“I will praise the Lord no matter what happens. I will consistently speak of all His glories and grace. I will boast of all His kindness to me. Let all who are discouraged take heart. Let us praise The Lord together, and exalt His name. For I cried to Him and He answered me! He freed me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:1-4 The Living Bible
This verse was part of the reading for my morning devotion today, and wow did it hit home. After my experience the last few days, it was the perfect verse and a reminder that it’s important to share these stories.
I’ve been feeling stressed and unfortunately my reaction to stress is to overeat. I know it’s not healthy, I know it’s not wise, I know in a way it denies my claim of faith – that I can rely on God to help me through anything and everything. But I felt powerless to stop. And finally two days ago as I was driving to work I reached my limit. I cried out to God, literally. People passing me may have thought I was crazy. I spent a good ten minutes talking out loud to God. I asked Him to help me understand why I couldn’t seem to rely on Him, instead turning to food for comfort. I reminded God, and myself, that I had asked Him to fill the God-shaped hole inside me. And that when He answered my prayer my life had changed drastically. I asked God to help me remember how much He loved me and wanted only the best for me. I offered Him my worries and my fears and by His grace I was able to leave them there. That day, the urge to eat just for the sake of eating was less and I felt encouraged.
Then yesterday as I was driving to work I realized I had left my phone at home. My first instinct was to proceed on to work as I don’t really need it, but then I thought about my mom. When she needs me, she always calls my cellphone. I decided to go back home to get my phone. I couldn’t leave her without a way to reach me, even if it meant I would be late for work. As I turned toward home, I felt the stress settle back around me. And that is when God helped me recognize the heart of my issue. I am my mother’s main support now. I’m glad to be able to help and do what I can for her, but I can’t do everything she needs, or even everything I might wish I could. And in that moment I realized that was my problem. I feel guilty for not doing more. My stress comes from feeling like I am failing my mother. But I give what I can, and I vowed in that moment to remember that God is there with me – and with my mother – and I do not need to do it all. I felt the stress begin to lift and as I rounded a curve in the road, God gave me the exclamation point to His reminder. The truck coming toward me had a sign below it’s license plate with one simple word – Jesus.
The rest of the day, my appetite was back to normal. I was comforted that my focus was back where it belonged and my stress was under control. God had heard my plea and answered me. He understood my fear and loved me even when I doubted His presence.
So now, you can see why the Psalm I read this morning prompted this post. I had to speak of God’s love and mercy and share how He is always near and ready to hear when we call..
I have a sticker on the front of my Bible, it’s been there so long that I usually don’t even see it. But when I picked up my Bible this morning I noticed that one side of the sticker is starting to lift, and that made me stop and really look at it. And I was struck by how appropriate it’s message is, especially at this time of year…
“God blesses each season of our lives with a beauty all it’s own.” A simple premise really, but filled with deeper meaning if we take the time to really look at it.
The first thought that occurred to me? This is a promise that God is paying attention to what is going on in our lives. If God is not paying attention, how would God notice the the seasons we are in? I find great comfort in the reminder that I am important enough that God pays attention to those details in my life.
As I thought about it a bit more, I realized that it means God is not just paying attention, but wants what is best for us and by blessing us helps us to achieve that.
It’s also a reminder that each season has it’s own beauty. I think that sometimes when we experience change in our lives – whether it’s illness, injury, the death of a loved one, aging parents, or any of another of the multitude of changes we face in the course of our lifetime – we focus on the loss we feel rather than the possibilities of the new season. At this time of year, it’s so easy to focus on missed chances and unrealized goals from the preceding months. But the beauty lies in the possibilities and opportunities ahead. There will always be change, we have no choice in that. But what we can choose is how we handle those changes.
My wish for you, for all of us, in the coming year, is that we be open to the beauty God offers us and that we not only recognize, but seek out God’s blessings. 2016 is filled with potential, and with God we have so many opportunities. It’s up to each one of us to look for the blessings of joy and beauty that God offers us.
Happy New Year!
My 5 year old granddaughter gave me a heart-shaped sticker that said “Love God”. As she’s just learning to read, she asked me what it said. When I told her, it got me thinking about how different punctuation can change the meaning of that simple phrase.
Love God. – A gentle reminder that I am called to love the God who loves me. The relationship I have with God is one of mutual respect and I’m grateful to be able to give love back for all that God has given me.
Love God! – How can anyone demand love from another person, even if it is for God? That emotion is a personal choice. And demanding anything from someone else is disrespectful, definitely not what God wants from us or for us. God wants an honest relationship with us, not something that we do because we feel someone else expects it of us.
Love God? – For those unsure of their relationship with God and perhaps exploring their faith. How blessed we are that God welcomes us where we are, as we are. Questions and doubts are not only okay, they are welcome. God knows we have difficulty accepting things we cannot understand and recognizes that questions are our way of working our way closer to God.
Love God… – Not the end point, but along the way of our faith journey. Love is an ongoing process, it grows and expands as we learn more about God and God’s love for us.
Love, God – My personal favorite. God writes us a love letter every day. From sunrise to sunset, God paints our days with beauty, offering tangible reminders of how God loves us and cares for us. The sun and rain, the moon and stars, flowers and smiles, hugs and kind words – these are God’s palette. I am so grateful for these gifts, and that God understands that I may need daily reminders.
I saw a sign for a Christmas service the other day and it’s title resonated with me. It simply said “the thrill of hope”. I have been turning that phrase over and over in my mind – as well as singing O Holy Night! – seeking God’s message for me. Several thoughts have come out of my musings…
We use the word hope so often that it seems to have lost some of it’s power. Hope is a deep wellspring of anticipation for the future, a yearning for better days and better ways. It lives within each of us and waits for us to give it the least bit of encouragement. Picture the stray flower that seems to magically grow out of a sidewalk or driveway. There doesn’t seem to be any source of nourishment, any way the flower could survive, and yet it does. That is hope. There doesn’t seem to be a reason for hope, yet we hope. And that’s the beauty of hope.
The other thought revolved around the idea of a “thrill” of hope. With so many heartbreaking things going on around the world hope seems hard to come by, let alone a thrilling kind of hope. But in this Advent season, we need to remember that the world Jesus was born into was also filled with strife. If God could see a reason to hope for the betterment of human-kind in those days, why is today any different? Just imagine, God trusts us enough to continue to reach out to us, to surround us with love and offer us hope for the future. That’s what I call thrilling.
I wish each of you the thrill of a hope filled Christmas. It may not be the kind of hope that others can see, like the fragment of soil that supports the flower in the sidewalk. But like the flower, may you allow it to nourish you so that you too can blossom and share that thrill of hope.
We lost my mother-in-law last week when God called her home after 93 years. She was an amazing woman, and her deep faith was equalled only in her belief that family was God’s greatest gift. Though feeding everyone would be a very close finisher!
I am blessed to be able to say she taught me many things, but the greatest was the importance of keeping family in my heart and in my prayers. As her health failed and her strength waned, she wasn’t able to cook for her family as she would have liked. But as she reminded me, she could pray. And pray she did. She trusted that God would hear and understand, no matter how she prayed.
My prayer is that as my children and grandchildren grow I can share that same message with them. That I love them no matter what, and that a deep and trusting faith in God will help them face every challenge.
To that end, I recently purchased bracelets for my daughters and myself that say “always in my heart”. Not so much as a reminder that we have Mem in our hearts, but that we were always in her heart – right up to the very end. I wear mine all the time and every time I look at it, I thank God for the great gifts gifts God has given me – a deep faith, a loving husband, two amazing daughters, two wonderful sons-in-law, three precious grandchildren, and of course the generations that have come before and laid the groundwork for our family.
I pray they never forget that they are always in my heart…
“See me beautiful look for the best in me“… Hearing those words a few weeks ago brought me back some 25 years. When my girls were small I had a cassette tape Teaching Peace by Red Grammer. It has a lot of wonderful songs of different genres that share important lessons. I loved it and played it frequently. I happened to mention to my younger daughter that I thought it might be nice for her 5 month old son and the next time I was at her house she played it for me. It touched my mother-heart that something I shared with her was something she wanted to share with her son.
My favorite song was always See Me Beautiful, and hearing it that day touched me on a deeper level. When my girls were younger I had so many doubts about myself – my abilities as a wife and as a mother, my value as a person. “It may take some time, it may be hard to find, but see me beautiful” spoke to me. I wanted to feel that I was worth the effort to see the beauty in me. I now know that because of my self-doubt, I was harsher at times than I needed to be, than I wanted to be. I have come to accept that I did the best I could considering all the circumstances of my life. I have forgiven my younger self and I have apologized to my daughters.
Through God’s loving grace, I am no longer that same insecure young mother. God has helped me understand that He has always seen me beautiful. He has helped me accept my beauty and to see the beauty in others. And I strive to help others see themselves beautiful.
“It’s what I really am and all I want to be…”
(Thank you Karen and Red Grammer for giving words to my longings all those years ago. I am grateful to be able to share the gift of your music with my grandchildren!)
I was visiting with a friend recently and the conversation turned to the subject of how we look at things that are going on in our lives. We talked about how our perceptions are colored by our expectations – if we are expecting to find something wrong or bad or irritating in a situation, then that is how we will likely see it. If I think of someone as irritating or annoying, then even their most benign and innocent comments will irritate me.
That conversation reminded me how a few years ago many people used the term “whatever” in a dismissive way, as if to say that people’s feelings and opinions didn’t matter. At that time, if I heard someone say “whatever” in that way, I tried to always think of Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” NIV (emphasis mine).
That helped to strengthen my efforts to see the best in people and circumstances – to color my expectations so that my perceptions are more positive. Because even though all of us can behave in irritating and annoying ways, that does not define us as people. We all have good days and bad days. We all have times when we speak first and think later. After all, we are only human.
Now, imagine what might happen if we try to follow Paul’s recommendations to think about things that are excellent or praiseworthy, to see the best in people and their circumstances. Our lives could be more pleasant, we might stop wasting time looking for bad intentions, we might treat each other a little more kindly, our relationships might improve. I for one, would much prefer to color my world this way…