Sunday, August 25, 2013

Back to School


It's that time of year again, for children to head off to school.  For many of us, January 1st is the beginning of the year.  For me, it has always been this time of year, the school year.  You see, my parents were both school teachers, so for us, everything revolved around the school year - and this time of year meant new beginnings.  New faces, new teachers, new friends, new classrooms, new situations to brave.  It can be both fun and difficult at the same time.

As our children were growing up, I found a variety of different efforts to help ease their anxiousness and bring them closer to the one that would ultimately help them when I couldn't, God.  What I find amazing over the years that as the children have gotten older, and school days moves to college years, the efforts are still worth discussing and bringing to light - helping them to a better day.

We always began our days with devotion.  In the beginning, when the children were smaller, we actually had a children's devotion that we used to start our day on the right foot.  It was extremely helpful.  The devotion always ended in prayer - either said by me, but as they got older, the prayers were said by the children.  I learned a lot during that prayer time - they would pray for friends, or friends' families, teachers, situations that they felt were tough to deal with.  I would pray for help with work situations that seemed to be weighing heavy on my mind.  All in all, prayer time became a great part of our day.  It was a sad day for me when I didn't have to take the children to school anymore, I couldn't start our day like that.  Yet, I pray that part of their day finds them going to the Lord in prayer.

I always thought it was important to bring a sense of blessing to our family, in a variety of ways.  It began with the making and using of blessing beads.  Nothing fancy, a piece of yarn with three of four beads on it.  At the end of the day, we would move the beads from one side to the other, sharing things we had been blessed with.  As the children grew older, we especially became fancy for our Thankful Chain.  During the month of November, at dinner time each person would receive a strip of construction paper.  On this they would write something or someone they were thankful for.  We would read them aloud before dinner and make a paper chain.  With six people, you can imagine how long our chains would get.  It was a wonderful reminder of the blessings in our family's life.  Now, thanks to a great friend, we have a blessings jar where we can write pieces of paper and put them in the jar.  When we are all gathered around the table, the jar is opened and the blessings are shared.  All of these have been wonderful ways to share God's goodness.

Yet, we need to remember that there are difficult days as well.  On those very special days, when life seems overwhelming for our children, I would take out a paper plate and some sticky notes.  The children could write all that was bothering them - a lot of homework, a tough situation with friends, maybe even difficulty within our own family unit, and stick them on the plate, trying to decide how much of the problem was taking up "their plate".  We then would take each one off, and try to find some ways to bring some solutions to the problems - always understanding and ending that prayer helps BEST OF ALL!!  God is always in control of all of our problems, and by bringing the problems to Him, he will find a way for us to move forward.  We would then rip the stickies up and throw them away - never to be found again.

Back to school can be tough on all of us.  Our oldest daughter is off on her own now.  Our middle two daughters will be heading off to college soon.  Our youngest son will be entering his junior year in high school.  This time of year can be most most difficult on us parents - realizing that we need devotion time, blessing beads and paper plate nights, too.  The best part is we have a loving God who grants us grace and mercy and just loves us to pieces, helping us with our all "back to school needs".

Here's to Back To School~~  May all who are parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles pray for their children every day - they need it so.  Continue to instruct our children in the ways of the Lord, that they might find His everlasting love.  May all the children out there realize God is watching over them and helping them in everything that they need.

"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."  (NIV)  Ephesians 6:4  


Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Comfort Zone

                                            londonderrynh.net

As many of you are aware, a few weeks back I crossed over that "monumental" birthday point.  I realized, as many of us do, that I was getting pretty comfortable in a variety of areas in my life.  Some of them I consider to be good.  I am very comfortable in my home with my family.  I enjoy the wonderful, comfy feeling I get when I come home at the end of the day.  I am comfortable in my kitchen and taking recipes and changing them a bit to what I believe my family will enjoy for a nice dinner (sometimes that works out - sometimes it doesn't)!  Where I felt I needed to "step out of my comfort zone" was when I would receive those gentle nudges from God - and actually moving when He told me to move.

Over two years ago, I believe our Dear Lord provided very clear messages to me that writing a book was where He wanted my life to go.  I found many excuses; time, work, energy, etc., that led me astray from that path.  Trust me, He didn't just provide a whisper - He practically YELLED at me - and I still didn't follow.  It wasn't until this past April that He banged me over the head with a bat (okay, not literally, but you get the picture), that I decided there was a happy medium - hence, this blog!   Yes, there are bigger plans.  Yet, for now, I pray that we are both going down the right path.

There are times I think God is trying to share with me to do something REALLY BIG.  If it happens to be outside my comfort zone, I realize I steer clear from this nudge.  If it is something that I can find the time for, or that I am comfortable with - I do so with a cheerful heart.  If it is something I am uncomfortable with, I am able to find a million excuses.  I decided, though, it is time to listen and move to ALL the things God is nudging me to do (or hitting me over the head to do)~~  

It is time - it is time to listen to these nudges and to move - regardless of my comfort level.  Why?  Because this blog was out of my comfort zone.  Social media and this entire aspect of writing seemed larger than life to me.  Yet, I have heard from many who have read these words over the last few months.  They have shared that Simple Faith Today has comforted them, helped them, encouraged them - which was the intent.  I have been blessed far more than I could have ever realized.  The other day, I really stepped outside my comfort zone, to people I  have never met!!

Every day I pass by a series of apple orchards.  I love this part of my commute, especially as the seasons change in New England.  Last spring, one of the orchards saw the influx of bulldozers and trucks.  No, I wasn't a happy camper and, to be very honest, unpleasant thoughts certainly passed through my mind.  I was convinced it was more condos being pressed into a lovely countryside.  As the weeks passed and the building became more concrete, I realized a church was being built.  Each day, as I passed, I said a prayer for the new church and all of its parishioners.

Weeks turned into months and a couple of weeks ago, the parking lot finally was paved.  It  is beautiful - the church amongst the apple trees.  I felt God's nudge to share my thoughts with the new church.  I felt l needed to write a note to the church, letting them know God was with them in a special way and how much I prayed for their church to be a blessing for each other.  It was way outside my comfort zone - to blindly leave a note to people I didn't know on their doorstep.  I shared my "nudge" with my family.  They told me to "go for it".  So I did!  I carefully crafted my thoughts and delivered it to their doorstep on my way to work one morning, before anyone was there.  

What was gained?  An incredible sense of peace poured over me that morning.  God, once again, blessed me.  I stepped way outside what was comfortable for me and reached out to others, people I will probably never meet (although there is a nudge to step inside their church one morning), and felt God's hand on my shoulder.  I encourage all of us to step outside our comfort zone.  Listen for God's voice, His nudge, to do something that we don't typically do, something that we might not have time for, something we might struggle with.  Reach out to someone in need, someone that God may be pressing upon your heart, to give to.  Maybe it is a note, share a cup of coffee, a plate of cookies.  Maybe it is something "larger than life" that is far outside your comfort zone.  Pray to God, ask Him for the nudge.  Listen and do - the rewards of peace and blessings are immeasurable.  Say #Yes to God

"... for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose."  (NIV)  Philippians   2:13

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Coincidence

Coincidences or
Faith Moments??

How many times have we asked ourselves if prayers are answered?  Is God talking to us?  Does He really hear me?  I have to share, there are many times when I have asked myself that question.  I talk with God, share with Him all my thoughts, let Him know everything that is happening and pray for what I believe needs to get done.   Then I wait, and wait, and don't get the results that I was looking for.  As always, it points back to - "Am I asking for the right things - is my direction God's direction?"

Then, before I know it - fate happens.  You know what I am talking about.  That moment when things seem to come together, when life all lines up.  I used to call it fate, a coincidence.  I realized many years ago - it has nothing to do with fate or coincidences.  Those are what I like to call "faith moments".  They are moments in time when it isn't the moons all aligning together, or a matter of the wind blowing in the right direction.  Those are moments when God is working.  They are moments when He is answering our prayers, when He is in our lives and directing its path, when He is right there with us.

Funny how God works.  I truly believe He has a sense of humor.  God waits for that right moment, the moment when we will actually notice.  Often, we will look at those times in our days and say "That's a coincidence - that someone assists us just when we needed help, without us asking for it," or "That's a coincidence - that what we are struggling with happens to finally work," just when we are at our breaking point of frustration.  My husband has those moments!  He will be working on a project with a car or around the house, praying a simple prayer of help to God.  Just at the moment when he is ready to give up (or use some choice words), help comes his way!  The project starts heading in the right direction.  He has certainly shared with me many times that he has had "faith moments".

I certainly have had my fair share of those moments as well.  Complete frustration with a situation.  Unable to find a solution with a problem.  I talk with God, ask Him for what I believe needs to happen.  No answer!  Yet, later (could be hours, days, or months), something else happens - an answer, a solution, the frustration ends.  Is it coincidence?  I say no.  These are faith moments.  I believe they happen all the time, every day.  Yet, our lives are too busy to take notice.  We rush through them, accept the moment as "fate", and keep going.

Last Monday was a perfect example of one of those moments.  We were starting a new Bible study that evening - on forgiveness.  The parable we were going to focus on that evening was the wonderful parable of the prodigal son.  I was looking forward to it, felt I could have used some extra guidance.  That morning, I turned on the Christian radio station I typically listen to - the study of choice that day?  The Prodigal Son!!!  Listening intently, I smiled (I am sure with God), as the teaching moved me.  He provided guidance all right.  It certainly was a faith moment. 

Those around me have become accustomed to me saying that "it isn't fate, it's faith".  Simple faith.  If we have faith that God will be there for us, just like we should be there for Him, the faith will be strengthened.  Faith moments happen every day.  We need to take the time to listen, to stay still a bit, to FEEL God's presence surround us.  I encourage you this week to find some faith moments.  They are there.  Write them down, post them on your refrigerator.  Let them be a gentle reminder to you of God's wonder.  I would love to hear from you in the comments section of my blog - feel free to share your faith moments......

"Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." (NIV) Psalm 27:14


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Trust Fall

                                         katenixon.theworldrace.org

My family and I were watching a show the other day.  It involved some people who were willing to fall back into another person - thereby stating that they "trusted" the person enough not to look back, but to trust that they would catch them when they would fall back into their arms.  They needed to trust that the person would be there, that they wouldn't walk away, that they were strong enough to hold them up from the floor. My husband and I have been a part of many teamwork and team building exercises through work and other groups where this particular exercise has been utilized - sometimes with total strangers.  It's amazing how much trust someone will put into a total stranger to actually catch them from falling.  There is not doubt that they will actually be there for you.

This got me thinking about our trust with our Lord.  How many times do we say we "trust" that God will be there for us, to protect us, to provide for us, to comfort us, to love us, to forgive us?  Yet, when it is actually time to "fall" into His arms, to truly let God handle it all, how many times have we actually fallen back into God's loving arms?  Have we always trusted that he would be there to catch us?  Or have we taken that "look back" to see if He was there, and doubted if he truly was, and then proceeded on our own path (only to find out that it wasn't the right one)?  Take some time and reflect on those situations in our lives when God whispered to us, or maybe even SHOUTED to us, to trust Him, to fall back into his protective arms, and we chose to not trust Him?

I know I have done this - on numerous occasions.  There have been plenty of times in my life when I SAID that I trusted God, that I KNEW in my mind that He would be there for me, yet, when it actually came time to trust God versus MY way, I couldn't let go, I couldn't fall back.  It wasn't until I was at the true edge of the cliff many times, when I had no where else to go, that I finally let go and trusted that God was going to be there for me - and He NEVER disappointed.  Reflecting back, I believe one of those times was after my third chemo treatment when I had cancer.  I decided I wasn't going to "fall back" into the trusting arms of God anymore in that situation. 

The diagnosis of breast cancer at age 36 was a difficult one to hear.  Yet I believed, truly believed, that this was the time when I was going to trust God, that He was going to see me through - that His plan to use this diagnosis as a way of bringing me on a path that He planned for me was going to come to fruition.  I was going to listen to Him, and my doctors, to beat this and live my life.  A bounty of tests were ordered - I did them dutifully.  Surgery - check.  Chemo - scared, but moving forward.  It was after my third treatment that I decided I didn't want to do this any more.  I was sick, I was tired, I could not see the benefit of this treatment plan.  I checked in with God - told Him what I was doing.  I walked into my oncologist and told her, "I'm done - I am not going for the fourth round."  I had made my decision.  God might have been in charge before, but I didn't want this anymore.  I was taking control.  

It was then, that God spoke.  Not directly to me, but certainly through my oncologist.  She has the sweetest, softest voice - typically.  Yet, on that day, she boldly stated to me, "You will go through with the fourth round, because each step of the way, is meant to save your life.  It is meant for you to see your children grow up.  It is meant for you to enjoy life.  You need to have faith, simple faith, and trust."  It was then that I realized I had taken back what I had given to God at the beginning of that journey - I had taken back the trust I had given Him.  I listened to her, I trusted the one that I could trust - God.  I went for my fourth round of chemo (nope - didn't like the fourth round either).  I also did the weeks of radiation and medication that followed.  That was almost 14 years ago.  We need to trust.

If we are willing to take the "trust fall" with our family, friends, co-workers and sometimes, total strangers, what is stopping us from taking the "trust fall" with the one that we know will be there for us ALWAYS - past this earthly life to our heavenly home?  Take the fall with God - trust Him with your life.  He will always be there for you, simply have faith that His loving arms are waiting to catch you.  

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." (NIV) Proverbs 3:5-6

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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.