Monday, December 28, 2015

God is Not Bound by One Word

It’s only a few days until the end of the year, and I don’t have my One Word for 2016 yet. I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve kind of asked God about it, but I’m not quite ready to move on from this year’s word—Renew.

Renew felt hopeful…full of possibilities. All year, it’s been my focus and I’ve been looking for ways in which God has brought about renewal in my life. Renew is a positive, uplifting word. Last year, God gave me Let Go for the year, so you can see why Renew was a breath of fresh air.

I’ve been wrestling with keeping Renew for another year or moving on. But I wonder if that’s like trying to put parameters around God’s work.

For the past four years, I’ve had a one word focus, and I’ve trusted God to identify that focus for me. So, clinging to Renew might not be the best idea. Maybe He has a better word in mind for me for the upcoming year, and if I don’t move forward, I’ll miss what He has planned.

And then I realized…it doesn’t matter. God will continue to bring about renewal, just as He always has. I just need to keep looking for it.

A One Word focus is for my benefit, not God’s. He is not bound by one word, or even two. He doesn’t need something to keep Him focused, but He knows I do.

I need the reminder that God is at work, no matter what I can see and not see.

God builds on what He teaches us, and there is always more to learn.

I am still learning to trust Him (One Word 2012), praise Him (2013), to let go of my will for His (2014), and to wait while He renews.

God is always at work. Always teaching. Refining me. Bringing me closer to Him.

I must continue to learn from Him. Listen for Him. And seek Him. Every. Single. Day.

I don’t know what my focus will be for next year, but I know there will be more lessons to learn.

…and that’s a good thing.

What’s been your One Word for 2015? Are you ready to move on to a new word for 2016?

If you’re new to this One Word movement, you can find more information here: #OneWord365.

In Christ,
Laura

Photo credit: FreeImages.com

Monday, December 14, 2015

Reflecting on God’s Presence


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

Reflect

This time of year invites us to reflect back over the past months before starting fresh with a new year.

I’ll be honest…some years I don’t want to look back or remember what the year held. I’d rather it slip out the door quietly while I look forward.

This could be one of those years. It. Was. Hard.

But, I find myself remembering anyway. The good times and the bad. And looking for God in both.

He was there in all of it. And that’s what I want to reflect on.

God’s presence in the time of trouble.

God’s comfort in the midst of turmoil.

God’s protection when I couldn’t see it.

Remembering He was there then reminds me that He is here now. And He will be here tomorrow. And next week. And next year.

Even when I can’t see His hand, He is at work.

Even when I can’t feel His presence, He is with me.

Every day. Every hour. Every minute.

Are you looking back over the year before the next one begins? Where can you see God was at work…even if you couldn’t see it at the time?

In Christ,
Laura  

Photo credit: FreeImages.com


Monday, December 7, 2015

Grace Alone


For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Grace. We can't earn it.

We can't bargain for it.

We can ask for grace, but the moment we think we deserve it, it is no longer grace. If we think grace is owed to us, then we've tried to earn it.

Grace is getting what we don't deserveGod's favor and kindness freely bestowed on us.

Mercy is not getting what we deserve—eternal death.


It is hard to fathom why God loves us with grace and mercy...but He does.


Please join me at LifeNotes to continue reading...Grace Alone

In Christ,
Laura 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Why I Won’t Be Sending Christmas Cards This Year

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of speaking at a women’s event. The theme for the evening was Joy in the Journey, and I asked the women this question:

What perfect plans do we need to let go of this year in order to feel the joy of Jesus’ birth?

December can be a whirlwind of activity…decorating, shopping, visiting, and traveling, while still maintaining home, work, and normal daily activities.

No wonder we get tired and stretched thin.

After the event, I asked myself the same question. What do I need to let go of?

The thing is, I feel like I’ve let go of a lot over this past year. With ongoing health issues in my family, the stress has taken its toll on me. I let go of perfection a long time ago. Things I used to keep up with don’t get done as often, and I’ve stopped feeling guilty about it.

I’ve let myself off the hook, and I spend more time just being with those who need me. (And not trying to multi-task at the same time.)

So, what else can I let go of? Where can I peel a layer (even if it’s a very thin layer) of stress off of my shoulders?

Christmas cards.

Maybe that sounds silly, but it’s the task that keeps coming to mind. Each year, I make a list of whom to send a card too. I always plan to write personal notes, but that usually doesn’t happen. They just end up getting mailed at the last minute because I thought I’d have time…and then I didn’t.

So, this year, instead of going through the charade and stressing over it for the next two weeks, that’s my decision. If you don’t receive a Christmas card from my family…please don’t take it personally. 

Instead, I’m going to think about the Advent season we’re in and what it means. And I’m going to continue to spend my non-multi-tasking time with those who need me.

And…I’ll ask you—what do you need to let go of in this Advent season?

In Christ,
Laura 

Photo credit: FreeImages.com

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Do Over!


I'm pulling from the archives and sharing one of my very first guest posts over at LifeNotes...

Several years ago, I blew it as a mom on Thanksgiving morning. All my daughter wanted was for me to watch the Thanksgiving Day parade with her, but I had other things to get done, and the parade was not on my agenda. 

With a huffy and unpleasant attitude, I joined her in front of the TV. Her bouncy excitement immediately turned to silence while she sat by herself on the couch. I realized how I had squashed her enthusiasm, and all I wanted to do was shout “Do over!”

Remember do overs? As a kid, my friends and I would yell “do over!” anytime we wanted to start a game over or redo our turn. Anyone could shout “do over!” and get a new beginning.

That’s what I wanted—a do over!

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get do overs in life?

Please join me at LifeNotes to continue reading...Do Over!

In Christ,
Laura 

Photo credit: FreeImages.com 

Linking up with: Weekend Whispers, Give Me Grace

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Dwell Here with Me

I’m joining the Five Minute Friday community with Kate Motaung this weekend…5 minutes, no rewriting, and a one word prompt…
Dwell
Dear Child,
Come. Dwell here with me.
You can stay as long as you like, which I hope will be forever.
You don't have to explain why you're here or what's troubling you. I already know. But I'm here with you, and no one listens or understands better than I do. So, talk to Me when you are ready.
Rest here with Me. Let Me strengthen you and give you peace—peace you won't find anywhere or in anything else.
Love,
Jesus
  
Photo credit: FreeImages.com


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Worthy of a Miracle {Guest Post and Giveaway}

I'm pleased to offer my space today to author Linda Kuhar, where I've asked her to share a glimpse into her inspiring story. Linda's new book Worthy of a Miracle releases on November 10, but you can order it now on Amazon.

Please continue reading to the end of this post where Linda has been kind enough to offer a free giveaway of her book!

"When I was diagnosed with cancer and was afraid I was going to die, I wanted my time back. I wanted to undo the days I’d let slip through my hands . . . the slow and sweet moments with my husband, and the simple and silly moments with my daughter. I would sit on my front porch swing with the sinking feeling (the new reality!) that I only had that very hour, that very day. I could not go backward, and I was not guaranteed a future. I just had today.
Looking back, I am finally aware of what a tremendous gift it was to recognize that all I had was that single moment." (Excerpt from Worthy of a Miracle pg.177)
Several years ago I woke up in the middle of the night and this acronym popped in my mind. 


I put it in my cell phone and it stayed there for about a year before I ever did anything with it. Then one day when I was really struggling I pulled the acronym out and started journaling about how it applied to my relationship with God. Little did I know that years later this acronym would be in my very first book, Worthy of a Miracle, 5 Simple Truths for Believing and Receiving God’s Love!

Focusing on today is one of the key points in Part Two of my book. We all struggle in this fast pace world with actually living in the present moment. I personally get so overwhelmed with my "To Do List" and easily stay a day ahead or at least a few hours ahead in my mind continuously.

Do you ever find yourself struggling with the same thing?

After living with cancer, you might think it’s easy for me to appreciate every second of the day and stay focused on the present moment, but that’s not the case. However, there are a few habits I share in Chapter 13 Just Live Today, that help me live in the present moment and stay focused on God’s presence with me. I invite you to try one of these today:
1. Deep breathing—taking time to simply breathe.
2. Thanking, praising, and worshiping God continually throughout the day.
3. Slowing down. Not rushing through my day.
4. Being aware of how I’m feeling physically. Is there tension throughout my body?
5. Listening—to myself, to my surroundings, to God.
I know for me when I’m really connected with God, I’m able to be mindful of every minute, whether it’s talking with my daughter or enjoying dinner with my husband.

My hope is for you too to Just Live Today and enjoy each and every moment. 


*****

Linda, thank you for sharing a bit of your experience with us!

Now, for the giveaway...Leave a comment telling us which Just Live Today habit you might try, or if there’s a habit you already practice that keeps you focused on Jesus. On Thursday, Nov. 12, I'll randomly select one winner from the comments to receive a copy of Linda's book Worthy of a Miracle. (Winner must reside in the U.S.)

***Congratulations Tallulah Jane! You won the copy of Linda's book Worthy of a Miracle!***

LINDA KUHAR is a wife and mother who survived Stage 3 cancer and a coma resulting from a compromised immune system during cancer treatment in 2009. Although doctors predicted she would never walk or breathe again on her own, she proved them wrong. One year after awakening from her coma, she ran her very first half marathon with Team In Training for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

You can find Linda on her website at: http://www.lindakuhar.com, and connect with her on FacebookTwitter: @LindaKuhar, and Pinterest: Linda Kuhar, Christian Life Coach.

Linking up with #RaRaLinkup

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

God-sized Dreams Come in God’s Time


I recently had an opportunity to experience part of my God-sized dream—the part that I had only hesitantly mentioned to a few people and barely put into writing. (I even had to look back through past blog posts to find if and when I had mentioned it.)

The part I was afraid to put out there for others to see? Speaking to a group of women.

It’s hard to admit to a dream when you know it’s far outside your comfort zone and there are so many others who are more qualified than you.

But that’s the thing about God-sized dreams…they are dreams He places in our hearts, meant for a time He decides on.

I'm so pleased to be guest posting at God-sized Dreams today! Please join me there to continue reading...God-sized Dreams Come in God's Time.

In Christ,
Laura 

Monday, November 2, 2015

God’s Gift of Grace


Imagine giving a gift and having it refused.

Maybe it’s happened to you like it’s happened to me.

It was a small gift—nothing major, but something I thought would be enjoyed. The response I received was No thank you; I don’t have anything for you.

My gift was refused because it couldn’t be earned or reciprocated. And it hurt.

I wonder if that’s how God feels when we refuse His gift of grace. 


In Christ,
Laura 

Photo credit: FreeImages.com

Friday, October 23, 2015

Created for Joy


I’m joining the Five Minute Friday community with Kate Motaung this weekend…5 minutes, no rewriting, and a one word prompt (which happens to be a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot lately)…
Joy

God created His children to need Him.

To find our completion in Him.

To find our joy in Him.

Joy is different from happiness.

Happiness is temporary. It depends on others and circumstances.

But joy...

Joy runs deep—right into the heart. Joy doesn't depend on anything or anyone else.

Joy is found in God.

Despite our situation or others around us, joy is always still available to us—when we look for it in Christ, who conquered sin and death so we could reunite with our Father.

And experience joy.


In Christ,
Laura 

Linking up with Five Minute Friday

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Treading Water


I feel like I’ve been treading water in my everyday life for too long.

Maybe you know the feeling of trying to keep your head above everything coming at you and not breathing too deeply on a calm day because you know it won’t be for long.

Thinking about it makes me nervous because I’m not a strong swimmer. And I’m worse at treading water. For real.

In fact, *confession alert* I cheated in high school on my treading water test in swim class. I know, how can you cheat on that, right? But I did.

I stayed near the wall…as in touching distance and kept my eyes locked on the teacher. I kept moving my legs and my left arm while the fingers on my right hand reached out and kept me steady at the wall. She was busy talking with someone, but every time she glanced over at me, my right arm was moving…until she looked away again.

At the time, I’m sure I thought I fooled her, and maybe I did. Or maybe not. Perhaps she knew all along and just didn’t care…or figured it was better than watching me go under.

You’d think someone else would have noticed, but it was a small class and we kind of watched out for each other. Now that I think about it, maybe they were helping me by distracting her.

I don’t remember everything, but I know I didn’t want someone jumping in to “save” me. Again. (Gulp in a little bit of water and start to flounder slightly, and people panic. Don’t ask me how I know.)

So, I stayed close to the wall and survived the dreaded test.

For two years, I’ve been remembering this story as life comes at me in waves. If I couldn’t pass on my own then, how can I possibly do it now? If I think about it for too long, I feel like I can’t breathe…just like when I go too far into the deep end of the pool.

But, lately I’ve been wondering if it’s not me remembering it, but rather God reminding me—and showing me that with Him, it’s different.

Back then, I cheated by touching the wall.

Now, God says, “Here, hold on to the wall.”

God knows how easily I grow tired and weary. He provides the wall to steady myself so I can take a breath. When I float out too far, He guides me back and places my hand back on the wall.

Back then, I thought the teacher didn’t care. 

Now, I know God cares. All. The. Time.

He knows when I’m calmly leaning on the wall for balance, when I’m clinging on for dear life, and when I’ve lost my grip and started drifting away. He is always watching and knows when I need to be lifted up. {Tweet this} (And unlike in high school, it’s never embarrassing to be saved by God.)

Back then, I had friends looking out for me. 

Now, I still have people watching out for me…friends and family God places in my life for reasons that fall into His plans for me and for them.

I’m still not a strong swimmer and I still prefer not to hang out at the pool, even with a lifeguard.

But, with God it’s different. With God, I can take a breath and hang on to the wall for as long as I want. 

And if I let go, I know He’s watching because He is the best Lifeguard a girl can have.

Love, 
God

In Christ,
Laura  

Scripture: Isaiah 43:2 NLT

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Joy Robbers


Last week, I wrote about joy robbers—people or situations that threaten our joy. I thought I was finished thinking about it, but a couple of days later, I realized joy robbers are not new. 

Jesus was surrounded by joy robbers.

The Pharisees

They were constantly trying to test Jesus and trap Him in His answers. When that didn't work, they plotted against Him.
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had arrived, they came and started to argue with him. Testing him, they demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.
When he heard this, he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why do these people keep demanding a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, I will not give this generation any such sign.” So he got back into the boat and left them, and he crossed to the other side of the lake. Mark 8:11-13 NLT

Jesus didn't worry about what they said; He knew the Truth. He knew they would never believe, no matter what He said or showed them. The Pharisees’ verbal attacks never caused Jesus to doubt or question who He was or why He had come.

Jesus stayed focused on God.

Jesus knew His Father intimately, and He was constantly connected with God. 

Where is our focus when criticism and nasty comments come our way?

As hard as it is not to listen and wonder if they’re right, the Truth of who we are is found in God. That is where our focus needs to be to keep the joy robbers from getting to us.

Demands and Expectations

Crowds followed Jesus all the time. How draining must that have been?
The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and taught. Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.
So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone. But many people recognized them and saw them leaving, and people from many towns ran ahead along the shore and got there ahead of them. Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. Mark 6:30-34 NLT

We know from experience that when our time and energy are drained, our joy can slip away from us.

Jesus gave His all. He gave His full attention to everyone He met and talked with, but He also took time to rest (or at least He tried to.)

With all of the demands on our time, and expectations people have of us, how often do we push ourselves for too long without making time to rest? 

Taking care of ourselves isn’t selfish. It’s necessary. {Tweet this}

Human Emotions

Jesus even experienced the joy robbers of emotions. During His time on earth, Jesus knew anger and sorrow. He knew grief.
When Jesus saw her sobbing, and the Jews who had come with her also sobbing, He was deeply moved in spirit [to the point of anger at the sorrow caused by death] and was troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. John 11:33-35 AMP

Jesus didn’t dwell in His human emotions. He turned again to God.
So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” John 11:41-42 NLT
Jesus was in constant communication with God. We can be too. {Tweet this}
                       
What if we determined to follow Jesus’ example? To talk to God right away, before our emotions get the better of us. To pour out our hearts, to ask Him for wisdom and direction, and to praise and thank Him.

Joy robbers change our focus. They take our eyes off of God and direct our focus to ourselves. We worry about what someone else thinks or says, how we feel, or the fact that nothing seems to be going our way.

Joy robbers threaten to take away our joy, but we don’t have to let them succeed. We can choose joy by keeping our focus on God. By remembering who He is and who He says we are in Him. {Tweet this}

*****
Thank you for joining us for the study of the book Fulfilled by Danise Jurado. Thoughts? Please feel free to share in the comments.

In Christ,
Laura 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Fulfilled Study - Week 6


This is the last week in our study of Fulfilled by Danise Jurado. You can still find all of the posts in the Fulfilled study by clicking on the #Fulfilled label in the side bar on the left.

This week: Read Chapter 11—Courage, Chapter 12—Comfort, and Chapter 13—Living Fulfilled

When you finish reading, consider these questions:
  • How often has fear held you back, even if you felt a nudge from God to move forward? How can you draw from God’s courage to keep fear in check?
  • Has there been a time in your life when you knew God was comforting you? How were you then able to comfort someone else?
  • What has been your favorite part or chapter of Fulfilled? Is there a particular way in which reading Fulfilled has helped you?  
Thank you for joining me in this study. I hope it has been a blessing to you. Have a great week!

In Christ,
Laura

[Image credit: Danise Jurado] 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Joy and Happiness


I’ve been thinking about the difference between joy and happiness lately. The two words are used interchangeably, but they don’t mean the same thing.

Happiness is about me. It depends on other people and situations, how they affect me, and how they make me feel.

Joy is about God. It is not dependent on other people or circumstances. Joy is deep contentment found through faith and a relationship with God.

Happiness is superficial and temporary.

Joy runs deep. Joy is rooted in God and cannot be taken away…but it can be threatened. By joy robbers.

Joy robbers are people who not only hurt our feelings, but it feels as if they hurt our heart too.

Joy robbers are the nasty comments meant to knock us off our feet…the people who put others down in order to feel better about themselves.

They threaten to take our joy away, but we don’t have to let them succeed because the power of what someone else says or thinks of us is never more important than who God says we are. 

The power of what someone else says or thinks of us is never more important than who God says we are.

Once we see that for what it is, then we can make a choice. We can choose joy.

Of course, we’re not immune to the pain caused by someone’s nasty comments (especially when they are from someone close to us), but we have a choice. We can choose their opinion, or we can choose God’s opinion.

God’s opinion means infinitely more and leads to joy.

Our own emotions can be joy robbers—emotions that get the better of us, like fear, worry, anger, jealously, envy…. They threaten our joy because these emotions center on us, not God. If we don’t make a choice, they can control us.

Instead of letting our emotions consume us, we can make the choice. We can choose joy.

How? By keeping our focus on who God is, and who He says we are.

The opinions of others change. God’s opinion does not change. He is constant in our ever-changing daily life. {Tweet this}

Choose joy.

*****

If you are reading Fulfilled by Danise Jurado, we are in our 5th week of the study with Chapter 8—Perseverance, Chapter 9—Joy, and Chapter 10—Hope.

How do you persevere through times of struggle? How do you keep from losing your joy and hope?

In Christ,
Laura   
  


Monday, October 5, 2015

Every Little Thing {Book Review}


Over the years, there have been times when I wondered if there was something more. More than what I was currently doing…because whatever I was doing at the time seemed insignificant.

Other times, I just felt lost in what I was doing…I knew it was important, but still there had to be more. There had to be something I was missing.

But just in the last few years, God has been showing me that there is more…and it’s found in Him.

Importance and significance are not supposed to be about me. (Although we all struggle with wanting that, don’t we?) It’s about Him, and through Him, whatever we do does make a difference.

No matter how big or small, public or private, what we do matters. Every. Little. Thing matters.

I didn’t see it when I felt lost as a stay-at-home mom, but I see it now. I see it in my daughter and the time we spend together, even when we aren’t really doing anything.

My friend, Deidra Riggs, has written the book, Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You AreOh, this book! It’s encouraging and inspiring.

It reminded me that…well, every little thing matters. Right here. Right now. Wherever you may be today.
“Celebrating the significance of this one, ordinary, average life shifts our perspective and starts us on the road to God’s adventure for our lifetime. This book invites you to the celebration of every little thing that makes your life spectacularly breathtaking and of the fulfillment of all God has in store.”Deidra Riggs, Every Little Thing (pg. 25)
What seems like an ordinary day to me, is not just same old same old to God. When we follow Him, God adds the “extra,” making the ordinary extraordinary. {Tweet this}

I wish I’d had this book all those days I felt like what I did didn’t matter. Those days I thought no one would notice what I did or didn’t do anyway. God notices. He sees. He cares. Nothing is too little to be seen by Him.
“God sees things differently. With God, the small things matter for bigness too.”Deidra Riggs, Every Little Thing (pg. 149)
Every. Little. Thing. It’s a message we all need to hear…and be reminded of again and again.

Don't miss this! Every Little Thing is available now, both in paperback and on Kindle. And maybe
grab an extra copy for a friend too.

In Christ,
Laura

[Image credit: Deidra Riggs, #EveryLittleThing]