You Don’t Know My Story

Recently, we took a trip to the Gulf to relax and fish for a few days.  Looking back at my pictures, I ran across this one.

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I couldn’t remember if it was a sunrise or a sunset.  I had to think back to where I took the picture and what I was doing at the time to place it.

Was this taken at the beginning of the day?  Before memories were made.  Prior to the sun coming over to warm my chilled body on a cool morning.

Or, was it taken at the close of the day?  After making memories of laughter, catching fish and bug bites.  Was I looking forward to washing off the sticky salt water and fish odor I had picked up throughout the day while thanking the Lord for a beautiful day spent on the water?

I was reminded that sometimes appearances aren’t always what they seem at first glance.

How often do we look at someone and make a quick determination about who they are?  Where they’ve been.  Where they’re heading.

We see someone who doesn’t dress as well as us and determine their financial status instantly.  We meet someone who is down on their luck and gather that they’ve made a string of bad decisions that led them to this place.  We catch someone losing their temper with their children and assume they are “bad parents” and begin to feel sorry for their children.

We’ve all done it.

It’s been done to all of us.

 14a” For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”

                                                            Galatians 5: 14-15 NIV

These words.  So simple.  So practical.  Written so many years ago and still applicable at this very moment in time.

Have you ever run out in public dressed in your husband’s t-shirt and sweats because you have a child at home with a raging fever who needs meds quick?  Have you ever down sized your home?  Gone through a divorce?  Filed bankruptcy?  Been accused of something you did not do?  Dropped your child off at school only to realize you never fed them any breakfast?

Would you be bothered if people were forming opinions of you during these times?  Do you want others to form judgments about you based on what little they see in that moment of your life?  That instance.  That season.

We have got got to take God at his word here and do this his way.  We have to put ourselves in each others’ shoes before opening our mouths.  Take captive our thoughts when those opinions begin to form so quickly.  We have got to show others love.  Unconditional love.

Or we ourselves will be devoured.  Destroyed.

When we see something that makes us curious, let’s be careful.  Very careful.  Let’s be compassionate.

We don’t know where they came from.  We don’t know what reality they are living in.  We don’t know where they’re headed.

What a different world we would be living in if we simply loved others as we want to be loved.  We can’t control what others do, but we can start with our own actions.  Our own thoughts.  Set the bar.  Be the example.  Starting now.

If you need encouragement, encourage someone today.  If you see a tired, young mama, frustrated at the grocery store, take the time to tell her she’s doing a great job.  If you have a young adult in your life who is trying to make some big decisions, tell them you are praying for them…and do it.  If you hear someone being talked about negatively, do what you can to stop that conversation.  Wouldn’t you want someone to do the same for you?

You don’t know my story.  I probably don’t know yours.  As we do get to know each other, sharing lessons we’ve learned, becoming vulnerable, placing trust in one another, let’s treat those beautiful, intimate pieces of life delicately.  This is how we love our neighbor as ourselves.

What If Fear Didn’t Exist?

What will other parents say?  How will my teenager react to their discipline?  How will be pay our bills?  What if no one reads it?  What if I don’t like it?  What if I fail?

I’ve made decisions…many…out of fear.  Now that I’m older, it’s easy to look back and see times I froze.  I’ve kept quiet when I should’ve spoken up.  Afraid that no one would want to hear what I had to say.  I’ve let behaviors slide with my teenagers.  Fearing our relationships would suffer.  I’ve set dreams aside for fear of failure.

Can you relate to any of these?  These questions have led me down dark roads in my mind.  They’ve lowered my self-confidence. Given me sweaty palms.  Increased my heart rate.  They’ve fed my self-doubt.  They have weighed down my countenance.  They’re all negative.  All rooted in fear.

As believers, this thought process is unhealthy.  It’s human nature to weigh the pros and cons, but we have to recognize when we are letting our fears of the “what if’s” drive our decision-making. Fear is simply an emotion.  One of many that we possess.  We need to put it in its place.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 NIV

I think this is a trust issue.  Plain and simple.  Do we really take God at His word?  Are we willing to trust Him in all things.  Even if the outcome isn’t what we had hoped for?

It’s easy to walk in faith when things are going well.  When we are claiming His promises to prosper us or bless us.  When life seems easy.

But God knew that fear would be an issue.

The Bible tells us “do not fear”.  It’s not a suggestion, it’s a direction.  A command.  I’m a black and white person, I’m glad I don’t have to wonder if there is ever an exception.  He says “DO NOT”.

Dismayed means to break your courage or become alarmed.  You could substitute do not be worried or frightened.  Again, there’s no gray area here, it says “DO NOT”.

Do not fear, break our courage, or become alarmed.  He says he will strengthen us and help us.  He will uphold us.

What are some of your fears?  Big or small.  I’m sure you would have your own list.  Don’t rush through this.  Give it some thought.

What would happen if we took fear out of our file drawer of emotions?  When we are making a decision, weighing out the pros and cons of a situation, let’s let fear walk on by.  It will walk into our thoughts, we’re wired that way.  Let’s make a conscious decision to not allow it to lead our actions.  Take it out of the equation all together.

Imagine what our lives would be like if we did that.  Consistently.  Daily.   We might have less stuff and more resources to give away.  We might be raising more respectful children.  We might be expanding our families or working our dream job.

What would life be like if we were the first to apologize?  If we made the first effort to reconcile?  If we spoke up at our PTA meetings?  If we chased down that dream we’ve been harboring since we were young?

This could be life changing.  This is part of the freedom that comes with being a child of God.  When we let God’s word guide our decision-making, the end result is out of our hands.  We don’t have to second guess ourselves.  We don’t have to explain ourselves to anybody.  I find that so refreshing.

God is looking for people to trust Him.  With child like faith.  This is where the blessings are.  This is where His protection lies.  This is where we should be.

The next time you know what you should be doing, but fear is creeping into your thoughts, causing hesitation or nervousness, stand strong.  God says He will strengthen you and help you.  He will uphold you with his righteous hand.

To be in the hand of God…we should all be running to get there.  Let’s get to it.

Think Outside the Box

“Impression without expression leads to depression.”  Rick Warren

This describes exactly what was happening to me recently in my winter season.  I just went months thinking something was “not quite right” in my life.  I was prayerful during this time.  I just knew my discontentment involved my work.  My husband and I are becoming empty nesters so it would make sense that now is the time for me to transition from working part-time around my family to a full-time job, right?

I was laser focused for months on trying to figure out where God wanted me to work full-time, but with no luck in finding the “right” job.  UGGHHHH!!

It is so easy to think that what works for everyone else is going to work for us too, am I right?  We get busy watching how others do “it”.  Or we focus on a part of our life that is in a transition and get so consumed with figuring out what our next step should be that we don’t look up.  We keep our gaze focused in the box that we are in.  We don’t leave room in our minds to allow God to show us something new.

“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 12:2

God says there is more to this life than what we see here on earth.  He knew before the beginning of time that there would be patterns (instructions, impressions, plans, examples) set by the world and we would be tempted to follow them.

*Biblical teaching regarding finances goes against what society tells us.  Society would say that he who dies with the most toys wins.  But, God’s word says…give to those in need, live humbly so that our financial  resources can be available to help others.

*Biblical teaching regarding serving others goes against what society tells us.  In the corporate world, it’s every man for himself.  But God’s word says…Jesus came to serve, no to be served.

*Biblical teaching regarding who we answer to and should strive to please goes against what society tells us.  The world says that as long as we are happy, everything is good.   But God’s word says…we have a heavenly father who knows what is best for us.  His ways are better than our ways.

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The world has set a pattern in these areas to follow, but God says do not conform, but to transform our thinking.  He goes on with a promise…that if we step out and test him in this, he will show us what his will for our  lives is.

Are you like me in that if something feels “off” in life, you begin looking at how everyone else around you is doing it?

While I have been so focused on what job I should be working, the Lord has been waiting ever so patiently for me to look up and open the box my mind was stuck in. Something as simple as allowing myself the time and effort to pick up my pen and start writing again completely brought into focus the other areas of life I felt unsettled in.  He helped me transform my mind.  To think outside the box.  To do the unpopular thing.  To express rather than depress.

We were all created so that we have something to offer others.  We have gifts inside of us that are unique only to ourselves.  God purposely created us that way so that he could live through us, reaching all people, in all ways, pointing others to him.

If you are struggling in an area of your life, I urge you to look into the other parts. Open your mind up to the possibility that what you’re so focused on or anxious about, is acting as a distraction to what God is trying to tell you.

As we study what God says in his word, and we encourage one another to think outside the “world’s” box,  that is where we will find purpose, God’s purpose, for our lives.  His good, pleasing and perfect will.  It’s a journey of a lifetime, but that’s where I want to be.  Won’t you join me?

#livefreeThursday

Winter Waiting


I wrote a couple of weeks ago about living in a winter season.  Patience is generally a strong suit of mine, but God stretched me beyond what I could handle on my own.  I was not comfortable with the amount of time I had to spend in that season.  What do we do while we’re waiting?  What’s the appropriate response when God simply says “wait”.

When we are asking God about something specific in our lives, He has one of three answers;  yes, no or wait.  The problem with that “wait” option is that we are trying to discern if He is saying “no” or if we should in fact wait a little longer.  When we feel like we should wait, there’s a few things we can probably agree on.

  1.  It’s hard.  From the time we were infants, we have never liked to wait.  We want instant gratification.  We are used to living on a timetable that isn’t always God’s.  It reminds us that we are not always in control.  When we pray, we may address him as “Lord”.  By definition, a lord is someone who has control over or is master of someone.  In our struggle, it goes against our human nature to admit that we actually have a lord. It’s humbling.
  2.   It’s not always the popular response.  Unfortunately, this can be true even among friends and family.  Some people will think you’re crazy.  This is why your relationship with Jesus Christ is your own.  No one else knows what your discerning spirit is leading you to do.  You may have to suffer a little criticism while you wait.
  3.   It messes with your head.  When we choose to wait on the Lord, rather than assume He is telling us “no”, after a while, it’s easy to feel forgotten.  When our patience is running out, but we know deep down we need to continue waiting, our imagination can come up with all sorts of scenarios as to why we don’t have any direction yet. ” What am I doing wrong?”, ” Why can’t I hear you?”, ” Your word says to call on you and you will answer!!”, ” What’s the point?”.   Not the prettiest picture of what happens while we’re waiting, but this is truth.  I lived in this box for a while recently.  It can be suffocating.

There are times in our lives when we have to make an immediate choice.  I’ve come to forks in the road where I had to step right or step left with no time to pray.  Or maybe there’s time to whisper a prayer, but no time to wait on an answer.

These are times where we use common sense.  These are also times that we rely on what we already know about God.  Listen, when we place our faith in God, we’ve just become one of His children.  We should do whatever we can to get to know Him.  This is where we partner with someone who has already been walking this road for a while.  We get together and allow them to teach us how to study His word.  We join a Bible study.  Buy a devotional book and read a page each day.  It’s in creating these disciplines and consistently learning more about Him that we will be able to make those knee jerk decisions that sometimes have to be made.

What can we do while we wait?  If it’s important to us, it’s important to Him.  Here are a few things to occupy us while we wait…

  1.  Stay in the Word.  Keep reading, even on days we don’t feel like it.  Stay on course with our Bible study.  Do a personal study…find out what He says about patience, hope, direction, His love for us.  Make it a priority.

    25 “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
        to the one who seeks him;
    26 it is good to wait quietly
        for the salvation of the Lord.”

    Lamentations 3:25-26 NIV

  2.  Seek wisdom from others.  There should be people in our lives that we can trust and confide in.  There are probably people in our lives that have already walked a similar road to the one we are currently walking.  The Lord honors authentic relationships.  Don’t be afraid to confide in a friend and ask for their wisdom and prayers.

“For lack of guidance a nation falls,
but victory is won through many advisers.”  Proverbs 11:14 NIV

3.  Be still.  If we are seeking guidance from Him, we have to give Him our time so that He can speak and direct us.  Be deliberate about putting aside time, not just to study and read His word, but to sit quietly.  Get up before anyone else while the house is quiet.  Stay up past everyone else and retreat to the porch.  Soak up the silence and clear our minds.

“Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him…” Psalm 37:7a NIV

4.  Keep moving with what we do know.  I know He has never let me down.  I know He has good plans for my future.  I know that He knows when I am struggling.  I know He is calling on me to trust Him while I wait.

life-isnt-about-waiting-for-the-storm-to-pass-its-about-learning-to-dance-in-the-rain-quote-2

I’ve seen this quote painted on canvases, scroll across all of my social media, hanging in homes…it hangs on my daughter’s bedroom door.  It’s so simple.  No, it’s not a Bible verse, but it does capture a little bit of what we should be doing while we wait on the Lord.  Feel the rain.  Embrace the struggle.  The frustration. Use it to learn who we really are.  When the impurities surface in our personalities, and they will, allow the rain from our storm to wash them away.  Choose joy, choose to dance.  Who knows, we might even realize that the very thing we are focused on and waiting for is not even the point of the waiting.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”…Romans 8:28 NIV