Monday, April 24, 2017

Called to Praise

  
I will praise you every day; yes, I will praise you forever.

Several years ago, my word for the year was Praise. To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled about the word when the year started. Praise felt like a really big word for when really big things happened—which wasn’t every day. So, what was I supposed to do with the word the rest of the year?

What I learned first is that Praise isn’t supposed to be saved for only the really big events or even what is visible to others.

Praise is meant for every day—the little, the ordinary, and what others might not be able to see.
{Tweet this}

Praise is when we honor God by acknowledging Him in everything we do. It’s looking for Him and His work, no matter if it’s a good day or a rotten day. Praise is thanking God in all situations, even when we don’t feel thankful.

Praise when I don’t feel thankful? Yes, because sometimes we have to practice giving praise before it feels natural.

For I cried out to him for help, praising him as I spoke.

Our human nature doesn’t lead us to feel thankful when we’re walking in the valley, but that’s precisely when God can do His best work in us. The hard work of changing our hearts and bringing us closer to Him. And creating a desire in us to want to be closer to Him.

The next thing I learned about Praise is that it’s not just for after something happens.

Praise is also meant to be given before we see His work.

How do I know what to praise Him for if it hasn’t happened yet? Because God is always at work, even when we can’t see it or imagine what He might be working on.

Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me.

Praise Him for being who He is—our God and Savior who doesn’t change on a whim. He doesn’t change the rules. And His love for us doesn’t change because He’s having a bad day.

Praise Him because no matter what we’re going through, we can be sure He’s walking beside us. He leads the way before us and watches over us. Sometimes He stays quiet, but we can trust that He’s there.

In those times I desperately need to feel His presence, I ask Him to let me see Him. And then I look for Him even in the slightest way. It might be in new flower buds, the lyrics of a song, an unexpected phone call or text from a friend, or in the way my day turns around through no power of my own.

My heart is confident in you, O God; my heart is confident. No wonder I can sing your praises!

That year, I learned to praise God for His presence, for His love and compassion, and because no matter what I regret doing today, tomorrow is a brand new start.

Praise Him because when we look for Him, we will see Him. And the more we see Him, the more we will look for Him.
{Tweet this}

In Christ,
Laura

[Photo credit: FreeImages.com]

Linking up with: #DreamTogether, #Moments of Hope, #glimpsesofHisbeauty, Purposeful Faith, #TellHisStory, Coffee for Your Heart, Writer Wednesday, Porch Stories, Grace Moments, Rich Faith Rising, #ChasingCommunity, #FaithonFire, #HeartEncouragement, Faith 'n Friends, #FreshMarketFriday, Grace & Truth

Monday, April 17, 2017

God’s Healing Through a Song


When I opened the envelope, I thought I knew what it would say. In fact, I was so sure, I was already mentally planning my next steps. But, what I expected was not what was printed in that letter. I was stunned and stuck in the place I was standing.

What I read was good news, but it was also news that would disrupt our world for a while.

It was news that sent my emotions, and my daughter’s, into a freefall. I was instantly overwhelmed with the letter’s implications—the details that would have to be quickly taken care of, the financial risk, and how it would affect every member of our family, including our fur baby.

And did I mention the emotions?

Pouring out what I didn’t feel I had in me, I helped my daughter process through what she was thinking and feeling. Between the two of us, the fear, what ifs, and unknowns were too numerous to count. So were the tears.

I spent the next day making phone calls and confirming details, some I knew and some I’d just been made aware of. I sat at my kitchen table and cried when one piece of news was better than I had anticipated. I knew God had gone before us and was working out the details. And yet, I was still scared.

How could I see God’s hand and all that He was working in our favor and still be afraid? Because I’m human. {Tweet this}

I can be thankful for God’s provision and still feel vulnerable. 

I can trust Him and still be unsure of what my next step is. 

I can praise Him and still cry because I feel so broken. 

And, I can know God is with me and still feel afraid of what I can’t see ahead.

The week before, I’d fallen in love with the song “O My Soul” by Casting Crowns. I turned up the volume every time I heard it on the car radio and decided it was my new favorite song. That same week, I found the CD at the library and checked it out. Little did I know that my new favorite song would get me through my overwhelming week.

“O My Soul” was on constant replay in the car and at work. When I couldn’t listen to it, I heard the song in my head and thought about the meaning of the lyrics. I cried and I prayed. I was overtired and worn out. I wondered if I should stop listening to the song because I couldn’t listen to it and not cry, especially on my way to work. But I couldn’t stop playing it—I knew that one song was holding me together.

And that’s when I realized—God had given me something audible to cling to that only He knew I would desperately need in the days to come. His love and promises spoken to me in the way of music.

When I felt exhausted, I knew He was holding me. 

When I felt empty, He was filling me up. 

And when I was unsure what to do next, He turned me in the right direction.

God was healing me in ways I wasn’t aware I needed. {Tweet this}

It wasn’t immediate, but after a week or so, I could listen to the song without shedding more tears. I felt calmer and stronger. Still tired, but less worried.

There are still many unknowns, what ifs, and how will we? questions. But we’re taking them one at a time and looking for where God has already sorted out the details.

And I’m praising Him and thanking Him every step of the way.

In Christ,
Laura 

[Photo credit: Pixabay.com]

Linking up with: #DreamTogether, Moments of Hope, #glimpsesofHisbeauty, Purposeful Faith, #TellHisStory, Coffee for Your Heart, Writer Wednesday, Grace Moments, #ChasingCommunity, #HeartEncouragement, Rich Faith Rising, Porch Stories, Faith 'n Friends, #FaithOnFire, #FreshMarketFriday, Grace & Truth

Monday, April 10, 2017

Called to Trust


I’ve been thinking a lot about trust and waiting on God…about how His answers to prayers often come in ways I didn’t expect or ask for, and how sometimes He answers long after the time frame I’ve requested.

When I’m in one of life’s valleys, I have to cling to my faith and trust in God. I have to hold tight to what I know to be true. 

God hears me. He sees me. He is with me. And He is carrying me through the trials when I can’t even see the next step to take.

 The Lord has heard my plea;
The Lord will answer my prayer.

In God’s perfect timing, I opened my Bible to this verse today. It’s what I’ve been reminding myself of over and over lately.

I need to praise God first, before I can see answers to my prayers, because I know that He is at work.

The solutions I think of may not be how God answers my prayers. I have to ask myself—will I only see His hand if it’s in the way I’m looking for? Or will I let go of my ideas and wait to see God’s plan unfold?

While I’m waiting, God is still with me. He strengthens me when I’m at my weakest. He guides me when I can’t see straight. He reminds me that He is at work when I start to panic. Again.

Trusting God isn’t easy. Trust develops over time. As I walk through the desert, I learn to lean on Him more and to look for His presence every day. When the desert stretches on for what seems like way to long, my trust in Him grows stronger. It grows deeper and keeps me grounded.

Trusting God with my heart, soul, and mind gives me strength and peace that does not come from myself. {Tweet this} He calms my fears in ways I can’t achieve on my own.

Faith and trust in God doesn’t mean smooth sailing through life. It means I don’t have to try to navigate on my own. It means I don’t have to have it all figured out. And it means it’s okay when my plans don’t work out, because I realized it was better to go with whatever God has planned.

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; 
the flames will not consume you.

God’s promise to you and to me…He will be with us. No matter what we walk though. No matter what we’ve done.

When we believe God’s promises are for us, we know the Truth we can depend on. Truth that stands the test of time. {Tweet this}

In Christ,
Laura 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Two Book Reviews…and Giveaways!

I’ve written before that even though my daughter is older, we still enjoy picture books. We have our favorites on her book shelf, and on occasion, we’ll visit the children’s section at the library. 

So, I couldn’t help but be excited with the opportunity to review I’m Going to Give You a Bear Hug! by Caroline B. Cooney, and illustrated by Tim Warnes.

This book is so much fun! Written in rhyme, I’m Going to Give You a Bear Hug! pairs different types of hugs with animal personalities. And the illustrations are so, so cute! Between the descriptive hugs and the adorable illustrations, you can imagine what a wet, slippery fish hug might actually feel like.
I’m going to give you a bear hug. 
A show you how much I care hug. 
A good night, 
Sleep tight, 
Way beyond compare hug. 
I’m going to give you a dog hug…. 
- Caroline B. Cooney, I’m Going to Give You a Bear Hug
Whether you have small children or grandchildren, work with children, or just enjoy a good youthful reading experience, I’m Going to Give You a Bear Hug! is a lot of fun to read!

Zonderkidz has generously provided a hardcover copy of I’m Going to Give You a Bear Hug! to giveaway. To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with the book title and your email address in the comment. (More details at the end of this post.)


*****


I’m a month late in posting this review…because, you know. Life. So, perhaps it’s fitting that that’s what this book is about—accepting what’s real when life throws you curve balls.

I knew I wanted to read Choosing REAL, but I enjoyed it even more than I anticipated. Bekah Jane Pogue writes with humor and transparency that had me nodding, and thinking me too!, while at the same time chuckling at her descriptive stories.

Sometimes that’s what we have to do when life doesn’t go the way we planned—cry and laugh. And cling to our God who loves us more than we can possibly know or understand!

“Pain is the most unchosen catalyst to an authentic faith journey.” 
– Bekah Jane Pogue, Choosing Real (pg. 57)

Isn’t that the truth?!? Choosing REAL is one of those books you read with a pen or highlighter in hand. And one that I’ll be pulling off my bookshelf again.

Description from the back of the book: 
In Choosing REAL, author Bekah Pogue walks with us into life’s unplanned circumstances—specifically frantic schedules, pain, transition, feelings of unworthiness, loneliness, and tension—and reminds us it is in these.very.moments where God invites us to notice, respond, and even celebrate an authentic relationship with Him through every.little.detail despite our own efforts or work. The result? A connection between real life and faith so that they are one and the same.
If we still our minds to embrace how REAL God is in everyday circumstances—and when we recognize how He surprises us by using our greatest pains and detours to draw us to a beautiful dependence on Him—freedom and peace replace control and worry. 
Barbour Publishing has generously provided a copy of Choosing REAL for me to giveaway with my review. To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with the book title and your email address in the comment.

Details for both giveaways:

Leave a comment on this post, including your name, email address, and which book you’re interested in, if you should win. Next Friday, April 14, I’ll randomly choose a winner for each book. (Sorry, only U.S. residents are eligible.)

In Christ,
Laura