Thursday, January 31, 2013

Finding Joy in Life

Welcome! This week we are in Chapter 3, “Enjoyment…Enjoying God and Life” in our study of Finally Free by Kim Tabor.

I’ve been thinking about what it means to enjoy life and started to write about it, when I realized I was basically rewriting a previous post.

So, instead of trying to rework it, I’ve decided to share the original post…

Joy and Happiness (First posted on January 6, 2012)
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:2-4 NLT)
My natural question is – How can I be happy when trouble comes my way? Whether through my own actions or those of another, how can I be joyful through unemployment, illness, loss of a loved one, divorce, and so many other issues we deal with today?

I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about joy and happiness over the past couple of years, and I think it comes down to this... Joy and happiness are not the same.

Joy comes from knowing the Lord and having a personal relationship with Him.

Joy is not dependent on our circumstances or the people in our life. It is the deep feeling of contentment in knowing Christ walks beside us every day – through trials, disappointments, and sorrows.

Happiness is dependent on others and life around us. Happiness can be temporary. When things are going well, I feel happy. When life throws me a curve ball, my happiness turns to disappointment, frustration, anger, and sadness.

Life changing situations that cause me unhappiness are the very times my faith and relationship with God can grow deeper and stronger through my dependence on Him.

I can be happy and joyful at the same time, but when something or someone makes me unhappy in my everyday life, my joy still comes from knowing God won’t ever leave me.

His love and desire for a relationship with me is forever, no matter what. He stays and gets me through the unhappiness.

He can use any situation, happy or otherwise, to prepare me for what He has planned for my future. The knowledge that God wants to refine me and prepare me for the future brings me joy and hope.
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Philippians 4:4 NLT
What does it mean to you to enjoy life?

In Christ,
Laura


Monday, January 28, 2013

Saying Yes Means Saying No

Confession…I can’t do it all.

I’ve tried, but it rarely works.

If, by chance, it looks like I’m doing it all—don’t be fooled. I’m completely stressed out and miserable. Not exactly worth “doing it all.”

So, I have to be honest with myself.

As much as I would like it to be different, I only have so much time and energy.

There are decisions to be made.

If I spend my day shopping at the mall, I won’t be home to clean the house.

If I decide cleaning the house is my priority, I won’t be able to watch a movie with my daughter.

Saying “yes” to one, means saying “no” to another.

The same holds true when we’re pursuing God-sized dreams.
God-sized Dream = A desire in your heart for more of what God has for you. ~Holley Gerth
Opportunities present themselves and we have to discern which will move us forward and which will not.

It won’t be easy. After all, who wants to turn down an opportunity?

I know I didn’t…but I had to.

I recently received three invitations. Two were to write guest blog posts to be online in March, and one was to co-host an (in)RL Meetup (a local gathering for a world-wide conference) in April.

I wanted to take them all on. But I knew I couldn’t.

I had to ask myself…what could I realistically commit my time to, and which of the three choices could I accomplish to the best of my ability?

Writing is where I feel God leading me, so I gladly accepted both writing projects.

But it was co-hosting the (in)RL Meetup that I needed to think and pray about. It would take time to plan and coordinate—time I really don’t have, unless I take it from other areas, like family and writing.

I had to decline, which was graciously accepted with understanding. (Thank you Anne!)

Saying “yes” to the writing projects meant I had to say “no” to co-hosting.

It was the decision I had to make because I know I can’t do it all…and I’m okay with admitting that.

When has saying “yes” to something meant you had to say “no” to something else?

In Christ,
Laura


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Be Strong in the Lord {Something to Think About}


In Christ,
Laura

Linking up with Spiritual Sundays, The Weekend Brew, and Jumping Tandem - The Sunday Community.

Finally Free Online Study - Week 4

Have a wonderful week!

In Christ,
Laura

Week 4: Jan. 27 - Feb. 2, 2013
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Monday/TuesdayRead Chapter 3 “Enjoyment…Enjoying God and Life”

During the week
Consider this:
o   Do you find enjoyment in the daily journey or do you see it just as a way to get where you want to be?
o   Do you enjoy God and spending time with Him?

Spend time this week getting to know God. As you spend time in prayer and Scripture, you may want to journal what God is showing you.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

God Wants to Heal Your Heart

Thank you for joining me here today. If you are following our Finally Free online study, we are in Chapter 2 this week, “Restoration…Embracing Healing and Wholeness.”

The world we live in is a mean and hurtful place, with hearts breaking every day.

It’s not what God intended when He first created Adam and Eve, but it is our reality.

God doesn’t want us to live with our broken hearts, however. He knows what unforgiveness does to us—
the poison it leaks, 
the scars it creates,
and the way it haunts us in reliving it over and over.

I think it is part of the reason He tells us to forgive others.
Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive. Luke 17:4 NLT
Here’s where I get stuck…

How do I forgive when there is no apology, no request for forgiveness, and no visible remorse?

I struggle with pretending everything is okay when I’m hurt and left to get over it on my own.

When there is an apology and forgiveness, there is closure. Whatever happened can rest in the past.

But when there is no closure, I keep replaying it over and over in my head, feeling the pain again and again.

I try to let it go, but I’m human. I feel hurt and angry, and the lack of remorse only makes it worse.

I can’t do it—I can’t forgive on my own.

But with God I can. He knows my pain, and when I invite Him in, He will begin to heal the pain and diffuse the anger.

I have to ask Him (often again and again) to change my heart and help me forgive, even when the other person doesn’t know or care about my forgiveness.  

The anger creeps back in…why is it my heart that needs to be changed?!?

Because I’m the one hurting and broken, and I don’t want to be. I want to be healed and not continue to carry it with me.
Lord, I need your help. I know I need to forgive, but I’m hurt and angry. I want to scream it’s not fair! But I need to let you deal with it. I want to forgive and move on. But I can’t do it without you. Please help me to forgive, even when there is no apology and no closure. Thank you for your comfort and healing. Amen.
Forgiveness is a powerful path to healing.

And God is ready and willing to walk down that path with me…

leading me when I can’t see where I’m going…

keeping me on the path when I want to stray…

and giving me a gentle push from behind when I’m ready to quit.

I don’t know what pain and hurts you may be dealing with, but is it a wound that keeps cracking open?

There is plenty of room on the forgiving path to healing, if you’d like to join me on it.
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Colossians 3:12-13 NLT
In Christ,
Laura

Forgiveness by Christian singer/songwriter Matthew West…



Linking up with WholeHearted Home, Winsome WednesdayThought Provoking Thursday, and Faith Filled Friday.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

God Will Prepare Us

If God has captured your heart, He will prepare you for what He has planned.

Through the opportunities and people He brings into our lives, He will ready us for His purpose.

God certainly did that with David.

“I have been taking care of my father’s sheep and goats,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock, I go after it with a club and rescue the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death. I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God!” 1 Samuel 17:34-36 NLT

I doubt that after wrestling a bear, David thought to himself, “Now that’s a skill that will come in handy one day!”

But when it came time to convince King Saul to let him go up against Goliath, that’s when he knew the experience had prepared him for something else.

God brings us to opportunities that will prepare us for something else.

A couple of years ago, I had no interest in social media. I had already started my blog and was leading online Bible studies, but Twitter and Facebook? No thank you.

I’d made up my mind, so God went to work dragging me (there may have been some kicking and screaming too) into social media.

An opportunity with Proverbs 31 Ministries presented itself, but to be involved, I would need to be on Facebook. As reluctant as I was, this new prospect was too good to pass up. So, I created a Facebook page and a Twitter account at the same time.

The Proverbs 31 opportunity never materialized, but through Twitter, I found a warm, encouraging community of other Christian women writers. And I was introduced to 5 Minutes for Faith, where I’m now a monthly contributor.

God brought something into my life that He knew would not work out, but the purpose was to move me closer to where He wanted me.

He does that with people too.

Last week, Holley Gerth asked her God-sized Dream Team to find a buddy within the team for prayer, encouragement, and accountability.

Being outside of my comfort zone, I stalled. For almost a week. Then, for some reason, I decided I could at least look at who, from the team, had buddied up.

I noticed the name of a fellow blogger not on the buddy list and sent her a Facebook message asking if she wanted to be prayer partners.

Although we’ve never met, we’ve followed each other’s blogs and we’ll both be attending the same retreat this spring.

So, instead of feeling intimidated, I felt comfortable in contacting her out of the blue. (Thanks God!)

It wasn’t until after Stefanie responded favorably that I remembered my first days on Twitter… her blog UpLIFTing Words was one of the very first to draw me in to the community and make me feel like I belong. {big smile}

Is there an experience in your life that has prepared you for something else?

In Christ,
Laura


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Finally Free Online Study - Week 3

Welcome! This week, we are in Chapter 2 “Restoration…Embracing Healing and Wholeness” in our study of Finally Free by Kim Tabor.

After reading the chapter this morning, I read this on the T.D. Jakes Ministries Facebook Page, and I couldn't believe how well it goes with this week's reading.

"Whoever has your ear affects your thoughts!"

All I could think was, who am I listening to...God or the enemy?!?

God's truth vs. the enemy's lies...

Who are you listening to?

In Christ,
Laura

Week 3: Jan. 20 - Jan. 26, 2013
In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.” Psalm 118:5

Monday/TuesdayRead Chapter 2 “Restoration…Embracing Healing and Wholeness”

During the week
Consider this:
-      What does being transformed by God mean to you?
-      What lies need to be replaced with God’s Truth for you?
-      Where do you see God’s healing in your life?

Record Scripture verses that speak God’s Truth to you, and journal how His Truth changes how you see yourself.

Spend time in prayer…ask God to show you how His Truth is life changing.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Distractions and Focus


All week, I’ve thought about this chapter on focus (Chapter 1 in Finally Free by Kim Tabor), and yet all week, I’ve been distracted.

Too many things are competing for my attention…

Illness and exhaustion
Back pain and heating pads
Issues and arguments
Everyday responsibilities
Disappointment
Stress

…and I’m struggling to keep my eyes on Jesus.

But even while I’ve been overwhelmed, and not even sure of what to pray, God has ways of bringing my attention—my focus—back to Him and His goodness.

A perfectly timed message from a friend asking how I was and what she could pray for…was just what I needed.

New writing opportunities to consider…giving me something else to think about.

Someone putting this quote by Sarah Young in front of me…
“You are surrounded by a sea of problems, but you are face to Face with Me, your Peace. As long as you focus on Me, you are safe. If you gaze too long at the myriad problems around you, you will sink under the weight of your burdens. When you start to sink, simply call out ‘Help me, Jesus!’ and I will lift you up.” ~Sarah Young, Jesus Calling
…the reminder I needed at just the right time.

I don’t know where your focus is or what distractions you are facing, but is He trying to pull your attention back to Jesus too?

In Christ,
Laura

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Has God Captured Your Heart?

Hark! the voice of Jesus crying, “Who will go and work today?...
Who will answer, gladly saying, “Here am I, send me, send me”?
(“Hark! the Voice of Jesus Crying” by Daniel March, 1816-1909)

I remember singing this hymn many years ago. It wasn’t the first time I’d sung it, but that day it felt different. I wasn’t just singing a hymn…I felt a tugging at my heart.

Those words…Who will go and work today? Here am I, send me, send me…they stayed with me.

Looking back, that’s when God began to capture my heart.

I didn’t even think about what I could do for God’s kingdom. I wasn’t far enough along to question it. I just knew I felt a stirring inside. Something in me wanted to say “Send me!”

I think that’s where a God-sized dream begins—with God capturing your heart.
A God-sized Dream = A desire in your heart for more of what God has for you. ~Holley Gerth
I didn’t understand it then and I didn’t know what God had planned, but I see now that when He started capturing my heart, He was drawing me closer to Him.

It was years before I could look back and see the journey He had me on.

My dream? I have always wanted to write. I concentrated on children’s fiction for a while and saw it go nowhere. Meanwhile, life went on. Other things took precedence. And maybe I didn’t want it bad enough to keep pursuing it.

What I didn’t know was that the way I planned my dream wasn’t what God had planned for me.

Had God told me way back then that I would be writing to encourage women in their relationships with Him, I wouldn’t have believed it.

I wouldn’t have known what to do, where to start, or who to talk to about it.

More importantly, I wouldn’t have expected or known that God would lead the way.

Although I thought I was more than ready, God said not yet. He had a different plan…a better plan.

During those years, God was capturing my heart and drawing me closer to Him. The more I began to know Him, the deeper I wanted to know Him. The more I trusted Him, the more I wanted to trust Him.

Those were God-sized dreams.

It’s a God-sized dream to want to trust Him completely.

It’s a God-sized dream to be fully dependent on Him.

It’s a God-sized dream to wait on Him.

And those God-sized dreams start to grow when God captures your heart.

Has God captured your heart?

If you don’t think He has, don’t think He won’t. In fact, if you’re wondering right now when He will capture your heart, maybe that’s a sign that He’s already started.

In Christ,
Laura

To read more about my writing dream…Leave Room for God


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Finally Free Online Study - Week 2

Have a blessed week!
In Christ,
Laura

Week 2: Jan. 13 - Jan. 19, 2013
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18

Monday/TuesdayRead Chapter 1 “Focus…Seeing with Spiritual Eyes”

During the week
Consider this:  Where are your eyes focused? Where do you want them to be focused?

What grabbed you from Chapter 1? Journal your thoughts and Scripture you want to   remember.

Spend time in prayer…ask God to guide you in focusing your eyes on Him.

Visit Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith


Thursday, January 10, 2013

What Holds You Back?

Here we are in week one of our Finally Free online study and it seems appropriate to make a confession.

Even though this is the 7th study I’ve hosted here, I get nervous and have moments of panic before each and every study.

I hesitate and question if I should commit myself to another study…even though I’ve already planned it all out.

Questions swirl in my mind as I get a little light-headed…

Who am I to lead anyone?

What if my mind goes blank (again) and I have nothing to write?

What will others think of me?

Worry and fear…it’s enough to make me say Forget it, I can’t do this.

I could do that. In fact, I almost did. Before the first study ever took place, I started to ignore God’s lead. I was going to let fear keep me from moving forward.

But running in the opposite direction from where God is leading is not a good place to be.

What is it that holds you back?

Whether we know it or not, most of us have something….

DoubtI can’t be a good mom like she is.

WorryHow will I ever get out of this financial mess?

The PastHow can God forgive me for the way I used to live? I can’t forgive myself.

FearWhat if they don’t like me? What if I never get married and have a family?

AddictionsIt’s taken everything I have, and I still can’t break the hold it has on me.

Maybe for you it’s something completely different.

God didn’t intend for us to live bound by these burdens.

No, that’s the enemy’s work. Satan wants us to continue carrying this baggage with us. He encourages it, telling us these loads are ours to carry.
But Christ says, “Bring them to me. Lay them at the foot of the cross where I’ve already gone to free you from these very burdens.” (ref. Matt. 11:28)
Jesus died and rose again, conquering sin and death to free us from this bondage. And yet, we struggle to let Him change us—to change our lives.

What is it that keeps you from experiencing all God has planned for you? Is it time to take it to the cross?

My light-headedness has cleared now, but I know I’ll feel it again.

Each time, I remind myself…if He wants me to do this, then I can do it. Not because of who I am, but because of who He is.

Maybe you’ve tried to hand it over to Him, but you’re discouraged because you’re still struggling with it. I know that feeling.

Sometimes it takes giving it to Him over and over. Not because He won’t take it, but because we tend to take it back.

Make a conscious effort to give it to Jesus and leave it with Him. Do it again and again, every day, until you feel the weight on you easing.

He will take as much as you will give Him.

In Christ,
Laura

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Exploring God-sized Dreams

iStockphoto
God-sized dreams.

Do you have one?

Maybe you’re asking what is a God-sized dream?

Author Holley Gerth describes it this way…

A God-sized Dream = A desire in your heart for more of what God has for you.

I would add to that…

A dream God plants in our hearts…one that seems impossible—and would be…if it were left up to us to fulfill.

But that’s the thing about a God-sized dream…He doesn’t ask us to take care of it on our own.

Because it’s not about what I can do. Or what you can do.

It’s about what He wants to do in and through us.

And how He chooses to do that is up to Him.

But here’s the really cool thing…He wants us to be involved!

That desire you’re feeling in your heart that you can’t explain?

It’s from Him.

He’s planting that desire and growing that dream.

Wondering what you should do about it?

He’ll let you know. In His time and in His way.

Please don’t dismiss it because of nerves or fear because you won’t be going it alone.

He’ll go before you and He’ll walk beside you.

Every step of the way.
Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.
Deuteronomy 31:8 NLT
I invite you to join me here on Tuesdays, over the next few weeks. I’ll be writing about God-sized dreams and linking up, along with Holley’s team, on Holley’s blog HolleyGerth.com.

Come join us and explore the dream God may be planting in your heart.

In Christ,
Laura


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Finally Free Online Study - Week 1

Welcome to week 1 of our online study of Finally Free...Living Free & Loving Life by Kim Tabor.

What a great way to start the new year! We currently have 27 women (representing 16 states and 2 countries) signed up to study God's Word together!

Whether you are participating in the study or not, please know that I am glad to have you visit. Schedules are busy and I'm honored that you would spend a few minutes here with me.

Below is the suggested reading schedule for this week. Look for posts related to each week's reading toward the end of the week.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions regarding the study.

Have a great week!
In Christ,
Laura

Week 1: Jan. 6 - Jan. 12, 2013

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 NIV

Monday/TuesdayRead the Introduction “My Story.”

During the week
*Consider this:
-What baggage from the past do you carry with you? Think about it throughout the week. You don’t have to tell anyone (or write it in the comments) so be honest with yourself.

-Are there behaviors (either known or not realized until now) continued because of the past?

*Journal your thoughts throughout the week. What from the introduction has stayed with you all week?

*Spend time in prayer…ask God to show you any lies the enemy is telling you, and ask Him to remind you of His Truth.


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Isaiah 43:10 {Something to Think About}

"You are my servant.
You have been chosen to know me, believe in me,
and understand that I alone am God.
There is no other God—
there never has been, and there never will be."
Isaiah 43:10 NLT


In Christ,
Laura

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Starting Small


I’m excited to be starting the new year over at 5 Minutes for Faith today talking about goals and starting small. Will you join me there?

Here’s a bit of what you’ll find…
It’s the beginning of a new year…the time when many of us think of changes we want to make…big changes. 
We start out strong, energetic, and ready to make things happen. 
And then it gets harder. We get sick. Tired. The unexpected happens and throws us off course. We’re so busy that we don’t have the time or energy to figure out how to do things differently.

And we feel like giving up.

Before throwing in the towel, I invite you to back up for a moment and start again. But this time, start small.
Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin… Zechariah 4:10 NLT

What goals or changes are you hoping to accomplish this year?                                                                                                               
Let me encourage you…don’t be afraid to start small.

In Christ,
Laura

Here are a few resources for the new year:

Research shows it takes 21 days to form new habits. Let Holley encourage you through 21 days of taking small steps to new changes.

Start your year with a 6-week online Bible study. There are no meetings to attend, and only one chapter to read per week.

Join me and a community of others in ditching the list of resolutions, focusing, instead, on one word for the year.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My One Word 2013—Praise

Are you familiar with One Word 365? It’s a campaign to forget the New Year’s resolutions, choosing, instead, to focus on one word all year—intentionally keeping that focus in front of you every day.

It’s become quite a community of One Worders, sharing and encouraging each other along the journey.

2012 was my first step into the community. I chose the word Trust and it was a powerful year. (You can read about my year here: Trust—My One Word 2012.)

When I chose the word Trust for 2012, I also chose Hope for my One Word 2013.

That’s right, early in 2012, I chose my word for the following year. I like to plan ahead. (Don’t judge.)

So, early in December, I reflected on my year of Trust and I thought ahead to my next word—Hope.

Praise.

The word was in my head, but I hadn’t been thinking about it. It was as clear as if I said the word to you. Praise.

I had a feeling God was telling me something, but I didn’t do anything about it. I had my word planned. Hope. It’s a good word.

Days later, the same thing happened. Again, I knew, but ignored it anyway.

Have you ever sensed God trying to get your attention, but you chose to ignore it? Uh-huh, that was me. Until one morning while I drove to work…

As I drove, I complained and vented to God. I was frustrated and upset about a situation involving a particular person, and I wanted God to do something about it.

Praise.

Again? God, I’m not really in the mood for this right now.

Praise Me.

Huh?

And then it clicked.

Imagine a light bulb moment, complete with stunned face (although I didn’t actually look in the mirror) and the feeling as if everything froze for that brief instant.

Oh, I get it now, God!

Immediately, I thought of what a blessing it was that I could talk to God about what was bothering me. And I felt thankful I could do that. Thankful that He’s always there to talk to—no matter where I am or what I’m doing.

In that short drive to work, I let go of Hope as my One Word for 2013 and I embraced Praise.

What I’ve already realized is there is always a reason to praise God. I’m not saying praise for the terrible things we each have to endure in this life, but rather praise for who God is.

For His incredible, unimaginable, never-ending love He has for each and every one of us.

For the good He brings out of anything and everything.

For the way He draws us close by His side. And never lets us out of His sight.

Let all that I am praise the Lord;
may I never forget the good things he does for me.
Psalm 103:2 NLT

What’s your One Word for 2013?

In Christ,
Laura