Encouragement

Paths and Plans

Fall is here! It’s all about pumpkins, cricket symphonies, and squirrels preparing for that other season. What do you enjoy about the fall season? God’s creative splendor is extravagantly displayed this time of year and it’s the reason people travel to enjoy the change of the leaves. I suppose if you were to take a drive you would set your itinerary for the very best views of the fall colors. Take a moment and imagine you’re on that drive right now. There, up ahead, you see the bountiful mix of red, yellow, orange coming into your sight. The bold color of orange is ever so prominent, but wait. Oh no, those aren’t leaves. It’s the dreaded construction sign. It’s a DETOUR.

Detour signs

Have you ever eagerly anticipated taking a detour? What’s the first thought that comes to your mind when you face one? Is it, Great! Looking forward to this. Fantastic! Love the detour. Or, are you like me and your response is, Oh no! What if we reassigned our concept of a detour to a positive category in our brain? Can we change our gut reaction to a detour? More importantly, why should we? A detour may be God’s call for our attention and a reroute to the better way. His way.

I think we can all agree that usually a detour leads you into unknown territory. When you have to take a detour, it makes you wake up and take notice. A detour requires your attention because it’s not the same well-worn path you’re used to taking, and it gives you a different view from what you’re used to seeing. There’s no doubt that a detour can be stressful and create anxiety when you believe there’s only one way to get where you want to go and the way appears to be blocked. You have plans for the day, for your life. God has plans, too. Sometimes your plan and His plan run a parallel course and sometimes it doesn’t. When God is directing you and me toward an alternative route, it’s a call to adjust our vision and plan.

Road Closed

Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” The Lord proclaimed through Jeremiah that He has plans for His people and you’re one of those people. The onset of a detour may be specifically directed at impacting your life alone, or so your life can directly impact someone else. The most difficult part of accepting a detour on your life path is surrendering your plans for the sake of the unknown or alternative path God is presenting. My own life has been filled with multiple detours as I was going on the way to fulfilling my plans. I know the exasperation and frustration that comes with a detour. I haven’t forgotten the heartache that set in as I realized what I wanted wasn’t going to happen. Infertility was not a detour that I found acceptable. I had a hard time accepting that I didn’t get to control that situation. A decade later, I experienced the overpowering waves of fear as I wondered what the future held considering what was happening in the present. A health issue was changing my life--the present was hard to handle and the future looked even bleaker.

Was I without children in my life? Definitely not. God brought children into my life just in a different way than I anticipated. Did my health issue turn my life upside down? Yes, it changed me. My eyes were opened and my heart was transformed. God brought new friends into my life that were willing to set aside their own plans to meet my needs when I couldn’t do that on my own. Such wonderful, faithful servants of God represented the love of Christ for me as they served and loved me in the midst of my difficulties. Moreover, I learned something I couldn’t have learned without going through that experience. Both of those events fall into a category I call detours.

  Detours are part of our life story  

   We have access to power and strength through Christ  

I write the previous sentence with a deep conviction and belief. I rely on the fact that when trouble presents as a detour in my life then I will also be presented with a path leading directly to God. God never fails. Consider Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (The Message):

“So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.” 

There really is far more going on than meets the eye during our difficulties. The detour that causes my life path to intersect with another’s life path is a chance to lovingly serve and meet needs beyond my own. There is little more moving than the sight and experience of humanity coming together and prevailing in times of trouble. Today, there’s no shortage of opportunities. Never underestimate your impact on the life of someone else. One deliberate act of kindness, one random act of love has significance because it’s from you. 

Road through forest

Availability

So, how available am I to God’s call to a detour? Wait. Let me check my calendar. At home, my paper calendar governs my personal hours while my Outlook calendar controls my work day. I’m a pro at maximizing the hours in a single day and most of those hours are already dedicated, promised to something or someone. Obviously, living in this manner makes a detour an annoyance, a roadblock, or an obstacle for me. This is how I miss IT.

What’s IT?

The IT is the blessing I can give or a blessing I could receive. The IT is an encounter with the Holy Spirit. The IT is a call to stop, look, and listen for the Lord. Who schedules a chance to bless or be blessed? Who schedules an encounter with God? These things happen to you on your way or in the midst of your doing. Detours are filled with ITs that impact your life and allow you to impact others. It goes back to availability.

Detours will always be part of my story and I might as well expect and welcome each one. Some of these will bless me, others will bring me into the welcoming, loving presence of Jesus, and some detours will be opportunities to reflect the love of Christ as my life path crosses theirs. I’m choosing to be available and surrender my plans so I can experience the Lord’s plan for my life! Are you willing to be available? Are you willing to go off schedule, get off track to participate with God’s plan? It’s worth experiencing. Is there someone who may need the encouragement contained in this post? Feel free to share!

Blessings,

Terri


Rest Moments

It’s a Saturday afternoon and I’m trying to get out of the house to run errands when my phone buzzes with a new message. I’m tempted to ignore it because I don’t recognize the number but my curiosity goads me and this is what I read, I’m on my way and will be stopping by your house -Jesus

Unbelievable, right? Never say never but it’s highly unlikely that Jesus is going to text me, or you. But you better believe he’s speaking to us—straight through to the center of our hearts and He's calling us into His rest.

What are we missing when we fail to stop and rest in the

presence of our precious Savior and Friend?

Back in Jesus’ day, he would drop in or stop by and we find in Luke 10:38-42 that he does just that when he came to the town where Martha lived. Imagine with me this scene that you know so well. Jesus knocks on Martha’s door. As he’s invited in, Jesus finds a place to sit or recline and within moments Mary positions herself at Jesus’ feet. Mary’s so close, gazing at his face while listening with rapt attention. What is it that’s captured Mary’s focus? Is Jesus teaching, laughing, sharing a story of healing, or reminiscing?

Imagine this scene from Martha’s point of view. She sees Mary has intentionally chosen to be at His feet, oblivious to the preparations needed for their guests. Martha’s frustrated, jealous or both and she tells Jesus that Mary is ignoring the greater priority. Do you wonder if there was an awkward silence after her remark? Did Jesus let the words hang in the air? Jesus responds to Martha assuring her that He sees what she is doing, He sees what Mary is doing, and Mary’s not to do what Martha’s doing. Jesus simplifies Martha’s priority list with gentle instruction that she should have chosen as Mary did—resting in the Lord’s presence. Mary recognized the greater priority. She ceased activity, moved as close to the Lord as she was able, and was at rest with Him.

What could be more restorative than resting in the Lord’s presence who Himself is at rest?

 

Lady-and-dog-1827593_640 (1)
Stop    Cease    Be Still    Rest

Today, our culture underestimates the essential benefits of being at rest which is defined as freedom from activity or labor and a peace of mind and spirit.1 Here’s a few reasons why rest should move to the top of your to-do-list.

Rest is restorative, refreshing, healing, and renewing.

Rest is essential for your central nervous system allowing it power-down to return to balance. Physical rest assists in the recovery of hormonal, neurological, and musculoskeletal systems.2

Spiritual rest is found in God’s presence.

If you’ve forgotten, God is the first author of rest. He created with power and wisdom all things in six days and then declared a rest. God set the universe in motion but He ceased all activity. Jesus also intentionally ceased activity and withdrew to be alone in order to come into his Father’s presence. Our Father and His Son have set forth the example of rest while we often choose to do anything but that. There will always be something that needs your attention but you get to set the priority it has in your life.

 

Messy life

Jesus practiced what he commanded and the gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John provide the examples.3 Why did Jesus choose to cease activity to draw near to God? Put yourself in his shoes and imagine the stressors Jesus experienced from sun up to sun down, day after day. When did He sleep? When did He eat? The people always present were seeking, demanding, following, and pursuing. There’s no doubt that Jesus experienced hunger and thirst as well as emotional and physical strain. Jesus felt the sadness that accompanies loss, exasperation with the disciples, anger with religious leaders, and an indescribable burden of anticipating his death. Because of the stress and demands, Jesus desired and needed to come into his Father’s presence to receive, replenish, and refresh. If the Son of God felt it necessary to draw near to his Father, how much more do we need to set ourselves apart and enter the Lord’s rest?

Jesus invites you to experience a rest like no other for this specific reason: The Lord promises His presence is the answer when your life causes you to be weary and burdened.  He will lead you to the spiritual rest your soul desperately needs.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

                                     –Matthew 11:28-30, The Message Bible

Jesus is giving an invitation so what do you think? Intrigued? Skeptical? Is there anything preventing you from accepting it? Letting yourself enter the Lord’s rest means you’re willing to immerse yourself into a profound sense of comfort, security, grace, and love. The Lord’s rest brings you near to Him and there is assurance, healing, and recovery from the onslaught of the world’s demands. There is so much to be gained by accepting His invitation to rest. There was something indescribable about Jesus’ presence that brought Mary to sit at His feet and you can experience it as well.

  REST -- Restoration, Equilibrium, Stillness, and Trust

Resting 2

So, what small steps do you need to take to establish a practice of withdrawing from the world? You might consider starting with small adjustments in your daily or weekly schedule. What time of day or night is best to set yourself apart to enter rest and nearness to the Lord? There are any number of ways to capture a rest minute or more with God. This week take a survey of how you prioritize the To Do’s in your life. Once you’ve identified all the things and people that need your attention, then you’ll want to do a review of your life hours. Capture what you do on at least two or three days including a Saturday or Sunday. You might be surprised at what you discover. You can even do this as a family but I would first start with yourself. In the example below I have created a generalized life hour review for a usual Monday.

Example of a Monday:   Get ready for work- 1 hr; Feed/Walk/Medicate Shyla- 45 min; Drive to work- 20 min; Work- 8.5 hr; Drive home- 25 min; Take Shyla to Therapy- 40 min; Exercise- 35 min; Feed/Walk/Medicate Shyla- 1 hr; Fix/eat Dinner- 45 min; Chores- 40 min; Get ready for bed- 45 min = 14.40 hours

The life hour review is meant to bring your awareness to where you invest your energy and time. What are you doing each day and how much time does it take? What have become the priorities in your day or week? Consider how has this changed over the last year, the last six months. If you feel like you’re on a hamster wheel or a roller-coaster, then this review may be very helpful  in identifying the issue. In my next post, I’ll give you how-to tips and suggest ways to insert Rest Moments throughout your day!

Thanks for reading!  I've made some changes to make it easier for you to email me at heartsencouragedministry.com directly from the post. Also, when you open your email and click the heartsencouraged.com link it will send you directly to the blog and you can see everything else that it has to offer. Your feedback and comments are precious to me as I want be your strongest encourager. I'm very interested in knowing any specific areas where you need encouragement. Fondly, Terri

References

1 https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rest

2 Fernandez-Mendoza, J. & Vogntzas, A. N. (2013). Insomnia and it’s impact on physical and mental health. Current Psychiatry Rep, 15 (12) 1-14. Doi:10.1007/s11920-013-0418-8.

3 Matthew 11:28-30


Courageous

Hello and Welcome!

I am so thankful for the privilege of sharing encouragement with you through this blog. Today's post presents a focus on the tremendous courage that we display to others as we live through the difficulties and troubles that manifest in our life. And, this post is a tribute to my dear friend, Chris, who is now with the Lord.

In the last few weeks, I have either witnessed or learned of women who have deliberately chosen courage and perseverance over despair and hopelessness.  All too often it seems we are faced with situations that cause us to have to choose one of those paths. As a few of you know, we sent our dear friend, Chris, on her way to be with Jesus. Chris was a warrior and faced the battle with cancer as any warrior would—fiercely steadfast in her faith in God and His sovereign purpose for her life. At Chris’ memorial service, her pink ribbon sister, Colleen, spoke with admiration of Chris. And, Colleen shared she is continuing to fight on behalf of Chris determined to defeat her own cancer. This is a woman who, in all likelihood, knew no one else at the service and determined to courageously share.

Courage 1You know women who are facing overwhelming circumstances or changes in their life and we can’t help but be affected. Too often we may feel inadequate to provide the words, the hope, or any other measure of comfort that we know is so obviously needed. Women are caregivers and it’s in our nature to want to make whole the brokenness, heal the wounded heart, and soothe the discomfort. But deep down we see how inadequate our resources are and we know what we offer isn’t sufficient to mend, let alone heal.

As a nurse, I know I can’t put a band-aid on a physical wound and expect healing to occur if I haven’t addressed the skin infection. In the same way, I know what I have to offer those who are hurting is no better than a band-aid—it touches the surface but it can’t impact the deep sadness and loss. It sounds arrogant and even prideful that I want to be the source of comfort for those hurting but that’s why I became a nurse—to impact, in whatever way I can, the health of those God brings across my path. So, I feel that frustration within, and I ask God, “What can I do?”.

Prayer 1I “do” what God expects me to do. Pray. And pray more. I lay before Him the names of those hearts that on my own and I ask God to provide what only He can. I earnestly believe He sees each one of us and He knows us as no one else does and I believe He is able to comfort, heal, provide a miracle and more for His precious children. While I’m sad that my prayer list grows as I add one more name after another, I’m thankful that not one of those women (and men) are unknown to God. We must never forget prayer is a powerful action fueled by your belief in God’s ability to provide according to His will.

During an incredibly challenging time in my life, the words Paul wrote in Philippians 1:19-20 (NLT) became very dear to me and continue to be a source of strength.

For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance. For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ and dying is even better.

Do you sense the power of this statement and prayer from Paul? Here is the phrase that impacts me the most, “I will never be ashamed”. Paul was referring to his imprisonment but that prison couldn’t contain Paul’s impact as he continued to share and model Christ. Colleen, Deb, Lysa, Kelly, David, Scott—these people, like Paul, live without shame because they live to honor Christ in the face of the challenges. As for Chris, her life continues to bring honor to Christ and she left behind a model of courage. I think Proverbs 31:31 best states the life of Chris, “Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” (If you knew her, I’m certain you agree!)

Courage 2I end this post with two power encouragement points:

First, when you feel inadequate to offer what is needed by those we love, your prayer is a powerful act that makes you a co-warrior with those who are courageously facing their challenges.

Second, your faith in God and your trust in His plan for your life models courage to those who watch as you walk through your challenges and difficulty. You don’t have to “do” courageous. It will show as you trust God as your Strength and Jesus as your Savior.

Thank you so much for reading. If you would like to receive the blog posts on a regular basis, please scroll to the top of the page and in the right sidebar you can subscribe. Once you subscribe you'll receive a confirmation notice from Feedblitz. Please post your comments to the blog as I love to hear from you! Or, you can email me at heartsencouragedministry@gmail.com.  Fondly, Terri


Your Brand of Beauty

Hello! So thankful for your continued support of Hearts Encouarged. I hope this post on beauty is a blessing to you. You are of such importance to God and I pray your trust and hope in Him flourishes as He reveals his unfailing love and enduring faithfulness to you.  Fondly, Terri

What brand do you support? Nike? Michael Kors? Disney? Samsung? Apple? Most of us advertise on behalf of our favorite brand because it’s on our clothes, phones, and accessories. We spend money on a specific brand because something about it causes us to find it reliable, to be of high quality, or it meets the level of excellence we need to support our activities. Now, having brought this to your attention I’d like you to consider that you, too, have a brand. Surprised? I’m serious--you are sharing your brand every day. Your brand is based on your interactions with people, your attitude, your responses, and acts--what you do and how you get things done. People perceive you in a specific way and that’s your brand.

Purple flowerThere is an abundant need in this world for your exact brand of beautiful.

–Lysa TerKeurst, Uninvited

When I read this quote from Lysa’s book Uninvited, I loved it. Those words emphasizes that you and I possess a unique brand of beauty that impacts anyone who crosses our life path. These words inspire me, lift my spirit, give me a reminder that I don’t need to assimilate to the pattern of the world. I have a beauty given to me by the One who created me. And, I sustain and enhance that beauty as I apply the beauty regimen God has designed for me. Surprised, again? God has a beauty regimen? Read on my beautiful friend!  “I praise you because I am remarkably and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well....” (Psalm 139:14.) There’s more. You have this undeniable beauty that causes you to shine like a star in the universe when you refrain from arguing and complaining (Phil 2:14). When you choose and use the wisdom of God, a garland of grace adorns your head, a crown of beauty (Proverbs 4:9). When you interact with or respond to another soul from a heart filled with gentleness and a quiet spirit, you display an imperishable quality (1 Peter 3:4). The woman who places her hope in God beautifies herself in this way (1 Peter 3:5). This is your brand. This is my brand. Or, it could be.

Here’s one more verse about beauty and I think it’s hilarious. When I read it I started laughing because the image was so prominent in my mind. A beautiful woman who rejects good sense is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout (Proverbs 11:22). Can you picture it? The outer beauty of a woman is nothing more than a trinket in a pig’s snout when there’s nothing of beauty on the inside of that woman.

Poppy fieldWe hunger for beauty because it is a beautiful God whom we serve.

–Michael Card, Scribbling in the Sand

Beauty brings us into places of healing, as well as into God’s presence.

– Jane Rubietta, Between Two Gardens

Yellow flowers

I believe the world is looking for beauty within people because their souls are starving for authentic relationships. Most people don’t know why they feel unsatisfied. And, they try to meet the need of their soul in various ways. God is beauty and we exhibit an aspect of that beauty when we extend the love of Jesus. You and I can bring healing with our words, a look, an act of kindness. The apostle Peter calls you and I to maintain an intense love for each other and to serve each other with the gifts we have received from God. Your gifts make up your brand. You, my friend, are known as a woman who…. Read that last sentence again and finish it in your own words. You get to develop your brand. It forms by following the example of Jesus and the examples of beauty in the bible. What do you think about giving some attention to your brand and considering how people perceive you? Whether you know it or not, people have assigned you a brand. You are known for a brand as it pertains to your work relationships, your leadership, your friendships, your servant attitude, and your display of Christ-like qualities. There’s no time like now to embark on a beautification of your heart! This is an opportunity to do a self-assessment for the purpose of sharing with the world your exact brand of beautiful that brings glory to God. Below are some starter questions to begin the assessment process. After the self-assessment, review the verses I provided above that highlight some of the ways inner beauty can be expressed and positively impact those near to you. Next, identify an area where your beauty can be more fully manifested. Fervently pray for what you need so you may experience the change you would like to occur. Here’s an example from my self-assessment. In my zealousness to advocate for the staff at work to ensure they are treated with respect, I may speak harsh statements about those who are not interacting with the staff respectfully. While my motives seem to be well-intended, those harsh statements show judgment and a lack of grace. My words reflect my perceived brand—harsh and judging. But, that’s not really my brand. I’m an advocate and I have a heart that cares about injustice. However, it doesn’t really matter who I think I am when the perception by others is different. As a result of this assessment, I need to find a better way to communicate to the staff my position of advocacy for them while remaining non-judgmental toward other involved parties.

Here are a few assessment questions to get you started! Ask yourself:

  • What would my closest friends say if I asked them what they would call “my brand of beauty”?
  • What beauty do I reflect from my heart, my personality, or my passions?
  • Do my words reflect the beauty of God within my heart?
  • Do my actions reflect the love of Jesus?
  • Does my attitude reflect a servant attitude much like Jesus during his time on earth?
  • How do I approach problems or issues? Do I currently display my brand of beauty in such moments? If not, what changes can I make?

I hope you found this post encouraging and enlightening. You and I are beautiful to God because Christ makes it so with his righteousness and with his sacrificial cleansing of our sin. The presence of the Holy Spirit within your heart gifts to you an inner beauty that cannot be exhibited without the Spirit. 

As always, I’d love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts via the comment link. You can reach me directly at heartsencouragedministry@gmail.com. Subscribe to this blog by going to the sidebar and entering your email. You'll get a confirmation from Feedblitz and then you're on the mailing list. Thanks for reading and share with a friend. Fondly, Terri

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A New Day

Don’t you just love a good quote? You know the kind. It’s a quote that inspires the heart, expresses a lived truth, or one with an insightful revelation. It’s a quote that leaves you pondering and wanting to remember it or turn it into an action or attitude. Today’s post contains two quotes that I found inspiring. Dig in, ponder, and take what you need to live each day to the fullest and with a wellness attitude. Share how you approach each new day! We would love to hear your comments. Fondly, Terri   Alarm-clock-1191561_640Every morning, when we wake up, we have twenty-four brand-new hours to live.

What a precious gift!

We have the capacity to live in a way that these twenty-four hours will

bring peace, joy, and happiness to ourselves and others.

–Thich Nhat Hanh

I love this quote for its simplicity. Subconsciously, I realize each morning that I have this new day before me. Everything hinges on the attitude within me that rises from my bed. Yet before my toes hit the floor, I seldom contemplate the type of energy and attitude I’m bringing into the gift of a new day. If my life is working well and all things are in order, no hiccups, and no known problems on my plate, then I’m bringing a peace, a joy, a positive energy and attitude into my interactions with others. Those days are my best-lived days and it impacts everybody around me. But… There’s all those other days. The days where I have carried forward the previous days’ troubles and more. I didn’t think about whether I should. I, Terri, let it happen. And, I let it ruin the day. My attitude is stink-o, my energy level is low, and it there’s no doubt it impacts those around me. I’d like to think these types of days are far and few between.

Icon Hearts EncouragedThe truth is there have been times when it felt like difficulties stalked me from one twenty-four hours into the next. What happens to me is a belief settles into my heart and mind causing me to feel like there have been no days without trouble and turmoil. During those periods of difficulty, I have discovered the best way to live is within each hour. It’s about remaining very present so not to feel the burden and overwhelm. It’s enough to wonder how to take the next step. This is when we need a precision focus. We can find strength by narrowing our focus to what is directly before us. In this way, we can take note of any small victories in our situation. With a precision focus, we may see the tiniest detail that is working in our favor. We can take one small step after another and sense there is progress. Living within each hour with a precise focus helps us identify and appreciate what is working and enables us to find reasons to speak prayers of gratitude. We focus on the truth that God’s compassion never, never fails. We seek the peace of Jesus letting it fall like rain refreshing our soul, filling the empty places of our heart with His peace and even joy. Heart spaces known only to God. And in the midst of our circumstances, unaware, we shine the light of Christ as we move through our life hours with a hope and peace that is a mystery to those who know what we endure.

Desert flowerBe surprised by joy, be surprised by the little flower that shows its beauty in the midst of a barren desert,

and be surprised by the immense healing power that keeps bursting

forth like springs of fresh water from the depth of our pain.

–Henri J.M. Nouwen

I love that I, Terri, can be a beautiful flower in a barren desert with that desert representing the difficult times in my life. There was a period in my life when I mistakenly thought that I had to be a woman with a strength of character unmatched by anyone else because I’m a Christian. Probably this comes out of the perfectionistic side of my personality. Now, I know I don’t need to act as though my trouble is no trouble at all. That’s not what God wants from me. If I live as a woman who knows, deeply knows, God’s love for me, then this keeps me from being consumed because his compassion never fails me. I become, without effort, an unintentional light. If I live each hour from a place of steadfast hope, quietly waiting on God’s response, action, wisdom, presence, and faithfulness, then I’m presenting a peace of heart and mind that draws attention. Still not intentional, but noticeable. It’s our unintentional examples that capture the attention of the souls who wonder at us. The nature of our very personal relationship with God enables us to face trials and trouble differently. I am seen as that beautiful flower in a barren desert.

Water-lily-1857350_640King Solomon wrote of days of trouble in the following passage and it’s an insightful and encouraging reminder of how we can live.

"I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God."   Lamentations 21-24, The Message

Twenty-four hours, new every morning. God’s love, new every morning. His faithfulness over your life, endless, and it is the same for His love of you. Live encouraged!

Don't forget to share your approach to a new day. 

Comment on this post or email me at heartsencouragedministry@gmail.com


Living Encouraged

Hello and Welcome!

Have you ever thought about encouragement as food for your soul? In this post you'll discover how living encouraged can uplift your spirit and your life. As always I look forward to your comments and hope you'll pass this on to those that might benefit from the message. Fondly, Terri

Living encouraged is more than a feel-good idea. It is a two-fold process in that God will provide external sources of encouragement while you provide an internal source of encouragement. As it concerns Jesus, he wants you to live encouraged in spite of the obstacles and hurdles before you. Troubles and difficulties can occur, will occur, or are occurring right now in your life. Even more so, Jesus wants you to live encouraged. How do I know? Romans 8:31-39 tells us. Read the verse below taken from The Message Bible. I have personalized the verse as if Paul were speaking directly to you. Linger over the words letting the depth of the message sink into your heart. “So, what do you think? With God on your side like this, how can you lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for you, embracing your condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for you? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for you—who was raised to life for you!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for you. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between you and Christ’s love for you? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture…. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between you and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced you.”

Those words extend a powerful promise and truth. We should choose to believe it as deeply as we are able and then even deeper still. God’s message to you is that nothing stands between you and Him. He’s telling you there is more to your life than what you’re experiencing in real time. The soul is the essence of who you are, residing in a physical body. God has invested in your soul, your life—through His Son. He sends the Holy Spirit as a personal Counselor, adopts you as a son or daughter, and grants freedom for your soul from anything that attempts to enslave it. All of this represents God’s encouragement and hope to you so your heart will not be discouraged but strengthened and empowered (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17). He’s waiting for us to invest in a relationship with Him—an authentic, lasting commitment. In closeness to God our heart opens to receive the truth--God draws upon His unlimited resources to provide to you specific encouragements so you may thrive in heart and soul.  Balance
As God provides the external sources of encouragement, your part is to provide a steady source of internal encouragement for your heart and mind. The primary aspect of producing internal encouragement centers on balance. Balance is about avoiding extremes as it relates to our focus. We should monitor the focus of our thoughts, mindset, emotions, and attitude so we can remain in balance so to avoid falling into discouragement. There are three areas that can be a stumbling block and inhibit self-encouragement. These encompass our reflection on the past and anticipation of the future, self-judgment and self-condemnation, and an unbalanced focus.

Reflection

Reflection and review are of benefit until these become out of balance. The balance is altered when we consistently relive or reflect on past events depriving us of being fully present in the present. In turn, worry, anxiety, or stress on potential future events also prohibits us from being present in this day, this hour, this moment. I discovered I was not living well in the present due to out-of-balance reflection on the past and pre-emptive anxiety about the future. My thoughts and emotions were like a runaway train. My self-reflection of a single event would catapult into events over the last year and, at times, into the prior decade. My unbalanced focus centered on the choices and decisions I regretted, past mistakes, and my weaknesses. The result was a deep sense of discouragement. I didn’t realize how these episodes of self-reflection were devastating my ability to live encouraged in the day at hand. To establish balanced thinking patterns,  I established the “24 hour rule” to set a boundary or limit on my self-reflection focus. The 24 hour rule keeps my reflection on the past or my anticipation of the future within a plus or minus 24 hour window. Here are a few examples of how I use the 24 hour rule.

I reflect on the past 24 hours to acknowledge God’s provision, intervention, blessings, and favor.

I review my attitude, thoughts and conversations as well as actions and attitudes in the last 24 hours that may have wounded others or myself.

I review conversations, actions, attitude, and examples that may have encouraged others.

I confess sin behaviors that occurred within the last 24 hours.

I express gratitude and thanksgiving for what has occurred and in anticipation of God’s involvement in my life.

I seek God’s wisdom for a future need while eagerly anticipating His direction and intervention.

Barley-field-1684052_640The second area requiring balance and mindfulness is judgment and condemnation of self. There is nothing more discouraging to self than a continual streaming of negative internal self-talk. Balance is very critical when evaluating your life, your worth, and your purpose. Here are a couple tips:

Tip #1. Avoid self-depreciation, self-condemnation, and harsh self-judgment. It’s important to acknowledge a weakness, a sinful behavior, or disappointment in self but keep it in perspective. Acknowledge it, learn from it, and let go of it. Use the 24 hour rule to place a limit on any internal self-evaluation. Place your focus on how to prevent what occurred and seek Jesus’ direction and wisdom to resolve or limit future occurrences.

Tip #2. Acknowledge your unique contribution to the lives of those around you. Ask God to show you how you impact the lives that intersect with yours. This is highly encouraging as you recognize that God is using your life to fulfill His purposes. Remain humble thanking God for the opportunity to encourage and love others through your actions, words, and attitude. 

Wood-1246276_640The final area that can inhibit internal encouragement is an unbalanced focus. Where do you place your focus when you encounter difficulties or problems? Who is the primary focus of your life? You? Others? God? When your focus is out of balance, so goes your life. A laser focus on a difficult situation, problem, or person makes it appear much larger and more devastating. Anytime you feel trouble or difficulty is overtaking you, overwhelming you, or consuming your thoughts and emotions, then ask yourself:  

Am I controlling my thoughts? How can I become still in mind and heart? Where is my focus? What do I need to do to keep my focus centered on God? (James 4:8).

Am I using my power tool of prayer? It’s obvious but it needs to be the first thing rather than the last thing we do. Seek the Lord’s wisdom and direction. Be careful not to act or respond based on emotions such as fear or anger (John 14:13).

Do I need assistance from another source to help me readjust my focus? Do you need a professional counselor or psychologist, Christian pastor or minister, or a healthcare provider? It is a sign of wisdom to recognize and acknowledge your need for help. God uses multiple resources to help you to thrive especially when you face difficulties.

Is my focus turned inward? A focus on self can become detrimental if it creates unbalanced thoughts and emotions. When your focus is turned inward, you may miss out on the chance to encourage others and positively impact other lives with your unique gifts and talents. Your life is meant to intersect with other lives.

Do I have a focus on gratitude? Identify at least one positive thing that has occurred in your day no matter how small. There is power in acknowledgment.  Ponder, muse, or re-live any success, kindness, comfort, or laughter that you experienced today. Reflect on and acknowledge God’s presence in the events and conversations of your day.

Your thought life and attitude is a power source for keeping you encouraged. Living encouraged can become a way of life as you inject balance into your emotions, thinking, attitude, speech, and actions. God’s Word is the ultimate power source of encouragement. The Holy Spirit within you encourages your heart and soul. God leads you to receive encouragement through His people as they cross your path. Below are some other ways of thinking or attitudes to help you live encouraged. You might to create your own list of high-powered encouragement statements to say to yourself daily. As you and God encourage your soul, I hope you find your way to living encouraged every day and becoming an encourager to others.

High Power Encouragement Statements

Icon Hearts EncouragedEvery day is an adventure

Expect surprises

Don’t control – let go

You are fully understood by God

No need for pretense

You aren’t rejected by God

God is your firm foundation and you are safe and secure in His arms

Let your inner child-heart feel secure within His presence

Live with joy! Smile! Laugh!

Be open to adventure

Laugh at the future – don’t let a fear of the unknown enslave you

Lean into God

Lay your weakness at the feet of Jesus – let Him fill in the gap

Start the day asking God for an opportunity to encourage a soul

In tragedy or difficulty, live one step at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time

In the darkest hours, God is there – offer Him your faith and anticipate His comfort

Trust God to handle the future—He cannot be taken by surprise

Manage your response to your past – be balanced and seek God who will

give you the ability to forgive and receive forgiveness

Breathe in God—let the peace and love of God flow through your arteries and

veins straight to your heart God is your life—the lover of your soul

 


Be As A Bird

Gray-hawk-2082724_640

As one who is afraid of heights, I envy the birds. They fly so freely without fear trusting in the wind and their wings. I have watched the buzzards soar without a flap of their wings for minutes. They’re just a dot in the height of the sky. Slowly they glide closer and closer to the earth all the while trusting in the presence of the lift of the air. It’s incredible—do you think so, too? Of course, if you’re a sky diver, hang glider, or wearer of one of those wingsuits acting like Rocky, the Flying Squirrel, you probably don’t see it as a big deal. You’re one of those fear-free flying humans! And, I’m happy for you because trust is your middle name. I think it takes a LOT of trust to put oneself in the air like the birds. This kind of trust is the reason I am drawn to the following quote.

American-goldfinch-170602_640Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her,

still she sings all the same, knowing she has wings

– Victor Hugo

I wonder what would come to your thoughts if I asked if there has been a time when you felt like the branch was ready to break beneath you. Or, a time when you thought the ground would give way under you. I’ve lived those times when everything, yes, everything, felt uncertain, unstable, and fragile. Either I felt fragile or I felt the situation around me was fragile, unstable. I’ve never liked those times. I try to avoid deliberately entering those situations. But, health issues, family issues, financial changes, natural disasters, and more are thrust upon us and it can be completely unnerving. That’s when I need to become the bird in the quote. Though days may seem uncertain and fragile circumstances surround me, I’ll continue to sing knowing where my strength and song come from. There is no need of fear because there is strength in my hope in the Lord. The truth is that sometimes I remember this and sometimes I don’t. At least not immediately. I need to remind myself God is for me and my hope is not in vain.

Song…I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted.

The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.

The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.

Exodus 15:1-2

This Exodus verse is from Moses and Miriam’s song after the Israelites witnessed the power of the Lord to save them from the Egyptians. With their very eye they saw the power and strength of God. They saw the power of His love that saved them. You, too, are so loved by God. God is working in your life and knows exactly when you need Him to be your power, your wings lifting you up, out, and through those uncertain, fragile, and unstable times. Your strength of hope and trust becomes even stronger when you remember God’s nearness and knowledge of every detail of your life. Choose hope!

We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us. O Lord, even as we put our hope in you. Psalm 33:20-22.

I believe when we live with a strong hope in God’s active presence in our life, we become a significant encourager to those around. While they may not ask you directly, it may cross their mind to wonder where does your hope come from? What is powering your perseverance, your courage, and your joy? It’s your message without words to those who see you as you live encouraged!

Thanks for reading! I'd love to hear from you either by comment or at heartsencouragedministry@gmail.com. 

Blessing to you,

Terri