Is your New Year going as hoped?
I ask because, I love a new day and especially a New Year. I get excited about the opportunity to change something, start a new habit, to improve, or to put a rough day behind me.
This year was no different and I looked forward to January very much.
If you are anything like me, your hopes for the New Year would have been a complete overhaul of your life. My hopes had everything from getting in shape to being a better mom, person, wife, etc.. These, and much more on the list, are still my goals, but I can say that this year isn’t much different than the last, except the numbers in the date.
There wasn’t a lot of down time during the holidays and the new year started without much time to catch my breath or turn my hopes into plans. I am not making excuses and I am sure there was more I could have done to start with a plan, but none-the-less, I wasn’t able to make any resolutions or start off the way I had hoped.
Is that how you feel now that we are a few weeks into the new year? Do look over your week and think, “Nothing has changed”?
I feel that way often. I have some health struggles that make it a challenge to do more than just exist at times. I never know what each day will hold or if I’ll be able to do all I have planned. I know it is said to take things day-by-day, and we literally don’t have a choice, but what that means in my world is in making plans I know that I will have to make final decisions on that day whether or not I can keep them depending on how I am feeling physically. I was raised to keep my commitments and this season in my life makes trying to live out the verse from James 5:12, “…let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no…” very challenging.
Do you find yourself too busy and unable to find grip or focus, just being pulled instead of in control? Or do you find yourself in a situation like myself? Maybe you are in a happy medium and life is manageable, full but not too full, and you accomplish all you need. Either which way, we all know seasons change and life can get mundane or overly stressful.
Even on my busiest and best days, I can at times end the day feeling like I didn’t get it right. I didn’t do the one thing that I really needed or wanted, or I didn’t do enough. So no matter what our lives look like and the activities we have on our to do lists, how do we make sure that we have that peace when the day is over?
I remember last year when I started swimming again. I swam competitively in high school and college, and even though my physique no longer proves that to be true, I still call myself a swimmer. The first day I went back, of course my body fought it and I didn’t swim as long as I had hoped, definitely shouldn’t’ have been calling myself a swimmer the last few years! I remember telling my husband, “Tomorrow is already better because of what I did today”. The excitement I had for the next day could not be measured or taken away. I knew that when tomorrow came, when I looked back on my yesterday, I wouldn’t regret my choice to go to the pool, to have done the one thing I had avoided for so long.
So back to the question about how do we have that peace when our day is done. It could be something practical like the example above, and those things are good, but where does our peace come from?
2 Thessalonians 3:16 says, “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all”. He is called the Lord of Peace.
Then in Philippians 4:7 it says, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.
Knowing Him is where the peace comes from.
Do you need Him to guide you in your daily activities so there is peace in your heart?
As you think on your new year (there is still a lot left), don’t pressure yourself, but take advantage of an opportunity. Take advantage of a new day to draw closer to the Lord, to hear His voice and have Him guide you. Instead of thinking, “This year, I want to get in shape” or “I want to be a better homemaker”, think about what one thing you can change between you and the Lord.
I know that when I am focused on Him, when I spend time with Him regularly in Bible study and prayer, the practical things of the day aren’t as stressful and I am even able to prioritize my never ending list of ‘to-dos’.
So, what is that one thing for you? Do you need more time in prayer? Do you need more time to read the Bible?
It’s difficult to figure out how it will all fit in. So, maybe while you get ready for your day, while you do your hair or whatever, talk to Him. Maybe you already talk to Him and pray regularly, but you need more Bible time. Download an audio version of the Bible and listen as you get ready, or as you drive to work. There are podcasts and apps you can download. If you are less into the technology, there are really good daily devotionals that you can read in just a few minutes while you eat breakfast, like the Daily Bread. You can also go to LoveEverlastingMinistries.com for other resources as well.
All I am saying is there are tiny adjustments you can make that won’t overwhelm you, but will be of great benefit to you over time.
My hope for you this year is that you find a passion and fervor for the Lord while having a peace that is deep within you as you face each day. As women, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. Make this year different by filtering that through the Lord and His Word.
The room is dark, and the bottle is close. As she raises it to her lips with trembling hands, she knows that the burning liquid will dull the ache in her heart…for a moment.
What she doesn’t see is the lone figure standing in the corner of her room, sword hanging loosely by his side, a tear sliding slowly down his cheek.
“How much longer, Father,” he asks in a hushed whisper.
“Wait,” is the reply he hears. And so he waits, quietly, painfully watching.
Also in the room are Despair and Loneliness and Anger and Guilt. Soon they are joined by Greed and Malice and Fury. Squirming around her, talons digging into her flesh, they continue to stab her repeatedly with unseen nails. She doesn’t respond to their torment, however. Instead her heart sinks. With every passing moment she only feels more pain. In ever growing sadness, she tips the bottle again.
“Please, Father,” asks the warrior standing in the corner, “how much longer?”
“Wait,” is his answer again.
Painfully, then, he obeys.
His knuckles tighten around the sword at his side as he watches the horde of tormenters now covering the room. With every passing moment they are joined by more and more squirming things, their home the abyss, but their purpose now is tormenting her. They cannot take her, for she belongs to the Great One. They can, however, menacingly provoke her heart to sickness and pain.
Another tear falls unseen down the warrior’s cheek. He vibrates now with the need to protect, to save. But still he waits.
Next he sees joining the throng of creatures Discouragement and Rage. Finally, when it seems that no more could possibly come, the one called Hopelessness slithers in uninhibited and buries its talons deep into her heart. She moans, and very suddenly her heart gives way to utter despondency. The warrior senses this change, sees the new arrival, and his own heart threatens to break.
Just as he opens his mouth to beseech once again on behalf of his charge, he hears the Father speak.
With lightning speed he reacts, his sword barely visible as it slashes through the air. The small tormenters scream and run, trying unsuccessfully to avoid his blade, but each is vanquished in a cloud of smoke. The great warrior’s weapon is too much and too quick for any to evade.
Only a second has passed in human time before he has rid the room of every last one. Instantly he is at her side, his strong face only inches from her tear-stained face. With great affection and tender words he whispers in her ear: “No more. You are done now. Stop, my dear one.”
She doesn’t see him. She doesn’t see any of them, but she hears this voice, even if it seems to be only in her head. Something in her clicks into place, and she knows she has come to the end. She hasn’t any idea of where the strength will come, but she knows that she has been touched, and the end of this self-inflicted misery has come. It is an end that will bring healing. It is an end that has broken her, but it has broken her so that she will look to her Father. It is a healing that must come, and it must come in this fashion.
The warrior will not leave her. He will be there, protecting her while she finishes this exile. And though it causes him tremendous pain to watch his charge go through such horrible pain, he trusts the Father who has promised to bring all of His children unto Himself—even if that path means He must leave them to themselves to do so.
It will be a long road, dear one, he thinks, but I am here, and you will find peace in the arms of your Father and Savior.
This story may seem far-fetched to you, but if you are a believer and have sinned, losing yourself for a time to that sin, then something very similar to this allegory has happened on behalf of you. There is a battle going on every minute of every day in the spiritual realm for your mind and for your purpose here on earth. Satan wants to thwart all that the Father has done for you, and he will use all of the darkness available to him to accomplish his purposes. In the allegory above it was alcohol plaguing the believer. However, it could just as easily have been drugs, sex, lying, anger, malice, gossip, or a host of other sins that beset fallen man.
You must remember, though, that God will not lose you. He will do all that is necessary, even if that means allowing you to fall to immeasurable depths so that you will once and for all find yourself on your face before Him, sobbing through tear-drenched eyes. Only then will you be able to say, “I give up, Father. I give up trying, and I give myself and my life and my struggles to you.”
Once you have truly done this thing, the end will bring a new beginning. This end will bring peace. Our Father loves us too much to let us live without the joy that only He can bring. He will protect us, but sometimes He will let us fall so that we might stand.
So now, Believer, stand. Whatever struggle besets you on this day, lay it down and stand. Stand and hear your Savior say, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Will you stand today? Because somewhere very near to you a warrior waits to slay all those things that torment you now. Has it been enough yet? Will you lay it down at the feet of your Savior and say, “I give it all to You”?
“By the time I was twenty three years old, I was a mother of three children, ranging from 9 months to 5 years old. I found myself living 1,800 miles from family, with a husband who traveled 5 days a week.”
As I look back now, I can see that I was really a ‘needy’ person… pretty much from the ‘get-go’. I did well in school, but I used lying, deceit and “illness” to get the attention that I craved.
My dad was a successful Kansas dairy farmer. My mom worked very hard to keep up with farm chores and babies, especially after her mother and her mother-in-law died of illnesses. Life on a farm during the Second World War was, indeed, challenging (ration cards, no indoor plumbing, no electricity, gas lights, and an “ice box” for a refrigerator.) Mom and Dad were good parents and also strong Christians.
I was the youngest of three kids born in 3½ years. The day before I was born, my mom cooked for 12 harvesters. No wonder my mom would say that my birth put her in ‘overload’! While she didn’t mean any harm, she would reflect on those circumstances, when chatting with friends in my presence. As a result, I came to believe that I was a big mistake! To make matters worse, my eyes were ‘crossed’ necessitating surgery when I was 5.
Then, when I was 12 years old, my family had to relocate to Tucson, for health reasons. I went from a class of 6 farm-kids to a school with 400 city-kids… just in 8th grade! That was a sort of cultural shock. I didn’t feel very ‘cool’.
As for my relationship with God, I had answered an ‘alter call’ and was baptized at the age of 5. While I believed in Jesus as my personal Savior, there was no fruit or power in my life. Church was mostly a social event.
Later on, I met my husband, Dave, at church. I started dating him when I was 14 and he was 17. We married when I was 16. I became a mom at 17. We were immature and under enormous pressure. Can you imagine that our life did not resemble marital bliss?
By the time I was twenty three years old, I was a mother of three children, ranging from 9 months to 5 years old. I found myself living 1,800 miles from family, with a husband who traveled 5 days a week. He was absorbed in his work-reports on the weekends. I was lonely and angry… and Dave was pre-occupied with his job. Quarreling was a way of life for us.
After a particularly bad argument on a Sunday morning, I picked up my kids and headed for church while Dave stayed behind. On the way to church I cried out to God. I said “God, you have to do something!” I had in mind something to “straighten out” my husband. God heard my plea, but to my surprise, His work was to be in me, not my husband.
I dropped the oldest two children in Sunday school and the baby in the nursery. I walked into the service while the congregation was singing the Doxology. I suddenly found myself reciting the first verse of 1Corintians 13 in my head. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” I had memorized that verse in VBS when I was 12, but had rarely thought about it since. I also had a vision of a tongue of fire simultaneously as I was quoting the scripture. I uttered out loud “Oh, God, you mean love, that’s what’s wrong, it’s me”! I was so overwhelmed I walked out of the service and went home.
Dave had left a note that he had gone fishing. I took my Bible, and on my knees with the help of a concordance, I looked up and read every reference I could find on love. In the next hour, God infused every cell of my body with His love! When I got off my knees to go back to church for the kids, all of my neediness had vanished and I was for the first time in my life satisfied! I was a completely new creation!
I waited for Dave to come home so I could share my experience with him. He was glad I was happy, but a bit puzzled about how to deal with me. Suddenly, sermons were spell-binding and the Bible was all I wanted to read! The smile on my face was impossible to wipe off. I was, in fact, NEW!
I have thought about how God has brought newness to my life. First, I’m sure our marriage of 46+ years would have failed before year ten. Second, my children would have not been exposed to God’s redemptive love from their mom. You simply can’t give what you don’t have. Third, God provided the power to cope with the new challenges just around the corner. God taught me to trust Him and rely on Him when I was REALLY lonely!
Rather than make things easy for me, God ‘upped the ante’ by giving me some real culture shock! Just two years after my extraordinary experience with Him. Dave was transferred to Madrid, Spain with his company. When he was traveling, I was left alone with our four children, ranging from 6 months to 8 years, without the benefit of even being able to make myself understood. I spoke no Spanish. There was no English-speaking church. I had no idea what I was doing in the European culture. (Remember, I was a Kansas farm kid!)
While this was a very hard, exciting, scary time… it was also a sweet time of fellowship with God. He was all I had to rely on! All of the normal props had been pulled out from under me.
Simply put, His love sustained me.
Five years later, we returned to Tucson where Dave returned to school for a graduate degree and I went to work for the first time in my life. Once again, there were many challenges; juggling family and work time, and intense financial stress as Dave struggled with starting a new business. I held onto the knowledge that God loved and cared for me and my family. I remembered how He had met me in my most desperate times of need, when I was hopeless. He didn’t choose to make the burden lighter; instead He gave me His strength to carry it!!
Our children are all married with big families (twenty grandchildren to date). All have found that the God who was faithful to their parents… is also faithful to them. They now share His love with their children and bless many others with their lives.
My prayer is that you, too, will find a need so great that you cry out to Him, so He can make you NEW!
By Elizabeth Ryan
When we are young we grow a custom to our environment and the people around us. Unable to view our experience from any other perspective, because of course, this is all we know. We instinctively accept the behavior of others, adapt ourselves accordingly and believe that this is the way it is supposed to be. Whether our environment is happy and safe with lots of loving communication or it is scary and unstable with lots of abusive words…or maybe it could
be someplace in between…This is our world and this becomes the foundation from which we begin to build our lives and our understanding of others and our world.
If we could imagine for a moment that our experiences with others are like a constant exchange of garments. From the time we are little we are given all types of “emotional” garments and as we grow we learn to accept the garment no matter what is given.
Then, in turn, we begin our exchange of imposing garments. Some are heavy and cloak like. Others are scratchy and irritating and some tight and confining. While others can be sheer and light, some colorful and flowing or maybe soft and comforting.
Throughout our lives we exchange garments with those we encounter. Some of us have become so heavy-ladened with garments we find we can hardly breathe much less move or even see. We are sometimes panicked at the fact that we are unrecognizable even to ourselves trapped and hidden deep, beneath all the layers we cling to so tightly.
Our voices so muffled we are unable to be heard or even seen for who we truly are, whom God created us to be.
In our inability to bear the weight of all that we have accumulated we drop to our knees…Then, collapse into a heap on the ground. Broken and ashamed at the realization of all that we have given to others…In this, we are able to find true humility and are ready to let go. Our Savior removes the garments one by one, those that we have received and those that we have given, now we can begin to experience what it means to truly be free. As the bondage is
released Jesus is able to reveal to us the beauty of whom he created us to be without the garments of this world.
Through His grace and mercy we have been given the ability to see beyond the garments worn by others. We have a deeper understanding and true compassion for those who are unaware of their own garments and share with them the hope we have come to know when Christ removed ours and revealed to us His glory.
The garments, whether weighty or light, can only fully be seen by our Savior.
After all, He “knows” us. He was there when we received them, He knows fully from whom they were given and how weary and tired we have become from dragging all the bags we have accumulated behind us. He has seen all the garments you have given to others and yet He sees clearly that you are beautiful and you are His…Exactly the way He created you and no longer hidden, deep beneath the heap on the ground.
Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Let us surrender the need to exchange the garments of this world and instead embrace the simple exchange of the only garment we need…The garment of God’s Glory.
**Featured Image Photo by Sonora Leif Photography
William Shakespeare was arguably one of the best writers in the English language. Some people just have a way with words, and Shakespeare was certainly one of them. From plays to poetry, I think it’s safe to say that Willie had a gift. Not only a wordsmith, he hailed from London, making it entirely plausible that he had a fabulous accent, putting him at the top of my list of people I would love to have read me bedtime stories. Well – except for the fact that he died over 399 years ago, so were he actually to read to me, I would likely have a panic attack of epic proportions and not the sweet sleep I had envisioned – but I digress…
Shakespeare is credited for the popular phrase The Eyes are the Window to the Soul and there are some scientific types who would tend to agree. Years ago, as I struggled through a biology course in college, I read a number of studies indicating that eye color directly affected things like pain tolerance. I specifically recall the idea that women with blue eyes were thought to have less pain in childbirth. That idea is surely bunk, as I am the blue-eyed mother of three boys and am here to tell you that bringing those fellas into this world was no picnic! The smarty-pants in lab coats have also had some thought-provoking theories about iris patterns being a sign of one’s tendency towards things like impulsivity, extending trust, or having a warm personality. Sure, my baby blues might be able tell you a bit about me; but if I were a betting gal (thankfully I’m not, as math is not my strong suit, making my poker playing abilities dismal at best) the average joe is less likely to ponder how intense my migraines are due to my pale eyes and more apt to notice my penchant for shades of grey…in the form of eye shadow of course. Due to the fact that I have some groovy artwork framed on my wall in lieu of a medical diploma, all I’ve got to go on is my personal experience. As luck would have it, I happen to be an expert in the field of my life. So here’s how I see it: the hair is actually the window to the soul – or at least it is into mine.
God has given us all amazing minds, so use your imagination and follow me back a couple of decades. Let’s go back to the 80’s – oh c’mon you younger gals may not have been fortunate enough to live in those amazing fashion years when hairspray was king, but thanks to modern technology you can take a quick sec and google it. There was some teased up-permed up-straight up nonsense going on back then for sure! I have to admit, though I was a late bloomer (epically late – like 40), I did jump on board the big haired wagon. As a teenager, I had the biggest, baddest mane on the block. It was long, thick, and at times held the distinct scent of a fresh perm. That is, until I came to the realization my appearance may be the cause of some pretty serious abuse I was enduring.
As many who find themselves the victim of sexual abuse, I felt lost and alone. What was going on was clearly my fault – I had to fix it. In my young mind, I reasoned that if I could make myself as unattractive as possible, then the madness would stop. The visits to my room in the middle of the night would cease. Maybe I could go unnoticed; become invisible. With my plan was securely in place, I was off to the salon. No more long locks for me – I went as short as I could go without involving a razor. As I sat in that chair, attempting to eliminate what I thought to be the catalyst of the abuse, my eyes wouldn’t have told you of the horrors plaguing my soul. However, the signs were evident in every flash of the scissors, each sweep of the comb. My freshly shorn hair was certain to be my protection, except it wasn’t.
As a grown woman, I wish I could’ve bequeathed a bit of advice to that young girl. For starters, lay off the hairspray, sister! It turns out Aqua Net wasn’t all that great for the environment. Living in the desert, the idea of global warming (fictional or otherwise) is kind of a drag. More importantly, it wasn’t your fault. There was nothing you could have done to prevent the predator from choosing you as his prey and you were NOT weak. Living through that horrendous season makes you one of the strongest people I know. Much more importantly, though you may have felt isolated and alone, nothing could have been further from the truth. The truth is you were never alone – not then, not now, not ever.
As women, our feelings can be tricky – so misleading. Many of us feel things very deeply, which can be a good thing; God created us in such a way. However, I don’t believe He intended us to be led solely by those feelings or even the environment we find ourselves in. When we feel alone and isolated, that is when we need to pause and see what the Word has to say (even if we don’t feel like it).Deuteronomy 31:6 is crystal clear when it says, “…for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” So we aren’t alone? What great news! It gets better when we look at one of my favorite verses Jeremiah 29:11 , “’For I know that plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.’” Now there is some fantastical news: no matter what the current situation or how we feel about it, our God has a plan. Guess what? It’s not plan B, C, or some thrown together fly-by-the-seat plan. The Creator of the universe – the one who flung the stars into the sky and paints the most beautiful Arizona sunsets – is on the road of life with you and is leading you to a good place, a place of hope.
There is a saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and I must say that I strongly disagree. As we allow God to work in our hearts and minds, often times the result is a softening. The one who has felt the sting of verbal abuse is more apt to tame the tongue. The one whose heart has been shattered is the one who shows kindness to those in the midst of heartbreak. As we allow God to work through our past, He has an amazing way of placing us in a position to speak peace, courage, and life to those who need it most.
Every now and again, my sleep is interrupted and I wake with my heart beating out of my chest, my dreams having been disturbed by the nightmares of the past. Those are the times that I have to remind myself that it wasn’t my fault; that I am safe now. I see my husband asleep next to me and think of my children down the hall – all part of His plan. As my breathing returns to normal, I roll over to check the time with a sigh, knowing I have got to get back to sleep. After all, I’ll need to be up early enough to tame my head full of long, crazy locks before I face the new day.
I wish that the rest of this was going to be my take on all the songs that make me want to get down with my bad self, but it’s not. You see, I have an incredible life. It is full of love from my husband, my children, my family, and friends. We have the ability to be home together almost everyday of the week, and I have the blessing of home schooling my minis. Our needs are taken care of and we laugh. A lot.
But I got derailed. By that I mean I found myself withdrawn and had a difficult time finding contentment. I wanted to be anywhere but here, maybe start over somewhere new, just me. My husband wasn’t my most favorite person, I had been hurt by some people I trust, I had no patience for my kids, and I couldn’t seem to find peace. I was in one of the deepest funks I’ve ever been. Merriam-Webster defines funk as: a depressed state of mind. (more…)