Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A New Focus



The last week of the year always causes me to evaluate what I did that year. 

What did I do to grow my marriage?
What things did I accomplish that honor God?
Was I a good mama? 
What areas need growth and attention as a parent?
Did His light shine from me even when I was feeling dark and ugly?
Was I a supportive friend?


As I look to 2015, I am grabbing on to a word and calling it mine.  This word will guide me and lead me in all that I do.

My word of focus is....

{en}courage
 
I want to live a purposeful life full of courage to live for Jesus.  I desire for all of my interactions to be full of Him.  I don't want to hide behind my Southern charm ( If you are from the south, you know what I mean.).  I want to speak His truths in love and full of courage.
 
I also want to encourage others to live courageously for Christ.  I want to cheer on my loves, friends, and strangers to not be afraid to live out loud and on fire.
 
Won't you join me??  Let's do this Jesus thing for real and out loud.  May we love without abandon and may we be truly free to share Him with those He created.
 
The Bible verse that will encourage and lead us will be:
 
Joshua 1:9
Haven't I commanded you:  be strong and courageous?  Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
 
I am excited to share this journey with all of you!  Together, we can light fires and ignite hearts.
xoxo

Monday, December 29, 2014

Year of Goals FREE Printables


Can you believe that we will flip the calendars to 2015 this week?!  During the last week of the year, I like to get ready for the upcoming year by thinking about various goals I would like to achieve.  It helps me to write them down, as I think it keeps me accountable.  I don't see them as resolutions but, rather, goals to grow by.

I have created a goals worksheet that I am excited to fill out and put in a binder on my desk.  I want to share them so you guys can use them, too. :) 

The worksheets are available below:

Click here for the yearly goals worksheet.

Click here for January through March.

Click here for April through June.

Click here for July through September.

Click here for October through December.

I hope these worksheets prove to be helpful for all of you.  Enjoy and happy goal setting!!
xoxo




Monday, December 22, 2014

Sending love to all of you-



All of my babes are sleeping under the same roof and it has been wonderful.  Watching and hearing them laugh thrills my heart more than my words can even describe.  Having our oldest home from college is amazing!!  He is like a real life man now.  :)  My husband and I listen with fully opened ears as he discusses upcoming plans with us.  I am beyond proud of him.  

We have been one busy family over the past week and I know it will continue this week.  We have shopped, wrapped, and baked {and baked and baked....} Christmas goodies,  We have laughed and gathered on the couch to watch movies.  If I could bottle these moments up and peek into them when life is busy and frazzled, it would be great!!

The other night my heart felt badly for not regularly posting on my blog and keeping up with other blog friends.  I was reminded of a blog I read a couple of weeks ago where the sweet lady was apologizing for not posting the prior week.  She stated that she had just been so busy getting ready for Christmas and enjoying herself as she did.  I remembered that as I read her blog, I wished I could pick up the phone and tell her she doesn't have to apologize to anyone for spending time with the precious gifts God has given her and readying herself for great celebrations.  

I had to tell myself that very thing!!  Isn't it funny when that happens?  

So...
I may not post regularly until after this week, but that certainly doesn't mean I am not thinking of my sweet blogging friends and praying for each of you.  There are precious women whom I pray for each day.  Some know I do, others do not.  I want to wish each and every one of you a wonderful and Merry Christmas.  May your hearts be filled with His love.  May you know without a doubt that He created you special and for His pleasure.  Each and every one of you are gifts to His Kingdom -and you are gifts to me.  I love you all.

I am continuing to post on my Life with Joys facebook page each day.  If you would like to read quick notes of encouragement, please click here.  I am filled with joy to be able to share Jesus' love.

MERRY, MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL OF YOU!!!!  
xoxo


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Loving God with all that you have {Lukewarm test #5}



Words are so easy to speak.  We open our mouths and out they pour.  Backing our words with actions is a completely different story.  We can say we love God and are Christians, but what do our actions say?

 If we suddenly went mute, would anyone know we loved Jesus??

Deuteronomy 6:5-7
{5} Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.  {6} These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart.  {7)  Repeat them to your children.  Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

These verses instruct us to love God with all that we are.  Our love for Him is to pour out of us and into everything that we do.  We are not to be obnoxious, we are to be real.  Every word that comes out of your mouth doesn't have to be "God".  But every action and reaction must emulate Him and His love.

God wants to be so embedded in our hearts that we can't help but love Him with all that we are.  I believe that these verses aren't telling us to walk around all day and only speak Scriptures.  They are telling us that when we talk to people and go about our day, we are to speak with God's love.  

Speaking with God's love means speaking with:
  • Patience
  • Selflessness
  • Moral dignity
  • Kindness
  • Compassion
  • Honor
  • Grace
If this is an area that you struggle with, pray that God will help you.  He is always available and more than willing to guide His children.  Set your hearts on fire, my friends!
xoxo

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Do you see gold?



Ever notice how quick we are to judge people and pick at their scabs?  We may smile on the outside, but often times we are searching for the dirt.

I think we are all guilty of this at times.  

Recently, someone told me a story about some people.  The person was telling me some facts, but there were definite judgments attached.  For the next couple of days, I couldn't stop thinking about the story.  The more I thought about it, the more my heart broke for the people involved.  

The more I pondered it, the more I wondered why it was so attached to my heart.  The Lord began to show me how often we {me included} see the dirt rather than finding the gold.  He began convicting my heart over situations and discussions I have been involved in.

We all have dirt because we are all human.  We are sinful creatures who can create quite the dirt piles.  We, more than anyone else, know how dirty we are and can become.  We are fully aware of the imperfections and sins that plaque us.  

Do we focus on other's dirt to avoid seeing our own sometimes?  Does focusing on other's dirt take the spotlight off of our own messiness?

Yep-I think that's it.  We focus on the dirt other's wear so our dirt doesn't appear to be so brown.

Aren't we suppose to be building each other up and encouraging one another to live life better?  We can't really do that if we are focusing on the messy, even if just in our minds.

Our family visited Colorado a few summers ago.  We decided we would go on an adventure and search for gold.  We grabbed our tin bowls and began sifting through the water in search of the sparkly stuff.  It didn't take long for our kids {and me} to get bored.  All we seemed to find were dirty rocks covered in mud.  After about 15 minutes we set our bowls aside and began running around in search of instant fun.  We never found any gold - we didn't look long enough.

We can be that way in our interactions with people.  Sometimes we don't look long and hard enough for the sparkle.  We notice the dirt and quickly walk away.  

Everyone has sparkle inside of them.  We can find some people's fairly quickly.  But some people have hidden it so well that it takes quite a while to find it.  When there is a glimmer of sparkle in those people, however, it is the most beautiful shine.  Not only are you recognizing it, but the person may be too.  They may not even be aware that any kind of glimmer exists in their broken, dirty hearts.  

What if we stopped looking at the dirt and searched for the gold?  What if when we saw even a hint of a glimmer, we focused on that rather than the mess?  Can you imagine the shine that would sparkle if we did this?  Imagine showing someone their gold when they had no idea any existed.

Be the one who finds the gold, my friend.  Oh what we can do for God's Kingdom if we only look hard enough-
xoxo

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Christmas tour of our home


Oh how I love Christmas time.  I love the smells, the memories, the laughter, the excitement, and the love.  I am like a little child as I shop for gifts.  It warms my heart to bless others with a wrapped present. Jesus has blessed our family with so much-more than I could have ever imagined possible.  Celebrating Him fills my soul with peace wrapped up in a big package of excitement.  He is definitely the reason for the joy that floats around our home and hearts.

Christmas at our home is a big deal.  We gather before Thanksgiving and decorate our home.  We turn on Christmas music and decorate, decorate, decorate.  It is so wonderful watching our kids go through ornaments and hang them on the tree.  I love watching their laughter and hear them reminisce about past Christmas'.








Their togetherness is joy. Looking at their precious faces makes my heart leap around my chest.  There are times I want to freeze the moment and keep them just the way they are.  I know, however, that if I did that I would miss so many new great moments that Jesus already has planned for us.










Our boys usually help my husband decorate the yard.  It is their man thing to do and I have so enjoyed watching our boys grow into little men each year.  They tackle the strings and strings of lights like any tough man would....with determination {and frustration if they are tangled}. :)  As I am a spectator peeking out the window, I notice the careful way my husband shows them how to do things.  I notice the laughter and bonding that occurs between the men.  Sometimes it is so good for boys to just hang out with their man hero.  

This year our oldest was not here to decorate the yard.  He is tucked in nicely to college life and has begun to create a home for himself on a college campus.  I am excited for him to drive around the corner and see his forever home all lit up.  Being his mama, I will be able to look into his eyes with the sparkle of the lights reflecting off of them and see that little boy excitement as he gazes upon his yard.  Oh how I love that Jesus gives mama hearts insight into their man boys.


May this season bring you and your family joy and peace.
xoxo


Monday, December 8, 2014

Scripture Study-Week Nine...FREE Printables


Click here to print the memory card.

I love the verse this week because God encourages us to live healthy lives.  We are not called to be fanatical health nuts, but we are called to take care of ourselves.  When we are healthy spiritually and physically, our minds are clear to focus on Jesus and fully live for Him.  

I am encouraged that God wants us to prosper in our entire being.  I don't know about you, but that inspires me to live a more meaningful life focused on Him in all that I do.

To print the accompanying worksheet to help you attach this verse to you heart, please click here.

Wishing you a wonderful and health filled week-
xoxo

Friday, December 5, 2014

The art of marriage {A list of tips}

My husband and I have been married for over 19 years.  We were babies when we started dating and toddlers when we married.  We have grown up together.  With any growth, there have been pains and great celebrations.

While some of our memories are painful, I certainly wouldn't trade them because they are what grew our hearts more towards Jesus.  We have had to learn that marriage is not about pleasing ourselves or even the other person.  It is about pleasing and honoring Jesus.  When Jesus is the focus of a marriage, it can't help but blossom and grow in love.



I have compiled a list of helpful tips that will move marital hearts towards agape love.

*Do not act on feelings.  Feelings are fleeting and can misdirect our words and actions.  When you are feeling angry, jealous, grumpy, frustrated, etc. take a breather before you speak words.

*Grow your relationship with Jesus.  He will create a heart that desires to give more than it receives.

*Pray for each other every single day.  

*Pray for your marriage.  Pray for a hedge of protection to be placed around each other and pray that your love will deepen with each day.

*Strive to please each other daily.  If you know your spouse enjoys hot tea in the morning, make it for them without being asked.  Small gestures go a long way.

*Discover each other's love language.  Stay aware of it and speak the language daily.

*Flirt with your spouse.  Just because you are married, doesn't mean you can't flirt.  In fact, you should be flirting more now than when you were dating.

*Speaking of dating, plan dates often.  When our children were younger and it was hard to get away, our dates consisted of putting the kids to bed and watching a movie.

*Laugh together.  Remember not to take life too seriously.

*Do not give your spouse anything to be jealous of.  

*Honor your spouse with your words, actions, and reactions.

*Don't ever speak ugly about your spouse...ever.  Keep disagreements between the two of you.  

*Remember that love isn't always gushy. You won't have butterflies every single day.  But a Christ centered marriage will always have deep, unconditional love.

*Let go of hurts and move on.  Do not hold on to arguments and never use them against your spouse.

*Don't forget to kiss and hug each other every day.  

*Keep the romance alive.  You know what your spouse likes, don't fail to do it because of laziness or being tired.

*Brag about your spouse in front of your spouse.

*Share secrets together.

A marriage full of love and appreciation is truly an art.  It is beautiful and cannot be replicated with anyone else.  It is one of the greatest gifts that God gives us.  Cherish it and guard it with all that you have.  

xoxo




Thursday, December 4, 2014

If but one



I want to save the world.  I wish I could gather every person who hurts into my arms and love on them.  I want to open up the chests of hurting people and pour Jesus's love directly into their hearts.  I know what it's like to hurt, feel rejection, suffer from insecurities, and feel worthless. Jesus saved me from those pains and now I want to put on a pink cape, fly around the world, and inflict every single person with His love.

There are times that I get so frustrated and feel like I am not really doing the work that God has called me to do.  He has loved me much and I want to share that.  I wonder, am I really sharing His love and making disciples??

When I step out of my flustered not good enough ugly suit, I am reminded that God has made all of us ministers.  We don't have to have a special degree, a pulpit to stand behind, or a humongous audience to be a minister.  God equips each and every one of us with exactly what we need to share His Word and love.

God points us to the exact spot where we will make an impact on His Kingdom.  Our stage may not be one of big booming lights and a fantastic sound system.  It may not consist of a blog that has thousands of readers.  The stage God places us on may be our couch with the comfy pillows.  Our ministry may be set for the people who live under the very roof we do.  On that couch is where our love pours out onto our family as we cuddle and snuggle.  We pour out God's love as we listen, validate, and share laughter and tears. 

Here is something to ponder....
Jesus would have died on that cross for just ONE person.  He died for each and every one of us.  So why do we think our ministries have to consist of large masses of people?  Why do we think if we aren't flying around the world, we have failed?

You and I are elected ministers.  We have a ministry and a platform.  Be proud of your ministry and own it, dear friend.  You alone will make a forever difference.
xoxo

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Lukewarm Test Series {#4} - What comes out of your mouth?



Jesus does not like a lukewarm Christian. {Read about it in Revelation 3:14-22}  We must be on guard and be consistent with our love for Him.  I write these tests so that we {you and ME} can check the temperature of our hearts.  I hope that you are feeling blessed by these tests and are growing in your relationship with Jesus.  I know I am...He is showing me areas where my heart needs some fire building!

Our mouths are the windows into our hearts.  You can tell a great deal about a person by the words they speak.  Listen to someone long enough, and you will understand what their hearts are really full of.

Are they full of...
love or trash?  
selfishness or selflessness? 
Jesus or the world?

What are our hearts full of?  What do people see when we open our mouths and speak?

Matthew 12:34 states "For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart".

As you go about your day, really listen to the words you speak.  Do your words show love and compassion?  Are you tender when you speak or do you sting people with your words?

Our words should be full of kindness regardless of whom we are speaking with.  We should be just as tender with our loved ones as we are with strangers.  As we walk away from people, are they left feeling Jesus or feeling tension?

Ephesians 4:29 - No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need.
Ellicott's Commentary states that the word foul can be interchanged with the word rotten.  This commentary warns that rotten talk {ungracious, tearing down, dishonesty, cursing, etc.} spreads rottenness to those around you.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to spread rottenness to people.  The word alone sounds gross!  It reminds me of something that stinks so badly that I have to cover my nose.  It is repulsive and disgusting.

Let's be purposeful with our words.  May they build up, encourage, and spread Jesus' love.  Jesus loves a heart on fire for Him! 

xoxo


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A challenge for December





Can you believe December showed up on our calendars yesterday morning??  There are so many happenings that occur in this month and before we know it we will be staring at the word January on our calendars.


I don't know about you, but I don't want this month to fly by. I don't want to get too caught up in the busyness.  I want to enjoy every moment and soak in my Savior's birth story.  I want to share His love with others and live with purpose.  What is the season if we don't love on people?


This month I challenge you {and me} to send actual handwritten cards to people. 

                                                   

The cards imprinted with family pictures and a written statement are so much fun to receive.  I love hanging them in our home and taking in all of the precious people I am so fortunate to know. 


But what if we handwrote some cards and surprised people with them?  Don't you just love opening the mailbox and finding an actual handwritten card??  I know I do!  I actually save them and if they aren't too personal, I hang them on the message board in my office.


We could write cards telling people how loved they are.  We could send a card of encouragement or one of laughter.


So...are you in??  Let's send snail mail blessings and make someone's day!


xoxo

Monday, December 1, 2014

Scripture Study Printables-Week 8


To print the memory card, please click here.

Psalm 23 is one of my favorite Psalms.  Verse one sums up the life of a Jesus follower.  Jesus guides us and provides everything we need. This verse should lift a huge weight off of our shoulders as we soak it in.  We don't have to be control freaks or perfectionists; we can sit back and trust that Jesus will lead us where He wants us and equip us with all we need in the journey.

I am offering two options this week.  

Option 1 includes memorizing Psalm 23:1 and completing the worksheet.  

Option 2 involves memorizing all six verses and completing the accompanying worksheet. I have created a memory sheet with it as well.

*Either option will bless you and open your heart towards Jesus.  Choose the option that is the best fit for you. *

To print the worksheet for OPTION 1please click here.

Print the memory page for Psalm 23 by clicking here.

To print the worksheet for OPTION 2, please click here.

Praying for a week full of Jesus' presence in our lives!
xoxo



Friday, November 28, 2014

Don't stop being thankful {List of helpful ways}



As I typed the title of this post, I sang it to the tune of "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey.  Now I can't stop singing it!  Be thankful that you are on that side of the computer screen as God did not gift me with a pleasurable singing voice! :)

I'm always perplexed as I hear the stories from Black Friday.  The pushing, yelling, grabbing and anger that takes place baffles me.  Wasn't it just 24 hours earlier that Americans were talking about what they are thankful for.  Maybe those mean shoppers didn't have a list??

While most of us won't behave that way, we can get caught up in the commercialism and secular hype of Christmas.  We feel stressed about buying gifts, attending Christmas parties in the perfect outfit, and gaining pounds as we partake in the various festivities.  These things can leave us looking forward to flipping the page of the calendar and seeing the word January.

I don't know about you, but I want to relish in Christmas this year.  I want to enjoy buying gifts for those I love.  I want to attend parties and be relaxed.  I want to take in every single day of December and look to Christ as I do it.

I have come up with a list of things that can help us stay focused on Jesus and actually enjoy the month of December.  Whether you do one of these things or all of them, I hope you will experience full peace and joy this season.

*Start your day thanking Jesus for various things.  Keep a journal and challenge yourself to record a specific number of blessings each day. 

*Create a list of gifts you want to buy and for whom.  Set goals for dates you want these gifts purchased.  Check the gifts off of the list once you have bought them.  You will like seeing the progress.

*Pamper yourself as you shop with a cup of coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or whatever makes you feel festive.

*Gather with your family and make a list of people you can bless during the month of December.  This list may include neighbors that you bake cookies for, a homeless shelter you volunteer at, a family you adopt through a local school, a family member that is having a tough time, etc.  

*Make dates with your family to watch specific Christmas movies, drive around and look at Christmas lights, and make/buy 2014 ornaments.  Write these dates on your calendar in ink and stick to them.

*Have a Christmas music dance party.  Turn up the tunes, gather your loved ones, and bust some moves!

*Send a gift to someone in the mail anonymously.  It can be a $5 gift card.  Anything you send will be fun for you and will bless the recipient.

*Read a Christmas book.  Set aside time each day, even if it's just 10 minutes, and take in a good book.  This type of book is usually dessert for hearts!

*Snuggle on the couch with your family and read as many Christmas storybooks as you can.  As you do this, memories from previous years will invade your hearts and the time together will be priceless. Our family still does this and our kids are 18, 14, and 11.  

*Read the story of Jesus's birth in the gospels.  Soak in the birth of your Savior and remind yourself what this season is all about.  Reading through commentaries along with my Bible always ignites my passion.  You can find various commentaries online.

Happy Christmas season, my friends.  May you be a blessing and be blessed-
xoxo

Thursday, November 27, 2014

My list of thanks




It's here - a day of feasts, family, friends, and thankfulness.  I don't want to take one moment for granted.  I want to freeze the moments with my sweets and take in as much of their faces as possible.

I look forward to watching them enjoy the Macy's Thanksgiving parade and pine for our favorite city, NYC.  We will laugh and talk about memories of being in NYC last Thanksgiving and attending the parade.  I'm sure we will remember the freezing cold, ice on our faces, numerous hot chocolates, and the wonderful meal we shared with new friends.

Memories are what make family moments so sweet.  We look at old memories as we are creating new ones.  We wrap ourselves in the love each memory creates and warm our hearts with it.

I am very thankful this year for many things.    Listed below are my top ten-
  1. The love our family has for each other.  No matter what happens in the day, we know we can count on each other.
  2. Our oldest starting college and doing so well.  He has turned into a man right before our very eyes.
  3. The love that continues to grow between my husband and me.  
  4. My children text messaging each other because they truly like each other.  
  5. The friends that listen to me and love me.  I am blessed to have such lovely people in my life.
  6. Our home that is full of memories and love.
  7. Our kitchen table.  I am thankful for this because this is where we gather each evening to share meals and connect.
  8. Being able to bless and love on others.
  9. Growing deeper in my relationship with Jesus.
  10. And of course, my blog.  I am so very thankful for all of the wonderful ladies I have met and get the privilege of calling friends.  You ladies have truly blessed my life.
For all of you that are struggling today, please know that I am saying special prayers for you.  May you feel God's love surround you and hold you in your pain.  You are not alone, ever.

My love to all of you-
xoxo

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lukewarm test #3...status



I am being so blessed by the lukewarm tests.  Jesus is opening my heart to discover places that need cleaning out.  I am so grateful that He loves us enough to clean us out rather than throw us away.  What about you?  Are you feeling cleansed and refreshed?  Theses tests are never meant to condemn us; they are meant to grow our hearts closer to Jesus.  Sometimes a good cleaning hurts, but is there anything better than knowing Jesus loves us enough to wipe away our dirt and wash us until we are as white as snow??


Lukewarm test #3 deals with status.  Where is our focus?  Do we want worldly status or Jesus status?  Which one drives our day?


It is so easy to say we want Jesus status and be done.  However, let's dig deeper and discover where our hearts truly are.  Have no fear, if worldly status takes precedent Jesus will lovingly guide you to gaze upon Him instead.  All we have to do is ask.


Hebrews 13:5 - Your life should be free from the love of money.  Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you.
Are we satisfied with what we have or are we always on the hunt for the latest and greatest?  Do we need a bigger home, a newer car, this season's clothes, etc.?  Does our worth come from looking good materially?  Or, are we thankful and content with what we have?


Matthew 19:21 - "If you want to be perfect," Jesus said to him, "go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven.  Then come, follow Me."
If Jesus walked into our home and handed us a top ten list of our heart's treasures, would He be in all of them?  Or would material items and pleasing ourselves take precedent?  Jesus doesn't expect us to sell everything.  What He wants is for us to put Him above all material possessions.  Are we helping and loving on those less fortunate than we are?  Or are we storing up our riches to buy more stuff?


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 the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
Are our hearts complacent towards the world and it's views or do we adhere to what Jesus's truths are?  Do we justify things we watch, read, and say in order to make it ok even when we know that if Jesus walked in and saw us we would be embarrassed?  Do we use discernment and make sure things line up with the Word of God?


Phew!  That is a lot to consider but so worth it.  I pray that this test will clear our hearts of mindsets that don't honor Jesus so that He can fill us to the brim and beyond with Himself.


Be blessed, sweet friend, and press on with determination and courage-
xoxo



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The absence of a father's love


I have debated within myself for a very long time about writing this post.  I certainly would never want to shame anyone.  However, I am a firm believer that God gives us stories to use to help others.  Therefore, I am choosing to share my story in hopes that someone will gain peace by reading it.

My biological father died last March and he never once told me he loved me.  I never heard that he was proud of me.  I was never told that I was the most beautiful girl in the world either.  All of the things daddies are supposed to tell their daughters never landed on my ears or heart.

My parents divorced when I was very young and my father never seemed to take an interest in my upbringing.  

My father did not walk me down the aisle when I got married even though I asked him to.  My hope was to have my step dad on one side and my biological dad on my other side.  He said no.

About a year before he died, I received a certified letter in the mail.  It was from him.  It was five handwritten pages long and he reprimanded me for being a coward and weak.  He used Bible verses to back up his statements.  

Little did he know that Jesus and I have a love affair going.  

Sadly, my father had no idea that my heart is full of love and compassion.  Had he tried to love me, I surely would have let him.

When I found out he was dying, I wrote him a letter telling him that I loved him and forgave him.  I didn't want him to die with any guilt.  I never heard from him.

I struggled when I found out he died.  My dreams and hopes of him finally loving me died too.  I had to trudge through the muck of pain and realize I would never hear my father say he loved me.  I went through a period where I thought it must certainly have been my fault.  I wondered if I had been a bad daughter.

Jesus walked with me throughout the entire process.  He never left me and never let me get so low that satan got a hold of my heart.  Jesus stood in front of me and let me fall on my knees in deep pain behind Him.  He guarded my heart and continued to whisper His love in my ear.  He led me to various Scriptures and songs that reminded me that He is my Father.  He continued to comfort my heart and tell me that His love is not dependent upon human love, even if it is an earthly parent.

If you struggle with a heart void of parental love, please know that Jesus's love is never absent.  His love is constant and real.  He holds His children and showers them with love as only a real parent can.  Cry out to Him and let Him carry you.  Don't allow satan to use your pain for his good.  May your valley turn into a beautiful mountain of trust and deeper love with your Creator.

I am confident that my father was unable to show love.  It breaks my heart for him that he never knew the relationship between a father and a daughter.  I am not angry with him.  My prayer is that he is being held by his Father and finally at peace.  

You are loved and cherished by your Father.  His eyes light up when He looks upon the beauty He created and He gets a tickle in His belly.  How can He not?  You were specifically created so He could love you.  Allow Him to, sweet one.  He longs to hold you and show you how much you mean to Him.

xoxo

Monday, November 24, 2014

Scripture study Printables - Week seven


Click here to print the memory card.

Jesus calls us to be kind and compassionate. Period.  That can be a tall order when we have been hurt.  Take heart because there is good news.  He will equip us with all that we need to show His compassion and forgiveness to those we would rather kick dirt on. 

This week's memory verse will help us set our eyes on Jesus and what He desires.  This week's worksheet will help us sort out and pray for what Jesus is instructing us to do.  May we be able to love others as He loves us.

Click here to print the worksheet. 

Have a wonderful week and trust Jesus to guard your heart and guide you.
xoxo

Saturday, November 22, 2014

You're invited to a party and it won't cost a thing!!



I am excited to announce that I have created a Facebook page specifically for Life with JoysI love spreading encouragement, offering practical tips for living well, and cheering people on.  It is definitely my passion.


Each day, I will post quick points of encouragement for daily living.  See???  It's a party for your soul! :)


All you have to do is head over to my page and click the like button.  My posts will show up on your Facebook feed.



I invite you to click here to head to my page.

I am looking forward to connecting with all of you on the new Life with Joys Facebook page.

Love and blessings to all-
xoxo


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