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The Blessing Box

I am sure you have heard the expression, “Count your blessings”.

In our deepest pain, our blessings may be hard to find because it is difficult to see past our present circumstances. When we choose to walk with God, there is no guarantee that there won’t be struggles. By acknowledging our blessings and worshiping God in the storm, we not only honor Him, but it opens heaven’s floodgates of strength and comfort to carry us through whatever we are facing. When we feel like we have nothing in us, those are the times we need to praise Him all the more.

DSC_7524About five years ago we walked through a very painful time when our daughter was harmed in an act of violence. More than once, I thanked God that there were only 24 hours in a day because with each new morning His mercies were new. At one point during that hard time my friend took my hands and raised them to the Lord and said, “Thank God for the blessings you can see”. At first I looked at her like she was crazy and I thought how can there be anything to be thankful for in this nightmare.

As I sat on the floor with tears streaming down my cheeks, my friend held my hands up to the Lord, and I said, “Thank you, Lord, they did not kill my daughter”. In that moment I felt a sense of joy during the most painful time of my life. My daughter was alive! I had missed that in my pain. With my hands still held up by my friend, I began to thank God for the blessings I had not noticed in my pain.

Suddenly I realized she had let go of my hands and I was holding them up on my own. I was still hurt by what had happened and concerned about what lay ahead of us but I had new strength. For the first time in over a month, I was able to sleep through the night. The next day I added a night of sleep to my list of blessings.

In September 2015 while thanking God for a new blessing in my life, I got the idea of making a blessing box for my husband and myself. It sits in the area where we spend time in study and prayer. On the days that are hard and we struggle to find the words to pray, we can dump out the blessings in the box and then read them one at a time. It is very powerful. I can start on empty and when I am done reading them, I am running on a full tank of joy.

I want to encourage you to make a blessing box for yourself. If you are married or have children living with you, make a blessing box to share or make one for each of you. When the storms hit and you can’t find the words to pray dump that box out in your lap and start thanking God for how He has blessed you. Let Him turn your sorrow into joy because a joyful heart is good medicine. –Proverbs 17:22 (NASB)

 

Authors note:

Here is an idea for the whole family. Get some fun things to decorate the blessing box and include the whole family in the decorating. Setting aside time each week to share your blessings with each other and adding them to your blessing box is a simple way to acknowledge what the Lord is doing in your family.

 

Every couple of months dump the box out and take turns reading the blessings. No matter how old your children are, they can all take part in this. Teaching your children to count their blessings and give thanks, helps build their faith so that when the storms come, they will remember to look beyond their circumstances and see the goodness there is in the Lord.

 

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Finding Your Prayer Closet

Praying is such an important part of our growth as Christians and it is our best defense35446842_s when life throws a sucker punch at us. It is very important to have place we call our own to pray. I have a favorite chair in my living room where I do my study but there is a window by the chair and when it comes to my prayer time, that doesn’t work for me. I see one thing out of the corner of my eye and “Squirrel!!” I am off track. If I see the dishes in my sink, I feel like I need to get up and wash them. So many things in my home can easily distract me. After watching the movie, War Room, I knew I needed to make a place to pray.

Not everyone has a closet big enough to turn into a prayer closet. I understand how valuable closet space is but even more valuable is your time with God. Every one of us needs to find some uninterrupted time where we can be open and truly honest with God. I encourage you to find a place in your house where you can do that.

Being empty nesters our son no longer needs his closet. My husband and I moved in and set up shop. Your prayer closet doesn’t have to be anything fancy. You may not even have room to put a chair in there but a pillow and a blanket on the floor can make your closet feel cozy.

Be creative. Do you have a spare bedroom that you could go in, close the door, and step away from everything? Do you have a storage room that has room for a chair? Maybe there’s an empty shelf to put your Bible and your prayer journals. If you have a little light and an extension cord, put the light in there. Turning off the overhead light keeps your eyes from being distracted by what you are storing in that room. We keep post-it notes in our prayer room. We can write short prayers or a scripture that really speak to us and stick them on the wall. Using the blue sticky material for hanging posters keeps our post-it notes on the wall.

Maybe your laundry room has no windows but has room to put a chair. Put a little light near the chair and turn the overhead light OFF so you’re not distracted by any laundry that needs to be done. Don’t run your laundry while you’re there either. You don’t need to be distracted by the sound of the washer and dryer. For that matter, turn your chair away from any laundry that needs to be done. If that means looking at the wall, so be it. Use the wall in front of you for a few pictures of your family and sticky notes with prayers and scriptures. Do you remember the lesson about Mary and Martha?

She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:39-42 (NIV)

Be a Mary, not a Martha. Your laundry can be started after you spend time with God. God is not asking for anything fancy. Uninterrupted time is what he’s seeking. Find a place in your home where you can step away from everything and spend a little time with God. I have found that when I step away from all the distractions I really feel the peace of God. I’m excited to step into my prayer closet. Every day I step in with the expectation that God will give me just what I need. He has blown my mind with what He has shown me during our quiet time together and I believe He will do the same for you.

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:6 (NIV)

 Posted on The Whatever Girls and Living Better 50 Magazine

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You Owe Him Nothing

37465687_mIt was the end of the day and I could not wait to get home from school. Just before the final bell rang, an office TA walked in with a bouquet of flowers and a card. The room erupted with remarks about, someone having an admirer. Much to my surprise the long stem roses were for me. The card attached said, “What does a guy have to do to get on your busy calendar to take you out?”

When the bell rang, I ran to my car trying to avoid running into him. The roses were beautiful but I did not want to go on a date with him. I felt like I was somehow obligated to accept his invitation because he bought flowers for me.

When my dad came home he asked me about the flowers and I explained my dilemma. I will never forget what my dad told me. He said, “You do not owe this boy or any other man that comes along, anything. You did not ask for the flowers, he bought them for you because he chose to on his own.” My dad went on to say that I was never to feel obligated to any man who bought me something or was nice to me. My dad also told me that I should never go out with someone I was not interested in and that if a guy made me feel like it was an obligation, I should tell him, “I owe you nothing.”

That next day at school he asked when I was available to go out. I very nicely explained to him that I was not interested and said, “Thank you for the flowers.” He was not very happy about my nicely put “no thank you” and told me that he had spent his money on the flowers so I at least owed him one date. The wise words of my dad blared like a bullhorn in my head. I looked him straight in the eye and said, “My father told me that I owe no man anything. You chose to buy flowers but that doesn’t mean I owe you a date.” I know he was not happy but he seemed to clearly understand what my dad told me and he accepted it and moved on.

The words of my father are for you too. You never owe a man anything because he bought you something or was kind to you. If you think that you need to go out with someone because you feel obligated, that is a red flag. Healthy relationships do not start out of a sense of obligation. Never allow someone to pressure you into a date and if a “no thank you” is not enough to get your point across, go to your parents and tell them what is happening. In the words of my dad, “you owe him nothing.”

 

Originally Written for the Whatever Girls.

 

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Life is Peachy by Hanna, “Hanna’s Happenings”

Have you ever looked at a piece of fruit and thought, “wow, this is beautiful.”?

I’m guessing probably not. I know I haven’t.

But then, it happened.

I was sitting at my kitchen table enjoying a peach that I had picked up earlier in the week from the grocery store. With it being winter, I knew this peach would have some imperfections but I chose to look past them and satisfy my craving. While eating the peach I looked at it closely and made the crazy comparison that perhaps this finite, sunset colored peach was like life. In all of its imperfections it was still sweet to the taste.

Life is like a piece of fruit. When I looked at it closely it was bruised, but when I chose to see it from a different perspective that small peach suddenly became perfect. It was as if in that moment my entire being was within that peach. I felt that God was looking at me, telling me that my walk with Him is perfect, despite the flaws I see in myself, and the burdens I carry. God never said that life would be easy. He knew there would be bumps along the way, but to God we are perfect.

In the summertime it’s easy to take that ripe peach for granted. Summertime fruit is always the ripest and most satisfying. The sweet taste of it on our lips can become ordinary and we can skip over the meaning it holds. However, whenever winter rolls around that peach starts to look a little more bruised. For some reason we always seem to notice the peach and its imperfections when life isn’t going the way we want it to. This life gives us so many reasons to only notice the bruises.

When life knocks us down we have two choices: either dwell on the imperfections of this sinful world, or to enjoy the little things that go unnoticed by most. If you really think about it, anything that exists in itself is extravagant! This is because everything was made by God! God is the definition of extravagance. “This is the day the Lord has made! We will rejoice and be glad in it!” (Psalms 118:24 NLT).

I have been working on finding joy in things I wouldn’t normally notice. When you have this mindset life can be pretty peachy! Each day there are so many beautiful things and as Christians we have the opportunity to see life the way God intended. No matter what happens to us, the sun will always rise the next day, and fruit will always grow on the trees He planted within the rich soil. How amazing is that? How precious are the infinite details that God has woven into each and every day!

This week I have really noticed how truly blessed I am by the little things. Sometimes a peach can really make Hanna's Happeningsyou listen. Taking the time to notice beautiful imperfections in moments of trial and misunderstanding show me how my life truly is; a little bruised and a little unripe, but perfect in the eyes of my God.

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Are You In A Dead Zone?

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 2.05.23 PMCan you hear me now? How about now? Those words are spoken from time to time by anyone who has ever used a cell phone. Even with more and more cell towers going up and the latest coverage offered, there are still many dead zones.

At our family lake cabin, there is a clear difference between which carrier has the better coverage. I have watched many people holding their phones with an outstretched arm on our patio looking for a bar of coverage to make a call or send a text. It’s entertaining to watch.

When I have not been able to get service, I have been bothered about it. How about you? In reality, is having no phone coverage for a little bit really a bad thing? We are so worried about checking our text messages, our Instagram, Facebook, and emails that the idea of being stuck in a dead zone seems to be cause for alarm.

In our desire to be connected to the world with our phones, we have become slaves to technology. Just before I started writing this, I was working on my Bible study and I got a text. I was going to reach for my phone to tell my husband, yes, I can talk now, and then it hit me… I was in my quiet time with God. There was not an emergency and my husband would understand if I finished my study before I called him. I almost chose to set God aside to answer a text.

That knee-jerk reaction to grab my phone and forget about my time with God was a reality check. How many times a day do I reach for my phone to check social media? Am I more concerned about how many bars I have, who is posting what, and what is trending than I am with God? What about you? Are you more concerned with those things than your relationship with God?

Finding the best coverage when it comes to our cell phone seems to be an important thing. However, shouldn’t we be more concerned about finding the best coverage for ourselves? It should be much moreScreen Shot 2015-02-03 at 2.12.47 PM alarming to be in a dead zone that applies to our salvation rather than our phone, and sadly for many, that is not the case. At the end of our lives, the number of bars we had, the number of texts, tweets, and posts will mean nothing. What will matter is, are you covered in the saving blood of Jesus?

He offers the best coverage for us in the long run and His coverage is free to all who seek Him. There is unlimited coverage and you will never experience a dropped prayer like you do a dropped call. With Jesus we all become sons and daughters of God, which means as far as plans go, there is no other family plan like His. Okay, maybe that is a bit cheesy, but it’s true… Jesus is the only way to avoid the dead zone. In John 14:6-7, Jesus said, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.” (NIV)

I challenge you to put your phone down for a while each day and spend time with the Lord. Dig into your Bible, take time to pray, go to church, and fellowship with other believers. Get to really know Jesus so that you will know the Father as well. Being covered in the saving blood of Jesus Christ is the best coverage there is. It is the only way to avoid a dead zone. Put God first! I am not saying to avoid your phone and social media just that God should be our first priority. And, by all means, share that coverage with others. Don’t let those you know and love be lost in a dead zone when they could have eternal life.

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On Solid Ground

Originally posted on The Whatever Girls.Whatever-Girls-Button

 

In November, while in New Zealand, I toured a place of geothermal activity known as Hells Gate. There were warning signs everywhere telling people to stay on the trails. To step off them, you would be stepping onto unstable ground; it’s a molten substance that could burn you to death.

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 1.15.42 PMTwo of the features that stood out to me were called Devil’s Cauldron and Sodom and Gomorrah. Stepping off the path and dangling a toe into Sodom and Gomorrah or Devil’s Cauldron would cause excruciating pain and leave your toe badly burned. The hazards were very clear to anyone who was in the park.

While in the park, it got me to thinking about what happens when we step off the path God has laid out for us. Sometimes we choose to dangle our foot, here and there, in the world which is a huge gamble. The world offers some very dark things.

Pornography is a multimillon-dollar industry that feeds prostitution and sex trafficking. Personal ads asking for explicit sexual things are a huge part of Craigslist. Sexting is not just an adult activity, it’s ugly and sinks its dangerous claws into our children. Social media sites have taken bullying to a whole new level of evil. Cyber bullying continues to rise and with it comes the deaths of those who cannot take the pain of what is done to them.

As parents, we need to talk to our kids about the risks of what is out there. We need to give them the tools to stay on the path. Prayer for our children is huge but it can’t be all we do. We need to talk openly with them about the dangers of the internet. We need to talk with them about sex. It may be embarrassing but if we don’t talk to them, someone else is going to.

When we don’t keep communication open and give our children the important tools of prayer and scripture along with a relationship with Jesus, we are like a parent who sets their toddler on the path at Hells Gate and lets them run wherever they want with no guidance. Your toddler could be burned alive right in front of you if they fell into Devil’s Cauldron, Sodom and Gomorrah, or one of the other pools along the path.

As parents we should also be horrified by what our teens can fall into if we let them run through their teen years without guidance. Press into God and give your children what they need to stay on solid ground. Keep communication open no matter how awkward the conversations may feel.

The world is beckoning our children to step off the path into Devil’s Cauldron or Sodom and Gomorrah. We need to be guiding our children to do what it says in Philippians 4:8-9.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. (NLT)

IMG_3653Teach your children to fix their thoughts on “what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.” When they are faced with peer pressure, we need to teach them to take it to God. If it is not something that is excellent or worthy of praise, step away from it. It is our job to teach our children to put into practice everything they have learned and received from God and from us. Our children learn from what they hear and see us doing. Be sure you are a godly example. When you teach your children to walk with God, He will be with them and help them stay on solid ground.

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Plant a legacy of faith

Today I chose to read from my great-great-grandmother’s Bible. The pages are yellowed with age and the outside is worn but the truth in it still remains the same . I found myself reading Ecclesiastes 3 because it was written in the front of her Bible.

The Bible is marked “to Mama from Paul”. Paul is my great-grandfather. As I dug in, God’s word filled me with a sense of excitement1939655_620380091372648_1537100982_n. A small glimpse of my great-great-grandmother was revealed to me and God had a lesson for me to learn. I began to understand that she knew the Lord, and upon her passing, the Bible went to her son Paul and his wife Ruth. Ruth Ann Turner, Grandma “R.A.T.”, was my great-grandmother. Ruth also seemed to know the Lord.

In the Bible, there are things that my great-grandmother Ruth added when it became hers. There was a newspaper clipping about President Lyndon B. Johnson, prayers she cut out of things she had read, a couple of bookmarks and a page out of a devotional. On the devotional page, someone named Minnie had written a note to my great-grandmother Ruth. It said,

“This is for your own self. I just read this and it made me think of your life. Your smile does bless lots of folks.” -Minnie

There were a few generations between my great-grandmother and me that became unfruitful soil. Holding this Bible, their Bible, I understood that I needed to pick up where they left off. I realized that I have been given a chance to water what was once planted and then neglected for a few generations.

In God’s perfect timing, I found myself in Ecclesiastes 3. I was reading what either my great-grandmother or great-great-grandmother felt was important enough to write in the front of this Bible.

There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

In this passage, I see that it is time for me to make a change in my own family to prepare for the generations to come. I want to leave a legacy of faith for my children, my grandchildren, and my great-grandchildren.

My kids know the Lord, but I don’t want to settle for that. I want to dig in and turn over the ground, pull out the weeds, and water the seed that was planted by my great-great-grandmother and her daughter-in-law all those years ago. I want to leave behind a legacy of faith. To have people remember me as a woman who loved the Lord with her whole heart, that is what I long for. It is so important for me pass my faith onto my kids and the generations to come.

As you are reading this, I hope you want the same thing for your family. Do you want to leave behind a legacy of faith? Then start with your own kids. If there’s neglected soil in your family, even if it has been left for generations, you can make a difference. Dig in! Tear out the weeds, plant your own seeds, and water them. Tend to them and grow something beautiful. Plant a legacy of faith.

Originally written for the Whatever Girls

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