Category Archives: God

New Beginnings

Saw a challenge earlier and realized I could use it as a writing warm-up time. So, for the next thirty days, I will be completing Jeff Goins’ challenge to “practice in public” on this blog. It will be interesting to see what topics I can come up with.

For the past week, I’ve been using journaling prompts from bibleconnection.com as my topics. Today is the third prompt. I learned a great deal from the first two prompts, and I don’t expect anything less from the third one.

First, the prompt. “Beginnings can be exciting! What new chapter in your life are you about to begin? What have you recently started that you are excited about? What are you hopes for the future? Tell God about it—he wants to be involved in your life.”

The topic is new beginnings. Coincidence? I don’t think so. God has been leading me on a journey to trust Him and what He has given me as gifts. My gifts aren’t necessarily what other people think they are and not necessarily meant to be shared in the church.

So, what about that first question? What new chapter am I about to begin? The chapter of being an empty nester. My younger son is graduating from high school this spring. Though he will be staying at home for college, my role with him will change. Homeschooling will be done, and he will be venturing out to prepare for what he wants to do in life. He’s ready just like his brother was two and a half years ago when he graduated from high school. By the time this school year ends, I will have homeschooled them for 12 years. I was 40 when I began and will be 52 when I finish. That’s a lot of life. I am excited about the possibilities, but a little nervous too. I have poured myself into my kids for the last 12 years. I’ve lived in 6 different places and come back to my faith. I’ve lost family members and experienced illness and financial difficulties.

But, I know the next years will be just as amazing. I will have more time to write and maybe get something off the ground with my writing. I will have time to get in better shape. And I will have more time to either volunteer or get a job. My role with my kids will change, but it will be a good change I am looking forward to–relating with them as adults. I am most looking forward to growing in my faith in God. With God by my side, anything is possible, and I know the things I’ve mentioned will be more possible.

Answering the second question has more profound implications. I am most excited about my recent writing and where it is bringing me in my faith. The things I consider to be weaknesses are the things God wants me to focus on. Why weaknesses, I ask? Shouldn’t I be focusing on my strengths? That seems to be more logical. But, if I am transparent about my weaknesses, God has more of a chance to be seen in my life. This is shown in the first part of 2 Corinthians 12:9. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'” Paul is speaking here, and I’m glad we have the second part of what he said. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” We don’t generally boast about weaknesses in the church. In fact, we are reticent to bring up any part of ourselves which may be considered badly. That’s not what God wants though. God wants us to be as authentic within our community as He does when we are talking to Him alone.

So now, I have some knowledge of the steps God wants me to take. He wants me to be authentic and transparent. He wants me to show my weaknesses without being self-conscious. And He wants me to be confident in His love. For it is only in His love that my hopes for the future can be realized. They are all intertwined in order to show God’s glory. And that is the best hope of all!

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

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God’s Gifts

The other day I was sent an email from bibleconnectionnews.com with seven journaling prompts. When I looked at it, I decided the prompts would be good blog topics so I’m making my first attempt at one.

First, here’s the prompt. “God has chosen and gifted you with a wonderful set of skills, knowledge, and abilities unique to you–and he wants you to use those gifts to bring him praise. What talents and skills do you possess? What knowledge would you like to grow in? How are you planning to use this to honor God?”

I think God gives us gifts to use at the different stages of our lives. When I was in my 20’s, I could think of nothing better to do for God than work with kids. My bachelors and masters degrees were in psychology and teaching, and teaching kids seemed to be a natural fit. I would work with them on Sunday mornings, Sunday and Wednesday nights, and during Vacation Bible School. The energy and drive I had for God would sustain me, and I formed many precious relationships during those years.

This time went through the birth and preschool ages of my sons. Then, we left the church for several years. But, God had a plan for me though I wasn’t sharing my gifts within a church’s walls. I was teaching my own kids, and we were growing as a family. I was pouring myself and my gifts into my sons. I also began anew something I had started as a child–my writing. I would pour out my thoughts in notebooks, journals, and on the computer screen. The words I put together blossomed forth in my mind and took me through the good times as well as the bad. When times were bad, I would escape into my stories where I felt happy and fulfilled. God used this time to develop my talent so He could use it for His glory, and I am grateful.

When we came back to the church, I was in my 40’s. I could tell my energy had slowed down, and it took me awhile to find my feet at church. I had to learn to trust again and find out where I fit. I’ve done different things. I’ve worked in Vacation Bible School. I’ve greeted and cooked meals. I’ve formed relationships. I’ve even tried writing. That one didn’t work too well. 😦

In fact, this year has been a year of things that haven’t worked too well. From greeting to working with kids, I’ve been told that things I’ve done at church haven’t been done the way people have wanted them done, or I’ve had experiences at church that I never want to repeat again. (Ask me about the day when I watched  fifteen children from the ages of 5 to 12 by myself for three hours.)  It’s hard to come home crying from doing something in the church for God that used to give me such joy. I didn’t think things had changed that much in the way of teaching kids, but apparently they have so I knew at that point that my gift of teaching kids was gone. Gone like the energy and drive of my 20’s.

So, I’ve had to figure out that maybe I don’t have gifts to share in the church like my husband does. Yes, the ones he gets phone calls and emails about all of the time. I looked back at this blog I started a couple of years ago and thought that maybe my gifts aren’t meant to be shared inside the church. I write in this blog for God’s glory, and there is not a person who can tell me I can’t because I’m a woman or for any other reason. I can talk about my relationship with God and tell truths about what He’s doing in my life. I can also talk about what I’m learning through my studies and my prayer time. In short, share my writing for His glory.

In answer to the last two questions, I want to grow in my knowledge of writing. I want to write consistently with God-honoring words. I want to share my writing with others so they can know God’s love. And I want to do my best to honor God in this next phase of my life as I did when I was younger. Share the gifts He has given me for this time and jump into the unknown trusting God will stay right beside me.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Giving it to God

How many ways have we tried to solve tough situations on our own? Going through a tough situation is against our nature so when it comes upon us, we do our best to get away from it as quickly as possible. We do such things as talk to the people involved and ask others for advice. We feel such emotions as worry, anxiety, and depression. We pray too, but we are mostly just consumed with what is going on. I’m sure all of us have had these same emotions and thoughts and sometimes, more than one at a time which can get confusing.

God doesn’t want our lives to be like this though. He wants us to leave our burdens at His feet and find rest as it says in Matthew 11:28-30. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Christ’s burden–I like that better than the burden of feeling left out because there was no room in the car or the burden of trying to convince a family member that God loves them even when nothing about their situation changes, and they keep dealing with the same fears over and over again.

Earlier in this post, I wrote a list of the things people do and the way they feel in tough situations. One of those things is beneficial–something that God wants us to do along with releasing the burden to Him. Prayer. Talk to our Lord and Savior about anything and everything. He wants that deep relationship with us, but sadly, most of us just include prayer in a list of things to do in a tough situation and don’t believe there is power in prayer only offering up a superficial prayer, at most.

There is power in prayer though, and I’m starting to think God is wanting me to take it off of the list and depend on it alone.  Jesus says this in Mark 11:22-25. “‘Have faith in God,’ Jesus answered. ‘I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins.'”

Wow! The power in these verses. The power of the words can be heard when they are said out loud. I want that power in my life. Shouldn’t all of us who are believers want that power in their lives? Now, before anyone says they have prayed and prayed to God and nothing has happened, let me offer some disclaimers. I know I’m not going to get everything I want by praying, and I know for sure that money is not going to pour out of the sky in my direction. Everyone would be a Christian if those kind of “pie in the sky” prayers worked. 🙂

No, God wants our prayers to be honoring to Him. He wants out prayers to honor Him and to honor our faith in Him. He wants our prayers to be the “Even if” and the “Your will be done” kind of prayers. Those are the kind of prayers which have power.

Some of you might remember me speaking of the song “Even If” by Mercy Me several weeks ago, and I think the chorus of the song is the perfect way to end this post.

“I know You’re able, and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone.”

My hope is in my Lord and Savior alone, and today, I give everything in my life to Him!”

 

Praying for God’s blessings on you all!

Healing in my Heart

Last week, I wrote about a new Bible study I was starting. A study which talks about rejection and how God can fill those empty places caused by rejection if we would just let Him. “Let go and let God.” We’ve heard these words; we’ve seen these words written down, but do we really practice them? Like I said last week, I fail at practicing them a lot. They seem so simple, but they can be difficult in our Christian walk.

Something happened though as I was dealing with that difficult situation from last week, and I realized that, through it, God has already opened my heart for His healing to start pouring in. My open heart has made me more open to hearing His voice (through prayer and Scripture), to hearing the author of the Bible study as she imparts His truths, and to releasing any guilt I might be feeling for taking a step back. Keeping my eyes on Jesus and not on the world has been the best thing for me as I am listening for what He wants me to hear.

God has also met me with specific words about the situation I was dealing with, and this is where releasing guilt comes in. My Lord has given me many gifts, but dealing with preteen boys is not one of them. I could feel guilty about not doing my “part” at church to help out with them, but it is not my job to acknowledge and use gifts that God has given to other people. That’s between them and God.

I also had some other takeaways related to the Uninvited study. I’m not a popular person at church and won’t ever be the popular person at church. I’m not going to be close with everyone, but Jesus commands me to love everyone. (I’m still figuring out how that works.) Prayer is the most important thing we believers can do as we live out our lives here in this world. Making the effort in relationships is what God wants us to do even if it turns out badly. Pulling back for a season is ok too.

The previous paragraph is a hodgepodge of disparate thoughts, and one might wonder how they would work if a person is in an environment where they are experiencing continual rejection. One of these is covered in the Uninvited study. The session this week talked about going into a situation being filled by God as opposed to expecting to be filled by others. As I’ve studied Scripture and prayed, I have come to realize the truth of this statement. God is waiting to fill us. We only need to ask Him which I think, sadly, not a lot of us are doing these days.

I think the other thing though is a sad statement on all of us who are believers. We have all done our fair share of rejecting people–only seeing our differences and not seeing the things that are the same namely that we who are believers are brothers and sisters in Christ. Personally, if someone is in a church and experiencing continual rejection, I would question the salvation of those believers. Harsh words, yes. But, we all need to know the truth of what God wants from us. Rejecting others is a sin. He wants us to embrace our differences and our similarities as we live out our lives as one body.

It has been life changing and healing to be a part of this study so far. To have God’s healing grace moving in my life has helped me understand what He wants from me as a believer. I’m looking forward to what else He has to teach me through it.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

The Gift

There’s a lake near where we live. It’s one of my favorite places to go and write. I can look at the waters flow from my perch on the stone bench. It is peaceful in a way that not a lot is right now. The area is green and lush with trees and bushes. I see different kinds of birds on the water and marvel at God’s creation. Essentially, it’s a gift God has given me when life gets to be too much.

But, before yesterday, I hadn’t been out there for a few weeks. Between the high humidity and the rain we’ve been having, it just hasn’t been pleasant to be outside. It was different yesterday. When I was at church, I heard a whisper. ‘You need to go out to the lake this afternoon.’ So, once I got home, I went out there. The first thing I noticed was that the breeze was much cooler. The humidity was the lowest it’s been in a few weeks (and that says something since I live in the southern United States, and it’s summertime). The next thing I noticed was the flow of the water. It was peaceful.

God brought me out there for a reason, and it got me to thinking. How often do we reject His gift to us–the gift of Jesus? How often do we reject His gift of grace? How often do we not extend His gift of grace to others? Sometimes, I have a hard time with grace, and I’m the one whose blog is named Thriving in Grace. 🙂 I’m glad that God lets us ask the hard questions though. If He didn’t, I’m not sure where my faith would be as I’ve had to ask a lot of tough questions.

The gift is always there though. Just like the gift of my place by the lake. I can not go to the lake for a few weeks just like I can try to do things by myself and not ask for God’s help. That doesn’t mean the gift disappears. It just means our focus is not where it’s supposed to be. I want to acknowledge and live out God’s gift in my life. I don’t want to be the person who puts down the gift and leaves it alone.

So, I guess what I need is the ability to focus on the gift and not focus on the minutiae of my life. It is too bad that Satan uses that very thing to distract us. But, God’s gift is too important to lay aside so my prayer, even though I will never be perfect at it, is for all of us to take possession of His gift and leave our burdens at His feet.

God’s blessings on all of you today.

God’s Tears

The inspiration for this post began last week. I subscribe to several devotional emails as I’m sure some of you do. I received one of those on Thursday, and it was eye-opening. It spoke of how our churches have lost the art of lament and contained an excerpt of a book entitled No More Faking Fine. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I do pretty well with the written word when I communicate what is going on in my life, but not so well with the spoken one. In fact, if you know me in person, faking fine is something I can do quite well, and if it gets to the point where I can’t fake fine anymore, I feel very awkward talking about what’s going on.

So, I decided this book was a necessary purchase for me and have begun reading it. I will review it when I’m done so I’m not going to go into any of the details yet. Finding out about the book was just a springboard for this post.

Anyway, for the last several posts, I have talked about what is going on with my husband (no news yet as to what it is) and relating it to my faith. The last few years have been hard, and this time has been particularly hard.

Fast forward to this morning. I had to get up very early to take my younger son up to the church for a hiking trip he was going on with his youth group. It was so early that I watched it get lighter and lighter as I waited for the bus to leave. When I got back home, it was still early so I decided to take my chair and sit outside and write in my journal. It began raining as I wrote. I wrote a half page, a full-page, and then stopped when I was on the second page. I watched the rain come down and remembered the Scripture I had read in the devotion. I know God has many purposes for rain, but at that point, the only thing I could think of was that God was crying. Expressing grief at all that I’ve had and will have to go through. Crying on my behalf. There’s not a lot of people who will do that. Oh, they will try to sympathize, and maybe one or two will empathize, but mostly, I cry alone. But, that’s not true. I don’t cry alone. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at some Scriptures.

Genesis 6:5-6 says, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved.” Grief–sure sounds like crying to me.

The Holy Spirit also grieves. From Isaiah 63:10: “Yet they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit.” Yes, there’s another example.

And finally, the one we’re all the most likely to be familiar with. The shortest verse in the Bible. John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept.” We look at that verse and say, “Oh how nice, He was mourning the loss of his friend even though He was about to resurrect Him from the dead.” But, we don’t translate that to today’s church. People are made to feel awkward if they share their pain at church, if they answer the question of ‘How are you?’ with nothing but fine. I feel awkward too, but I have come to realize that I might be a pioneer in my own circle. I’ll speak more of this once I’ve finished reading the book, but God wants us to be sad with him as well as happy. He wants all of us because He loves all of us, and we all need to realize that.

But, back to the rain. God was crying with me. It brought an inexplicable peace to my heart. A peace that passes understanding. The peace that is described in John 14:27. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” It has been one of my favorite verses for a long time.

So, I grieved, and then I had peace. I think there might be something to this “not faking fine”. More thoughts when I am done with the book. In the meantime, I pray for the peace that passes understanding for all of you.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Uncomfortable Questions

This post was inspired by two conversations I had on Sunday–one with a nurse who spoke of how family members of certain patients were wanting the hospital to do everything they could to save their patient when it was clear they needed to start letting go and another conversation with someone about death. And it got me to wondering–why are Christians so afraid of death? I wouldn’t think there would be any reason to be afraid of death. Those of us who believe are going to our eternal home with our Lord and Savior. There should be no reason to be afraid.

But, some Christians are afraid so I wondered why they might be afraid of death. Is it the unknown? Is it a fear of being alone? Is it….because they’re just not sure? And those are the questions I want to explore today. Some people might be afraid that when they get to the other side, God won’t be there. I’ll be honest. I admit I have entertained those thoughts. Where has God been through all of my husband’s illnesses? Through all of our attempts to gain stability? Through all of our attempts to provide for ourselves and to give money to the church? To do all the things the church teaches that we’re supposed to do as Christians? I don’t understand. I have seen people at church who seem much more successful than we have ever been or ever hope to be. Have we not been the Christians God has wanted us to be. How does all this work?

I type these questions and realize I’m asking the wrong questions. It’s not what the church teaches us. It’s what Jesus teaches us. They get all mixed up sometimes which is why I get mixed up. We put all these rules on ourselves which Jesus didn’t do. And sometimes, the people who serve in our churches don’t speak the words God would have them speak or they speak the words others want them to speak. They’re not perfect just like we’re not perfect, and that is something we and I need to remember. That is why I need to study the Scriptures for myself and know what they say for myself and not just depend on what someone else tells me. Maybe, if more of us did that, we wouldn’t have as many problems in our churches.

Then, there are the family members of the people who are dying. They are scared to let their family member go because they’re afraid of being without them. They’re afraid of being alone. I’ve talked before about how the church doesn’t really know what to do with the person who is alone in church, who is without a family. And I believe that has contributed to why people want to explore every possibility of keeping their family member alive before letting them go or letting them die with dignity.

These are hard questions, and there are no easy answers, but it’s important we talk about them. Talk about what we want. That’s what I did Sunday night with my husband. I told him that when the time came, I wanted him to let me go, to let me go and see Jesus. Because that is what I want with all my heart. To be with my Lord and Savior in my eternal home in praise and worship forever.

I’m so grateful that God doesn’t mind if we ask uncomfortable questions. I’m grateful that He has been there through everything we have been through. He wants to talk with all of us and have a relationship with us even if we have what we think are uncomfortable questions. I pray that all of us would have the courage to ask God the questions we need to ask even if they are uncomfortable questions.

God’s blessings on all of you today!