Sunday, April 28, 2013

Those Kids!!


Stress comes in many shapes and sizes, situations and circumstances.  Yet, I don't think there is a parent out there who won't agree that the largest stressor in our lives can come from our children.  Yes, those beloved children that we waited to long to have - couldn't wait to see their precious faces - yes, those are the ones I am talking about.

As infants and growing up through the years, they provide us many opportunities to challenge our patience, through long nights of staying up, illnesses, those terrible twos (which, by the way, can run into threes, fours, and fives), etc.  Then there is the first day of school, first heartaches, etc.  All along the way, as a Christian parent, we are forced to make choices.  Some may be good choices, some are more difficult.  As mainstream America can challenge those choices, it becomes increasignly more difficult to stay to the foundations we might have deep in our hearts and souls.

I had my two girls, Sarah and Krystina, from my first marriage.  The foundations that I tried to build there were hard, even back then.  There was a no-TV day (which always ended up being a lot of fun), devotion every morning ending in prayer before school (not sure who felt better with that, me or them, as I knew they were being sent off with God), praying at night thanking God for three things that went right (with their homemade prayer beads), etc.  Yes, I tried.  Then life changed dramatically.  I got Cancer, my Dad passed away, my marriage dissolved, and my faith was tested like never before.  We continued to stick to the foundations we had built, as the man I know God brought me to, Juan, entered my life with his two children. Gabby and Christian

We had a plan - we would engage our two small families every other weekend in fun activities, but live our separate lives until all the children were out of high school (Christian, the youngest one, was about 5 at the time).  Our children were (and still are) the most important part of our lives.  So the life Juan and I wanted to have together would have to wait - and we were both VERY okay with that.  Yet, it was OUR CHILDREN, who pushed us towards marriage.  They wanted us to be a family, and so it was God's will.  There was a lot of trust and faith in that decision - we truly knew God brought us together and trusted this was his choice.  And the foundation continued.   We continued with devotions, prayers, and blessing chains at Thanksgiving each year.  As the children got older, well, life took hold.  Life can challenge the best laid plans - and it certainly challenged ours.

Much of what we had planned for our Christian family got "rocked", by experiences, other children, etc.  But we had a plan!!  The world wouldn't "touch" them.  Yet, it wasn't God's plan.  We couldn't shelter our children's lives from everything and choices needed to be made.  All four of them have made good choices and some not so good choices.  And there have been incredible dark days as a parent.  Yet, there are days when I am incredibly proud of their choices.  I have also realized that, even as an adult, there are days I make better choices than others (like that incredibly calorie-filled breakfast I ate this morning over yogurt).  What I have also realized more importantly, though, is that when I have trusted God and have called out to him in prayer during those dark days of parenting, he has heard my crys and has rescued - not just me - but our children.  He has brought them out of the darkness and into the light.  He has provided safety and peace.  He will always answer us.  Simple Faith - Prayer!!

"Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer." (NIV) Psalm 61:1

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Tending the Flock


Good Shepherd Sunday!!  If there is a Sunday that I enjoy going to church almost as much as Easter it is Good Shepherd Sunday.  The hymns, the readings, the message - yes, they are all wonderful and glorious.  But most of all?  It is the peace that I leave with on this particular Sunday.  Maybe it is a combination of it all, maybe it is a clearer understanding of how I am reassured that Jesus is my shepherd - and I am his sheep.  Yes, that's it.

A shepherd knows each and every one of their sheep - their personalities of sort.  The shepherd knows which ones stray, which ones stay with the flock.  The sheep listen to the shepherd, are guided by the shepherd, and live life as one with the shepherd.  That is what our Dear Jesus gives us - a life with Him as our shepherd.  

Although I have been a lifelong Christian thanks to wonderful parents who guided me in my faith, there have certainly been times when my faith has not been as strong - when I have questioned, when I have wondered. There have been times when I have asked "Where are you God?"  There have been times when I have been so distraught as to believe that God didn't hear my prayers.  Yet, it has been those times that I have relied on myself to solve the problems, on myself to guide my path, on myself to control the pressures of this world.

When we rely on our OWN guidance, we stray.  The ways of this world cannot bring us the daily and everlasting peace we are searching for.  Please, don't get me wrong - there are many things that I might turn to believing that they provide me the relief from every day stress:  a great bubble bath, a nice glass of wine, a decadent dessert, etc.  Yet, the peace that I am looking for doesn't come from these things.  The trials and tribulations of the day seems to seep it's way back into my life.

When I turn to God's word, though, there I find the peace I have been searching for.  When I am actively in a Bible study with great friends, I find the emptiness that my heart seems to have when I am not engaged in His word.  The refocus of my life on the Good Shepherd to "restoreth my soul" (NIV) Psalm 23, proves to be the only way to true peace.  It does go back to SIMPLE FAITH.  Faith in knowing that if I turn to God, He will provide.  Faith that His provisions will be all I need.  Faith that His strength will lift me when I can no longer lift myself.  Hi is our Shepherd.  He provides us the Living Word of everlasting life.  He brings us out of the darkness to a life that is full and gracious and loving.

I challenge you to find that Simple Faith again.  The one that takes a few moments each day to turn your focus on our Shepherd, the one who can provide the guidance that you might be lacking.  The one that can heal us, body and soul.   The one that provides.  A prayer, a song of praise, a Bible verse . . . all ways to help us gain that focus.  Know that prayers are reaching out to you who read this - He knows his sheep~~

"For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; 'he will lead them to springs of living water.' 'And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.'" (NIV) Revelation 7:17

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Time to Start Counting

I live in New Hampshire.  It has been a tough week for us New Englanders.  Many that I share this blog with  live in different parts of this country, or the world.  On Monday, our world in New England stopped for a few moments.  Just stopped.  It was a devastating moment of time.  To watch so much senseless hurt, anguish, death, trauma.  It was hard to watch - but even more difficult to feel.

You see, my daughter was in a building on Boylston Street.  She recently started a new job in Boston - began living on her own just outside of Boston, and is loving the life of an independent young woman.  Then Monday came.  She saw the runners cross the finish line, the excitement of the day as they went through their busy hours of getting work done, and enjoying the moment - until she felt the shake of the building.  The shakes (yes, more than one).  What followed, the lockdown of the building, the eventual evacuation, the journey to find a way back to her apartment, was frightening.  There were many moments when I couldn't reach her - crying out to our Dear Lord for Him to continue to rescue her - as the events of that horrific day unfolded.  Meanwhile, my other daughter is at a college about 20 minutes outside of Boston.  Her school had a bomb threat as well - texts and emails flying back and forth.   Not knowing what was going on was unbearable.

I am blessed to say that our family is safe.  Blessings - we have so many of them.  Others were blessed that day, others have much pain and grief to bare.  Yet, it is our blessings that we need to focus on, that we need to count, that we need to remember are always in front of us.  We have a loving and gracious Lord - who is with us each and every day.  He folds His loving arms around us, enveloping us with His love.  Sit still, close your eyes in a quiet place.  Maybe you are outside and can feel His whisper in a breeze.  Maybe you are wrapped in a blanket and can feel His warmth.  Maybe you are tired and weary, and you can feel His arms holding you up.  Maybe you are grieving, and you can feel His hand holding yours.  Maybe you are happy and can feel His smile upon your face.

The blessings are there for us to count.  Our Dear Lord is there to count them with us if we'd like - and we should.  For the blessings come from Him, gladly, richly, and too bountiful for us to name.  But it is time to start - time to start counting.  Name them.  For me?  My Savior and knowing I will have a life in heaven is a true blessing.  My family, full of love and support - many happy times.  My job, giving me the opportunity to serve others and develop them.  My church family, rich in faith and love.

So when we are stressed and can't believe all that we have to deal with - looking for the peace that passes all understanding, that is exactly the time when we need to TAKE the time to count the blessings God has provided for us.  Take out the piece of paper, make a list, keep it and refer to it.  This, too, will become a blessing for you as well.

 "The God of peace be with you all. Amen." (NIV) Romans 15:33

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Letting Go


                                     



It was one year after my father had passed away, and my mother and I were trying to decide upon a way to celebrate his life.  It had been a tough year.  Dad had passed in April.  My divorce was final in September.  The girls were still adjusting to divorced life (as was I).  My mom was adjusting to life without her beloved husband.  I was still recovering from Cancer a year before.  Those weren't easy times.  So it was time to celebrate.

Balloons - the girls loved balloons.  We decided to get a balloon for each of us, say something special to Pop-Pop, and let the balloons go up in the air.  First was Nanny (my mom).  She eloquently said something and off it went.  Next, mine was released, along with much upon my shoulders.  Sarah was third, and we listened intently and watched as her balloon floated into the air.  Last, was Krystina.  At the age of 7, Krystina's message to Pop-Pop was real and true, she missed him.  Bottom line.  She released her balloon - and it got stuck in the tree.  Just stuck there - it wouldn't go.  Tears streamed out of her little eyes, "He won't get my message".  We all started crying, how could that happen??  Eventually, a gust of wind came, and off it went.  Left in God's hands, He didn't disappoint us.  "The Lord helps his people when they call to him for help.  He rescues them from all their troubles." (NIV )Psalm 34:17

Those two words, Letting Go, can be fearful driven words.  Any time we let go, regardless of what the situation may be, it means we need to trust in someone or something else.  When we let go of our children on that bike, we are trusting in their ability to ride.  When we let go of the side of the pool, we are trusting in ourselves that we can swim (or touch the bottom of the pool at least!).  When we let go of someone we love, we trust that they will find happiness - without us.  When we let go of someone who has passed on, we trust that they have moved on to our Heavenly Father.

Letting go is one of the hardest things we can challenge ourselves with.  Yet, when we let go, we are having faith, SIMPLE FAITH, that something or someone will be there to handle it.  It will be 12 years on Tuesday since my Dad has entered the heavenly gates.  So much has transpired during those 12 years, moments of great joy and great pain.  There have been times when I have gladly let go of things or emotions.  There have been other times when I still hang on to things - things that can cause great stress in my life.  What I realize is that "I" control that stress much of the time, and I can (and should) let go.

We get to chose what we hang on to - and what we let go of.  Holding on, sometimes, can cause even greater stress than letting go.  It is fearful to let go.  We can be very afraid to let go.  Yet, I ask you to read the verse below and keep it in your heart.  There is a time to let go.  If it is your time to let go of something that has been troubling you, worrying you, causing you despair, let it go and give it to God!  He can truly handle it all.  Set your sights on the Lord, you will never be disappointed with the view!!

"I am leaving you with a gift - peace of mind and heart.  And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.  So don't be troubled or afraid."  (NIV)  John 14:27

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What Is The Real Problem???

Chaos!!  It seems as if my world is always filled with chaos - from the time I wake up in the morning until the time my head hits the pillow at night.  Is my world truly that chaotic?  Or do "I" make it that way?

I'm pursuing two Bible Studies at the same time, exploring a life time goal, working a full-time (plus) job, trying to be a good mom to four children (16-23 in age), be a great/loving/supportive wife, ensure I'm a good daughter, support my friends (something I truly feel like I'm failing at), etc., etc., etc. . . .  Most importantly, as with many women, there is a NEED to ensure that it is all done "perfectly", with every detail managed and every minute accounted for.

Why?  Why is there this sense for "doing it all", ensuring that "everyone is pleased", making sure it is all done without any mistakes?  Who owns all of that?  The truest answer to that question, is "I" own it.  I own what I put into my life.  I own how it gets done.  I own the level of stress that I incur with it.  I own the "perfection" that is needed.  I OWN IT!!  

So, therefore, if I OWN IT, then I am the only one that can do something about it.  When I looked at everything in my life and the true source of the stress that I am feeling, finding the root cause was soul searching.  What does it boil down to?  The reality that I can't always do it all, and that it can't always be done perfectly.  I CAN'T CONTROL EVERYTHING.

Yes, there are many times this "control" fault that I have can become an obsession.  You can ask my family.  We took a family vacation to Disney World once.  There were the 6 of us, my mom, and my brother and his family - 10 of us in all!!  I had every moment of every day we were there planned.  What day we were doing what park, the order of the rides we were going on, reservations for dinner were made WELL in advance (really - how else did you expect to feed 10 people at the same time), alarm clocks were set (try telling a bunch of teenagers they needed to wake up at 6:45AM while on vacation).  Yep - EVERY MINUTE.  By day two, my brother looked at me (after ride two) and said, "Are You Serious???  Can't we go on rides when we WANT to go on them."  My plans were shattered.  But you know what?  The stress of having to be in a certain place at a certain time subsided.  I could let go . . . .  but that was many years ago - and those lessons are hard to learn.

During my Bible Study on Stressed Less Living, we are reading the book by the same title, author Tracie Miles.  Page 35 says it so clearly - "if you can't fix it yourself, never mind it~  Put it in God's hands, and let him do the work."  What truly makes me think that I can have BETTER control than GOD??  He who is in control of everything.

I am looking forward to this journey of Stressed Less Living and pouring my soul into a "new me" that pursues time for my Lord as well as time for me.  I just need to remember . . .

Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible." 
(NIV) Matthew 19:26 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spreading Wings-First Day of a New Life

                                          artfromthesoul.com


This is new for me - spreading my wings in the social media world!  I love to write.  I love my Lord.  I love to write about my Lord!  There is so much I would like to share with the world about Faith and how it can truly set you free.  Today, I start!!  My parents are a great inspiration for me.  My dad passed on to our Father in heaven almost 12 years ago.  A passion of his was creating incredible stained glass pieces.  Although this is not his, it is a combination of what he loved, butterflies and stained glass.  This combination shared his belief of always growing, spreading our wings to something beautiful - and the true detail of beauty of stained glass pieces, in essence, every one of us.  My mother, continues to share her faith with me every day.

I am also beginning a new Online Bible Series with Proverbs 31 and Melissa Taylor -http://melissataylor.org/.  I am excited about this opportunity that brings a mode of learning I am very familiar with, classic Bible study, to a not so familiar territory - online learning.  So, in essence, it is the First Day of a New Life.

As well, my husband and I will also begin a new Bible Study with some dear friends on Christian Character. Yes, many new beginnings are starting for me.  New steps for me.  I am very anxious, very excited, and hoping that you will join me.

As we begin and share on this journey, I hope to share with others - others I have not met and others that will share in my interests.

Simplified Faith is something I believe we have lost.  We, I, have worked hard in our lives to sometimes make things more difficult than they need to be.  Faith can be included in that.  My goal, is to bring us back to the basics of faith, simplify it, so that we lean on our faith more strongly, and let it guide us to a more fulfilled life.  So let us begin this journey together.

I hope to use my blog as a special place to share thoughts on Bible Studies, thoughts on Faith, Hope, Love, thoughts on life!  I hope you enjoy reading and growing with me.

"...The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."(NIV)  Galatians 5:6

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Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope we can share how God's grace has been life changing and that SIMPLE FAITH, getting back to a life that is rooted in the basics, can truly set us free to achieve so much in our lives.