3 Truths About God to Remember When You Can’t Stop Worrying

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The news took my breath away. With one quick phone call, our lives changed.

A family member was in trouble, and it was the kind where no one could help. As I looked out the window and listened to my Dad on the other end of the phone with tears streaming down my face, I knew God had taken the situation out of our hands.

All of our attempts to control and prevent a worst-case-scenario had come to this, and it was as if He was saying, “It’s in my hands now.”

After hanging up the phone, I sat in the recliner for over twenty minutes and tried to pray. But every time I attempted to utter words, I was paralyzed. My mind circled endless what-if scenarios, and my fear of the unknown kept me mute.

Frustrated, I got up and took a hot shower, hoping to clear my head. As I was toweling off, I recalled the following verse.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV

I often look at scripture like this and think, “Yeah right. How is that even possible?”

But on a day when my world seemed to be crumbling around me, I thought, “What if every time my mind went to worry, I prayed instead?”

Hard? Yes. Possible. Very much so, if we persevere.

Friends, we have any enemy who loves nothing more to exploit our weaknesses during times of trouble. If you’re prone to worry, he’ll take a troublesome situation and fill your mind with every worst-case-scenario possible.

But you know what? Satan does not control our minds. We do. And we can choose to believe the lies the father of them suggests or we can fill our minds with truth. We can pray. We can bring all of our anxiousness and pain to the one who knows the end of the story.

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There is a reason I felt so paralyzed when I tried to pray. Prayer is a powerful weapon, and our enemy would rather us not use it.

If you’re stumbling around, looking for a starting point, here are 3 truths to remember and guide your prayers:

  1. God is sovereign. Regardless of whether or not it appears so, God is in control. He has a plan. It may seem as though everything is falling apart, but he is aware of the situation and is working through your prayers.
  1. God is a Redeemer. It may take years. It may take a lifetime. But God can redeem this story. He can use this mess and make it a testimony of his grace and goodness. If there are other people involved, it will take a willing heart on their part, but God loves to take the ashes of our lives and turn them into something beautiful.
  1. God loves you and the people involved. Many of us heard this as kids. We know John 3:16 and learned the song “Jesus Loves Me” when we were little. But when trouble comes, we doubt. We wonder where He is and why these things are happening. We live in a fallen, painful and often chaotic world and while God’s hand may not always seem evident, his love is still steady and constant.

When storms come, our natural instinct is control. We want to fix it. We want things to change and go according to plan. But often the situation is taken out of our hands and we’re left clenching our fists.

You know what? We can still do something. And it’s the most beautiful, powerful step we can take.

Our strongest weapon against the darkness is the one we use on our knees.

 

Linking up with these communities: #ThoughtProvokingThursday

The Question Every Dreamer Asks: God, Should I Continue?

the-question-every-dreamer-asks

I didn’t want the open the email. The subject line said it all.

“Thank you…”

After a few years pursuing this writing stuff, I knew what those two words meant.

“Thank you but no thank you.”

“Thank you but this doesn’t meet our needs at this time.”

“Thank you, and please try again.”

My finger hovered over the delete button before sending the words off into cyber space oblivion. I opened the Word document for an article I was finishing and the cursor blinked, mocking me.

Why do you continue with this craziness? It’s not going anywhere. You’re wasting your time.

I slammed the laptop shut and busied myself with chores. At least I could do something right. After an hour the laundry was done, the dishes were put away and I was ready to pick up my youngest from school. And I was on time, a tiny miracle all by itself.

But I still couldn’t get the nagging voices of doubt out of my head. I knew instead of mulling over the situation and getting nowhere, I should bring it before God.

Do I continue to pursue this dream, God? Is this something you want?

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I was deathly afraid the answer would be “no,” but I asked anyway. I needed to know, one way or the other.

Sometimes when we come face to face with our fears, God speaks to us through a friend. Other times it’s through a song or a sermon.

The ways He speaks are as limitless as He is, but he’s always trying to reach our hearts.

On this particular day, He spoke to me through a story. And this storyteller loves stories.

It takes place during the years of the Old Testament when Samuel led the Israelites, and they’re facing an intimidating enemy who won’t stop pursuing them: the Philistines. In a moment of desperation Samuel cries out to God, and God delivers the Israelites from battle. (1 Samuel 7:9)

While this victory was impressive all by itself, God doesn’t stop there. Scripture tells us that for the the rest of Samuel’s reign, God suppresses the Philistines and there is peace.

To celebrate their victory, Samuel doesn’t just praise God and thank Him. He doesn’t count his blessings and move on. He builds a memorial.

He builds an altar to the Lord and names it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord helped us.” (1 Samuel 7:12)

As I read over this testimony of God’s faithfulness, I knew what God was asking me to do.

Stop focusing on the mountain in front of you and look at what I’ve brought you through.

We often get so focused on the obstacles, the next hurdle or project that we forget how far we’ve come. We forget to celebrate. We forget to slow down and take stock of the blessings God has poured into our lives.

I don’t know about you, but I need to stop obsessing over roadblocks and start building altars. More reminders that even when the cards seem stacked against me, God is faithful.

If I could attain each goal on my own, I wouldn’t need God. I wouldn’t need faith. And God wouldn’t get the glory, which is why I went down this crazy path in the first place.

Friend, the next time God brings you through a battle, remember to stop and take notice. Then, create a reminder. Build an altar, write it in your journal, or mark the date on your calendar. Do whatever it takes to commit it to memory.

The next trial will surely come, but we can face it with sureness of God’s power.

When we remember what God helped us overcome, the mountain in front of us goes from threatening to surmountable.

 

GIVEAWAY:

Congrats to Elaine Tomasello! You are the winner of last week’s giveaway and will be receiving a smart power bank and Hope & Joy mirror keychain! I will be contacting you soon to get your shipping info. Thanks for reading!

When You Feel Abandoned By God

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“Well this isn’t how you prayed this moment would turn out.”

The thought passed through my filter of truth and circled my mind on repeat. I knew it was a lie, but I listened to it. I stood there with my four-year-old, who was starting a new school, and tried to hold back tears.

His own tears flowed freely.

“I want to go to old school,” he said repeatedly. The school staff gathered around, trying to calm him.

“Buddy, this is your school now. You’re going to have lots of fun and you get to go to school with Jay,” I said, faking composure.

Big brother stood beside us, cool as a cucumber. He told little one everything was going to be okay and talked about the things he was going to do with his class.

I looked at my firstborn’s cherub-like face with amazement. He was a little beacon of sunshine in this mess of a morning. A reminder from God that He was still there.

The guidance counselor distracted little one with a walk over to the school’s pet lizard and settled him. With her prompting, I snuck outside to my car, praying my baby’s day would improve.

Will you continue reading with me? Today I’m sharing at PurposefulFaith.com about how God speaks in those times when we feel abandoned. You can read the rest of my post here

3 Questions to Ask Yourself When You’re Tempted to Climb That Soapbox {Plus a Fun Giveaway}

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I come from a long line of opinionated people. When you get my family together, there’s bound to be a clash of views, but most of the time we’re able to walk away with smiles and laughter.

Usually, the subject is as miniscule as college football, but every now and then it’s more serious. I remember one adventure when we were visiting a National Park in Moab, Utah and a family member who shall remain nameless insisted on taking an off-road route to see the arches. They were in a mini-van, but the route’s sign “highly recommended” a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Needless to say, after a few miles a park ranger coming in the opposite direction suggested we turn around. We were able to get back on the paved road and see all the main attractions without getting stuck, but there where a few times when the little van was scraping rock.

We’re able to look back on the incident now and chuckle, but disputes with loved ones don’t always end this way, do they? When we feel attacked, it’s difficult to put aside our emotions.

All too often, I see an issue as black and white when in fact, there are many shades of gray. I want to have the last word and race down an ugly path of pride and narrow-mindedness instead of trying to see the other person’s point of view.

Even when I’m speaking truth, I sometimes forget about love. Instead of trusting the Spirit to speak to someone’s heart, I try to chisel away at it with words that are callous and hurtful.

Friends, there is only one person who can open a person’s heart and mind to God’s truth. He is the Spirit, and he doesn’t speak through resounding gongs and cymbals. We are his vessels, but when we approach others with a voice of pride we accomplish nothing.

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There is a reason why scripture warns about controlling the tongue so many times. Because it truly does have the power of life and death.

Whether the issue is big or small, we will never agree with everyone on everything. And you know what? That is good. We were never intended to. But we can learn to approach disagreements in a Christ-like way.

I am a work in progress and on this side of eternity, I always will be. Through the arguments and the heartache, here are three questions his Spirit prompts me to ask when my blood pressure rises.

  1. Do I love this person? This is a question my pastor asked a few years ago and it stuck with me. If the answer is “no” then walk away. Even if you are speaking truth, any words that are not spoken with love will accomplish nothing.
  1. Is this my pride talking, or am I speaking the truth out of love? If I can’t find scripture, wise counsel or experience to back what I’m saying, then I may be speaking out of a pure need to be right. And what’s right for me may not be right for every other person on the planet.
  1. Am I giving this person grace or exercising judgment? While it is healthy to create boundaries, there is only one person who sits in the judgment seat, friends. It isn’t you or me, but Christ alone. Let us hand over the gavel to the One who can handle its weight.

I know there will be days when I’m tempted to climb on my soapbox. But you know what? The words I preach from there seldom do any good, unless you count the boost to my ego.

Arguments will happen and tempers will flare, but we can control the way we handle ourselves. Let’s reflect the mindset of the Creator, even when we’re tempted to let callous words fly.

 

GIVEAWAY!

sept-16-giveawayAs a thank you to my lovely readers I’m giving away two fun gifts: a power bank, which can be used to wirelessly charge your smart phone, iPod, camera, etc. and a Hope & Joy mirror keychain! Just comment below and share this post for extra entries. (if you shared the post on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. please let me know in your comment) I’ll announce the winner next Thursday! Giveaway is for U.S. residents only.

 

 

 

Linking up with these communities: #ThoughtProvokingThursday

A Promise for the Days When God Doesn’t Seem Real

when God doesn't seem real

I waited weeks for the right moment to let the boys feel baby Elise move. But every time she was up, they weren’t. Or they were outside playing, at school or some other activity.

Then on a Tuesday night, my oldest sat on the couch playing his video game and I laid beside him, propping my feet up on the ottoman. Baby girl apparently didn’t like my position because she started kicking like crazy.

Hurriedly, I took my son’s hand and placed it on my tummy and as usual, she stopped. But I held it there. Then, she kicked again.

The look of excitement on my son’s face was worth all the weeks of waiting.

“Did she kick your hand?” I asked.

“Actually, she kicked my finger! This one right here,” he said, pointing to his index finger.

He sat down next to me with a satisfied look. I knew what this experience meant, but my husband’s question solidified it for me.

“Is she real now?” he asked as he stood in the doorway, looking at our eight-year-old.

Big brother nodded and my shoulders relaxed. A couple of days ago, my hubby had told me about a conversation he had with the boys while I was out on a girls’ night. Their excitement over welcoming a sister into the family had worn off, and he wanted to know if they had any questions.

“I’m just not sure if she’s real,” our firstborn said in all honesty.

When Chris told me about it, my heart sank. But I also understood. The wait was long for me, so I couldn’t imagine how lengthy it must seem for a kid his age. All this talk about a person he couldn’t see or touch.

We’d taken both boys to the ultrasound where we found out the gender, but to them it was probably like a movie on a screen. They needed tangible evidence. Something they could feel and put their hands on.

when God doesn't seem real

Feeling her move was the affirmation my inquisitive one needed. And after he stepped away, I looked at his little face I thanked God for that moment.

I thought about days past when, like baby sister, He didn’t seem real. One moment I’d be worshipping and watching Him move, and the next I wasn’t sure where He was.

My human response was to blame Him, but I know He was still there, steady and constantly as always.

My flesh wanted tangible signs, but God simply wanted me to trust Him.

I forgot how even when He walked this earth performing signs and miracles, healing the sick and ministering, there were still those who didn’t believe.

Why is it that we think we have to be on a spiritual high or mountaintop of worship to experience God? The confirmation of his presence his all around us, but we become too distracted to notice.

Instead of burying my face in his Word, I spend countless hours scrolling through Facebook. Instead of having a conversation face to face with another living, breathing image of our Creator, I sit at home watching reruns on Netflix.

If I’m missing God, it isn’t because He’s gone anywhere.

He’s there in the sunrise and in a message from a friend that comes at just the right time. He’s there in the invitation to lunch that comes when you feel like you’re alone.

The more time I spend with Him, getting to know Him and his infinite ways, the more I see Him all around me. And to my friend sitting there on the other side of the screen, I promise you this. If you seek Him, you will find Him.

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:12-13 ESV

If we want to see Him, all we have to do is look at the miracles taking place in our everyday. Like my son pressing his hand on my fluttering belly, He’s there.

 

Linking up with these communities: #ThoughtProvokingThursday, #LiveFreeThursday

When You Don’t Feel Qualified to Do What God Is Asking

when you don't feel qualified

People tell me I’m a slow talker. Whether it’s because of my southern roots or because I’m constantly thinking about what I say before I say it, my words don’t come spewing out at breakneck speed.

Most days I’m okay with it. But every now and then, I wish I could turn off my brain and just speak. I know, that doesn’t make any sense but you get the picture. I want words to flow without thought of how they sound, whether my audience is understanding me or whether they’re offended by I’m saying.

A couple of years ago I attended my first writers’ conference and when people learned I was working on a book, the typical next question was, “What’s it about?” It was a question I both loved and loathed at the same time, but it was good practice for me. Explaining my heart’s desire to women I barely knew stretched me and forced me to get outside my head.

But part of me longed to run to my hotel room and slam the door. I felt unqualified. I was overwhelmed by the audacity of what the Lord was asking me to do: to open myself up and share a vulnerable message others could both understand and relate to. I looked around me at writers who had huge platforms, thousands of followers and fans and wondered what I was doing there.

In all my insecurity, I forgot about the truth the Lord spoke to me months earlier. He didn’t call me because I was qualified.

when you don't feel qualified

He didn’t choose me because of my impressive resume or my list of credentials. He chose me because I had a willing heart. A heart that longed to share the message he’d given me with other women who struggled with fear of never being enough or feeling confident in their roles as wife, mother, friend and follower of Christ.

Recently I was having another episode of anxiety over something I felt strongly the Lord was calling me to do. He brought me to the story of Moses’ call to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. When the Lord told Moses what he wanted him to do, he protested. A lot.

Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled. 

Exodus 4:10 NLT

Moses was full of excuses and reasons why he couldn’t do what the Lord was asking him to do. But for every protest, the Lord assured him it wasn’t his strength or ability that the Israelites would need. It was the Lord’s.

It wasn’t Moses’ job to provide the miracle. He was simply a vessel for the Lord to show his power.

Often when I’m trying to follow the path the Lord has set before me, I become preoccupied with figuring out steps two, three and four when he’s only asked me to take step one. After I take step one, he shows me what he wants me to do next. But I can’t take those next steps if I’m in a frozen state, trying to see what’s ahead.

Sometimes we have to take that first step of faith before we see the next one the Lord has already set before us.

And the more we walk, we see how we don’t need to have the entire blueprint of God’s plan in front of us. We don’t have to boast a long set of credentials or an impressive resume with all the right skills.

We simply have to put one foot in front of the other.

 

Linking up with these communities: #RaRaLinkup, #IntentionalTuesday

When Your Faith Is Attacked

when your faith is attacked

I looked at the words typed across my screen in disbelief, not knowing what to do. Should I ignore the person? Block them? My spirit stirred and I felt shaken, stumbling for my footing.

Sure it was social media and I couldn’t see the other person’s face. But it felt very personal. This guy was attacking my faith, something as vital to me as breathing. I remembered the words of Peter to the church and decided to answer his question.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…

1 Peter 3:15 NIV

In a few sentences, this person was asking me to prove the existence of God. While I knew I couldn’t do this in 100 character tweets, I shared what I could. I told about answered prayers that couldn’t be explained. Things which couldn’t be justified by logic, reason and even doctors.

But no matter what I said, it wasn’t enough. More questions came pouring into my Twitter feed and when I brought up my testimony, another user decided to jump in.

If I was shaken before, at this point I was ready to retreat.

Will you continue reading with me? Today I’m honored to be sharing over at Walking Deeper. In the middle of this struggle, God showed me a powerful truth. You can read the rest of my post here.