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]

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

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, Moments of Hope, #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]