disappointed resolution-ists.

New Year’s Resolutions. Who needs them? Who wants them? At least that is how I have always felt about making resolutions at the start of each year. I recently read that only 8% of new year’s resolutions are ever even achieved, so I must not be the only disappointed resolution-ist!

It seems that every year upon prompting, I set out to identify areas of needed improvement in my life, but instead, I find myself scrutinizing my body, my habits, and my entire being. A routine intended to be a healthy self-check can take a turn for the worst very quickly if we are not careful.

Our focus can easily shift from a godly view to a worldly view of ourselves, and that is a danger zone, my friends. When our focus changes, everything else of importance follows; our perspective shifts, our purpose loses definition, and our sense of self-worth diminishes. Moral compasses fail, and peace and joy are no longer within our reach.

Why are we so often swayed by the world and left disappointed with ourselves?

Perhaps you can relate to this: The resolutions that I can recall from years’ past were not always achievable.. or exactly practical.. or God-honoring. To be honest, my resolutions often centered around changes I thought I needed to make to meet social standards.

Have you ever resolved to change your physical appearance or alter your personality with an end goal being to “fit in with the popular crowd” rather than to make  improvements in your overall health or social skills?

Social media “likes” and thinner thighs may bring temporary joy, but the elated feelings will soon fleet when the next best thing or new social standard arrives.

Know that the glitz and glamour of the world will not last, nor will the joy that we find in material possessions and accomplishments. Turn your focus to God, the source of everlasting peace and joy. His love never fails, and you can never disappoint Him. Seek His will for your life, and He will guide you to paths of better ways.

In January, I was itching for a fresh start to the year but saw no value in setting the typical resolutions. Instead, I sought a new approach for 2018 and started by examining the word “resolution.”  I asked God for a new definition that held actual purpose and meaning in my life. Gradually, God revealed the freshest word to my heart! Here it is:

    Think of “resolution” in terms of a camera and the photographer adjusting the lens to capture a picture with the best clarity and the finest detail and the most brilliant colors. The photographer can see the whole scene, the full expanse of the setting, but the viewer can only see what is captured through the camera lens. Not every picture taken turns out well, but a blurry picture does not lessen the beauty of the setting in the eyes of the photographer.

 God is the photographer, and I am the viewer.

      I can only see moments of my life at a time. The pictures I see of my world are not always clear and beautiful; but sometimes they are. Those moments where I can view breathtaking beauty remind me who is really in charge of my life. God is the photographer; he chooses when to adjust the resolution and which photographs to display. He asks me, the viewer, to simply trust his judgement, because I know that he sees the whole picture!

Anytime I think I have received a message from God, I perform a check to ensure that God was the sender and that my interpretation was accurate.  Paul warns that “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14, ESV), so I trust that my request for a verification or a clarification will not offend heaven! Most often, this case included, I find confirmation when my message aligns with scripture. After all, it is God’s written word. Here is my confirmation: √

“The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” – Proverbs 15:3, ESV

Now it is your turn. How will you make a God-honoring resolution this year? Remember that each day brings a new opportunity, and there is no better time to start than the present!

ESV = English Standard Version Bible

 

merry and bright.

We all have our favorite Christmas movies, songs and traditions… the ones that really make the season feel right! For some, it is not Christmas until cookies have been baked or wreaths have been hung. For others, the season has not yet arrived until cards have been mailed and wrapped gifts are under the tree. My holiday season officially starts when I light the fireplace and watch Irving Berlin’s White Christmas [for the first of several times during the month of December]!

I do not recall the first time I ever saw the movie, but every time I do, feelings of happiness and contentment wrap me in warmth like a blanket. I love the storyline, set in the post-WWII era, the character plot, and all the song and dance throughout the 1954 film.. especially when Bing Crosby sings ‘White Christmas!’

My favorite line from the tune, “may all your days be merry and bright,” sets the tone for the season.

Something about White Christmas simply elicits a sense of anticipation not only of the holiday season, but also of a new season of life, as new romances bloom and old friends reunite. Two former Army soldiers team up in a song-and-dance act following the war and following two lovely sisters, end up at a small ski lodge in Vermont for the holiday. The men’s former General owns the lodge and is struggling to make a profit in a ski resort with NO SNOW! The men not only bring their entire cast to Vermont to rehearse a special holiday music show, but they also invite every soldier and his family living in the region to join them for the Christmas Eve production to surprise the General.

I tear up every time as I watch the gleaming-eyed General tell his men that their PRESENCE is the best Christmas PRESENT he has ever received! 

What a gift! These men packed up their families and traveled on Christmas Eve to surprise and support a man they loved. Can you imagine? Talk about putting others’ needs before your own…

Their selfless act of kindness reminds me of Jesus’ words to his disciples:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” -John 15:12-13, ESV

With a careful eye, we can see the love of Christ weaved into the storyline of this secular movie. Everyday life is no different. Holiday times tend to be busy with lengthy to-do lists and endless activities. We so easily lose focus of the true meaning of the season in the hustle and bustle.

Peace and joy are ever-present, but I do not always feel the peace and joy of the season until the holiday is nearly over. Is it even possible to make our days merry and bright, or are those just words that we sing?

Surely you can relate to my dilemma!? I believe the answer is quite simple and requires that we DO LESS rather than do more. Yes, I am suggesting that we actually reduce our to-do lists and our engagements and spend the time enjoying the present moment. That is when we will experience merry hearts and bright days. It is far easier to see a bright light when we are not looking directly into a mirror. Slow down and look around you. Take it all in, and search your surroundings for glimpses of Jesus. His light is shining everywhere; we just must stop and see it. Find that light and let it be your guide into this new year, this new season of life.

I leave you with the words of the prophet Isaiah, as he offers encouragement to the Israelites as they prepare to move into a new season of life and anticipate the coming Messiah (Jesus Christ the Lord). I encourage you to take a moment and let these words pour over you. Let them sink deep into your soul. Then your light will shine as you beam the radiating love of Christ to others around you!

“Arise, shine, for your LIGHT has come, and the glory of the Lord SHINES over you. For look, darkness will cover the earth, and total darkness the peoples; but the Lord will SHINE over you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to your shining brightness. Raise your eyes and look around.. Then you will see and be RADIANT, and your heart will tremble and REJOICE.” -Isaiah 60:1-5, CSB

May your days truly be merry and bright! Happy New Year!

ESV = English Standard Version Bible; CSB = Christian Standard Bible

snow day.

I woke up to picture-perfect snow falling outside my window this morning! Huge fluffy snowflakes captured my fascination as they slowly drifted down to join the thick blanket already covering everything in sight. Like a child, I dressed in layers and ran outside to play, with both my cocker spaniels leading the way! Worn out, I have since enjoyed the gorgeous view by the fire inside, with dry clothes, warm coffee, and two sleeping dogs.

You see, snow falling is a rarity in central Mississippi, and snow that sticks long enough to accumulate is even more rare.. a Christmas Miracle, if you will! Truly, these several inches of white fluff are a special blessing to a [deep] Southern girl like me!

There is just something about seeing the world covered in white! It is so quiet and peaceful and still. The normal hurried sounds of the day are absent as though the world has slowed its pace. The contrast of browns, greens, and yellows against the pure and simple white create a beautiful tapestry unlike any other in nature.

I love the feeling of freedom that envelops me when snow falls. It is a freedom to just be, to stop and rest in the amazement and joy, and to slow down and savor the beauty surrounding me. As nature tends to do, as I stop to appreciate my surroundings, my thoughts turn to God. I see His hand in each snowflake that falls and stare in wonder as they gather and rest on tree branches without overwhelming or breaking them. The harmony of it all is simply breathtaking. I cannot stop staring at the world around me!

 

Perhaps this state of harmony is how God intended the world to be? Perhaps He longs for us to see the beauty He creates in nature more often and to rest in His peaceful calm?

This snow-covered day gives a deeper and fresh meaning to a favorite verse of mine:

“BE STILL, and know that I AM God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” – Psalm 46:10, ESV

Psalm 46 celebrates Zion (the coming city of the LORD) and God’s plans to bless all the earth with His majestic presence. All wars will cease, and peace will rule the nations.

Be still, people of the earth, and welcome the coming LORD! Let God’s peace fall down upon you like snow. Let the blanket of white cover you and the quiet calm envelop you until you can truly rest in the real presence of the LORD.

Take time this Advent season to JUST BE STILL! Take in the beauty of the snow (if you have any), and allow it to calm and soothe you. Remember that God created time. He will not let you “get behind” because you have chosen to pause and be still in His presence; rather, He will bless you with snow flurries of joy and peace as you go about your day!

[NOTE: More to come on the season of Advent in upcoming posts! Stay tuned!]

ESV = English Standard Version Bible

never a dull moment.

There are times when I feel that my life is lacking somehow because I am not married, nor do I have children. I imagine we all have these thoughts at times.. that our lives are just not complete somehow. We are blind to the richness of our current situations when we become focused on what we lack, or what we THINK we lack.

It is just too easy to feel less than or inadequate because our lives do not match up to those of our peers. We quickly fall into a tailspin of worry over our external timelines and internal time clocks. My previous posts Standing on an hourglass and my plans. both speak to those worries.

God never fails to remind me that my life is complete, just as it is.. right here, right now. Whenever I start to feel down (please note: not IF I feel down but WHEN I feel down), God always reminds me of my blessed life in the most simple and sometimes humorous ways. I remember that it is He that dictates my completion, my wholeness and my worth. He deems me valuable; therefore, I am.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” – John 3:16-17, ESV

Just last week, I was having an off morning and feeling that my life was sub par and boring. I feared that I was missing out on the excitement in life that surely comes with a husband and children. Woe is me! Near the peak of my supposed boring day, I hear a splish-splash in my bathroom. I realize with horror that I left the door ajar while I was running a mixture of bleach and detergent through my tub to clean the jets. Oh yes, Annabelle was in the tub playing and drinking the potent cleaning concoction! Just having a grand time! Just a little bleach!

After the initial shock and mild profanity, I got her out of the tub and washed her off and then begin to laugh. I was laughing so hard that I was nearly in tears. I realized that God was showing me that there is never a dull moment in my life! There are no limits with God. He is the author of creativity. He showed this pity party planner. that her life is indeed full through the devious act of a mischievous cocker spaniel. He will do the same for you.

“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act… Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!” – Psalm 37:5,7, ESV

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It is all about perspective. There will always be someone who has more money, a bigger house, a better job, a better wardrobe. Perhaps you envy the family or the doting husband of your friend. Remember that where we are is where God has placed us, and we are to trust completely and wholly in His purpose, even when we cannot see His reason or the road ahead.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction things not seen… And without faith it is impossible to please [God], for whoever would draw near to [Him] must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” – Hebrews 11:1,6, ESV

So even though we are not where we thought we would be in life, or we are longing for more in our current situations, we just need to have faith? Surely not! I find that talking about having faith and trusting God and seeking Him is far easier than the actions. The words alone are simple; the words in action are daunting and scary.

Trusting my future completely to God is scary at least, and attempting to draw near to Him seems impossible. I am a mere human. How can I possibly please God? Through God’s loving grace.. that’s right, G-R-A-C-E! This grace covers all our human short-comings and doubtful tendencies and allows us to draw near to the Almighty God with eager hearts of trust and open minds of faith.

Let us spend less time worrying about what we have not yet achieved or do not yet possess and spend more time seeking God and strengthening our faith in Him and His promises for us. Take comfort in knowing that you are RIGHT WHERE God wants you to be. You may be in a season that is short but bearable or a season that you never want to end. Either way, know that you are never alone, and that God has great purpose for your life in the right here and right now.

“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” – 1 Timothy 4:4-5, ESV

You heard the man! Paul tells us that everything God has made is good. That includes you and your life. What we need is less complaining about our situations and more action to better ourselves. Be thankful. Look at your life with new eyes, and count your blessings, even if running water and coffee is all you can think of! Open your Bible, read His Words of truth, and talk to God! A moment spent with God is never a moment wasted. The same is not true for time spent complaining.

ESV = English Standard Version Bible

New Year. New Time.

The beginning of a new year brings rushes of excitement and dreams of change. It represents a seemingly rare opportunity to hit the reset button and have a fresh start on life! A do-over. A clean space. A new page. A new time.

With the new year, we find blank space in which we get to create and choose. The possibilities are endless! We have a chance to erase the mess from the previous year and start all over again. We must not be so quick to move forward that we miss any valuable lessons to be learned from the past year. Whether you have gathered small subtle tips or large life lessons, I encourage you to carry the wisdom forward with you but leave the regrets and frustrations behind. No time for that in 2017!!

“… let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.. ” – Hebrews 12:1b-2, ESV

We start the new year with a blank canvas full of room for our hopes and ideas! I encourage you to choose wisely what you allow on your canvas. Look past what the world deems important and focus instead on things above, things that truly matter and will last. Things that will strengthen you rather than weaken you, encourage you rather than lead you astray, comfort you rather than ignore you, and love you rather than entertain you. The world is full of flash and eye candy, but these sparkling moments of happiness are fleeting. Seek the joy that truly lasts.

This [bitter jealousy and selfish ambition] is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual … For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder … But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” – James 3:13-17, ESV

I assure you that God will outshine anything fabricated by the world. When we seek these  temporary worldly joys, we focus only on ourselves and our own personal gains. James points out that disorder will likely ensue on a group filled with jealousy and selfish ambition. The first church did not need chaos and neither do we!

Seek God to find the joy that truly lasts. Make spending time with Him a priority in your day. Carefully choose what will be allowed to fill your life and enjoy each new day!

 

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Annabelle

Check out this article from Proverbs31 Ministries on Time Well Spent!

http://proverbs31.org/devotions/devo/time-well-spent/