What Makes You Happy?

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” ~ Romans 15:13

Soon it will be a new year. What does that mean to you? For many people it seems to spark incredible motivation to start over or to begin something new, and for some – it simply brings relief, because the last year was a painful one. Although these scenarios are different, there’s one common thread that we all strive for and desire – and that would be true happiness.

Feeling happy is a great thing, isn’t it? Who doesn’t want to feel that way?! What we forget is that happiness is only a feeling we experience when life goes our way. We finally begin to lose weight, so we are happy. Our child begins to improve in school, so we are on a mountaintop!  Our relationships with our friends and family are the best, and we feel blessed beyond measure. But then, unfortunately, life changes. What then?  How can we feel  ‘happy’ when life changes and seems hopeless?

What we tend to forget is the reality that there is something available that is much more fulfilling and everlasting than happiness  – and that would be the joy that only the Lord can give.

As you begin the new year (or even a brand new day), I encourage you to make God your focus rather than your circumstances. People and worldly things will fail you. YOU will fail, but He will not disappoint.

 

“What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.” ~ 1 Peter 1:4

 

And He Speaks to Me in Ways I cannot Explain…

winter sky 010

I am still in awe at the beauty and the blessing of such a beautiful winter sky.

When driving home late this afternoon, I looked up and could NOT believe what I was seeing – part of a rainbow, right there in the middle of the sky. In December.

I immediately pulled over my vehicle so that I could enjoy and appreciate the moment.

Blessed.

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” ….Psalm 19:1

Unforgettable – That’s What You Are

Have you ever experienced a moment that you KNOW you’ll never forget? This is mine…

This time last year, I was Christmas shopping in a mall that was packed with people. Although I was a bit frazzled, I tried to stay focused and moved forward through so many people who were either standing, talking, looking and walking in so many different directions.   

When I made it to the last store, I looked at the line and wondered if it would be worth it. Well, I had made it this far, so why not?

I was in the middle of paying for my purchase when the young girl who was helping me looked up (and beyond me) with this look of SHOCK. Tears were suddenly flooding down her cheeks. I couldn’t help but look behind me to see WHAT was stirring her emotions so.

When I turned around, there stood a young man dressed in Army fatigues.

The ONLY thing I know is that it was her brother and that he obviously just returned from serving somewhere.  She dropped everything and ran around all the people so that they could embrace. I’m telling you what….everyone was crying!

 In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, feelings of love and happiness filled that store. NO ONE cared that their cashier had stepped away.  What a blessing.

Although that moment was amazing, it made  me think of something even greater.  JUST THINK what an overwhelming feeling of love we will experience on that day when Jesus comes back. Just like the timing of this soldier’s return and appearance in that store, His return will be a total surprise.

Cannot begin to explain the joy that I feel in my heart today. Cannot  wait for that day…

“What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.” ~ 1 Peter 1:4

Don’t Mess With Me

Made a blueberry coffee cake the other  night at the request of one of my sons.  It had been a while since I made one, so I made sure that I followed the directions ‘to the T’. When I pulled it out of the oven, it seriously looked and smelled like the most delicious thing I’ve ever made. Which, by the way, isn’t saying much.

 I couldn’t wait to turn the Bundt cake pan over onto the plate so that I could lift up the pan and see the entire thing. I had just made some icing and was ready to go! As I carefully lifted the pan up, my beautiful coffee cake dropped to the plate – in thousands of mushy pieces.
 
What. A. Mess! 
 
 I was so frustrated and had NO desire to deal with it, so I  left it all there on the counter. I went into the other room, plopped down on the couch and continued watching the Christmas story I had been watching prior to this disaster.

Have you been there? Maybe you haven’t had  a bad experience with baking, but with life in general?  You seem to be doing everything right, yet the results don’t reflect your heartfelt efforts? Nothing more frustrating…

Well, while I was watching my show, the son who loves the coffee cake (the most) walked into the room after being out with friends. I didn’t even bother to ask if he had a good evening, but made sure I warned him that I totally screwed up the coffee cake.  He didn’t say much, but what he said made a world of difference in my heart and my attitude. He said that it was “ok” and at least I tried!

Hmmm….Just what I needed to hear.

Sometimes I think God tries to send us messages- just like that – to either prepare us for what’s down the road or  help heal the aftermath of a mess. We just need to be willing to listen. Such a comfort in knowing that we have a God like that…..a friend who loves us all the time – no matter what.  Don’t miss that blessing.

Charlie-Brown-Snoopy

Thankful for Healing

Greenwood 099

Greenwood 101

Went to visit my brother today. Our day wasn’t your typical Thanksgiving get-together, but it was a true blessing in many ways. Guess that’s all that matters. 

Rather than cooking all morning and trying to figure out how to keep everything in one piece after an hour-long drive,  we decided to celebrate Thanksgiving at Applebee’s – Rob’s  favorite restaurant. It was funny because he knew exactly what he was going to order before we even left his apartment.   I have never met anyone who appreciates anything and everything as much as my brother.

As soon as we left his place to go eat, he and I began to reminisce about the old days. We mainly talked about  people/old friends  from our hometown.  Always fun (and interesting ) to take time and  think about those people you once spent so much time with back in the day.

Sometime during our conversation I turned around to look at Rob while he was talking.  He stopped talking for a moment and told me that I looked like our mom. (I wanted to say – you mean I look old, right?  Haha.) He then said how much he missed her (and our dad). It was then that I knew where we needed to go before we stopped for lunch….

I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t visited my mom’s grave in years. I always used the excuse that I didn’t see the purpose when I knew she wasn’t there.  The cemetery she’s buried in is pretty big, and my memory definitely isn’t what it used to be – so, I had to check with the cemetery’s superintendent for directions. 

It was an embarrassing moment for me – having to tell this stranger that I needed help finding my mom’s resting place. I somehow felt as though I was walking into the principal’s office.  I kept waiting for him to put me on the spot and ask questions.  Rather than embarrass me with questions or comments, he simply pulled out a map and acted grateful to help me.  I was SO relieved and thankful.

When I finally found her headstone,  all I could think was – why had I waited so long?

I guess this trip stirred up a lot of memories…and emotions. Although there were good times in my childhood, there were a few that broke my heart. When we got back into the car at the cemetery, Rob questioned me about those painful times – one that I had totally pushed out of my mind.

Bad things happen to all of us – I know. The good thing is when you put all of your hope and faith in the Lord…things sure do change in your heart.

 
What an amazing feeling it is when you realize that your heart has  been healed. Thankful.

Hebrews 10:23 “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promises is faithful.”

Here’s Your Sign

I read a friend’s post the other day that said he was thankful  for all the things that didn’t go right (or that were difficult) in his life, because it was those times that shaped him into the person he is today. I think this friend is one smart cookie.
It’s amazing how God can place different people and difficult circumstances in your path – at the perfect time – to teach you, mold you, and change you into the person that he wants you to be – if you allow him. 
As I was driving south of Indy  the other night, a man waving a sign (to advertise some type of business) caught my eye.  Although it was somewhat difficult to see his face because of his stocking cap, topped with a hood that hugged his face, I soon  realized that I knew the man standing there waving  – he was  my brother. I confess that tears welled up in my eyes as I thought of my 47 year-old brother having to stand out in the cold like that , not to make ends meet –  but in order to survive.
Rob is on disability, so he is limited to how many hours he can work per week.  When he is able to keep a job, he works hard and will do what it takes to put food on his table. Ironic that someone who is mentally challenged understands that you shouldn’t expect others (or God) to provide you with everything  you need….or want, without any effort of your own.
What gives me chills is that it was a last minute decision to take a different route to get to my destination the other day.  I had no clue that Rob worked on that street….No doubt that God wanted me to see him for reasons that only me and my maker need to know. : )
I know I don’t  express it like I should, but I love and admire Rob – more than he’ll ever know. And like my friend, I am thankful for those difficult times – because it is then that God has reminded me that I have so much more to work on in order to become what he wants me to be.

Love Hurts

sydney 008

Have you ever taken the time to go back and reread some of the things you have written – say from a year or two ago? If you don’t blog, perhaps you journal. Let me tell you, it is well worth your time.

When I was going through some files today, I discovered 2 particular experiences that were major happenings in my life. I wasn’t blogging at the time, but I did share them on Facebook. It’s interesting to read about your experience much later, especially when you aren’t filled with all of those emotions that pushed you into writing about it in the first place.

The one I’m going to share happened about a year and a half ago. My eyes still fill up with tears as I remember that anticipation of having to take Sydney to the vet one last time. A Monday I will never forget….. 

What a week this has been.  Watching our dog’s health rapidly deteriorate  has been heart wrenching.   Sydney truly has been the best dog ever! Even though we’ve had our share of frustrating moments, such as the numerous times she found my hidden bags of candy(and downed every last bite), her sweet personality always helped me to forgive and forget! 

Most amazing trick she did was pull out the peanut butter jar from the Lazy Susan, untwist the lid with her teeth, and eat as much peanut butter as possible before getting caught!   I say that takes talent and determination!

She has taught me so many lifelong lessons. When we discovered that she was diabetic several years ago, I remember thinking that there was no way that I would be able to give her a shot. NO WAY!  Then,  I learned  that when you truly love something, you will do whatever it takes … even though it’s out of your comfort zone.

When she started losing her eyesight, I was amazed at how she was able to maneuver around like normal and remain so stinkin’ happy. She’s taught me to be happy in ALL circumstances, even when I can’t “see”  where I’m going. And today…..whew….she is teaching me that I stink at saying goodbye.  Simple as that.

I never dreamed I would dread seeing a Monday approach as much as I do now.  Such a sad, sad time for me and for my family. But, I am so thankful to have had such a wonderful, loving sidekick that has made me feel loved, even when I didn’t deserve it. What an example of unconditional love….

 

Things Will be Fine – Just in Time

Preschool 036

When I was walking in the  park the other day, I kept searching for that perfect  tree. You know, the one with the most vibrant, colorful leaves  – one that would truly make a statement of how beautiful an Indiana fall can be.

I saw one that was filled with bright yellow leaves, and then there was one filled with orange. A few still had their green, and then there were those that barely had one. 

 After walking all over and snapping picture after picture,  I finally decided to stop. I thought – SURELY one of these photos would be what I want.  

As I walked back to my car, I looked down and was  so surprised to see that the BEST picture of all would be  right there by my feet.

 I think about all of that time wasted as I looked for that perfect tree, when what I truly wanted was right in front of me! Leaves of many colors….fallen from the trees. How did I miss their beauty? How could I possibly not see – that everything I needed was right in front of me.

So, what are you searching for? How ’bout your time. Are you walking around aimlessly, or in a straight line. What is your focus? God is mine. Don’t ever stop looking, loving and caring. Before you know it you’ll discover His blessings, just in time.

Don’t be Fooled

Recently heard a story about a family that is basically falling apart. No,  more like being ripped apart.  I know…I know…this could be YOUR family, but in this case – it’s not.  FYI – It doesn’t involve any of my friends.  It broke my heart as I sat and listened to how it all began – how hurt feelings and words of anger between two people made a ripple effect throughout the family, and now this loving family has turned into a bunch of unforgiving hearts that are filled with nothing but anger, sadness and bitterness.  Ugh.

A friend told me a couple weeks ago about this book she was reading – The Bait of Satan, by John Bevere.  Very rarely do I run out and purchase a book, but after we had lunch that day, I did. I’m only on the second chapter, but I’m telling you what – it’s something that everyone should read. It’s filled with words of wisdom and scripture to shed light on how we are trapped by Satan’s deceitfulness in trying times as mentioned above.

One thing that the author mentioned  really spoke to me –  “Don’t be fooled! You WILL encounter offense, and it’s up to you how it will affect your relationship with God. YOUR  response will determine your future. If offense is handled correctly, YOU WILL BECOME STRONGER RATHER THAN BITTER.” (Caps are my choice, not his.)

I’ve experienced those daggers to the heart and  I hate those times. I don’t want to admit it, but I’ve been the one to say and do things that have hurt those I love, too. I’ve witnessed relationships end – even in the church.  Hurtful, defensive words are exchanged, and then all of a sudden everyone becomes consumed with it all.  Everything changes – and NOBODY likes it. Been there?

I think that forgiving someone has to be one of the most challenging things we have to do in this life. There are so many things that get in the way and prevent us from doing so – selfishness, jealousy, pride,  and did I mention selfishness? It’s tough, I know, to let something go when you don’t think that person deserves it. That’s when  I have to remind myself about God’s grace. He set the example; am I willing to follow it?

No matter what your situation is, God makes it clear that he wants us to forgive.  You may think that no one could possibly understand how you feel or what you’ve been through. Perhaps you’re right –  to a point.  Please remember, there is ONE who knows exactly how you feel and what you’ve been through, and he has plenty to say about it….

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

“Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!” Matthew 18:21-22

“Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. 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 6:8-9

I will never forget the day when I heard the story behind the song “Forgiveness”, by Matthew West. His song is based on a true story about a mom, Renee Napier, whose daughter  was killed in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. The driver, Eric,  was 24 years-old at the time. Although this mom was devastated due to her loss, she reached out to Eric while he was serving time in prison, and told him that she forgave him. Can you imagine? Does THAT not seem like the impossible? That was only the beginning. Four years later, she and her family went to the courts to request that this young man’s sentence be cut in half. “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” Psalm 32:1.

 Knowing the story behind this song brings tears to my eyes….. It not only brought healing to Renee and her family, but also provided a second chance for Eric. Win/win. What do you need to let go of today?

It’ll clear the bitterness away

It can even set a prisoner free

There is no end to what its power can do

So let it go and be amazed

By what you see through eyes of grace

The prisoner that it really frees is you

Forgiveness, Forgiveness…. Matthew West – Forgiveness