Strangled by Stress

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18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word;19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Mark 4:18-19

I have decided to write a children’s devotional book.  Our devotional book for adults, With Unveiled Face, went on sale two weeks ago.  Our response has been great.  We are lining up book signings and hoping royalty checks come in soon to our church.  Our church is about four years old, but we meet at a local high school.  We have land on which to build, but are still short a bit to get the loan to break ground.  All royalties from With Unveiled Face go directly to my church.

The other day, my husband asked if I was going to keep writing now that one book was out.  I told him I was, but wasn’t sure which direction I should go.  After a couple of days of thinking about it, I feel like the children’s devotional is the direction for me.

That long introduction brings me to my point at hand.  Last night I was reading through some of Jesus’ parables while working on a devotional for kids and found one that applied to my life right now!  I know, shocker!  I was reading through the parable in which seeds are sown in random places.  Some wither and die, others grow successfully.  Like me, the disciples need a bit of explaining now and then.  In chapter 4 of Mark, Jesus explains why some seeds grow and others wither.

I am afraid I am too similar to the seeds thrown among the thorns.  I hear the Word of God.  I accept and believe the Word of God.  However, I let the worries, stresses, and plans for the future strangle my growth.  I focus too much on my day to day list of things to do.  I put too much emphasis on ways to make money, rather than trusting that God will provide.  I exert an extreme amount of energy on worrying that the kids will be okay, lesson plans are ready for the school week, our plates have healthy enough foods, our pantry stays stocked, the car gets the oil changed, and everyone’s clothing is presentable.  I understand these things are important, but not as important as keeping a focus on God.  After all, this life is God-given.  These worries are His blessings.

Today I am going to try to avoid letting the stressors of this life strangle the life God wants for me.  It won’t be easy. I have parent conferences until 8:00pm, dirty dishes in the sink, and laundry to put away.  But why wait until tomorrow?!  God wants my focus TODAY!

Blessings!

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Finding Comfort

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I have written about this before, but I am a self-diagnosed stress eater.  When I get upset about work, overwhelmed by parenting,  or mad at my husband, I will sit and polish off a bag of chip with dip.  I won’t stop until the whole bag is gone! (I inherited this from my mother!)

Just the other day, I was reading a devotional.  I believe it was something written by Joyce Meyer, but I can’t remember for sure.  It said that each of us has an unfilled place in our soul.  This place longs for comfort.  Some of us fill it with food, others with retail therapy.  A few try to fill it in more dangerous ways with drugs or alcohol.

A minister at a church I attended years ago used to say that each of us had a “God-sized” hole inside of us.  This emptiness can bring despair and misery into our lives.  From this emptiness we have potential to make dangerous decisions, trying to fill the void.  I have known many young girls who try to fill that void with affection from men.  Occasionally, they get lucky and find a kind, caring, loving man to pacify the emptiness.  However, if the whole is God-sized, no human will ever completely fill the void.  No bag of chips will either.

We are created with a place in our souls to be filled by God.  We can search and search for other ways to fill it, but nothing will satisfy our soul like God can.  God intends for us to find comfort in Him. I am not saying that eating chips and dip in moderation is a bad thing, but it won’t fix your problems!  Believe me!  I have tried!  In fact, it just makes you sluggish the next day.

I believe God sends us comfort in many ways.  I believe that my husband was a gift from God.  He can’t fill the God-sized hole, but he tries to comfort me when I need it, encourages me, and helps me navigate through this life.  I often can find small doses of comfort in sitting on my back deck with a cup of hot coffee as the sun rises.  But this amount of comfort cannot fill the God-sized hole either.  Only a relationship with God can.

Here are some verses that remind us of God’s power and desire to fill the void within us.

John 14:1-3 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

Romans 8:38-39 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

The next time you reach for the bag of chips, or seek comfort in your own way, reach for God.  Strengthen your relationship with Him and find comfort in Him.

Blessings!

Unveiling the New Book!

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I am so excited!  I would like to introduce you to With Unveiled Face.

bookcover

 

 

For those of you that don’t know, Keith Burt, an amazing man in my church, took nearly 400 Facebook posts about scriptures and sent them to me.  Together, and with the help of a team of editors and theologians, we created a daily devotional book that works more like a daily Bible study.

Busy moms, single parents, anyone looking for a Christmas gift, and anyone looking for a way to encounter God daily, this book was written for YOU!

Keith and I don’t make a single dime from the sales of this book.  Every bit of profit goes directly to our church.  Clearview is a new church that still meets in a high school auditorium.  All proceeds are for our building fund.  We all know it takes nearly a million dollars to build a church here in America.

I would love it if all of you jumped over to amazon.com or Barnes and Noble to buy this, but let me ask this first. Please pray for the sales of this book.  Keith and I desperately want to see our church built soon. We also want people around the world to experience God and His power, mercy, and glory every single day!

Here is the website for the book.  http://www.withunveiledface.com/

Please visit, share with your friends, and pray that God can use this book to spread His love, draw others closer to Him, and build a church that will last generations upon generations.

Blessings!

Life Without a Microwave

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I am a planner.  I plan everything from meals, outfits for the work week, activities for the kids, family trips, and daily lessons for my students.  Part of my incessant planning comes from being a teacher.  We are trained to plan!  Part of my need to plan everything is simply my nature.  It drives my husband crazy!  Did I mention that I often plan his life, too?

Normally, my plans go well.  Most of the time, our lives run smoothly because I plan the details.  The kids always have snacks on hand.  I don’t get caught anywhere without an extra diaper for Darling Daughter.  My students have plenty of meaningful lessons.  My house always has plenty of food stocked for us.

Occasionally, something throws a kink in my plans.  Then I fall apart.  Yesterday, it was the microwave.  It decided to quit.  My microwave, nearly a member of my family we use it so much, decided that it wasn’t going to heat anything anymore.  I could not quickly fix a baked potato for the kids.  I could not heat up leftover corn in less than two minutes.  I could not reheat my husband’s dinner at 8:30 last night when he got home from work.  Everything I needed to do took longer than I had planned.  Therefore, I didn’t get everything accomplished before I crashed at 9:30!

Do you ever have those days?  I have a hard time recovering from messed up plans.  I get agitated.  I feel angry at the situation and take my anger out on others.  I know it is just a microwave, but it makes my daily routines take more time.  I haven’t planned for more time.

Yeah, I know I sound whiny.  My husband told me that, too.

It is times like these that God reminds me that, despite what I may think, I am not in charge!  He is!  I don’t have to control every aspect of my life.  If I do, He will make sure I learn that He is still in control.

After accepting the fact that breakfast won’t be microwaved this morning and remembering that God is in control of my worries, trials, hardships, and plans, I suppose life without a microwave served its purpose.  It became my humbling reminder that I need to just let God have control.

Blessings!

Called to Action or Sit Back and Wait

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Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord. Psalms 27:14

I will be the first to admit I do not know what God wants me to do with my life!  From day to day, I think it is changing. Some days I feel like He is calling me to get up off my couch and DO something.  Other days, I feel like He is saying to me, “Just wait.  The timing isn’t right yet.”

Last night I saw the VERY FIRST EVER printed copy of the book I co-wrote in the spring.  We met to put together a marketing plan.  Since all proceeds go directly to my church, a committee will help move along this marketing phase.

As I sat and listened to the options, it was clear to me that I have very little control over this process.  I wanted to jump up and DO something, but I have to wait.  I could clearly discern from God that He did not need my actions yet.  I felt like He was whispering to me, “Get ready.  You will need to act soon!”

The day will come when I need to travel around to local churches and try to market the book.  We have high hopes that this book will make enough money to help us build a church building.  However, I don’t have the power to make that happen!  God does, but not me.

We usually think that God is calling us to act, to do something, to make a change, to help someone. My calling from God, for now, seems to be to wait.  Brace yourselves! When the wait is over, God’s plan will be amazing!

Blessings!

Seeking, Finding, and Celebrating Our Joy

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Wow!  Yesterday’s post touched a soft spot for some of us!  Comments came pouring into my email.  A few posted to the blog.  It seemed that everyone had something to say about waking up and focusing on the joy in their lives.

I think my favorite had to be Rebeca’s comment.  You can find her at http://rebecajones.wordpress.com/.

“Beautifully said! How do I find the joy of the Lord? I think you nailed it in one word: seeking. If I actively look for the joy in my life, it is there. It is no less available if I do not seek it, I simply miss out on enjoying it. (Does that make any sense at all?) Nice reminder to seek His joy today. Thanks!”

She is absolutely correct.  We must seek the joy in our lives.  Opportunities to enjoy our lives present themselves each day.  We are commanded by God to be joyful.  Therefore, we must look for those joyful moments.  Once we find them, we must celebrate!

Here is the verse from yesterday.

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

We are to celebrate!  Then we are to send the celebration to those that have nothing prepared.  

Here is my interpretation:  Celebrate and invite others!  Once you establish the joy in your life today, go find someone who could use a good dose of joy.  Share the celebration.  Don’t let others drag you down; lift them up!  Each time we open our mouths to speak, we can either lift someone up or tear them down.  Use your voice today to share joy!

Blessings!

Motivated by Joy

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Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning? Many of us can label ourselves as either night owls or morning people.  What if the secret could be found in what motivates us to get up?

How did you wake up? Did an alarm wake you up?  Children come bouncing into your room? Spouse snore until you awoke? Are you one of those lucky people who gets up when your body naturally wakes up?

My alarm goes off at 5am on days that I work.  I get up, fix a pot of coffee, read my Bible readings for the day, spend a few quiet moments in prayer, work on the computer while drinking coffee, and then get ready for work.  Eventually, I get around to waking up the rest of the house.

This morning, when the alarm blared, I turned it off and just laid in the bed.  I thought about resetting the alarm and skipping my writing time.  This is the first day after a long weekend of sleeping later than usual.  I tried to justify staying in bed.  However, I realized that the joy I find in my quiet mornings motivates me to get up each day.

It is so much easier to move through life when we find joy in our daily schedules.  Other than my quiet mornings, I find joy in playing with my kids after the dinner rush.  I also find joy in the few moments I get to spend with my husband each evening once the kids are in bed.  I find joy in working with my fifth graders each day.

Seeking joy in our daily lives motivates us to keep going.  It fuels our soul and replenishes the weariness.  God tells us to seek joy in Him.  We can find joy in our relationship with Him and His promises for our future.  His blessings pour joy into our lives, and we are instructed to revel in our joy.  As Nehemiah said, “…the joy of the Lord is our strength.” That joy gets us going each day.  It keeps us going when we hit hard times.

How do you find joy in the Lord in your life?

Blessings!