Hope for the Hard Days

No one is immune to trouble.

Job 5:7 but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.

For some reason, we tend to walk around in Christian circles believing that no one else struggles with the same challenges we have. Or that no one is dealing with sin like we do. We bury our real and true selves under a façade of fake smiles and trite expressions when in reality the moment we share that we really have had a bad day, or week and the other person smiles in relief with a “me too!”

If we are to bear each other’s burdens, there is a sacrifice that must be made. And make no mistake we are to do just this, but sometimes we underestimate the weight of that burden.

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

I don’t know about you but when I read the headlines of the latest news broadcast and check in on Facebook to see the latest child abduction post, political rhetoric from all sides, and just the debauchery that exists in our world, I find my mind goes to a very negative place. Add in the prayer requests and needs of those who have lost loved ones, who are fighting the vicious monster cancer, and yet others who bear unbelievable heartache and heartbreak, it’s easy to believe that life is just too much.

In these times I am reminded that while I am told to bear each other’s burden, I am not doing any of this alone. As a matter of fact, the One who has given me my purpose and job to do here on this earth has already told me His yoke is easy and his burden is light!

Matthew 11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

How can this be, when there is so much to be weighed down with that is just what’s outside of me? When I add the weight of the sin I struggle against, the unexpected bad news I hear, or the prayers I pray for my own family – I must immediately turn to the One who knows, sees and hears all.  Laying my burdens and cares at His feet is the ONLY way that I can move forward in this life and help care for others in the way that they need from me. Just a few verses before He tells us His yoke is easy, He tells us in vs. 28

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

The enemy is crafty –he seeks to steal our joy in a multitude of ways, including the words that others say or don’t say, the pressure he applies to those walking outside God’s protection, and the rampant sin at work in our world. All of this combine to bear much weight on the Christian and even more so the Christian in ministry – because we feel those things so keenly. My heart literally hurts physically when I know that others who I care about, or who entrust me with their cares and woes need my support and prayer. Speaking and ministering at conferences can weigh me down quite literally where I need to rest for several days after. Writing and laboring over words that others need to hear can be physically exhausting because of the spiritual battle that is also taking place. Physical rest becomes necessary because of the mental, emotional and spiritual battles taking place.

This is why I sympathize for those in any position of Christian ministry and for their families. The weight they bear is heavier than we can know. The weight of their knowledge can be unfathomable.  The hits in ministry continue without an end in sight.

If you’re not in ministry, you still know the weight. As women we bear these burdens as well. Burdens for our family, our friends, and our church.  The Christian life MUST be lived in our consistent walk in the Word. The consistent practice of filling our minds with the words of Christ, then combined with the act of submission in prayer leaving the burdens we bear at the feet of the only One able to carry them for us.  If we avoid this, or underestimate its importance, we run the risk that our minds will be filled with the difficult news, the negative attitudes and the disappointing and sorrow filled headlines that scream for our attention. And the truth is what we fill our minds with becomes what we live out in our lives.

This morning I read in Hebrews 12 and I continued thinking through this further. This is part of the race we run.  See vs. 1,2

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

And then further vs. 12-14

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

All of this rests squarely on our understanding that He is the source. The Holy Spirit power that resides in each of us at salvation.

Our hope truly rests in Him today. Without Him we can do nothing, and as much as we think we can carry our burdens on our own, we will fail miserably.

John 15:5  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

If we can’t bear our own burdens in our own strength how can we even begin to think that we can bear the burdens of others as we are commanded in Scripture?

Obedience follows obedience and our comfort and peace are in Him alone. While we cannot live in a vacuum and avoid the bad news or negative spirits around us, we can and must prioritize the place of His Word and prayer and meditation in our lives above the other noise.

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Reclaiming Laughter!

We are plagued in today’s society and our homes by a real travesty.  One that is sneaky and underhanded but devastating nonetheless. Today our homes are in dire need of some humor and lightheartedness.  Dare I even say – we just need to laugh more!

Lest you think this is an easy task for me or even possibly one that I have personally mastered, you must understand that I am type A, only child, goal oriented INFJ who has a tendency to think that laughter is not necessary.  That is until it’s missing for a bit, and everyone is on edge and the mood is miserable.  Then…I stop and try to figure out what’s going on!

This happens in our home when my husband travels.  Certain times of the year he can be gone for several days or even a week or more at a time.  We tend to roll along our merry way for a day or two, but eventually things tend to get a bit tense.  There are three females in the house after all…can I get a witness!  My poor son, y’all pray for him!  Needless to say, my husband who is very even tempered and quick witted tends to keep our home lighthearted and when he’s gone, his absence is definitely noticed.

So what’s a girl to do?

Read the rest of the post over at w2wministries – just click here!

Ambition, Time and Frugality

I had started a completely different post to share with y’all today.  But I’ve scrapped it because this has been relevant for me this month, and possibly, just maybe someone else can relate and be encouraged.

One of my character strengths/flaws is being ambitious.

It’s a strength because it gives me great drive to pursue goals. And I am always and forever working on goals – I don’t think there will ever come a time for me to just sit and chill longterm.  This ambitiousness propels me forward to pursue things that don’t come easy and gives me motivation to work hard.

It’s a flaw because well, for all the things listed above.  I’m very goal oriented, not people oriented and I can get so involved in meeting self imposed deadlines, and working goals that I can lose track of time and forget that relationships are the core of human interaction.  It can be very hard for me to pull away from a task when I’m in and working hard, but some days I have to set a timer and stick to it – it’s the only way for me to limit myself.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and found myself once again today immersed in a whole pile of to-do’s.  You see I’ve been a bit frustrated lately about being “behind” on my 90 day goals.  I’m behind for a very logical reason, but I’m frustrated with myself because I feel I could and should be doing more.  Does this make sense to anyone?  I had to sit down and evaluate where my time was going.  See I have a part time job that usually holds itself to 10 hours or less.  This month every week has been above 25 hours.  That in itself should make me feel better, but still…

Most of my days are 17 hours,  some are slightly less, and some are more.  I make myself take the first two hours of my day and create space in my schedule.  The space gives me the opportunity to drink my coffee, wake up and watch the sunrise, pray for my friends and family and spend time reading my Bible.  I’ve taken on an ambitious reading plan – 10 chapters a day – which has helped me to finish the following books of the Bible already this year –

Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I Thessalonians, II Thessalonians, I Timothy, II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, Joshua – almost finished with Matthew, Genesis, I Corinthians, I Peter, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Judges, Isaiah, Acts.   In this time I also read and review books which have included 3 Bible Studies this month, getting ready to begin another one.

From there, my days involve a variety of tasks – just like many of you.  Cooking, cleaning, homeschooling, helping my children run a business – sometimes this includes advertising, social media, copywriting, etc., running to the doctor, dentist, well checks, etc. etc. etc. etc. I am taking classes on marketing, building my brand, SEO adwords, websites, landing pages, and online courses.  I am working to create a new landing page and starting my online course website including curriculum handouts and important info.  I have 12 writing projects that I want to flesh out this year, and get contracts for – a girl can hope. And I’m working on speaking/conference materials. I teach piano lessons, and run kids to sports activities and events and babysitting. I create daily coloring pages for free, and keep the books of multiple businesses and our personal finances.  I haven’t listed church work yet, but I think you get the picture already – right?  And at the end of the day I’m tired, and don’t feel as if I’m getting much done.

Anyone tracking here?  So I have also been thinking about something else.  I am by nature very frugal.  Or stingy…or whatever other word you like.  I sympathize with Paul and his writings when he said he knew how “to be abased and how to abound.”  I’ve been there – when we haven’t had two nickels to rub together, and when we have been comfortable.  Doesn’t matter, I tend to be very conservative with my spending…but here’s the kicker – not so much with my TIME!

Bear with me, I’m just coming to grips with the reality that just because I can do something, it doesn’t mean I should.  I mean if I need to create nice pictures, memes and posts, I will spend the time and energy to do it and figure it out.  The problem here is the time factor.  Someone else could for just a few dollars create something just as nice and wonderful, and I could spend my time doing the things I’m made for.

Maybe you’re not worried about making memes and posts.  What about the convenience of grocery shopping services.  How much time could you save, if you just went and picked up your food, instead of spending the time looking for the groceries.  Would it be worth $5?

What about discount clothes? I spent years ONLY buying things on sale because I couldn’t justify the added expense of buying something I really loved when it wasn’t on sale.  My husband reminded me that buying things that don’t look or fit right just because they are on sale, they are actually a waste of money instead of a savings.

Don’t get me wrong.  I prefer a sale, and I have loved my couponing days.  There’s a huge thrill to getting those things that I do love, for a great discount. If at all possible I do try to get things for a discount or with a coupon code.  I always try.

But with regards to time, my husband has been trying to communicate this to me for years.  I guess I’m just a slow learner. I always thought he was against doing crafts and projects because he thought it was silly, but the reality was that he was against the time factor.  His view that if it’s not a strength, and we are just trying to do it to save money, we are just spending time instead.

Sometimes outsourcing the tasks you do, makes more sense. Perhaps not in a financial way, but a way that matters more – time is a commodity we all only have so much of.  We have to use it wisely and spend it doing the things we were put on earth to do.  Just because I can do it, doesn’t mean I should…I’m learning.  I’m not there yet, but I’m learning.

Goal Setting is Inspiring & Encouraging

I made a quick Facebook post yesterday asking what people were planning for their goals for 2017.  It was a post generated from my personal assessments and plans that I’m putting into place for this next year.  I always spend most of December thinking through the last year and anticipating what things I can jump into for the new year.

Here’s what I posted –

What goals are you setting for 2017? I’d love to hear them. Share away!!

I’m not sure what kind of response I would receive but I was pleasantly surprised to see that the longer the post has been on my page, the more responses I receive.

One of the things I have learned through adulthood is the value of accountability.  I’m mostly a lone ranger at heart – only child, very driven and ambitious, and not much of a team player.  I’ve always been able to do more on my own.  But as I get older, I can see the value of accountability in relationships.

Perhaps it’s the blunting edge of age on my life, or motherhood and finding sisterhood in that journey that’s helped me see that journeying WITH others is better than lone ranger.  While I’m still in charge of my own destiny, knowing that others are aware of what I’m trying to accomplish and that they are cheering me on or giving me a swift kick when I’m down, accountability has been such a good thing for me to seek out.

Accountability to others helped me accomplish my goal to memorize the book of James this summer.  Knowing that I would receive a text asking how my scripture memory was going, or an email or even an encouraging message on Facebook about what it meant to them to hear those verses recited out loud.  I felt the extra push some weeks that someone would regret not hearing me share if I didn’t reach the memory goal for the week.

Sometimes I think we don’t actually share our big dreams, or goals because we are worried about failure.  I wrote about failure not too long ago over on my other blog – you can read more here if you’d like.  The reality is most of us are afraid to fail.  We’d rather not step out of our comfort zone if it means we risk failure.  The beauty of success though is looking back and realize that failure might have happened along the way but it was not a stopping point, it was the catalyst to the success that came later!

Anyway – I found that several people were willing to share their goals with me – and I was given the unique opportunity to cheer them on.  Some I know very well, some not so much – but we were each bound with the anticipation and inspiration of looking ahead and saying out loud what we want to accomplish.  So.very.powerful.

So I ask you the same question – I don’t care how young or old you are.  I don’t care how busy you are or how difficult is right now.  The moment you stop dreaming you stop living. I speak from experience.  Sometime in the middle of motherhood, I found myself just doing what needed to be done each day without really allowing myself to dream about the future.  With dreaming about the future, planning ahead is so important, and for so long I didn’t do it.  I was afraid to fail, and afraid to want something that I couldn’t have.  Totally faulty mindset there.  Don’t fall in the trap!  Be inspired!  Be encouraged!  Think about those things you’ve always said you’d do. One day. When the kids are grown. Maybe that’s not what you are waiting for, waiting for any next step to happen before you dream about the future is stifling and limiting.

So share with me!  What are your goals for 2017?  I’d love to hear them and cheer you on!

Listen Love Repeat – other-centered living in a self-centered world!

Signing up to do a book review for author Karen Ehman is not a tough decision for me.  I knew that not too long ago I had read and done an online study group with the book Let. It. Go – How to Stop Running the Show and Start Walking in Faith.  (in all honesty, I couldn’t help myself, I had to go back and see when that was.  The truth is it was almost 3 years ago – I purchased the book in January of 2013 – so in my world that equals not long ago. Insert giant eye roll!!)

Needless to say when the opportunity came up to review her book and post about it, I jumped.  Of course these last few weeks have been some of the most busiest of the year I think, and I’ve tried so hard to sit and read, but time hasn’t been there.  I enjoyed the snippets of chapters I had grabbed, but sitting and relaxing with a coffee and her book hadn’t happened yet – until this morning.

My list of things to do is still a mile long, and won’t get any shorter, but stopping to take an hour of my day to sit in the sunshine while it’s still here and enjoy the book was perfect.  This book is the perfect mix of step on your toes and encouragement.  Challenging and thought provoking, I find myself amazed at how much it goes hand in hand with other lessons I have been working on already.

Karen’s style is easy to read and she adds some really wonderful personal stories to drive her point home.  She’s also really clear about the fact that she and her family aren’t perfect, but they have been intentional in their lives to reach outward to others.  Karen gives practical advice even including recipes for how to bless others with what God has blessed us with whether that’s opening our homes to teenage boys, taking a friend out for coffee, baking goodies for the neighbor or celebrating the mailman.  She reminds us that all of us can be intentional about being Christ to others in our daily lives.

My favorite chapters were Chapter 1 regarding Heart Drops.  Listening when others share a personal detail and remembering it for later.  Sometimes a gift opportunity can be given and it’s more meaningful when it shows we remembered something they shared.  Her chapter on the Sick at Heart was also a great reminder on how to be present for those in their grief.  Sometimes it’s remembering that the holidays are most difficult for those who have loved and lost, and inviting them into our space so they won’t be lonely. Her last chapter on Scatter Kindness was another of my favorites as she reminded us that we can be kind no matter the circumstances.

Karen struck a wonderful balance between the principles she was giving, personal family experiences, Scripture and practical application making this a book I would very highly recommend to all my friends.  The addition of gift tags, Bible verse quotes, and other items is just an added bonus helping us as we seek to be more intentional in our hospitality.  Possible the greatest nugget was tucked in at the end when she encourages us to REPEAT.  Becoming consistent in the habit will create depth in existing relationships and cause in return to increase our outward focus on others.

The great news is that a Study Guide and DVD is also released to be used in a group setting.  I look forward to gathering some friends very soon to do this study together – I think it will be very refreshing for us to share our ideas as we journey together.

The OTHER great news is this! I have a free copy to give away! and thats not all (did you imagine a TV commercial just then? I hope so…that’s what I was going for) with the free copy of the book, I will also be able to give away a study guide and DVD – so that you can launch your own Study group too.  HOW FUN!  

So here’s the details of how to win your very own copies of Karen’s book and study.  Deadline is 11/24 @ midnight (yes I know it’s Thanksgiving that’s why I said midnight, by then the dishes will be done – am I right?)

  1. Share this blog post on your social media – twitter, google+, Facebook, etc.
  2. Like the Encouraging Women Today Facebook page – click here.  If you have already done that – thanks!  I appreciate you 🙂
  3. Leave me a comment here on the blog telling me one of your favorite Holiday traditions.  Since this is the season for Thanksgiving, Christmas and everything in between – share with me one of your favorites!
  4. LAST – comment below the post on the Encouraging Women Today Facebook page, or my personal page that you followed the steps above and want to be entered to win!

One random winner will be selected next Friday – November 25th (Black Friday – yay!)  I will let everyone know who win and that make arrangements with the winner to get your items to you!  Thank you to you all in advance for participating! 🙂

In full disclosure I have received in exchange for my review a copy of the book itself and the copy to give away.

 

Busyness

Hey friends,

Today is not a long blog post, but just a quick note to my friends who visit here looking for a word or two of encouragement.

First, I apologize that I am not terribly regular at posting here yet.  I’ll get better, I promise.  I seem to manage to get something posted each day on the Facebook page, but I haven’t been consistent posting here.

Second, thanks for sticking with me anyway!  Without readers, then there would be no point to posting.  My goal with this blog is to definitely encourage you, and so many of us need to hear a word of encouragement in our day.  The world tries very hard to bring us down and discourage us about the difference we are making, but I want to be back here applauding your efforts and encouraging you forward.  Take the next step and don’t look back – you aren’t going that way.

I’m going to share a couple links so you know what I’ve been up to and if you are not a member of the Facebook page yet, definitely join up – you’ll be glad you did!

This week I finally completed my self imposed challenge to memorize the book of James.  I am so excited that I was able to accomplish this.  And it was most definitely the grace of God that allowed it because my brain was addled most days! here’s the link if you’d like to verify that I actually did it 🙂

Last week, I completed a project that I had worked on that should be published later this year.  It’s a contracted work for hire, and I was so excited to play a small role in it.

This month, I am helping with Beauty and the Beast, Jr. at our local community theater, DFT and teaching vocals – which is also keeping me very busy.

Lastly, I just worked on a new post about life lessons over on my other blog, if you’d like to see it – go here

I’m working on some ideas for posts here, so I’ll be back in the next few days – promise 🙂  In the meantime I pray you will each have a very lovely weekend with your families, and will find time to rest!

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If you find it hard to rest, then go here, and meditate on God’s word and color for a little downtime.  I love today’s passage – so meaningful AND encouraging!

 

Be all there

www.encouragingwomentoday.com

Today, it was like the above message was on repeat!  First I found this meme while searching for good content this morning for the Facebook Page.  It reminded me of the saying to “bloom where you are planted.”  I love that one too.  I’m a visual person, and so when I see the things you are seeing as a picture, it stays with me.  So my morning started with the reminder to be all the way there wherever I was today.

This afternoon, I was doing some edits on some devotions I am writing, and happened to catch a live podcast by Brendon Burchard.  He talked about prioritization being key to not living a life out of balance.  It was really a motivating talk.  But he also mentioned one thing that stuck with me since then.  He said if he had only one hour to spend with someone that would be totally fine, as long as they were completely in the moment with him.  That would be far better than to have several hours, but not have their full attention.

So this all the way grabbed my mind..intentionally living out this message means that we need to be sure to be available to the people we care about the most.  This is a challenge for me because I am so completely GOAL driven.  As we live out our days looking to encourage and love others, we have to be all in.  Be present.  Be available.  The littles are only little for so long.  The bigs leave soon enough.  The dishes get washed eventually.  The laundry gets folded..or does it?  I’m not really sure, but I do know that in the midst of working to live intentionally to encourage others to love and care for those around them, I must also heed my words and be all there!

Be encouraged!  You are loved and cherished!  You are valuable and you are enough!