A Look at Depression: Naomi

The darkness of grief and depression can smother out the light of any hope and faith we may have.

The story of Naomi and her grief and depression is found in the book of Ruth. Naomi was the wife of a man named Elimilech. Naomi and Elimilech had two sons, Mahlon and Kilion. This family lived in Bethlehem until a famine came to the land and they moved to Moab. There in Moab, the two sons married Moabite women. Mahlon married Ruth and Kilion married Orpah. In the years that followed first Naomi’s husband, Elimilech, died and then Naomi’s sons also died.

Imagine the sorrow in Naomi’s heart losing her husband and sons, and still being in a foreign country. Naomi and her daughters-in-laws lost their providers and protectors. They were suddenly vulnerable with no person to stand up for them or take care of them. Or so it seems when your faith has faded and you see no reason for hope. Naomi only knew bitterness in her heart and the hopelessness of an unknown future.

Naomi came to believe that the Lord was punishing her and blames Him for her sorrow. She grew very bitter. With nowhere else to turn she decided that she would go back to her home country. She was prepared to do the trip alone, but her daughter-in-law Ruth offered to go with. Naomi refused, but Ruth was insistent.

Reading this account of Naomi’s life made me realize how she totally missed the reality of the grief her daughters-in-law must be experiencing. She could only see and feel her own pain.

Yet, Ruth still wanted to go with Naomi, despite Naomi’s bitter attitude. And so the two women returned to Naomi’s home country and were greeted by the local women. Naomi told them not to call her by her name which means “pleasant” but instead to call her Mara which means “bitter.”

Naomi was very depressed. She couldn’t see anything but the darkness, she couldn’t feel anything but the pain within and only responded with blame towards the Lord.

Grief can bring despair and depression, and Naomi had a lot to grieve about, first losing her husband and then her two sons.

When we suffer pain and loss in life it is easy to feel tempted to blame God. It is common to question Him and ask “why.” We often don’t understand His purpose in allowing such deep sorrow in our lives.

My depression stemmed from sorrow that I had buried when I was young. The grief within was hidden away for many years until it was triggered by a friend losing her mom. Then my buried grief spilled out in endless tears and my deep depression became apparent.

The pain of loss, whether it is that of a husband, child, parent, grandparent, or close friend, can be devastating. When your heart is attached to a loved one, the separation of death feels unbearable.

I was able to work through my grief all those years later in therapy. I said goodbye and let the pain spill out for my loss. I also worked through the many issues that the loss had brought about.

My heart wanted the need for the one I lost to be filled with the nurturing love that had been taken away by death. I wanted it to be done my way. But God… yes, He had a different, better plan for me. And that was true for Naomi as well. The Lord brought a man named Boaz into Ruth’s life as she tried to get food for her and Naomi. Boaz ended up marrying Ruth and together they had a child. The Lord blessed them with new hope and new life.

The darkness of grief and depression can smother any hope and faith we may have. We just can’t see how anything good is possible in the midst of the pain. We lose sight of the Lord, the God of the impossible. But He can bring hope, He can heal our hearts and nurture us in our neediness.

Oh, I know the pain is not erased. But the Lord works in and through our pain to help us know Him and His love in greater and deeper ways.

Naomi learned of the Lord’s faithfulness. The Lord supplied her with a “kinsman”. He blessed Boaz and Ruth with a son, and so Naomi had a grandson. It is from this grandson, Obed, that the Messiah would come.

“Kinsman” in these verses of Ruth, is the Hebrew word  “goel” from the root word meaning “to redeem.” “The “goel” among the Hebrews was the nearest male blood relation alive… If anyone from poverty was unable to redeem his inheritance it was the duty of the kinsman to redeem it” (Bible Study Tools).

The Lord gave Ruth and Naomi someone to redeem their inheritance. And through the birth of Obed, God has given us a Redeemer also. Jesus has redeemed our inheritance, in Him we have eternal life and everlasting hope.

Grief and depression affect many of us during the course of our lives, but in Christ there is help and hope. We only have to turn to Him. And as Sheila Walsh says, we only need to pray to Him, to call to Him out of the “cellar of our souls” and tell Him all that we feel. He will hear us and meet us there. He will bring hope and light in the darkness. If you are going through grief and depression, I pray that you find hope in Him.

 

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A Look at Depression: Hannah

A heart of desperation is what we find in Hannah when we read her story in 1 Samuel 1.

Hannah lived in her home with her husband, Elkanah, as well as with his other wife, Peninnah and her children. Hannah had to share her husband with another woman and that woman’s children who were fathered by her own husband. How hard would that be?

And as if that isn’t bad enough, as if you wouldn’t already have a tendency to feel jealousy in your heart just because of what your husband shared, even as far as feelings for his other wife, there were also the children.

Peninnah was able to have children, and Hannah was not. The Lord had closed Hannah’s womb for some reason unknown to her and Elkanah. Hannah was desperate, she wanted children more than anything else. Month after month, year after year, she waited, hoping to become pregnant, but it didn’t happen just then.

Elkanah’s love, Penninah’s having children, and Hannah’s desire for children all became points of rivalry between these women. Peninnah taunted Hannah constantly reminding her of the fact that she had children and Hannah didn’t. It was obvious to Peninnah that Elkanah loved Hannah more than herself and it pushed her to rub in the reality of Hannah’s childlessness even more, causing more and more pain to Hannah.

It seemed that there was nothing to soothe Hannah, she was desperate. The pain of her infertility and the constant taunting sent her into deep depression. Hannah cried and cried, she suffered from loss of appetite, she was brokenhearted.

Have you ever felt desperation?

It is a feeling that seems to overwhelm you fully. You can only think about the emotional pain you feel and the unmet need or desire that seems to be constantly out of reach.

Infertility is only of many situations that can lead to desperation and depression. There are many single people desperate to be loved and to be married. There are many jobless men and women desperate to find employment to support them and their family.

When desperation goes on and on for weeks, months, and into years, one begins to feel so defeated and hopeless. Life seems impossible. And that situation can only be made worse if you are constantly bombarded by another flaunting that they have what you do not.

Our personal deep inner pain only becomes bigger and deeper when we see others having what we want. Whether it be children, a good job, or health, it only hurts more to see others living our dream. It makes us wonder more why we are left without it.

Hannah’s husband saw her deep sadness. He wanted her to be happy. He loved her whether she had children or not. But she knew in her heart the disgrace of not having children and there was nothing that could comfort her. Elkanah’s is not the only one who saw Hannah’s brokenheartedness. The Lord saw her pain also.

Psalm 34:19 says,

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Yet, when we are hurting we wonder, ‘where is God?’ There are many books written on this subject, and in the books of the Bible we see many men and women suffering greatly. And at times we see the Lord change the circumstances, or answer the prayer immediately in just the way the person requests. But that is not always true. Sometimes we must wait… and wait.
There is a song that I knew years ago, but only remember one line from it right now. This line has carried me through pain and desperation because it points me in the right direction. The line I am speaking of says this, “When you can’t see His hand trust His heart.”

I know, those words do not give you what you long for right this very minute in terms of the money, the job, or a child or whatever it is. Yet, the reality of truth is that God is a God of love. His heart is full of love!  It is this exact love that made Him send Jesus into this world to die for us and give us the opportunity to believe and be saved. It may seem to us at times that God is cruel, or the things He does just do not make sense, and we wonder why He does the things He does. Why must we wait? Why don’t things turn out the way we think is best? We have to remember that God is our loving parent, our Heavenly Father, and He knows what is best. I know all too often, that is not what we want to hear. We just want Him to make life easier and give us what we want.

I have learned that when I look to Him and trust Him to give me His best, His perfect gift in His perfect timing, it is always much better than what I thought I wanted or needed at the time.

So in the midst of our brokenheartedness, our desperation, or our depression, we must turn to the Lord and say, “Lord give me Your best, I trust Your heart of love for me.” And we must wait on Him to meet us with it in His perfect timing. We must trust His heart of love to give us the best gift for us.

He is with us in our pain and knows exactly what the longings of our hearts are. He also knows that we need the Giver more than the gift, and sometimes we lose sight of that. So today look to the Giver, our God of love, and tell Him of your desperation, and ask Him to give you His best answer. Tell Him you want His best for your life and wait patiently trusting His heart of love. He will not disappoint you!

 

A Look at Depression: Elijah

DEPRESSION CAN BLIND US TO GOD’S LOVE!

Elijah is another man in the Bible who suffered with depression. 1 Kings 19:4-19 shares the details of what Elijah experienced.

Elijah’s depression struck him after he had had a mountain-top experience with the Lord. He had prayed and asked the Lord to prove Himself as God and the Lord did just that in a miraculous way. The people were in awe. You can read specifically about this highpoint in Elijah’s life in 1 Kings 19:16-39.

It was following this that a woman named Jezebel, a wicked queen of that time, began to threaten Elijah’s life and Elijah ran scared. He literally ran for more than eighty miles. He fled to Beersheba and then went deep into the wilderness. There he crawled under a broom tree, exhausted and feeling great despair. He cried out to the Lord and asked the Lord to let him die.

Often in the depths of depression, people lose hope to the point of wanting to end their life. The sadness becomes overwhelming. And all of life can weigh you down.

The feelings of not wanting to live life can consume you. It is especially important during these times to have the support of a Christian counselor, a medical doctor, or a psychiatrist to help keep you safe. But beyond that, above all, it is important to remember who God is, and to remember His love for you.

Elijah lost sight of what the Lord had just done for him and he ran in fear, not consulting God for help, direction, or protection. He forgot about God’s presence and love.

Sometimes when life feels so heavy, we become very overwhelmed and only look inward. We live consumed with our feelings; drowning in our pain, in our needs, and in our fears. We become blind to the Lord reaching to us.

I know in my depression I was consumed with the fear of not having what I needed, I never realized how a death of a loved one early in my life, the loss of that very special relationship, had affected me so deeply. I had buried the pain and loss. The fear of losing again, the fear of not having the love I needed overwhelmed me. The grief I had not dealt with buried me under its heaviness. I didn’t see how the Lord’s love could meet me and satisfy me. I only could feel the desperation of my heart.

Right now, as I look back at that time I realize how my lack of seeing God’s love propelled me into greater hopelessness. I only need to look at the Lord’s response to Elijah to realize the depth of God’s love for him to begin to know the reality of it for me.

It seems the most human reaction to Elijah’s behavior would have been frustration, like, “Are you kidding me?” It seems like the Lord could have been a bit angry with him, “how could you forget what I just did for you? How could you forget to even call on Me?”

But no, that is not God’s response at all, instead the Lord meets Elijah in his neediness, in his deep exhaustion and the Lord cares for him. He lets Elijah sleep. He gives him food and drink.

What love! I needed that kind of non-judgemental, ever-present kind, gracious love. I needed someone to see the pain and fear within as I journeyed through my depression. But I missed it for a long time.

The Lord saw Elijah’s need and met him in it. And the Lord did see my need too, and He met me in my need as well. It just took me a long time to recognize Him in the middle of my anguish, because I was looking for a different answer.

The Lord sees the deepest needs of our hearts in a very real way. He knows the pain, the loss, the emptiness, the fear, whatever we are experiencing, He knows. And He is here. He comes to us with His loving presence and the tenderness of His care. He works to restore our brokenness. He picks up the pieces of our hearts and our lives, and puts them back together with the glue of His love. He shows us the way out. He gives us guidance and purpose. He doesn’t rush us but helps us to see Who He is, He helps us to see that He is all we need. He is the One Who fills our hearts with joy, and wraps us in His peace. And above all He holds us in His love.

What more could one want or need? Yet, our hearts get set on a desire, or on something we feel we can’t live without and we miss the Lord’s love. The only love that can fill our emptiness in a perfect way.

There are so many lessons to be learned from Elijah’s story, but the one that stands out to me the most is that our God is a personal God full of tender love. And it is in that love that He meets us in our pain, despair, and anguish. He comes alongside and helps us to see. He helps us to see Who He is and that He is for us and that is one of the most important things one needs to know in the loneliness and desperation of depression.

The Lord gives our hearts a reason to hope in a time when there doesn’t seem to be any hope. We must cling to the hope of His everlasting love and to the reality of His presence. He is with us through it all and He is faithful!

Next week I will continue to look at depression in the Bible in the story of Hannah.

A Look at Depression; The Psalmist

Have you been in the depths of depression? Are you dealing with it now? You are not alone.

This month I want to look at the topic of depression, particularly depression in men and women in the Bible. Each post will be centered around one person, this week we will focus on the Psalmist who wrote Psalm 42. Many scholars believe that this may have been David, but they are not sure.

We can get a clear picture of the author’s pain by looking at some of the key verses in this Psalm.

  • verse 3 “Day and night I lived on my tears, taunted all day with “where is your God?”
  • verse 4a “My soul is melting with secret sorrow…”
  • verse 5a “Why art thou downcast O my soul? Why so despairing?”
  • verse 9 “Why hast thou forgotten me? Why must I mourn as foes oppress me?”

Reading through these verses give us a good overview of how the Psalmist is feeling. I know depression in a very visceral way. I lived with it for ten months a number of years ago. I cried for hours, felt incredible hopelessness and despair, I lived with dread, lost my appetite, and slept away much of each day.

So I hear the author clearly here in Psalm 42 when he speaks of his soul melting in secret sorrow, feeling downcast, feeling despair, living on his tears, feeling forgotten, and just feeling alone. It is overwhelming beyond description.

My depression probably came on gradually but in my busyness I pushed it away until it slammed me down hard. I did the things I needed to do.

  • I took medication (which took months to find the right one).
  • I went to counselling for help to get to the bottom of what was going on inside.
  • I wrote endlessly in my journal to get my feelings and thoughts out.
  • I stayed in God’s Word, mostly reading the parts where the authors shared their pain.

But I also did things that were not helpful.

  • I isolated myself by locking myself in a room.
  • I pushed people away.
  • I tried to think of ways to escape the emotional pain (wanting to be numb or dead).
  • I held my feelings of anger in until I exploded.

Psalm 42 informs us that the author was isolated and not able to worship in the temple as he previously had. He was being taunted about the seeming powerlessness and absence of his God. He felt abandoned by the Lord and oppressed by his foes. He felt hopelessness but wisely he did not bury his feelings. He turned his feelings into a prayer of desperation to the One he knew could help him. He felt discarded, he mourned, but in that he knew his need for the Lord.

I knew my need for the Lord in my depression also, but I wanted Him to show up by answering the cry of the neediness in my heart my way.  I looked for and waited for God to do it my way, but God chose not to do it my way. He had a perfect plan. I remained stuck in my stubborn place like the Israelites in the wilderness.

The Psalmist cried out to be able to come to worship as he had before, he cried for the Lord to quiet the taunting and stop the oppression. He thirsted for God in the midst of his despair.

I thirsted for what I thought I needed alongside of needing God. But God knew that I only needed Him. He knew best, despite my cries to have it my way. He showed me the truth of my situation, He helped me see myself.

I, too, was oppressed, I was weighed down and crushed by the unfulfilled needs and sorrow that had long ago been buried. I was taunted by the cries within; the cries that lied about who I was and blinded me to God’s perfect love. I was tortured by the memory feelings that ripped my heart apart with their painful stabs.

When at last I saw the truth about me, and finally chose to stop seeking help my way. I realized how much I needed to fully depend on the Lord. I repented and in my repentance healing began.

Jehovah Rapha is the Great Physician. He heard my cry for Him to do it His way at last, and He healed me. He didn’t just heal me, as if that wasn’t enough, He drew me to deep intimacy with Him in the process.

The Psalmist had it right. He knew his need was God and he thirsted for Him. He sought after quenching from God alone He recognized his depression and asked himself what was wrong. He talked with the Lord about it.

The Psalmist told himself to wait for God. He knew that God alone was his help. It was the Psalmist’s desire to be praising the Lord again.

Depression is very painful and debilitating but in that dark place we can make a choice to seek the Lord, to repent of known sin, and to pray for healing in His way. He is ever faithful and in His perfect way He satisfies our hearts and souls.

If you are going through depression, seek the Lord. Tell Him your pain, and ask Him in a heartfelt prayer for the help you need. He will meet you in the pain and bring you through.

Next week we will look at the depression Elijah suffered, the fear he dealt with, and the exhaustion that overwhelmed him. We will see how the Lord worked in Elijah’s depression and glean wisdom from his experiences.

It is easy to look at the men and women in the Bible thinking that they are superhuman, and beyond what we have to go through, but as we look closely their weaknesses and neediness becomes real. It is in the dark depths of pain, need, and sorrow where we see the strength of the Lord lift them up and help them go on. We can depend on Him to do the same for us today. He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.

 

 

 

Cultivate Gratitude in Life

When we are little our parents are frequently reminding us to say thank you, whether it is for the lollipop given by a friendly cashier, or a birthday gift from grandma and grandpa, they encourage us to remember our manners.

Having a grateful spirit doesn’t come naturally, it seems so much easier to grumble and complain and even when we remember to say than you often they are just words without the heart of gratitude.

I want to cultivate a heart of gratitude. Not just saying thank you for sweet surprises and gifts from family or friends but being grateful to the Lord throughout the moments of my day.

I am finding that in choosing to be more present, I am recognizing more gifts in my day-to-day life. It is often easy to be grateful about large awesome gifts but the less obvious we frequently miss.

This week we had some snow, I woke up to see my yard look like a beautiful winter wonderland. The tree branches were covered with snow. The ground was white, and the snowflakes continued to fall adding to the inches that were down. I went out to shovel in the cool crisp air and marveled at the beauty of it all. I said “thank you” to the Lord. I thought, if snowflakes were blessings, I suddenly had become rich, but my thinking was wrong. The Lord showers me with many blessings everyday they just are not always as visible as the snow blanketing the ground. I miss them in my busyness. There is so much to be thankful for.

The Bible is filled with verses giving words for our thanks. Some of my favorites are:

1 Chronicles 16:39 “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; his love endures forever.”

Psalm 9:1 “I will give thanks to you LORD, with all my heart, I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.”

Psalm 107:8-9 “Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”

1 Corinthians 15:57 “…but thanks be to God who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

2 Corinthians 2:14 “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.”

The themes for giving thanks that we see here are for

  • the Lord’s goodness
  • the Lord’s love
  • the Lord’s wonderful deeds
  • the Lord’s meeting our needs
  • the Lord victory through Jesus
  • good things
  • God’s grace

Think about how the Lord has shown His goodness and His love to you? What wonderful deeds has He done on your behalf? How has He met your needs? How has He given you victory through Jesus? What good things has He given you ? How has He been gracious unto you? I don’t know about you but just thinking about the answers to these question leads me to quite a list of reasons for thanksgiving.

I am realizing being thankful is something you have to be intentional about. This year I am choosing to do just that. I began highlighting verses in my Bible that spoke of thankulness. I also am keeping a gratitude journal, although, honestly, I am more consistent some days than others. It is also my hope to be more spontaneous with saying thank you to the Lord and others throughout my days. I am often not very observant, my husband will do something and two weeks later I will make mention that it got done, and then he will tell me it was done days ago. I want to do better with that.

It truly is the little things in life that matter, like the unexpected text from a friend or a call from my husband. Or the time taken to share lunch with a friend you rarely see. There is so much to say thank you for.

There are so many little things that can go unnoticed because we are focused on expectation of greater things. or because the negative things in life seem to loom larger than the positives that seem more trivial.

But taking time to thank the Lord for the gifts He bestows on us as well as thanking those around me is something I want to work on in 2018.

Is cultivating gratitude something that you are doing this year? Please share what is helping you.

Cultivating Presence in Life

Test me Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on Your faithfulness.”          Psalm 26:2-3

 

Where do you live in your mind? Is it in the past ruminating on the could-of-beens and should-have-beens? Or is it in the future, thinking about what you will do or where you will go?

I think it is rare that we live in the present, being mindful of the here and now especially of the here and now as we focus on the Lord.

Matthew 6:33 tells us to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” The Lord doesn’t want us worrying and stressing about life, He will provide all that we need. He knows what we need before we even ask.

Robert Robinson wrote the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing (Public Domain). In this hymn he speaks of how his heart wanders, asking the Lord to bind it to Himself. The second verse states:”O to grace how great a debtor, Daily I’m constrained to be! Let thy goodness, like a fetter, Bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart O take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above.”

The functions of the mind are connected to the heart in the language of the Bible (Studylight.org) And it seems true that our minds and hearts are easily distracted and truly prone to wander.

I want to cultivate presence in 2018. First of all presence with the Lord. I want to keep Him at the forefront of my mind. I want to be aware of Him:

  • aware of Him being with me
  • aware of His acting on my behalf
  • aware of His speaking to my heart
  • aware of His impressing His will on me.

I want to keep in mind these things as well as have an eternal perspective. When my mind is focused on the temporal I can get pulled in all too many directions. Worry, fretting, and anxiety start whirling and soon tie me in knots. But when I keep my focus on the Lord, remembering His faithfulness, trusting in His sovereignty, I can rest, I can live in the here and now, in the present moment because I know He has it all under His control. Trusting gives me newfound freedom to live today and really be in the moment.

Paul tell us in Romans that we need to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (12:2)” so that we don’t live lives conformed to the world.

When you look at the world today, you see a lot of stressed out people. Anti-anxiety and high blood pressure medications are given out at an all time high. Unfortunately many Christians live in this group as well. And I have been there, living in an overwhelmed, stressed-out state. I have been on medication in the past and I know all of the struggles that go with it. I think that realizing this is what pushes me to want to make the changes. There is absolutely nothing wrong with needing medication, but what I observe is people taking medication to keep their heads above water rather than making the lifestyle changes that are necessary. I think that choosing transformation of heart and mind may help with the problem in some cases, possibly many cases.

I want to know more of the peace that comes in knowing God’s presence. I want to stop the rat-race and pressure of achieving and performing. And what I realize that I must consider is what really matters in the end. Living in a pressure cooker to get more stuff and knock off every item on a bucket list or a to-do list is not really going to matter on my death-bed. Some of it may give temporary pleasure, but the push, push, push of it all will inevitably tarnish the shine.

I want to be living in a way that I can really be aware of and take notice of the Lord’s gifts in day-to-day life– the song of the cardinal, the sweet taste of honey in my chai green tea, the aroma of coffee brewing in the pot, the beauty of an evening snowfall, the feel of the garden soil in my hands, the warmth of the oven baking sweet treats, or the delicious smell coming from the pot of taco chili. I want to be aware of what’s behind the sad words coming from my friend and I want to hear my husband’s excitement about the difficult job that he has been working so hard to nail and how he finally met his goal. I want to be present for all of it.

Too often it is easier to be overly self-focused about a personal problem, a future worry, or an irritating frustration and miss the moment, miss the gift and worse yet miss the Giver.

Look back to the beginning of this post and read Psalm 26:2-3. Are you always mindful of the Lord’s unfailing love and reliant on His faithfulness? I know I am not, at least not very consistently. I want to grow in these so I can say that verse knowing it’s truth.

So, now here in 2018, I am working to cultivate time in everything and really being present. Let me share some of the things I am doing.

  • I am using the ABIDE app and the Mindful Worship site on my phone to help me take time for short Scripture meditations before bed. My heart grows peaceful and I breathe deeply and fall asleep thinking on the Lord being with me.
  • I am journaling about beautiful moments throughout my days. Remembering God is good.
  • I am choosing to shovel the snow slowly and enjoy the crisp air and the beauty that surrounds me. My senses give me reason to give God glory.
  • I am seeing the Lord show me my self-sufficiency as He works with me to draw me into deeper reliance on Him. And feeling the precious intimacy is incredible.
  • I am trying to find places in my day to pause and breathe deeply. And in those times I purposefully think about and look for ways the Lord is showing His presence in my day.

All of this brings me to the same place. Do you see where it leads? The natural response to a being present in life is thanksgiving, a thankful heart, and that is what I will be sharing about in my next post. Because another area I want to cultivate in life this year is a heart of gratitude.

Do you have any special key thing you do to help you remain present, aware of the here and now? I would love for you to share them. I think it is great anytime we can help or encourage one another in growing in our walks with the Lord and throughout our daily lives. May you know more of the Lord’s presence in your life in 2018.

 

Cultivating Passion in Life

Life can grow mundane in the ho-hum of the daily obligations. The same things fill each day and suddenly years pass by and you wonder where the time has gone.

It is for this reason that in 2018 I want to cultivate passion in my life. I want to really work at putting my whole heart and soul into those things that are important to me and more than that I want to have passion for all of life.

First of all that means making some wise choices. Shauna Niequist in her book Present Over Perfect quotes Mizuta Masahide who says, “Barns burned down now I can see the moon.”

Cultivating passion in 2018 will mean a number of different things for me, but first I will need to burn down some barns. Burning barns and choosing what is important is just where it starts.

I have already begun to do that. I am choosing things to focus on that are life-giving to me, and leaving behind things that just eat time. It seems all too often when I finally fall into bed it has been with a sigh of realization  that I never got to do any of what I really wanted to do.  I did cleaning, laundry, cooking, responding to others, and their needs, but I set aside what I yearned to do.

Oftentimes that ends up meaning I set aside writing and being creative. These are things I love, things that are really important to me, yet they get trampled out of my life by other things.

Beyond burning barns, I need to plan to do what I love and make it a priority. I actually have to sadly admit that I have planned what I wanted to do but just never made it a priority or found the time to get it done. I am realizing that it is not so much about bad planning, rather it is more about getting distracted by time-wasting activities that pull at me. So, I went through my typical to-do-list for a day and timed it out so I would know how much time it should take to accomplish the things I need to do. As it turns out, it really shouldn’t take that much time. This made me realize how many hours I was really wasting. Wasting time by surfing the net, reading articles/blogs and getting pulled from one topic to another, and on and on. I also was getting sidetracked by other things that I saw which needed to be done. Things that were not on my list but instead things that took away from the time I should have been giving to my priorities.

So I realized that I really need to stick to a specific list of what needs to be done for that day. Also, as I go through my day, I need to be aware of anything that the Lord may call me to do.  I can’t just go the way of distraction and waste time, because that only leaves me very frustrated.

Now that I realize, in reality, there is time enough for doing the things I love, my passions are being placed as a priority.

But this is not just about “my passions.”  I want to cultivate more passion for life in general this year rather than just going through the motions. Thinking about this brings me back to Ann Voskamp’s idea of a “to love list” rather than a to-do list. Somehow doing things out of a heart of love brings on passion and gives new life to the activity. It fills your heart.

I need to get back to focusing on living out of love. For me this means living out love by working harder at consistently cooking healthy meals, continuing my never-ending task of decluttering, and especially, finding other special ways to show love to my husband. Most recently, showing love to my husband has been accomplished by baking stollen. His eyes light up and a big smile comes to his face when he sees fresh-baked stollen on the cutting board on the table.

I also want to become more present and available, first to the Lord, and then to my husband, but we will get to that in next week’s post.

I believe the Lord desires for us to live passionately. He told us to  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these.” in Matthew 22:37-39. He wants us to put our hearts and souls into living for Him.

This truth is also made obvious by the way the Lord rebuked the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22. The Lord was revealing to each ancient church what pleased Him and what displeased Him. The church of Laodicea displeased Him in that they were “neither hot nor cold” but rather just “lukewarm” in their faith.

We live out the faith we hold in our hearts in our daily walks, so it seems that just going through motions in life is like being lukewarm, very little passion attached to life. The Lord wants us to live passionately for Him in touching others with His love, by walking in the Spirit, and in growing the fruit of the Spirit through His work in us as we abide.

I believe I can cultivate passion for life this year as I look to the Lord to live through me, abiding more in Him. Living half-hearted has to be giving a poor testimony about what life in Christ is like. I want to live a full life, a life-giving and love-giving life because I am abiding in Him more. I want to use my God-given gifts for His glory.  In order to do this I will need to continually seek  His wisdom in life for direction and guidance, because I am truly satisfied when I am walking in His will. He is my Life-giver and Love-giver in all of life.

Are you living with passion for life? Ask Him to help you live life with all of your heart and soul! We can be truly satisfied living in and for Him.

 

Cultivating Joy in Life

Happy New Year!

A new year, a new focus!

My new word for 2018 is cultivate. I chose that word because it describes what I need to do in my life.

When a farmer cultivates, he prepares the land to grow crops, breaking up soil to grow his plants. His purpose in cultivating is to get rid of the weeds and to loosen the soil in order to have the optimal retention and penetration of water, nutrients and air.

I want similar things to happen in my life in 2018. I want to get the weeds of busyness and clutter out of my life. And I want to grow joy, develop greater passion for life, have a heart filled with more and more gratitude, and live a life of presence, mindful of what the Lord wants for me.

My first four posts of 2018 will focus on how I will cultivate these in my life. So let’s get right to cultivating joy.

I have been realizing more and more that I allow too many things to steal my joy. And, you know, that is exactly what Satan desires. He wants us to feel discouraged and despairing. And with all that is going on in this world, one can easily have their joy stolen. But even in daily life it can only take a word, a frustration, or a disappointment to steal joy, especially in me, when I allow myself to repeatedly mull over these things in my mind.

I want this year to be different I want to celebrate and find joy in the ordinary. I began to share about this when I read the book Choosing Real by Bekah Jane Pogue. She talks about celebrating how Jesus shows Himself real in life. And also how we can draw near to Him in all things. He is the one Who gives us joy.

One of the things I am choosing to do this year is to find verses in the Bible that speak of joy, gladness, and rejoicing and then highlight them in my Bible. I am doing one verse each day. I want to see what God’s Word says it takes to bring me joy. There are many verses in Psalms that speak of joy, let alone the entire Bible. A few that have given me insight are these:

Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life, you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

Psalm 28:7 “The LORD is my strength and my shield, my heart trusts in him, and he helps me, my heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.”

Psalm 90:14 “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Psalm 94:19 “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

Psalm 119:111 “Your statutes are my heritage forever, they are the joy of my heart.”

These five verses alone give me much insight into finding joy. They tell me that joy is found:

  • in the Lord’s presence
  • in knowing who the Lord is as my strength, my shield, and my help
  • in the Lord’s unfailing love
  • in the Lord’s consolation
  • in His Word/Statutes that are eternal.

Isn’t it funny (or actually sad), how we so often look for joy in this world; in things, in other people, in having our desires met?

I am not saying that the Lord doesn’t give us reasons for joy in all He has given us in creation, blessings, and relationships with others. I know for a fact that He does allow us to know joy in those things. But I also know that when my focus is in solely seeking joy in these areas I can become disillusioned.

So, in 2018, I want to begin to seek to cultivate joy in my heart:

  • by knowing His presence more, slowing down and being with Him more intentionally
  • by learning to know more of Who He is personally to me in my daily life. The Lord is a very personal God.  He leads us to know Him in amazing ways as we seek Him diligently.  He has shown me this in the past.  I must continue seeking.
  • by really looking for His love in my life and recognizing it, being cognizant of how it touches me in my moment-by-moment life.
  • by taking my pain, anxiety, hurt, fear, grief, worry, and sadness to Him so that He can comfort and console me. And then I, like the Psalmist, can also find joy in His consolation.

I want to celebrate joy and find joy in the ordinary because of my constant unwavering knowledge of the Lord. So, I must continually grow and rest in my knowledge of Him.

This definitely will take focus and time, but I am very much looking forward to knowing joy in my heart more and more as I go through 2018.

I would love to hear from you. Do you have word chosen for 2018? What is it and why did you choose that particular word?

Do you have any favorite Bible verses about joy that you can share with me?

Next week, I will be sharing about how I want to cultivate passion for life in 2018.

May your new year be filled with lessons and blessings from the Lord.

Wishing You Blessings at Christmas!

It is a very cold day here.  I am very happy to be sipping coffee inside. I still have shopping to do, but I have decided to procrastinate for a bit so I can write this. The weeks seem to just fly by, and I want to take this opportunity to share some thoughts with you.

I have been struggling to get one post out each week.  But I am trying to do some planning ahead and trying to have a better system, so I get it done. I feel more direction from the Lord with what He desires me to share, so I will be prayerfully seeking Him for further leading.

I do know that I will begin the new year by sharing with you about the word I have chosen to focus on for 2018. There are four areas that I will be seeking growth in with my focus. I will be telling you about all of these in January.

My prayer is that each of you will have a Christmas filled with blessings of knowing more of Christ’s love, peace,  and presence. There is absolutely nothing more important than having those. He is our greatest gift ever. Matchless in worth.

Merry Christmas!

Cheryl

Preparing for Christmas: Cleaning

The holidays are upon us, our Thanksgiving celebrations are over and now we are into the season of Advent, in no time Christmas will be here.

The busyness of the holidays always seems to take over an I get lost in the hustle. So, this year I am trying to be intentional about making that different. When my eyes are on my calendar and my to-do list, I get overwhelmed. My intention is to prepare my heart and soul for Jesus this year.

One of the main tasks we do at the hoidays is getting our homes clean before company arrives. Sometimes this means a deep cleaning, but if time doesn’t allow for that maybe it is a quick once over.

I believe that we should do the same thing with our hearts as we prepare for the Lord’s coming. Does your heart need cleaning?

David tells the Lord in Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.”

Cleaning the house begins with getting rid of the clutter that is lying around, I don’t know about you, but my heart is often cluttered also. Cluttered with frustration, hurt, resentment, worry, fear… you name it, it may be found there.

I know as David knew that I desperately need God’s grace. Just as I need to pick up each piece of clutter in my house and take care of it, I also need to take care of the clutter in my heart. Each frustration, want or sadness needs to be taken to the Lord.

Do you wonder what this might look like? Let me share a few examples.

You might say, ‘Lord, I am still grieving the loss in my heart. It is so difficult to celebrate or plan a celebration with all of this pain. I need You help to see the hope that Jesus brings to the world. I do not have to be pushed or pulled by the pressures of the world’s view of the holidays. My joy needs to be in Jesus opening heavens door for me and my loved one who has now passed on. My tears will still flow, my heart will still ache, but I will celebrate the hope I know in Jesus by just putting up my manger scene.’

We just lay out our hearts clutter before the Lord and tell Him our needs and He will help us to see ho we can go on, what we can do.

Most of us need some rest, we need to take time to be with Jesus, to read an Advent devotional or to sing a hymn that reiterates the Christmas story and brings hope to our weary hearts.

Let me share another scenario. Maybe your heart is feeling jealous or envious because you know you won’t have this Christmas be as you want it to be. Maybe you can’t be with the people you want. Maybe you know you can’t afford the gifts you would like to buy, yet you see others planning trips and shopping sprees leaving you feeling jealous and resentful. What might you tell the Lord about your heart then? ‘Lord, I want so much more than what is possible, I feel so disappointed, I am jealous of ____’s ability to fly to visit her family and ___”s financial status making him able to buy extravagant gifts. I want to scream in discontent. But Lord, I know Christmas is really about the tiny baby who came to earth to bring salvation. He is the one whose Word teaches me to surrender, to let go, and to forgive. Lord, help me rejoice in what seems to be a great trial and a big frustration. Help me celebrate Jesus’ birth with what I have this Christmas..’

Whatever it is that is cluttering up your heart this holiday season, take it to the Lord. He wants us to come just as we are and bring what is on our hearts and minds. He will lead us to see jesus, to see hope, and to find peace. He can lead us to know rest. We only need to come in jumble honesty and share our struggles.

Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, there is no sin too great, no clutter too big, the Lord can give aid. We need only come to Him.

He wants our hearts to be clean, He wants us to welcome Jesus, and know the wondrous love that sent Him to earth. The Lord will renew a right spirit within us as He did David.

More important than a clean home at Christmas is a clean heart ready for Jesus. Do you need a right spirit within? Different versions word this verse differently, some say “loyal” spirit, another says “steadfast” spirit, another says a “faithful” spirit and still another says “a right attitude.”  I want my spirit to be loyal to the Lord, I want to live out faithfulness, and not be divided because of the clutter within. I want my attitude to be right. What about you?

Wherever your heart and spirit are at, take it all to the Lord. Ask Him to be at work in you to help you find your all-in-all in Jesus this Christmas!