CRASHING DOWN

Have you ever been in a situation where it seemed you are on top of the world and everything seemed too good to be true? And then you know what comes next…Your world seems to come crashing down on you. Sometimes it just seems so unfair and you don’t know how you are going to deal with the issue at hand.

Can you think of a time when you felt like that in your life?

For me, I can think of three times in the last few years where I felt that desperation.

One example would be when I was diagnosed with Stage 0 DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ) Breast Cancer. It is the “best” stage and form to have, but at the same time, it was like a life sentence. The Breast Center seemed to still treat it as “cancer”, and even sent me all kinds of brochures on support groups, etc. To this day, I struggle with saying “I have cancer.” I think it is because it seems  that something with a Stage 0 should be insignificant.

There were a few months of torture, first waiting for tests to determine the diagnosis, then researching options, and talking with others who have had a similar issue.  That was followed by trying to decide what treatment options to pursue, seeing specialists, having one surgery, then finding out I needed a second one a week later and waiting for results.  Thankfully, things have turned out well so far, and I was spared much compared to most people. I am forever grateful for that.  In fact, to this day I wonder why the Lord would spare me, yet so many others suffer through so much more.

Every check up time, I still get nervous and anxious because you just never know if you will remain clear.  Thankfully, there are friends and family there to encourage and support me with a scripture or words of faith at those times.

I have seen friends who have lost their loved ones, had miscarriages, or  gone through so much hardship with their children. Your world crashing down on you could even be something as simple as the thought of losing a friendship over some misunderstanding.

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Photo credit NEWS OF PEACE under Creative Commons License (CC BY-2.0)

When my world comes crashing down, I know I have found that my faith gets shaken, even though I like to think it is strong. Sometimes it is hard to be strong when your world comes crashing down.

So what can we do to try to stay strong in our faith?

***Surround ourselves with faithful people who will encourage us and help lift us up.

***Listen to encouraging Christian music to help inspire us.

***Ask other Christians to pray for us.

***Read the Bible and other encouraging Christian books.

***Look for God’s blessings through the tough times.

***Remind ourselves that God is still in control and leading us even when we don’t feel it.

When we are experiencing these tough times in our lives, it is important to reach out to God and others.

Just as important is trying to be aware of when others need our compassion, listening ear, or encouragement to help them make it through difficult time. Are we there for them when they need a human touch of kindness?

“When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.  Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”  –Psalm 34:17-19

THE MESSAGE OF THE TREE

In the Bible, Jesus often tells us parables about animals and nature to get us to think about our human nature and our relationship with Him.  Consider a simple, big old tree—even it can speak to us about our personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

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Photo credit by Brian Yap  under Creative Commons License (BY-NC/2.0)

Envision the big, sturdy trunk of a tree—representing Jesus—the firm and solid foundation.  From the trunk grow many branches—you and me and all of us—which eventually produce many beautiful colorful leaves.  Each leaf—each of us—reflects the beauty of its source—Jesus—to all who see them.

Consider how the leaves and branches get their nutrition in order to grow more—from the roots and trunk.  As Christians, our main source—Jesus and Scripture—are our major supply of growth.  Without this life-giving supply from the roots and trunk, the branches couldn’t survive—they—we—can’t make it on our own.

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Photo by photosbyflick under Creative Commons License (BY-NC/2.0)

Once in a while, a branch or two gets out of hand a little and grows the wrong way.  When this happens, the branch may need pruning to shape it up.  Don’t we sometimes get that way too?

At times, storms may come along, shaking the branches and leaves, but they will survive if their grip is tight to the source—the trunk.  We, too, will survive the storms and trials of life if our grip is tight to our source—Jesus.  The storms will eventually pass away—and all will be calm again.

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up by Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”  Colossians 2:6-7

FOLLOW YOUR HEART

Are you aware of that still, small voice deep inside of you that helps direct your path?  Do you try to listen to it and follow where it leads? The Holy Spirit is within us helping us to follow God’s leading.

I think it is important to follow your heart, that still, small voice, not necessarily what society thinks is right or correct. We might have to endure hardship because of our choices but that is better than going against where God is leading.

There was one major time in my life when after much prayer, and weighing pros & cons, I ended up following my heart rather than do what was expected. It was a difficult thing to do as I am not one to go against what is expected, but I had to follow my heart and trust God that it was the “right” decision for my life.

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Photo credit by pocketful of perspective under Creative Commons License (by-nc-nd/2.0)

Recently a conversation with a friend made me think about how I followed my heart in another life choice I made. The friend believes there was a choice in my past that was not the “correct” one.  The choice was a difficult one but one that I still stand by. In my heart, I feel it was the “right” decision for my life. Yes, it still had some repercussions but it was more important to follow God’s leading.

Can you think of some incidents in your life where you followed the Holy Spirit’s prompting? Try to be more aware of that small, still voice in your life and follow it. It is so worth the hardships you may endure for going against the norm.

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness.”  –Hebrews 3:7-8

GOD’S BLESSINGS IN THE ORDINARY

Isn’t it amazing to experience God’s blessings in the ordinary tasks of this life?  For me, seeing Him work daily makes my heart smile and makes His presence more real.

Recently there were two days, three separate encounters, where God truly blessed me while simply running to the store.

The first was on my usual grocery shopping day. Now, I have to admit that I have been spoiled lately as my oldest son has been accompanying me to the store. I realize what a little thing that is, but I am also discovering what a huge blessing it is at the same time. It makes life much easier to have him there to help unload the cart, even pack the groceries, and then load and unload the car once home.

Anyway, this day I was feeling a little lonely and down as I was going shopping solo.  I was kind of procrastinating and when I got to the store, I stalled a few more moments checking out social media. When I was finally ready to embrace my shopping trip alone, I got out of the car. Much to my amazement, right at that exact moment, I ran into a friend of mine who was just leaving the store.

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What are the chances that would happen? I decided to put my loneliness feelings aside and be open to my friend and take a few moments to converse. I felt terrible as I mentioned to this friend that I was feeling down and lonely. This friend lost her husband unexpectedly, at a young age, a year earlier, so I definitely felt like I put my foot in my mouth. As soon as I got in the store I texted her to apologize. I felt I needed to do that.

I believe that running into that friend was a “God-incident.” It cheered me up seeing God orchestrate our encounter. I am also hoping running into me was a blessing to my friend as well.

The other incident happened after I took my teenage son to check out a summer volunteer opportunity for him and me. We decided to go out to lunch for something different. We drove around a few times in a parking lot trying to find a parking spot to no avail.

What are the chances, that day, on my 27th wedding anniversary, that walking through the parking lot would be the music minister who played the guitar and sang at our wedding? (If I have seen her three times in the past 27 years, I would be surprised.)  I was so hoping for the opportunity to talk with her, but that did not happen as I had to go elsewhere to find a parking spot.

After our lunch I had one more errand… And, as only God could plan it, I ran into another friend who actually gifted us the musician for our wedding and was also involved in our wedding. I had the joy of sharing that story with her.

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Romans 8:28 by Sapphire Dream Photography under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I am always pleasantly surprised to see God working in my life and showing His presence through such simple, ordinary ways.

What are some ways you have seen God working in your life?  Our God is an awesome God!

“And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  –Romans 8:28

ACCOUNTABILITY

In this world of ours, I think an important thing to remember is that our life is accountable to God and God alone.  The people that we become and the things we do should be based on our relationship with God.  We are only responsible for our own actions, and we need to make sure our heart is right.

I think it is a good thing to keep in mind daily that what others may think about a decision or choice we make does not matter. Other’s opinion of us should not influence our choice.  What God thinks is what should determine the direction we take.

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crossroads by Lori Greig under Creative Commons License
(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Reading the Bible, studying teachings, and praying are different ways to know what God wants from us. Sometimes seeking Godly counsel is the path we need to follow to help us along the way.

For those of us with children, it is easy for us to slip into thinking that if our children’s decisions or choices are not the ones that we would make, that it is a reflection of us.   We need to realize our children become responsible for themselves as they mature.  We try our best to lay the best foundation we can, and then it is up to them how they ultimately live their life. Not having that control is hard for many of us. I need to continually remind myself that I tried my best and that the rest is up to the Lord. As a friend once told me, the Lord deals with each of us in our own way in His own time.

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Holy Bible by maf04   under Creative Commons License (CC BY-SA/2.0)

So, remember to base your decisions and live your life by being accountable to God and God alone. And, you are only ultimately responsible for yourself.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  –1 Samuel 16:7

EYES ON THE GOAL

“Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal.”

This is a very meaningful quote, that a friend of mine shared with me a few years ago.  Michael Jordan, one of my friend’s heroes, has been quoted as saying it.

I now have that verse taped up in my office at work to help remind me of the powerful message during the difficult, stressful times at work.

To me, the verse encourages us to keep our eyes on the goal at hand, so we can overcome any obstacles that  might arise or that we may be facing.

I think we can apply that verse to any aspect in our life.

…If you are a student going to school, you need to keep your eyes on graduation.

…If you are a musician, you need to keep your eyes fixed on that album you are in the process of making.

…If you are a writer, you might need to keep your eyes on the book you are writing.

…If you are a chef who wants to start their own restaurant, keep your eyes on that goal.

…If you work, there might be a major deadline to meet so you keep your eyes on getting that big contact awarded.

…If you are a cancer patient going through treatments, you  want to focus on that last treatment.

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Photo by Celestine Chua under Creative Commons License (CC BY 2.0)

No matter what stage in your life that you find yourself, I think there is some goal that you can keep your eyes fixed on. Even though there will be tough times and possibly many obstacles that arise, if you keep your eyes on the goal you will succeed. Keep being persistent and fighting through whatever adversity comes your way.

So, what is the latest goal in your life?  Try to keep your eyes on the goal so you can overcome the obstacles you may endure.

“…But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  –Philippians 3:13-14