Friday, January 17, 2014

Five Minute Friday - Encouragement

Five Minute Friday
There is this little thing called Five Minute Friday that I love.  Lisa-Jo presents to the world of writers a word, and we write.  Five minutes. No overthinking.  Just let the words flow.  So today, our word is encouragement.  Are you ready? Go...

Some people have the gift of being an encourager.  Some people have to really work at it. 

Regardless, being an encourager is a blessing to so many people.  I am a receiver of encouragement.

Last year when my husband was deployed to Afghanistan, those that encouraged me did so in many ways.  It was the former marine wife that spoke up for me when someone asked if my husband was in a safe place.  It was the grandmother from church who showed up at my doorstep with Happy Meals. It was my sister in Christ who did my hair just in time for our Welcome Home the airport. It was the countless others who said a prayer for me and just loved me and my family.

I was blessed by these and so many others who took the time to send a little encouragement my way.  I know their thoughts and deeds made God smile as they did me.

When I have tried to encourage someone, I have felt that little tingle in my innermost being.  That encouraged me to do it again.  The smile that my deed did, that encouraged me to do it again.  Encouragement is so contagious. It is so meaningful.  We don’t know the depths of a little encouragement!

If you would like to participate in Five Minute Friday, just head over to Lisa-Jo's.  You won't regret it!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Music for Your Soul

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Scripture reminds us that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit. Our bodies are a gift, and we must take care of them.  This is easier said than done for folks like me.  Too often, I don't eat healthy. Fast food becomes my escape in the business of life.  Exercise comes when I am chasing my kids around trying to get them to do what I want them to do.  I'll be the first to admit that I don't always take care of my body. 

At the beginning of each new year, many of us make the resolution to eat right and get in shape.  All too often we burn out too quickly. The reasons are many, but we can pray about it.  Are we burned out because we are putting too much pressure on ourselves?  What is the reason we are trying to get fit?  Too look great in our swimsuit?  Because we are unsatisfied with our bodies and want them to change?  Just to be healthier?  Ultimately, shouldn't our goal be to have healthy bodies so we may better serve Christ?

I say, "yes." 

But perseverance is sometime a problem.  We get down on ourselves if we miss a workout session or if we give in and eat something not so healthy. We feel like we have failed and give up.  But don't. Don't give up. 

God's Word is so encouraging in times like this when we feel like we've lost it, there's no use, we are failures.  Satan would love for us to continue to believe that, but we don't have too.  My suggestion is to work out to songs of praise.  Yes, focus on God instead of yourself while you work out. 

I remember reading God Strong and feeling like Sara Horn.  I wanted to get in shape and look fabulous when my husband returned from deployment.  What woman doesn't want to look and feel sexy for her husband.  Sara went and loaded her iPod with songs she felt would make the workouts more intense. Sara said she needed "fast and loud and tough and strong." She left off the songs that reminded her of God's goodness and love. She later realized what a mistake that was when she saw she was doing this workout thing "alone."  She needed to get her strength from God. 

I learned so much from that one paragraph in her book.  I am a music lover.  Kiss. Matchbox Twenty. Keith Urban.  Lynyrd Skynyrd.  The Beach Boys.  You name it, I probably love it.  But the older I get, and maybe the closer to God I become, the music I consume has changed.  Now don't get me wrong, I still love a good country love song or some good dancing in the kitchen with my kids music, but the songs of God's love, grace, and mercy touch me. 

I am a lover of words.  Words have such power in them and can do awesome things if we use them correctly.  These songs that we call Christian music have such power.  When I haven't had the words to say, a little David Crowder helped me cry out to the Lord.  When I ached over losing my baby due to miscarriage, Blessings helped me realize there is a bigger picture, a future I can't fathom.  God's Word put to music is simply amazing. Imagine what it can do to our self image.

As you are continuing to become a better you through diet and exercise, I want to encourage you to surround yourself with Christian music.  Just try it and see how your attitude changes, how your soul changes.  I'd like to leave you with a few songs that encourage me while I am walking those endless miles on the treadmill.  If you have any you would like to share, let me know in the comments section. I'd love to hear about them.

Big Daddy Weave - Yours Will Be (The Only Name)

Steven Curtis Chapman - Do Everything and Love Take Me Over

Mandisa - Overcomer

Matthew West - Hello My Name Is

Chris Tomlin - Whom Shall I Fear

Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.
Romans 12:1

Friday, January 10, 2014

See (Five Minute Friday)

Five Minute Friday

So glad to be joining in Five Minute Friday again this week.  It's pretty simple if you would like to join.  Just write for 5 minutes.  Don't worry about messing up.  Life is messy after all, so shouldn't our writing be too?  Anyway, it's lots of fun. Just click on the button above to join in.  Set a timer and let the words flow!  Here I go.....

I thank God for conviction.  It is difficult. It is ugly. It hurts.  But, Oh!  It is so awesome.  God sees me.  He knows me.  And sometimes I think I am better than what I am.  I get on my high horse. I show my authority.  I lose myself in sin.  Anger, gossip, gluttony.  I get caught up in things like that, but God sees me and he opens my eyes up to what I’ve become, the road I’m heading down. He gives me the opportunity to stop dead in my tracks and get right.  Get right with him and what he expects out of me.

Thank you God for seeing the real me.  Often I don’t. I get caught up in the going ons, the ins and outs of life that I slip and forget that you have plans for me.  Those plans include doing things that bring you honor and glory and I thank you for showing me that I do things that just don’t. I am thankful for second chances to make it right with you. 

Do you see?  Do you see what God is showing you?  He is showing you a better way. A much better way.  You won’t be perfect, but you will be better because of him.  He will give you the eyes to see what he sees.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Friends in Low Places

Throughout our lives, we make friends, and we lose friends.  Friends we think we will be with us forever, we lose them.  Strangers become friends for life. Friendship. It is a funny thing. Those of us on Facebook have lots of friends.  People we work with, family members, long lost classmates, people of people of people of people we know. We call them friends. "Friend" is a term we use so loosely, too loosely.

If you've been hurt, you can become weary of friendships.  In Proverbs 12:26, we are told to choose our friends carefully. We all know that the wrong friends can encourage us to go down the wrong path.  I'm sure most of us have had those sketchy friends, or we may have been that friend ourselves.

But what about real friends? True friends? Proverbs 17:17 says, "A friend loves at all times." Does that type of friend really exist? At all times? 

This past year has shown me what true friends look like.

While everyone else says, "Just let me know if you need anything," a true friend doesn't wait to be told.  A meal is cooked or bought and brought over.

While everyone else says, "I'll pray for you," and forgets, a true friend actually does it and then let's you know, "Hey, you are on my mind and in my prayers. I love you."

A true friend, one who has been there and done that, speaks up for you when someone asks, "Is your husband in a safe place?" That friend knows that for a soldier, no place is safe.

A true friend hugs you and cries with you (she's usually the one who cries, but she lets you lead this time).

A true friend sends you a note, a text, an email, just a short message that says, "I love you," "Thank you," or "You are great," because that friend knows what you need to hear.

 A true friend takes care of you in amazing ways, whether by bringing you flowers, cookies, Happy Meals for your kids, pays for your lunch, or has your flat tire fixed.  This friend doesn't ask for recognition, no payback.  They do it out of  love.

A true friend is one that you've never met face to face, one who has become your life long survival sister because God connected you online, and you know that your life wouldn't be the same without her.

A true friend meets you for lunch, coffee and donuts, ice cream, or Chuck E. Cheese with the kids because she knows that moms need adult conversation.

A true friend meets you for lunch because she wants to tell you personally what she's been going through. It's important to her because she loves you that much, and she knows you love her.

A true friend stays with you through the ugly, when you are experiencing the most horrific thing imaginable, that friend stays by your side, holds your hand, and cries with you.

True friendship can and does exist.  It's those friends in low places that are true.  Sure they are there during the fun times, the easy times.  But they are also there through those ugly times, ugly beautiful is what Ann Voskamp calls it. Aren't those the times we need someone the most? 

When I surrendered my life to Christ, my circle of friends changed. Partly my choice, partly the choice of others.  I think some people considered my husband and I as not fun any more.  I'll tell you though, the Christian friendships I have made since then have been amazing, much more meaningful than those I lost.  The best times I've had have been with those who share the same faith as me.  Our joy is found in Christ instead of parties and alcohol.  Let's just say that at our church staff dinner, we had the best.time.ever! Pastor and his wife, associate pastors and wives, music minister and husband, and youth minister and wife. There was laughter like you wouldn't believe.  And hanging out with our church friends, those last minute invitations because we are all busy and can't plan (sometimes intentional doesn't work). I have even maintained a friendship with a college friend; we share a love of Jesus and that has kept us close. 

Those are the friendships that last, that are meaningful. The ones created and wrapped in the love of Jesus.  Because you know what? He is the greatest friend of all.  Yes.  The greatest friend of all.  Jesus laid down his life for me. For you.  And you know what John 15:13 says, "Greater love has no one but this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." And that is just what Jesus did.  Those that stay with us in those ugly moments, those dirty moments of life, that's what they are doing in a sense.  Honestly, no one really wants to go there. No one wants to hold on to a friend as she is losing a baby, a marriage, or a job. No one wants to hold on to a friend who is lost, lonely, and in a low place.  Be we do it. We do it because friends in low places mean the most. 

Friday, January 03, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Fight

My first Five Minute Friday in a long time.....
Five Minute Friday

I love my family.  Growing up, I knew I wanted to be a wife and mother.  If I were those two things, I wouldn't need anything else.

I love my family.

I see all too often families that are falling apart. Those close to me end marriages, become estranged from their children or other family members. I wonder why.

The reason I think is that they give up the fight.

Being a family is not easy.  There are days when your nerves are shot and sometimes you feel like losing it.  Too many piles of laundry. A never ending stack of bills. Late night shifts.  Fatigue.  Excuses, excuses, excuses.

But Family is worth the Fight.  We have to fight against the things of the world that try to pull us, drugs, media, other relationships.  We have to fight to keep our family, to strengthen the bond.

This is not a fight where we should throw our hands in the air and walk away.  It is a fight we should give our all to each and every day.  We need to restore our families, putting our faith, love, and trust in God. If we do that, he will lead us and guide us. He will make us victorious!

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Timothy 6:12


If you would like to participate in Five Minute Friday, just hop (or click) over to Lisa-Jo's to get started! If you are visiting from Lisa-Jo's, I'd love to hear from you (and anyone else who is visiting).

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

One Word

What one word would you like to describe yourself? Your life? Your outlook?   Maybe it is easier to choose one word that you wouldn't want to use to describe yourself!

My 11 year old told me once that I was lazy.  Really.  So we talked about how lazy I actually was: getting up all hours of the night to check on/take care of kids, cleaning house, cooking meals, helping with homework, giving baths, volunteering at church, working full time as an elementary school teacher.  Lazy. Really?  That's what you get when you ask an 11 year old boy to do something on his own.  Everyone else around instantly becomes lazy.

Now, my three year old has another word to describe me: meanie.  Yes.  My children love me so much!  Such positive comments.  You see, I am the "meanie" when he is only allowed to have white milk or water at bedtime. I am the "meanie" when iPad time is over. I am the "meanie" whenever he doesn't get what he wants.  The "meanie." I am ok with that.

As for the seven year old, he isn't much on words. However, I just asked him, and he came up with two: mean and nice.  I asked him why I am mean, and his response was, "You should know."

Just call me #1 Mom!

I am ok with being the mean mom if it means that my kids don't always get their way.  I am ok with being the mean mom if it means my kids have to obey the rules or show respect to others. I am ok with being the mean mom if it means my kids are learning responsibility and building their character.  There is actually a great article out there about being a "mean mom."  It is worth the read.

I guess I digress a little.  I am thinking about words to describe me, my life, not necessarily how my children see me (although I get some really good hugs and kisses from them, so I guess I can't be that bad).

For the last couple of years, I have joined in the One Word movement, choosing one word to live by instead of making resolutions at the beginning of the year.  For me, I have found that one word helpful. I know I am weak. I know I will mess up. So, I find a word that I can go back to, one that will encourage me in all aspects of my life.  This year that one word is...
I want to be more intentional in the things that I do. I want to be more intentional with my time, with my money, with my self. You may think that is a joke, that it is quite easy to be intentional. For me, it isn't, not always. I am a fly by the seat of my pants type of girl. I get ideas and go with them. Although I like to plan things, I don't always do it. I let things sneak up on me.  Sometimes my best comes forward in these times and sometimes my worst. 

Everything I have, everything I am is a gift.  A gift from God.  He expects me to use those gifts wisely.

Time is a gift.  I can choose what I do with my time.  I can choose to veg out in front of the iPad each day wasting time, or I can choose to spend time in His Word.

Money is a gift.  I can choose to spend  money on junk that my family doesn't really need, or I can chose to spend  money on His Kingdom.

Children are a gift.  I can choose to allow my children to raise themselves in front of a screen, or I can choose to provide them with opportunities that will help them to become the young men God intends them to be.

Employment is a gift. I can choose to go to work each day doing enough to get by, or I can choose to use each moment touching lives.

Family is a gift.  I can choose to do things that take away from my family, or I can choose to put my family first.

Body is a gift.  I can choose to eat and drink my life away, griping about my hair and hips, or I can choose to take care of this body that God has given me.

Life is a gift.  I can choose to waste my life away, being unhappy, ungrateful, and not making a difference, or I can choose to live a life that brings honor and glory to the One who has given me life. 

The fact of the matter is....

Everything about life is a choice.  I have a choice about how to live my life. I have a choice about how I respond to life.  I can either choose to live this life halfheartedly, only giving what I want to give, or I can choose to live my life fully, giving everything I have to God. 

Sometimes it is easier to choose the lesser. It is safer.  But that isn't how God wants me to live.  I have to be intentional in my living.  All to often we make excuses, we look for ways out. We want to be comfortable in our lives.  But we must always remember that God never promised life would be easy.  He only promises to be there with us as we follow His will.  I will be honest, each time I have stepped out of my comfort zone and obeyed God, nothing but great things happened. Intentionally living for Him is the greatest thing any of us can do.

The other day at my house, we were talking about our favorite Bible verses.  My favorite is Psalm 118:24. Years ago, I found it on the front of a card at the dollar store. I bought it and framed it.
It is a reminder that each day is a gift from God.  Regardless of what happens, I am to rejoice in that day.  The events of the day are no surprise to the Lord.  I am to be content in whatever my circumstance. That is easier said than done.

In September, I had a choice to make.  There was no controlling my circumstance.  I lay in  the bathroom floor, losing my baby.  I could be bitter and angry. I could curse what God had done to me.  Or I could praise Him.  I could praise Him for the husband that refused to leave my side and cleaned me up in my darkest moment.  I could praise Him for my friends at work who took care of me as my body began to quake, comforting me and crying with me as I waited for my husband to arrive. I could praise Him for my mom, my doctor, my nurses who cared for me the best way they knew how.  I could praise Him for my three healthy children whom I loved dearly. I could praise Him for those that lifted me and my family up in prayer.  There was no other choice.  God had never failed me, and I knew that there in that cold, dark bathroom, He would not fail me.  In that darkest moment, He gave me everything I needed. 

That, to me, is being intentional.

I want to live that way more than ever.  I want to give my very best to God.  He deserves nothing less.

So, this year, I will be more intentional in the things I do, in my living, in my loving, in my giving.  My hopes in being more intentional is for my children to see the greatness of living a life that pleases God, giving them the desire to do the same.  I hope my intentional living will continue to strengthen my marriage, to show my husband exactly what he means to me, and be the wife he needs me to be.  I hope my intentional living will bring comfort to others,  show them they are loved, and help them live their lives a little better.   Most of all, I hope that my intentional living will bring honor and glory to the one who deserves it, my Heavenly Father. 

What about you?  Do you have a word to live by this year?  I would love to hear it.  I pray that as you think about how you want to live this new year, that you would choose a path that leads to God.