I am so blessed and lemme tell you why. There was a time when I couldn’t imagine being married. Now, not only am I married, but I’m married to a Godly, praying man who not only recognizes when I need prayer, but follows through with it. I think all of us know how difficult that can be. So, I am happily spoiled in a way that I never thought I could or would appreciate. And I could almost write it off as being a not-so-blessed, but-more-of-a-typical happening, but as soon as I begin to take it for granted, I feel another hand. A smaller, 5-year-old hand gently touches my back. There are no words spoken because I know she is listening to her daddy pray. She not only hears the power that those words hold, but sees them as I miraculously (yes, I said miraculously) regain strength and energy into my body. Maybe to some it wouldn’t mean much. Maybe you picture Benny Hinn yelling and people dropping to the floor. I don’t know what you think about miracles. And I’ll be really honest, I don’t care. (Yup, said that too.) I know that I literally go from being too weary to walk or lift my head because my muscles give out to being able to continue on, whether that continuation leads to putting breakfast on the table (ok, it’s the coffee table—the kids eat in front of the TV sometimes. Ok, a lot. I’m letting it go.) or heading to work to do what I love. That’s real. That’s true. That’s what I choose to think on today. And that’s why I’m blessed beyond measure.
Exult: “show or feel elation or jubilation, especially as the result of a success.”
Is this you? Is this me? It’s not at 6:30am, I can divulge that much to you. I used to work in a factory. And when I think about “exulting” I think of him. He was a man who was different. He was different because when he came in, not only did he bring a smile to everyone’s face, but people were drawn to him. It was amazing to experience. I would watch as workers just wanted to be near him because he laughed, he sang, he danced, he even jumped up and down. He was a light in a dark place. He showed joy as he stocked the vending machine. Did you imagine him having a “more sophisticated” job? He was the one who stocked the candy bars and chips. I don’t know if this was his ultimate goal or not, but he let his light shine where he was. He wasn’t waiting for the day when he “made it” to get excited about life.He was amazingly exultant right where he was and he changed lives because of it. I looked forward to seeing him because he always had something good to say.
As I get older, I realize it’s more difficult to hold on to and talk about the good stuff. The “bad doesn’t outweigh the good”, as my wise father would say, but it’s so much easier to gripe, isn’t it? We are so blessed and yet most days if not all, it’s a struggle to make the gratitude flow. *Instantly I’m reminded of yesterday when the “blessed truck” (read “bless-ed” as per Methodist church circa 1988-this is better than referring to it as a mule-ish barnyard animal) pulled out in front of me. It wasn’t thankfulness that I was safe flowing out of my mouth at that point. Keep in mind I’m waaaaaaaaaay better than I used to be (see above: I worked in a factory. My mouth was an issue Jesus Himself had to tweak.)
My point is that it is work to think on and speak the positive. We are supposed to be that light. There are quite a few I would imagine that would shout and honk and yell not-so-creative names out the window at the blessed truck, but we are not them. We are jubilant! We are holy and righteous and good! We have to adjust our mindsets daily at the very least. I’m recognizing mine needs adjusted a wee bit more than that. Maybe hourly. Kids have a tendency to stomp out my good mood like a finished cigarette. Elation is work, but it’s worth it. We are unbelievably blessed. So plaster on a smile and fake it til ya make it if you have to, but God says to rejoice in his name all day long and exult in His righteousness. (Psalm 89:16) It’s only through Him that we can see the awesome.
Anyone else get tired of those stupid to-do lists? Mine were everywhere. I’d have scraps of paper, notebooks upon notebooks, grocery lists, superstore lists, get-done-today- lists, didn’t-get-done- yesterday-lists, weekly lists…I had lists of lists! It almost got to a point where I needed to make lists of my lists to keep track of them all. *Note: I did not do that. I was not only stressed because I had so much to do, but also because I couldn’t figure out what to do first, then I couldn’t figure out where that stupid list went! I literally spent the time I could have been doing the task, looking for the list. Why? Because I love to cross things off. Just saying it brings a smile to my scary morning face. There is something about it: a visual reminder of just how productive you are. Your task is complete! TA-DA! Until…
I realized I was never finished with my tasks. My list was ever-changing and continuous. Once I got 5 things done, I’d add more. Then more, until I was so discouraged I couldn’t see straight. Where oh where was my stopping point? Where was the ribbon at the finish line if there was no finish line?? Wait, am I even running the right race?
So, I changed it up. I read this verse, Acts 20:24 (NIV) says:
“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace”that simply lets us know:
1. It’s not about me. (Much to Hollywood’s dismay.)
2. We just have to finish the race.
3. We just have to testify to how good our God is.
I give God the very first moments of my day. (Ok, maybe it’s shared just a little with Folgers) and remind myself of all that He’s done and the only thing I absolutely have to do today are things that show how amazing our Creator is. In everything we do, we can testify to God’s grace…whether it’s washing those dishes (yes, the ones with the gunk still on ‘em from 3 nights ago) or going to work. Don’t let the enemy of your soul stress you out. Life is good! Life is simple! You don’t have to do more. You can literally do less and let God do the changing of the lives!
It’s not about how much we get done or even the tasks themselves, although my kids’ room is a beast of its own, but more about why and for Whom we do them. Our attitude toward the tasks is important because we do more than simply check them off, we do everything for the One Who made us. It’s all about Him, not us. So quit chasing that to-do list around the house and breathe…you are doing enough. You are enough. Testify to God’s grace through what you do, no matter what it may be, and you’re running the right race.
I’ve been hearing a lot of people talk about anxiety. Or rather, a lot of people speaking with anxiety in their voices. They don’t even know it’s there a lot of times. There’s a certain underlying worry that goes along with humanity at times and I think we just accept it unknowingly if we’re not aware. To be human does not equal to be a big, anxious “hot mess.” I am a huge fan of words, more so positive words, and if you say this phrase around me, I can’t guarantee you won’t see my eyes roll back in my head. If your self-talk (you know the voice in your head all day) keeps claiming you’re a “hot mess” and how stupid you are or act, that’s what you’re going to believe. Many times, we don’t even know we believe the way we do about ourselves and I’m here to tell you today (I just changed my self-talk voice to “Guy on Informercial”-mode) YOU are in charge of that inner voice. You get to change your anxiety level. You. You get to decide.
Just like if you play the recording of the negative stuff over and over, if you say the good stuff, “I am the head and not the tail” “God takes care of me” “I will not fail” and a personal favorite: “I was born for this!” it changes your mindset. This will change your anxiety level. Don’t let yourself of all people keep you from what you want. Isn’t that silly? We are the ones who can stress us out the most, aren’t we? My mom used to say “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it.” That includes TO yourself. And let’s be honest, if you’re not nice to yourself and you have to spend all day with you, that’s a pretty big beat down. Every single day. So talk yourself up. Be kind to the one God created. He didn’t do it by accident. You have a purpose and a plan and nothing can stand in the way of that…unless you allow it.
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?
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.
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.