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Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Mile in Our Shoes

It’s so easy sometimes to feel alone. It’s so easy to believe, during the trying times of our lives, that we are the only ones suffering. It’s so easy to allow self-pity to ease its way into our lives. It’s so easy to give into the pain, listen to devil and proceed to give into his ways. Whether we realize it or not, when we doubt, give into the pain, and believe the negative thoughts racing through our minds, the devil wins.

For however long he has our minds occupied, we are distracted from the things which truly matter. When we are focusing on the negative things, we have lost hope. We have removed our eyes from God and are slipping further and further into the depths of our own misery. Did you know that most often times we create our own misery? It’s true. We continue on our journey of self-destruction and never stop to think about the day when the Lord will require us to pay for our sins. We listen to the devil more and more and forget the promises of our Lord. We allow the devil to convince us that we have no self-worth and our lives are hopeless and pointless. We believe him as he hurls the bad, negative, hopeless thoughts our way.

And, suddenly, we are right where he wants us to be. We’ve stopped going to church. We’ve stopped praying. We’ve stopped reading our Bible and stopped allowing our light to shine. We are not a balm to some broken heart or lost soul. We are a stumbling block. We are the very picture of misery. We are of no help to others and a hindrance to our own lives. We’ve lost the enjoyment of our salvation and life.

But the good news is that God allows us to change. He allows us to change directions. He knows that we are only human and that we will fail, so He developed a plan for those times. He allows us to repent of our sins and gives us another chance to change our ways. He blesses us with life and wants us to see the beauty of His gift—just for us. He wants us to be happy and enjoy life. He wants to bless us and watch us grow into a beautiful vessel for Him. He wants people to look at our lives and know, without a shadow of doubt, we belong to Him.

Imagine you are fighting a war. It’s a very important battle where lives are at stake. You are fighting for souls, and their eternity. What would onlookers think if you decided to just change sides? If you moved over to the devil’s side and started fighting for him. I believe we are either serving God or the devil. Those are the only two sides in this war. Ask yourself today, which side are you fighting on?

God never promised us life would be easy. He never promised us a life without heartache or trials. He did, however, promise to never leave our side. He promised to always be with us. He has walked in our shoes. He knows the temptations we face. He knows the heartaches of our hearts. He knows the devil torments us on every occasion. He also knows how to defeat the devil every single time.

My daddy preaches that if we want the devil to leave us alone, then we need to stay out of his reach. We need to live, as best we can, for God. We need to seek God on all things. We need to believe whole heartedly in His promises. We need to read our Bibles and learn of the times past. We need to be at church, every possible opportunity and hear God’s beautiful word. He has grace for our every need.

I believe God has everything we will ever need. We may not like God’s ways. We may not understand them all. But I have grown to love them and appreciate the greatness of them. Wisdom doesn’t come without suffering. We cannot grow in our lives without pain. Instead of fighting against it, I am learning to embrace it.

I know that all things are for my benefit. I know that God suffered far greater for me, than I will ever suffer. I know that He was perfect, upright, without any sin and yet He carried my cross. He gave His life for me. Think about that for a moment. Regardless of what we face or how we suffer, we will never suffer as Christ did for us, and yet He opened not His mouth. He never uttered one complaint. He suffered greater than any man has ever suffered, and He did it all in love. So when life gets you down, just remember God knows how we feel. He has walked a mile in our shoes, only He didn’t stop when things got hard for Him—He went all the way.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Light of Love

It seems life is on fast forward anymore and we often fail to enjoy the moments. With Christmas approaching, I feel bad that I didn’t send out Christmas wishes to my family and friends. The kids and I have not made Christmas cookies, watched movies or enjoyed the special moments of Christmas. It’s so easy for me to feel bad for all of the things I have neglected to do. However, I love it when God comes through, opens my eyes and shows me I’m doing better than what I had originally thought.

To me Christmas is about love—a greater love than our hearts can even imagine. We shouldn’t wait until Christmas to show the love of our hearts or to shine our light into a world of darkness. We should show the beauty of Christmas all year long. We should always exhibit God’s great love with a giving heart, filled with thankfulness, mercy, grace and forgiveness. We should show kindness wherever we go and fill spaces with an aura of God’s amazing love.

We should help those in need, every chance we get. We should pray for those struggling and share our experiences when possible. We should give the world a little glimpse of the hope inside of us. We should show them the true meaning of Christmas. We should tell of God’s amazing gifts and how he selflessly gave His Son for our lives. We should tell them about salvation and the peacefulness of our hearts. We should encourage them, when it all seems hopeless. We should stop complaining and start praising our Lord.

It doesn’t matter whether someone says Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. The world has never accepted Christ. They have been trying to do away with Him since the beginning. All that truly matters is what is in the depths of our hearts. If we love God, it will show. We won’t even have to utter a word to show the Spirit of Christmas. People will feel it from us. They will see it in our smile and hear it in our voice. They will feel it in our embrace and know there is something special about us.

This Christmas let’s all strive to give more—smiles, kind words, prayers, forgiveness, mercy, grace, hope, encouragement and most of all love. We should all strive to be like the beautiful Star of Bethlehem shining a light to those who have lost their way and bring them to Jesus.

Merry Christmas!! May God bless your hearts with love and peace.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Christmas Gift

Two years ago, God gave me a simple letter to share with my family and friends. He blessed me to write it and tell of His greatness and the love and peace in my heart. However, I never shared it. I allowed fear to paralyze me. I allowed the devil to steal my special blessing and therefore, suffered the wrath of my Lord.

That was the absolute worst Christmas of my life. I was terribly sick, and laid in my sick bed two weeks prior to Christmas. The doctors couldn’t help me and no one could figure out what was wrong with me. I prayed continuously for God to help me, but He ignored me. And then when I was weak and broken, He showed me the reason for my sickness and gave me some time to think about it. I learned God will not tolerate disobedience. He knows exactly what it will take to make us obey His will.

Last Christmas, when the letter stirred in my heart again, the desire to write it and serve my Lord was greater than the fear. God blessed me to write a beautiful letter and showed me how He could use me for His honor and glory. He blessed me with each word recorded. He blessed me with each letter forwarded. He also blessed me to receive beautiful messages and comments from my family and friends. With every tear and blessing, I realized how to write for my Lord and how to listen to His still, small voice. I realized that people would like what I wrote, not so much the words but the power behind them. There was such a desire, in the depths of my soul, to give something wonderfully special that year to everyone.

That Christmas letter marked a tremendous milestone for me. It was the first time I had actually shared the writings of my heart with a multitude of people. It set me up a stone for future endeavors. The praise and love from my family and friends helped me to start my blog and take the next step in my writing journey.

And now as I prepare for my Book Release Party, I’m awed at God’s beautiful blessings. I love it when He takes me back and shows me this has been part of His plan all along. I love how He has been preparing me for this moment. I love the feeling I get when I hold my books in my hands and the humbleness that comes over me as I sign my name inside. I love the prayers God blesses me to whisper for the receiver of my books. I love the feeling deep down in my heart as I give the books to those who support and love me. I love the comments and realization that they have already touched many hearts. I love that everyone knows they come from God and hold His blessings.

When you open the books and see my signature, I pray you feel the love in which I signed my name—just for you. I hope you know that I prayed about what would be signed and followed my heart.  I pray you feel the words and hold them close to your heart. I pray you know how special you are to me and how much I appreciate your support and love.

I love the wonderful feeling of giving. It gives me a little of glimpse of how God must have felt when He gave His Son for us. I can’t even imagine how wonderful it must be for Him every single time He gives eternal life to a lost soul. I can’t imagine the beauty of comforting a troubled heart or giving blessings to His children.

We should all strive to be a giver. We should all strive to give good gifts (that money cannot buy) to our loved ones. We should all strive to give without expecting anything in return. We should all take the time to remember why we celebrate Christmas and explore the meaning in our hearts. We should take a moment to thank God for His beautiful gift and tell others about its greatness. We should try everyday to shine our light in a cold, darken world. We should take a moment every now and then, and remember how we felt the day God saved our soul. That is the absolute best gift of all.  

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Comfort Zones and Blessings

Right now, if I’m honest, I can tell you that I truly miss my comfort zone. At times I feel like I’m living someone else’s life. Everything that was comfortable to me is gone and replaced with unknown things that are terrifying. I miss curling up with a good book and reading with no feelings of guilt. I miss hanging out with my kids and, at the busiest of times, hearing the sound of their laughter. I miss going through my days, with little or no responsibility. I even miss cleaning my house.

My life has become hectic and unpredictable. There is so much more to being a published author than I realized. Now there are lots of emails, phone calls, interviews, and so many fears to overcome. There are days when I feel so overwhelmed with it all. I just want to snuggle in my husband’s arms and beg him to make it all go away.

I’ve allowed the fear to overcome me. My stomach hurts, I’m so tired at night I can’t sleep, my body aches and my mind races. I feel like I’m always going a million miles an hour and when I get one problem taken care of, three more surfaces. Yesterday was one of the worst days I’ve had in a while, and yet, it was wonderful because it enlightened me.

I’m only one person and I can only do so much. Sometimes we have to prioritize our lives and realize that if we don’t get it all done today, then that is what tomorrow is for. God doesn’t ever give us more than we can bear; however, sometimes He does push us beyond our comfort zones to show us our true capabilities.  

I’m terrified of interviews and public speaking. I want to deny them all. I’m afraid the fear will paralyze me and I won’t be able to say a word or that I’ll say the wrong thing. Yesterday I felt myself closing off from it all. I was retracting and the negative feelings were bombarding me. And in the height of my misery, God intervened and reminded me that it’s not just about me.

So what if I say something wrong or fall flat on my face. Is there anyone perfect? Could anyone cast stones at me for failing, if I tried with my whole heart? But what if God gives me something to say to help someone else? Wouldn’t just one opportunity to help someone else be worth a thousand failed attempts?

I’m not perfect! Nor will I ever be. I have a southern accent and heart full of love. God knew all of this when He blessed me to write these books. I also know that regardless of what I face, God will always be there for me. It is through Him and by Him that I can make a difference, and isn’t that the whole point?

I REFUSE to allow fear to overtake me. I refuse to allow the devil to overwhelm me. I refuse to allow the devil to steal my joy. Of course, I will still get nervous. In fact, I hope the Lord always blesses me with that dread to keep me humble. However, I learned through Zippy’s story that courage is being scared to death, but doing it anyway.

I’m so thankful for all of the beautiful opportunities God has given me. I love it when He blesses me to tell of His greatness. I love it when I think I’ve made a complete and utter mess of the situation and God still makes me look good. I love it when He talks with me and calms my fears. I love it when He steps in and causes the devil to flee from me. I love it when He blesses others through my story.

It is so precious when someone tells me my story touched their life and changed it in some way. It is so precious when a child stands and begs their parents to buy them Zippy and the Stripes of Courage for Christmas. It is so precious when someone takes the time to make a special sign in my honor and even put zebra stripes on it. It is so precious when a child’s eyes light up when they look through my book, and then tell me of their favorite part. It’s so precious to see them connect with Zippy and his story.

All of these wonderful blessings, I received outside of my comfort zone. I’m nothing more than a work-in-progress and my Lord has so much more to teach me and help me overcome. He also has an abundance of blessings just for me. It’s not His will that we succumb to fear, but rather overcome it all through Him.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Help is on the Way

For the record, allow me to say at least one more time—there will always be obstacles to overcome in our lives. Always! Life is a constant warfare of struggles and disappointments. At times our situations can seem so bleak. In our eyes it seems that there is no possible way it can all work out, and then right when it seems all hope is lost God arrives and makes everything better.

In a moment, He can fix it all. He has all power in Heaven and Earth.  He knows exactly what we need and when we need it. He won’t allow us to drown in our misery. Just as He lifted Peter out of the waters enclosing him, He will reach down and pull us up as well, when our problems threaten to destroy us. Faith is seeing a little glimmer of hope through the darkest times.  It’s about trusting God with our lives, realizing and knowing He has it all under control.

He wants us to depend solely on Him. He wants us to know that we can’t do it on our own. He wants us to know that the greatest things in life are not without a price. With every grain of wisdom we achieve comes suffering and pain. That is the only way to succeed and grow. We’ve all heard of growing pains in our lives. As a child those pains were necessary to help us grow into adulthood. As an adult, those pains are necessary to strengthen us and mold us into a vessel for God; worthy of success.

As I have learned all down through my life, God won’t just get us by but He will see us through every obstacle. He is always by our side. He always has His arms outstretched for His children. He doesn’t walk away when we make the wrong choices or neglect to ask Him for His help. Instead He waits patiently for us to see that the mountain we are attempting to climb is impossible on our own. He hovers close as we take one step forward and then many more back. He waits while we question if we are on the right path or if we even want to continue on our journey. He waits while we wear ourselves out with the anguish of doubt.

And THEN, when we are at the end of our strength, ready to give up, He counts our tears and understands each and every one. He understands the groaning our heart utters. He knows He is always the last option, and yet, He still arrives right when we need Him the most.

He has a whole multitude of blessings just for you. Sometimes He gives us just enough to keep going and other times He opens the windows of Heaven and allows His wonderfulness to pour upon us. However they come, they are all so good.

As I’ve said many, many times, God doesn’t give us obstacles in our way to defeat us but rather to show us that through Him all things are possible. Regardless of what you’re going through NEVER give up! When the devil tells you how big your problems are, remember your God is bigger than them all put together and multiplied a hundredfold, and then even more than that. All down through the ages I have never once read where God left His people and allowed the devil to defeat them. He made us some wonderful promises in the Bible. One was that He would never leave us nor forsake us, but that He’d go with us all the way, even unto the end.

What more could we ask for? We have everything we need in God! And regardless of what happens to us, what we encounter or face, we know that it is all for our good. How amazing is that?

Whatever you’re facing today, I pray God opens your eyes and gives you a little glimpse of where you’ve been and where you are going through Him. Sometimes the battle seems hopeless to these natural eyes, but there is a chariot of fire all around us.

Author shares message through Zippy the zebra