A New Year. There Was a Lesson in the Challenge…

When I hear someone try to tell me that a challenge I am facing will help me grow, I challengeswant to say hogwash! However, at my age, I can honestly say that many of my challenges have equipped me for greater things. I know, I know, you might say that I am only saying that because I haven’t faced what you are facing. That may be the case, but you never know what people go through. We don’t really share our deepest troubles on social media. At least I don’t.

Anyway, I would like to share a little about what I have endured over the last year and point out along the way that repeated challenges can get to any of us. Trust me, they have gotten to me. As for me, however, I choose to move beyond them. I learned long ago not to hold onto stuff. If you allow your challenges to get the best of you, you will most assuredly become beaten down, you may get despondent and decide to check out altogether. Counter your challenges. Find joy elsewhere, and I don’ mean in a bottle of drugs either. Find it in a walk, a run, with an animal, at a spa. Just find it.
I find joy in Christmas. The reason I love Christmas so much isn’t because of presents; it is in the people I get to share life with. The hustle and bustle of Christmas can be exhausting, but I always feel joy this time of year. This past year has been one of the most challenging I have experienced in a very long time. Things I thought I was done with years ago, visited me again but in grand design this year. I had not felt the sting of a person trying to demoralize and marginalize me in such a long time, that to experience it at this stage in life really shook me. I had to take stock of my life over and over again. I kept telling myself, “You must be crazy. You don’t need this. Why are you subjecting yourself to this?” I would ask God repeatedly if I was doing the right thing by remaining quiet, ignoring the actions of others, and staying the course. When I was about to throw in the towel, I would get an impression from God that I was supposed to stay the course. What I heard from God was this: “LaSharnda, don’t give up. I didn’t make you that way. Besides, trust me. I am teaching you a lesson. There is always a lesson in the challenge.” So I said, “Ok, Lord.”
At one point during the year, I felt that I was at my wit’s end. I was on my morning run, suddenly, a scripture began to play in my head over again. The scripture was Isaiah 43: 19 “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Well, of course, I felt God was about to break the cycle I had been experiencing. I waited and waited, and nothing happened. I got discouraged again. Too many things gave me hope throughout the year, only to get my expectations up and dashed back. To this day, I still do not know what God is doing in my life, but what I do know is that I am a different person today than I was a year ago. I know that I have learned some powerful lessons through my challenges.
Challenges can cause flight or fight, and even the strongest among us can get to the point of flight. Don’t feel bad when you finally throw your hands up and walk away, but before you do, I want you to ask yourself, “What lesson am I supposed to learn in this?” Take your time, pray, trust God, and trust yourself. Look at the challenge and determine what brought it on and decide what you can do about it. You always have a choice; you don’t have to put up with anything. However, you may learn to trust God more and rely on yourself less.
If you decide to stay the course, you may find that He is equipping you for something far more significant and even better than what you had before. The skills you develop during the challenges are skills you will take with you to the next level. You may also find that you are stronger, tougher, and brighter than you thought.

Learn from the past and look to the future.  God is about to do a new thing. Can’t you see it?

 

Listen for God’s Voice…

To-Be-Still-Remember-That-God-Is-in-Control-FtImgI grew up believing in the supernatural. I believe to this day in the literal ability to hear from God.  For many, this sounds weird and probably makes some of you feel that I am some kind of spiritual lunatic. I can assure you that I am not.  Anyway, I will not pretend that I am not super spiritual, because I am.

Over the last several months I have experienced some very rough patches. Like normal, I continued to pray each morning and read my Bible. I was asking God for a release from a burden to only feel that He was ignoring me or trying to teach me something. On the days I was frustrated, I am sure I felt the former. On the days I had hope, I felt the latter—He was teaching me something that would be used to mature me and to glorify Him in the end.

During the time of my challenge, I thought God had sent the answer. I felt excited, hopeful, and a new spark ignited in me.  The other part to the story is I began putting a lot of hope in what I thought was the answer to my prayers. One morning, while out running, I heard (either through a thought or feeling, but it was real because I wrote about it) “Do not look at a person or thing as your savior.”  It was clear what I heard. I remember thinking of that phrase later and putting it out of my mind.  Not long after that, I thought of it again and repeated it to myself, “don’t look to people or things as my savior.” and immediately I heard myself declare, Jesus Christ is my Savior and He is in control of everything.

Not long after I heard that voice tell me not to put my trust in a person or thing, the bomb dropped. The thing I had been praying for and thought had changed my life for the better, collapsed!

You may say, that’s a coincidence. I read somewhere that “Coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous.” Therefore, to this super spiritual girl, God had warned me and I should not have been surprised by what had just happened. I was, however.

I share this story to assure you that God does speak; maybe not audibly, but He does if we are listening. He has done so to me many times. Sometimes I stop and listen and others, I ignore and keep on trying to do things my way.

Doing things our way; trusting in other people or relying on things, rather than God, gets us into trouble. We find ourselves shocked, bewildered, and frustrated when things don’t work out. However, if we would listen to that voice deep inside telling us to wait, watch out or simply, trust, we will end up in a better place.

I do not understand what God is doing, but I do trust Him. He gave me fair warning. I believe if I would stop fretting, stop looking to others to save me, and stop complaining, I will be open to what God has up His sleeves.  Remember, “His ways are not our ways, nor are our thoughts His thoughts.” We may do things one way and He is 100,000,000,000+ ahead of us in the way He intends to do it.  I guarantee when it is said and done, what He intends for you and I, will be a lot better.

Do not look to people or things to do what the  Maker of all things can do better. They are not your savior, He is.

God is not Surprised..

God is not suprised 2If you have lived long enough, you have probably experienced rejection and disappointment with people you have trusted. You may recall being on top of the world one minute and deep in the depths of despair another. Because you have been treated so poorly, you may have questioned your own value and worth.  Don’t!

Too many times we turn our attention to people and things. We put too much value into what they are doing to us than into what God is doing in us.  The fact of the matter is, even though you may experience some “great” loss with a person or thing, it was never great; it was necessary. Although you may be going through a tough time because you may feel you have lost something or someone, think of it as a time of renewal because God is doing a new work in you.  The one thing you thought you needed, you will soon find out it was a blessing that you didn’t get it. So, don’t get mad with those who thought they were keeping something from you. No, they were doing exactly as God needed them to do, whether they know it or believe it.  Had whatever you hoped for worked out the way you expected it to, that thing would have kept you from being available for the greater things God has in store for you.

What I have learned through my own disappointments is that when I am disappointed, I question my abilities and I question who I am. Maybe I was trusting my own abilities too much in the beginning. Maybe I had forgotten to let God be first and I had allowed others in His place. Maybe the times I have felt used and alone in the wilderness, was really a time for self-evaluation, not self-criticism. Maybe it was time for God to get my attention so that He could complete a different work in and through me that would take me to the next level.

Remember, disappointments happen to us all. Although we may be surprised by the actions or inactions of others, God is never surprised.  He has my back and He has yours too!

Seasons Change…

seasonsI have always said that we go through seasons. Just like the earth goes through winter, spring, summer, and fall, we too, go through times of cold, harsh winters, awaiting a change in the season. We look forward to and pray for the refreshing warmth of the spring. We sit and watch the leaves turn green on the big, old trees that were murky and gray during those cold winter months.

I used to sit in my family room in Texas with its many large windows, looking out at the abundance of trees in my back yard. I can remember vividly, watching the green leaves on the trees during the warmer months and I recall being in awe when I would notice how all of a sudden, the limbs were bare again. I would go through months sitting in that room each day, reading my Bible and journaling my prayers, and looking up at the trees for inspiration. All of a sudden, one day I would look up to notice tiny little green buds starting to appear on those big, gray limbs. Even the limbs looked to have turned brown again.

I share this visual because of those trees. For some reason, they have always reminded me of life and the goodness of God. If nothing else, take one thing away from this reading today, if you are going through some challenges that you feel is overwhelming, if you don’t understand the difficulty you are dealing with, if you are at a loss as to how you got to where you are right now, remember this, trouble won’t last always and joy comes in the morning, is what the Bible says in Psalms 30:5 and 1 Peter 5:10. Just like the seasons that occur on the earth, we experience seasons of drought and times of prosperity. We experience times of isolation and coldness, and we will experience joy and a sense of being if we look for those opportunities.

I know it is easy to lose hope when you are going through stuff. Don’t. Do as David in the Old Testament did, he encouraged himself in the Lord. I am not saying that it is easy to deal with hard times; of course, it is not. However, I will tell you that it is easier if you trust in Jesus.

Listen, seasons change, but God remains the same. In fact, He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. You can believe that God remains faithful.

Don’t be Discouraged

I am old enough to know that when I am experiencing difficulties, there is some lesson joshua 1-9God is trying to teach me. I must admit, I hate it when it is my time to learn something. As much as I embrace the tenets of “life-long learning,” the kinds of “activities” we have to do during these assignments can be so hard! The other thing is usually the activities are not fun ones at all.

Think about life for a moment; the activities we experience revolve around waiting, speculating, worrying, second-guessing, and stressing out over things that are happening that we have very little influence or control over. Because we cannot control the things happening to us, we become discouraged, despondent, angry, depressed, withdrawn, and sometimes we will just drop out altogether.

If we would, No! if we could remind ourselves that things happen to us for a reason and if you are religiously-inclined, you believe that God is trying to teach you something that will mature you in ways you need to be matured, then you can quickly snap out of those discouraging times. I am speaking this as much to myself as I am sharing with you.

When you are going through something that is affecting your mental and emotional state and you are so discouraged that you don’t know what to do or where to turn, turn to God. Ask Him to help you to be patient and to trust Him to teach you what you need to learn. And if one door closes, trust that He has a better door for you to walk through after He is done with your lesson. Also remember EVERYONE experiences ups and downs. When you are down, recall the happier times and tell yourself, God doesn’t change. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. If it is difficult today, just wait, it won’t be tomorrow. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean to your understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.

While you wait, concentrate on these scriptures. I know they will help you. They have helped me!

Joshua 1:9 (the Bible) tells us the following: Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Philippians 4:6 tells us this: Be anxious for nothing, but in all things with prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. and the peace of God will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Lamentations 3:25-26 says: The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

 

Determine to Live Positive

when-hope-is-gone

Topic: Be Determined to Live Positive
Recently, I’ve watched the most positive people go from 100 % to zero in a short time. I have observed how joy has left them. I have even watched people slip into a state of worry and despair. I have seen people who are generally upbeat, happy, and joyful destroyed by the words and actions of others. Words that anyone would understand as being belittling, denigrating, and disrespectful. I have been left wondering what has happened in a person’s life that causes them to treat people so horribly.
As I have watched these kinds of situations, I have also watched my reactions to bad behavior. What have I learned? To be careful about who I vent and share my deepest feelings. The betrayed becomes the betrayer. Those you think you have something in common with, may not be the ones you can trust. Don’t think for a minute because you are having the same issues as another person that you can share with that person. If you do, be careful. You might end up in a deep dark well trying to crawl your way back up. It is so easy to fall into talking and talking because it seems like you are getting the frustration off your chest.
The positivity you generally feel gets lost in those conversations, and before long, you begin to talk negatively—defeatism sets in—and you will begin to act negatively; no longer experiencing joy and happiness. So, what is the solution? I think I found it in Romans 12:21.
“Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.” This scripture is easier to read than it is to do. I think what I can offer is something I learned from another author who said, “be the best where you are. God is preparing you.” This hit me like a ton of bricks because as a Believer, this should be my daily mantra. Honestly, you can tell if people are out for your best interests. If you pull away from the drama and refuse to allow yourself to get caught up talking and talking, watch how those you confided in react. Don’t get caught up. If you have (I have before) decide to pull away and don’t engage anymore.
Jeremiah 29:11-14 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord…”
Instead of seeking conversations that will keep you depressed, and questioning who you are, seek God’s guidance. Call on Him, go to Him, and pray. His Word says He will listen to you. Who better to talk to than the most excellent Counselor?

All In God’s Timing

Have you ever found yourself praying and praying for a thing and it seems that nothing, absolutely nothing, is happening? It appears that your prayers are not getting through or psalm 43-5-hopeyou feel that God is hearing you, but choosing to ignore you?  Have you experienced a change of some kind? If you sit quietly and think about it, maybe you have felt a shift in your life.  You don’t know why things have changed to your disadvantage when they were always to your advantage?

The only advice I can offer is found in Matthew 5:45, “He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (ESV). When I have read this passage in the past, I took it as God blesses the bad person and the good person equally, but as I read commentaries, the scripture makes a lot more sense.  Jesus was teaching the Disciples that they should be good to their enemies (us too).  His example to them was that God lets the sunshine and the rain fall on both the good person and the bad one. However, God does not give spiritual blessings equally.

A light bulb went off when I thought about what the commentary stated, “if your enemy is hungry, feed them as you would feed yourself.” It takes a specific and rare quality to do that.  I say it takes a person of deep-abiding faith, a person who keeps a positive attitude during pain and struggle, and a person who stays clear of gossip that will inflame their already upset conscious, instead, they seek out God to talk to about their struggles.

This particular person understands the spiritual undertones, and they don’t seek to get revenge, they may want to understand what is happening, but most importantly, they go to God in prayer. This person is filled with the Holy Spirit, and although far from perfect themselves, they know their God is perfect, and He may seem to be far away, but He isn’t. He is sitting high and seeing all things. He may be quiet, but He has not abandoned them.

Yes, God reigns on the unjust as He reigns on the just.  Times change, people change, situations change also. When life shifts from good to bad, you may fret initially, that is understandable. After a little while, ask yourself this: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior, and my God.” Then begin praising Him no matter what the circumstances because times change, people change, and situations will change again in your favor.