Monday, January 26, 2015

How To Not Feel Like a Failure

It is easy to fail.

We all have heard that in order to succeed a person must learn how to fail. We all hope we can learn to fail forward, instead of digging a hole and falling into it.

Parenting, like all challenges in life, can feel like we are on slippery ground.

Failing and feeling like a failure are to different things.

As a mother, I can reflect back to different times in my parenting life that I failed to be the mother I wanted to be. For example, I said or did something that would have been better to not have been done. None of us can rewind time. What we can do is repent, that is asking God and others for forgiveness, but also forgiving ourselves. And in repentance, we follow through with a change in our behavior, continually turning from our sinful ways toward the way God wants us to live.

Also as a mother, it is easy to look at our children and assume if they are doing well in life, we succeeded; however, if they are not, we have failed. Neither conclusion is appropriate and true.

Our success as a parent depends on our obedience to God. Did we daily--moment by moment--trust and obey HIM? And when we did not, did we repent? If you can answer yes to these questions you succeeded as a parent. But even if you know there were times that you refused to repent and ask for forgiveness, God's mercies are never ending. It is NEVER too late to ask God for His forgiveness and grace.

We can only be personally accountable to God for our own life. We cannot take on the choices of others and allow that to make us feel like a success or a failure.

Don't listen to the voice of your enemy that will speak words of condemnation. It is your fault. If you blah, blah, blah or if only you didn't blah, blah blah.... Every person has the ability to reach out to God and receive HIS grace.

Joel 2:12 says, "Even now says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart."

That is an open invitation of acceptance and redemption for everyone!

Of course, we can be heavily burdened when someone we love is making the wrong decisions, but we should never let it drive us to feel like a failure. We can't make decisions for another person; each of us are personally responsible unto God.

What we can do is to continue doing what is good in the sight of God! Prayer is an antidote that repels the thoughts of feeling like a failure. It aligns our hearts to God's and is the highest, most important work we can do.

We need to bind the enemy's works of darkness and deception, and ask the Holy Spirit to bring revelation of Jesus Christ to the hearts of people. Ask God to have mercy on the one dear to your heart, to draw them to repentance.

Repentance and forgiveness cultivates the soil of our heart for God to grow us.

And love! Love unconditionally, continually forgiving one another, keeping a pure heart before the Lord.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Who Is Using Who? Hypocrite or Honor?

Relationships are challenging. We cannot see into someone else's brain so we do not know the motives of another person. Though we are pretty quick to guess or assume, if people do not genuinely (truthfully) communicate, we have no real way to know them as a person or to understand their motives. In communicating to someone guarded, it is easy to hurt them by assuming we know why they did or did not do something.

For example, if someone does not call or answer to messages sent, is it because they are upset, do not want to talk or maybe they have messed up so many times in the relationship they simply do not want to mess up again. In reality, no one knows but the person himself. We can all come up with different assumptions.

Unfortunately, when a person does not share, they leave themselves open to many assumptions. It is natural for humans to fill in blanks. It is the way our mind is programmed to work. Look at this:

U_d-rstan_i_g   w_at   _s  writ__n  c_n  b_  fi_l_d   _n   b_  o_r    br__ns.

It does not always work for everyone but most people find "understanding what is written can be filled in by our brains." We do it naturally all the time without even realizing it. Our brain looks for logical connections that we have experience with to fill in the gaps.

But, is it hypocritical to assume you know what someone thinks or what their motives are when your conclusion does not give the person the benefit of the doubt to being honorable?

My husband has the amazing gift of assuming the absolute best about everybody and everything in all situations. It is a wonderful way to life and often people are blessed by his outlook, because he sees the best in people. He sees what God sees. He sees what they could be or will become if they surrender to God in their life.

So, when people call my husband because they know how he will respond, is that because they are using him or is it because they genuinely are honoring his gift. God alone is able to know a person's motives. When I think a person may be acting hypocritical or may be using my husband, is it possible that he is a person's last hope? He is a safe place. He is an answer to people who need a place to turn when everyone else has been fed up. He is full of mercy and grace.

And, is that not just like God?

Today, I was thinking the person contacting my husband was a hypocrite, because after ignoring my husband for months he called him when he needed financial help. However, I think God is showing me that the hypocrite might be me because I see that my husband is responding more often like Christ. My husband tries to see every contact as a possible opportunity to show someone Jesus and to help draw them to God.

Oh, God give me the wisdom to know when to say "yes" and when to say "no" and most importantly, when to be silent. Help me to see the best in people and to not be so prone to being critical. In the end, give me Your eyes, ears and heart for people.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Name This Year - 2015!

Every year God normally gives me a theme: one word that sums up what I am going to be learning, experiencing, etc. Last year it was Hope. I didn't share it big time because frankly Pres. Obama had made such a mess of the slogan "Hope and Change" I really didn't want to be part of his slogan. But silly me, God gave us hope that was real long before a liar gave America a hollow promise that sounded good for political purposes. Worldly hope is wishing an uncertain comes true; it totters on a sandy foundation with blind, groundless conjectures. But godly hope is based on a Living God; it enlivens and comforts those who are well grounded in the certain hope of salvation and lived through a life of obedience in the soul of the believer. We have a certainty of fulfillment and can have a ever- deepening daily fellowship with God now! 1Peter 1:3-5 says,
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."

If I look back on Facebook or even in my blogs, I could probably find a post written at the end or beginning of previous years telling what the new yearly word I had been given.

I look back on 2014

and think how did it bring me hope or teach me hope. I am not sure how to sum up 2014, but if I was thinking back over it the word hope would come to mind.

We did finally find a church home, Experience Church, in Murfreesboro after 3 years of not having a church family that we belonged to. This is something I am so grateful for because it has restored my hope that churches do exist for the purpose of taking care of the least of these, reaching outward to those in need more than inward as a social club and aiming to grow up Christians individually to be independently serving instead of dependent upon leadership.

I also started back to college aiming for a graduate degree in Art Therapy. I felt hope that I might figure out what I would "become when I grew up." I first thought I would get a degree in English but the English Department didn't seem interested in an old 51 year woman who had homeschooled her children the last 20 years as a graduate candidate. My first class was Drawing I and I loved it. I want to go back and take so many more classes and thought I might even pursue a degree in Graphic Design, but I tearfully made the decision to not return to college. I realize it is not my time. I have a son in college and a teen daughter still at home. I need to wait, again. Still simply taking that one class gave me so much hope in knowing God will use me in ways I can never imagine.

In 2014, I also returned to teaching in the public school in a small way as a substitute teacher. I had hope that I still had what it takes to be a teacher, and mostly succeeded. It has awakened a passion. I LOVE to teach but I am not sure where God would have me yet. I made income that was suppose to offset my college expense, but I did not make enough to cover all of the costs. Yes, this is part of the reason I am not returning to college at this time. However, I am going to continue subbing and I do look forward to everyday I get to be in a classroom.

I have been completely off of the medication that was in the psychosis category: Seroquel. I have hope that I am continuing to be completely healed though I know that will not happen until I reach heaven's gates. The other three medications I take are tapered to their lowest dose. And I have continued to not need regular therapy. I have gone to a few visits this year, but it is only for reassurance, confirmation and mental maintenance.

In a highlight, I made some friends of family members. I have been communicating with my cousin, Seth and my niece, Katey. I am grateful to have them in my life. Also, I have had a very busy year finding out how to navigate difficult relationships. Sorrowfully, a few of my dearest relationships ties have waned this year--more like been targeted with a precision strike hit--to be blown apart. Though I have survived the turmoil with little lasting negative results, the relationships will never be the same.

Now It is 2015

So as the year was ending and I am writing this post on New Years Eve night,  I continued to pray to God seeking what will be the theme for 2015.  Joel says God has given him "Service" to be his key theme. I know I am starting a 40 day fast starting on Jan 5 that my family is sharing with our new church.

As you look back over the past year, I hope you see both the positives and negatives in light of God's grace. He filters everything that happens to you. Nothing is a surprise to Him. If you don't normally ask God for a theme, you might try and ask Him. It is not anything that just blows your year in any amazing way but it does give you focus, and reflect.

In fact every year in the Jewish Calendar, the Jews have a theme. 2013-2014 was the Year of the Door (year 5774). And 2014-2015 is the Year of the Whirlwind (year 5775). So it is quite in line with God's ways for Him to give you a personal theme for the year.


On the morning of January 1, when I awoke I heard within my spirit, "Rise." I wondered could that be my theme for 2015. Then later that day I read a post by Chuck Pierce and it had these two quotes in it: "He fills you and causes you to rise to a place of triumph in your life." and "He is available to fill your spirit man and cause you to rise above your enemies."

Is this the year to RISE? Excitement sweeps over me. I have never been given such a positive, freeing theme. I will continue to seek Him for confirmation, but I believe this year is the year I "rise".

Now, it is January 12, and this post is going to be published on my blog. I have embraced "rise" as my theme given to me by God and He has already begun to show me new ways to view "rise" as in allow Him to purify me and let the dross rise to the top as happens when silver is set to the fire and purified. I thank Him that He loves me enough to personally walk with me through the year to help me grow to be more like Christ. I pray for you to know Him in the same and even greater depth.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Who or What Sets You Worth

Who or what do you let set your worth, your value in life?

Worth Factors

Present your life before a large group of people and give them the ability to set your worth. Each will set it according to their own values, the way they live and determine their own value.

Is it how much money you make? How much you own? What car you have, the kind of house you live in, or the clothes you wear? Maybe even, what you collect?

Is it the family you come from? They wealth you were raised with? The expendable cash at your fingertips? The schools you attended or attend? Your lifestyle level?

Is it the degrees you have? The kind of degrees? The job you hold? The titles you can claim? Your knowledge? Your ability to speak on a topic authoritatively?

Is it the work you do? The legacy of accomplishments you can point to? The amount you produce? The lasting value of your work?

Is it the people who you consider your friends? The places you hang out? The kind of people who you are connected to? The parties you get invited to? The places you hold membership? The contacts you have?

Is it your past? What you have done in life? If you have committed crimes/sins that are deemed forgivable or justifiable? Or maybe even where someone in your family has come from, their past that creeps into the next generation?

Worth Judgers

We all judge others. We don't like to admit it, but we do. We determine a person's value and decide whether we want to know them or be friends. We make our own opinions of they way they live. We think we know their motivations or lack of them.

I get judged, just like you do. But I have to determine, just like you do, that if I am going to allow other people to set my worth. The way I live, the decisions I make, my values, my goals --Am I going to let someone speak into my life and tell me my value? Truly, I can be the hardest on myself devaluing myself because I do not measure up to my own hopes or standards of what I should be like.

So, thankfully for me, and I hope I can help you see for yourself, there is only one person I let set my worth and it is not even myself. I let God determine my value, not other people. So I get to ask, "Am I doing what you want me to do God? Have I lived up to your standards? Do I have a genuine one on one relationship with you, God? Am I spending my money and time as you desire? Are my actions and words pleasing to You?"

If God is not good with me, I look to Him to help me adjust, but if God is pleased, I am satisfied.

When this life is over, the only regret I will have is if I did not live obediently to God.

People can be so critical, fickle, fake, and hypocritical. Everyone has their own junk. To learn to ignore the voices of others while making sure that you are responding carefully to God's voice, is the key to knowing your own worth and how to be at peace with yourself.

I see pictures sometimes of young ladies and see such sadness and pain in their face. Life has lied to them or should I say,  "they believe a lie." No wonder so many people get jaded and loose hope for happiness. Everything can be so futile when your worth is set by moving standards. I want to ask, "Are you happy, yet?" but don't want to be cruel, like kicking a victim that has already been crushed by so many unfulfilled promises -- empty dreams.

""Have you tried Jesus, yet? I long to say, but know it will be ridiculed. Jesus sets the standard. His grace provides for what we lack. We can never permanently fail Him. To Him, we are priceless treasures, created for His glory and to have a long, blessed, eternal life. He is working in our life to complete us and make us more like Jesus. The more we yield to His molding the more Christlike we become.

Worth Choice

But it is up to you. Each of us. We all must determine who or what Sets Our Worth, because whether we admit it or not something/someone always does.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sink the Sub - I Was the Target Substitute Teacher

My last day to substitute teach in the local city schools I became the target of the upper elementary game "Sink the Sub." These students were quite astute at playing and I am certain many subs lay in their graveyard of the sea of humans they have hit. A fourth grade class should not be such a big deal for a 51 year old. (Think again!)

This should come with every Substitute Folder

Know the Dangers

I deliberately knew what I was getting into. I chose to take to the waters of this dangerous sea. Only a month prior I worked half-day for a new teacher--an energetic, hardworking, determined twenty year old that was facing the turbulent waters of challenging students who themselves had been through their own individual wars in life. The first time I saw her I gave her a big hug; I wanted to be an encourager to her; she had enough behavior issues in her class of 24 that could make tsunami waves. She had to learn how to sail in rough waters and to remain the captain of her crew. And I was proud for her sticking in and refusing to be tossed overboard.

So when I received a text from her to take on a full-day, I agree knowing what I was getting into. Being a certified teacher myself, I had the skills to tackle any lesson plans I would be given and after teaching my own children K-12 grade though homeschool I had a wide range of subject matter knowledge. Also, I am compassionate. I love people, including children. I want them to be the best they can be, to succeed in life and to learn all they can to be the unique person they were created to be. And oddly, I really do LOVE to teach.

I deliberately came prepared with an art project and purchased the supplies of black paper, paint trays and q-tips to use with acrylic paint that I owned. I wanted to let the class know that we had a fun activity reward if we could successful get through the days work.

Have a Zillion Back Up Plans

All was basically smooth waters until intervention rotation began. Some of my students left and in walked a handful of new students who were sorted by reading level. The students entering my class gave me no problems. However, for a one hour period, I was to lead these students through a two page reading assignment on a copied handout that had four questions at the end. We finished in thirty minutes. It is great to get work accomplished, but it can bring the sharks circling if the sub's lesson plans do not include extra work. I had none.

The complication of having students that are at a specific reading level is that as a substitute teacher I have no idea what the students can and can't do. I don't know how to gear a thirty minute "out of the hat" reading plan for them or coming up with a reading lesson without a reading book. Sure, now that I am out of the shark tank, I can know think of hundreds of ways we could have tackled that two page handout creatively, but that is where I began to gasp for air. I was stumped, and the students smelt the tinge of red blood rise to the surface. That is all it took for their hunger to play "Sink the Sub" to unleash.

I stalled them through the thirty minutes and successfully made it through math intervention with a mixed group of students from all of the fourth grade classes. We tackled long division and I had enough work to keep them plugging along. But by the time my original class returned, I was still shaken and word must have gone out because the jabs and volleys of toying with the teacher were in full force. By the time I had the class lined up for lunch I was hold back tears and filled with doubts of my capability to ever had thought I could take on this challenge. I had lost emotional control of the class.

Bullying Need to Include How Students Treat Teachers

Recognize The Kind of Leadership

Returning to my class, I passed the principals office and through tears asked if I could speak to her. Unfortunately, she was a stern, slab of rock. Emotionless and undaunted by my tears, she said she would come to my class after lunch. Without one word of kindness, compassion or encouragement, she "off with my head" told me that if I couldn't handle the class she would sit in it the rest of the afternoon. Rattled I walked down the hall to my classroom, opened the door and intentionally made sure it locked behind me. Fragile, I pulled my lunch from the frig and headed to the teacher's desk to cry between bites of food. The twenty minutes felt more like two. I pulled myself up as composed as I could muster and headed to the cafeteria to pick up my class.

Thankfully, as I led them out I ran into the dynamic, assistant principal. He knows each and every student personally because he is driven by a desire to see each child succeed. I shared with him that I was having a rough day and he walked with me back to the class. Like a pro, he came to my rescue in a way that elevated my stature in front of the class. He honored me before the students. Next, he spoke to the children and asked them to self-access if they had acted appropriately today. He told the students who felt they had to stand by their desk. Amazingly, about half of the class stood, and the others properly knew they had not and honestly judged themselves. As he was carefully instructing them on behavior, the stonewall principal arrived.

She lectured the class, and indirectly me, on the reputation of the school and how she did not want me --whom she called a visitor that traveled around through out the city schools--to go talking about what a bad class and school they had. After her "cover my ass" performance, she exited and was never seen again.

I thanked the assistant principal and proceeded to make it through the rest of the day. We had a lot of ground to cover prepping for two test the following day. So together as a class we plowed through a History and Science review sheet. Fortunately, earlier that day I realized the teacher did not leave me the answer key so I asked the lead fourth grade teacher for it. I would have certainly drowned trying to find the answers in the chapters of the books. Yet by the end of the day I was still shaken to the core. I didn't sink, I floated on a rescue raft thrown out by the assistant principal but I was walking unsteady. I tried to tidy up the room and leave an honest note to the regular teacher about the day.

We Teach and Sub Because We Love Students - Believe it or Not.

Ready Yourself to Return to the Seas

Even though my confidence is shaken in my ability to handle any class situation, I have not fully raised up the white flag.

What I learned from the experience is that long ago, about twenty years ago, I realize now that I had a "stonewall" principal. Being a newbie teacher I didn't know a gentle, compassionate supporter from a rigid, slick head, but now I do. I can see clearly why my first year teaching was so difficult. I didn't have the helping arm of an administrator that knew her students/teacher or even cared to know their situations. I had a master of a cargo ship that was aiming on taking to the high seas to rise up in the ranks as far as she could go.

You see there are two kinds of leaders. One keeps at a safe distance and barks out expectations on how to sail. The other gets into the turbulent, rocking boat and helps guide you through the icebergs or sandbars with you, for a while, until you are back in stable waters. Anybody can be the first kind of leader, but it take a unique, special soul to be the second. Thank God I was blessed with one of each to learn what God wanted to show me.

It is about time for me to check the substitute calendar for new assignments for 2015. I am grateful that I write, because I am able to use it to talk myself through difficult situations, and maybe in turn it will help one or two other daring souls who substitute teach.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Is Jesus Enough? At Christmas and throughout the Year

Good tidings to you and all of your kin! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Joy to the World and Goodwill to all men! Peace on Earth! These are cheery exclamations we read and hear at this time of the year. And when I begin to write from my heart I feel like I am more like the Prophet Jeremiah writing a Book of Lamentations. No wonder I don't have the most popular blog and a thriving following of people longing to return to what deep, dark insight I will be sharing today. Alas, I am who I am and I must be true to that, so here I share for all who can bear to endure and maybe glean some insight to their own heart and thoughts of others.

Prayer Time

In my meager attempt to return to practicing being in the presence of God, I lightly pressed my hands upon my face as I laid in bed and turned my thoughts to Him. On Christmas Eve, at 9 a.m. my house was already active with noise. So I really had to work on concentrating, focusing myself on being with God. Hearing my teen son running up and down the steps, my husband putting dishes up in the kitchen, and of course, the TV was already on in the Living Room, I pressed in and through the distractions. I know if I get up, I will never come back to prayer with Him. I will see everything that is calling my name to be done and with the noisiness of an active household, I sadly won't hear His voice.

So as my thought meandered in His presence, particularly on Christmas Eve, I reflected about family ties. Before I went to bed last light I noticed some wedding pictures of families that I know through church. Like all the wedding pictures I see, so many people surround the couple rejoicing. The reception is very festive and in a barn (as is so common in 2014). There is great laughter with dancing, and I can tell that a very fun time was had by everyone. When I clicked through theses photos, I saw a family picture that included extended family, like the size you would see at a family reunion. In a beautiful outdoor landscape, about 75 people young and old stood with the couple in their wedding attire. It was a lovely photo and one not often taken at weddings that probably should be taken regularly.

Extended Families

Looking at the large family I had the same feeling I get so many other times when I see large, family-gathering photos; I feel a sorrow knowing my children will not have a wedding like that or a family photo like that. All throughout their life, it has only been my husband and myself that are their family. We alone attend their celebrations and milestones of life. I thought about how the bride and groom have sides for sitting and know our side would be very thin. At times of weddings and holidays, our thoughts, of course, turn to extended family. I think about what could be and what is. We can live all year as a little foursome but when extended family parties begin on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we are still a foursome. (We use to be five but my oldest son has chosen to not be part of his family).

In writing that last note in the parenthesis, I wonder if you my reader thinks what on earth is wrong with us that we are only four and have even "lost" our oldest son. For this article post, it is too complicated to explain the details.

I just saw someone's holiday photo entitled "Full driveway = Full hearts" and it tugged at my heart. It is what happens when we drive around and see a house that has cars all lined up in the driveway and down the street. We know someone is having a holiday gathering of family. Truly, I am happy for them but at the same time I feel a loss in my heart. I am wrong to be honest? I rejoice with my friends who have family coming home, but at the same time I hurt and know others who heart because someone special will be missing. That feeling of someone or something missing has been a permanent part of my children's life, they know friends have been gatherings of family and they do not. We have always tried to make the best of simply being together and sharing the time we have with each other in our own unelaborated way.

But in prayer today I heard God say, "Is Jesus Enough?"

The truth is we have no presents under our tree and the stockings at this moment are empty. We went on a Christmas trip and spent our money for gifts on spending time with each other. So the question is very poignant this year, "Is Jesus Enough?"

If in our family photo we have Jesus, is that enough to make up for all the extended family that are not standing side by side smiling and supporting the young couple. "Is Jesus Enough?"

At our Christmas gathering in our home, when it is just the four of us, "Is Jesus Enough?"

For me and my sweet four, He is more than enough! Jesus being the essence of our life is what we aim for in all we do, in our choices of how we shall live.

A simplified life is what I have always admired and this Christmas we could not be more simplified. We will miss my oldest son, and it will feel odd not opening presents, but the truth is "Jesus" is all we need and want. I am grateful to say, that we get to experience a Christmas this year that is totally focused on Jesus. We didn't plan it that way but maybe God planned it for us. I won't know what it will end up being like until it is over, but I trust it will be full and satisfying.

May you have a blessed holiday together with your family and may Jesus be in the center of your Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Heartache at Christmas

Christmas is a wonderful time! So many people enjoy it as their favorite holiday of the year. Some decorate each room of their home so beautiful. Americans even have nationwide contest for who has the best lighted property. People go through so much planning to make everything special.

And still, many others hurt deeply during Christmas.

The holiday highlights brokenness in family relationships; it brings the grief of those lost to death; it presents several occasions where individuals who do not spend much time together must share gifts, food and time. Holiday parties can be awkward and feel forced.

"Hallmark vs. Reality" 

Most people have a desire to have a "Hallmark" Christmas where even if things are not perfect, in the end everything works out for the best and love prevails in the most magical way possible. Of course, some families really do experience wonderful Christmases. They actually know and love each other deeply. They have meaningful holiday gatherings and enjoy deepening relationships together. These families are truly, blessed richly.

For the majority, reality clashes with expectations. Gifts are rarely our heart desires. Frankly, we often open up something that we never would pick out in a million years for ourselves and are saddened that dreams did not come true. We thank the giver and think about how to make it through the small talk to get through another family gathering without anyone getting upset. Some people don't even have gifts to open. They smile and act like it doesn't matter but it doesn't seem right and hurts. Even families that have tons of presents under the tree, more than anyone could imagine, still struggle with relationships that are strained. It seems no matter how hard someone can plan, people cannot be satisfied and feelings get hurt often by little comments, jabs or avoidances.

Truly we are a mess! Aren't we?

I shared the deep, secret reality of my Christmas feelings this year in this post, No Home For Christmas. It doesn't tell everything I am experiencing but it shares a lot; I sometimes wonder if I shared more than I should have. My filter for what to expose is not very strong. It is something I am still learning. It is my heartache this Christmas that my oldest son is choosing to not spend it with us because we disagree on life issues. As a mother, I feel a whole in my heart, but I know Jesus can fill all holes and heal all heartaches. This doesn't mean the relationship will be solved but it means that He will walk with me through it. I will not be alone in my pain.

As a Christian, I understand that Christmas is not about the tree, lights, wreaths, presents or cards. Oddly enough, it is not even about spending time with family and friends.

Christmas is a Holy Day that comes once every year to remember that Jesus entered this world as a baby to become our Savior so that we could be permanently reconciled to God. 

Christmas is a time to reflect on our relationship with Christ, a time to thank Him for lowering Himself from being all God to become all man, knowing that he would grow up to die for the penalty of our sins on the cross, so that we might no longer be separated from God.

Christmas actually takes place during or around the Jewish season of Hanukkah that celebrates the oil that miraculously did not go out giving the Jews the light they needed during the time of Maccabees. During the season of Hanukkah, Mary became pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit, while she was a virgin. (If you want to consider more about Mary carrying Jesus, you might want to read Baby in the Womb.) She became the host of Emanuel - God physically with us. During this festival of lights, the Light of the World entered the physical realm as a baby who would be called Jesus; He is the only begotten son of God.

We actually are celebrating the provision of God Himself--how He gave Himself to save us from our sins. 

We are celebrating the ministry of reconciliation: Jesus entered the world to save us from our sins, to give us eternal life, to provide a way for our own bodies to become a dwelling temple for God, the Holy Spirit. Like Mary, God lives within each of us who receive Jesus as the Lord of our life and Savior from our sins. We are separated from the world and unto God, apart from the world but together with God.

Christmas should be a time of reconciliation, a time to rejoice that because of Him we can forgive others who have caused us heartache, just as God has forgiven us of every sin we ever committed or will yet commit.

Christmas is a time to examine ourselves and to let His Holy Spirit to examine our spirt to see if their is anything within us that he wants us to change or address. You might enjoy reading "Preparing Your Heart for Christmas."

Christmas is a day to soak up the presence of God, to become filled up and overflowing with the love of God, to be thankful for all He has done and continues to do and to rest in Hope of knowing that HE  reigns and is in control, even though the world is spinning into evil and despair. He is the contrast to everything counterfeit being offered by marketers during this holiday that is suppose to bring joy, peace and goodwill to all men.

Jesus! He can't be put in a box. He isn't found in a stocking or under a beautifully decorated tree. He gives Himself as the eternal gift that never fails, empties, breaks, goes out of style or becomes unnecessary. He is a gift that is received once but that continues to supply all of our needs, that heals our hurts, that binds our brokenness, and that brings us into a state of becoming everything we were originally created to become. He is the gift that is perfect for everyone. He is not a quick fix, but a lifelong companion, a friend that never falters, and a person that is always with us.

So whatever heartache you might be bearing this Christmas, I invite you to receive Jesus, to know Him as Lord of your life and Savior of your sins. He is Christ! God's balm given to everyone in the world who will receive Him.

You might not get a "Hallmark" type of Christmas, but you have the potential for something better! So if you find yourself hurting this Christmas, turn to Christ and let Him be everything you need, let Him become the desire of your heart. See that you can really find peace and joy and love!

This is my prayer for myself, my family and for you.

Monday, November 24, 2014

He Calms The Storm

At my home church on Sunday morning, we have been going verse by verse through The Gospel Book of Matthew. The apostle and author, Matthew, is teaching us that Jesus is God in Chapter 1 - 9. Jesus begins ministering by healing the sick. And just after he teaches on the cost of discipleship, he gets into a boat and his disciples follow him.

He Calms The Storm
(Storm by NicolasEariste on Deviantart)

Let's take this up in Matthew 8:24:
And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with waves. But He [Jesus] was asleep. Then His dispels cam to Him and awoke Him saying, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!" 
 But He said to them, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled saying, "Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?"

Old Testament Teaching

This morning as I was cleaning the kitchen, emptying the dishwasher, and fixing my morning coffee, I put on a CD of Psalms which is read with the background of orchestral music. When the reader got to Psalm 107, I heard something familiar to the teaching in Matthew but did not realize it was also in the Old Testament Psalms. Look at Psalm 107 beginning in verse 21:
Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing.
Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters, they see the works of the LORD, and His wonders in the deep. For He commands and raises the stormy wind, which lifts up the waves of the sea. They mount up to the heavens; They go down again to the depths: Their soul melts because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and they are at their wits' end.
Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses.
He calms the storm, so that its waves are still.

A Lesson and Solution

The disciples marveled that Jesus calmed the seas because they knew that God was the One who had the ability to calm the storm and command the waters. No wonder Jesus questioned the size of his disciples faith. Didn't they understand yet that HE was God? Matthew records this occurrence because it is a time in Jesus' ministry that He demonstrates that He is God! Only God can calm the storm of the sea and, likewise as the psalmist writes, only God can calm the distressful storms of our soul.

How many of us live a life of being tossed, reeled to and fro, staggering from one situation to the next like a drunken man and finally coming to our wits' end?

But a great lesson and solution is told within the Old Testament Psalm! Re-read Ps 107: 28-29:
Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses. 
He calms the storm, so that its waves are still.

What are you waiting for? 

Are you not yet at your wits' end? Are you waiting for your life (your work, your relationships, your health, your finances, and your soul) to be tattered even more in the storms?

Jesus is waiting for you to cry out to Him. Jesus is wanting to act on your behalf. He is ready, but the question is "are you"? Are you willing to humble yourself and cry out in your distress, so that he can calm the sea of your melting soul?

If you do, He will calm the storm that is raging, and as you allow and listen, He will guide you step by step.  Crying out to Jesus is not a quick fix. It is a genuine desire for God to take control of your life. It is yielding to God's way. You must be ready to no longer live in sin. You must be willing to obey. Life in Christ is not easy, but it is better, because you will be in God's protection and blessing.

My heart prayer is that for as many that are willing to open their heart to hear God, that they will bow down to Him and receive abundant life, a life in Him that can sustain you through the storms. When He calms the storm in your soul, the outer storms of life do not so easily affect you. In Him, you are shielded and able to rejoice in Him regardless of your circumstances.

He Calms you! (By NicolasEvariste on Deviantart)

Remember: If you cry out to Him, He calms the storm.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Are Love Letters Real?

Dating is so hard! Do love letters complicate it? Watching my children experience dating relationships, I can really see the strong benefits of waiting to find your mate when you are ready to marry. We always taught our children this but "courtship" is so antiquated.

To us, "Ready to marry" means you are financially stable enough to support a wife and begin a family. Of course, no one is ever that ready so it means you have a steady job, a means of support. This is the ideal, not the one and only standard.

What to Say in Love Letters (love letters by Lizkit50 on deviant art)

My husband and I got married at 21; we have been married for 30 years. We had no money; well, $300 if you count the money we got as marriage gifts. We had no jobs. I had recently graduated as an LPN (licensed practical nurse) preparing to support my husband through college. We moved to a new city, Nashville, TN, as a newlywed couple. I still have the first groceries receipt that took a little over a third of our wealth. We had no staples: not a broom, mop or spices. We needed it all.

We rented a brand new one bedroom apt; it was a very nice way to start our married life together. I definitely did not marry for money. I married my dearest friend in the world; he is still that today. Through all the ups and downs life brings, he has been stable and steadfast in his unconditional love. I can guarantee you that true commitment is better for a marriage than $30,000 put away in the bank and a well-paying job.

I laugh at my earlier statement that a person needs to be "ready to marry" that is what my husband said about children; he kept saying we needed to be financially ready to have children. So we waited 10 years until we both were finished putting each other through college. I am glad to have my degree. I know we have been blessed financially by him have his two degrees (that is another story). But of course we were never "ready to have children." So what does all this have to do with love letters?

Although I love to write, I never felt compelled to write a love letter. I barely like to write in cards. It is not that I do not love. It is just that love is an action expressed through our daily communications and our behavior; it is not words on a piece of paper. I have written a few letters to my husband in our 30 years of marriage, but it has been at times when I have talked until I am exhausted and I still think he is not hearing me. So I put my words on paper, so he can reflect on them without my tone of voice or poor timing, hoping he can hear that way.

Also, through the years, I have also jotted down quick, little, sticky-type notes to my husband and children in surprise places to build them up or to say I love you, but these have not been long letters of declarations of my devotion.

I look at a love letter one of my children received from a person they dated. Both of my children who have dated have a least one of these. In the letters are an overwhelming promise of forever love: "I will always be there for you," "I will support you through everything in life," "you are truly the man for me," and "you are my dream." But when the relationship breaks up, a person is left with a piece of paper of empty promises. The words were heart-felt when written I am sure, but without the right timing of the ability to make a commitment to marriage I think they are premature.

Love letters during dating are a slice in a a time of life. A way a person feels about another in that moment. They are genuine, but usually not permanent states of commitment.

This is why I think we need to be very careful about relationships, particularly "love relationships." We can say a lot of things we feel without really thinking about the weight of the words or the followthrough of our commitments.

The Bible says we need to let our yes be yes and our no be no; we are to follow through with commitments which are in many ways vows we make to another. When we say we are going to do something we really need to think deeply and make sure we really can honor our words.

Maybe love letters need to be more general, like "you make me happy," "I smile when I think about you," "I think you are amazing," or "I enjoy spending time with you." These are also some of the words written in my child's love letter. These are statements of the present time and valid for that moment. Until one is committed to lifelong marriage, love letters are better to not contain promises that will not likely be kept. This way they can always be an encouragement letter, even read 10 years later.

"I love you" is true, but no one can foretell the future to know what shape that love will take. Sometimes the best way we can love a person is to let them go. Of course, no one would write that in an early love letter but in maturity it is a reality of love that does not enable or hold back.

These are simply my thoughts. Feel free to share yours.

You might also enjoy these posts:

Do You Love Unconditionally?
Marriage Is Hard Work
I Choose to Love

Sunday, October 19, 2014

When To Stop Talking

I have a serious problem. I don't know when to stop talking, and I cross many lines of comfortability for other people.

I have always noticed I have had a relationship problem. I figured it was due to my abusive childhood and not learning developmentally how to properly relate to people. I never blamed my past or my parents. It was more of something that I accepted as one of the many side effects of my terrible childhood; I thought something hardwired into my brain that I had not yet learned to change. And this probably is true, but God made our brain malleable. You can teach an old dog new tricks! You can also grow new brain cells and habitual pathways or lack of them, as the case may be.

But, I like most people had something blocking me. You see, it is very hard to learn to change something you can't identify.

I notice the glassed over eyes or ones that dart beyond my head and know that the person I am speaking to either needs to be doing something else, would rather be doing something else, cannot relate, is not interested or has for some reason disengaged. Yet, instead of thinking of trying to find a quick exit statement and moving on, I feel compelled to hang on, to somehow find a way to reconnect or to establish a connection. It is like something is broken. I sense it. And I am inwardly urged to fix it.

The funny thing is I am not a fixer. At least I don't perceive myself as one. Others might.

Therefore, I googled "How do you know when to stop talking" and found a post, Six Signs You Need to Stop Talking, by Joyce Meyer. As I read the article, I felt nailed and a pain grew in the pit of my stomach. Of all of the six, this is the one that resonated the most:

"You’re Self-Inflated

We like to boast about what we’ve done, what we can do, and what we’re going to do. If we’re not careful, we can even take credit for things God did!
Everything we do, we should do it as unto the Lord. (Colossians 3:23) I don’t think we can even begin to know what God would do for us and the things He would allow us to participate in if we would learn to keep our successes a secret between us and God, unless He specifically gives us permission to share them."
OUCH! It hurts when you see "ugly" in yourself. My poor close friends! How do they put up with me? I need to be talking to God more and asking Him, "Is this something you want me to share for your testimony and glory or is it something I want to say for me to get a pat on the back?" I feel pierced in the heart. I know that feeling must be shame. God does not want me to be shamed. He wants me to know true guilt, be convicted of sin, confess it and be forgiven by Him. Therefore, I have uncovered something I must confess and be cleansed of. It will be a process. And in the end, it will be good for me and others, especially people I speak to in the future.
But this was not the only one. 
The other one I identified with was:

"You’re Criticizing Somebody

Picture this. Someone says or does something you think they shouldn’t have done and all of a sudden, you’ve got about a hundred opinions about them that you want to talk about!
First Thessalonians 4:9 says, “But concerning brotherly love [for all other Christians], you have no need to have anyone write you, for you yourselves have been [personally] taught by God to love one another” (AMP).
In other words, sharing your critical opinions about other people is always a mistake. We need to cover one another with love, instead of uncovering their weaknesses and pointing out their flaws."
UGH! This feels like an arrow pressed into my heart. I can remember a time today that I was guilty of this one. Just saying that makes my right arm tighten and get heavy. I am so sensitive in my body. I feel deeply. While spending many years in brain-based therapy, I learned a lot about how to read my own flesh and how to know when something was wrong. As I type this, my heart beats harder and the grip around my arm is tighter. Yet, I will press through as I did earlier. 
God does not want me to be overwhelmed by shame. Many people say these are the signs of anxiety: a tightened arm, a heavy heart, or a pain in the body. But I know I am not anxious right now. I am guilty. I am ashamed. I am embarrassed to know that I met someone new today and spoke wrongly about someone else that I did not even know. I said some unkind words. I made a judgement about her, mumbled some ugly remarks that I definitely would not want heard on the loudspeakers at the event. 
Oh, God forgive me. 
I was at an event for the community around our church and I said something mean in a laughing way to a church member I had just met. I triple sinned! Once against God, once against the dear lady I just met and once against the lady from our community. I confess. I was that snooty, hypercritical church lady everyone--including myself--detests.
Boy! I never realized how much trouble--sin--my mouth causes. Maybe this is why some of the most godly people are quiet, I reflect. 
As I take in a deep breath, I know I am a work in progress; God is completing me. I rolled off His potter's wheel, fell into the grass, got some rocks and sticks pressed into my clay and I am all messed up. 
As a Christian, I am grateful to have a Father that when I look toward Him in confession, eyes bowed low, I know when I look back up into His eyes, He still delights in me. It just doesn't make sense, but it is true. He love that much!
Father, forgive me for falling so short, for using my mouth to tear down, for speaking highly of myself and lowly of others and for not talking to you more than I talk to others. 
I am not all bad. God reminds me of a few of the highlights of the day to lift me up but I am going to keep them between me and Him because I am practicing not being self-inflated. Did I just self-inflate by saying that? I wonder.
I told you I was a mess!
Thanks for reading. Until the next time, be blessed, turn to God in your need.