Oh Christmas Tree…

Christmas season is in full swing. Like many others, I typically love this time of year! I spent the day cleaning, doing laundry and thinking a lot about Christmas. Honestly, I have been feeling a bit disconnected from the wonder and joy of the holiday. I don’t know if it is life or hormones (or both); but for some reason I am feeling a bit blue.

I just sat down in front of my Christmas tree, the room darkened from the incoming storm outside and realized that God was once again trying to get my attention. Sweet whispers, “you are blessed. I am light. Take my yoke. I’m still here.”

Consider the lights on your Christmas tree tonight. Have you ever noticed that those lights bring warmth and hope into the room? The lights of the tree are an open invitation to linger, relax and stay a little longer.

Jesus is the Light of the World. And He enteted the world as a baby in a lowly manger to save us. His light is an open invitation to linger, relax and stay a little longer. Jesus brings warmth and hope into our hearts. On such a day as this. Pure radiant glory! We are not alone! Consider His light!

I wonder if you might be feeling disconnected too? If so, I pray that God speaks to your soul today, reminding you of His presence. And I encourage you to look at those Christmas tree lights with complete innocence and abandonment. Jesus is calling. Can you hear Him?

Be joyful!

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29‭-‬30 NIV

Sunshine….

An amazing thing happened yesterday in my part of Texas: the sun came out! It’s just so amazing how something as simple as a sun shiny day can refresh your soul, lighten your load and put a little pep back in your step.

Now this particular day of sunshine came after days upon days upon days of rain, which made it even sweeter. I literally felt lighter yesterday and full of hope.

My husband and I took the angel dog for a walk this morning and now I am sitting outside with the sun warming my face. What a simple pleasure this Saturday after depressing rain.

And that’s when I heard God whisper, pay attention! My light is always around the next corner. I will not allow the rain forever. Just hold on. My SONshine will warm you. He will refresh your soul, lighten your load and put a little pep back in your step. He will make your steps lighter and renew your hope. The rain is temporary; but, the Son lasts forever!

Be joyful!

Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.
Psalm 119:116 NIV

Change.

I’m going through a season of change right now. Shifts in my time, redirection in my focus, and God’s silent whisper that something new is on the horizon. Change. If we are honest, it isn’t always our favorite word. Change means to make or become different.

When we really break it down, we are in a constant state of change. From the moment we enter this world, change infiltrates. Our bodies grow, our minds advance, emotions ebb and flow, and hormones shift. Education, employment, marriage, family and the aging process marches on making us different, day in and day out. We are, simply put, always becoming.

Some seasons in life feel more full of change than others. And often God pushes change along that is needed for our own good, which is exactly where I find myself right now.

If I’m completely honest, this season of change is stirring up something else too. Fear. Fear of the unknown. And I find my myself asking questions: What if the change isn’t necessarily better? Isn’t it better to stay here in what I know? Different isn’t always better, right?

Then, it occurred to me. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8 NIV). He is a good Father and He requires that I relinquish control completely to Him. His changes are necessary. His changes are not temporal. They are eternal and life sustaining.

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19 NIV)

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16‭-‬18 NIV

Change. It is a fact of life. But, we do not have to face it with fear and uncertainty. God’s truth stands unwavering for us in every season of life. Our Father is steering our becoming to something perfect and complete in Him. As my husband just reminded me, change is evidence of growth!

So, I say, bring on the change! My hope is secure in Christ. And fear, well fear is just a liar!

Be joyful!

May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, Lord, is in you. Psalm 25:21 NIV

I Won’t Worry ‘Bout a Thing…

I struggle with worry. It creeps into my thoughts even on the brightest of days. The worries can be small, “is so and so mad at me?” or “why did I eat all of that ice cream?” to bigger worries like “what would I do if something happened to my mom?” or “what if my daughter gets in a car accident?” Big or small, daily worries can add up and leave us mentally exhausted. Have you ever noticed that worry can cause our thoughts to spin out of control? Before you know it, that small mole hill has become Mount Everest. It’s no wonder that God tells us so often in His Word not to worry.

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. ‘Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.'” Matthew 6:30‭-‬34 MSG

I love this version of these assuring passages in Matthew. It would do us all some good to steep our lives–hang out and soak up–some God-reality, God-initiative and God-provision. The definition of worry is to give way to anxiety or unease; allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles. In essence when we worry we are putting blinders on, zeroing in on the trouble at hand. When we allow God’s Word and Hope to penetrate that worry, we allow God to remind us of His reality, His love, and His peace. And just like that those blinders come off and we can see Him, in all of His radiance. He is bigger than any trouble. Stronger than any worry. And He is in complete control. Glory!!

So, let me put some assuring lyrics into your heart that we learned this summer at Shipwrecked VBS. And I encourage you to sing along the next time worry tries to take over…

Free like a bird in the big blue sky. Not a cloud or a care for a million miles. I won’t worry, worry ’bout a thing.

God loves me and He loved me first. He rescued me when I was in a lurch. And I won’t worry, worry about a thing.

To the left I’ll fly, fly, fly.

To the right, I’ll glide, glide, glide.

No, and I won’t worry, worry ’bout a thing!

Gonna scoop down low, low, low.

Gonna soar up high, high, high.

And I won’t worry, worry about a thing.

Be joyful and don’t you worry ’bout a thing!

Control…

Okay, I have control issues. I have always known this about myself. However, being a mom sure has brought it the forefront! No wonder my mom frequently answered the question, “why?” with a firm, “because I told you so.” Enough said. And I totally understand that sentiment now.

One of the reasons that I like teaching group exercise is because at no other time during my day do people absolutely kill themselves trying to do what I ask. Flying jacks? Oh yes, how high? Burpees, my favorite. I’m on it! Windsprints? I’ve got this. I will run like the wind! You see, this is not a picture of real life.

If I’m honest, my need to control has been an unhealthy theme in my relationship with God too. “Okay God, I know you know best; but, could we just try it my way first?” Or “Are you sure Father that you want me to forgive? Did you see what that person did?” Or “I’m giving this situation to you God. Your Will be done. But, I’m going to continue to worry and fret over it just in case.”

I was absolutely brought to my knees this week listening to a praise and worship song by Hillsong, entitled So Will I. I have heard this song many times; but this time I really listened and what God revealed was astounding:
God of salvation
You chased down my heart
Through all of my failure and pride
On a hill You created
The light of the world
Abandoned in darkness to die

God has and always will be in control. Of everything. Not only did He send Jesus to die on the cross. He created the hill that held that cross. And He created the cross that would hold our Savior. Even in the darkness of that moment, God held the world tighter than ever. Stable. And completely in control.

We live in troubling times. God is in control. We battle sickness and disease. God is in control. People open fire on children, teachers and staff at our schools. God is in control. Volcanoes erupt, tornadoes wipe out homes and hurricanes flood communities. God is in control. We lose loved ones to death. God is in control. Friends let us down. God is in control. Our hearts break. God is in control.
And as You speak, a hundred billion failures disappear.
Where You lost Your life so I could find it here.
If You left the grave behind You so will I.
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve done.
Every part designed in a work of art called love.
If You gladly chose surrender so will I.
I can see Your heart eight billion different ways.
Every precious one a child You died to save.
If You gave Your life to love them so will I!

God is in control, especially when it seems like things are spinning out of control. Why? Because He said so. And then He showed us through His Son.

Be joyful!

“So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.” Romans 8:6 NLT

Old Love Songs…

I used an old Chicago love song for our cool down in Silver Sneakers exercise class yesterday. Chicago songs always bring back a flood of memories for me. I can remember watching my dad sing Chicago songs to my mother when he was battling cancer. I can also remember slow dancing for the first time with a boy at a friend’s birthday party to a Chicago song. Both of these events happened within a year of one another. It’s funny how music can take you back in time.

I have been thinking about this time of my life ever since class yesterday. As horrible as it was to have a front row seat to my own father’s losing battle with cancer, there were also such sweet memories that brought light, love and life to a dark, fearful time in my life.

Isn’t that how God’s grace works in our lives? He provides a hope and light when we feel like we are at the end of our rope. He brings that friend into our life that brings unexpected laughter when times get tough. And God shows true love to a young girl watching her parents sing and dance to Chicago while engaging in the battle of their lives. What a picture of hope He was providing for me.

You see, God will not leave you in darkness. He will not leave you in hopelessness. He will not leave you in grief. He will hold you. He will comfort you. And He will reveal His goodness in the toughest of times.

God will use old love songs to take you back in time and see just how far you have come. With Him. And He will remind you that He is with you, holding you and loving you in this time. No matter what tomorrow might bring.

Be joyful!

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Colossians 3:16 NIV

Depleted.

“Are you hurting and broken within? Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin? Jesus is calling. Have you come to the end of yourself? Do you thirst for a drink from the well? Jesus is calling.” (O Come to the Altar by Elevation Worship)

A sweet friend of mine asked me this week if I ever get tired or burned out. She shared that she was feeling completely overwhelmed by everything right now in her life: job responsibilites, parenthood, working out, errands, life in general. Her zest for life had vanished. I asked her how her spiritual life was going. More specifically, I asked her when was the last time she just spent some time with her Father. Her precious face told me the answer before her lips even spoke. She had let her focus shift from Jesus’ face. She was feeling depleted because she simply was depleted. She needed her Father.

“O come to the altar, the Father’s arms are open wide. Forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ.” (O Come to the Altar by Elevation Worship)

Yes, I have experienced seasons of my life when I have felt completely overwhelmed, holding on to life by a thread. I have noticed that when these seasons hit, I am typically not plugging in to the power source. I am not spending time in God’s Word. I am not carving out time for prayer or devotion. I am not letting God rule in my heart, nor my life. I am completely task driven and have shifted my focus from Jesus’ face.

When my first husband called and said that he wanted a divorce, I was a shell of the woman God intended me to be. I was physically, emotionally and spiritually depleted. I had traveled on my own road for about ten years and had not cultivated my relationship with God. The results were astounding: 100 pounds of added body weight and probably twice that in emotional weight. Yet, amongst all that added weight was a spirit that was literally starving.

“Leave behind your regrets and mistakes, come today there’s no reason to wait. Jesus is calling.
Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy, from the ashes a new life is born. Jesus is calling.” (O Come to the Altar by Elevation Worship)

Where do you find yourself today? Tired? Depleted? Trying to simply survive yet another day? Jesus is calling. Turn to Him and let Him tend to your weary soul. Crawl up in your Father’s lap and let Him take the burdens of this life from you. You see, His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). I am living proof that no matter how far you wander, He can reach you, revive you, and restore you.

Be joyful and find rest!

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28‭-‬30 NIV