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Top 10 Ways to Prepare for the Holidays!

Planning for the Holidays

As we are now into November, we have a few major holidays coming soon! It is easy to become very overwhelmed when it comes to planning and preparing. I find it easy to plan and break it down into bite-size pieces. This helps financially too, as our budgets can’t always handle so much at once. When we were younger, with children and in college, I had to start making notes and plan out all I needed to do several months ahead. It helped very much!

Our family for many years has traded Christmas ornaments purchased from the White House Historical Association. It is very fun as we have around 20 years worth of ornaments now! So instead of waiting until the very last minute, I partner with other family members just how many we will order.

Link to the White House Ornaments here

For me, lists are key! I do my best to make lists, create categories and stick to the plan as much as possible! This helps so much!

1. Out With the Old, In With the New

Usually, from October through December, we have several occasions for which we quickly go from one thing to another. There are pretty changing leaves, then Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas then New Years. It is easy to forget about one holiday and concentrate on others instead. Some of us end up putting out too much and don’t put away decor from the other season/holiday. This ends up creating too much around our home. Too many themes end up causing inconsistencies. We should decide when we will start and end decorating for each holiday. For example, many people wait until the day after Thanksgiving to decorate for Christmas. I think this is great as we don’t forget to concentrate on being thankful for what we have before we dive into so much that happens specifically at Christmas. There is so much available to buy to decorate, then to give.

2. Deck The Halls

I love decorating! I have so much that I have collected over the years. Pulling out too much though can cause too much clutter. I find that it is good to concentrate on themes. I love snowmen, deer, lots of green and I love snow globes too. And then there are the special Christmas-patterned dishes, figurines and “fixin’s” that I love too. I just have to be careful that I don’t overdo and try too hard to put everything out. What theme will you use this year?

3. You Are Invited…

I usually start planning in October for what I will do for each holiday. Sometimes plans change. It can be for good or bad reasons at times. Planning who I invite and for what occasion helps me plan everything else around it. I can then wait for a response. This helps me plan what food, for how many and for how long. Who is on your holiday list?

FAMILY TRADITIONS AND RECIPES ARE A SPECIAL PART OF THE HOLIDAY SEASONS

4. Favorite Family Food

Each holiday season, I make our family favorites! These are traditional dishes that I remember and have fond memories of having each year. Many of them have special thoughts and stories of family we have shared them with in the past. Some of our family favorites are Sweet Potato Souflee, Corn Pudding, Ham, Turkey, Pecan Pie, Dump Cake. If anyone would like a recipe, please let me know and I will be happy to post a recipe. Share in the comments what your favorites are that you plan to make this year.

5. Thinking of You

Each year, if we are going to send out greeting cards, we should find one that we love, write out a list of recipients and send them out 3-4 weeks in advance of the holiday so that friends and family can receive them between the holidays enough to enjoy them. Many people are using picture cards as their annual cards to go out each year. This is a great idea! Recipients can see how you look and your family has grown each year. I enjoy getting one of these each year from many of my siblings.

6. The Thought Counts

Giving is special but we often lose track of what is most important. When we have children, we want to give them so much and allow them to have a great experience each year. It is very important each year though that we teach our children that we need to teach them that it is most important to think of others, not ourselves and what we get!

We need to think of the real reason for these holidays by remembering what we were given by God sending His own Son to be born, die and rise again so that we can have a personal relationship with Him!

It is good to set a spending limit, stick to our budget as we have other things to buy besides gifts. We should also think about what we should give to God first, helping others and giving our lives to Him. Let’s also not forget to slow things down and make sure we focus on all the things we have to be thankful for before we dive into Christmas gift buying. These seasons aren’t just about getting gifts.

CELEBRATE FAMILY AND GOD’S BLESSINGS DURING THE HOLIDAYS

7. Set The Date

The month of December in particular is a very busy time for most people. Those who have children must consider children’s programs at their school, church and any other extra curricular programs they are involved in. At work, we have company parties and then social events with friends and family. It is best to put all of these activities on a calendar so we don’t forget them and we can prioritize if we have to make a choice between events.

8. Clean House

It is hard sometimes to clean, then do it all over again a few days later. I recommend writing out a list and keeping a schedule of day to day cleaning chores such as washing dishes and washing laundry vs weekly chores. Also consider when company is arriving, then leaving and new company arrives.

9. Pamper Yourself

Take time to figure out what you will wear for events, for pictures, and time with family. It helps to settle down and have even the smallest details figured out ahead of time. Many families like to do a Christmas card with a picture on it. It looks great when family matches or coordinates with each other. It helps to give yourself a break too!

10. Chill Out

Don’t let yourself get stressed out. Get ready to enjoy the reason for the season! I allowed myself in the past to get stressed out because I didn’t have everything “perfect.” I realize that this isn’t what is important. It is the time spent with people, especially family and time spent thinking about why we celebrate each holiday that is important. Take a little time to be still this season. Make sure it doesn’t just become one chore after another. Sometimes just slowing things down makes a huge difference on our ability to celebrate and worship. It is a time to

“Be still and know that I am God.”

Psalm 46:10
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Real Change- Let’s Choose Freedom!

Free by Steven Curtis Chapman

Change Is Constant for Christians

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on [a]so that I may lay hold of that [b]for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:12 NASB

Often, I read of changes in someone’s life and I watch criticism unfold. I read many comments and I hear many stories on the news about how a specific person did something(s)wrong! It seems that there is much doubt as to whether change in a person’s life is possible. Take for instance , Kanye West. His story is in the news currently as his album “Jesus Is King,” was just released. Many are doubting right now that the change in his life regarding being a born again Christian, is real. When we look at his past, we see his lifestyle was rather vile, sexual and ungodly.

I recently listened to an interview with Kanye West in which he told the story of how immersed he was in pornography. He said his first encounter with pornography was when he was five years old! He said this really impacted his life and the choices he made. Most of his decisions revolved around things of a sexual nature.

Can God Really Make A Difference?

Can God not make a difference in a person’s life when they surrender to Him? Celebrities and those seen in the public eye are easily judged. We have media that portray people in extremes, as really good or really bad. Seeing this, we then compare ourselves against the celebrities, politicians or any of the people we hear about. We then tend to look at their past and feel much better about ourselves that we don’t act “as they do!” We don’t think of ourselves as needy, undeserving people. I think we tend to see ourselves as more “reachable” than some. Yet Paul says in Philippians 3:12 listed above, “not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect.” People who we don’t like, who misbehave or we disagree with, we often see as “unreachable.”

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold new things have come

2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB

Is Change Possible?

The verse “with God, all things are possible” means exactly that! This includes change in a person’s life! God can change lives and He will. A person must yield their life to Him. He can then change their life! This is not a necessity for salvation, but rather a sign that salvation has occured in their life. It is a sign that they have changed directions, that they have repented of where they were in the past to a different life now. A change demonstrates that they know they need God to guide and rule their life. He’s the “New Commander and the Chief” as Kanye states in one of his newest songs, “On God.”

When we look at the at the apostle Paul’s life in the New Testament, he persecuted Christians for their faith. he said:

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-of whom I am the worst.

1 Timothy 1:15
Change Is Part Of The Journey

Is Change Immediate?

We can watch, we can wait and see how or if an individual changes over time. It takes time to see change, though. We won’t see the same change or amount of change from a newborn in Christ, as we will from someone who has known Christ for many years. This is the case for every believer. Paul In fact, speaks of the struggle between our flesh and our spirit in Romans 7.

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[a] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature[b] a slave to the law of sin.

Romans 7:14-25 New International Version (NIV)

Sometimes one who has known Christ for years and looks good on the outside, can be stale and be a lukewarm believer. They are not excited about things of God and thankful for His grace. There is no growth. They have still received Christ and have salvation but some cannot see evidence of a relationship with Him in their life. Some wonder if they are following His purpose for them. They go to church and do all the expected things that they believe makes them acceptable to God.

Once in Prison, Now Set Free

Sin is a choice that “imprisons” us. It is the choice that:

  • We made to be stuck in a terrible place by the actions we did and decisions we made.
  • God made to save us and to set us free.
  • We make, to accept His sacrifice and grace for us and walk with our Lord from that point on.

See, it is a journey! There is no way that we will get to where God wants us to be , immediately. We can allow Him to use us in incredible ways by taking our wrongs , changing and using us for good. When I look at Kanye West right now, I see that he is concerned about moral issues for those who worked with him in making this new album, Jesus is King. He asked those who were unmarried, to not have sex outside of marriage. Kanye also sees the immodesty of the clothing that his wife, Kim was wearing and wants a change there. He is surrounding himself with other believers as well, and giving the gospel to many.

There is a huge relief, a freedom, when we know that we are released from staying where we were in our past, where we are still in other people’s views and expectations of us, how we can then be used of God and finally a permanent home in heaven. When we know that we may be judged by others and believe that they won’t accept where we are now, it is hard to follow Christ still. But, the Bible says, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36). Choosing Christ brings freedom!

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Blowing Whistles

Impeachment, Whistleblower, Ukraine… these are words I have heard often this last week. Everyone has an opinion on what happened. We hear from one news channel to the next, their opinion of what is happening right now. Some state facts. I’ve read news reports and many views on social media sites of Who did What wrong! Who is telling the truth, though, who is right and what is the best source, given the information we hear constantly?

Our Opinions

I have my own opinion. What is yours? I share my views at times on social media. This last weekend, I shared my view recently on a particular subject and I had many positive “likes” and “retweets!” I value other opinions, even if I don’t agree with them. I accept that others see things differently. What I find disappointing though, is hate. Some who respond, don’t even relate their view what was originally said. They see one word or name and decide to raise issues that are very irrelevant. Hate not only divides, but it causes confusion and it does not accomplish anything but cause more problems.

Valuable Thinking

Knowing what you believe and what you base your beliefs on, is very critical. Is it only an opinion? Your values should not change, no matter what the name of the current President is or issues discussed. Facts are very important! Seeking truth is very important! Researching what you believe and why you believe it, is very important when making a value judgment. Many comments and decisions do not make sense any longer. A preference alone, is not justification for a critical decision! It seems that making a decision is like picking a celebrity. Our leaders should not be chosen on the basis of popularity.

Think With Respect

I often notice disrespect by those who should be setting an example. Teachers in a middle school in Florida, recently asked their students who they would vote for and the quiz referred to a specific leader as an “idiot.” Regardless of their views, they should show show respect for leaders. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/president-donald-trump-idiot-says-florida-middle-school-teacher-n10597810. I am very disappointed by this. My children are grown, but I already see some young people today, not appreciate the sacrifices made for them by soldiers giving their lives, parents caring and sacrificing time and giving them their best.

Finding Our Values

I see such a large breakdown of values! Where do we find, learn and practice these values? We learn them through God’s Word, the Bible, first of all. We can also learn from good examples in our family and history.

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

George Santayana

Fight Smart, With Love

There is a constant battle going on. This is a spiritual battle, between what is right and wrong. Fighting physical battles though, begins first in the heart! Anger, bitterness, pride, hurt, fear and shame are some of these emotions that cause so much of the struggle that we experience day to day. I wish we could go back to the fundamentals of our faith and history(good), to change what is becoming more and more corrupt.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:12

The Best Foundation

I am encouraged by a song that tells us to build our life on the foundation of His love, to know Him, to trust Him and show others this love I know! By trusting Him, I won’t be shaken by comments and beliefs other people expect me to have.

…And I will build my life upon Your love,

it is a firm foundation,

And I will put my trust in You alone and I will not be shaken…

Holy, there is none beside You

Open up my eyes in wonder and

Show me who You are and fill me with Your heart

And lead me in Your love to those around me.

Lyrics from Build My Life, Pat Barrett
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Please Intercede!

Pray by Sanctus Real

Horizontal: God and I

We often think that a Pastor or Priest has to go to the Lord to intercede on our behalf to confess or pray for certain things that we are concerned about. God allows us to go to Him though, directly when we want to talk to Him. I am thankful for this! While it is good to let our pastor and other people we know, pray for us, I can directly go to Him anytime I want to and need to!

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:16. NKJV

I like how this verse states that we can come boldly! We don’t have to be afraid to come on our own, to Him! We can and should let other believers, know what we need prayer for, but we should never be afraid to speak to Him ourselves!

The definition of interceding is ” to interpose in behalf of someone in difficulty or trouble, as by pleading or petition. (Dictionary.com) To intervene on behalf of another. Also, to reconcile differences between two people or groups, to mediate.”

If we are in a bad legal situation, we might need someone to mediate for us. We need someone to speak, or negotiate a better outcome for us than we can do for ourselves. This is what the Holy Spirit does for us!

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

Romans 8:26-27 NIV

I plead to God the only way I know, with the only words I know to say, but He knows! While I may think I know what is best, based on what I want, God knows what truly is best. He cares not only about my situation, but how to mold my character to be more like Him. My view of the time it should to take to work out a problem, is definitely Not His!

Vertical: Praying for Other People

Jesus Christ carries on intercession for us in heaven; the Holy
Ghost carries on intercession in us on earth; and we the saints have to carry on intercession for all men.

Oswald Chambers

We should intercede for other people too! Our family has needs, our friends have needs, co-workers and many who lead us in various ways. Our brothers and sisters in Christ need us to pray for them! We can pray when we know of a specific need and when they come to our mind. The Bible tells us to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), “I urge then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people.- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.( 1 Timothy 2:1-2), Galatians 6:2″ carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Areas in which we can pray are:

  • Church- Leaders, Salvation, Spiritual Growth
  • Missions- Foreign, National, Local
  • World Leaders
  • Country Leaders
  • Sickness- Terminal, Chronic, Currently Ill
  • Grief- From Death, Destroyed Relationships
  • Marriage, Family
  • Friends
  • Jobs- Unemployed, Between Jobs, Priorities
  • Ourselves- Relationship with God, Family, Priorities

Praying Molds our Character

Earnest intercession will be sure to bring love with it. I do not believe you can hate a man for whom you habitually pray. If you dislike any brother Christian, pray for him doubly, not only for his sake, but for your own, that you may be cured of prejudice and saved from all unkind feeling.

Charles Spurgeon

I find that when I pray for someone, it changes my outlook on them. I find I care more for them than for what upsets me. No longer do I think only of myself, but for the needs that they have. Selfishness on my part, for what I want, is no longer a priority. I want the best for them, not what pleases me alone. My viewpoint changes, especially when I take the time, get the “dislike” out of my mind and I pray for that person.

I challenge you today, to start with allowing God( the Holy Spirit), to intercede in your relationship with Him (Horizontal) when you pray. Next, think of others who you can pray for- (Vertical Relationships) and finally consider how your life will change by not only including prayer, but is guided by prayer.

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Attitude of Gratitude

Enemy by The Newsboys

Grateful for Protection

Yesterday, we remembered the 18th anniversary of 9/11. We mourn all those lost on this day. but we can be grateful when we think of those who rescued those hurt in this horrid event. There are also many people to thank for fighting for our freedom. This is an example of something for which we can be grateful.

Grateful for Health

Two years ago this week, I was admitted to the hospital to stabilize a medication level I was prescribed. My Neurologist at the time, over-prescribed my medication and I had several bad side effects. When I was in the emergency room, doctors realized that they had to call poison control because my levels of valproic acid were so great, that they had to get help. Doctors believed it was necessary to change medications and I was watched carefully. I am very grateful to the hospital and medical staff who handled my needs.

I am very grateful for my husband’s willingness to care for me so much for weeks when I was unable to walk and unable to eat regular food. His job allowed him to work from home so that he could consistently watch over me. Our church provided many meals and our pastor and many others came to visit also. I have so much to be grateful for in the middle of all of this situation. Most of all, I have God to thank for keeping me alive. Living a life of gratitude includes giving back in response to what is given to us.

Gratitude vs Pride

It is easy to be filled with pride though when we are not grateful for what we have, what is given to us or done to us. When we think we have our life all figured out and believe others are wrong, we are ungrateful. Now, that we have adult kids, I realize that I don’t know as much as I thought.

” The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know”

Albert Einstein

There is no perfect way to know we are handling situations with each of our kids, correctly. I have come to appreciate my parents more, with the hard decisions they had to make. They didn’t do it everything perfectly. Neither do I! Situations don’t come out like we expect. I have to give grace, instead of being prideful, that I have figured everything out.

A Way of Life

Often, we think of Thanksgiving as a one-time a year event. We plan our food and who we will celebrate with. Gratitude, being thankful, is not an event, it is a regular habit, a way of life. It is an attitude in our life, not pride where we believe we deserve items or circumstances to be just right for us.

I find that the enemy of gratitude is pride, bitterness and entitlement. We aren’t grateful when we hold our own wants and expectations as well as anger in a higher position than thankfulness, gratitude.

And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Colossians 3:17
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Without Ceasing

Warrior – Steven Curtis Chapman

Conversations With A Friend

I remember riding to a Christian school with a pastor and his daughter when I was young. Every morning he prayed on our way. It made me nervous as I wondered if he was closing his eyes when praying as he was driving! This I believed, was the correct way to pray at the time. I believed I had to sit still with my hands folded and my eyes closed. Is this the only way to pray though?

In the Bible, Paul tells us to pray without ceasing. How do we do this when we still have to keep our eyes open when driving, working, cooking, cleaning and all of the responsibilities we take part in everyday? I find though, that when we have an ongoing, consistent relationship with the Lord throughout the day, we speak with Him regularly in a conversation. If He is truly real in our lives, then we have to live as though He is real. Existence is not enough, communication is key in a right relationship. In the book of John, Jesus states that we are “now His friends, since I have told you everything that the Father has told me.” (John 15:15) This implies that Jesus communicates with us, which is indicative of prayer.

Pride Vs. Humility

Jesus spoke of two men. One was a Pharisee who came to pray in a fancy, eloquent way stating that He was glad that he wasn’t as others. The other man came humbly before God. Which way do we pray? Do we have to have a fancy long speech or do we come simply and humbly, telling God as we are, that we are sinners, yet we have a need for Him most in our life. Do we pray to converse with God or do we pray to make me look good?

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people-robbers, evildoers, adulterers- or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”

But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said ” God have mercy on me, a sinner.”

I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Luke 18:10-14

A Model To Use

I see humility as a key element in prayer. I know that He alone makes all things possible. I realize that it is not about me! A model I learned many years ago is based on the acronym “ACTS”

  • Adoration – Loving on God in your prayer
  • Confession – Confessing the sin in my life
  • Thanksgiving – Being thankful for the things He has done and is doing in my life
  • Supplication – Telling Got what is going on in my day to day and asking for guidance and help

Fight The Right War

We are fighting a war right now. We can see or hear about physical fighting, but even physical fights have deeper roots. It comes down to anger in people’s hearts against others and against doing what is right before God. It takes constant, regular prayer to go against the enemy. We may not see the results we hope to see right away or for a long time, but regular communication with God changes us. We see God as the one who is ultimately in control!

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

Ephesians 6:12

I Have No Words for This

Have you ever seen a situation that you just can’t explain and you need help from someone else? When this happens, I need help navigating my way through, what I just saw or just experienced. This is what I think of when I read in Romans 8, when Paul explains how the Spirit works when we don’t understand what we are dealing with and don’t know what to say when we go to pray.

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

Romans 8:26-27

So, our need for communication with our heavenly Father does not cease! We have trials that we don’t understand, against which we have to continually fight a spiritual battle! We need to realize the need to be humble before Him and rely continually on Him in prayer.

“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”

Martin Luther
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Who Are You?

My husband and I went to see the new movie Overcomers, this past weekend! I identify well with Coach John Harrison as he believes his talent in coaching a winning team means he is successful. When his team lost and many of his players move away, he is not only disappointed but he believes he isn’t a success. He doesn’t see any way that he will win if he coaches a one-girl cross country team, especially as she also has asthma.

A Real Win!

Hannah Scott, the cross country runner, comes from a very difficult background. She is told by her grandmother who raises her, that both of her parents are dead. Eventually she is introduced to her biological father who she doesn’t know still exists but he is on his death bed. She realizes the love he has for her and that he wants a relationship with his daughter, Hannah. He seeks her forgiveness for his past in drug use. Her father ends up coaching her, from his bed in the hospital. In this last race, she wins in her very last race where she against several other schools.

Principal Olivia Brooks, played by Priscilla Shirer, takes time to explain to Hannah Scott, what a relationship with Christ is about and leads her to Christ. She tells her who she is according to what Ephesians 1-2, written by the apostle Paul says. This is a great resource for all believers to study and believe who we truly are.

  • Blessed
  • Chosen
  • Redeemed
  • Forgiven
  • Alive
  • Saved by grace, through faith
  • God’s handiwork
  • Fellow citizens

Personal Application

I so often tie my identity to the roles I play. This movie motivates me to look at who I really am in Christ. I should not allow the roles I play to define me.

What we think defines us and gives us significance in this life often blinds us to our identity and purpose-glorified beings born blind to first see and then be the light in the darkness.

Ted Dekker, The Way of Love

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Turning Toward Home

Home by Chris Tomlin

God is so faithful isn’t He? I’ve been struggling so much lately with acceptance and condemnation. And yet, God has shown Himself so faithful. While I’ve been in tears, he’s been right there next to me. Even when I don’t see Him. And when I finally look up from my struggles, there He is faithful and true, wrapping His arms around me to let me know that there is no condemnation and that I need to trust Him and believe what He says about me. Both in the temporary and in eternity, I come to Him at His throne to find security, peace and joy!

Meet Him At The Throne

…We run to Your throne
Where we belong
Every heart will sing
That Jesus is Lord
Casting all else aside
For the joy of our Christ
Let Your glory Fall
Our hearts are filled with Your fire….

Where We Belong, by Hillsong

I have no better place to be right now, but to be at His throne! But it shouldn’t be only when I feel desperate to come! He is there for me every second, minute, hour, day, etc. It is so easy to turn away and wonder where He really is in difficult times. Sometimes we believe that even God, our Father, is making a mistake , when we think we have done as we should, or we have the right motives at least. Deep down we know that He is perfect and without sin yet we so often doubt Him. We then ask ourselves why we even believe Him at all.

The following poem was written by a pastor who had a wife and three small children. His wife was expecting their fourth child. When it was time for his wife to deliver their fourth child, she had complications and both the mother and the baby died. During the funeral, the pastor who officiated, noticed that the man who had just lost his wife and baby, was writing. He was writing this poem, that he named “He Maketh No Mistake.”

He Maketh No Mistake – A.M. Overton

I have times of doubt and unbelief of God’s best for me, too. My mind dwells on who made the mistake, who do I blame for this? I regularly struggle with condemnation and look for where to assign that condemnation and find myself once again playing the “blame game” instead of looking to the truths of scripture. I look very forward though, to the day, where :

“He will wipe away every tear from their (MY) eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said ” I am making everything new!” Then He said, Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Revelation 21:4-5

He Is Trustworthy

How easy is it to forget that His words are “trustworthy and true?” He is the one seated on the throne. He is the One who has the highest level of authority! Often, we don’t think about Him being the One who can be trusted most when we hurt, cry our eyes out and don’t want to accept what is happening right now, or what happened in our past.

For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
    my confidence since my youth.

Psalm 71:5 New International Version (NIV)

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

1 Peter 5:7-10 New International Version (NIV)

Casting all cares on Him seems easy enough to do, but we so often don’t do it or we leave some of what bothers us, out. We do an incomplete job. Verse 8 tells us to be “alert and of a sober mind.” our enemy does look to tear us to pieces. I find everything in this passage tells us very interesting. The fact is that the enemy comes after us and we have to resist him. We must stand firm and our family around the world is going through many of the same sufferings! What a help it is know that we can come together and help in areas that we are struggling in together! We can trust that even though we have suffered for a while, He will restore us and make us strong, firm and steadfast! Knowing this hope and looking towards our eternal home, will help make us stronger.

What I Do In This Temporary Life

Our troubles now, are very temporary, even though they seem never ending. They are light, by comparison. What is unseen is eternal! I look forward to the eternal home I have, to finish the race that He has called me to, no matter how difficult it is. Scripture tells us to “not lose heart.” Don’t let these terrible things we go through, completely take us away from believing Him, from coming to Him in our dark times.

But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,
    I wait for God my Savior;
    my God will hear me.

Micah 7:7 New International Version (NIV)

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 New International Version (NIV)

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Romans 8:18 New International Version (NIV)

…There is a name I call in times of trouble
There is a song that comforts in the night
There is a voice that calms the storm that rages.
His name is Jesus, Jesus
Who walks on the waters
Who speaks to the sea
Who stands in the fire beside me…

Jesus, by Chris Tomlin

Eternity Matters Most

I read comments often on the internet, where people perceive that those of us who believe God and eternal life, use this belief as a way to escape. They think we are using our imagination to think we have better things ahead and to hope and place our faith in God alone. They don’t want to hear that we will pray for others and that we have a relationship with our Savior. Nothing is further from the truth. We can have hope, peace and joy now in temporary times and in eternity.

“Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.”

C.S. Lewis
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No Condemnation

A Personal Journey

Through It All by Colton Dixon

2 Corinthians 10:12 ” We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” (NIV)

After so many years, I have a character trait and habit with which I greatly struggle. This habit or character trait is self-condemnation. You see, I have lived so many years, trying to be as perfect as possible and I live out of fear. I fear that I am disappointing others, and as I result, I disappoint myself. I care about others, especially those close to me. I don’t want them upset with me for something I fail to do.

I can’t say that I completely understand the grace of God vs judgement or condemnation well. I am easily upset if someone, particularly my family, sees something in my life that I am doing wrong or offended by. Striving to be as perfect as possible, I get upset that I am not matching up to the standards I have set for myself. I condemn myself and, as a result, feel condemned by others. I don’t give myself any grace that God offers me as a believer in Romans 8:1 which says ” Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

At one point in my life, when I was much younger (my teens and early twenties) I was raised around people in an evangelical mission organization. People grow and change, they discover they did things correctly and some incorrectly. When I was young though, I found that several people were lifted up, exalted over others. I think this is fairly common anywhere, though even in a job setting. I felt insecure, feeling that these people were the ones who seemed to have it all together, at least by the standards and views of those who lifted them up. I felt condemned, at least by my own standards because I wasn’t like ” they were” I look back to what I was taught and believe that it was practiced to an extreme. Those who followed the path that they were taught , and the direction they were to go throughout their lives, was the “correct” way to go and if I didn’t do all that I was taught, I was just plain wrong and living in sin! I lived in lots of guilt partly because a decision I had made for my life when I was a young child, I didn’t follow through.

I look back in the rear view mirror often. I wish that I could have done better. I wish I could fix what I think I did wrong. I do this often when thinking about how I made mistakes when raising our kids. I second guess myself instead of realizing that they make their own decisions and choices.

I have much trouble forgiving myself and others. I have a husband though who tries to help me with this. My husband tells me that I need to live for “an audience of one.” I need to live to please God and Him alone.

I have also read about condemnation, about judging and about grace. Romans 8:1 states (for those who believe, have a relationship with God), “Therefore, there is now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”(NIV)

We all form opinions about one thing or another. This is “judging”. We judge one brand from another, one restaurant from another, one view from another. Judgement is part of our life contrary to what our society tells us. As such, judgement can be either good or bad. We can judge righteously or unrighteously. However, we tend to get aggravated by other’s who “judge” us for a decision we make or a position we take! Who is ultimately the judge ? God is our ultimate judge, really no one else should be. When we go to the Word of God, the Bible, we can see what God himself tells us. We will still make mistakes and sin, but when” we confess what we have done wrong, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness “(1 John 1:9).

Condemnation and judgement are very similar but not the same. Condemnation, specifically demonstrates disapproval and carries with it a focus on the consequences or even damnation. It is negatively critical. But with judgement, there can be a rendering of good or bad, of punishment or reward. A judgement in a court, for instance, can be positive or negative. God wants to reward, not to just criticize and condemn, which is something I see often then I do this with others or with myself.

When I look though at grace, the “freely given, unmerited favor and love of God”(Dictionary.com), I find He still cares, he still forgives, and extends favor Regardless of what I have done.

I find more often now, people are throwing all belief’s, Christianity included, out the window and totally leave what they believed and sometimes taught others. They don’t appear to search and believe God for who He really is. I think of the recent statements and decisions that Joshua Harris made, to leave his faith, and cause harm to his family. It is easy to say ” forget-it, I don’t want to be part of this anymore, I’m going my own way.” Are we doing ourselves or our family any good to turn away instead of turning toward God when we fall into times of doubt and discouragement? We do have a God of grace, forgiveness, offering no condemnation to believers. He wants to come along side of us when we want to give up.

This Religion, that many throw out though, is defined as ” strict faithfulness and devotion.” We can have our own set of rules, trying to please ourselves or condemn ourselves. An author that I have learned a great amount from, Ted Dekker, states “In religion, many have perfected the art of condemnation and wear their judgment of others as a badge of honor.”(The Way of Love) We look inside of ourselves to make the rules. It’s time we all stop. I try to look good to other people or stay upset with myself because I feel I don’t look good to others. I agree with the song by Lauren Daigle called ” Losing My Religion” I have to let go and lose the beliefs that say ” the “religion” of making myself look good to me(and to others) is NOT good for me, and then please only God who gives me grace, no matter what, since He does not condemn me!

I’ve been an actor on a stage

Playing a role I have to play

I’m getting tired, it’s safe to say

Living behind a masquerade

No more performing out of fear

I’m trying to keep my conscience clear

It all seems so insencere

I’d trade it all to meet you here

Light a match and watch it burn

But to Your heart, I will return

No one could love me like You do, no-no no-no,no-no

I’m losing my religion (x4)

To find You

I’m losing my religion, and finding something new

‘Cause I need something different, and different looks like You….

Losing my religion – by lauren Daigle

My husband and I went to see the newest Lion King movie last week. Simba, kept looking down on himself in self-condemnation, not believing that he should take his place as King, because he was told and he believed that he had done wrong and killed his father, Mufasa. However, he was not the one who killed him! Simba had to accept who he was and be who he was, a strong, Lion King. It is so easy to not believe and act who we were made to be, because we self-destruct!

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A Little Pill

My History

I have taken a specific little pill most of my life. This pill, called Synthroid (Levothyroxin), is used to manage my thyroid levels by supplementing the amount of thyroxin in my body. I get my blood levels tested, either every six months or once each year, depending on the need for adjustment. All I knew growing up, was that I had to take this little pill once each day and had to have my blood tested every so often. I really didn’t understand it all! Why am I doing this? What difference is this pill making? How is this helping me,? What happened to me? These were just a few questions I asked myself and others growing up!

As an infant, my parents noticed that I wasn’t crying, as most babies do. They found this odd and it concerned them so they took me to the doctor who then ran several tests at a children’s hospital. Also, my face looked swollen and my eyes appeared to roll. The doctor found that I was born with only around 1/4 of a thyroid gland. The thyroid is a small gland in the low neck. Newborn’s born now are tested while in the hospital before they go home, to determine if their thyroid is healthy. This was something that I was concerned about as I began having children!

I know that my parents made sure that I took my Synthroid, daily, but as I got older and left home, I questioned why I had to take it each day and figured it wouldn’t hurt if I missed a day or two, after all, how much good could this “little pill” be? As I get older, the more I realize how important it is to be on the correct dose. I realize how much impact the thyroid has on practically every system in my body.

Symptoms

Regular symptoms of Hypothyroidism include: fatigue, increased sensitivity to cold, constipation, dry skin, weight gain, puffy face, hoarseness, muscle weakness, elevated blood cholesterol level, muscle aches, tenderness, stiffness, pain, stiffness, swelling in joints, heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods, thinning hair, slowed heart rate, depression, impaired memory, enlarged thyroid gland(goiter).

Hypothyroidism in infants include: yellowing of skin, large protruding tongue, difficulty breathing, hoarse crying, an umbilical hernia

Hypothyroidism in children and teens include: poor growth, resulting in short stature, delayed development of permanent teeth, delayed puberty, poor mental development.

Concerned?

When to see a doctor: If you feel tired for no reason or have any other signs of hypothyroidism such as dry skin, pale, puffy face, constipation or a hoarse voice. It is very important to follow up with a doctor, preferably an Endocrinologist, to be sure you are on the correct dose of medicine. If it is not correct, your dosage may need to change. An Endocrinologist is a doctor who specializes in glands and the hormones they make. They deal with metabolism, or all the biochemical processes that make your body work, including how your body changes food into energy and how it grows. (http://webmd.com) After any changes are made, your doctor may ask you to return to have your blood level checked again soon to be sure that your new dose is working as it should. I have found that something as simple as an infection, can change my levels. (http://mayoclinic.org)

If you are concerned at all regarding anything thyroid related, I highly recommend that you speak to a primary care doctor, then an Endocrinologist. Hyperthyroidism(over-active thyroid) could be another problem you are facing, among several other possibilities.

Untreated Hypothyroidism(under-active thyroid), over time can cause health problems such as obesity, joint pain, infertility and heart disease.

My Current Struggles

I have found that my most common symptoms, affecting me as well as my family, are depression and fatigue. When my levels are really bad, I also become rather irritable. These can really cause trouble in family and personal relationships! Lately, my joints have become very sore as well. My skin is very dry, my hair falls out and I am very sensitive to cold. I found that even altering my diet slightly by changing my sugar levels, really impact my mood. I have to be careful and aware of any changes that I make.

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Love and Learn

Scars by I Am They

A Tragic Loss

Over the weekend, many news channels, posts and articles were written, telling us of Disney Channel actor Cameron Boyce’s death from a seizure at age 20! Twenty years old is such a young age to die, and it seems strange I’m sure to many who are unaware of seizures and Epilepsy, that someone can die from having a seizure. Unfortunately, many people, young and old have died from this, it’s known specifically as SUDEP which stands for Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy.

Statements from yesterday mentioned that he had a seizure due to a medical condition for which he was treated. Being familiar with Epilepsy, because I also have this, my mind went directly to the fact that he must have Epilepsy. I’m sure that as his family is grieving, they don’t want to answer many questions right now, which I totally understand! Many people online wrote yesterday that it was “not epilepsy” or we can’t confirm that it was , or that it was only stated that he had a “ medical condition.” It was confirmed though today that he did have Epilepsy.

Shame & Stigma

It is very difficult, I believe for some to be straightforward about the fact that they have Epilepsy. So many who do NOT have the knowledge and understanding, tend to have a stigma in their mind about what they believe Epilepsy entails. As a result , so many are embarrassed and ashamed to even share with others so that they can learn!

Shame is the feeling of not being enough

Dr curt thompson

I sometimes think that shame, mere awkward, senseless shame, does as much towards preventing good acts and straightforward happiness as any of our vices can do

C. S. Lewis

It is really difficult for some to share, I know I did at the beginning. I feel what hurts most now, since I was diagnosed 17 years ago, is that there seems to still be a shame in exposing, a shame that while others could have a totally different type of Epilepsy and seizures, with different symptoms, some believe we are incapable of certain abilities. At times, I feel excluded! This could be very well why his family didn’t share what Cameron Boyce’s “medical condition” was, especially when he was being treated and he appeared to be very capable of working and functioning as much as anyone we meet and see day to day. Having Epilepsy, though difficult, can bring us closer to God, experience peace and motivate us to help educate and encourage others.

Opportunities Amidst Challenges

There should be a balance between understanding that while negative things happen to one person, there can also be positive things that the same person with epilepsy can accomplish. It’s very different from one person to another and even with the same person the epilepsy changes what they can do over time. At one point in time they may be able to do something then 6 month, 12 month, or 2 years later it can change. It can vary greatly due to

  • The doctor
  • The medical treatment
  • Environment
  • And even events in a person’s life

Honestly, where I was two years ago, is SO totally different from where I am today, yet I have the same medical condition. Even 8-12 months ago, I was still having regular seizures, I was not thinking as clearly, was very fatigued and totally unable to drive.

Since changing my medication, this has made a huge difference! Two years ago, I had a different Neurologist who completely messed up my medication so bad that I had severe tremors, I was in the hospital 5-6 times, unable to walk and unable to eat normal food. I was taking more than 30 pills a day; half of which were to deal with side effects of other drugs.

After some life-threatening experiences, I changed my doctor, and that choice has made a huge difference that I am so thankful for. I now take 3 pills a day with minimal side effects. But getting to this point has been a harrowing experience that has nearly claimed my life in several ways and I’ve had to go through 9-10 different medications that didn’t work to maintain my seizures or that caused severe side effects.

I don’t want to be seen or perceived as someone completely incapable of thinking, accomplish tasks and able to socialize and communicate. At the same time, I would like people to understand what could happen and try to understand my limits and others with epilepsy and other similar neurological conditions. I believe it is an issue of growing, learning and not excluding or shaming. We have some embarrassing moments, but we also have victories and things to be thankful for. Many epilepsy patients are afraid to tell their bosses, people they work with and people they know that they even have this condition. I believe it is due to the lack of knowledge, understanding and what happens when people experience seizures.

Education & Understanding

While many have the knowledge of what to do for a heart attack in this day and age, very few people would know what to do in the case a person near them were to have a seizure emergency. They are both serious medical conditions but while more and more people know how to administer CPR and use a defibrillator, still very few would know how to help a person in the throws of a seizure.

Information is available through the Epilepsy Foundation

https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/seizure-first-aid-and-safety/first-aid-seizures-stay-safe-side

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Please, No Chaos!

Symphony by Switch

I recently took a break from something I love doing, which is writing. I didn’t plan to take a break from it or really want to do this. One of the social media sites I regularly use, decided to give me a break by suspending my account. I have no idea why, truthfully. I hear that with some social media sites, they don’t like members to discuss too many controversial subjects or having too much volatility in their following. I see this very often though. I also hear that one doesn’t want a member to have too many followers, or delete or add too often. These rules don’t make sense to me. Some current topics, I am very passionate about and at times, I say exactly what I believe and apparently there are a lot of voices out there who agree with my positions. It’s not necessarily wrong to be passionate or state how one believes or for someone else to agree with those passions, but one way or the other, I was gifted with a break from what I normally do.

I wanted to write about several topics in the last week, but I never did. Instead, I let something that disturbed me, consume me. I heard something on the radio this morning that reminded me about the chaos I see and experience lately. I now realize what it was doing to me by allowing myself to be mad, frustrated and irritated by all that was happening around me. I have come to the realization that in the midst of all of this upset, He calls me to wait on Him, to have peace and “Be still and know that He is God.” (Psalm 46:10)

Even in the madness, there is peace.

Drowning out the voices all around me,

Through all of this chaos

You were writing a Symphony

Symphony by Switch

My tendency is to continue on, and get upset about more “stuff.’ I get so anxious when problems in life that I see and experience, bother me. I don’t take a step back and examine each situation at hand. This is one area in which my husband has impacted my life. He tries to settle me down and encourage me to not get so uptight. There is so often too much happening at once and I don’t let things settle and stop. He tells me regularly that I get too caught up in the noise that I lose the peace.

In the past few days, there were debates on TV with several presidential candidates trying to argue and defend their views. It became so heated, that they were all talking over each other making so much noise that any one voice was lost in the cacophony. I doubt anyone got any value out of it because there was no clear focus, just noise. I know they are passionate, but none of the candidates were listening to what the others were saying. How can one decide who to believe and trust and how can anyone have a clear discussion if nobody is listening? My husband tells me that if we want to have a conversation we need to listen as much as we talk otherwise we are talking over each other.

A lot of us tend to get so involved in our passionate views and things we have to do and say, that our lives become chaotic. We can’t make good decisions because we don’t stop, wait, see or hear what is really going on. We can disagree or dislike without attacking. We can work or perform tasks without overdoing. We can wait and have peace. When our circumstances seem so confusing and difficult and everything happens all at once, we get so frustrated because of chaos, but we can wait on God to bring together, things for our good, at the right time.

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28(HCSB)

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Psalm 27:14(HCSB)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 14:27(NIV)

I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.

John 16:33 (HCSB)

Using the song I quoted earlier, I was curious about how it was tied to a symphony and may be named for this reason. A symphony consists of four major sections of instruments that come together and make beautiful and peaceful music. They don’t distract each other and make useless noise. It is not chaos, but useful to each other and to others. The chaos and distraction in our life shouldn’t pull us away from what is most important: Understanding what purpose God has for all we encounter, even all that we don’t understand, then let His peace bring order, not chaos in our lives. It’s only when God is in control and we hear His voice clearly that our lives become the symphony that He intends for them to be.

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