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“I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” (Psalm 16:8)

 

Allergy Free

Life isn’t always easy.

What can you do when circumstances around you look like they’re crumbling down?

Keep your eyes focused on the Lord!

What does that mean, exactly? How do you focus on Jesus more than the details going on around you?

I’m not suggesting that you should sit back and let life just happen around you. Rather, you do need to show up and try your best in whatever situation you are facing. But after you try your best with what you know and have, give the rest over to God. Surrender your questions, concerns, and hopes over to Him. And when you do this, look to the Lord for Him to lead you.

You can pray:

“Lord, I give this situation over to you. I have tried my best and looked for solutions to this issue, but Lord I am going to have to hand the rest over to you. Now I’m going to look to you to lead me in any new direction I may need to go, and I’m choosing to trust you and believe that you are taking care of me. Help me have greater faith so I can believe that everything is going to be okey. Help me look to You and your faithfulness rather than to the details around me which want to suggest otherwise.”

We can walk through life with peace no matter what earthly circumstances we may be facing as long as we remember to focus on the Lord and remember His love and faithfulness to us. You will not be shaken with worry or fear as long as you hold on to Him and choose to look to Him for your strength, direction, and hope in your life.

Young Woman with FlowersToday is a new day of possibilities and opportunities with our Lord. He is a God who provides direction and wisdom even when it looks like a storm is swirling all around you. He is your light and guide. Go to Him, fix your eyes upon Him, take His hand and let Him lead you to where you need to go.

I know it’s easy sometimes to want to give up, tell yourself it’s too hard, too difficult to keep trying to feel better or find joy in your life. But I want to tell you that in Christ you have HOPE, no matter what the earthly circumstances may look like around you.

In Christ you have VICTORY over the darkness, over sin, past hurts and disappointments. If you’re listening to constant reminders in your head that you’re not worthy enough, not smart enough, not good enough to be loved or to feel satisfied in your life, you need to realize that those thoughts are NOT TRUE for a child of Christ!

He has chosen you to be His child, He has your name written on the palms of His hands, you are precious in His sight, and He loves you for who you are, not what you do. He doesn’t see you as the world sees you. His love is an everlasting love. When you can fully grasp the depth of His love for you, all the trials of this world are suddenly not as scary and not as impossible when you realize that the God who created the whole universe is by your side and promising to always take care of you.

What are you seeking God’s victory in today? Is there an area of your life that needs to be surrendered to Him? Pray that He will give you the strength to give this struggle over to Him and that you can trust He is faithful and He will complete the good work He has begun in you!

God bless you,
Patricia

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. To bring you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Portrait of young serious woman outdoors

I heard this verse for the first time while I was a senior in high school. A teen in my Christian youth group shared this verse one night while giving her testimony. She used the scripture to explain why she wasn’t anxious for the future and explained how she had faith that her future was safe in God’s hands.

I was struck by the meaning in this verse, for at the time I was unsure of what I should do next in my life and I didn’t know how I was ever going to handle it if my mother passed away from colon cancer as the doctors had told us she would.

The only plan I had for my future was to go to college and keep breathing through all the anxiety and fear I had been feeling in my life while my mom was sick.

It was comforting to know that God has plans for me. God is intending to help me live abundantly and He will not bring any harm to me. Even though I felt hopeless about so many things in my life at the time, His Word says that He still has hope for me and a future of experiences that are coming into my life.

God knew I needed to hear this message as I was truly struggling in my life. I wondered if God even cared about the challenges I was facing. Did it matter to Him that I was finishing high school and had to make a major life decision about where in the world I was going to spend the next 4 years of my life? Did he care that I was heart-broken while watching my mother be so sick, as I studied for AP exams and mailed off my final applications for college? Was He truly going to catch me, carry me, and watch out for me if I spent the rest of my life walking this earth without my mom to encourage and support me?

I knew I had to make a decision. I had to choose whether to believe this verse in faith, or to ignore the verse and carry on through life with the belief that God didn’t care about my future or anything else in my life. It was my choice. And even though the first choice required a great amount of faith, I knew I needed to to trust in my Savior.

young woman with arms outstretched in autumn

Sometimes we have to make decisions in life based entirely on our faith. Storms may come and cause us to think that the sun may never come out again. But, the truth is that with Jesus you can get through any storm or flood, and He’ll always carry you and lift you with His hand. You never have to go it alone.

“For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” (Isaiah 41:13)

And He absolutely has beautiful things in store for you in your present and your future. Keep the faith, and God bless you.

Patricia

Do you have a story that describes who you are and what you’ve been through in your life?

All of us have a story, and it’s important to think about:

 

What does this story tell me and others about myself?

 

How do I feel when I tell this story? Do I feel satisfied, grateful, ashamed, or disappointed?

 

Does this story move me forward towards my goals in life, or does it pull me backwards, or keep me stuck in a place of helplessness?

 

We are the stories we tell ourselves. The way others see us is also shaped by the stories we believe, and the relationships we have are directly impacted by our own perceptions of ourselves.

 

In John 5:1-6, we read:

 

Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. Crowds of sick people- blind, lame, or paralyzed- lay on the porches. One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, ‘Would you like to get well?’ “

 

And in verse 7, we read the lame man’s words:

 

“’I can’t sir,’ the sick man said, ‘for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.” (John 5:7)

 

How many of us have been telling ourselves for years, possibly, that we are “sick” with hopelessness about ever thriving in our careers, marriages, relationships with our children, our weight, or our struggles with chronic worrying? Some of us have spent years telling ourselves we are “sick” and have concluded that we have valid reasons for why we cannot get better, even though others can.

 

Do you have something in your life that you’ve felt emotionally or psychologically “sick” about for many years? Do you have your own set of reasons why you can’t get better even though others can?

 

I invite you to check in with yourself today and see if there is an area of your emotional, psychological, or spiritual life which feels “sick,” and listen to your own story of what you think about yourself and why you are where you are. And, consider Jesus’ invitation of: “Would you like to get well”? and allow His Holy Spirit to minister to you and guide you in what steps you need to take with Him to see yourself as Christ sees you and to begin your healing.

 

God bless you, and take care,

Patricia

 

Pray...photo © 2010 Paul David | more info (via: Wylio)


It’s been awhile since my last blog post on here.  The past four months have been quite full.  I’ve seen a lot of loss, challenge, gratefulness, despair, acceptance, confusion, and peace over these past weeks since I’ve last written.  I’ve personally experienced many of the feelings described above, and I’ve also walked with family, friends, and clients in my practice who have been through many of these things.

My heart aches as I think of two dear moms I know who have had to say goodbye to their young daughters after illnesses weren’t healed from our prayers; and I’ve also closely known people who have lost their jobs and homes as a result of this economic recession.  These are just a few of the stories of very difficult situations I’ve seen, and it brings me to reflect upon the question I have been asked in my clinical practice and personal life more times than I can remember: “Why do we pray if God doesn’t always answer our prayers?  I mean, what’s the point to it?  I never know when He’s going to help me or bring me what I’m praying for, so why do we bother to do it?”  And, “Why is He allowing me to go through this pain and suffering when it could have so easily been avoided if He had only answered my prayer?”

These questions lead me to think back upon one of my own greatest challenges with loss that I experienced when my mother died after my freshman year in college.  We were told she was terminally-ill just before Christmas in my senior year of high school.  After hearing that news, life was never the same again.  We prayed and prayed for her to get better, but she just got worse and worse.  I remember how I stopped praying for her to recover after awhile.  I think I stopped praying because I was afraid of feeling disappointed with God if He let her die without answering my prayer of healing her.  I didn’t stop praying all together, but I began praying that the Lord would bring me peace and strength if He chose to take her to heaven.  And I can promise you: God really did.  He brought me a peace of knowing she was safe and at rest with Him. He also brought me strength to continue on with my life while working and going to school, despite the deep, deep loss I felt in my heart.

God promises to bring us peace and strength, no matter what we’re going through.  He may not promise to answer each of our prayers the way in which we want them answered, but He promises through the prophet Isaiah:

“You will keep him in perfect peace,

Whose mind is stayed on You.

Because He trusts in You.

Trust in the Lord forever,

For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength.”  (Isaiah 26:3-4)

God promises to bring us everything we need, even when we may think we need something else.  We are so blessed that He will always bring us the strength and peace we need to make it through whatever challenges may come our way.  Knowing this truth, we can approach our prayer time as precious time of communing with God.  We don’t need to overwhelm ourselves with the pressure of wondering, “Will He answer this prayer, or that prayer; or will He rescue me from this situation?”  We can approach Him with whatever feelings, questions, thoughts, or praises may be on our hearts.  Instead of praying as a means of seeking answers, why don’t we aim to pray with the intention of spending time with God, pouring our heart out before Him, growing closer to Him, and renewing our faith in Him during those quiet times we spend alone with Him in His presence.  God desires to have a personal relationship with us, and prayer is one of the ways in which we can truly grow to know Him and the love He has for each one of us.

Sometimes, when we walk through times of loss and despair, we have to make the choice of whether to go it alone, or to choose to trust in Him.   Even when things seem very quiet and we may even wonder if He is there, we still must say,

“Therefore I will look to the Lord, I will wait for the God of my salvation; My God will hear me.” (Micah 7:7)

Have you recently experienced any pain or loss that has led you to question your understanding of prayer?  Is it ever difficult for you to remain consistent in your faith when struggles or loss come your way?

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Finding Balance.

:mrMark:

Our summer break has been over for more than a couple of weeks now and it’s just starting to hit me that there is a BIG difference between summer break and the academic school year.  My 3 year-old is starting pre-school at the same little co-op that my older daughter attended, and my 5 year-old is starting Kindergarten as we begin homeschooling for the very first time.  A lot of new beginnings and I feel a little nervous and excited about them, too. It will be quite a challenge to see how I am able to continue to try and be like Mary at Jesus’ feet, while still juggling all of the Martha responsibilities of managing a household, kids, and my private counseling practice.

I have to admit that it’s always been a struggle to try and find a balance of being still before the Lord, and pursuing my interests and passions.  I think it’s a blessing to be aware of our God-given talents and to discover ways to grow through them and use them to serve the Lord.  But it can also be a challenge for a lot of us to find a balance between using those talents, keeping up with responsibilities, and keeping our hearts and minds focused on the Lord.

How are you doing with finding a balance between being still with the Lord, taking care of responsibilities, and continuing to grow in your talents and passions?

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”   “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  (Luke 10: 38-42)

Jesus says in John 13:34-35,  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Is it always so easy to love one another?

Is it every difficult to “love” your friend, spouse, neighbor, child, or difficult co-worker at the office?

Have you ever not wanted to love someone you’re currently in a disagreement with and said, “God, how on earth can you expect me to love this person?  Look what they’ve done to me!”

Jesus understands.  He knows it’s not always the easiest thing for us to love others when they’re difficult with us.  Or, when we’re in a irritable mood where we’re having a hard time even loving ourselves, let alone other people in our life.

When we feel challenged in loving other people in our lives, it’s important to go to the Lord in prayer and share our situation with Him.  Let Him know about the difficulty we are having and ask Him for His help in bringing us to a place where we can love the other person.

Sometimes it may sound like, “God, I don’t know how I could ever love this person after what they’ve done to me.  But, Lord, I love you and so I’m asking for You to give me the love I need to love this person through you, not by myself alone.  Lord, fill me with your love and give me the strength to love that person as you’ve called me to do.  Help me let go of my bitterness and take the pain I feel inside as I think of what this person did to me.  Help me recognize if I have any responsibility in the matter and give me the ability to learn and grow from what’s happened between us.  Lord, I give you the anger I feel toward this person and I pray that you would fill me up with your love.  Bring me peace, Lord, and the strength to move on from what’s happened between us.  Protect me from future harm with this person, Lord.  I trust that you’re taking care of me and Your love is sufficient for all my needs.”

Sometimes we have to make a decision to love others, since God has called us to do this.  Then, we can look to the Lord to give us the love we need to love the other person.  And God can heal our wounds and take our bitterness away.

When we are finally able to love the other, we can have peace as the Lord’s love fills us and frees us from the bondage of resentment and bitterness.  It takes strength and courage to try and love another when have a conflict with them; but not only is God calling us to love the other person, but we will walk in His love and freedom as we choose to love rather than resist loving them.

Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14,

“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Do you ever struggle with wondering what should you do with past events or circumstances that you have experienced in your life?

Have you ever tried to simply “forget” those memories, or tried your hardest to distract yourself from the memory of those situations in order to move on with your life?

I’ve talked with lots of people who’ve tried their hardest to “forget” memories of the past.  Sometimes it works for a while to distract ourselves from the thought of those things, or to stop ourselves with a strong reminder that we are no longer allowing ourselves to remember certain things.  Oftentimes we use what are called “defenses” (rationalization, humorization, etc.) to help ourselves to not think of those things that we don’t want to focus on.  But those defenses can only work so well or so long, sometimes; and then the unresolved thoughts and feelings from the old memory may come back to bother us directly or disguise themselves in the form of symptoms of depression or anxiety.

So, how are we to apply what Paul is saying in the above verse to our lives?

According to the dictionary, “forget” can also be defined as: “to omit mentioning, to take no note of.”   In my experience, it can definitely be helpful when a person can reach a place of being able to choose not to discuss or dwell on a troubling experience from the past once a person has processed the feelings and thoughts related to the memory and then given it up to God.  We can sometimes talk about, cry about, think about a situation for years and years and never move on with our lives.  When we get stuck like that, I think it is important to seek out some counsel from someone who can help us realize what we’re doing and once and for all make a decision to place that situation into the Lord’s hands and choose to “forget” about it, or “omit mentioning” it.

I do think it’s important though, to fist give ourselves the opportunity to validate and respect our thoughts and feelings related to the memory of whatever troubling situation we have experienced; and then it is equally important to work towards finding a way to entrust that situation into the Lord’s care and to do what we need to do to keep that situation in the Lord’s care rather than burdening ourselves down by daily picking it back up and thinking about it all over again.

It is when we are finally able to rest the situation into the Lord’s hands that we can then “press on toward the goal for which God has called me.”  Paul is right that it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to press on towards the goal while burdening ourselves down with memories from the past clouding our minds.

Is something from the past keeping you from pressing forward in your life?

Are you ready to explore whatever may be holding you back, and give it to God so that you can move forward with your life in Him?

You’d be surprised at how many Christians really struggle with this question.  Or, maybe it doesn’t surprise you.  A lot of us struggle with the thought that if we believe in God, and trust Him with all our heart, then how can we justify being unhappy in life?

Many of us have been through difficult times in our lives and just haven’t figured out how to let go of those painful memories.  Maybe you’ve actually been through a trauma which left you in a place of feeling threatened for your own life.  Memories from traumatic experience are often stored in not only our minds, but our bodies, too.  Sometimes it takes time to talk about those difficult experiences and to process our thoughts and our feelings related to whatever happened in our past.

Is there something in your past that you haven’t fully processed through?  Are the thoughts and feelings from it still holding you back from being content today?  Ask the Lord if there’s something He wants to reveal to you, and ask Him for the courage to help you walk through it with Him as He brings you healing and restoration.

To be transformed.

Do you ever have a hard time believing that you can feel better in your life?

Do you ever feel exhausted from trying to work through past hurts, memories, or behavior patterns that you know are not helpful in your life?

Henri Nouwen says in The Inner Voice of Love:

“Do not despair, thinking that you cannot change yourself after so many years.  Simply enter into the presence of Jesus as you are and ask him to give you a fearless heart where he can be with you . . . Jesus came to give you a new heart, a new spirit, a new mind, and a new body.  Let him transform you by his love and so enable you to receive his affection in your whole being.”

Nouewen’s words are encouraging to me as I agree that we all have the opportunity to be healed and transformed by the presence of Jesus.  We only need to be willing to ask and receive his love and transformation in our lives.

Jesus has everything we need.  He can bring healing to our hearts, and renew our spirit, mind, and body.  His love is what transforms us and changes us on the inside.

It’s when we allow His love to fill us and satisfy the empty or wounded parts of  ourselves that we are then able to view life and the world with new eyes.  We can begin to see life’s struggles and circumstances from the perspective of a person who is fully loved and taken care of by Jesus.

But, it’s up to us to choose to allow him to transform us.

Are you ready to let him transform you?

Is there anything that’s stopping you from allowing God to transform your life?