Why I Pray

Why I Pray

After spending about fifteen minutes complaining about her life and all that was going wrong in it, she asked me, “how do you stay so positive?” My response, “I pray.” Then she asked, very sarcastically, “why, why even bother?”  To say that I was shocked or even bothered by her asking why would definitely not be telling the truth.  To be perfectly honest, I am no longer bothered or agitated when people question my ability to stay positive or, in this case, why I bother praying.  I actually thought it was rather ironic that she would question my positive attitude amidst her complaining, frustration and negative attitude.  Now, are there times when I’m not so positive…absolutely.  But those times are happening further and further apart.  The older I get, the more I come to realize what is really important in my life.  For me, that is my faith, my relationship with God, my family and my true friends.

Each day I wake up, turn on my television or browse the internet, I am being constantly fed the negativity that has begun to blanket this world.  Here and there, I will find a few newsworthy bright spots.  However, it seems that the negative definitely outweighs the positive.  So here is my response to her “why” question: The way I see it, I can continue to contribute to the negativity of this world by complaining about all the things that are going wrong with the world, with my life, with my job, my family, etc., and in the process negatively impacting my own health and peace of mind or I can pray.  I can pray for peace, positive outcomes, a clear heart and mind.  I can pray for my family, for my children and for my students.  I can pray to see the goodness in others rather than assuming the worst about them.  For me, prayer helps me to keep the truth about my real identity in constant, unbroken focus before me.  Prayer also makes me aware of all of the resources and strength and protection God has already placed at my side.  It works for me.  It may not be for others but if you find yourself in a constant negative state, you might want to give prayer a try.

Know your worth…:)

 

 

 

The Brighter Side

The Brighter  Side

 

I was speaking with a friend of mine recently.  She and I talked at length about some personal things she has been going through.  For the most part, I simply sat and listened.  As she talked, thoughts ran through my mind about a few ways she could probably fix a situation or two she had mentioned.  What kept me from chiming in is a promise I made to myself a long time ago to not interrupt someone who was in the middle of sharing with me what they felt were trying or difficult situations.

I had a few challenges as I was growing up.  One of the things that bothered me most was when I tried to talk to someone, a friend or family member about my challenges they didn’t actually listen to what I was saying.  A number of things happened that made me never want to talk to them again.  I was either interrupted while I talked, given some off-handed solution to the situation, told that as time passed it would work itself out or to simply not worry about it.  Nine times out of ten, none of those things worked.  Common sayings or general statements like that don’t help anybody.  As I have grown, I have come to realize that when my friends come to me with problems or frustrations, what they really want is for someone to listen.  They don’t want solutions, feedback or extra conversation.  They just want to be heard.  So, I do my best to keep the promise I made to myself to not interrupt or give unsolicited advice.

If asked, at a moments notice, I know that I could probably think of all the things I felt went wrong in my life or situations I thought were much too difficult for me to handle.  There are definitely some things, if given the chance, I would go back and change.  Well, since that is not an option, I focus on what I can do differently now that I am older and hopefully wiser.  When given the opportunity, by request, to share my thoughts with friends who are experiencing a difficult time, here are some things I often share:

  1.  The thing you feed the longest is the thing that is the strongest.  Be aware of the activity going on inside your mind.  Basically, when we constantly turn over in our minds the problem or situation we are going through, the longer it takes to see a solution or a way out. The more we think about it, the more it takes root in our minds and in our spirit; therefore, the longer it will take to get rid of.  So, be aware of how much you feed the problem.
  2.   Pray and pray often.  Make prayer apart of your daily routine.  I like to have my quiet moment, meditation and prayer time first thing in the morning.  For me, this helps to start my day with a positive purpose.  Often I read a scripture or reflect on something that stays with me and helps me to stay focused and purpose driven all day.  When the tough times come, my mind and spirit are prepared to deal with the issues in a more relaxed and positive way.
  3.   If prayer is not your thing, try positive affirmations and gratitude.  Use index cards, sticky notes or whatever writing material you are comfortable with to write down quotes, positive thoughts or things that you are grateful for.  Put these where you can see them throughout your day to remind you of the things that are going right in your life and you will be less likely to focus on the things that aren’t going so great.
  4.  Shift your mental thoughts.  When your mind starts to wander to those things and situations that are overwhelming you or causing you frustration, force your thoughts to something positive.  Deliberately, shift your mental thoughts to something you enjoy or a goal you’ve set for yourself.

While, I know that there is no quick fix to any problem or situation, the goal is to know and understand that there will be situations and issues that will cause us to struggle.  But, what we want to do is be so prepared that when they do come they do not cause damage to our mental health with depression or stress.  Nor to our physical health with weight gain or joint pain.  Find those things in life that you enjoy and that make you happy.  Do those things and do them often. Build up your positives so that your negatives don’t overtake you.

Finding the brighter side…😊

 

Giving God a Break

Ever have one of those days where nothing seems to go right?  No matter how hard or how much you’ve prayed, it seems like God is wearing ear plugs or something because absolutely nothing is getting through?  That was me all this week.  Everything that could go wrong did!  Bad news was common place, my oldest was on one, the one Christmas gift I ordered online (and would like to send to my niece and nephew in California) was sent to the wrong post office and has yet to be rerouted and I just I felt as if I were at my whits end.  This time of year can also be a bit challenging at work as students begin to get that “Winter Break is almost here” feeling and need to be redirected a little more than usual.  It’s moments like these when I feel like I just need to give God a break.  Not out of anger, but sheer exhaustion.  I have so much going on that I begin to feel like more of a burden to him than a grateful, happy daughter.

So, in being very honest, when I decide to “give God a break”, I stop having quiet times, I take down my prayer wall and put away my bible and journal.  Now that ought to fix things, right?  Ha!  It is in these moments when I am reminded of God most.  All of a sudden I am surrounded by the thoughts of all God has taught me and shown me during my morning quiet times, prayers and meditation.  I am reminded that I am a chosen daughter, exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty (Eph. 2:10).  It is these moments that I am reminded that prayer and my daily relationship with God is what makes me aware of all the resources, strength and protection God has already placed at my side (2 Kings 6:16).

So, you see, even when it seems that the worst of times is upon you, your daily study of God’s word during those still, dark mornings when you are barely awake and trying to get in a study before all breaks loose in the house with kids running to get ready for school, the significant other yelling for his lunch and morning coffee, the new grand baby crying for his morning milk and the dog needing to be let out…your daily time with God is what prepares you for these not so great times that are sure to come.  Be reminded that it is in these times when the importance of building a relationship with God shows through.  I encourage you to have a quiet time every morning.

I am very grateful that my “breaks” do not last long at all!  How can they?  Just when I thought God was not listening, he seems to start talking non-stop and there is no way to simply ignore God’s voice and tugging at your heart.  After a day or two of trying my best to “take a break” (like I was really going to win) my bible finds its way back onto my nightstand, my letters, thoughts and prayers go back up on the wall and my quiet times take on a life of their own.  I am very grateful that I have a Father who never turns his back on me.

 

Enjoy your day!  Wishing my mommy in heaven a happy birthday today! 🙂

Be Open

I love my blog!  I don’t get to post to it as often as I like but I still love it!  Like everyone else in the world I work and have a family to take care of.  Finding a good, quiet thirty minutes to spend on my blog can be challenging, however, I have this crazy love and passion for writing.  I may not post to my blog everyday but I definitely write everyday.  I have to.  Writing is like breathing for me.  I have journals that date back to high school and it is really crazy to read and see just how much I have grown and changed as a woman.  One thing I think helps me to continue growing is my openness and willingness to try new things.  My dad had a saying, “Try it at least once.  If you don’t like it, don’t do it again but how will you ever know if you like or don’t like something if you don’t at least try it once?” My sister and I have lived by that for practically all of our lives.

Earlier this week, my life partner and I were having a discussion about how God uses even the simplest of things to speak to us.  He, my life partner, is not always as open as I am to trying new things.  He will sometimes but he doesn’t like being too far outside his comfort zone.  On Sunday, he happened to be flipping through the channels and came across the Joel Osteen program.  He had never watched the program before but something Mr. Osteen said just before he flipped the channel made him stop and listen.  He watched the entire program.  At the end, he and I talked at length about the message and how it resonated with him.  He talked about how he was glad he’d watched it because it gave him some clarity about somethings he’d been dealing with.  He also made a statement which I absolutely love, he said,  “even though I’m southern and enjoy a good hooping word every now and again it was nice to hear a good practical message that I can clearly understand and apply to my life.  It’s amazing how God can use different people to minster to you.”

I would definitely have to agree with that statement.  We never know when God will speak to us or who He will use to do it.  Yes, we have to be careful what we listen to and sometimes careful of the person delivering the message but I believe that this is one reason why it is so important to know God’s word for ourselves, so that we are able to discern God’s true word for our lives rather than simply someones loaded opinion of what we should or should not be doing.  From my dad, be open to trying new things at least once and from my love, be open to stepping out of your comfort zone… just a little.

Enjoy your day and thank you to all of the men and women who have served and are still serving in our armed forces.  Happy Veteran’s Day! 🙂

The Chance to Start Anew

I love the picture that comes up with my posts.  The picture of a wooden pathway, trees, a beautiful, clear sky with no end insight.  I took this picture on a vacation to Captiva Island, Florida two years ago.  It was a beautiful day and as I walked the island I came across this path and just snapped a quick picture with my cell phone.  Turns out, this is one of my very favorite photos.  It makes me think of life and God at the same time.  Life is a journey, and even though we may not be able to see around the next twist or turn, it’s our faith in God that helps us to know that there are clear skies ahead.

In May of this year, I started into a very unexpected turn in my life.  I lost a brother who was very near and dear to my heart.  Less than thirty days later I lost my mom.  I traveled to Rochester, NY for my brother and then to San Francisco, CA for my mom.  I was away from home for more than thirty days so to say that I was totally spent and burnt out by the time I got back home is an understatement!  Although school was out for me, my family still needed me.  My kids still needed to be picked up and dropped off, my love still needed to be fed and out the door for work, laundry still needed to be done, bills still needed to be paid and the grass still needed to be cut.  There was really no time to simply sit and decompress.

By late August I was so exhausted that I didn’t know whether I was coming or going so I decided to take a few days and simply do nothing.  And I mean do nothing!  I sat on the couch with the television tuned on Netflix and a book on the coffee table just in case I needed a change.  Don’t worry, I made a crock pot of taco soup for the kids and ordered a pizza one night so they could be fed and at least have a meal variety.  My love was absolutely great!  He kept the kids as busy as possible so that I could just check out for a few days.  I remember talking to a really good friend during my life check out days.  When he asked me what was wrong I told him that with all that had happened, I just couldn’t seem to get my mojo back.  I was simply not myself.  I was doing all the right things and taking care of my responsibilities as a parent and life partner but I wasn’t present in my life.

He told me two things that helped A LOT!!  One, he said that sometimes we all just need to take a few moments for ourselves because life isn’t going to stop for us and two, don’t forget to pray through it.  Simple words but yet they meant so much.  A few days after that talk another friend and her husband took me to see the movie War Room and just like that the unexpected turn I had been walking in started to straighten out just a little and I could see clear skies ahead.  My mojo isn’t all the way back but it is definitely on the up swing.  I am so glad and so grateful to God for always being a shining light in a dark tunnel.

On my friend’s advice to pray through it and from watching War Room, I picked up Fervent, a new book by one of my favorite author’s Priscilla Shirer.  Of course, it is the inspiration for my next book study!

Enjoy your weekend and no matter what’s going on in your life today…pray through it.

Chapter Eleven – God Calls Us to Faith

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

There is a story in this chapter about a young man who wanted to be the very best lumberjack.  Although he tried everyday to beat the goal he had set for himself, he always seemed to come up short.  One day a much older and wiser man asked the young man about the frustration he saw on his face.  After the young man explained his dilemma, the older man said, “I can tell that you’ve been swinging your ax with everything you’ve got but I can’t help wondering, when was the last time you sharpened your ax?”

How many times a day do we venture out into the world with a dull ax or should I say a dull sword for us believers in Christ?  Just like the young man in this story we set goals for ourselves and the lives we want to live.  We get up each day working our plan and planning our work yet sometimes find ourselves coming up short.  We’ve been working the same plan (ax or sword) for the longest time and even though we are finding that it is no longer getting the job done, we haven’t stopped to re-evaluate the plan (sharpen the ax or sword).  Are there areas in your life where you feel you’ve been using a dull ax or sword?  If so, what is the best way for you to sharpen that spiritual ax or sword?

God calls each of us to have faith.  His word gives us the ability to strengthen and grow in our faith.  When we don’t take the time to read and study God’s word regularly (daily) we are simply swinging at our struggles and challenges with a dull sword.  God’s word is full of promises that sharpen us as followers of Jesus. (p. 70).

 

Put on the full armor of God, Ephesians 6…:)

Reflecting on Life

Love the journey.  Don’t worry about the end. – Richard Overton

Recently, my family has gone through some very heartbreaking transitions.  Sometimes you really don’t know how different situations will affect you until you are right there in the moment.  We have all said at one time or another, “if that was me, I would have…” but the reality is that we never know how we will respond to any given situation until we are faced with it directly.  Often when tragedy or heartbreak strikes it tends to slow us down a bit.  For me, the past three weeks have been very rough.  It seemed almost every day I was receiving bad news of some sort.  I couldn’t quite wrap my head around all of it.  I knew I was going to have to face these things that I didn’t necessarily want to deal with but it had to be done.

In facing these recent challenges, I have learned two things.  One, everyone makes their own choices in life.  You can either recognize that things in your life aren’t going quite right and do something about them or you can ignore them and allow sadness, disappointment, hatred and depression to consume you.  Two, God has blessed my life with some really amazing people.  For so many years I was consumed with the negative stigma of my childhood but the older I get and the more I reflect on my life, my eyes become more focused on the many, many people God has placed in my life over the years who have added light to my pathway in order to keep me moving forward.  Of course, this list of people is too great for me to list them all here but I do make sure when I am spending time with them or talking to them by phone to let each and everyone of them know just how important they are to me.

When life gets hard our tendency is to focus on the tragedy or the heartbreak but if we focus too long it can consume us and throw us off track.  It is important when dealing with sadness or heartbreak to get back into a normal daily routine as soon as possible.  Grieve, be sad or be mad but don’t wallow there too long. Life is meant to be lived each and everyday.  None of us know when or where that last day may be so live for today.  Make positive choices that will enhance your life or the lives of those you love.  When you feel like you’ve gotten stuck or can’t make heads or tails of something…don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Surround yourself with those who see and want only the best for you but aren’t afraid to tell you when you are dead wrong.

 

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. – John 13:34