Finding Rest

We spend our lives hanging our hopes and dreams of true happiness on the hat of achievement or success while its fulfillment is fleeting.  We tend to tell ourselves that ‘we’ll be really happy when’…

…we reach a certain pay grade

…we find the perfect match

…we have x number of children

…we buy a larger home

…we retire

…we travel the world

….While these are lofty and worthwhile goals and dreams, we will never be satisfied or at rest in these alone.

…or what about  – we’ll be really happy when…this storm passes or I am healthy again?

THEN, I will be happy and my soul will be at rest!

What if true rest is found in surrender?

What if the peace we seek is found in the person of Jesus Christ?  I submit to you that it is only then that the searching, the seeking, the striving … is fulfilled and complete.

All too often our focus goes askew.  We lose sight of the fact that He is the Potter and we are the clay.  Does the clay tell the Potter what to make?  No.  Never.  Sometimes our lives segue into unchartered waters and we fear we may drown.  It’s during those times, especially, that our focus must be redirected on the One who has all power in His hands.  That doesn’t always mean the storm will be averted or our path will miraculously veer around the storm.  It does, however, mean that God is there no matter the circumstances.  He is our Peace in troubled times.  No matter the situation, we can find rest.

Each of our journeys are unique.  We each run a different race, face particular battles, etc. But we are all created by the same God who made us to only find true peace and satisfaction in a personal relationship with Him.

We live in anxious times, no matter your geographic location.  We just do.  For all the academic achievements of mankind, sometimes we can be too prideful to realize our full dependence on an Almighty God.  For all our intellectual ability and strivings, we remain completely lacking in every way.  It is when we realize this, that we have begun to live.  Really live.  Life is so complex.  Happiness can seem elusive if we continue looking in all the wrong directions.  It is, however, completely attainable when we wholeheartedly surrender to God and know that no matter what we may be going through, He is there with us.  He promises to never leave us or forsake us.  In that, our future is secure and peace is attainable.

Rest today, friend, knowing that your circumstances do not somehow escape the watchful eye of an All-Knowing God.  He sees.  He knows.  He cares.  Rest.

“Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  

~ Matthew 11:28

 

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.

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.

Excess and Balance

I’ve often contemplated this seeming disease that plagues us.  I love to organize and clean things and have since I was a kid.  Definitely a “Type A” personality here.  Just for fun, I enjoy watching YouTube videos on organizing and cleaning, and I’m amazed at the glutton of household items average people possess!

I will preface any further observations and opinions by saying – We have moved many times in our twenty-one year marriage, which forces close scrutiny of one’s “stuff”.  That said, we’ve had Salvation Army cost out twice with their big truck to haul away many boxes, faux ficus trees, train sets, brick-a-brack, clothing, china, etc.  In addition to that, we’ve taken bag after bag to Goodwill almost weekly for the past year as we continue to sort through boxes.  Incredible the volume one collects over the years!

So, I’ve been forced to handle every item and evaluate.  I can only imagine the challenge for those who’ve lived in the same house for twenty plus years and how quickly things can get out of control.  Tastes in decor and furnishings change, fads come and go, the kids outgrow toys and clothes, hobbies move on, etc.  And if you have an issue with excessive shopping, especially as a means of therapy; well, then, all bets are off!  An intervention may be necessary.  Haha.

If a Type A like myself can accumulate a fair amount of excess, then anyone can.  It seems so easy to allow things into our home and we have no real method of allowing an exit for anything!

Dealing with our excess …

When sorting through a room/box/dresser, I always ask myself three questions:

1.) Am I currently using it?

2.) Have I used it in the last year?

3.) Will I likely use it in the next year?

The consequence of holding onto excess is that they seem to multiply and therefore occupy mental space as well.  They bog us down and we are hindered from letting our creative juices flow and finding general happiness from a tidy room.  They are “non-value added items”.  Now, I am not suggesting getting rid of all sentimental things or counting your household goods, etc.  I am, however, offering a method to consider applying to our excess, which seems to be an epidemic.

I recently read a statistic that said 10% of Americans rent a storage unit outside their home!  Wow!  That is staggering  and in my humble opinion, a huge waste of money.  If we do not have room to house said item, then maybe we don’t have room in our lives for it.  I understand there are causes for short term leasing, such as military personnel, etc.  But, we’re talking about long term leasing.  Why do we have so much stuff?

I often tell my kids that when I was their age, we didn’t have Walmart to run to for whatever item we thought we needed at that split second.  There were grocery stores, hardware stores, department stores, etc.  And things were pretty expensive, so we didn’t often get new things outside of Christmas, birthdays, and a new school year.  This must be a foreign concept to them as now we even have the all-too-tempting Amazon and internet shopping in general.

Stuff is so entirely accessible.  Add to that the “in your face” marketing that envelopes our society and there seems to be no escape!

On the flip side of consumerism, we have this new trend of minimalism.  Interesting.  While I think there are merits to this idea, I personally do not think it is for me.  But, I do wholeheartedly agree with the need for keeping our “stuff” to a minimum but in a more balanced way.  For instance, I don’t feel like our family needs seven bottles of shampoo and conditioner, nor do I feel the need to count our toiletries.  I don’t believe we need three sets of everyday dishes, nor do I feel like we should count our plates and bowls.

To every area of life, there should be balance.

So how do we achieve this balance with our stuff?

I would say that we have to nip it in the bud.  Deeply evaluate items before we purchase them.  Do I really need this?  Do I already have something that will work just as well?  Do I need “another” one?  Will it add value to my life?

It seems that once an item enters our homes, it takes up near permanent residence and eventually reaches the point of excess.  I like the “one in – one out” idea.  If you purchase one item, you put one item in the donation box.  Simple idea but effective.

I think the greatest purging, organizing, decluttering, cleaning tool you have is …

your attitude, frankly.

“Attitude determines altitude.”

Like any other aspect of life, the results are impacted by the space between your ears.

If you have a sloppy, couldn’t care less attitude, then your home will reflect that.  If you are disciplined and focused, however, your home will reflect that also.

“Input yields output.”

Put on some happy music.  Whatever that is to you.  Sometimes I prefer classical, sometimes contemporary Christian music, sometimes easy listening.  Depends on my mood, I guess.  Whatever will inspire you and bring happy feelings, put it on.  Music has an amazing ability to carry us away from our present tasks (mundane as they may be) and take us to a joyful place in our soul.

Give yourself a pat on the back during each step of your progress.  You deserve it.  As long as your feet keep moving in a positive direction, you are one step closer to the environment you desire.

Just think of the joy you could bring to someone less fortunate as you place unwanted items in the donation box.  And, next time you feel the urge to place an Amazon order or hit the mall, ask yourself, “Is this necessary?”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a war plan to develop regarding the glut in our garage…

 

The Fruit of the Spirit: Peace

Galatians 5:22-23 lists nine fruit of the Spirit that each Christian should bear.  Today’s focus is peace.

The dictionary defines peace as “freedom of disturbance, calm and tranquility”.  That sounds like the perfect demeanor, doesn’t it?

How can we as Christians possess such peace?

If we have received Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, then we have accepted the personification of peace into our hearts.  Isaiah 9 says one of Jesus’ Names is “Prince of Peace”.  So the question becomes are we reading God’s Word to have a greater knowledge of God’s character?  Are we praying that our spiritual eyes would be open to what His Word would teach us?

If our focus is on God, His Word and prayer, then our lives should be measured by peace.

Life happens.  Adversity occurs.  The unexpected transpires.

What do we do when those things happen?  Do we fly off the handle?  Or do we have the faith to trust that God is able to guide us through each trial?

We gain faith and trust in those around us by spending time with them and getting to know them, right?  It is the same with our relationship with God.  The more we invest in prayer and reading God’s Word, the more we learn of the character of God.  And when we know God’s character, we are then able to decipher our future with God.

Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You.”

I strongly believe that the deeper and more invested our Christian walk is with God, the greater peace we will experience.

If you need more peace in your life, spend time in prayer and reading God’s Word every day.  I guarantee you will see a change.

Trusting God is not a one time occurrence.  It is a daily walk.  Sometimes it is a minute by minute walk.  But the closer we align ourselves to God, the more closely He will walk beside us and grant us deeper peace.

Decluttering: Your Own Way

It seems the trend is to be a minimalist or limit the number of items one has on the kitchen countertops, clothing, etc.

Being counter-culture has always been in my blood, so I naturally resist this notion.  Not to mention, I don’t agree with being a minimalist.  I do agree with limiting chaos and nonsense, however.

For example, I currently have fifteen books on my nightstand.  They are in two, tidy stacks on either end of the nightstand with a lamp in between.  They do not bother me.  Instead, I love being surrounded by books.  They bring me joy.

To some, fifteen books on a nightstand would seem excessive.  But, I am not them.  I am me.  This works for me at the present time.  I will say, that I have this many books beside the bed during my recovery from surgery and I intend to read them.  Normally, I might only have about half as many.  Reading is fun for me, whereas for some, they totally don’t get my obsession.  That’s okay.

Some collect figurines, bottles or sports memorabilia, and to others, this may seem excessive.  There are no decluttering judges or decluttering police.  Keep the volume of items that make your world peaceful and happy.  Don’t worry about what anyone else’s home looks like.  You are a unique individual and when you cease being you, the world has lost a valuable resource.  So, relax and be yourself.

I happen to have a few collections, one of which is books.  Yes, I have a small library housed on the bookshelves in our family room.  Prior to our last major move, I had even more but purged our library to prepare for the move.  Now, I’m in the process of rebuilding our library a little at a time.  I’d like to have a diverse collection of books so that when guests come to visit, anyone could find a book of interest.

Our homes should reflect who we we are.  Be true to yourself and your style.  Don’t conform to someone else’s standards just because it’s en vogue.

Some like to declutter using baskets, some use Rubbermaid bins, some like to tie those nifty chalkboard tags on everything in sight.  Whatever works for you.  Choosing a system that you like and that you find useful is likely to be one you stick with.

There is no right or wrong way of decluttering.  It’s only wrong if you don’t engage at all.  Haha.  Seriously, if there’s movement in the right direction, you have been successful in your quest to declutter.

Some have large homes, some have small homes.  We all must work with our current space and preferences.  Make the most of what you have and enjoy your space.

The end goal is to create living spaces that offer peace and joy.  If we’ve done that, we have successfully decluttered.

Blessings!

Amber