Sunday, November 24, 2013

Giving Thanks
The Sunday before Thanksgiving.  It's always a special day.  Yes, the preparations are probably starting in your homes as it is in ours.  Shopping is being conducted for the "perfect" meal.  The lists are being made, so that we can check the items off precisely at the right moments.  Assurances that we have "enough" of everything - food, plates, chairs, etc.  Thanksgiving is a day by which we want to make sure everyone has a memorable experience.
Yes, that is how I viewed Thanksgiving for many years.  A few years ago, our family decided to put a stronger emphasis on the "Thanks" part of the day.  We have delighted in a variety of ways throughout the years to share our thanks, with each other, about our world - most importantly, our thanks to God.  When the children were smaller, they were able to construct their own placemats with pictures of what they were thankful for.  As the years moved forward, we were excited as we made a paper chain of thanks.  Each night of November, we would write what we were thankful for, connect them together, and watch our chain of thanks grow until Thanksgiving Day!  During the last few years, notes of thanks were written by each member of the family for each member of the family.  I am sure these notes are kept in a safe place and are read on days when we need to feel the blessings of our Lord.  It is important to take a few moments and find ways to give thanks for all that is good and right in our lives.
Where does it all come from?  There is no doubt that although those around us provide so much for us, it all starts with God.  The blessings, the love, the faith, the forgiveness - it is all graciously provided to us from God, multiple times a day, not just one day a year.  Stop, think about today so far.  What has happened that has been a blessing?  Did you get out of bed?  Have you spent a few moments, maybe at church, at breakfast, around a fire - with ones you love?  Are you feeling well? 
Let's even take a look at things that may not be going "just as we planned".  This weekend, I had great plans of cooking, of cleaning, of getting the house ready for a wonderful holiday.  Yet, I look at a walker, have a cast on my leg, and realize that the plan I had set for this time between Thanksgiving and Christmas may not be my plan.  I have been blessed beyond measure, though.  Although I may not understand the circumstances in my life, I have been afforded an incredible amount of blessings.  I truly believe our Dear Lord wanted me to stop, to feel the love that has been around me so very much - and I am grateful that I feel it, see it, and now am taking the time to enjoy how much God's love is enveloping me.  Through small things and large, too numerous to mention, I am thankful for so much that everyone has shared with me.  There is thankfulness in all situations for us to see and enjoy.
So, as we begin our Thanksgiving holiday ahead, I pray that you take the time, to stop, and notice the blessings that God has so richly given to us.  The tough situations can be replaced with love.  The negative situations can be replaced with God's joy.  The stress of the holidays can be replaced with the peace that comes when we focus on what God has provided for us.  There is no perfection here on Earth.  There is love, joy, and peace.  May your Thanksgiving be filled with God and all He has brought to you.
"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.  His love endures forever."  (NIV)  Psalm 136:1

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Searching for Strength


I would consider myself to be a fairly strong woman.  Strength can be seen in many different areas. I view that I can be somewhat strong in the physical sense (but please don't put me up against anyone who works out at the gym).  Typically, I can hold my own and keep up a steady pace of work, home chores of love, and other items on the list that would see me constantly moving. I also see strength in the emotional sense. Again, typically, I see myself as a fairly strong woman in this realm as well.  I view the circumstances, view the options, and persevere through.   I would like to see myself as strong in the spiritual sense as well, growing every day. 

There are challenges that are put in our lives that waiver our strength. I believe they are put there for many reasons. These situations are usually placed perfectly when needed most - when we need to realize that our strength is not our own. Last night, I had one of those moments. Through this latest "bump" in the road that has slowed me down, I have been trying to continue as much 'life as normal' activities as possible. Yet, last night that all seemed to come to a halt. Nothing drastically changed last night from the other nights during the last two weeks.  I just stopped and cried. It seemed overwhelming.  The thoughts that I couldn't provide like I used to for my family with their meals, that I didn't have any physical strength left to even lift myself from a chair into a bed, that my emotional strength seemed to be breaking down  - all of it left me drained. 

Have you been there as I have been?  Have you wondered where all your strength went?  Maybe it was dealing with a physical calamity.  Maybe it was dealing with something that strikes closer to your heart, an emotional or spiritual weakness that you couldn't seem to gather any strength from.  It is hard for us, as humans, to admit weakness - either physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Many times , we believe we can do it all and nothing should stop us. Yet, it is at these times of weakness that we truly understand where our strength comes from.

Sooner than I have done in past situations (I must be learning something along the way), I went to my Lord. Through tears that only He could know and understand, I prayed for strength. I asked for strength in healing, for emotional strength, for the strength that only He could provide.  As I turned to His word this morning, God found me!  He gave me His words to gain strength.  I found new ways to do things. I found a way to make a meal for my family. I found a way to make a cup of coffee. Although my husband lovingly does these things for me, I needed to try and do them for myself. There is strength that comes from that. 

When we least expect to find strength and in the smallest of ways, God is there for us - to guide us to the strength that we need.  I've seen that with so many people in my life, so many people who found strength to keep going from their Lord. My dad was one of them. Often sick and weak, we would ask him, "How are you Daddy?"  He would always respond, "Strong like bull."  He could barely lift his head off the pillow, but we know where his strength came from!  My mom uttered those same words upon her long recovery from heart surgery less than a year ago. Yes she is!

Do you need strength?  Maybe strength to deal with physical concerns. Maybe strength to get through a difficult relationship. Maybe strength to persevere and guide you way through a tough situation. There is truly only One who can provide the strength we need - the only One who can give us the strength to move forward. Reach out to Him, pray to Him, read His word, talk to his believers. Find the strength that He has for you. He loves you so very much - strength comes with love from Him! 

As for me?  I am regaining my strength, both physically and emotionally. For He has given it back to me in small meaningful ways. I am "strong like bull."  Afterall, I am a product of my parents - and God!

"He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak."  
(NIV). Isaiah 40:29

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Calling Out


To say it's been an interesting week is an understatement.  Last Monday morning, as I was pumping gas to start off my week of commuting and work, I tripped over the gas pump hose and ended up dislocating and breaking my ankle.  It has been a long week of xrays, surgery, hospital stays, crutches, etc.  Unfortunately, it seems as if I will be off my feet for a few weeks.
So, this week's blog will be a little short.  Yet, there was a very important lesson I learned this week when this happened.  My initial response when this happened was to cry out to my Lord, "Help me please."  It was a whisper, I was on the ground, but it was my initial response, "Lord, please help me."  It was then that he told me to call out louder.  So, I did.  In a louder voice, it was "Help me, please, help me."  Sure enough, two wonderful saints came to my aid to assist with calling an ambulance, my husband, and get the "wheels of recovery" in motion.  The Lord didn't wait to answer my calls, he sent wonderful people to come.  They stayed with me until the ambulance showed up - two people that had their morning disrupted, but chose to answer a call of help and didn't leave me until it was okay for that to happen.
The incredible people who assisted has continued throughout the week.  There was the nursing staff who was always there to hold my hand and ensure me that things were going to be okay; there were the great doctors who tended to my injuries.  My wonderful family has truly come to my aid, interrupting their days of work or college and returning home to help with the cooking, shopping, cleaning, etc.,  There have been many friends who have generously brought meals to nourish me and my family, as well as gifts of flowers, cards, and fruit to let me know that they are thinking and praying for me.  Most of all, there are all the prayers of healing from so many.  So many incredible stewards responding to the call that I sent out to our Lord, asking for help.
It's amazing how God responds to us when we ask for help.  At the moment, I knew that my ankle was dislocated (trust me, I knew), and I just asked God for help.  I didn't know what type of help I needed - but God did.  He always knows what we need.  When we call out, when we rely on the One who always knows what we need, he responds bigger and greater than we can ever imagine.  Other times, I would have tried to do so many things on my own first - waiting to call out to our Dear Lord.  This time, as I grow in my every day faith of our Lord - growing with all of you - I looked to Him first.  He was wonderful enough to respond so generously.
Remember, it is okay to call out to God, to ask Him for help.  The way he responds is truly a miracle.  I experienced many miracles this past week and will be eternally grateful to all those who gave of their time, their energy, and their resources, to help.  It will be a lengthy recovery, but I know when I call out, He will provide. 
"Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say:  Here am I."  (NIV)  Isaiah 58:9

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Giving and Receiving


The art of giving & receiving -  stewardship.  Over the many years that I have had an opportunity to sit in church and listen to a variety of sermons on this topic, I have realized much.  The greatest of which is that the topic of stewardship and giving can strike a very strong emotion in people.  Today I had the opportunity to share a testimony on how stewardship, and giving, has effected my life.  When I actually stopped to think about it - I realized it has changed me as a person.  Growing up in the church, giving was always part of what we did.  Whether the giving found its way to the offering plate, or through church needs on committees or even through youth activities, our family found a way to give back.  

As I started my own journey of understanding the giving side of things, I realized early that giving was truly a gift.  God has blessed each and every one of us with many talents, time, and treasures.  We may not always see them that way (in fact, there were many times when I looked upon these things as a burden).  Yet, as I look back, I understand better how the giving journey may begin, and how we are always on this quest of finding the ultimate giving gift~~

I was blessed to join a congregation that was just starting out.  We were ALL a member of the evangelism committee, we were ALL a member of the stewardship committee, yes, we ALL chipped in any way we could.  It was an exciting time.  As the church grew (in both families and structure), others joined who were able to assist in the many needs of our congregation.  We have been fortunate to have a congregation of givers.  Whether the need is within our church walls, or stepping out into the community where other needs surface, our congregation of givers seem to be there.

Yet, I believe my personal giving has always been challenged to find the balance - the balance of God, family, work, and breathing!  On any given week, one may find more of my time than others.  When I find the hand tipping greater to the giving of needs, what I realize is the receiving that I get in return is abundant.
This couldn't have been more true than about 14 years ago.  I felt my life was moving forward pretty well.  Great church, family with two children, a dog and cat, parents living nearby, good job, etc.  Then the world stopped the day that I heard I had cancer.  The giving that I so much enjoyed seemed to be put on hold.  My life turned into a series of surgeries, chemo treatments, sickness, radiation treatments, etc.  The time that I enjoyed sharing with others (especially my Sunday School class), seemed to slip away.  The energy I had to pray seemed to slip away.  The ability to be there for my children and make their Halloween costumes, slipped away.  Then it happened - the receiving.  Family, friends, fellow congregation members - they all gave.  When I had difficulty cooking for my family, meals showed up.  When I couldn't get my children their costumes, two beautifully made costumes showed up.  When I couldn't pray anymore - prayers were said, and answered.  I received ABUNDANTLY!!

Within two years of learning I had cancer, the rug was pulled out from underneath me two more times - my father passed away and I got divorced.  It was an unbelievable two years of darkness.  Yet, as God always does, His light shined much brighter than any darkness we can experience.  My giving wasn't as great during that time - it was more difficult to balance things.  Yet, I kept trying to ensure that the giving side of me didn't become dark.  I had seen God's Grace in so many people, and just wanted to keep giving - to help others as I had been helped.

It happened again, the blessings of our Dear Lord.  Through the challenges of above, support was provided.  I wasn't shunned away, but received and supported.  My church became my refuge - and peace soon found its place again in my heart.  The bonus blessing??  My Lord providing me with my soul mate, the true love of my life, and his children to complete our family.  The joy surrounding our blended family of six has been incredible.  The ABUNDANT receiving has been overwhelming.  

How do we give?  What is this giving journey?  It can be in so many different ways.  If you have a church family, I am sure they are always looking for an extra set of helping hands.  Our time, talents, and treasures are always needed.  Check out your community - our neighbors are in need.  Maybe it is a dinner for an elderly shut in, or a card for someone who needs some supportive words.  Maybe it is a gift card for someone who is trying to make ends meet.  Maybe it is simply a hug and a cup of coffee for someone who needs to know they are loved.  

We can give - we can always start the journey.  Blessed are those who give in the name of the Lord.  The peace your heart will receive will truly be enough.  The blessings that God will give you will be amazing.  Simple Giving of your Heart.  Simple Faith for Today.  I would love to hear your giving stories~~  Be blessed by your giving journey.

"Remember this:  whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously."  (NIV)  2 Corinthians 9:6

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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.