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Am I Living By Faith or By Fear?

Take the first step in faith.  You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.  #quote Martin Luther King

Recently I finished a Bible Study Habakkuk by Moody Publishers by Dannah Gresh.  At the same time I read a You Version Bible Plan Hope in the Dark by Craig Groeschel which also followed in the book of Habakkuk.  I didn’t realize the plan would be about Habakkuk as well, but how amazing when God orchestrates His plans.

The book of Habakkuk is in the Old Testament and only three chapters long, but it is packed full of godliness and wisdom.  Each chapter has an important pattern of ask questions to God, WAIT, and Praise.  The chapter starts out with Habakkuk crying out to God, asking why all the violence, all the iniquity, injustice (Habakkuk 1:2-5)?

God responds-

This study was so timely for me.  I’ve been working in the COVID ICU’s taking care of very sick patients.  I wouldn’t wish what I do or see on anyone.  All of it is so heavy and hard to watch over and over.  I feel like Habakkuk, looking around seeing all the suffering, the injustice, and loss of life at the hands of a violence but in my case a virus.  I can just picture him on his knees before God crying out, ‘how,’ ‘why,’ ‘when?’  It’s hard at times not to focus on the fear of it all, am I next?  Am I exposing others? How many more will suffer? When will this all end?

It can be difficult to see that God will use all of this pain and devastation for His greater work in us and the nations.  It’s hard to believe God will use all this to strengthen our faith when we wait and trust in His timing.  Physically, logically my brain can’t comprehend what is going on around me, but by faith I don’t have to have it all figured out and answers to all my questions.  The only thing I need to know is God’s outcome is loving and good.

I admit there are times I have to catch myself and question, Am I Living More in Fear or in Faith? Click To Tweet

Being honest, I’ve focused a lot on my fears of what surrounds me.  It FEELS as though God has left and I’m walking through this battlefield ALONE, just waiting for the explosion to go off.  BUT I KNOW, these thoughts come from a place of FEAR.  They are NOT God’s TRUTH or what He PROMISES US.

It’s easy to look around at what the world is doing and Fear there will be more spread of the virus.  People are at their wits end and just want to be TOGETHER.  I believe God doesn’t want us to LIVE in FEAR, but He wants us to also practice Discernment and Wisdom.  He wants us be in community to support one another by giving empathy and compassion.  God is the creator of universe and science. We will all have a different opinion and comfort levels on what we believe is safe for our health and well-being and that’s okay.

It's Not my JOB to FIX the outcome, control people, or take away others' FREE WILL. My Job is to Love them and Trust God's outcome is BEST. Click To Tweet

When the world of chaos feels out of control, I have to stay anchored, centered, and grounded in the ONE who IS in CONTROL.  The balance of trusting, surrendering, having faith, and standing firm can be a fine line to walk.  My HOPE will never be found in the ability to figure it all out.  When I CHOOSE to LIVE in FAITH and not by FEAR, there is always HOPE.  When I TRUST and ALLOW God to GROW my FAITH way beyond anything I could ever do on my own.

He is the God of HOPE.  He is the God of PEACE.  You are loved.  You matter.  You are KNOWN to God.  What you are going through Matters and He will use for all for His good.

“His splendor covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.  His brightness was like the light;  rays flashed from his hand;  and there he veiled his power”. Habakkuk 3:3-4

I will ask.  I will wait.  I will praise.  Just like Habakkuk.  My faith will carry me and  take me further than any amount of fear can.  When I am troubled by what surrounds me.  When I waiver at the battle before me. I remember the one who has it all in His control.

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10 Bible Verses About Grief

With so much going on in the world, it seems everyday we wake up there’s something new we have to grasp about realities we don’t want to face.  Or we just want a break from what’s going on around us.  We are not in control and have no say in what’s happening which can be HARD.  We may not like what’s going on, but I know God is still doing a great work in us.  He still loves us, wants the best for us and will never leave us in all this mess.  He’s refining us and using this chaos for His greatness.  Even though we know all of this, being real with the heaviness of our struggles is a necessary process to go through.  We can’t pretend our struggles aren’t our struggles for them to magically go away.  Stepping into the pain of our struggles with Jesus is our best chance at healing and peace.

Grief is on the rise especially now with all who are sick and with holidays coming up.  I want to acknowledge your grief–I am so sorry for what you are going through.  I pray for God’s healing and hope to fill you and for your willingness to let Him walk you through your pain.  Losing a loved one is never easy nor is dealing with grief.  Holding on to God’s promises of what He’s able to do will allow more room for God’s HOPE to be working in our lives.

Here are 10 Bible Verses About Grief:  That will Provide More Hope and Healing

  1.  “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33- I love how this verse says we won’t have difficulties here on this earth but it is possible for us to have peace in Jesus despite what we’re going through.  No matter what happens in this life Jesus has overcome.
  2. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  Revelations 21:4-  This verse gave me so much comfort after our son passed away.  Grief can be so hard and painful.  One day there will be no more pain, crying, or mourning in heaven.  This life is so short compared to the eternal life we will have in heaven.  God is taking care of our loved ones and that is so comforting.
  3. “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”  John 16:22-  There will be times the pain of missing our loved ones is so great.  This verse is a great reminder there will be times to grieve and times to rejoice.  When we have Jesus to walk through this journey with us, nothing can take away our joy.

 

4.  “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:  a time to weep, and a time to laugh;  a time to mourn, and a time dance;”  Ecclesiastes 3:1,4-  I love how this verse depicts the highs and lows of the seasons of our lives.  There will be times we’re weeping then laughing, then mourning then celebrating.  The emotions and feelings we go through don’t limit us from being able to still experience the joys in life, but are necessary to go through the process of our new normal.  Learning how to embrace the roller coaster ride grief, instead of being in a constant state of wrestling is a good place to be.

5.  “When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.  The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and save the crushed in spirit.”  Psalm 34:17-18-  This verse has helped me so much.  When I’ve felt at my lowest point of brokenness I’ve repeated this verse to myself so many times.  I’ve never felt closer to God during my times of brokenness and heard Him so clearly.  He is with you in your times of hurting and will never leave you.

6.  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose”  Romans 8:28- I love this Bible verse so much, our family had this verse engraved in our son’s headstone.  This verse reminds us there is no pain without a purpose.  God doesn’t waste anything.  He is always working for our good, no matter what.

7.  “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us”. Romans 8:18-  Nothing that happens in this life can compare to the life that God has prepared for us.  He cares about every hurt, every pain, any suffering we go through.  There is nothing we go through, Jesus hasn’t been through already.  He would never allow us to go through what we go through without having a plan for our pain to turn it into something better.

8.  “In the same way I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born,” says the LORD. “If I cause you the pain, I will not stop you from giving birth to your new nation,”  says your God” Isaiah 66:9 NCV.  In the same way childbirth is painful, the birth of a new baby is worth it.  No one gives their baby back and says no thank you that was too painful.  The birth of something new, the joy you receive in the new birth, far outweighs the pain we go through to birth it.

9.  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”. Matthew 5:4-  It is so comforting to know God is with us when we mourn.  He is close to us and is there for us in our sorrows.

10.  “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is see, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18-  The struggles we go through when we are dealing with grief are hard, heavy, and painful.  God doesn’t want us to have pain, but knows the path towards eternal healing.  Any pain we go through He knows how to heal us!

Grief can be all consuming and overwhelming.  There is no pain God can’t heal.  Learning to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, focusing on what He’s able to do even when we can’t see it, allows for His eternal hope and healing.  God is able.  He is in the business of all things eternal.

Are you struggling with grief?

What Bible verses give you hope and healing?

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What Does the Bible Say About Self-Care?

Do you struggle with taking care of yourself or putting your needs as a priority?

Taking the the time to preserve our mental, emotional, and spiritual health is HUGE right now.  Any normalcy or routines of life we’ve had before 2020 have drastically changed for a time frame unknown.  That in itself, the unknowing what to expect, the outcome of all of this causes heightened anxiety!  It seems harder and harder to catch a break from all that’s going on in the world to escape the realities of what’s going on around us.  

I recently had the privilege of being apart of the 2020 Christian Women’s Virtual Self-Care Conference.  I was one of the 55 plus women speakers teaching workshop from body image, to eating right, to taking care of the forgotten areas of our hearts.  I was beyond blessed learning from these women and the messages God had given them to pour into others.  The main takeaway of the whole conference was God places high priority on self-care.  Jesus modeled this for us while he was here on earth.  

Self-Carr Bible Verse

Jesus Himself teaches about self-care #selfcareClick To Tweet

What Does the Bible Say About Self-Care?

In the gospels, there is a pattern, there’s a message, then a miracle, a message, then a miracle.  In Luke 5:16, Jesus withdrew to a lonely (desolate) place to pray.  Why?  Because he had just healed a man with leprosy.  The news spread of Jesus’ ability to heal and the people wanted more.  Jesus retreated because He didn’t come to earth for people to ONLY SEE the miracle of HIS HEALING.  He also wanted them to HEAR the message of HIS TRUTH, that He came for people to have life and have it to the FULL.  Seeking ONLY the miracle doesn’t allow for growth within us.  Jesus didn’t come to earth to DWELL among us to show off, or perform a bunch of miracles.  He came so we could also hear His message of joy, love, peace, hope, freedom, and salvation.  When the crowds came looking for Jesus, He retreated.  

We as well, can retreat to places of solitude and prayer to replenish, be restored, hear God’s voice and just be still with HIM.  We don’t have to keep performing, doing more to earn His love or to love us more than He already does.  Investing in ourselves so we can invest in others will reap rewards more than we could ever imagine.  

What Are You Struggling With?

Are you struggling with procrastination, self-doubt, and apathy right now?  Then you may need a boost in your dopamine levels.  Dopamine is the reward hormone in your brain that motivates you to achieve your goals, reinforces good behavior.  When all things life related are converted to on-line or cancelled, when decrease our dopamine ‘hits,’ that keep us motivated!  When procrastination seeps in (like it does for me), and you’re feeling unmotivated, set your goal and reward yourself at the end (like put a book you want in your amazon cart and buy it when you’ve reached your goal).  It will keep those dopamine levels up!  

Are you struggling with loneliness and depression?  Chances are your serotonin levels may be decreased.  Serotonin is our happiness hormone and makes us feel significant.  When activities and celebrations get cancelled, our happiness levels levels go down when we don’t have much to look forward to.  Increasing your Vitamin D intake by either supplements and/or UV light has been proven to improve serotonin levels.  

Are you struggling with stress, strained relationships, and decreased immunity?  Oxytocin may be the culprit.  Oxytocin is the ‘bonding hormone,’ which creates intimacy, trust, and builds healthy relationships.  We need each other.  We were meant to be together.  We miss out on those human connections and interactions when we have to be isolated.  This is why there has been a puppy surge and all the SPCA’s are empty.  Petting an animal increases oxytocin levels!  Experts recommended to maintain oxytocin levels by giving 8 hugs a day!  

The burnout we are all experiencing is real and need to find ways to reduce our stress so we don’t cause further damage to our bodies.  How we treat ourselves matters and to those around us.  Your family needs you.  Your loved ones need you.  Be gentle with yourself and others at this time.  These are some stressful times.  Being real with how the pandemic is affecting us is crucial to our well-being.  Emotional honesty is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.  If you’re feeling lonely reach out to someone, pick up the phone, be intentional, let someone know how you’re feeling.  Are you feeling depressed, increased anxiety, overwhelmed?  Ask for help.  Don’t wait for a break down to happen to take care of yourself.  

God is in control.  He is the greatest Restorer and Healer.  Trusting in what He is able to do is vital to our overall well-being.  You are loved. You matter.  You are worth it.  Want to know more what the bible says about self-care here are 100 Bible verses about Taking Care of Yourself by OpenBible.info.  

Give yourself permission to take care of you. You won't regret it. Click To Tweet

Do you make self-care a priority?  How or in what way?

Are you able to give yourself the gift of emotionally honesty?

Did you miss the Self-Care Conference?  Watch the Re-cap Below of the conference’s highlights.

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Why Is It So Hard To Heal?

Hello!  It’s been a while.  I’ve been taking a much needed break this year from blogging to concentrate on a deficient area of my life, self-care.  A moment of honesty–there were areas of my life I didn’t realize needed healing and attention.  I kept hitting walls that wouldn’t allow me to move forward or I would build walls to protect me from any hurts in my life.  There would be times I was losing a grip on keeping my sanity and serenity in a healthy place.  I had to ask the question, Why did this keep happening?

Well, nothing changes when nothing changes.  I had to be real with the adversity in my life.  I couldn’t ignore emotional scars from my past or traumas that trickled into the hidden corners of my relationships in my life.  Whenever a trigger or hardship evolved these past hurts hiding in the corners came out like a raging river.  Over these past months and years, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research on how adversity changes the emotional landscapes of how we cope and heal.  I’ve had to look within myself and do some self-discovery of why am I the way I am?

Growing up a horrible lie was born into my life, I wasn’t wanted. Nothing my parents did make me feel this way, but it’s the message I received because of my circumstances.  My parents were very young when my sister and I were born, divorced by the time we were two, we lived with my grandparents for a couple of years until my father remarried and we moved back in with him in our new family and visited our mother on the weekends.  We didn’t talk about our problems or address them much because no one knew how.  My parents are a byproduct of my grandparents who grew up in the great depression where you don’t complain and you just kept going.  Problems or mistakes were to be hidden so no one knew our flaws.  No one talked about the fact there was mental illness and struggles with alcohol that affected our family.

“Am I a God at hand, delcares the Lord, and not a God far away?  Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him?  declares the Lord.  Do I not fill heaven and earth?  declares the Lord”. Jeremiah 23:23-24.

No wonder why it’s so hard to heal!?!?!  No one likes to talk about their flaws and problems.  But it’s such a necessary step in accepting how God made us and how He will use our circumstances for good.  I became really good at hiding from what was hidden beneath the surface for so many years.  I was a people pleaser.  Helping others and pleasing people became my hiding place.  If I could please others and make sure their needs were met, I didn’t have any problems.  If I could fix, solve, save, or rescue others from their problems then I was good.  The problem with this method of dealing with problems was I wasn’t dealing with my own problems.  I wasn’t depending on God to mend my hurts, I was co-dependent on others to mend me.  This method will never serve anyone well in the end, because it bypasses Jesus and doesn’t allow Him to be the Mender and Healer.

There is only One Healer and He is Jesus.Click To Tweet

It wasn’t until I started counseling, I discovered I was a co-dependent.  I had developed unhealthy coping mechanisms to get my needs filled, to heal the wound I wasn’t wanted, which gave birth to other lies I was inadequate, not good enough.  I was a mess.  I had to unravel years of dysfunctional unhealthy behavior.  It has been very hard to peel back those layers, but so worth it and necessary in my healing process.  If I wasn’t willing to go beneath the surface and ask the question of why I do what I do, did things start to change for me?  I had to identify I wasn’t really putting my trust in God when I was going ahead of Him trying to heal myself through others.  I had to acknowledge there was a difference between just treating symptoms to get by or really do the work to heal.

We will never discover the fullness of our worth when we hide from God's healing.Click To Tweet

“Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed;  save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise” Jeremiah 17:14

What you do isn’t who you are.  The effects adversity has on our lives is real.  Even if you don’t have a life born into adversity there still are stressors and hardships that make life difficult.  Being real with who you are in how God made you and learning how to maneuver through the adversity in your life is crucial.  I want to introduce to you the ACE score. It stands for Adversity Childhood Experience.  This score is on a 10 point scale, 10 being the most and 0 being the least. The higher your ACE score before the age of 18 determines based on statistics whether you are more prone to criminal activity, alcoholism, mental illness, and other chronic diseases.  Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, a pediatrician, and California Surgeon General has dedicated her life work to adversity and making it apart of integrative health, looking at the person as a whole, getting to the root of underlying issues, not just treating symptoms.

My ACE score by the time I was seven years old was a six.  My score put me into a very high-risk category or being susceptible to a whole slew of addictions and chronic illnesses.  Dr. Burke explains the neuroscience behind our stress, adversity, and why we do what we do.  She also explains why it’s so important to lower our ACE scores so we can leave behind a healthy legacy for the next generation.  I encourage you to take the ACE quiz to see what you score.  To take the quiz click here.

You are loved, my friend.  You are worth it!  You are an overcomer in Christ.  Your circumstances and adversity don’t define you, God does.  You are known in his love.  We don’t have to hide from who we are in Christ, praise God for that!

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Do you struggle with co-dependency(aka self-love deficit?  I would love to hear from you! Leave your comments below!

Self-Care conference

Need a Break? Do you feel like this world is getting more chaotic and you just want some peace and rest?

I am so honored to be one of the 50+ Women Speakers at the 2020 Christian Women’s Self-Care Conference.  There will be live workshops filled with lots of much needed goodness!  And get this, it’s FREE!!!!!! (But for a limited time only). Take advantage of watching this conference in the comfort of your own home.  Take time for yourself.  Learn what areas of your life could use a little healing and attention.  I am excited about my workshop:  You are Known:  Loving Yourself Well which will be on day three and I address the struggles of co-dependency.

To register either Click Here or on the image.  To view, a complete list of speakers and workshops click on the link at the bottom of the page near the registration button.  Make sure to join me over the next 12 days on Facebook and Instagram.  I will be doing LIVE chats and giveaways!  Let’s get the conversation started!

What area of your life do you need the most self-care?

 

I am so excited to see what God will do in your life through this conference.  Please share in the comments and start a conversation.  You are loved, my friend!

 


3 Ways to Have More Joy in 2020


 

“The best news in the world is that there is no conflict between your greatest possible happiness and God’s perfect holiness. Being satisfied with all that God is for you in Jesus magnifies him as the greatest treasure and brings you more joy—eternal, infinite joy—than any other delight ever could.”  John Piper

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s holiday.  I’ve taken a few weeks off from writing and it’s been nice.  We all could use breaks and rest to be able to recharge and be refreshed.  How has your new year been shaping up?  Have you set goals, made resolutions?  Whatever your aspirations are I pray they are blessed beyond measure and filled with joy.

I’ve been reading a YouVersion Bible Reading Plan by John Piper called 15 Days in the Word with John Piper.

He talks about the secret of invincible joy and how our greatest rewards are in Jesus.  This message is something I’ve heard before, but never had I heard joy described as rescued.  Nothing can destroy or take away our joy, even in our suffering when it’s anchored in Jesus.  It is possible to keep our joy protected and safe even in the most painful of times when heaven is the reward.

'Great is your reward in heaven. And the sum of that reward is enjoying the fullness of the glory of Jesus Christ' quote John Piper (paraphrased John 17:24).Click To Tweet

Our greatest fulfillment will always come from what God can provide.  Nothing in this world could ever compete or compare to the eternal joy in which only God provides.

3 Ways to Have More Joy in 2020

1.  Give yourself the freedom to make mistakes and not beat yourself up over them.  To all the perfectionists out there write this down on a notecard and put it somewhere you can see it.  Say this to yourself everyday until this sinks in.  If there is one thing I struggle with, it’s being gentle with myself when I don’t make good choices.  I have a constant message in my head on repeat on how I could have done things better.

Thank goodness for God’s grace.  His grace was never meant to be abused to continue with bad behavior over and over but to help refine us and mold us through Him, not ourselves.  Joy will always be found in what God does in us.  Our mistakes don’t make us bad, they make us human.  God can do so much more with our mistakes when we surrender them to Him, then we could ever do ourselves.

2. Learn how to be emotionally honest with yourself.  Let’s face it, if we struggle with the ability to give ourselves grace when we mess up, we probably struggle with being realistic with our emotions.  Our emotions and mistakes don’t define us but what we do with them matters.  If we’re being honest with ourselves we’re able to own our own stuff and not constantly use blame or criticism to take the focus off ourselves.

Are you critical and judgmental of others?  Do you like to point out others mistakes in front of others?  Do you create chaos?  Looking within ourselves we might  discover when we’re critical of others we’re probably critical of ourselves.  Pointing out others’ flaws, doesn’t make your flaws as bad and then you don’t have to focus on yourself.  When you point out others mistakes, you probably aren’t secure with yourself and when other’s mistakes are magnified, no one is looking at your messes.  When patterns of chaos are created, then you don’t have to deal with your own problems when chaos is around.  If you want to have more joy in 2020, learn how to be emotionally honest, it’s the best gift you can give yourself.   Emotional honesty allows us to be emotionally available for others which is very enriching for relationships.

3.  Learn how to ‘BE’ instead of always doing.  Girl, if there’s one thing I could write to my younger self this would be it.  I’m ashamed to say how much of my energy has been wrapped up in doing, performing, and achieving.   Again if my focus was on the accomplishment I didn’t have to focus on myself.  Somehow my identity got tethered to these things and life became about doing.  God didn’t make human doings, he created human beings.  We were created ‘to be.’    We can be free in how God made us when we learn how to be.

We don’t always have to be the solution to every problem, the rescuer or savior (roles that were never meant for us in the first place).  Learning to be, means learning how to have balance when there are problems in your life.  Being means learning how to have more empathy for others when they are going through hard times.  Learning empathy allows for more compassion to be in our lives.  God wants us to learn how to BE love not DO love.  When we do, we put our own efforts into it and bypass God.  When we be, we allow God to work through and within us so His love overflows not the other way around.

Do you struggle with giving yourself grace when you make mistakes?

Are you able to be emotionally honest with yourself?

Do you struggle with being instead of doing?

Me too.  You’re not alone.  I struggle with every single one.  This is the beauty in our journey when we EMBRACE THE PROCESS.  It’s not about being perfect, getting it right all the time, it’s about learning to be well and allowing God to use EVERYTHING in His time.

How about you?  Do you desire to have more joy in 2020?  I do.  Learning to trust in the process God has put forth will always allow for His abundant joy to fill us, satisfy and complete us more than we could ever imagine.

Are you able to receive God's joy in your life?Click To Tweet

How can you have more joy in 2020?

Did you enjoy this blog post? Please share with others! Want more encouraging messages sent right to your inbox? Subscribe to my blog and receive a weekly Monday Message or like my Author Facebook page to catch the latest posts.  Have a blessed week!

I would love to hear from you! Leave your comments below!

I will be taking a little break from blogging to be able to work on a project that God has been pressing on my heart.  In order to be obedient to what God has for me, I need to be realistic with my time.  I may post a new post from time to time, but it won’t be weekly.  I will keep you posted on what I’m doing and thank you all who read and subscribe to the posts, it means so much to me.  I am grateful.


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You Are Known And Loved

Are you getting ready for Christmas?  I don’t know about you, but every year I get caught off guard with all the preparation to get ready for Christmas!  It seems no matter how much I plan, there is always something to get ready for.

The busyness of Christmas can be distracting and overwhelming to our hearts because of all the extra stress the holidays add to our plates.   Before we know it we are missing out on the very reason why we celebrate Christmas.

You Are Known And Loved.

A prophet named Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David!  Is it not enough to try the patience of men?  Will you try the patience of men?  Will you try the patience of my God also?  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign:  The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (God with us)” (Isa. 7:13-14).

In the verse above, the Prophet Isaiah was preparing our hearts for the arrival of Jesus.

Have you ever felt not seen or heard?

Two thousand years ago a peasant girl named Mary might have felt this way until …….

Luke 1:26-35….”God sent the angel…to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David.  The virgin’s name was Mary….

Mary was just a young peasant girl who was about to be married.  Why would God choose her?  The angel Gabriel tells Mary, “Do not be afraid, you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30).  The Greek word for highly favored is charis which means grace.

God had found favor in Mary and bestowed a special honor on her.  God sent an angel to prepare Mary’s heart for God’s greater plan.

Gabriel, the angel prepares Mary’s heart, that she will be with child and his name will be Jesus.

Gabriel goes even further and tells Mary five things about her future son.

1.  He will be great.  Luke 1:32

2.  He will be called the Son of the Most High. Luke 1:32

3.  He will be given the throne of His father David.  Luke 1:32

4.  He will reign in the house of Jacob forever.  Luke 1:33

5.  His kingdom will never end.  Luke 1:33

“How will this be,”  Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”  (Luke 1:34).  This is what I love about Mary.  She doesn’t question the fact that the Messiah is coming, but rather that she would be used as a vessel for his arrival, a young virgin peasant girl.

She didn’t doubt or question God’s plan, instead asked how will this even be possible since she is a virgin?

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…”  (Luke 1:35).  

I don’t know about you, but I want a heart like Mary’s.  A heart that is ready to trust and receive God’s promises. Mary’s heart welcomed the angel’s message, by submitting her heart almost immediately after hearing his message!

She didn’t let her doubts or fears get in the way of God’s plan.  She allowed for God’s greater plan to happen through her, by submitting her heart to God.

How wise was Mary’s heart to recognize this message could have only come from God Himself?

Mary heard the message of God’s promise, and her heart of faith was reassured by the words, “For nothing is impossible with God”  (Luke 1:37).  She even uttered the words, “I am the Lord’s servant, May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).  No wonder God found favor with Mary.  God already knew Mary’s heart before He chose her.

I want a heart like Mary’s.

Can you imagine if Mary didn’t allow for God’s greater plan to happen and allowed her doubts and fears to get in the way instead?

Have you ever allowed your doubts and fears get in the way of God’s greater plan?

I have many times.  I wonder how many times has God sent me a message I didn’t recognize was from him.  Letting me know I am known and loved and I just ignored Him?

Friend, you are known and loved by God who loved you first.  This Christmas before we allow busyness and distractions to take us away from the true meaning of Christmas, let’s stop and allow God to prepare our hearts for His greater plan.

There is a fullness of joy when we stay present in the presence of Jesus.  We can rest assured—that His peace will fill our hearts with JOY and will fill our souls with PEACE, when we allow for God’s greater plan to happen through us.

A heart prepared is a heart ready to receive God's promises of peace, hope, and joy. Click To Tweet

Do you struggle with being known and loved by God?

If God sent an angel with a message to you, “Do not be afraid.”  Would you go where God was asking you to go?

Prayer:  Dear Lord Jesus, thank you God for your greater plan.  Thank you God for Jesus and preparing a place in heaven for us.  We pray we will have a heart like Mary’s, one that is obedient, faithful and trusting of your plan even when we don’t understand.  Prepare our hearts Lord for your greater promises.  We pray we will not get in the way of your plan but allow your greater plan to happen through us.  We pray for your will and ways to be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Help us not be afraid like Mary and allow for your greater promises to fill our hearts.  Help us stay present in your presence this Christmas and focus on the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus.  In Jesus name, Amen.

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I would love to hear from you! Leave your comments below!  Would you like to know more about the Christmas story!  Join me next Monday as we learn more about what the Christmas story means to you.  

Martin, J. A. (1985). Luke. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 205). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Why Do Wise Men Seek Jesus?

Have you ever been behind the scenes to a concert or TV/movie set? Going behind the scenes really gives a different perspective of what actually goes into producing a live performance or show. You get so much more in-depth information and details about the performance going behind the scenes.

Prophecies in the Bible do the same thing–they give us a behind the scene glimpse of what is to come. The Christmas story is the fulfillment of many prophecies foretelling the birth of our Savior.

In Micah, we learn Jesus would be born in the town of Bethlehem.

In Isaiah, we learn Jesus would be born a king of the line of David and that a child would be born of a virgin.

One of my favorite prophecies of the Christmas story is in Psalms, when we learn Kings would bring him gifts and fall down before him.

Psalm 72:10-11 “The kings of Tarshish and of distant shores will bring tribute to him; the kings of Sheba and Seba will present him gifts. All kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him.”

Over 2,000 years ago there was a lot going on behind the scenes of The Christmas Story. Baby Jesus had already been born in Bethlehem and the Magi had already set out on their journey following the star that had come from the east (Matthew 2:1-2).

Why do Wise Men Seek Jesus?

The Magi were a group of wise men probably from the area of Persia, who were some of the most intelligent men that existed during their time. They studied astrology, maps, and stars things most of us wouldn’t pay attention to.

Have you ever wondered how did the Magi a group of Gentile men, end up in Jerusalem in search of the king of the Jews?

Matthew 2:1-1 “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him”

According to the prophecy in Psalms, the kings were to come out of Tarshish, a land very far from Jerusalem. They merely had one single star from the east as their beacon to guide them to the location of Jesus.

It makes me wonder, how did the Magi end up in Jerusalem?

Did they have copies of Old Testament Manuscripts and closely follow the prophecies that a star shall come out of Jacob and a scepter shall rise out of Israel (Num. 24:17)?

Or did they have a revelation from God Himself?

It amazes me the far distance these non-Jewish men traveled, to worship the newborn King of the Jews and how they recognized the star as the announcement of Jesus’s birth.

The Magi’s question, “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews?” caused the priests and Jewish scholars to provide the answer they were looking for. They referred to the prophecy in Micah, that the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem.

Matthew 2:9-10 “….After they went on their way, the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star they were overjoyed.”

This star from the east was quite the miracle, now leading them to the actual house where Jesus lived! Contrary to what modern day nativity scenes display, the Magi did not visit baby Jesus in the manger the night he was born. Because of the distance of their travels, they did not arrive until months later.

Matthew 2:11 “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”

In Matthew, we see the prophecy in Psalms being fulfilled–kings will present him gifts, bow down to him and all nations will serve him.

Can you even imagine traveling for months, carrying the weight of these treasures, not really knowing where you’re going and depending on a star for directions? Click To Tweet

The Magi went far lengths to not just offer these gifts to Jesus, but to open them in His presence. These gifts were worthy of a king depicting the picture of what one day will be given to the Messiah. The Magi give us a wonderful example of what distance are we willing to go to worship and give God gifts the way He has given us.

Sometimes I think our intelligence can get in the way of facing our issues honestly.  We can rationalize and think we’re smarter and know best, preventing us from seeing what’s really in front of us.  Not the Magi.  They knew.  They recognized the miracle of the new king.

Even the wisest men were seeking Jesus the new king.Click To Tweet

How do you seek Jesus during Christmas?

What distance would you go to receive God’s gifts?

Has intelligence or wisdom ever gotten in the way of seeking Jesus?

Even wise men need Jesus. I hope you enjoyed behind the scenes of The Christmas Story! May you open the abundant gift God has given you this Christmas, the gift of Jesus! Have a very Merry and Blessed Christmas!

Did you enjoy this blog post? Please share with others! Want more encouraging messages sent right to your inbox? Subscribe to my blog and receive a weekly Monday Message or like my Author Facebook page to catch the latest posts.  Have a blessed week!

I would love to hear from you! Leave your comments below!

Would you like to know more about the Christmas story and what it means to you? Message me below, “I want more information,” or message me privately. Merry Christmas!

Barbieri, L. A., Jr. (1985). Matthew. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 22). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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When You’re Identity Isn’t You’re Identity

In case you haven’t noticed, anyone you talk to nowadays has had their DNA tested by some sort of DNA testing company such as ancestry and 23 and me.  These companies make it so easy, just swab or spit into the container they provide and ship off the specimen in the mail.  They are not only able to test what your ancestral composition is but your genetic health as well.

People choose to have their DNA tested for all sorts of reasons.  It could be they were adopted and want to know more information about where they came from.  It could be to find out if their ancestral heritage is really what they’ve been told.  Or they just want to know if they have a variant for a certain genetic disorder.

Whatever the reason, people are curious about what makes up their genetic DNA, because that makes us who we are.

When You’re Identity Isn’t You’re Identity

I recently had my DNA tested and was very surprised to find out what I discovered.  I knew I was Scottish and British and was told my whole life I was Native American.  Well, DNA is DNA and evidence does not lie.  My DNA did not show one drop of Native American blood.  In fact it showed I was 8% African American and 5% Ashkenazi Jew among 13% French German and 2% Scandinavian and Spanish/Portuguese.

I was quite surprised to discover my DNA didn’t show what I was told my whole life.  What I’ve discovered on this journey, is creating a family tree to trace back who your ancestors really are helps.  I have found there is some truth to what I’ve been told and what my DNA shows.

The only problem is once one starts digging into the past and building family trees, one might discover there’s a lot of skeletons in the closet that some don’t want uncovered.

We all have messed up and broken pasts that may reveal ugly parts of our past.  Even Jesus did.  Check out this short video done by Bible Gateway that shows the messed up past of Jesus’ genealogy.  He was related to Rahab the prostitute, King David a rapist and murder, And King Solomon a big time polygamist. Click here to watch the short video.

One might think how can Jesus our Savior, who never sinned have such a messed up past? Click To Tweet

We may want to dismiss our own broken pieces of our past to somehow make us more ‘holy’ if we didn’t have these things as a part of our lives.  But the Bible doesn’t cover up the brokenness of Jesus’ past or anyone for that matter.  In fact, the Bible leads with the brokenness of the most highly esteemed people in the Bible.

To cover up the broken pieces of our lives is to cover up Jesus.Click To Tweet

We miss out on our true purpose and identity when we deny how God made us.  We may not like our flaws, our idiosyncrasies, or even our past mistakes, but it is how God made us and will use everything for His greater plan.

Our brokenness and past mistakes don't define us, our choices and who God says we are does.Click To Tweet

What’s so amazing about Jesus’ history is no matter who we are, no matter what our past reveals he can identify with our messes!

Our identities will never be found in our past.  They will never be found in what we wear or even how much money we make.  They will never be found in titles, the more we have or how many people we know.

Our true identity will always be found in Jesus in who he says we are.  Hallelujah praise God for that!

We all have different genetic DNA, but when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior we all have the same spiritual DNA making us all apart of God’s big family.

“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”  Ephesians 1:5 NLT

We obtain a new identity in Christ when we accept Him as our Savior.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  Galatians 2:20

We no longer want or desire our old ways.

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”  Galatians 5:24

We become a new person in Christ.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”  2 Corinthians 5:17

Our old selves are no longer. 

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  Philippians 1:21

To live in Christ is to gain.

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Phil. 3:8 ESV

Friend, you were made for this.

Your past does not need you, your future does.

You were made and created just the way you are for God's bigger plan and purpose. Praise God our identities aren't in what this world says but in who God says we are. Click To Tweet

Have you ever believed something about your identity that wasn’t true?

What part of your identity do you struggle with?

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Letting Go and Letting God

I will never forget when my family and I went on this one camping trip.  We had a golden retriever named Ginger.  My dad handed my eight-year-old sister the dog leash and gave her the instructions, ‘don’t let go.’  I was standing next to her and a squirrel ran across the parking lot up a tree.  You can only imagine what happened next.  The dog chased the squirrel, the only problem was my sister was holding on to the leash.

My sister was then drug across the gravel parking lot holding onto the leash.  I yelled, “Let go! Let go of the leash!”  I couldn’t believe it.  If a dog who weighed as much as me ran across a gravel parking lot, I would have let go of the leash.  But for some reason my sister held on and endured scrapes and injuries from the gravel as a result of holding on.

This picture of my sister holding onto the leash shows me this is what a lot of us do in life when we are going through hard times.  We think we have to hold on so tightly to what God is allowing in our lives, and just take the injuries along the way.  In reality we have a choice to let go of what we’re holding onto so tightly and allow God to handle it or keep holding onto it and endure more suffering.

Recently,  I was in a group discussion about what it means to “Let God and Let God.”  This phrase is used all the time but what does it really mean to be able to accomplish the task of letting go and letting God?

According to Psychology Today, Letting go means, being willing to allow life to carry you to a new place, even a deeper more true rendition of self. Holding on means trying to push life into the place of your making or be damned

In our group discussion we determined letting go meant, trusting in God that things will get better, to accept the things we cannot change and having the courage the courage to change the things we can.

Letting go doesn’t mean keep holding on and hoping for the best.

Letting go doesn’t mean keep walking around your problems hoping God does his part.

Letting go doesn’t mean sit back and wait for God to do all the work.

Which part do you struggle with, the letting go or the letting God part?Click To Tweet

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”  Romans 8:28 NIV

Letting go might feel like you are walking away and don’t care, but in reality it’s the exact opposite.  Letting go allows God to do his job of what he was intended to do in the first place.  When we hold on, we just get in the way.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland”  Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV

Letting go might mean to let go of expectations or resentment.  Letting go may even mean one needs to forgive to be able to let go of un-forgiveness.  We may even have to let go of the outcome.

One group of people who learned the epitome of letting go, were the Israelites.  They had expectations God was going to deliver them from Egypt into The Promised Land.  God is a God who ALWAYS keeps His promises we just might not agree with His timing.  God delivered the Israelites out of Egypt but not immediately into The Promised Land.

“Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff, so that a great amount of water gushed out, and the congregation and their livestock were able to drink” (Numbers 20:11).

At this point the Israelites had been wandering around the wilderness for 38 years.  Over the years God had provided food, protection, etc. for them time and time again.  This time they were groaning for water complaining they were surely going to die if they didn’t receive it.

Moses and Aaron went before God with their request.  God instructed Moses to take the staff and TELL the rock to yield water.

As you can see in the above verse, this is not what happened.  Instead Moses took the staff and struck the rock twice.  Although there is only a slight difference in what God told Moses to do and what he actually did, this caused a BIG difference in the outcome.

I can relate to Moses.

Maybe he was frustrated the wandering was taking so long.  Maybe he couldn’t handle the Israelites complaining anymore.  Or maybe he held onto pride, let it get in the way and wanted to deliver the water the way he wanted instead of how God intended.

Whatever the reason, we can see God honors our obedience. God says to them, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them”  (Numbers 20:12).  Ouch.  That consequence had to hurt.

Because Moses wasn’t able to let go of frustration, resentment, pride and/or expectations, he acted out because of it and received a heavy consequence.  When we hold on to what God is asking us to let go of we aren’t trusting He is able.

Letting go may be one of the hardest things we do, but allowing God to have whatever we're holding onto is trusting He is able to accomplish anything.Click To Tweet

Letting go will never pull us into a direction that will intentionally hurt us.  Letting go will allow room for God’s original plan in our lives to fill us with His joy, peace and freedom.

What does letting go and letting God mean to you?

Do you struggle with letting go and letting God?

What has God asked you to let go of?

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3 Ways to Be Honest With YourSelf

 

Have you ever had one of those eye opening moments that grabbed your attention?  One of those moments God used to show you a deeper meaning to what is really going on in your life?

The other day as I was reading my Bible study No Other gods by Kelly Minter, I noticed something moving in the corner of the room.  As I looked closer I realized IT WAS A MOUSE!  I had a moment of fear come over me.  How long has this mouse been there?  Were there more?  And then my fear came true, I saw 5 more sightings of the mice scurrying across my kitchen floor!

What I had been reading in my Bible study only moments before, was about being fruitful and multiplying.  And then it hit me.  Is it possible that we can allow the wrong things in our lives to create bad fruit and multiply in our lives, like the mice?

When someone has an infestation of mice, no one says, ‘It’s ok, they can just live here.’  Or, ‘It’s totally normal for the mice to be here.’  Or just pretend they’re not there.  That would be considered crazy and insane, right?

The same goes for our spiritual lives as well.  Why would we allow for crazy cycles of brokenness to perpetuate in our lives and label them as normal or pretend they’re not there?  This is just as crazy as not setting a mouse trap or calling the exterminator.

Unless we step into places of honesty, we can never be fruitful and multiply the way God intended.

3 Ways to Be Honest With Yourself:

 1.  Acknowledge-  We can never learn how to be honest with ourselves when we are trying to pretend we’re something we’re not.  Or when we put labels of normalcy on things that are dysfunctional.  The sooner we live in the honesty of God’s truth, the better we will be able to start growing the fruit in our lives that God intended.  Whatever is going on in your life, be gentle with yourself.  Honesty can be hard, because it often can reveal things in our past we’re not proud of, things we’ve been in denial about, or poor choices we’ve made.

Acknowledgement is the first step in being honest with yourself, one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Click To Tweet

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

2.  Accept-  One prayer I have learned to depend on, is the Serenity prayer.  God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can and the wisdom to know the difference.  Learning to accept the things we cannot control will open a whole new set of doors that allows you to be free from your burdens and circumstances and step into more places of honesty.  Having the courage to change the things that you can, like what you’re exposing yourself to, can free you from the lies that perpetuate crazy cycles.  Seeking wisdom in God’s word will help you discern what’s His truth and what isn’t helping you step into acceptance of your situation.

3.  Abide- “I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit for apart from me you can do nothing” John 15:5.  The more we are honest with ourselves and our situations, the clearer we can hear and discern the voice of God.  When we abide in Him, in His word, we can see His fruit growing in our lives.  There will be joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Learning to abide helps us stay in places of honesty and recognize when there is either stagnant growth or bad fruit growing in our lives and giving ourselves the gift of honesty to say out loud, 'Lord I messed up, I've gotten off track, I need your help.' Click To Tweet

God’s will, will never ask us to lie, hide or go against His will.  Honesty begins with putting a boundary on the craziness of our situations or lives and being open and willing to acknowledge and accept what we can’t control, so we can abide in God’s greatest promises.

Being honest with ourselves, doesn’t allow hidden places of our hearts to stay in places of darkness.  Staying in places of honesty allows for God’s freedom to overflow in abundance in our lives.

The next day after setting the mouse traps, I got up to finish my Bible study.  This time, I did not see one mouse nor did one mouse get caught in the trap.  And then the doubt and the questioning set in, ‘did I really see the mice?’  Just  because I can’t see the mice doesn’t mean they’re not there.

This is what the enemy does to us so many times, ‘Did God really say?’ or ‘Did that really happen?’

Be careful of the enemy’s tactics to twist and deceive.  Don’t allow him to knock you off course and dismantle your confidence.  Stay strong, stay close to God’s words and stay in your places of honesty.  You won’t regret it.

Are you able to stay in places of honesty?

How has honesty allowed you to gain more freedom?

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