Choose Happiness

Our lives are like scrapbooks, memories frozen in time on pages preserved in our hearts and minds. With every breath, every step, and the passing of time, those pages turn capturing the laughter, the tears, the joy, the heartbreak, the pride and the disappoint of days gone by. Sometimes I envision it something like a dream catcher, analyzing our thoughts, reading our emotions and casting its net to gather up all the shreds of our existence to file away only to be called upon with a familiar smell, feeling, or desire.

I treasure those pages, perhaps now more than ever, as they bond me closer to the pieces of my heart that belong to those I’ve lost. But what it also does is help me become keen to those moments as they happen; my senses acute to a touch or a feeling I’m bound to treasure forever. It’s incredible to me how time can sometimes stand still when you’re caught up in a moment, how you feel like you’re surrounded by a blur of emotion as you narrow in on a memory in the making. It does my heart good to slow down and take in the aroma of a sweet gesture, the twinkle of a bright eye, or the ring of laughter. Especially amidst a world that seems to challenge any brightness that exist, threatening to extinguish it, or worse, paint it gray.

As I call upon my pages at times, I am often speechless at the caliber of memories and happiness they hold. Sure, there have been tears, fears, and struggles along the way. But the pure joy and innocence that roll off the pages remind me of how truly blessed I am. I think it’s easy sometimes to get lost in ourselves, to focus on the hurt and the pain. To revel in the disappointment and loss. But it takes effort to really stop and allow the gratitude to creep in. Perhaps it’s because when we welcome it into our hearts, we compare those sweet moments of light to the multitude of darkness we face and it stings just a little more to see the darkness for what it truly is, a valley.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21

But what Matthew tells us is that where our treasure is, there are heart will also be. And while this verse is most often associated with the lesson of serving two masters, today my heart applied it in a different way. Today, I found it as a message to not dwell in the sadness, to not allow yourself to bed down in the trenches. But where your focus and attention lie, that is where your heart will find rest. So if you are experiencing loss, if you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, if stress and worry is trapping you, if that is where you let your mind wander, it is there where your life song will be.

I have so many people around me experiencing things that break my heart. Every day I am faced with a story, or a bit of news that twists my heart strings threatening to disengage them completely. And while my heart aches for them, my mind churns with how to fix it, how to make it better. And naturally so, I’m a solver. I don’t always say the best things to comfort people, I don’t always give great advice. And I mourn in the least desirable ways. But where I find refuge is solving problems. Fixing worry, relieving stress. I run on order, to-do lists, and small successes.

So as I racked my brain for a way to bring peace to those I love that hurt, this verse laid on my heart. It’s always been a favorite but today I saw it in a new form. I saw it as an invitation to extend to those I love, a challenge to search your heart and it’s landing place. I saw it as a a chance to encourage those around me to find the strength to heal inside themselves. For as the verse says to us, what you treasure your heart will take up.

My prayer today is that for each of you hurting, for each of you who feel the darkness pressing in on all sides, that you choose to plant your flag in your happiness. It’s true that days are dark, but hidden in those pages of our scrapbook are good memories, happy memories that can carry us through the darkness. And all though they may be long gone, or seem like another lifetime ago, they can act as a bridge to carry us over troubled waters. And for every hard time we go through, there is a sweet moment waiting for us around the corner. It may be small, and you may be hard pressed to see it, but it’s there.

Our Savior promises us that we will experience nothing that we cannot handle. And just as the wonder that I wish for to heal my heart, I know that what we need to truly heal is found within us, we need only to call upon it. Take advantage of a holiday that focuses of thanks and gratitude and whisper a prayer of thanks to him for the beautiful life you’ve lived. Open your heart to your scrapbook and let the pages flood you with the joy you deserve this thanksgiving. May God grant you peace to embrace today, and every day.

Advertisements

I Choose to Pray

My friends and family sometimes laugh because at any given moment, I typically have no idea what is happening around me, as far as current news is concerned. You won’t find a news station playing on my television, and when there’s controversy and negativity in my news feed, I keep scrolling. I’m not choosing to be ignorant, or trying to be selfish. I’m choosing to believe that in spite of the thousands of things trying to convince us otherwise, I still believe there is beauty in this world. I’m choosing to pray.

I believe that for every day of darkness, there is a sliver of sunshine peeking through. I believe that for every heartache we experience, there is laughter waiting around the corner. I believe that for every mountain we face, there is a God who is greater than it all and who loves me beyond anything I could ever imagine. And he wants to love you too, all you have to do is say yes.

I could write another post about seeing the good in people, or I could talk about pushing the darkness away. But sometimes there is no better way to hear something then through a song. And this happens to be one of my favorites. It spoke to my heart this week and I hope it does yours as well. It’s a beautiful world we live in folks, we just have to remember that and continue to pray for it.

Beautiful World

All the noise and the voices are screamin’
What they have to say
And the headlines and sound bytes are givin’ me
Demons to hate
And the man on TV
He tells me it’s ugly
But if you ask me
It’s a beautiful world
It’s a beautiful world
There’s tears and there’s fears and there’s losses and crosses to bear
And sometimes the best we can do is just to whisper a prayer
And press on because
There’s so much to live for and so much to love
In this beautiful world
Say what you will but I still believe
It’s a beautiful world
It’s a beautiful world
And I know (I know)
I’m not dreamin’
I just choose (choose) to believe it
So I hate that I sometimes miss what’s right in front of my eyes, oh
And I know at the end of my road I’ll be wantin’ more time
Just another sunset
One more kiss from my baby
A smile from a friend
In this beatiful world
It’s a beautiful world
Yeah, it’s a beautiful world
Say what you will, but I still believe
It’s a beautiful world
Yeah, it’s a beautiful world
Oh, it’s a beautiful world

Songwriters: Brett Beavers / Dierks Bentley / James M Beavers
Beautiful World lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

Treading Water.

I don’t know about you, but I have had periods of time in my life that I feel as though I am simply surviving. Like the motions I run through every day are just fabricated from muscle memory and are a facade for the place where my heart truly dwells. It’s in these times that the world feels the biggest; like a canvas of the sea drafted from turbulent waves and hidden perils, all painted a pleasing hue to hide its true nature.

And its only in times of peace that I can look back and pinpoint those moments when I was simply treading water. And I’m shocked to say that even as a nasty under current of grief swells below the surface, threatening to pull me under at any point in time, right now, I feel peace. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that that serenity comes from being right where the Lord wants me.

So many times, our human nature gets the best of us and we give into persistent emotions like that of impatience. We find ourselves fighting against the current, thrashing back towards the shore, when all the while God is calling us into the waves. It’s terrifying to not know exactly what lies ahead, and it’s easy to want to stay in our comfort zone, with the water at a safe level. We plant ourselves on the things that we are sure of, and yearn for the predictable to find its ways to our feet, like a seashell washing up on shore. But just as anyone who has ever struggled against the current knows, the more you fight it, the more challenging it becomes to keep your head above water. Sometimes the best decision, is to simply give into the current and wait for the stillness that follows. For it is in that stillness, that we find our opportunity.

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:24-28

If you google the definition of treading water, it will tell you that it is a basic technique, a survival skill at best. But what it also tells us is that treading water is a skill that is most often times used before one learns to swim. I can remember moments in my life when I thought I knew exactly what I wanted, and I pursued the desires of my heart that I thought I needed. I thrashed towards them like they were a prize island situated just under the horizon. But as I expelled all of my energy trying to move towards some fleeting goal, I fought against waves that engulfed me, trials and tribulations that set me back around every corner. At first, they fueled my drive, propelling me forward each time I was pulled back, the energy of the challenge filling my lungs. But after fighting, and thrashing for so long, I was just exhausted. And defeated. It was only then, when I was at a true loss for what to do next, that I eventually looked up and realized that all the while, I had simply been spinning in circles. That the progress I thought I had been making was just a thinly veneered shade of confusion.

You see, all of us are guilty of setting aside our desire to seek God’s will for our lives to pursue something we thought we needed, or something the world has convinced us that it’s time for us to have. We have these mile markers we feel like we have to meet, or these earthly things we are convinced we have to have. And all the while that we are spinning in circles, treading water, God is patiently waiting for us to stop, take a breath, and look up. It’s hard, especially when you have a picture in your mind of what you think your heart desires. It’s hard, especially when you have people all around you telling you what you should be aiming for. It’s hard. But maybe, maybe it’s just simply exhausting because we are wasting our efforts on a basic skill like treading water, instead of focusing our energy on a more efficient way to get where we need to be. Maybe we just need to learn to swim.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

His good, pleasing and perfect will. There is no reason to be scared of the unknown, or frightened by the thought of simply drifting out to sea, because the Lord and Savior is your guiding light. If you are fighting so hard for something that just seems impossible, maybe its time to stop and look up.

Is what you are fighting for the will of your Lord and Savior, or a desire planted in your heart that falls short of the glory of God?

God doesn’t expect us to read his mind, nor did he create us to have the omniscience that he beholds. He calls for us to turn to him, to seek him and his perfect will. And sometimes that even means being completely still. Talk about terrifying. There is a storm brewing in your heart, the waves are tossing you around like a rag doll, but you’re supposed to just remain still? Sometimes that is exactly what God calls us to do, to be still and come to him in prayer and petition for his guidance in all walks of life. But the stillness doesn’t mean a deafening silence, or loneliness, it means clinging to God and waiting for him to show you your next move.

So how do you pass the time in that stillness? You swallow up his word with every fiber of your being. You read and labor over the love letter he has provided to us like a map to the treasures of your heart. You pray without ceasing for patience, and faith, and you trust in him to show you the way. And then you simply float, face up, riding every wave that comes your way. Because hidden somewhere in the folds of those whitecaps, there lies an opportunity that can prepare you for your future in the Lord’s embrace. With every wave that washes over you, one is bound to take your breath away and change your life.

God, I come to you know discouraged and defeated. I feel as though I am treading water in my pursuit of _______________________ and my heart is hurting. Help me to turn to you, to give you my desires. My prayer is that you would exchange those for your will for my life. Help me to seek your will in all that I do, and to be patient, for your it is in your time that you will reveal yourself. God, thank you for carrying me when the waves get rough, cradle me now as I wait for your call. Shed light upon whatever path you would have me travel, and give me strength to be the child you call me to be.

Amen.

Peace in Prayer and Petition.

It’s the whispers in the wind that bring me the most comfort these days; those otherwise fleeting notions we often overlook. The simple gestures that seem to have fallen stale in this world. My heart and senses have been finely tuned into opportunities of missed chances and moments taken for granted, perhaps because “life is short” has rang all too true in the months past. So it seems only fitting that the verse that spoke to me this week is nestled somewhere in 1 Peter, buried beneath the weight of Christian suffrage, and snug in a letter penned by Peter to the leaders of the church.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

It’s easy to worry. If I have learned anything in the past year, its that worrying, as knee-jerk of a reaction as it is, can’t add a single hour to your life, just as Jesus tells us in Luke. And yet we often find ourselves trapped in this bog of worry that dictates our days. It sinks into our bones and makes our limbs feel heavy as we wade through our daily motions. It stifles our happiness and makes us second guess every step we take. And in a world that is sometimes full of darkness and anguish, it may seem all too necessary for our well-being as we fight against those Earthly troubles that exist.

Worry may seem like a simple task, one that we have no choice but to welcome into our daily lives. You may feel like it’s your weight to carry and although you wish you could just brush it off, it sticks and there is nothing you can do about it. But you’re wrong. While it may seem simple, worry breeds disobedience to God. It is a human emotion that can lead us to question God, asking why things happen or why he hasn’t taken our pain and stress away. While worry may seem like a part of our instinct as humans, it is an emotion of betrayal to God, the Lord and Savior who sent his Son to die on a cross for our sins and shortcomings. He sees it as a choice we make in failing to trust him and his word. And when you open the door to allowing worry to rule your days, you open yourself up a life plagued by negativity, misery, pain, and turmoil.

Does your worry outweigh your faith?

God knows of our shortcomings, and loves us in spite of our human nature to sin and turn away from him. And while we can all expect to worry in our lives, what we can’t expect is to put more energy into worrying and questioning God’s plan for us and expect him to be ok with it. Think about your most recent day; how many times did you worry, or find yourself anxious about the unknown? Did you worry about a sick friend, or stress about paying your bills? Those are natural reactions to our lives, but how many times did you truly worry about something? Now, add up how many times you went to the Lord in prayer for these things. How many times did you stop what you were doing and thank God for another beautiful day, and the chance to breathe life? If your worry outweighs your faith, if you’re anxious more than you are in prayer, it’s not just a knee-jerk reaction anymore; worry and anxiety have become a part of you.

Each time we let worry and anxiety stop us from doing something, or let the fear of the unknown hold us back, we are telling God that we know better than him what shape our lives should take. We are letting worldly fears trick us out of a lifetime of God’s will into a state of constant chaos with no end pointing up. And we are telling the Creator of Heaven and Earth that although we love him, we are not quite sure that he has things under control. Imagine, standing before our Lord and Savior and telling the Alpha and the Omega “I do love you, I am just not sure that you can handle what I am facing today God.” You don’t have to tell him, because your worry speaks louder than words to him.

But the solution to this is not to jump into everything with both eyes shut, wildly abandoning our angst, and throwing ourselves into the wind. No, the solution comes in prayer and petition to God. Worry used to rule my life. I am a control freak to the nth degree and I have completely come to terms with that. Sure, I let it affect my daily life sometimes, and there was a time when I let it come between my me and my Savior. I let my angst for my life turning out how I thought it should turn out, trump what I had been taught from a young age; that if you seek God’s guidance, you will find him. The expanse between me and my Savior left me angry, miserable, and searching for answers where I would never find them. But it also taught me perhaps the greatest lesson I have ever learned; life without the burden of worry is possible if you asked for it. I remember the point when I had been beat down by worry to the point that I found myself on my knees beside my bed. I remember tears streaming down my face as I asked God to take this burden from me, to teach me to trust in him. I remember begging for relief from my anxiety and for the chains holding me to this crippling emotion to be break free. I also remember standing up from that prayer and feeling lighter, feeling as though God was breathing new life into me as I blinked away the bog and saw clearly that he was cradling me in his hands.

Since then, my prayer has been for everyone I know and love to feel the relief I have felt since that very day. I pray that I can testify to what putting your absolute faith into God can feel like, even when your earthly senses are screaming for answers. Is it always easy? Not a chance. In fact, there are days I still feel like I am sinking. There have been moments in the past few weeks as my world shifted under my feet that I was convinced I would get swallowed up in worry. But my defense has always been my love for Christ. Every single time I feel myself worrying, I stop, and I start praying. I pray for him to take the anxiety away, I pray for his resolution to the problem I was dwelling on, I pray that his will be done in every facet my life, and I pray that he continues to help me shove away the worry as I reach for his hand.

It’s not a fail proof plan, and you will relapse into a world of worry if you are struggling to climb out of it. You will try and stumble many times. But if you seek him, if you knock, he will open the door to a life that you never knew could exist and a happiness in our Lord and Savior that surpasses all earthly pleasures. Days will be hard, but the love of God will always be there and you can lay your head to rest at night knowing that our sweet, sweet Savior has your life in his hands and there is no place you should rather it be.