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The Gift You’ve Been Overlooking

The aspen tree leaves popped like golden flames against the evergreen forest. As we weaved through the mountains, the sharp contrast between light and dark leaves enabled my husband, who is colorblind, to notice the fall colors. For the remainder of our mountain trip, he was keenly aware of the golden aspen trees everywhere. Upon returning home to the Midwest, he was awake to the golden fall trees everywhere. The golden fall colors aren’t new, but his awareness of them was.

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If we want a more joyful and happy life, what if we don’t have to add anything in? What if we simply need to notice something already there? What if God is busy making our lives beautiful, but we've been overlooking it? Click To Tweet

That might seem impossible when nothing in life feels right. There was a time when everything felt dark and lonely. According to social media, everyone appeared to have what I desired. My critical attitude further confirmed that no one, nor anything, was good enough. I strove for achievements to keep me happy and muscled my way through relationships to feel accepted. I thought adding things would create joy, but they fell short. The harder I hustled for happiness, the further joy eluded me.

A friend shared an idea that kickstarted a happiness revolution, “God is not the author of chaos.” She directed me to seek and fix my thoughts on true, lovely, and admirable things, saying, by doing so, I could receive the peace of God (Phil 4:6-9 NIV). It was a mindset shift to intentionally seek God’s goodness, and my world brightened as I witnessed color I’d overlooked for decades.

In fact, brain science calls this frequency illusion. When we become aware of something new, we suddenly see it everywhere. Our brain maintains a heightened focus on this new thing or idea. Then we switch to confirmation bias, which reassures us that each time we see our novel item, it must truly be everywhere. 

I learned I don't have to physically see God to know He is always in my space. Click To TweetKnowing His brand of light helps me find Him when it isn’t so obvious. Chaos subsided, not because God changed my circumstances, but because He helped me look for His truth, “I have nothing, and yet, possess everything” (2 Cor 6:10b NIV). 

Like the blazing aspen leaves, will I intentionally seek light? Or, will I draw in darkness by giving my energy to material things I think will fulfill me? What about you? Like Jacob, choose to awaken to the evidence of God’s presence we’ve been missing. When we overlook His everyday blessings, we deny ourselves the very gift we seek--joy. Click To Tweet

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Practical Spirit/Reflection Questions:

When has a change of focus allowed you to recognize God’s presence during a particularly difficult time?

How would your life change if you noticed God’s presence already around you?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below or engage with us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter!  

obedience

Fearless When Ill-Equipped

woman with sunset behind her and the text of Zech. 4:6

God wants those who belong to Him to be brave and fearless. He Himself shows how weakness of the flesh is overcome by the courage of the Spirit. ~ Tertullian Click To Tweet

I felt squeezed. In every direction. Sleep deprived and with more on my to-do list than I could possibly accomplish, pressing deadlines, and an upcoming speaking engagement I hadn’t begun to prepare for, I felt ready to explode. Or hide.

My brain, held captive by my insecurities and fears, refused to function. When I most needed it to shine.

My fear—that I’d fail, and in failing that I’d let everyone down. The conference director who had already purchased my plane ticket. Her team who had already sent out their promotional material, listing me as one of the keynotes. Their attendees, who had spent good money on the conference and were expecting to hear a fresh word.

And more than that, I was afraid I’d look stupid. As I stared at a blank computer screen, my eyes gritty from lack of sleep, my nerves tightly coiled, I worried I wouldn’t come up with anything.

I had nothing. No words. No thoughts.

I suppose much of that came from mounting stress, and sheer exhaustion. In the middle of taking accelerated classes and with an already booked summer, God called my husband and I to something incredibly difficult. Something that took every ounce of strength we had and left me in tears daily. We knew this task was from God. But … what about all our other commitments?

I couldn’t simply walk away. But neither could I, it seemed, walk forward. My insecurities, my fear of failure, my mounting negative thinking, kept chipping away at my strength.

So what’d I do? I stepped away. To pray. To give this thing, this task I felt ill-equipped and ill-prepared for, to God. And as I sat in His presence, His peace overshadowed my anxiety, and His truth stilled my fears.

I knew He’d called me to this engagement, so I decided—yes. I made the choice to trust God to give me the ability to fill this role--as He desired. And I reminded myself that this wasn't about me. Click To Tweet

quote pulled from post with background image of pastel colorsNor was it up to me. It never is. In fact, it’s when I’m resting fully in His grace and leaning deepest into Him that I find my greatest strength.

This is a choice we all must make, whenever our fears and insecurities begin to turn our ears from God’s call, whatever that call may be.

Consider Francis Chan’s words, taken from Forgotten God:

“How much it grieves [God] to watch His children ignore the promises He’s made. Throughout Scripture due to fear that those promises won’t be kept! Empowering His children with the strength of the Holy Spirit is something the Father wants to do. It’s not something we have to talk Him into. He genuinely wants to see us walk in His strength.”

Walking in God’s strength. Listening, with a surrendered heart, for His guidance, then stepping forward in faith, trusting Him to come through.

Is there something God has called you, something that makes your stomach tighten and your knees wobble? Maybe to initiate conversation with a new neighbor or launch a women’s Bible study? Maybe share your faith with a friend or coworker? If so, how does remembering God will be strong on your behalf, that you don’t have to be, give you courage? What are some ways you can lean into Him and rest in His strength? How do our thoughts play into that?

We all struggle with negative thinking, and so often, we become our own limiting factor. We allow our insecurities and fears to hinder our obedience and to prevent us from living out the awesome and life-changing role God hand-crafted each of us to fill. God calls us to greatness. To live courageously. To be life-changers. Click To Tweet

Join us for one of our Bold and Brave conferences to learn how to live intentionally and courageously. Share your thoughts here in the comments below or engage with us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter. And contact us HERE to have our team or one of our speakers join you for your next women’s event.

surrender

Big Me, Little God Syndrome–Guest Post

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There’s a way to guarantee our misery. To necessarily create an ever-increasing bad attitude. But there’s also a way to grab hold of joy. And herein lies our daily battle, a battle that must be fought and must be fought well. A battle we absolutely have the power to win, if we’d but engage.

As today’s guest, Jennifer Henn, shares in her poignant and transparent post, the choice is ours.

Big Me, Little God Syndrome by Jennifer Henn

I’m too big again. My frustration grows, I’ve taken over and I’m miserable.  I told myself to be careful. I even used to think this could never happen to me again, but it has, and I’m sorrowful. Saddened. Thank goodness there’s a remedy for every time I’m the biggest thing in my life.

In my journal, I circle “ME” and draw a line through it, hoping a visual will help. I go to my Bible and look up the words of John the Baptist, He must become greater; I must become less. John 3:30. This verse reveals a certain road to peace in every situation. Click To Tweet.

Making my life about me causes Big Me, Little God Syndrome. This syndrome comes on every time I make my circumstances bigger than God. Then overwhelming feelings of worry and doubt take over.

Then I remember, more of You Lord and less of me.

The thing I’ve spent the most time worrying about are my children. We are a homeschool family and like other homeschool moms, there have been times I’ve wondered if I was doing enough. Times I doubted whether my kids’ academics were up to standard with public school kids. Also, there’s the whole socialization thing. Are we weird homeschoolers?

When my sons were middle school aged, and my daughter upper elementary, my health failed. We had no choice but to enroll the kids in public school.

Now I would know if my schooling measured up.

I went from total control of my kids’ curriculum and activities, to no control. I loved schooling my kids at home, but I held on too tight. I craved homeschool success complete with learning, fun activities, and a fairly clean house. I also thought middle school would be the worst time to enroll your kids in school for the first time. My plan fell apart and God gave me the gift of letting go.

There were lessons in letting go. The basket of my life was turned upside down. I learned to trust God with an open hand. A “God is with me no-matter-what-the-circumstance”, kind of trust. The basket of my life was turned upside down. My circumstances were beyond me, but God remained the same. Click To Tweet

The balance was turning in the right direction, more of God, less of me. For two years, I struggled with multiple health issues.

The situation was beyond me, but never God. My kids went to public school. God’s grace was sufficient for the adjustments they had to make, and they did well academically.

That was seven years ago. I went back to homeschooling and two have graduated. I, too, had a sort of graduation. One day another homeschool parent said I was the most laid back mom she knew. What a surprise, I had changed. Laid back is not my natural tendency.

However, the battle isn’t over. I fight a continuous habit of making my life too much about me. The remedy comes by looking closer at who God is. God is my Rock and Salvation, my Lord and King, the one I put my trust in. I think of these things in practical terms as I go throughout each day. My part is small, God’s part is big.  I need to make God the center of my prayers, not me. When I remember who God is, once again, I become smaller and Christ bigger.

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Let’s talk about this!

We all struggle with Big Me, Little God Syndrome from time to time, but the more we focus on ourselves, the more miserable we become. It’s when we die to ourselves (surrendering our dreams, our will, our desires to God) that we truly come alive. That’s when we are freed to live authentically, to be the women God created us to be. Share your thoughts here in the comments below or engage with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Get to know Jennifer!

Jennifer Henn is a blogger and speaker who has a passion to help homeschool moms balance their days. She shares with transparency the fun, failures, and heart-aches she’s had while homeschooling her three children.

After 18 years of homeschooling, she’s on to her next career as she writes, speaks, and leads a Word Weavers critique group.

Her heart and home are full where she lives in metro Atlanta with her husband of twenty-six years, two of her three adult children, and two cats.

Visit her online at JenniferHenn.com, on Facebook at The Well-Adjusted Homeschooler, and on Instagram at welladjustedhomeschooler

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION(R), NIV(R) Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. (R) Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Faith, Revealing Jesus

Setting an Example

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Sometimes my greatest impact, positive or negative, comes when I think no one is watching. One hand was on the wheel, the other in the air. It was just another drive to the grocery store blasting my favorite gospel music. It didn’t seem like an important moment until I looked back and saw my daughter. Her little hand was stretched high as she sang along with me. Sometimes I forget how powerful our actions of faith can be.

Don’t let my example fool you. I blow it about twenty times a day in parenthood and in life. Who knows what my three-year-old tells his preschool teacher. Maybe something about his mom yelling at the dog who peed on the carpet again. Or perhaps how I gasp fearfully at any sudden movement.

Truth is, I’ve modeled frustration, impatience, doubt, and fear more than I’ve wanted to.

But that day in the car made me more aware that my actions and words are important in God’s kingdom. I claim to be a Christian, but is my faith evident to others by what I do? Do we as God’s people show God’s love instead of just telling about it?I claim to be a Christian, but is my faith evident to others by what I do? Do we as God’s people show God’s love instead of just telling about it? Click To Tweet

I need God to help me live out my faith. I want to live life outwardly trusting Him so that my kids, neighbors, friends, and family can know the Jesus I do–Jesus who loves fiercely, forgives genuinely, and is completely pure and faithful. He is who I want to be like.

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This is a something we should desire as Christians.

Peter, one of the disciples, urged, “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2-3 ESV).

So we have to ask ourselves who’s in our flock? Who are the people God put in our lives who look up to us? And how can we show God’s goodness and love to them? Most importantly, are we willing to be an example?

For me, this starts with my family. I desire so much for my children. I want them to grow into joyful, kind, helpful, and patient people. First, I must model those qualities to them.

Scripture says, “But the fruit of the Spirit”– what God produces in us– “is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22, ESV).

A few years ago, I didn’t feel like I had any of these qualities. I wanted these traits to be true of my family, but they weren’t true of me. I had little joy, peace, or patience and couldn’t be the model God had called me to be. I had to start desiring the fruit of the Spirit in my own life before I could give it away to others. I needed the source, God’s Holy Spirit, to work in me so my life could display God’s grace.

I needed the source, God’s Holy Spirit, to work in me so my life could display God’s grace.I needed the source, God’s Holy Spirit, to work in me so my life could display God’s grace. Click To Tweet

I love that the Bible says there’s no law against God’s love. It’s good for us to want all of His traits–His good fruit–to fill our hearts so we can pass unconditional love along to everyone we meet. But how?

I’ve found, the more time I spend with God, reading Bible passages of His love for me, the more I am prompted to show extravagant grace and love to others. Likewise, the more I pray asking for Him to fill me up with His goodness, the more my default is to extend patience in chaos and forgiveness in hard times. When we let God be our leader through His Holy Spirit, we naturally model His love to others.

We’ll never be perfect this side of heaven, but as I seek to live out my faith, I keep my lifeline to God active so I can reflect His love when mine wears thin. Thank you Jesus for teaching us how to walk in Your ways through your Spirit!

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Let’s talk about this! When have you realized you were or needed to model faith in action to those around you? Share your thoughts in the comments below, so we can learn from and encourage each other. And make sure to engage with us on Facebook and Instagram where we post daily snippets of encouragement.

Hearing God

Learning to Hear From God

When decisions loom and uncertainty hits, do you ever wish you could have a face to face conversation with God? Or at the very least, to receive clear, if A then B guidelines, preferably etched in stone. We often hear others talk about how our faith is not a religion but instead a relationship, implying two-way communication. But how can we experience that kind of intimacy? Our guest today, a sweet friend and gifted writer with a heart for Jesus and others, shares some thoughts on how we can become alert to God’s voice. As you read her thoughts, consider how God might be wanting to speak to you.

How Do I Hear from God?

By Susan Akenwoman holding phone

I’m waiting for that phone call from God.

Moses, the man God called to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, spoke to God face to face. Saul, who wrote much of the New Testament, met Jesus on the road to Damascus and heard Him speak audibly. How often do we wish God would communicate so directly with us? We want clear directions.

graphic using text pulled from postWe do have detailed guidance from Him in His word, the Bible. To truly understand God and His will it’s crucial to know and comprehend Scripture. God never leads us contradictory to His word and His revelation to us is complete.To truly understand God and His will it’s crucial to know and comprehend Scripture. God never leads us contradictory to His word and His revelation to us is complete. Click To Tweet

The first step to hear from God is to know the Bible well. He most often speaks to us through its message.

We don’t see God’s face, but we can still talk to Him directly. We can pray anytime, anywhere, and tell Him whatever is on our hearts bringing any request to Him. He tells us to pray about everything and to ask Him for anything (Philippians 4:6-7). That doesn’t mean He’ll always answer as we want but He’ll do what’s best.

With faith, we study and obey His word seeking Him in prayer, and He directs our steps.

What about those who say, “God told me to do such and such,” God told them how much to give, where to serve, or whom they needed to reach out to? He does speak to our hearts when we are open to Him. But how do we know when it’s Him?

The Holy Spirit moves and speaks to us as He wills. But we need to be listening with open hearts and believe it is Him by faith.

As I was singing praise to God in church one Sunday, the thought came, “I want you to come early on Sunday mornings to pray for the church.” I dismissed it because I enjoyed attending church with my husband and son. I didn’t want to get up earlier and come alone. But I heard the message again the next week and the week after that. I felt God telling me to invite others to join me each Sunday morning to pray. By the third time, I started bargaining, “What if no one else comes?” God answered, “I want you to pray even if you’re the only one.”

These were thoughts. I’ve never heard the audible voice of God. How did I know it was Him speaking? First, it was in line with His word. Second, it was persistent. I would never come up with that plan on my own. And finally, I knew it was God because He gave me the grace to follow through.

I think we make hearing from God more difficult than it needs to be. He’s always speaking to us through the Bible, nature, other believers, and in our thoughts. The problem is we’re often distracted, not listening, or avoiding His message out of fear. Click To TweetHe’s always speaking to us through the Bible, nature, other believers, and in our thoughts. The problem is we’re often distracted, not listening, or avoiding His message out of fear.

We can come to Him in faith, trusting Him to speak, and knowing He is good.graphic with quote from text

Scripture tells us, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6, ESV). In other words, when we seek Him, through prayer, meditation, and Scripture reading, we can trust He’ll reveal Himself and His will to us.

Let’s talk about this! How has God spoken to you recently?

Are you willing to hear what He has to say?

Join the conversation here, in the comments below, or engage with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

 

Get to know Susan!

Susan is a homemaker, substitute teacher, and writer. She lives in Nebraska but was born and raised in Oklahoma. Her greatest love is for the Lord Jesus Christ who has redeemed her and set her free. Her other loves are her husband, son, and daughter-in-law to be. Susan enjoys reading, photography, spending time with family and friends, writing, and sitting down with a cup of tea. She has a heart for prayer ministry and loves her church! She’s also a contributing writer for Wholly Loved daily devotional and 7-week Bible study, both of which will be releasing soon! Visit her online at Soaring on Butterflies Wings.