Thursday, May 29, 2014

Enduring Faith


Have you ever felt like the thing you don’t want to do is the thing God is drawing you to? For me, that was the Book of Job.

Years ago when I first started to read Job, I didn’t get very far. To be specific, I didn’t get past the beginning when God tells Satan he can test Job. I didn’t like that part. At all. So, I stopped reading.

And then over the years, there were times I felt drawn to Job. I underlined a verse or two, read a chapter here and there…and I started to see Job’s enduring faith in the midst of the unrelenting storm.

I saw his strength and faithfulness to God when his wife urged Job to curse God for all that was happening to him. Job refused. 
His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. Job 2:9-10 NIV
Not only was Job losing everything, but Satan was wearing him down, using his own wife to convince him to blame God.

I often wonder if I could stand up under the pressure like Job did.

Sometimes we get the opportunity to find out…

This past year has tested me in various ways. Exhausting I-can’t-do-this-anymore ways. And sometimes I want to tell God I quit. I quit trying to keep up with everything in life. I quit trying to love others when that’s the last thing I feel at the time. I quit trying to stay faithful to Him. 

But when God leads us somewhere, it’s for a reason. One night I realized why, despite my protests and digging in my heels, He led me to Job.

Because I was being worn down…to the point of thinking that if I quit being faithful to God, the enemy would let up.

But God intervened, as He often does. At the moment I was thinking of quitting, I remembered Job and how he was tested—and how he didn’t quit.

I imagine Job felt frustrated and angry, maybe worn-out tired. He complained, he cried out to God, and he questioned his suffering.

And then God showed up. Not to condemn Job, but to remind him of His omnipotence.

Job learned that suffering is indeed a part of life…but God was there with him.

Just like He was there with me that night.

Life is hard. But God is with us through the good days—and the bad—giving us strength when we have none…cheering us on when we’re worn down and the enemy is prowling…refining us for His purpose.

Through it all, Job endured. So will I. And so will you.

In Christ,
Laura

[This post can also be read in its entirety at Gloria Dei / Stock photo: Worship at Sunset] 


Monday, May 26, 2014

Comparisons {A Series Wrap-up}


In January, I began a series here called “Comparing Ourselves to Others…and what it does to us.” Today, I’m wrapping up the series.

Over the weeks, guest writers have shared with us their stories—their experiences—with comparisons…what they learned, how they struggled, and even how in some ways comparisons can be good.

I’ve enjoyed reading these posts and thinking about my own experiences. But maybe even more, I’ve liked reading the comments from readers and remembering that every one of us has a story…a story that can touch another person…if we’re willing and brave enough to share it.

If you’ve been visiting throughout the series, thank you for spending your time with me. If you’re new here, you can find all of the posts here: Comparisons Series. And thank you to all of my guests who took the time to write and share their stories.

Is there a particular post you connected with? Something that really made you think, and maybe change the way you compare yourself to someone else? I’d love to hear about it in the comments…if you’re willing to share. J

In Christ,
Laura  


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I Trust You, Jesus

Trust Me at all times. Trust Me in all circumstances. Trust Me with all your heart. When you are weary and everything seems to be going wrong, you can still utter these four words: “I trust You, Jesus.” By doing so, you release matters into My control…. - Sarah Young, Jesus Calling (pg. 93)
There’s been a lot going on since 2014 began—more than I can handle at times most of the time. So, when I read this a few weeks ago, it made me pause.

I trust You, Jesus.

I said it to myself silently. Then I said it aloud.

I trust You, Jesus.

It brought a sense of peace and calmness.

I decided to get specific.

I trust You with today, Jesus.

I trust You with this doctor visit, Jesus.

Jesus, I trust that You will show me what my next step should be.

When I felt myself starting to worry and panic, I told Jesus I trusted Him, and gave Him what was troubling me. I won’t pretend it was easy, or that magically, I skipped through the rest of my day.

No, I had to remind myself to give it to Him. I still do. I’m used to clinging to what’s troubling me. In a weird way, it’s comfortable—I know how to be stressed out and stumble through the day.

But relinquishing everything that I’m worried about and afraid might or might not happen? That’s unfamiliar territory. But maybe it’s not quite as scary as it once was.

Because I know He goes before me. He’s preparing the way before I even step onto the path. And it’s a lot easier to travel without the baggage I’m used to carrying. In fact, I think I like traveling light.

How about you? What do you need to trust Jesus with today?

I trust You with my marriage, Jesus.

I trust You with my children, Jesus.

Jesus, I trust You with my aging parents, and that You will strengthen me to care for them.

I trust You, Jesus with this time of unemployment.

Maybe it’s something else—something He’s waiting for you to let Him take care of.

Are you ready to hand it over to Him? Not just once, but every time you feel your stomach start to clench with worry.

I trust You, Jesus.
You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock. Isaiah 26:3-4 NLT
In Christ,
Laura 

Photo credit: Stock photo: Boulders


Friday, May 16, 2014

Praising Him in the Midst


All too often, I have trouble praising God in the midst of unpleasant situations. I’m full of praise when I see His work in my life, and I praise Him for the beauty He creates around me. But it’s those times of trials where I struggle.

Praise was my One Word for 2013. So, you’d think I’d have this praise thing worked out. But, I’m still working on it. I think I’ll always be working on it...

Please join me at 5 Minutes for Faith to continue reading.

In Christ,
Laura 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What Every Daughter Needs to Hear


As a mother, there are certain things I want my daughter to know as she grows up. But I’ve realized that as I teach her, I need to remember the same lessons. I’m not just a mom—I’m a daughter too. Whether our earthly parents have been wonderful, or less than desirable, we are all daughters of our Heavenly Father.

So, in this month of Mother’s Day, I’m remembering that I’m the daughter of the King. And so are you…

To keep reading, please join me at Next Level Mama.

In Christ,
Laura 

Monday, May 12, 2014

When We Swap a Never-ending Story for a Fairy Tale by Melissa Deming {Comparison Series}


It's a pleasure to have Melissa Deming here today as my guest in the "Comparing Ourselves to Others...and what it does to us" series. Melissa and I met online this year when she led a Missional Women Discipleship Group I participated in. Both the group and getting to know Melissa are experiences I'm thankful to have had. You can find Melissa on her blog Hive Resources and writing for Missional Women. Please welcome her here today by leaving a comment. ~ Laura

If you held the pen, how would you write your own life story?

Would it be a love story? A drama? Some days I think my life reads like a comedy. As in, I have to laugh to keep from crying! I have five-year-old identical twin boys I affectionately call my ‘twinadoes,’ and every moment of my life seems like it was lifted straight out of a slap-stick film.

Sometimes we view our own life stories and wonder if we got the right script, especially when our plotline takes unexpected twists or turns.

It’s in those moments, when we seem to be stuck in the middle of our stories, that we become the most tempted to steal the pen from God’s hand and rewrite a chapter or two. It’s when our stories seem to derail that we are tempted to compare our stories to the stories of our sisters.

She found her prince charming – what about me, God?

You didn’t seem to write any conflict in her tale, God? Why did you write such a big part for me?

Why did you let such a horrible villain creep into my script, God? Were you not looking?

But swapping our story for another’s doesn’t guarantee us a fairy tale ending. That’s because, the apostle Paul says the story God has written for us is a lavish love story.

In Ephesians 1:1-14, Paul outlines the story of God. Verses 1-6 reveal the main characters of God’s story – God, Christ, and God’s children (you and me). Because of God’s story written in Christ, God’s children come to be called holy and blameless, adopted as his children, and accepted (vs. 4-6).

Our backstory as God’s children, however, is a sordid tale. We find it in chapter 2, where it is revealed that we formerly belonged to another father – the father of darkness. We once were “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:1-3).

But God, being rich in mercy and love, didn’t leave us to our dead-end stories. He wrote a new story for us – a story of redemption (Eph. 2:4-6). God’s story for us speaks of an eternal love and an eternal purpose.

Through Christ, God wrote for us a never-ending story. Our stories are never-ending for two reasons.

First, our lives are an eternal picture of God’s kindness in Christ (Eph. 2:7).

“…that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7).

When we compare our stories to others we make one tragic mistake. We mistake love stories for fairy tales.

But love stories are not ends unto themselves. God has a purpose in lavishing us with His love – our stories are intended to be a stage for the whole world to view the Author’s kindness in Christ.

Ironically, all those twists and nose-dives in our tale have meaning – both today and “in the ages to come…” So, when we’re eager to swap our stories for another, we miss the kindness of Christ who has woven the events of life together in such a way that others are led to the Author.

Second, our lives are never-ending stories because we have an eternal purpose in Christ (Eph. 2:10).

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10)

In verse 10, Paul calls our stories God’s “workmanship.”

The word “workmanship” or “handiwork” in the original language is the word poiema. It is literally rendered “masterpiece.You and I were masterfully created. Our stories – and how God rewrites them for His glory – are epic, eternal tales.  

And as a masterpiece, you were created not just as a good read, but for “good works” – works that were prepared and planned for you long before you were born. These “good works” are proof that God is at work in your life even when it seems he isn’t.

So, when it seems like your story seems to have skipped a page, you can trust that the Eternal God will show you kindness for all eternity. You can trust that the Eternal God has an eternal purpose for you.

When we choose to trust God as the sole Author of our lives, we can trust that our stories have a good end. But in order to get that good ending, we must guard our hearts against trading our never-ending story for the idea of a fairy tale.


*****

Melissa Deming is the creator of Hive Resources.com, a site to help women sweeten their walk with Christ through Bible study, missions & ministry resources, and more. She is the author of the women's Bible study, Daughters of the King: Finding Your Place in the Biblical Story

Melissa and her husband have five-year-old twin boys who are unwittingly and joyfully shaping them into the image of Christ.

Linking up with Sharing His Beauty and Soli Deo Gloria

Monday, May 5, 2014

Embracing Your Brilliance by Mandy Mianecki {Comparison Series}


I'm happy to have Mandy Mianecki here today guest posting in the "Comparing Ourselves to Others...and what it does to us" series. Mandy and I "met" last year through the God-sized Dream Team. She is a true encourager with a passion to see others journey from brokenness to wholeness. You can find her blogging at Hearts Undaunted and God-sized Dreams. Please welcome Mandy here today in the comments section. ~ Laura

It takes mere seconds of scrolling through a Facebook news feed for comparison to set in. Status updates driven home with attached photos bombard us because, unless users are complaining, they're usually posting about someone's accomplishment: theirs, their offspring's, their friends' or their family's.

Whether it's the gourmet meal cooked, organic, gluten-free confection baked, top marks in school earned, new job obtained, or pristine family Easter photo taken, it screams: you are less than!

To be fair, it's not actually a Facebook problem—it's a human problem. We see what others are doing, usually at their best, and assume we must perform identically to be worthy. We assume they have it all together and why don't we?

We follow with a list of all the areas in which we are falling short: vegetables not eaten by the kids, house not cleaned, pounds not lost, dollars not made, personal goals not achieved. It's a quick downward spiral toward being overwhelmed by life and feeling worthless.

But I wonder...what if, instead of jumping to all things going wrong, we listed those areas in which we are making progress and excelling? What if we looked at those things we do well and started doing those things more?

What if we stopped looking at life as a competition and instead looked at it as playing for the same team?

St. Paul tells us that we are all parts of the same body, each one with our own gifts:
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7

What would it look like if we celebrated those gifts instead of judging them? What if we realized that we are together building something beautiful for the glory of God, in a project where all of our different gifts are needed?


I think it's the point at which we embrace the genius God breathed into each of us that we begin to release brilliance into the world. After all, no one can be you like you can.

So, we need you—not you trying to be someone else.

I love how Brené Brown connects the ideas of creativity and comparison in her book The Gifts of Imperfection:
"Letting go of comparison is not a to-do list item. For most of us, it's something that requires constant awareness. It's so easy to take our eyes off our path to check out what others are doing and if they're ahead or behind us. Creativity, which is the expression of our originality, helps us stay mindful that what we bring to the world is completely original and cannot be compared. And, without comparison, concepts like ahead or behind or best or worst lose their meaning."

What is that you're good at and love doing? Is it painting, speaking, writing, connecting, or listening? Do it—and don't worry about what others think about it. We surely need what you have to offer.

And the flip side is also true: refuse to judge or be intimidated by what others do—you surely need what they have to offer!

Someone pretty smart designed it that way.

Photo credit: Dawn (Willis) Manser

*****

Mandy Mianecki is a wife and mom of 4. She’s a coffee-drinker, word-nerd, homeschooling-attempter and contributing writer at God-sized Dreams. She is passionate about encouraging others in their healing journeys from brokenness to wholeness; in uncovering their unique kind of God-breathed brilliance; and in living in the freedom won by Christ. 

When she’s not writing, Mandy is still dreaming God-sized dreams, which usually involve making art, wearing turquoise, and eyeing a nearby jar of Nutella. She blogs at Hearts Undaunted, and you can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Life. Is. Messy. {Five Minute Friday}

John 12:46 NLT
It’s been a while since I’ve participated in Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday, but today’s word caught my attention…Mess.

Life. Is. Messy.

We live in a sinful world with sickness, anger, loneliness, temptation, self-interest, and feeling like we have to do it all ourselves.

When I rely on myself, I try to control the mess. I tiptoe through and around, thinking I can find my way.

But a messy life can’t be controlled—not the way I would like—with order in the chaos and certainty in what I’m doing and where I’m going. The more I try to leap over the garbage of this world and sidestep the mounds of trouble, the more lost I become.

Until I can’t see any more to find my way out.

But there is a Light.

Not a light at the end of the tunnel, but the Light in the midst of the mess.

Jesus

The Light who finds me and says Walk this way.

Jesus who came into the mess for the lost and the sinners.

Jesus who came for me. And for you.

To guide. To protect. To comfort.

To walk us through our messy lives.

Today. Tomorrow. Forever.

In Christ,
Laura