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May 3, 2012

Handling Challenges ~ A Few Suggestions

Handling Challenges ~ A Few Suggestions

Do you have any situations in your life that you find especially challenging? I certainly do. They’re not the kind of challenges I ever expected to encounter, either.

So what do you do? That’s an honest question ~ I don’t have the answer. All I know is that when everything in my life seems to be one gigantic mountain of a challenge after another, I have to work really hard not to get discouraged. Or to give up. Or to blow up.

Striking a balance can be very difficult. There are a couple of things that are easy enough to do that can help:

  • Listen to praise and worship music. It doesn’t matter what kind of praise and worship music ~ from hymns to rock ‘n’ roll genre, it makes no difference. Listen to what you like, what moves you, what uplifts you and reminds you that we worship a very big God.

 

  • Read and/or recite Scripture that speaks to you. Different Scriptures can apply to different situations. For example, when my temper begins to flare and I feel as though I may explode, it usually helps me to remember the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

 

  • Step back, take a moment and a couple of deep breaths. Talk to God for a moment ~ in your head is fine, or you can say a quiet prayer. He hears you, whether your prayer is spoken or unspoken.

 

  • Remember that everyone goes through rough patches ~ some patches are rougher than others, and some people have many more rough patches than others. Nonetheless, we all have them.

 

  • Confide in a friend, mentor, spiritual leader or pastor. Choose someone who you know to be wise and trustworthy.

 

  • When people ask how you’re doing or what’s new in your life, it’s not necessary to tell them all of the details. Be genuine, but remember it’s okay to simply say you’re facing some challenges and would appreciate them remembering you in their prayers.

 

  • If you’re comfortable with sharing the details, do so.

 

  • Do your best to drink plenty of water, get the right amount of sleep, eat well and get some exercise. If that means skipping your mid-day Ding Dong or Twinkie fest (and I only say that because I am guilty of those!) and taking a walk around the block, do it. Small steps are better than no steps.

Will doing the above suggestions get rid of your problems or challenges? Probably not. But they might help you to deal with them better, get some perspective, shed some light, and restore at least a small amount of peace in your head, heart and soul.

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Balloon Release

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Imagine yourself sitting in the most peaceful, reflective, restorative, beautiful place of which you know and close your eyes for a moment. Hear the sounds of the birds, perhaps some water trickling down a brook or pounding into the shore. Smell the air–woodsy, sweet, salty or spicy. Now, if you will, imagine with me a bench–any kind of bench that will fit two people, you and Jesus.

He walks up intently, with the swish of robes, smelling of aromatic spices, and He sits down close beside you. His Presence envelops the space and His arm wraps engagingly ’round about you. Then He asks you in a gentle and loving, imploring even, voice:

“What is it you want, Beloved?”

How might you respond? What things might you say, while holding back others that you want to say. Flippantly you might answer, “Oh peace on earth, a steady job and health for my family.” But Jesus isn’t buying it. You can read it in His eyes. As He repeats the question again, looking you directly in the eyes,

“No, what is it you WANT, Beloved?”

So you sit back and feel the import of His drilling question, and without invitation, a tear courses down your face, as you suddenly find yourself bent over in grief with your head down on your lap. The tears flow freely now. You begin to pour out your soul to Him, as He nods in understanding. He “gets” you.  He can handle your wounded-ness.  He can hold your tears (keeps them in a bottle, in fact!).  I believe He uses those tears to water the things you will sow from this season.

Jesus invites us to ask. He engages us in the conversation of a lifetime, daily–even moment by moment.

This scenario happens to me often, whether I am in the shower, in the car or sitting by the window, considering His creation.  He asks me personally and gently, “Holly, what is it you want, Beloved?” I begin to pour it out–the pain, longing, anguish, anxiety and brokenness.  I tell Him how I am hurting.  I tell Him how I long for restoration, for recovery, direction, reconciliation and resurrection. Sometimes as I sing a song, I begin to cry, as I discover that the words I am singing are really a prayer in answer to His probing question to my soul. But in the end, every single time I hear His question to my heart, I pour out four words that say everything,

“I want You, Jesus. Lord, I want You.  More than everything else I have said, I want You, Jesus.”

You see God gives good gifts to His children.  He wants us to ask.  He waits for our questions.

Like Hezekiah in 2 Kings (Chapters 18-20 are worth your time to read), in all of Judah there was no king like him, ever. He  trusted in, leaned on, and was confident in the Lord, the God of Israel.  He trusted so confidently, that when he was very ill and near death, even hearing from Isaiah that he was going to die.  Hezekiah earnestly prayed and God changed the course of His intended will for Hezekiah.  He gave him 15 more years! That in itself is amazing–to know that God hears our earnest prayers and sometimes He even changes the course of His intended will!  It is so powerful to believe in the ability we have before God, when we earnestly pray.

But then Hezekiah gets proud and shows off all his riches to a visiting group of Babylonians–everything!  It displeases God and God says, I will bring punishment on your children and everything you showed these Babylonians will be taken away into their own hands.  You know what Hezekiah did? He basically said, “Oh this is good!  At least it won’t happen in my time! Let the punishment fall on my children.”

We are all flawed.  We all ask with wrong motives.  We ALL get caught up in comfort and security. But when we consider our questions before God, do we take into account the legacy that we are leaving?  Are we looking out for the future–for our children’s sake?

You see, God asks each of us this question–What is it that you want, Beloved? Your answer is what you sow.  Your tears are watering it.  God brings the increase from it!

For my own questions lately, and I have asked some HARD ones, I have begun to see what it is the LORD requires of me.  It isn’t going to be easy.  The process itself has completely torn me up inside.  But this very day, I have asked my question, and in faith I am sowing my answer for the future–for my children and future generations.

You see, I cannot serve both God and money or man.  I cannot be wrapped up in security, comfort or even peace-keeping for the sake of peace-keeping. I am building fully, trustingly on the Rock, which is Jesus. I cannot be halfway following God and halfway following the world. I must be wholeheartedly His. With humbleness of heart, I am asking God to help me keep my eyes focused on future generations–for the line of the LORD to stay strong in my family.

So this very day, I have taken a few balloons. Inside each one, I have placed a faith-filled question, a prayer of what I want and a statement of trust. With all that I am, I am releasing them into the sky, to God, from my little bench by the brook.  They are His.  In His Hands, my questions, my prayers, my heart and my deepest desires are SAFE. I can let them go. I can walk on in peace.

What questions do you have for Him this day?  What statements of trust can you make? What balloons do you need to fill and release? Do it!

For what you sow in prayer will most certainly bring an abundant harvest that cannot be destroyed by moths or rust.

Sow Well,

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Stepping Back and Trusting God with Your Marriage

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'Mountain View 2' photo (c) 2009, David Steltz - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I’m one of those people who believes in trusting God absolutely. It’s just that I fear that in most circumstances, God could really use a hand. And I try to give it to Him!

That didn’t work tremendously well growing up, and God had to hit me over the head a few times to make me trust Him. I was constantly interfering in friendships, in relationships, trying to force them to go my way because I figured I knew best. And I couldn’t just let sleeping dogs lie. I couldn’t do NOTHING. If something was wrong with a friend, or a boyfriend, I had to fix it RIGHT NOW THIS MINUTE.

That’s why I had such a hard time trusting God with the fact that I would marry. I wanted to marry so desperately, and in my late teens I was always on the lookout for possible candidates. When I did start dating the man who is now my husband, I barrelled my way all over him. I saw that we would work together, and I made sure he realized that, too. I didn’t exactly wait for him to come to that conclusion; I made sure that he saw it my way.

Unfortunately, that scared him off, and he ended up breaking up our first engagement. I was just moving too fast. I was absolutely devastated and heartbroken, and had to wrestle my life out with God again. I had to acknowledge to God that He was my source of strength, not Keith. I had to acknowledge to God that no matter what happened, I would trust Him, not look for fulfillment in other people.

It was a very rough summer, but in retrospect one that I really needed. And Keith came back to his senses and we married anyway.

Lately I have been reminded that God perhaps isn’t finished with these lessons for me. I find in my marriage that “trust” is the last thing I’m able to do. Oh, I can trust Keith fine. I just can’t always trust God to solve my problems. So if Keith and I have a disagreement, I stew and plan and strategize all day, and often call him in the middle of the day, to work it out. I use my brilliant insights. I give him my air tight arguments of what we should do now and where we should go. And usually I end up winning. Yet is it really winning if Keith hasn’t had a chance to think it over, to go to God with it Himself?

What God has been teaching me lately is that I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t need to. God knows what’s best for me, and He knows what’s best for my husband. And sometimes what is best is simply giving my husband space to talk to God himself, rather than trying to manipulate the situation into what I think God wants.

That’s a hard thing to do. What if God doesn’t do what I think He should? And so it all comes back to one’s view of God: Is He really enough for your marriage? Or do you think you know best?

I am trying to wait on God, because it is in Him that I find peace. God is our refuge and strength, not our husbands. My happiness is not dependent on the state of my marriage, but on the state of my relationship with Christ.

And ironically, I’m finding that the closer I am to God, and the more I trust in Him, the happier I am in my marriage anyway. Maybe that’s what God intended all along!

Sheila writes more about marriage at her To Love, Honor and Vacuum blog! (http://tolovehonorandvacuum.com). She loves great conversations about how we can strengthen family and make this world resemble God’s heart. Her newest book, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, will be out in February with Zondervan.

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