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

 

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 Uncertainty

We all have those moments of uncertainty in life. If you're like me, those moments are experienced daily! In this post, you will find the secret to being happy even in those uncertain times.

“I know one thing for sure,” my husband declared as he walked through our bedroom door with a tall glass of sweet tea in his hand. The statement came out of nowhere but was made as if the two of us had finished a long debate on some deep subject about which neither of us were able to come to any conclusion and the only way to end such a debate was to state a matter of certainty. It’s highly possible, though, that my husband had debated the matter all in his head prior to entering our room and felt the need to sum it up for me with his enlightened statement of truth.

No matter, I was curious and eagerly inquired of his certainty. “What’s that?” I asked.

He paused for a brief moment at the foot of our bed as if searching for the perfect words to express his great truth. Finally he replied, “Give me a minute. I’m trying to remember what I was going to tell you.” Then he lifted his glass and took a long drink of sweet tea as I laughed at his forgetfulness.

And I did laugh – not because I was mocking him (well, maybe just a little – okay! A lot!) but because that brief conversation with my husband pretty much sums up my life. When I think I have it all figured out, life always takes a surprising turn and everything I thought I knew for certain gets thrown out the window. I find myself stumped and perplexed around every bend and when called upon to take action or make a decision or simply respond, I hear myself saying, “Uhm. Give me a minute.”

Ah, but maybe that’s the certainty: Life is uncertain. And maybe that’s what makes life worth living. If I had all the answers, if I knew every situation I would face, what kind of life would that be? Sure, if I knew what problems await me tomorrow, I could take steps to avoid them. But what if by avoiding a problem, I miss a valuable lesson that could help me in the future or make me a better me? And wouldn’t knowing all the good that was coming my way take some of the joy out of the blessing?

I don’t know.

I do know that in my moments of uncertainty, I can always look to the One who knows it all. He holds my every moment in His hands and He is working them all for my good. That doesn’t mean I won’t face any problems or that I won’t have those times when all I want to do is run and hide because I don’t have any answers and can’t seem to figure anything out. But it does mean that I don’t have to face any of my moments of uncertainty alone.

Yes, life is uncertain. But there is one thing I know for sure…

You’ll have to give me a minute, though. I’m trying to remember. 😉