Remember Grace

I have recently been reading a challenging and life giving book, “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality,” by Peter Scazzero. One day, while reading this book, a particular sentence jumped off the page… 

(Photo by  Nicole Wilcox  on  Unsplash )

(Photo by Nicole Wilcox on Unsplash)



“Remember grace, which reminds us there is nothing we can do or not do that would cause God to love us any more than he does right now.”


Now, I don’t know about you, but I find that to be an incredibly powerful and freeing truth. Over the years I have struggled with depression and feelings of inadequacy… that sense that I could never measure up. But, I have learned and accepted this truth...God loves me. Period. And He has chosen to do this by grace.



What does “grace” mean? In Christian belief, grace is defined as the free and unmerited favor of God. Or put more simply, God pours out on me what I don’t deserve! That is a gift, not something I can earn or increase by my actions!

(Photo by  Element5 Digital  on  Unsplash )



In other words, I don’t have to work harder to earn God’s love!



We live in a culture that screams at us that the more we do the better we are. We are measured by our achievements and rewarded in society as such. Unfortunately, we often get caught up in this mindset with two major errors.



First, we use wanting to achieve accomplishments as our motivation to make us feel better about ourselves. We strive to achieve rather than allowing our achievements to flow from our natural passions and giftings. This always ends up in burnout. I saw this in a surgeon friend of mine. He was a very gifted surgeon in his field, but he confessed that he hated being a surgeon. He wanted to impress people and please his parents so he pushed himself to be the best surgeon he could be. Unfortunately, he did not enjoy his work and it inevitably showed in his bedside manner!


Second, we take this drive for accomplishment unknowingly into our spiritual life. When we do this we build a mindset and behavior into the false idea that if I do more for God He will love me more. Once on that slippery slope we will begin to believe that as God loves me more He will give me more. And like a hamster on a wheel we expend copious amounts of unnecessary energy striving and struggling to get more of God’s love. More of His gifts. More stuff. Stop the madness!


My friend, you are loved. We are loved! We don’t deserve it, but God’s grace is enough. I believe with all my heart when a person comes to understand God’s unmerited favor, His pouring out of what we don’t deserve, the response from the heart of man is a desire to draw closer to Almighty God.


I want to encourage you today to remember grace. God’s grace. Be still and know that He is God...the God who loves you. Slow down, enjoy His presence, and be restored!


-Shelly

Whose Rocks Are These Anyway?

Here’s a thought-provoking story I read in a book called Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver. This is the short version:

(Photo by  Kristopher Roller  on  Unsplash )

 

A man met God one day and God asked him to take his wagon and haul three rocks to the top of the mountain. The man smiled brightly and willingly took hold of the wagon as he listened to God give detailed instructions.

 

Along the way, the man met friends that, when they found out what he was doing, asked if he would take their rocks up the mountain, too. Because the man knew serving others was a good thing, he said “Sure.” All along the way this happened again and again. Soon the man’s smile was gone and resentment had taken its place. The wagon had become so heavy all he thought of was giving up and bailing on the whole venture!

 

God comes to his side and asks what’s wrong. “You gave me a job that is too hard for me,” the man cried. God looked into the wagon. “What is this? And this, and this?” God starts to unload one heavy rock after another until all that is left are the three he originally gave the man. ‘Let others shoulder their own belongings,’ God said gently. ‘I know you were trying to help, but when you are weighted down with all these cares you cannot do what I have asked of you.’ ”

 

Have you ever found yourself in this man’s position?

 

You were sure of a calling, a heading, a path to walk, and it was something you knew you and God could accomplish together. And then, before you knew it, your wagon was overloaded and you were overwhelmed.

 

 How did this happen? Did you somehow allow rocks in your wagon that belong to someone else?

 

In 2016, my elderly dad had a heart attack and found he couldn’t live on his own anymore. My husband and I both felt God asking us to step in to make sure Dad was safe and cared for. These were the rocks God put in our wagon. Then my dad decided he wanted to stay in his own house rather than move elsewhere, even though he couldn’t care for himself or his property. So my husband and I left our home and moved in so that Dad could stay in his home.

 

Now here we are, thirty months later, and I spend much of my energy feeling my wagon is too heavy, acting resentful of the load and saying to God, “You gave me a job that is too hard for me.”

 

(Photo by  Jay Nair  on  Unsplash )

(Photo by Jay Nair on Unsplash)

But did He? Did God ask me to move in with Dad and turn my life upside down? Or did God only ask me to make sure my Dad was safe and cared for? Whose rocks have I been carrying all this time? Mine or my dad’s?

 

Certainly, there are times when God asks us to reach out and help carry one another’s heavy burdens. These are like boulders, too heavy for one person to shoulder alone. But there are other times when we start out helping and then find ourselves picking up weights or worries God never asked us to shoulder.

 

A dear friend put it like this: “God may have asked you to reach out to help but did He ask you to dislocate your arm in the process?”

 

Now I admit, that as I write these lines, I fear I may sound like a selfish person buying into the “Me first!” mindset that the world loves to tout. I really hope not! I am still figuring this out as I go, trying to discern what God is asking of me and what I have taken on because of my codependent tendencies. Honestly, sometimes I am still unable to tell the difference.

 

Either way, I think that if a person is hauling a heavy wagon and feeling like God has overburdened them, it bears looking into. Perhaps it comes down to the perpetual ponder of the co-dependent: “What is mine, Lord, and what is theirs? What do you ask me to carry and what can I hand back?”

 

(Photo by  Justin Medina  on  Unsplash )

(Photo by Justin Medina on Unsplash)

I have found that a pivotal part of this introspection is prayer: A quiet heart asking God for clarity. Being still helps me better hear God’s whispered wisdom, and I surely trust God’s perspective more than my own! If you recall from the story, it was God who looked in the wagon and separated out the man’s rocks from those that belonged to others. We can trust Him to do that with our rocks too.

 

In addition, I can ask myself these questions when I suspect I am hauling rocks that aren’t mine. If you find yourself in a similar place, try these on for size:

  • Is my load draining and debilitating me to the point of having
    nothing left?
  • Are other areas of my life being badly neglected or damaged?
  • Is there another way I can help that makes others stronger instead of enabling dependence?

 

I think we can agree that taking up an arm full of rocks at God’s request can be worth the struggle, bringing glory to God and joy to our hearts. Just be sure the rocks you carry are yours so that the joy of the mountaintop can be yours, too.

 

Here’s to a lighter load,

Namra

Just Be Honest

(Photo by  Joshua Ness  on  Unsplash )

(Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash)

Sometimes it's hard to be honest. It's hard to face the music, especially if that music is pain, and it's on repeat. Maybe you wake up to the music. Maybe you've been listening to the same song for many years, and it's growing louder each day. It's the song of pain or sickness or disease. 

 

Perhaps it's been your song for so long, that you barely hear it anymore. Or worse, your primary loved one (your spouse, or parent) doesn't hear it either. No one would blame your caregiver or even you for tuning it out.

 

But pain is always harder to deal with alone. That's just the way it is.

 

(Photo by  Karabo Diseko  on  Unsplash )

(Photo by Karabo Diseko on Unsplash)

I challenge you to be honest about your pain; about needing help; about craving fresh empathy. Perhaps you need to sit down with your partner and tell them, that their most needed attribute is their presence; their listening ears. They need to hear your story, your sickness, or what you're dealing with in this current moment one more time, but with fresh ears and awareness. 

 

It's hard to need someone this much. It's easier to numb or deny pain. But it's also difficult to keep going through pain if you're pretending not to be. 

 

Invite your partner into your pain. Give them specific ways they can love and encourage you. Give them specific phrases or words that will cue them to becoming present. For instance, "Babe, I need to borrow your heart and ears for a moment..." That's a specific ask, and it will help them tune in to your needs right there in the moment. Obviously, if it's not a good time for them, give them the grace to give you a later window of time where they can give you their full attention. Maybe they need to call you back in fifteen minutes or an hour. Providing a verbal cue will help them know how to love and help you. 

 

If you are a man trying to help your sick woman...a word of advice: Most of the time she doesn't need you to "fix" it. She simply needs your presence. I'm not talking passive, kinda-there presence. I'm talking undivided attention, where you are communicating compassion and care from the top of your head to your eyes to the tips of your toes. That kind of presence will be so meaningful to your woman. And it allows her to unload some of her pain on your strong, capable shoulders. 

 

Shared pain is always half as painful.

 

(Photo by  Jamieson Murphy  on  Unsplash )

(Photo by Jamieson Murphy on Unsplash)

So wherever you are in your healing journey, I encourage you to pursue honesty. Ask for what you need. Ask kindly. Be specific. The people who love you won't mind one bit. They will be honored to know just how they can care for you in a more intentional way. 

 

Joyfully,

Rachel B.

How To Crush Comparison!

Do you want to know a secret? The single biggest thief of joy is…comparison.

 

That's right. We think we are doing okay until we size up our life, money, resources, gifts, you-name-it, with somebody else. In an age where we have access to so many people's personal lives, it is not easy to get off the comparison bandwagon.

(Photo by  Matheus Ferrero  on  Unsplash )

(Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash)

 

But it's totally worth it. 

 

Nothing steals joy or passion like comparison. There is something in all of us that shrinks back when we get compared to others.  Isn't that dumb? The reality is, we choose comparison when we allow our minds to stew on those toxic, daily thoughts. We need a strong weapon to fight back. Our war isn't against a person. It is against comparison itself. We don't need to build ourselves up on the inside to beat the person we are comparing ourselves to. That's what comparison wants us to do. Refuse to do this.

(Photo by  Jorge Saavedra  on  Unsplash )

(Photo by Jorge Saavedra on Unsplash)

 

Instead, to crush comparison, there is one thing we must do. 

 

Celebrate.

 

That's right! Celebration crushes comparison. When we celebrate other's wins, successes, and gifts, we completely deflate that spirit of comparison. We suck the oxygen right out of its lungs. We pop its big, inflated, ego right then and there. 

 

That feeling that used to suck the life out of us is now giving us fresh air in our lungs. We can breathe with blessing. We are free to walk about the cabin. We break the spell of comparison over our lives. 

 

Don't worry, comparison will try to re-inflate and steal your joy another day. But you won't give it the time of day. You know the secret to silencing its toxic voice.

 

When you celebrate others, you lift them up. You step into the praise and party mindset. You literally become a blessing. This blessing is not just for them. It's for you.

 

So the next time you hear comparison knock on your door…shut it down. Immediately speak, write, tweet, post, and pray a blessing of celebration over that person. 

 

Let me tell you another secret. Are you ready?

 

Someone else's success in life does not ruin your chance for success. Say what?

 

(Photo by  Jessica Felicio  on  Unsplash )

(Photo by Jessica Felicio on Unsplash)

There's room for both of you. All of you. There's purpose and destiny for every single person. Just because someone succeeds, or gets that promotion, or wins that "title" or award does not mean you will miss out. 

 

Say this to yourself:

I will not miss out if I celebrate other people. 

 

Rinse and repeat baby! That's the truth that will set you free! When you celebrate others, you both win. Every. Single. Time. 

 

Trust me on this. The biggest way to breathe fresh air into your soul is to celebrate, celebrate, celebrate. Celebrate others. Celebrate your wins too. Crush that spirit of comparison by throwing a party. 

 

May you celebrate like crazy and conquer comparison!

 

Joyfully,

Rachel B.

It's Not Your Fault

(Photo by  Mitchell Hollander  on  Unsplash )

Over the last 20 years of my personal experience with chronic illness, I have encountered just about every opinion on the matters of faith, healing, and "why" I'm sick. I've had more prayers prayed over me than can be counted, and more suggestions than one could possibly put into action in a lifetime. 

 

Sigh. The prayers and suggestions have all been very well meaning and full of honorable intentions. 

 

 

Though I'm a strong proponent of locating any over-attachments to your illness, or discovering any places in your soul where you have allowed sickness to become your identity, I have to keep coming back to this...

 

Sometimes...sickness just isn't your fault. It has nothing to do with a decision, a choice, a sin, or anything else that was within your control. Sometimes sickness just happens. 

 

Just like we can over-attach to our sickness and have a hard time stepping into our healing, we can also blame ourselves and heap mounds of guilt, regret, and shame on ourselves. Both of these extremes can lead us into further sickness. So let me say this again:

 

It's not your fault.

 

You have MS? Fibromyalgia? Lyme? Hashimotos? Migraines? It's not your fault. 

 

(Photo by  Caleb Woods  on  Unsplash )

(Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash)

There's nothing quite as devastating as being sick and then having an extra scoop of shame dumped on you. It makes sickness feel even heavier. It puts one more helping of "impossible" on your plate. 

 

So you know what? Don't allow it. 

 

Don't allow that lie to creep into your life. Yes, we all make choices. And yes, no one makes perfect choices all the time. So, if you're thinking you're sick because of that time you made a midnight run to Krispy Kreme donuts and ate the whole box...or you had that one cigarette at church camp when you were in junior high...just stop right there. That's probably not why you're sick. 

 

We all feel a sense of yearning and that things are "not quite right" on this planet. This is because our spirit is connecting to the deeper truth that the world is indeed fallen. It isn't perfect. When we are surrounded by high school shootings and genocides...you better believe there is evil in the world, and not everything is as it should be. Yet. I love that word YET. It gives me hope. 

 

So if I can offer any consolation to your heart, your soul, your faith, and your inner sense of hope: Give yourself the gift of unshaming and unblaming yourself. Take a breath. God is still in control (though it can feel otherwise at times). And, He is not finished yet. This world has dark patches, seasons, and even decades. Yet, God is completely good, completely powerful, and completely kind - all at the same time. He is still working all things together for your ultimate good. 

 

(Photo by  Tyler Nix  on  Unsplash )

(Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash)

This sickness you are enduring does not get the final word. It doesn't get to steal your faith or joy unless you choose to let it. And shame isn't your present or your future if you choose to believe this truth: this sickness you're experiencing is not your fault or your true identity. 

 

Let me nutshell this for you:

  • Your sickness is not your fault.
  • God isn't finished yet.
  • Lies usually feel like truth, but they're just a little twisted. Take note of the twist.
  • You have every reason to wake up with hope. God sees you, God loves you, and He's moving your mountains even when you can't see it. 

And by the way, if there's still that little voice telling you some of this sickness is because of an attitude or some place of bitterness you're holding on to - then let it push you into repentance. Repent quickly and honestly, then be done and move on in freedom.

 

Joyfully,

Rachel B.

Reach For Hope

I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2007, and it’s been a long journey dealing with pain and sickness. Over the last 11 years I have faced my worst fears, yet I have grown, changed and learned how to better care for myself.

(Photo by  Miguel Bruna  on  Unsplash )

(Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash)

I recently came upon extra money and told my doctor I would like to get more testing for MS done to see if we could get me to a point of feeling better. He surprised me by saying that he wanted to have me get some Lyme testing. Quite a few people have wondered about Lyme since MS and Lyme can mimic each other. 

 

Well, the testing so far is looking like I am dealing with Chronic Lyme Disease. 

 

I am still in the middle of additional testing and results. It’s hard to find the words for the shock my husband and I are feeling at the possibility of an incorrect MS diagnosis all these years. As I have processed over the last few weeks, I have been surprised to notice my shock turning to excitement. I was expecting anger instead.

 

And as I have shared my news with others, I have noticed that not everyone is having the same reaction as me. Some are reacting with disappointment and anger because they sense I have been wasting my time fighting a disease I didn’t have.

 

As I have processed why I am feeling the way I am, I have realized this little secret that seems to be a game-changer and is making all the difference for me:

 

My attention is focused on my recovery and healing, not a disease.

 

When I first got diagnosed with chronic illness, I went through a period of depression and hopelessness, feeling desperate and fearing the worst. But as time went on, I noticed a change in my disposition when I focused on things that were positive and hopeful; things that lifted my spirit.

 

Yes, I do believe there is a time and a place to grieve our losses and it’s a good place to pause; to acknowledge the great losses we are facing and the fears that may be attached. But then we must move on to a better place and begin to look for hope…and REFUSE to give up until we find it.

(Photo by  Laib Khaled  on  Unsplash )

(Photo by Laib Khaled on Unsplash)

 

We were made for so much more than a clear-cut diagnosis code; we were made for great hope, joy and encouragement. These are the very things that amplify our life and purpose.

 

For me, this means I keep my focus on recovery; on the healing I believe God is able to do—and ultimately, on God himself!

 

Please hear me—if day to day, you're dealing with the consequences of chronic illness, cancer, or whatever sickness it's been for you, I completely understand. I’m in the trenches with you, and I know how difficult it is.

 

But I choose to be defined by my recovery, not by my disease. And you can do the same. 

 

(Photo by  Kristine Weilert  on  Unsplash )

(Photo by Kristine Weilert on Unsplash)

My challenge for all of us is to focus on our recovery and remember we are Overcomers -- no matter what battles we are fighting.  If you're struggling to get to this hope-infused mindset, come talk to me and let’s figure it out together!

 

Friends, no matter what you face, keep your head up and don’t stop believing for healing. God is at work and we never know what good things he has for us next.

 

Hope is on the horizon.

Reach for it.

Expect recovery.

Believe for breakthrough.

It’s coming!

 

-Elizabeth T.

Defeating Disappointments

A few weeks ago I posted this statement as my Facebook post:

“Disappointment is simply a doorway to a yet discovered blessing.”

 

(Photo by  Daniel Tseng  on  Unsplash )

(Photo by Daniel Tseng on Unsplash)

When I posted it, I believed it with all my heart. I still do. But, after posting that statement, disappointment seemed to be a big bullseye on my back. Day after day, very frustrating and emotional circumstances began crawling out from under some proverbial rock to visit my soul. Several of these circumstances hit me in places that the enemy already knew were my weaknesses. Places where inner healing was still taking place.

 

I called my prayer partner crying and said, “I just don’t get it! I’m so hurt and so angry right now I just don’t know how to respond!” In her usual kind way, she validated my hurt and disappointment… and then we got to work at discussing what God’s plan could be in the middle of the mess.

 

I told her about my post on Facebook and how I truly believed that statement. And I began the work of defeating my disappointment. So, let me share with you some thoughts of how we can walk through disappointment in a healthy and productive way! 

 

1. God IS still in control - even when circumstances don’t look like it!

We have to grasp that God sees beyond the temporary. He knows what is best for us and for others. Be still and remember Who is looking over you!

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."  Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)
 

2. It’s okay to grieve.

Grieving is part of letting go of the loss felt through disappointment. We are not created to be emotionless. In reality, we should be learning life lessons through our times of disappointments. God does not leave us striving for ourselves!

 

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 (NIV)

 

3. Pray as long as it takes.

Some disappointments are more difficult than others. But I can tell you, no matter what you are facing, God cares. Taking time to be still and pour out your heart to your heavenly Father and receiving from His Spirit is essential to moving forward out of disappointment and into a faith-filled future!

 

Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. Psalm 55:22 (NLT)
 
(Photo by  Michael Heuss  on  Unsplash )

(Photo by Michael Heuss on Unsplash)

My friends, disappointments will come, but how we choose to navigate those times will often dictate our futures. Remember, God is still in control, He understands your grieving, and He desires time with you. When faced with disappointment, turn to Him.

He will not only sustain you, He will take you forward into “appointments” you never dreamed possible!

 

-Shelly H.

Playground Talk

Kids can say the meanest things. Stand on any playground and you‘ll hear name-calling and put-downs galore. Every rule for good personal communication is thrown in the dirt and then stomped on. 

(Photo by  Janko Ferlič  on  Unsplash )

(Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash)

  • A girl proudly asks, “Did you hear me sing in the choir today?” A boy jeers, “Ya…I could hear you! Sounded like a cat being tortured!”

 

  • A boy sadly admits, “I was picked last for the baseball team… again.” His friend flatly says, “It’s ‘cuz you’re really bad, Joey. No one wants you on their team.”

 

  • The popular girl says, “If you give me your M & M’s, I’ll let you be my friend. You don’t need them…you're already too fat.” 

 

We as adults find this appalling! How could they be so cruel? But then again, I have been known to say mean words like this often…inside my own heart. The insults I have said to myself would make a sailor blush. Or at least make a therapist frown.  

 

A while back, I lost my wallet. Then, upset with myself, I got in my car and dented my fender while backing out. I dove into a spiral of shame head-first. That’s when the ugly “playground talk” started. “*&#@*&! I’m so stupid! What kind of idiot does this? I am such a loser!”

 

Ouch, right? If anyone else were to say this to me, I’d have no choice…I’d have to punch ‘em!

      

Words have power. Power to build up or destroy, to heal or to hurt, to show acceptance or rejection. This is especially true when said in the silence of one’s own heart. I believe how we talk to our inner-selves carries more impact than any outside influence.

    There’s a wise saying in the Bible that says, 

“Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—
You choose.” (Proverbs 18:21 The Message)

 

My internal digs and dismissals pack a pound of poison every time I use them. They kill my confidence and my joy. But, what if I made a choice to speak sweetness to myself instead? Could this change how I treat and trust myself? 

 

I found the key to this change was accepting this one truth: God loves me. God. Really. Loves. Me.

(Photo by  Andrew Seaman  on  Unsplash

(Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash

And, He loves me no matter my flaws or failures. Humans tend to act as if this love is based on performance but God’s economy doesn’t work that way. He just loves. 

 

If God, “the Big Kahuna”, all knowing and all powerful, can love me like this, I must be of value and worthy of respect--especially self-respect. Right?

 

In Psalms, a guy named David comes to this realization, too. He writes these words as he begins to understand he has this inherent value -- Not because he is perfect but because of the Perfect One that made him. 

    

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, [Lord], for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:13)
 
(Photo by  Robert Collins  on  Unsplash )

(Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash)

Did you hear that? My soul, my innermost being, can know that I am a creation of quality and wonderfully made! Not “average” or even “someday acceptable.” WONDERFULLY made!  God himself made each of us…and God don’t make no junk, people! 

 

Here is my bold proclamation! I’m deciding to choose “fruit” over “poison.” To do that, I have to change how I talk to myself. Today. Everyday. When the inner playground talk starts, I need to say, “Stop! Would God ever say this about me?” If not, it doesn’t belong in my internal dialogue. 

 

On God’s playground, no one gets bullied, berated or dismissed. 

 

It has taken some practice (and a lot of do-overs) but I have cut out much of my mean playground talk. And I’ll tell you what!  The sweet fruit of kindness tastes a lot better than the poison! An overall feeling that I like me is growing. And, when I give myself more grace on the inside, I have more of it to share on the outside. It’s a win-win! 

 

(Photo by  Justin Young  on  Unsplash )

(Photo by Justin Young on Unsplash)

Friends, I want to encourage you to choose the words you use for yourself carefully and with grace. What you say to yourself does make a difference in how you treasure, treat and trust yourself. If you hear the playground talk in your head, decide on some new words to use for yourself. May I suggest a few?  Worthy. Wanted. Beautiful. Enough. And, fearfully & wonderfully made. 

 

With words of love, 

Namra

Don’t be your own battle

Four years ago, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness that literally brought me to my knees (or so I thought). I have Multiple Sclerosis and when I get too stressed or hot my eyes betray me. I start seeing double and sometimes triple. It’s especially fun when the spinning begins. How do you explain motion sickness when you’re not moving? I couldn’t drive let alone participate in outdoor activities I once enjoyed like caring for horses, mowing the lawn or even walking.

(Photo by  Timothy Eberly  on  Unsplash )

(Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash)

 

My relapse lasted over a year, then I noticed my eyesight started improving. My family and I were finally getting back to “normal” when we were hit again with another health scare. My husband was diagnosed with throat/tonsillar cancer. I thought “Are you kidding me?” This is a nightmare and I want to wake up, NOW!!

 

My husband, who had been my rock, now needed me. What was I going to do? I started going into panic mode. Worst case scenarios were streaming in my brain like a Netflix series. I couldn’t hit pause or stop, it just kept streaming. I would wake up in cold sweats or jump out of my sleep and just start crying.

 

I would not ask for help from anyone; not even my family, until one day I broke. I was stressing so much I put myself into another relapse, which was worse than the one before. My left arm, leg and upper torso were now numb and my eyes went “crazy” again. This left me incapable of helping myself or my husband who needed it the most. I felt very alone and scared. I kept praying “God, please help me. I don’t know how to do this. I need You.”

 

On one of the hottest days of summer, I was trying to figure out how to get the yard cut when there was a knock at the door. It kind of scared me because I wasn’t expecting anyone. I opened the door and it was my brother. He came in, gave me a huge hug and said “I’m here to cut your grass.” (I do have the best brother ever 😊). I started crying and he said “I’m here for you.” Why didn’t I already know I had people who were there for me? 

 

I find it strange that in our dark times we put walls up to protect ourselves and wind up hurting ourselves and our families in the end. 

 

(Photo by  Abigail Keenan  on  Unsplash )

(Photo by Abigail Keenan on Unsplash)

We worry so much about losing the ability to care for ourselves and our families, we push entirely too hard. God truly answered my prayers that day with my brother’s help. 

 

Allowing people to help you does not take away your independence. It allows people to show their love and support for you. It is very hard for people to know how to help because a lot of people who suffer from a chronic illness can’t show or explain what is happening in their own bodies. This makes those who love us feel helpless.  

 

We fight battles every day.  Let them fight a couple for you.

 

“Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.”
-Ziad K. Abdelnour
 

Your Friend,

Lorraine

I Am Still With You

I woke up to hear the constant drip from the downspout outside my window. My first thought was, “Please don’t make me get out of bed!” It had been an incredibly busy few weeks with lots of travel and little sleep. It seemed like I was being pulled from every side trying to meet everyone’s needs around me… except my own. 


It’s funny how we can be so busy extending the love of God that we forget we need to take time to just be in His presence.

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(Post by Shelly Head, Photo by  gbarkz )

(Post by Shelly Head, Photo by gbarkz)

Call it a mom’s heart, or a minister’s heart, I love to love on people. But this early rainy morning I woke up feeling empty and somewhat depressed. “God, how can I help others when I feel so alone and tired?” I began recounting the ways in my head that I wasn’t cut out for the calling God had placed on my heart. Each thought brought more despondency and the feeling that I couldn’t move off the pillow. My to do list began to play before my eyes, but I just wasn’t having it. Not today. Not on this cold, dark, rainy day.

 

Then, quietly, the Lord began to speak. “I have promised never to leave you nor forsake you.” I chose to come into agreement with the Spirit… “You are right Lord, thank you for being ‘God with us’, and for being close right now.” The silence broke again as I heard the Spirit of God speak, “I have promised to meet all your needs.” A tear gently flowed down my cheek, “Thank you Jesus, you have been so faithful to me.” But just as quickly, a thought went through my head… what if I fail? What if I’m not good enough? What if I disappoint those around me?

 

I reached for my Bible and instinctively turned to Psalm 139. There it was. He knows me...inside and out. He knows when I sit and when I rise. He wove me together in my mother’s womb. He knows every detail of my being! I then became captivated by these verses. 

 

“How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! 18 If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You.” Psalm 139:17-18

 

When I awake, I am still with you… The thought reverberated through my head. Yes, even on these dark, dreary  mornings, He is still with me, never leaving me, and I am still with Him! He is the constant that keeps me consistent. He is the steadfast love that keeps me steady. I am not alone, He is with me and I am still with Him! I still didn’t “feel” like getting up, but as these thoughts went through my head and began to melt down into my heart, I made a choice. I threw the covers off and prayed, “God, I am still with You!”

 

Extending His Love,

Shelly H.

How To Pray While Conserving Energy

One of the things I missed most when I was diagnosed with my illness was the loss of my ability to perform “religious tasks.” Suddenly, reading was difficult. Comprehending conversations was challenging, let alone understanding the complexities of the Bible. In the same way, praying became difficult and draining. After some time, I learned how to pray while conserving precious energy through an apparent, yet unconventional practice.

Prayer is a funny thing. Some view it as talking to the air. Others view it as a religious duty. Still others think of it as a conversation with God, like two friends talking. I’m the latter person. 

Blog Post by Brooklyn S. (Photo by  KEEM IBARRA )

Blog Post by Brooklyn S. (Photo by KEEM IBARRA)

Thinking of God as my friend, I ponder how I would address a close friend over a cup of coffee. Would I use a script to talk to her? Would I read a wish list of things I hope she’d do/give me? Would I talk with her for only two minutes, then abruptly leave, sipping my coffee and skipping away as if she didn’t exist? Indeed… not. Unless that’s your style. Hey, I can’t tell you not to lose all your friends. It’s a free country. 

The point is, a frank, conversational approach to prayer is beneficial in several ways.

Detailed and overly reverent intercession is motive for avoidance of prayer. It’s too complex. In the same way, I noticed such long winded “conversations” are draining for an ill person. Conversations of any kind make me weak. They make me want to nap for a week. 

As I’ve learned to accommodate my illness, I’m also approaching prayer in a different way. I view prayer as a continuous conversation throughout today, in small bites. Just as I have mini conversations with my mother during the daylight hours (she takes care of me), I should also engage in mini conversations with God.

If I come upon a problem in the day, or if I find something beautiful or funny, I share it with God. I act as if He’s a sitting next to me. Because He is. I share my experience with Him, fostering a bond between my heart and His.

These mini conversations with God are not said aloud, mind you. I don’t want to be hauled off to a mental ward. Or any other hospital ward. We try to avoid these things.

When I talk to God, I talk to Him in my head. I do this both to conserve energy and to keep our conversations special. Sometimes, at night, I’ll lay staring at the ceiling and finally talk to Him aloud, detailing the ponderings of my wandering mind until I doze off.

There is, however, is a crucial second step to praying while conserving energy: LISTENING!

As a person with a chronic illness, I need a good amount of quiet time to myself. This time can be employed to listen to God, hearing out His part of the conversation. He has whispered many things to me throughout the years. Not audibly, of course. Again, we’re avoiding the mental ward.

While listening to God, He’ll often plant a comforting or insightful idea or notion in my heart. Such seeds of truth are only planted in times of quiet reflection on His character.


Sometimes, quiet and isolation, which come with having an illness, are advantages in one’s spiritual walk with God.

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There are 2 essentials to prayer for those with limited energy: mini conversations throughout the day w/God & time spent listening. Employ these methods, & you'll discover a spiritual & physical boost you didn’t have before.

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-Brooklyn S.

PS Brooklyn blogs regularly on her website: TheDaddle.com

 

Build A Window

(Photo by  Bekah Russom )

(Photo by Bekah Russom)

My kids loved the aquarium! Stingrays. Otters. Tanks of wiggly octopuses. But their favorite part was standing next to this giant aquarium window, a transparent boundary between them and a dripping rock face covered with seaweed. They giggled and bobbed on their toes in anticipation at what would come next: A sudden crash of water rushing down from above, as if they were on the underside of a great hammering wave. They’d squeal, surprised at the power of it! Only the glass window made it possible to witness this storm without being carried away and drowned by it. 

I’m thinking we could all use a “window” like this: a shield through which we can observe the roaring tides of humanity around us without being crushed and sucked under. I think we can.  

Let’s talk about boundaries. Emotional boundaries, to be specific. Boundaries define. They define what is me and what is not me.

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When emotional boundaries are healthy and strong, they show me where I end and someone else begins.

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Here’s what I mean… 

While chatting with my elderly dad, he begins to fume about something that happened that day. His voice gets louder…and, hmmm, my stomach starts to tighten. He’s complaining and name calling… my jaw clenches and my blood pressure rises. He rants his plans for retribution … and I wanted to run for the door or try to talk him out of feeling that way. Wait…what’s going on here? I was suddenly aware that I was having a physical reaction to his emotions as if they were my own! Why am I absorbing instead of simply observing the feelings of others? 

For most of my life, I have had considerable trouble separating my emotions from others in situations like this. If Hubby came home upset, soon I was feeling upset. If my child was feeling anxious, I could feel the anxiety building inside me, too. If the grocery store lady was peeved, I took it home to the family and served it like a side dish.   

I wasn’t taught boundaries growing up. I was taught to watch and anticipate, avoiding the emotional storm on the horizon. I was taught that the angriest person in the room gets to have their feelings… and no one else does. Consequently, when I grew up and moved out, I packed my codependency right next to my toothbrush and took it with me. And, even now, after a shelf of self-help books, several years of therapy and a couple of 12 Step programs, I can still struggle with knowing where my emotional self stops and others begin. 

Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you struggle with an over-attachment to the emotional tides of others, too. And maybe you’ve become aware it’s time to make a change. If so, I’d like to share with you a  “mental visualization thingy” (yup, it’s a technical term. Write it down). I’ve learned to use this simple tool when I need space between my emotions and someone else’s.  Anger. Grief. Frustration. Whatever it is, this visualization helps me to feel safer, stay calm, and be present without being washed away. Here’s what I do...

Build a window.  

(Photo by  Gaelle Marcel )

(Photo by Gaelle Marcel)

Yup…I build a window. I imagine a huge plate glass window, like the aquarium window, and I install it between them and myself. Sometimes, it’s a sliding glass door that glides into place. Other times, it’s a fancy French door that I gently pulled closed with a click. This “window” reminds me I am not meant to take in or take on what they are feeling. It’s like standing next to the aquarium window, witnessing the crash, without being drowned by it. 

When I started doing this, something in me changed because I could now observe without being soaked; I could allow others to express what they feel (which they have a right to do) while I stayed calm enough to hear them honestly and respond…not just react. I also found, when in a hurtful conversation, I could slide the glass closed and protect my heart from injury.

 

With more practice, I could have the window in place and still reach through with love and compassion for what they were going through. 

Dear friend, God gave you a beautiful heart. I just know it! The Bible says your heart was fashioned after God’s own, full of goodness and grace. This beautiful heart needs to be guarded well so that it can love well. If you are struggling, I want to encourage you. You can build healthy boundaries. Start today with something simple… like building a window. 

Here’s to a happy heart!

Namra P.

My Unconditional "Aha" Moment

I can't remember how it came about…if it was an “aha” moment, a dream, or one of those times when I was stepping out of the shower and a thought hit me. God touched my soul so deeply on this day that my perspective about myself completely changed.  

(Photo by  Joshua Fuller  on  Unsplash )

(Photo by Joshua Fuller on Unsplash)

In this “dream” I will call it, I was standing on a stage, in a plain dress, just standing, doing absolutely nothing. In fact, it was as if I could not do anything and it was as if it was expected that I could not do anything. God was standing in the audience, looking at me, and I felt His love, presence, and approval. I felt His overwhelming love for me, and it was just plain old me doing nothing! It wrecked me. If you were to ask anyone who knows me, they'd tell you I don’t sit still for very long. Ever. I move and do; it's who I am. But in this dream I wasn’t doing anything, and I was totally and fully loved.  

Around this time, my son, Jonathan was about two or three years old. Periodically, the young children at our church would go up on the stage area to sing a song with hand motions and such. My sweet, curly-headed boy usually just stood there, or when he saw me would cry and reach for me. My immediate response was to go to him and collect him up in my arms. I loved that little rascal. He did not have to do one thing on that stage to earn my love. He already had it. That’s when God said, “That’s how I see you dear one! I love you. I love who you are.” You know, that still brings tears to my eyes, to feel God's unconditional, undeserved love in such a personal way. It freed me to just be me before Him. 

Some days I feel like I accomplish much, and other days not so much.

(Photo by  Tyler Nix  on  Unsplash )

(Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash)

But God does not base His love on my performance or accomplishments.

He loves me, period. God’s words to my heart and soul that day changed me. I no longer do anything to gain His love or approval. I already have it, and living from that perspective allows me the freedom to love others.

He loves you too, dear friend. It does not matter who you are, where you have been, your limitations, weaknesses, strengths, accomplishments, financial situation or ________. You fill in the blank. You are loved. You are loved deeply, fully and unconditionally. God loves you, and He loves you more than you can ever fathom. 

If you struggle believing God's love for you, cry out to Him, and He will answer you. Believe His love for you.  

 

You are loved,

Barbara

A Pep Talk for When You Feel Obsolete

(Photo by  Chungkuk Bae  on  Unsplash )

(Photo by Chungkuk Bae on Unsplash)

Dear Me, 

(Oh don't worry...you can listen in while I give myself a pep talk.)

Lately I've been hearing you think things like, "You are so obsolete. Why would anyone want to listen to you? It's terrible to be obsolete. You've lost your purpose, your way. You don't matter." 

The problem with those thoughts dear one, is that they are bogus. Lies. No one with a pulse is obsolete. No one. The person in a coma? Not obsolete. The person whose deaf and blind? Not obsolete. The person whose mind and brain are riddled with anxiety or autism? Not obsolete. The person whose prime accomplishment was thirty years ago? Not obsolete. 

 

God doesn't make anything obsolete. 

 

Wardrobes might go out of style, but people don't. Why? Because people carry the weight of glory, the very image of God. You, yes YOU, bear the image of God with every single breath you take. And God? He's timeless. He's always on time. He's never boring, or weird, or out of style. 

God never goes obsolete, (contrary to some people's opinion.) He doesn't lose a wink of sleep worrying about what the world thinks of him. And neither should you. 

Talk to your fear. Stand up to it. Tell your fear of becoming obsolete that you are done listening. Tell Obsolete what a liar he is - and he's not welcome near you. Go ahead. Say it out loud.

 

I believe the opposite of obsolete is purpose. Sometimes we go through phases in life where our purpose gets a little blurry. Or we experience a season of rest and our actionable purpose takes a back seat for a while. That's okay. Purpose is still in the car. Somehow though, if purpose is in the back seat, it feels like Obsolete starts riding shot gun. But again, that's not truth. You have to agree with that thought, that fear, and decide to let him ride up front. The problem is, he's not a good passenger or assistant. He has a terrible sense of GPS (Godly Purpose-ing System). Agreeing with "Obsolete" makes you just want to stop driving all together. Why bother. What's the point? Your journey and destination are...obsolete.

 

WRONG.

 

Friend, please hear this: No matter where you are on your journey, whether you're eight, 80, or in-between: God has great purpose for you. You are not obsolete.

You don't need Snapchat on your phone to be cool. Don't agree with that fear. Don't give it room to grow. Don't let it hop into the front seat. Lies are not worthy to sit in places of honor. Don't let that Obsolete voice drown out God's voice of purpose and dignity. 

Sometimes Scripture has a great way of silencing these negative voices. For "Obsolete," here are a few you can meditate on today:

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We have become his poetry, a re-created people that will fulfill the destiny he has given each of us, for we are joined to Jesus, the Anointed One. Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works we would do to fulfill it!

Ephesians 2:10 (The Passion Translation)

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We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan.

Romans 8:28 (The VOICE)

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O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit or stand. When far away you know my every thought. You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment you know where I am. You know what I am going to say before I even say it. You both precede and follow me and place your hand of blessing on my head.

Psalm 139:1-4 (The Living Bible)

 

Oh, one last nugget:

If you have a pulse, you have a purpose. 

 

Joyfully enjoying NOT being obsolete,

Rachel B.

When Your Stuff Becomes Suffocating

I'm not a pack-rat by nature. I love to throw stuff away and I hate clutter. But that's not always the reality I live in. As I get older, I seem to collect more stuff. What is that?

Sometimes more isn't better. Sometimes it's just more. I forget who said that. Wise.

I remember reading a book by Margaret Feinburg, called Scouting The Divine, a few years ago. She went to live on a sheep farm for a few weeks to learn the ways of sheep. She found out that sheep have to be instructed when to stop eating. If you give them too much green pasture they will actually gorge themselves, bloat, and die. There's an interesting fun-fact for you. This is why the Good Shepherd leads us to quiet waters when we need it. He leads us to green pastures, but He also knows when to tell us "No." He will actually lead us away from green pastures so we don't eat ourselves to death. Hmm.

In my recent health story, I've discovered I am packed full of "stuff"…namely, in my colon. Too much stuff isn't good anywhere for anyone, not even Mr. Colon.

Funny how this strange theme keeps coming out (pardon the pun) in my life. Sometimes what we crave, what we hunger for, is the exact opposite of what we need. I want caffeine, chocolate, and sugar (enter five exclamation points here), and my digestive tract is like "Hey, if you eat one more piece of crud - we are going on strike. And we mean it! We have created a Union, and all the organs are on board. If you abuse us one more time, we quit! Good luck with that. We refuse to be the butt of your joke."

Too. Much. Stuff. 

It's hard to resist. Marketing this day and age is off the charts. It's personalized. It's smart and learning your likes and dislikes. It knows if you like organic wine and if you menstruate. It whispers, "Wouldn't you like to have this? Why would you hold out on yourself…you're worth it!" It promises satisfaction, contentment, and relaxation but always leaves us wishing for one more thing. 

We can't relax. We have to buy containers to hold our stuff. We have no place to put the containers. And then we lose what we bought and re-buy it all over again. Okay, maybe you don't do this, but I do.

Maybe we weren't meant to own 9 million trinkets of treasure. I recall something vaguely like, "Don't store up for yourselves treasure on earth…"

Honestly, if I wasn't married, I'd go buy a Tiny House and find a little piece of property with breathing room. I’m not joking. The simpleness of that kind of life sounds so appealing…and yet, can you imagine how much stuff I'd have to throw out, or give away, or sell in order to move into that kind of lifestyle? A. Lot. 

And that's a lot of dying to do.

Most of us don't want to die to ourselves or our stuff. So we die a little inside each time we feed our never-ending cravings. And we teach out kids to collect stuff too.

Perhaps our proverbial colons are backed up. Maybe our life-plumbing could use a flush. Maybe our souls would wake back up if we stopped numbing them with stuff.

Can I tell you one more TMI fact about my colon? I've had to re-train it to start contracting again. Literally. My colon fell asleep because it was in a food coma. I would only have the feeling of needing to go about…every 7-9 days. Ya'll, that's not normal. The only way to get it to wake up and behave like a colon was to get rid of the excess junk that had paralyzed it, and stimulate it  on a regular "healthy" schedule. Eek. TMI? Sorry.

I think our souls are in a stuff coma. We have over-consumed items with no soul-nutrients, and under-consumed the life-giving words of God. Because of this, we are reaping a sleeping soul. It doesn't respond. It doesn't hear the voice of God. It doesn't care. It doesn't move. It's stuck, suffocated by our stuff. 

I'm preaching good here…right into my own soul. 

Maybe now is the season of waking up. A season where we start living and breathing with vibrancy again. A season where we are not consumed, but instead consuming the goodness of God and finding contentment just from being in His presence. And just maybe, 2018 is the year we methodically throw out every piece of junk that's suffocating us.

Joyfully,

Rachel B.

PS - if you need a humor-infused book on getting this done, check out "Clutter-Free" by Kathi Lipp. She's the real deal. Her father was a pathological hoarder. She has lived to tell the tale, and has helped thousands of people find freedom from clutter. 

In View of God's Mercy

Photo: Bud Helisson via Unsplash.

Photo: Bud Helisson via Unsplash.

I love the book of Romans! In the first 11 chapters of this book Paul is laying out the theology of the church. He’s revealing all the wonderful mercies of God! But then, chapter 12 comes along, and it’s as if Paul takes a deep breath and says, “Now, in light of all God has done, here is how we should live out our faith and affection toward God and each other.”

Romans 12 is full of little gems to be dug up.

This chapter is so rich and full of wisdom that you can literally spend hours and hours gleaning from the words coming off the pages, and I highly suggest you do just that! But today, I want to focus on one passage in this chapter that has been and still is life-changing for me.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

(Romans 12:1-2)

Let’s dig a little deeper. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Paul is giving us a warning and remedy all in one sentence. Warning: don’t be like the world. Remedy: be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

 

Transformation comes by the renewing of the mind, or changing the way you think.

 

Therefore, how do you suppose one becomes like the world to begin with? It’s simple. Every action we take begins with a thought in the mind. We can choose to align our thoughts with the ways of the world or with the mind of Christ.

Most of us have learned thought patterns that have developed since early childhood. If we have unhealthy thought patterns, it takes intense and purposeful work to break off the old ways of thinking. If we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, then we have to have a new

way of thinking. And Paul gives us that method in Romans 12:1. “In view of God’s mercy...” You see, when we begin to align our thought life with the ways of God and in light of Who He is, we can literally change our patterns of thinking.

How we choose to conduct our thought life is what makes us the people we are. If we have a thought of anger toward someone and we do not deal with that thought “in view of God’s mercy” toward us, that thought will begin to grow and expand and become a very ugly thing. When we allow these things to grow out of control, what we are really doing is harboring unforgiveness. Once unforgiveness is embedded in the heart, anger can grow to resentment and hate. It’s an ugly cancer to the soul and it can feel as if nothing can break the cycle. But THAT thought is a lie! We CAN break the cycle! Praise God!

If I am feeling insecure in a relationship, I may receive someone’s interaction with me as rude and I may feel rejected. In reality, they may be having a really rough day and their behavior has nothing to do with me at all. If that interaction takes place, I can allow that thing to sit on me and ruin my day and many days to come, or... I can fight the thoughts and feelings off “in light of God’s mercy.” I can choose to pray for that person to be blessed. I can speak blessing over them. I can offer to pray for them. I can choose to see myself the way God sees me... His beloved child!

All of action begins with a thought! How are you going to choose to think today? Can I make a suggestion? Begin aligning your thoughts with the mind of God. When you view your circumstance in light of God’s mercies, you will very quickly watch your world become much brighter!

You Are Not Forgotten

Photo by  Jamez Picard  on  Unsplash

Photo by Jamez Picard on Unsplash

Psalm 42:8 (NLT)

Psalm 42:8 (NLT)

I love how gentle the God of the Universe is. Sometimes in sickness, or less-than-perfect health it can feel like God is a little angry, sadistic, or oblivious. 

Let me assure you: He is not. 

He is closer than a whisper. Sweeter than the deepest love you've ever known. He can sing exponentially better than the best singer you have ever heard. And He chooses to sing over you. Every. Single. Day.

Is your soul awakened to the loving-kindness He is pouring out to you? During hardship, suffering, or walking the unknown, one of the biggest tendencies is to wall yourself off. Why?

It's easier to hide then confide.

My sweet sister, keep your heart wide open. Keep your soul soft and malleable. I promise you our Heavenly Father has not forgotten about you. Listen for His daily reminders of love. Be on the lookout. Courageously choose joy and hold it close to you. Don't let anyone or anything steal it. The Lord is fighting for you. He is on your side leading you to hope, healing, and wholeness.

 

Joyfully,

Rachel B.