Thursday, March 31, 2011

God Is Speaking


Recently I’ve felt God prompt my heart to write a few articles. Then, not too long after I wrote them, I’d find other articles, books, or comments left on the ‘web’ along the same lines.  I marveled at how I’d never seen the particular topic written about that I could remember – and wondered why or how others could come up with similar ideas as mine, at around the exact same time.

I’ve always been told that God speaks to our hearts in themes. So at first, I just chalked it up to that. That I’d been writing about the theme that God was speaking to me at the time. But then a deeper thought came to me.

God was not just speaking to me.  He was speaking to His people.

The reason that I sometimes find others writing or addressing the same subject that has been on my heart is possibly because God is not just speaking to me – He’s speaking to all of us. He’s trying to communicate a very clear message to us; as His people.

Are we listening? Do we catch it? Do we hear it?

I long so much for God to talk to me. I crave to hear His voice. And there it was. So easy to miss, yet so obvious. Not hidden at all. Right out there, plain as day.

God is speaking to us. Every day. It might not be in the way we think we will hear it. It might not be the way in which we look for it. But it’s there. He is there.

So close. So personal.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

All Shapes and Sizes


I love to people watch. I love to watch married couples. It fascinates me to see how people “fit” with each other. Some couples seem so desperately different while others mesh in every way, shape, and form.

I notice how some couples just seem like night and day. I don’t know how they ever fell in love because they seem to feel the opposite way on all discussions and views of life. It cracks me up in a way. For I know life is always an adventure for these kinds of relationships!

One thing I was observing recently is how we as women look so differently from one another. Some of us are very tall, some are very round. Some of us have big hair while others wear short, cropped “do’s.” And the thing I was noticing is how very much our husbands adore us….regardless of our differences. Our husbands love us whether or not we have the body shape we think we should have. In fact, it’s almost as if they are blinded by our faults.

I love seeing a good marriage relationship where the husband thinks his wife is the most beautiful woman on earth….and she may or may not be to us. But to him, she is. How wonderful to be adored and loved in such a way!

For me, it just goes to show how diverse people are. How love can truly see the heart of someone. How the heart of someone can transform the body and make it more beautiful than it normally may appear to someone who doesn’t truly know us.

I love that.

If you are suffering from low self esteem or body issues, I want to encourage you to love yourself. If you aren’t married, there is someone out there who is going to truly, madly love you for who you really are as a person. If you are married, trust in the love of your spouse. For your shape doesn’t matter as much as you think it does. Take care of yourself the best you can, but then just be happy in the love of your husband.

It says that God looks on the heart….and I think sometimes…so do our spouses. The heart of who we are reflects on our outward beauty. We tell that to our children all of the time. But as an adult? I’ve really seen that play out in many marriages. It’s a proven fact.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Am I Pushing God?

Sometimes I feel like I’m pushing God. And that concerns me greatly.

There’s a fine line of asking God for things in your life and then drilling home those requests like a biting, nagging, barking, dog.

I want to be an audacious pray-er. Within the last year, that has become something I’ve sought after in my life because I’ve always prayed a little safe-er. I want to be risky in my prayers. I want to be audacious! I know God can not only step up to the job, but surpass it and that excites me to no end. To see Him at work and to feel and see His glory in my life or the lives of those around me.

The problem for me is trying to find a balance between praying audaciously, and praying so much about something that may not be in God’s plans for me. Pushing Him. I get scared thinking that He might answer me and actually say ‘yes’ and then the whole thing will be a disaster because it wasn’t really what God wanted for me all along!

So I seek wisdom. I seek discernment. I pray that God will say ‘no’ to me even if it’s something I really want; if it’s not in His will or plan for my life. I try to keep my motivations pure and I try to acknowledge the different answers and ways that things could come about; preparing myself for what it could cost me.

Then I think sometimes that I’m really “thinking” too much and I simply need to get on my knees and have faith.

I have desires and wishes and dreams in my heart. Whether they are God-planted or “me” planted – they are there. They can be used by Him. They can be flourished by Him. So I can ask Him for anything. I can share my deepest dreams and wishes knowing they are safe with Him. Knowing that He knows my heart.

I don’t want to screw up my life or anyone else’s for that matter. I know there are lots of “unseen” things that are held within the palm of a dream or a wish. Nothing in life is without hurts, scars, or sacrifices.

I can ask God for what I hold within my heart. Then I need to let it go. That doesn’t mean I stop praying about it but it means that I stop clutching it so tightly and holding it in prominence in my life. For if I’m truly abiding by God’s will and wanting only His clear direction and blessing on my life – then whether it’s a ‘yes’ answer or a ‘no” answer; either one is going to somehow set me free. Protect me. Bless me.

Just how much do you “push” an agenda or dream in your life on God? How much do you ask of Him?

I think for me, that I’ve come to the conclusion that if “it” consumes me more than my God consumes me….then I’ve gone too far.

But that’s just me.

I need to give it time. Let it go for awhile. Watch. Listen. And see what God plans to do.

Sometimes I can ruin His unveiling with my constant demands.

Instead of praying with an urgent passion…. I can pray with contentment and peace. Knowing He’s got my best interests at heart and that His timing is always – ALWAYS perfect.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Working On My Character

I have a little notepad where I keep some writing deadlines on it. I update it regularly. At the top of it, I have some words. Those words are:

Graciousness
Humility
Gentleness
Respect
These are words that I want to remember. Words that I want to be more real in my life.
I think I’ve been pretty good about respecting people in my life and gentleness doesn’t come too hard for me. But I also want to be a more gracious person. Sometimes I can be gracious to those I CHOOSE to be gracious towards but not towards those whom I may perceive with irritable feelings in my heart. You know the people I’m referring to. The same people who rub you the wrong way, who are less than considerate towards you, and the ones who just don’t think…those are the same people we need to be more gracious towards.

Everyone makes mistakes. We’re all “stupid” sometimes. Heaven knows, we mess up, fall down, and say things we regret. I want to be more gracious towards others when they are in those moments because I know I’ve had plenty and will have plenty more. I would love some graciousness extended towards me in those moments. It’s so easy to be gracious towards someone whom you invite in your home or who you want to be a part of your life. It’s less easy to be gracious towards those who make you want to gripe, complain, and just feel downright grumpy.

I also desire to have more humility in my life. God’s always been good about humbling me if I ever get too much pride in my heart, but I want to learn to be more humble WITHOUT Him having to bring me to my knees. I want to simply remember that everything I do, everything I am, is because of Him. None of it is my own doing. 

So those are some of the words I’m working on in my life. What are your words? What qualities do you want to enhance in your heart and life? What qualities do you see as being integral and important – needed perhaps?

These are just a start for me. I find that when I start to master a certain quality, there are others that I’ve either lost somehow along life’s way, or ones that I failed to see were neglected in my life. I might just replace “respect” with “Honor” in the near future as it’s been a goal for me to show “honor” in all I do. Especially when I’m frustrated. That doesn’t mean I will stop desiring to be respectful. It simply means I’m focusing on flourishing another quality in my heart and soul.

One of my life’s mottos is: “It all comes down to character.” My dad told me that once and I’ve never forgotten it. Because it’s so true and he was so right. It really does all come down to character. What we do, say, and how we act really comes down to what kind of character we have as a person.

And I want to be a person of great character.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How Hard Is it For You To Forgive?

This video gripped and stirred my heart in a strong way. It moved me because I know how much I struggle with forgiveness at times - and the things I struggle to forgive aren't always as earth-shattering as what is portrayed here.

Take a minute, watch, and let God speak to your heart.

If your family were killed - could YOU forgive?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Less "Me" Time and More "We" Time

What if we had less “me” time but more “we” time?

I was thinking about that very thing the other day. I was kind of worn out and I hadn’t had a lot of “me” time in the last few months. I was craving simply being alone at home to do chores. Ever have times like that? But then my thoughts started to roam, a bit. I’ve never been one to pawn off my kids. I like to be at almost everything they are involved in. The window of time is so short – soon they will be out of my home and I will have more than enough “me” time!

I thought about how family oriented our ancestors were. How Hispanics and Africans (and I’m sure other cultures that I’m not aware of) even have generations living together under one roof. If they don’t all live together, they certainly are their own community of support – doing everything for and with each other. They’ve threaded together a legacy and a strong sense of who they are. They’ve given deep roots.

We’ve lost that in mainstream society today.

I hear so much about how we need a “girl’s night out” and parents need date night. All true. But I think the prominence and the way those things have been highlighted, possibly, could be focusing too much on ourselves and what we individually need instead of focusing more on family time.

I believe that the more a family hangs out together and does things together, the more they will be interwoven together. The kids won’t grow up and want to go off on their own – instead, they will continue to want to be an integral part of their family. Sure, they need to have their own independent lives. But they will be reliable, supportive, and generous with their extended and immediate family. They will prioritize family. Which is needed.

Family is the basis of everything. Who we become stems a great deal from the family we grew up in. How we view ourselves, our outlook on the world, our values….all start within and from our families. We mold our children – shaping their outlook and self esteem in critical ways.

So much today focuses on “me.” We are told we deserve getaways, time outs, breaks, and times of renewal. I’m not diminishing that at times those very things are needed and in fact are deserved. But they should be “stand-out” times. They, in fact, shouldn’t replace family time, family getaways, family moments, family breaks together, and family gatherings.

As my children grow up, I see how I desire more “we” time with them. I still need a little “me” time, but I’d rather put that aside to soak up and bond every instance I can with the ones God has given me. For I know if I put myself first, they will learn to put themselves first. But if I put them first, then maybe they’ll learn to put others first too.

It’s a balancing act. We should never deprive ourselves of necessary times of refreshment and renewal. But at the same time, we shouldn’t pamper ourselves and put “me” before “we.”

A healthy family knows how to take care of one another so that the more you focus on each other and know each other inside and out – the less “me” you will need – for each person will take good care of the other.

“We.”


“We” make a much stronger and healthier entity – than simply just “me.”

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ouch, That Hurts!

Do you ever feel like God is just tweaking you? I mean that he seems to be cutting, chiseling, molding, sculpting, pushing, and pulling on you everywhere – bit by bit?



Sometimes I feel this way. I feel like the “me” that I thought was doing all right was decidedly not because God decides to show me all sorts of areas that fall short, need fixing, are selfish, prideful, or stubborn. Gosh, I hate that. It’s usually an especially painful process which for me – oftentimes means embarrassment, humbling, or tears being shed in some sort of way. I can often think, “How did I not see that, “or “How did I let that area of my life go on in that way without it being checked?”

Painful, I tell ya.

Then the road of life continues on and months go by. Things improve and I improve. (Usually). I try to learn from my mistakes, mind you! And I look back and see in hindsight, that the tweaking was needed. That I like myself better because of the thorns that God removed.

The problem is – I know those seasons will come again. They always come. It’s a part of life. And I believe if I’m truly seeking His heart and wanting to grow and be the best for Him that I can be – that that will mean at some point that God will need to “tweak” me again. For life can so easily creep in! It sneaks in with the dark and I’m oftentimes not even aware that it happened.

For me – as much as I hate those seasons of molding and chiseling, I’m so thankful for them. For I don’t want to be left in those conditions. Not when I get to the other side and can look back and see what has now been refined.

I love that about my God. I love that He sees into the future and knows just what I need, just WHEN I need it. I’m so grateful He’s never content to leave me “less than…”

He really does hear our prayers. If we ask Him to show us the way – He will. It’s just that when we ask, we don’t usually think of the sculpting that needs to be done on us in the process.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Everything Can Change

Life can change in a breath; a heartbeat. It can change in a moment.


When I was told in 5th grade that my grandpa died of a heart attack, my life changed. Grief was introduced into my life. Three weeks later when my uncle died in a plane crash – it changed again. I would forever be impacted by those two events.

When my two children were born, my life changed forever. In fact, it changed the instant I knew I was pregnant. Life would not be what it had been.

Whether good or bad, our lives are constantly changing. We can fight against it – but God brings changes into our lives (or allows them) to shape and mold us. Some are for our good. Others bring deep and rich pain into our hearts. It’s up to us to decide what to do with those moments when they come.

I can live my life with abandon. I can plan every moment. Either way – my life will still have those moments where I hold my breath and know that what once was, shall never be again. My life instantly changes with news, revelations, and circumstances that happen.

It’s interesting how you usually know the minute it happens. You just know this is “it.” That time when despite your own will, life will take off on a course that stretches you. Even if it’s good news, you just know that the road won’t be “bump-free.” For nothing is.

We only have one life. We only have this time and this journey to make the most of every moment we’ve been given. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow, or tonight for that matter.

I’ve seen what is possible. I’ve felt it. It shakes you. It reminds you how small you really are.

Thank heavens God is at the steering wheel in my life.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

To Love and Be Loved

I’ve always been a hugger. I hug people I barely know. I’m not sure why, I guess it’s just the overflowing love in my heart for people. If I think you’re cute, I’ll hug you. If you’ve cared for me in some way, I’ll hug you. If I’m happy to just see you and thankful you smiled at me – I might hug you.


I’ve never refused a hug offered to me by someone else, either.

Hugs are so great. They convey such emotion. You can hug when you’re happy and hug when you’re sad. You can hug out of camaraderie with another, or hug because you have no words to say at all – but you want someone to know you care.

I feel very disconnected from my children when we haven’t hugged in awhile. Touch is so important. Even if they aren’t real open to my hugs for whatever reason at that moment; I feel better reaching an arm around them and physically conveying my love for them.

Sometimes, when my husband and I are in a heated argument and I’m really upset (crying) – I stop and I say to him, “I just really need you to give me a hug right now.” Granted, when you’re mad at someone, giving them a hug isn’t always the first thing on your mind. But my husband understands it’s something my heart needs at that moment.

I need to feel loved.

I think about when I get to heaven. I’m not sure how I will react to seeing my Lord and Savior. I imagine I’ll do a great deal of tear-shedding. Maybe stare at God in awe or not be able to look at Him at all. But the one thing I’m almost positive I will want – is to be held in His arms and have Him hug me. To feel His love and know I’m loved despite all my failures on earth. All my mistakes and mess-ups. To feel safe in His arms.

I dream of that day.

Sometimes I let life invade into my hugging. I feel like I’ll be rejected if I try to offer someone a hug or they don’t give me the right “vibes” of wanting one. But I think that’s Satan trying to put a wedge in the connection that we all have as people. The simple fact that we want to love and be loved.

We can’t let him hinder us from giving that love.

Our hugs, our love, our arms, were meant to always be extended outward and open. They should never be closed off to another. A hug won’t always solve a disagreement, a problem, or a feeling towards another person. But it will show love.

And isn’t that the greatest thing of all?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Do We Forget To Tremble?

There’s an older song by Nichole Nordeman called “Tremble.” I have loved it from the very moment I heard the song. It remains on my IPOD and has been on my “favorites” list for years.

She talks about how it’s so easy for us to become so caught up in the daily-ness of life down here that we get too casual with God. We forget how Holy, how divine, and how sacred He is. We forget to tremble.

One of my favorite lines is, “What a shame to think I’d appear so cavalier in the matter of salvation.”


I think it’s so easy to make ourselves bigger in our own eyes than we really are. And it’s so easy to make God smaller than He is.

Too easy.

My heart’s desire is that God will never let me grow too casual or too cavalier about Him. About my faith. I want to be sensitive to everything in life – everything around me and filter it as God’s child.

I want to remember that it’s a privilege to hear Him speak to me – to call my name and to choose me.


“oh let me not forget to tremble.”


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Being A Great Dreamer Means Having Great Faith

I was a huge dreamer as a child. Not just a daydreamer, although I enjoyed that too, but I dreamed BIG dreams for my life. I believed in the impossible.


As I grew up – life happened. Hurts happened. And I sort of stopped dreaming…at least as much. I started to become more of a realist. Part of it was seeing how reality doesn’t always measure up to your dreams. Part of it was becoming a parent and becoming protective about what happens with your kids and in your family unit. Part of it, maybe, was simply letting the hurts in my life take root and grow – strangling the dreams I had for myself.

Now I’m in a point in life, where I have realized that although I still call myself a “dreamer,” that I really turned into more of a realist. And I’m ready to take the “dreamer” side of me back again. I’m ready to believe in the impossible, dream the audacious, and see it come true.

I believe that every person should use wisdom and discernment in their life. They should seek Godly counsel. So I’m not ready to transform into a person that is foolish and takes great risks that could jeopardize her kids. What I AM ready to do, is to see how my dreams tie into my faith again. For being a great dreamer – for me – means having great faith. It means truly believing that my God can do ANYTHING. It means that I can stop sabotaging myself and thinking, “I don’t deserve this” (because really – who does?) and start enjoying the fact that sometimes God simply loves to bless us out of His great love for us. It means that when I dream big, I am ready to see God’s hand move in a large way on my behalf.

I never really thought about how my dreams tied into my faith before. But it makes so much sense. That’s why it is so much easier for children at times to believe in the unbelievable – because of their childlike faith. Call it dreams – call it faith – call it whatever you want; but God’s hand is involved in it. His power is involved in it.

I think sometimes we have not, because we ask not. Sure, we can ask for the wrong things and get all of it, wondering why everything fell apart or became such a disaster. But if we ask with the heart of someone who wants to serve God in a big way, even if that includes some of our own personal desires and comforts, why is that a bad thing? Why should God say “no?”

I want to reclaim that “dreamer” inside of me. I want to believe BIG. Because if I never believe big, I’ll never be blessed in a BIG way.

Monday, March 7, 2011

To Suffer "Well"

Well it’s more than obvious that we all get hurt in this life. We all go through tough and painful times. Some of them are emotional, some are physical. Sometimes it’s both.



I’ve never been one to welcome these times in life – until they are long past. Then I find myself oddly thankful for what they taught me. For they always teach me something.

I find it kind of interesting that we always seem to be so caught off guard or surprised when hardship or suffering comes our way. It’s as if we think we can escape it somehow. But we are alive – no one escapes being hurt. It’s part of reality.

I have this desire in me to deal better with those times when they come. To handle them better than I have in the past. I want to “suffer well.” Mainly, because I want my God to be proud of me.

I think if I suffer well, it will actually affect my whole attitude and outlook. I think it might even affect my circumstances at times. Those are all natural benefits of handling a painful time and I will welcome and embrace them when they come. But more than that, I simply want to find favor with God.


I haven’t exactly handled hardships in the past with the most grace or maturity. I know I won’t welcome them when they come again. In fact, I may even pray and ask God to remove them from my life. But I do hope that in the process, I can still find the courage (that only comes from Him) to suffer well through them. To know that there is purpose and that most things are but in my life for a season. Even if those don’t prove true or I don‘t discover the answers I seek…I still pray that I will learn the habit of suffering well.

He’s asked it of me.

Because I love God, I want to honor that request the best I can.

What is suffering “well?” It’s having graciousness, patience, faith, peace, and tolerance. Tolerance for the pain you might be feeling knowing that God has His reasons. Peace knowing that you are in God’s hands and they are mighty capable hands at that! Patience for the phase or season to change or end. And graciousness towards those who may not understand. Suffering well also means not complaining about things. It means finding something to smile about and a reason for hope…a reason for laughter.

Sometimes it’s a tall order – but God can give me the strength and courage I need to suffer well through the challenges in my life.

He’s given me all the tools I need.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Walk Through Life With Me

Inadequacy. Some people just have a gift. They have a way of making me feel inadequate.


I’m not sure why or what it is, but ever since I was a little girl – there are certain people that I’ve aspired to be welcomed by. I’ve wanted to feel included; a part of their circle. I think most girls are this way. Whether it’s that one popular girl or a certain crowd/group that we want to be a part of - we all know that feeling.

No matter what you do, you just don’t feel like you quite measure up.

Thank heavens God has been working on my heart in this area! I thank and praise the Lord so much that He has been boosting my self esteem and showing me my value that comes from Him and no one else! And I think I’ve finally put my finger on why it is that I always felt inadequate around certain people. It was because I felt like they were walking a step ahead of me, before me, or above me – instead of walking through life with me.

You see, I actually need someone in my life who isn’t perfect. I need friends and relationships with people who are genuine, honest, and flawed. For it is with these people that you find understanding and warmth. It is with these people that you know you are accepted for who you are; never having to strive to be something you are not.

I no longer desire to be a part of a friendship or group where I am made to feel like I have to rise to a certain standard or image. I love being around people who motivate me to be a better person, but not people who look down on me for things they feel might not measure up (whatever “up” is to them!)No, I now long for imperfect friends. Friends who can feel good in their own skin and admit their mistakes. Friends who can walk alongside of me in life instead of having to walk in front of me all of the time.

And I hope I can be that kind of friend, as well.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sibling Relationships

My girls recently told me that they know a lot of kids who don’t like or get along with their siblings. That made my heart so sad. I thought they were probably overreacting. I’m sure there are more siblings who get along than they think. But then I started witnessing some things that showed me there indeed is a “disconnect” sometimes between brothers and sisters.



My youngest had a program in which she had a part. We had two showings that day. One in the afternoon, and one in the evening. My plan was to go and get my oldest out of school as she had expressed an interest in watching her sister. I’ve always encouraged my kids to support one another. I’ve never been shy about taking them out of class so they could watch each other in plays, programs, award ceremonies, etc. I do this because if they show an interest and want to cheer each other on – I want to encourage that! I want that support and love to flourish.


My daughter did indeed watch her little sister in her program. Then we had to go back for the evening show and my youngest didn’t have her big part – she only played a part in the masses for the evening showing. Still.. I felt my oldest should watch and support her. She wanted to sit with some friends which was okay with me, as she is getting older. But then things started to change. Most of her friends weren’t staying inside for the performance but were going to “roam.” I didn’t like that, and I didn’t allow my daughter to participate. She was not happy with me, and she felt alone (even though she could have come and sat by me), but I held my ground.

Why?


For one, I didn’t want to encourage my daughter to be what I term a “hoodlum.” It was dark outside and I didn’t want her roaming about without adult supervision. I don’t care how old she is, while she’s still a minor – there is still plenty of room for danger and disaster. I also wanted her to invest in what her sister had invested in. That’s what a family does – you stay and you support one another.


I think a lot of kids might not be close because they are not encouraged or instructed to invest in each other’s interests. Whether it’s basketball games, plays, or award ceremonies doesn’t matter. We should have our children there to support each other out of pure love and devotion. Love doesn’t always do the “fun” stuff. It does the boring, the hard, and the inconvenient stuff too.

Life isn’t always about “us.” If we let our children ignore what is going on with someone else in the family, we are only encouraging them to become more “me” centered. They will always seek “what’s in it for me.” No, they may not be happy about it, but they will learn to put the time in that is needed to grow bonds with their brothers and sisters. They will know what their interests are, who their friends are, and how they can help them when they need it the most. Sometimes, they may be our biggest tools in letting us know when something is wrong or out of character!

I understand there are times to give kids a break. If my child has been to every single one of their siblings sports games and they have a friend show up and can hang out for awhile in a safe atmosphere – I’m okay with that. But that is going to be the exception – not the norm.


For me, encouraging my children to develop a relationship that will be strong and “other centered” is important. Someday, they won’t have me around. The kind of relationship they have with each other will be something that will truly be an asset in their life and something that can be a strong foundation against the tides of the world.


I would encourage all parents to nurture sibling relationships between their kids. Make sure they are taking turns in cheering each other on in their interests and endeavors. After all, that’s part of what being a family is all about and if you want a close one--- it takes commitment and time.

Even on the part of our kids.

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