Monday, November 25, 2013

Live Beyond your Feelings

I have to say that throughout this month seeing all the post on what everyone is thankful for is really cool to see. It also got me thinking about how acknowledging what we can be thankful for keeps us focused on our blessings and not our struggles. It also seemed to make the negative post complaining about circumstances stand out even more. Clearly we are all guilty of complaining and I think that social media tends to become an outlet for some people to vent. Unfortunately this is a tool that Satan can use to distract us from our faith. Yesterday our pastor really struck home with his sermon. He laid out the journey to righteousness and what exactly that means. The entire chapter of Romans 4 is packed full of how to be righteous and live as a Godly example to those around us. So many times we are guilty of trying to earn approval by our actions. And part of that approval runs deep into impressing others, being envious of others and judging others.

The last few months I have really been working to reach a huge goal that will have a big positive impact on our little family. Just like anything it can become an emotional roller coaster but sitting in church yesterday I realized that regardless of circumstances and time frame, which is even more minor, I have to give it to God. That is a very difficult thing to do with anything but if I am not God focused nothing will be as good as it could be. I have so much to be thankful for. I have an incredible Godly man as a husband and father to my children. He loves me unconditionally and supports me always. He is a constant uplifting voice in my life that always remembers to focus on Gods favor in our lives. What a blessing he is to me. I have a beautiful, hilarious and snugly baby girl that literally makes me smile first thing every morning. I have a precious baby boy on the way that I can not wait to meet. I have a very supportive family in all aspects. My parents would do anything at the drop of a hat if I needed them. My siblings have always been my best friends and supported me and reminded me even when people I am close to have let me down I still have them and their relationship that will forever be secure and loving. And those blessings are just in my immediate family. Once I start there I can then go into my incredible friends and all they have done and been there for me throughout my life. Its amazing when you sit there and start naming one blessing it leads to another and another and another. All of the sudden the "circumstances", the "un-met" goals, the little annoyances and mood swings that Satan tries to build into strong holds in our life begin to shrink. They become less and less important.

I also learned when I stay in thankfulness I tend to separate myself from those that are negative. Not because I do not love and care about them but because misery loves company. I know when I am being "miserable" I want to hear others complain and talk about how many things are wrong in their life so I feel better. But the thing is, I do not feel better, I feel worse, I feel depressed and I do not feel righteous. Everyone has issues and problems to face daily. Regardless of how amazing their life may appear on the outside. Its an incredible thing that if we laid out all of our problems on a table and had to trade with someone else, we would want our own back pretty quickly. Isn't that something? We only compare our problems to others blessings? Why do we do that? As Christians it is vital to not lose sight of what matters. To pursue peace not judgement. Not to look at others and think well at least I am not doing that. This week I looked at a few of those negative post and thought "well at least I am not complaining like they are". But if I am thinking the same thoughts and not being an encouragement to them then I am just as guilty. When people are weak in their faith we must build them up so we can all grow in faith and bring others to Christ. This is our earthly example. As Christians we must show Gods love always even on our cloudy days, And for crying out loud we must stop complaining!! We must pursue faith not feelings! If our circumstances are bringing us down, how about we change them. We may not be able to change them as quickly as we want but we can be proactive and allow God to lead us in our journey.

When we moved to New Orleans a couple years ago I was convinced it was "short term". I did not allow myself to ever feel like this is my home. And to be honest, it is not going to be for much longer. But it has been my home for far longer than I anticipated. I have done a lot of gripping, complaining and worrying that my friends will not understand when I am not able to attend certain events. I have missed weddings, baby showers and even funerals because living several states away is part of the sacrifice. Not one that I am happy about but this is my current circumstance. The entire time we have lived here I told my husband "things will be really great when we relocate and get closer to home because..." and time and time again he has responded "things are great now." He is right, they are really great. Looking back on the last few years our lives have changed a lot and it has changed for the better. It is time I let go of how I want to plan things and what time frame I want them to fall under. And a long the way Satan will try to distract me with the friends that maybe do not understand or support me, or doors being closed and our next station may not be the exact place I want to live. However, I have to trust that wherever God leads us is where he wants us. I need to learn to look at the faithfulness God shows me daily. I must live beyond my feelings! If I can manage to do this and be thankful, stop complaining and learn to be righteous in Christ I can have a tremendous impact for God. That is something I can no longer take lightly. Declaring I am a Christ follower means I am opening the door for people to watch my life. How do I respond to life? I pray I will start living by conviction and not convenience. I believe that starts with putting a stop to complaining about stuff that does not matter. After all I want my children to learn Christ like behaviors. Complaining is not of God. There were six questions my pastor asked yesterday and I want to live a life that answers these correctly.

1.What does the Bible say?
2. What is the example of Jesus?
3.Have I surrendered this matter in prayer?
4. Is my faith being strengthened?
5.Am I building up my family?
6. Am I reaching anyone for Christ?

Thank you Lord for placing that sermon on the heart of my pastor yesterday. Thank you for reminding me in this season of thankfulness to always be thankful regardless of circumstances. I pray I will be part of the legacy to reach the world, and to recognize that unshaken faith in the Lord transforms lives.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Power of a Smile

Have you seen the Volkswagen commercial where it just shows clips of people laughing? I don't care who you are you have to smile when you watch that. I remember riding in the car with my mom when I was pretty young. The thought came into my mind that I was a pretty happy kid. I know this sounds funny but in the mind of a child this was a very deep thought. I then began to think if there had ever been a day that I had not smiled. It is funny that I remember this but I think what made this memory stick is I looked at my mom and said “I think I have smiled every day of my life”. She looked down at me with a smile and said “you should make sure you continue to do that for the rest of your life.” Any command a parent gives you at this age is taken very seriously so I thought well I better keep this up!

I had a flashback of this memory when my three month woke me up this morning. In my groggy state, I rubbed my eyes and stumbled out of bed thinking to myself, I sure hope she wants to go back to sleep after she eats. When I walked up to her and looked down she gave me a huge open mouth, no teeth smile. I immediately woke up and realized how special and precious this time is with her. I have never been a morning person but when you have a baby you learn quickly that you no longer call the shots in your morning routine. My daughter Landry, is a morning baby. Although this may change once she recognizes the difference between night and day but as of now she loves waking up. I am reminded every morning how blessed I am and she reminds me of this by simply smiling at me. It is incredible what a smile does.
I began to further analyze this during my devotion time. Instead of going back to sleep I began my day. Just Landry smiling back at me gave me just the boost I needed to start my day off right.  I then transitioned into laughter and how powerful laughing can be when it comes to one’s emotional state. I feel laughter is a cure for a bad day. Isn't it amazing how God created something that seems so minor to have this much affect on your mood? An infamous quote from a classic movie has always been one of my favorites because it is so true…

“Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion” –Steel Magnolias

I think so many people relate to this quote because they know that is the only thing that can transition your heart to focus on the positive. That even during the darkest moments if you find something you can laugh or smile about you feel a sense of hope. You feel that life still does have joy in it even when you are broken. I believe happiness is a choice. It is a big choice and sometimes it is very difficult to choose to be happy.
I realize more and more how important laughter is in relationships. It does not matter what kind. Not everyone is a comedian but if there is laughter in the relationship there is joy. As annoyed and irritated as I can get with my husband he can always make me laugh. It is such a powerful aspect of our relationship because it brings me back to the reality of the situation every time. That at the heart of anything that we experience there is still joy and there is still love for one another. It is an important aspect to keep a relationship going. It is a common ground that people can relate to one another regardless of circumstance. But most importantly the reason for laughter must be pure. 

I jumped to this thought because on my jog the other day I saw some kids playing outside. There were a few kids on one side of the street laughing and I did not put much thought into it until I saw one kid that looked broken looking over at the group of laughing kids. I realized they were laughing at him.  I stopped and pretended to tie my shoe so I could hear the conversation and it was not one I ever want to hear my children take part in.  My blood began to boil and I immediately wanted to jump down the kids throats but I know that that would only add to the embarrassment of the other child. So instead I just smiled at the kid being left out, he smiled and then took off on his skateboard. As I watched him skate away I wondered what I should do in that situation, I looked at the other children and said “you know at some point in this life you may be the one being laughed at, you may want to think about that”. I know they do not care about what some lady has to say, it is far more important what their peers think of them. However, I hope that at least for a moment the smile took the kid away from the hurt he was feeling. I know there have been a lot of campaigns about bullying and it is a timeless issue that I agree should be approached. But I think it starts with what they are taught and what children see. It hit me that as a parent I have to be so aware of my reactions so that my children understand how important it is to treat one another. It can never be at another’s expense. I still happens when you are an adult. I got my feelings hurt the other day when a friend said I made her laugh in a very condescending way. I do not believe her intention was to hurt me but her laughing at my expense caught me off guard. It was even through text and I could not even see or hear the laughter but it still hurt my feelings.It is a powerful thing and most of the time we take it so lightly. Do not turn laughter ,which is a gift, into a weapon. 

Humanity has unquestionably one really effective weapon—laughter. Power, money, persuasion, supplication, persecution—these can lift at a colossal humbug—push it a little—weaken it a little, century by century; but only laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand. — Mark Twain

 During my devotion it hit me that this is going to be something I want my children to learn about laughter. I want them to enjoy life, I want them to smile every day and I want them to be able to laugh through tears. But at the heart of their laughter I want it to be pure. I want to teach them that they should NEVER laugh at someone. That they should never take something God intended for good and turn it into something bad. And when they do see someone abusing the gift of laughter that they separate themselves and react in a way that shows they do not laugh at anyone. I pray they never join into a group just to feel part of it because they will always regret settling for temporary acceptance over doing the right thing. I felt convicted anytime I have ever stood there and allowed someone to be hurt. It is never worth the temporary acceptance.

A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.
Proverbs 15:13

I love laughter. I love smiling. We all do. I want my children to have such a joyful and happy life full of laughter. But most importantly I want it to be pure joy. I want it to be because they see the good in a situation. I am thankful for my joy and my smiling baby today. I do not want my children to ever think it is okay to take something pure and turn it into something ugly. This is a heart issue and a pure smile will come from a glad heart.  I vowed today to make sure my smile is always pure.