Though you can’t see an end to your struggle,
Though your heart stings from familiar hurt,
Though your hope has been crushed and your trust has been broken,
Though you fear nothing will ever change,
Though you worry your cries won’t be heard,
Though your faith has vanished and you’ve nothing on which to cling,
Though your world, so dear, has stopped turning,
Though you can’t fathom the reasons why,
Though you feel abandoned and your life is in pieces,
Prayer is more about Gods presence than it is about our problems.
It’s more about who we become while spending time with Him.
It’s about the spark that is reignited,
The faith that is rekindled,
The hope that is reborn.
The resolve that is strengthened,
The healing that takes place,
The rest that is given,
And the peace that floods our souls.
The power of prayer is experiencing of the power of God,
Discovering that He is greater than our problems,
That our problems cannot change His promises,
That His grace is always sufficient,
That His love is never failing and
That we don’t have to do life alone.
So no matter your circumstances,
No matter your lack of faith,
Never stop praying.
Never stop seeking His Face.
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”
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.
(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.
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
I DO NOT UNDERSTAND what I do.
The things I want to do, the things I know to do, I do not do them.
But WHAT I HATE, that is what I DO.
My heart is DECEITFUL and beyond all cure. My sins have SEPARATED me from God and have hidden his face from me.
You must grow weary of my trampling through your courts of grace with my vain requests for forgiveness.
Oh, God, can you still HEAR me?
Please speak to me.
I am undone.
In my darkness, I hear your voice,
And with its sound, I am once again reminded of your TENDER MERCIES.
You are COMPASSIONATE and GRACIOUS, Lord. You are SLOW TO ANGER and ABOUNDING IN LOVE.
You do not deal with me as my sins deserve nor do you repay me according to my offenses.
Instead, you are PATIENT WITH ME.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so GREAT IS YOUR LOVE FOR ME.
You are FAITHFUL TO FORGIVE – when I confess – and to cleanse my heart of its unrighteousness.
As far as the east is from the west, you have removed my transgressions from me.
YOU REMEMBER THEM NO MORE.
From your abundance, Lord, I have received your GRACE UPON GRACE.
Of this my heart will forever sing!
*This expression of praise for God’s love, forgiveness and grace is a compilation and personalization of the following Scriptures: Romans 7:15; Jeremiah 17:9; Isaiah 59:2; Isaiah 1:11-15; Job 11:5; Isaiah 6:5; Isaiah 1:18; Psalm 51:1; Psalm 103:8; Psalm 103:10; 2 Peter 3:9; Psalm 103:11; 1 John 1:9; Psalm 103:12; Isaiah 43:25; John 1:16 and Psalm 89:1
Reason to SMILE #334: A PLACE OF SANCTUARY
Beginning the day after Thanksgiving, I find myself spending more and more time in my living room. The Christmas tree is up. The lights are sparkling. The room is clean! 😉 And a sense of tranquility permeates the entire space.
This morning, as I sat in the glow of the tree lights, I began to pray for the two SMILES I needed to write today. (Yep. Behind again. <SIGH> ) As I prayed, I leaned back in my recliner and my thoughts turned to the state of all the rooms in my house. (Does your mind drift when you pray? Mine does all the time. I’m so grateful my God is patient and full of grace.) Though my living room is clean, quiet and inviting, the rest of my house looks like a construction site. My dining room is half dining room half wood flooring storage. My kitchen is filled with paint supplies and Christmas decoration boxes. The hallway houses a toilet and miscellaneous tools being used in our bathroom renovation and just about every other room has a new door and frame leaning against a wall waiting to be installed. It’s a mess. It’s chaotic and it is in no way peaceful.
In all of the craziness of installing new floors and new doors and renovating a bathroom, my living room, which is smack dab in the middle of my house and newly decorated for the Christmas season, has become my sanctuary. No matter the state of the other rooms in my house, no matter what craziness is happening in those rooms, if I’m sitting in my living room with the tree all aglow, I can find peace. I can find joy.
Hmmm. I suppose not all wanderings of the mind during prayer time are distractions. Sometimes, those thoughts that seem to pull us from our communion with the Father are actually the whispers of the Holy Spirit calling us to a truth or lesson He wants us to learn. As I was contemplating the contrast between my living room and the remaining rooms of my house, I realized my sanctuary was the perfect example of the mind-boggling peace God offers to his children in the midst of a chaotic world.
Ah! There was my SMILE. No matter what is happening in the world around me, no matter the news stories, no matter the political messes, no matter the financial woes, no matter the family dysfunctions, no matter the worries, sicknesses, sorrows or fears, if I’m resting in the sanctuary of my Heavenly Father’s arms, I can find peace. I can find joy. And I can find a SMILE.
Reason to SMILE #277: FINDING THE “AARONS” AND “HURS” IN YOUR LIFE
Do you know an Aaron or a Hur? Is there someone you can count on to pray for you when you need it most, to hold you up when you’re struggling to stand, to fight beside you in your battles? If so, then you know an Aaron and a Hur and I know your life is better for it.
Curious about these two fellas? Check out this post which I wrote about these amazing friends of Moses: Victory: Our Supporting Role. You can also read their story from the source, itself, in Exodus 17:8-13 (NIV).
I have discovered that I have many Aarons and Hurs in my life – those who will stop what they are doing to pray for me, to help when needed and to be my strength when mine is gone. Oh, what comfort to know my family and friends are praying me through the struggles of this life. And though the struggles wage on, I can SMILE knowing I am being held up by so many faithful Aarons and Hurs.
What about you? Do you need someone to hold you up today? Let me pray for you. Or maybe you know someone who is losing their own battle. Maybe you can be that struggling soul’s strength. Begin praying now. Then reach out and let that person know you will stand by their side and hold them up until their battle is won. Don’t wait. Time is precious and the SMILES are waiting.
The smiles have seemed so far away this week. I have been overwhelmed with concerns, distracted by discouragements and dragged down by disappointments. So, today, I’m having a difficult time finding a smile to share with you…
It happens. Life gets messy, confusing and downright ugly sometimes. And if I’m being completely transparent, I often become stuck in the middle of it all. My smile becomes a mere facade. But I am only human. Besides, no one ever said that life wouldn’t be messy. God’s Word even tells me I’ll walk through valleys…
The good thing is God has promised to walk with me in the valleys. Ah! Now there’s a SMILE. I am never alone; God is always with me. Do you remember that SMILE from Day 22?
God also promised to help me through this difficult and overwhelming season in my life. That was my Reason to SMILE #159. God’s help is only a prayer away.
Oh, and I must keep telling myself that what I’m going through won’t last forever. It’s only temporary. I’ve already shared that encouragement with you, too. Check out Day 73!
I’m thinking I’ll revisit a few more of my SMILES today. Maybe it’ll restore my focus on what and Who truly matters. In the meantime, keep looking for SMILES and when you find one, shoot it my way. ❤
Reason to SMILE #254: SOUNDTRACKS TO LIFE
I am a music person. I love music. I always have the radio playing in the car and at work and, yes, when the music is playing, I am singing along. So it should come to no surprise that at any given moment, there is always a song or two running through my head. The funny thing is each song tends to narrate the events of my life. For example, when I’ve accomplished something big and it’s time to celebrate, what lyrics do you think I hear? “Celebrate good times. Come on!” When a friend stands beside me and helps me through a tough situation, I hear Dionne Warwick singing, “That’s What Friends are For.” When life gets me down and all I want to do is cry but don’t have the time for an emotional crisis, I hold my chin up bravely to the lyrics, “Don’t cry out loud. Just keep it inside…”
That’s not weird… Right? 😂
Well, today was no different. As I waited for Irma to pass and prayed for God to hold in their places all the aging pine trees in my yard, one song was stuck on repeat in my mind:
In the dark of the midnight have I oft hid my face
While the storm howls above me, and there’s no hiding place
‘Mid the crash of the thunder, Precious Lord, hear my cry
Keep me safe till the storm passes by
Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more
Till the clouds roll forever from the sky
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand
Keep me safe till the storm passes by*
The songs that run through my head and the strange times at which they do always make me SMILE, even giggle from time to time. On days like today, though, I’m grateful for the soundtracks of my life and the reminder that I have a God who holds me in the hollow of His hand.
* “Til the Storm Passes By” – Mosie Lister
Reason to SMILE #249: DETERMINATION
I received a phone call no parent wants to receive.
“Your child is sick. You may need to take him to the ER.”
I left work for the school but I knew my husband could get there faster. He was closer. I called him knowing the potential for disaster that lay ahead. You see, when it comes to our kids, my husband is extremely protective to say the least, and it’s “no holds barred” when the situation is serious.
My husband arrived at the school. Upon entering the school office, he approached the receptionist who happened to be on the phone, “I need to get my son, Alex. Where is he?”
The receptionist responded by holding up her pointer finger in the air to indicate that my husband needed to wait.
Everything went downhill from there.
My husband was not going to wait. His son was in distress and needed medical attention. He was going to find his child and nothing was going to stop him. After several minutes of school staff trying to stop my husband from entering the building without following protocol and some intense exchange of words, my husband finally caught sight of our son and he was able to calm down – at least a little bit.
Both my husband and I received a phone call the next day from the principal. She made her case for following school protocol and reprimanded my husband for his behavior. I let her speak then calmly explained, ” My husband was told his child needed medical attention. Nothing was going stop him from getting to his son.”
There’s a story in the Bible about a man characterized with the same determination displayed by my husband. His name was Bartimaeus and he was blind. The book of Mark tells us that Bartimaeus was sitting along the roadside as Jesus and the disciples were passing by. Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was near so he began to cry out for mercy. The crowds that had gathered and everyone around Bartimaeus tried to silence him but Bartimaeus continued to seek the Savior’s attention. He had a need and nothing was going to stop him from getting to the Son of God. His determination paid off. Jesus healed Bartimaeus and his life was forever changed.
Is there something in your life that needs the Savior’s attention? Do you need comfort, healing, guidance, wisdom, peace, forgiveness? Cry out to Jesus right now.
The devil will try to silence you. He’ll distract you with temporary solutions and quick fixes. He’ll fill your heart with guilt and shame and tell you that you are not worthy of the Savior’s love. He’ll use your friends and family to tell you everything is fine and your need will handle itself. The devil will successfully keep you quiet, if you let him.
Don’t let him.
If you have a need (and we all have a need!), don’t let anything stop you from getting to Jesus. Don’t let anything silence your cries. Muster up all your determination and cry out even louder. Jesus is near and He will answer.
Oh, and I can’t wait to see your SMILE when He does.