Friday, December 9, 2016

One Expectation for Christmas

I’m joining the Five Minute Friday community with Kate Motaung…5 minutes, no rewriting, and a one word prompt…
Joy


It’s supposed to be the most joyful time of every year. But for many, it’s not. Illness, loneliness, grief, depression, emotional or physical pain, unemployment, and for so many other reasons, December can be a very difficult month.

The truth is, every month can be just as difficult, but the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas come with heavy expectations and extra pressure. And when those expectations of happiness and the perfect Christmas are not met, the letdown takes its toll.

What if we went into the season with only One expectation for a good Christmas?

Joyfulness comes in the One who came to us—Jesus Christ. {Tweet this} He didn’t arrive expecting celebrity fanfare and an overdone celebration. He came as a vulnerable baby boy through Whom we see God’s glory.

December 25 will come and go just as it does every year. Families will get on each other’s nerves and gifts will lose their sparkle. But the Gift of Jesus will never grow old.

What are your expectations during the Christmas season?

In Christ,
Laura  

[Photo credit: Unsplash.com]

Linking up with: Five Minute Friday


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Perseverance


I don’t know how Joseph did it. How did he persevere year after year, no matter what came his way?

Remember Joseph? Son of Jacob, beautiful coat owner, second-in-command to Pharaoh.

Joseph—sold into slavery by his own brothers, servant to the Egyptian officer Potiphar, thrown into prison for refusing his master’s wife. (Genesis 37, 39-41)

Remember that Joseph?

I reread his story often, and every time I ponder it a little differently. Joseph’s story is one of faith, strength, obedience, and…perseverance.

That’s what I’m thinking about today—Joseph’s perseverance.

My One Word for this year is persevere, and I find that I’m thinking about it more now than I did at the beginning of the year. Maybe it’s because I’m tired and I’m wondering what I’ve learned. Or perhaps it’s because I’m hoping God shows me a better new word for 2017.

According to my Tyndale NLT Study Bible, to persevere means to endure hardships with patience and steadfastness.

The word alone sounds hard, before even thinking about its implications. Don’t you think?

Persevere.

I wonder if the word ran through Joseph’s mind like it does mine. Surely there had to be a time or two when he wanted to ask Why God?!? Why does this have to be so hard?!?

But the Lord was with Joseph…

Joseph knew it, and others saw it. (Genesis 39) We read about it, and as a story, we see the difficulties and the happy ending. We don’t see the day-to-day.

When I look back on situations from years ago, I can see how God was right there—walking with me, holding me up, and giving me strength to persevere.

But in today’s difficulties, sometimes it’s harder to see God by my side. I know He’s there and He’s never stepped away, but my vision isn’t as clear looking forward as it is when I look back.

I wonder if Joseph had days like this too. He sat in prison for years, and even though he’d found favor with the prison guard, at least some of the days had to be long, dark, and lonely.

Joseph knew God was with him. He endured the hardships and persevered through the mess he was in. My mess is no dirtier than Joseph’s and the hardships are no greater.

I know God is with me like He was with Joseph. Which means…

If Joseph could persevere, so can I.

(And so can you.)

In Christ,
Laura 

[Photo credit: Unsplash.com]

Linking up with: Moments of Hope, #DreamTogether, #TellHisStory, #RaRaLinkup, Coffee for Your Heart, Thought Provoking Thursday, #HeartEncouragement, Grace & Truth, #FreshMarketFriday

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Praise and Thanks


Praise the Lord!
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
    His faithful love endures forever.

Several years ago, my One Word for the year was Praise. It was a word I struggled with and had to grow into.

Praise felt like a big word for when really big things happen—those Oh Wow! times that remind me God is at work.

What I learned throughout the year, though, is that there is always something to praise and thank God for. Always.

It’s not just the extra special days that show me God is present. I learned to look for God in the ordinary moments as well.

That might look like

…a lower bill than expected.

…laughter in the midst of tears.

…an out-of-the-blue call or text that cheers me up.

…appreciation in a situation, despite setbacks.

…hanging out with loved ones.

…fresh raspberries growing in November.

I don’t know what your ordinary moment might be, but might you see in it a glimpse of God?

God’s love for us is unchanging and unending, generation after generation. He is strong and mighty, and His Word is trustworthy.

No matter what our day looks like, regardless of what we can see, or how we feel—God sees it all. He sees you and me, and He cares. More than we are able or can imagine, God cares.

Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.
    Let the whole world know what he has done.
Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him.
Remember the wonders he has performed, his miracles, and the rulings he has given…

Lord God, thank You for letting us see You in our everyday moments—both the good ones and the difficult ones. Please forgive us for the times we fail to acknowledge You…for the times we forget to praise You…and for the times we neglect to thank You. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Happy Thanksgiving!

In Christ,
Laura 

[Photo credit: K. Rath 2016]

Thursday, November 17, 2016

There is a Place for Your Story


It happened again last night while scrolling through Facebook. I saw a message between two women I know, one congratulating and encouraging the other on a recent speaking engagement. I don’t know if it was more about the accomplishment or the relationship between the two women, but the reaction was quick and fierce.

Jealousy. Envy. Defeat. I wondered why I even try when there are so many others with a better message.

I’m thankful that God has had me in this place before because this time I recognized it quickly. Just as quick as the jealous thoughts entered, I took control of them before they could take control over me.

I was reminded that God has made a place for each of us. There is enough room for each message and each voice. Even better, there is a need for each message and each voice.

Even when our messages are similar, they are still different because each of us has a unique way of sharing our stories. Your voice and message may touch one person, while someone else’s words catch my attention.

Each of our stories has the potential to reach out and draw someone closer to God. {Tweet this}

A life experience that brings someone to take a breath and say Me too! is a story worth sharing. It benefits both sides in ways we may, or may not, see. But God knows.

He has plans for our stories and He will use them to reach others. {Tweet this}

The jealously I started to feel when reading that Facebook message suggests there is only one story to tell, one way to tell it, and only one person to voice it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Satan knows that, but he will use it anyway to keep us quiet.

How often is he successful in keeping us from speaking? It almost happened to me last night. Even misplaced feelings of defeat are powerful in keeping us silent. But the Truth is much more powerful.

There is a place for your voice, and mine. Not one or the other, but both. God intends for us to share and encourage others through what He has brought us through. 
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT 
God has a time and place for each of our stories to be shared. The comments I read last night had nothing to do with me. They were God’s time and place for someone else. 
For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this? Esther 4:14 ESV 
There will always be someone else to speak up…but how do we know we’re not missing the appointed time and place God planned for us to speak? Right now. Right where we are. To reach someone God has placed on our path.

Last night, I was able to recognize quickly when negativity started to creep in, so I did three things. First, I closed Facebook and got offline, because that’s often the best line of defense. Then, I went to bed, and while I fell asleep, I planned to write this post in the morning.

In Christ,
Laura 

[Photo credit: Unsplash.com]