Nostalgic…Lethargic

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The holiday season has me all nostalgic and lethargic at the same time. I’m exhausted. I try to slow down, but when everyone else is running at full speed, if I break pace, then I might as well drop out of the race. I’ve done that before. I’m not a fan. I was out of the game for longer than I want to think about, unable to work or do too much of anything for myself. I’m thankful for each day, but it’s very difficult to learn the speed at which I can go versus still staying in the race.

What race is it? I sit here and wonder. Am I in a competition? With who? The Joneses? I don’t even know them. Family? They typically want what’s best for me. Co-workers? Eh, I think they have their own issues. So who’s the instigator? A collective whole? Maybe. The enemy who wants to see us discouraged and feeling like failures at everything we do? Most likely. After all, there is an enemy and he doesn’t exactly want to see us happy, content, and successful. (that’s not what enemies do.)

So I find myself very reflective on what makes the holidays amazingly successful. I think back to the music, live nativity scenes, the caroling, the cheer and chill in the air, visiting relatives and laughing, running with cousins, playing games only we knew the rules to, being a part of something special, and then the gifts. Not necessarily in that order, but the gifts, who remembers the gifts? I don’t. Sure, there are a few. But if it were all about stuff, wouldn’t we recall more than a few? That feeling of contentment that went deeper than a full belly after a meal shared with family was a much better gift than any truck or stereo or teddy bear.

Are the traditions that began so long ago still traditions if not carried on through us? What is important this season? Hot chocolate and time spent comes to mind. Not mowing people down and throwing elbows to get to the latest toy craze. (No, I don’t know where you can find a Hatchimal.) I say JOY instead of fatigue this year! Cheers (it’s coffee) to getting your rest and focusing on what’s truly important this year—let’s not run ourselves ragged so that our kids only remember how grouchy the holidays made us.

 

“Sacrifice” of Praise

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One of the definitions of “sacrifice” is : “An act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.” As I was reading in Hebrews one day, the phrase “sacrifice of praise” got me to thinking. The NIV states that “through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” (Hebrews 13:15) Praise is defined as an “expression of approval and admiration for someone or something.”

I thought about how Jesus sacrificed for us and found it strange to think that us giving thanks could even be considered in the same category of “sacrifice.” After all, He died for us, but clapping my hands on Sunday morning doesn’t seem remotely close to “returning the favor.” We don’t have to, I’m just letting you in on where my mind went.

When I was younger, I remember reading a story about a girl who had everything. She was the stereotypical “rich kid” if there is such a thing, and she wanted for nothing. She didn’t even have to ask for most material things, they seemed to appear out of thin air in her huge bedroom. Then one day, her father, a prominent businessman of some sort, was let go from his illustrious company. The young girl didn’t know how to act. After all, she wasn’t prepared to live this kind of life. Her father sadly let her know, “We must all be prepared to make sacrifices.” She had never had to do this before and wasn’t even sure how.

I think emotionally many of us are like that young girl–unprepared to make sacrifices the way we need to. We’ve grown accustomed to living the way we currently do. To “give up something valued” makes us uncomfortable and maybe a little itchy. We crinkle our noses and think, “What? No surely that’s not what I’m supposed to do.” Do we even know how to make sacrifices? “A sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” Is that important to you? Is He worthy in your life to receive such honor? Of course, we all nod and think, “Oh yes Lord! Yes you are!” But with that statement comes action. What is taking His place on the throne of worthiness? Can you, will you, replace it for the One Who created you? There will come a day when we stand before Him. What is so important in this world that we would be willing to defend it on that day?

Time passes quickly and it doesn’t require our approval to do so. It is limited. We can never get it back. Are we making the best use of it?

Adore and Cherish

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Do bigger houses bring you closer to God? If you get the penthouse, does that mean a stronger relationship and more favor? God blesses His children each and every day, whether it’s with material things or not-so-material items. We are to be thankful. We are not called to judge our covet. We are to listen for our Father’s voice. Nothing about that is hard. If we are finding it complicated to see His face in all we do, maybe we’re not looking in the right direction. It’s not hard to find someone who is always there. God is right where you left Him. If you are constantly looking at someone else’s blessings, wanting them for yourself, you’re not appreciating your own.I pray today that I can adore and cherish what God has blessed me with because I am richer than any Kardashian ever could be. 

Rest…

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God understands the need for rest. If He didn’t, He wouldn’t have done it Himself. He didn’t create us to keep doing more and more and more, cramming more to do’s on to our list. You know the one that’s already full? He created us to do what He asked us to do and that looks different for every single human being. He created us to look with His eyes and His heart. There is nothing we can’t do because there is nothing He can’t do, but it’s all in His timing and it’s in an earthly body. Our bodies wear out and they need rest. Rest today knowing that God has this…whatever “this” may be (Matthew 11:28).

Recognize

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While reading in Jonah, the book I’ve been stuck in for awhile now (better than a big fish, right? Yuk yuk) it hit me that Jonah didn’t know that he was getting out of that fish.He had no idea what the outcome would be. We know the end of the story and have for years, except for maybe the actual “vomit” part…they left that out when I was a kid. We realize he got out and finally did what God asked him to do. But while in the whale (and please don’t argue with me about what kind of fish it was…I’m not concerned about that.) Jonah had some time to think. God gifted him with that time by providing the huge creature. Does anyone else find that amazing and hilarious? My NIV study Bible literally says that He “provided a great fish to swallow Jonah” (Jonah 1:17) God does provide, I’m just wondering if Jonah had to laugh at the irony while covered in muck.

In all of his pondering, he had to disregard what his senses told him. He had to focus on the why, not the scary sights,eery sounds,and nasty smell. (I won’t go into the other senses but to say”taste” EW!) He had to control his thoughts and cry out to the One Who created that fish for help. So, quite a few hours/days, he spent crying, praying, and giving thanks. I would think that would lead to some pretty enlightening epiphanies.It wasn’t that he didn’t recognize where he was, Jonah knew good and well that he was literally in the pit of this big guy’s stomach, but he also began to recognize Who had the power and Who had possession.He eventually grasped the fact that God had ownership of the seas and the sailors that had hurled him into the vicious waves. This God knew Jonah. He knew him better than he could ever possibly know himself. All he could do in this moment of recognition was to confess and ask forgiveness. He had to shake his head and wonder what took him so long to understand. He finally comprehended that God would go to any lengths necessary to not only show His love for one of His kids, but for all of them.

As an added bonus to God’s plan, because once Jonah got that he was lost, he recognized that others were lost exactly like he was. Salvation comes from the Lord and all it took was a few days and nights in the stomach of a sea creature for him to see that very, very clearly. My absolute favorite line in this book is “What I have vowed I will make good.” Jonah was speaking of the promises he made to God during his special one-on-one time that the Creator made possible. (Hehe) How many times have we promised things to God and not made good? God recalls and makes good on His promises each and every day, no matter our scenery or situation.He has made so many vows to us when we certainly don’t deserve them. My goal today is to just be, where I am, whether I like that place or not, and give thanks to the God Who deserves each and every one.

Does God Say “Duh”?

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So today I look up at God saying, I’m not strong enough. The pep talk I thought I might hear/feel (I don’t remember a time of auditorily hearing God) did not come. I believe He looked at me like I look at my kids when they need a fourth band aid for an invisible injury. Instead of “You can do this!! I’ve got your back! Goooooooo team!”
He says “I know.”
Not what I was expecting to say the least. And as I sit here typing, I feel so helpless and inadequate. I want to be filled with faith so badly and yet…I feel so bad.
I truly think I’ve been running from what God wants me to catch this trip around. Hence the Jonah study. Talk about a slap to the forehead moment. I’ve dealt with and lived through this chronic illness for lack of a better term (after 8 years, the doctors are still perplexed. Even House. I contacted him. Or maybe that was a dream…)
I use the word chronic because it is ongoing and yet there are breaks from it. Oh the good days/hours. However, I have done things through the bad days. I work, I pray, I travelled to Honduras and taught beautiful children some dance moves (not impressive moves at all, but the smiles were), I competed in a Bodybuilding/Physique competition, I raise children (the ones the doc told us to hold off on), and I cherish time.
In a way, I wouldn’t trade this journey for any other as it’s taught me to cherish. So when I look at God, stating obvious things like, “I’m not strong enough,” I hafta wonder if He sits there, in all His amazing, majestic glory and says: “Duh.”

Pray, Read, Pray…Repeat

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Within this health-filled journey of  mine (you know the one to become not the healthiest person on the planet, but more so the one who gets up and doesn’t have to take a nap after a shower?) I got to thinking how we pray and wait. We pray and wait. We pray and wait. That may have even been more praying that what some of us do. Eek!

I have been on this journey for 8 years. 3 years longer than the 5 year-mark  I thought I couldn’t handle at the time. They, “they” being various doctors, told me I might recover in 5 years, as that had happened to other people, somewhere, sometime before. I remember thinking, 5 YEARS? How could anyone make it 5 years with these symptoms?? I’m here today to let you know, you can do it. Hurrah, hurrah. I truly wasn’t trying to be a cheerleader (although I am very encouraging to others…I took a test once that let me know hospitality and exhortation were my top 2 gifts! I had no idea what the 2nd was, but now that I know, I consistently remind others that I am an “exhorter!”)

Without this journey, I would have no idea how to take care of myself. I’m still learning to do this, but the whole “His temple” thang wasn’t exactly a concept I paid attention to when I was downing 12 packs of beer and pack after pack of nicotine sticks. So, as I was making a pot of nutrient-rich soup (my husband will take one look at it and blankly state: “That’s all you.”) this morning, I thought about how we eliminate the toxins, but then fail to build ourselves back up. God freed me from the addictions to chemical-laden junk, but I wasn’t aware of how depleted my body was of what it truly needed to function. He took away my craving for the bad, but I’m the one who has to take responsibility for the damage done. (Did anyone else cringe at the “r-word”? I know I did.) Plain and simple, there are consequences for our actions. I’m thankful that He allows me to be me, learning at my own pace, and quite frankly, puts up with my frustrations along the way.

I am very flawed, but I don’t dwell on it. He reminds me that I am pure, holy, loved, blameless, and then loved some more. He says in His Word that if we ask for wisdom, we get it. I’ve found that I have trouble trusting those “words of wisdom” I receive. He says we know His voice, right? I’ve talked to so many who don’t know if it’s His voice or not. I always tell them where I started: I would think it was God. Then weight the options. Do I want to do this? No. (Usually God takes us out of our comfy zone.) Would the enemy of my precious soul want me to do this? No. Does it go along with Scripture? Yes.

That last one kinda stumped me for quite some time. I’d ask myself these questions, and then shrug my shoulders on the Scripture one, as if there was no way to know. There is a way to find out. The only answer to this is to dig into the Scriptures. Open up your Bible. Pray. Meaning, ask God for help in understanding (*because if you’re anything like me, I could read 1/2 a book and not know what 3/4 of it said some days.) Then read. Read anywhere you want or do a specific Bible study. God will lead you in this as well. Then pray again. In doing so, we get to know the One Who created each of us. Who better to talk with about our issues? Lord knows I gots some issues. God says we’ll know His voice, but only if we practice listening for it and to it. There is nothing more comforting than knowing full well that we know full well. But it takes practice.