close-up of calendar day square

Now

close-up of calendar day square

I’ve always been one to look forward to things.

It’s so easy for me to think, plan, anticipate, and sometimes even worry over the future.

I also think a lot about the past.

I like to remember, even re-live good moments, and sometimes find myself dwelling on hard ones.

But living in the moment??? It’s not my forte.

Especially during this wonderful but busy Christmas season, I find myself striving to make everything work, get everything done, and make at least some of the people happy.

cat sleeping with decorative lights behind

 

I long to have peace and celebrate the true meaning of the season.

So what’s a girl to do?

wreath in front of window

I can’t change the past. It’s good to remember and celebrate those moments in which God was with us, helped us to grow, or when things felt “right”.

cat sitting by Christmas tree

I can’t control the future, although I may plan and do my part to make it good.

 

I can only live in the NOW.

 

I can only decide what is the best next step right NOW.

I can only receive God’s gift of grace and peace RIGHT NOW.

 

I’m so thankful that even though God sent his son to this weary world over two thousand years ago, Jesus came for all of my “nows”.

He came to show us the way not only for eternity, but for today….. in both the “good” and the “bad”.

This Christmas, won’t you join me as we rest in the simplicity of the moment, celebrating and enjoying whatever good gifts God has given us right NOW?

 

my Willow Tree Nativity set

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Today’s post is written for the last link-up of 2016 with my friends at Five Minute Friday. Feel free to take a few moments from your busy schedule and ponder the thoughts of other bloggers on the prompt, “now”. Enjoy!

 

Hope, window, angel, Christmas cards

Count it All Joy

Hope, window, angel, Christmas cards

Today’s post is written for the link-up at Five Minute Friday on the prompt, “joy“.

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Oh, how I wish to just write a simple, happy post about Christmas joy today!

But the first phrase that came to me as I started to think about this prompt is the scripture that reads, “count it all joy” (probably in the King James version). So I looked it up in a more modern translation.

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” – James 1:2-4, NLT

This isn’t the joy we like to experience in our flesh (our natural selves), but it is the type of joy often spoken of in the Bible.

I’ve always loved the Christmas season best of all and most years have been filled with joy.

But there are so many who are hurting around me even now; those who have lost loved ones recently and will spend Christmas alone, those with a chronic illness looming over their bodies, many who face seemingly insurmountable difficulties and those who are simply a little lost.

My own recent “trials” seem so trivial in light of these more serious difficulties.

Yesterday we got a new fridge, but like so many household projects, things began to go wrong. It was an extremely stressful and exhausting day, but in the end (with a fridge stuck in the middle of our dining area and kitchen, a leaky water line downstairs, and my usually easy-going husband frazzled), we still have so much to be thankful for.

We weren’t feeling joy for most of the day, and it got even worse when late at night our water heater started leaking.

But I realized that these are such “first world problems”. They also don’t hold a candle to the pain that so many are facing in these days.

Whether it seems big or small, stresses and difficulties will come as long as we live.

So how do we count it all joy?

One of my favorite scripture passages comes to mind:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13, NIV

When things don’t go as planned…..we can count it as joy.

In the middle of a crisis…..we can count it as joy.

If we feel discouraged, anxious or depressed…..we can still count it as joy.

When the prognosis is bleak or we are in physical pain…..we can count it as joy.

In our times of deepest loss, grief or loneliness…..we can count it as joy.

When we feel afraid or like we don’t have what it takes…..we can count it as joy.

Whatever life throws at us, whether it seems big or small, we can count it as joy because we have hope. We know a God who will never leave us, who walks with us or carries us through every trial and joy, and who has given his very life for us.

He came long ago on that first Christmas bringing tidings of great joy.

When we trust that each moment in our life has purpose and can cause us to grow, we have a reason to find joy in every circumstance.

So whatever you face this Christmas, be it happy or hard, won’t you count it all as joy with me?

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Dayspring Fullness of Grace ecard

One Way I Celebrate Thanksgiving All Year Long

Today is Thanksgiving Day here in the United States.

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

 

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For my Canadian friends and family who celebrated Thanksgiving over a month ago, this is the season in which they have been leisurely getting ready for Christmas for weeks already. Meanwhile, we in the US are entering that crazy, festive, between-Thanksgiving-and-Christmas-Day rush and frenzy, attempting to cram all the good celebrations of two big holidays into just under a month…..but I digress.

Regardless of when (or how rushed) you celebrate the special holiday of giving thanks, I think it’s one of the best traditions we honor. We are so abundantly blessed, especially in this part of the world where I’ve been told that about 20% of us enjoy about 80% of the wealth.

But even better than our physical blessings, are the unseen gifts that we are privileged to enjoy every day.

Love, joy, freedom, forgiveness, salvation, comfort, friendship and humor just to name a few, all free but priceless blessings we must not take for granted.

Each November, one of the traditions I’ve kept now for several years came about as a suggestion from a friend on Facebook. The challenge was to post a list of things I was thankful for every day from November 1st until Thanksgiving Day, each day using words starting with each corresponding letter of the alphabet from A to Z. That was fun (and good practice for Scrabble games), and a good practice in being thankful for more than just one day.

A couple of years ago, my sister started a similar practice (also on Facebook), but instead decided to take a special photo each day and post her gratitude visually with an apt description. For a family who loves photography (and especially likes to share it online since we all live far apart), this idea was appealing. So I’ve been doing something along these lines each day in November for the past couple of years.

This year my online Pilates instructor challenged us to record three things each day we are thankful for, and being a quiet rebel and photography lover I decided to post one or more photos on Facebook instead of writing them. I include a list or description of three things I am thankful for. I have to say that my Facebook friends seem to really enjoy this, and I think it inspires them to be thankful, too.

While all these practices are good, what about the rest of the year?

While I like having a special time or holiday set aside each year to give special focus and attention to something or someone good, shouldn’t our hearts overflow with thanksgiving every day of the year???

Several years ago I started what I like to call a gratitude journal.

It was inspired by Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, which I read and studied along with my church women’s small group. It was inspirational to say the least, and has helped me to be thankful every day.

Since then, I have attempted to record at least three things each day in my journal, starting my day off with an attitude of gratitude that seeps into the rest of my day. I don’t always remember or take the time, but overall it is a practice I highly recommend.

Another of my favorite inspirational authors and bloggers, Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom also encourages her readers to follow her example and keep this daily habit. She even created her own gratitude journal which you can purchase, but any journal or notebook will do.

Here’s what mine looks like:

live laugh love journal

Some of the things I record are more serious, while others are just little things that I enjoy in the moment.

enjoy the little things plaque and candle

But overall, it helps me to be more aware of all of the blessings I find around me each and every day.

gratitude list

This is one way I celebrate Thanksgiving all year long.

I hope you will join me.

*****

Have you ever kept a gratitude journal? Do you need help (as I do) to remember to keep a grateful heart? What are you thankful for today?

 

 

 

hot pink mums

Learning to Enjoy God’s Will

hot pink mums

Today’s post is written for Five Minute Friday on the prompt, “Enjoy”.

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When I was a child, I often felt that to simply enjoy life was not the “holy” thing to do.  In my efforts to please God, I often thought if it wasn’t hard I must not really doing the right thing. I knew I needed to be willing to sacrifice in order to do His will.

Now there is a truth there. Being a Christian does mean I’ve made a choice to give my life to God, live by his standards and instructions, and follow his plan for my life. It may even be difficult (no actually, it will sometimes be difficult), and at times requires sacrifice.

But the longer I am alive, I am starting to understand that just because I enjoy something doesn’t mean I’m being selfish.

Could it actually be that the God who created me; the One who designed me and formed me in my mother’s womb, planning my days before I was even born, gave me desires that would align with his perfect plan for my life?

 

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
 You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.”

Psalm 139:13-16, NLT

This is a hard lesson for one with a natural bent towards seeing the “shoulds” much easier in life that the “want to’s”. I am even guilty of reflecting this thought to those around me whom I love.

But I am even now discovering that although there will always be hardships, God really does want me to enjoy my life.  He designed me with a purpose that fits me so well, as I learn to walk in it I will be more happy and satisfied because I’m living out the real “me”.

There will still be times of hardship, suffering, discipline and even sacrifice, but even then I will maintain that deep joy that comes from knowing I’m exactly where He wants me to be.

God, help me to enjoy the person you’ve made me to be, and to live out the purpose you have for me. Don’t let me waste the gifts, strengths and personality you’ve given me by trying to live someone else’s life.  Let me enjoy doing the good you’ve called me me to do.

Amen.

*****

Do you feel like doing God’s will is hard, or are you able to step out in your gifts and talents and enjoy doing the good purposes for which you were created?

fall sunlight through trees with barn

To Those Who Are Hurting

 

fall sunlight through trees with barn

I see so many around me hurting.

Some of them I know, and some are still strangers, but they’re out there.

We’ve just come through a tumultuous election and it seems the discord, dislike and distrust are still rampant. There are many with fears and those who seem to have lost hope.

darkening sky at sunset

But I know many who are experiencing an even greater sadness. Recently, they have lost someone dear to them.

More than one family that I know are living in the aftermath of an unexpected loss of a loved one. And that is one of the hardest griefs to bear.

fall field grass

We sang this song in worship on Sunday. I was ministering with our worship team, so I heard and sang it over and over.

And when I got home, I realized there was a message of hope and help in it that could bring some small healing to the hearts of those I care about.

Listen to this version of, “Lord I Need You”.

The lyrics, “I need you; oh, I need you” are a familiar refrain to many of us who have sung them from our youth.

But they are ever true.

sun hitting bare tree branches against blue sky

When we are experiencing a loss or in the midst of grieving we may feel this “need” more acutely, but in reality it’s always present.

I am reminded of the wise words of one of the former presidents of the Bible college I attended.

He was a stately man of Welsh decent, and had a gift for articulating thoughts in such a meaningful way. He was the type of man who could speak truth so succinctly that it would give you something to think about for days, and even stay with you for life.

One such time was in chapel after we had just sung the words of an old chorus, “As the Deer“, which come from the scripture in Psalms 42:1.

“As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after thee”

You can read the story behind that chorus here.

barn and pasture in late afternoon sun

Our president shared that the intent of the scripture wasn’t that the deer waits until it’s almost too late or it’s been without water so long that it can barely go on, but that the deer desperately needs the consistency of water every day of it’s life.

So are we with God.

We may feel our need for God more passionately in times of stress, hardship and pain, but what the Bible is getting at is that we need God and his Word in our lives always.

It needs to be as the food we eat and the air we breathe.

And just as all living things need water to live, so we will die without him in our lives.

He is our Source, our Comfort, our Strength, and our Song. He leads us and goes before us, carries us when we are weak, gives us the strength and wisdom to carry on, and stays with us at all times.

If you are in a season of uncertainty or pain, let me leave you with a few lines from “Lord I Need You”.

 

“Without you I fall apart.

You’re the one who guides my heart.”

 

Every hour I need you.”

 

“When I cannot stand I’ll fall on You.

Jesus, you’re my hope and stay.”

 

Our hope has never been in the people who lead the country, nor in the circumstances of our lives.

My prayer for you is that in your greatest hour of urgency as well as in your daily need, you will call out to God, let yourself fall on him, and put your trust in His mighty, unending, sacrificial love for you.

 

*****

 

trail in woods with morning sun

Journey

trail in woods with morning sun

Today’s post is written for the Five Minute Friday link-up on the prompt, “journey”.

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Life is made of so many journeys.

Some are happy and joy-filled and some are difficult and laced with pain.

  • The journey of a small embryo as he/she grows into a full-size baby.
  • That painful journey from the safety and darkness of our mother’s womb into the bright but scary real world.
  • Our early childhood and formative years.
  • The tumultuous journey from childhood to adulthood, called adolescence.
  • Our journey of learning through education.
  • The journey of career training and job choices.
  • Many journeys of relationships, especially if one chooses to marry.
  • The ever-challenging, yet abundantly rewarding  journey of having and raising children, if we dare.

There are journeys within these journeys of life as well; emotional and mental journeys made up of experiences and our reactions to them, among other factors.

But one journey stands out to me most: my spiritual journey.

That is the path that leads me through life, either towards or far away from God.

This is the journey that I chose to prioritize, even though it is unseen.

It is the journey that will affect me the most, and bring hope and healing or hurt and pain to those around me.

Thankfully, I have a Guide and a guidebook to help me along the path.

 

Psalm 23 (NLT)

A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
    He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
    forever.

*****

 

drinks, vegetables, fruit, and snacks

Eat

drinks, vegetables, fruit, and snacksThis post is written for the Five Minute Friday link-up, where different bloggers will briefly write their thoughts about the prompt, “eat”.

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“Mom! What is there to eat?”

Sound familiar?

Well, what is there?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I eat lately, especially since I’m in the midst of a seven-day fitness/meal plan challenge, intended to jump-start a balanced, healthy regimen by exercising (longer than normal!), and eating a balanced, nutritious diet.

It’s easy for our kids…..OK, for us adults, too….. to just grab the easiest or most appealing snack and shove it in our mouths. In the busyness of life, it’s hard and takes discipline and planning to eat in a healthy way.

It’s more work to cook healthy meals and snacks from real, wholesome food, than to grab an expensive, pre-packaged snack or wolf down a handful of greasy, nutrition-void chips.

It’s all about choices.

We must choose our priorities, and plan to make them a reality.

So it is with our spirits.

We can browse aimlessly online, on social media, or in front of the television. We can wander nonchalantly through our favorite store, being tempted by things we don’t need or are not good for us or for our budgets.

As a slight disclaimer, I am in no way bashing the tools of technology such as social media, TV, etc., and am not suggesting that relaxing by shopping are always bad activities. They just require discipline.

What I am suggesting, even challenging us with, is to chose how we spend our time. Chose what we look at, devour, or even “nibble on” in our lives. We must mindfully consider what we are allowing to enter our minds, hearts, and our spirits.

We often tell our children the illustration about the two dogs inside of us: the vicious, self-serving, mean and unruly one; or the kind, gentle, loving, disciplined and faithful one…..and encourage them to feed the right dog. That is the animal that will get bigger, stronger, and take over our life.

Today, let’s be intentional, and choose what we eat wisely.

*****

 

closed door close-up

Learning Not to Push Open Closed Doors

closed door close-upLately I keep encountering the same message.

Don’t push open doors that God has closed.

Let go of the past.

Move forward into something new.

I’ve encountered this message recently in my various devotional readings. Interesting, as I’ve been encouraged particularly through two entirely different authors from unrelated ministries. One is from a Bible reading plan on YouVersion (the Bible app.), and the other from the Loop devotional emails I receive each week.

I shouldn’t be surprised, though, as I recall that my word of the year is “new”,  (or perhaps “change”). I honestly had forgotten about that in the busyness of these past few months.

As I shared in that earlier post, I have been in a transitional time in my life as far as work (outside the home) is concerned. Interestingly, this trend has continued for the past year, as I enjoyed another part-time job since I wrote the original post which also ended within a few months with re-structuring in the business. I am even now facing the end of my current seasonal position at a local farm, although this time it was to be expected.

As I’ve begun again to think about looking for work and what that might look like, I have thought about the possibility of “pushing on” some old employment doors. Usually, as long as I haven’t received concrete advice or an obvious “warning” feeling not to, I would proceed to “turn over every stone”, or go ahead and knock on any door, trusting God to lead me to and/or away from each job as appropriate.

But more and more, I am sensing that God has new direction for me.

This has been confirmed by those closest to me, as well.

This doesn’t mean that perhaps he will not open an “old” door, but I’m less inclined to push hard on them.

It continues to be both frightening and exciting.

Some time ago, I also wrote another post about what it means when God closes a door in our lives. I hadn’t thought about that one lately, either, but found it interesting to go back and review what God was showing me several months ago. Every once in awhile I need to listen to my own advice!

The thing about it is this: it’s easier and more comfortable to pursue the same old ways we have known. My personality especially likes my familiar routines and ways, and finds changes and new ventures stressful and usually overwhelming.

It takes courage, discipline and a little faith to step out into something new.

I cannot do it on my own, but I pray that with God’s help I will find the path he has for me for this next season.

I want my life to count, and more than that, to give glory back to him.

On this bright and sunny mid-October day, the cold weather that seemed to have too quickly sneaked up on us seems to be taking a little break, and I’m told that temperatures will be in the upper seventies (almost eighty degrees….or about 25 degrees Celsius for the rest of the world!), in the next two days.

With this recent reprieve in the cooler fall weather, as I throw open my windows, I have been inspired to apply this to my emotional and spiritual health, as well.

Instead of just “surviving” or plugging through this next unknown season (especially for job-hunting and finding my true purpose for now), I am encouraged to throw open the windows of my heart and life! Of course there is the important balance of guarding my emotions or my heart, but I wish to confront this time with intentional focus and joy, rather than dread, hopelessness or just haphazard steps.

A few days ago I read a wonderful blog post that so spoke to my heart about change that I kept the tab open all weekend because I knew I’d need to read it again. I received the link in an email from the (in)courage blog to this article called, “Why God Allows Change“, written by guest author, Melanie Davis Porter. It is just what I needed to hear again! Maybe it will encourage you, as well.

Reading this post encouraged and challenged my heart to embrace and follow God’s changes in my life, even when it doesn’t feel like it makes sense.

Thankfully, there are no surprises to God!

I simply need to trust in his proven faithfulness and plan for my life.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

– Jeremiah 29:11, NLT

Lord, help me to accept the good changes you have in store for me, and not allow the past to dictate or cloud my future. I put my trust in you. Amen.

*****

Do you find change difficult or exciting? In what area of your life do you need to put your trust in God? Is there a “closed door” that you need to walk away from today?

 

 

black and white mailbox

You’ve Got Mail

black and white mailbox

Do you remember that memorable movie line from the 1998 film?

That’s the first thing that came to mind when I heard today’s prompt, “mail”. We don’t watch a lot of movies, and certainly don’t endorse the material and values that many of them stand for, but there is something that stuck out to me about this particular movie.

I had to look it up to refresh my memory, but You’ve Got Mail is a movie about a man and a women who get to know each other online, but little do they realize they are actually business rivals. In the end of course they fall in love and it’s “happily ever after”.

The thing that stood out to me from the movie was when either person (on their now “out-of-date” personal computers), received a notification, “You’ve got mail.” It happened over and over throughout the movie as their relationship developed.

Well, guess what?

You’ve got mail.

I have it too. In fact, it’s written to the whole human race.

It’s a long, detailed love letter; one of the oldest, but greatest stories ever recorded. It’s recorded by many different authors, but written by the one, true God.

And the best thing is, the Bible stories are true.

Why not take a fresh look at your “mail”, and see what the One who created you has to say to you today?

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Today’s quick post was written for the Five Minute Friday link-up. Join me there to see what other bloggers have to say about the prompt, “mail”.

Coffee, candle, pumpkin on table

What Am I Choosing to Collect?

Today’s post is written for Five Minute Friday, a fun and inspirational link-up with many other bloggers who write for five minutes, unedited, on a given prompt.

(Confession time: I’m working on sticking to the five minute, unedited “rule”, imperfectly, but have grown towards these goals as a “recovering perfectionist”. That’s one of the reasons I chose to participate in this weekly challenge.)

Today’s prompt is, “collect”. I hope you are encouraged or inspired, too.

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Coffee, candle, pumpkin on table

 

What am I choosing to collect?

A life is full of collections, some of physical things, such as stones, shells, books, stamps, jewelry, coffees or mason jars.

But every day we are collecting things we cannot see.

What am I choosing to collect … emotionally, mentally, even spiritually?

I often make poor choices (or automatic, it seems), to collect regrets, discontent, complaints, stress, grief, hurt or negativity.

But I wish to collect something better, a collection of unseen gifts that I can share through my life with those around me, and pass on to my family and future generations.

With God’s help, I would rather be intentional about collecting good things.

I choose to collect thankfulness, cheerfulness, peace, happy memories, good thoughts, positive words, grace … simple treasures that I wish to keep.

I do have a choice as to what I collect.

 

” And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” 

– Philippians 4:8-9 (NLT)

 

 

We can make a positive impact on our own lives, and of those around us.

 

 

” The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.

– 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (MSG)

 

 

What are you choosing to collect?

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