Demonstrating Gratitude

Imagine the following scenario: You have spent the last year, spending rather extravagantly. Without thought or concern for how you will pay for it, you have gone out and bought whatever you wanted. Shoes, clothes, boats, cars, your dream home, caviar, champagne etc. You have had a LOT of fun, right? Living life as if you were free to do whatever you want without consequence. Eventually, the bills come due however, and you don’t have enough money to pay them.

Every month, the bills arrive, and every month you throw them in a pile on the table, and walk away, now feeling guilty and broke. The following month, more envelopes arrive, now with late fees attached. The month after that, the envelopes all have “PAST DUE” stamped in red on the front. You are overwhelmed. Every time the phone rings or there is a knock on the door, you hide. You’re hiding in shame, fearful of the consequences of your out-of-control spending. The burden of it all is leaving you anxious, stressed and overwhelmed. Your entire family is feeling the impact and even your work is suffering. You have no idea where to turn or how to get yourself out of this situation.

Then one day, a man, a total stranger to you perhaps, shows up on your doorstep and says “I know you don’t know me, but I know you and I can see how deeply troubled you are. I love you, and I love you so much that I want to pay off your debt. Tell me how much you owe, and I’ll write a check.”, adding, “In fact, I love you so much, and I know you’re not going to make a few more mistakes along the way, so here is a blank check too. This should cover all of your future debts as well.”

What would you do? Would you close the door on his face? Would you accept his offer but feel to embarrassed to say thank you? Or maybe you’d decide to just walk by his house once a week, poke your head in and say “thank you”, forgetting about him until the same time next week?

Maybe, you would you fall on your knees in thanksgiving? Perhaps you’d be humbled by his incredible gesture of love?

Now, let’s say that this man wasn’t just some crazy rich guy who walks door to door giving away money. Let’s say that he hand picked YOU, and that he loved you so much that he was willing to sacrifice the life of his own child in order to pay off your debt. Now what would you do? Would you wake up every single morning of your life and ask, “how can I show my gratitude today?”. Would you spend each day, living for Him, in an effort to repay Him for what he’s given you.? Would you be able to let go of the guilt caused by the debt you created in order to live in a way that would please the One who sacrificed so much for your happiness? Would you keep accumulating debt, or would you strive not to, as a show of thanks?

Our Heavenly Father loved us all so much that he made the ultimate sacrifice. He gave up the life of His Son, so that we could live guilt free and debt free. What kind of gratitude do you believe He’s earned for that? Are you showing Him enough? Are you living your life in a way that expresses that gratitude? What would be an adequate repayment plan for that kind of sacrifice?

Is gratitude enough? I pray every single day. Sometimes several times a day. I suspect most people pray a little like I do, starting off by expressing gratitude and giving thanks. “Thank you, Heavenly Father for this day”, so on and so forth. But if we are just repeating what we’ve heard others say our whole lives, or what we think God wants to hear, than why bother?

Gratitude is a step in the right direction, and offering our thanks to The Creator is wonderful. But remember what He sacrificed for us, consider His incredible grace, think about how deep His love for us, unworthy beings that we all are, truly goes. Mediate on that for a while, then think about how you’d like to demonstrate your gratitude. Demonstrating is different than verbalizing. It requires an action.

Now make a list of all of all the ways you can demonstrate your love and gratitude to our Father. Here, let me get you started.

  • Sacrifice by writing a check to your church instead of buying those new shoes.
  • Sacrifice by giving up a day of your life for fasting and mindful prayer. Hunger in comparison to hanging on a cross? C’mon now.
  • Be humble.
  • Be kind to other people, even when they annoy you.
  • Share the gospel with others. Share your testimony. Display Christianity even in front of those that you believe “don’t get it”. Stop worrying about what other people think. The Lord’s feelings matter – the person in the cubical next to you? Nope.
  • Tell the truth.
  • Repent. I know, this one is a challenge for all of us. But listen, He already knows what you have done. He just wants you to share it with Him. Tell Him your story. It’s okay to pray and cry at the same time. He’ll see the sincerity, He’ll feel your sorrow and then He will lift that burden you’ve been packing around. Trust me, repentance works, and it feels so good.
  • Study your scripture.
  • Attend regular church services and sing with gusto!
  • Allowing God to use your life to do His work is the ultimate show of gratitude. You’re life has been blessed so that you can do for others. Those blessings are yours, but they don’t belong to you. Practice giving them away.

 

 

You Treat Your Body Like a Temple, I Treat Mine Like a Tent

The first person that a leader must lead, is him/herself. I know I’ve said this before, but it is worth repeating… as Christians, we are ALL called to lead, in one capacity or another. We are asked to live with higher standards than the rest of the world, because we are to serve as an example of Him. Being that example is what makes us leaders… whether in our own homes, in our workplace, our place of worship, or our community in general.

As Christian women and men, leaders, and examples of Christ’s love, we are to be mindful of the things that impede our ability to lead. This requires discipline that is often hard to come by. (I may know this better than anyone.) But we are to glorify God in body and spirit. This means taking care of both. Living healthfully and in a way that nourishes the body and the mind. Paul explains it best in 1 Corinthians 6: 12-20:

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.  And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!  Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

Paul notes that all things are lawful for the obedient Christian, but knew he needed to avoid those things that would keep him from fulfilling his calling. He says, “All things are lawful… but not all things are helpful.” In other words, the occasional adult beverage is okay for a Christian, but overdoing it doesn’t help you demonstrate that you’re living for the glory of God
(“… but I will not be brought under the power of any.”)

We are sinners, yes, each and every one of us. That doesn’t mean that we should intentionally seek sin, but rather it means we should avoid those things that make sin easier to accomplish. If you struggle with an alcohol addiction, do not go into a bar. If you struggle with sexual addictions, you will want to avoid the internet where pornographic websites are just a click away.

Know your own weaknesses and avoid putting yourself directly in the path of that which you struggle to resist. For me, that means not even walking down the candy aisle at the grocery store. I struggle with gluttony. But at the same time, I am full of gratitude for the body I was given that allows me to experience life on Earth and all that entails. The best way I know to demonstrate that gratitude is to take care of my body and recognize that it was bought at such a price! I keep going back to what Paul said about all things being lawful for the obedient Christian, but not to be brought under the power of any. The best example I can think of in my own life is coffee. I don’t believe that coffee in of itself is a sin. But the fact that it rules my morning is what is sinful. I seek coffee before I seek His face, and that is sinful.

What habits can you incorporate into your life that will demonstrate to our Father in Heaven that you understand your body is a temple? What changes are you willing to make for His glory? What things are you willing to give up as a show of appreciation and respect for the sacrifice made on your behalf?

(We will talk more about the struggles with sexual immorality later. For today, let’s think about how to live healthier with regards to nutrition, exercise and dropping bad habits (like smoking or fast food). This is a much longer conversation for sure, and should include how we care for our mental well being too.)

PS… you can read more from me regarding healthful living here:

New Year Detox… Or Not?

 

The Law of Priorities: Redeem Your Time

It’s probably a safe bet to say that most of us are well aware of the time wasters in our life – television, video games, searching for lost items because you are not organized (okay, maybe that one is just me!). The truth is, there are many ways in which we waste time that perhaps we haven’t considered. For example, the time you spend sitting in traffic. Not the sitting in traffic part, this can’t always be avoided, but the time spent being angry about the traffic. What if for the next week, you spent that time, still stuck in traffic, but listening to gospel music, or uplifting podcasts?

In Ephesians 5: 15-21, Paul invites us to not only analyze our lifestyle and the way we spend our time, but to find better ways to use the time we’re given and to prioritize the things that are important.

(NKJV) “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.”

You’ve heard, I’m sure, many expressions about how each of us are given the same amount of time each day, but how not all of us will get the same results. Think about how true this is. If I spend my workday on Facebook or gossiping with the ladies in the office, how effective of a leader can I really be? If I’m not serving as a leader in my organization, then I am not honoring my Heavenly Father in the way I should. Don’t confuse the term “leader”, with being the “boss”. Everyone can be a leader, your position at work is irrelevant. As Christians, we are all called to lead. We are also called to live at a higher level than the rest of the world because He knows that others are watching us. Be an example of His glory by being a strong leader and spending your time wisely.

On the days I am home with my kids, if we spend our time together watching TV, or the kids are playing video games while I talk on the phone, then the day I was given with them is lost. That’s not to say we can’t find value in catching up with family on a phone call, or Facebook, but just to be aware of when might be a more appropriate time to do those things, and also, not to get lost in them. Get lost in nature, or a card game, or even just a walk around the block to revel in the colors of fall!

Paul further reminds us to be thankful for all things. If we spend time in gratitude, it fills our heart with the Spirit and that is reflected in our interactions with others. If we are drunk with wine, or otherwise cranky, that too will be reflected in how we treat others. Be mindful of that. When we are living right, we are serving as an example of Jesus, His light and His love. And THAT is never a waste of time!

Rise Above

We’ve all heard the expression about how our attitude determines our altitude. It’s a good one, for sure, but I feel like we’ve heard it so many times that we allow it to pass us by without considering the true meaning behind the words. Let’s try seeing it from a biblical perspective.

Though there are myriad examples, we are going to look at the life of Paul. Paul suffered many trials, but he embraced them all. In fact, he rejoiced in them. He rejoiced because he understood that all he was going through was for the glory of God. Every ounce of pain he endured, his time in prison, you name it – Paul saw it as a chance to further his mission and spread the gospel.

In Philippians 1: 12-14, Paul tells us, “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”

Speak the word without fear. That might go on my top ten list of favorite things said in the Holy Bible.

Paul goes on to explain that some people, of course, spread the gospel with only their own ambition in mind. However, those who share the Word with sincerity and love in their hearts will be rewarded with deliverance and a “supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” In other words, the more love you spread, the more that is returned to you – but it must be sincere.

Paul had a mission, and even while bound and chained, he worked to fulfill that mission. Having a commitment to a cause and the determination to work on it everyday is what made Paul successful. His attitude allowed him to rise above his situation. In your own life, when you become down about circumstances, illness, financial stress, a difficult boss, etc., and allow them to keep you from doing what needs to be done, you may find yourself having a series of bad days. Everything seems to go wrong and suddenly you seem to be at the mercy of others, wondering why the bad stuff always happens to you.

We must remember that we are the ones in control of how we respond to outside factors, trials and tribulations. When we push through them (attitude), we are able to rise (altitude) above and continue with our individual mission.

More verse for your personal studies:

Philippians 4:8-9 : “Finally, brethren whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”
(This is Paul reminding us to replace worry with prayer and to think in earnest about the positive things.)

Proverbs 17:22 : “A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.”

Hebrews 13: 5-6:

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” so we may boldly say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

Either way, I win.

 

Keeping faith through cancer.

Cancer sucks. It’s hard to deny that. But at the same time, my “battle” has brought me closer to God, improved my prayer time with Him and strengthened my faith in a way I didn’t know was possible. When people failed me, as they did, He was always there, like the loving Father we’ve all known Him to be. My reliance on our Heavenly Father not only felt good, but served as a reminder that no matter what happens, it will be okay. I will beat cancer, or I won’t, but I win either way. I win because I get to spend eternity in heaven. I win, because I know that He will provide for me and my family. I win, because He loves me. I win because His plan for my life is superior to any other plan, which means, I can let go and just breathe.

Psalm 121: 7-8 – The Lord will keep you from all harm- he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

In the beginning, I did what I typically do, and decided that to could get through cancer on my own. I would simply power through it and not rely on anyone but myself. People came forward with love and prayer, time and help, meals and reading material. I thought I was being polite by sending them away and telling everyone that I was fine. But I wasn’t fine, and honestly, I felt totally isolated and utterly alone. A close friend, later confided that the reason I was alone was because I had pushed people away. I suppose I’d done that my whole life. But I’d also been pushing our Savior away. Things got worse, I grew tired and then I realized something huge. I can’t control cancer. I have to let this one go, do what I need to do to get well, but ultimately leave it in the hands of God. Only He knows what His plan is for my life. When I quit trying to control the results, something beautiful happened. I began seeing the people who were there for me in a different light. Some of them were as scared as I was, but only because they love me and they came to help because they knew I needed help. It was simple really, and quite lovely too. Perhaps they were called by God to be by my side when I needed them most.

Also, I found that when I began to depend on our Father God, my entire perspective changed. Suddenly, what I’d seen as a weakness before in myself and in others, I now embraced as a gift. Cancer brought me closer to the people I love and depend on, and it expanded my relationship with God, allowed my faith to surge and changed the way I talk with Him. His power thrives when we are at our weakest. I might have had plans for my life that didn’t include cancer (I for sure had plans that didn’t include cancer!), but His plans outrank mine, by a large margin. As I allowed Him to live in me, and I in Him, my life changed. I felt at peace with whatever was going to come next. Mainly because it wasn’t up to me, and because, I win either way.

Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.

If I can draw a comparison for you, I would say it was like when I finally gave up trying to control how clean my house was. I live with five children who all came with varying degrees of concern for tidiness, none of which seemed to match my own. It felt like a daily struggle just to get them to put their shoes away or to help with dishes. I was always frustrated and I lived in a constant state of annoyance. The consequences of this ended up being that no one in our house enjoyed being there. I was continually on edge over the mess, and that feeling trickled down to my kids, leading us all to become more irritable. When it finally dawned on me that my mood was setting the tone for the entire family, I learned to give up trying to control the mess, and simply enjoy the site of shoes and toys and books scattered about because it meant that I had a house full of kids and thus, a house full of love.

See? Sometimes all it takes is a change of perspective.

Be thankful for the challenges you face and see them as an opportunity to grow, to change your own life and to change the lives of the people you love. This is what they mean when they talk about “blessings in disguise”. When I quit trying to control every aspect of cancer, from how I felt about it to how other people felt about it, I learned to just bask in the knowledge that our Savior’s love for me is SO much bigger than cancer and that whatever comes next, will be just fine. Because, either way, I win.

Further study:

Psalm 145:20 – The Lord watches over all who love Him, but the wicked He will destroy

2 Corinthians 12:9  – But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Acts 17:28 – ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

Colossians 2:6-7 – So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

John 14:20 – On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.

Can God Bend Time

Spending time with our Savior is a luxury item we can’t afford to go without.  It’s so easy as women to want to please people and when we run out of time, we push God away. But God can bend time. He only wants to know you and to be known by you. Practice putting time with the Lord back on your To Do List.

Matthew 6:24 reads, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Getting Rid of Self Doubt

It’s so easy to allow our own feelings of self doubt to creep into our lives, take over, do damage and hinder any progress we might be making.  Where does that come from?  Do we have legitimate reasons for doubting our own value, or is something much more sinister at work here?

Here is a link to my video blog on You Tube.  Please watch & comment!

Navigating Life

Wouldn’t it be great if the day we graduated from high school, someone would have handed us a roadmap for the rest of our lives? I visualize one that would tell me not only which way to turn at every crossroads, but would also warn me of certain hazards… “Storm ahead! Slow down!” Right? It would certainly help make all of those tough decisions easier and would lend a lot of comfort when we we’ve ended up in the wrong place and don’t know how to turn-around. Sort of like a GPS for our lives.

Each day we could wake up and feel prepared for what was ahead of us, knowing just what the day would bring, how we should react to it and that no matter what, we’d be okay. How much more could you accomplish if you could envision the road ahead and know that ultimately, only good will come to you?

What would you be willing to pay for such a devise?

What if I told you that you already have, within your reach, this amazing piece of equipment? What if the only thing you had to give in return was your love? That the only payment needed was to spend some time each day with God?

God is ready to guide you through every step of your life, to keep you strong in the storms and to help navigate your way out when you’ve made a wrong turn. He is there, like both a GPS and a best friend, to hear your worries, lift you up and send you back in the right direction. And the coolest part is, it doesn’t matter how far off course you’ve gotten, He will show you the way back.

All you have to do is ASK.

“Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” Isaiah 55: 6-7

The words I want you to dwell on from the above are “Seek the Lord… for He will abundantly pardon.” Is there anything more beautiful than that? If we seek Him, if we commit to our relationship with Him and to spending some time with Him each day, He promises, not only to pardon us of our sins, but to love us and guide us on our life path. He promises that He will never leave us and that He will put in our minds and our hearts all that we need to ultimately live with Him again. He will redeem us.

For Further Study

Oh my goodness! There are so many great verses on this topic! But start here and just keep reading. Pray on these my friend, and I promise your heart will be opened. It is His promise to all of us! (sorry, I’m not yelling, I’m just so excited to share this with you!!)

“For God so loved the world, that He have his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalms 51:10

“But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days you will return to the Lord your God and listen to His voice. For the Lord your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.” Deuteronomy 4:29-31

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9

 

Fabulous Fireplace Redo

I am so excited to show you my fireplace redo on the cheap! I fell in love with this house the instant I saw it, and new that I’d soon being calling this place home. The fireplace in the master bedroom was just an added bonus! But, it was one of those fireplaces from the 70s with all the really heavy, dark lava rock. A major turn off for most people. I don’t mind it so much, but the rocks were REALLY dark, so not only did it date the room, but it kept it too heavy for my taste. Not wanting to go through the mess of tearing it all the way out and rebuilding (although that’d be cool too), I thought I’d see what I could do to just lighten things up a bit.  I’m pretty happy with the results, and spent less than $20!  Whoo Hoo!

Here is what it looked like. You can see that on the right side I’d already started to lighten the stone. I just wanted you to be able to see the contrast. This stones on the right side have had a mixture of white paint and water brushed on. This is just one coat, which may have been enough, but I kept going.

I have one coat almost complete here.  So, I just grabbed a sample jar of paint in white. Some store give these to you for free, I think I had to pay $5. I poured about a tablespoon of paint into my mixing jar, and added about 1/2 a cup of water. Thats it!

All done with the first coat on the top half. Still haven’t done the hearth. But starting to really love this new look!

This is now two coats up top and one on the hearth. The top of the hearth is a smoother stone, so when I painted those, I waited just a minute or so and then wiped the paint off with a rag. It worked really well!

I dries pretty fast, so you can do multiple coats pretty quickly. This is an afternoon project for sure. Although, I drug it out over several weekends. I also painted the grout in between the rocks because it was a super dark brown. But it might be cool to leave it – all just depends on your taste!  This picture is after 3 coats.

I’m not sure the pictures do it justice, but after the entire thing received 3 coats of diluted white, I took another brush and using a dark grey paint (another sample jar) I just barely brushed over the rocks so that the grey only landed on the high bumps. Use a VERY, VERY dry brush for this. I had far too much paint on the first time, and screwed it up. Once I used a dry enough brush, I really started to love it!

Here is the finished product!  I am so excited to have a fire tonight. With the storm going on outside, this is the perfect, cozy edition to my girly-girl bedroom!!