Oct 29, 2013

Who Cares if My House is Clean... or if Supper is on the Table?!?

Honestly? ... I do!! 

Does it seem like it all the time? No, not so much...

Do I enjoy cleaning & cooking? 

Surprisingly... I'm starting to! 

Have I always? 

NO!!!!!!!!!! :)

Basically... I started thinking about how it makes me feel, personally, when my house is in shambles... then compared that feeling to how I feel when I walk into my front door and everything is in its place... It's like comparing a panic attack to pure peace & relaxation!!! 

So then why on earth do I let things get so out of hand?

Well... I'm sure there could be many reasons, but mostly for me it has to do with feeling overwhelmed along with a lack of time, interest, & practical tools for getting the job done... and keeping it done!

I've been diving into inexpensive Ebooks through Amazon like "The Green Home Cleaning Guide.." by Michelle Anderson & "31 Days to Clean..." by Sarah Mae who reminded me that the state of my home really matters and also share tools with me to help me get things clean and keep them that way! An important thing for me was to discover "Why" I wanted my home to be clean, organized, & welcoming in the first place...

Here's what I came to realize...

I want my home to be a peaceful haven, it's where most of my time is spent with my 3 year old during the day and it's where my husband winds up after very long days at work on his feet... I want him to come home feeling calm and welcomed... not stressed or overwhelmed... I want our home to be "a soft place to land." 

(p.s. I "should" have time to make this happen because I'm a full-time SAHM = so no condemnation coming from this momma if you have a mess at your house and are crazy busy! I'm home most days and, for now, have 1 child to my name, but I want to figure this out now BEFORE my house is full of little ones!). 

Apart from making our home a haven, I also realized that since I grew up with cleaning not being much of a priority... it hasn't been a priority to me so far in life... and then I look at my little girl and how willing she is to help wipe things down and do little tasks... just to help out... and I want her to know that what she's doing matters and that she's serving her loved ones & especially blesses God's heart when she can do it joyfully!

I want to teach my child about 'stewardship' - I want her to appreciate the things that she has and to take good care of them - including her toys, her clothes, the dishes she uses, the bed she sleeps in, etc... Starting things off early like this - my hope for her is that this will come naturally to her as she gets older and it won't be a meaningless, annoying chore.. she will understand that this is a service done for people she cares for & that ultimately she is doing it as unto the Lord. I don't want to be a tyrant about it, but I try to find 1-3 little chores my daughter can help out with daily so that she can contribute. If she's struggling with the desire, I realize she's probably just not wanting to do it by herself... so we do it together :)

I seek to do at least one thing well every single day - whether it's cleaning the kitchen from top to bottom... or just clearing all the mess from our living room floor... I know I don't have time to deep clean my entire home daily, but as I'm catching up on things I strive to keep things tidy (well... as tidy as possible with a little one underfoot and so many hours in a day... wink wink). 

When I used to clean homes with a cleaning company, the motto was "top to bottom, left to right..." so I still use that when tackling an entire room - start high and end with the floors so you don't re-clean the same area twice. I also prefer easy green methods, like Norwex microfiber cloths (yes I became a consultant to buy everything I wanted at a discount, ha) or some vinegar in a spray bottle! I have no interest in leaving nasty chemicals around my house where a little person could get into big trouble. We still have cupboard locks, but you never know... accidents happen - why give more opportunity to curious babies/toddlers?

Another fun tip I learned on a youtube video back in the day was to hide a basket in each room (bedroom, living room, etc)  under a chair or something and when something is out of place during the day - just put it into the basket... don't constantly clean up messes, just put things into the basket and at a designated time (or 2) daily when things aren't hectic - grab baskets and put things where they go (kids can help 2 of course!).

A nice series on little things you can do to get things cozy at home is through the Women Living Well blog:

The most important thing, to me, is that I can feel relaxed when I'm at home. I don't want to spazz out whenever I hear someone knocking on my door - throwing toys under the couch (although sometimes I still must, ha) and I don't like feeling guilty when I hear my husband walking in the door... dreading what he might be thinking about the mess or why we can't ever have supper together... 

Speaking of supper... Focus on the Family sent an answer to my prayers = eMeals.com! You HAVE to check it out if you've struggled to put meals together that don't come out of a box! You can choose classic meals or vegetarian or whatever and you'll get weekly menus with shopping lists! It's incredible! Having daily meals together was never really a priority at my house growing up, but even back then... I remember kind of wishing we did... I liked the thought of something I could count on... a consistent time each day where I was able to connect with my family (especially as I got older and we were all running in different directions). It's also a great time to see how everyone's doing, pray together, and perhaps do a little devotion together.

Of course, please know, even if you're just having pizza - it's great to come together & connect everyday!

Just remember mommas... don't stress!!! Do the best you can with the time you are given... and if you have to choose whether to scrub the bathroom floor or play legos with your little one... go for the legos! Time with God and the family He blessed you with is your top priority. If you can implement even 'some' little changes to help make your home a little less stressful - my vote is that it's well worth the effort :) 

Take stock with where most of your time is spent during the day - if it's with your little one and caring for your home, awesome job! If you're like me and get sucked into Facebook and other electronic distractions... start to set some limits. You can do this - I'm rooting for you!    Blessings :)

"Strength & honor are her clothing; She shall rejoice in time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness. She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her; 'Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.' Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised."  (Proverbs 31:25-30)      * Amen *

Sep 23, 2013

Why Women Dress Inappropriately...?

It is really quite unfortunate when someone thinks so little of themselves... that they find it appropriate to show off whatever could potentially cause lust in a man's heart...just to acquire compliments and feel a little bit better about themselves, in the moment... 

The reason why I feel women dress inappropriately is based on one of 3 possible scenarios:

1. Low self-esteem = They are looking to attract attention & find a sense of self-worth

2. Pride = They're quite certain they're gorgeous and see no reason why they shouldn't flaunt themselves

3. Total ignorance = They don't realize that the way they dress actually affects others - they are just trying to be "fashionable"
Interestingly enough, someone could have an odd mix of a couple or even all of these traits at the same time.

I just wish all women truly understood God's heart for them... 

...that their worth is not found in getting men to drool over them! It has nothing to do with wearing the latest fashion or having the perfect earrings to match their new dress! It has nothing to do with shoes or purses or hairstyles or surgeries! It has NOTHING to do with what this guy or that guy thinks of your curves, or lack thereof...

I wish women knew that they are deeply loved and cherished just exactly the way that they are... as they were created by the Creator of the earth & heavens above! He sees their beauty (or lack of beauty), not by evaluating how thin or fashionable they are... but by their hearts.

Ask God today to show you what "HE" thinks about you. Does "HE" find you beautiful? Does "HE" think you have some things to work on? Does "HE" miss spending time with you? I'd encourage you to reorganize your priorities and spend more of your time (daily) healing your heart instead of covering up any perceived flaws with makeup or the latest fashions... 

(note: my heart is not to condemn you for doing what you like to make yourself feel lovely, but to remind you that your heart is much more important than how you look on the outside) Bless you!

Aug 28, 2013

The Importance of Having a Christian Mentor...

Sometimes, as a counselor at Destiny Youth Ranch, I'm tempted to call my girls my "little ducks" or "lambs" since I am basically their caretaker for the weekend - helping them stretch their wings and continually making sure they are doing alright. I feel as though I am shepherding them through a life-changing experience... being around the horses & learning more about God... hopefully while having tons of fun & making new friends! Today I considered how I could compare nurturing relationships in animals with christian mentorship in our new Big Sister/Brother riding program :)

Cygnets = After they are about 1 day old, baby swans (cygnets) can follow their parents into the water. They already know how to swim. But they won’t be able to fly for 7 to 20 weeks. Until then, their parents swim or walk with them. Some swans even carry their young on their backs. Mentors encourage you to know God better, act more like Him &, never give up - even if you sink! They cheer you on as you learn to fly...

Lambs = Baby sheep (lambs) naturally desire to be in groups & follow a leader. They get to know their shepherd's voice so that when he calls, they listen - they know he cares for them & protects them from harm - even carrying lambs on his shoulders. Jesus is compared to a shepherd in the bible as he cares for each & every one of his children - He notices if even one is far from him. He would leave a large flock to find the one lost lamb because each one is so precious to Him. A good mentor will encourage you to pray & read your bible so you can know for yourself what God's desire for you is on a daily basis.

Foals = A baby horse (foal) can stand up almost instantly after it is born, but it isn't very graceful! It will continue to follow its mother around and copy what she does for months/years in order to learn how to behave in the world. A horse goes through a season of training in order to become kind & respectful toward the wishes of his rider. All christians are growing from glory to glory - no matter how long they've been one! Having a mentor/friend to be there for you regularly to teach, encourage, & pray with you is a beautiful gift. They should set a good example for you to emulate, not that they're perfect, but they should consistently seek to become more like Christ.

DYR Mentor = In the beginning, it takes time to learn how to handle a horse safely & effectively, but even more important is that we learn to become more like Christ & seek Him out on a daily basis. Having a christian mentor is a great way to gain wisdom, encouragement, & accountability. You might think you know it all about horses... or about how to be a good christian, but Proverbs 19:20 says: "Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future." Having a person you trust alongside you as you learn anything new, is very important & helpful :)   

"Whoever loves instruction/discipline/correction, 
loves knowledge..." Proverbs 12:1

"Lord help us to seek correction & instruction 
so we that might gain wisdom."   Amen

Visit http://www.destinyyouthranch.com/ for more info on this life-changing ministry <3

Jul 9, 2013

Why should I dress modestly if I'm confident...? (Modesty Part 2)

As I've been growing in how I see 'modesty' ...and the importance of dressing this way... I got to thinking about why I really had to dress this way if I was a confident young woman with nothing to hide?! 

Generally the only people dressed modestly at the pool are elderly women, moms (presumably w/ stretch marks), and 'some' children. 

Almost ALL of the teens and young women are in cute 2-piece swimsuits getting a great tan!

So... if I am a tall, slender young woman without stretchmarks or any body-image issues... why should I dress modestly? My heart isn't seeking to attract men or cause them to stray... so what's the harm??? Why should "I" have to dress like a grandma, or, worse yet... a "MOM" (gag me, lol).

Unfortunately, this attitude is very naive and selfish.

This is why:

1 Corinthians 10:23-24 says “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others."

So although you have every "right" to wear whatever you want, we should consider what's truly beneficial & constructive... and what'd be better for not just ourselves, but others!

Verses 31-33 go on to say, "Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble... even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good, but the good of many - so that they may be saved."

I would encourage you to read the entire chapter in order to understand the full context, but these verses make it pretty clear that we are to do what's best in ALL things... this would include the way we dress & present ourselves. 

In order to do our best in not causing anyone else to stumble, we should consider what others might consider a stumbling block... including half the population... which of course would mean = MEN! 

You might not know this, but men are very visual... & wired 'completely' different from women! 

Most girls like to fantasize about prince charming whisking her off her feet with songs and roses and promises of lovely ever afters as they ride into the sunset on a white horse, but MEN fantasize about something a bit more... 'to the point' I guess you could say... they think about SEX... and they think about it a LOT! 

(I'm not trying to stereotype everyone with this, but most women are more emotional and most men are more sexual - God meant it to be this way, I feel, so we could have the best of 'both worlds' after we're married & can connect completely).

Men need to be accountable for their own thoughts and heart, but women still have a responsibility to not make life more difficult for guys like my husband & others like him, who have no interest in seeing skimpy clothes. They want to save their eyes for their wife or even for their future wife! 

This is what I think about now... 

I want to honor my husband by NOT dressing in a way that leaves little to the imagination in public... but also how I desire to honor other WIVES by not drawing attention to myself or any of my "assets" (pun intended). 

We reveal the state of our heart, before God, with our willingness to consider both of these things.

Now, there are many men who WANT women to wear hardly anything at all so that they CAN view them as objects to be taken advantage of, but we don't want to encourage those 'boys' now do we... we want real men who value us for who we are.

So... lets make a commitment today to attract 'the good ones' by how we present ourselves, shall we ladies? It's time...

"Lord show us how we can 
best honor You by our 
thoughts, words, & actions. 
Help us to not cause others to stumble" 

Jun 3, 2013

Why modesty is important...

First of all, I need to define the 'type' of modesty I'm referring to here... which is probably exactly what you think it is = CLOTHING (or lack thereof)

I have no interest in being a hypocrite in this area, so I'll tell you up front that I AM "that girl" who wears a two-piece swimsuit, fitted tank-tops, & tight jeans... I have a very 'casual' style, but there's definitely room for improvement in the area of modesty. 

This means = no condemnation here! I am simply bringing a little more awareness to a topic many choose to avoid... which is kinda what I do on here = reveal how I'm growing as God brings different things to light in my own personal life :) 

Now... before I start listing what you should or shouldn't wear... we really need to start with the Word of God...

"And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothesFor women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do."  1 Timothy 2:9,10 (NLT)

I wanted to start by pointing out something that really stood out to me from these verses...

Don't dress to draw attention to yourself!

When you put on your shorty-shorts or bikini... look at yourself in the mirror and do a heart-check... ask yourself: "Am I trying to draw attention to myself by wearing this? Do I hope to gain acceptance from a certain person or crowd? Am I hoping this will get a guy to notice me???" We first need to take a good look at our hearts & understand our motivation for dressing the way that we do.

I can recall a time in my life when I thought that what I wore (or lack thereof) was directly related to my ability to 'be in a relationship'... which, at the time, was the only way I thought I could feel secure & loved! So, if I wore something tight or revealing, I quickly figured out that I could get 'approval' & 'acceptance' from a guy rather quickly! 

The problem with this method was... I found out after too many avoidable heartaches... that this approach ALWAYS attracted the complete OPPOSITE type of man with whom I would ever hope to spend my life with! 

I was too young and naive back then to figure this out, but if you really sit down and think about it... what reason would a guy have to pursue me & get to know my heart when, by what I was wearing (and how I acted), all they could see was that I was attractive and completely willing to flaunt my body & (by this it would seem) was inviting them to take something that was never meant to be theirs.

Another thought: have you ever noticed someone that really likes to take pictures of themselves? I'm sure we've all done it at one point or another, but some are quite excessive with this habit (especially teens) and I have to wonder sometimes... who are they (we) trying to get approval from? Especially if we've already been told we are beautiful at one point or another... are we really so insecure that we have to constantly 'prove' our beauty and get affirmation from people we hardly know to truly believe it?

I think an issue we don't like to talk much about is 'Vanity'

The dictionary defines vanity as "Excessive pride in or admiration of one's own appearance or achievements" ...and we already read the verses above that encourage us to not dress with a desire to draw attention to ourselves... so what really is at the root of this issue?

I really think vanity can easily be traced back to our basic human need for acceptance. 

Perhaps we're a complete mess emotionally or spiritually and would prefer to keep our walls up... maybe it's easier to look good on the outside than work on who we are on the inside. We want to be affirmed by others that we are beautiful, but sometimes our definition of what beauty is can be flawed by outside sources like magazines or movies with impossibly slim/busty women! 

We then start to associate true beauty with 1 universal look and forget that we are ALL fearfully & wonderfully made... 

The Word says that our beauty should be shown by our good works & devotion to Christ - not from our layers of makeup, fancy hairstyle, or ridiculously expensive clothing...

The final thing I'd like us to consider after checking our hearts, understanding our motivation, & keeping our vanity/pride in check... is 1 more important piece to this puzzle...

How you dress & carry yourself directly affects your brothers in Christ's attempts at remaining blameless & pure at heart before God.

Now, before you flip over this - just hear me out. 

I am NOT saying that a man's thoughts are YOUR fault. I'm also NOT suggesting that their actions are YOUR fault, but what I AM saying is that you should at least consider how difficult you are making life for some of these poor guys by the way you are dressing & acting in front of them... as well as remembering that we are called to not be 'stumbling blocks' for others... 

(Romans 14: 12-13 pretty much says we can't judge others... for we will ALL have to give an account for our deeds one day... but also make sure not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister in their pursuit of Godliness)

Just so you know, I totally understand that there ARE a lot of gals who are not needy or insecure or trying to attract inappropriate relationships. I think a lot of girls are just comfortable in their own skin - and this is great! I personally didn't stop critiquing my body's flaws until after I was married & finally realized someone could actually love me & find me beautiful regardless of my perceived flaws!

What I have noticed of people who fall into this category though (myself now included) is that they're in a state of ignorance... they do what they want to do and wear whatever they want to wear... without considering how their choices might be affecting others.

Unfortunately - this is a very selfish way to live life.

I don't know if you know this, but I've learned that men are very visual... and sometimes their imagination gets away from them... is this your fault? No, but consider this - if there was a beautiful girl sitting on her beach towel reading a book wearing a one-piece swimsuit... and not far off there was another beautiful girl in an itsy bitsy string bikini slathered in oil stretched out across her towel... which of those girls is going to ultimately end up being the stumbling block for any guy that passes by? Yeah... oil-strings!

The point I'm trying to make here is this: Yes, you have every right to wear what you want, but remember that we've become very desensitized to 'skin' in our generation (notice how swimsuits have changed over the years?) which means that we just aren't shocked by much anymore - but just because 'everybody else is doing it' doesn't make it right (peer pressure 101)... nor does that make something God-approved. 

Really though, why make life that much harder for these guys by leaving so little to the imagination? For that matter, why are we trying to expose so much of what is supposed to be special & enjoyed by our spouse alone? 

I love the story of a father sitting his teenage daughter down & sharing these words: 

"Everything that God made valuable in this world is covered and hard to get to.
Where do you find diamonds? Deep down in the ground. Covered... protected.
Where do you find pearls? Deep down at the bottom of the ocean, 
covered & protected inside of a beautiful shell.
Where do you find gold? Way down in a mine, covered over layers & layers of rock.
You've got to work hard to get at them...

Your body is sacred. You are far more precious than diamonds or pearls
...and so you should be covered (& protected) too."

If you aren't married yet, consider this: If I was visited by the ghost of Christmas past (like the scrooge story ya know) and was shown scenes of my life where I was dressing or acting a certain way to attract men or to cause men to stare and lust after me... or even any scene from those stupid 'relationships' where I didn't protect my heart and gave too much of myself away... or whenever I gave all of myself away... I would literally throw up from how horrible I would feel for remembering just how much was taken away from my future husband, whom I obviously now know. I realize now that the wait would have been so well worth the effort.

If you are already married, consider this: If you already found your man - why on earth are YOU dressing like that? Are you STILL trying to seek attention/approval from other men? Are you trying to look good so other guys will think your husband is lucky? Do you not realize that you're being a stumbling block? What does your spouse think about the way you dress? Have you ever discussed it? Has he attempted to enter this conversation already and you shot him down for questioning your 'free-will'? I had never talked about this with my husband before today, but thankfully he hasn't been worried about me. I think he still appreciated being asked though. He knows I'm all his :)

I stumbled upon a survey that was created from hundreds of young girls asking if certain types of clothing or actions could be considered a 'struggle' for young men... and over 1,000 christian men actually took this survey and answered these questions... and let me just say - "I" was even shocked by some of the things they considered a stumbling block! 

I'd encourage you to click through the topics on the left and then click on any of the Qs that pop up to the right of that topic... then you'll have to scroll down a little to find the results & any comments. I hope you will use this resource as a way to open your eyes to how your choices affect others & will seek to do your best to NOT be a stumbling block to young men who are trying to walk the straight and narrow. 

(Also consider that most of these young christian men immediately lose respect for & actually AVOID girls that wear skimpy/tight clothes... so if you're looking for a good man... don't cheapen your worth by broadcasting your loveliness. Trust God & pray for your future spouse, they might be struggling with some of the same things you are. Remember that God knows the desires of your heart, He knows what's best for you, & knows the best timing... the waiting is hard, but it IS worth it... I promise)

Basic guidelines I've learned over the years:
  • Place your arms to your sides and set your hands flat against your legs - don't wear shorts or skirts shorter than where the tips of your fingers are (knees covered is even better)
  • If your shirt causes your tummy or back or undies to show at all with basic movements or when bending over, put another shirt on underneath and tuck that one in (crack kills ya know!)
  • Consider wearing clothing that isn't quite so tight. If you struggle to wiggle into your jeans, they're probably too tight (sorry) - If your shirt could just as well be spandex because of how tight it is - might want to loosen up a little in that area 2 - especially if you're curvy (it's not fair, but it does make a difference - you'll have to be extra diligent with your clothing choices)
  • Be aware of underwear lines, see-through skirts in need of a slip, & any part of your bra that might be showing. I was shocked to learn from the survey above that a large majority of men agreed that seeing a woman adjust her bra straps (tucking them back in or adjusting or whatever) was a major stumbling block - which was kind of a 'duh' moment, but I never really thought about it before!
  • Bikinis = you could just as well be running around in your bra & underwear if you think about it. Try to find a suit that you feel comfortable in that has full coverage of your buns, tummy, back, & chest... with swim shorts or a skirt for your thighs (yeah those are for ur hubby 2, lol).
These are the most obvious things I could think of, but I'd really encourage you to dig through that modesty survey above and take it to heart. If you're offended by any of this, I'd encourage you to take those feelings to God and ask Him to help you process why you're feeling this way. Again, I'm not trying to say that I've got this all down either, but the conversation has to start somewhere... be blessed :)

View an excellent video on the evolution of the swimsuit by clicking HERE!!!

"God I ask that You would help us process whether what we're wearing is approved by You above all others. Convict us when we get out of line with our vanity & pride. Remind us of how You see us so that we might be content in all You created us to be... instead of seeking attention or acceptance from others first. Amen."

May 11, 2013

What is there to give thanks for when your niece has leukemia...?


It's interesting how I initially asked myself this question, assuming there'd now be nothing to give God thanks for because... if someone I loved was suffering... He was no longer worth trusting & therefore there was nothing I should thank Him for.... BUT I quickly realized that it wouldn't be possible for me to deny the power of God in my own life & His ability to redeem any situation... so my perspective quickly changed!

Ironically, since May 1st when my niece was diagnosed with leukemia (May 2nd they found it's ALL leukemia) I've found that I'm thankful for even MORE than I was before this terrible diagnosis! It's all in perspective I think (& God's grace)... 

  • I'm thankful for the incredible medical advances that are quickly healing a little body that, years ago, weren't possible! 
  • I'm thankful when we visit and she's in a great mood! 
  • This may sound selfish, but I'm extra grateful for my husband's, daughter's, and even my own good health! 
  • I'm thankful for the close bond between my niece and child... seeing my daughter love & support her friend & enjoying how they seem to cheer each other up just brightens my day! 
  • I'm thankful for each morning... each new day I am given to do life a little better than the day before & love my family & others extravagantly! 
I continue to realize how every moment, every BREATH is a precious gift from God... and that life should not be taken for granted! Do the fearful thoughts and 'what ifs' creep in now and then? Of course! Yet I know that God is good, He is still worthy of my trust, He loves this little girl more than we could ever fathom, & I am going to continue giving thanks & seeking HIS face throughout this journey... because we already know WE can't control anything... obviously if it were up to us we would NEVER allow this to happen to anyone, but God has everything under control. 

He knows our needs & has promised to be there for us no matter what life throws our way and there's no one I need on my side more right now... than Him.

(Niece on left - Daughter on right)

"Lord we thank you & praise you for Your goodness & mercy in the midst of a difficult situation. Thank you for the continued positive reports & loving support & prayers from the community! Bless this precious family, draw them closer together, & draw them closer to You. Show us how we can serve those around us who are in need. Not just those right in front of our faces, but people in our city - our state - our world! Amen." 

Apr 21, 2013

A biblical take on depression... and my personal experience...

Depression... oh how I hate that word...

The dictionary defines this word as a condition of mental disturbance, typically with lack of energy and difficulty maintaining concentration or interest in life... or feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy... 

True clinical depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for weeks or longer.

Sound familiar?

I found some disturbing facts about this disorder at www.depressionperception.com... 
  • 90% of suicide victims (in the US I believe) have a diagnosable mental disorder.
  • Over 18 million Americans age 18 & older, in a given year, have a depressive disorder.
  • Depression can affect anyone regardless of age, geographic location, or social position.
  • Depressive disorders are appearing earlier in life, with the average age of onset 50 years ago being 29... whereas recent statistics indicate it being as low as 14.5 years old...
  • Nearly twice as many women as men are affected by a depressive disorder each year.
  • Women between the ages of 25-44 are most often affected by depression - with their major cause of depression being the inability to express or handle anger.
  • Depressive disorders often co-occur with anxiety disorders & substance abuse.
  • Up to 2.5% of children in the United States suffer from depression.
  • Suicide is often the result of extended periods of depression.
These are some staggering numbers... and just further proof that we live in a fallen world. I truly believe spiritual warfare needs to be considered when looking at depression... Satan has power over the earth & his mission is to steal, kill, & destroy... so of course he loves it when children of God are hopeless & considering ending their own lives!

I am neither a doctor nor a psychologist, but I've ridden these waves personally... so I feel that I have a right to speak on the matter & attempt to offer a little hope to anyone suffering with this.

IMPORTANT: If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts PLEASE call your doctor and take the pills they prescribe you and talk openly with a trusted christian therapist who has experience dealing with this ASAP! 

Don't try to be a hero and refuse medical counsel because you believe you shouldn't need it as a christian... I'll be the first to say that GOD HEALS, but until you've received leading from Him to let go of medical interventions... and it's perfectly obvious that it's no longer needed... appreciate the counsel you're given and consider that, at this point, that could be God's answer for easing your struggles... at least for now!

I'm only going to offer 3 tips here on how to acquire some peace for your soul (& improve your perspective). Believe it or not, none of them have anything to do with forcing happy thoughts or just sucking it up... I'm going to direct you exactly where we ALL need to be directed... to the love, grace, & healing of our Father God.

#1 {Give thanks}

This one has been obvious to me since reading the book "One Thousand Gifts" by: Ann Voskamp... as well the devotional, with room to list 1,000 'gifts' (things you're thankful for) at the end!

For some reason this exercise is easy to forget when we're stuck in a rut though... and sometimes bad things (or bad moods) just happen... 

I suppose, in those moments, the last thing anyone would want to do is make a list of things they should be thankful for - but I had to mention this after something incredible I read in the 1,000 gifts devotional 2 nights ago... read it slowly... more than once ; )

"That which I refuse to thank Christ for,

I refuse to believe He can redeem..."

Ouch! So... I ended up writing down a prayer of thanks to God for this season of depression/anger in my life... which was completely opposite of the bitterness I was feeling toward Him for allowing it in the first place, but those words changed my perspective and reminded me to trust Him who can cause all things for my good! 

I thanked Him for how He will strengthen me & teach me new things & enable me to encourage others through this hardship... and I was then able to remember all the things I have to be thankful for today... & everyday! 

Somebody else always has it worse off than you - we can all think of 'something' or 'someone' in our life to be thankful for. To thank God for... Make a list & put it where you'll see it often.

#2 {Start your day out right} 

Just yesterday I was getting ready to go out for family-night... after battling intense feelings of anger, anxiety, & hopelessness for more than a week... when out of nowhere God gave me a very timely tool... but I like to refer to it as a weapon... for warfare :)

I got thinking about the 'putting on the full armor of God' verses... and considered how it'd make way more sense to have that armor on BEFORE rushing into your day so that any arrows or wiles of the enemy could be deflected off your armor... opposed to putting it on late in the afternoon or in the evening and spending all that time mending & being confused about what went wrong all day & why you felt so unprepared! 

God has something to teach us & would love to meet with us first thing in the morning to prepare us for our day! Although we have no idea what we might have to face, he does! 

Satan will do his best to distract us from this precious time - he'll encourage us to stay up late so we're too sleepy for a morning quiet-time, distract us, & try to confuse us. We need to fight for this time! It's so worth it...

#3 {Worship the Lord}

After a fun time with my family swimming together & going out for supper & ice cream last night... we ended up randomly watching Hillsong singing 'Mighty to Save' on tv... and afterward realized they were replaying a teaching by Louie Giglio from Hillsong Conference 2012 in Australia entitled 'Symphony'. 

I was moved to tears on multiple occasions because it was such a beautiful & timely message! I had no doubt God was sharing truth with me through the words I was hearing. 

I was reminded that, in an old testament battle, they were completely outnumbered... and God had them send out their worshipers to the front-lines!!! 

The armies that were coming against them started to attack themselves and killed each other off... and the small army of God came out victorious because they obeyed God & worshiped Him!

There are many ways we can worship & bring honor to God (serving others, giving to the poor, sharing the good news), but I want to focus on us singing praises to Him for this tool. 

I believe a big part of why singing praise is so important is because we're declaring truth & His goodness verbally... through our song. 

There is SO much power in the spoken word (Prvbs 18:21) & singing praises is definitely a beautiful way to declare truth. 

Sing it out loud, listen to it, & soak it all in...

My favorite quote in the teaching was: "When you start singing praises to God... satan doesn't SING along... He MOVES along!!!"

{Listen to: New Song We Sing by: Meredith Andrews}
A song that was 'randomly' playing in the background as I wrote this section until I actually listened to the words of the chorus & realized that this was a gift from God for me & for you!

Each of these things are ways I have personally been able to get a breath of air while otherwise drowning in feelings of frustration & hopelessness. Seek & you will find... God will throw you a life-line when you feel that everyone else is against you... He will never leave you nor forsake you. He is your biggest fan & loves you more than you could ever fathom or comprehend. He is worthy of our trust & devotion. 

Depression seems to generally come when we focus on ourselves & all our hurts & issues, but I'm challenging you to put your focus on Christ & His goodness & allow Him to heal your heart. Don't give up, there's always hope. With Christ all things are possible. You are loved & being prayed for... Blessings.

"Lord thank-you for being for us & not against us. Remind us to seek Your face & lay all our cares at your feet. Lighten our load by reminding us that you already died for all this. Give us wisdom as we seek care & counsel. Bring encouragers & prayer-warriors into our lives to help hold us up & we go through this adventure called life. In Your precious name Lord, amen."

Apr 15, 2013

Defining friendship... How we should communicate & pray... How to hear God's voice... & God-goggles...

Did you know that we are considered 'Friends of God' ???

"No longer do I call you servants, 
for a servant does not know what his master is doing; 
but I have called you friends
for all things that I heard from My Father 
I have made known to you."
~John 15:15~

The Creator of the entire universe wants to be friends... with me???

He considers US... friends? 


Does this seem a bit off-base to anyone else? 

Then again, if the bible says so... God says so, but what does that mean for us? What do I know about friendship that could help me understand this relationship? This friendship? 

I'll need to ask myself some questions...

1.) What's a friend?

Through a concordance I found that the original translation of the Greek word 'friend' from John 15:15 is philos. It literally translates as a friend, associate, or companion. It also refers to the bridegroom's friend who, on his behalf, asked the hand of the bride & helped out with the celebration, etc. Makes me think of the story of Isaac & Rebekah in Genesis 24 (Abraham sends his top servant Elieza to bring Rebekah to his son Isaac).

The dictionary defines the word friend as: A person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection.

How do "I" personally define friendship? It can be complicated, but generally friends enjoy each other's company, trust each other, play together (who says you have to grow up?), talk, share, learn from each other, laugh together, support each other no matter what, pray together, love unconditionally, & hope to see each other often.

(Believe it or not, there was no alcohol involved in the making of this photo... this is just what happens when you try to make a bunny face while holding back laughter. Posing properly was out of the question at this point... 
I still laugh every time I see this!)

Remember: We should understand that God desires to listen to us, speak to us, teach us, support us, & love us unconditionally.

2.) How do friends communicate?

Have  you ever been in a situation where you were chatting with someone... and all they did was talk on and on without letting you get a word in edgewise? It's SO irritating!! I know this, because I've been the irritated one as well as the irritator... yeah I made that word up, but you know what I mean : ) 

Conversation wasn't meant to be one-sided... 
We should share our hearts, but also LISTEN to what the OTHER person has to say!

In the same way: Prayer was not meant to be a monologue (solo), but a dialogue (btwn 2 or more ppl)... Speaking AND listening... 

It's so easy to just throw out all our requests to God, say amen, & walk away... but have you ever considered... that perhaps He has something to say to you??? 

I know I know, it seems off-base that He would want to take time out of His day to acknowledge us, but we have to remember that He sent the Holy Spirit for just this reason... so He could be available to ALL people, ALL of the time! 

Learn more about the Holy Spirit by clicking: HERE!

He has something to say if only we would take the time to shut off our busy mind & mouth & listen... then wait... give Him time... & lean in to understand His whispers. He speaks to us through His Word, other believers, our memory, & a multitude of other ways... sometimes even in an audible voice (I haven't experienced this, but many have). 

Actually, being able to hear Him takes us to my last question...
3.) How often do close friends communicate?

This one really depends on you (& each of your individual friends)... I understand that a lot of factors play into this, especially as we get older and have jobs and families and just get caught up in the busyness of life... but generally, those that are very close... and want to STAY close... keep in touch on a regular basis (sometimes even daily)!

Another thing to consider is 'how' we come to recognize someone else's voice... you probably hear it often! 

If you went shopping & heard your friend's voice in the next aisle... would you recognize it & acknowledge them? 

When you're somewhere crowded, maybe at a family get-together, would your child recognize your voice & be able to find you? Why is that?
♥ Time = Relationship 

The more time you spend with someone, the easier it is to understand them & recognize them & maybe even start ACTING like them (this can be good or bad, depending on the friend... lol)!

In order to hear God's voice, we need to get to know Him better. We do this by regularly (at least daily) speaking & listening to Him.

Don't know what so say to God when you pray?
  1. You could say the Lord's prayer to keep it simple (Mt6:9-13)
  2. Praise Him (You are good, You are trustworthy...)
  3. Lift requests/needs up to Him (Heal that little girl...)
  4. Thank Him (For your family, home, job, etc...)
  5. Process life with Him (Why am I so crabby today!?)
Don't know where to start to start 'hearing' Him?
  1. Take time to pause during prayer, give Him a chance
  2. Read the bible, which is the Word of God
  3. Surround yourself with christian influences (friends)
  4. Listen to God-glorifying music
  5. Put your 'God-goggles' on & be watchful/aware of Him
With that last one, I say this because He can reach us in ANY way He sees fit... I have received revelation through movies (even non-christian ones), random conversations, bad weather, & even google! lol 
Just keep an open mind on this one, ok? How I hear Him best might be totally different from how you hear Him best, so be aware!

Oh, and those goggles aren't just a way to find out how He speaks to us! Putting on your metaphoric God-goggles reminds us to see people & situations through God's eyes... giving us Godly perspective : )

"Lord help us to understand our friendship with You. Remind us to fervently pursue our relationship & be aware of how You are trying to speak to us. Amen."

How about you? In what ways could you compare your friendship with people... to your relationship with God? Share below!