That Pesky Thorn

What is that thorn in your side? One of mine is perfectionism. I’ve wrestled with this since I was a teenager. It used to be so much worse, but God has been working on me with this one for a long time. It’s gotten a lot better, but still rears its ugly head during times of stress or uncertainty. The other day, I made a lot of mistakes and felt like a failure. I’ll admit. I didn’t want to write. I felt unqualified, but my husband suggested I make a list of all the ways I’m not perfect and all the ways God is. So here I am.

Here are 6 ways I’m far from perfect:

I’m impatient

I can be negative

I get easily frustrated

I like things done a certain way

I raise my voice

I struggle with letting go

Here are 6 ways that God is perfect:

1. He is the God of all grace and His grace is sufficient. His power is made perfect in weakness.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. -2 Corinthians 12:9

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. -1 Peter 5:10

Grace upon grace upon grace. See the common theme? His grace more than makes up for our weaknesses. In fact, His power is made perfect in our weakness. His power shines through our weaknesses. It is through our flaws and brokenness that He can best work and be glorified.

2. His way is perfect and His Word is flawless.

As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. -Psalm 18:30

Our way is not even close to perfect, but His is. When we try to do things in our own strength and our own way, we falter. Earlier this week, I tried to be and do in my own strength and I failed. He is our refuge though, and we can take shelter in Him when we make mistakes. And His Word is flawless, so we can rely on that Truth to help correct and instruct us to live a more righteous life. When we are struggling with guilt and perfectionism, meditating on His Word, which is alive and powerful, can also restore us.

3. He is Holy.

“There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.” 1 Samual 2:2

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Holy as “exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness.” It also says that holy means: divine. There is no one holy like Him. And therefore, only He can help us become more holy and righteous, because we were made in His image. We can’t do this on our own.

4. His works are perfect. He does no wrong.

He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. -Deuteronomy 32:4

He is a perfect and just God on whom we can stand. When we stand firm on the Rock, we can withstand anything. If He is our foundation, we will not collapse under the weight of our failures.

5. The Law of the Lord is perfect.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; -Psalm 19:7

His law is meant to instruct us in the right way and when we obey His law, He will restore us and renew our spirits. With obedience, comes blessings. So when we are struggling with perfectionism and guilt, let’s ask ourselves if we are following His law.

6. He is the God of love and peace.

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. -2 Corinthians 13:11

He is love and He is peace. And His perfect love casts out fear. So when we are afraid that we aren’t enough-that we aren’t perfect enough, that we aren’t doing enough-that we aren’t (fill in the blank) enough, we can rest assured that His perfect love will cast out that fear if we let it.

Therefore, those times when we try to be perfect, and we can’t, we don’t have to fear, because we have a God who is. And He will fill in the gaps for us with His love, mercy and grace. For He is perfect in all of His ways. And He is a God who loves without limits.

10 Verses to Keep the Stress at Bay This Christmas Season

With Christmas around the corner, and the hustle and bustle of the holidays at our feet, things can get stressful quickly if we aren’t careful. And this year, with Covid-19, the way we celebrate may be different. Life is already hard and when we have to find new ways of doing things, it can be even more difficult. Here are 10 verses to remind us that the Christmas season need not be stressful. Meditate on these often to help you get through in one “peace”:

1. Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. -Psalm 55:22

2. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.-Psalm 16:8

3. I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.-Jeremiah 31:25

4. Set your minds on things above, not earthly things. -Colossians 3:2

5. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. -Matthew 6:34

6. Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his face always- 1 Chronicles 16:11

7. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I don’t give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. -John 14:27

8. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me. -Psalms 63:7-8

9. The Lord replied, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” -Exodus 33:14

10. The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. -Psalm 29:11

20 Christmas Songs that You Will Definitely Want to Add to Your Christmas Playlist

What’s on your Christmas playlist this year? Last night, I listened to several Christmas songs. Many of these I had never heard before, but are by some of my favorite artists. Carefully selecting each song, I came up with an amazing playlist that I think you might just love. I challenge you to listen to the entire playlist and let me know what you think.

  1. Into the Silent Night-For King and Country
  2. Mary, Did You Know?-Pentatonix
  3. Born is the King (It’s Christmas)-Hillsong
  4. The Heart of Christmas-Matthew West
  5. Noel (featuring Lauren Daigle)-Chris Tomlin
  6. Glorious-For King and Country
  7. Christmas Day-Chris Tomlin and We The Kingdom
  8. Light of the World-Lauren Daigle
  9. Away in a Manger-Jeremy Camp
  10. Hope was Born This Night-Sidewalk Prophets
  11. Joy to the World-Hillsong
  12. Baby Boy-For King and Country
  13. Come to Jesus-People of the Earth
  14. Oh Come All Ye Faithful-Red Rocks Worship
  15. Hey Moon-Sidewalk Prophets
  16. Hallelujah-Pentatonix
  17. O Holy Night-Group 1 Crew
  18. Rest (The Song of the Innkeeper)-Jason Gray
  19. When Hope Came Down-Kari Jobe
  20. Redemption Song-Mikeschair

ABC’s of a Christ-Centered Christmas

Aim your eyes at Him and you will experience the joy that only He can give.

Be Merry by rejoicing in His goodness!

Come to Him as you are, frazzled and all. He doesn’t care. He just wants you, 

Do everything as if you are doing it for the Lord-all the shopping, all the wrapping, all the cleaning, all the cooking, all the honey-do lists-all of it.

Every good thing in your life, thank Him for. Make a gratitude garland by cutting out paper shaped Christmas lights, coloring them, and writing down something you are thankful for each day on the individual lights.

Find others to serve. Someone is always in need. 

Give with a cheerful heart. This year, cheerfully give a gift to your least favorite person.

Have a birthday party for Jesus and don’t forget to bake Him a cake!

Illuminate others through acts of kindness, like filling Christmas socks full of candy, tying them with shiny ribbon, attaching a Christmas verse and dropping them at your neighbor’s doorstep.

Jam to Christian Christmas music. Hillsong, For King and Country, and Matthew West are some of my faves. Pentatonix also has some amazing Christian Christmas songs.

Keep Him at the center of your celebrations. Pray before meals and have each person thank Jesus for something or pass around the Christmas story and have each family member read a short section. 

Love with all your heart. Don’t hold back.

Make memories with crafts, games, and stories that include Jesus. Pinterest has many nativity crafts and ornaments that are fun to make. 

Nurture your relationship with Jesus by making time for Him, and wrap yourself in His peace. 

Order faith-based Christian gifts for others or better yet, make something and attach a card with something you love or appreciate about them.

Pray for a friend or family member. There are a lot of people struggling right now.  

Quench your thirst by reading the Word. Hop onto the YouVersion Bible app and begin a Christmas devotional.

Rest in Him by setting aside moments throughout each day where you pause, close your eyes and breathe in His peace.

Seek Him in everything you do and commit all your plans to Him. He will help you to not burn out.  

Teach someone about Jesus’s love by telling them what He has done in your life. 

Use Jesus as the talking point in your conversations. Be bold and bring others to Christ. 

View forgiveness as a gift to not only the other person, but yourself, and forgive someone who hurt you. Give yourself and someone else the gift of forgiveness this Christmas!

Worship the Prince of Peace by praising Him, singing to Him and dancing in His presence.   

eXplain the Christmas story to a neighbor or friend. 

Yield to Him. Surrender it all-all your stress, all the busyness, all your hurts and hangups-bring it all to Him. 

Zap any negativity as soon as it enters your mind. Change the channel in your head to more positive thoughts by thinking about what is lovely, beautiful and true.

Tested to Purify

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many 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

When the storms are raging all around us, and the trials are piling up in heaps, how to we hold onto our faith and how do we count it all joy? These are the questions I am asking myself right now.

If faith is believing even when we cannot see, and we are supposed to walk by faith, not by sight, maybe I’m just not seeing yet. Yet is the key word. I may be blinded right now to what’s up ahead, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. Maybe, just maybe, He has something waiting around the bend that is far better than I can imagine. This is faith and hope and I’m going to hold onto it. Just because I can’t see, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. He knows the plans He has for us, and He tells us that they are plans to prosper us and not harm us, plans to give us a hope and a future. We can clutch onto this piece of Truth. But, that isn’t to say that we aren’t in the fiery furnace right now or that it’s easy to hang onto our faith.

As the hurricane of life sweeps in, He tells us to continue to be faithful. How though, when it’s all so heavy and it hurts? And then when we become flooded with doubts? One way we do this is by nourishing ourselves in the Word and soaking up His teachings, so that we can keep putting one foot in front of the other in a Christlike manner. His Word is refreshment for our souls. We read and we memorize. We tuck His words deep into our hearts so we don’t forget them. His Word is a lifeline to the One who carries us, the One who is hope.

We put our hope in our Father and we realize that He is doing something bigger here-He is training us and growing our faith during these times. And if we are afraid of the unknown or we can’t see a way out of the flames, we rise above our fear and we choose to trust. We make that choice and act as if we trust, even when it appears that the dark clouds will never make way for the sun to shine again. We continue to stand firm in Him, trusting that He knows what’s best for us and that He has our best interests in mind. Because He does.

And the joy part. This is where I stumble. How do we consider these trials joy? And how do we feel some joy in the inferno?

For one, we keep our eye on the prize. We will have trouble this side of Heaven. This is a given. Yet, Heaven is our reward and we have to continue to persevere and run the race for Him. We have to sacrifice our comforts now, by accepting the pain and suffering, and knowing that we will be blessed beyond measure later. We remember that this agony we are enduring in this moment will be nothing compared to the joy we will experience when we receive the crown that He has for us. So we look up and keep our focus on what is waiting for us. We can do something else though, too.

Phillipians 4:8 tells us “…whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” We think about the things in front of us that are lovely and praiseworthy and true and right. These are things that can give us joy now.

And worshiping Him in the pain will also bring us joy and peace. We raise our hands, crank up the Christian jams and we sing and dance through the pain and frustration, rejoicing in Him. He will comfort our hearts and give us the gift of joy, despite our circumstances.

In 1 Timothy 4: 8-10, Paul writes to Timothy, “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” Then he states “This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our HOPE is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people.” The struggles will be there. He says that, but so is He, because where He is, our hope lies. And He never wavers.

He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. -Psalms 112:7

Acceptance for the Win

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God can bring peace to your past, purpose to your present and hope to your future. -John 14:27

During this crazy, isolating pandemic, I needed a way to serve and God put it on my heart to share my story. Tired of posting snippets of my life on social media, where lives are made to look picture perfect, I took a break and God spoke. So, here I am! And I’m going to be real here, y’all. I want to show the messy, the imperfect, and the struggle in the journey. My journey has never been a straight line or even just a little crooked. It’s been a full on three steps forward, two steps back–again and again, twirls and zigzags, abrupt stops and detours, a cliff drop here and there where I’m hanging by a thread, a long crawl back up, and yet another stumble. I’ve battled abandonment issues, food addiction, chronic illness, postpartum depression and more. I often wonder why I was put on this Earth to begin with, because compared to the amount of suffering I’ve endured, I’ve experienced much less joy in my life. Maybe this blog is why. Maybe it’s not. I don’t know, but I have to believe that He has a purpose for my suffering. Maybe that purpose is telling my story to let others know they are not alone or maybe it’s to bring hope to those who are currently enduring hardships and need some light shed in their lives. Right now, I’m needing some light too. I’ll be honest. Today, I don’t have a lot of hope myself, but perhaps, as I write, I’ll find some in this blog as well, because this last week-heck this last year—or three, have been really, really rough.

A couple of weeks ago, the waves of life came crashing down yet again, just when we were beginning to get settled into our cozy little cabin in Alaska. This cabin, we found out, had toxic mold, so we had to move a second time. Not only that though, less than a week moved in and we have run into problem after problem with this newest abode. I noticed I was becoming REALLY angry-like blood boiling angry, and I know there is always something more behind the anger so I started digging around and realized that I’m struggling with acceptance. I have been in a full blown boxing match fighting with reality because I don’t like the temporary living situation we are currently in and since I haven’t been able to accept it, it’s causing me more suffering and more frustration. I don’t know why our lives have been full of trials-so many, many trials. But as I write this, I can see how exhausting and futile it has been to fight against the things I cannot change, so I must accept our current circumstances as they are for the moment. This doesn’t mean I have to like them or approve of them or that these circumstances are what I’m choosing, but they are what they are for right now. The more I resist, the more I will suffer, so I will choose the less painful road this time. I will be thankful for the things I do have and look for the lesson, while continuing to hope in the One who has carried me this far.

Tonight, as I wrestled with anger and acceptance, I remembered a passage from the A.A. Big Book that had helped me in the past. I pray that this will help you too:

“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation-some fact of my life-unacceptable to me. I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake…unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes.” Alcoholics Anonymous (Big Book), 4th Edition P. 417