Happy Thoughts

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My toddler was tugging on my jeans. The pup was nudging my other leg because she needed to go outside. The oven beeped for the third time reminding me lunch was about to burn. I was trying to talk to my sweet mother on the phone while working online for my new business. I stopped for a moment and took it all in-the pleading eyes of my son and puppy, the aromas of lunch awaiting extraction, the kind voice of my mom, the amazing response online to my new business endeavor. I had a mental win-I chose to thank God for all these things instead of complaining about them. I dont respond so well very often. I even surprised myself as I asked my mom to hold, gently picked up my precious son, let the dog outside, pulled lunch out of the oven to feed Zane, and stepped away from work for just a few minutes-all while smiling.

And you know what? It only took a few extra seconds to stop and choose which attitude I was going to use to approach these situations. I think we often psych ourselves out into thinking that choosing joy takes a ton of time and energy. Im finding out this is a falsehood. If we consistently practice positive thinking in small things, it will become easier and quicker to choose joy in the bigger circumstances of life. It will come more naturally.

Ive heard several people say that it usually takes at least 30 consistent days of doing an action to form it into a habit. Im going to make myself a little challenge. Over the next 30 days, I am going to choose joy in joyless situations. It might be painful sometimes. I might fight to have selfish thoughts. But it might also be freeing and awesome.

Remember that timeless Disney classic, Peter Pan? When the Darling children are trying to learn how to fly Peter Pan says, Now, think of the happiest things. It’s the same as having wings!”
Wendy: He can fly!
John: He can fly!
Michael: He flewed!
Peter Pan: Now you try.
Wendy: I’ll think of a mermaid lagoon, underneath a magic moon.
John: I’ll think I’m in a pirate’s cave.
Michael: I think I’ll be an Indian brave.
Peter Pan: Now everybody try!
All: One, two, three!
Wendy, John, Michael: We can fly! We can fly! We can fly!

The next time I am faced with a difficult or frustrating situation, I am going to say a happy thoughtout loud to get my heart and mind in the right place. When my boy needs extra attention I can say, Remember that time we giggled so hard playing the tickle game? That was so priceless!Or when the dishes and laundry pile up so high I dont even know where to start I can say, Wow. Look at how blessed we are! We have so many clothes to wear and utensils to use!Im going to say happy thoughtsout loud daily the next 30 days. Im curious to see how this will mold my attitude and actions into patterns that will better glorify the King. Want to take the Thirty-Day Happy Thoughtchallenge with me? We can share victories and struggles with each other along the way. We can learn how to flytogether 🙂

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Reminiscing October

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“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” -L.M. Montgomery

This is one of my favorite quotes of all time. I love fall! Even though I have experienced twenty-seven autumns, the Creator’s display of majesty in the changing seasons still takes my breath away. The glittering golds, fiery oranges, and deep crimsons of fall capture me every year. My spirits are lifted when I take hikes, crunching the fallen leaves and breathing in the crisp autumn air. I pull out cozy sweaters and snuggle in with coffee and a good book. I watch my toddler pick up leaves with his wide eyes of wonder. Fall is beautiful.

This October has been one of the busiest falls I have experienced in a long time. My husband’s grandfather passed away, we photographed a wedding, I added more piano and flute students to my teaching schedule, and I started a new business endeavor as an independent consultant with Jamberry nails! Through this last month of October, God has been showing me some things I need to work on this winter:
~Be disciplined to get up early before my son wakes so that I can have true alone time with the Savior and the Word. I am happier, refreshed, and better able to take care of my family when I do this.
~Take time to get unplugged. With starting this new online business I’ve been amazed out just how easy it is to be on electronics all the time. I don’t want to miss out on the wonderful memories I could be making with my family. I’m going to work on carving out certain time limits for business so that I can still be available to others.
~Don’t forget to encourage others. I don’t know about you, but when life gets crazy busy it is a struggle to remember to think about others outside of my little family bubble. But when I make the effort to send an encouraging message, phone call, text to someone it is so wonderful! Encouraging others forces me to stop thinking about “me, my, mine” and helps me listen more carefully to the Spirit.
~Cultivate a heart of gratitude. This is hard when the budget is tight and I’m just so tired from life, but being thankful saves me from becoming bitter and hard. THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING TO BE GRATEFUL FOR. I tell myself this frequently because it’s true! It’s easy to complain; it’s noble to give thanks. We have so much more than so many people in the rest of the world. Saying “thank you” out loud to God at different intervals in the day keeps me cheerful, humble, and less dramatic.

So I pledge to work on these disciplines in this lovely month of November. Thanks, for helping keep me accountable by reading my blog. I’m so grateful to be on this journey of life with you! May your November be filled with hope and joy. Sending cyber hugs your way today 🙂

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” (Psalm 143:8)

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

“The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.” (Numbers 6:25)

A Birthday for Two

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It was early on the morning of my 27th birthday last week when my husband received a phone call from his mother: “Your Grandpa’s gone. He just passed away.” Even though Grandpa Taylor had been battling dementia and Alzheimer’s for over three years, the finality of this news was still hard to swallow. Memories immediately swirled in my head of this incredible man. Grandpa Cliff would never teach math equations again on earth. He would never lead Bible studies and preach God’s love to others again on earth. He would never make another hilarious joke that made us all laugh again on earth. He would never tell his awesome stories of teaching on an Indian reservation, traveling across the country, and fighting in World War II again on earth. He wasn’t on earth anymore.

I only knew Grandpa Cliff for a few years, but the few years that I had the privilege of being in his presence were rich and blessed. He had a quiet peace about him that I so often craved. His wisdom and faith were admirable. I appreciated the Godly legacy that he passed down to all of his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. I always left his house with my spirit being filled, never drained. What a tangible testimony he was to the power of God’s grace molding us continually to look more and more like the Savior.

I have often heard that when someone loses a loved one that they examine their own life choices and purposes in light of eternity. I found myself on my birthday sitting at our kitchen table, staring out the window and doing just this. I was now 27 years old. I found myself wondering if I would leave the world a better place if I suddenly left it in death. It was challenging because I realized how many selfish actions creep into my daily routine. What stays behind when I leave this temporary earth? Will people be encouraged and spurred on to follow Christ faithfully because of His testimony in me or will they be hindered by my actions and character? Ouch. Tough questions. Tears started trickling down my cheeks. I asked God to help me live this short life He had given me faithfully and purposefully so that He could be honored and others could be encouraged. I asked God to help me live less selfishly and more like Grandpa Taylor.

Soon my tears dried and my solemn demeanor turned into smiles. Grandpa wasn’t on earth anymore, but I started imagining what kind of celebrations he was partaking in at this moment in Heaven. He probably was joking around with others and telling them his amazing stories from his first life. He was probably hugging his brothers and sister and daughter that had made the journey before him. He was probably reveling in the King of King’s holy presence with laughter and smiles on his lips too. He was probably enjoying his perfect mind and body that could finally do what he wanted it to do. He was probably filled with peace and joy. He was home. Happy First Day in Heaven, Grandpa Taylor. It’s an honor to share a birthday with you.

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“Wait…I have limitations?!”

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This post will be a bit different today. I’ve been sitting here wondering what to write for over thirty minutes. I texted my husband and asked if he had any ideas and he gave me one, but I was hesitant to tackle it. Nevertheless, I’m going to be brave and ask that God would direct my words. Thank you for bearing with me as this post will be quite personal.

A week after graduating from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, I had the great privilege of marrying my best friend, Andy. A week after our wedding, we moved across the country to Oregon. I went through an abundance of homesickness and culture shock that first year as I asked God to help me be content with being uprooted. Before I met my future husband, I was on the fast track to becoming a single missionary in Siberia…yes, frigid Russia. God showed me that he had different and better plans for me. God grew me in college to realize that often the most adventurous path is not the dreamy one we envision for ourselves.

My husband and I quickly realized that having bachelor’s degrees didn’t guarantee financial stability. We worked over a dozen jobs between the two of us those first three years of marriage, just trying to make ends meet. God really helped us learn how to be content with little and how to be grateful for the smallest gifts in life. I sorted cherries, ran a roadside orchard stand, nannied, served as a barista at a local coffee shop, did photo shoots, taught piano and flute lessons, and eventually became the secretary and children’s ministry director at a small church in town. Through all of these occupations, God taught me how to rely on Him for strength and joy.

We became pregnant three years into our marriage and were ecstatic! I was happy, but also worried about the future. I didn’t know if I could be a good mom. I didn’t know how we were going to be able to pay all the bills that would come with a baby. God used my husband and all of our parents to really help me trust in Him better and to relinquish my worry into His hands. When our precious boy did finally arrive last summer, our hearts were filled with joy. It was a very difficult birth and recovery, but God sent both our mothers to help us through this new journey.

After eight weeks of being home with my little one, I went back to work at the church and to teaching piano and flute lessons. Praise the Lord that the church was kind enough to allow me to bring Zane to the office with me! And between Andy’s mother watching Zane, one of my students babysitting, and putting him in the play pen while I taught we somehow made it work for a while. But the wear and tear of trying to be a mom, wife, homemaker while working 40+ hours a week was starting to take a toll on all of us by spring. I was exhausted. Zane was doing incredibly well for being cooped up in play pens and the office during the weekdays, but he was starting to get antsy too. I was constantly beating up on myself because I couldn’t do it all. I wasn’t my cheerful, encouraging self. I was fighting irritability with others (not good when you are in ministry!) and was frustrated that I didn’t have time for relationships outside of my family…I barely had time for them! I was struggling to trust God in the midst of the chaos. But He was faithful to carry me through nonetheless.

After many late nights of praying and crying, my husband and I decided to resign from our responsibilities in ministry that we had been taking on for over two years. We were burned out. It’s humbling to admit. When you’re fresh out of ministry school, you’re supposed to take on all sorts of service opportunities and keep plugging away despite inner and outer fatigue, right? Well, we thought so…until God woke us up from our stupor and said, “This is not what I have for you now.” Ouch. I was being uprooted once again from the life I thought I was supposed to be living. How patient our Savior is with us!

I am writing today to tell you that the last two months as a stay-at-home mom have been some of the happiest times I have ever experienced. I am spending much needed time in the Word and prayer to heal and recharge after the last few years of “energizer bunny” mode. My spirit is being built up instead of depleted as I take time to just be. I am not missing the big moments in my son’s life. I was there to see him take his first steps and say his first words! I can take him on walks and outings before the sun goes down now! I can actually keep the house fairly clean and make more than one home cooked meal a week. I can invest more in other relationships because I have more time and energy now. I still teach piano and flute lessons 3 afternoons/evenings a week, but 10 hours of work is so much more enjoyable than 50!

We’ve had to make some hefty sacrifices to allow me to stay home with our son this year. Our budget is so tight you couldn’t squeeze an extra dime out of it if you tried. We don’t have fancy meals like we may have had in the past at home. We rarely go out to eat. I have a ton of more alone time, which is nice, but also can get lonely. Motherhood is fun, but every once and a while I just really don’t want to pick up toys and wipe off sticky messes for the umpteenth time that same day. There are always pros and cons in life changes, but I am so grateful to be at this particular stage in life right now.

I was nervous to write about this subject today because I know that many of you are in the “burned out-can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel-want to bang my head against the wall” stage right now. If you are there, please be encouraged by my mistakes. I didn’t ask for help enough. Please ask someone in your family or church or friend circle to help you make a meal, clean, watch your kids, share some responsibilities in ministry. I put personal time with Jesus on the back burner far more than I’d like to admit. Please take even just 5 minutes to pray and meditate on a verse to rejuvenate your soul for the busy day ahead of you. I thought it was selfish to take time to care for myself. Please make it a priority to take care of you. How do you de-stress? I am encouraged and refreshed after taking a walk, snapping photos of nature, or reading a chapter in a good book. Find out what simple activity encourages your soul and do it, despite the responsibilities that loom around you. I’ve learned the hard way that if I don’t take care of myself, I am useless at taking care of my family and others. And lastly, I am learning each day that if I don’t thank God for the small things in life, I can easily become discontent and prideful. Even if it’s as simple as whispering “Thank you, God” for an open parking space or a tasty sip of coffee or a good hair day :), acknowledge the King’s generosity and love for you.

My prayer for you and I this week is that we may be vigilant in thanking God for his mercies and be OK with having limitations. May you be encouraged by the tiniest things this week and be refreshed in knowing that you are not alone in the struggles of life. If I could reach out from the screen and hug you right now, I would. We can do this! We can do this in the Almighty’s power and strength! You go, woman! 🙂

“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 62:5-6)

“With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.” (Psalm 18:29)

“And my God will supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

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Living in the Present

photo-3A shy little girl with gold curls clutched her basket filled with rose petals tightly. She gently stepped down the grass aisle in her lacy white dress. Focusing with all her might, she stopped in the middle of the path and rapidly dumped out all of the fragile pink petals. The audience giggled as she finished the long walk to the front with a triumphant smile on her rosy cheeks.

This precious scene from a recent wedding I attended has been revisited several times in my mind this week. I often struggle with living in the moment, taking far too much time and energy to worry about the future. The sweet flower girl at the wedding was focused on her one task at hand. She had a job to do and she did it with fierce concentration and determination.

I’ve been asking God lately to help me live in the present and to embrace each moment with joy. Moving to a new rental recently, learning how to raise a one-year-old boy, striving to be good piano and flute instructor, trying to keep our home organized, pinching pennies while grocery shopping, seeking out meaningful relationships, taking time to encourage others, and seeking to be a loving wife have been keeping my mind busy this last month. It is so easy to let my mind wander into the unknown future and begin to worry: “How are we going to pay bills next month? What if I don’t find other mom friends to spend time with this year? What if I miss an opportunity to encourage someone when they really need it?”

I have to stop myself when I begin this harmful pattern of worrying. I need to remind myself constantly that the future as most of us conceptualize it, doesn’t really exist. God holds it far beyond the reach of any person. When I gaze into the future, trying to make predictions, I am really just exercising my imagination. God is the only one who’s existence isn’t limited by time. Just as that little flower girl dropped petals to prepare the way for the bride, God goes before me too. He ensure that I never set foot on anything except the present moment.

So the next time I find myself fantasizing about the unknown, I am going to stop and wake myself up to the reality of the present moment. I’d rather live purposefully in this present reality than roam aimlessly in a fantasy land. My mind is accustomed to wandering into the future though, so I need to continually ask God to help me focus on the present. He is the only one who knows the future and can guide me in it, moment by moment. Praise Him for lovingly going before us down the aisle of life!

“‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.'” (Revelation 1:8)

“Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come?” (Ecclesiastes 8:7)

“The Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trust in Him.” (Psalm 32:10)

 

Keeping Up Appearances

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Embarrassed and disheveled, I walked into the pizza store for the second time of the evening. My shirt had tiny dirty handprints around the hem. There was sand from the playground sticking to my sweaty skin. My face didn’t have a single smear of makeup on it. Wisps of hair were falling out of my loose ponytail. I was clutching my grass-stained son when I hesitantly told the cashier, “I put the pizza I just bought here on the roof of my van and totally forgot to grab it before driving home.” After I got these pathetic words out, I felt better and decided to make light of the unfortunate situation: “So if you see a steamrolled pepperoni pizza on 12th street, you’ll know who’s it is.” We both laughed and the manager of the store was generous enough to give me a brand new, not run over pizza.

After I got home that night and popped the pizza into the oven, I asked myself, “Why was I so embarrassed?” The answer was an ugly realization-I cared too much about what others thought about me. Ouch. This wasn’t a new revelation though. Through the years I have tried to work on the pride and worry accompanied by keeping up appearances. It’s exhausting striving to make everyone happy all the time and pretending to be effortlessly put together.

Do you ever wish you could just learn a life lesson and be done with it? I am constantly baffled at how fickle my mind can be. I may spend several months wrestling a certain characteristic into submission, only to find that a while later I need to address the exact same subject again. But I’ve found that’s the process of growing in Christ. We can’t fully overcome our own flaws without the power of Jesus’ sacrificial example.

The good news is that the Royal Judge cares about the state of our heart rather than the state of our self-sufficiency. So what is most important to the King, should also be held as most important to me. I need to rely on His strength to overcome the temptation to blend in with the world and appear self-sufficient. I need to remember that most people who appear like they have it all together are actually struggling deeply; often relying on harmful substances and attitudes just to keep up the facade. I need to rely continually on the Savior so I can live more abundantly-continually, not just once in a while when I’m struggling; continually.

So the next time you and I have our own little “flying pizza” moment, may we remember that God’s approval is the only one that matters. May we cling to His promises as we progress through the process of becoming more like Him in this life. May we take hope in the fact that we don’t need to be perfect because Jesus has already come before us to assume that role. May we strive to care more about others than our own self-sufficiency. May we fully know that relying on Christ is not weakness, but strength. May we live in this blissful freedom this week!

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

“I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.” (Psalm 16:8)

“Cease striving and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10)

Mind Games

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Confession: I waste so much time and energy in wishing for different circumstances. When it’s frigid cold, I long for summer weather. When it’s blazing hot, I yearn for crisp autumn temperatures. I found recently that this is how my mind works so often-I reject today’s circumstances and daydream about how I would like things to be. I know this train of thinking is arrogant and foolish, but my mind so often claims this pattern as its default. I want more control over the thoughts that swish around in my head. I want my first reaction to the day’s challenges to be positive.

God worked through my 13-month-old to help me realize that I needed to change my thinking this week. We were playing at a park together one morning and Zane wanted to go down a big slide. So I set him in my lap and we whizzed down the metal slide until SPLASH! We slid right into a giant puddle of rain water at the end! My first reaction in my mind was, “Oh man! Now we’re all wet and we still have to walk back home! How did I not see the ‘lake’ on the slide?!” Zane’s reaction was quite the opposite. After we both stood up, he started splashing and giggling in the remaining water that hadn’t been mopped up by our cabooses. His abandonment and joy were contagious. I joined in with the laughing and splashing and what ensued was a priceless memory of pure happiness. We were still soaked. We were still a mess. But we chose joy instead of frustration.

After this simple illustration, I realized that I was taking life way too seriously and negatively. Daydreaming was leaving me empty and discontent. I was ready to discipline my rebellious mind and ask the Holy Spirit to counteract my weaknesses. I was ready to trust God more readily. I was finally ready to choose joy.

So now to help keep me accountable, I want to share my goals with you for Holy Spirit-controlled thinking for this fall:
~Each morning I am going to ask God to help me be available to accomplish His purposes for the day.
~Through the Holy Spirit’s power I am going to try to accept each day as a precious gift from Him, and thank God for it instead of wishing it away.
~Instead of wasting so much time and energy longing for what is not, I am going to invest that energy in trusting the Savior.
~Only God knows how much time and energy I will have each day, so I will ask Him to direct my thinking and decision making so that I can be the most available to others and to Him. ~When I find myself reacting to situations negatively, I will stop and review God’s truths and promises to get me back on the right track. 

May you and I claim the Holy Spirit’s power this week in our minds and hearts! May you and I cling to the hope that God gives us even in the toughest circumstances! May you and I choose joy!

“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6)

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!” (Psalm 118:24)

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Royal

10299005_10154206752045153_9161918324278248115_nI walked into a coffeeshop this morning and a beautiful scene greeted my eyes. A little girl with golden curls was sitting at a table with her father, smiling at him while sharing breakfast. Gently tied around this pretty 5-year-old’s shoulders was a pink silk cape with a golden crown painted on it. She was her daddy’s princess-it was evident in the way he lovingly wiped crumbs off her cheek and in the way she gazed back at him with trust and admiration. She was royal.

This lovely moment reminded me of Psalm 45, “Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention: Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord…all glorious is the princess within her chamber; her gown is interwoven with gold.” I have always wanted to write a book about a courageous girl who catches the eye of the king of the land with her bravery, humility, and integrity instead of just her outer appearance. This is many a girl’s dream-to be treasured for inner beauty. One of my favorite passages in Scripture is found in 1 Peter 3, “…your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, is of great worth in God’s sight.” 

So if we are of great worth in God’s eyes and we are treasured as being royal, why are we still suffering? Why do we feel beaten down and poor? I have taken great hope in Randy Alcorn’s insights lately. On this subject he shares, “God is preparing his children for a job-ruling a redeemed Earth. We’ve all seen what happens to princes and princesses raised in palaces, handed everything they want, having everything their way. They become spoiled and uncaring, poisoned by a spirit of entitlement. They aren’t fit to be servant leaders but only tyrants. God is using our present school of adversity to prepare us to reign with Christ, the Servant King of servant kings. God uses suffering to achieve the glorious transformation of our characters to prepare us for service and joy in the next life.”

I love this! We are being molded and transformed in this short life on earth so that we can rule with Christ in the everlasting kingdom to come! This gives me hope. It gives me purpose. It gives me joy. It helps me trust the King.

To be royal means to be of kingly ancestry. We are the children of the King of Kings! We are royal. We are privileged. We are important. We are loved. May you and I live this week with a new look at the pain that presents itself to us. May we face the suffering and the disappointments and the heartaches with the knowledge that we are being transformed into servant leaders for the kingdom of Jesus through all of it and that we are beautiful in the King’s eyes. All glory be to the Servant King!

Good or Safe?

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If you have been following the news in the Middle East these last couple of weeks, your heart is probably breaking like mine. When I heard that ISIS has been murdering innocent children and women just for being Christians, I nearly lost my lunch. How can there be such evil unchecked on this earth?! I actually asked that same question to God while praying this last week. I raised my voice and my tear-stained face up to the King and begged him to protect his family members overseas. Why?! Why does such evil still happen each day, much of it hidden except to the One Who Sees? Why can’t God grant our wishes and wipe out evil entirely today to keep us safe?

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Susan asks Mr. Beaver if Aslan the Lion is safe. “Who said anything about safe?” Mr. Beaver answers. “‘Course he isn’t safe. But He’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” Randy Alcorn states, “This is sound theology. God can be good without being safe; he can be loving without bowing to our very wish and desire.” Someday God will indeed remove all suffering and evil, but He will do this only when it accomplishes his greatest glory, which happens to also be our greatest good.

Alcorn suggests, “If we come to see the purpose of the universe as God’s long-term glory rather than our short-term happiness, then we will undergo a critical paradigm shift in tackling the problem of evil and suffering. The world has gone terribly wrong. God is going to fix it. First, for his eternal glory. Second, for our eternal good.” Think of it this way: God’s goodness encompasses much more than just whatever makes us feel safe and happy. He sees what we cannot. He acts where we cannot. He comforts when we cannot. He knows the plan inside and out and every once and a while may grant us the privilege of understanding a tiny part of it.

It’s easy to think that if God were just as good as we are, then suffering and evil wouldn’t exist. But Randy Alcorn argues, “On the contrary, evil and suffering wouldn’t exist if we were as good as God is.” So instead of asking God to remove all the pain and heartache from the world, we should instead be pleading for Him to grow us to be more and more like Him-good, kind, moral, loving, faithful, just, forgiving until the day when he chooses to come back to obliterate evil completely for his greatest glory.

So until that incredible day of redemption arrives, may you and I seek to be more like the Savior each day. May you and I trust the All Knowing One even when everything around us crumbles apart. May you and I comfort the hurting and forgive the hurters in this world. May you and I bring glory to Jesus Christ through his power!

“The Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.” (Isaiah 60:19)

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Revelation 4:11)

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

“When I am afraid, I will trust in You.” (Psalm 56:3)

“You will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.” (Jeremiah 29:12)

The Ugly Inside

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It happened on a scorchingly hot day. The pain is still seared into my mind. I was pushing my one-year-old in his stroller, dashing under shade trees for temporary relief from the blazing rays of the sun. I don’t remember exactly what triggered my brain to dive deeper into examination, but suddenly it was as if a scummy film had been scraped off my eyes and I could finally see the details and truth that had been in front of me all along. It was as if I was seeing a reflection of my actions and thoughts and they were staring back at me with ugly warts, rotting teeth, and unkempt hair. How had this happened? How had I let my thinking turn sour? I realized that I had been viewing the world through bitter, judgmental, prideful, and cynical lenses the last year. I stopped pushing the stroller, turned my warm face up toward the blazing sun, and wept. My son turned around and looked at me quizzically and I spoke out loud for the first time on our walk, “Mommy needs to ask God for forgiveness.”

Our pastor, Rick McKinley, recently stated: “The most courageous thing any of us may do is face the truth about ourselves. Grab the horns of the altar pleading for mercy for the darkness we find and raise our hands in praise for the light of His life in us, both can be equally terrifying.” God gave me the courage to face the truth and then the power to make the decision to change the destructive pattern I had drawn for myself carelessly. Praise the King for not giving up on His wayward children!

This last year has been the most difficult and challenging year that I can remember ever facing. Unforeseen circumstances, relationships, harsh words from others, fatigue, burn out-they beat me up inside and out and left me raw. I am ashamed to admit that I got tired of fighting and finally let them win. I didn’t realize this until months later though. Perhaps I was in denial or perhaps I was too worn out to put in the hard work of self-examination. Praise God that He allowed me to rest long enough this last week to wake me up from my sinful stupor to “grab the horns of the altar pleading for mercy for the darkness we find.”

I told my family recently that I haven’t felt like myself. I feel like the cheer and encouragement has escaped me like air out of a deflating balloon. I’m done letting the world beat me up and dictate how I feel and react. I have a choice. I can cling to the Creator’s promises and unfaltering character. I can focus on the positive aspects of situations. I can thank God in the midst of my weaknesses. I can ask others to keep me accountable. I can love people despite their failings because I fail too. I can examine my thoughts and actions daily through the Word and prayer so I never go long with poisonous behavior plaguing me. I can seek forgiveness from the King of Love for myself so that I can forgive others also. I can view myself as no better than any other person-we are all sinners in debt to our perfect Savior. I can live life cheerfully because God has gone before me to make this possible. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

May God give you and me the courage to face the ugly sin that creeps into our lives and the strength to put it behind us to embrace a righteous life that honors Him and encourages others. He is powerful! He has redeemed us! We can be beautiful again through His sacrifice! Thank you, Jesus.

“You however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit of God living in you.” (Romans 8:9a)

“Be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'” (Hebrews 13:5b)

“Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” (Psalm 34:5)