Friday, November 21, 2014

Love letters to hurting hearts



It's official....the holiday season is upon us.  I went to the mall today to pick up an item and everywhere I looked, I saw Christmas.  My ears perked up as I heard Jolly 'Ol Saint Nicholas.  I am a Christmas season kind of gal. 


I relish in the weather, the sights and sounds, and the goodness that flows from people's hearts.  I love reading and studying Jesus's birth and what it means for me. 


As I was thinking about all things Christmas, it hit me that so many people feel stressed and lonely this time of year.  Some people worry about where they will find the funds to buy presents.  While others dread spending time with family.  Some feel lonely over the death of a loved one.  While some are reminded of strained relationships and ache for things to be well.  Some are struggling with a diagnoses.  While others are heart broken as they watch a loved one deteriorate.


The reality of all the pain hit me like a ton of bricks.  I wish I could talk with every single hurting person and share love.  While it wouldn't take away the pain, I could let them know someone cares.  Since it's impossible to talk with every person who is struggling with the holiday season, I decided to write love notes to all them.


To those of you worried about buying gifts-
It can be overwhelming to worry about money.  You look around this time of year and commercialism is right in your face.  You long to show people you care with gifts.  You don't want anyone to know you are struggling because you are ashamed and embarrassed.  It's difficult to ask for help.  Please know that there is no shame in asking for help.  There are many people who truly want to help people who need it.  Often, the people who help understand the most because they have been in your shoes.  Churches are a great resource for help.  They offer food and gifts for children.  Also, homemade gifts are some of the best gifts out there because they are made with love in mind.  You will get through this, even when it doesn't feel like it.  God does not see your bank account and assign you a worth card.  You are worthy and loved no matter what.  Lean on Him, dear friend. 


To those who dread spending time with family-
Spending time with people who have hurt you or betrayed you can be difficult.  It is never fun to be around toxic people or placed in tense situations.  We want to run and hide from it all.  I write this as a person who has been there.  Here's my loving advice - don't let anyone steal the joy that Jesus so freely gives you.  When you are around people who drag you down, hold your head high.  Spend your time pleasing Jesus.  Focus on what He wants, rather than the hurt and tension.  Let Him own your heart, not those around you.  Also, it is completely ok to limit your time at family functions.  If the environment is too toxic, a short visit will suffice.  Do what's right by Jesus and you will leave the function with a clear conscious and a clean heart.


To those who feel lonely over the death of a loved one-
You have to grieve. Period.  No matter what time of year it is, a heart that loved deeply will ache deeply.  You are grateful for the love Jesus gave you to share, but the pain seems unbearable.  Don't deny yourself your pain.  Keep a journal and write prayers, pains, and times you feel lifted up.  Cry out to God and tell Him exactly how you feel.  Lean on Him to get you through this season with a heart that can still love and rely on Him.


Those who suffer due to strained relationships-
Strained relationships stink.  They are painful and hurt like the dickens.  You may not be in control of the strain at all.  I get that.  My biological father wanted nothing to do with me.  Right up to his death, he didn't seem to want anything to do with me.  Here's what I learned - it was not my fault.  We cannot control other people's hearts, emotions, actions, or reactions.  When someone you love has cut you out of their life, you have to rely on God.  You have to know without a shred of doubt that God's love for you is not dependent on people's ability to give love.  As a matter of fact, He has quite a tender heart for those who feel unloved.  Ask Him to surround you and carry you.  I promise with every breathe I breath, He will.
If you have created the strain, think about mending it this season.  I know it is scary.  I know you might not want to.  Oh my goodness-I fit into this one to.  It is hard putting a broken relationship back together.  It has to be done piece by piece.  Once you begin, the weight that is lifted off of your shoulders is amazing.  You will not realize the pain weighing you down until you release it.  Ask God to hold your hand and guide you in this.  He will lead you where He wants you to go.  You only have to listen and obey.


To those who struggle with a diagnoses-
I do not want to write anything that will minimize your pain and fear.  I will not tell you not to worry.  These are all emotions that accompany medical diagnoses.  I will tell you that it is ok to cry.  It is ok to lean on those around you and let them carry you.  Let them shower you in love and care for you the only way love knows how.  God knows your full story.  Trust Him that He is in charge.  Even when things seem hopeless, He is there.  When worries invade you and you can think of nothing else, remember...but God.


To those who are watching a loved one struggle with an illness-
God knows your heart.  He knows your pain and cries when you cry.  Don't ever doubt that Jesus cries.  The shortest verse in the Bible reads, "Jesus wept" (John 11:35).  You are not alone, even when you feel like it.  Your strength and courage may feel depleted.  You wonder how you will continue to show care when you feel so empty.  You wonder how you will survive if something happens to your loved one.  Take heart, sweet one, God knows.  He does not want you to feel guilt over your feelings.  He wants you to know He hears you and understands.  He does not expect you to do this alone.  Lean in and put your head on His shoulder.  Let Him comfort you and fill you back up with His love and strength.  He knows-


God created me to feel deeply.  My heart hurts at the thought of anyone struggling.  Please know that I will pray over these letters and those who read them.  I love each and every one of you regardless if we have never laid eyes on each other.  You are a child of God and we are related, sweet friend.  You are loved by your King.  Lean on Him and let Him carry you.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I have a secret to share-



I have a secret to share and if I were a gambler {which I'm not.  If I'm throwing money away, it has to be on really cute shoes!} I would bet that it's your secret too.


I just want to be real and I want those around me to be real too.  Life can be hard enough without trying to be an actress all day long.  Let's take off our stage clothes and put on our yoga pants.  Let's get comfy in our skin and really live.


There, I said it!! 


Let's have a wall tearing down party.  What if we all decided to be who we really are rather than who we are trying so hard to portray?  What if we are honest about our insecurities and fears?  What if we own our failures and admit that we are hurting?


I feel badly for people who always have to appear to be perfect.  I know people who would rather eat dirt than admit they hurt.  My heart breaks for them.  Trust me, I know walls.  I have built plenty in my time.  I want those around me to know that it's ok.  Let's just be real and be honest.  When we hurt, let's not sugarcoat it.  Let's just own it, love on each other, and stand back up. 


Can you imagine how we could help each other??  I don't know about you, but I am always refreshed when I know someone is really human.  I'm not saying I want people to hurt or have bad days, but it sure is refreshing to know I'm not alone.


So in honor of the wall tearing down party, I am going to open up and share some of my fears and insecurities.  I hope they will encourage you to open up too. 


  • I worry every.single.day. about gaining weight.
  • I have been dropped by friends and it still hurts to think about.
  • I feel lonely sometimes.
  • There are days I wonder if I am doing anything God called me to do.
  • Some days I worry that I have passed my insecurities on to my kids.
  • At times, I worry my husband will be attracted to someone else and not be tickled pink when he looks at me.
Let's get this party started and really live.  Turn up the music, dance, and live for real!!  Let's be real purposeful in our real living-


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Lukewarm Test #2 - Relationship or Rules?


Jesus desires for us to have a real relationship with Him.  He doesn't want a superficial relationship that consists of lip service and checking man made rules off of a list.  He doesn't care how many times our bodies sit in a church service.  Sitting in a church service does not make a relationship.  He cares if our hearts are fully devoted to Him in all that we do.

A real relationship is fostered by time together.  For example, in order for my husband and I to really know each other, appreciate each other, and deeply love each other we have to spend real quality time together.  Just knowing the other person exists will not make our relationship. 

It is the same with Jesus.  Just professing that He is real does not create a relationship with Him. 

Romans 10:9 - If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

Many times this verse is read and people check it off of a list.  Yep, I believe in Jesus so I'm good, people think.  However, in the original language the word "believe" is a verb.  A verb is an action.  When we truly believe in Jesus, we can't help but live for Him and about Him.  Our hearts turn towards pleasing Him rather than ourselves and others.  Our thoughts and hearts revolve around Him.

Ways to create and grow a relationship with Jesus:
  • Upon waking, give thanks to God and ask Him to guide you throughout the day.
  • Keep a prayer journal.  In the journal, write prayer requests.  When the prayers are answered, write the date and the answer next to the request.
  • Memorize Scripture.  Keep a small notebook to write a Scripture each week to memorize.  Throughout the week, you may notice God speaking to you through the Scripture.  Write these occurrences in the notebook on the page with the Scripture.
  • Read your Bible DAILY.  Take notes in your Bible.  The more you mark it up, the more it becomes yours.
  • Be involved in a Bible study.  Whether it is on your own or in a group, studying portions of the Bible will strengthen your love for Jesus.
  • Love on those the world views unlovable.  Make eye contact, smile, engage in conversations, etc, with people that you come in contact with.
  • Surround yourself with others who truly have a relationship with Jesus.  You will encourage each other.

So are you wondering if your heart is in a relationship or just checking rules off of a list?  Here is your test...

Matthew 7:20 - So you'll recognize them by their fruit.

When one is truly in a relationship with Jesus, the fruits of the Spirit pour out onto others.  The heart is focused on Jesus rather than on self. 

Galatians 5:22-23a...The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control.

Do you see these fruits pouring out of you??  If so, keep growing in your relationship with Jesus.  If not, it is not too late to create a relationship.  As long as you are breathing, there is time.

Commit today to grow in your relationship with Jesus.  May He be your #1 priority always. 
xoxo

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Melt in your mouth delicious!


{Photo taken from www.savorysweetlife.com}


Yesterday my husband suggested I make some sugar cookies for the kids.  Kids??  Don't you mean you honey?? 


So I searched Pinterest and found a recipe that made my mouth water just by looking at the ingredients.  I didn't want a recipe that called for shortening.  Is it just me, or does everybody think it's gross to eat shortening??


Oh my goodness - knock my socks off!!  The cookies turned out sooooooo delicious!!  And they were super easy to make. 


With the holiday season upon us, these cookies will come in quite handy.  They would make a great gift or you could take them to a cookie exchange.  Or you could just share them with your family as you cuddle on the couch and watch Christmas movies. :)


{If you want to see beautiful pictures of the cookies, you can click here.}  

Here is the recipe {compliments of savorysweetlife.com}...

Dropped Cracked Sugar Cookies
Makes 32 medium sized cookies – Adapted from AllRecipes.com
Ingredients
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 cup salted butter
3 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/3 cup coarse sugar crystals or regular granulated sugar
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cream together butter and sugar until it is nice and creamy.  Mix in 1 egg yolk at a time and vanilla extract.   Add flour, baking soda, cream of tarter, and salt until cookie dough is completely mixed.  Be sure to scrape down the bowl to be sure everything is mixed.  Using a medium scoop, form dough balls and roll them in sugar crystals.  Place cookie balls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper 2 inches apart from one another.  Be sure not to flatten the dough.  Bake for 12-14 minutes until the surface of each cookies have a cracked like texture.  Remove from oven and allow cookies to remain on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.  Enjoy!

xoxo


Monday, November 17, 2014

Scripture Study Printables - Week Six


To print the memory card, please click here.

This week, our memory verse will train our minds to think upon Jesus in all we do.  As we go about our days, our hearts and minds will learn to focus on the numerous gifts and blessings Jesus lavishes us with.  I am excited to watch our hearts fill with His love, joy, and peace as we give Jesus thanks in all things.

This week, I propose a challenge to you on the Scripture worksheet.  :)  I hope you will feel blessed by it.

To print the Scripture worksheet, please click here.

Have a wonderful week!!
xoxo

Friday, November 14, 2014

Is it time to move on?



I am at a point in my life where I feel like things are sailing along smoothly. 


All of my children have started school successfully and have hit the ground running.  Our routines are set and we are immersed in them. 


Our marriage is on a mountain and there are no issues we are having to deal with. We are fully enjoying each other and look for those little moments where we can laugh and love.


My relationship with Jesus is great.  I feel connected to Him and strive to live daily to please Him.  I beg Him each morning to remove the mirror in my hand so that I can love on His world and His children.  Some days are harder than others, but I feel His loving hands guiding me.


I am stuck in my little cocoon of safe.  I have a set routine, a calendar, and to do lists.  Check, check, check!


Over the past week, I have quietly heard Jesus nudging me towards something new.  I can feel Him leading me to a new door that He wants me to open.  I can see the door and I have opened it just enough to get a glimpse of some things.  Truthfully though, I closed the door and stared at it from across the room.  I keep telling Jesus, "I'll get to it, really I will."


You see, when I open this door my life will change some.  My days will no longer be so routine.  My time will be used in a different way.  I will be opening myself up and that is scary.  I fear I am not capable to do what Jesus is nudging me to.  What if I fail or let Him down?


My heart knows that if Jesus is leading me to something, I must trust Him and be obedient.  He will not set me up for failure.  I keep hearing that stupid lie that I won't do it well and I may even fail.  Ugh!!  I have been volleying this back and forth in my mind.  "Step out!" I yell to myself.  "Wait, I'm not sure you're worthy to do this" the dumb thief tells me.


A few mornings ago during my quiet time, the Lord led me to a portion of Scripture that spoke so dearly to my heart. 


Deuteronomy 1:6,8 - You have stayed at this mountain long enough...See I have set the land before you.  Enter and take possession of the land the Lord swore to give your fathers-

Thank you Jesus.  I hear you and I am taking hold of that doorknob, opening it with a bang, and running in.  I know that You have set this before me because You trust me.  I know that You will guide me every step of the way.  I'm ready to stop listening to the lies and be 100% obedient.  You are my Rock and in You I trust.


Have you stayed at a mountain long enough?  Are you a little too comfortable in your life?  Do you feel the Lord nudging you towards something new for His glory? 


Step out in faith my friend.  Jesus has great things planned for His servants.  Oh the places we will go when we are obedient and full of trust.


My heart swells with love for all of you.  May we be obedient and faithful servants to our King!
xoxo



Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Do you conform? Lukewarm test #1



The more I read about being lukewarm and Jesus' disgust for it, the more convicted my heart becomes.  I am writing this series not only to share His word and teach, but also to kindle my heart to be more on fire and in love with my Savior.  These tests are not meant to point fingers or make someone feel badly.  They are to grow our hearts and minds closer to Jesus so that we can live for Him more freely and be radical in our love.  May we open our hearts to His word and release our desires to sit on the sidelines and let others be the fire makers.

Do you {I} conform to the world to fit in?

Do you hold your tongue or go along with various ideas and thought patterns so that you fit in? 

Do you sometimes know that something is wrong yet you don't say anything because you don't want to be labeled a crazy Christian? 

Would those around you be surprised that you are a Christian?

Or....

Do you stand up for Christ?

Do you allow His values to guide you rather than social norms?

Do those around you know that you are a Christian because you walk the walk?

**Truly living for Jesus and not conforming to this world does not look obnoxious or holier than thou.  It is not self righteous living.  Living in those ways is not the way Jesus commands us to live.  Rather, He instructs us to live in love. 

When we are not conforming to the world and living for Him in love, we are full of His peace and joy.  We are not abusive in our speech nor condescending.  We never make those around us feel less than or, worse, turn them off from knowing Jesus. 

Not conforming to the world does not mean we have to hide away in our homes.  We are called to go out and make disciples.  There is no way we will ever do that hidden away from the world. 

 Let me offer a few examples of living in the world but not conforming to it:
  • When people around us gossip, we do not take part in it.
  • When people around us use foul language, we do not use it too.
  • We speak about others in kind ways even if those around us are not.  If we don't have something nice to say about someone, we hold our tongues.
  • We show love for people who are deemed by society as unlovable.
The list could really go on for much longer, but we get the idea.

I will leave us with two verses to ponder this week as we choose to conform less and love Jesus more.

Romans 12:2 - Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is good, pleasing, and the perfect will of God.
{The way to renew our minds is to be immersed in His Word.  The more we read His Words, the more we will be transformed to His ways and His love.}

Ephesians 4:15 - But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head - Christ.
{We can stand out for Christ and not conform to this world by speaking and behaving in love.  That is the only way we will ever show Jesus to those who don't know Him.  We will never win people over by being critical, mean, or holier than thou.}

May we all choose NOT to conform.  May we choose to love like Jesus and make Him proud to call us His children. :)
xoxo