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Monday, May 28, 2012

A Glimpse

It’s easy sometimes to lose sight of our goals and blessings. It’s easy to get trapped in the hustle and bustle of life and forget about the things which truly matter. It’s so easy for me to get stressed and overwhelmed and to view certain situations as being hopeless. It’s so easy for me to focus on the things which are shown and lose sight of my treasures which are unseen. But my God always has a beautiful glimpse awaiting me—to remind me, inspire me, and strengthen me.

Working and traveling for my books has taken a definite toll on me. There are times when I work 12 to 14 hour days; times when I’m too tired to sleep; times when I question the purpose and want to give up; times when all I can do is put one foot in front of the other and pray for the strength to keep going. However, God always gives me everything I need to keep pushing through the obstacles. He is my oasis through the desert.

Did you know that looking at a picture can be very relaxing? I have learned to look at a beautiful, peaceful image when I’m stressed out and overwhelmed. Just a few minutes makes a huge difference. It reminds me that soon my work will be finished and I will be able to rest. It keeps me focused and grounded. It reminds me to breathe and to remember the best is yet to come.

Imagery can be very powerful. It gives us a purpose and goals to strive for. It gives us a vivid image of what can be, through faith and determination. It trains our mind to think of the goal as being attainable. It teaches us to believe in our dreams and reach for them. It gives us hope.

And sometimes we need to remember what we are striving for.

How great would it be to get to glimpse into Heaven whenever we wanted? I’m sure one single glimpse of the treasure awaiting us would make our problems and trials on this earth seem so small. It would keep us focused and remind us of our duty. It would brighten our lives and flow out, onto someone else.

Isn’t that what going to church and serving God does?

When I hear the sweet sound of the church singing, I get a glimpse of peace. When I hear the prayer request, I get a glimpse of suffering and sorrow for others. When I hear the unity of prayer, I get a glimpse of the power of faith and hope. When I hear the gospel, I get a little glimpse of God’s love and His beautiful plan. When the gospel reveals my faults and failures, I get a little glimpse of the direction God wants me to go and the punishment if I disobey His commands. During fellowship, I get a glimpse of the church. And it all renews my strength and makes me want to fight on the battlefield for my Lord.

If you’re constantly on the verge of quitting and always have your head bowed in defeat, then you are someone’s glimpse of misery—not of God. We all need to keep our eyes on God and remember what Jesus suffered for us. Are you suffering for God or your disobedience? Even through the darkest of times, God gives us peace. He gives us a new perspective. He gives us hope and helps us to persevere. Even in jail, Paul and Silas praised God and were happy they were suffering for Him.

We should strive to have an aura of strength and love about us. We should strive to be the people who make others feel better. We should project peace and confidence wherever we go. We should ALWAYS look for the good and stop dwelling on the bad.  

It is my goal to live my life for God and to stop concentrating on what I want. I need to pray more, read my bible more, and serve God in a way that is pleasing unto Him. What if He gave me the gift of today, to help someone else?

 This past weekend I set up a booth at the Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival to sell my books and created a Zippy float for the parade. I knew going into it, it would be a difficult and challenging week/weekend. But there is no way to prepare our body for mental and physical exhaustion. There were times when I cried on the way home because I missed my kids and I truly didn’t know how I could possibly continue. Then I would collapse in the bed, only to toss and turn most of the night.

When I thought I couldn’t possibly take another step, God gave me a glimpse of the times prior when He had carried me through challenges and I knew He would carry me through. As I sat at my booth and heard praise for my books, traveled through the parade, and heard the childlike voices cheer for Zippy and tell someone around them how he came to their school, God allowed me to glimpse the difference Zippy and I have made.

As the tears bubbled inside of me, I knew all of the hard work and dedication had prospered in that moment. I didn’t achieve what I wanted because my goals were unimportant and selfish, but I achieved exactly what God wanted for me. I made friends and God opened doors for me.

And I believe He allowed some to glimpse the woman underneath the scars and the beauty of dreams.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Fear, Grace, and Mercy

Regardless of the situation, God has grace and mercy for our every need. He is a presence. He is with us always. He knows our needs and understands our fears. He is our safe haven—a strong shelter in the times of storm. He is my hiding place and my redeemer. All in all, God is everything.

When He leads us in a certain direction, there is a reason and a plan. He doesn’t lead us out into the deep waters so that we will drown, but to show us how to swim. The only way to grow and prosper in our journey is by faith in Him. We don’t always understand the steps in the journey, but they all lead us to the place He purposed for us. They all give us an opportunity to learn, grow, and a glimpse of His unyielding love. Serving God is not always easy, but the rewards outweigh the hardships, every single time.

Last Thursday, after work, we headed to Nashville for my school visit Friday morning. There is always an unexplainable fear of traveling for me. It takes all of my strength, a few tears, and prayers to make me go. I don’t understand my fear, but it is always present and strong. It clutches at my reserve of strength and reminds me how weak I truly am.

I wanted to cancel. I wished I had never agreed to go. Fear bubbled inside of me and I wondered what else I will have to endure and overcome. In these moments, I feel all of this is too big for me. I feel like I have waded out in waters too deep. I feel like I am drowning. I hate the frantic and despairing feeling fear creates. When it feels as if it will completely destroy me, my God arrives right on time.

When I lifted my eyes toward Heaven and prayed, God replaced my fear with peace. He took away my bad feelings and replaced them with happy ones. He reassured me I was safe in His arms. He dried my tears and calmed me. Even if death had come to me, there would be no fear. And I thought how wonderful it is to serve a God so loving that He takes the time to reassure me of my fears. He takes the time to hold me when I’m afraid and comfort me when I’m sad. He is a great protector.

Not only did He bless me with a wonderful school visit, but He taught me a few things along the way.

When we went to the zoo afterwards, I wasn’t thrilled about seeing the snakes. I’m scared of those critters and to even be in the same room with them, caged or not, was terrifying. But then I thought about it, am I always going to allow fear to dictate my life? So I talked to myself, in a happy, positive voice. I walked through the area, looking straight ahead of course, without allowing the fear to paralyze me. I knew nothing could happen beyond God’s control. And I watched my boys enjoy their exploration of new things. I didn’t want to pass my fears onto them or hold them back. Sometimes we have to pick and choose our battles. While I realize I will NEVER like snakes or enjoy looking at them, I did enjoy the beautiful butterflies.

Then, it was playtime. The jungle gym offered a variety of fun things to do. Since it was a weekend of facing fears, I decided to play, too. There was a huge net for climbing. It was hard to stand on, so I held onto the net and carefully placed my feet each time—so I wouldn’t fall. It wasn’t really fun because I held on tight, not wanting to fall. When I reached the end I was tired and not really enthused by it at all. Then, I watched the kids. They went right through the middle, without holding on, as fast as they could. They laughed and bounced on the roped when they fell. Without thinking about it too much, I joined them. I went right through the middle, running as fast as I could and when I fell I got right back up. This time I was laughing. I had stopped being afraid to fall and started enjoying the moment.

Sometimes I think God wants us to let go of the net and take off running (or just jump), not afraid to fall. He wants us to believe He will catch us, just like the safety net. He wants us to follow our dreams and not allow fear to control their depths. He wants us to put our trust in Him, to realize and know He already has it under control. He wants us to enjoy the journey and be prosperous.

God constantly reminds me there is no discharge in this war. There is no place to quit. No room for disobedience and no excuse to succumb to fear. It’s a great blessing just to know, when it all gets to be too much for me, my God will lift me above it all. I am weak, but He is strong.

I can do ALL things through Christ which strengtheneths me. Philippians 4:13.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Victory in Jesus

We are often unaware of the challenges facing us each day. We don’t fully realize the beautiful gift of God’s mercy or comfort until times of battle. We don’t know the power of His protection, until the danger subsides, and the realization of what could have happened evolves. It’s then we understand God is always ready and fully in control. There are also times when He prepares us for the storms and gets us ready to endure the battle.

He’s been showing me things and getting me ready for the next battle of my life. He knows the exact balance of every combination to make me fruitful and obedient. He knows my ways and knows when I need to go through the fire to be able to shine for Him. He knows the heartache I will endure along the way and the joy of the reward. He knows how deep my valley will be and the height of the mountain.

He knows what it takes to make me pray. He knows what it takes to make me search the scriptures and humble my heart. He knows what gives me hope and encouragement. He has a time for it all. And the darkest hour is usually right before the Lord pours out His beautiful blessings upon me.

A few days ago I had an appointment to speak about my books. The days leading up to it were difficult and I encountered a headache days prior. The night before a major migraine attacked. My head hurt so badly I couldn’t sleep. I prayed that morning as I got ready and hoped it would go away. I wasn’t able to work on my speech, like I had hoped, due to days of constant pain.

And then the problems seemed to multiply. I ran out of ink in my printer and I couldn’t read the part of my speech I had prepared. The headache caused waves of nausea. There was a roaring in my ears and I couldn’t hear out of one ear. My vision became blurred at times and dizziness threatened. I knew there was no time to cancel. They were counting on me. So I prayed and knew when I walked out of the door, I was taking a leap of faith.

I knew God would carry me because I couldn’t make it on my own. Just before I took my place in front of the crowd, my thoughts became jumbled and I couldn’t think clearly. I knew if I stepped out in faith, God would carry me the rest of the way.

Through it all, I learned a very valuable and beautiful lesson. Sometimes God has to get us to the point of total and complete trust in Him. He takes away our thoughts so He can replace them with His. It’s during these times when He proves His love for me. He gives me a little glimpse of His love and the extent of His power. He reminds me that I’m never alone and nothing is beyond His realm. He reminds me to just open my mouth and allow His words to come out. And I know that I’m not the typical speaker or author. I am peculiar and driven by God’s purpose.

I have found it’s during my darkest hours that I search for God. Sometimes it takes suffering to help us pray. One day, I cried going and coming home from work. I was in so much pain, I couldn’t take it. As the tears began to fall, God and I began to talk. I love it when we talk and He understands the groaning of my heart. There is nothing greater than talking to God and knowing He hears my pleas.

Regardless of the obstacles the devil tosses my way, God has a storehouse of blessings just for me. He knows when I need each one. He knows their value and the abundance of their strength. His timing is always impeccable.

When it seems dark and gloomy, God sends me a ray of light— and His blessings dominant any hardship. When I begin to doubt my abilities and question whether I can continue on this journey, due to my obstacles, God reaffirms His purpose for me.

Holding a contract for a new Zippy book increases my faith. God is a wonderful paymaster! I’m so happy and thankful God is blessing me to go through this amazing journey with Him once more. He’s giving me another opportunity to make a difference and the world an opportunity to love my little zebra. I’m so thankful that when life gets hard, God won’t allow me to quit. He always come through and renews my strength. And He gives me a new testimony of His greatness.

Until next time, I hope you know that regardless of the battle there is always VICTORY IN JESUS!

Author shares message through Zippy the zebra