Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Keeping Christmas Simple

Only 9 days till Christmas! The pressure is on! Are all the presents purchased, Christmas cards mailed, meals planned, house in order for company, goodies for neighbors and friends baked and delivered, Christmas programs and parties attended? I don't know about you but it can get quite busy and overwhelming to say the least this time of year.  I honestly have not accomplished my goal of keeping Christmas simple but I'm getting closer each year in my heart anyway. One of my all time favorite quotes from Elizabeth Elliot has always been, "Do the next thing, there are many good things but choose the wise things to partake in".  Simplifying Christmas begins in the heart. It is the desires of our heart that drive our daily decisions and plans.  Gods word tells us that the desires of our heart are either rooted in the pleasures of this world or in  pleasing Him.  Seeking Him first in all we do will drive our desires to align with His will.  This may seem radical to some of you but my vision of a simple Christmas would look something like this:  Instead of attending all the fancy musicals and programs, I would love to be spending my time sharing the Story of Christmas with the many children in foster care or orphanages in our area. Instead of spending so much time deciding on gifts and the purchasing of them, I wish we could combine our resources and give more to missions or specific local families in need.  Instead of always spending all of our holidays with our close families and friends at various parties and events , we could share our time by inviting those around us who are lost and much less fortunate into our homes to love on and share Christ with. I would love to be apart of a celebration that truly focuses on the Heart of our Savior ,which I believe would involve putting into action, plans that focus and prioritize the reaching of the lost around us. Can you imagine what our homes and churches would look like if this was how we choose to celebrate and honor our Savior this time of year! I cant help but think how it must grieve His heart that so much of our time and focus is really not about Him at all. Yes, we may sing and praise and share Him from the choir lofts and pulpits of our churches ,which is all good, but how are we spreading His story  outside of our church buildings? God forgive me for the amount of time I've spent in stores and shopping malls and online looking for just the right presents when so many are sad, lonely, destitute and lost. Simplifying Christmas is  about how and what we spend our time on, which is a reflection of where our heart truly is this time of year. My prayer is that the husbands and fathers of our Christian homes will lead their families in this direction during this season. What an impact on our children and our world this could make! Have a blessed Christmas !

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving Rewind

     As we reflect on our recent Thanksgiving holiday , I cant help but wonder what we ,as the church, did to reach others in response to the abundance of blessings we share.
    Let me back up just a bit and tell you that I just returned from the "woods" of Coleman, Georgia, where I spent the last eight days with my husband, hunting. Now, when I say the woods, I mean we are literally miles from the nearest gas station and or store of any kind.  All you will see when drive through this little town of Coleman is some homes ,one small post office, a church and a blinking light. Oh , and did I forget to mention that there is no cell service unless you are in certain hunting stands, near a tower and clear skies. I'm sure to most of you this sounds like a terrible way to spend your thanksgiving but as I "rewind" my thoughts backward I have truly been able to see all the blessings. Now, mind you, as I am using the outhouse bathroom , I did have fleeting moments of feeling like a true pilgrim!
    I feel like year after year as we celebrate this wonderful holiday we are often missing out on opportunities that we ,along with our children can reach out to others. Now, don't get me wrong, I love everything about Thanksgiving, the incredible food, watching the Macy's day parade and most of all time with friends and family.  But in all of our thanksgivings, like indoor bathrooms, what and how are we responding to the lost, poor and lonely people around us.  Growing up my mom and dad always made a point of inviting a college student away from home or without family over to share in our Thanksgiving day. What a great lesson they were teaching us just through that little gesture. I think what is truly in my heart is that in  response to our many blessings we, the church and people of God, should be inviting the reaching out to the "least of these" more than ever during the holiday season. For example, hosting a thanksgiving dinner at church where "we serve" the meal to the homeless and less fortunate of our communities. Invite them to our homes or family gatherings.
I know this sounds uncomfortable but God did not call us to comfort, He called us to compassion, service and love for the unlovable.  As I was without  my ''comforts of home" this past week my heart was saddened for so many who live like that every day. Lord, Forgive us for not taking the opportunities we have to reach those who are lonely and less fortunate around us. Forgive us for our selfishness in wanting to spend all of our time during the holidays, in the comfort of our homes ,with friends and family when so many are without. Help us Lord to see the needs around us and in response, share and invite them into our lives and families so that we can truly show and spread the message of the Gospel in and through our cities and communities.
" God create a clean heart in me and RENEW a steadfast spirit within me. Do not take me from your presence or your Holy Spirit but restore the JOY of your salvation to me, and give me a WILLING SPIRIT.  Psalm 51:10-12.  
May  each of us begin this holiday season with a renewed vision of how we can change lives through simple acts of serving and loving those around us, remembering the same Christ who gave His life for us, gave His life for them as well!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

When Your Children Suffer

    There is nothing more difficult for parents than to watch there children suffer.  As parents we want the best for our children. We want them to live full, happy and healthy lives.We never want them to hurt or go through difficult times of suffering and heartache.  It is part of that protective  nature God gives us in caring for them. As mothers and fathers we want to shield them from danger or anything that will harm them. When they are young it seems so much easier to protect them because we have more control over where they go and what they do. As we slowly release them into the world we have to relinquish that control and it then becomes more difficult to oversee and protect them from this world and all the evils in it.  
     As hard as it is to accept, our children will suffer and go through difficult trials in their lives.
It is part of the fall of Adam and Eve and the sinful world we live in. "Why is it happening to them?" has been a question I have often asked the Lord in the last 5 years as we have watched our precious daughter and son in law go through much suffering and heartache. "Why Lord would you allow such suffering to happen to two people who desire nothing more than to serve you and love you with all their heart?' I just don't understand?" I admit that often times I have cried out to the Lord in this way hoping for some kind of answer. I also have asked the Lord to take it from them and let us suffer instead. "It just doesn't seem fair". These are all normal responses  as parents so don't allow guilt to set in. The Lord knows our heart and hears our cry.
      Personally, after many tears over the years, these truths from Gods word have been my greatest comfort; "Count it all JOY my children when (your children) encounter various trials , knowing that the testing of their faith produces faith and faith patience. And let patience do its perfect work that they may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." James 1: 2-4.  "Ok Lord so I get that you are perfecting their faith and that you are going to use all of this in their lives for good but when will it end? "How much more can they endure or we endure of watching them suffer trial after trial?" I wish I could tell you that the Lord has given me an end date or answer to the WHY of it all, but I can't. What I can do though is share with you  what the Lord has taught me and is continuing to teach me through His word.  For instance the verse " The joy of the Lord is your strength." Neh. 8:10 began to resonate in my heart in a way I couldn't explain.  His "PEACE that passes all understanding" continues to fill my heart when I doubt what the Lords plan is in all of this. I have begun to see all that has happened and continues to happen in their lives as part of Gods divine and ongoing plan to bring HIM glory!  Knowing that as hard as it is, trials, in Gods eyes are allowed to perfect our faith , all the while molding and conforming us more and more into His likeness in preparation for eternity! There is a bigger picture and plan beyond what we can see that is unique to all who suffer for the cause of Christ. So with all that said, we as parents should welcome the trials and suffering in our children's lives, as backward as it sounds, trusting that it is all apart of Gods purposeful plan for them. We don't have to like it but we do need to pray, help, love and encourage our children in every way possible, all the while trusting in Gods divine sovereignty over every area of their lives. Lord, help us to see all suffering as miniscule in comparison to what you suffered on the cross for us , trusting that our children  are always under the canopy of your grace and love.

Friday, October 31, 2014

When Life Gets Messy

   We have all heard the saying,"When life gives you lemons make lemonaide". Well, its not always that simple. Sometimes the lemons are so bad its impossible to make lemonaide.  The difficulties we face are not always that easy to fix. In fact many of them are so complicated that we cannot see an answer at all. We don't understand why the Lord is allowing it much less His purpose for it all.
    The thing I always tell myself is that we live in a FALLEN world, Sin=Messy.  Messy can be out of our control and difficult to manage. Messy can also cause much grief and sadness, hurt and brokenness.  So what do we do? How do we manage or handle the difficult situations we all will face at one time or another.  Well, first of all 'WE" in and of ourselves are not the best managers and even if we try it often doesn't go like we hoped.  We are called as believers to lay them at the feet of Jesus "Cast our burdens on Him for He cares for us" His word tells us. How do we do this when what we are going through is consuming our lives to the point of suffocation. First, Have FAITH, faith is a calm trust in Christ despite all our trails and troubles.  Second,  LOVE, a reasoned decision and determination to love those who are hurting or have hurt us. And third, HOPE, an abiding trust and patient waiting, knowing that God has determined the future and has a plan that is beyond what we can see on this earth.   Does this make all you are going through any easier? No, but it can provide a peace and joy that is unexplainable and supernatural, and will enable you survive the difficult things you are facing.
    There is power in His word and strength that will come from praying that only we as believers have access too. There have been times in my own life when all I could do was muster up the strength to cry out His name. Just that little bit was enough to sustain me to get through that moment of despair. One of my life verses has been , "The JOY of the Lord is your strength." Neh 8:10  When I have looked back on these messy times I couldn't even explain this Joy, it was just there when I needed it.  This is how our awesome God works,  we are not exempt from trials we are just promised that He will never leave us and will provide the mercy and grace we need to get through it! 
 "These things I have spoken to you, that in me you will have PEACE. In this world you WILL have tribulation but be of good cheer, I have OVERCOME the world." John 16:33. I am so thankful that as followers of Christ, this messy life is just temporary. We are promised an eternity free of all sadness, sickness and despair! To God be the Glory great things He has done!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Do I have to forgive?

       Definition of forgiveness: Using honesty,compassion and self-awareness to reconcile with someone who has hurt you. Martin Luther King once said. "Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a permanent attitude." If we truly want to be loving people then we must learn to forgive. We must forgive the deepest hurts of life as well as the daily offenses of a family member. Whether the offense is large or small, forgiveness requires us to seek reconciliation if our relationships are to have a positive influence in our lives. We are incurably moral creatures. When we are wronged, something in us says;"That is not right, whoever did this is going to pay for it!" True forgiveness can only come when justice and love work together. Living a life of true love requires us to offer forgiveness to those who have wronged us. Forgiveness is so necessary in human relationships because our freedom almost always takes a self centered path. We all have the opportunity to overcome our self-centered natures and learn to live for the benefit of others. That means forgiving those who have offended us . It does not mean ignoring the wrongs done to us. Our sense of justice will not allow us to overlook unloving actions. If it did evil would prevail in this world. Forgiveness is the choice to love rather than demand justice. Our desire for reconciliation should be greater than our desire to get even.
So what should we do when we are wronged? First, I believe we should rebuke (means :place weight upon) the one who has hurt you. Bring it to their attention. Many times the person doesn't even realize they have wronged you. Second, We should always pray and emotionally calm down before confronting this person or persons.
Third, Authentic love requires us to show respect for the other person in spite of what they have done. They are a valued individual that God loves. It is important that we confront the other person with gentleness, truth and an offer of forgiveness. It is important that we do not let our feelings of hurt and disappointment control our behavior. We must rely on the Lord to help us. After all ,He forgave us by giving His life for us. As Christan's we should be the ultimate example to the world of what it is like to truly forgive. This kind of forgiveness enables us to truly be free and in right relationship with not only others but with the Lord. We must do our part then allow God to take care of the rest. Not everyone we confront will be receptive. When we do not forgive the devil in turn uses this to limit our effectiveness for Christ. I don't want anything in the way of my Savior and I . Be proactive in restoring those relationships that are marred so that you can be free to be used for Gods glory in a mighty way. Also, what better to teach and train our children to forgive than to "live it" in front of them each and every day.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Graciousness - A reflection of the heart of Christ

      This is an older post I wanted to re-share with you . I pray it speaks to your heart as it did mine today. Thank you for reading.
 A gracious heart is giving heart. A heart focused on helping others. Do you see yourself as a gracious person? Are you sensitive to the needs of others above your own? God's word challenges each of us to be gracious, kind ,merciful and selfless. He know this will bring real joy and fulfillment into our lives.
    We reflect graciousness through our actions and words.  What we do and say speaks loudly to those around us.  A gracious person may seem  polished or refined on the outside but it is what is in the heart that truly matters. Graciousness reflects Christ and a heart committed to His love for mankind.  It happens as we are being conformed to His image through time in His word and prayer.
   What does it look like? It may be watching children for a an overwhelmed mother. Showing up with cooked meals to place in the freezer of a sick friend . Cleaning the home of an elderly person or helping someone who is moving with packing. (LOL , we have moved often so this one hits home with me.)  The Lord will reveal these opportunities if you ask Him too.
   My father has always been a wonderful example to me of someone with a gracious heart. He is always giving.  It may be the time he gives to disciple and encourage a new believer in Christ ( this was a natural and common occurrence  in our home growing up.)or it may be a monetary need. He often goes to garage sales and buys furniture for  new families from overseas or clothes and toys for children. He truly demonstrates  the love of Christ in this way.
 Lord, help us to truly love others through the giving of our time and talents. Help us not to focus on our inabilities but our availability. Create in us a desire to serve others above our own wants and desires.
    Exodus 33:19  "I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you, I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion"

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Its Friday Favorites again.  SO invite your facebook friends to like the blog and whoever has the most friends like it will WIN a 15.00 Starbucks gift card. Will end Saturday at 12pm. Yeah!!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

It's not about ME

     I'm back and excited to share with you what the Lord has been teaching me. I think one of the most difficult things to talk about sometimes is ourselves.  It's easier to discuss others and how to fix them than focus on ME.  Let me back up a little and share with you some of my story.
    It started after our fourth child was born; I began to experience some anxious thoughts and feelings followed by some very low days. I really didn't know at the time what I was dealing with, but after seeing several doctors I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression.  This was a start because up until this point I was at a loss of how to handle and deal with what I was experiencing. In addition to caring for a newborn and 3 other children I was quite overwhelmed to say the least. After resisting it for some time I began to take medication, this came after realizing I couldn't just snap out of it on my own. God was doing His part but I was failing to do mine.  Mental illness is a malfunction in the brain, your brain has become deficient of certain chemicals that cause it to operate properly. Medication whether natural or man made helps to replace and aid in the healing.  Like any other illness, something in these temporary bodies of ours is under attack and needs help to heal.
     I  did get better but became very absorbed in myself and self pity. Let me just warn you...this is a very dangerous place to be. One day I just cried out to the Lord for help. The Lord along with other Godly men and women I sought for counseling helped me to take the focus off myself and begin pouring into the lives of others. Duh! this is the very reason He created us right? Well some of us are more stubborn than others! You see you can be doing a lot of things for others but for the wrong reasons. If we are not careful what we do can always come back to a 'what's in it for me' " attitude. For example: "Not one person said thank you to me"," I go and do and no one even notices what I do for them". These are just a few  of our " I" responses that can be all consuming if we are not careful. So, how do we change or what can we do to alter this mindset?
    The first thing God showed me was to start a prayer journal and begin praying for others. Focusing on the needs of others rather than ourselves starts the healing process. I also began to prayer walk and prayer drive. This is an example of praying without ceasing. Many of the people we see and pass by on a daily basis are hurting, lost and hopeless. Our prayers can alter their lives and eternity if we just slow down and take the time to pray, encourage and love them. You cannot gossip, be angry, speak unkindly, and pray for someone at the same time. Its just not possible! I challenge you to try it !
    I also realized that I  had to watch and re-evaluate how I was spending my time. I would ask myself, "Is what I'm doing helping to further the cause of Christ"? You see, God called us to be eternally minded. He wants us to have an eternal perspective in this life.  Yes, we have to eat, clean and of course work but in doing so we are to  keep that eternal mindset. Ouch! I don't know about you but that pricks my heart.  I soon realized that the more I focused on others the less time I had to focus on ME! Hence the phase, " Its not about ME ", became my motto. When we come to know Christ and accept all He has done for us, we are no longer the same,a transformation begins. We are made new, with new wants and desires and perspectives on how we live our lives on this earth.
   My prayer is that this helps each of us re-evaluate our focus and what we do with our time.
      May it be on things that are eternal not temporary.  Lord, Help us to be about your work and calling on our lives each day. Remind us that "It is not about ME" Lord, but all about YOU!
          "Seek ye first my kingdom, and all things shall be added unto you" Matthew 6:33
                                                            Have a blessed Wednesday, Love Stacy
Website Source for Mental Health recovery:  www.mentalhealthgracealliance.org

Monday, September 29, 2014

Thank you so much to those of you who share my blog on Friday! I you commented you went into the drawing for the FAMILY mug! Congratulations to LEE for winning the mug!!
PS Lee if you can message me with your address I will get it right out to you!
              So excited to share my next post " Its not about ME" on Wednesday!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Friday Favorites-Giveaway

So excited to start my "Friday Favorite Giveaways" SO thankful for each of you who are visiting my blog and willing to share it. My prayer is that it will continue to bless you and those you share it with.
Happy Friday Friends!

Giveaway rules:

1) Share this blog post on Facebook and comment on this post letting me know that you shared it-1ENTRY
2) Comment on this blog post and tell me what your favorite thing is about your family-1 ENTRY

The giveaway will end on Sunday at 12:00pm and the winner will be announced by Monday morning.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Battle on the Homefront

Hi friends, I am so excited to share with you again and so grateful you are taking this time out of your busy day to read my blog.
    Although I am in a new season of my life that allows me more time for myself, I feel the Lord is continually tugging at me to share the things He has laid heavily on  heart lately. You've heard the saying "Man is not an island" Well what that means is that we were not created to live an introverted, isolated (all about me) life. We were created to make a difference in this world and the lives of those around us. I have to say when I was home with 5 children, buried in laundry and dishes, and homeschooling ,there were many days I felt like an island, isolated from the real world, I thought.  Friends, even during these busy, crazy days I knew that what I was doing was making a difference. In a small way, mistakes and all I was doing my part to train these precious lives to love and serve the Lord.
     You see, our place and role in the home is a God appointed, God ordained , calling on our lives.
This is where it all begins, and also where Satan roams and seeks to destroy. He (Satan) is very crafty and smart. He knows very well that if he can destroy the home, he can reek havoc on a nation. Believe it or not history shows that when women began to leave the home and go back into the work force, this nation began to crumble. Why? Is it because we lost our focus? Well you could say that but what really happened was that Satan knew that the home was the battlefront and to rage war there was his only hope of stopping or slowing down the furtherance of Gods kingdom. Before I go any further, please hear my heart on this. I am not saying that every women should or can be home day in and day out. What I am saying is that when we step outside of our biblical role as women, due to longing for the things of this world , we run a great risk of allowing the enemy to creep in little by little and do his damage. Statistics show that when women went back into the work force in the 1960's, sexual immorality, divorce , child abuse and neglect, crime and promiscuity among teens and the list goes on; began to run ramped. Not a one of us can deny that a lot of what we see in our world today is because of the neglect or disappearance of a mother or father at home  fighting off the enemy.
   Does this mean we are to physically be present in our homes day and night ,no but it does mean that when we are home we are to be  "present". Instilling Gods word in our children, eye contact (put away the smart phones), prayer, scripture memory, family outings and game time, family and corporate worship. These are all weapons that are all mighty in defeating the enemy and winning the war! We can defeat the one who is out to steal, kill and destroy Gods most precious creation, and tool for furthering His kingdom, the family!   I challenge you to take hold of these weapons, even if they need a little dusting off, and fight! God is on your side , He is just waiting for you to embrace role, take up your weapons and fight!
"These things I have spoken to you that you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation;
but be of good cheer , I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Love is a Choice

Well,  I  have been married to my wonderful husband 34 years. I can hardly believe it ,but can still remember that evening very well. The most astounding part to me is that, as excited and in love I was at that time it just doesn't compare to the love and excitement we now share as a couple. A good marriage truly does get better with time. Has our marriage always been perfect, by no means. A good marriage takes work, forgiveness, grace, unconditional love and most of all ,an attitude of unselfishness! Yes, I do believe when you commit to a spouse it should be with the mindset that this is a covenant with the Lord until death do us part. Only under circumstances out of our control should divorce ever be an option and even then I truly believe Gods heart is to ultimately seek restoration if possible. To receive the rewards of a long and strong marriage you have to faithfully pray and seek the Lord daily. Our marriage is by no means perfect but we do serve a perfect God who created marriage to be the perfect picture of his love for his bride ,the church, and his commitment to her.

Marriage is Gods way of preparing us for eternity. How exciting to be apart of something so much bigger than we are. So thankful that we are all apart of His master plan. We "choose" to make our marriages work. And it is work wouldn't you agree! Our initial "In Love" feelings are not always there or may have been lost for some time. Our marriage is a testimony of this, during the childrearing years our relationship struggled, and I turned 30, the midlife crisis age for most women.  I was up to my ears in diapers and sleepless nights and my hard working husband was gone many nights. "This isn't how it supposed to be, what happened to my storybook marriage". I often felt distant and very tired! I cried out to the Lord and looked to his word for wisdom.  In bible times, marriages were arranged (Don't think that is such a bad idea these days:), There was no time to "Fall in love". They were just married and that was that. After reading these stories over and over ,I realized something, love was a CHOICE! They choose to obey God and the covenant of marriage He had placed them in. And guess what? The feelings followed. This was a revelation in my marriage, and once I committed to making that choice daily, things began to change . You see, my attitude and choice to love changed me and that changed everything. Ladies whether we like it or not we set the tone of the home. Our speech ,emotions and body language,  are key the second our husbands walk in the door. My choice to love ,followed by a lot of prayer and bible study each day, made all the difference. Side note: if you want your husband to change, pray that the Lord will change you first.
It doesn't happen over night but I promise the Lord will bless your "Choice".