What does God hear?

listening to our hearts

I woke up this morning to the mayhem of getting kids ready for school, packing lunches, organizing my work homework and all the while checking emails and the latest bus stop weather forecast on my phone.  And all this by 7:30 a.m.  I said a quick prayer to God to cover my jammed packed day.  I thought I needed some extra covering to get me out the door.  Then my oldest spilled the entire bag of cat food on his way out.  And I moaned.

Why I let things like this get to me, I asked silently.  I started a complaining moment and was ramping up to give my son a “What were you thinking?” comment in a not so gentle tone.  Then, the Lord held my tongue with this one soft reminder….”A gentle answer turns away wrath.” At His reminder I felt a little overwhelmed, just a little.  There was I time I believed that I wouldn’t be a mom at all.  We had tried several years with no results nor babies.

After a diagnosis, then God planted a dream of desire to be a mother in my heart.  And eight years later to be exact He blessed our lives with not only a son, but a daughter four years earlier.  I stopped formulating my complaints and started a list of blessings.  I silently bent down and started to sweep the cat food with my hands.  My son, bent down, dropping his homework and helped.  When we were done, I grabbed his hand and thanked him for helping.  Then I looked up and he said, “Sorry mom, I didn’t mean to.”  With tears in my eyes, I said…”softly, I know, I know.  It’s okay.  I love you to the morning sunrise and back.”

With our eyes facing east by then, we gathered up our thrown gear and then swiftly headed out the door.  All the way to school bus stop, I thanked God for the blessings that rode safely in my car.  It was a healing moment for me when I felt the “hold” on my tongue that day.  I can remember one day as a child my father not being so gentle with me.  You see, I was a “spiller” too and it seemed like every day I spilled some water or milk or some kind of drink at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table.  He gave unkind comment about needing a drain in the middle of the kitchen.  I can still remember how that made me feel.

My heart was so crushed.  He never knew.  When I heard the clatter of the cat food in the utility room that morning, it reminded me of the clattering tone my dad had once that crushed my spirit.  I am so grateful that when God hears our prayers that He checks our heart’s attitude while He listens.

Ever think about what God does when we pray?  I thought it was an interesting concept to consider one day during my quiet time.  Of all the times I’ve poured my heart out to God, I realized that our words don’t fall on His empty agenda list.  No, He hears each one, but He listens to more than just our words to Him, He listens to our heart’s attitude too.

That’s why the Bible says to offer words of praise and thanksgiving continually.  God hears past our words and hears the fragrance of our hearts.  Honestly, my prayers haven’t always been as purely led by love as I would like them to be, but it’s a process where God is definitely working in me to improve and clean up my love language.

When there is an attitude of gratitude towards God I am comforted that He hears my prayers.  He hears them all, but what better way to open our hearts to hear His answers than with a pure heart of gratitude.  I remembered there many times in my life that I didn’t always express that first.  I remembered the anxiety of not knowing if I would ever bear children.  I remember the chaos I felt when I heard about the last school shooting.  I remember how it felt when I didn’t know what God could do before I accepted Him as Savior.  I remember that many still don’t know Jesus as Savior.

Remember who God is and check the attitude of your heart as you are praying.  It can really change the tone of your prayers.  When we focus on the image of a loving Father that listens to every one of our needs and works on our behalf 100% of the time, then I can’t help but praise Him.

When I remember…I’m so glad to offer praise back and have that outlet to talk to God 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.  And even though requests take longer than others, God sets to work on our prayers right away.  When I have to wait for God’s best, I know that in the waiting He is working all things out for my good.

So don’t believe that your prayers are falling on deaf ears of God who doesn’t care.  He does and he tenderly reminds us of who He is in the process.  I love that about His character.  He’s never gruff or angry, critical or accusing.  He is patient and kind, gentle and good, faithful and true, and loving all the same, no matter what spills out of our hearts.

So instead of a meltdown, I prayed and thanked God for all that He had done in my life.  I smiled and prayed for the grace to not only get through today, but thrive and enjoy the journey. And I even prayed for new opportunities to reach even more people…and I will have to remember that I got what I asked for when it happens.

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I need your help!

two boys

If you know me, you know that Africa is and always will be near and dear to my heart. You might wonder why and it’s because that is where God gave me a vision to be an advocate for those who don’t have a voice.

I will always go back to see how God’s children are doing there. It means that much to me to do so. Plus I have some great long term missionary friends who have answered the call to missions and are walking in their calling of the missionary lifestyle. Each of these couples have shown an outstanding service to the African community based on their personal faith and love for people. Their service is admirable to say the least.

So Africa, yeah it’s important to me and God continues to send me back there. In fact, I am returning to South Africa in about 40 days from now. My mind wanders back to the question I asked a facilitator at a CarePoint once. I asked her, “What would happen if Children’s Cup wasn’t in this neighborhood?” She quickly replied without hesitation, “These kids would all be hoodlums!”

Something broke further inside when I heard her response. It’s actually a bigger part of a continual breaking every time I hear stories of kids in less fortunate circumstances that just need a hand up. Children’s Cup is organizing their annual Back2School campaign and I signed up right away to be a champion for them. But I am running out of time and I need your help.

I realize you have gone to all the work to care for your own kiddos with new crayons, shoes, and notebooks, etc. You probably even bought a new backpack or two as well. School supplies aren’t cheap but education is somewhat free here, we have fees too but we have the income to match. Unlike education in Africa, after the third grade, school fees amount to $150 per student per year. And if parents are deceased, or away, or out of a child’s life there is no income to support them in education, nor no one to pick up the slack of the fees. Education is taken for granted here. We have to go to school. In Africa, kids get to go to school. Having an education means hope to get out of a cycle of poverty. It means a hope and future. Children’s Cup cares about African Children’s hope and futures and are trying to help raise money to rescue the education of a child.

Providing help for school fees lessens a parents agony for their children.  Some kids are forced to sell their bodies to get the money.  I can’t imagine thinking about that choice.  I can’t.  That’s why I am compelled to help.

Can you help? Here’s a link to be a part of an African child’s future.. Please hear my heart in this, I get nothing in return for helping. I won’t even get to meet many of them, but I know the power of an investment in a child’s future can make a huge difference. I’ve seen the difference. And it’s left an unforgettable mark on my life to care for God’s children in Africa too.

Thank you and thanks for making a difference in the life of a child. Taking care of God’s own is everyone’s job no matter where they live.

Here’s the link to help.

Who’s Ashley Madison and why I haven’t said anything until now.

Water

I don’t know if you have been listening to the news lately but there’s a site out there on the world wide web that is specifically set up to hook up people who are hungry for affairs online.  It’s more of a sophisticated “dating” game, and I just heard about it last week.  I don’t know who to be mad at first. Should I be mad at the site itself?  The hackers who uncovered this huge moral scandal?  The people that were going to this site?  Those that knew it existed and yet turned their head to it?  Josh Duggar?

This post may kill my following but it’s time to speak out about how I feel about this.  I think I am more mad at myself because I didn’t know.  I tend to think the best of people and am not suspicious of any kind of covert activity even though this culture we live in is fueled by it.  I tend to take people for their word, over their actions.  I tend to believe the best about what people say versus what others say about them.  In other words, I don’t take much stock in liars.

I know by doing so that puts myself into a self-appointed seat of judgement.  There is always two sides to every story.  I believe there is a truth side to every lie as well.  There’s a whole book about truth, it’s called The Holy Bible.  If you brush the dust off of a copy then you will find a great source of truth that still applies to our lives today.

Maybe I just need a reminder of who God is before I choose who to be mad at.  The same feeling came over me when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the legalization of same-sex marriages.  I didn’t know who to be mad at first.  The judges, the activists, the victims, or the victory itself.  Then I realized that I couldn’t say what I wanted to say with a tongue of love and chose to say nothing.  That doesn’t mean I don’t care, because I do.  It seemed that the world was already condemning everyone involved with judgement so I refrained from speaking a word about it.

Then I checked my motives for saying anything in the first place, and then I swallowed my pride and asked a harder question of “How would have Jesus responded to this legal court decision?”  I think I have arrived at an answer for now that passifies my hearts desire to act on what I know.

There’s a story of a woman who was sent to a place to get some water.  She had to go at a different time than everyone else because of her covert behavior, which wasn’t’ necessarily a secret to her community.  She might have forgotten that people were judging her from the outside, and never took time to listen to her story.  How and why she got to accept this lie over her life, I don’t know, but she went to get water when no one else was around.  I think it’s because she couldn’t suffer the public ridicule any more, and just accepted her life as it was feeling rejected and outcast.  She was definitely a survivor and but needed a touch of grace as we all do.

At the public well, which was on the edge of town, she met a man who showed her some grace.  This man, Jesus, was there because he was weary from his travels.  Instead of asking her why she was there alone, or why she had her head hanging low, or what she was doing there in the first place, Jesus asked her for a drink.  Then she replied, “You’re asking me? A woman of Samaria?”  “Why you don’t even have anything to draw your water with?”  Everyone knows that if you show up at a well you need something to put the water in.

What she didn’t know was who Jesus was and why he was talking about giving her “living water”, or in her case a release from the life that she was running from.  Everyday, I think she contemplated her life back and forth from the well, and every day she came to the same conclusion of that she was used up, worthless, rejected and had given into her lost or her deferred dreams of ever being accepted by society or by her family, culture, or whoever was tormenting and ridiculing her.  This is just what I am thinking she was thinking, only my opinion.

How often we speak lies over our lives and then silently agree with them and it becomes a self-fulling prophecy over us without us knowing.  We don’t know anything about her except that she came from Samaria and a lived differently than many others.  But she did listen to truth the one time it mattered.  Jesus was willing to share truth with her disregarding her background of many husbands, even though he knew beforehand her story.

So what does all this have to do with me being mad at people who make choices that I don’t choose to make?  You see, I’m not really mad at people who make different choices than me. I’m not mad at Josh Duggar because he lied and then tried to cover it up.  I’m heart broken over the now so many wrecked marriages that the Ashley Madison site has caused.  But I have to remember that people who don’t know Christ as Lord of their lives don’t realize their sin, nor the consequences of their actions.  Somewhere I wonder if Josh Duggar was just going through some life numbing pain or lost his grip on reality or couldn’t hear what the Holy Spirit was trying to tell him.

Honestly I’ve been there too.  I’ve thought I was in tune with God and found out that I had believed a lot of lies about me, myself, and I.  And I’ve believed a lot of lies that I assumed that God thought about me.  So I get the distractions, I get the misdirection, I get the going-through-the-motions kind of behavior.  I get the good little church girl syndrome.

And because I get it, I can’t judge someone else’s story.  I wouldn’t want you to do that to me.  As much grace has been given, so it’s grace that I give.  I am a free, forgiven child of the living God and His forgiveness covers a multitude of mistakes.  My mistakes are no larger or smaller than yours.  The consequences are different for all of us but sin is sin to God.  It all separates and only God knows the condition of your heart and mine.

So when someone’s life looks different than yours, when someone’s choices are not the ones you would make, it’s not my place to change you or to judge you.  That puts me into a seat that is not fitted for me.  But God’s grace is fitted for you and me.  And that’s where I will remain.  What makes me mad is that there are so many people who are buying into the lie of lifestyles, dating sites, and whatever else hits the world with a evil twist.  What provokes my anger is the havoc that the Enemy is causing in marriages and families.  What continues to happen is the the Enemy looks like he is winning this war for our souls and all God’s people can do is point a finger at those who are just coming to the well and looking for a drink of Living Water.

That’s what breaks my heart.  What about you?

Celebrating a new love and change

mountain top view

I love to read the Bible. I love to encourage others. This part of who I am won’t ever change.

I’ll blame this on the “Pioneer Woman” on the Food Network, and a hike on a mountain.  When considering your life, and since I took some time to examine my own, it often occurs to me that we are each uniquely placed in our own lives, family, surroundings, and roots for a reason. All of these beautiful ingredients make us who we really are deep inside.

Many times though it looks like on the outside like a fallen purple angel food birthday cake that was half baked in my own kitchen.  In contrast to the Pioneer Woman and her cooking up awesome dishes from her cooking lodge, well, in her nice clean put together studio kitchen, every dish it comes out smelling lovely.  Honestly, my life isn’t so neat, or clean, or orderly.

My life is not spectacularly extravagant, but it is unique.  And there is something about crossing a milestone birthday that makes you stop and think, well, what’s next?  Just when I thought I was at the end of many things or one something, God tells me to go take a hike.  There are some great things to be learned by looking at your life and doing it from the top of a mountain.

What I received was a new perspective of even more of a bigger vision for my life.  God is intimately involved in all your mountaintop moments and the moments that send you into the valleys.

Imagine me yelling with all my girl lung power this statement.  “I am all that is woman!”  My friend Carder Price did that victory shout out once from the top of a studio building, only he used the word “man”.  He shouted this liberating phrase while throwing a fax machine off to the ground.  The machine splintered into a million tiny pieces making a huge mess on the cement pad below.  It was fun to watch his shouting courage.  I had fun shouting my mine too.  I felt a little Moses-like that day God and I hiked up a tall mountain together.

Something supernaturally changed once my bravery came out.  I felt a inner peace about many things but an increasing or more interestingly an even further deepening to the vision God has for me.  Instead of coming to an messy end, friends, this is only the beginning of something bigger.  I’m not on the back side of life but on the front side of the best years of my life.

There’s a lot to be gained by letting go to God’s kind of change.  And there is a lot to be realized when you truly release your freedom to the One who gave you freedom in the first place.  When considering the greater works of God and how my small part matters in the mix of things, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and over committed.  And I don’t know how to create a cool platform for Jesus, but I do know how to lay down my individuality and unique design on God’s altar.

I’m not writing my journeys to become rich or famous. I didn’t quit my day job to become a writer. Nope, this ascent is really about a recovery of who I have always been.  He’s the one who put the desires in my heart long ago.  They have only intensified since I start pursuing God.

There are some days I really want to shout…”So this has been lovely, but now I have to scream!”  It’s not been easy getting to this place.  When we talk about change in your life let me just reassure you that change is good and it’s never to late to become who God has created you to be.  We should all live our lives brave and shout courage.  Often we let our fears and excuses rob our joy in the journey.

One thing I know about God is He is the voice that we all need to listen to but His is the least heard.  I think the reason is that silence makes us uncomfortable and it feels awkward.  But it’s in those “drawing nigh moments” while looking at sunsets, the hikes up 14,000 ft. elevation piles of rocks and the trudging through the dirty jobs that life requires of us, those all make for a great recipe mix for a contented lifestyle.  There was one year that I have mulled over and over that only comes out smelling particularly unlovely and daily it was hard to put one foot in front of the other.  But I made it through with God’s help and in that valley I touched the face of Jesus from my low place.

I won’t forget how just one touch changed me forever.  I’m not getting rich in this but I am enriched by this season that I’m just beginning.  “The best is yet to come!” says my friend Andy, who called it from years ago and predicted that God was going to use me big someday.  I’m ready now Lord, come what may.  I have many promises that you are with me all the way.  God’s kind of promises will go the distance of any worthy journey.

What do you find uniquely beautiful about your life and how can you celebrate that today?

Oh go take a hike!

Going.  It seems that’s been on my mind lately.  I’m writing a devotional series for a non-profit that has to do with the Great Commission based on the words of Jesus and his last words to his disciples. As Jesus was surrounded by 11 devoted men,  I find it interesting that some of them were so quick to deny Jesus yet when he came back to say He was going to His Father in heaven, they all showed up to see Him off.  

“…but some doubted.” Matthew 28:17

Ever wonder how you doubt God?  When you don’t believe that He has a plan for you.

Jesus knew their doubt and charged them with their mission anyway.  “He came to them and said TO them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  ~ Matthew 28:18-20

There is something about Jesus words to me that gets me “going”.  It is as if when I read this passage I am hearing His “Go!” all over again.  In my mind this charge implies a movement  that is a bigger something than I can wrap my mind around.  There is something about going with like-minded companions.  I like to travel, but I enjoy traveling with someone who thinks like me.   Ask anyone of who has been missions.   They will tell you there is much to learn along the way, at the back of the bus, and then even more to learn once on unknown ground.  There is something about traveling with someone whose company you enjoy.

There is something about going to unknown places with people you trust.

Two days ago I experienced for the first time a 3 mile hike at 11,000 feet of elevation in the Rocky Mountains.  I wasn’t afraid to set out.  My guide had the trail all marked out.  I had a steady hand ahead of me and a steady rear guard behind me.  I had some supplies for water in my backpack, a small amount of trail mix in case I got the hungries for needed a shot of energy, and enough gumption to think I could do it.  I was all lathered up with sunscreen so my white skin wouldn’t scorch and I remembered my hiking boots.  I was as prepared as a first timer could be.

I left no room for doubt that would talk me out of going.

Even though I felt prepared, I didn’t worry about the trail itself.  It was well marked and cleared.  Many had gone before us and many will go after we had been there.  I was set up to succeed.  The point is, I had never been on a hike before nor knew the intensity of it.  But because I trusted my guide, I had no fear.  Because of my preparation for the hike, I wasn’t worried about how I was equipped to handle any unknowns.  I was prepared to a point that I knew that I could handle whatever came along, and I wasn’t hiking alone.  

In Matthew 25, when the disciples heard the “Go!” charge from Jesus, I find it interesting that the men set out immediately to do just that.  There was no hesitation in their action at least it seems from the outside.  It was if they were already prepared to dispense with a purpose.  Do you think Jesus told them step by step what they should do?  Do you think that they had a checklist about what missions looked like?  Do you think they spent hours wringing their hands pouring over a map trying to decide which way to go first?

No, I think they just “knew” where to go and what to do because of the trust they had in their Guide.  I think that there was no need for any committees to plan their agendas and decide who was bringing what.  I don’t think they stewed about whether they were ready or not.  I don’t think they worried about how they were going to eat or where they were going to lay their heads.  I think they just knew their purpose, who to talk to, and what to do when they got to their destination.    They had the comfort of knowing they could handle the journey.  

Even though some of them doubted, they didn’t leave room for it in their actions.

When you hear “Go!” what hits your mind first?  The disciples just went.  They reached, they preached, they influenced.  They  started.  And they didn’t go alone.  They were equipped along the way, and they trusted their Guide.   They had no fear in the going.  What they did hold on to kept them going for the long haul.  Their calling kept them reminded of the journey.  Their mission was their need and they kept ahold of the promise tucked inside of the charge.  

They had the promise of Jesus saying they wouldn’t be alone.

I find this compelling that they knew the presence of Jesus burning in their hearts as a passion for their “going”.  Their passion for sharing compelled them to “Go!”, they trusted the Leader that had equipped them so well.  That same Jesus that equipped a small band of brothers, is still alive today and ready to be your travel companion too.  Whether it’s your neighbor or international land that your Guide is leading you to, make sure you don’t “go” alone.  

And leave your doubt for the haters.  In building the kingdom, there’s no room for doubt when Jesus has already told you what to do.

I knew when

I knew I was a ______ when…

Ever thought about your life like that?  Yesterday something incredible happened.  I tried a new thing.  And it was easy.  I did it and I didn’t let the thought of it scare me.  I planned, I set a goal, and I achieved my goal.  I did a new thing and it didn’t defeat me.  I started something new and followed through.  And it was a great feeling when it was over.

Instead of it being something that I feared, I just decided I could do it and then did it.  Action followed by results inspires us to continue.  In a matter of a few hours, an idea became a new hunger to do it more.  It has now become another interest in something I want to make time for.  And it has now joined up with my place of inspiration.  

I took some advice of someone who had been there.  I was willing to go the distance to experience it, I put a plan on preparation table and set a time for action.  It seems that this calculation makes for good results.  And now I want to apply it to every area of my life.  No matter how long it takes.  I’m in it to win it.

What was the piece of advice that I followed?  When seeking a dream you have to follow a thought.  You have to be willing to put some thought to developing it.  You have to grow it and let it become something large and attainable.  You have to prepare to follow through with it.  Or otherwise it will only be small and fearful.  It will be something that you aspire to but never take time to do.

Yesterday, something broke inside of me to let me know that I have so much to be grateful for.  I climbed a fear in my new found freedom and won.  I knew and heard what makes my heart sing yesterday.  Every ten steps I was inspired.  Every thought I wanted to think was directed at one thing.  Every action followed through about every new idea.  Every one of my words motivated me to continue.  I know that I was full of something large within me that I couldn’t deny any more.

I celebrated this moment by shouting at the highest point of the journey “I am all that is woman!”  Something incredible happened yesterday…I created an echo worth listening to.  The rest of the way I turned my way of thinking around on the rest of the path ahead.  I started listening to my life.

Yesterday I realized that no matter what, I would write.  I know you thought I was already thinking that.  I was in a way but only as a means to an end.  Yesterday I started a new way to think about writing.  It has become a way of listening to my life.  When I took time to listen to what my life was saying to me, I realized so much about me.

I dare you to do the same.  When you listen to your life you will find the true you.  Oh how often we pretend to be those who we are not.  How often do we pretend to be someone we will never be.  The echo I heard yesterday was an honest admission from the depths of my soul.  I will write for the rest of my days because it makes my heart sing.  It makes my soul content.  It’s the way I express myself.  It is me.  It’s the fabric I have been created with.  It’s my inner DNA I was born with.  It’s the mantle that rests on my life.

And yesterday something incredible happened.  I told myself that to be able to articulate your thoughts in a way that makes sense to me and perhaps a few of you, that it was okay to do so.  I have been listening to my life for years, and I feel good about that.  I feel good about the way this little me has come out of her public shell and said that I am good at this.

That doesn’t mean I’m mistake free, that doesn’t mean I will be rich at this, but it does mean that I can express my thoughts.  It also means the truths I learn and the stories I capture will be well thought out, and presented in a way that will help you.  My hope in this is to not draw attention to the numbers of a successful place or become rich at doing something that comes seemingly easy.  No, it’s not about those reasons at all.

It’s about me listening to the parts of my life that have been changed by life itself.  It’s about the pressing for more in this life than ever before.  It’s about making sacrifices.  It’s about giving up something I love, for something I love more.   It’s about planning, taking action and following through with thoughts I have had for years.  It’s about becoming what I have always thought I could do was afraid to do it.  It’s how I’ve found my purpose and living to tell about it.  It’s about listening to a lot of life-giving echos that inspire me on a daily basis.  

It’s about the moment when something incredible happens in the depts of my soul.  It’s about listening to my life and being.  And the incredible part is I don’t have to be someone who I am not.  I am a writer that listens to her life and have found something incredible.  

Some of you call it a mid-life crisis and cover up your desires by buying a sports car that you have always wanted.  Others of you go by a new pair of running shoes and attempt to change yourself from the outside in.  Many of you color your hair so that your years of wisdom don’t show off.  So many wake up disappointed in life everyday, going to a job that you hate to just to take care of people you regret getting involved with.  I don’t know what kind of echos  you have been listening to.  When you take a page out of life’s book and if we are honest with ourselves we all have a dream of something we want to achieve, attempt, and conquer from our soul.

We all want something out of this journey we call life.  We all have those inner unspoken desires.  We all want our  lives to matter and count for something.  Some of you are afraid to even admit it.  Some on you can’t grasp a handle on it.  Some of you have given up on your thing years ago.  Some of you have let it die.

Perhaps you just need to start something new.  Yes today can be your day where you let new life come back to something that continues to echo deeply within those places that have long been silent.  Let my journey inspire you to never give up on what your life is telling you.

If I could encourage you to just take another listen, you might just maybe find some new life hidden inside of you that you thought died long ago.  Try it just once, I dare you.  What have you got to lose?  Friends, time is running short but it’s never to late to listen to who God has made you to be.  Yesterday is indeed gone and tomorrow may never come.  

Let today be the day you listen long to the things that make your heart sing.

  

When your heart aches a little

Peace and girl

“Sure you are okay?”  my friend simply asked.  I don’t know how he knew but he did.  That’s what friends are for.  This particular person though knows me well.  I tried to not let the tears show but water hit the rims and simply fell on my cheeks.  I sniffled a little.  That must have tipped my friend off.

In Bible class, we talked about some struggles we face in our faith.  And those struggles can distort the way you view God as a loving Father.  Our hearts are like an onion aren’t they?  Life pulls off one layer at a time and then it’s up to us to choose how to respond to each situation.  Some people grow up in an atmosphere of encouragement.  Some do not.  Some are reared in very violent situations, some have peace-filled homes.  Some are without parents, some have only one.  Circumstances that happen to us when we are young come back to haunt us.

My pastor was talking about many things that could have a positive or negative affect on your emotions when you are child and how you grow up with faulty kind of love that humans give.  So let’s just leave it at that though to describe how I grew up.  I lived with a lot of faults and with the flawed view of things.  I mean, who has had a perfect childhood?

I was remembering some awkward times from my own past plus reminding myself that I have overcome a lot of negative feelings toward myself.  That’s a good thing, but when I thought about them again, I experienced what I like to call a “heart-ache.”  Don’t get me wrong, my past wasn’t violent or disturbing.  It was fairly normal.  Growing up as a fat child though and being picked on constantly, well those things just remain until you can fully process them.  When you are an adult and you discover your true identity in Christ, your past can and does disappear…eventually.

These thoughts aren’t new or worn out.  But as I was listening to my pastor tell some stories from his own past it reconnected me with mine too.  I was happy and sad in the same moments.  Happy because I’m not in the same place any more.  I am healed from those days where I suffered some emotional turmoil as a child.  And I am free from some other situations that held me captive as an adult that were not the most positive for my self-esteem.

I am not a slave any more to my feelings and have gained control over many of them.  But I can’t deny that they never existed.  And that’s when my heart ached a little.  That part of my life is over and I’m an over comer.  I am healed and whole today because I have properly put them all in a place of God’s rest and forgiveness.

But they are still a part of my past.  It’s one thing to move from your past to gain freedom but it’s another to live free of your past and past your past. I have chosen the second option for sure and am living free from so many things that used to hinder me and trip me up a lot.  This freedom feels wonderful!

There were a few minutes this evening though when I had to grieve because those years resulted in those faulty feelings.  And those feelings plus how they had such an irrational grip on my heart and mind must have pushed God away some so that I kept Him at arms length.  I was sorry through tears that I didn’t invite God in sooner.  He would’ve helped me quicker and healed me sooner.  I wouldn’t have been able to let so much heart damage give way to a very lonely season for me.  And I wouldn’t written in so many journals and needed so many boxes of Kleenex.

“If wishes were fishes the sea would be full.” says my mom.  Don’t you sometimes wish you could just go back and have a 10-year re-do on your emotions?  Honestly I am so thankful those days are gone, and now just once in a while there is a only a lonely ache.  But I will be okay as long as I remember to keep the cross before me and the aches behind me.  What’s gone is gone and that’s a wish I will keep.  Those days are healed, forgiven and God has burned His love sentiment in my heart layers so that I dont’ ache anymore.  That door will not open again, and what God shuts can’t be re-opened.

I am thankful for my friend who asked me more than once if I was okay.  I kept saying “I will be”.  Then he said, “You have two kinds of peace.  The’re’s peace inside of you and the Peace around you.  You stand under the favor of God.  Nothing can get to you now.”  I remembered in that one encouragement that my friend was right.  And that God has righted my past with His peace.  God’s peace is something that is felt.  Peace is not some kind of puzzle or hidden picture.  He wraps Himself around you to remove all your hurts and pains, and covers you with His everlasting peace.  And then He puts a seal on your heart to let you know through your hurts, it’s His forgiveness that won’t let them in again.

We can’t move out of or away from that type of peace nor keep Him at arms length. It lives inside of me as Christ dwells in my mended heart.  That’s that kind of peace that passes all my hurts, my past full of thoughts, and my wounds now removed.

Where do you need peace and how will you feel His peace for you?

Live empty

HORSEFAIR ANTIQUESWe often think of prosperity as financial gain and affluence. But in my mind, I believe it means growing in faith. Job certainly had a hard life, he is known for his story throughout the halls of Biblical history.  Many people compare their journey to Job’s but I can’t.  I have had some hard times for sure.  But I haven’t had the people I hold most dear ripped from my grip and left alone.  I haven’t had all of my possessions stolen and I haven’t endured the pain of boils.  I haven’t endured like Job has.

When it comes to faith, Job’s life is a testament of true faithfulness.  When he had every reason to curse and blame God yet he didn’t.  He persevered through many circumstances that were heart wrenching. Days upon days of waiting upon God to deliver and restore. Life hurt in Job’s world. Pain came in and totally wrecked him.  All of his friends accused him and left him.  He lived empty still.

Job inspires me to endure through life longer.

In our world, position, power, wealth or the pursuit of those gains are advancing while doing the things that matter mean less and less.  Our homes become safe havens, a covering, or a refuge from others throwing stones at us. We shield our lives and close ourselves off to the world, we hide behind our church attendance smile and say we are okay.

We hide behind our hurts, pains and tend to retreat so we won’t get hurt anymore.  We remain hurting alone in our pain.

All the while people are still hurting people, stealing innocence, acting out in anger and responding badly, even in church circles.  People are still manipulating others to get their way, to dominate and to control.  Our faith is tempted and tested on many levels.  And people push our buttons.  My point is this, what if we let God prosper us through this. What if God’s great plan for us results in our ability to see Him more clearly? I’m not saying God is causing all the bad in the world, nor allowing it. Please don’t blame God for the evil around us.

What if we let God promote us to a deeper level of faith?  What if our part in this life is to only be faithful like Job was? What if we thought about life differently from a heavenly perspective? What if we thought about Jesus more than our numbers or personal gain or place in this world?  More than our financial gain or our personal lack? What if we thought about prosperity through perseverance and endurance resulting in or for the sake of enriching our faith?

What if Job’s story is yours? How long would you stick it out in a den of lion’s that were super hungry?  How long would you stay faithful to God to live empty like Job did?  How long could you endure through a lifetime without?

Miles Monroe said it best…“live empty”. Fill your life with God, pour out and into others. That’s more gain than I can manage most days, but it is the most rewarding part of life, when Jesus’ love is exposed.  How are you investing in the lives of others?  Are you choosing your investments according to what makes you comfortable or what’s convenient?

Are you living empty?  I don’t know your pain, I don’t know your level of sacrifice, I don’t know your level of faith.  I do know that God doesn’t ask us to compare.  I do know that God doesn’t compare His children.  I do know that God is faithful.  I know that God is a one who can be trusted to the most minute detail of our lives.  I do know that Jesus lived empty while on this earth but yet never sinned and had safe boundaries when it came to relationships.

I know what it’s like to live with pain.  I know what it’s like to hold the hand of cancer.  I know what it’s like to mourn the loss of relationships.  But I also know hope.  I know that following God isn’t easy, comfortable, and convenient.  I know God’s love endures forever.  I also know that God’s love never fails.

I hope in some small way this word encourages you to live empty where you are not.  Remember your hope.  Reset it if you need to.  This prospering, living empty, filling, fulfilling, gaining, losing, learning, and loving is daily journey.  One of sacrifice and resetting our hearts on God.  It’s truly where our freedom lies and where our hope is.  No matter how old you are right now or how long you expect to live.  If you are reading this, you have something to give to someone else.

Live empty like it’s your last.  Someone needs what you have and they are looking for hope.

How to not eat a whole cow in an entire meal

cowIf you aren’t a comfort eater, you can stop eating, oh I mean stop reading this post.  If you are one of those, a person who eats for comfort, and that’s the plain simple truth people, then read on.

I’m not here to sugar-coat your answer.  Let me guess you don’t know the answer so this post IS for you.  At one time I was a comfort eater.  I realized that and wanted to change.  So I asked God how to change.  I was tired of other methods that left me literally hanging and dangling by a mere thread of hope and clinging hard to my determination of ever losing another pound.  I was tired of reaching to food for comfort and it not filling my inner desires to be comforted.

You see food, cows and sugars are all seductive in ways that speak to us foodies for life.  When we are stressed, emotionally spent, challenged by disappointments life brings, and/or all of the above plus any and all stresses that adult life can bring, well food is the most convenient and tasty options a girl has.

Especially in the age of texting.  Let me bring this all together.  Food doesn’t judge us.  It doesn’t boss around our emotions.  It doesn’t try to fix us, or tell us we are being silly.  It just accepts us as we are…needy, hungry for whatever, and in love with the taste of it’s sweetness.

That’s why emotional eaters eat.  When emotional eaters are stressed they go to a place of comfort that can comfort when all of the world seems to want to change us or complain about us.  We can’t help it and that is the one way food succeeds in getting our attention.

One day at my kitchen sink, I was as frustrated as a young mom could be.  My children who were mostly good 99% of the time had worked my last nerve, and something inside me snapped.  I grabbed the nearest pleasure and said to this sweet delight, “Well, at least you won’t talk back to me.”  I then embraced the comfort it had on my frustrated heart and ate an entire cow’s worth of calories.

I don’t feel good about telling you this bad food memory.  But I share it for a purpose.  When you are stressed, frustrated, or caught up in an inappropriate emotion that sends you straight to the cabinet loaded with Little Debbie cakes or the entire bag of Cheetos or potato chips you have an emotional eating problem.  Is everything in you screaming “OH YES!” right now?  Did I hit your eating problem on the head?

My advice comes many sweets later or shall I say many lessons later, here is your olive branch.  Don’t eat the cow in an entire meal.  Don’t eat out of frustration or stress or an emotional spin out.  Don’t do it.  The only thing that you will come away with is more guilt and shame not only for the situation that got you there in the first place but a whole lot of regret about how you personally handled your emotions.

Food may comfort you for a short time, but it doesn’t last to resolve your bigger need, which is the reason why your desire to comfort yourself with something that will only leave you hanging by a thread later.  Food can’t offer you true comfort like God can.

So when you are looking for comfort, and honestly we all are in this broken world we live in, then go to God first.  If God tells you to eat the whole cow in one meal then go for it.  But from what I have learned about the way He comforts, I go with that idea in mind to ask Him about it and He quickly distracts my ways to looking at my real heart problems instead.

Then we work on fixing those issues together.  And I forget about the cow and what caused me to think about eating it in the first place.  God’s love and grace is just that big, that no matter why you are looking for comfort He can supply each “why” need we have.  He supplies each and every one of our needs be it physically, emotionally, mentally, and of course spiritually.

This is how I learned not to turn to food from my emotional spin-outs.  The change didn’t come overnight, but it has come, and now I know how to eat right.  Food is the fuel for my body not my hurting emotions.  What I have learned is that God is big enough to handle all my emotions and yours too.  I can trust Him with the hurting places of my life, the disappointments, the unmet needs and self-control training that I need.

God can handle it all.  And knowing that gives me the most comfort!  More than eating an entire cow, that’s for sure.

How to boost your quiet time

Beautiful brunette woman in grey jacket, dark trousers and white blouse with tablet outdoors. Copy Space
You say you don’t hear God, have you looked for Him?  He is closer than you think!

“I need direction.”  What is God’s will?”  “How do I hear God’s voice?” “What does God’s voice sound like?”

We’ve all prayed these kind of prayers haven’t we?  Some of you are still wondering about the answers.  I wanted to hear God’s voice at an early time in my faith and thought I was, but then God showed me a better way.

After I started putting into practice what I heard from God, I had a deeper desire to boost my quiet time with Him.  His voice came simply tucked in the middle of the back seat of a girls-away-from-home weekend of fun.  God checked my gut with this question:  “When are you going to stop only reading my Word, and start doing what it says?”

That was the day that I stopped reading the Bible.

I stopped reading, started studying truth, and read it the most personal way.  Now I take God’s word to heart and let it change me everyday.   Seeing life from God’s lens changes everything.

James 1:22 -25 “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he will be blessed in what he does.”

When I dwell in God’s Word, I am doing more than just reading it, I’m applying it to my life.  When I learn His voice this way, I can see Him in so many different ways.  I grow and learn every day.  I am inspired by His love letter to me, I am inspired by the profound thoughts of the Holy Spirit who guided the pens of many faithful writers.

I am changed when I come away from and encounter God.  I remember that I am called to love and serve Him and to be His light. I have freedom in the truth as God’s redeemed daughter.  I am reminded of His love, faithfulness, greatness and daily reminded of my need of His goodness.

I stopped reading the Bible one day, and started living in it the next.  I come away changed every time.

Why is it so important to hear and know God’s words to us?

Because we need His direction.

Because life is hard on our own.

Because with every problem, it’s God’s opportunity to give His promise and provision to it.

Because life is hard.  Did you know that you can take your Bible with you all the time?

To know God’s direction in life, to know His will for your life, to hear God’s voice clearly you have to know Him by entering a personal one on one relationship with Him, after all He knows you best.  Did you know that God yearns to hear your voice?  That He longs for you to hear Him and wants to have a intimate relationship with you?

You say, “I’ve messed up my life too much!”  or “I’m so afraid to talk to Him!”  Don’t let fear, intimidation, guilt or shame dictate your feelings towards God.  To know His voice, you have to learn what it sounds like.  To listen to His voice and have direction and purpose for your life, you must quiet yourself before Him.  To boost your faith you have to know where you are putting your trust.  To improve your quality of life, it will cost you something.

Perhaps you just need to make more time to seek God.

To seek God’s direction and to get the help you need you have to give Him space to work in your life.  After years of following God’s loving hand for my life, my quality of life has enriched in ways I never would’ve thought possible.

I needed this direction more than words could say.  That is reason enough to stay.  How do you hear God’s voice?