Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Can Joy Be Restored?

When I was pregnant with our first child, twelve years ago, I prayed everyday for her to be filled with God’s joy. There were so many things that I could have prayed over her - contentment, health, etc. -

but i chose joy.

After she was born, her father carried her tiny body across the hospital hall to the nursery. He swears that she smiled at him - and though the thought of a newly born baby smiling is hard to believe - I do believe - because I know what I prayed all those expectant months. Now, twelve years have passed and the story has changed. Life has happened - her wide-eyed naivety lost, and I find myself longing for my happy baby. 

I understand all to well the things that rob her joy and perhaps I miss my own innocence as much as I miss hers; it feels life has jaded me as well. She is a part of me, a reflection of me - a woman in the making. She is mine to mold, mine to hold. She is my daughter, my sister in Christ and one day, God willing, will be a dear friend. She depends on me to guide her through this minefield of a world. It is not for the faint of heart, shaping a child into a woman. It brings me to my knees - in sobs, in hair-pulling frustration, and in prayer. My prayers sound more like a desperate plea, and they are not lost on Him. His reply is gentle, but heard.

It’s time for joy to be restored. 

But how does she...do I... get something back that has been gone for so long? 

 then it comes - my answer in the form of a question..
Have you forgotten all that I have done for you? God’s words pierce, but they arouse hope because I know what he is saying - that he can be trusted with her heart. 

He can be trusted with my heart. 

So I relish each smile, giggle, and pre-teen silliness when it comes. I even join in. I become a woman-child myself, and it is healing - freeing. This delicate, breakable, adolescent reminds me of who I want to be, of who I need to be.

I am reminded of who I need to be, for her sake. I must be an example for her follow - a pattern of who she will become.

I am reminded of my undeniable need for God. Reminded that he constantly works in me - molding and shaping me into the image of His son. I see the image - a perfect circle - each of us perpetually maturing, following the pattern set before us. 

LInked up at SheLoves Magazine today! 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Brian "Head" Welch: Sell Out?

I am starting a new series that will feature several Christian celebrities. My first post is on one of my favorites, Brian "Head" Welch. This man just can't seem to avoid starting controversy and I love it!

Brian "Head" Welch. Photo Credits Unkown.

Brian Welch, better known as "Head", rose to fame in the 90's as the lead guitarist for Korn, a successful US metal band. He took band mates and the music industry by storm in 2005 when he announced that he'd become a born again Christian and left the band, giving up a large signing bonus, to focus on his new found Christianity. However, in 2013, head returned to Korn, perplexing Christian fans and leaving them to wonder if he was finished with his faith.

After quitting Korn, not having quit his passion for music, Head began his own band, Love and death. Love and Death, while putting out much more wholesome lyrics than Korn, fed Head's need to use his talent. So then why in 2013 did he decide to return to Korn and re-embrace the less than orthodox environment he'd previously felt convicted to leave?

In a recent interview with In The Now Magazine on Blabbermouth, Head describes his return to the band as "riding a wave of joy." When asked during an interview for Huffington Post, how he reconciles his faith and his choice to play for Korn, he replies with a simple, "they're my people!" He reminds us that Christ didn't exclude himself from the world, but befriended them. So what do we say to this? Is it a cliche excuse to do what he wants in the name of Christ or could it be more? Could it be that he is subtly crying out to Christians Trust me, I got this! I love these people and I want them to see Christ in me? Could he being taking Paul's approach and being "all things to all people?"

While Head remains quite reserved about his decision, if we allow his life to speak for him - it will. Much like his fellow band member, Fieldy, who is also a born again Christian, he chooses to lead a life that shows Christ rather than speaks so much of Him. During an interview with CBN, Fieldy explains his method for spreading the gospel: "It's weird 'cause when you're living your life for Christ, people know it!" He talks about the sad truth that some people don't want help, or salvation, and that all we can do is be their friend "until they're ready to open up." And isn't that what Christianity is all about - living a life of true freedom for others to see, and then being ready to help them have the same thing when they are willing? It is said that light shines brightest in the darkness. What better backdrop is there for Christ's love? It seems to me, he left for the right reasons and has returned for the right reasons.

So He lives his life, in the midst of the storm, standing on the rock. Is he a sellout? Yeah! He sold out. He will no longer be controlled by the mindset of the music industry, but live amongst them - set apart. I applaud you, Head! Keep on keeping on!

Get Head and Fieldy's book here: 


This post contains my personal and honest opinions. No compensation was taken.  Post contains Affiliate links.





Thursday, December 12, 2013

Devotional Review and GIVEAWAY: Journey Through Judges by Laura Krokos

I have been using the devotional Journey Through Judges by author, Laura Krokos. I have enjoyed it so much that I decided to do a giveaway for 1 copy of the book. Below is my review. Enjoy!

 Journey Through Judges.
Laura Krokos.  2103

 In the Christian literary world there are devotionals and there are Bible studies, and then there is Laura Krokos' A Devotional Journey Through Judges, which is a little bit of both! Her title is apt, as this book truly is a journey.  Unlike most devotionals that contain random verses from different parts of the Bible, Journey Through Judges provides consecutive verses beginning at the first verse of Judges and ending with the last, giving the reader a cohesive theme to follow throughout the devotional. The reader is able to gain knowledge of the book of Judges while benefitting from Laura's insight and personal tidbits. I am thoroughly enjoying this devotional. I would recommend it to anyone wanting a devotional that is a bit different from the traditional coffee table edition, or anyone that would like a Bible study that does
 not require much time. She did a beautiful job on this book!
 Great work!

If you would like to pick up your own copy of Laura's devotional today, simply click on the link below!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Healing Through Thanksgiving - The Thankful Project Book Excerpt

Some of you know that I am currently working on my first e-book. I won't bore you with the details, but the book covers the healing power that being thankful holds. Writing the book has been cathartic for me, as well as insightful as I have discovered new truths in the Bible for the power of thanksgiving! Here is an excerpt with a couple questions for you to ponder on, as well as the last two personal stories for The Thankful Project that I hosted in November. Be blessed! 

Excerpt from Intro of The Thankful Project:

The idea of gratitude is not new to me, but recently I have been taken to new depths in which I can see the healing potential that having a spirit of gratitude can bring - especially in the harder times of life. My journey begin recently while pondering some of my own personal struggles. While seeking wisdom, it seemed that God began speaking about gratitude through what seemed like every available facet. I began to meditate on 1 Thessalonians 5:18, which commands us to be thankful in all circumstances. Gratitude is not a suggestion - it is a command. This verse tells us that it is the very will of God. There must be a reason that God’s will for us is to be grateful in all circumstances - the "all" implying not just the happy times in life. I began to think about smaller trials that I have experienced and desert seasons my husband and I traveled through. I realized that when we chose to worship God and give him an offering of thanksgiving, things went much smoother - His glory shined through. Instead of worrying and freaking out until he provided, we thanked him for his provision - knowing he is faithful while we waited. The trial then became a faith building, intimacy growing, moment. The wheels in my brain began turning quickly as I wondered if it is possible to apply this approach to more devastating situations such a grief or mental illness, both of which I suffer. Could being thankful in my depression be the key to getting out of my depression?  Could thanking God for His perfect will and plan help relieve my grieving heart? The Thankful Project was born shortly after this introspection. I began asking people that I knew to think about times when they were able to learn thankfulness in adversity. I asked several people to write out their stories for me to share on my blog. Something interesting began happening as these friends and family members were actually being ministered to through this assignment. While they were having to think on their hardships and write about thanksgiving in the midst of them, they were receiving revelation and healing. They were seeing their troubles, not as thorns, but as ....blessings! The more that I talked to people and studied on the subject of gratitude, the more I realized this was information that has to be shared.  

Have you ever walked through a season of utter sorrow only to later look back and see God’s hand on that situation? What if you were able to walk through that trial with the same amount of hope you had after you could see how God used it for His purposes? I believe that gratitude allows you to do just that - thank God for the storm while you are in it - rather than when it is over and all is calm again. By doing that, you are able to walk through the wind and hail that life’s storms bring, with your head held high - hope being your confidence. Maybe you already through a specific season of life that has left you devastated and feeling hopeless? I truly believe that gratitude can bring the healing you are longing for.

Questions to ponder on:

1. Think of one thing in your life that you never thought you could be thankful for.

2. If it were possible to receive healing in this area through thanksgiving, would you be willing to offer up a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God for this situation? 

I hosted The Thankful Project in November. I shared people's stories of learning thanksgiving through adversity. Some of these stories will be included in the book. Here are the last two - but certainly not least. I know one of these people well, and though she is purposely vague about her situation - let me say this to you: your amount of emotional pain does NOT dictate whether or not you can receive healing! 

Story Submitted by Donna Foley

"Lord, don't ever expect me to thank you for this like it tells us in your word. I won't."
Did I actually say that to the Lord? Did I have the nerve to utter those words? I'm afraid I did. I have always felt that I should speak out loud what my heart feels-He knows what am thinking anyway. It kind of clears the air. Not that I am proud of it you understand. But, the truth stands. It has been many, many years since I spoke those words to the Lord. I had just traveled through-no-crawled through is a more accurate way to describe my months in the fire. The fire of tempering, molding, and reshaping. Had I committed some big sin? No! Someone else had and I was paying the price-with my mind, body, and soul. But, when I walked out of the fire with my pockets full of scripture, my lips in continual prayer, and my heart and mind full of wise counsel-I knew I now stood on a solid rock foundation!! I knew my Lord in a more intimate way than ever before. Years passed and I continued to heal. Then one day I found myself standing along side my son who needed everything I could give him. -emotionally, spiritually, and physically. He needed my help going through cancer treatment and then help on his final journey HOME.I stood tall and strong beside him with my feet planted on solid ground. Then-I said to my Lord- thank you for the trials of yesteryear!! I could never have made it through this time with Shane without that time of fire testing. The Lord knew my heart and that I would do anything for my children. Would I choose to go back and go through those trials again with what I know now. NO!!! The journey back is too painful! I just am so thankful that I have Abba Father who doesn't let me go back or allow me to know the future! Live today! Trust today! Walk the path that my savior has laid out for me today and be thank you He is wiser than I am and will get me through to the END!

Donna Foley is the author of Shane: Given by God. This book is a ministerial tool for those who have lost loved ones. If you would like a copy or know someone who would benefit, please let me know in the comments below and I will get you one, free of charge. 

Story Submitted by Linda Rouse:

I have found out that in life there are many ups and downs.  In the up times, I can be so happy and so thankful and in the down times, well, let’s just say that I am a “Big Cry Baby”.  But, the Lord is changing that attitude in me.  
A little less than a year ago I got myself into a real mess.  Type II diabetes was ruining my life.  I had let myself be convinced that I could do whatever I wanted, eat what I wanted and how much I wanted and never exercise and that all these things would not bother me.  WRONG!
The diabetes got out of control and so did I.  My Dr. tried a new medicine, but it didn’t work for me.  So, he told me that he really couldn’t help me anymore and that I needed to see a Diabetic Specialist.  I was heartbroken and very scared.  I pretty much felt hopeless, which is a lie from the enemy.  All kinds of things went through my mind, like I would be on insulin, my kidney’s would fail and I would be on dialysis, etc.
After getting my appointment set to go to the Diabetic Doctor, I really got myself in gear.  I was on my knees seeking God’s forgiveness for doing this to myself and I was asking God for direction.  He led me to a low-carb diet and to a gym.  By the time my appointment came to see the Diabetic Doctor, the blood sugar numbers were coming down.  Dr. Daniel, just kept me on the one medicine that I was on and didn’t add anything else.  He told me to keep eating right and exercising and to keep losing weight.
The next two times I went to see him, I got awesome reports.  Things just keep getting better.  
I can truly say that I am so thankful that all of this happened.  Had it not, no telling what would have happened.  The Lord has shown me that His Hand is always on me.  He wasn’t caught off guard and He wasn’t surprised.  He also, has shown Himself faithful.  He has been with me leading me and helping me every step of the way.  I still have a long way to go and I now know that He can be trusted fully.  When I waver or get off track, he gently leads me back.  When I feel down, He lifts my head.  I give Him Praise and Honor and Glory.  HE is the Faithful One who loves me and who loves you.  
Don’t ever give up.  Always be thankful.  If you are His and are living according to His purposes, He is always working things out for your good.  Thanking Him for all He has done in my life.  I can’t make it without Him.  
Love and Blessings,

Thanks so much for stopping by! x0-Shara

This blog was shared on Titus 2 Tuesdays linkup! 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Why Celebrate Hanukkah: How-To for Newbies Plus Gift Ideas

If you are unfamiliar with Hanukkah, it may seem strange celebrating a "Jewish" holiday when you aren't Jewish. However, in the Bible the feasts were called the "feasts of the Lord" and were extended to the aliens in the land (that's the non-Jews). The feasts of the Lord hold incredible teaching opportunities for us as well as great spiritual truths. Plus, Christ honored them so why shouldn't we? Even though Hanukkah was not one of the original feasts in the Old Testament that were required to be celebrated, it is still an important part of Christianity's history and a brilliant reminder of God's provision.

Hanukkah is referred to as The feast of Lights or The feast of Dedication in the New Testament. John chapter 10 speaks of Christ being in Jerusalem during the feast. Shortly before this, he had given his famous "light of the world" message, which not so coincidentally would prepare the hearts of those celebrating the up and coming feast. Hopefully as they saw the lights, they would remember His words and their eyes would be opened to the truth. So, why celebrate Hanukkah if he's fulfilled the feast as the light of the world? Simple. It reminds us, inspires us and honors Him. 

So what were they celebrating exactly? Quick history lesson: the temple where God's people worshiped had been desecrated by heathens and was not functioning as God intended it to. A very brave clan with the name of the Maccabees stepped up and started a revolt. The temple of God was taken back and re-dedicated to God, hence the name Feast of "Dedication". The priests lit the lamps (menorahs) as they'd been commanded of God, but there was a problem - there was only enough consecrated oil to last three days and it would take a week to receive more. The priests had been commanded to never let the lights go out, so they would not be able to keep their requirements. Or would they? This is where the miracle comes in. The lights remained lit until the new supply of consecrated oil arrived - eight days. When God commands us do something, he makes sure we are equipped! He is the ultimate provider! I LOVE this story! It reminds me that no matter how crazy or impossible somethings seems, if God has called me to do it - he will give the provision! He's amazing like that!

Hanukkah starts on Thanksgiving day this year! How appropriate is that? On the day we give thanks, we can give thanks for his provision while celebrating the holiday that reminds us of just that! So if you are as smitten with this holiday as I am and are ready to give your best shot at "eight crazy nights", here is a simple how-to and a few small gift ideas. Don't become overwhelmed. Keep it simple and enjoy!

Simple How-to:

1. Get a menorah or make one. You can go all out and buy a beautiful Hanukkiah( a menorah specially for Hanukkah) or you can simply grab 9 tea lights or candles and line them in a row. Get creative with this! You will use the middle candle every night to light the candles, it is called the "servant candle" and represents Christ. You will start from the right end of the candles or menorah and, using the servant candle light the number of candles that correspond to that night of Hanukah. (ex. the fourth night of Hanukah, you will light the four candles starting from the right end- the servant candle remains lit as well).

2. Tell the story of Hanukkah. We celebrate to be reminded, so make sure you prepare your heart and the hearts of your children with the "why" of the holiday! This can be as simple or in depth as you want it. I will provide links to printables below.

3. Enjoy the Culture! Indulge in traditional Hanukkah goodies such as donuts or latkes. (recipes below)

4. Have some fun! Play dreidel! Target has dreidels and gelt (gold wrapped chocolate made to look like coins) in their dollar section. The game is easy and fun - the kids will love it! Make Hanukah crafts!  Use print outs for the kids to color or make Hanukah crafts!

Gift Ideas:

When you are buying gifts for eight nights, the cost can add up quickly. Small gifts are wise, especially if you also celebrate Christmas. Our family chooses to only give gifts the first night and the budget is around $5. We also only give to the kids. Don't feel pressured to stick to any certain traditions, make it your own.  Here are a few inexpensive gift ideas:

Gift cards - grab a $5 giftcard for Starbucks, Sonic, etc. Everyone loves these and it doesn't break the bank!

Dreidel and gelt - This will be a big hit with the kiddos and it's a fun activity to boot!

Movie night box - Grab a cheap movie and throw in some popcorn and candy! Voila! You have a family movie night!

Ornament - If you celebrate Christmas as well, this is a fun time to give a new ornament, since Hanukkah typically falls, or a tleast starts, before Christmas. 

Socks - This one is great for women and children! Make it more sophisticated by adding a nice foot cream or lotion. 

When buying for young children, think about age and gender. Girls tend to love nail polish, lip gloss, polly pockets, etc. Those items are inexpensive and still a delight! For boys, think small lego sets, Hot Wheels, etc. 

I tend to think "stocking stuffer" size gifts for Hanukkah. This is a good rule and makes gift buying easier! 

 Remember to make this holiday your own, creating personal traditions and memories! The importance is being reminded of God's goodness and all else is extra! Have fun and God bless! 


recipes: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/454611/jewish/Chanukah-Recipes.htm

Hanukah story printable: http://www.chabad.org/holidays/chanukah/article_cdo/aid/789752/jewish/Printable-Chanukah-Guide-2013.htm

Activities/crafts for kid: http://www.enchantedlearning.com/crafts/hanukkah/

Monday, November 25, 2013

Being Thankful Even When it Hurts

Today's post is a contribution to The Thankful Project from fellow blogger, Mandy Kelly. Mandy has poured her heart out and written a beautiful, candid story. If you've ever suffered from infertility, not only will you relate to her story, I believe you will be ministered to and inspired!  Please check out her bio below. 

Everywhere I turn, they are there. I can’t seem to escape them. From my own family, to my Facebook wall, they haunted me. The desire within my heart almost had me sick to my stomach.
Babies. Beautiful, miracles from God. Ten tiny fingers and toes. Oh, how I long for a sweet infant of my own.
Yet, outside of a miracle from the Lord, I will not have any.
I have always wanted to be a Momma – and I love being Momma to my three blessings. My husband, whom I married just over a year ago, was a widow. He had three children who had lost their Momma. I get to be their Momma now. I have so much to be thankful for. Three beautiful children who call me the name I longed to hear. 
I have learned that the job and title of Mommy is given from God. It is nothing something you get when you get a positive pregnancy test, a hospital visit, or even adoption papers. It is a job that is given to you by the Lord. The Bible says that children are a reward from Him – they are our heritage (Psalm 127:3). It is my highest calling to be their Mom. 
Yet, this doesn’t mean I don’t long for children of my own. Yet, medical science says no. I pray the prayers of Hannah- asking that if the Lord will just give me a child in my womb, I promise them for Him. That I will them for His glory and for His service.
He gently whispers to do that with the ones He has entrusted me with.
He tells me that it is a high calling to raise another woman’s children. 
The cost of discipleship is high in this world. 
So, I am reminded to be thankful. Even when my heart is broken over what will never be- in all situations I am to be thankful.  He has taught me to be thankful for the beauty in His timing and in His plan. I know I will never replace the ache that that the children (especially my oldest who will remember her birth Mom) will have in their heart- but I get to show them how to be thankful.  We get to process this life together. 
So today, as I look at the pictures of the newborn babies, and as I hold my new niece, I am thankful. For my children’s health. For their personalities. For the ways that they are like me. For how her hand fits into mine. For evening cuddles and bedtime stories and prayers. I am thankful for devotions in the morning, and shepherding their young hearts. I am thankful for girl talks and reading the Bible with my oldest.  Most of all, I am thankful for the beautiful name Mommy- and so glad that I can wear it as mine. 

Mandy is passionate about two things: The Word of God and the Souls of Men (and Ladies!). She is a married to her best friend, and gets the privilege to love on their three blessings (who lost their biological momma a few years ago leaving her husband widowed). She loves that the Lord has let her life be an example of delighting in Him and watching Him mold her life to make her desires match His. She spent 9 years in an early childhood classroom, and 4 years in an “in house” seminary program at her home church. She loves everything about being married, and loves to bring God glory through her roles as Christ-follower, Wife and Mother (in that order!) She enjoys women’s ministry, cooking, crafting, and traveling the world. Her greatest desires are to have her marriage bring God ultimate glory, see her children walk in truth, to lead others to the feet of Jesus, and to lead women into deeper and intimate relationship with their Savior through study of the Word of God. Mandy blogs personally about Faith, Marriage, Parenting and More at Women of Worship (www.women-of-worship) and is on the leadership team of Good Morning Girls (www.goodmorninggirls.org) where she encourages women to get into the Word of God daily!

Monday, November 18, 2013

I Am Thankful For Every Minute of Pain

Today's post in a guest post written by my sister, Lanna Webb. Lanna truly knows what it means to learn thanksgiving in the midst of adversity, in particular pain. Is God present in our pain? Does he use it for our good? Read Lanna's story to get a glimpse of one person's thoughts on those questions.

Bear with me during the first couple of paragraphs and make it to the end, please.
  I’m 41 years old.  I’ve spent 16 of my adult years – beginning at 17 – with a migraine-intensity chronic tension headache born of a rare form of headache (yay, me) caused by Occipital Neuralgia. O.N. also causes migraines, including chronic ones.  I was blessed with having those, also, although they came in clusters and sometimes gave me some down time.  Yes, I DID have two different types of migraine-intensity headaches at the same time. 
When I turned 32, I took my dream job as a teacher at Brazosport Christian School teaching Secondary (7-12th grade) students. In addition to the headaches, I also began to have pain in other places. It started in the legs – by 6th period every day I was shuffling instead of walking and had to teach sitting down. Then came pain almost everywhere else. Then came the extreme fatigue – so bad that I would sometimes have to pull over on my 20-minute drive home to catch a catnap so I could make it the rest of the way. Then I started tripping over my own feet. And one day, I realized that I was more and more frequently losing ordinary words during conversation. I know a lot of people struggle with trying to drum up words sometimes, but I was beginning to lose them at an alarming rate. I became so dizzy at times that I weaved and ran into lockers or other people in the hallways and fought blacking out. There were other symptoms, as well, and a bevy of tests that all came back clear or inconclusive. 
And still I taught and even began a career as an administrator serving as Secondary Principal. It was more than a job; it was a very clear manifestation of the use God had planned for me, for which He had worked all those decades to prepare me. 
And then one day I couldn’t read. 
Let me backtrack. I noticed that I was having trouble understanding statements and questions about anything that was not overly familiar to me. It wasn’t just that I couldn’t comprehend; I could not understand the words spoken. It was literally as if the person talking to me were using a foreign language. And then I picked up a book and could no longer read. Oh, I could read each individual word, but I could string no more than two together to form a cohesive idea.  
I’m not going to lie – I totally freaked out. 
Long story cut short: I had to quit my job and leave my students. I grieved as if I had lost my best friend to death. And I grieve to this day. My health tanked so badly I ended up, for all intents and purposes, bed-ridden – I could get up some and on the rare day go places, but mostly I lay in bed. For several weeks, I couldn’t read because I couldn’t understand stuff; I couldn’t watch TV because I couldn’t follow the story line for the duration of the show; and I couldn’t adequately converse with my family and friends because I couldn’t hold my concentration to the end of a thought. 
Gradually it got better. Turns out I had suffered brain trauma similar to that of a mild stroke, trauma brought on by too many stressors – illness, long hours, concern for my school & teachers & students, not to mention keeping up with my family, and the ever-present pain. My brain began to heal but my pain remained and, in fact, grew. I’ll spare you the diagnoses and theories that brought on the various types of chronic pain and bring you to January, 2013 when I could no longer sit in our living room (which I rarely saw) and watch TV with my family because the pain in my back was too intense to allow me to sit through even a 30 minute sit-com. 
Since then, I have had several huge bounds forward and a couple of devastating tugs backward. But one thing remains constant:
My God loves me so much that He bore the pain of watching one of His kids – a child He loves more than we can fathom loving one of our own – watching His child suffer for the vast majority of her adult life. He bore that pain because He is more concerned with her good than her feel-good.
How incredibly amazing is that? He held tight during the really bad times because He refused to sacrifice an eternity of good for a fleeting temporal moment of feel-good. Wow!
There are so many things for which I am thankful – lessons that I know I have learned and areas in which I have profited, all because of the pain I’ve endured. There are so many people for whom I am thankful because of their compassion and service and intercession and love and faith and trust and help, all cultivated because of dealing with a loved one in chronic pain. There are so may relationships for which I am thankful that have grown exponentially tighter and more valuable because of the things we have gone through together because of my pain. There are so many virtues for which I am thankful that I see in my children, virtues that I have no doubt were wrought out of the ordeal of having a mother with chronic pain. 
But I am infinitely more thankful for my God, the Father, the Author of the Universe, who saw all of the pain beforehand and the outcome of afterward and allowed me to go through it all for the sake of good. He is El Shaddai, God Almighty, the all-powerful God who could have taken the pain away in much less than the blink of an eye but chose not to do so, all for the sake of good. He is Jehovah Rapha, the God Who Heals, and yet He held off on my healing for the sake of good. 
I’m so thankful and incredibly humbled that the God of the Universe who has so many other things to draw His attention, has firmly placed Holy Spirit between me and all the (Christian) naysayers. God has protected me, provided for me, shown mercy to me, and given me the ultimate gift of not giving in to what so many people tried to tell Him (and me) the He should do in order to make things turn in the direction of what they, in their finite and earthly minds, deemed the good for me.
I am supremely grateful that God is smarter than I and knows that yes, I shall be healed by the stripes of Yeshua my Messiah, but that God’s timing is of utmost importance, that good is more important than feel-good, and that God’s will surpasses all others – for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Yes, I am thankful for every minute of my pain.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Thankfulness and a Giant God Smack!

Today's guest post is a contribution to The Thankful Project written by new blogger, Heather Nelson. Heather is my sister-in-law and also a close friend of mine. She's a great writer - her personality shines through her words! Check out her bio below and go see what she has to offer on her blog!

When I was a child one of my favorite movies was “Polyanna.”   I seriously could write an entire dissertation about this film and why it is completely awesome, but instead I will just tell you to go and find it and watch it, you will thank me.  The main character, Polyanna, is an orphan who has been raised through many trials.  She constantly plays what she lovingly calls “the glad game.”  It is her goal to always find something to be glad about in every circumstance.  Man, what a lesson!  In thinking about thankfulness through adversity, this was the first place my mind went.  Can I truly find something to not just be glad about, but be thankful for in every circumstance?

So, here I am thinking of writing a piece on thankfulness through adversity.  In my mind I started scouring through at least a dozen different situations in my past where a specific adversity or “trial” had occurred and tried to think of how I could write and encourage thankfulness in all things.

In doing this, I began to unearth a pattern that I was not prepared for.  God's funny like that, right?  So instead of telling you what a great Christ follower I am when faced with trials, I am going to tell you, ugly blistering sores and all, the truth.  The truth is, I flipped out. Every. Single. Time.  Oh, I was thankful.  I was ALWAYS thankful when it seemed the trial was over, or when God pulled me out, or provided. Man was I thankful for Him then.  But in the middle of ugly, in the smack dab center of hurt, pain, and worry, I was not thankful... I was fearful.  Though I know that having fear in my heart for provisions is not having faith that God will provide ( Luke 12:24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!) I still have struggled through the years with surrendering to His care.
For the most part, the pattern essentially ended up looking like this (and I will use examples of actual trials I have faced).

Trial  -struggled with infertility - My response:  Flip out (depression, a lot of crying, hopelessness, jealousy of other pregnant women, anger at God,).... After God Delivered (opened my womb and allowed me to be pregnant) : I was so thankful.
Trial  -marriage separation- My response: Flip out  (depression, anger, hopelessness. I did eventually learn to completely lean on God and He did allow me one of the sweetest times of communion with Him at that point. )...... After God Delivered (my husband and I were reunited and began to work hard on our union) : I was so thankful.
Trial - Financial hardship - My response:  Flip out... After God delivered (provided): I was so thankful.
Trial -  Lost job, move to smaller place - My response: Flip out.  After God delivered: I was so thankful.
Trial - YADA YADA YADA you get the point.

Wow.  And this is where God did His thing to me that I am very familiar with.  I can describe it as a full fledged smack in the forehead, like an “I should've had a V-8” moment.  Can somebody say “CONVICTION”??  Yeah. Conviction.  Well that was SO NOT what I was planning on for this article.  Ok then, lets take a big fat look at what's going on right now shall we?  I'm in the middle of a financial hardship again.  Things are, well, really tight.  We have to fully rely on God for everything. For those of you who've been there, you know that this type of struggle can put a strain on many of other areas of your life, thus creating a bunch of little hairy mini trials.  THEN- just tonight (hahaha, go figure) I fell and injured my knee, as in, going to get an xray tomorrow type of injury- ugh.  So, my first reaction to this, were the following thoughts.... 1. are you serious? How can I be such a klutz?  2.  I'm so mad, I am 36 years old, not 80 for crying out loud.  3.  I'm trying to lose weight and being unable to work out is really going to make this harder.  4.  We do not have the money for this. 
Yeah, not a great example to list here IN THE MIDST of me working on this.  Then I sit down to start writing about thankfulness and my V-8 moment is back.  Back this time with a flashing light. I just totally wrecked that up God.  Please forgive me.

These are not life ending, cancer ridden problems I'm dealing with here people, I totally get that.  But, they are MY problems.  So I am forced to take a better look.  I don't want to be in this pattern anymore!  I want a new pattern, and you know what?   I think that's what God wants too.  In fact, I KNOW that's what He wants, and here's why:
1.  Colossians 3:14-17  14And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in      perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  

2.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  

So, my new pattern should look like this:  Trial - My response: Thank God for his faithfulness, rejoice in His sovereignty and grace. Trust - If God delivers – Praise him.  If He doesn't – Praise Him. Because, I know He is in control of ALL things, and I KNOW that I can rest in His Sovereignty.

Wow, so easy right?  NOT!  I know I will have to revisit this every single time, because in my own will I will not ever rise up to this.  Here's the deal folks,  I need Jesus, and I need Him B-A-D.  So then, what do I do?  I pray.  I pray a lot.  I read His word, a lot.  I seek to glorify Him, because ultimately, all of my pleasure, my joy, my life, regardless of my circumstances, will come through Christ being magnified.

Heather is a wife of 16 years, a mom of 4, and a big fat sinner saved by grace. In her minimal spare time after running kids to baseball or cheerleading practice, going to games of all kinds, and attempting to keep her house clean...she writes a bit.  For fun she loves camping and karaoke and is working on a way to do both at the same time.  You can check out her ramblings at www.heatherlnelson.com

Monday, November 4, 2013

Finding Gratitude in Messy Moments

I am happy to introduce today's guest blogger, my friend Dayna Bickham. Dayna is an incredibly talented story teller and writer, all around. She is the author of " No More Lies" which is available through her website, and has more projects in the works! Be sure to check out her bio below for more info!

Today Dayna is sharing a story on learning thanksgiving in adversity as a contribution towards The Thankful Project. 

gratitude quotes photo: BASIS 2 AA gratitude-frontcdcover.jpgShe yells and screams at me, “I hate you!” and something inside me breaks. How did we come to this? This place where all we ever seem to do is fight and all we ever see in the other are the things we do not like?
Parenting teens is difficult. Any parent who tells you they don’t worry or wonder about their kids a little bit more than they did before they turned into hormonal, easily aggravated and somewhat unbalanced people is either a- not a parent, or b- insane.  For me, parenting teens is a rollercoaster of emotions. One minute I feel immense pleasure over who my kid is becoming and in the next moment I want to scream “What did you do to my precious cherub of a child, you hideous monster?!”
Not that I get to yell that.
But boy do I want to.
So, in the midst of all the angst, and between their bouts of yelling and the occasional silent treatment, how can I honestly say I am thankful for my kids?
When it all boils down to it, they have been the catalysts God has used to challenge and change me more than anything else.  For that I am thankful.
I thought I may never get to have children so having two is a bit of a miracle. On top of that, having both of them healthy has been a challenge. We have battled epilepsy, learning disorders, emotional problems, and personal differences.
Through it all I am constantly surprised and generally amazed by them. Even when we are fighting, my girls display so much character and strength. I look at them and I get, in some small way, how God must feel about us.
Even when we are acting like complete rear ends, He manages to love us perfectly. For that, I am also grateful.
So during a month that is both beautiful and beautifully challenging with its busy shopping season, family gatherings, and reflective qualities, I chose to be grateful for the thing that brings the most aggravation into my life: my kids.
Without them, I would feel a little less full. Without them I would be more self-centered, and without them I would probably be a little less tired. But I would not change it. Not for all the rest, money or peace of mind in the world, because in the end, they are the reason I was made. And for that, I am thankful.  Even if I need some Tylenol and a nap.

 Dayna Bickham is a wife and mother. She loves missions work and is passionate about writing. For her, the epitome of a great day is one spent loving on others and a night spent writing about it. She loves bread too much and exercises too little, but now she knows she is the child of the King, and nothing else really matters. Dayna blogs regularly at daynabickham.com. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Thankful Project AND "First Friday" linkup

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!

~ Psalm 100:4

According to Psalm 100:4, a heart of Praise and Thanksgiving is the correct posture for entering into the presence of the Lord. 

Are you ready for his presence?

 Psalm 84 says that one day in his courts were better than a thousand days anywhere else! The glory of The Lord is responds to the worship on your tongue! 

Your thanksgiving activates God's spirit!

Today is the beginning of The Thankful 


People have submitted their stories of learning to be thankful even in the midst of adversity. I am excited and honored to share them with you! I will be posting them throughout the month of November. Please take time and read their stories as they are encouraging and inspiring! 

To read the stories and/or learn how to submit your own, click here!

Join the "First Friday" linkup here!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Broken Hallelujah

He gives beauty for ashes...
for ashes.
Sometimes the ashes come first. Sometimes the mourning strips us bare...then the beauty comes, making something precious out of the pain. 
Sometimes our posture is changed, 
changed by circumstances,
bringing us to our knees, heads bowed - hung -
souls positioned for prayer. 

A few days ago as I was dropping my daughter off at school,
circumstances had changed her posture. 
She wasn't feeling well, was tired, and then on top of that, remembered that she'd forgotten to get to school early to lead a club she helps head up. 
As we pulled closer to the school, she dropped her head and began to sob - asking, no begging, me to let her go home.
I had to make a quick decision. I decided to take her home. On the way home, we talked about how life doesn't always allow us to run away from the day, even when we feel badly or things are going crummy. I warned her that next time, I would probably remind her of that and lead her to take on the day with God's grace. Sometimes we need to be totally dependent on his strength. 

Sometimes we need a different kind of grace. 

A rest. 

So, I took her home and put her to bed.
Her eleven - almost twelve - year old, worn soul.
Not cancer worn.
Not grief worn, and probably not worn enough for the world, or her school, to acknowledge her need for reprieve.
Just pre-teen, hormonal, under the weather worn. Legit in its own right. 
So, I took her home and joined her in her bed, breathing in her youth, her fleeting innocence. 
I drank her up and didn't care that she had other places she should have been, because she's mine and I had her to myself. 

I read to her from One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp. And though the elegant, poetic wording is not fully appreciated by her young mind, she understood. 

She understood the need to give thanks in all things. 

She listened to words of war torn souls grasping at an invisible God, needing a tangible touch. 
And it brought her perspective. It healed her heart -
and her mother’s heart.
My depression worn,
grief worn,
thirty-two year old, hormonal, under the weather heart. 
A heart that has seen death and suffering and grasped at an invisible God, needing his tangible touch. 
It healed me, whole, and I was grateful for the quick decision of mercy that I’d made minutes earlier. 
For now I was being shown mercy.
For that I was thankful as well. 

I thanked God for my child who was alive and well, lying next to me.
I thanked him for my two other children, and my family. 
I thanked him for my brother, who against my plan is gone now.
I thanked him that His plan was better,
and that all things from him are good - and that all things are from Him.
That He is in control,
and I can trust him - even in the pain. 
Even in this life where sorrow is inevitable. 
Those of us who have submitted our lives to God are commanded to give thanks in all things.
Obedience to that command brings about such sweet reward.
It is cathartic, soothing and reviving. 
My daughter voiced that she would like to journal her thanksgiving,
and I think it’s good, 
To list our blessings , whether by pen or mouth or song,
and send them up as a praise offering to the giver of all things good - to the giver of all things!  

Thanks for stopping by! With Love -Shara

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

With You In Mind... In Honor of Shane Foley and Amberle Woodard

This evening I joined my daughter and many other people in our community as we crossed the street from LJI - police escorted - to gather at the memorial of a young girl who tragically lost her life at that very place, on this day last year.  I put my arm around my daughter, consoling her as she grieved her friend, and then watched her proudly as she went to pay her respects to the family.

It was a precious sight to see...

such a large group of people, taking time out in their day to remember a sweet life taken, in our eyes, too soon.

As the memorial time concluded and we walked back to our car, I held her hand and watched all the young children walking and talking, each impacted in some way by Amberle's life...and her death. I felt my daughters sweet, 11 yr. old hand and felt sad that she learned so young the sting that death brings.

The void that it leaves...

Moments earlier when she'd approached me, at the last minute, about going to the memorial gathering, I was conflicted about whether to go. I had supper to think about, and it was getting late. I closed my eyes to gather my thoughts as she begged me, saying how important it was to her because Amberle was her friend, and I knew then that we must go.

Because I, too, know the pain that death inflicts...

I also mourn today.

On this day twenty-two years ago we lost my brother to cancer. I know how it feels to watch other people's worlds carry on, while your world is forever changed, halted - at best moving in slow motion...as you push through the painful fog that is determined to suffocate you. You watch other people move and breathe and talk so easily, and wonder how they're doing it...with such ease. People, unknowingly, tell you time will heal all wounds. And though it does not,

time does cause the fog to disperse and the breaths to come more easily.

I have looked at pictures and read many kind words today - honoring the life of my brother. And though people cannot take your grief and shoulder it for you, there's healing in those kind words that remember the one you long to see. There's healing in knowing they are not forgotten. That is why I knew we must go tonight and cross that street -

 life should be remembered.

Because in my pain, in my need for Shane to be remembered, I could offer the same to them - remembrance. As we stood near the family, my eyes locked on Amberle's siblings - of course - because
I have been there. And though I can't tell them that the pain will eventually go away, I can tell them that

the pain is a testimony to the love...

and that's ok. It's ok to feel that pain. Because it reminds us to respect this time we are given on earth - to live it well.

We live it well with them in mind.

Amberle - Tonight, we crossed the street with you in mind. We loved your family with you in mind. We live out the rest of this day with you in mind.

Shane - Today I spent time with Lanna, with you in mind. I looked at your picture and I read stories...with you in mind. I held your niece's hand and took her to honor her friend's life, with you in mind.

I live...with you in mind.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Thankful Project

The Bible tells us to be grateful in ALL things - this includes our more difficult times of life. I truly believe there is healing and hope in offering a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God in our pain. Have you experienced something recently or even in the past that was difficult? Were you able to find a way to be thankful in those circumstances? Maybe you are in a challenging season right now and learning to have a thankful heart in the midst of your hurt or frustration. If so, your story would be a great addition to The Thankful Project!

If you would like to participate in The Thankful Project, please follow these guidelines:

Write a unique, non published, post describing your past or present circumstance and how you learned or are learning to give thanks through it. If you are a blogger and would like to put a teaser for your post (along with a referring link) on your blog, that would be great!

Word count suggestion: 500-100 - It is your story, though, so word count is flexible. 

One picture is welcome and will be posted with your story.

Please include only one link. You may attach a bio and link to your personal blog which will be posted to your story.

By submitting a story, you are giving me permission to post it to my Blog site as well as use it for linking to my site. 

Submit posts to: SharaANelson@gmail.com

Thank you so much for sharing your story! Stories will begin posting to The Thankful Project page on the 1st of November - posts submitted after that date will still be used. 

Be sure to subscribe to my blog to stay updated on The Thankful Project!
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