Saturday, February 28, 2009

I Love Nice People!

My daughter Morgan is a hoot. If there is anyone who can say a zillion words in a day, it would be her. She was blessed with an outgoing personality - sometimes a little too outgoing, according to her teachers at school. God love her! But she loves to talk. She loves to socialize. She loves to laugh. Overall, she is a really happy kid.

As a result, I have to give her the credit - she coined the phrase I used above. Every time someone we meet or interact with is nice, she says "I love nice people!"

If the Wendys cashier is especially nice and friendly, she says it. If she sees someone helping a stranger in the mall, she says it. If she is blessed with a teacher who cares about their students and makes learning fun, she says it. If she meets a new friend whom she likes, she says it.

It has been a great reminder for me, to be one of those nice people! Because I love nice people too!

And I have to be honest, I especially dislike un-nice people. Apparently God did not give me that special and rare gift of loving those sandpaper in my life. I have had some sandpaper people in my life of whom practically made my life miserable, and I can tell you that it is no fun. It is amazing actually, how the hurtful actions of one or two people can cause you to lose your smile, even when so many other things in your life are going wonderfully.

God instructs us to be nice to people, even if they are not nice to us, and forgive them. So being that way and granting that forgiveness is always a commitment - and it can start with a smile! Just trying to maintain that genuine smile, even if there are certain people or circumstances who try to steal it away. God is bigger than any of those things!

As my sweet Morgan constantly reminds me how she loves nice people, it has prompted and reminded me that I need to always try to BE one of those nice people. One of those people that someone else will see, and say "hey, she is nice. I love nice people!".

A few years ago, I was getting some groceries at the grocery store, just minding my own business, going down my list, and trying to get out of there to get home to all my other pressing motherly duties. I went to check out, pulled my wallet from my purse, still in another mental world of my own and not interacting with the clerk, until I heard the young man say "Smile! It cant be all that bad!".

At first, I thought - how rude! But then I realized, that I must have been looking grumpy, unhappy, or discouraged - and in all honesty, I wasnt feeling that way at all! The expression on my face portrayed something that I was not feeling, because I was focused on me, and nobody else. And his smile, made me smile! Smiles are contagious!

After that day, I made it a personal commitment to try to smile more. Sometimes smiling is something we have to practice, especially when we are just minding our own business, buying groceries or walking through the mall.

I had another example happen just recently. I was riding somewhere with my husband and we were sitting in the car at a stoplight. I looked down at the car beside me (because we have a big SUV and there was a little compact car beside us), and a man was staring up at me. Now I could have given him a weird look for staring at me, or simply just looked away and pretended that we actually did not make eye contact. Instead, I smiled a big smile at him - and he smiled back! And then he kept smiling after we drove off! It made me chuckle.

I have so many countless reasons to smile, and so many blessings to warm my heart. Even when I am having a bad day, or going through a difficult time, I can always find some reason to smile. Believe me, some days I forget that though. I get caught up with life, and forget to be caught up with what God has done for me in this life. Happens to the best of us!

But the key is remembering that one little smile can go a long way. One little smile or kind word can lift someones spirits for the rest of the day - and in the meantime, we get our spirits lifted as well! Something about smiling just makes one happy!

So as you go about your day, your week, your month - remember to smile! Try to be extra nice! You never know, you might even make someone say, "I love nice people!".

Proverbs 15:13 A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.

Ephesians 4:32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ready for some coffee?

For all of you who read my blog, and especially all of you wonderful ladies who have left comments over the past 10 days, I just wanted to say thank you! Your comments and encouraging stories and words are such an inspiration for me! They reassure me daily that God uses us all in special ways to help others see Christ, and to do a work in our own hearts.

I wish we could get all together for some coffee at Starbucks, and just sit and talk for hours about how God is working in all of our lives, but unfortunately that is impossible since we are all spread across the globe. So, I suppose we just each have to go get our own Starbucks or Panera or Caribou or Dunkin Donuts (or whatever your favorite coffee is!)and then get onto our computers to blog together!

However, one person does not have to buy her own coffee, because she has won a $10 Starbucks gift card for participating and commenting in the Optimist Challenge every day - and that person is........

Tracey from Florida!

Congrats Tracey! Please email your address to me, and I will get your Starbucks card in the mail to you. Thank you for opening up your heart each day and sharing how God used the challenge to draw you closer to Him.

Have a wonderful week everyone!

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Day 10: Optimism Challenge

Day 10: Just breathe. God knows the desires of your heart.

Psalm 139: 1-4

1 O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.

2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

4 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD

Whew! If you have made it through the past nine days, then I bet your heart is tired! Hopefully a good kind of tired, but tired nonetheless.

Trying to be who God wants us to be, and who we ourselves want to be, can be hard.

Although we may start out every morning determined to have a new attitude and a song in our hearts, each day brings challenges that cause us to stumble, only to find ourselves losing the battle for optimism once again; to find our faith faltering, and our hope diminishing; to find that the raging battle for our hearts between two very powerful powers is one that is never ending.

Its okay, friend. Take a deep and refreshing breath - and rest in knowing that God knows your heart.

He knows if we truly desire to have a heart like Christ.

He knows when we are trying hard to live a life that glorifies Him.

He knows when we stumble, but still forgives.

He knows when we are weak, and gives us strength.

He knows when we are lost, and gives us guidance.

He knows when we are broken, and gives us healing.

He knows we are sinners, yet He saves.

His mercies are renewed every day, and that my friend, is something to be happy about!

The past nine days have been a challenge for all of us, and I hope that each one of you will walk away from this little challenge with a fresh perspective, a renewed desire to be an optimist, and a new-found excitement to always see that glass half full.

Lamentations 3:21-22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassion's never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness

2 Corinthians 4:16-17 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Day 9: Optimist Challenge

Day 9: Stop thinking that you dont measure up.

Skinny bodies. Huge homes. Fancy cars. Organized play dates. Prada shoes. Swimming pools. Country clubs. Expensive jewelry. Perfect marriages. Well behaved kids. Seemingly perfect lives.

Preachers. Pastors. Reverends. Priests. CEOs. Executives. Eloquent speakers. Successful people. Godly bible study teachers. Perfect moms. Submissive wives.

Two very different categories above - but all things that can make us feel inferior. When we compare ourselves to others that we look up to, others that we wish we were more like, or even others that we are jealous of and think they have it all together - the result is nothing but a bunch of "stinkin thinkin".

A couple years ago, I caved in to my daughters pleas to be involved in a local community beauty pageant. Against my better judgement, I allowed her to participate, hoping it would be a good time with friends, and a little morale booster - but I could not have been more wrong.

She was dressed in a royal blue tea length dress, with ruffles down to the knees, a fitted waistline, and lots and lots of sequins. She had dainty, clear Cinderella slippers with shiny sparkles across the toes. Her beautiful long golden hair looked like something out of a Pantene commercial, with flowing locks halfway down her back. And I even let her wear a little bit of makeup and lip gloss to brighten up her smile. She was absolutely, stunningly beautiful - and she knew it.

She hopped out of the car, flipping her hair back in an "I am all that" kind of way, and ran into the auditorium; beaming with pride and wearing a big smile as she waved goodbye.

I went inside and found a seat near the front, waiting for the pageant to start. But then less than five minutes later, I spotted her behind the curtain.

Then she began slowly making her way down to the seats, heading straight for me. I noticed that her look of pride and self worth had been replaced with discouragement and sadness. As she got closer, I also noticed a sparkle in her eye, not from sequins, but instead from a few little tears that she was desperately trying not to shed.

"Mommy, all the girls are wearing full length gowns, and I am only wearing a tea length gown. I look ugly. I will never win."

My heart broke into a million pieces. My first thought was, "bad, bad mommy! I should have bought her a better dress!" But my second thought was, "she is the most beautiful girl up there, because of whats on the inside, not the outside".

I spent the next few minutes trying to rebuild her confidence, and reassuring her of how beautiful she looked. She regained her composure and wiped away her tears, and somehow managed to find that sweet little smile again. But as she headed back to the stage, I was reminded of God's truth.

The truth that He shares with us in Psalm 139: 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

The other truth is, that even as grown men and women, we do the same thing that my daughter did. We look around and make our own assessment, that in one way or another, we really dont measure up to everyone else.

We compare ourselves to people at work, school, in our neighborhood,and in our churches. We assume they are better, smarter, and more capable, at everything, and that we have nothing of value to add to the world as a result.

If we arent careful, that "stinkin thinkin" can become our every day attitude, instead of just an occasional twinge of jealously or lack of self worth.

That "stinkin thinkin" results in a really ugly, negative outlook on life - from the inside, out. As a result, we begin to hide our insecurities and low self esteem behind a mask of negativity.

This faulty line of thinking causes us to fail to recognize and remember that we are a whole, complete and beautiful child of God. It causes us to forget that He formed us in the womb, exactly as we were supposed to be. Unique and valuable.

Not perfect - but fearfully and wonderfully made - on purpose - for a reason.

Dont fool yourself into believing that all those people whom you admire or look up to........all those people you may be jealous of......that all those people whom you feel you cant measure up to........ are not experiencing the same insecure feelings that you are feel. Most people are just really good at putting on those masks every day, and some are better than others at hiding what is behind the mask. All those things in their life that they dont want other people to see.

We have a major enemy against us, who loves nothing more than to make us feel worthless, of little value, and incapable of doing anything good for anybody, much less a sovereign and holy God.

That mean ol enemy will most assuredly hold your mistakes over your head; remind you of your short comings; engage in a game of self condemnation; and be thrilled if he can paralyze you with low self esteem - but he can only do this, if you invite him to play the game.

It takes great faith and courage to admit that we are not perfect, and to own up to our mistakes. It takes even greater faith to see ourselves and our value through the eyes of the One who created us, rather than the eyes that are looking back at us in the mirror every day.

It takes great faith to love ourselves for who God made us to me.

2 Corinthians 10:12 We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.

Challenge: Stop thinking that you dont measure up. Guess what - you do!

Gods grace is sufficient. The blood of the lamb has cleansed our souls and made us white as snow - but you have to believe it, to live it.

If you have been practicing the art of self condemnation, ask God to help you break the addiction to be down on yourself.

Pray for the supernatural ability to be able to see yourself through His eyes, and not what you see in the mirror.

If you have sins in your past that you have not forgiven yourself for, forgive yourself today. Allow God to pierce your heart with the redemption that He desires for you to feel. He does not keep a record of our wrongs, so we do not need to keep records on ourselves.

The next time you find yourself in a comparison game in your heart, stop and pray. Remind yourself of who you are, because of who God made you to be.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Day 8: Optimist Challenge

Day 8: Stop letting other peoples negative attitudes influence yours.

I once worked with a woman who was a constant downer, and felt it necessary to express to me her every negative thought. . ...... The meetings were always too long; the content was irrelevant to her; her raise was not big enough; she had to work too long; she was bored with her responsibilities; her breaks were not long enough; she was treated unfairly; her chair was not comfortable; her family didnt appreciate her; her grocery store didnt carry her favorite brand of bread anymore; her clothes were old; her co-workers were out to get her; her husband was never meeting her needs; her children were selfish.

I always felt a bit grumpy myself after spending any time with her, and sometimes would even catch myself starting to sound like her.

On the other hand, I have a friend who is a joy to be around. I can spend ten minutes in her presence, and my spirits are lifted. I find myself laughing about the silliest things, and we are just silly together. She always wears a smile, has a smiley face on her heart, and is just really pleasant. People love being around her, because she makes them feel good. It feels refreshingly fun to hang out with her, no matter what we are doing!

I can only hope I frequently find myself being more like her!

People influence our attitudes.

Most likely you have also known people from both of these spectrums. But have you ever thought about how they made you act after spending time with them?

If you are allowing that positive person to rub off on you, then you go girl! But if it is a negative person who is influencing your attitude, then it may be time to make a change.

I know, we dont like change. Change is hard.

Especially considering that our world can be a negative place. Just turn on the morning news, for example. The primary news you will hear will be how many houses burned downed overnight; who got killed/molested/kidnapped or shot; the economy is failing; jobs are being lost; houses are being foreclosed on; rush hour delays; horrific weather stories; people trying to take God out of everything; human suffering.... and so on. Depressing!

The media influences our attitudes.

If you are like me, even after turning off the television or radio and getting on with my day, those negative stories stick with me. Some things I hear are so disturbing, I cant seem to let them go.

Then I go upstairs and happen to see the war zone, also known as my daughters bedroom; the laundry is piling up; the kitchen is dirty; forty seven pairs of shoes are scattered throughout the den; and it is already time to go back to the grocery store; my car is making a noise; traffic is terrible; (enter your own frustrations here). Grrrr.

Life influences our attitudes.

So what happened to the good news? What happened to the joy?

Its all still there for the asking! The key is in the asking.

Matthew 7:7 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Luke 11:9 So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Our walk with Christ influences our attitudes.

Challenge: A couple days ago we talked about asking for faith, hope and peace. Today, lets ask for unshakable joy.

To start finding that joy, consider what thing have had the most influence on your attitude lately. Think about what you can do to change the negative influences on your life, if action is necessary. Consider some of the below suggestions.

1) If there is someone that you spend time with who is negatively influencing your attitude with their consistent pessimism and complaining, decide to make a change that will benefit you and your walk with Christ.

You can either begin to try to counteract each of their negative statements with a positive response or optimistic outlook on things, hopefully eventually influencing them to be a more positive person as well. But, if your efforts go in vain, consider whether or not this is a relationship you should stay actively involved in.

2) Make a commitment not to listen to all that bad news every day. Just because the news is on, does not mean we have to tune in! Choose not to watch shows whose characters do not exhibit lives that portray Christ or adhere to Godly values.

That type of media negativity and tolerance for things that do not line up with what we believe, can seep into your heart without you knowing it, and affect the decisions you make in your life, in addition to affecting your attitude.

3) Choose to be that refreshingly fun person today! Choose to be someone who people enjoy being around, and ask God to convict your heart before any negative words leave your lips. Consider how you are influencing the attitudes of the people in your life.

4) Last but not least, ask for the desires of your heart. Ask God for what you desire. Do you desire to be a more positive person? Do you wish you could have an optimist attitude about things, instead of automatically looking at the negative side of things? Do you wish you were a little more outgoing and refreshing?

Ask God to help you build the fruits of the spirit in your heart. Those fruits, all growing together, will make it impossible for negative roots to grow. So the outcome, is a sunnier and more fruitful you!

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Day 7: Optimist Challenge

7. Focus on gratitude.

It is simply a fact of life that most of us spend most of our time focusing on our everyday worries, concerns, problems, plans, etc., as opposed to being thankful for what we have. In fact, we may not even remember to be truly thankful, except at Thanksgiving!

Yet, no matter how difficult things seem to be, we can turn our attitude around all year long if we learn to focus on the good, instead of the bad. Odds are that if you starting compiling a "blessings list" versus a "hardships list", the good would far outweight the bad. You may even realize that you really do have a lot to be thankful for!

When we live in a habitual state of sorrow, anger, regret, jealousy or resentment, the bad things seem to be enormous, overshadowing all the good things in our lives and eventually causing us to lose sight of all the good.

On the other hand, when we focus on our blessings, our spirits are automatically enlightened, and our focus shifts from our problems to God's graciousness.

So in two words - be thankful! For everything. For the big things. For the little things. For the hard things. For the easy things. For the pain. For the blessings. For grace. For mercy. For Him.

Hebrews 12:28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe

1 Thessalonians 5:18 Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live

Challenge: Spend the rest of the day thanking God for your blessings. Pray without ceasing, and dont say Amen, until you cannot think of another tiny thing to be thankful for!

But not sure where to start, or how to begin nourishing a real attitude of gratitude?

Here are a few strategies to help you get started.

1) Look up: thank God for who He is............. thank Him for who He is to you. For nature and all of His creations that we benefit from, for guidance, love, direction, grace..........

Look in: thank God for who you are........all the things that make you, you. For what He has done for you and your life. For what He has done in you, through you. For all the things you have accomplished, achieved, overcome.

3) Look around: thank God for all He has given you - food, clothes to wear, a roof over your head, family, friends, pets, jobs, community, country, service opportunities, shoes, breath, health, good medical care, insurance - the list is endless.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Day 5: Optimist Challenge

Day 5: If you are unhappy with your life, or certain circumstances in your life, pray for Gods will about making changes happen.

Maybe changes seem impossible with respect to your problems, but remember, NOTHING is impossible with God. Your problems are not too big for God.

We are also told in the Bible - ask and you shall receive - and that includes the gift of joy, happiness and optimism - even in the middle of the storm.

That promise includes the gift of hope during circumstances that seem hopeless.

That promise includes the gift of faith that is beyond what you thought possible.

That promise includes the gift of peace, that surpasses all understanding.

Remember when Peter was sitting on a fragile boat in the middle of an ocean? Torrential rains beating down on his face; waves beating the boat into shreds; and lightning and thunder booming from every direction?

Although he feared for his life, when Peter realized that Jesus was near, he had enough faith to know that he would be safe.

But then Jesus summoned Peter to walk on the water, and Peter obeyed. He stood there on the water, in the middle of the storm, looking straight into the eyes of Jesus.

But then - he got scared; his faith wavered; his human rationale took over; and he began staring at the black clouds above him and the deep waters below him, instead of the eyes of Jesus.

Instantly Peter was overwhelmed with fear and a paralyzing feeling of hopelessness, and he began sinking.

He had taken his focus off of Jesus, and instead focused on the problems around him. He temporarily lost his faith in the almighty, because his human fears had become a reality.

Jesus's heart sank because of Peters lack of faith, but yet He still rescued him, and the storm ceased. And that changed Peter.

Christianity is all about God reaching down and pulling us up out of the storm and back onto solid ground, allowing us an opportunity to tap into His power to change our lives and our very nature.

He may change our circumstances through our faith, or change our faith through our circumstances. The choice is Gods. The journey is ours.

Change can happen in an lot of ways - but it is up to us whether or not we are willing to step out on that water, onto that unsolid ground which seems scary and unknown, and be willing to reach out for the Saviors hand.

We have the power to choose whether or not we allow God to lead us down the path of discovering truly unshakable faith. We have His power within us, and with Him, all things (and all change) are possible.

Regardless of what kind of change you want to see happen in yourself, your life, your loved ones, your circumstances...... NOTHING is impossible with God.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Mark 10:27 Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."

Challenge: Put together a goal setting form for change.

Draw four columns on a piece of paper.

On the 1st column, write down all the things that you wish were different in your life, or that you wish you and/or God could change.

In the 2nd column, write why you want that certain aspect of your life to be different, or how you feel you would be happier if that situation or circumstance changed or improved.

In the 3rd column, write down how you would like to see the situation change, or what your best case scenario for change would be.

And in the 4th column, write down what you can begin doing, if anything, to start making some positive changes about the problems or situations that you wrote down in column one. If you cant humanly do anything to change the situation, simply write down PRAY DAILY ABOUT THIS.

Wa-lah! You just completed a goal setting form for yourself. It is a small step, but it is a start!

Sometimes putting things in writing helps me to be able to see things clearer, and then be able to think more rationally about what actions need to take place, or what I need to do to meet my goals and/or make changes happen.

On the other hand, it also helps me to recognize when I have been stressing and worrying over something, of which I ultimately have no power to change, thus reminding me to lay those burdens at Gods feet - again.

Now - most importantly - take time to pray over your list. Pray for God to impress upon your heart what it is that you can change that lines up with His will for your life, and help you know what steps you can begin taking to make those changes.

It would be much easier if God would simply drop a note out of the sky with a bullet pointed list of to-do's, but unfortunately that is highly unlikely! So keep your heart keenly aware of when God is speaking to you - dont take anything for granted; dont discount things that seem ironic but instead believe that God is trying to get His message across to you; dont brush off bible verses that keep popping up in different places; dont be afraid to have others pray for you; and listen for Gods still, small voice when you are praying.

Maybe, it will be Gods will for your situation not to change right away, and He chooses to work on your faith through the storm.

But maybe, you will begin to see miracles happening right before your eyes, as you witness His power working through your faith and desire to focus on the positive, and make changes that bring glory to Him.

Whatever His answer is to your prayer, trust that His is answer is always right.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Day 3: Optimist Challenge

Day 3: Let go of those negative feelings that are keeping your heart, and attitude, in bondage.

Negativity can take root in our hearts during a bad marriage, a damaged friendship, a termination at work, a condescending boss, or as a result of painful childhood experiences.

These types of "seeds" of hurt can sometimes root deeply into our hearts and we may not ever realized that they are still there.

If you find yourself with a negative attitude lately, have you considered when it all started, and why are you continuing with that mindset?

Is it possible you have been seeing the glass as half empty for so long, that you cant even remember a time when you were really positive?

If so, could that negativity be a result of "seeds" planted in your heart long ago? Could those seeds be sprouting weeds and choking out your optimistic outlook on life and your spiritual walk with God?

Those seeds of negativity that may have been planted deep into our hearts usually stay close to the surface, ready to emerge at any time with just a little nourishment and fertilizer (a.k.a., frustrations, anger, pressures or temptations). The good news is, is that they are also easy to pull out!

Consider this analogy - if you planted a garden, and only watered and fertilized one section of it, which section do you think would grow? The one that was given the most attention, of course!

Our hearts are like a garden. A garden full of all types of emotions and feelings, and through the daily actions and thoughts that we act on each day, we are in essence watering and fertilizing one section of our heart.

If I asked you which part of your heart garden you were spending the most time on, would it be the side that grows all of your positive thoughts, or the side that grows mainly negative thoughts?

Whichever section you focus on the most, is the section that is growing, and the roots are getting more deeply rooted each and every day.

So if you have been fertilizing those negative seeds, it may be time to do some gardening girlfriend!

Go get out your gardening tools - your spiritual gardening tools that is - like your bible, your journal if you have one, your phone if you want to enlist friends to pray for you, and last but not least, your knee pads.

Ephesians 4:26-27 In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27and do not give the devil a foothold.

Challenge: Ask God to reveal what the root causes are for your negativity or pessimism, and pray for the strength, courage, perseverance and desire to dig up all those old feelings (do some weed pulling!). Deal with your emotions about them, and ask God to help you toss out all those ugly seeds that have no place being in a beautiful garden that God created.

If you have a hard time with this at first, just start brainstorming about what your "seeds" may be, that caused those ugly "weeds" to grow. For example........

If unforgiveness is the culprit, ask God to help you forgive those who have hurt you, and/or to forgive you for blaming God for what happened. Unforgiveness is like a a toxic poison that you ingest, but then sit around and wait for the other person to suffer - not going to happen! Remember, forgiveness is a gift you give yourself, even if the other person does not deserve it.

If an addiction is the culprit, pray for Gods strength to break that addiction. Addiction meaning - anything that has a stronghold on your heart - such as anger, unforgiveness, lying, cheating, pornography, and so on. Addictions can be as emotional as they can be physical. Seek out professional counsel to help you recover, if you need that extra support. Confide in a trusted friend and ask them to pray for you daily. Commit to God, and any friends and family that need to know of your commitment, your pledge to break free of that stronghold on your heart.

If you hate your job, hate your boss, hate your dog, or hate any situation that is going on in your life, ask God to help you see the situation or person from His perspective. Ask Him to allow you to see His presence in the midst of what is going on. Pray for His guidance on how to make the situation better, or to open doors for you to walk through to make positive changes. If things cant change right away, remember that if God brought you to it, He can get you through it.

To sum it up, just do a quick self examination today.

Discover what your negativity culprit is. Consider what can you do to overcome Satans attack to allow your culprit to keep you down and out. Spend some time in prayer, requesting that God open your ears to hear what He has to say, even if the truth hurts.

And lastly - plan on having setbacks - true change and spiritual healing do not come easily or happen overnight.

But lucky for us, our God is a patient God. As the old saying goes, LET GO & LET GOD.

Day 3: Optimist ChallengeSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Day 2: Optimist Challenge

Welcome back friend! I hope you experienced a more positive day yesterday as a result of starting this heart and attitude challenge. Lets go ahead and jump right into todays challenge!

Day 2: Remember that you are not the only one with troubles.

Sometimes it feels like God is singling us out - maybe even working overtime trying to make our lives miserable. We may even feel like God is punishing us for our past sins or mistakes, and just maybe, we secretly believe that we deserve it.

In fact, you may even feel like a modern day Job at times, certain that God has given the enemy permission to attack you from every directions. But how sad it would be to have to get up every morning feeling that way - that attitude would most definitely result in a die hard pessimist!

Despite how bad things might seem, if we allow ourselves to drown in the type of mindset mentioned above, then we are really not believing in who God really is.

Pain, failure, and disappointment are a part of life, but it is never our entire life.

Life is like a puzzles. Some pieces of the puzzle are fun, rewarding, and exciting. Other puzzle pieces are hard, sad, and difficult. But nonetheless, all the pieces fit together to make up this unique life that God has given you.

It is also crucial to remember what Gods word says about love. He loves you, and me. He forgives you, and me. He keeps no record of wrongs of you, and me.

He adores you, and me, as His children.

So even though God may allow things to happen, or cause things to happen, He always has a purpose for everything, as we are told in Romans 8:28. His goal is not to make us miserable, but to draw us closer to Him during the triumphs and defeats; during the mountaintop experiences and the times in the valley; through the good and the bad.

He could change our circumstances at any time, but He is always more interested in changing us through our circumstances.

The genuineness of our faith is often proved by trials.

And consider this - if suffering was limited to only sinners, and those who were Christian never suffered, then everyone would want to be Christian just so they could avoid problems, not because they truly loved God.

Faith is not only believing in God, but believing He is indeed The Great I Am.

1 Peter 1:6-7 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Challenge: If you have been blaming God for your problems, or have been angry at God for allowing trials to happen in your life, ask God today to forgive you for doubting His sovereignty.

Pray earnestly and ask God to show you how He is at work in the midst of your circumstances. Pray for open eyes and an open heart to be able to see His activity in your life, and for the strength and willpower to trust that something good can come out of all of it. Ask for forgiveness for your doubts of His soverignty, and renew your commitment to Him today - despite what is going on around you.

Pray to see life through His eyes, and not just your own.

Day 2: Optimist ChallengeSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Oh The Joys of Parenting Teenagers

I seriously had no idea that I was committing the cardinal sin. I honestly did not know that my innocent curiosity and slight interest in doing something new would be interpreted as a blatant act of inconsideration and an attempt to ruin my fifteen year old daughters life forever.

Yep, I guess I have to admit my mistakes and own up to them. I set up a Facebook page.

It all started when one of my neighbors set up a new Facebook account, and sent me a friend request. Since I didnt have an account and couldnt view her page, I just decided to set one up for myself.

After about thirty minutes, I was fully up and running with my new Facebook experience, and even had 24 friends by the end of the day! I also found out most of my Proverbs 31 sisters were on Facebook - whoo hoo! A few people from my high school jumped onto my new page too. Life was good.

I informed my daughter about my new undertaking when she got home from school, and naively asked her to accept me as her friend. She gave me that familiar look of confusion and shock, followed by a dissertation of how nobody as old as me should have a Facebook page. Gee thanks honey. But then she just shrugged her shoulders, and accepted me as her friend. Cool. :)

The following day she came home from school in a tizzy. OMG. Her boyfriend found out I was on Facebook, and was going to have to be careful about what he said on her page now. So far, Im not seeing the problem. But a couple of her friends had seen my name on her page too, and teased her about it at school(or so she said).

After discussing for the next hour how my little Facebook page was apparently going to be the end of life as she knows it, somehow I went to bed that night feeling like the ultimate enemy of the universe. I was a little confused, dismayed, and actually shocked by this sudden turn of events, of which I had not anticipated at all!

Being the analyze-every-emotion-and-make-sure-you-care-about-your-childs-feelings type of mother that I am, I honestly did not mean to upset her. I even told her she could delete me as her friend if that would make her feel better. Sniff.

So signifies the life of a mom (and dad) parenting teens. Never a dull moment. Full of surprises. And lets face it... this season of life is pretty much always about how the teen feels, what they want, what they need, what they think they need, who they need to be with when they can get the things they need, how long they can spend doing what they need, and when can they do the next thing or get the next item?

Geesh. Im tired just thinking about all that. In fact, my brain really is kind of tired because I just had a conversation that went something like this, with only a few short breaths of air taken in between each request:

"What time is my hair appointment today?"

"What time will I get back to school tomorrow after my orthodontist appointment?"

"Can Colby go to the UNC Charlotte basketball game with us tomorrow night after you pick me up from my ballgame? Can we meet him somewhere to pick him up?"

"Can I go to Madisons friday night to sleep over with her and Jessica?"

"Can my friend stay with us for four days this month while her parents go to Cancun?"

"Can I go to the movies Saturday afternoon at 2pm with my friends from church?"

"Would it be okay for me to go home from church with Emily Sunday afternoon and hang out with my friends at her house?"

"You are taking me to youth on Sunday night, right?"

Sigh. It seems like yesterday I was the one posing the questions, not answering the questions, and I certainly am appreciating my mom a little more these days!

I know the years to come will bring a lot more challenges, discussions, decisions, disappointments, joys, and memorable highlights.

I know there will be countless more sleepovers, social activities, and plans that need squelching - and even though I recognize that I am a highly-emotional-sentimental-tear-flowing-overly-protective-perfectionist-social-life-killing mom, in my heart, I am so looking forward to it all.

What an awesome responsibility to have been given. To raise beautiful, precious children who love the Lord, and watch them learn and grow, and turn into independent, thriving, wonderful adults. I cant wait to see what God does with their lives and how He works through them all along the way.

My middle daughter turns 13 this year, so Michael and I will then have two hormonal-emotional-social-life-driven-question-asking teens in the household - oh, and one seriously active little boy who eats, breathes and dreams about sports.

Can we survive it? I know we can - even though I am already seeing a few extra gray hairs and continously praying for grace in my moments of turning into the possessed mom instead of the loving mom I desire to be.

Michael is a great dad, and even though we sometimes have our differences of opinion of how to raise the kids or handle certain situations, things always seem to work out, and somehow with Gods help, we really have been blessed with some pretty awesome kids. Parenting - a hard job, but worth every minute.

Well, I have to go now. Off to answer a few more questions, discuss some more plans, and talk about any new needs or wants that came up while I was typing this - all while trying not to unknowingly ruin anyones life, of course.


Oh The Joys of Parenting TeenagersSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Anticipating A Miracle

I have to admit, my heart has been burdened the past few months. There are lots of things going on in my life, and not all of them are easy to deal with. In fact some of them, seem impossible to face; impossible to change; impossible to accept.

There are a few situations in particular that seem very heavy. A little overwhelming. Maybe even a little hopeless. I have prayed and prayed and prayed about them. I have shed tears over them. I have asked God to make them better. I have pleaded with God to let me see how He is working in it. And although some days are better than others, I havent seen any major changes occur yet. But I continue to pray.

In the Chronological Bible I am reading, the past two daily readings have been about Moses in Exodus 4. One thing that caught my attention this week while reading this familiar story is the lack of confidence that Moses had in Gods request for him to talk to Pharaoh about letting His people go. God told Moses several times that He would be with him, and that he was to show the miraculous signs to Pharaoh to prove that the message was indeed from God, but still, Moses answered "Lord Im not qualified!" and "Lord, I just dont believe miracles can happen, even if you are with me!" (my paraphrasing of course).

I find this a little hard to take in. Now I can fully relate to feeling unqualified for a task that God has called me to do, and have even been in the position of saying no to God, and questioning His request, before finally submitting to His command. However, I cant help but wonder how Moses could be talking to God one on one, in a two way conversation, clearly hearing His voice, and still have doubts! In fact, he even argued with Him, to the point that the Lord got angry with Moses and decided to send Aaron instead! (vs 4:14)

This morning I started my morning out in the usual way, and opened my email to read the daily Proverbs 31 Devotion, and today it was titled "You Are Not Alone", written by my friend Wendy.

As I read the devotion, I recognized that the story was also about Moses, and his leading Gods people out of Egypt and out of slavery. It discussed the fear that the Israelites all felt in their hearts and how the obstacles before them (The Red Sea) and the Pharaohs army closely behind them, made their situation seem impossible. A miracle was the last thing they were expecting. They felt hopeless and desperate.

Ive read this story of dozens of times in the past, but there was one particular sentence Wendy wrote in this devotion that really struck me. She simply stated that "Gods people had no idea the miracle that awaited them". I tried to continue reading the devotion, but my eyes kept diverting back to that sentence.

Then it dawned on me..... God just might have a miracle waiting for me too.

I kneeled, and surrendered to the fact that I really dont have any idea what miracles may be awaiting me.

Just maybe He will miraculously heal my sick loved ones, even though science says it cant be done.

Maybe he will miraculously solve the financial concerns of a family member, even though the state of the economy tries to make us believe otherwise.

Maybe he will heal a struggling relationship, even though real change seems to be out of reach.

Maybe, I have just been too much like Moses lately.

I have doubted Gods plan, because of my own lack of confidence. I have doubted Gods ability to work through me, because I am not able to make the changes happen on my own strength. I have doubted Gods power to make miracles happen, because I tend to depend on what seems realistic, instead of the power of prayer.

So today, I asked God to forgive me for my unbelief, my shortage of confidence in myself and in Him, and my hesitation to trust that He can do miracles in my life.

And today, I am praying for those miracles to happen. My heart is excited, because I am now anxiously anticipating a miracle. They may not happen today, tomorrow, this year, and maybe never, but I am not going to let my own doubt prevent me from anticipating it that it could happen. I choose to believe that God still performs miracles, and that He will perform them as His will needs to be carried out.

If you are feeling all alone, ask God to make His presence known to you today Ask Him to lead you to some bible passages, devotions or special stories that will speak directly to what you need from Him to hear from Him today. Ask and you shall recieve.

And if you need some miracles in your life, dont just pray for them, expect them!

Anticipating A MiracleSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, February 2, 2009

Are we seriously going to listen to a groundhog?

Groundhog: A common burrowing rodent of northern and eastern North America, having a short-legged, heavy-set body and grizzled brownish fur.

If you ask me, the above definition does not sound like it describes someone, or some thing, whom would be qualified to predict the future. He has no doctoral degrees, certificates of authenticity, or even any meteorology training. In fact, groundhog day shadow seeing could actually be done by a woodchuck, ground squirrel or marmot. In fact, the main qualification for being able to predict the next six weeks of weather seems to be nothing more than being furry and underground!

I have to admit, I really have never paid that much attention to groundhog day, and certainly never put any stock in the weather forecast outcome, but today I found myself asking... why all the commotion over this silly animal? Why would thousands and thousands of people gather to watch a rodent try to see his shadow? Why all the media attention? What is this day really all about?

So I did some research. I was amazed at how much information is out there about this rodent day, I mean groundhog day. But I was pleased to discover that this tradition can actually be linked back to the times of Christ, and that is really does have more meaning than what Bill Murray led us to believe in his movie Groundhog Day about ten years ago (although I do love that movie!).

So for those of you are interested, here is the scoop:

According to the Mosaic law, a mother who had given birth to a man-child was considered unclean for seven days, and she was supposed to stay thirty nine days "in the blood of her purification".

When the forty day period was over, the mother was to "bring to the temple a lamb for a holocaust and a young pigeon or turtle dove for sin, and if she was not able to offer a lamb, she was to take two turtle doves or two pigeons; then a priest prayed over her and she was cleansed (we can read more about this in Leviticus 12:2-8.)

Forty days after the birth of Christ, Mary went to get cleansed. February 2nd would be forty days after the birth of Jesus, which was set within the last twenty five years of the fourth century. Luke 2:22 says "When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord".

So after that time, February 2nd has been celebrated since the 1800's, and continues to be celebrated as Candelmas, the feast of purification of the Virgin. During celebrations of Candelmas, candles were blessed, there was much feasting to be had, and the drab days of February suddenly seemed a little brighter.

I also read in one commentary that the groundhog day tradition has been used to teach children of how Christ exited the tomb after 40 days. Those 40 days are represented by the 6 weeks. The shadow represents the shadow of sin, and spring represents the new life that Jesus calls us all to.

All of these things are so important to us, so important to our faith, and truths that we attest to and desire to live our life by. So..... why in the world would we use a lowly, dirty, furry, and if I may say, ugly, underground rodent to be our symbol for such a special occasion?

I discovered that the European groundhog is actually considered a noble animal and the combination of white and gray fur can sometimes give the appearance of a robe like Jesus’s burial robes. Also, the early Christians needed an animal that hibernated and the only two animals native to Europe that hibernate are the bear and the groundhog, and I would imagine it was a bit intimidating to consider waking up a hibernating bear and jerking him out of his dark,comfy hole.

Some believe, that for many centuries, European Christians used this holiday on February 2nd to keep their faith alive in the face of great persecution. When the earliest settlers came to Pennsylvania they brought Candlemas with them. Unfortunately, much like in our own times there was a battle over Candlemas between those for whom it was a sacred religious holiday and those who wanted to call it Groundhog Day and remove all religious significance from the day.

But if one thing has been proved true in the past two thousand plus years, our religious beliefs cannot be taken away, just because society tries to squelch them. Even as far back as the 1800's, and early biblical times, Christians had to be determined to keep their faith alive despite opposition, and that is a tradition that we can carry every day of our lives.... groundhog day, and any day.

Phil the groundhog saw his shadow today. According to German superstition, winter will last another six weeks. If no shadow is seen, legend says, spring will come early.

I read that since 1887, Phil has seen his shadow 97 times, hasn’t seen it 15 times, and there are no records for nine years, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. But I still find myself wondering, how in the world does Phil "tell" us that he saw his shadow? How does he communicate that to his handler, the one hoisting him up in the air for all to see, like Simba in The Lion King.

Guess what, in reality, Phil doesn’t see much of anything. According to a national news article, the forecast is actually decided in advance by 14 members of the club’s Inner Circle, who don tuxedos and top hats for the event. Hmmmmm. I knew it!

I know who the only predictor of the future is. I know the only One is who can determine what will be - whether it involves weather, life, or death. I know the One who holds the future in His hands. And He is sitting on the right hand of the Father Almighty today.

For Christians, February 2 is not just Groundhog day, it is Candlemas Day - celebrating the presentation of Christ in the Temple. The return of the light.

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight;
But if it be dark with clouds and rain,
Winter is gone, and will not come again.

Read that old German poem again, and think about your faith, not the weather. What does it mean to you?

Are we seriously going to listen to a groundhog?SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend