Thursday, November 21, 2013

How to Simplify this Christmas...and Save Your Sanity!

How do you picture the perfect Christmas?  If you're like me, you probably picture something like this...

A beautiful family, in perfectly coordinated sweater, and with unified hearts, sit around a perfectly shaped and decorated (real, not artificial, of course) Christmas tree, sipping hot cocoa with marshmallows.  A cheesy smile on each face, as they open gorgeously wrapped gifts that are not only exactly what the receiver wanted, but given in the purest desire from the bottom of the giver's heart.  Inside, the house is not only decorated beautifully, it's in perfect order.  Outside, the ground is covered in a fresh, white snow.  And, in the next room, there's a long dining room table covered with a feast fit to feed a king...and his family...his court...and his entire kingdom.  Every dish is filled to the brim, looks absolutely scrumptious and perfectly browned turkey, fully intact and steamy hot, sits right in the middle of the table.  Peace, joy, love...Christmas bliss.   

It's a sight right out of a Hallmark movie, right?!

Then there's reality.  

You make the long trip to Grandma's house despite a long week of caring for puking kids and the treacherous, icy road conditions of the day.  You're stressed out before you even arrive.  The kids run off as soon as you get in the door.  And, before you can even get your coat off, one of them is crying.  A cousin hit them in the head with a toy.  You try to comfort amd lecture about sharing, both at the same time.  Child hanging on you, you begin to "pit out" in your holiday sweater (of course, you are the only one wearing a sweater...and the house feels like it's 500 degrees).  Grandma's in the kitchen slaving away over the meal while three other family members try to help.  Someone scorches the potatoes.  Grandma, hair all disheveled, looks like she's going to cry.  The turkey completely fell apart, so she's disassembling it piece by piece.  And you think, "At least it's not dry and chewy like last year."  The guys are camped out in front of the TV watching football.  Grandpa is asleep in the recliner.  The house is a mess due to the kids running in every direction.  You stick the gifts you brought under the lopsided, artificial tree that is covered in handmade ornaments of years past, wondering if even one of them is something the receiver will like.  The kids helped you wrap them and they're plastered with scotch tape.  You bought every one of your family members a gift even though you couldn't really afford it because, well, that's just what you've always done; it's what's expected.  Uncle Bill, who you haven't seen since last Christmas, approaches you with a hug.  He proceeds to tell you about his recent hemorrhoid surgery.  You zone out as he goes into detail.  You look out the window; the ice has turned to slush.  You're reflecting on all that's wrong with this picture when someone yells from the next room that little Johnny just threw up... again.  Ugh!  You're stressed out, tired, sweaty and disappointed before the party even really begins.  This is not the Christmas you signed up for.

Darn, those Hallmark movies, right?!  

I really think unrealistic expectations can ruin our holidays; unrealistic expectations that we put on ourselves, our families, our get-togethers and even our gifts.  Life isn't perfect.  People aren't perfect.  WE aren't perfect.  

But, so what?!  

We put so much pressure on ourselves and others that we can miss the joy in the midst of reality's chaos.  It's a blessing to be with our families, and yet we can miss the blessings if we're so focused on our unmet expectations.  If we focus on all that's wrong, and focus on all the wrong things, our stress level will rise and we will miss all that's right.  It can be tough, but we can choose to simplify.  We can choose to accept our lives for what they are...and our families for who they are.

"Don't just pretend to love others.  Really love them." Romans 12:9

Four things that have helped me to Simplify and Save My Sanity through the Christmas season:

1. Cut back on the gifts.  This means not giving gifts that you can't afford or that you think are unnecessary.  Just because you gave them a gift last year (or every year as long as you've lived), doesn't mean you have to give them a gift this year.  Giving gifts that come from a begrudged heart defeat the whole purpose anyway.  The gifts you do give, give joyfully, expecting nothing in return.  It might be hard at first.  But, trust me, it gets better...and it takes a lot of pressure off.   

2.  Don't overextend yourself or overbook your family.  This is especially important if you have young children.  There are so many things going on in December!  Think through your commitments and look over your calendar before committing to yet another event; be realistic.  This may mean saying no to a few things, even good things that you want to do.  However, remember balance and maintained sanity are your goals.  

Note: Keep in mind, sometimes we also can't make it to events we committed to because of realities like vomiting kids.  Let go.  You can't control it!

3. Take time to focus on the true meaning of Christmas.  Do this as an individual, but also as a family.  The more our minds are set on the true reason we celebrate, the Savior Jesus Christ, the more other things will seem less important.  Choose to invest time in meaningful activities that nurture your faith and renew your perspective, and that of your family.

4.  Choose to love and accept your family, both immediate and extended, just as it is.  So you're family isn't perfect.  Guess what, no one else's family is either.  It's okay.  Choose to overlook their faults and little annoyances to see the blessings of the moment.  And thank God for an opportunity to love as He does, humbly, unselfishly and wholeheartedly.  Remember this moment in time will never come around again.  Use this time to love on those you...well, love.  It still won't be "perfect".  Embrace the imperfection.  

I don't have all the answers!  However, I really think if we let go of our unrealistic expectations; if we simplify and embrace reality; we will find joy this Christmas season...along with our sanity.  :)

Today I'm joining the Third Thursday Blog Hop.  Head on over to Jill Savage's blog, by clicking on the link below, to see what others had to say on the topic "No More Perfect Holidays".  


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Want an Easy Life?



My three year old said, "It's not easy for me, Mommy, so I don't want to do it.  Okay?"

Let's admit it.  Most of us, like my three year old, want an easy life.  We like to avoid conflict.  We want things to go well for us and those we love.  We want to be happy, relaxed and carefree.  No worries.  No problems.  Just easy.  It doesn't sound all that complicated, now does it?  And, yet, most of us have not found our place in that state of bliss we dream about.


Why?  Well, there's a little thing called reality.  Reality is, life is complicated and often hard.  We live in a messed up world where things happen.  Things we don't like.  Things we can't control.  People disappoint us.  You know what I'm talking about; you live here. 

Although I am blessed, my life just isn't perfect.  Yours, most likely, isn't either.

We believers and followers of Jesus Christ are not immune to the difficulties of life.  In fact, Jesus told us, "In this life you will have trouble." (John 16:33b).   

Yet, we seem to be surprised when troubles come.  As if somehow being a Christian makes us exempt to the realities of this life. I know I'm guilty!!  I want the hard stuff to stop, the pain to cease and for God to answer my prayers the way I want and...right...now!  Because it's hard and uncomfortable...and, the truth is, I just don't want to deal with it.

The LORD didn't promise us an easy life.  He did promise us that He would go with us and help us through the difficulties. 

When you go through deep waters, I will be with  you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior..." Isaiah 43:2-3

Our pastor shared this a while back, I'm not sure where he got it, but it's brilliant and I don't think he would mind if I shared it here:

The E'z of Discipleship (get the word play, E's and Ease):
I Expect death and sorrow,
I Embrace it as God's will,
I will Endure it, with God's help,
I will Enjoy it as God sanctifies me in the process and equips me for better service.

Expect death and sorrow?  That's a hard pill to swallow, isn't it?!  But, like I said, it's part of this life. It's reality.  Still, look at what comes next...if we learn to embrace it as God's will, we will be able to endure it with His help.  We can even enjoy it as we allow Him to sanctify us (to make us holy, more like Jesus) in the process (WOW!) and equip us for better service.

Anyone who's been through something tough knows how we react to it makes all the difference in the world.  We can become bitter or better.  We can give up or press on in His strength.  We can doubt or choose faith...even when it just doesn't make any sense to us, because we believe what He said.

I find the following verses fascinating:

While Jesus was here on earth, He offered prayers and pleading, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of His deep reverence for
God. Even though Jesus was God's Son, he learned
obedience from the things He suffered. Hebrews 5:7-8

Jesus, God's own beloved Son, cried out to God, His Loving Father, to rescue Him from the painful death He was about to face.  God heard Him.  He heard!  But He did not answer the way Jesus wanted Him too.  Why?  Because He had the bigger picture in mind.  Just as Jesus endured His cross, in complete submission to the Father's will, so are we!

For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation.  II Cor 7:10

God hears the prayers of us, His people.  But our loving Father is more interested in our sanctification than He is in our comfort level.  He knows what's best for us.  The question is, do we trust Him?  

I know from experience that it's often in the difficult, uncertain, sorrowful and sometimes scary things of life that I've learned to humbly depend on Him.  It is in these things that I have had to choose to trust Him. When I submit my will to His will, my whole perspective changes.  I realize that I truly don't want a life of ease, but a life of E'z!  I want to grow and become more like Jesus.

How about you?  Do you want an easy life?  Or will you choose to submit your will to His?  His answer to your prayers may not look the way you want, but He will sanctify you in the process and equip you for better service as His faithful disciple.

I heard someone say something like this once, "You have something BIG to overcome because your purpose is BIG and God is trying to do a work in you through it.  Keep going.  Walk in faith."  And, I add, choose to do so again...and again...and again.  It's not easy, but it's worth it.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Renewed Perspective


Yesterday our church youth group hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for our entire church family and the local mission folks.  The people at the mission are those, often far from home, family and friends, who are there to overcome addiction to either drugs, alcohol or both.

It's always amazing to see how God works.  I know the youth group hosted this event as an outreach to bless the people at the mission.  But, in turn, God used it to bless our entire church family as well.  I was especially blessed to get to sit and visit with the three gals at my table, in addition to hearing three residents share their testimonies and later many others share their heart of gratitude.

These people "get it".  They get just how blessed they are...to be safe, to be saved, to be free from the power of sin and hell, to just be alive.  Unlike many people who sit in a pew their whole life, they know that it's not by their good works that they are saved.  They know they're not good enough.  They know just how much they've been forgiven.  They know how bad it could be and how special it is to walk in His presence.

Through them, my own perspective was renewed.  I was reminded of just how gracious our LORD is!  That there is nothing that can separate me from His love, but also, there is nothing I can do to earn it.  I have been redeemed and set free only by His abundant grace and mercy.

Each of us have a story.  Although mine looks different from theirs, and yours, we're not all that different.  We all have something in common.  We're all broken. We're all sinners.  We are all in need of a Savior!  And our purpose in this life is to glorify God.

I think all of us need a reminder sometimes.

Let's stop for a while today to thank God today for His amazing grace!

Monday, November 4, 2013

FUN DAY Monday Returns!! Thanksgiving Tree.


At the beginning of November last year I saw this fun idea posted on someone's Facebook page (not sure).  Because I always love to find ways to incorporate lessons on gratitude along with some crafty fun into our daily lives I loved the idea right away.  I took the picture of the tree in my head and drew it out on poster board. Then, we taped it together and Andrew (then 5 1/2) colored it in with markers.  We found some leaf shape templates online, printed them out, traced them onto orange, green and yellow construction paper and cut them out. We had so much fun doing this together while Noah (then 2 1/2) napped.  Although it doesn't look quite as "fancy" and "perfect" as the picture that probably came from Pinterest, Andrew thought it was "the coolest thing ever!"  And thanked me repeatedly for making it with him.

This is what it looked like when we we began
Okay, so real trees don't have leaves of more than one shape.  I explained that to Andrew.  But he thought it looked pretty with two different shapes and said, "It's our tree, can't we have it any way we want it?"  Now how could I argue with that?!  Sure we could.  And we did!


Our Pursuit of Thankfulness Began...

Every day, as a family, we removed one leaf.  Each of us told something we were thankful for that day, trying to never repeat the same thing all month.  I wrote it on the leaf and put it on the ground beneath the tree.  Then, we would pray, thanking God for those blessings.

This is what we had at the end.
It was such a great reminder each day to be thankful...and of just how many blessings we enjoy!  And it was fun hearing what others in the family thought of, even our (then) 2 1/2 year old!  As the days accumulated, we had to get more creative because all the "typical" stuff had already been said.  It made us "dig a little deeper".  On Thanksgiving Day we re-read all of the leaves.  It was a special time.  Memories were made and seeds of gratefulness planted.  THANKFUL we took the time to do this together.

This year I hope to make a big paper turkey, adding our thanks to each feather.  But that's for another FUN DAY Monday post.

Remember it's the simplest things that mean the most to our children.  Mostly it's about taking time to do the fun stuff.  When we incorporate life lessons and Biblical values into the fun, memories are made and the lessons often stick better...in their hearts and ours.

"O give thanks to the LORD...for He is good!" 
Psalm 107:1

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Feel free to use this idea in your house...and share the idea with your friends.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Comfortable

The boys and I just finished reading an inspiring book about a great Christian hero named Lillian Trasher.  I will attempt to tell of her life's work in only a few paragraphs.

Lillian Trasher was a missionary to Egypt from 1911 to 1961.  But becoming a missionary was not part of Lillian's original plan.  No, she wanted to be an artist for the Georgian Newspaper.  In fact, she had quite a talent and nearly had the job of her dreams.  But, due to a miscommunication, the job was mistakenly given to someone else.  From there, God lead Lillian to work in an orphanage in North Carolina (that's quite a neat story in itself).

Lillian served in this orphanage for a few years.  There she met a handsome young pastor who she fell in love with and they became engaged.  All the plans were in place and she was so thrilled.  But one week (yes one week!!) before their scheduled wedding, Lillian felt a sudden prompting in her heart to go to Africa as a missionary.  Not only was Lillian engaged to be married to a man who did not feel a call to the mission field, she was absolutely broke and it wasn't exactly a normal thing for a single woman to travel to foreign lands in those years, especially to do mission work.  With no financial backing or a clue what she was getting into, in faith Lillian called off her engagement and (through some very interesting turn of events) sailed for Egypt.

Over the very hard years of her life, Lillian prayerfully and faithfully did the work called her to do.  She opened the very first Egyptian orphanage and took in nearly 10,000 orphans plus thousands of widows in her lifetime.  Many, many times she didn't even know where their next meal would come from, but she trusted God and He always came through for them.

Because of Lillian many children were saved both physically and spiritually.  And the trickle effect was phenomenal.  Many of her children went on to be successful people in the community, even opening churches and other orphanages throughout Egypt.


I'm sharing all of this with you, friends, because I have to tell you what God showed me as I read about Lillian Trasher.  And ask you a question that I asked myself...

Did God Call Us to Be Comfortable?

You know, it would have been really easy for Lillian to ignore God's call.  She could have stayed in America and married the young pastor.  She could have served the church as a pastor's wife her whole life, in security and comfort.  It sure would have saved her a lot of heartache.  It would have looked really good to everyone, because she would have been doing "God's work".  No one would have known the difference...except God, of course.

But Lillian didn't do that.  She didn't ask God to follow and bless her plans.  No, she trusted God and followed His lead even when it was very uncomfortable and certainly inconvenient.  She prayed continually asking for strength and sacrificed it all for God and others, an example of the love of Christ.  She recognized her humble dependence on God day after day after years of days.  And she impacted THOUSANDS of lives!  That is why she is a true Christian hero.

So, let me ask you again...

Did God Call US to Be Comfortable?

I asked myself many questions as I read about Lillian Trasher, "When was the last time I sacrificed to give? How often do I ask Jesus to follow me, rather than the other way around?  How often do I ask Him to bless my plans, especially those seemingly "good and noble" things I am doing "for Him"?  How often do I give in a way that is inconvenient and sacrificial?"

I'm not talking about irresponsible giving!  I'm speaking of a gift that costs me something...not just me giving a little of my abundance.  And I'm not just talking about money, there are many ways to give.  I'm talking about a humble pouring out of myself as a sacrifice, unselfishly.  To give of myself; my time, my resources, my gifts, my energy and yes, even my money, to glorify God and expand His kingdom.  Honestly, it's much easier to sit where I'm comfy cozy.  All the while asking God to use me.

Near the end of Lillian Trasher's life a news reporter asked her, "Miss Trasher, what is the secret of your missionary success?  What is the greatest thing you ever did?"  Lillian's reply, "There isn't any secret.  I just stayed!  I did not quit.  I stayed with the work God gave me to do."

Lord, purify my heart.  Show me how and where to serve - to follow Your call, rather than ask you to follow my plans (even if they seem good).  Show me how to live out the call to live in genuine love.  Enable me to give of my plenty (in numerous ways) through faith, so that You may be glorified.  Not just when it's comfortable and pretty, but all the time.  I'm thankful for all You have given.  Help  me to share of myself as You would.  And continue on even when it isn't easy.  In the name of Jesus, I pray.  Amen.

What about you?  What is God calling you to do?  Not all of us are called to be missionaries, but that doesn't mean He doesn't have work for you to do!  I do not believe that God blesses us so that we can hoard up treasures for ourselves and live unchallenged lives.  Just look at the lives the patriarchs of the Bible, even Jesus himself, they lives were challenging...and fruitful!  In the big things and seemingly small things God blesses faithfulness.

"It is possible to evade a multitude of sorrows through the cultivation of an insignificant life.  Indeed, if a person's ambition is to avoid the troubles of life, the recipe is simple: Shed your ambitions in every direction, cut the wings of every soaring purpose, and seek a life with the fewest contacts and relations.  If you want to get through life with the smallest trouble, you must reduce yourself to the smallest compass.  Tiny souls can dodge through life; bigger souls are blocked on every side.  As soon as a person begins to enlarge his or her life, resistances are multiplied.  Let a person remove petty selfish purposes and enthrone Christ, and suffering will be increased on every side."  Henry Jowett

P.S. Lillian used her God given drawing abilities later on when she designed her own building plans for her first official orphanage building.  God knows just what He is doing!  :)

"And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. But don't begin until you count the cost...you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything." 
Luke 14:27-28, 33

Friday, November 1, 2013

Partly Cloudy with Scattered Worries

Today I am happy to welcome a guest blogger!
Kathy Collard Miller is not only an award winning author, she is someone I call "friend". We connected via blog world several years ago. As we have correspondences through blogging, personal messages and Facebook, she has encouraged and challenged me numerous times. I truly appreciate her caring spirit, loving heart and shared wisdom.
Today I am sharing an interview with Kathy Collard Miller about her book Partly Cloudy with Scattered Worries: Finding Peace in All Kinds of Weather (Lighthouse Publishers of the Carolinas).


I think, if we are honest, all of us would have to admit that there are times when we worry. Kathy shares words of hope, showing how she has personally learned to worry less and trust our Faithful God more.  
Well, I will just let her tell you about it in her own words. :)
Thanks for joining me today, Kathy. Please tell me (and my reading friends), 
What is your book about?
My book helps women, in particular, to trust God more and thus worry less. It is filled with stories from my own life and the lives of others who learned how to do that very thing, along with Biblical principles and practical instruction. But that's not all! (Oh sorry, wrong commercial). I've also included Discussion Questions that a group or an individual can use. Plus, every chapter highlights a woman from the Bible who either struggled with worry or one who overcame her worry. And as if that's not enough, (this is sounding like a commercial), I've closed every chapter with a “Letter From God” which speaks to the reader about what she learned in the chapter.
Who is your book for?
As you can tell, my book is primarily for women readers but I believe men would benefit from it also.
Why do you think people worry?
Of course, there are many reasons but here are a few. We may have experienced some hurtful things in childhood and blamed God. So our hearts are fearful of turning control over to Him. We may think that worry gives us power in another person's life. I remember worrying when my teenaged son had to fly across country by himself to a Christian golf camp. I worried he would miss his connecting flight until God whispered, “You're worried because you want him to need you. Let him need Me.” Oh, how revealing. I could then release that
worry and let God show Himself strong. Additionally, people worry because they really do think worry does some good. One woman told me, “Well, of course, worry works; after all, what I worry about doesn't happen.” I'm sure she was joking (I think!), but in our hearts, we can think it does some good. Unfortunately, worry only makes us tense and then we react in ways we regret. Plus, God isn't honored.
Give us the history of your book.
I'm very excited that Partly Cloudy is being reborn.It's the same book that was published in 2005 and now Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas saw it's value and is re-releasing it. Can I be honest about
something I'm worried about, er, I mean trusting God for? I didn't add anything to the original book and it wasn't until the process was too far along that someone encouraged me to add an update. So offering the same material is a concern because those who already read it won't need it. (Did you know you can be concerned and it doesn't have to turn into worry?) So I'm trusting God that my readers will want to be reminded of the material, knowing that none of us overcomes worry completely.
Why did you write Partly Cloudy with Scattered
Worries?
God was working and transforming me to trust Him more and I wanted to share what I had learned. My desire is to help readers trust God more by being convinced of His greatness, sovereignty, power, love, and involvement.
We can say we trust God but then we give in to anxiety, People Pleasing,controlling others, regrets, fear, and trying to provide for ourselves when God says to wait on Him. Our responses actually reveal that we don't trust God as much as we think we do.
What is your ultimate desire for your ministry?
I've been in ministry for a long time—my first article was published in 1978 and my first book in 1984. Hard to believe since I'm not that old! But in all these years, I've been motivated to minister in such a way that
women see God in truth and then take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). Much of our worry is because we believe lies about God and we allow any thought to permeate our minds as truth. Although I'm learning like everyone else to trust God more and more, I desire to help every woman know she can believe God wants the very best for her and then want His glory.
Are you available for speaking, especially on this topic of overcoming worry?
Oh yes, I love to speak on lots of topics, including overcoming worry. I especially love speaking at women's retreats because I can have extended contact with the women. I can be reached at Kathyspeak@dc.rr.com
BOOK SUMMARY AND BIOGRAPHY:  It is possible to worry less through trusting God more. Regardless of the storms of trials, temptations, worry, uncertainty, confusion, or regrets that you're facing, you can trust God more. Partly Cloudy with Scattered Worries offers a conversational style, personal testimonies, practical illustrations,and solid biblical teaching for breaking anxiety and the devastating effects of worry. Each chapter includes Discussion Questions for individuals or groups, along with a “Letter from God.” In addition, a profile of a woman in the Bible who struggled with or experienced victory over worry is featured in each chapter to inspire every reader to see God's hand in her life.
Kathy Collard Miller is a speaker and author. Her passion is to inspire women totrust God more. She has spoken in 30 states and 7 foreign countries. Kathy has49 published books including Women of the Bible: Smart Guide to the Bible (ThomasNelson) and she blogs at www.KathyCollardMiller.blogspot.com. Kathy lives in Southern
California with her husband of 43 years, Larry, and is the proud grandma of Raphael. Kathy and Larry often speak together at marriage events and retreats.
CHECK OUT THIS LINK to Order your Copy Today!
Thank you, Kathy, for being my guest today. I pray that your book is a success, helping many learn to walk in faith rather than worry.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sufficient Grace...Even When Road Rage Creeps Up

The driver pulled right out in front of me.  How could she not see me?!  She had to have seen me in the left lane, passing another driver in the right lane, going 65 mph down the highway.  But she came flying across the other two lanes going the opposite direction and then right into my lane.  I had to slam on my brakes.  I mean SLAM.  Out of no where an old habit creeped up.  Something I hadn't done in a long time.  Something that I swore I'd never do again.  Out of complete frustration and anger, I laid on the horn and mumbled under my breath something not loving.

Immediately, I felt guilty.  I remembered the MOPS (Mother's of Preschoolers) sticker on the back of my van.  The one the car I just passed most likely saw.  The one the driver of the car I just honked at was about to see as she pulled into the right lane and I passed her.  I remembered my witness.  I remembered the God I serve, my desire to represent Him well and the grace He's shown me over and over and over again.


"His grace is sufficient."  It's easy to talk about grace while sitting in the pew or with my Bible open in study.  But what about in real life, everyday situations I face...like this one?  How do I live it out?  It's not just for me, but for everyone.

If the God of all grace lives in me (and He does), He has filled me with His Holy Spirit, and I have no obligation to live in the flesh.  His grace is enough.  His grace can be extended through me, the kind that pardons the guilty and blesses the unworthy.

I am reminded of how much I have been forgiven.  I remember my own shortcomings...even pulling out in front of someone a time or two, and much greater offenses.  I relish His grace and the grace of others when I am at fault.  I am reminded that I don't know the driver's circumstances.  But I know her need for grace.

I can extend His "abundance of grace."  His supply never runs out.  Not for me, not for others.

So I ask for forgiveness again.  I accept His grace and stop beating myself up.  I forgive, extending grace.  I pray for that driver.  And I pray that I will be more gracious the next time road rage seeks to creep in because I'm seeking to live out His grace in real life.  That means keeping my hand off the horn and my heart and mind pure.

How can you extend grace today?  How can  you accept His grace today?  His grace is sufficient!

"The grace of the Lord is poured out on us abundantly."  
I Timothy 1:4

Friday, October 4, 2013

Write. It Matters.


Today I'm joining the Five Minute Friday link up with the prompt "Write".  I will write for 5 minutes flat with no editing.  Here goes...



Write.  It's what I like to do.  It's also one of the things that frustrates me the most.  I promised myself I would do more of it this year.  I want to.  I write in my head all the time.  But time never seems adequate enough to get it down on paper or to sit at a keyboard and let it flow.  

I see the value in writing.  Yet, I have two blogs that I don't write on a enough.  A prayer journal that "should be" fuller.  Letters, emails, blog posts and journal entries that stay in my head.  Things I could write to encourage others and even myself.  Why don't I write more?

Lack of time.  Busyness.  Writers block and fuzzy thoughts some days.  Or maybe I don't write because I'm not disciplined enough.  Or because I'm such a perfectionist that my words never seem good enough.  Maybe it's a combination of these things.

But each time I think I will quit, I'm reminded of something I wrote that stuck (in my heart and mind or someone else's).  Each time I feel overwhelmed and wonder if it matters, someone tells me how much a certain post, handwritten message or email helped them....or compelled them...or encouraged them.  When I start to think that everything else is "more important", I'm reminded (again) that it certainly does matters.  My words matter.  What I write matters.  And it matter Who I'm ultimately writing it for!

Fact: I need to take the time to write.  It's an outlet and a ministry opportunity.   

So I wrote today, here and there.  And I will continue to try to write as He leads, letting go of the rest.

How about you?  Do you write?  Remember, it does matter.


Today I am joining the 5 Minute Friday link up with the prompt "Write".  I wrote for 5 minutes without editing.  To see what others had to say on this subject, click the link above!

Friday, September 20, 2013

That Perfect Friend: Something In Common

For the Third Thursday Blog Hop this month the topic is "No More Perfect Friends".  It brought to mind a post I shared back on  WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 5, 2011, TITLED: SOMETHING IN COMMON.
I HAVE FOUND FRIENDSHIP IN SOME UNEXPECTED PLACES...  
Something In Common

I am blessed to have friends. A wide variety of friends. As a young person we tend to have friends a lot like us…same grade, same age, same interests, etc. As I’ve aged I’ve made friends with some unlikely people.

I have one friend who thinks passing gas on demand is hilarious (my very lady-like mother will shutter at this thought!). I have another pretty little friend who loves going to yard sales (like me), but has to stop to re-curl her eyelashes and reapply lipstick between stops (unlike me). Then there is another friend who is a great fan of basketball. In fact, she “lived and breathed” it while growing up. Me, well, I’ve never been that interested in basketball, not even as a tall girl who grew up in the Hoosier state. I think I played basketball in P.E. a couple of times. I don’t recall liking it that much. (P.S. I do, however, enjoy watching our nieces and nephew play basketball now!)

There are more friends I could list, but you get the idea. Each of my friends are unique. Each of my friends are special. Each of my friends have taught me something. Some I talk to often, some I do not. Still, they are my friends…and we always manage to pick up right where we left off.

A couple of things I’ve learned down through the years: the old saying is true, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” AND Wilbur the pig from Charlotte’s Web (the kid’s movie) knew what he was singing about when he said, “We have lots in common where it really counts…What we look like doesn’t count an ounce. We have lots in common where it really counts.”  :)

As different as we all are, we’re all a lot alike really. Perhaps we have different interests or talents. Perhaps we have different lifestyles or backgrounds. Perhaps our outward appearances set us apart from one another. Still, what’s inside is more alike than it is not. I don’t like stereotyping any more than I like to be stereotyped myself because I have learned that there’s a lot more to us than what meets the eye.

No matter what our circumstances we all have our aches and pains…whether physical or internal. We all have times of stress and times of joy…and all of us desire to share these times with someone.

We’re human beings which means we’re looking for happiness and no matter what happiness we find, we’re always looking for something else…something more. The successful single woman wishes for a mate. The married woman wishes for a more romantic husband…or for the “perfect” marriage that all of us grew up dreaming of (that no one told us takes a lot of work to achieve). The career woman longs to stay home. The stay-at-home mom longs for adult conversation and interaction. You get the idea!

We all experience times of loneliness no matter who surrounds us. We are humans with flaws, with insecurities and we make our own share of mistakes. We all have selfish tendencies. Yet, we all have a desire to love and be loved. We need each other.

Still, more than that we need a Savior! We don’t need a religion; we need a relationship with the One and only true God!

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Romans 3:23 BUT there is HOPE for those of us who believe!!  II Corinthians 5:15 says that Jesus Christ died for everyone so that those who choose to receive Him can have a new life! AND "...anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" II Corinthians 5:17 

I’m thankful for my friends. I’m thankful for my family. I’m glad to know we all have so much in common and to know that I’m not alone in my feelings. I need other people. BUT none of these people can fulfill the longings in my heart to be accepted, understood and completely loved as Jesus Christ can!! No one else can free me! No one else paid the penalty for me! No One else can give me a NEW LIFE!  No one else fills that empty longing like my Savior, Jesus! No one else can give me TRUE hope, peace and joy!

HE is that One that all of us need!

What do you have in common with the widow down the street? The old man on the bench at Wal-Mart? The teenager sitting across from you with her arms crossed? The teller at the bank or the cashier at the grocery store? I believe the answer is, way more than you might have ever imagined!

Who within your reach needs a loving friend today? Who needs to meet your Savior, the best friend of all? I encourage you to open your eyes and see, REALLY see, others around you today! You may be surprised what you find…and what friends you make!

I am blessed to have friends! I am even more blessed to have a relationship with my Savior, Jesus Christ!! 

If you’re the one longing for a friend, I encourage you to reach out. Reach out to others and reach out your heart to the One who loves you…the One who created you and sent His son to die for you…the One who can fill those empty longings! If you have questions or need someone to talk to, please e-mail me rachel.beran@yahoo.com I’d love to talk with and pray for you!! I bet we have a lot in common.  :)
Remember: No one cares to meet your Savior, until they’ve seen the reality of His love lived out in your life!

This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends. John 15:13

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

It All Begins In the Mind!


This week I started a new online study of "Prayers for a Woman's Soul" by Julie K. Gillies.

I've had this wonderful prayer devotional book for a while and have read it.  But I chose to do this study for three reasons:

1. I love Julie K. Gillies (and knew she would lead me the right way!)
2. I knew it would be profitable (time in prayer and God's Word always is!)
3. I knew I needed to get refocused on my prayer time (it's been a busy summer!)

As we started out the week focused on the topic of Chapter 1: My Mind, I knew this study was just what I needed.  :) God has done what He always seems to do, reestablished the message over and over throughout the week...at every turn!

Examples:

Through time in His Word He revealed to me a bad attitude I had toward a family member that began in my mind.

Through our mentor mom at MOPS I was reminded to discern fact from feeling (what is true?!) in relation to controlling our emotions, again something that begins in my mind.

Through a Christian radio program I was reminded that what I tell myself (in my mind) will affect every other part of my life.

Julie says that the enemy's plan is to consistently assault our minds until we surrender. She wrote, "The number-one way to resist the enemy is through prayer. Though the attacks against our mind can be subtle, God grants discernment when we ask Him."

It's true!  As I've focused on My Mind in prayer this week, He has revealed to me the negative mindsets that hinder not only my walk with Him, but every other relationship in my life.  Insecurity (self-focus), pride, negativity, anger, a critical spirit.  It all goes back to my mind!

Maybe you struggle with fear, worry, envy, comparison, lust.  Whatever your struggle, it goes back to your mind.  These negative mindsets must be replaced with the Truth that we find in His Word (the Holy Bible).  

We truly do need to take every thought captive and be transformed by the renewing of our minds through Christ.  And Julie is right when she says there is no better place to start than through prayer. When we ask for discernment and help, He is faithful to answer!

If you're interested in joining Julie's study (or would just like to read the first chapter of her book for yourself) check out this link.

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove that the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."  
Romans 12:2

"So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace." 
Romans 8:6

P.S. Julie K. Gillies did not ask me to write a post about her study, I just felt led to this morning.  :)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Will He Be the Last?

Today I'm joining the Five Minute Friday link up with the prompt "Last".  I will write for 5 minutes flat with not editing.  :)

Last...

I look at his sweet, 3 year old face and I wonder, "Will he be the last?"  My Noah.  He is my little one.  The one others say looks like me.  The affectionate, compassionate, tender-hearted, very expressive little one.  He melts my heart and makes me smile.

My oldest has his own special traits. Andrew is hard working, deep thinking, inquisitive, daring and a detail oriented leader (even at 6).  He loves quality time with mom (which I love too!).  But, his ability to freely and sincerely offer words of encouragement is one of the things I love about him most.




Both of them incredibly bright, talkative and full of energy.  Each of them a unique and special individual.

I wonder what our three babies in Heaven would have been like blended into our family.

Sometimes with a bit of sadness I wonder, "Will he be the last?"  I'm open to what God has for us.  Another child or not.  Another pregnancy, adoption or foster care.  Something else?  Still, I grieve what could have been.  What I thought was a perfect plan.

As I cuddle my two growing babies, both last and first, I praise God for what He's given and I cherish them.  Trusting that He gives what's best.  Knowing I'm never His last priority, rather His first choice.  So I surrender my ideas, in faith believing His plan is the perfect one...even when I don't understand all of it.  Even when I have no idea what that plan will look like in the days ahead.

Today as I wonder about my future as a mom, I, one more time, but probably not for the last time, lift up my hands and let go to the One I trust. Whether Noah is my last child or not, I anxiously anticipate what God has for me next.


"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11


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Monday, August 12, 2013

Transformation Through His Word

On Saturday I had the opportunity to to share my testimony at ReNEWed Life Women's Event.  The focus was "How God has Transformed My Life Through the Word".  Here I will share what I said (or at least close to it)

Really there was soooo much more I wanted to say.  I mean, really, how has the Word NOT transformed my life?!  I love God's Word!  But I had a 5 minute or less goal (even though I think I might have talked 6 minutes).  This seems like such a vague overview of my life and the way the LORD has worked in me.  Then again, I believe it was what He wanted me to say for "such a time as this"...and so I never want to say more or less than that.  :) 


I grew up faithfully attending church and went to Christian school from kindergarten through 12th grade.  At the young age of 5 I made the choice at the preaching of the Word of God to ask Jesus Christ to be my personal Savior.  I had a strong faith growing up.   I was taught the Word.  I even memorized a lot of scriptures. 

But as a young adult I found myself in a different place.   I was not only exposed to different ways of thinking,  I became angry with God when things didn’t go the way I thought they should.  I aslo had this nagging feeling that I could never measure up to the perfectionistic expectation God and others put on me. So I gave up.   One bad choice at a time, I began living life my own way.   I sought after the things the world had to offer me.     

During that time, I twisted the Word of God to fit my own agenda.  I told myself that it didn’t really matter how I lived, what I did or what others thought of me, that God loved me and I was okay with Him.   I thought I was so free.  But I had forgotten the truth I had learned, that a person can either be slave to Christ or a slave to sin, there is no other way.

Even though I was still often smiling on the outside, inside I was so conflicted.  The Holy Spirit used the Truth I learned as a girl to convict me.  I couldn’t escape it.  His Word most certainly is alive and active…” (Heb 4:12) and it was working in me. 

One day I came to a crossroads.  The world had left me, as it always does, in a pit.  My poor choices had left me with consequences.  I fell down on my knees and cried out to God.  I asked Him to forgive me and I promised to submit my life to Him completely. 

Everything changed from that day.  I realized I had been believing a lie.  God never asked me to be perfect.  But He did say, “If you love me you will obey me.”  Ironically, when I became a slave to Christ, I never felt freer!

When I recommitted my life to the LORD, I began to get back into His Word and let His Word get into me.  I have found that every time I open the Bible (with little kids it can be hard to find time, but when I take the time) God show me something that is relevant to my life.  I have grown in my faith.  I’m thankful for that because when hard days come (and they still come whether you’re a Christian or not), I am prepared.  I have my heart and mind set on Truth.   

I was thankful for that foundation when despite being overjoyed at the birth of our first son, weeks later my hormones plummeted and I experienced a severe case of PPD.  I was filled with such hopelessness, fear, despair and a desire to die.  It was the Word of God, the Truth that I knew from being in His Word beforehand; the Truth that other shared with me that got me through.  I repeated over and over II Tim 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.”

Then the miscarriages came.  During those tough days others spoke words of encouragement to us, but it was the Truth in God’s Word, that encouraged me the most.  Yes, it was hard.  But even in the midst of grief His Word filled me with peace and hope.   

(I wish I would have shared what I originally planned...I knew that as Proverbs 3:5 says that I must "Trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding.")

When I had my third miscarriage last year, I knew it was time to put the faith I said I had into action.  Faith is taking God at His Word.  In Psalm 33 (4-5, 20-22) I read, “For the Word of the LORD holds true and we can trust everything He does.  He loves whatever is just and good; the unfailing love of the LORD fills the earth. We put our hope in the LORD.  He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice for we trust in His holy name.”  The question was did I believe it.  I chose to believe.  No, I didn’t understand why, and I still don’t, but I don’t have to really, because I trust my Master. 

I still have a lot to learn and that’s why I keep going back to His Word.

This isn’t just for me, friends.  As I close I want you to know, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from or even where you’ve been or what you’ve done, God has a plan for your life.  There’s nothing He can’t forgive.  There’s no one He won’t change.  There’s not one thing He won’t see you through… if you will submit your life to Him completely.  Get into His Word.  Abide in it.  “Then” as John 8:32 says, “you will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free.” 

Soon I hope to share more about that fabulous day at ReNEWed Life Women's Event.  After so much planning and preparation, it was a joy to see it all come to fruition.  It was a day of answered prayers!  Our God-gifted and spirit-led guest speaker, Wendy Blight, spoke beautiful Truth to our hearts. The worship music was amazing!  The other local speakers "hit it out of the ball park"!  God was glorified...and my heart rejoices!  He is amazing!!