Sometimes my Monday Messages are hard to come by. Sometimes I pray and read, and read and pray, and it takes me a great deal of time throughout the week to decipher what it is that the Lord would have me say.
Then sometimes, they write themselves, and God makes it so abundantly clear. To be fair, I think He is always clear and consistent. It is my own brain that tends to fog things up.
A few weeks ago, we were preparing for an ice storm. It was supposed to be significant, and we were supposed lose power. I didn't realize how much of our preparing was being absorbed by our 3-year old daughter until she became very scared of this "ice cream storm," as I will now and forever refer to them, because that makes it sound so much more fun.
It never amounted to much, and we never lost power, but then last week, we were again talking in front of sweet Charlotte about a thunder storm we were expecting. She became extra concerned and so distraught that she couldn't seem to eat her dinner. She was afraid that this storm would enter our home. In an effort to calm her, my husband told her, "Storms don't have thumbs. They can't open our door." This seemed to work. She repeated this several times, as if trying to soothe herself.
"But storms have ears!" she exclaimed, as though that was fact, and a good indicator of the severity of the storm. She became very upset again.
My husband quickly said, "Charlotte, can you open the door with your ears? After dinner, I want you to try to open the door with your ear, and see if it opens."
She thought about this very seriously for a minute, and then agreed that ears can't open doors. Then, upon her own realization, she proclaimed, "But God stole the storms! God steals the storms from us!"
Do you have storms you need to hand over to God? Storms in your life you need to allow Him to take from you? He is waiting. The chapter of Psalms is believed to have been written when the Israelites were allowed to return to their homeland from their Babylonian captivity. To read it all, we come to understand that some of their storms were self inflicted. Some of the stress in our lives could have been avoided had we listened to God's whispers to begin with.
But He waits. He waits in the stillness for us to listen. He waits in the storms for our cries. When we rely on Him and Him alone, He can take those storms from us. That is not to say that he will restore our lives to perfection (which they never were to begin with), but He will bring peace, the antithesis of the storm, to your heart, your life, your storm. He will steal that raging storm within you, and replace it with faith, if you only ask.
Not every day, but some days, when I put Charlotte down for her nap, she still talks about the storm, she acts scared, as though she does not want to be left alone, and then she asks one simple question, "Mommy, can you pray to Jesus for me?"
In a very simple prayer, asking God to take away her fear, and keep her safe, she smiles, says, "Thank you, Jesus," and closes her eyes.
That is a child-like faith. That is the faith we are capable of if we simply allow God to take our storms. And what He replaces it with, is far greater than anything we could imagine...
Have you ever had a disagreement in which there was just absolutely no way of reaching a resolution? How did you go about handling that?
I will be honest. My first instinct it to continue to try to explain my side (or whatever side I feel is misunderstood or misrepresented). It often turns into beating a dead horse, and can get heated rather quickly. We often just keep circling the same points over and over again, and realize, much too late, what a futile waste of time the whole disagreement has been.
I believe that there are four key causes to our disagreements with people:
1. They are wrong.
It is possible that they are 100% incorrect. They could have the wrong information concerning a topic of discussion, and maybe you feel it is your duty to correct them.
Pray about it. We actually do not have to react to every incorrect person we encounter. If they aren't asking to be corrected (most people are not), or your correction is causing an escalated argument with someone convinced of their rightness, it is often best to walk away and pray.
2. You are wrong.
It is also possible that you are 100% incorrect. Maybe you've been given the wrong information. Maybe you don't remember something correctly. Whatever the reason may be, believe it or not, you could be wrong.
Pray about it. It is never good to engage in an argument ill-equipped with the facts. Do you really want to be the person convinced wrongly of their rightness? If it is a topic of importance, pray that God would show you the truth, and bring light to the subject. If it is not, why are you arguing about it?
3. You simply have different tastes.
I have known people in Buffalo who almost seem to take personal offense to those who dare to complain about winters. I don't mean to rag on them. They are a passionate and loyal bunch, but listen, it is ok for people to like and dislike different things, and to express that. If it really and truly upsets you, guess what?
Pray about it. Maybe you don't like their opinion on something. Maybe you don't like that they complain about it. Whatever the case may be, pray about whether or not you should address it. Better yet, pray for them. If they are complaining a lot about something they really don't like, or something which really makes them unhappy, pray that something would change for them. Sometimes just lending a kind and understanding ear, can add hope to an otherwise dreary situation, no argument needed.
4. You are each looking at completely different pieces of the same puzzle.
I hate to break it to you, but you could both be right and wrong, at the same time. It is possible that neither one of you has all of the pieces. In fact, I believe this is the most common of all the causes of disagreements.
Pray about it. When you have two (or more) people, 100% convinced of their rightness, when neither (or none) of them even have all of the pieces, it can make for a disagreement which escalates quickly. The trick here, is not in sharing your pieces. We are all very quick to say, "Well, this is what I've found!" No, the trick here is in being willing to look at the other pieces. Pray that God would give you the wisdom and the patience to not only acknowledge another possible viewpoint, but find how it actually aligns with yours.
These are areas of disagreement in which, I believe, everyone struggles, myself most definitely included. But do you notice a theme?
One of the greatest lessons God has ever taught me, is that it is nearly impossible to be impatient while praying. No, it is not impossible in the grand scheme of things. In the bigger picture we are often impatient for the things we are praying for.
What I mean, is that if you are actively taking time away from a frustrating, escalating, or even hostile situation, to pray, you have already exhibited a great amount of discipline and patience. That, right there, is about 90% of the battle. God will meet you where you are. Sometimes He may call you to a difficult or unpleasant conversation, but believe and pray that He will lead your way and your words, and soften the hearts of those He wishes to receive it. Other times, He may tell you to let it go.
I have seen coffee mugs and shirts, where it is written, "But first, coffee." Many of us acknowledge that we are not ready for the challenges of the day without our morning caffeine. We acknowledge that we are not yet ready to even be decent human beings to one another, without that jolt to awaken us. What if we applied this to our prayer life?
I challenge you to this; the next time you feel the need to correct someone, or argue your opinion or point of view with someone, pray first. You may be surprised at how much this simplifies your life. And by default, you will find yourself closer to God, and farther from conflict.
When I was growing up, my dad had a saying, "God helps those who help themselves." Since the age of the internet, or more accurately, the age of angry, offended bloggers, has occurred, this saying has made countless lists of "things Christians should never say," and "things that aren't actually in the Bible," etc, etc. It has caused quite a tizzy.
But here's the thing, and I can't stress this enough, no one ever said it was in the Bible.
This saying, along with the idea that one must "work as though they depend solely upon themselves, and pray as though they depend solely upon the Lord," have never been represented as quotes from the Bible, that I have seen. That's the thing about sayings. They aren't direct quotes. They are things that people say. Now, does this saying apply to absolutely everything? Like most sayings, no, it does not. I was raised to believe that it is specific to working toward a goal, or working hard. Does this mean that God will give you anything you want, as long as you work for it? No, and I was never led to believe that was true either.
You can take from it what you will, and people may still be upset and offended by it, but let me tell you what it means to me.
It means that God is not a genie in the sky granting wishes. It means that God has given us free will, gifts, talents, and abilities to take action and carry out the plans He has for us. It means that we must not sit, idly by, in hopes that God will make all our dreams come true. There are most definitely times to sit and pray, and wait on the Lord. There is great power in patience and great wisdom in waiting.
However, when God has given us the gifts/abilities/resources to take action, and we sit on our hands waiting for Him to do everything for us, we cannot cry that He hasn't helped us. We cannot blame Him for our failures, if we do nothing. The Bible may never specifically say, "God helps those who help themselves," and it may not always be an applicable saying, but there is no shortage of verses referencing labor and hard work, and the pitfalls of laziness.
Labor Day has a very interesting history, if you want to look it up, but ultimately, it is a day to celebrate the workers of our nation.
"Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country." ~United States Department of Labor
For centuries, people forced changes into the world, their country, the economy, and their own lives by working. There is something to be said for hard work and dedication.
Have you been asking God to change something in your life? Or help you with a goal? Try asking Him how He would have you work toward that goal or that change. I would never tell you to act without Him, but pray for guidance. He may have already given you the gifts you need to take action.
Don't miss your blessings while waiting for God to do it all. Sometimes God answers our prayers, by requiring us to take action. Action can be hard work. Hard work can sometimes be painful, but like the blessings of childbirth, life can spring forth with abundant blessings!
Can I have an honest moment with you?
Have you ever felt so overwhelmed, so burnt out, that even the ice cream isle taunts you with stressful decisions?
That was me last week. Friday, I paced the ice cream isle for almost 10 minutes. I nearly burst into tears because I couldn't decide just how I wanted to eat my feelings. There were suddenly too many brands, too many choices, too many flavors that were just one or two ingredients different than my norms, and too many prices to compare.
Ice cream, guys! Ice cream almost made me cry.
...and I'm not even pregnant.
My life isn't so bad, not really, and when I talk about all the daily stresses I've been dealing with, I feel really silly.
*Dog's emergency surgery...right before vacation
*and the bill that came with it
*the dining room floor needing to be pulled apart because of asbestos tile beneath
*the leaking pipe behind the washing machine
*a kid needs braces
*a kid with a sinus infection
*up late every night trying to grow my business
*a husband, who suddenly went out with a back injury in the midst of all this chaos
*a giant cup of orange juice spilled on the brand new carpet
*passing out all the McGriddles after a long morning at the doctors, only to discover I've given out the wrong one, and I'm left with the icky breakfast sausage instead of bacon. blech
*exploding clay hot pack in the microwave
*and last, but in no way least, the 2 year old I fight with daily, who tests me daily; hourly even, who sent two elbows and a knee to my throat during tantrums last week (during church no less) preventing me, once again, from partaking in worship. She is exhausting, but fearfully and wonderfully made!
The list sounds whiny. They are not real problems...at least not without solutions. But sometimes, when all those little problems add up and begin to take their toll, a real heaviness lands on me; an overwhelming darkness that I know is not from God, and I find myself crying because I can't decide on ice cream, and I can't afford them all.
But then, the kids go to bed, the hubby rests his back, and God gives me the spirit of peace. Y'all, this blog is designed to be encouraging for you, my readers, and to speak to those in need of a message, but God also shows me every single week, how He uses it for me.
Having to sit down, and write this; having to search my Bible in the quiet of my storm, God speaks to me, and lets me know that He knows the way.
He will lift the darkness and light your path, or even carry you, if you let Him.
Often times we wonder why bad things happen. We might wonder why things aren't going our way.
We're good people, right?
We pay our taxes.
We go to church...most of the time.
So why don't things seem to go our way?
Here's the hard truth. We won't always know. We won't always have all the answers. Sometimes, bad things happen, because we live in a corrupt world where there is a lot outside of our own control, no matter what we do.
But here is something to take comfort in. These bad things can draw us closer to God. We can learn from them. We can grow in them. And sometimes, they are meant for just those things.
This is not always the case. I will not sit here and tell you "everything happens for a reason." Often, just really, horribly tragic things happen to people, and this is not the verse you should share with them for comfort. I am talking about the things most people complain about daily; money, jobs, aches and pains, things.
When things go my way, I often forget about God. Not completely, but in a general busy life kind of way, in which I might not call my parents for more than a week. I don't talk to Him as much. This is something I continually strive to improve upon, but I have found that I am not alone in this. Many of us only turn to him in trouble. Throughout my life, those troubling times have served as a pause, in my journey. Not a stop, or an end all, but a yielding to Him who has the right of way.
Hindsight is always 20/20. But after those times, I realize how they drew me closer to God. How I turned to Him, suddenly in need, and how He took my hand and led me through. I have story upon story, that maybe one day I will share here, of how these pauses taught me patience, wisdom, and most importantly, reliance, on Him. It was good for me to be afflicted.
Whatever you may be going through now, whatever has you feeling stuck in your journey, I pray that you would pause, and allow God to move.
As a wife, mom of 4, and business owner, finding time to spend in the Word, can be difficult, so I get it! Come join me each Monday for a simple message of hope, faith, and encouragement amidst some honest mommy moments.
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