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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Monday Mornings for Moms

My children all were once so small,

Now they are so very tall.

Some days were long and filled with tears,

Others filled with laughter now passed in years.

The seasons come, the seasons go

As we drive them to and fro.

Lean in sweet mama and hear me say,

“You’ve got just one job to do today.”

Love them hard and love them well,

Listen to each tale they tell.

Soon you’ll miss this precious face,

Respond to the challenge filled with grace.

They won’t remember each meal you make,

But they will recall the time you take,

To help them feel special and safe,

because of the smiles you share and the love you display.

By Victoria Duerstock

©2018

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.

 

Apples of Gold

Here is a repost of a blog written for Life Lessons earlier this Spring.  I was thinking on this passage in Proverbs again this week and had two incidents of someone speaking encouragement to me that I so desperately needed.  It was such a blessing.

I did some more reading on the word “fitly” in this passage.  Several commentaries had some insight  – some feel that the word fitly refers to the idea of being in “season.”  I like this imagery especially with the fruit analogy. But I also appreciate the idea of it meaning “quickly.”  We should never resist the opportunity to speak words of kindness and encouragement to someone else and to do it with quickness.  I know that my procrastination sometimes leads me to not do something – the same is in a moment where I am prompted to speak an encouraging word to someone and don’t, I’m not likely to revisit that moment again. It’s best to act on those promptings with immediacy.

Another reason to act quickly is that we have no idea what tomorrow holds for us.  James reminds us that life is a vapor. We need to speak kindness and encouragement while we still have the time to do so.  Tragic circumstances exist all around us each day.  Sometimes they touch our lives personally and these days hurt.  Don’t delay in speaking your words – when fitly spoken they are apples of gold in pictures of silver.

Here is the other post from April – I hope it will encourage you!

http://lifelessonsinmyhead.com/the-gift-of-encouragement/

Be an Encourager!

An encourager is one who by definition inspires others with hope, courage or confidence.  Don’t you enjoy being around someone who is encouraging? Aren’t they like a breath of fresh air?

Perhaps you are naturally gifted in this area, and it’s easy for you to speak kindness and encouragement into those around you.  If on the other hand you are like me, and you tend to see all that’s wrong around us, you have to work at it some more.  Just like we work at being purposeful in our daily lives with our activities and goals, I would also like to propose that we be INTENTIONAL with choosing words of encouragement to be spoken to those around us.

Perhaps it’s our family members that need to know they are doing a good job, or that they are appreciated for their hard work – don’t just think those thoughts, be sure to speak them.

Maybe it’s a co-worker, classmate or sweet friend who is battling a difficult time – depression, cancer, loss of a mate, failing grades – what can you do to encourage them through this trial?  Maybe it’s just a verse of Scripture that means something special to you, or an inspiring quote that has been encouraging for you, will be just the thing that will encourage another person.

While each of us do not likely have the capacity to change the world, we do have the ability to change one person’s day.  The opportunity to bring a smile, squeeze a hand or give a hug for one person is something that can spur others to action as well.  In that small action, we do have the capacity to be world changers.  All it takes is a little thought, a bit of openness to share and encourage.  Be light to someone in your world today!

 

The need for Hope

birds-800671_1280My favorite poem about Hope is from Emily Dickinson.  I recall my mom reciting the opening line, and then realizing later that I loved the whole poem.  Here it is

“Hope” is the thing with feathers – 
That perches in the soul – 
And sings the tune without the words – 
And never stops – at all – 
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard – 
And sore must be the storm – 
That could abash the little Bird 
That kept so many warm – 
I’ve heard it in the chillest land – 
And on the strangest Sea – 
Yet – never – in Extremity, 
It asked a crumb – of me.

It has been said that Dickinson’s poetry has a similar style as the psalms and other religious hymns – perhaps that’s why I connect with her writing style.  It’s flow appeals to me, and her metaphor here speaks to me visually.

Hope in it’s simplest form is a bit shallow.

“I hope it rains tomorrow.”

“I hope my daughter buckles her seatbelt.”

“I hope you feel better.”

But if we dig a little deeper, hope can add an element of expectation.  When hope combines the idea of wanting something to happen with the idea of expectation, whether because of past results or sheer faith, Hope becomes so much more meaningful.

Today I want to encourage you with a word about Hope.

Daily life can drag us down.  Maybe you wake up like I do, with expectations of accomplishing a large number of things – my lists are long!  but somewhere after the day begins, I start to realize that I am a little too “hopeful” about how I am going to accomplish the day’s jobs – and I start to dwell in reality.  The task lists get rewritten, and I settle on a more manageable “list” for my day.

Reading the news can drag me down.  I try to get my news in small clips now – like twitter for instance.  Reading large amounts of news, hurts my spirit.  I just can’t do it.  There’s so little hope in our world, and because there is such little hope people turn to evil.  The evil is rampant and overwhelming.  I find that dwelling in the difficulties of our present our realities can bury me in discouragement and cause me to lose my focus.

Instead, I’m thankful for hope.  The deeper knowledge that there is something far greater beyond this life fuels me forward.  While there are many wonderful joys in this life, it cannot compare to the hope of our future in Glory.  We should share hope with those around us.  Not a flimsy, shallow hope though – let’s share the reason for our Hope – our expectation of a future more wonderful than we can even imagine.

The Place for Pause

I’m not sure about you but rest doesn’t always come easily for me. As a goal oriented person, I’m typically working on the next project, next job, next assignment, and the list is never ending.  I’m writing and re-writing my ideas, to-do’s and dreams, and I rarely rest.

As a matter of fact, this Saturday was the first time that I can remember since February that I sat down and watched a movie on the television.  I know it seems a bit odd, but when I was determined to finish writing my novel, my tv watching/relaxing days went out the window.

I enjoyed the break this weekend.  I needed it.  Mentally I am drained, and emotionally I’m teetering on discouraged.  I have so many ideas and dreams, but no one idea/dream is actually moving the needle forward currently, and I’m feeling a bit down.  It’s time to work out another 90 day goal, I need to write about my year long experience getting up before dawn, and I need to finish editing a novel so I can force someone to fall in love with it.  I mean, so I can pitch it with passion to an editor who will publish it.

But I am struggling.  Even trying to figure out what to blog about to encourage you my friends and readers was a challenge for me today.  So instead I just decided to be real and hopefully whatever difficulty you face today, the reality that we are all struggling to move forward maybe will be an encouragement.

My pause has become connected to one of the projects the Lord started with me this year.  My pause has ministered more to me than anything, and I just love that sometimes the Lord uses it to bless others.  In just a few days, it will be almost 6 months into this project.  I had no idea I could do this for this long, or that it would be a blessing to others.

So today I want to share a page again that maybe will bless you too – and maybe you’ll find a place to pause and to reflect on God’s goodness and provision for us.  These words encouraged me today and I hope they can encourage you also!

ps62

If you’d like to download this page and print it out to color – just click here.