When tragedy strikes, one of three things happens with our faith. We tend to grow closer to God and our faith grows stronger; we turn from God blaming Him for allowing this and doubting His love and power; or we get caught somewhere in the middle. Honestly I have to admit that I was lost somewhere in the middle for awhile.

After my husband’s accident, I drew close to God, leaning on Him in those difficult days when it was hard to see my husband in the man that Traumatic Brain Injury had created and to watch him struggle with changes he could not control.

Then a year later I was shocked to discover that I had Lupus, and I became lost in fear. My faith became a sort of roller coaster of highs and lows. Probably more lows than highs. I have never blamed God or felt that He had given up on me. I never stopped believing or trusting God, but I failed to seek Him which left me feeling I had to face these battles alone.

I stopped journaling, had trouble focusing on reading God’s word, and struggled to get my thoughts together at times. I was caught somewhere between fully trusting God with my life and turning my back on Him, but thankfully He never gave up on me. I always felt Him tugging at my heart wanting me to recommit to that daily walk with Him. My strength was renewed and my walk restored because of His unfailing love!

No matter what we go through, God promises to be with us. Do not be afraid, nor dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9). He promises to help us and give us rest. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28). And He will always love us. Since you were precious in my sight, you have been honored, and I have loved you (Isaiah 43:4). These are just a few of the many wonderful and reassuring promises in God’s word. His love is never failing!

Even when you are stuck somewhere in the middle, He still loves you and wants you to find your way back to Him.

This is Temporary

There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for awhile. These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – and your faith is far more precious to a God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. 1 Peter 1:6-7

Things may be difficult as you’re going through trials, but this scripture promises that trials are temporary. God doesn’t send trials to break you, but instead He allows them in order to make your faith in Him stronger.

When you feel frustrated by the trials in your life, remember that there will be wonderful joy again, so lean on Him and wait expectantly for that joy. Believe that this is temporary and your faith is more precious than gold.

You Matter

You matter! Many people struggle with feeling that no one cares, but God’s word says that you are much more valuable than the birds in Luke 12:24. “Look at the crows: they don’t sow seeds or gather a harvest; they don’t have storerooms or barns; God feeds them! You are worth so much more than birds!”

In Luke 15, Jesus used three illustrations to express how important each person is regardless of their own or even society’s opinion. He tells about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. In verse 4 Jesus says, “If you had one hundred sheep, and one of them strayed away and was lost in the wilderness, wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine others to go and search for the lost one until you found it?” He goes on to tell of the rejoicing that would follow. Even though the majority of the sheep were safe, that one lost sheep was important enough to be found and celebrated.

Then Jesus tells of a woman with ten valuable silver coins in verses 8-10. He asks if one is lost, wouldn’t she light a lamp and search the entire house until that lost coin is found? As with the lost sheep, the woman did not shrug off the loss of the coin just because she had others. Instead she searched with great effort and then rejoiced with friends when that one coin was found.

Finally, Jesus told of a son who took his inheritance and left his home and family. He wasted his money away and began living a life of poverty and shame before finally gathering the courage to go home to his father. The father did not turn his son away for making bad choices but instead welcomed him with love, compassion, and you guess it…a celebration.

The lesson in each of these stories is that you matter! Some people are judged by society as less important, but God sees the value in each and every person. Regardless of what anyone says or how you feel about yourself, the important thing is that you matter to your Creator. God the Father loves you so much that if you’ve lost your way, He will welcome you with open arms. You are valuable because He loves you!

When you see a bird, remember that God loves you and that you do matter!

Armor of God

“A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭6:10-18‬ ‭NLT‬‬

www.bible.com/116/eph.6.11.nlt

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Does it ever seem that the circumstances you face are so complicated that there is no way out? No matter which way you turn, you only see trouble.  In those moments, we have a tendency to focus on the problem rather than God and His power to conquer any obstacle.  When problems arise, we begin to question.  What are we going to do?  How are we going to overcome this?  In Exodus 14 while escaping the oppression of the Egyptians, the Israelites began to question why they were brought to the desert, what Moses had done by leading them out of Egypt, and why they even agreed to follow him.

Exodus 14:13-14 says, Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid.  Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.  The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.  The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.   They were focused on the obstacles, and their thoughts and actions were controlled by fear.  How often do we find ourselves in that same situation?  Instead of focusing on the problem, who to blame, and how we can fix it, we must turn our focus to God.

As stated above in Exodus 14, sometimes we must calm our fears, be still, pray, and trust God to make a way in His perfect time.  Other times though He may tell us to “get moving”.  Exodus 14:15 says, then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.  In other words, “I’m opening the door, now you need to follow my instructions and just move on through it”.

Psalm 77:16 says, When the Red Sea saw you, O God, its waters looked and trembled!  The sea trembled at the power of God; there is no obstacle which is greater than His power!  Psalm 77:19 goes on to say, “Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters – a pathway no one knew was there!”  God was able to part the Red Sea leaving a dry path for the Israelites to cross escaping from the Egyptians, and He still has the power today to open doors for us that we may not even know are an option.

I’m sure it was terrifying for the Israelites to step out onto that ocean floor with an enormous wall of water on either side!  The door that God opens for us may be scary, but if we’ll just trust Him and move on through it, we will see the power of His deliverance.

When it seems as though the enemy is winning, God is still in control and knows exactly what to do. So instead of focusing on the problem and how we can fix it, we must not let fear control our actions.  We must choose to trust God and wait patiently for Him to make a way.  We must obey and move on through when He says it’s time.  Even when our problem seems as big as the Red Sea with no apparent solution, God has the power to make a way!

Dandelion Attitudes

Now that I’m teaching middle school students, I no longer receive sweet, dandelion bouquets, but the message of this old post still applies. God constantly holds us in His hand like a beautiful bouquet, bitterness and all, and He continues to loves us through it.

Strength Renewed

A carefully picked bouquet of dandelions was handed to me by one of my students.  To her dismay, an unappreciative boy pointed out that dandelions are actually nothing but a bitter weed.  The little girl was crushed.  The bouquet she worked so hard to create and was so proud to present to her teacher was suddenly nothing but a bunch of weeds.  I quickly pointed out to the class that there are many weeds that produce pretty flowers.  As bitter as a dandelion may be, it still has a certain beauty to offer.

A little research revealed that dandelions have many good qualities.  Although bitter-tasting, they are surprisingly nutritious containing calcium, iron, vitamins B and C, just to name a few.  Dandelions also have medicinal uses.  They are such a great diuretic that children sometimes wet the bed after playing with them. Who would have thought that bed wetting could be caused by playing…

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Bucket Full of Joy

What makes you happy? Many of us think if we just made more money or could win the lottery, we would be happy. For some, our happiness is based on relationships such as marriage or friendships. For others, happiness revolves around sports. And of course, if we can’t find happiness in other things, we tend to search for happiness in CHOCOLATE!

Unfortunately chocolate is not enough for the things that have been going on lately. Last week our country was rocked by an intentional bombing at the Boston Marathon injuring many innocent people on April 15. Just days later West, Texas was devastated by the explosion at a fertilizer plant on April 17. The same week marked the anniversaries of the Oklahoma City Bombing on April 19 and the Columbine High School Massacre on April 20. Many in our nation were affected personally on a scale that is unimaginable. Whether you were affected personally or not, however, you WERE affected. We often find ourselves glued to the television in shock wondering how such things could happen.

Aside from national tragedies, we all have personal issues that often rock our world. Deaths, strained relationships, illness, heartache, and so many other things affect the happiness of our daily lives. Psalms 30:5 says, “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Unfortunately that does not literally mean we will weep through the night and tomorrow everything will be ok. But instead it assures us that there WILL be a time of joy even in the midst of our trials.

The happiness that things such as money, relationships, sports, and chocolate provide is NOT the same as joy. Happiness comes and goes, but joy is long lasting and brings true contentment. Happiness causes short term pleasure, but joy is long lasting. Happiness isn’t something that you can cling to during the trials of life, but real joy endures the trials. True joy is only found through a relationship with our Heavenly Father.

I’ve never had to retrieve water from a well. When I was young we had a well, but it had a pump. But like me, if you haven’t actually done it, you’ve probably observed it on Little House on the Prairie or some other show. Water didn’t just come out the sink by turning a knob as it does for us today. A bucket tied to a rope was lowered down into the well and then rolled back up and carried to the house for use.

For Christians, joy is like a bottomless well of water. The water is always there, but we have to lower the bucket to get it. It takes effort on our part. We can’t just turn the knob and expect joy to flow freely. We must make the choice each day to lower our bucket. So how exactly do we get the joy into our bucket?

  1. Pray – When things are out of your control, pray as if every aspect of the situation hinges on your prayer. James 5:16 says, “The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.” Prayer is not a one-sided conversation for you to tell God what you want or how you feel. He wants to talk to you too, but often we do not take the time to listen.
  2. Believe – Trust God to bring you through it. Psalms 34:19 says, “A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” His plan is not our plan, so things may not work out exactly how we wanted. But He WILL carry you through. Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”
  3. Read the Bible – Search for what God wants you to learn. Don’t just sit down to read quickly through a daily plan. Take the time to search for what God wants to say to you through those verses.
  4. Look for positive aspects of life – Each day make an effort to find one good thing no matter how desperate your situation. Record those blessings in a Gratitude Journal so that you can see and hold in your hand all the blessings He bestowed during the trials.
  5. Avoid whining and complaining – Instead of making you feel better, complaining actually highlights the negative, keeping it your focus, and just makes the situation worse.
  6. Serve others – Doing something for someone else in their time of need helps you forget your own troubles for a moment and increases your joy while decreasing your stress.
  7. Laugh – Laughing actually provides many benefits. It relaxes the body, relieves stress and pain, benefits heart and immune systems. Laughter really is good medicine. So watch a funny movie, hang out with a friend who tells stupid jokes, or whatever makes you laugh.

Finally, guard your bucket. Don’t allow Satan to steal your joy. He wants to rob you of your joy and will use anything possible to discourage us, cause us to worry, and even create doubt. When it seems that your Bucket Full of Joy is running low, go back to the well. Make sure that you are praying, believing, and reading your Bible. Make the choice every day to lower your bucket, and remember Psalms 30:5 which says, “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”

We won’t always be happy, but we can still have joy in the midst of the chaos.

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