Let’s focus on the gifts that we HAVE been given!

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So, after much prayer, consideration, and exhibition of major vulnerability today, I decided that I needed to tap into the gifts that the Lord HAS provided me with in order to allow Him room to help me to overcome some of these technical obstacles I mentioned yesterday.

What is one of those gifts and how am I going to use it? Studying.

Jesus has helped me pretty much throughout my entire life to be a good student. It’s not due to intelligence at all. But He has given me motivation and helped me form good study habits, and that counts for something.

Although I am not as good at studying as I used to be, I can still do it pretty well. It takes me longer now, I don’t absorb the massive amounts of information as quickly as I used to, but I suppose that is part of what happens when we grow old. Oh well.

But the basics – the heart, desire, and commitment to study when I know that I need to in order to master something that’s difficult for me? That’s still there. Thanks be to God.

You know…I was thinking….

Maybe, if I remain challenged in this area and have to “study” more for a while, my brain will even become sharper?

If you feel challenged in a particular area today, go to the Lord in humility and prayer and believe that He will help you. He may reveal a gift of yours that has been buried or hidden for a long time that you can use to overcome something. Or, He may just endow you with a new gift, or His own supernatural power.

I suppose anything is possible….don’t you agree?

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27 ESV

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All Shook Up

I thought about not writing this post today, lest you see how selfish I can be in my little heart sometimes. But I have to do it, because God is nudging me to!

See, whenever discussing financial stress, I feel badly, as I very well probably should!  The reason for this is that I realize, that the kind of “money issues” that my family and I experience, would be akin to a lifestyle of royalty for a lot of other people in our world!

But, matters of the heart are what they are and sin likes to creep in there, doesn’t it?

You know how when we were young kids, if we wasted food, our moms would say “there are starving children in this world, so be grateful for your food and stop wasting?” Yes. there are. And yes, we knew that after being reminded of it for the 1000th time. But we still just wanted what we wanted.

Well, the same thing can happen to our hearts as adults. And it happened to me today.

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Today, I went to do our taxes.

Sniff.

It’s going to be okay.

Sniff Sniff.

No, seriously though. I am just still a little shocked right now, but I know God’s got this.

Sniff.

I am actually laughing now. Hee Hee.

But I was crying earlier.

See, until about a month ago, when we decided for me to quit my very well-paying, very financially lucrative, night job that I had been doing for about ten years, we were sitting very pretty financially. After seeking after God’s will for our lives, and praying a lot, we were able to finally make that decision to give up that job with clarity – and we knew it meant less money, honey!

We weren’t financially “rich” by the standards of this spoiled nation when I worked that job, but we also didn’t want for much of anything. We always had enough to cover the bills, plenty to give where we felt led to give, enough for the extras the kids needed for school and activities, and even could go out to eat from time to time.

This was actually a nice feeling since we had struggled for about the first 15 years of our marriage, living paycheck to paycheck.  We appreciated even having a paycheck at all, and still do. But I must admit, these last five years have been nice.

Since leaving that good job behind, WONDERFUL things that attest to the Lord’s provision, grace, and greatness have since happened. That is another blog post that I plan to write fairly soon.

And the money part? We haven’t really been stressing about that either, because we still had some savings (an absolute luxury, I know!), my husband still has his good job, and I do have a little bit of income coming in from my small, part time job to help a bit.

But we knew we were getting close to that time in which things were going to get pretty crunched soon.  And we weren’t worried about it. Like I said, God has helped us to line some things up job-wise for me, that will begin to help pretty soon. We figured if needed, we can use that savings money to get us by if necessary until my new income kicks in to help us out.

Then this happened……The tax visit.

Crunch time has arrived!

Yes, today we were thrown a curve ball at the tax office and that had me shaking in my boots for a few minutes. Because, just like that, the little emergency fund we had is going to be depleted.

I knew what I should be thinking and feeling: “Oh, thank you Jesus for providing us with the funds needed to take care of this totally unexpected situation!”

Instead, I found myself thinking this: “But God! I thought you had it all worked out to where we could use that money, if needed, to get by until my other part time job started in a couple of weeks?”

What a little booger I am!

No, we weren’t expecting this, and didn’t realize it was going to work out this way this tax season. In fact, it had something to do with the fact that my daughter turning 17 caused us to not get some type of credit that we usually always got, which ended up making us owe more money! For some reason, we had no idea this was coming up this  year. (Probably my dumb old brain fog)

For just a fleeting moment, I reverted back to being the old Annie. The anxiety-ridden, shaking-inside, Annie. The selfish, concerned with herself, person who knows there are starving  people in our world, but is still worried about her little financial setback, Annie.

Yeh. That one.

Remnants of her are still there, you know. She is still very alive, in fact. Yes, she still haunts us on planet earth, friends – in the flesh. But because of Jesus, her heart has changed. And she knows she is to trust Him with everything she is and with all that she has yet to become. She knows she is to think of others, count her blessings, and keep looking up, so as to have HIS perspective on life. But those little remnants, started shaking things up a bit today.

And momentarily? Inside? Well, it got a bit dark and ugly.

So, Annie got all shook up for a brief moment, and then said a big prayer asking the Lord to remind her that she and her family stand upon the strongest foundation that there is and asking for Him to change the focus from money and false senses of security and selfishness to one that is fixed upon HIM!

But in that brief tremor-like moment, right before the prayer, THIS is what I think I must have looked like to the poor lady who had to deliver the news to me today.

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But see that wonderful word from the Lord right next to that cute little guy’s face? That is the truth, friends.

And when I got home, to deliver the bad news to my husband, all I could say was what had been ringing through my heart and head over and over again since I said the prayer:

“Well, it’s time to put our money where our mouth is, honey.”

Yep. It is.

Sure, we gave up the big paycheck. Yes, we gave up the great insurance benefits when we decided I would quit that other job. And we even had prepared our hearts to deplete the savings, which we know we are blessed to even have, and which we know belong to Him anyway! (Annie just didn’t think it was going to happen so fast.)

So I guess I wasn’t really fully prepared for that, now was I? I guess Annie really hadn’t fully surrendered that money to the Lord, now had she? Aha!

Isn’t it funny how when we ask the Lord to search every crevice of our hearts, usually there is not a lack of darkness to be found that He can then draw out for us? Aren’t you glad He is so faithful?

And my family and I – we have so much more now.  We just don’t have the money that we thought we had. And we still live better than what – 98% of the world? Getting to enjoy the blessings of following after the Lord and yielding to His will is far more valuable than that “financial security” could ever be.

Not having a nest egg forces us to fly – and that is pretty cool if you ask me.

It makes me ill to think about how very spoiled rotten I was in that moment of stress earlier today. Absolutely ill!

Know something that’s even a harder truth to face than that?

It’s this: That I know, I will continue to battle with this – I will continue to feel uncomfortable for a while because I have been so very spoiled. I will continue to slip into the selfish thought process about money from time to time. But I also have no question at all that we will become all the stronger in the Lord, even through these small battles of the flesh.

We’ve had this discussion, you know – my husband and I with the Lord…..more than once. We have considered the fact that we may not get to keep a lot of “things” now that we are making these life changes to follow more fervently after the Lord and His will in our lives. He may let us keep our house, or we may have to change that down the road. We may be able to pay for college, or maybe not. The money for our kids to go on their mission trip with the church may be able to be raised, or maybe it won’t.

We just don’t know yet. But we know He is going to get us through it all and take us where He wants to take us. That we do know.

When we temporarily shake inside out of fear, or some other kind of fleshly sin or thing of self, we can turn back to Him – look up again – gain His perspective, and realize that He has our backs, He understands us, and only He can give us peace.

Yes, God shakes things up too, and has the right to do so in any way that He pleases. But in the Almighty’s case, He knows exactly what He’s doing.

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“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life.” Matthew 6:25-34

Focal Point

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wallpaper4God.com

Today was weird, friends.

Until today, I haven’t really felt sad about the fact that I will be departing from the job I have held for over ten years now. Most of you who read this blog know by now that I talk a lot about feelings; how they are fickle; how they should not be what we rely upon; and how they can also just be a pain in the rear sometimes.

Yet, feelings can be good if they help us grow even more in our personal relationship with Christ. Even the not-so-feel-good kind of feelings can bring this glorious result about. It’s about keeping our eyes fixed upon Christ.

Today I have some of those less-than-pleasant feelings going on and rolling around inside of my head and heart. As I write this, My Lord is helping me to give them over to Him. I have been fighting against that all day long. Of course, like so very often happens with me, I didn’t realize I was even struggling to fully surrender until now.

See, I have found that quite frequently, we can experience great joy and great peace in the Lord even when we have the icky feelings floating around in there. It’s part of what we contend with as followers after Christ. If we didn’t experience such things, we’d just be a bunch of robots – heartless, and incapable of having a relationship with Him or anyone else for that matter.

So we get to have the feelings. And that means dealing with the whole spectrum of them too. We don’t get to choose to never feel the stuff that is less-than fun, and just keep the happy stuff locked up in a nice little box. Having feelings means we have them all. And then when we turn to the Lord to help us with the ones that are difficult, He grows us – He loves us – He teaches us, blesses us, and equips us to understand others and have more and more compassion for them. Most of all, His strength shines right through our weaknesses – bringing all the more glory to Him.

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made
perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my
infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  2 Corinthians 12:9

Today, I felt a bit cold, a little lonely, and a lot sad – like a little lost puppy. Although my last day at this job is not until Friday, today I felt like I was starting the process of walking away from relationships, friendships, and in some ways, what has been my second family for over ten years. I know I will remain friends with some of these wonderful people I have met over those years – but we all know all too well that it will not be the same. It’s part of life.

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wallpaper4God.com

And despite the feelings, I know I am not alone – I know God is with me – so is my real family….the ones who matter most. I am entrenched in my wonderful church family, and those relationships are growing more and more each day. Yet I still felt that way today – that weird way. Not through and through, but it was there.

I felt like I was beginning to experience the sensation of being on the outside of it all, looking in. Like I was in the hallway outside of the door that I asked the Lord to help me close, yet I could still hear the party going on behind it. It is a party I was still invited to attend – so many of my friends there – celebrating, nurturing their relationships, and having a good time.

And I chose not to attend. Weird.

That’s a hard pill to swallow, feelings-wise. Yet I don’t regret it at all. It’s just still a little sad. I will miss my dear friends there. This made me feel momentarily alone. But then I remembered – like the wallpaper post that’s going around on facebook says right now – I have Jesus is in the hallway with me – I am praising Him….worshipping Him….loving Him. I am relying upon Him.

PLUS, I have a place to go, friends. I have my wonderful family to care for, and a beautiful role to play within my church. How much better does it get than that?

I think often of Paul when he spent time in prison – how often he was alone by earthly standards. But he never was. He always carried Jesus with him. I think that sometimes we need to experience such things to remember who will be the One and Only that will be with us forever and ever more, don’t you?

Have you ever felt the way that I felt today? Where you made a choice to move away from something that wasn’t necessarily “bad” to embark upon a new adventure that the Lord is starting for you in life? Have you ever been in that circumstance in which you know it is the right thing to do, yet you feel a bit lost and disoriented because you are leaving all that is known for something that doesn’t seem certain? Yet you know – you know you are supposed to do it – you even want to and feel privileged to do it – you no longer have reservation about doing it – but you still feel a bit sad. Sad through even the blessing of it all.

If so, please take heart, just as I am doing in the Lord right now. Because He has promised to never leave us. He has promised that He wants to use us to bring about glory to Him. If we have accepted the gift of salvation in Christ Jesus, He promises that no matter what, we will be with Him in all eternity – never alone. And if you haven’t accepted this awesome gift, do so today! He loves you dearly. He is waiting.

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For those of us who have chosen Christ as our Savior, these times like I experienced today remind us that great things are brought about when we choose to focus upon Him as we follow after what He is calling us to do.  We get to know with no doubt that He is with us even in the momentary periods of cold or sad or loss. It’s about whether we decide to let the sad outweigh the joy – the real and true joy that He fills us with that is not contingent on our fickle feelings of the day. We can focus on all that still seems blurry, or keep our eyes fixed upon the clarity that we have in Christ.

Today I accept that I feel a bit sad. I trust that the Lord has a reason for allowing me to have those silly and pesky feelings from time to time. I have seen Him do wonders with such things before – many, many times.

And I realize this: He can handle even that for me. He can keep my vision straight even in the midst of the confusion and blurriness as well. He can do it in the midst of my sad. He can do it in the midst of my excitement. He can do it in anything at all. He can do it for me, and He will do it for you.

We don’t have to understand it. But we do need to believe it. And that gives us peace, friends…. just like Paul talked about. It’s the kind of peace that only comes from God.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts
and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 NIV

Yes, it was a weird day. But God is not confused. And we are not alone if we have invited Him into our life and accepted the gift that He offers us through Jesus Christ, His son. Not ever.

wallpapers4God.com

wallpapers4God.com

He’s with us in the weird. He’s with us in the sad. He’s with us in the blurry, the confusing, and the cold. He’s with us in the joy. He’s with us in the new. He’s with us in the unknown, the excitement, and the mixed up muddy mess of it all. And He makes it beautiful. He puts it all into focus – in His perfect timing.

Our God? Our Mighty God? He can do all things! Let’s trust Him to do so. And then, let’s move out of the way and just walk where He tells us to – whether He tells us to take one step at a time, or take it in leaps and bounds.

It may sometimes feel like we are on the outside of the party – lost, left out, whether by choice or not. But at the end of the day, who is the One who will be with us no matter what? Who is the One who has the ultimate party planned for us in heaven – one that will last for all eternity – one that we cannot even begin to imagine in relation to how awesome and great it shall be?  I’m up for that party. Are you?

He is the One who has promised He will never leave us or forsake us. That is Jesus Christ, our Lord.

And HE…..HE is our focal point. In everything. Even the not-so-feel-good feelings.

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Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the
joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the
right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2 NIV

Gettin’ M’Gear On!

Recently (as in the last two days) my family and I have had a triumph in Christ – the details of which I plan to share in full as soon as I am able. It’s time to rejoice about this special thing, and we are doing just that.

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So as always, this morning I am going to begin it all by asking the Lord to direct my steps and the path He has set before me, because enjoying the fruits that come out of this triumph does not come without some action steps on my part – things the Lord would have me do to do in relation to all of the things involved. But I need to do it along with the help of my Lord – I realize I cannot do it alone. I will rejoice in that as well, but I am pausing each morning to set the day that lies ahead right into His hands…

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As I have much to do, I must remember that the Lord is the one who will choose the plans and how to go about achieving the goals He has in store. So I shall proceed, most prayerfully, with what I think I am supposed to do, but always remember, that HE, the Almighty and most Sovereign Lord, has the full power….He owns all my “rights”…..He is the Mighty Director. And He can change things any time He sees fit.

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I feel excited about this and a huge weight is taken off of me and my family, friends. New things are happening, and I have never really been one to look forward to change – not until it has come to fruition. In this, I am excited about what the Lord is doing right as it is happening. I see the new growth now…..and I know there is more to come. I can enjoy the journey of it all – the trip He is taking us on – instead of only looking forward to the destination. I kind of have a feeling that idea of destination is only partially true anyway when we are walking in the Lord’s will for us. We may land somewhere temporarily, get to hover a while…but He will continue to move us according to  His will.

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There is peace to be found in that…in Him. In the midst of all the unknown and the chaos. In the midst of the times in which things will run smoothly – like the well-oiled operation that the Lord is capable of making this part of our journey, and also in the midst of the parts that will be frustrating, chaotic, and just plain hard. It’s His kind of peace. That’s the kind that I am really into, friends. ‘Cause it’s the only kind that’s real.

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I have been warned….the enemy will try to attack, so I will be putting on the full armor of God each and every morning. I will be checking in with Him throughout the day to do the safety check that is always needed with one such as myself. The armor, if kept on, is impenetrable by the enemy. I have a tendency to take pieces of it off at times. So, I pray that the Lord will keep me geared up every step of the way, since I tend to be an undisciplined soldier. I realize to the full, that for me, this starts in the mind. So I am giving that to Him.

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This is not my darkest valley, but it does entail a lot of unknown. But I am not afraid. AT ALL. I am free from fear right now. I pray the Lord will remind me of this when I start to get a little scared, as I know it will happen. Sometimes it may be a test of faith. Other times it may be a full scale attack or sabotage carefully planned out by the enemy but that comes upon me when I wasn’t looking for it. We can be on guard for what we know to watch out for, and even try to anticipate the element of surprise, but we are not children of the enemy, friends. We don’t think like he does. But instead of this making me afraid, it makes me know all the more how very much I need to trust in the Lord. He has my back….even if or when we get a major or minor injury, He has our backs.

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And as much as I know that the Lord has our backs, there will be the need for courage. This kind of courage can only come through Him and reliance upon Him. I look forward to having my backbone tested. I also look forward to the times that I am standing strong and don’t have to undergo much of a test. All of these things are blessings from the Lord and part of His plan to make us the disciples that we need to be. All of it prepares us to be better soldiers for Christ. We don’t know what may be around the corner, friends. Actually, if you read Revelation and follow the news, the truth is that we do know. We just don’t know when. And we need to be prepared. Practicing courage is one way the Lord admonishes us to do just that. And he lets us practice through these small, little life changes that may seem like a big deal to us right now, but that will pale in comparison to some of what may come our way before we leave this earth.

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There is beauty in that – a kind of beauty I never really saw before. Isn’t it wonderful how the Lord continues to open our eyes to things? His truth is not something that we can ever get enough of or fully tap out – it it eternal. And although the Lord is unchanging, we are creatures who are limited in what we can, or are willing to see. We can only take in so much at a time. But when we submit, and when He deems us ready, He reveals new truths to us to enrich us, embolden us, prepare us, and to bless us.

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In all of it, none of this really is what matters most anyway. Because there is only one truth that really is significant and lasting. And that is Jesus Christ and the salvation He offers us. That is Jesus Christ and the blessed hope that we will live with Him forever and reign with Him in a kingdom more glorious than we could ever truly imagine. That is Jesus…Jesus….Jesus, my friends. I love the truth of Jesus Christ.

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Always remember…even He looked up. He modeled that for us – how truly important it is. To look up and give the glory to God. To look up and ask for guidance. To look up and seek His will and direction. To look up and worship, praise, thank, and bask in awe. To look up for every single thing……big or small, when it’s easy and when it’s not. Because we CAN. If Jesus thought it important….and if HE thought it a privilege, shouldn’t we?

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via davidbelcher creationswap

More than anything else, the Lord reminds me that the most important gear of all is love. Let’s get suited up, friends. There is a long day ahead. There’s a lot of love to show. Let’s do this thing!