The New Has Come
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT
As businesses slowly reopen and restrictions are gradually being lifted, there’s no mistake that the world will never be the same. We will never be the same. And that is not a bad thing! Priorities have changed Perspective has changed. And we need to realize this before we go racing back to what was previously “normal”.
I encourage you to stop and reflect before any more time passes Have you changed at all during this time? I know I have. I have spent more time with God, have only been buying necessities, and have felt more productive overall. I’ve also embraced the simplicity of no makeup and wearing sweatpants, and I’ve even had a chance to focus on my hobbies. I definitely want to continue some of these changes!
But what if you haven’t changed? What if you’re reading this and realize that you’re the same grumpy self you were before, or you’ve just been keeping your head above water during the past couple months? Friend, it’s not too late! We serve a God who can make all things new and can turn an old life into a new life.
Take some time today to make a little list of the areas of your life that you need help in and bring it before God. Don’t make the list too long though! Just write down a handful of things so you won’t get overwhelmed. And remember that this list isn’t for you to accomplish on your own. God is there to help you through! He is the miracle worker and doer of all things!
And before you continue with your day, stop and think of how you have changed during this time. You may have not realized it yet so spend some time reflecting before you get too down on yourself. I bet you can list one thing!
Remember that God loves you and turn an old life into new. You are never too far from His love!
Persevering to Grow
Do you like to garden? Do you like to spend time in your yard helping things grow? What kinds of things do you grow? Fruits, vegetables, flowers, or do you just enjoy landscaping? I’ll admit I have no gardening experience. I don’t really like being outside unless it’s on a beach. When I was younger and my mom would ask me to help in the yard, I would tell her, “I don’t like dirt.”
For those of you who garden or work in the yard, have you ever poured time and energy into something that didn’t grow? How did that make you feel? You probably spent time on your hands and knees carefully caring for your plants, and then something came along and ruined it; weather, animals, or no growth for no reason.
My family used to make salsa every year, so my mom and aunt often grow gardens for the ingredients (tomatoes, peppers, cilantro). I remember one year there was a tomato blight, and most of their tomatoes were ruined which was extremely frustrating. All those hours planting and working, all for nothing. They didn’t do anything wrong. They planted the garden, worked like they were supposed to, and there was nothing to show for it.
Have you ever felt this way when it comes to your spiritual life? I know I have. You do what you’re supposed to. You pray, spend time with God, help at church, you’re kind, and every other thing that you know you’re supposed to be doing, but you don’t “feel” any different. You don’t “feel” closer to God even though you’re obedient. It doesn’t seem like you’re growing at all no matter what you do. If you’ve been a Christian for any amount of time, you know that you cannot rely on your feelings. Our lives are so much deeper than that and often feel like rollercoasters, but we just have to keep going.
James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
According to these verses, it’s pretty evident that trials and the testing of our faith is inevitable, but it’s how we respond and what comes out of these trials. Joy. Perseverance. Maturity. Completeness. He never says it will be easy, but he does promise that the end result will be good! Even if we can’t “feel” that God is doing something in our lives, we need to know that He does keep his promises and will help us grow and keep us strong.
We did make salsa the year of the tomato blight. Maybe not as much as usual, but we were able to continue our tradition. Our normal tomato crop wasn’t as great as normal, but other people did have tomatoes, and some were willing to give them to us! And there were some for sale at area farmer’s markets! Yes, it was frustrating at first, but we just needed to reach out and God provided for us. The end result: we were thankful for that salsa and the people who gave us tomatoes!
As you reflect on this passage, take a few moments to answer the following questions. What trials are you going through right now? Can you see how God can use those to help you grow closer to Him? Has He put others in your path to help you out? No matter what, keep growing!
Dealing With Disappointment
“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:5
Our house was sold, and then it wasn’t. When the COVID-19 social distancing was just starting, it wasn’t too hard to handle. Someone had just put an excellent offer on our house, and we were waiting for the final paperwork. Stay in the house for 3 weeks? No problem. I would have the house packed up in no time, and then we could see what was next.
A day passed by, and then another day, and then a couple more days. And, sure enough, the buyer was backing out for fear of the virus and the certain down-spin of the economy. I was crushed to say the least. I really thought we were finally going to find a new house. And with the social distancing mandate, there was no way someone would come look at our house or consider moving during this time. Disappointment was unbearable and inevitable.
I am thankful to have a roof over my head, but this house has caused me grief since day one. It pushes my anxiety over the top. See, I am not a country girl. I was not made to live where there is little internet or by a corn field that welcomes pests of all sorts. I want to be near civilization in a house that I feel comfortable with organizing like you wouldn’t believe. I want a house where my belongings get to be moved in immediately instead of five months later. I want a house where I actually know where my jewelry ended up.
There was this huge burst of hope, but now, hope seems to be gone. Hope seems to be dwindling. When will this end? When will people want to buy houses again? The thing about hope is that it seems to be gone, but it’s never truly gone. Even when disappointment seems to be reigning, there’s always a glimmer of hope, and hope does not disappoint. Sometimes, we need that hope to keep pressing forward, persevering, waiting for what’s next.
In my disappointment, I know I need to focus on being thankful and taking care of what God has given me. I am thankful that since our house was for sale, it was extremely clean before all of this started so we are able to tidy up each day and keep it fairly clean. I am thankful that we have fixed up so much in this house and have little fear of anything breaking since so much is brand new. And, I am thankful that the market as a whole is paused and it’s not just our house. These reminders keep hope alive in me. Above all, I know that God is in control.
So friends, what are you needing hope for right now? What disappointment has you so downtrodden that hope is having a hard time peaking through? God brings hope. He brings peace. Trust in him while you wait. Bring your disappointments to his feet and ask for help. Ask for hope. He’s got you.
“But, I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:44
Sometimes, in the quiet, it’s easy for the hard times and the hurt to sneak up on you. While you’re waiting and thinking and trying to keep yourself occupied, Satan has a way of reminding you of every awful thing others have done to you. You might be trying to distract yourself and stay positive, but the list keeps coming back, haunting you, stirring up anxiety and anger.
The irony to holding on to these hurts and remembering them is that it’s not hurting anyone else. It’s only hurting you. You are the one allowing yourself to be bombarded with un-forgiveness and anger. Saint Augustine once said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Isn’t that so true? We keep a long list of hurts and resentments, and it’s only eating us from the inside out. The other person most likely has no idea! They don’t realize the depth of hurt, or the occurrence was so long ago that they don’t even remember.
So, what are you going to do? How are you going to deal with this if it’s only hurting you and holding you back from being content. It’s separating you from hope and peace. If you want to move on, you need to work on letting go.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus addresses his disciples and the crowds with his Sermon on the Mount where he pours out a vast amount of truth and teaching. In his teachings, he shakes the norm on so many things, in particular on revenge and how to handle your enemies. He doesn’t say to simply forget and move on with your life. He says to love your enemies and pray for them. Feeling a little guilty over those hateful thoughts?
This is not an easy task. It takes time, healing, and the power of God, but today, I’m going to give you a couple practical steps to start your journey of forgiveness.
This option probably sounds like a no-brainer. Of course, you need to pray for your enemies, but maybe you need to be a little more intentional. The more you pray for others, the less anger you should hold onto because you’re seeing them through God’s eyes. They are his children. No matter how awful they have been, He still loves them. Pray and watch your heart change.
Letters of Forgiveness
Sometimes, it’s helpful to get your thoughts and feelings on paper. If there is someone who has hurt you and you need to feel a “release” in your anxiety, take time to write them a letter. This is not necessarily meant to send to them. Remember, if the hurt is from long ago, they may have no idea, and the letter writing is to obtain your own peace with forgiveness. Write them a letter and be honest about how you feel and then present it to God in prayer. This is another opportunity to see how God can change your heart.
Switch Your Thoughts
Forgiveness is going to be a battle and isn’t going to happen overnight. If you’ve been in the habit of thinking poorly about someone or allowing hate to fester inside, you’re going to need to be very intentional and adamant about switching your thoughts when that person comes to mind. When a poor thought comes to mind, you need to ask God for forgiveness first and then do your best to think about other things. It’s not going to help you at all to have past situations running through your mind.
I want to encourage you to try these things when you feel anger and un-forgiveness creep in while you wait. We serve a God who can do anything so run to Him because he knows what is best!
The Next Right Thing
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105
I don’t really mind working from home, spending less money, and spending so much time with my husband. I’m sure many of you feel the same. You get to spend quality time with your kids, learn new hobbies, and live every day in your sweatpants. Sounds like a good time to me!
Everything is all good until you login to social media, turn on the news, or walk by all the empty shops and restaurants, or when you think about everything that has been cancelled during this time. Weddings, funerals, graduations, birthday parties. Everything must wait. So, what should you do while you wait? While you deal with the disappointment and frustration? When you don’t know what to do, do the next right thing.
In November of 2019, Disney came out with the movie, Frozen II, which had this theme of doing the next right thing when you don’t know what to do. Take a step. Make a choice.You may not have the final solution, but you can do something. It doesn’t have to be a giant step. Just pick something. Maybe it’s folding that load of laundry. Maybe it’s cleaning rooms in your house. Maybe it’s just getting out of bed. Doing something is better than doing nothing.
This might sound daunting, but that’s okay, you weren’t meant to do things on your own. You have a loving God who cares for you. He cares about your hurts, your disappointments, your uncertainty. He can see our entire journey, so we just need to trust Him one step a time, even when we cannot see.
Doing the next right thing is kind of like walking in the woods with a flashlight. The flashlight helps, but you usually can’t see from where you are to where you want to go. The only way to see your end goal is to take one step at a time and let the light show more of the path as you walk. Let the Lord be your light in the darkness bringing you one step closer with each step.
If you aren’t sure where to start in doing the next right thing, I want to encourage you to spend some time with God. Read my blog post, The First Things, for some ideas. And while you’re waiting and pondering, listen to the song, The Next Right Thing, from Disney’s Frozen II.