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]



Fulfilled Study - Week 5


We have two weeks left in our study of the book Fulfilled by Danise Jurado. How are you doing? Are there particular parts you keep going back to? Maybe a chapter you've reread a couple of times? If you'd like to share, please feel free to leave a comment on any of the Fulfilled posts. 

If you're looking for any of the posts in the Fulfilled study, click on the #Fulfilled label in the side bar on the left.

This week: Read Chapter 8—Perseverance, Chapter 9—Joy, and Chapter 10—Hope (3 chapters, but they are short)

When you finish reading, consider these questions:
  • It can be difficult to persevere through challenging times, especially when there seems to be no end in sight. Do you struggle to persevere when the road in front of you feels long? How do you keep moving forward when you’re tempted to give up?
  • Unlike happiness, joy is not dependent on circumstances or other people around us. Happiness is about us. Joy is about God. What does the difference between joy and happiness mean to you?
  • Danise writes, “Hope cannot be based on our circumstances because situations change, sometimes daily.” (pg. 95)
  • Life is constantly changing, but God is unchanging—yesterday, today, and tomorrow, God is constant. How does God’s unchanging presence help you get through the daily change going on around you?
Have a great week!

In Christ,
Laura

[Image credit: Danise Jurado]