Friday, November 28, 2014

Don't stop being thankful {List of helpful ways}

As I typed the title of this post, I sang it to the tune of "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey.  Now I can't stop singing it!  Be thankful that you are on that side of the computer screen as God did not gift me with a pleasurable singing voice! :)

I'm always perplexed as I hear the stories from Black Friday.  The pushing, yelling, grabbing and anger that takes place baffles me.  Wasn't it just 24 hours earlier that Americans were talking about what they are thankful for.  Maybe those mean shoppers didn't have a list??

While most of us won't behave that way, we can get caught up in the commercialism and secular hype of Christmas.  We feel stressed about buying gifts, attending Christmas parties in the perfect outfit, and gaining pounds as we partake in the various festivities.  These things can leave us looking forward to flipping the page of the calendar and seeing the word January.

I don't know about you, but I want to relish in Christmas this year.  I want to enjoy buying gifts for those I love.  I want to attend parties and be relaxed.  I want to take in every single day of December and look to Christ as I do it.

I have come up with a list of things that can help us stay focused on Jesus and actually enjoy the month of December.  Whether you do one of these things or all of them, I hope you will experience full peace and joy this season.

*Start your day thanking Jesus for various things.  Keep a journal and challenge yourself to record a specific number of blessings each day. 

*Create a list of gifts you want to buy and for whom.  Set goals for dates you want these gifts purchased.  Check the gifts off of the list once you have bought them.  You will like seeing the progress.

*Pamper yourself as you shop with a cup of coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or whatever makes you feel festive.

*Gather with your family and make a list of people you can bless during the month of December.  This list may include neighbors that you bake cookies for, a homeless shelter you volunteer at, a family you adopt through a local school, a family member that is having a tough time, etc.  

*Make dates with your family to watch specific Christmas movies, drive around and look at Christmas lights, and make/buy 2014 ornaments.  Write these dates on your calendar in ink and stick to them.

*Have a Christmas music dance party.  Turn up the tunes, gather your loved ones, and bust some moves!

*Send a gift to someone in the mail anonymously.  It can be a $5 gift card.  Anything you send will be fun for you and will bless the recipient.

*Read a Christmas book.  Set aside time each day, even if it's just 10 minutes, and take in a good book.  This type of book is usually dessert for hearts!

*Snuggle on the couch with your family and read as many Christmas storybooks as you can.  As you do this, memories from previous years will invade your hearts and the time together will be priceless. Our family still does this and our kids are 18, 14, and 11.  

*Read the story of Jesus's birth in the gospels.  Soak in the birth of your Savior and remind yourself what this season is all about.  Reading through commentaries along with my Bible always ignites my passion.  You can find various commentaries online.

Happy Christmas season, my friends.  May you be a blessing and be blessed-

Thursday, November 27, 2014

My list of thanks

It's here - a day of feasts, family, friends, and thankfulness.  I don't want to take one moment for granted.  I want to freeze the moments with my sweets and take in as much of their faces as possible.

I look forward to watching them enjoy the Macy's Thanksgiving parade and pine for our favorite city, NYC.  We will laugh and talk about memories of being in NYC last Thanksgiving and attending the parade.  I'm sure we will remember the freezing cold, ice on our faces, numerous hot chocolates, and the wonderful meal we shared with new friends.

Memories are what make family moments so sweet.  We look at old memories as we are creating new ones.  We wrap ourselves in the love each memory creates and warm our hearts with it.

I am very thankful this year for many things.    Listed below are my top ten-
  1. The love our family has for each other.  No matter what happens in the day, we know we can count on each other.
  2. Our oldest starting college and doing so well.  He has turned into a man right before our very eyes.
  3. The love that continues to grow between my husband and me.  
  4. My children text messaging each other because they truly like each other.  
  5. The friends that listen to me and love me.  I am blessed to have such lovely people in my life.
  6. Our home that is full of memories and love.
  7. Our kitchen table.  I am thankful for this because this is where we gather each evening to share meals and connect.
  8. Being able to bless and love on others.
  9. Growing deeper in my relationship with Jesus.
  10. And of course, my blog.  I am so very thankful for all of the wonderful ladies I have met and get the privilege of calling friends.  You ladies have truly blessed my life.
For all of you that are struggling today, please know that I am saying special prayers for you.  May you feel God's love surround you and hold you in your pain.  You are not alone, ever.

My love to all of you-

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lukewarm test #3...status

I am being so blessed by the lukewarm tests.  Jesus is opening my heart to discover places that need cleaning out.  I am so grateful that He loves us enough to clean us out rather than throw us away.  What about you?  Are you feeling cleansed and refreshed?  Theses tests are never meant to condemn us; they are meant to grow our hearts closer to Jesus.  Sometimes a good cleaning hurts, but is there anything better than knowing Jesus loves us enough to wipe away our dirt and wash us until we are as white as snow??

Lukewarm test #3 deals with status.  Where is our focus?  Do we want worldly status or Jesus status?  Which one drives our day?

It is so easy to say we want Jesus status and be done.  However, let's dig deeper and discover where our hearts truly are.  Have no fear, if worldly status takes precedent Jesus will lovingly guide you to gaze upon Him instead.  All we have to do is ask.

Hebrews 13:5 - Your life should be free from the love of money.  Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you.
Are we satisfied with what we have or are we always on the hunt for the latest and greatest?  Do we need a bigger home, a newer car, this season's clothes, etc.?  Does our worth come from looking good materially?  Or, are we thankful and content with what we have?

Matthew 19:21 - "If you want to be perfect," Jesus said to him, "go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven.  Then come, follow Me."
If Jesus walked into our home and handed us a top ten list of our heart's treasures, would He be in all of them?  Or would material items and pleasing ourselves take precedent?  Jesus doesn't expect us to sell everything.  What He wants is for us to put Him above all material possessions.  Are we helping and loving on those less fortunate than we are?  Or are we storing up our riches to buy more stuff?

Romans 12:2 - Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
Are our hearts complacent towards the world and it's views or do we adhere to what Jesus's truths are?  Do we justify things we watch, read, and say in order to make it ok even when we know that if Jesus walked in and saw us we would be embarrassed?  Do we use discernment and make sure things line up with the Word of God?

Phew!  That is a lot to consider but so worth it.  I pray that this test will clear our hearts of mindsets that don't honor Jesus so that He can fill us to the brim and beyond with Himself.

Be blessed, sweet friend, and press on with determination and courage-

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The absence of a father's love

I have debated within myself for a very long time about writing this post.  I certainly would never want to shame anyone.  However, I am a firm believer that God gives us stories to use to help others.  Therefore, I am choosing to share my story in hopes that someone will gain peace by reading it.

My biological father died last March and he never once told me he loved me.  I never heard that he was proud of me.  I was never told that I was the most beautiful girl in the world either.  All of the things daddies are supposed to tell their daughters never landed on my ears or heart.

My parents divorced when I was very young and my father never seemed to take an interest in my upbringing.  

My father did not walk me down the aisle when I got married even though I asked him to.  My hope was to have my step dad on one side and my biological dad on my other side.  He said no.

About a year before he died, I received a certified letter in the mail.  It was from him.  It was five handwritten pages long and he reprimanded me for being a coward and weak.  He used Bible verses to back up his statements.  

Little did he know that Jesus and I have a love affair going.  

Sadly, my father had no idea that my heart is full of love and compassion.  Had he tried to love me, I surely would have let him.

When I found out he was dying, I wrote him a letter telling him that I loved him and forgave him.  I didn't want him to die with any guilt.  I never heard from him.

I struggled when I found out he died.  My dreams and hopes of him finally loving me died too.  I had to trudge through the muck of pain and realize I would never hear my father say he loved me.  I went through a period where I thought it must certainly have been my fault.  I wondered if I had been a bad daughter.

Jesus walked with me throughout the entire process.  He never left me and never let me get so low that satan got a hold of my heart.  Jesus stood in front of me and let me fall on my knees in deep pain behind Him.  He guarded my heart and continued to whisper His love in my ear.  He led me to various Scriptures and songs that reminded me that He is my Father.  He continued to comfort my heart and tell me that His love is not dependent upon human love, even if it is an earthly parent.

If you struggle with a heart void of parental love, please know that Jesus's love is never absent.  His love is constant and real.  He holds His children and showers them with love as only a real parent can.  Cry out to Him and let Him carry you.  Don't allow satan to use your pain for his good.  May your valley turn into a beautiful mountain of trust and deeper love with your Creator.

I am confident that my father was unable to show love.  It breaks my heart for him that he never knew the relationship between a father and a daughter.  I am not angry with him.  My prayer is that he is being held by his Father and finally at peace.  

You are loved and cherished by your Father.  His eyes light up when He looks upon the beauty He created and He gets a tickle in His belly.  How can He not?  You were specifically created so He could love you.  Allow Him to, sweet one.  He longs to hold you and show you how much you mean to Him.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Scripture study Printables - Week seven

Click here to print the memory card.

Jesus calls us to be kind and compassionate. Period.  That can be a tall order when we have been hurt.  Take heart because there is good news.  He will equip us with all that we need to show His compassion and forgiveness to those we would rather kick dirt on. 

This week's memory verse will help us set our eyes on Jesus and what He desires.  This week's worksheet will help us sort out and pray for what Jesus is instructing us to do.  May we be able to love others as He loves us.

Click here to print the worksheet. 

Have a wonderful week and trust Jesus to guard your heart and guide you.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

You're invited to a party and it won't cost a thing!!

I am excited to announce that I have created a Facebook page specifically for Life with JoysI love spreading encouragement, offering practical tips for living well, and cheering people on.  It is definitely my passion.

Each day, I will post quick points of encouragement for daily living.  See???  It's a party for your soul! :)

All you have to do is head over to my page and click the like button.  My posts will show up on your Facebook feed.

I invite you to click here to head to my page.

I am looking forward to connecting with all of you on the new Life with Joys Facebook page.

Love and blessings to all-

Friday, November 21, 2014

Love letters to hurting hearts

It's official....the holiday season is upon us.  I went to the mall today to pick up an item and everywhere I looked, I saw Christmas.  My ears perked up as I heard Jolly 'Ol Saint Nicholas.  I am a Christmas season kind of gal. 

I relish in the weather, the sights and sounds, and the goodness that flows from people's hearts.  I love reading and studying Jesus's birth and what it means for me. 

As I was thinking about all things Christmas, it hit me that so many people feel stressed and lonely this time of year.  Some people worry about where they will find the funds to buy presents.  While others dread spending time with family.  Some feel lonely over the death of a loved one.  While some are reminded of strained relationships and ache for things to be well.  Some are struggling with a diagnoses.  While others are heart broken as they watch a loved one deteriorate.

The reality of all the pain hit me like a ton of bricks.  I wish I could talk with every single hurting person and share love.  While it wouldn't take away the pain, I could let them know someone cares.  Since it's impossible to talk with every person who is struggling with the holiday season, I decided to write love notes to all them.

To those of you worried about buying gifts-
It can be overwhelming to worry about money.  You look around this time of year and commercialism is right in your face.  You long to show people you care with gifts.  You don't want anyone to know you are struggling because you are ashamed and embarrassed.  It's difficult to ask for help.  Please know that there is no shame in asking for help.  There are many people who truly want to help people who need it.  Often, the people who help understand the most because they have been in your shoes.  Churches are a great resource for help.  They offer food and gifts for children.  Also, homemade gifts are some of the best gifts out there because they are made with love in mind.  You will get through this, even when it doesn't feel like it.  God does not see your bank account and assign you a worth card.  You are worthy and loved no matter what.  Lean on Him, dear friend. 

To those who dread spending time with family-
Spending time with people who have hurt you or betrayed you can be difficult.  It is never fun to be around toxic people or placed in tense situations.  We want to run and hide from it all.  I write this as a person who has been there.  Here's my loving advice - don't let anyone steal the joy that Jesus so freely gives you.  When you are around people who drag you down, hold your head high.  Spend your time pleasing Jesus.  Focus on what He wants, rather than the hurt and tension.  Let Him own your heart, not those around you.  Also, it is completely ok to limit your time at family functions.  If the environment is too toxic, a short visit will suffice.  Do what's right by Jesus and you will leave the function with a clear conscious and a clean heart.

To those who feel lonely over the death of a loved one-
You have to grieve. Period.  No matter what time of year it is, a heart that loved deeply will ache deeply.  You are grateful for the love Jesus gave you to share, but the pain seems unbearable.  Don't deny yourself your pain.  Keep a journal and write prayers, pains, and times you feel lifted up.  Cry out to God and tell Him exactly how you feel.  Lean on Him to get you through this season with a heart that can still love and rely on Him.

Those who suffer due to strained relationships-
Strained relationships stink.  They are painful and hurt like the dickens.  You may not be in control of the strain at all.  I get that.  My biological father wanted nothing to do with me.  Right up to his death, he didn't seem to want anything to do with me.  Here's what I learned - it was not my fault.  We cannot control other people's hearts, emotions, actions, or reactions.  When someone you love has cut you out of their life, you have to rely on God.  You have to know without a shred of doubt that God's love for you is not dependent on people's ability to give love.  As a matter of fact, He has quite a tender heart for those who feel unloved.  Ask Him to surround you and carry you.  I promise with every breathe I breath, He will.
If you have created the strain, think about mending it this season.  I know it is scary.  I know you might not want to.  Oh my goodness-I fit into this one to.  It is hard putting a broken relationship back together.  It has to be done piece by piece.  Once you begin, the weight that is lifted off of your shoulders is amazing.  You will not realize the pain weighing you down until you release it.  Ask God to hold your hand and guide you in this.  He will lead you where He wants you to go.  You only have to listen and obey.

To those who struggle with a diagnoses-
I do not want to write anything that will minimize your pain and fear.  I will not tell you not to worry.  These are all emotions that accompany medical diagnoses.  I will tell you that it is ok to cry.  It is ok to lean on those around you and let them carry you.  Let them shower you in love and care for you the only way love knows how.  God knows your full story.  Trust Him that He is in charge.  Even when things seem hopeless, He is there.  When worries invade you and you can think of nothing else, remember...but God.

To those who are watching a loved one struggle with an illness-
God knows your heart.  He knows your pain and cries when you cry.  Don't ever doubt that Jesus cries.  The shortest verse in the Bible reads, "Jesus wept" (John 11:35).  You are not alone, even when you feel like it.  Your strength and courage may feel depleted.  You wonder how you will continue to show care when you feel so empty.  You wonder how you will survive if something happens to your loved one.  Take heart, sweet one, God knows.  He does not want you to feel guilt over your feelings.  He wants you to know He hears you and understands.  He does not expect you to do this alone.  Lean in and put your head on His shoulder.  Let Him comfort you and fill you back up with His love and strength.  He knows-

God created me to feel deeply.  My heart hurts at the thought of anyone struggling.  Please know that I will pray over these letters and those who read them.  I love each and every one of you regardless if we have never laid eyes on each other.  You are a child of God and we are related, sweet friend.  You are loved by your King.  Lean on Him and let Him carry you.