Rainy Days and Long Winters

I think often of the change of seasons and how it relates so intricately with our lives.  We seem to just get settled into Spring around here and boom it’s Summer! Let me tell you in Northwest Mississippi you know when summer hits.  The seasons come and go, and our lives seem to ebb and flow with the same motion. Young adults who get married, work jobs, have children, raise children, retirees, etc. The seasons move along and before we know it the time has gone and we wonder how it happened so quickly.

All except winter that is…winter lasts FOREVER. Or at least it feels that way every February.  This Florida transplant still struggles with February and I try so hard not to let the weather get me down, but it’s hard when it’s nothing but rain and gray skies.

Have you found yourself feeling the same? Why do all of the other seasons fly by while Winter drags by slow and stale.  It hasn’t helped  that the last couple weeks have brought their share of minor struggles.  You know the little things that accumulate and make you discouraged or disheartened along the way.  It’s easy to become distracted and encumbered with those weights but even as Paul encouraged us to “lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Heb.12:1) My challenge is to do this in the midst of the rain and cold.

When things are smooth sailing, I find this task much easier to do! But the task is not only to be managed in the easy season, it’s also for the Winter of the year and the soul. When we are parched, and raw and yearning for the warmth of the Sun and the Son, we have only to remember those words from Lamentations and know that by His mercy which is new every morning, we can do exactly the job God has for us each day. The purpose that we are here to fulfill on this earth, the precise reason for our living and breathing and moving.

If you find yourself struggling today with the burdens of this life, I pray you’ll turn to the One who bears all our burdens with us, and treasure the promise of the seasons – they are not forever, the next season is right around the corner.

 

Advertisements

4 ways to Thrive not just Survive

This blog post is featured in my weekly column at woman to woman ministries today – I hope you’ll head over and recieve encouragement there as well.

God does not intend for us to only survive the rigors of this life.  Sometimes in the course of life, certain seasons carry more burdens than others certainly, but I believe that God’s desire is for us to thrive through each of the seasons. Scripture reminds us in many different verses – but here are three passages to consider:

  • John 10:10 tells us in Christ’s own words that he came for us to have life “more abundantly.”
  • David describes it in Psalms 23 as an “overflowing cup.”
  • John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

This is much easier said than done though.  It’s difficult to think of thriving for instance when you are busy:

  • Picking up the dirty laundry off the floor for the hundredth time that day
  • Changing that dirty diaper again when you just got cleaned up from the last one
  • Preparing one more meal in a day (especially if you homeschool – right mamas?)
  • Feeling and sharing the intense pain of rejection and heartache from our teenagers as they navigate the path to adulthood.
  • Dealing with the threat of loss of financial stability, health, jobs, and much more

Read the rest of this post here…

Anxiety and Hurricanes

This morning during my quiet time, I spent time thinking about Hurricane Matthew that has torn through Haiti, and is now apparently setting his sights on Florida.  Anytime a hurricane develops, I feel a familiar pit in my stomach.  Although it’s been 11 years now since the landfall of a hurricane on the mainland United States, the monstrous effects of Hurricane Ivan on me, and my family personally, remain.  While I, my mom, and the kids evacuated from Hurricane Ivan just prior to its landfall on the panhandle of Florida on September 16, 2004, my husband remained behind to help with rescue and recovery efforts.  The effects of that hurricane remain on my life forever.  My husband stayed because he was a volunteer fireman in our local fire department and felt his presence was vital to help our community with recover. He and the crew evacuated just far enough inland to still be accessible once the hurricane had passed through as they were ordered to stay off the roads until the all clear.  I’ll leave his escapades for a future post for another day, but suffice it to say he and the rest of the crew are true heroes and some of the most selfless people I have ever known. They were even featured in an episode of Storm Stories that the Weather Channel used to produce.

The kids, my mom and I evacuated, remarkably now in hindsight – since we now live here- to the Memphis area to stay with dear friends.  It was a forever long week, and the recovery time even longer.  It sobers me today to even think about it again.  We had significant damage in our home, our community and elevated fears for myself and the children.  Our future for the next few years was marked by distinct changes with regards to how we watched hurricanes.  For me, I was constantly check the tropical waves coming off the coast of Africa, the naming of the newest “invest #” and tropical depression status all the way to hurricane.  Once it had a track, I was tracking it.  I watched the radar, and could tell you each wobble based on the eye movement.  Literally obsessed with it, I remember vividly the anxiety of going through another Ivan brought me.  Katrina arrived the next year and while the landfall was clearly west of us, I still evacuated once again because it was terrifying. For the kids, it was the fear of having to grab just a few items and evacuate again.

We have moved since then, and Florida hasn’t seen a major hurricane in years.  I stopped tracking ever single movement of every dust storm off of Africa, and I’m thankful.  I didn’t realize at the time how very fearful I was, it’s only in retrospect that I understand the grip it had on my heart.

So today, I feel great empathy for my friends in Florida and along the eastern seaboard.  As they shop for essentials just in case there is no electricity after the hurricane, or make hotel arrangements in case they need to get off the coast.  The added expenses if you are already financial strapped can be crippling.  The anxiety of the “what if’s” and which way will it go can be unbearable mentally.  I empathize. I have been there and done that.  So I pray and ask the Lord, the one who controls the winds and the waves to quiet the storm.  I pray for those in it’s path to dwell in the knowledge of His care for them, and for those who have already weathered the storm, I pray for them as the rebuild their lives once again.  For a country like Haiti, it’s an even more devastating proposition because they already struggled to begin with.

Hurricane season doesn’t mean what it used to for me, but I will never forget.  I have travelled that road and it wasn’t easy.  I am thankful for the comfort of Scripture!

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, And He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still, So that the waves of the sea were hushed. Psalm 107:28-29

Perhaps you don’t actually have to face Hurricane Matthew today, but there is another circumstance in your life that feels as overwhelming as a hurricane.  I wrote about my own experience with that here. I know that mentally the anxiety can build for you as well.  I spent time praying this morning as well for my friends and family who are facing cancer and it’s treatments and surgery, for those facing the loss of a loved one, and those who are enduring financial burdens.  I pray you keep your eyes on the One who will sustain you and carry you through those turbulent days as well!

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.

The GIFT of encouragement

Good morning!  Hope you are all having a beautiful morning!  The sunrise was really pretty here today as I thought about what it was that I needed to share with y’all today.  I wrote a post a couple months ago on the GIFT of encouragement and so instead of trying to reinvent the wheel I’m going to have you check it out over there.  I’m mulling over how the daily blog will be structured so bear with me while I work out the kinks and if you have suggestions I’d love to hear them.  My thought is that each day could apply to a certain season of life for us women.

Anyway – here’s the link to the post on encouragement – just click on “encouragement” and it will take you there.

Also another little project that may be of interest to you is a daily download coloring page regarding the “fear nots” of the Bible.  You can check it out here.  It’s been a blessing to search for the Scriptures that tell us not to fear, and to share them each day!  If you enjoy coloring, I think it’s a great way to meditate on Scripture and do something you enjoy also.  Here’s todays page – if you like it just go to the website to download. isam1224