Thursday, May 25, 2017

Jesus in a Changing World


Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

I don’t know anyone who loves change. Whether it’s sudden, like the loss of a job, or expected, like a child going away to college, change can be difficult and adjusting to it takes time.

With change comes unknowns and what-ifs. What was normal no longer is, and a new normal has yet to settle in. That’s why I find this short verse reassuring: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 

When everything else in life can change in a moment, Jesus doesn’t change. {Tweet this} He is our solid foundation in a world of upheaval and unknowns.

Please join me at Christian Devotions to continue reading...Jesus in a Changing World.

In Christ,
Laura

[Photo credit: pixabay.com]

Linking up with: Faith on Fire, #FreshMarketFriday

Monday, May 22, 2017

When God Answers with an Oxygen Mask


Have you ever wondered why you can see God’s hand in some areas of your life, but not so much in others? Maybe like me, you’ve even asked Him.

It’s not that you’re not thankful, you just want to know why.

That was a conversation I had with God a few months ago.

The Back Story...

The second half of 2016 was rough. After multiple large, unexpected expenses, loss of my part-time job when my position was eliminated, and ongoing family medical concerns, I was tired. I knew God was walking with me. I’d seen His work along the way. But, still, I was worn out.

As January 2017 began, the one-after-another extra expenses had slowed down. There were still bills to be caught up on, but I began to see some new employment opportunities.

I saw God at work in obvious ways in several areas of my life and watching His plan unfold re-energized my hope.

There was still one area, though, where there was no visible change—my loved one’s medical concerns. Every time I tried to move forward to make something happen, I felt like I hit a brick wall. My efforts went nowhere and I wondered if I was supposed to stop trying.

As I showered and dressed one morning, I had one of my heart-to-heart talks with God. I thanked Him for the opportunities He was presenting—I knew without a doubt He was at work. And in the next breath, I asked why. Why was He helping me and not my loved one? 

Why was I feeling hopeful in one area and hopeless in another?

I knew that He hadn’t chosen sides and that His help wasn’t limited to me, but sometimes what we know and feel don’t work together. {Tweet this}

I'm so excited to be a featured guest at Candidly Christian today! Please join me there to continue reading...When God Answers with an Oxygen Mask!

In Christ,
Laura

[Photo Credit: Candidly Christian]

Monday, May 15, 2017

8 Verses for When You Need to Remember God is Fighting for You

Life often takes me to my knees. Lately, however, I feel as if I’ve barely been able to stand up before it knocks me down again.

I’ve thought about just staying down—playing dead—so maybe the enemy will move on and leave me alone. But, that doesn’t settle well with me. It feels like giving up.

I’m learning though, that it is possible to not give up, but to stay low while I catch my breath. All the while, staying as close to God as possible. Fortunately, He’s not concerned with personal space, so He doesn’t mind if I cling to Him constantly and lean on Him hard. In fact, He encourages it!

I’ve been reminded that the Lord is fighting this battle. {Tweet this} It feels like it’s all on my shoulders, but I’m trying to let Him take the weight from me.

I imagine you might know what I’m talking about…when the weight of the battle feels like it will crush you. Lean in to Him with me. Let Him strengthen you and protect you. He is fighting the battle! {Tweet this}

8 Scripture verses for when you need to remember He is fighting for you… 


The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm. 

Then I said to you, “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.”

He will say to them, ‘Listen to me, all you men of Israel! Do not be afraid as you go out to fight your enemies today! Do not lose heart or panic or tremble before them. For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.

So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

What verse do you turn to when life feels like a battle?

In Christ,
Laura

[Photo credit: Unsplash.com]


Monday, May 8, 2017

9 Verses for Fighting Fear


A few weeks ago, fear creeped in and wanted control of my days. Maybe you know the feeling—when you realize you’re worried about how-will-I and all the what-ifs for today, tomorrow, and 10 years from now.

Fear of the unknown and how-will-this-work-out is formidable. It has the power to affect everything from our moods and how we treat our families, to the decisions we make. {Tweet this}

Fortunately, I realized it quickly…well, after an email chat with a friend who pointed it out. Then, it was suddenly clear. Fear for tomorrow (and all the tomorrows after that) was manipulating me in unproductive ways. {Tweet this}

As soon as I knew fear had a grip on me, I turned to God. I reminded myself that God goes before me. Things will often get harder before they get better, but I know if He leads me down a rugged path, He will be there to help me.

As I felt my anxiety start to ease, I turned to Scripture. I reread my favorite verses that calm me down, and I searched for verses on fear that I was less familiar with.

I don’t always know which verse will make my heart sigh with relief, but God does. He knows what I need to hear and precisely when I need to hear it.

And sometimes, I just need to be reminded of His calming presence…

At once, Jesus said to them, “Don’t worry! I am Jesus. Don’t be afraid.

Here are 8 more Scripture verses to turn to when fear starts to creep in.

But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.

Isaiah 41:10 NLT {Strength}
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.  Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

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.”

Daniel 10:19 NLT {Strength}
“Don’t be afraid,” he said, “for you are very precious to God. Peace! Be encouraged! Be strong!” As he spoke these words to me, I suddenly felt stronger and said to him, “Please speak to me, my lord, for you have strengthened me.”

But the Holy Spirit will come and help you, because the Father will send the Spirit to take my place. The Spirit will teach you everything and will remind you of what I said while I was with you. I give you peace, the kind of peace that only I can give. It isn’t like the peace that this world can give. So don’t be worried or afraid.

Psalm 23:4 NLT {Comfort}
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.

Joshua 1:9 NLT {Not Alone}
This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

What David said are really the words of Jesus, “I always see the Lord near me, and I will not be afraid with him at my right side. Because of this, my heart will be glad, my words will be joyful, and I will live in hope.

What Scripture verses do you turn to when you find yourself feeling afraid?

In Christ,
Laura 

[Photo credit: FreeImages.com]

Monday, May 1, 2017

Don’t Let Fear and Self-doubt Kill Your Dreams


I recently spoke at a women’s event, presenting a 45-minute Bible study I wrote myself. It wasn’t my first time speaking to a group of women, but you might not believe that if you saw my hands tremble and heard the nerves in my voice. Every time I speak, I forget to breathe for the first few minutes. Then, I get into a groove and I’m able to relax. Somewhat.

For years, after I began writing to encourage women in their faith journeys, I wondered if God might ever lead me to speak. I’m not sure why I felt like this was something I wanted to do because holding a microphone made me panic. (And that’s before I even tried to speak into it.)

But God has a unique way of putting a dream in your heart that terrifies you. Those dreams are not meant be accomplished alone. God designs them so that you can work on them together—with Him.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

How often do we forget that wherever He leads us, He will continue to walk with us every step of the way? {Tweet this}

Monday, April 24, 2017

Called to Praise

  
I will praise you every day; yes, I will praise you forever.

Several years ago, my word for the year was Praise. To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled about the word when the year started. Praise felt like a really big word for when really big things happened—which wasn’t every day. So, what was I supposed to do with the word the rest of the year?

What I learned first is that Praise isn’t supposed to be saved for only the really big events or even what is visible to others.

Praise is meant for every day—the little, the ordinary, and what others might not be able to see.
{Tweet this}

Praise is when we honor God by acknowledging Him in everything we do. It’s looking for Him and His work, no matter if it’s a good day or a rotten day. Praise is thanking God in all situations, even when we don’t feel thankful.

Praise when I don’t feel thankful? Yes, because sometimes we have to practice giving praise before it feels natural.

For I cried out to him for help, praising him as I spoke.

Our human nature doesn’t lead us to feel thankful when we’re walking in the valley, but that’s precisely when God can do His best work in us. The hard work of changing our hearts and bringing us closer to Him. And creating a desire in us to want to be closer to Him.

The next thing I learned about Praise is that it’s not just for after something happens.

Praise is also meant to be given before we see His work.

How do I know what to praise Him for if it hasn’t happened yet? Because God is always at work, even when we can’t see it or imagine what He might be working on.

Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me.

Praise Him for being who He is—our God and Savior who doesn’t change on a whim. He doesn’t change the rules. And His love for us doesn’t change because He’s having a bad day.

Praise Him because no matter what we’re going through, we can be sure He’s walking beside us. He leads the way before us and watches over us. Sometimes He stays quiet, but we can trust that He’s there.

In those times I desperately need to feel His presence, I ask Him to let me see Him. And then I look for Him even in the slightest way. It might be in new flower buds, the lyrics of a song, an unexpected phone call or text from a friend, or in the way my day turns around through no power of my own.

My heart is confident in you, O God; my heart is confident. No wonder I can sing your praises!

That year, I learned to praise God for His presence, for His love and compassion, and because no matter what I regret doing today, tomorrow is a brand new start.

Praise Him because when we look for Him, we will see Him. And the more we see Him, the more we will look for Him.
{Tweet this}

In Christ,
Laura

[Photo credit: FreeImages.com]

Monday, April 17, 2017

God’s Healing Through a Song


When I opened the envelope, I thought I knew what it would say. In fact, I was so sure, I was already mentally planning my next steps. But, what I expected was not what was printed in that letter. I was stunned and stuck in the place I was standing.

What I read was good news, but it was also news that would disrupt our world for a while.

It was news that sent my emotions, and my daughter’s, into a freefall. I was instantly overwhelmed with the letter’s implications—the details that would have to be quickly taken care of, the financial risk, and how it would affect every member of our family, including our fur baby.

And did I mention the emotions?

Pouring out what I didn’t feel I had in me, I helped my daughter process through what she was thinking and feeling. Between the two of us, the fear, what ifs, and unknowns were too numerous to count. So were the tears.

I spent the next day making phone calls and confirming details, some I knew and some I’d just been made aware of. I sat at my kitchen table and cried when one piece of news was better than I had anticipated. I knew God had gone before us and was working out the details. And yet, I was still scared.

How could I see God’s hand and all that He was working in our favor and still be afraid? Because I’m human. {Tweet this}

I can be thankful for God’s provision and still feel vulnerable. 

I can trust Him and still be unsure of what my next step is. 

I can praise Him and still cry because I feel so broken. 

And, I can know God is with me and still feel afraid of what I can’t see ahead.

The week before, I’d fallen in love with the song “O My Soul” by Casting Crowns. I turned up the volume every time I heard it on the car radio and decided it was my new favorite song. That same week, I found the CD at the library and checked it out. Little did I know that my new favorite song would get me through my overwhelming week.

“O My Soul” was on constant replay in the car and at work. When I couldn’t listen to it, I heard the song in my head and thought about the meaning of the lyrics. I cried and I prayed. I was overtired and worn out. I wondered if I should stop listening to the song because I couldn’t listen to it and not cry, especially on my way to work. But I couldn’t stop playing it—I knew that one song was holding me together.

And that’s when I realized—God had given me something audible to cling to that only He knew I would desperately need in the days to come. His love and promises spoken to me in the way of music.

When I felt exhausted, I knew He was holding me. 

When I felt empty, He was filling me up. 

And when I was unsure what to do next, He turned me in the right direction.

God was healing me in ways I wasn’t aware I needed. {Tweet this}

It wasn’t immediate, but after a week or so, I could listen to the song without shedding more tears. I felt calmer and stronger. Still tired, but less worried.

There are still many unknowns, what ifs, and how will we? questions. But we’re taking them one at a time and looking for where God has already sorted out the details.

And I’m praising Him and thanking Him every step of the way.

In Christ,
Laura 

[Photo credit: Pixabay.com]

Linking up with: #DreamTogether, #glimpsesofHisbeauty, Purposeful Faith, #TellHisStory, Coffee for Your Heart, Writer Wednesday, Grace Moments, #ChasingCommunity, #HeartEncouragement, Rich Faith Rising, Porch Stories, Faith 'n Friends, #FaithOnFire, #FreshMarketFriday, Grace & Truth

Monday, April 10, 2017

Called to Trust


I’ve been thinking a lot about trust and waiting on God…about how His answers to prayers often come in ways I didn’t expect or ask for, and how sometimes He answers long after the time frame I’ve requested.

When I’m in one of life’s valleys, I have to cling to my faith and trust in God. I have to hold tight to what I know to be true. 

God hears me. He sees me. He is with me. And He is carrying me through the trials when I can’t even see the next step to take.

 The Lord has heard my plea;
The Lord will answer my prayer.

In God’s perfect timing, I opened my Bible to this verse today. It’s what I’ve been reminding myself of over and over lately.

I need to praise God first, before I can see answers to my prayers, because I know that He is at work.

The solutions I think of may not be how God answers my prayers. I have to ask myself—will I only see His hand if it’s in the way I’m looking for? Or will I let go of my ideas and wait to see God’s plan unfold?

While I’m waiting, God is still with me. He strengthens me when I’m at my weakest. He guides me when I can’t see straight. He reminds me that He is at work when I start to panic. Again.

Trusting God isn’t easy. Trust develops over time. As I walk through the desert, I learn to lean on Him more and to look for His presence every day. When the desert stretches on for what seems like way to long, my trust in Him grows stronger. It grows deeper and keeps me grounded.

Trusting God with my heart, soul, and mind gives me strength and peace that does not come from myself. {Tweet this} He calms my fears in ways I can’t achieve on my own.

Faith and trust in God doesn’t mean smooth sailing through life. It means I don’t have to try to navigate on my own. It means I don’t have to have it all figured out. And it means it’s okay when my plans don’t work out, because I realized it was better to go with whatever God has planned.

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; 
the flames will not consume you.

God’s promise to you and to me…He will be with us. No matter what we walk though. No matter what we’ve done.

When we believe God’s promises are for us, we know the Truth we can depend on. Truth that stands the test of time. {Tweet this}

In Christ,
Laura 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Two Book Reviews…and Giveaways!

I’ve written before that even though my daughter is older, we still enjoy picture books. We have our favorites on her book shelf, and on occasion, we’ll visit the children’s section at the library. 

So, I couldn’t help but be excited with the opportunity to review I’m Going to Give You a Bear Hug! by Caroline B. Cooney, and illustrated by Tim Warnes.

This book is so much fun! Written in rhyme, I’m Going to Give You a Bear Hug! pairs different types of hugs with animal personalities. And the illustrations are so, so cute! Between the descriptive hugs and the adorable illustrations, you can imagine what a wet, slippery fish hug might actually feel like.
I’m going to give you a bear hug. 
A show you how much I care hug. 
A good night, 
Sleep tight, 
Way beyond compare hug. 
I’m going to give you a dog hug…. 
- Caroline B. Cooney, I’m Going to Give You a Bear Hug
Whether you have small children or grandchildren, work with children, or just enjoy a good youthful reading experience, I’m Going to Give You a Bear Hug! is a lot of fun to read!

Zonderkidz has generously provided a hardcover copy of I’m Going to Give You a Bear Hug! to giveaway. To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with the book title and your email address in the comment. (More details at the end of this post.)


*****


I’m a month late in posting this review…because, you know. Life. So, perhaps it’s fitting that that’s what this book is about—accepting what’s real when life throws you curve balls.

I knew I wanted to read Choosing REAL, but I enjoyed it even more than I anticipated. Bekah Jane Pogue writes with humor and transparency that had me nodding, and thinking me too!, while at the same time chuckling at her descriptive stories.

Sometimes that’s what we have to do when life doesn’t go the way we planned—cry and laugh. And cling to our God who loves us more than we can possibly know or understand!

“Pain is the most unchosen catalyst to an authentic faith journey.” 
– Bekah Jane Pogue, Choosing Real (pg. 57)

Isn’t that the truth?!? Choosing REAL is one of those books you read with a pen or highlighter in hand. And one that I’ll be pulling off my bookshelf again.

Description from the back of the book: 
In Choosing REAL, author Bekah Pogue walks with us into life’s unplanned circumstances—specifically frantic schedules, pain, transition, feelings of unworthiness, loneliness, and tension—and reminds us it is in these.very.moments where God invites us to notice, respond, and even celebrate an authentic relationship with Him through every.little.detail despite our own efforts or work. The result? A connection between real life and faith so that they are one and the same.
If we still our minds to embrace how REAL God is in everyday circumstances—and when we recognize how He surprises us by using our greatest pains and detours to draw us to a beautiful dependence on Him—freedom and peace replace control and worry. 
Barbour Publishing has generously provided a copy of Choosing REAL for me to giveaway with my review. To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with the book title and your email address in the comment.

Details for both giveaways:

Leave a comment on this post, including your name, email address, and which book you’re interested in, if you should win. Next Friday, April 14, I’ll randomly choose a winner for each book. (Sorry, only U.S. residents are eligible.)

In Christ,
Laura 


Sunday, April 2, 2017

12 Verses for the Gloomy Days


Where I live, the rainy and gloomy days of March have continued right into April. It feels like it’s been weeks since we had a sunny day, and I’ve heard from several people that the weather is affecting their moods and attitudes. As I listen to the rain while I write, I have to agree.

The weather has an effect on us. So does life. Dirty dishes fill the sink, families share the same cold or flu over and over, unexpected household repairs come in multiples, bills pile up, we’re stretched in too many different directions for too long, and…I’m sure you can add something you’re dealing with to this list.

Whether it’s the overcast weather or the depressing days that string together, it takes its toll on us. We become worn out and need to remind ourselves that the sun will shine again, even if it’s only for a few minutes at a time.

More importantly, we need Someone to cling to, especially during the days that take more from us than they give. Someone who doesn’t show up for only a few minutes and then leave again, but Who stays and walks with us through the valley we feel stuck in.

I’ve been searching Scripture for the verses I need on the gloomy days. Here are a few that might help you too.

12 Scripture verses for the gloomy days…

Isaiah 60:19 NLT {Everlasting light}
“No longer will you need the sun to shine by day, nor the moon to give its light by night, for the Lord your God will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.

John 1:4-5 NLT {Life and Light}
The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.

John 8:12 NLT {Light in the darkness}
Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

Psalm 40:1-3 NLT {Trust and God’s help}
I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.

You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Isaiah 9:2 NLT {Light in the darkness}
The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.

Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!

Psalm 119:105 NLT {Light for my path}
Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.

There is hope for your future,” says the Lord.

1 John 1:5 NLT {God is light}
This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.

What Scripture verses get you through the gloomy days?

In Christ,
Laura 

[Photo credit: FreeImages.com]