Category: Growing in Faith

Listening to God

Today I was reading from the book of Jeremiah (Ch. 26). Heavy stuff. I thought to myself, “geeze Louise why didn’t they ever just listen?” Then this little voice in the back of my head said, “why don’t you?” Yikes, then I had to think about it.

I noticed that God ALWAYS warns us before we get ourselves into trouble. He doesn’t withhold knowledge of His Will from us. In the Old Testament He gave the people prophets. Now under the New Testament & Covenant He has given us His Word in the Bible and He has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth (John 16:13). The Spirit of God ministers to us through the scriptures, through our own conscious, through our Church leaders, through our friends, even through our own children sometimes (don’t you just love those moments *cough, cough*). It seems the voice of God is everywhere IF we choose to listen.

How often are we too busy, too tired, too distracted, too “whatever” to notice that the Spirit of God is present to guide us?
How much frustration and hurt could be avoided if we took a moment to listen?
What would the day be like if we heeded His warning or followed His lead?
Where would it take us?
Who would benefit with us?
What if? What if instead of charging on ahead with my own words and deeds, I took a deep breath and listened to His voice? What if I paused long enough to receive His instruction?
What if I started right now? Today?
With just one deep breath…

Expressing Emotions

Why is it that we need someone to tell us it is okay to feel? I’ve noticed over the years, especially in Christian circles, that we seem to think we have to be positive and smile ALL THE TIME. Now hold on there- I’m not advocating inflicting the world with a hateful attitude on a daily basis. I’m just saying it is time to be REAL.

Be HONEST.

Women tell me their struggles and then hurry to apologize. “I’m so sorry. Its been a little rough. I know I have so much to be grateful for. I shouldn’t feel this way. There are so many others suffering worse than I am…” I have heard you say this. I’ve said it too.

Why?

Christian women hear so many teachings against being ruled by their emotions. We’re taught that emotions can be destructive, they can lead us away from the truth, and they can destroy our faith. While these teachings are indeed true, we loose sight of another truth.

God FEELS.

Our great and almighty GOD, Creator of the universe, Lord above all, has and expresses emotion. He created us in HIS image. Would He give us emotions and then condemn us for feeling them? Of course not! It’s okay to feel what you feel. It’s okay to appropriately express what you feel.

And you know what?

You may just set another sister free. Your honest expression of emotion coupled with your prayer and confessions of faith may just loose someone else from their bondage of misguided “perfection.”  Think about it. We women are always looking and comparing ourselves and our lives to others. Unfortunately, most often we are comparing ourselves to unrealistic images of perfection. The enemy lies to us: “she never feels that way…you are weak…God is so disappointed in you…” We swallow those ugly lies hook, line, and sinker.

What if what other women saw in you was real?

What if your honesty encouraged another sister to seek help for her depression? What if it set an example for your children on how to appropriately express their own emotions? What if someone in your social group was inspired to lay down her burden of a perfect image and get real too? What if your story could change the world?

You are not supposed to be perfect.

But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) 
and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. 
2 Corinthians 12:9 (AMP)
 
Go ahead, feel what you feel. Name what you feel. Share what you feel if you need to share. Pray about what you feel.  And then…
          Release it.
 
Angry Face
Angry Face


                                        

Gratitude When Seasons Change

Fall is my favorite season. It always has been. As a native Mississippian, autumn signals a nearing end to sweltering hot temperatures and oppressive humidity. In autumn the temperatures cool, the colors warm, and life seems to slow down a bit. It’s a natural time for me to pause and reflect on changing seasons.

I seem to be settling in to this new season of my life.  Kentucky has been good to us. Adjusting to a new location and a whole new way of life hasn’t always been easy. Change is good, though. It keeps us fresh. 
   Stimulated. 
      Challenged. 
          Curious. 
              Aware.
We left behind close family, good friends, and a more refined way of life.
We made new friends.
We found new adventures.
We embraced a new way of life.
We’ve found peace.

Patience Pays

Somehow I knew when I married this man of mine that life was going to get… adventurous. Complicated, crazy, wild- those words come to mind too but adventurous is so much nicer.
We’ve been living in beautiful Kentucky now for a year. It is time to put down some roots, sooooooo…

We’ve pulled the RV out to a farm! Now I have to confess: this photo is not MY farm. It’s a lovely local barn. I have a thing for barns. My farm is still “cooking,” so to speak.  We have to develop a road, build a barn, purchase livestock and equipment. My son and I are going to be very busy trying to get a good start before cold winter sets in.
Patience has paid off, my dear friends. We have a beautiful site in which to live, kind neighbors, and a grand adventure ahead of us. This year has taught me so many things. I’ve learned to do a lot more with a lot less. I’ve learned that patience is more of endurance than it is “putting up with.” I’ve especially learned that love indeed NEVER fails.

 

A Little Homesick

I need to get this off my chest.  You’ll be my sounding board, won’t you? I miss writing. I miss having the time to process all my ideas. I miss being able to finish a project. I miss my sewing machine. I miss bubble baths. I REALLY miss bubble baths. BAD.  Real bad. Wait… give me a second, I might just cry over the whole bubble bath thing…

Ok, I’m better. Where was I? Missing things: my family, my old home, my friends… Moving from Mississippi to Kentucky has been a great opportunity for my family.  My husband’s job is tons less stressful. We see him so much more now. Big plus! He has regular hours which is a huge blessing for us. South Eastern KY is so beautiful! Our town is clean, friendly, slower-paced- lovely in every way. Even though we are temporarily living in our RV (shower only, no tub) God has given us a special grace to deal with the close quarters for the past nine months. There’s been a learning curve that’s for sure but on the whole, life has been just charming.  

Still, there’s a nagging little longing for the people back home. A nagging for closet space. A nagging for my jacuzzi tub. A nagging for time to myself. I remind myself that these things will come.  Our house in MS will sell.  We will find the perfect spot here to build.  My folks will visit next month. One day my boy will be grown and I will have too much time and long for the days when he demanded all my time and attention.

How complex God has made us with the ability to feel and balance so many emotions! Gratitude for the many blessings here counter-balance the homesick blues there. We attend an awesome Church.  I’ve settled into a MOPS group.  We have made so many dear friends in a short time. Ah yes, life is good…

Still, I really want a bubble bath.

My Life Verse

image
The Lord settles me in my home and makes me to be 
a JOYFUL mother of children.
Praise to the Lord!
(Psalms 113:9)
This has been my mantra for the past several years. I cannot even count the number of times I have recited it. I used to confess it before I even met my husband in a faith-goal sort of way. After we were married and conception became a challenge I clung to this verse as desperate promise. Now I say it as a thankful prayer and reminder- especially on the tough mommy days.
Do you have a life verse? Do you use scripture to keep you focused? Please share!
 

Jesus Love me This I Know…

Do you know that God loves you? I mean, really, really, really loves you.  It’s a given for most Christians, right? The whole John 3:16 thing- EVERYone knows it.  Even non-believers at football games know it. It’s probably the most memorized verse in the whole Bible. It’s the foundation of every believer’s salvation. But you know what? I’ve walked this earth for 43 years and I’m just now beginning to understand that God loves ME- me, as an individual. Sounds a little weird, huh?Heart Rocks by LN

Heart Rocks by LN

I knew God loved me in the sense of John 3:16. I knew he loved me as a part of this world He created, a part of all mankind, as a part of His Church. I always felt though like He loved me because He HAD to, as a parental obligation. I figured He probably didn’t like me very much. I thought He had to be perpetually disappointed in me because of past stupid decisions, common mistakes, a sassy attitude, and multiple failures.  He couldn’t possibly LIKE me. He knows everything. He knows my heart. He knows my secrets. He knows I don’t measure up. How could He possibly like me?


Now you might think that this is crazy. It is. It is TOTALLY crazy. That’s what happens after years of comparing myself to others, after years of self-imposed condemnation, years of listening to the lies of the enemy. Know what’s even crazier? What that kind of thinking leads to: a life of trying to be worthy of salvation. It’s the complete antithesis of grace and mercy! It is a never ending striving to obtain the unobtainable. It’s a life void of the very peace and joy that Christ died to give us. The life His resurrection promises is ours.

His forgiveness, mercy and grace mean that He loves ME- and YOU just the way we are. Do you love your children? Of course! We love them even when they are not, gasp, perfect. He loves us, knowing we will never, ever be perfect.  When we are at our very worst, He loves us.
               

Romans 5:1, 8


For the past year, God has been showing me and teaching me at virtually every turn that HE loves me. Yes, even me.  It is such a relief to know that I can stop trying to earn His affection! This revelation has birthed an even greater love that I have in my heart for others. What freedom! What joy! What true gospel- good news!

Have you ever struggled with false guilt? Do you compare yourself to other Godly women? Have you ever felt unworthy of His love? Well just stop it right now! I mean right now.  Want to learn more? Need encouragement? Check out these resources:
                



What To Do When You’re Hanging On

Today as I write this, I am sitting at Starbucks enjoying a latte and a kid-free morning thanks to the Mothers Day Out program at the First Baptist Church.  Big deal, right? Well…it is for me. TOTALLY new experience. I feel so hip and cool: writing, sipping coffee, grooving to Muddy Waters. (Thank you, Starbucks for making this Mississippi girl feel right at home with the blues. Someone must have told you I was coming.)

It’s funny, listening to blues music when everything in my body screams “happy, happy, happy!” Metaphorically speaking, I’m finally enjoying some warm sunshine after a long, very cold rain. You know how sometimes you feel like you are hanging on by a thread? For a long time? You get weary. You get gloomy. You’re tempted to give up hope. Everything gets a little gray. I just left that place, so I know how you feel.

I’m so glad that I didn’t give in to those feelings. Yeah, some days I switched to auto-pilot… Plastered on the smile anyway. You know the drill. After a long time, though it begins to feel like it will never get better. For my family it was a series of tough-break circumstances. Maybe in your case it’s an illness, job loss, divorce, or crisis of another sort. I don’t know what the event is but I do know that nothing last forever. Cliche’ but true. Sometimes it just takes a while. What do you do in the mean time? I’ll share what helped me:

  • Press in to scripture. Let God comfort you. Let Him guide you. Let Him love you through it.
  • Lean in to trusted friends. It’s okay to let others see you in your not so perfect state.
  • Smile anyway. I read in a medical magazine that smiling and laughing can improve a blue mood
  • Take a gratitude inventory. Really count your blessings. Be mindful in your everyday moments
  • Reach out to someone else needing help. Practice hospitality, sharing, and encouraging others
  • Objectively evaluate your circumstance. Change what you can and pray through the rest.
Don’t give up – just hang on a little longer!

Sometimes things get a little worse it seems before they get better. It did for us. God rewards the faithful, though, so keep on. I am pleased to say that the series of troubles is over for the moment. My family is enjoying a reprieve from spiritual and physical battles. My husband has accepted a career change that included a relocation to Kentucky.

Everything seems so new and fresh (and 15 degrees cooler). We have been blessed with a small town in the mountains full of friendly people. Autumn is bringing crisp air, changing colors, and a whole new beginning for us. I’ll post more about our adventure in getting here later.

Right now, I want to pray for you. “Father, I want to lift up this reader to you. You know what they are going through and you know exactly what they need. Bless them with, strength, direction, and endurance. Let them experience Your presence and fullness of joy. In Jesus’ name, Amen”

Feeling…crunchy? When You Have A Bad Day

Do you ever have days when you feel like this?

You know, the kind of day that overwhelms you. One that makes you feel attacked. Consumed. Crunched on. Maybe it’s a week, a month or even a season. Do you ever feel like circumstances are chewing you up and spitting you out?

I’ve been going through one of those seasons lately. It seems like stress and challenges are coming from every direction. Some days my husband and I look at each other with the “how much more can we possibly take?” look. While this is season is not yet over, I have learned a few things going through this difficult time.

  • Some things are just plain out of my control. Can’t fix it, can’t eliminate it, can’t do squat about it. I can; however, PRAY. I can pray for grace to accept it, mercy to deal with my frustrations, peace to let go of trying to control it, strength to endure it, and patience until it gets better.
  • Complaining only makes it worse. Sure its good to vent every now and then but getting stuck in an ungrateful, grumbling attitude is what got the Hebrew children stuck in the wilderness for forty years. I do not want to get stuck here! I want to move on to better times. I have to purpose my speech and my attitude to be one that God can bless.
  • It won’t last forever. Circumstances always change. Life never stands still. I will get through it. One step in front of the other and one day at a time, I will move through this season on to the next.  
  • Take care of myself in the meantime. Eat nutritiously. Get adequate sleep. Read uplifting spiritual material. Limit negative influences (TV, gossip, etc.) when possible. I must treat my body and mind well if I expect it to carry me through seasons of trial. 
  • Lighten up. Laugh. Be silly. Count my blessings. Appreciate the love and beauty in each moment. Sometimes I just have to get out of my head and into the present moment. I can enjoy life even when it is trying. I just have to look and try a little harder in the difficult days.  
How do you cope with difficult times? What are some of the ways you keep yourself from sinking into despair? Do you laugh in the face of adversity or do you grit your teeth and bear it? Share with me. Lets grow together.

Learning to Lighten Up

For the past two months my life has been consumed with doctor appointments. Everything is fine.  No, everything is WONDERFUL because I do NOT have breast cancer.  (I wanted to lead in with that right off the bat so you wouldn’t be worried.)  During this time of driving an hour back and forth to the hospital (four separate mammograms, an ultrasound, a MRI, a MRI assisted biopsy, and ultimately a lumpectomy) and waiting on test results from all these procedures I’ve learned a lot about myself and my faith.

When the doctors first stated that they suspected that I had cancer, I knew that with out any shadow of a doubt that I would be okay (okay as in NOT die). Don’t ask me how I knew, I just knew.  I guess that’s what faith is.  I had Psalms 118:17 deep down inside of me screaming “I will not die but live and declare the glory of the Lord.”

I distinctly remember standing at the kitchen counter.  The nurse called. She told me that I needed to come back for a “second look.”  She explained that the hospital’s machines were more powerful.  She told me there was a “suspicious spot.” I got off the phone.  I posted the appointment on the refrigerator.  I prayed – not a long prayer.  It wasn’t even a faith-filled prayer but it was an honest prayer. I said, “Lord, I just don’t want to go through this.” After awhile, the verse Matthew 28:20 came to me, “I am always with you.”  Thank you, Lord but I really wanted to hear John 19:30 “it is finished.” With that I knew that this would be something I would just have to walk through. Long or (hopefully) short, I was about to embark on a journey.

These were the things that went through my head in rapid-fire succession:

  • I don’t have time for this. I have Christmas shopping. I have MOPS meetings. I looked at my calendar (yes, for real) and justified the “I just don’t have time for this” mentality.  In my world if I don’t write it down – it does not exist.  Period. I have chores. I have homeschooling. Then BAM. Second thought…
  • I’m homeschooling.  How in the heck am I going to homeschool, clean the house, cook supper AND have cancer?  I mean, really, breast cancer means LOTS of doctor appointments.  Lots of medical bills. Bills we don’t have the money for right now. My hospital is an hour away.  Breast cancer means tests, surgery, chemotherapy. BAM again. Third thought…
  • Chemotherapy.  Wait, that makes you sick.  I don’t have time to be sick (yes the time thing again…I know, NO ONE has time to be sick…). Chemo makes you sick.  Chemo makes your…hair…fall out.  BAM. Fourth thought…
  • What if my hair falls out?  I’ve worked so hard to grow it out from years of a super-short pixie. It finally looks half-way decent.  I don’t want it to fall out. I took a deep breath and thought, well if it falls out, it falls out.  I’ll wear cute scarfs. What if my husband thinks I’m ugly? My husband…BAM. Fifth thought…
  • My husband.  What is he going to do? Is he going to be okay? This is going to be so hard on him. This is going to be especially hard on him.  It hasn’t been that long since we watched his mother wither and vanish before our eyes from cancer.  Can we even speak that word? (Another note: in my world if we don’t speak it, it doesn’t exist.) Will he be able to bear hearing that dreaded, fearful word? I whispered it, “cancer.” Nothing happened.
Every test just resulted in yet another test.  The doctor apologized, “cancer is usually so clear, black and white. Either it is or it isn’t but your case is different.” Well that’s of no comfort, I tell you. I just kept telling myself it would be okay- even if I had…swallow hard and whisper…cancer. I told myself it was just a word.  I would not fear a word used by doctors to describe a particular set of physical symptoms.  It was just a word. I repeated it in my mind and said it out loud, “it’s just a word.” I know a greater Word. His Word. THE WORD.  His word says by His stripes I am healed (1Peter 2:24). His word says He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases (Psalms 103:3).  His Word says I am more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37). His Word says it all works out for my good (Romans 8:28).
Test after test after test. My patience was growing thin. Christmas, then New Year’s, more tests.  I was still recovering from a surgery in November and felt my body getting weary from the traveling, the waiting, and the wanting it to be over so we could get on with our regular life. Finally the doctor recommended that I have a lumpectomy to remove a pre-cancerous radial sclerosis. My husband and I were actually glad- now we had a plan. We had a solution. Hopefully, we thought, we would have an end to this.
I had surgery last Thursday and after a very long weekend the nurse called. She said the pathology report showed no signs of malignancy.  Praise the Lord! She said they had removed the lump and surrounding tissue. I will have a post-op exam next week where I expect the doctor to say that this is indeed all over.
As I write this (ice pack on right breast, ibuprofen within reach) I have to admit that I just don’t know how people survive life without faith. It may sound corny, but it truly is “so sweet to trust in Jesus.” Life gets messy and sometimes we go though tough times.  My husband and I both had such a reassurance that no matter what we went though, it would all be okay.  We would adjust. We would overcome (Revelation 12:11).  We would triumph (2 Corinthians 2:14). We knew because God says so.

I’ve also learned that I’m WAY too tied up in defining my life by the tasks that I do.  I am not my schedule.  I am not my chores. I am not my dozen or so lists. While all my little organization tricks are great, they are just tools that I use. I spent the past two months just being with my family. Some of the chores were left undone, some of the items didn’t get checked off the list, we ate a lot of take-out, and you know what? The world did not fall apart. I let people help me and you know what else? It didn’t mean I was less of a wife or mother. Now these things may be common sense to you. For me it has been a huge revelation.

When you define yourself by what you do, 
you judge yourself by what doesn’t get done.
Now, I’m not going to use this as an excuse to get all sloppy and lazy…we can’t have total chaos afterall!

I am going to lighten up and 
keep trusting my wonderful Lord.

‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus

  1. ’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
    Just to take Him at His Word;
    Just to rest upon His promise,
    And to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”
    • Refrain:
      Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
      How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
      Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
      Oh, for grace to trust Him more!
  2. Oh, how sweet to trust in Jesus,
    Just to trust His cleansing blood;
    And in simple faith to plunge me
    ’Neath the healing, cleansing flood!
  3. Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
    Just from sin and self to cease;
    Just from Jesus simply taking
    Life and rest, and joy and peace.
  4. I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
    Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
    And I know that Thou art with me,
    Wilt be with me to the end.