most alone, those have been times that I was not spending adequate time reading God’s Word and praying.  It is there we will find strength from God and sense His presence in our lives.

Never fall for this lie from the enemy of our souls that we are alone.  There is always someone you can reach out to.  Now, there lies the caveat.  Sometimes, perhaps too many times, we are hesitant to reach out and become vulnerable enough to let someone know we need help.  Most people would be willing to assist, but they are not mind readers.  You have to let people know of your needs.

You will find peace in God’s Word and reassurance that truly God is with you every step of life’s journey.  Sometimes it’s a matter of us acknowledging His presence and asking for His guidance and help.

The truth is:  You Are Never Alone!

Let that sink in.

The devil wants to discourage believers because if you are a weak, anemic Christian, you can’t be effective as God’s Ambassador.  However, if we can move past this lie of discouragement, we can experience the peace of God and find contentment.

You are never alone.  It bears repeating.

Now, find someone who needs to hear this and reach out to them.  It’s so important for Christians to be God’s hands and feet extended.  The world will never know unless we show them with our love.  It’s been said that you are the only Bible some will ever read.  That’s so true.  Let someone know they are not alone today.

Developing a Monthly Budget

Budgeting sounds very boring, doesn’t it?  The fact of the matter is, if you don’t have a budget, you can quickly find yourself in financial ruin.

Dave Ramsey says the definition of a budget is:

“Telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.”

That is exactly what a budget is!  The reality is that in order to achieve your financial goals you have to have in mind how much of your hard earned money is going out the door in each category of your life.

I strongly recommend Dave Ramsey’s website on developing a budget and tons of financial advice.

Below is an Example of what a Family Budget may look like:

Tithes:

Mortgage:

Groceries:

Electricity:

Water:

Pool maintenance:

Alarm co.:

Car Insurance:

Gas:

Life Insurance:

Credit Cards:

Medical:

RX:

Kid’s Braces:

House Maintenance:

Clothing:

Hair cuts:

Birthdays:

Christmas:

Vacation:

Savings:

 

So, you would simply fill in each applicable category.  If the total exceeds your monthly income, then an adjustment is necessary.  If you have more money left at the end of the month after all your bills are paid, then allot more in the savings category.  You can never have too much savings!

All of this is easier said than done, but once you exercise the self-discipline to implement a monthly budget, you will love the results!  Telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went is a beautiful thing!

Of course, the goal is to eliminate debt and save toward things you really want – say a house, a vacation, a car, etc.

Happy budgeting and here’s to a prosperous New Year!

100 Items to Get Rid of Now

  1. Duplicate appliances
  2. Mismatched socks
  3. Utility bills from last year
  4. The 99th piece of artwork your child ever created
  5. The 99th article of clothing your precious angel ever wore
  6. Knick knacks someone gave you that you really don’t like
  7. Items you inherited but don’t love.
  8. Broken beyond repair items
  9. Dust collectors you no longer enjoy (think figurines, collectables, etc.)
  10. Supplies to a hobby you no longer pursue
  11. Old toiletry items that are expired or of no use to you
  12. Something you planned on repairing/refurbishing but lack the motivation/time
  13. Clothing that is too small/large
  14. Clothing that you don’t feel good in
  15. Shoes you never wear
  16. Hats gathering dust
  17. An overrun of jackets/coats
  18. Curtains from a former house that you have no plans of using
  19. Curtain rod that you’re not using
  20. Rolled up rugs from a former house…
  21. Expired canned goods, crackers, etc.
  22. Expired spices
  23. A food item you bought because it was on sale but no one will eat
  24. The owner’s manual to a piece of equipment/appliance you no longer own
  25. Fabric & pattern to a cute, little sundress you were going to make for your daughter but…she’s now 19
  26. Snow shovel but you live in Florida.
  27. Wool sweater, scarf, mittens, etc. but you live in Florida…
  28. A Q-tip box with 2 left. Refill the jar you store them in and move on…
  29. Unnecessary restaurant menus
  30. Old business cards that you don’t even recognize their name
  31. Empty water bottles. Is my family the only one who leaves these laying around?
  32. Cereal boxes. Pour them into airtight container & recycle box.
  33. Anything with a green parasite living on it in your refrigerator.
  34. That sponge that reeks.
  35. The chewed up toothbrush that couldn’t possible reach plaque in between your teeth
  36. The deodorant tube that is empty. Again, is mine the only household who does this?
  37. A souvenir that has outlasted its sense of treasure
  38. Dried up glue container.
  39. Unidentified object lurking in your freezer. Let it go.  It’s been too long…
  40. Sleeping bags and nobody camps or slumbers in them
  41. Excess pillows, sheets, pillow cases, blankets, towels
  42. An abandoned musical instrument
  43. Vitamins/medicine out of date or no longer used
  44. Plastic grocery bags if you aren’t using them in a reasonable period of time
  45. An attachment/part to something you no longer own
  46. Empty cardboard boxes (unless you’re planning to move)
  47. Candy wrappers in between the couch cushions
  48. Paperwork from the doctor’s office that isn’t important
  49. That pink or tan hospital basin you got in 1978…
  50. The t.v. that stopped working in 1989…
  51. That National Geographic magazine collection that no one ever looks at
  52. pamphlets that accumulate like dust bunnies around the house
  53. The remote to a t.v./VCR that is long gone
  54. Last year’s calendar
  55. Aquarium supplies when you donated the aquarium years ago
  56. When you have 10 throws, give one away…or five…
  57. Duplicate books
  58. “How to” books when you don’t plan on doing anything…
  59. the Sunday comics/old newspapers
  60. stacks of magazines
  61. crutches from the time you broke your leg twenty years ago
  62. the walker from your rehab
  63. ace bandages that no longer have their elastic support
  64. nail polish that is thick and lumpy
  65. nail files that couldn’t whittle your pinky nail if it tried.
  66. That package of plastic cups from the New Year’s party in 1965…
  67. Broken tool
  68. Caulk or paint that is past its prime
  69. Elastic hair bands that are stretched out/useless
  70. Expired/unwanted hair coloring
  71. Old costume jewelry you haven’t worn in ten years
  72. Underwear that are two sizes too small
  73. A broken calculator
  74. Old cell phones/chargers
  75. A broken PC
  76. A failed craft project that you’re not going to attempt to fix
  77. A junk car that realistically you won’t have the time/money to repair
  78. Cookbooks you don’t/won’t use
  79. That set of c.d.’s on a foreign language you are no longer interested in learning
  80. Twin sheets when all your beds are queens or kings
  81. That cheap, plastic cup/travel mug that was a give away item from the bank, etc…
  82. That work manual for every course you’ve ever taken as an adult
  83. A large bird cage when you haven’t had a pet bird in years
  84. Diapers when your youngest is nineteen
  85. Christmas cards you received last year
  86. More packing material that you will feasibly use in the near future
  87. Cable t.v. (& the boxes, remotes, expense)
  88. Bad habits.
  89. Negative attitude
  90. Friends who aren’t good influences
  91. Empty calories
  92. Time wasters
  93. Ink pens that no longer write
  94. Broken crayons
  95. Checkbooks to a closed account
  96. An empty printer ink cartridge
  97. Fishing rod that nobody uses
  98. Bicycle training wheels and your kids are grown…
  99. Air mattress with holes
  100. Coloring book that has all its pages colored

There you have it, folks! 

100 items that can either be deposited in:

the recycling bin,   donation box,   the trash can   or out the window!

Obviously, some of these points are tongue-in-cheek, but you get the idea.

This list could be endless but hopefully it generates more ideas and further motivation to part with items that have outlasted their usefulness.  That’s the whole idea!

Happy Decluttering!