Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Way He Chooses

As we celebrate another year coming to an end and a new one waiting patiently just beyond the horizon, I have been doing some reflecting.

I entered the Christmas season anticipating a miracle. We needed a financial miracle! Life has a way of handing out super-sized doozies with a cherry on top, right? I didn't realize it at the time, but that wasn't the only miracle we were in need of. 

A message over our Christmas vacation reminded me that, just as Jesus came to earth long ago in an unexpected way, our miracle might come that way too. Indeed, it might not be wrapped in the perfect little package I had manufactured in my mind as the "perfect" way. Why, even Mary probably didn't envision the birth of her first child to take place in the manner that it happened. What mother in her right mind would want her child to be born in such an environment?! Jesus could have been born in a palace, without the lowing of cattle, but He didn't choose to have it happen that way. 

So, if we've been searching for a miracle to come wrapped in a certain package...we might not find it there at all. Yet, let's still be encouraged...that doesn't mean a miracle isn't happening in the midst of the stink of a manger. 

Although I can't quite see the financial miracle I was waiting for; I received what I did not anticipate and was greatly blessed. And...in God's time, He will provide the other miracle wrapped up just the way He chooses. He could have had it arrive at Christmas time like I had anticipated, but He knows best. He could have wrapped it exactly like I was expecting, but He chose not to. He could have. No doubt about His ability; I know nothing is impossible for Him. He didn't choose to though.

My friend, as we enter 2017, don't lose your focus on those hopes and dreams which weren't visually fulfilled this year. Keep the faith, knowing that God will come through at just the right time. He's never made a mistake and I don't imagine He'll start making them now. 

Let's remember, it might not always happen or look like what we anticipate. The miracle might not look like a king...it might look like a normal baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. It might not look like a palace. Instead, it might be a manger. Our miracle could be handed to us on a silver platter, but He might not choose to deliver it so. Nevertheless...the miracle will be approved and provided by the Miracle Maker...in just the way He chooses.

Keep looking, keep hoping!  My beautiful Grands!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Color Palette of Your Season

So, this will probably be my final post for 2016. I plan to shut the computer down and enjoy family time and focus on my Christmas. Will the words stop bobbing around in my head? In my heart? Probably not, but I'll try to file them away to share at a later date after the first of a new year. Until then...



While traveling home from North Georgia with my husband early this morning, I began to look out the window and think. At first, I could barely see (yes, we had to get an early start, uugh! Did I mention I'm so NOT a morning person? Anyway...) for the sun hadn't yet risen over the dark, silent mountain peaks. I watched quietly as we continued to drive The wintry world came alive before my eyes. The beautiful, colorful fall hues I had previously enjoyed and written about only a month before were now erased. Gone. A new color palette had been used to paint the beginning of this morning's splendor.

As the morning sun brightened, I noticed the new color scheme which painted the world around me consisted of different hues of grays, blacks, browns, greens and whites. Not spectacular to say the very least as far as beautiful colors go. Yet as I continued my watching and pondering, I began to notice beautiful, white, crispy, frost blanketing fields, trees and homes. There was such a heavy frost it looked as if it had snowed. Gorgeous! Leafless trees stood at attention in their dark, black suits while the evergreens showed off their emerald outfits proudly. As we traveled the S-shaped, mountain roads; I realized that, even in this cold, bleak, season there were still elements of beauty.

Then I thought to myself, it's just the same as the seasons we have in our own lives. We're each in a different season, experiencing our lives a little bit differently from our neighbor. No matter where we may find ourselves, our God has provided an element of beauty in EVERY season. It's there, my friend, we just have to look through new lenses. From a different perspective. With fresh vision.

New buds burst forth in springtime, sparkling, lemonade on the hot blistering days of summer , the crackling of dying leaves underfoot on a path during the fall, and the bleakness of winter that allows the holly berries to stand out so brilliantly. 

You see, there's beauty hidden somewhere in each season.

 

God does that just for His children. Just because He can and so we won't grow weary of the journey. If you've been in a certain season for quite a while, be encouraged that it won't last always. Seasons change. If it's winter in your heart,there's hope in knowing that spring is just ahead. But...while you're in this certain season, enjoy the beauties of it. God's hidden away little nuggets all along our paths - for our enjoyment - even in the seasons we don't care for. 

Grab a warm blanket and cuddle up beside the hearth. Let's warm ourselves by the crackling fire with cup of hot tea or cocoa. Let's invite someone to join us in our season. Maybe they can help point out some of the beauty we might be overlooking. Perhaps together, even in the coldness of December, winter months, we can share how God shows up in each and every day. Because, my friend, if I haven't learned anything else this year, I've learned that He does indeed do that...in every season. 

So, what season do you find yourself in? He's colored every season of our lives with just the right amount of beauty. He always shows up with just the right color palette for your season too...and He's promised that seasons change if we'll just hang in there and trust Him in the meantime.

Merry Christmas from me to you. God bless you! Prayers for the best Christmas ever...because we've remembered to look for Him in it no matter what season it may be in our hearts.


Monday, December 19, 2016

Intangible Gifts

It is with a grateful heart that I'm sitting here writing this soggy, December day. Mind you, there's only six days until Christmas morning to be exact, and one tiny (major to me) detail on my wish list has been fulfilled. Oh my goodness! Happy, thankful, girl here!

It's so amazing how God cares for AND takes care of us; He truly never ceases to amaze me. He hears each desperate cry of our heart, every time. As a loving Father, even our slightest whimper never goes unnoticed. And He answers. It might not always be how we might expect, but He's faithful to do it just the same. Besides, He usually does it up better than what we could have ever imagined or expected in the first place, right?


Actually, the longer I sit here and write, I'm realizing that another - and yet another - component of my Christmas list has already been answered. And, yes...all those grown-up Christmas wishes I've received so far have been intangible ones.  (With the exception of a giant hug. Oh, how delightful those are!) I think that's my "theme" for the season - intangible

Recognizing the beauty and being thankful in the quiet, untouchable, things of life.


Consider this, words whispered quietly between the melody of holiday songs, thoughtful text messages and sweet photos delivered on my mobile phone, love and support, unexpected surprises, the sentiments behind a handwritten note, noticing smiles and the twinkle seen in the eyes of those closest to you...these are a few of my favorite things - all precious gifts to me. (A special thanks to all who have been a part of my Christmas already, I am indeed blessed.)

I wonder how often we overlook some of the truest and best gifts we receive because we're waiting for the "big ones" we can touch, those we can unwrap. Sure, the brightly colored ribbons and bows make unwrapping a gift from under the tree extra exciting...but what about holding another hand in your own? How about the gift of looking someone in the eye and knowing or reminding them that they're "your people", that they have your back or you have theirs, knowing that you're loved or what about that blessed bit of encouragement delivered straight from the wisdom of an old-timer? There are so many, many gifts we miss, don't we? All priceless.

Again, we're only six days away...there's still time to make a difference that will last for eternity. Someone said to me, "those other things (the things we can hold) will all fade away" but,  there are things we can give one another this holiday season which will last an eternity. Which would you rather have? Which would be more meaningful? It's something to think about. We each have something only we can give, because that's how God designed it to be. 

What can we give that will outlast the 25th of December? 


Toys break. Flowers fade. Crock pots quit working. Hammers go missing. Yummy prizes spoil. You know, the touchables...

Sure, it's fun to give and receive those types of gifts too. I'm not implying anything different. The satisfaction of seeing the look on the receiver's face when they open their gift can be gratifying. However, the truest treasures are those given from heart to heart. Those that can't be taken away, broken or spoiled. Yes. You guessed it. Intangibles. 

Let's all try to pick out one gift for each person on our "giving" list...and touch their lives in an intangible way. No standing in line, no out-of-stock items, no fighting the crowd...let's just open our hearts and give. That's the true meaning of Christmas after all~





Friday, December 16, 2016

The Struggle is Necessary


So, if you've been keeping up with my posts recently...welcome back...and to a new day. Aren't we thankful that God's mercies are new each and every day?

Pastor mentioned this past week that God was going to bring back a forgotten prayer to our minds. I thought about it at the time and asked God to bring something to my mind...then I forgot all about it. Until...this morning. 

Remember yesterday I told you about feeling like I wasn't gaining any ground? Well, I realized this morning while talking to a sweet friend that this certain thought has continuously kept rattling around in my head. Clang. Clang. Clang. Except...I might not have been paying much attention to it. (OK, I said it! That felt good!) Yeah, the Lord has been trying to remind me of something after all. I just had to recognize it first. 

A couple years ago, there was a prophesy for my husband and myself. Like I said, it had been forgotten...until this week. When I finally stopped and opened the door for it to enter into my spirit, my heart was immediately filled with hope. I believe it can be applied to your life too. So, for myself and anyone out there who may be struggling with life, let me share:

First, let me start by just saying this -


THE STRUGGLE IS NECESSARY!

 

Eww! I know, it caught me off guard too. However, remember stories of the caterpillar spending time in a cocoon? How it would be slowly transformed and then would eventually struggle to free itself? Ironically, without the struggle, a butterfly would never fly, it would never be strong, and it would never be beautiful. In the prophecy, my husband and I were told that we would indeed struggle to get out of the cocoon but when we did a beautiful butterfly would emerge. 

What a perspective change! When you begin to look at life from that angle.  Life's problems, whether they be relational, financial, or health issues, they are working for our good.

  "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory..."  2 Corinthians 4:17

Our struggle, our affliction, the pressure, is working to bring beauty in our lives. It's a gift. Remember, God's growth charts look quite differently from what we're accustomed to. His ways are high above our ways. The struggles we find ourselves in right now, if we'll continue to be faithful to Him, will bring about a beauty that will be undeniable and we'll be transformed in the process. What hope!

And...as I write this post, my internet is cut off. Perfect timing, huh? So, I will post this as soon as I am able. 

What I want you (and myself) to remember, is not to be overwhelmed by the process. It might not be anything we're doing wrong. There might not even be a "problem." In due season...we WILL reap our rewards. 

What testimony and inspiration we will be able to share with others along the way! In the meantime, know that we're in the prepping stage, the transformation is progressing....let's prepare to spread our beautiful wings, prepare to be strong...and fly. 

Enjoy this gift of hope sent from my heart to yours.  Blessings~

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Ornaments & Meltdowns



The countdown is on.... ___ days until Christmas!

Oh my, for those of us out here that like to have everything planned, in order and...well, perfect - this time of the year can be quite stressful. Can I get an "amen!" 

You know how those ornaments near the bottom of the tree become askew after the mischievous, family pet has embarked upon a discovery adventure? Doesn't that drive you nuts? That's the way my holiday season (heart) has been thus far. On Sunday, I might have everything in order, including my emotions. Then, Monday or Tuesday comes around and I might discover that, out of nowhere, the invisible, furry, animal has come in and wreaked havoc. Everything that little imp can reach will be left in disarray. Enter tears and meltdown moments. Then, with the help of my Counselor, I'll regroup and straighten up those ornaments again and start fresh. 

Goodness...sometimes I feel like I'm on a teeter-totter. Aren't you glad that we don't have to have it all together? I am! Even though I don't give myself the grace to be so at times. Lord, help me!

Isn't it a privilege to be a mess and it be OK?


I was spending time with the Lord this morning. As I poured my heart out to Him and told Him how hopeless I felt, how that every time I thought I was gaining ground, it seems like I backtrack and I wonder if I ever really gained any ground in the first place...I suddenly felt His reassuring presence surround me like He came and wrapped His warm arms around me....right there in the middle of my piles of tissue. I melted...but it was good! The truth is, we don't gain ground...we gain experience, we gain maturity. 

Growth charts look quite different than charts of checking off miles we've covered on the journey. 


So, even when those ornaments (or our hearts) are askew, when we're in the middle of a holiday meltdown, when we're wondering just how we got in this shape...God is right there to help us pull it all back together. He never tires of us not-getting-it. He knows our weaknesses and is willing to see us through to what He knows we CAN be.

Here's a secret I'm learning:  He doesn't expect perfection.


No matter what we may be experiencing today, or any other day for that matter...we can be assured that if we're on the teeter-totter, there's Someone on the other side too. If it is Christmas time and things don't look "just right" or what were expecting, there's Someone there taking inventory and looking out for us. If we feel we're back-tracking, He also knows the true GPS and ETA. 

He came to earth as a baby to give us hope, to wrap us up in His love, and see us through to completion - the person He planned for us to be when He formed us in our mother's womb. 

And, my friend, that's worth melting for~

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Sing the Season


The dark, night sky lit up with heavenly beings singing Glory To God In the Highest. Yes, even the angels knew the importance of singing the season on that night long ago when a lowly manger welcomed the tiny babe who was also King of Kings. What a night!

I suppose David knew it too...there is something exciting about being able to sing...especially in the darkness of night. He had learned and experienced the thrill of singing and could testify of its effectiveness. He wrote many songs about the seasons in his life.

Carolers go about door to door, singing in the darkness of night. Can you hear them singing the season? Joy To the World. Silent Night. We Three Kings. We peep out of frosted window panes or open our doors a bit to enjoy the joyous melodies sung on our behalf. 

What a great blessing it is to sing the season! 


This time of year carries with it all kinds of memories and traditions. Some of them are joyful, some aren't. We may feel many emotions ebb and flow as we go about the holiday season. The trick is not to get hung up on the low moments. (Uhmm...note to self!) It can happen before we know it though. 

Comparison can steal our song; as can the urge to "keep up with the Jones's." The hustle and bustle of shopping can drain our energy and leave us physically drained. The absence of loved ones can quieten our song too. Waiting in slow, seemingly-endless lines or trying to snag that coveted, front, parking space might attempt to muffle our songs. Dysfunctional families. Lack of finances. On and on we could go...

So, what's the answer during these dark moments we might unexpectedly bump into this season? SING! It's simple praise. Yes, we can sing too! Grab the hand of a friend, spouse, family member, neighbor or even a stranger - and break out in a song. No matter which song you choose...sing it out, sing it loud, sing it expecting...because Jesus is the real reason for this season and He can give a song like no other...even a song in the night or the dark seasons of your life.

There's no night so dark that a bit of singing can't brighten. Sing the season!


It might look dark for a moment...but those are the best times to sing. Sing on, friends~





Monday, December 12, 2016

Christmas Hope

 
 
Christmas...the night when Hope was born.
It didn't happen or look quite like anyone expected,
but all was bright in spite of that. A silent, holy
night for sure, a new beginning - all was right.

Christmas...the time when we celebrate hope.
Often it doesn't happen or look quite like we
may be expecting either, but in spite of all of that, it can
be holy, right  - a new beginning for each of us.

Christmas...the moment in time when our years
worth of life might lay like a jumbled, tangled, pile
of twine at our feet. It's also the moment in time
when Hope heals and helps us see such darkness bright.

Christmas...a season of re-winding and renewing,
because Hope makes all things new in spite of how it looks.
Silent, holy, blessed and right - as we begin anew.
Another hope-filled year all because we have Hope.

Merry Christmas, aren't we glad we have hope
and Hope has us?
 
 
Please do not use photo nor writing without consent.
Contact me @ stephruss73@yahoo.com 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Christmas Miracles

It's the most wonderful time of the year...then, BAM! 
And, my dear, what do you have to say about it now?


While most people are bustling about buying gifts and celebrating the season...we're busy looking for Christmas miracles. Well, we should all actually be looking for Christmas miracles. It's quite possible we could all be looking for the same thing while it may actually look quite different. Christmas miracles.

The babe in a manger looked quite different than expected. If you're suffering from disease, you may be looking for healing. If you're suffering from financial woes or longing to see relational tensions ease, that's an entirely different department too. If you have a missing loved one, or a loved one who won't be home this Christmas, you may be hoping for the miracle of an opening door. See? There's all types of Christmas miracles we might be looking for.

A dear friend has pounded this into my head repeatedly. Now, it comes to mind without much effort as I've learned to exercise the thinking pattern. "There's always someone worse off than we are. Without a doubt, thing could be worse than they are," she says sweetly when I've been overwhelmed at life (you know, only a time or two... or 79!) and needed some encouragement.

So, when our vehicle was wrecked twice in a single day earlier this week, I laughed hysterically at the situation instead of letting it get the best of me. I even looked up at the sky and said, "Alright God, it's your turn. What are you going to do about this? How are you going to fix it? We need a Christmas miracle!" (Yeah, I'm learning to talk to God that way.) What are the odds of having two separate claims on a single vehicle in one day? Hello! Instead of a single deductible giant, we were blessed with two giants. Merry Christmas to us! 

Can you imagine the Christmas miracle we need? Guess what? I'm not the only one who needs that type of miracle. My friend also needs a vehicle-fixing miracle, on three cars. Yep, we're all looking for miracles. And that''s the beauty of it all and what Christmas is all about. We're looking for hope! Our hearts are exploding with the need for our Hope to make something beautiful, to write another chapter to make the last one better, to turn our situations into wonderful testimonies we can share with others.

Yes, it is the most wonderful time of the year. It's a special time when we can look to our Maker to bring hope into our hopeless situations, to bring light into darkness, to remind us that He is in control of it all and that He's writing us into new chapters which will bring Him glory. What better time than at Christmas?! So, I'm not looking for gifts under the tree this year, that looks a little bit different too, doesn't it? I am looking for hope. Isn't that what the wise men were looking for on that night long ago when they followed a single, shining star to that manger?

My friend, whatever miracle you find yourself looking for this holiday season, know that nothing is impossible when we serve God. He is our hope! Let's encourage each other to find the best in every situation, let's be there for each other - that's a miracle in and of itself. Let's encourage one another to look for the simple ways God moves and shows Himself in our every day - while we're waiting on that big miracle to come to pass. Let's join together, hand in hand, and look for our unique Christmas miracles together.

It truly is the most wonderful time of the year...prepare to share your gift of hope.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Be a Bell Ringer!

I was sitting in my car this beautiful December afternoon, windows down, soaking up some Vitamin D...I was actually sitting in the Walmart parking lot waiting on my daughter to "run in real quick." (Turned into a 35 minute run. Had to let you know that!) Today had been "one of those days" when nothing seemed to be going quite right. My car had been backed into and the back fender was a sight, I ran into a piece of furniture and bummed my knee, and I just didn't feel quite up to par. I was surviving however - and with a good attitude too; for that I was thankful. Yes, God is still good and faithful even on our not-so-good days.

As I sat there enjoying the moment, I listened to the Salvation Army man that stood outside the Walmart entrance ringing his bell. The sound usually gets annoying to me in only a few short minutes. However, today was a different story. The gentleman at the door not only rang his bell but he was singing carols too...and keeping beat with the little golden bell he held. It was quite comical but neat all the same. He was different.

"Joy to the world..." he sang. Ding. Ding. Ding went his bell. I sat there in the car for about ten minutes or so enjoying being secretly serenaded. He'd finish one song, then begin another and I found myself smiling and humming along. A welcome break from my crazy day. I suddenly started gathering all the coins I could find from the little nook in my console, jumped out of the car, and headed his way. I dropped my donation in the little red bucket and smiled at him, "Don't ever quit singing!", I said. He grinned real big and looked back up at me as I turned and walked back to my car.

So, what I'm challenging us to do today is this: We're all uniquely different in our own quirky ways. God made us that way. Don't be afraid to do what your soul is telling you to do today. Listen. Feel. If it is telling you to sing, then do so loudly, even if you think you cannot carry a tune in a bucket. If it tells you to smile at someone, do so. If it tells you to leave a "bigger" tip, do so. We never know how living our lives out fully today might affect someone who might be secretly watching. 

What if you could be the difference for someone today? What if you could bring a smile to someone's face or be the start of a song in someone's heart? Would you pass up the opportunity? There are many hurting people out there, even more so during this holiday season. Don't be afraid to do something out of the ordinary and maybe even bring a little Christmas cheer to someone who's having a not-so-good type of day. Don't be afraid to be yourself, whatever that looks like, you might make a bigger difference than you'll ever realize. Be a bell ringer!

A special thanks to all those in the Salvation Army for doing your part. Let us all be mindful of peace, joy and hope that this holiday was founded upon. Jesus!

Blessings~

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Love Languages at Christmas

I have a question today...do you have any thoughts to share? Comments welcome.

They say love is shown in your deeds, not your words. I understand that we must "show" our love one to another on those scales. Isn't that a love language all its own though? I was thinking about the 5 love languages. One of my top love languages is...words of affirmation. That's the most fulfilling way in which I enjoy expressing my love to others too. Some of us need to hear it more, some of us like to say it more, while others prefer to be shown than told. I completely understand. I suppose it's correct to say then that cleaning the kitchen would be a better way to show love to some than receiving a note that expresses love or perhaps a simple touch. 
We each have our own style of love.
 
So, what happens when you don't love someone the way they need to be loved? In their preferred language. Do they still feel loved? Will they recognize your individual expression as love? God give each of us unique ways to love. Are we supposed to fulfill the role according another's love language or are we supposed to express love to others from our own God-given style? 

I was just thinking about this as I try to take care of my Christmas list. Different people. Different love languages. I remember the saying, "It's the thought that counts." Do people now days still recognize and feel that way? If I write a letter of gratitude expressing my love and appreciation, is that as good as giving a Kitchen Aid or perhaps a lotion set from Bath & Body? In my opinion, if I write, I'm giving part of myself. If I create something, I'm giving part of myself. I can buy something from any store, but on my value scale that would not be near as valuable.And again...that's MY WAY of loving, not the only way.

I understand everyone is not like myself. What a world that would be! And everyone isn't like you. Imagine that! We're each created uniquely as designed by the Lord. So, how do you express your love? Does that line up with the type of gift you'd like to receive? What you would give? What is your primary love language and how will you express your love this Christmas season?

Monday, December 5, 2016

Pay to the Order Of

Tonight, my sweet husband began browsing through the mail. The usual junk mail and holiday sales flyers found their way into the trash can, my daughter was handed her mail, and he began opening the remaining mail that belonged to us. I don't remember quite what his exact words were, but the look on his face was priceless and immediately got my attention...and my hopes up.

 He began reading a letter from our electric company. I listened intently, then about fainted in the floor and jumped through the ceiling all at once. I kind of felt like the verse in the Bible about running through a troop and leaping over a wall. Oh yeah! God did it again. My heart was exploding with excitement and thankfulness to the One who knows how to be right on time.

Below the letter was a wonderful, perforated, portion complete with a nice check made out to my hubby. What!? First of all, it was a refund check. "Oh yeah, by the way, you paid too much." Mind you, that would have been amazing enough. However, this check we were being reimbursed for was from 1997 and 1998. Twenty years ago, friends. 

After my excitement subsided a bit and my brain settled down again, I began to think about how God knows every detail of our lives. How He knew that we would need a blessing this first week of December...2016.  I thought about how He is a Provider who is ALWAYS right on time. I also thought about the fact that only 20 minutes earlier I had been reflecting on my day. I had even asked myself, "How did I see God in my day?" I was looking for something out-of-the-ordinary - and He capped my day off with a spectacular display of His limitless ability.

I went and searched the scriptures for that verse I mentioned earlier and I thought I'd share it with you. Psalm 18:29:

"For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall. As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him."

His way is perfect. His timing is perfect. His word is perfect. His provision is perfect. Trusting Him is perfect. Living for Him is perfect. PERIOD! PERFECT! What does He have headed your way? God's provisions come in all shapes and sizes and in the most unexpected ways and times. 

God has the perfect "Pay to the order of" complete with your name on it too. You'll find yourself testifying too. Just you wait and see~

Friday, December 2, 2016

Not an Ugly Jacket


"I'm broken."

"I'm worthless."

"I'll never get "it" right."

"There's no way I can amount to anything."


No matter what others might have said about us, or what we might have told ourselves about us (lol, we do it, don't we?), it doesn't define us. Research shows that our positive and negative comments should be at a ratio of 80/20 to maintain a good relationship. However, from the moment one of those ugly-ish, not-so-nice, comments soar through the air waves into our awaiting ear canals, we'll probably never forget it. They often get 100% of our attention and focus. Why is it so? Why does it take ten positive statements to even begin to erase one negative one?  Uugh!

After we hear it, we often rehearse it over and over until eventually we know it backward and forward. Just think about it, someone might be having a bad day and may lash out and say something totally off putting to us. It could be about our character or something we failed at. At first, we're shocked. Then, unless we've trained our brain not to do so, we most likely begin thinking about it. (At least us thinkers do!) "Are they right?" "Am I __________?" Anybody been there?

Eventually, if we don't consciously put it out of our minds, we'll begin to believe it. Is it actually true? Probably not or maybe perhaps it is so. Still, that poor individual might have just been having a bad day. We might have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. We're all prone to spew on occasion if there are enough contributing factors in life to get us off balance. 

How many of us have made statements to our children or family in moments of frustration that we wish we hadn't said? How many times has the tone of voice we used carried an extra punch to cause someone grief? Then there are those times when we say things innocently that might be taken the wrong way. Goodness!

Regardless, our whole life is made up of these types of incidents. How many things have we believed about ourselves which aren't actually true?  How many statements have we lived up to simply because we thought that was how it was supposed to be? How many of us aren't what we could be because we've heard the voices in our head reminding us that we're not (or we are) this or that?

It's possible to just grow into those statements, sort of like putting on a jacket that isn't really our size. What could we possibly be if we didn't hear those un-truths? What could we do if we didn't agree with those statements we've heard about ourselves in the past? The truth is, we don't have to wear that jacket. Nope! In fact, we don't even have to try it on! 

Isn't it freeing to know that we are NOT what we've heard - from ourselves or others? There's only One who can define us and He already has. He says:

"You can be mended."

"You were worth my life."

"You can do all things through Me."

"I have great plans for you."

Let's remember His comments and promises concerning us. It's always the truth! Let's try to make it a practice of trading that ill-fitting jacket for a coat or royalty on a regular basis. I know, words hurt much more than sticks and stones, regardless of what we learned to say in elementary school. Yet, if we can make a conscious effort to listen to the right voice...I'm still trying to get the hang of it. If you have those ugly words about yourself, rattling around in the back of your head. Empty them out today. Give them to Him.

We look so much nicer and will feel so much more comfortable in a tailored coat, fitted personally for us, by the King. 


He sees and knows what nobody else can - and He calls us His own. His possession! Chosen. He has nothing but good to say concerning His precious children. Know your true identity! Don't be conned by the words of any other. What hope!

Be encouraged, and let's be cautious with the words we use each day. Lift someone up this holiday season. Let our words be the reason someone smiles today! 


 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Heart Talk - Boo Boo's

So, if you read this blog very often at all, you'll know that I try to share with you those things I feel God is showing and teaching me. I do that in hopes of encouraging you if you find yourself there. This blog is also to record those things for myself so I can go back and be reminded of them when I need to. I've said it over and over again, I don't have it "all together" and I often find myself with bandages on my own knees and elbows (and heart) because I've taken another tumble. Just because I write it, doesn't mean that I have a black belt in that area. No, it's because God is working on me IN that area.

I've been writing a lot lately about exposing my heart, the dark, ugly parts that I haven't wanted to deal with to God. I've talked about Him gently "un-peeling" me like an onion - one layer at a time. I suppose it's kind of like the great Physician is doing major surgery in my life. Like anyone who's ever had surgery before knows well, an incision takes time to heal. It is often extremely sensitive. There is often pain during the process of it healing too. It takes a while sometimes before it can be exposed to the world. I think it's just like that when God begins to work within us. As He takes out the infected pieces, we are instantly better no doubt, however, it still takes time for us to completely recover.


I say all that to tell you that today I have had to go back and be reminded of nuggets of truth He's shown me in previous days. That I'm a work in progress! That is takes time. I'll admit, I've had a hard time "singing" today. I found myself curled up on my couch, in a fetal position, crying out to the Lord for help. I'm learning to cast my cares upon Him and sometimes it looks really childish. Do you ever find yourself there? I'm sure you do. It's OK.

I'm so thankful that I don't have to act like I've got it all together. He knows better! I'm glad that I can bring all my broken pieces to Him. You can too. If we happen to have one of those "bad" days like I've had today, if we fall and skin our knees up, we can be encouraged in the simple fact that He's not afraid of our messiness. He'll even kiss those unsightly boo-boos. He is a God of compassion.

Our song may sound a bit off key today. Indeed, it may sound more like a joyful noise than a beautiful melody; that's a lot better than not singing at all though. 


One day, we'll be completely whole. Until then, let's not be ashamed to admit we need Him desperately. We don't have to look like perfection. If it looks ugly or childish, or even downright ridiculous, it's alright. We're each a work in process. Healing at different speeds. In different areas. God doesn't care if we need more time, He cares if we won't admit it and bring it to Him and allow Him to touch those sensitive places which are still in the healing process. He's always waiting to hold us close. 

Tomorrow will be a new day... note to myself, and you as well:

Hang in there! 


  "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is."
I John 3:2 


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Yes, Jesus Loves Me #thankfulin(F)All

From my backseat, I hear the voice of a sweet, little, six-year-old boy singing softly, "Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me, for the Bible tells me so." And...as the melody leaves his sweet, little, lips, I feel the my heart thump a little louder and quicker. It feels so good to be loved. A simple truth.


His love is so wonderful. So amazing! To think that the God of glory would know me and love me. Just like I am. Unconditionally. I wonder how sometimes. However, I only need to open His love letter to me (and you), the Bible, and I can see it time and time again. Yes, Jesus loves me!

There's nowhere we can run to escape His love!


This is the season we celebrate the birth of Jesus. He came as a baby, born in a manger, because He loved us so. 

"...God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him." I John 4:9

After the first chorus, this little guy started over again, singing either in another language or in a make-believe language all His own. I continued to listen, basking in the glory of the moment. It didn't matter that I didn't recognize the words, it was simply understood. Such a simple tune, but oh, so beautiful. I could just envision the two of us sitting at the feet of Jesus like the pictures we see illustrated in children's books so often. Complete peace. His undivided attention upon us. Oh, how He loves us. 

I wonder often times if I can even grasp the fullness of it all. I decided that, no, I'll never be able to wrap my head around how someone so perfect, so majestic, could love us like He does. Yet, I know it's true just the same. He's proven it time and time again. And...in my heart I join this little guy's song...

"Yes, Jesus loves me!"


It's not because of anything I have done, but simply because of who I am. The same is true for you too, my friend. He loves you, just because you're you. Not because of anything you've done, not done, or anything you will do. Let's sing it together as we enjoy this season. As we celebrate together, remember it's all because He loved us so.  It's simple. That is the reason for Christmas!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Internally & Eternaly Different #hope

My home is strewn with toys and so many shopping bags that we can't deny we spent some time Black Friday shopping yesterday. What a wonderful Thanksgiving! Unexpected, last minute plans ended up with my entire immediate family (minus the little princess) being here in Georgia with us. Since it was a last minute gathering, we found ourselves eating our turkey and sides at Golden Corral - this was a first for us. (No! There were no leftovers to enjoy this year!) 

Would I choose do the whole crowded buffet thing again? I don't know, it was kind of nice not to have all the hours of pre-prep while meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking and then the chore of cleaning it all up 30 minutes after it all began...but isn't that all part of the journey anyhow? Needless to say, it was definitely a great Thanksgiving, but slightly DIFFERENT. That is the point I'm trying to make. Other things were different this Thanksgiving too.

There were new places added in at the table for new family members we didn't have last year. There was more rambunctious noise making and playing since my grandson is now in his terrible twos. (I might add, still just as precious to this Noni.) Not to be outdone, my niece and nephew are more grown than I could have ever imagined being at their ages. How does that happen anyhow?!

Those are all external things which were different. I'm sure if I sat here and thought about it long enough, I could come up with a multitude more to share. There were some things that were internally different though...and eternal too.

When the Lord begins to work, He does it up right. Remember? I've talked in several different posts, like The Un-peeling, that God has been working with and in me. As my sister and I had some "heart to heart" talks over the last few days, we were able to share how God has shown us different things during hours of darkness in our lives. God's been growing us in different areas. (He does that, you know, to make us better.) As we go through life, we often pick up extra baggage that we don't realize we're lugging around. Sometimes we're so loaded down and exhausted from carrying it all that we collapse under the weight. True story!!!

As God gently peels back the dark corners we don't want anyone else looking at, much less ourselves, He also gives us the courage we need to stay on the wheel while He does the work. I can honestly say that this Thanksgiving, there was more things different than just where we ate, last minute plans and guests who made surprise appearances that made my heart do crazy stuff...

      There was more different than what could be "seen"...some excess baggage was missing.


 When we allow God to begin to relieve us of unnecessary baggage (it comes from all types of places, in all shapes and sizes too) we've accumulated simply by experiencing life and the effects sin has upon every part of it, the sky is the limit. It's simply an amazing process. Our entire perspective changes. (I think I've written about that recently too!)

With excess baggage eliminated, there becomes more room for meaningful life. We give God permission to allow us to experience more abundant life. He won't force us to give up this baggage we've acquired; however, He does encourage us to give it all to Him so He can bless us beyond imagination. When we are brave and obedient enough to give it all to Him, He carries the load and we get to enjoy freedom. What a swap!

Freedom comes in all shapes and sizes too. The beautiful thing about God is that He takes away our baggage and the chains that bind us too. We aren't responsible to lug any of it around any more; instead, we're blessed with undeniable testimonies to share with others who are struggling in places we once were. It's a beautiful cycle we can become a part of. In the process, we are healed.

Are there things that need to be different in your life? Have you been lugging unnecessary baggage around? This is a great time of year to take inventory of our hearts and go on an anti-clutter campaign with the Master. Once we give Him the key to those ugly places we'd rather forget about, He can do amazing transformations. 

When we give Him the black, ugly pieces of a heart that's intended to beat vibrantly with life, in turn, He gives us freedom, healing, peace of mind and joy unspeakable. 

There will always be the opportunity for this exchange because we live in a world infected with sin. God stands willing and ready at all times...even at this very moment, we can send up a prayer and let Him know we're handing over the key to those wounded parts of our lives. Let Him come in and do some remodeling of His own. He'll make something beautiful, I guarantee you. I can testify to it!

Won't you join me? There are people in all of our lives that need this wonderful news of HOPE. What greater gift could someone receive this holiday season that to experience an internal difference? And eternal! What greater gift could we give than to share our testimony and tell of the hope we've found? Share today! 

God bless each of you and have a happy holiday season~

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

More Un-peeling! thankfulin(F)All

Lately, I've been doing a lot of internal inventory...actually the Lord has been doing a lot of "un-peeling." You know, the "onion" concept? (I'll admit this too, amazingly I'm finding it an enjoyable process.) I love it when He just places the jagged puzzle pieces  of life together and I'm able to see more clearly. He's so patient and gentle, even when we take forever to get it right, and He's faithful to stick by us when we fall flat on our faces time after time. Aren't we all thankful for that!? 


We make decisions each and every day. I think it's safe to say that, more often than not, we attempt to do what we think is right. Make the best choice. Choose the options that make the most sense. What will be most effective. There are all kinds of examples. For instance, I remember when I was younger, thinking my parents were so "off the mark" with the decisions they made for me. Meanwhile, they felt that they were making the best decision for my life based upon their own experiences and opinions. (One can only admit this after they've finally grown up and experienced life themselves.) I imagine they (and you) felt the same way about their parents or guardians too. It's part of life.

It's true, when I was a teenager, I thought I knew what was best (like every other brilliant teenager who has all the answers to life's challenges) and I made choices that I thought were the right. Then, I became a mother and I made decisions for my own children...again, I thought the choices I made were right and the best for them. After all, I wouldn't want anything but the best for my offspring. Right? We try to do right as friends, wives, employees, etc. Even as a Christian, I attempt to give it my best shot to make the wisest choices and decisions that would be pleasing to God. And guess what...

I've made some mistakes and wrong choices along the way -    in spite of my best intentions.


What? You too? Isn't that amazing?! The Lord showed me, with the help of a few different verses in His Word that people in my life who have brought hurt, aggravation, or pain to me might have been doing what they thought was best at the time too. Yes, we make mistakes....and so do others we love...why, even the stranger in the supermarket may react out of stress and pain in their own lives. Our words, actions, decisions and choices may seem right and logical to us at the time, while causing hurt and pain to others. Do we mean to hurt others? No, not usually, but it happens. It's part of life.

I've been challenged to look back over my life and look at different experiences and places where I've been hurt or disappointed - and to look at the bigger picture. Is it possible that those individuals were also doing what they thought was best? Were they doing what they thought was right? Did those words come out like they were meant to? 

       Can people give it their best shot to love us and simply        come up short? 


Can we give it our all and simply fall short too? Can we say the wrong thing and hurt someone unintentionally? The answer to all these questions is simply - YES!!! It happens.

I think it's safe to say we all intend to give our best but sometimes our best and what we think is right causes pain and hurt for others. And another "yes!" we can say is that we can choose to forgive and extend grace to those individuals. We all get it wrong occasionally! I hope I'll be more observant and give more consideration in the future. It's part of life AND part of our growth process. 

When we're trying to get that front parking space at Kroger and someone else whips in before us, or someone cuts in line at the checkout on Black Friday, or when someone we love hurts our feelings, we can choose to consider them before ourselves. We can do this on every level of life. 

Here are some questions for us to consider: What is that person going through? What are they experiencing in their life that is causing them to act like such? Is there an emergency in their life? Are they hurting? And ultimately...how will we choose to respond? Will we do what we think is right in spite of the actions of others? 

I'm sure I'll get it wrong again, and you will too, but let's do our best to make the right call and extend grace. If we look at things in this perspective more often, we'd be less likely to let those unintended wounds fester into bitterness and un-forgiveness. Let's consider each other - it's worth the risk. Let's be quick to extend grace and be willing to forgive often. Remember, what goes around, comes around! Enjoy the un-peeling in your own life...it's worth it!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours~


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Bonfires & S'mores #thankfulin(F)All

I posted earlier this week about having pneumonia and the sweet nurse who brought a delightful ending to a horrible ER visit. Did I mention in that post that both myself and my husband have the same diagnosis? Double fun. Double medicine. Double...


We've been medicating and resting and...I must admit I've had to remind myself to cancel the "pity party" on more than one occasion. 

It's easy to get all dressed up only to realize there's nobody else coming and there's really nowhere to go.


Have you ever been there? Scheduled a party of your own? It's no secret that when we're sick, we're vulnerable to attacks from our cowardly enemy.

Yesterday, I had just ended a phone call with my Mamaw. Our conversation hadn't been a very encouraging one. We also received the latest doctor's report concerning my husband. It wasn't the one I wanted to hear. That happens anytime the word hospitalization is included. 

Then, I reminded myself that we had only been to CVS for prescription pick-ups more in the last month than we had all year. That the refrigerator and pantry was getting bare again. What were we going to do? What was God going to do about it? And...I found myself on a downward spiral! See how it works? I found myself sitting in a puddle of tears. Yes, I showed up for the party with bells on.

The phone rang and I reluctantly picked it up. To my surprise, the sweet voice was on the other end was my prayer partner. She was at work, but just felt led to call me. Yeah...did I mention that I am blessed, sick girl?

AT THE EXACT MOMENT I WAS HAVING A MELTDOWN! GOD IS GOOD!!!


She talked with me for a few moments and I told her what wasgoing on. I swallowed my pride and admitted that I was struggling, feeling weak in body and spirit. I opened my heart and told her I was having a hard time praying right now and ask her if she'd offer up some prayers on our behalf. The next words she said were amazing:

"You've got wood stored up for such a time."


What in the world does wood have to do with any of this? Let me explain. I mentioned that she was my prayer partner. We've spent a lot of time together praying. She reminded me that I had prayers (wood) stored up to carry me through during times like these. She also took me to the Word and reminded me of Romans 8:28, "...all things work together for the good..." and she didn't stop there. She said, "We're going to agree together right now..." and we began to pray. The floodgates in my eyes opened wide as we prayed; and one would have thought they were visiting Niagara.

What a moment. What a God moment. I realized God sent someone else an invitation to join me at my "party" after all. The blessed gift she had brought for me was sweet reminders directly from the throne.  I was immediately encouraged and felt strengthened both in body and spirit. 

I hung up the phone and thanked God for a wood pile I have stored up to use in case of such an emergency...and for providing someone to help me build the fire. I was so grateful to have someone to come along side of me to offer a bit of encouragement and reinforcement. What a faithful God I serve. He can't be outdone! 

I'm thinking...from now on, instead of invitations to a pity party, I will start sending out invites to a strength-building, encouraging, heart-warming, bonfire. 


Won't you join me? Let's make some S'mores!

I'm thankful for bonfires and S'mores




Thursday, November 17, 2016

Misery & Miracles #thankfulin(F)All

After spending a couple hours this evening helping my daughter prepare for a speech she has to give tomorrow, I find myself tired, but extremely thankful and feeling beyond blessed.


She has received her GED and is now enrolled in college to obtain her Associates Degree in Information Technology. She is almost finished with her first semester and doing well. She's even been selected to represent our county for Adult Education. She's learning to juggle college, jobs and life as a productive adult. Not only that, but she is walking down the right path again spiritually. And...I am elated, my heart is bursting with thankfulness.

You might say to yourself, "What's the big deal? That's normal", and I'd say you're right, but I know her story. It has been part of my own, and at one point I would have hung my head low and would have said it was highly unlikely and very likely impossible. I'd say all this, while in the back of my head knowing the Word says, "all things are possible" with God. (Wow! That's vulnerable!)

Choices made often lead us down the wrong paths. Paths headed straight for destruction. Paths one never would've imagined. Bad influences from hanging around the wrong kind of people can wreak havoc and leave a person rocking and reeling - even gasping for life. There were a few moments there when I wondered if she'd survive to see her next birthday. I won't go into all the ugly details, so please just trust me. 

Remember, good and bad happen to all people, nobody is exempt. My family was no exception. We loved God, raised our children in church, and tried to be good examples...but the ugly came to our home. 

"Coming to a home near you!"


I was listening to a preacher last night as he was talking about something quite eye-opening: one can't have a miracle without a burden (misery). I've admitted before that I'm a slow learner at times, but those words pierced my heart and brought light to some dark corners that the Lord has been bringing light into lately. (Isn't He good like that!) There has been misery, but there's also a miracle.

What I'm trying to say is that there have been many nights of misery, of waiting, wondering and pleading with God to spare her soul and life. There have been many days of stress and anxiety as I've not completely been able to release it all to God. (Just being honest!) Fear has a tendency to grip the heart when your child is wayward and walking along the wrong path not heeding to warnings given. What could I have done different? Where did I miss it? There are often unfair questions which taunt our mind from those fiery darts. We're none exempt from the chance of ugly happening to our babies!

So, maybe you can see now why tonight was so precious to me. As I looked at her and listened as she recited her speech, I had to silently thank God for the miracle in her life. I thanked Him for answering prayers of a struggling mother. She isn't perfect, neither am I, and I'm sure there will still be some mistakes along the way, just as there will be in my own life. However, the final words of her speech are a quote of her own making which brought delight to my soul:

 "I am a living testimony that you can get here from anywhere, and anywhere from here."


It's true...God is still in the miracle working business and still full of mercy and grace. He can still take the ugliest things and make them beautiful. The enemy may give it his best shot but he'll never win the battle. The dark times that seem to never end - do end. (I can say that now, but have not always been able to.) Take heart, my friend. Your dark night won't last always either. There is hope in the hands of the Master. 

I'm thankful that miracles and misery do work hand in hand. It's often hard to give thanks in the difficult times, it's hard to understand why bad things happen to good people; but I'm learning day by day. And...I hope when she concludes her speech tomorrow, that her final words will give yet more praise to the Lord...yes, you can get anywhere from here. I have a testimony also. And your ugly situation can be one too!



Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Hope in the Basket #thankfulin(F)All





I was reading the story of Jesus feeding the hungry multitude with a tiny lunch consisting of 5 loaves and 2 fish. Most of us know the story and were probably introduced to it on a flannel board during Sunday school class. Just in case you need your memory refreshed, let me remind you that Jesus took the lads small lunch, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the disciples to feed the people. Then, when it was all said and done, they took up twelve baskets of leftovers. Those leftover, broken pieces are what caught my attention recently. 


Think with me if you will, of how many baskets it would have taken to feed that many people compared to the twelve that was left over. I imagine the scale wouldn't easily be balanced out. In my mind's eye, I can visualize the grocery haul of a large family preparing for Thanksgiving dinner, complete with every trimming imaginable, with family members from near and far. Compare this spread to the amount of food fed a homeless person on Thanksgiving at a local shelter. I think that will work! Do you get the picture?

The leftovers weren't substantial, but were significant.


We're spoiled here in America and a lot of people think very little of throwing away the leftovers after a couple of days. Why, some people I know won't even think of touching leftovers. That's fine, to each his own, but look at this beautiful visual God gave me: 

He never lets any fragment that He's allowed to be blessed and broken go to waste.

 

After feeding the multitude, Jesus didn't discard what He had broken and blessed. I heard it said recently that God can't use anything without first breaking it. That's great news for you and I! When I think of those leftovers, I think of how lives are broken, dreams are shattered, people with hurting, wounded hearts who wonder at times if there's anything left to live for. Individuals who feel they have nothing left to offer. Nothing to give. We all know people who fit into this category, and we might even place ourselves there at certain seasons in life when we feel there's no hope.

The beautiful thing about our Lord is that He never chooses to waste anything. Those pieces which are no longer needed or useful to feed the crowd, He carefully sees that they are gathered together again. He doesn't choose to waste brokenness in our lives either. When we're broken, He sees an opportunity for His strength to work in our lives. He can work with that. When we're torn, He sees a chance to shine from deep within our places of hurt. He loves to work with leftovers. Our shattered dreams can still be salvaged when we place our lives in His hands. 


He longs to take up our broken, "un-useable" fragments and 

make something beautiful out of them. 


He longs for us to bring Him glory as He shines brightly through what we deem as ugly and broken. Friend, don't let what your situation looks like presently determine your worth. God can redeem even the most useless pieces when we allow Him to do the work He desires. Broken into beautiful! If your life is a botched up mess, there's hope in the basket.

How exciting to be a broken fragment or a leftover! True, we might not feel substantial, but we are significant to God. We are of unmistakable, unimaginable worth. We don't need a lot to offer Him, He can do amazing things with our brokenness.  There's hope in the basket ~ just you wait and see.