Peace of My Heart

An encouraging voice to drown out the noise

~God indeed has a plan~ December 19, 2013

Yesterday morning, I was on stress-overload.  I had been up since 4:30 and my mind was all over the place.  I have a pretty good feeling that most of my erratic thoughts were due in part to my lack of sleep.  However, we have some very real worries and the more tired I am, the more difficulty I have keeping things in perspective.

Right about the time that I could feel the tears welling up, I heard Emma start singing a song from their Christmas play from the weekend.

“God has a plan, God has a plan.  Don’t be afraid, God has a plan.”

Next thing you know, little Bella joined in.

“God has a plan, God has a plan.  And we can trust it because it’s his.”

And wouldn’t you know that Autumn overheard them and started singing along, too.

“Even though, many times, we can’t understand.  Don’t be afraid….God has a plan.”

Overwhelmed.  How about that for God’s timing?  My Lord loves me enough to send me an encouraging word through the most beautiful little girls in the world.  Out of the mouths of my sweet babes came the message that I so desperately needed to hear.

I am truly blessed to have daughters whose hearts are chasing after the Lord.  How fortunate am I to get to watch them develop and grow in their faith?

Autumn & Emma singing their duet @ church

Autumn & Emma singing their duet @ church

 

~Your Encourager Needs Encouragement Too~ December 13, 2013

We all have at least one person that we can always count on to say just the right thing when we are down and out.  Chances are, it’s the first person you think of when you need prayer or counsel.  You consider them to be rock solid and faithful.  You can count on them to be there when you need them most and trust that they will keep your conversations confidential.  And most importantly, when they say they are going to pray for you, they do.

Obviously your person has it all together and never has struggles of their own, that’s why you are drawn to them for guidance, right?

Of course the answer is no.

The problem is that we often tend to see them that way.  We become so accustomed to seeking their help that we inadvertently overlook them when they are in the pit.  It’s not that we don’t want to be there for them in the same capacity that they have been for us, we just feel inadequate to minister to them.  After all, what could we possibly say to encourage the one who we look to for spiritual wisdom?

Who is your person?

  • Your pastor or their spouse
  • Mom or Dad
  • Your spouse
  • Your BFF:  Best Friend Forever not Big Fat Friend (sorry, couldn’t resist one of my fav movie references)

If it’s your pastor or his/her spouse, just think for a moment how many others likely have the same “it” person.  Can you even imagine how many counseling sessions they do or the number of prayer requests they must receive in a day?  And this is how it should be, they are spiritual leaders.  But even so, they need prayer too, probably even more so than some of those they are praying for!  Because of the tireless work they do for the Lord, it places a “most wanted” sign on their back for the devil.  They are vulnerable and subject to attack, same as you and me.

Mom & Dad…well they worry about you anyway, it’s part of the job description.  I am a grown woman and still want to run to my Momma when my world gets turned upside down.  They are our safety net.  Sometimes they have troubles and try to hide them from us because they don’t want to burden their children.

Husbands & wives automatically bear one another’s burdens, or at least they should.  I have been know to unload on my man the minute he hits the door in the evenings.  Maybe he’s had a rough day too but he keeps his worries and struggles to himself because he doesn’t want to put more on my already full plate.

Best friends are very often on the receiving end of our loaded gun.  They know us well, sometimes better than we know ourselves, and we know we can spew it all out and they’ll totally understand.  May I be blunt?  Don’t be the friend who monopolizes all of the talk time in the relationship.  Yes, your friend is an awesome listener, full of sound advice and love for you but don’t let their silent nod fool you into believing they have nothing to discuss themselves.

So how can you encourage the one who has lifted you up time after time?  Give them a call with no agenda of your own, just to say “hey, how’s it going with you today?” then listen for indicators that their typical response of “I’m ok” is a farce.  How about a card?  Never underestimate the power of the written word.  Technology has made hand-written notes a thing of the dark ages, but there’s something special about a tangible piece of paper that you can keep with you always.  If you have a little spare time on your hands, see if they are free for coffee and give them the floor this time.  Be creative.  The key is to make them your priority because, yes, your encourager needs encouragement too.

encourager

“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another”

(Romans 12:10 NKJV)

 

~If~ December 12, 2013

Have you ever thought about the word “if’?  It’s a tiny little word that isn’t normally thought provoking.  However, we have been told numerous times by our Pastor that every word in Scripture matters.  Therefor, where Bible study is concerned, even the word “if” bears importance.

When you read a statement that includes the word, it implies that one statement is contingent upon another.  For example, you will be a successful athlete if you put in the time that it takes to develop your skills and proper technique.

In other words, by using “if” you are establishing one or more conditions to achieve a desired result.

I was doing a little research this morning about a specific prayer need and suddenly became acutely aware that “if” is mentioned numerous times in the Word.

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

(Galatians 6:9)
How many times have you seen believers experience burnout?  You see them serving tirelessly in various ministries.  Everything they do is for the Lord & His people and suddenly they throw in the towel, dive headfirst into sin and embrace the world’s mentality of me, me, me.  In doing so they forfeit their blessing.  They grew tired of doing what was good.  The living for Jesus thing no longer seemed worth it because they had yet to reap their harvest.  This verse reminds us that in order to live a blessed life, we must endure hardships, failures, exhaustion and the like.  And beyond that, we must see ourselves as being blessed even when our circumstances would dictate otherwise.
“He has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard”
(Colossians 1:22-23)
So you want to stand before the Lord on judgment day and hear him say, “well done, my good and faithful servant”….isn’t that what every believer longs for?  The question is, are you wavering in your faith?  Do you flit from one set of beliefs to another?  Do you find yourself believing this part of the Bible but saying this part over here is open to interpretation because it messes with the lifestyle you’d like to live?  An antonym for steadfast is disloyal.  Ouch.  If you are doing anything other than holding steadfast to the gospel, you are being disloyal to God.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
(1 John 1:9)
This, I love.  God is ready, willing and overjoyed to remove our sins as far from us as East is from the West.  The only thing we are required to do to receive this free gift is admit we have sinned and fallen short of His glory.  I like to think of it in regards to any relationship.  No healthy partnership is one sided.  Each party does their share to make it work.  Life with God is no different.  He does His part but expects us to do the work too.  Lucky for us, He does the hard part.  All we have to do is fully submit our lives to Him, trusting that His infinite knowledge of our innermost workings makes him qualified to be ruler of our hearts and minds.

You know where there is one place that “if” is not used in the Bible…the part that says He loves us.  Even if we are not living for Him, He loves us.  Even when we fail Him, he loves us still.  Even when we run hard and fast away from him, his love never quits, never runs out and never gives up on us.

 

~Check your pants~ December 11, 2013

liarRecently I had the pleasure of being lied to, straight to my face.  Lucky for me, I have the uncanny ability to read my children’s minds and know when their telling me a tall tale.  Not really…they are just terrible liars, praise God!  I like to think it’s due in part to the fact that Jesus loves me enough to help me survive the preteen years by making them transparent.

Having said all that, it’s story time.

All three of my older children attend the same school.  There’s not much one can do and get away with when there are two siblings anxious to bust you.  When the guilty party is the daughter, you better believe her two older brothers are chomping at the bit as to which one is going to rat her out first.  This particular time was no different.

My sweet girl has herself a little crush.  You should know that we have told them all they are much too young for dating at this point.  Friendship is good and encouraged, however referring to someone as your boyfriend/girlfriend is frowned upon.  Her first mistake was crushing on her brother’s best friend.  Her second mistake was breaking the rule by telling half the school he was her boyfriend.  Her third mistake, and the one that sealed her fate, was denying the above to my face with both of her brothers in the same room.  As soon as she shook her head, complete with darting eyes to avoid meeting my glare, both boys erupted into “Huh-uh, you’re lying!” and “OHHHH, you are so busted!!”

One has to chuckle.

To make matters worse, she tried to spin a little story as if she had misunderstood my very direct question, “Are you claiming (name to remain unknown) as your boyfriend?”  The more she attempted to cover her lie, the more she jumbled up her words.

Being the awesome mom that I am, I blurted out “That’s right, keep lying to me.  God’s gonna make you choke on them lies if you don’t watch it!”  (Yes, I know that is bad grammar, but I am from the South so cut me some slack.)

The look on her face was priceless as her daddy busted out laughing.  As amusing as it all was, there is a lesson to be learned here.

There was a reason she was struggling to find words.  She knew she wasn’t speaking the truth and was truly having difficulty making the lie come out of her mouth.

I feel certain that everyone has at some point in their life told a lie.  It may be a little, white lie or a big production that spun so wildly out of control that you could barely remember the truth by the time it was all said and done.

The trouble with lying is, once you’ve done it a few times, it gets easier and easier.  It starts with a fib to avoid having to explain your actions to a loved one.  Then it progresses to faking sickness to get out of your responsibilities.  Before you know it, your walking around with flaming britches and no one believes a word you say anymore.

Want to know what the Bible says about liars?

“The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.”

(Proverbs 12:22)

“We are careful to be honorable before the Lord, but we also want everyone else to see that we are honorable.”

(2 Corinthians 8:21)

It’s pretty cut and dry.  No one likes to be lied to.  It’s a relationship killer.  And as I explained to my girl, “if you will lie to me about the little things, what’s to stop you from lying about something bigger?”

Maybe there is something that you haven’t been completely honest about and it’s eating you up inside trying to keep your secret.  Search your heart and ask God to reveal to you were you may be dealing with un-truths.  Get that junk out of your heart.  Honesty is most certainly the only policy if we are to honor the Lord in our words, actions and thoughts.

So check your pants, brothers & sisters and unless your clothing is constructed of flame-retardant material, you may want to extinguish the fire.

 

~Is silence golden?~ December 5, 2013

Let me just begin by saying that if you are a woman, you need to at least read the book Unglued.  Even if you can’t do the study that goes along with it, the book alone can change your life.  You men folk could probably learn a thing or two about what makes your lady tick…literally…so maybe you should pick it up too.

Lysa has been all up in my business these last few weeks but it’s ok, she’s ministering not meddling.  She has a knack for making one aware of issues you either didn’t know you had or were in extreme denial over.  One particular thing that drew my attention was when she referenced how some of us have the habit of biting our tongue when we’re upset, thinking that we are being more spiritual by saying nothing.  You mean that isn’t the case?  Let me tell you something friends, I have bitten my tongue until I’ve tasted blood and nothing about the thoughts in my head screamed “Jesus girl.”  I would convince myself that I was taking the higher ground because I didn’t say what I was really thinking, all the while making mental notes of all the wrongs the offender had ever committed.

There is one verse in Proverbs that I based my “stuff-it-in” logic on, “it is to his glory to overlook an offense.”   I do believe that we honor God when we choose to forgive an insult rather than retaliate.  BUT, are we really overlooking the offense when we say or do nothing while building feelings of resentment for another person?

This just in-bitterness is not biblical.

If I am to be completely honest with myself, half the time when I chose to remain quiet it was so I could think, (rather smugly), that I was holier than thou.  Typing that out makes me realize just how nasty of a mindset that is!

There are times that nothing needs to be said.  My mother would call that choosing your battles wisely.  However, if you can’t truly let it go and move forward, than you need to address the issue before it has time to fester.  Think of it relation to a minor cut.  Let’s say you slice your finger and it doesn’t seem too bad so you don’t clean it up and it goes untreated.  After some time you notice it isn’t healing like it should but you think, “It’s just a little cut.  No need to do anything, it will heal eventually.”  Before you know it, that little cut becomes infected.  Having chosen to ignore the need for treatment, what began as a minor injury has now spread throughout the entire body like wildfire.

The same can be said for hurt feelings that you push down as opposed to hashing them out with the one who has you upset.  Dealing with your emotions is far healthier than swallowing them down until you choke.  Just think, would you rather deal with a tiny wound and be healed or allow it to seep in like a poison and consume you?bitter root

 

~This Day~ November 26, 2013

rockingchairHere lately I have found myself in a place that I really don’t care to be, trapped in my own mind, consumed by what our future holds.  I’ve been running possible scenarios through my head.  “What if this or that happens?  Then what do we do?”

When I looked at my calendar, I would skim over the list for the day and then spend a great deal of time stressing over what was coming up for the remainder of the week.

Even house work had become counterproductive.  I would flit from room to room accomplishing nothing.

Scatterbrain-initis….it’s a disease, I am sure of it.  But I am lucky enough to be blessed with friends that remind me of what the cure is.

Sunday, a sweet sister asked to pray for me.  While she prayed, she asked the Lord to give me what I needed for each day, and that’s when it clicked.  I had been wasting precious time every day focusing on the next day, week and sometimes even the entire month in advance.

In the Lord’s prayer, we are told to pray “Give us this day our daily bread,” I believe that applies to more than just food.  Every morning I should be asking God to meet my family’s physical needs, yes, but I need him to meet my emotional and spiritual needs as well.  My prayer time needs to include asking him to equip me with the grace it takes to handle all of the life happening around me.  Wisdom would be nice when faced with challenging momma moments, so I should probably be seeking that too.  Then I need to say amen and trust that the Lord will sustain me and my family for that day without fear of what the next day will be like.

I came across a quote that really got my attention:

“What will defeat you if you let it, is not all the things you worry about, but all the worrying itself.” -Brian Vaszily

I don’t want to live defeated.  God has said that I am more than a conqueror through him who loves me and worry is robbing me of that gift.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

(Matthew 6:34 The Message)

 

~3 Words~ November 21, 2013

I was recently presented with the challenge of asking myself what 3 words I want people to think of in regards to my life after I have gone on to my heavenly reward.  How will I be remembered?

I decided to look at this from a different perspective and ask myself how I want people to think of me right now, before I am gone.  How do I want people to characterize me in my absence?

This proved to be somewhat difficult as I would much rather place my focus on others than look inside and do my own soul searching.  Being gut-level honest with ourselves about the person we desire to be oftentimes opens our eyes to where we may be missing the mark.  In doing this exercise in the present tense, as opposed to thinking futuristically, I am hopeful that it will allow me start making adjustments now and continue doing so until I have become all that Christ designed me to be.

Having said all that, I did manage to come up with my 3 words.

1.  Genuine

2.  Compassionate

3.  Faithful

Being genuine is not something that comes easily.  It’s not that I choose to be deliberately dishonest, that isn’t what I am referring to.  I’m talking about complete transparency about my own struggles and having a vested interest in helping others with theirs.  This requires me to leave my “mask” in the drawer and be open about things that I would prefer to keep safely tucked away behind the “I’m ok, you’re ok” mentality.  It means that I will admit fault, seek forgiveness and actually pray for others when I say that I will do so.  Simply put, I want to be known as someone who is real &  approachable not fake & standoffish.

Where compassion is concerned, I believe this is something that I have been gifted with.  I am incredibly tender-hearted and sensitive to the plight of those around me.  In a room full of people, I am naturally drawn to the one hurting the most.  I never let someone cry alone and it brings me much joy to celebrate victories as well.  My hope is to never let this attribute become insincere or robotic in nature.  I feel deeply and want to be known as someone who uses their sensitivity to love, nurture & heal.

Faithfulness is just one of the character traits that represents the Holy Spirit dwelling in me.  Building a reputation as being dedicated and loyal is vital to serving in ministry.  Not only do I desire to express this type of devotion to others, but I want them to see my unwavering hope in the Lord.  I want my life to reflect my foundation in God’s word, regardless of the difficult circumstances I am faced with.  In living my life in this manner, I hope to be known as a devoted servant to God and his people.

So there you have it, the 3 simple words that I long to be known by.  Can I ask you all to do the same today?  Will you set aside some time to reflect on your own life and who it is you feel the Lord wants you to be?  If you do this little exercise, I would love for you to come back and share it here with me.  Even if you don’t want to elaborate, I invite you to post your 3 words to uplift and encourage one another.

who i am

 

~Quick Fix is not a Reality~ November 7, 2013

instant resultsI have seen an abundance of articles on super foods that reduce body fat, miracle creams that banish cellulite & one trick wonders that suddenly take your spare tire and transform it into rippling, washboard abs.  Are we really that gullible?

If we would be honest with ourselves about the amount of time it took for our bodies to get into the physical condition that it is currently in, then we would know with absolute certainty that it’s going to take time to undo the damage, so to speak.

And yet so many seem to have a similar philosophy when it comes to their Christian walk.  We spend years forming bad habits, nursing unhealthy relationships, accumulating debt and so on but expect it all to right itself when we get saved.  It’s like we’re waiting for God to snatch us up out of our old life and place us in a new one where all our baggage is checked at the door.

Just as no super food is going to miraculously cause 20 pounds to fall away without exercise, no cream is going to smooth your dimply thighs overnight & I have yet to find that ab machine that produces fitness magazine cover results without making serious diet changes.  The same is true for all the “yuck” from your old life when you make a commitment to live for Christ.  You have to put in the work!

I know this is short and simple today, but I have encountered quite a few disheartened saints lately that I feel need a reminder that life with Jesus doesn’t equal instantaneous change.  It’s a process that will have peaks and valleys.  If you find yourself in one of those valleys where the walls on either side of you seem so ridiculously steep & slick that you can’t possibly get a foothold to climb your way out, take heart in knowing that God is right there beside you, cheering you on.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

(Romans 12:12 NIV)

 

~No, No, NO!!!~ October 22, 2013

Freeway Sign - Decision - Yes or NoIf any of you have ever been in the company of a 2-year-old for longer than five minutes, then you know that they bring a whole new meaning to the word ‘no’.

My youngest has developed a fondness for screaming it emphatically in my face every time I open my mouth.

“Bella, time to clean up.”  “NO!”

“You have to potty before we can leave.”  “NO!”

“We need to go pick up the big kids.”  “NO!”

It doesn’t matter what I say, she always says no.  Ok, maybe not everything.  If I ask her if she’d like a snack, that gets me a yes. But do you want to know what really bites?

She only does this to me.

If her daddy tells her to do something, she not only does it, she says “yes sir.”  What?!  She gets perfect reports at preschool and her Sunday school teacher calls her an angel.  My babysitter never has any trouble out of her.  I’m actually starting to form a complex over this.

Why is it that she is so agreeable when everyone else asks her to do something and so defiant when the request comes from me?

I was thinking about this yesterday while she was in the midst of one of her tirades and that’s when it came to me; don’t we do the same thing to God?

Your friends ask you out for coffee and you clear your schedule.  A committee from your child’s school calls and they are desperate for your skills so naturally you say yes.  It’s time for yet another fundraiser and you don’t hesitate to harass random people in an effort to raise the most money.

Now, what about God?

“Valerie, I want you to spend a little more time with me.”  “Sorry God, I’m just too busy.  Ask me again next week.”

“I want you to help build a new ministry for me.”  “That’s really not within my skillset, God, ask someone else please.”

“Go and make disciples of all the nations, teach them my commands and fear not, because I’m going to go with you.”  “I’m really not comfortable talking to strangers, especially about you, Jesus.  What if they get mad?  Better save discipleship for the pastors.”

Stings, doesn’t it?

Why are we so quick to accommodate everyone BUT God?  Even when someone asks us to do something we really don’t want to do, we do it anyway because we worry what they’ll think about us if we say no.  Don’t try to act like you don’t, everyone does it at least once in a while.  So why aren’t we worried what God thinks when we continually say no to Him?

When Bella has repeatedly told me no and her daddy comes home and she becomes a yes girl, it hurts my feelings.  It makes me think she loves him more.  It makes me wonder how much I matter to her when she refuses to listen to me but is so willing to please everyone else.

Is that how it makes God feel when He sees us saying yes to everyone around us and screaming no at Him?  We clear our day for our friends but won’t carve out an hour for God.  We’ll spend hours working on bulletin boards, holiday parties and teacher appreciation week but run from leading a devotion at small group or putting together a women’s (or men’s) bible study.  You go out and pound the pavement, selling donuts, wrapping paper, jewelry, etc., pleading your cause to get people to open their wallets.  Yet you won’t utter a word to the stranger who is clearly in need of encouragement to get them to open their hearts.

Maybe it’s time we say no to everyone else a little more to free us up to give God a yes for a change.

“This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes!

This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! Now go up into the hills, bring down timber, and rebuild my house. Then I will take pleasure in it and be honored, says the Lord. You hoped for rich harvests, but they were poor. And when you brought your harvest home, I blew it away. Why? Because my house lies in ruins, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, while all of you are busy building your own fine houses.”

(Haggai 1:5-9 NLT)

 

~James Isaiah~ October 17, 2013

I’d like to begin by asking for your prayers.  We now, officially, have a teenager in the house!

Dear Lord, please give me grace to survive this difficult time.  Help me not to strangle him when he rolls his eyes at me.  And if it’s not asking too much, could you please not turn my hair gray all at once.  Thank you, Jesus and amen.

Now that we have that out of the way, HAPPY 13th BIRTHDAY, James Isaiah!!

Name meaning time!

James is my husband’s name as well as his father’s.  Knowing it was a biblical name, I was expecting it to mean something godly.  Substitute.  James means substitute.  I was a bit confused by this until I thought about the job of a substitute teacher.  They fill in for another, doing all the duties that one is unable to perform.  In other words, they stand in the gap for someone who needs assistance, for whatever reason.  While this may not always be the case with my son, (he is a teenager and they’re not always known for being the most helpful), he is wonderful with small children.  I’ll give you a perfect example.  Even though today is his birthday, a little league football coach has asked him to help run his practice after Isaiah attends his own hour and half football practice, and he willingly agreed.  This coach sought his help because the younger boys look up to him and it inspires them to play harder.  I’d say that sums up what a substitute does rather well.

Isaiah is probably one of my husband’s favorite books in the bible.  He chose this name for his son.  It is the name that he answers to, unless he’s in trouble in which case he gets the 3 name holler.  It is one of my favorite name meanings for my children.  Isaiah means God’s helper.  Yes and Amen.  That is exactly what I desire for my young man.  He already shows a willingness to help with church activities and I pray that as he grows physically, his desire to serve the Lord will develop as well.  There is nothing that matters to me more in his life than raising him to be a godly man.

I love you, muchos, Izzy!  I am so proud of the young man that you already are and beyond excited that I have the privilege of watching you continue to grow and mature.

Daddy & his boys (birthday boy is in the middle)

Daddy & his boys (birthday boy is in the middle)

“…for you are a chosen people. You are (a) royal priest, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”

(1 Peter 2:9 NLT)