thoughts | how to have hope

i’ve been processing a lot lately.
words, thoughts, lyrics, conversations…everything is just filtering in and out and some of it is weighing heavy.
the truth is – life gets hard.
we get busy, run down, journals full of lists to scratch off – things that make us feel important, cared for, even sometimes defining our worth.
i dont know about you, but sometimes i would like to have a pause button.
hit that sucker and sink into the couch for a few minutes to unwind.
to sit in a silent house with no expectations and reprioritize.
to have a moment to feel full of hope.

each season in life i feel like we’re meant to learn something.
right now, i’m wrestling through a few lessons, some i’m gaining momentum, others i’m loosing traction – so life goes on.

within the last week i’ve been looking into the word hope.

| hope | (n)
a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.
a feeling of trust.

so how do we have hope?
how can we feel it if we’re so full of other expectations, needs, and to-do lists.
how can we really feel hopeful in the midst of an uncertain situation?

 

>>>slow down<<<
 

even if only for a moment.
turn off the music, the tv, the background noise.
walk into a quiet space and breathe.
if your home is chaotic – go to a park.
find some place to slow down, unplug, and think.
seperating ourselves from chaos brings perspective.

>>>embrace the silence<<<
 

we are so consumed with noise that we rarely know what to do with ourselves in silence.
silence can be scary.
it gives our minds a chance to really think, without abandon, and touch on things we might want to forget. silence is key.
to find hope, you first have to see what it looks like.
and it isn’t found when you’ve busied yourself to the point of constant noise.
embrace the silence and everything that comes with it.

 
>>>pray<<<
 

yes. pray.
i know that everyone who reads my blog doesn’t believe in God – but i’m never one to hide my faith.
having hope is found and grounded in prayer.
when life is overwhelming and you can’t see the beautiful hues of the sunset you pray for sharper vision. you pray for hope.
if you’re feeling hopeless – pray for God to bring you hope.
always pray – without ceasing. (1 thessalonians 5:17)

>>>invest<<<
 

when you help others, you help your own heart.
take your focus off of yourself and put it on others.
are you struggling with stress at work? help a coworker.
are you frustrated with loving your family? do something kind for them.
are you overwhelmed each day? call and talk to a friend about their life.
when we invest in others, our current struggles grow dim.

 
>>>><<<<

i’m sure there have been thousands of articles written on how to find hope and keep it.
we’re a generation searching for hope.
i’ve just touched on a few life lessons i’ve learned so far in 25 years and i’m sure if i was to read this in 10 years i would have edits to make and points to add.
we are all constantly learning – and in the process trying to remain hopeful.
for me, my hope is ultimately found in God – in His promise and provision.
if i’m being 100% honest, without God in my life hope would feel like a fictitiousstory.
He brings me hope, daily.
and i give Him praise.

 
 
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frankly friday | heavy heart – full mouth.

frankly…

my heart is heavy and my mouth is full.

>>><<<

brokenness does that to a person.
listen, i get it, it’s christmas time and the season is bright, and things are going to be alright.
but that isn’t me being really honest.
today marks 9 years that my mother passed.
nine. years. 
i’ve posted about the start of that morning before – and it really isn’t something i want to get into right now…but i will say that today – i miss my mom.

>>><<<

but that isn’t the only reason i’m broken today – no it most certainly is not the only reason.
my heart is heavy and my mouth is full.
and if we look into the depths of our souls we all see something:
sin runs deep.
really deep.
a few months ago i shed some light on this subject.
& i was received with a resounding: you are not alone amy – you are not alone.
man do i need to hear that again today.

this world gets nasty quick.
it gets dirty, grimy, and just down right filthy.
it also breeds temptation that tastes all too delicious.
we get used to the scandal – to the drawl – we get pulled to the bed that is our tempter.
is that a little spicy, well yes, but it is also the truth.
sin is delicious.
disgusting, makes you sick, and spreads like cancer, but also delicious.
because we keep going back for more.

man, sin runs deep

i think far too often i ask the Lord for forgiveness but forget that there is still work that i need to do.
does God forgive me – a thousands times yes.
He continues to forgive me.
yet i still say yes to satans lies – and fall into the traps of his temptation.
because i want to.
if i didn’t want to – i wouldn’t.
hmm…
…that’s like a kick in the face.
i choose the sin – the sin didn’t choose me.
so when i feel convicted – guilty – run down and empty without God…
…and i go to Him for fulfillment, forgiveness, mercy and grace…i’m restored.
but that is never the end of the road.

what is the point of redemption and restoration if you’re not willing to change?
am i willing to change? 
i would hope so.
yes – yes i would say i am willing to change.
am i willing to give up those delicious temptations? 
this is where it gets tricky.

>>><<<

i think this is where it gets tricky for everyone in general – but especially for Christians who have walked with Jesus for more than a few seasons.
we know Jesus. we are saved. we trust in our salvation. and we get complacent.
we see the “little sins” (no such thing) as no big deals – and well the “bigger sins” (sin is sin) as something to just avoid talking about so we can relish in it. or if we’re in a good season of our walk with God we seek out accountability to get rid of it.
so the slippery slope begins.
we love Jesus.
we crave the sin.
we love following God’s Word.
we crave feeling desired & the temptation gives us that.

man, sin runs deep.

so i’m here to tell y’all confess that i’m a sinner.
i mess up.
i struggle – struggle like you wouldn’t believe.
i make mistakes all the time – and not little mistakes but big ones that will have consequences.
i’m not perfect.
i judge.
i curse.
i say things behind others back.
i fall into the trap of lust.
i enjoy really bad comedy.
i – mess – up.

but God loves me.
i have no idea why He does.
but He loves me – without limits, unconditionally, immeasurably.
when i’m a broken mess on the floor – He gets on His knees before me and collects me.

He restores me.
moves me.
changes me.
directs me.
instructs me.
disciplines me.
man – He loves me. 

remember how i said my heart is heavy and my mouth is full?
…its true, they are.
my heart is heavy with sin – with distrust, greed, lust, and bitterness. it is also heavy with joy, love, compassion, salvation, and truth.
my mouth is full of lies, spite, malice, and fear. it is also full of encouragement, blessings, prayers, and restoration.

it’s all about allowing God to work through my mess and get me back on solid ground. 
dear Lord i want to be back on solid ground.

>>>><<<<
if you’ve had a post this week that was rather frank – link up below. 

also if you missed the fiction posted yesterday – give it a read.

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frankly friday | crooked paths.

I was skimming through some of my favorites on Tumblr and I came across this post by Aaron Gillespie. I don’t think I could say it any better myself, so i’m just going to quote him:

We look at our lives so often and wonder what we can do to fix them? Why do I feel this way? Why is it taking so long for my heart to heal? How come my ship hasn’t come in?
Recently I was reading and stumbled across this verse, I never realized it was there and I am happy I found it.
 
Consider what God has done:
Who can straighten
what he has made crooked? (Ecclesiastes 7:13 NIV)

 
We are made the way we are supposed to be made. We go through the things we go through for a reason. Sometimes things make no sense, sometimes they hurt, but I believe with all that I am that God has a plan and a purpose (Jeremiah 29:11) and we need to try as hard as we may to stick to that.Be blessed,
Aaron

. . .

it got me thinking – i’m always looking for a way to straighten my path. to fix something, to mend it, to make it beautiful again. but whose definition of beautiful am I seeking? whose definition of healing am I measuring up to? my path is not meant to be straight, and neither is yours. what is the verse in Matthew that talks about this?

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” -Matthew 7:13-14

did you catch that? and the way is hard that leads to life – that leaves no room for interpretation.
i’m not promised rainbows, unicorns, and candy filled paths to happiness.
no.
i’m promised persecution, hardships, frustration, and selflessness.
I am also promised joy, fulfillment, sanctification, and an eternity with Jesus – if I accept Him.

my ship hasn’t come because God has designed it that way.
whatever your ship may be – God has a plan.
and I know we hear that all the time – and it gets old and frustrating and we think others can’t possibly relate to our hardships…but community is real.
my ship is docked somewhere – I just have to wait for God’s timing.

& my path – it’s crooked.
it’s dirty; filled with pot-holes and roots ready to twist your ankles.
it’s a struggle.
it’s filled with uncertainty.
it requires me to take steps of faith.
to trust in God’s timing – not my own.
it is filled with encouragement and reassurance from other believers.
we’re in this together.

so let me remind you:

Consider what God has done:
Who can straighten
what he has made crooked? (Ecclesiastes 7:13 NIV)

your path doesn’t have to be straight – and you don’t have to have an answer right now.
repeat that…you don’t have to have an answer right now.
I want one. oh my gosh I want my answer.
but I don’t have to have it – I can be patient.

. . .

if you had a post that was rather frank this week, link up below.

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September 10…Life Changing Moment.

Q: Describe a distinct moment when your life took a turn…{i have 2}


It was really hot for the middle of July – like really hot.
Mom was at work, my brother and cousin Jade were at the neighborhood pool behind my house. I was sitting in the lazy boy recliner with the tv on eating a big ol’ bowl of ice cream…something I was not supposed to be doing. I heart the front door open – crap mom is home early – I stashed my bowl beside the recliner where it couldn’t be seen, I really didn’t want a lecture. I heard two sets of heels, my mom walked into the den followed by my aunt darlene. “Amy, where are Bo & Jade?” …uhhh down at the pool? i answered. “Go get them please”. I thought i was in more trouble than just sneaking ice cream. what have I done now? I thought as I walked down to the pool.
I got Bo & Jade to come back up to the house – they kept asking me what was happening…I didn’t know, I couldn’t answer. When we got back to the house, Aunt Darlene held jades hand and pulled her to the living room – mom took me and Bo back to her & my fathers room. At this point my parents had been separated for a small season – trying to work some things out together while needing some space to do it, it was a complicated situation. Mom sat down on her bed and put her head in her hands, she took a few deep breathes. I remember her sitting up straighter – looking back now I could only imagine her trying to gain some courage and strengthen her spine to deliver the news. We sat in front of her, Indian style, and just looked at each other. What was going on? Mom took our hands in hers and said “You know I love you…you know Jesus loves you…and you know your daddy loved you…” I was only 13 at the time but I was old enough to pick up on that one small letter…that ‘d’ that changed a word from present to past tense.
She said loved not love.
“Your daddy has gone to be with Jesus – he is in Jesus’ arms.” I remember Bo busted out in to tears; at 9 years old not fully understanding what that meant, but knowing enough to know that Jesus is in Heaven…and that is where Dad must be too now. I sat there for a minute just looking at my mom – stunned, not fully understanding…not really wanting to understand. Does this mean I’m fatherless? Where is my dad? He just wanted to see me a few days ago…but I wanted to hang out with my girlfriends.
The tears came slowly.
I was 13 years old – less than a month from starting high school – and I was now without a father.
Mom had been sick for over 6 months now.
I hated cancer – leukemia.
The summer and fall had consisted of hospital visits, phone calls, and a brief season where she was home for two weeks. I was living with my aunt & uncle some days/weeks and others I was living at home – too anxiety ridden to be away from what was comfortable to me, what was my normal. My grandmother (mom’s mom) stayed with my mom every. single. day while she was in the hospital and my grandfather stayed with me most nights (some other family members/friends stayed other nights). Some nights I remember going to sleep to the sound of an empty house…hearing my own heart beat…wondering what was next. The night before I was at youth group. We prayed for my mom. All of my friends and youth leaders surrounded me, laying their hands on me, prayed for me, my family, my mother. At one point my friend Niki said, “God, if Mrs. Donna is meant to be with you…then that’s ok, she can go be with you.” I remember being furious with Niki, how could she say that…that was like wishing my mom to die. My friend Andrew prayed something similar…I was still angry.
That night I was laying in bed, my next door neighbor aunt Gayle was staying with me that night (my brother had been living with my aunt and uncle), and I prayed to God. I finally understood what He had been pressing on my heart. You see, I was down to one parent – my mom – she was in the hospital for my 16th birthday, promising a “blowout 17th” for the next year. She still heckled me to clean my room…and do dishes, and learn how to cook something other than mac and cheese from a box. She still talked to me about Jesus and asked how school was going – how was I doing with my grades – all while she was confined to a hospital bed.
At this point mom had been in a coma in the ICU for about a month…I hadn’t seen her. I had the choice, but my family warned me that she didn’t look like herself. She had put on a lot of water weight (my mom was a petit 5’3 115lb woman), her eyes had gone from brown to blue, she had lost her hair a long time ago…my mother wasn’t herself. So I didn’t go, I didn’t want to see her like that at age 16.
As I was thinking about all of that, I whispered some words to Jesus.
Jesus…I’m ok if you take my mom.
I don’t want her to be in pain anymore, if she will be better with you in Heaven – then I’m ok with it, I won’t like it, I’ll miss her….I really want her to stay with me and Bo…but I’ll be ok.
I fell asleep.
.
Hands were on my shoulders, my body was slowly being shaken awake, “Amy, wake up”.
My eyelids peeled open, my bedside table lamp was on.
My grandmother was sitting at my side. As my eyes adjusted I looked around my room – Aunt Darlene, Aunt Diane, Aunt Debbie, grandma…my Aunt Darlenes eyes gave it away; she had the same eyes when she walked in with my mother to tell me my father had passed away. My grandmother opened her mouth, “Amy, your mother went to be with Jesus, she is in Jesus’ arms…” I remember becoming fascinated with the popcorn ceiling in my room. “Mom, do you think she heard us?” …one of my aunts said.  “I’m an orphan?” I said out-loud. They all started crying – I started crying. Where is Bo? does he know yet? They told me he was at my aunts house – still sleeping – it was 3am and they were trying to let him sleep some more but they wanted me to know, to wake up. I went out into the den where my grandfather was sobbing, my aunt gayle and uncle dave were crying, my moms boyfriend was there in pieces. I remember going back to my room, sitting on my bed, and being silent for a long time – thinking I’m only 16, what do I do now? I remember 530am rolling around and my friend Ashlee calling to see if was running late or on time since I was her and kaylees ride to school. I told her I wasn’t going – she asked why – because my mom died. She started crying – asking if I wanted her to come over, no, not right now…but thank you. They came over later as did many other friends and family. I won’t go into detail today about when we told my brother later that morning – but that was almost as hard as hearing I was parentless.

Tragedy happens.
Joy happens.
You learn from both.
I’ve learned from both.
I miss my parents – every. single. day.
Some days are easier than others – some days harder than others.
I find solace in the fact that God knows more than I do.
His plans are greater than my own.
And glory was brought to Him through their passings…people heard the Gospel through their lives.
Jesus was preached.
I’m sure people were saved – or put on the road to salvation.
I’ve trusted in God through all of this – I will continue to trust in Him.


Joining jenni today for her blogtember challenge.


Blog Swap with the lovely Sarah

I’m so excited that you get to hear from Sarah today.
She truly is a blessing and has a heart of gold. <3
{I’m blogging on Sarah’s blog today so head on over there to see what i’m talking about.}

. . .

Time. It flies! Here we are, part-way through August 2013 already, and looking back on the last twelve months, I realize that by the grace of God I am not who I was then. That’s not to say I’m where I should be, but my tender, loving God has strengthened me and continues to do so!


Many thanks goes to Amy for allowing me to take over her blog today. She’s doing the same over at my blog!  When I approached her a few months ago about doing a blog post swap together, we tossed around many ideas but couldn’t seem to settle on one until the thought of sharing a about our spiritual lives came up. This post challenged me, because, like I said, I’m not where I should be.
{here}
Truthfully, God has brought me a long way this year! But I’ve been a slacker. It’s been HIS work in me with little effort on my part to really get to know Him better. I’ve been in “maintenance mode”, riding on the waves of His grace while focusing my attention on my earthly life. Because of my upbringing in a good, solid church, combined with my many years of Sunday school and catechetical training, I’ve let myself off the hook way too often as an adult, tuning out and just getting by on the basics.
Identifying this as a problem is a first step. But where do I go from here? I’ve got to get back into the Bible on a personal level. Going to small group and women’s Bible Studies is a great way to stay on track, but without personal interaction with God on His turf, I’ll never really experience growth!
So here’s my plan: I am absolutely not a morning person so I’m not even going to try getting up earlier at this point in the game, but each night, at some point before my head hits the pillow:
  • I’ll dedicate time to digging into the Bible. My goal? Learning what GOD SAYS and not get by on what the church says that God says.
  • I’ll spend time in prayer, praising my Creator and lifting up requests to Him. It’s not really time spent with God if I don’t talk to Him, ya know?
  • I’ll memorize. Time and time again I’ve been told of the importance. I even memorized the whole book of Titus before, but ran out of steam somewhere along the way.
I NEED ACCOUNTABILITY! and I need it big time. I need people to call me out if I don’t spend any time in the Word. I need to know you’re doing it, too. (It really shouldn’t be that way…but right now, that’s how it is.) Do you want to partner up with me? Let’s keep each other accountable and watch as God does big things through it all.
Send me an e-mail at srrraah@gmail.com if you’re interested. We can work out the details and start digging into the Bible!
Oh, and please, if you have any good study book recommendations let me know! 
-yours truly, Sarah

Frankly Friday…v47

Last week i got a little raw with my Frankly Friday.
Well heads up, i’ll be doing it again.
God’s been moving in my heart without me even fully noticing. He kicked my butt last night spiritually and physically to remind me of some of his truths. Truths I had chosen to overlook for a while; truths that are resonating within my Spirit and i feel compelled to share with you today.

. . .

Conviction = Accountability
Accountability = Humility.
Living a Godly life = being honest.
Resisting temptation is a daily battle.

Now that that is out of the way…

Friend, lovely, beautiful woman or handsome man of God.
You are cherished.
I am cherished.
We are set apart and if we have accepted Jesus as our Savior then we are given new mercies and abundant grace every single morning.
Take that knowledge as a fact.

I need You to soften my heart, to break me apart. I need you to open my eyes, to see that You’re shaping my life.

But let’s get honest for a second, real, transparent.
The truth is, i struggle so that means i know you struggle too.
Sin is such an ugly thing…yet still so tempting.
You know when you’ve got a “handle” on the sin that is a thorn in your side and somehow something throws you off and it becomes a struggle again? Yeah, me too.

Sin is delicious. 
Was that scandalous? Meh i don’t think so, because it’s true.
Sin tastes good when we’re in the midst of it. It feels good, Satan is a beautiful temptress.
Sin is crafty, brilliant, sneaky. It can wrap its way around your heart in one tinytranslucent spider-web string…hardly noticable. Then before you know it, you’re heart is being constricted by this sin you’ve overlooked – chosen to overlook.
Sin is nasty business.

Give me faith to trust what You say, that You’re good, and Your love is great. I’m broken inside, i give You my life.

I’m here to tell you, you’re not alone.
Nope, not even in that sin that you think is so disgusting.
The one that only the walls of your own bedroom know from crying out to God.
You are so not alone.
Our hearts are fickle, and un-trustworthy, and bent towards sin. Our nature is to follow the flesh, to give in to it. Sometimes i look around at the lives that don’t have a relationship with Jesus and think “man, that looks…enticing“. I know it isn’t fulfilling. I know it would lead only to hurt and pain…yet my flesh attempts to trick me into believing that it would be fun, or interesting, or…exciting.

When you’re not taking the time to bend your sinful heart towards God – the flesh gets stronger.
I can tell you that from personal experience.
It’s easy to fall into temptation, sometimes you jump at the chance.
It can look so good.

I may be weak, but Your Spirit’s strong in me. My flesh may fail, but my God you never will.

But here’s the thing; you and I both know that once you’re out of the temptation, the sin has happened, and you’re left alone with your thoughts…guilt encompasses you.
And not just guilt but frustration, brokenness, anger, despair…
…sin leaves you hollow.

So i’m here before you today to remind you that within your struggle, you’re not alone.
If you think your sin is too big, or too disgusting, or too taboo – God doesn’t think so.
That’s why He sent His son Jesus to bring healing and salvation.
God offered us a way out…a way to be free from the bondage of sin.
Will we still sin? Yes. Undoubtedly yes.
But we have Jesus.
We have a Savior who reaches into our sin, pulls us out, cleanses us, and says sin no more.
He offers forgiveness.
His life pours out love.
He desires to cradle your heart and protect it.
We have to only say Yes.

It will be a rough journey.
Full of thorns, cuts, snares, and traps.
We will fail.
Often.
But we get right back up by holding onto the hand of Jesus and continue down the narrow path. We listen to His guidance, we soften our hearts to His word, we follow His conviction. With His help, we set our lives in motion for forgiveness, redemption, and righteousness.

All I am, I surrender. 

If you had a post that was frank this week, don’t forget to link up!!

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