He Restores My Soul

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Because I overload my schedule,

Because I don’t know how to say “no”,

Because I keep everything to myself,

Because I believe asking for help is a sign of weakness,

Because I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders,

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He MAKES me.

He frees me of obligations.

He lightens my load.

He loosens my grip.

He reminds me that He is in control.

He quiets my heart and gives me rest.

He restores my soul.

Because He is the Good Shepherd and I –

I am his stubborn little sheep.

 

 

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Don’t Cry Over Uncooked Chicken

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Bad days. We all have them. Even me – the chick who’s always talking about happiness. And this past week has been filled with them. One, especially, was a doozy! It began badly and escalated into something even worse. By the time I made it home after work that day, all I wanted to do was vent to my husband and curl up in my bed. But one of my husband’s co-workers was at the house. Venting was out of the question. So I ended up in the kitchen with a new recipe in front of me and a determination to cook away my problems.

I’ve said this before: it is so very strange that I find solace in cooking since I have no idea what I’m doing! It could be that the challenge of learning (and conquering!) something new creates a distraction from the worries of life. Or the appeal may be the creativity involved – gathering all the separate ingredients and putting everything together to produce something wonderful in the end. No matter the reason, cooking has become my emotional outlet.

So with the weight of the day on my shoulders, I set out to cook a chicken, bacon and ranch casserole. I prepared the ingredients as instructed – cut up the chicken into cubes, cut up the broccoli, cooked and crumbled the bacon and mixed it all together with cream cheese, ranch dressing and shredded cheddar. Then I checked the last bit of instructions to see how long the casserole was to cook:

“Bake until hot about 35 minutes.”

Until hot? Wait. That seemed like very strange wording for cooking instructions. I scrolled back to the top of the recipe to see if I had missed something. And there it was – the very first ingredient on the list:

“1.5 lb. cooked chicken, cubed”

COOKED? Really?

I looked at my casserole dish filled with the gooey combination of raw cubes of chicken, ranch dressing, cream cheese and all the other fixings. I almost lost it. I had just spent over an hour thawing out the chicken (cause I never remember to take the meat out of the freezer), cutting the raw chicken into small chunks (which really grosses me out and almost causes me to never eat chicken again), thawing and cooking the bacon (cause I like crispy bacon) and figuring out if I could substitute ranch dressing for the mayo and spices the recipe called for (Why not just call for ranch dressing in a chicken, bacon and ranch casserole?). It was all I could do to hold back the tears.

This cooking therapy session was doing me no good at all!

My initial response was to throw the whole thing out and order a pizza. Actually, throwing it across the room was my first impulse but then I would’ve had to clean up the mess. I certainly didn’t want to do that! So I decided to fish out all the pieces of uncooked chicken and brown them in a skillet. (I may have been able to cook the casserole as it was but I didn’t want to take any chances with chicken.) After the chicken was cooked, I mixed up the casserole a second time and put it in the oven. The finished product was delicious.

We ate. The family was satisfied. My bad day still loomed.

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(Photo Credit: Pinterest)

It bothers me to stress over my bad days. I know that there are so many who have worse problems than I. But there are times when the bad seems to latch on and not let go. I went to bed troubled and praying.

The next morning I awoke with a song in my heart:

“Oh, my soul,
You are not alone.
There’s a place where fear has to face the God you know.
One more day, He will make a way.
Let Him show you how, you can lay this down
‘Cause you’re not alone.”¹

God is good, isn’t He? He is always with us, even on the bad days. He walks right beside us and He’ll even carry our burdens – if we let Him. He is big enough to handle every problem, every worry, every sorrow, every question, every fear, everything.

You see, God is pretty creative, too. And just like gathering all the ingredients of a recipe and combining them into something wonderfully delicious, He has no problem gathering all the pieces of our lives, the good days and bad, the triumphs and failures, the joys and sorrows, and fashioning these pieces into something wonderful. It may take some adjustments to the recipe – fishing out what is wrong, reworking it or even throwing it out altogether – but in the end, the results of God’s handiwork are always beyond compare.

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Have you found yourself crying over uncooked chicken lately? Have you experienced any bad days? Maybe you’re experiencing a string of bad days. If you are, please remember, you don’t walk through these bad days alone. God is with you and He is waiting for you to hand Him your burdens. So, go ahead, hand ’em over and watch God’s creativity at work.

¹”Oh, My Soul” by Casting Crowns

Freedom and Life

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I was not obligated to sing in a worship service today. I was not responsible for the learning experience in a Sunday School class. I was not required to attend any particular services at any particular time with any particular congregation. No, this Resurrection Sunday, I was, for lack of a better word, free. Free to reflect on the significance of this day. Free to enjoy the celebration taking place among the trees as the songs of the Father’s creation filled the morning air and rose as sweet incense of praise to their Risen Lord. Free to sing along and worship my Savior as beloved songs of praise flooded my thoughts: “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow…”, “You ask me how I know He lives – He lives within my heart…”, “Now I have resurrection power Living on the inside; Jesus, You have given us freedom…”

Freedom. Jesus paid my debt with His life. He bore my sins – my careless words, my unforgiving spirit, my blatant disobedience, my hatred, my lies, my darkness – and He bled on the cross to wash me clean. He suffered to free me of the punishment I rightly deserve.

My freedom cost me nothing. It cost Jesus everything.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭53:5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Still He chose to die for me and He offers me life through the power of His resurrection.

“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

As I reflect on the great love my Savior demonstrated on the cross and the power of His resurrection, I can’t help but wonder if I am squandering His gifts of Life and Freedom. Have I forgotten their cost? Am I sharing these gifts with a dying world?

His death set us free.

His resurrection gave us life.

What are we doing with these gifts today?

He Knew

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“He set His face to go to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51)

He knew His humanity was temporary.
He knew His Father’s plan.
He knew His perfect life would be tarnished by the imperfections of a world He had embraced.
Jesus knew His purpose, still He chose the path He knew would lead to death.

He was God.
He was man.
Heavenly purpose mingled with earthly fears.
He knew no sin, yet He knew love.
He knew sorrow.
He knew joy.
He knew pain.

“Let this cup pass from me, but not my will but Thine be done.” (Matthew 26:39)

Our Lord knew His journey on this earth would lead to humiliation, anguish, abandonment and death. Still He chose to die. With deliberate intention, He walked the path to the cross pausing only to accomplish the work of His Father in the lives of those He touched along the way.

His steps were not hurried.
His load was not carefree.
He knew His Father’s plan.
He set His face to go to Jerusalem.
He set His face to go to the cross.

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“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).

No One

No matter what you’ve done, no matter where you’ve run, you’re never too far gone that the love and mercy of God cannot reach you.

He will forgive you.

He will break the chains that bind you.

He will heal your brokenness.

He will restore you.

He will love you.

He already loves you.

That is why he seeks you.

So don’t give up hope. Don’t believe what others may say about you.

No one is beyond God’s reach. No one.

God is reaching out for you today. Will you reach out and take His hand?

Where can I go to escape your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I live at the eastern horizon
or settle at the western limits,
even there your hand will lead me;
your right hand will hold on to me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me,
and the light around me will be night”—
even the darkness is not dark to you.
The night shines like the day;
darkness and light are alike to you.

Psalm 139:7-11

 

Always Choose HAPPY

My Post

Today is International Day of Happiness!

March 20, 2018

I hope you’re finding ways to spread happiness throughout your neck of the woods today. If you’re not sure how to share happiness, check out the ideas over at www.dayofhappiness.net. By joining the “movement for a happier world”, you’ll be able to access all sorts of images to share on social media and ideas for children, adults and your community to make the world a happier place. BUT…

… if you’re finding it hard to smile and the circumstances of life are pulling you down today, the following music video by MercyMe is a must watch! By the end of the song, I guarantee you’ll be SMILING – maybe even dancing! – and I know you’ll want to pass the SMILE along.

“Happy Dance” by MercyMe

(By the way, the video begins like it’s a totally different song but hang in there til 0:24 – it’s totally worth it! Besides, that’s only a 24 second wait. You can handle it! 😉 )

Are you feeling happy, yet?

Good!

Now go spread that happiness to everyone you meet!

Have a HAPPY, HAPPY International Day of Happiness!

#InternationalDayOfHappiness

When You Don’t Measure Up

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While scrolling through my Facebook feed, I ran across this t-shirt ad:

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As soon as I saw it, I couldn’t help but exclaim,

“YESSSS!”

You see, I’ve been reflecting on twenty years of marriage the past couple of weeks. My reminiscing has been wonderful except for the few brief moments when my mind turned to Proverbs 31. I do my best to avoid this chapter of Proverbs but no matter how hard I try, my mind always drifts to the advice of King Solomon’s good ol’ mom when I think about my role as a wife and a mother.

The last two-thirds of Proverbs 31 is essentially a poem about the ideal wife and was most likely passed down for generations by Jewish moms to their daughters as instructions on how to be an honorable wife worthy of her place in her husband’s household. Apparently, though, one Jewish mom thought it important enough to pass down to a King. Maybe she was like many moms believing no one could be good enough for her precious boy so she shared this ode to the perfect woman thinking her son would never find such a creature, thus his heart would remain hers forever. Or maybe she was fully aware of her son’s weakness for the ladies (He did end up with 700 wives and 300 concubines!) and passed it on as a chastisement of his wandering ways. Whatever the reason, the Queen mother taught this poem to her son who later documented it for us all.

(I must note here that many scholars believe the verses in Proverbs 31 about the Virtuous Woman have nothing to do with the advice of the King’s mom found in Verses 1 – 9 of the same chapter. Additionally, many scholars aren’t even sure the King being given the advice was Solomon. He’s called “Lemuel” in the Scriptures. Could’ve been a nickname. Could’ve been some other king. Could’ve been a fictional character. No one is certain but to me, the identity of the King and whether the poem was part of his mother’s advice makes no difference. The value of the message is the same!)

As a teen, I would read of the Proverbs 31 Woman and think, “Yeah. That’s the kind of woman I want to be.” Now, I read about this perfect woman and I pretty much want to smack her. <Gasp!> Sacrilege – I know! (I’ll have to repent after I finish this post!) But she’s so perfect. There’s absolutely no way that I can measure up to this chic. Have you checked her out, yet? Well, let me introduce you.

This lady is:

  • A successful entrepreneur
  • A skilled seamstress
  • A prudent business manager
  • An early riser
  • A midnight oil burner
  • A diligent worker
  • An incomparable multi-tasker
  • A philanthropist and charity worker
  • A dutiful housekeeper
  • A supportive and loving wife
  • An attentive mother and
  • A skilled gardener!

She stays in shape and is well-dressed. She spends her time wisely and is always prepared. She is known in her community for her wisdom, strength and dignity and is respected by her husband and children. She is not only a woman whose reputation cannot be faulted but a woman whose character strengthens her husband’s reputation, as well.

Amazing, isn’t she?

Yep. She bugs me.

Now, let’s take a look at me: My house is always a mess, which I’ve learned to embrace. My clothes are more comfortable than fashionable and they certainly aren’t hand-made. I never see the sun rise unless… Nope, no exceptions for that one! And though I’m often up late, you can bet it’s because I’m watching the next episode of my latest Netflix binge. I use the grocery pickup service because I hate to do the shopping and although it may be a healthier choice, I do not have a garden. I am a plant killer. I am proficient at multi-tasking but I’m also great at procrastinating. I love my husband with all of me but there are many times I secretly desire to wring his neck. And as for my parenting skills, I’d feel much better about myself if I could just get my kid to brush his teeth every day.

Ugh! On the measuring tape of perfection, you’ll find me somewhere near the metal hook at the end.

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I’m so glad God doesn’t use a measuring tape. No, God looks at me through the eyes of GRACE. That certainly doesn’t mean I can ignore Proverbs 31. It’s in God’s Word for a reason. It also doesn’t mean that I should be satisfied with my shortcomings, either. I should always be striving to be a better wife, a better mother, a better me. It does mean that I can stop comparing. I don’t have to kill myself trying to check off every item on the list. In fact, I believe the essence of the Virtuous Woman and the message of her age-old tribute is summarized in one verse (v. 30):

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

If my goal is to be a woman who fears the Lord, everything else that matters will fall right into place.

Happiness in Marriage

764D6E83-D815-46BB-9E71-F6B57F24328DThis week my husband and I celebrated twenty years of marriage. TWENTY YEARS! I feel as if I should be receiving an Olympic gold medal. Maybe two. I’ll settle for platinum, if available. 😉

I’m not a mushy, gushy kinda girl so I don’t want my husband to send me roses or buy me jewelry. That money could be applied elsewhere. And if he had presented me with the traditional 20th Anniversary gift of china, my first response would have been, “Do you still have the receipt?”

I know. I’m weird. Or maybe I’m simply practical. I don’t know. My husband thinks I’m awesome, though! (Hahaha!)

To celebrate my 20th, I thought I’d share a few of my secrets to happiness in marriage – twenty secrets to be exact. Now that I think about it, these may be more like things I wish I knew on Day 1 rather than secrets to success but valuable knowledge nonetheless.

So, here we go – my twenty “secrets” to happiness in marriage (in no specific order). I’ll try to keep them short.

20. Don’t buy into the whole “Wedded Bliss” idea.

Okay. I know this sounds horrible but hear me out. Nothing in life is perfect – especially a marriage. Although you’ll have times when you’re living on Cloud 9, you’re also going to have times when you feel your marriage is falling apart. It can get rough. So, if you’re expecting the Fairy Tale, you’re in for a shock. Remembering that you are two imperfect people striving to create a life together will do wonders for your wedded bliss!

19.  Don’t keep score.

Again, neither of you are perfect. You’ll both make mistakes. But marriage isn’t a game so don’t keep a record of each other’s wrongs. Forgive and forget!

18. Understand that marriage isn’t 50/50.

It’s 100/100. Marriage takes two people giving 100% of themselves to make it work. Sure, there will be times when you or your spouse cannot give 100%. We all have those times when we have to depend on the strength of others. So when your spouse doesn’t have 100% to give, take up the slack. Then on days when you are lacking, let your spouse take up the slack. Just remember – don’t keep score!

17.  Learn to say “I’m sorry”.

A LOT! Most of us hate to admit when we are wrong but those two little words go a long way – if you are sincere.

16. Always buy the bigger comforter!

Maybe you’ve been there. It’s the middle of the night. You wake up to find that your spouse has rolled over in bed and taken the blanket with him. All you’re left with is a tiny sliver of fabric to shield yourself from the arctic blast coming from the A/C vent. For newlyweds and cuddly-natured folk, this may not be a problem. For those of us who need a little leg room to get a good night’s sleep, having a larger sized comforter makes all the difference in the world. Separate blankets work great, too!

15. Respect your spouse.

Don’t undermine your spouse. Don’t contradict your spouse in front of your children. Don’t talk down to your spouse. Don’t argue in front of others. Don’t compare your spouse to the spouse of another. Treat your spouse exactly how you would like to be treated. This should be a no brainer but because of such closeness and familiarity, respect often gets thrown out the window. Don’t let it.

14. Never expect what you haven’t spoken.

This is a tough one, especially for wives, I think. We believe our husbands should know what we want or know what should be done without us having to tell them. It’s an unrealistic expectation and the cause of many arguments that could easily be avoided if we only learned to verbalize what we want or expect – even if we think our spouse should already know. Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!

13. Choose your battles wisely.

Not everything is worth an argument. Unfortunately, this is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way. <SIGH>

12. Remember that your attitude sets the tone.

It’s easy to let the mood of your spouse affect your own. It’s actually natural but it can also be a disaster waiting to happen. If your spouse is in a fowl mood, don’t let it pull you down, as well. In fact, your positive mood could just as easily sway the attitude of your spouse. So, set the tone.

11. Give each other space.

If you can’t keep from being affected by your spouse’s negative mood, you may simply need to give your spouse (and yourself) some space. Just because you’re married doesn’t mean that you have to spend every waking moment together. You really do need time apart.

10. Little things make a big difference.

I say this so often but only because it’s true! Buy your spouse his/her favorite sweets. Write a hidden “I love you” on the bathroom mirror which is only revealed by the steam of the shower. Little gestures go a long way.

9. Serve each other.

Give of yourself. Have a tall glass of cold tea waiting on your husband when he gets home. Wash the sink full of dishes so your wife will have one less thing to do after work. When you serve each other, you’re strengthening your relationship, providing for your spouse’s needs and showing your spouse how much you love and respect him/her.

8. Learn to appreciate his/her love language.

How does your spouse show his/her love for you? Does he keep your car in perfect working condition? Does she prepare five course meals for you? Figure out your spouse’s love language, acknowledge it and show your appreciation for it.

7. Listen to your spouse.

Turn off your device. Put it out of reach. Turn your face toward your spouse and make eye contact. Listen with all of you.

6. Laugh together.

Laughter is not only beneficial to individually health but also to the health of your marriage. Find ways to laugh with your spouse every day.

5. Be honest.

ALWAYS. Don’t even lie about the little things. Lies lead to mistrust. And trust is so very difficult to regain.

4. Compromise.

You and your spouse are not always going to see eye-to-eye. At some point in your relationship, compromises will have to be made. Be willing to meet in the middle or even give up your desire or point of view altogether.

3. Support your spouse.

Be your spouse’s biggest fan. Praise him/her at home and in the presence of others. Stand beside your spouse when no one else will. Support his/her dreams. Help your spouse reach his/her goals. When you build up your spouse, you’re also building up your marriage. It’s a win/win situation.

2. Dream together.

Plan your future together. Talk about it. Pray about it and make it happen – together.

1. PRAY.

Without ceasing. The key to happiness in marriage is God. When we strive to build a marriage that honors the Lord, all the other mess falls by the wayside. Pray daily for God to strengthen your marriage. Pray daily for your spouse. Be specific and be consistent.

Whew! Marriage is hard! I guess that’s why the Apostle Paul said it was better to remain single! But when you find the one you were meant to build a life with, it makes all the difference in the world.

Twenty years! My dad (who celebrates 57 years of marriage with my mom this year) says 20 is a great start. My husband and I have a long way to go to catch up to my parents but I’m looking forward to every single moment of it!

What about you? What would you add to my list of secrets to a happy marriage?