Posted in Advent/Christmas, Personal Development

Finding Peace Anywhere and Everywhere

Peace(1)

What image come to mind when you hear the word “peace”? I used to think peace was the absence of all conflict or trouble. I pictured a sailboat in the middle of a placid lake with little or no breeze. Today I visualize a completely different scene.

The biblical definition of peace has an element of the absence of trouble. However, it embraces other aspects, as well. Peace can mean “being in right relationship with another.” It also includes “completeness and safety in the midst of chaos.” It’s comforting to know that when situations and relationships are far from peaceful, I can still be at peace.

The Advent season is the perfect time to remember God’s gift of peace. The Prince of Peace arrived during a time of Roman oppression. In Bethlehem, while the little town was overcrowded by the great influx of people coming to register for the census, God visited in the form of a newborn. Born to the Virgin Mary and Joseph, His cries pierced the darkness. His divine life brought supernatural peace to human kind.

As followers of Christ, we enjoy peace on many levels.

We enjoy peace with God. The angel chorus announced it to the shepherds.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:13-14).

We do not struggle under the load of sin. We are no longer separated from God. We are brought near to Him and are in right relationship with the Lord.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).

We enjoy peace with ourselves. Long after I knew I had peace with God, I continued to be in conflict with myself. I had a long list of “shoulds” and could never measure up. I extended kindness and grace to others, but was a brutal task master to myself. I constantly strove to excel in every area of my life. Thankfully the Lord, in His great love and patience, established His peace in my soul. Now I have serenity with my weaknesses and deficiencies. I know I am deeply loved by the Lord regardless of my performance. Perhaps you can relate with being hostile toward yourself. Rely on the Lord to help you be in right relationship with yourself.

We enjoy peace in our circumstances. We live in a fallen world with broken people. Life can be so hard some times. We experience disappointment, heartache, setback, and trauma. We encounter illness, injustice, violence, and death. Sometimes things don’t make sense. However, no matter what we may encounter in the moment, it does not have the power to shake the well being of our souls. The wonderful message of Christmas is that we are never alone. Emmanuel—God with us—has come. We have completeness and safety in the midst of chaos.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Today when I think of peace, it looks like the eye of a storm. The winds of destruction may rage, but there is a place of calm in the center. Christ is our Center. We can face anything and everything, because God’s peace is with us.

Jesus Christ came to this earth and provided peace. We have peace with God, peace with ourselves, and peace in the midst of our circumstances.

You will keep in perfect peace
all who trust in you,
all whose thoughts are fixed on you! (Isaiah 26:3, NLT)

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for being the Prince of Peace. Teach me to trust You and to walk in Your perfect peace. This holiday season, may I reflect on Your great gift of peace and learn to always keep You at the center of my life. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Graphic designed by Jordanne Babcock

 

Advertisements
Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Finding Grace in Thanksgiving

I am grateful

The Thanksgiving weekend tops my list of favorite holiday celebrations. I love Christmas and Easter, because of their spiritual significance. I know the calendar dates are not accurate, but where would we be without the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ? However, Thanksgiving is the pinnacle for me, as I reflect with gratitude on the many blessings of life surrounded by the people dearest to me.

We hear a lot about the importance of gratitude this time of year. The deliberate practice of gratitude comes to the forefront, especially for Christ followers. In fact, it is entirely possible to be thankful without expressing gratitude. We may recognize God’s blessings and appreciate the kindness of others (being thankful). The next step is to actively express that recognition and appreciation (being grateful).

There is another element we do not hear much about during this season. That is grace.

A thankful heart starts with finding grace. In the Old Testament God’s grace describes deliverance from enemies or adversity. It also speaks of empowerment, daily guidance, forgiveness, and protection. In the New Testament, God’s grace focuses on the provision of salvation. It is God’s love in action towards people who earn the opposite of love. (That would be all of us.) Grace is the undeserved favor of God.

The longer I follow Jesus, the more I’m aware that I don’t deserve any of God’s kindness. There is no way I can measure up to His standard of absolute perfection. He has already paid the penalty for every single wrong thing I have done and made the way for me to spend eternity with Him. I am truly entitled to nothing. Anything I receive is a beautiful gift of grace, and the Lord continues to give and give and give.

I am not suggesting that we become self-deprecating. We are highly valued and deeply loved by the Lord who created us and knows us by name. He desires to be in relationship with us. Nevertheless, His love and desire originate from the Lord Himself not from our own greatness.

Even though we have been given much, our human nature complains about what we don’t have and that what we do have is not enough. It zooms in on the suffering, the tragedies, the injustices and inequities. Thankfulness cannot be found among such negativity. I don’t want to ignore the sorrows or pretend that everything is rosy, but I want to view life through the lens of grace. The lens of grace helps me to see the good in the midst of messy relationships and a hurting world. It leads to a thankful heart, which I choose to express.

Cultivate an awareness of grace, and be thankful. Don’t let your thankfulness go unsaid. Practice gratitude by giving voice to your appreciation.

Have a grace-filled Thanksgiving, my friends.

PSALM 100 (NLT)

Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!
     Worship the Lord with gladness.
    Come before him, singing with joy.

 Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
    He made us, and we are his.
    We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
    go into his courts with praise.
    Give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good.
    His unfailing love continues forever,
    and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I am so thankful for Your goodness and love. You have provided me salvation through Jesus Christ and pour out many blessings. Shine the light of Your Holy Spirit on the areas of my life affected by selfishness and entitlement. Teach me to see through the lens of grace, to recognize your gifts, and to express thanks. Empower me to be a person that practices gratitude well. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Finding Strength in Suffering

desert-drought-dehydrated-clay-soil-60013

This year has been a year characterized by suffering. I’m not saying this to be negative, and I’m not trying to gain sympathy. It’s simply a fact. As I look back over the last ten months, I can see personal trauma and multiple heartbreaking situations for those closest to me.

I am not a stranger to suffering, and I have learned to draw close to the Lord in the midst of it. Lately I have been pondering a passage in 1 Peter 5:8-11 that deals with suffering.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.

In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. All power to him forever! Amen (NLT).

The first thing I notice is that suffering is attributed to the work of our great enemy, the devil. His job is to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). As he does his dirty work, he seeks to weaken our faith, because it is our faith in the Lord that keeps us strong. If we place the blame on the Lord, we become angry and bitter. There is nowhere else to turn. We stand firm against the devil and his plans by placing blame where it belongs and remaining strong in faith.

Isolation is another ploy of the enemy. In the midst of suffering, we may begin to believe that we are the only ones struggling. Nobody else can really understand, and we are all alone. We remove ourselves from our family of faith, the ones who can rally around us with support and prayer. The reality is that believers all over the world are suffering. It might not be the same situation or to the same degree, but they are suffering nonetheless. We must draw strength from each other.

Suffering, no matter how terrible, is temporary. My intention is not to minimize the pain that others experience. However, it is natural to feel that suffering (while in the middle of it) will last forever. We need to remember that there will be an end to it. Our God extends kindness to us. The enemy won’t win, because after we have suffered a little while the Lord Himself will restore, support, and strengthen us. The All Powerful One is absolutely trustworthy.

I know that suffering doesn’t make sense. Sometimes there are more questions than answers. Sometimes tragedy is so great and the pain seems unbearable. But we can find strength in suffering if we depend on the Lord and trust His goodness.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ (1 Corinthians 1:3-5).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, may I lean on You in times of trouble. Help me to stand firm against the enemy through faith in You. Remind me that I am never alone. You are always near, and there are others in my life to stand with me. Help me to realize that suffering is temporary, and that You will make me stronger as a result. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Turning 50!

IMG_3952

The year 1967 is a very special year to me. It is the year of my birth, and last weekend I celebrated my 50th birthday. I always enjoy my birthday, because it is a chance to reflect on my life and see God’s faithfulness interwoven throughout my days.

This year was especially meaningful. My husband organized a party at a local pizza place, and we invited our family and friends to join us. We were blessed with more people than we anticipated, along with some surprise arrivals. It was thrilling to be surrounded by such a loving and supportive group. Some people have known me for many years, other people are more recent friends, but each one has a special place in my heart.

I soaked in the sweet camaraderie of the evening, and pondered the gift of life. The fabulous evening punctuated my resolve: I don’t want to waste this precious gift on meaningless pursuits or to secure my own comfort. Instead, I desire to focus my attention on a few things that really matter.

Jesus. My Savior and Lord is absolutely everything to me. I dedicated my life to Him at the age of 13 (which was a long time ago). It is easy to settle into a spiritual comfort zone, but I don’t want that. I want to love and serve and know Him with all that I am. I want to passionately follow Jesus Christ in joyful obedience, and live as a bright light for Him. I want to be in the habit of saying “yes” to Him, and step out in faith to do whatever He asks of me.

Relationships. I dearly love my family and friends. I am also wired to be task oriented and goal oriented. I like structure and organization. I like to check off my to-do list, preferably in order. Tasks and achievements bring peace to my mind. Unfortunately they can interfere with relationships. However, connecting with loved ones nourishes my soul. I want to engage in the sacred, messy work of building and restoring my relationships.

Growth. The older I get, the less I know. I won’t presume that I have ever arrived. Rather, I submit to the process of life-long learning. I want to become more like Jesus, allowing the Holy Spirit to transform me into His likeness. I want to continue to heal from the effects of childhood and more recent traumas. I want to develop the skills of being a better servant leader in myself and others.

Service. I don’t want to be guilty of being enraged by all the injustices in the world and not doing something about it. I can’t sit on the sidelines while people are hurting. I must invest in improving the lives of those who are disadvantaged or marginalized, the “least of these” who are so important to Jesus.

I just had the privilege of celebrating 50 years of life. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. But I can live each day I am given with intention.

Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy (Ephesians 4:21-24).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of life. May I not take it for granted. Help me to identify what really matters, and then live with intention. I know I cannot do this by my own strength and abilities. May I thrive through Your Spirit, as You empower me to make each day count. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

About Pie Crusts and Personal Growth

IMG_3869

My husband and I have a business called “Love My Pies.” As the name suggests, we sell artisan pies made to order. It may surprise you to know that my husband is the baker.

Jonathan’s grandmother and mom were gifted in the kitchen. They shared their love for cooking with him, showing him the secrets of making homemade biscuits and gravy, cornbread, cinnamon rolls, and pie crust. I, on the other hand, did not develop such a gift. I was the main cook while raising our kids, and I enjoyed making cookies of all kinds. But I avoided any dish that required lots of time and attention, especially pie crusts. I asked Jonathan to teach me a couple times, only to be reduced to tears by my own impatience and frustration. He made it look so easy, and I struggled to roll the dough into something that even resembled a circle.

A few years in our marriage I decided I would leave the pie crusts to my husband. Why should I keep trying when he could do it so much better?

I think it is a good strategy to focus where we are gifted. We thrive when we work with our strengths and abilities, and allow other people to work with theirs. However, it is also important to have a growth mindset, to be open to discovery and innovation. I had a bad case of a fixed mindset, the opposite of a growth mindset. I had decided that I would never be good at making pie crust.

A fixed mindset leads to personal stagnation and an inability to recover from mistakes. It believes that success happens naturally through talent rather than effort. It gives up when frustrated. It avoids being challenged, because failure is final.

A growth mindset leads to personal growth and resilience. It looks forward to challenges and will persevere when facing difficulties. It believes that learning may not come easily, but that’s okay. Anything can be learned eventually with desire and a positive attitude.

Here is a picture of the first pie crust that I made all by myself this weekend. It is a huge accomplishment for me, because after all these years, I determined to have a growth mindset. Recently we have had several requests for gluten free pies. My husband is busy baking for our pie orders, so I am the one with the time to experiment. My first pie crust was made with gluten free flour. It was far from perfect and the recipe needs to be adjusted, but I did it! I am excited to continue learning.

Having a growth mindset is one of my goals as I get older. I want to keep growing in faith and as a person, and to keep learning new things. I don’t want to become stagnate and shrivel. I believe that the Lord, with His eternal nature, is creative and vibrant. He imparts His life to us in the midst of the aging process. It’s nice to know that it’s never too late to practice a growth mindset. We can start with something as simple as a pie crust.

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11).

Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church (Ephesians 4:15).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, You are the God of life and transformation. Challenge me to have a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. Help me to keep growing as a person and in my relationship with You, to become all that You intend me to be. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

One Way to Change Your Perspective

book and light

Sometimes I am my own worst enemy. One of the downsides of being emotionally sensitive is that I am prone to depression and thinking negatively. I have come a long way since childhood. As a kid, there were times I felt intense hatred toward myself. I would beat myself verbally with harmful words, and even physically on occasion. When I became a Christ-follower, the Holy Spirit began to transform the way I thought about myself. As I learned what God’s Word said about me as His dearly loved child, I began to speak those truths as personal affirmations. Slowly my self-talk and self-treatment became more positive, reflecting the affirmations I began to believe.

Today, affirming what God says about me is an important part of changing my perspective and thriving in the midst of challenging circumstances. Like every person, I am more susceptible to destructive thoughts and emotions when I am tired or hormonal (the joys of womanhood) or haven’t taken time to care properly for myself. If I am not aware, I can easily spiral into a deep pit where hopelessness resides. There I imagine every part of life falling apart, with me left alone unable to pick up the pieces. As soon as I realize what’s going, I start using affirmations.

Affirmations centered on God’s Word are powerful, because they change my perspective.

When I feel like I am too weak to accomplish what the Lord has called me to do…

  • I affirm that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
  • I affirm that His grace is all I need, because His power works best in weakness. He is my strength when I am weak (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  • I affirm that I depend on Christ’s mighty power that works within me (Colossians 1:29).

When I doubt that my life has meaning and purpose…

  • I affirm that God has a purpose for me and He is fulfilling it in me (Psalm 57:2).
  • I affirm that every day of my life matters. God’s thoughts about me are precious (Psalm 139:16-17).
  • I affirm that I am His masterpiece, created anew in Christ, so that I can do the good things he planned for me long ago (Ephesians 2:10).

When I feel unloved and alone…

  • I affirm that I am more than a conqueror through Him who loves me (Romans 8:37).
  • I affirm that nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus my Lord (Romans 8:38).
  • I affirm that God is my refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

Affirmations can address any area of struggle. They are personalized statements in present time based on God’s Word, declared out loud. Affirmations are powerful, but they aren’t magic. It isn’t enough to mindlessly recite an affirmation over and over again. Affirmations must be believed and then acted upon. They certainly do not take the place of hard work. However, when believed they will change your perspective of yourself and your world, making healing and growth possible.

I encourage you to identify an area in your life where healing or growth is needed. Find Scripture that relates to that area. Make it personal and declare it when you find yourself thinking or feeling otherwise. Trust the Holy Spirit to transform the way you think and help you thrive.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:2, NLT).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for the work of Your Spirit in my life. You see where I am, the places I get stuck, the places where I am broken. Help me to believe Your Word and declare Your Word as truth about me. Take the affirmations I make, and change the way I think. May I develop a positive perspective about myself and my situations, knowing there is always hope. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Four Steps to Facing Failure

woman-dropped-fail-failure

In my life time, I have heard many quotes on facing failure and learning from mistakes. Just listen to the wisdom of some people who have been successful. They can be quite inspiring.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
– Samuel Beckett (novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet)

“When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.”
– Eloise Ristad (musician and author)

“Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.”
– Robert T. Kiyosaki (businessman and founder of Rich Dad Company)

On the other hand, sayings like these can be very discouraging to someone who has just experienced the sting of failure. Their simplicity seems to delegitimize the pain of failing.

Can I be honest about this? It hurts to fail. I don’t want to put time, energy, and resources into planning and reaching a goal only to fail.

I’m certainly not successful like the people featured above, but I just have to say this. It’s okay not to like failing. Really.

Maybe you made a plan, put in lots of effort, and didn’t meet a goal. Maybe you studied hard and didn’t pass a test. Maybe you thoroughly researched an idea and it didn’t produce results. Maybe you made a commitment to a relationship and it didn’t last. It’s okay to be upset. It’s okay to grieve. Failure is a type of loss, and loss is painful.

Eventually though, when you’ve properly experienced the loss, you need to get back up, learn from the mistakes, and try again. How can you face failure in a healthy way?

  1. Take time to experience the loss. I know I already said this, however, don’t skip over this step. Each situation will be different, but it is important not to minimize your emotions.
  2. Identify what you did well. All is not lost. Celebrate the positive elements and accomplishments. Ask others for their feedback. Their perspective is valuable.
  3. Examine what you need to improve. Think about how you could do things differently, and then determine to make the necessary changes. Again, ask for input from others. They may see things that you missed.
  4. Above all, remember that you are dearly loved by your heavenly Father. Your worth is not determined by your failures or your successes. He loves you. Period.

So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you (Deuteronomy 31:6, NLT).

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love (Romans 5:3-5).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You that my worth is not based on my accomplishments. Help me to answer Your call, give my all, and learn from my mistakes. Be my strength and encouragement. Be my teacher and guide. Please remind me that failure is never final when I keep my eyes on You and refuse to give up. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.