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The Fight for Joy

Obviously my time has been filled with things other than blogging recently. The IDEAS are here, it’s the motivation and energy that’s been lacking. So here’s what I’ve got for you today.

My evening devotions the other night talked about fighting for joy. To be honest, I was taken off guard. I feel like this really shouldn’t be a new concept but it was for me. I have always been such an upbeat, cheerful, and content (mostly lol) person that I didn’t have to work at it much. I mean it. Optimism and joy was just naturally part of me. My best friend has told me that I used to be obnoxiously cheerful. Which was her (kind) way of saying I lacked compassion. 🙂

But recently I’ve been having trouble finding joy. I KNOW how blessed I am and I KNOW that thankfulness is the key to having joy but the days keep dragging on and my joy is missing. I’ve read the verses and I’ve prayed over and over about it, asking God to give me back my joy in him.

And I think that’s why this devotion hit me so hard. Joy has always been easy, a part of me, something God provides. I have NEVER considered fighting for it. I’ve never thought that joy was really a choice in my life. It was just something God gave me and I wanted it back.

I love this definition of joy by John MacArthur:

“Christian joy is the emotion springing from the deep-down confidence of the Christian that God is in complete and perfect control of everything, and will bring from it our good in time, and our glory in eternity. That’s Christian joy. Christian joy is not an emotion on top of an emotion. It is not a feeling on top of a feeling. It is a feeling on top of a fact. It is an emotional response to what I know to be true about my God.

I love that. So when I drag myself out of bed every morning, weary before the day starts, I don’t feel very joyful. But I know what is true about my God. I know how much he loves me, I know he is faithful to his promises, I know he cares for my whole being, I know he is good, I know he never changes. And in THOSE things, I can find joy. You can too, friend.

It really is a battle, and I’m aware and ready for it now.

“If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence. When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.”
Psalm 94:17-19

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2018 in contentment, joy

 

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Lonely in a Crowd

I can’t say that I EVER remember being lonely as a kid. In fact, I’m pretty sure until I moved away from home I still had the idea that usually lonely people were elderly ones who couldn’t get out of the house and sat by themselves for days on end. I had 5 siblings so there was always someone to talk to. And if you got tired of one person, you just went and found another. 🙂

But I’ve grown up a little since then and I know the pain of loneliness. But I also know that most people don’t admit that they are lonely. My friend’s mom has this saying, “If all the lonely people in the world would turn on their porch lights at night then everyone would be a lot less lonely.” Oh, that just makes me laugh. Lonely people don’t TELL others they are lonely! And, from experience, I think I’ve figured out at least one reason why.

There are different types of loneliness. There’s the kind where you actually are alone. When your spouse is out of town for the week on business or when your kids grow up and leave home. I live by myself so I know that every night when I get off work, I will come home to an empty apartment. I will be alone. How about when you are alone in your convictions? When those around you don’t share your faith? That can set you apart and make you feel like an outsider too.

But there’s another kind of loneliness and I actually think it’s worse. When you are surrounded by people and still feel alone. I have often felt this way and it’s taken me a long time to figure it out. How can I be surrounded by my friends and family and STILL FEEL SO LONELY?? Finally a light bulb came on and I realized that (at least for me), while everyone else is present and accounted for, I’M the one not there. My body may be there but my heart and mind feel trapped somewhere else. Somewhere that makes it hard (practically impossible) for others to get there or me to get to where they are.

Maybe this sounds crazy to you. There is a good possibility that I am crazy so just go with it. Or maybe you haven’t experienced this kind of loneliness before. And this is the reason people are afraid to admit they are lonely. They don’t want to make their friends feel bad. And they have found that more “social gatherings” doesn’t help with anything. There doesn’t seem to be an answer.

At this point maybe you were expecting some incredible cure for loneliness? I’m going to have to disappoint. I really don’t have anything to cure but here’s what I know: I KNOW our loving Father never leaves us so we are never truly alone. Talk to him more than ever if you are lonely. Even if you don’t feel like it’s helping: just keep praying and reading his Word. Also, keep in fellowship with his body. Let others know even though YOU. WON’T. LIKE. IT.

I’ll leave you with this quote I read the other day by Paul Matthies on loneliness. As you and I talk with the Lord this week, let’s ask for a deeper joy in Him.

“In Philippians 3:10, Paul uses the phrase, ‘the fellowship of his sufferings.’ So many of us love to enter into the fellowship of God’s joy, but Scripture also calls us into the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. And sometimes, we don’t need to avoid the pain or numb the pain; we need to look at that pain and ask God for a deeper joy.”

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2018 in contentment

 

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My Case Against “The Case for Christ”

When I was in middle school or so, I read The Case for a Creator. And although a lot of the science was (and probably still is) completely over my head, I really enjoyed the book. I loved all the reminders about how creation points to the Lord. So I was pretty excited when I heard they were making a movie on one of the other books by Strobel, The Case for Christ. I haven’t read that one, but I was eager to see the movie. Although a little anxious too because, let’s be honest, Christian movies tend to be cheesy and have bad acting.

My whole church was excited, actually. We even did a movie night for it and hung posters up all over town. I ended up working nursery that night so I didn’t watch it but wasn’t too upset because by that time, it was on Netflix and at my fingertips.

When I finally did get around to watch it, I have to admit, I was a little disappointed. It wasn’t because the movie was cheesy or the actors were bad, it was the message. If you haven’t watched it, this might spoil it so here’s your fair warning.

The wife gets saved at the beginning but all throughout the movie the meaning of that is somewhat vague. I was willing to let that hang in the open because the focus was really on Lee anyway. So what really got me was at the end when he admits that the evidence for Christ’s existence, death, and even resurrection is too overwhelming to ignore and he gives in. He admits that he believes God is real, is sorry for hurting his wife and family, and that is portrayed as what everyone needs to do. I kept waiting for salvation to be explained and things to be cleared up for the unsaved watchers but it never came! I mean c’mon! Christian Mingle had a better salvation message than that! (Yes, I watched it- don’t judge. I had the stomach flu and was really bored.)

Salvation is MORE than believing in the existence of God and even Christ. There are many people who believe that because the evidence IS too much to ignore or because- Duh, of course I believe in God- it runs in my family. But those same people are sadly not on their way to heaven and it’s wrong to give them a false hope that they are. Salvation includes heart change, repentance, forgiveness, and an indwelling of the Holy Spirit. So I take issue with narrowing it down to simply admitting that God is real.

A lot of people will probably say I’m being picky. Yes, I am. I think we need to be picky about a movie that SO many people talked about as a great way to lead others to the Lord. It may be great as an encouragement to those who are already saved- a way to confirm the faith they already have, but I don’t believe it should be used as a salvation tool.

If you want a salvation tool, may I recommend the book of Romans? I have found that much more helpful. 🙂

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2018 in movies

 

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Thoughts from 1am

I used to shake my head and laugh at those bloggers who stayed up till all hours of the night writing out their posts because I knew that would never be me. And yet here I am at 1am in the morning, typing out a post because I’ve tried everything else to fall asleep and it’s not working.

I have a very good night time routine. I don’t eat anything in the late evening, stay off electronics right before bed, and I’m usually in bed between 10-10:30pm. I brush my teeth, take my meds, read my devos, and lay down. Usually my meds knock me out within 10 minutes and it’s all good. But tonight it’s not working. I laid down and a very intense feeling of rage came over me. Why? Good question. I’ve been trying to figure that out for two and a half hours. And why it has happened the last two nights also. A feeling of frustration and anger for no reason that makes me restless and unable to fall asleep. Then I remembered.

When I first started taking these meds, my emotions got really out of whack. Like, seriously bad. Picture the stereotypical teenager in puberty and that’s pretty much what I was like. One minute I would be nice and cheerful and the next ready to scream at the top of my lungs with no cause for the change. It was SO frustrating to suddenly feel out of control of my emotions but still be responsible for them! A friend of mine suggested that I start taking a natural supplement, St. John’s Wort. I’m kind of wary of natural remedies (apologies to every lady at my church!) because I haven’t had any success with them and get tired of hearing how they will solve all your problems. But this lady is an ER nurse (plus my doctor agreed that it was a good idea) so I begrudgingly decided to try it for a few weeks and my emotions leveled out to a manageable degree. I haven’t stopped taking it in probably a year or so.

Until Wednesday when I ran out and forgot to get more! Guess when the issues started. Yeah…

You know, sometimes I hate taking meds and that supplement because I don’t like feeling dependent on them. But this week has reminded me that the side effects of my medications are real and I can’t ignore them. We live in a fallen world where things: hearts, bodies, brains, etc are broken and need help. It’s okay to use what God has given us to help them. It’s good to take the meds and be grateful for them.

Okay, that’s all. Now maybe since I got that off my mind, I can get some sleep! Goodnight all!

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2018 in epilepsy

 

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Praying When You’re Crazy Busy

Do you ever feel like you’re crazy busy? Or maybe just crazy? (Either one works for me.) I think when I ask my friends how they are doing or how their week was, one of the most common answers is, “Busy.”

For me, I don’t feel like I have a lot of events or activities going on, my brain feels busy. Like it’s overloaded all the time and trying to catch up. I’m sure others feel that way. So maybe you can relate to this: You sit down to do your devotions in the morning (or whenever is best for you.) What I usually do is open my Bible, ask the Lord to clear my head and focus on what I’m about to read, and then I read a little. Then I spend some time in prayer. And here’s what happens:

“Ah, Lord, you are SO good to us and we totally don’t deserve it…(text comes in, looks at it and puts phone across room to avoid further distractions)…I love how you used Gideon in that story even though he wasn’t strong, it showed your strength and pla…(Geez, the cars are loud today. I wish they would change the  traffic lights back to how they were before.)…Father, please help Natalie today at work to be a light for…(Light bulbs! I forgot to pick up light bulbs at the store! And toilet paper! And toothpaste! Where’s my phone?? I need to make a list before I forget all this!)”

Yeah…anyone relate? I’ve always struggled with the verse that tells us to pray constantly because all I could think of is the amount of focus that would take! BUT I recently read a book that really helped me. It’s very fittingly titled “Crazy Busy” by Kevin DeYoung. How can you not like a book with a tag line that reads, “A (mercifully) short book about a (really) big problem?” I highly recommend it.

Anyway, in one part of the book, Kevin is talking about prayer. Sorry you aren’t going to get any direct quotes but I loaned my copy out so you’re stuck with my memory for today- buy the book. He talks about a concept that has really helped him. The idea is whenever you hear or think of something you should pray for, you do it RIGHT THEN. Pray right then. And then put it out of your mind and trust that God has it.

Maybe this isn’t a mind-blowing concept for some people but it was for me. For some reason, I had the idea that praying constantly meant keeping every single thing I was currently praying about on my mind ALL. THE. TIME. and trying to remember it all. Do you know how exhausting that is?? This idea took such a load off my mind. Now, whenever something comes to my mind that I should pray for, I do, and then I trust that God has it handled (duh), and that he will bring it to my mind as often as I need to remember it. I’ve actually been praying MORE this way. You see, instead of using my brain power to remember my prayer requests, it’s actually being used to pray for them! Who knew?

And in some way, this method has also helped my morning focused prayer time too. Because I pray more through the day, I don’t feel like I have a giant list of things to get through every day and I can just spend time talking to the Lord.

But seriously guys, get the book. It’s full of wisdom AND it’s a short, easy read. You won’t regret it.

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2018 in prayer

 

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Shout-out to Moms

Today was my day off and this morning I was asked last minute if I could help in my church’s VBS nursery. I didn’t really have any pressing plans so I showered really quickly and walked over. I LOVE the nursery by the way. I’ve always loved working with kids and 0-5 is my favorite age. From the time I turned 13 until I moved away from home, I did more babysitting than I can remember. I don’t think a week ever went by that I didn’t babysit for someone or something. And I loved every minute.

But with all the health stuff, it’s been a while since I held some babies so I was more than happy to oblige. Ummm…guys…it was EXHAUSTING! Seriously! I literally can’t believe how tired I am hours later! I’m pretty sure those kids just zapped the energy right out of me!

At one point, I was rocking a sweet baby and yawning (trying hard not to think of the two long hours that I still had to keep awake) and I realized that the other three ladies with me were all moms. The one was causally telling a story about how many times she gets up in the middle of the night to nurse and how many times her other kids wake her up just to ask simple questions. And the others laughed and nodded knowingly.

What??! Here’s the deal. Sleep is and always has been very important to me but even more so now. The little amount I get is a precious thing. I thought about how SO. VERY. TIRED. I am all the stinkin’ time and realized that I just have myself to take care of. And I can barely handle that on some days. And here these moms have all their kids dressed, out the door, and at VBS by 9am AND were talking about going strawberry picking after it was done!! I knew exactly where I was going when it was done and that was to lay on my couch. I sat amazed.

Now, I realize that my health issues complicate matters for me and that I take three medications that all have a top side effect of sleepiness. But I also know a lot of moms with health issues too. Like my mom. She’s awesome.

So I would just like to give a big shout-out to all the moms out there! I’m not quite sure how you do it but thanks for letting me love on some of your little ones today.

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2018 in encouragment

 

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The Cemetery Saves the Day

I consider myself a well-hydrated person. By which I mean, water is the only thing I drink (except hot tea) and I drink more than most people I know. I drink about 75-100oz of water a day. So whenever I’m not feeling well and people question if I’m dehydrated, I just laugh. I don’t think that’s it.

However, the other day, I was a little behind on my water for the day and I decided to go for a walk. A walk these days could be anywhere between 5-9 miles and it was a nice day so I picked a loop that I knew was about 8 miles and headed out.

I was about 5 miles in when it started. I realized I was actually sweating (which isn’t normal on a simple walk for me) and my mouth was a little dry. I checked my phone and saw the horrible thing. The temp was 86 degrees with a 44% humidity. (I’m a cold weather kind of person. Shoot me.) Hmmm…guess I wasn’t prepared for the real summer weather yet…oh well…can’t really help it now.

So I kept going but it just got worse. My mouth and throat were SO dry and hurting! Soon I was consumed with a single thought- water. I just need a drink of cool water. Okay, Lord, it doesn’t have to be cool, just ANY kind of water. A creek. Puddle water. Images of ice cubes, bottled water, condensation, and swimming pools(?) filled my head. I started to wonder how long it took for sunstroke to set in?? (Dramatic, right?) I was so thirsty that I thought to myself that if I saw someone out in their yard I would have absolutely no problem going up to them and asking for some water. That’s how desperate I was. But the countryside was completely deserted. Seriously, the ONLY person I saw outside was having a showdown with her toddler and I wasn’t about to interrupt that. I thought begrudgingly that probably everybody was inside enjoying their air conditioning like smart people instead of walking around, about to DIE!

I thought of a rivers and fountains. And nonchalantly, my brain thought of the verse where Jesus declares that he is the living water and whoever drinks of him will never thirst again.

And that’s when it hit me over the head like a brick. For over 30 minutes I had LITERALLY thought of only one thing and my mind never strayed from it. Water. I was SO thirsty and I asked God right then to give me that same thirst for him. That desperate, unquenchable desire to know him more and to love and obey him better. I’ve never had a more vivid parallel or understood that verse better in my whole life.

But it wasn’t over. I was still about 1/2 mile from my house, passing by a cemetery. A car was parking and I thought, “Maybe those nice looking ladies have some water. A half mile still seems like a loooonngg way.” I watched them as they checked the flower pots near a headstone and heard one say, “Yeah, they’re pretty dry.” I struggled painfully to swallow and thought, Me too.

As I got closer I kept watching and saw one of the ladies pick up a jug and carry it away. I saw in disbelief as she got to a red water pump and filled her jug. I looked across the cemetery and it seemed as if all the headstones just dropped into the ground and suddenly all I could see were these little red water pumps! Did you know they have those?? I walk by this cemetery all the time and I’ve never seen them!

I was so excited that I quickly (but um, respectfully) clambered to the one closest to me. I turned it on and nice cool water came out. I’m sure it wasn’t the cleanest and I. Don’t. Care. It was the best water I’ve ever had. I drank and splashed it on my face. A car drove by me and I almost hesitated because I didn’t know what they would think and then it hit me again that I still didn’t care. I felt so much better that I laughed and briskly walked the last part home. Just so thankful for water.

But that also reminded me of something else. Sometimes we let fear of what others think of us keep us from talking about Jesus, our Living Water. I want to desire him so much that I simply don’t care what others think of me. I want him to be my single thought and goal.

(And today I took a walk with a water bottle.)

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2018 in encouragment

 

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