Behind the Scenes


thQZS2XXA1I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve told others “don’t focus on your situation. Keep your focus on God and trust Him to take care of everything even when you can’t see any changes occurring. He’s working behind the scenes in ways we can’t imagine. Just trust Him.”

Simple, right? Well, as they say, it’s easier said than done.

Recently we had our home for sale. We felt certain it would sell quickly  and the activity when we first listed the home confirmed to us that we’d have it sold in no time. The initial excitement quickly faded. People quit coming to look and no one was taking flyers from the “for sale” sign. And so it began. I started to doubt that it would ever sale even though I knew that we had prayed about it and we were certain that God had put in our hearts the desire to move. When there was activity I trusted God to work it all out. But as soon as the activity ceased, I began to doubt. I began to focus on what I could see (which wasn’t much at that point) and took my focus off of God.

thXZQCDBURHave you ever worked the curtains for a theater production? My son is an actor so as a stage mom, I’ve done my share of opening and closing the stage curtain. The job itself gives you an interesting vantage point. As you stand just offstage you have a unique view of what’s happening on both sides of the curtain. On one side you can see all the stagehands running around quickly and quietly backstage setting up the next scene and the actors hurriedly taking their places before the curtain begins to open. It’s ordered chaos as everyone works as fast as possible to make sure that everything is perfect when you begin to pull the rope.

th6UXI3G2COn the other side you can see the audience. They sit patiently and quietly waiting for the next scene to begin. They can’t see anything happening and they really have no idea everything that’s going on just beyond the curtain. But they trust that when that curtain opens, everything will happen just as the program they hold in their hand has promised it will. They can’t see what’s going on behind the scenes but they don’t sit in their seats thinking “we might as well go home because the play isn’t going to happen.” They know that even though they can’t see it, it will happen but only when everything that is going on behind the scenes has been perfectly set into its place.

Oh how I could have used that reminder when we were selling our house. When I couldn’t see anything happening I failed to remember that God had everything under control. That He was working behind the scenes, setting everything into place so that when the right moment came, the curtain would open and His perfect plan would be revealed.

thSOZHDE4YOne Sunday after church we were fixing lunch when someone rang the doorbell. I went to the door and there was a couple there. They asked if we would be willing to show them the house. The lady began to tell me that she had been looking at our house online for weeks. She had seen it as soon as it was listed and it was exactly what they’d been looking for. They hadn’t had a chance yet to come by in person because they lived out of town. She said she had looked at it online every day until that day and couldn’t wait to see it in person. Within three days of the showing, we had come to an agreement and they bought our house.

God was working behind the scenes. Even when I couldn’t see anything, He was at work orchestrating the sell of our home. I couldn’t see what was happening so I wrongly assumed that meant nothing was happening. I was focused on the lack of activity and my very limited ideas for a solution. I should have been focused on trusting God and believing that He can work things out in ways I could never imagine. It was a reminder (one of many in my life) that God is in control. Our job is not to figure out how things should happen or when. Our job is to trust Him and believe Him when He reveals a promise to us.

What has God promised you that, from your vantage point, doesn’t look like it’s going to happen? What is it that you have lost hope in? The problem may simply be that you lost focus – you’re eyes are focused on the situation and not on the One who is in control of it. Refocus and trust that there are things going on behind the scenes and when everything is in place, the curtain will open to reveal God’s perfect plan for you. 

 

Prisoner of War


thDU0YGLOPI’ve never known someone who was a prisoner of war – or so I thought. Toward the end of my grandmother’s life she began to experience the effects of dementia and she started to say things that didn’t make sense. One of the things she frequently mentioned was that she was being taken as a prisoner of war each night but that they would let her go in the morning. My family thought it was odd that she thought she was a prisoner of war since no one in our family is in the military and she didn’t have much contact with anyone or anything that would cause her to think thoughts that were related to being a prisoner of war.

But after several weeks of her sharing these thoughts with us, I began to see how she could see herself as being a prisoner of war. At 101 years of age my grandmother knew she was in the final season of her life. Death was imminent and she was extremely fearful of that fact. She had lived her whole life in fear of many things. In her mind, she was a prisoner to those fears and insecurities. And in reality she was a prisoner to the lies of the enemy.

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My grandmother, like many of us, fell into the trap of being imprisoned by the her thoughts, her fears and her insecurities. She was consumed with the lies that replayed in her mind over and over again that she wasn’t good enough, that she didn’t deserve happiness and that she was unloved. Although none of that was true, the audio of those lies had been replayed so many times in her mind over the years that it had become her reality. She had become a prisoner of the spiritual war that raged for her thoughts and what she believed.

Often we allow the negative thoughts and emotions to take priority in our minds and over time those thoughts begin to take deep root. They start to control how we think of ourselves, how we think others perceive us and how we respond to and treat others. Those thoughts can then begin to spill out of our heads through our mouths as we begin to speak negatively about ourselves and our situations. Instead of speaking life into our situations and relationships we condemn them to a death sentence through our negative words. We allow the enemy to define what we believe about ourselves and others and we become imprisoned by our own doing.

There is a war for your thoughts. There is a very real enemy who wishes to convince you that you are no good, no one loves you and you are incapable and undeserving of whatever it is you dream of for your life. It may be a particular profession, it may be the restoration of a broken relationship, it may be healing for a hurt within your heart or it may be forgiveness for your past. Whatever it is, you are a prisoner of war if you believe the lie that says you are unworthy and incapable.

th45NVTJIYThe good news is that it’s never to late to break free from that prison. God wants to set you free and He gave His one and only Son so that you may live a life free from the prison of your thoughts and your sins. Your identity is who Christ says you are, not the person the enemy tries to make you believe you are. The choice is yours – will you believe the truth of God’s word and who He says you are? Or will you continue to be held captive by the lies of who Satan says you are? It’s time to set your mind on Christ and take back control of your thoughts. Your life can be completely transformed simply by renewing your mind through the reading of God’s word and through the thoughts you allow to enter into your mind (Romans 12:2). Jesus Christ came to set the captives free. He came to set you free. The next step is up to you – surrender your thoughts and you WILL be set free.

iStruggle


144042Why do I feel the need to have it all together? Why do I think that at this point of my life everything should be perfect? For some reason I think that I’ve reached some magical point in life that I shouldn’t still be dealing with the same thoughts, struggles and behaviors. I believe that by now I should be able to somehow control it all better and keep a lid on it. But I don’t. My thoughts, my actions (or inactions), my behaviors – all are constant reminders that I’m still dealing with much of the same old stuff I always have. I don’t know why my expectations of myself exceed the reality I know exists. I know life means struggles.

I was the primary caretaker for my grandmother for five years. In those five years I daily, yes daily, woke up and prayed that that day would be different. That I would not get frustrated. That I would not feel resentment. That I would not wish that she would be more grateful for all that I was doing for her. That I would not feel sorry for myself for being in the situation I was in. That I would not get angry that I was the one taking care of her because nobody else was willing. That I would be able to control my responses to her mean comments. That I would not question God as to why He had put in the role of caring for such a difficult person. That I would not allow my grandmother to push my buttons and draw me into an argument with her. That I would not wish that she was no longer living with us. Every day. Not sometimes. Every day.

tattoo-quotes-about-life-struggles-i13I could not understand how I had all those thoughts and feelings as a Christian. I knew better. I should have had control over my thoughts and actions. I had reached that magical point, right? I’d been doing the “Christian thing” for 16 years. Surely by now I knew how to “act” like a Christian. Surely I could control myself. And therein lies my problem. So many times, even now after all these years, I’m still trying to run my life, my thoughts, and my actions. I still find myself trying to act like a Christian instead of being a follower of Christ. I go through the motions which, on the surface, look like I know what I’m doing. But inside I’m screaming “what am I doing?! Why do I keep thinking like this or behaving like that?!”

The answer is not a simple one. There’s no secret formula. There’s no magical point in life that we reach when it all comes together and reach Christian nirvana. Life is a struggle – always has been, always will be. So the question is not how can I stop struggling but how can I struggle less? The answer is through complete and total surrender. I know how I’m wired. I’m a bona-fide control freak. My struggle is to stop trying to be in control because who am I kidding? I’m not in control – God is. The biggest mistake I make is when I sometimes allow myself to think I’m in control. And I’m fooling myself if I think I can control my thoughts, my behaviors and my actions without the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s word. The answer is complete and total surrender and the way to do that is to spend time in the presence of my Lord and Savior through prayer and spending time reading my bible. That’s not to say it will ever be easy for me to give up trying to be in control but my daily prayer is no longer for God to help me control myself. My prayer is for God to be in control of everything.

thO965BW57The truth is the older I get and the more I do this Christian walk, the more I realize how desperate I am for Him and how quickly and completely out of control my life can get when I try to be in control. We all need Jesus. I need Jesus. Desperately. Completely. More than anything else. So, why do I struggle? Because God said I would in His word when He said “in this world you will have struggles.” But His promise to his disciples that followed His comment is His promise to me. And the good news is that Jesus is not done with me yet. He has fully redeemed me – my past, my present and my future. And every day that I spend in His presence, I am transformed more into His likeness and His character. I don’t have to let my struggles take over and consume me because He promises me that even in my struggles I can have peace in Him. I don’t have to struggle on my own to take over the problems I face in this life because He has overcome the world. (John 16:33). He has overcome my struggles.

My Soul Felt Its Worth


January 2014 514It’s been a weird couple of months. Really, it’s been a weird year. I’m not sure weird is the right word but it’s the only way I can think of to describe a year that didn’t go like I expected it to. I began the year planning a family vacation to Florida. Who knew 6 months later I’d be packing our household and planning our family’s move to Florida? More than ever before, 2013 was a year of realizing that God’s ways are definitely not our ways. (Isaiah 55:8). I would never had thought we’d end the year the way we did.

The year began good. My grandmother was still living with us and although taking care of her was not easy, it was something we had resolved to do as long as we were able to provide the care she needed. It became evident early in the year that she was at the point of needing around the clock care and our family made the difficult decision to move her to an assisted living home. With our newfound freedom and time we did a lot of remodeling and repairs to our home and were able to take some weekend trips which were both long overdue.

prayer 5As the fall approached our attention turned to our plan (God’s plan really – we were just following His lead) to move back to Florida. We packed, put the house on the market and took a house hunting to trip to find a new home in Florida. Our need for God’s direction and guidance was undeniable as we put our trust in Him alone to work out the details of uprooting our family and moving to a new state. We prayed a lot. We prayed for His favor in selling our home, His will for my husband’s job situation and for His wisdom as we made decisions involving the move. It’s funny how much we seek God when we need something and it’s not hard to keep our focus on Him when our need for Him is so great.

And then our prayers were answered and it all began to fall into place. The house sold, my husband got a job transfer and we settled on a place to live in Florida. My dependence on God diminished. The stress of moving and packing took my time and focus. The move approached way too quickly. I felt the desire to spend time with all the friends and family who meant so much to us and I wanted to personally say goodbye to each person who had impacted my life while living in Tennessee. But too many obligations and responsibilities tugged at my time and I left without being able to do so which added to the pressure I was feeling. I was consumed with the move and began to feel overwhelmed.

Samsung November 2013 983Moving day arrived and my youngest son and I watched the movers load our belongings onto the truck while my husband was at work. We had a good visit with my grandmother the day before moving day. She was in good spirits and felt well that day. The movers left and we loaded up the stuff we were moving ourselves including the dog and the cat and headed off to Florida. My husband still had another week to work before transferring and stayed behind to wrap up the loose ends.

While passing through Atlanta, my phone rang. It was the assisted living home. My grandmother wasn’t doing well and the Hospice nurse said they didn’t think she was going to make it. I couldn’t understand how one day she was fine and the next they were telling me that she had just days to live. Another reminder that God’s ways are not our ways.

We spent the weekend in our new home sleeping on an air mattress while we waited for the movers to arrive on Monday with our household goods. My mother and the nurse kept me updated on my grandmother’s condition, which was not good. Very early Monday morning my phone rang. I knew they were calling to tell me that she had passed away. Just 4 hours later the movers arrived with a semi-truck full of boxes. It was not an easy day and by the end of it I was an emotional mess.

I had just moved to a new state without my husband alongside. I had a new place filled with boxes that needed to be unpacked and organized. My grandmother, who had lived with us for the past 5 years, had passed away. I was feeling the guilt of not being there with my grandmother when she passed away and not saying all the things I should have said to her before I moved. I had not been to church in a couple of weeks and God was far down on my list of things to do. I felt distanced from Him and wanted to close that gap but couldn’t seem to slow down long enough to spend time with Him and in His presence.

My son and I traveled back to Tennessee for the funeral, to reunite with my husband and oldest son and then to travel again to spend Thanksgiving with family. It was a whirlwind. I needed God but just couldn’t seem to make it happen. I knew in my mind that He hadn’t gone anywhere. It was me. But for some reason I just couldn’t get it together. I was feeling pretty worthless.

Christmas approached and I lacked motivation to decorate or shop. We didn’t have a dining room table yet so we planned to eat Christmas dinner out at a restaurant which added to my lackluster holiday spirit. Unseasonably warm weather didn’t help the mood.

candlelight serviceThen came Christmas Eve. Our tradition has always been to attend a church service on Christmas Eve. Reluctantly I found a church to go to. I just wasn’t “into” Christmas and my struggle with getting back into God’s presence only added to my gloomy mood. I sat through the service and listened to the pastor read the Christmas story from the bible. I barely noticed that we took Communion because I was so distracted with my thoughts. The service was coming to an end and we stood to sing “O Holy Night”. I’ve sang that Christmas song so many times I can’t even remember. I know the words by heart. It’s one of my favorites.

But in a moment of time my world stopped when I sang these words – “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, til He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth.” I was overcome with emotions. God, in all His majesty, stopped time for me. He showed me His incredible love for me in a quiet Christmas Eve service in a small, nondescript church in Florida. My eyes were opened to the words I had just sang. I lay in sin and error but because of that baby born in the manager, the One who died for the sins I lay in, the One who loves me unconditionally, the One who loves me whether I pray every day and read my bible or whether I put Him at the bottom of my “to do” list, the One who loves me in spite of myself – He showed me my worth to Him through the words of a song on Christmas Eve. The next lines spoke to exactly how I felt in that moment. “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Fall on your knees!” I wanted to do just that. I wanted to fall on my knees and rejoice.

God's loveI realized in that moment that I had allowed my feelings to take over my reality. My reality is that I am a child of God. I’m a born again believer that the Creator of the Universe finds invaluable even when I don’t “feel” like I have any value whatsoever. In an instance my eyes were once again opened to the love that He has for me and that whether I “feel” like it not, nothing will ever change that. Now that is reason enough for any of us who call Jesus Lord and Savior to fall on our knees (even if we don’t feel like it)!

Beyond the Crashing Waves


August 2013 1397On our recent vacation to Florida I was lying in my perfect beach chair, under a perfect beach umbrella, looking out at the perfect calm waters beyond the crashing waves and thinking “can it get any more perfect than this?!” and the answer was no, not at that moment. I was relaxing among sheer perfection and relishing every second of it. But the calm beyond the waves was calling my name and I had to get out there to see if it really was as peaceful as it appeared from my point of view. When I reached the water and began to make my way toward the peace I could see in the distance, my focus was interrupted by the waves that suddenly began hitting me with pounding consistency. The harder I tried to get toward the calm waters, the harder and faster the waves came at me. The distant calm seemed to be getting further away instead of closer. But I was not about to give up that easily.

I looked back at the perfect chair and perfect umbrella I’d left behind. I was so very tempted to just turn back and return to their ease and comfort. But when I looked back out over the crashing waves, the peaceful, still waters ahead once again called out to me.  I began to get frustrated because it seemed like for every bit of headway I made after a wave passed, the next wave just seemed to push me right back to where I’d just been. But then I glanced back again to the chair I’d left behind and realized I had made it a lot further out than I had thought. Even though it felt like I really wasn’t getting anywhere, my persistence was paying off. I looked forward to refocus on the destination and it was a lot closer than I had realized. Just a few more waves and I’d be there. And the further out I got toward the calmer waters, the less punch the waves seemed to have. They were losing their power to knock me backwards. Either my determination was making me stronger or the waves were getting weaker. Either way, I was re-energized for the final stretch.

waterThere was no real line that I crossed, I was just there. I looked around and realized that I was in the calm, peaceful waters that had been almost impossible to reach – but they hadn’t been because I was now right smack dab in the middle of them. There was a stillness out there that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced. The laughter of the children playing close to shore was so distance I could barely hear it. I was so far out that when I looked back to the shore I was a little afraid for a moment because I was alone in the deep – and it was really, really deep. But it was the most peaceful place I had ever been and it was worth ever bit of energy, frustration and determination it had taken to get there.

Many times we see the peaceful waters in the distance from our current vantage point. We know it’s calling our name but some of us never leave the comforts of the here and now because we decide where we are is “good enough.” But God desires so much more for us than “good enough”. He wants to give us the very best but we get too lazy and too comfortable and decide to settle because His “very best” requires commitment and maybe a little hard work on our part.

water4Then there’s those of us who leave our place of comfort and venture out toward the deep but as soon as the crashing waves come at us we retreat back to where we came from. We decide the calm isn’t worth it and we determine to go right back where we were. Others make it further toward the peace of the calm waters. They fight the waves and keep pressing on in spite of the difficulties and challenges. But no matter how focused they were in the beginning, the waves become too much for them and they quickly forget the destination that lies ahead. They loose their focus and become consumed with the crashing waves that rob them of their energy, determination and ultimate goal. They begin to believe they can’t make it so they turn back and retreat to the starting point.

August 2013 1424My encouragement to you today is that no matter how hard the waves are crashing all around you, the still and peaceful waters of Christ are not out of reach. Stay focused. Be determined to reach the stillness of His presence knowing that He has so much more He wants to give to you – more of His love, more of His peace, more joy, more blessings than you could ever imagine or hope for. Take your eyes off the waves and look out to the calm that lies beyond the distractions and obstacles. It hasn’t gone anywhere and it’s not beyond your reach. Keep pushing back against the waves and every now and then take time to glance back so you can be reminded just how far you’ve come. The harder you fight and the more determined you are, the closer you’ll get and the waves will lose their punch. Then suddenly you’ll look around and realize that you don’t know when, or really even how it happened, but you entered into the stillness of the peaceful waters of Christ and it was all worth it. Just keep swimming.

Assessing the Danger


August 2013 1394On our recent vacation to Florida I was particularly aware of the warning flags that are posted on the beach. My children are older now and do not need me to be with them in the water or even at the beach with them at this point. Most days we all went together but sometimes they headed out earlier than their dad and myself. On those days I reminded them to pay attention to the warning flags so that they would know if the currents were strong that day or not. Having lived in Florida at one time, we are all too familiar with the dangers of rip tides so I wanted to ensure they were paying attention to the conditions and were well prepared.

My children are not trained to spot the dangers of the ocean. Neither are my husband and I as their parents. But what we learned on this vacation is that there are trained “spotters” who fly over the ocean each morning to assess the current and the threat level. They then pass on their assessment to the lifeguards and other personnel onshore who raise a particular color flag that represents the threat level as determined by the spotter.

August 2013 1384As untrained beachgoers, everything may look fine to us. The waves are crashing against the shore, the sun is shining, our sunscreen has been applied and we are ready to hit the water and have some fun in the surf and sand. We can be laughing and frolicking in the water completely unaware of the conditions that we are in. Our untrained eyes cannot spot the imminent danger of the currents. And without the warning from a trained and experienced individual, we could quickly find ourselves in danger.

As Christians we too need the training and experience of mature Christians to warn us when we may be facing imminent danger – danger that we may be completely unaware of. As a new believer I had much to learn about the dangers we face from our enemy, the devil. I was oblivious to the fact that he sets traps for us to draw us into temptation and away from the protection of our loving Father in heaven. I needed those who had been following Christ for much longer than me to disciple me and teach me how to spot the danger that was many times unseen by my untrained eyes. I needed trusted women in my life to show me when I was entering into relationships, behaviors or actions that might seem harmless on the surface but underneath could open the door to traps placed by a cunning and deceptive enemy who wanted nothing more than bring destruction upon my life whether through my marriage, my children, my finances or by any other means he could find.

August 2013 1424I needed those women in my life to assess my current situation by asking me tough questions like – Are you spending time in prayer and reading the bible? How is your marriage, your children, other relationships? Is there any sin in your life that you have not turned away from? Are there any unresolved hurts or unforgiveness in your heart?

I needed those women to challenge me so that I could grow in my faith and so that my life could be transformed and I would desire more of God and His ways and less of what I thought I wanted. I needed those women to encourage me when fear and doubt crept into my thoughts. I need those women to hold me accountable when I began to veer away from God’s plan for my life and headed back toward trying to do things my way. I needed them to pull me from my comfort zone as they stood by me in faith trusting God to lead me as I learned to surrender control of my life over to Him. I needed those women just like my family needed the spotters on vacation who kept us from danger.

August 2013 1389We were never created to live our Christian lives on our own. We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit along with the wisdom of trusted, fellow believers to help disciple us as they teach us how to walk out our faith for life. We need spiritual family to encourage us and hold us accountable so that we may live a peace and joy filled life that God intends for us to. Do you have someone in your life who will warn you when you’re approaching dangerous waters? Do you have experienced, mature Christians who can spot the traps that have been laid for you and will teach you how to spot them for yourself? Do you have spiritual family that will walk alongside you as you seek God’s will for your life? If not I encourage you to get involved in serving at your local church or sign up for a small group bible study where you can meet those who can be your “spotter” because some day there will be someone who needs you to be a “spotter” for them.

Lessons From Remodeling: Lesson 3 – You’ve Got To Start Somewhere


scarlettMy final lesson learned through our recent remodeling project is one that I have struggled with the most. I find myself easily overwhelmed and add to that fact that I’m a self-professed procrastinator and my attitude can quickly become “eh, it’s just too much, I’ll do it later” and many times later never arrives. And it is that very mindset that caused me to take FOREVER to get started putting our new bed frame together.

My husband and I were in need of a new mattress and we made the decision to go for a king-size after sleeping on one during our vacation. The problem was that this meant we would also have to buy a king-size bed and we didn’t want to spend a lot of money. So we opted for purchasing a bed frame online knowing we would have to pick it up at the store and then put the bed together ourselves. Even though that isn’t my number one idea of a fun, I knew it would be worth the cost savings. Besides, the reviews were great and all the comments described how easy it was to put together so I surmised “seriously, how hard can it be?” We picked the bed up at the store and a guy helped my husband load it into our van. When we got home and had to unload 5 long, heavy boxes I felt that first twinge of “what have I gotten myself into?”

Several weeks passed before we made time to dig into the project of putting the bed together. We were going to lug the boxes upstairs before we realized we’d probably kill ourselves in the process so we decided to open them downstairs and bring the contents up through multiple trips. When we opened the first box I had that second wave of “what have I gotten myself into?” There were A LOT of parts in the first box but I thought to myself “surely the rest of the boxes don’t contain this many parts.” I couldn’t have been more wrong! I’ve never seen so many parts in my life! At that point I was headed toward full-blown overwhelmed mode.

June 24 2013 007After about an hour we had all the parts laid out on our bedroom floor. As I looked around at the seemingly endless piles of pieces and parts, I thought “no way, I’m done. This is too much!” I so wish I had taken a picture so everyone could see the chaos I saw in that moment. It was more than I could handle and I was ready to give up before I even got started. But thank goodness for my husband. He is so calm and so encouraging in those moments. He makes it possible to get things done when I’m feeling less than motivated. He got out the directions, looked them over and announced that we were ready to begin with step 1. Thankfully and with great wisdom he didn’t tell me at the time that is was an 84 step process and that was just for the items in box 1, not to mention boxes 2-5!

We began following the directions step by step. Slowly we saw some progress – it was a small amount of progress but progress nonetheless. In the moment I had my first twinge of “well, this isn’t so bad.” With some focus and determination we kept plugging away at the directions manual. Before I knew what had happened we were done with not only the first set of directions but the second one as well. The pile of parts was diminishing and the progress was becoming more evident. I began to feel that second wave of “hmmm, I think we can do this.”

Step by step we stayed the course and before long the parts were all gone (well, not all because we seemed to have what we hoped were extras!) and there was a new, king-size bed sitting in our bedroom where there had previously been a monstrous pile of pieces and parts. I felt like doing the Dora dance while singing “We did it, hooray!”

So, what did I learn from this “fun” project?

scarlett21. Don’t give up before you even get started – this is one of the enemy’s oldest tricks in the book. He wants us to believe that “it’s just too much, I can’t”. The truth is, you can’t. But God can. Quit focusing on what you can’t do and start trusting in what God’s word promises that He can do. Remember, you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. (Phil. 4:13).

2. You’ve got to start somewhere – your problems aren’t just going to disappear and things won’t magically get better. A wise friend once told me “work like it depends on you and have faith like it depends on God.” You do your part and trust God to do what only He can do. Your part may be seeking forgiveness from God for sinful actions or behaviors, taking your problem to God in prayer and trusting His will to be done, seeking Godly wisdom from a “seasoned” Christian, searching God’s word to seek answers to your particular situation, reconnecting with church and spiritual family if you’ve drifted away or making necessary changes in your life to remove unhealthy relationships and behaviors that are negative and harmful. The bottom line is if you don’t do anything, you’ll never see progress so get started on step one.

scarlett43. Don’t get overwhelmed with the big picture – start with baby steps. If you take small steps and stay focused, before you know it you’ll look up and see progress. And it’s that progress that will motivate you to keep taking those baby steps toward the ultimate goal. (see #2 for what some baby steps may be for you) God typically doesn’t show us the whole picture when He reveals something to us because He knows we probably couldn’t handle it. And if you’re like me, that defeatist attitude will paralyze you if you try to see the whole picture at once. Break it down into small steps of faith as you trust God to lead you each step of the way. Think Abraham – God didn’t reveal everything to him from the start. If He did, Abraham probably would have thought “not happening, that’s just too much!” The first command to him from God was simply “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” (Gen. 12:1-20) He didn’t tell Abraham where he was going, how long it would take, what problems he would encounter along the way. He gave Abraham step 1 and we know he must’ve thought “ok, I can do that” because he obeyed God and left behind his country, his people and his father’s household – one step at a time.

scarlett34. Surround yourself with encouragers – if it wasn’t for my husband and my friends I might never get anything done much less get started. We need people in our lives that will speak positive words over us and will stand by us, hold us accountable and cheer us on each step of the way.

The answer to the age old question of “how do you eat an elephant?” is one bite at a time. So go ahead, take a baby step of faith, keep your focus and watch that elephant slowly but surely begin to disappear.

My prayer for you today is that no matter what your situation may be or no matter how bad things may seem, that God will bring peace to any overwhelming feelings you may have, your faith will empower you to trust God as you take the first baby step in a new direction and that you will be surrounded by others who will encourage you along the way toward your goal.

The Monopoly Strategy


monopolyOne of the best gifts we bought our son for Christmas was the game Monopoly Millionaire. I grew up during the height of Monopoly’s popularity and remember playing for hours at my friend Donna’s house along with a group of friends from school. To see my son discover the same enjoyment I had when I played so many years ago has been so much fun for me. However, the bad part about playing with my family is that I shared my strategy for winning and now it’s not so easy to beat them. When I play my goal is to buy everything I land on. I spend every fake dollar I have to acquire the most property because I know that I can defeat them by taking from them each time they land on one of my properties, especially once I start building houses and hotels. They don’t stand a chance when I keep taking and taking from them what they hold on to so dearly. They wrongly believe that if they hold on to their money and I spend all of mine then they will win. They don’t realize that even though they may have money in the beginning, eventually I will take it all away from them.

monopoly2We live in a world today where so many people are simply taking from others. They believe they will “win” if they can aquire more and that they will defeat the hurts hidden inside of them by taking from and hurting others. For many their life strategy is “I’ll hurt you before you have the chance to hurt me.” They take trust, time and love from those closest to them and misuse it, abuse it and never give it back in return. They play the monopoly strategy until those who love and care for them have nothing left to give. The game never ends for them because once they’ve taken all they can from one person they just move on to someone else and continue the game. The problem is that no one ever wins in this game.

monopoly5But there’s a different strategy for life that may not work in the game of Monopoly but it’s a proven winning strategy when it comes to real people and real relationships. It’s the strategy modeled by Jesus and one that all believers are called to follow. The world we live in teaches us that the way to defeat people is by taking from them. But God’s way is not to defeat people but to win them over to a relationship with Him by giving to them. When we give of ourselves sacrificially to others – we can give our love, our attention, our time and our trust – we model the same selfless love that God showed when He gave His Son to die on the Cross for us. It was an understanding of that sacrificial love that won me over into a life committed and surrendered to my Lord and Savior. It’s the same strategy that we as Christians are called to today. When we sacrifically give to others – from those we are in intimate relationship with to those who are complete strangers to us – we win them over to the love of Christ by showing them how much He loves them.

monopoly7What’s your strategy? Are you a taker? Are you selfishing hanging on to all you could be giving due to fear of being used or rejected? Are you trying to defeat people for a better position or more pay? Are you taking from others but giving nothing in return? Are you trying to defeat past hurts by refusing to give forgiveness, your time or your love to those who caused the hurt? Has your strategy changed from a giver to a taker because someone betrayed your trust? Are you unwilling to give until you receive?

Or are you a giver? Do you give of yourself – your time, your love, your attention, your resources – in order to win God’s way? Have you experienced the joy and the blessing that comes from giving instead of taking? Do you seek ways that you can give more to those you love? Do you give even though you may receive nothing in return?

monopoly8Being a giver does not come without risk. But with God’s guidance on how to give and who to give to, you can minimize that risk. The joy you will receive from giving will far outweigh any risk involved. There are so many people who are empty because others have taken from them. So take a look around and see who God puts in your path that desperately needs to receive what you have to give. There’s someone waiting to filled with the love and hope that can only come from God. Let God use you to show others the incomparable love of Christ through sacrificial giving and in turn you will see how truly amazing our God is.

 

You’ve Reached Your Destination


gps 3I began this particular journey about 5 years ago. It began like most journeys God has sent me on with a little apprehension, a little uncertainty of what lie ahead, a little curiousity as to how long the journey would last and a lot of expectation as to what God would do through this new journey.

It wasn’t long into the journey that I realized this one was not going to be an easy one. In January 2008 we moved my grandmother in to live with us. She was 96 years old at the time and in remarkably good health. She was pretty self-sufficient and the change to our lifestyle was minimal. That all changed pretty rapidly. Her health remained good for her age, but her expectations increased a lot. At first it was not that big of a deal. After all, she was my grandmother who I love dearly and I wanted to make this final season of her life as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. But the more and more that was required and expected of me, the more difficult the journey became.

I found myself becoming resentful toward what I began to see as unrealistic expectations. I struggled to continue the journey without an attitude, especially when I felt everything I did was not appreciated and was never enough. The more the journey impacted my lifestyle and my family, the more my resentment built.

destination 4I began to question God as to why He sent me on this journey. I wanted to know when it would end. Don’t judge – I’m just being honest because this is truly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I wondered what lesson I could possibly be missing that God was trying to teach me. Oh, I knew the obvious ones – patience, serving others with no expectation of anything in return, doing all things as unto the Lord, obedience, praising God through the difficult times – but I just knew that there was something I was missing. I knew I was right where God wanted me to be, yet I became frustrated and defeated because I just couldn’t seem to change my attitude no matter how much I prayed about it.

God certainly encouraged me along the way with special encounters with complete strangers who had also been caregivers. Each time I experienced one of these chance meetings I walked away with a renewed resolve to stick it out until God showed me I had reached my destination and the journey was over. We also had opportunities to go on vacations over the past 5 years that allowed for a time of rest and rejuvenation to continue on. But in the past 6 months, more often than not, I found myself dealing with emotions that were not Christ-like and left me feeling ashamed.

Shortly after Christmas, Sissy (that’s what we call her) fell in her room. We took her to the hospital but they soon sent her home after finding no broken bones. She began having difficulty sleeping, was in constant pain and her health seemed to be declining. After a second fall, we decided together that it may be time for her to be in a place that would be better equipped and trained to care for her. I began to look at different facilities and prepare for the end of the journey.

I quickly found that moving Sissy into a long-term care facility was not going to be an option based on a lot of different variables. I surrended to the fact the journey was not over and in reality, there was no end in site. Once again I felt deflated because I thought I had reached the end of a difficult season only to realize it was not only going to continue, but was going to continue indefinitely.

destination 5I began to pray once again for God to give me the strength to continue on the journey He had set before me and to help me to have a Christ-like attitude in caring for Sissy. A few days later I was doing my typical routine of checking email/Facebook/Twitter when I came across a link to an article on Twitter. It was an interview with Amy Grant, a Christian recording artist, who was caring for her aging father. She talked about the challenges of being a caretaker and the abundance of emotions you experience. But then something she said “clicked” with me. She said there’s no map for this kind of journey but it may be the last lesson you learn from your loved one. My heart began to change and I stopped looking for what God was trying to teach me and began to focus on what I could learn from Sissy.

Within a few weeks God began to open doors for the journey to come to an end. Even though I clearly knew God was orchestrating everything that was happening and I saw that the opportunity was there for my prayers to be answered, for some reason I questioned if I really had reached my destination. I had gotton comfortable in my difficult situation and no matter how much I had longed for it to end, when God did open the door for that to happen, I did not immediately step through. It’s funny how sometimes the very thing we pray for, is the thing we hesitate to receive when God offers it. And when we hesitate, we miss out on the fullness of blessing found in His perfect timing.

gps2In my hesitation, I realized I felt like I had not completely “got it” and that I still needed more time for my heart and my attitude to be completely right. Then one day in Sissy’s room while I was kneeling down before her putting her socks on her feet, God whispered “I see your heart, the journey is over. You’ve reached your destination.”

On March 1st Sissy will be moving to a small, privately-owned assisted living home. She is looking forward to being somewhere offering around the clock  care and to meeting new friends. She knows the time is right for this next season of her life.

Are you on journey or in a season of difficulty that you wish would come to an end? Or perhaps God is bringing to an end a season you’ve been in – even a comfortable and good season yet you may sense that He’s telling you it’s time for it to come to an end? Don’t question the end of your journey, God just may be preparing you for your next great journey in life. Trust in His timing, you have now reached your destination.

Executing the Play


superbowl 10SuperBowl 47 will be remembered for many things – a 30 minute power outage delay, the Harbaugh brothers coaching against each other, an epic comeback attempt by the 49er’s, and a couple of SuperBowl records for longest kickoff return for a touchdown and longest singing of the National Anthem. And today the internet is filled with opinions of how the Ravens were able to hold on to the win and with reasons the 49er’s were unable to finish the comeback on top. But the bottom line is both teams were well coached, had a well thought out gameplan, both came fully prepared to play and both faced the same adversity during the power outage. In most every game, the team who’s players execute the plays and trust in the coaches to know the best play to call in any given situation, end up with the victory. Yesterday it was the Ravens who simply executed the plays relayed to them onfield from the coaching staff better and more consistently than the 49er’s.

superbowl 3God knows and can see the big picture for our life. He is our coach who is there to direct us into His perfect will for our lives. He wants us to experience victory over sin and the things like unforgiveness, bitterness and anger that keep us from experiencing all He has planned for us. He gives us instruction or “sends in a play” to us from the sideline either through His word or through the wisdom and advice of others. He calls in to us the right “play” at the right time so that we may successfully move forward and grow in our faith. We get in trouble when we look at the situation on the field and decide that we know best which play to run so we change the play last minute at the line of scrimmage. Whether He instructs us to make a move in a new direction or to stay put where we are and trust in His timing, it’s our job to execute according to the His play call, not our own. When we fail to follow His lead we find ourselves stuck in circumstances without hope for a way out. Thank God He has an endless playbook and even when we fail, He continues to give us opportunities to follow His gameplan.

I remember a time in my life when I had prayed to be able to quit my job so I could be a stay-at-home mom. I waited on God and followed the path I felt He was leading me on. That path included staying put in my job for 2 more years after I began praying to be home. But when God opened the door for me to quit my job and stay at home, my lack of faith in the moment caused me to change the play He had called, to one according to how I thought things should go. I quit my job but instead of becoming a stay-at-home mom full-time, I decided I should work part-time so that I could continue to bring in income for our family. I didn’t trust God to be our provider and to meet our needs.

superbowl 5Within a month of working as a bank teller part-time, my cash drawer came up over $1000 short. I was given 3 days at home without pay while they investigated to determine where the missing money was. It was in those 3 days that God clearly showed me that He never told me to go to work part-time. He had fully opened the door for me to stay at home, which was my heart’s desire. He was trying to give me what I had asked for but I lacked the faith to receive it. I changed the play based on our financial circumstances I saw with my own eyes instead of trusting Him enough to execute the play as He had called it. I repented and knew when the 3 days were up the bank would call to tell me I was fired for not doing my job and causing my cash drawer to be short. And then I could start being at home full-time which I knew then was God’s plan for me.

To my suprise they called after 3 days and although they had been unable to account for the money, they offered for me to return to work because they believed it was an honest mistake and the money would turn up upon further investigation. God didn’t just shut the door on my mistake, He gave me the opportunity to run the play again and this time to execute it according to His plan. I returned to work and gave my notice thanking the bank for their confidence in me and explaining that I had decided to completely trust in God to provide for our family so that I could be at home with my children full-time.

superbowl 7If you are going through a difficult time, you are faced with a hopeless situation or you have prayed for a change in your circumstances – look to God for direction. And when He calls in a play through His word, through the counsel of other believers or through a gentle whisper to your heart, execute the play exactly as it was called no matter how things appear. Remember, He sees the big picture that we cannot and it’s in the times we choose to trust in Him and the play He’s called for our lives, that He reveals enough of that picture to give us hope to keep going and to grow our faith in Him alone. Stick to God’s gameplan and in His timing you’re guaranteed to receive the victory you seek.