Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Continue On

Photo by Pawel Pentlinowski

Continue On
by Roy Lessin

A woman fretted over the usefulness of her life.

She feared she was wasting her potential being a devoted wife and mother.

She wondered if the time and energy she invested in her husband and children would make a difference.

At times she got discouraged because so much of what she did seemed to go unnoticed and unappreciated.

"Is it worth it?" she often wondered.  "Is there something better that I could be doing with my time?"

It was during one of these moments of questioning that she heard the still, small voice of her Heavenly Father speak to her heart.

"You are a wife and mother because that is what I have called you to be.

Much of what you do is hidden from the public eye, but I notice.

Most of what you give is done without remuneration.

But I am your reward.

Your husband cannot be the man I have called him to be without your support.

Your influence upon him is greater than you think and more powerful than you will ever know.

I bless him through your service and honor him through your love.

Your children are precious to me.

Even more precious than they are to you.

I have entrusted them to your care to raise for Me.

What you invest in them is an offering to Me.

You may never be in the public spotlight, but your obedience shines as a bright light before Me.

Continue on.  Remember you are My servant.

Do all to please Me."

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Oddball on Earth

I am realizing more and more that I am a stranger to this world.  Even in "Christian" circles, I am strange, I don't fit in. I don't watch the same shows, listen to the same music, or pay attention to the same celebrities as most of my friends.
Photo credit: shortspork

It's not easy being the oddball. I want to fit in with everyone. I want to be accepted by everyone. But I have come to the conclusion, after 41 years of trying to fit in, that not everyone is going to like me, and that is okay. No longer do I feel the need to constantly try to please everyone around me. Who do I want to please? I want to please God, first and foremost. The next person I want to please is my husband. And while I would love to please my kids all the time, I know that isn't healthy for them (they'd eat pizza and ice cream every day if I'd let them).

Do you know what a huge weight that is off of me? People pleasing is an endless, fruitless, and tiresome trial. Pleasing people will never give me fulfillment, and I will never be able to please them to the extent I want to. I will always disappoint someone. And if my aim is to please people, I will always be disappointed in myself.

Who then, should I be pleasing? The only one who really matters: my Father in Heaven. God is the one who matters, because He is the one who created me. I have faith in Him, unseen faith, believing that He is good, He wants the best for me (even if I don't understand what is best for me), faith that He will always be with me and pursue me; even when I have become passive and ignored Him, He gently prompts my spirit to come back to Him.

I take comfort in the fact that I am a foreigner on this earth; that means it is okay not to belong. My real home is in heaven, and I am just a sojourner in this life. My experiences and journey here on earth are what will determine how I enjoy my after life. When I persevere through my trials and heartaches here on earth, I will be shaped more into the person God wants me to be.

So, I am throwing off all the people-pleasing and striving to fit in that so easily entangles me and weighs me down, and I am running this human race to the best of my ability with my attention fixed on Jesus.

Personalize this:
How do I stop worrying about what people think about me? Pray. Read your Bible every. single. day. Become a friend of God and see how much he values you for who you are. Read Matthew 6:25-34. Insert into verse 31 the things that you are consumed with: fitting in, being liked, having social standing, being popular, being praised for what you've done, getting Facebook or Instagram likes, having lots of followers. Then confess to God that you are more worried about those things than Him, and ask him to help you be fully content in His love for you the way you are.

Taking it to my kids:
How do you speak life into your kids? How do you make them realize that their worth is not in what they do, but in whose they are? Speak life into your kids by praying for them, aloud, with them listening. Pray that they will realize their worth, that they will become confident about who God created them to be, that they will see their value because they are children of God.  And then speak it to them. Tell them they are loved; no matter what they do or don't do, you will always love them because they are your children. They will begin to internalize your love so that they can realize God's love.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

When Words Hurt

I recently had some remarks thrown at me that hurt. They maligned my integrity. The words were not true, and I knew that in my heart, but it hurt, nonetheless. My heart rate went up and my adrenaline was pumping the rest of the day.

Photo by Magdalena Roeseler

The words will probably never be forgotten. I can physically erase them from my computer, but I will never be able to erase them from my mind.

I was so distraught at first, all I could do was hide in my closet on my knees. I don't think I really even prayed. I just sat stunned. How could someone say something so hateful?

Then I felt I needed to cleanse my house of the words. They were not said aloud, but their presence was felt. So I set some lavender diffusing and scrubbed my tile floors while blasting Maranatha Singers worship albums. Those songs always draw my soul into peace, probably because they are mostly straight out of scripture.


What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.  Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

When words hurt, remember: God is on your side. Whether the words were true or not, God's opinion is the one that counts.  People will disappoint. Your best friend will fail you. Your relative will hurt your feelings. You are a daughter of the King. God is always by your side, and nothing the enemy throws at you can keep you from the Father's love.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Don't Just Survive...THRIVE

Yesterday, my church held an event for the women of our community called Together With Hope. I gave this devotional at the start and I hope it gives you encouragement.




Don't Survive - THRIVE
Our theme verse for today is Jeremiah 29:11 – (NKJV) "'For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,' says the Lord, 'thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.'" I think we’ve all heard this verse many times as an encouragement when we are going through a hard time. And we all go through hard times, right?

But I wonder how many of us know the context and history of the verse? I was sort of familiar with it, but I wanted to know what God’s heart behind saying this really was, so I started reading Jeremiah. Here is what I have learned.

The people of Israel were in rebellion against God. God pleaded with them over and over to repent and turn back to him. Many prophets were sent to Israel telling them to turn back to worshiping their one true God. However, when the people continued to refuse, God warned them that they would be exiled to Babylon for 70 years, one year for each of the Sabbath years they had ignored.

Well, the people didn’t like this, and many false prophets arose telling the people that they would not be serving Babylon, that the captives who had already been taken away would return and the temple articles that had been stolen would also be returned.

We hear that a lot, don’t we? I’ve been told many times that God doesn’t want me to go through difficult times. But is that true? Well, in chapter 28 of Jeremiah, God said straight up that this was a lie, that they were not going to have peace and prosperity, but captivity – and then Jeremiah uses my favorite means of telling an obvious truth: sarcasm. “Of course! You are so right! That is exactly what is going to happen! God isn’t going to let you go through a hard time. What could you possibly learn from that?” And then Jeremiah tells this particular false prophet that because he’s telling lies, he’s going to die. And so he did.

Then Jeremiah writes a letter to the people who were carried away into exile in Babylon. He tells them to build houses, plant gardens, marry, have children and grow in number, and to also – strangely it would seem – to pray for the peace of the city which held them captive; because if their city had peace, they would have peace. (hmmmm. Something to think about.)

God told them not to long for the good ole days, and not to listen to the false prophets saying that the exile wasn’t God’s will. Because God had set a certain amount of time for them to be in exile: 70 years. And when that captivity was over, God would visit them and return them to Jerusalem.

Then comes our verse: (International Standard Version) "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for well-being, and not for calamity, in order to give you a future and a hope.'" But I'll get back to this verse, because what follows is just as beautiful.

God then says, "Call upon me and go and pray to me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find me, when you search for me with all you heart." However, those who rebelled against their captivity would die, or have famine and disease. God wanted them to listen to him and thrive in their captivity rather than fight it and be miserable and die. Next comes this beautiful love letter in chapter 31 where God tells Israel his plans for them and makes a new covenant with them.

Now, back to our verse that was written to the people in captivity under Babylon: (New English Translation) "'For I know what I have planned for you,' says the Lord, 'I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.'

Filled with hope.

Doesn’t that sound wonderful? I don’t know about you, but I often have the mindset of just getting through the day; just surviving the current difficulty I am facing. But I have to conclude from my study of this scripture that God doesn’t want us to just survive, he wants us to THRIVE in our struggles.

Are there still hard times? Of course. Did God know the people were suffering in Babylon? Yes! BUT…he wanted them to thrive while they were there - to settle down and marry, build a house and plant a garden.

The Israelites were feeling defeated and worn down because they had been carried away from their homes, family and friends. God wanted them to make new homes for themselves. He wanted them to THRIVE in the lonely place they were living.

Why? Because he knew his own thoughts towards them. He wasn’t thinking thoughts of destruction. He wasn’t thinking evil towards them. He wasn’t thinking about how to harm them or the most evil way for them to experience disasters.

What was he thinking? Our verse tells us. He was thinking thoughts of peace. He wanted things to go well with them. He wanted them to prosper. The King James Version says his thoughts were to give them an expected end. An expected END. Hope! He wanted to give them a future filled with hope.

Are you filled with hope for the future? Are you struggling right now? I know sometimes it’s hard to have hope when you are in the middle of the war. I know it’s hard to just survive, let alone thrive through the difficulties of life.

My dear friend, Charise McNutt, is going through a hard season with multiple sclerosis. She recently said something that resonated with me:

"Oh, what a lie we believe when we think suffering and trials are not a part of walking with God." 

There will be an end to your captivity. But God wants you to learn and thrive in the hard times. Your hope is that there will be an end, but your thriving is in the now. Because God has not forgotten you.

But How? How do we thrive? How do we not just trudge through every day surviving by sheer willpower? Because of hope. Hope that God has a better future for us. Now, admittedly, sometimes that future isn’t here on earth. Some of the Jewish captives died in Babylon. But we have to remember, as Christians, we are strangers here on this earth. Our citizenship is in Heaven, and THAT is where our hope lies.

We can endure and THRIVE through anything here on earth because Jesus has overcome the world. He is the anchor of our hope. Without Christ we are hopeless.



If you are in the middle of captivity and feeling hopeless, look to Jesus. Jesus is your hope. Only Jesus can give you hope in the midst of tragedy.

~-~-~-~


The ladies did such a great job decorating for Together With Hope.


Joy and Rhonda, part of the events team.


Our theme verse.


A huge thanks to Furniture World for helping decorate our stage.


Annie Sotski started us off with her testimony.


Emily Norris


Worship between testimonies was led by Chelsea Schmieg and Stephanie Morgan. 


Camille Cooper



Randa Bush



Marilyn Kyle


We were closed out by Sybil Mohr's testimony.


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Focus

I have been thinking a lot lately about what things I am focusing on and how I am spending my time. God has really been speaking to my heart.  He has been showing me that I am spending a lot of time doing nothing, really. Vegging in front of the TV, playing a video game, or browsing Facebook and Instagram are not fulfilling activities; they do not give me anything in return for the time I have spent.

Another thing I have been wondering about is how much am I worshiping feedback.  Do I post something to Instagram and look for how many people have responded? Do I post something on my public Facebook page and then wonder how many people have seen it? When I write a blog post, am I wondering if it is going to get shared and go viral?

Yes, actually, I have been doing exactly that. I am more consumed with how much feedback I am getting from social media than I am concerned about my relationship with God and my family. "Am I now trying to win the approval of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be the Messiah's servant." 

Talk about a hard pill to swallow (we all know how much I hate taking pills, right?).

So, my public Improvising Mom Facebook page is going to disappear. It needs to.

I am going to write on this blog, and I'll post it on my private Facebook page, but no more keeping up a public page. It is just a waste of my time.

I don't feel this blog is a waste of my time. I enjoy writing, and I feel that it is a gift that God has given me. I process my thoughts through writing (I have more drafts than published posts!), and it is one way I can worship God. I have received feedback from friends that my writing has given them encouragement - and that is exactly what I want to do, encourage people.

I believe God wants me to focus on my relationship with him (and blogging is part of that journey), and on my relationship with my family (and a public page that I am consumed with is not part of that).

A verse keeps coming up in my head, about redeeming the time, for the days are evil. Well, the days are certainly evil. But how am I redeeming my time? Frankly, I'm not.

So, I intend to be more intentional about living my life.  I intend to give thought into how I am acting. I intend to be wise with my time. I will focus my time and efforts on something that is worthwhile. Redeeming the time means time that is spend either investing myself in someone else or being invested into by someone.

How are you going to start redeeming your time?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Art of "Good Enough"

Do you ever avoid doing something because you know you won't be able to do it perfectly? I often succumb to the thought, well, it's already messed up, so why bother? I'll never get it the way I want it.
I gave up on perfect in my house. That perfect picture in the magazine took hours to set up. And it's not reality. Perfect is an illusion. Perfect is fleeting. Perfect is unattainable.
"Good Enough" is the new "Perfect". As soon as one item gets put out of place, perfect is ruined. When the room is good enough, that one item out of place is no longer ruining anything. It's good enough.


Good enough means that the room is clean enough to have company over. Good enough means that there is dust on the table, but the toys are not on the couch where the guests sit. Good enough means that laughter runs around the house chasing more laughter with a lightsaber. Good enough means that I am not stressing about the crumbs in the corner of the kitchen but concentrating on making my friends feel comfortable in my home.
I would prefer to make my tomato sauce totally from scratch, starting with fresh tomatoes. The only problem is, using fresh tomatoes doubles the time it takes me to make the sauce. So, I aim for good enough instead of perfect and use canned tomatoes, along with frozen and fresh vegetables. I still control the ingredients, the amount of salt, adding more veggies than most store brand sauces have. It is good enough. It's not my ideal, but it will do.
Good enough means that I sometimes buy stuff that I could make. For instance, I know I can make a good pie crust. It's not that difficult, and I usually have all the ingredients on hand. However, it is time consuming. And I would just rather spend the money on a ready made pie crust and spend my time doing something I deem more worth while.

Let go of Perfect. Perfect will always let you down.

Embrace Good Enough, and you can always achieve your goal.
Personalize this: What Perfect are you holding on to that could be Good Enough? What stresses in your life can you get rid of by letting Good Enough be your aim? What guilt can you let go of by replacing Perfect with Good Enough?
Take it to my kids: Kids aren't Perfect, and never will be. When your kid does a chore, don't follow behind and "fix" it, because that just tells them what they did wasn't good enough. When my 5-year old folded the facecloths, it took much willpower for me to not straighten out the corners. She did a good job folding, and I just had to realize that she worked hard on it. It wasn't Perfect, but it was Good Enough. Give your kids grace and let them be Good Enough.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Taco Seasoning

Did you know that the taco seasoning packets you buy at the store are full of preservatives and salt? Have you ever looked at the salt on one packet? It's a huge amount.

I wanted to get away from the preservatives, and also to know what was in my food, so I started making my own taco seasoning.

I have been making this particular recipe for a few years now, and I believe I have perfected it!

1 cup dried minced onion
1/3 cup chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic salt
3 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp oregano
4 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
(and the secret ingredient!) 1/2 tsp Vietnamese cinnamon

You can just mix it up as is. My family prefers it without chunks, so I put it into a food processor (Magic Bullet) and mix it up well.

Use about 1-2 Tbsp per pound of meat. I make three pounds at a time and put in about five tablespoons.  If I make taco meat once a month, this recipe will last about five months.