Thursday, May 30, 2013

Am I Really A Stress-Addict?

Umm let me times, absolutely.  There are days when "Accomplisher" should be my first name, and not for good reasons.  Though thankfully, since starting this study and joining the OBS group in general, my relationship with God is continuing to grow, and the result is less of my daily focus is spent on unimportant worldly stressors that I thought, at one time, made all the difference.  Now I am in no way immune to these stressors, and I think to some extent, they will always be a part of my life.  The stressors will always exist, but allowing myself to be reduced by them physically, mentally, and spiritually doesn't have to.  With God as my protector, it won't.  He won't let it.  He won't be shaken. 

I did look up various translations of our reflection verse for this week, which I'll list in a second.  But as far as the verse mapping goes, I don't think I can do a better job than our fearless leader, Melissa Taylor, has done this week in dissecting the verse in terms of our parts and God's parts.  In the translations below, I'll bold in pink our parts and in blue God's parts. 

"In you, our fathers put their trust; they trusted you to deliver them.  They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed." NIV

"Our ancestors put their trust in you; they trusted you and you saved them.  They called to you and escaped danger; they trusted you and were not disappointed."  GNTD

"We know you were there for our parents; they cried for your help and you gave it; they trusted and lived a good life" MSG

The Message translation was my personal favorite and the one I memorized this week.  It is no surprise that God's role in these verses is nothing short of amazing and the epitome of strength.  DELIVER...SAVED...NOT DISAPPOINTED...ESCAPED DANGER...WERE THERE...HELP...GAVE IT...LIVED. 
At first glance, some of that may not make a lot of sense.  For instance, the ancestors were the ones who escaped danger...the ones who were saved...the ones who were not disappointed.  But who is responsible for all of those amazing acts?  Did our ancestors escape dangers as a result of their own strength and power or God's?  Did our ancestors save themselves or did God save them?  Did they help themselves, keep themselves from becoming disappointed?  Were they responsible for the extreme gift of life or is God?  God, and only God, is our deliverer, savior, up-lifter, rescuer, supporter, helper, and giver of life.  His job as the Father is to take care of all of it.  Our job, as His children, is to believe that He will.
This portion of Chapter 8 spoke to me the most, and is honestly, I want to start all of my days:
"Each day when we get out of bed, we have a choice to make about where our strength will come from to face the day ahead.  Will we rely on ourselves or will we rely on God?  Will we rely on our human strength to persevere, or will we seek the strength that God provides to our spirits, enabling us to get through even the most painful of days?  Will we continue to assume that if we try hard enough we will have the power to change or make changes happen, or will we realize that God, and God alone, possesses the power to do so?"

I loved these questions.  Even though part of me feels as if I have no toes left, these questions are blunt and to the point.  Will you or won't you?  Will I or won't I?  God has opened doors for me left and right over the past couple of weeks.  I'm not dumb enough to believe that this is something new.  God didn't just start opening doors to fantastic opportunities and speaking to me loudly through answered prayers.  He ALWAYS does this.  But it is I who am not always listening.  This is something I will work on.  This is how I want my life to be changed.  I feel strength rising in my heart and soul even as I type these words.  My feeble human brain will inevitably fail me, but my heart is firmly planted with God and I won't be shaken.  Speaking of not being shaken, read these awesome words from Building 429.  You want some early-morning get up and go, grab a cup of this song.  It will lift you up in a way no complicated coffee drink can touch.  God Bless!

"We Won't Be Shaken"
Building 429

This world has nothing for me
This life is not my own
I know You go before me and I am not alone
This mountain rises higher
The way seems so unclear
But I know that You go with me so I will never fear
I will trust in You

Whatever will come our way
Through fire or pouring rain
We won't be shaken
No we won't be shaken
Whatever tomorrow brings
Together we'll rise and sing
That we won't be shaken
No we won't be shaken
Oooh oooh oh
Oooh oooh oh
Oooh oooh oh
No we won't be shaken

You know my every longing
You've heard my every prayer
You've held me in my weakness
Cause You are always there
So I'll stand in full surrender
It's Your way and not my own
My mind is set on nothing less
Than You and You alone
I will not be moved oh

Whatever will come our way
Through fire or pouring rain
We won't be shaken
No we won't be shaken
Whatever tomorrow brings
Together we'll rise and sing
That we won't be shaken
No we won't be shaken

We will trust in You
We will not be moved
We will trust in You
And we won't be shaken

No we won't be shaken

Whatever will come our way
Through fire or pouring rain
We won't be shaken
No we won't be shaken
Whatever tomorrow brings
Together we'll rise and sing
That we won't be shaken
No we won't be shaken
Oooh oooh oh
Oooh oooh oh
Oooh oooh oh
No we won't be shaken
Oooh oooh oh
Oooh oooh oh
Oooh oooh oh
No we won't be shaken

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Overcoming My Giants

Verse Mapping: Phillipians 4:8
Well, here we are again studying the 7th week in the Stressed-Less Living online Bible study.  I can't believe it is already week 7!  It doesn't exactly feel like we just started yesterday, but it doesn't feel like we should be on the seventh week either, which makes the challenge of retaining what I'm learning seem even greater.  I definitely don't want to forget anything I am learning! 
This week is truly an amazing and special week for me because as I type I'm surrounded by my beautiful family, including my husband and daughter of course, but also my parents and my brother and his beautiful family...and I've got the ocean in the background.  We are in the Outer Banks enjoying even more of God's creations.  This is such a fantastic place to dig into this study even more than usual #1 because of the amazing physical surroundings, and #2 because I'm not distracted with all of my daily to do lists that are usually resting on my counter at home and on my desk at work.  My mind isn't distracted with thoughts things needing to be done because I am 10 hours away from home and work, and can't literally do none of it...and if feels great!  Talk about stressed-less!  Yes, the lists will still be waiting for me when I get home, but my prayer this week is that I return to my daily to-dos with a new outlook and a new perspective.  I want to use this week to get plenty of sleep and rest, an area I've been depriving myself of over the last six months at least.  I pray that I grab this opportunity that God has given me to get a true headstart on a stressed-less life.  Let's get started:

Here is our reflection verse for this week as it is written in the listed translations:

"Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious--the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse." MSG

"And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.  Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." NLT

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence; if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." ESV

I love this verse, and I love how the different translations describe the thoughts we should always be allowing our minds to consume, as opposed to the occasional times we allow those thoughts to take the place of the negative ones that can usually reside in our minds.  I know I am not alone in this, otherwise I don't think we would have 7,000 women engaged in this awesome study.  If we all were constantly walking around with these above thoughts in our heads all the time we wouldn't have a reason to even participate in this study.  Unfortunately, I cringe when I think how many times everyday I allow anger, resentment, bitterness, hatred, anxiety, and fear creep its way into my mind.  As I said before, I know I'm not alone which is why this study is so important and can be such an awesome opportunity for spiritual growth and peace if we just close the door to our pride, slam it even, and let God in so He can get to work on healing our imperfect and undoubtedly messy souls. 
The individual words describing the positivity our minds should possess all share relatively the same meaning:  true, noble (honorable), right (reputable/just), authentic (pure), compelling (lovely), gracious (admirable/commendable)
However, it was the last portion of this verse that really caught my eye.  The New Living Translation (NLT) and the English Standard Version (ESV) both discuss thinking of things that are "excellent" and "worthy of praise."  The Message, however, describes a little differently what content in our minds is truly pleasing to God.

"...the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse."  MSG
The words of the verse that I've underlined influenced my heart and my mind the most.  It is a very easy concept to grasp to think the best, not the worse;the beautiful, not the ugly.  Sounds simple, right?  I don't know about simple, but with God holding onto us I know that it will sure be a lot easier to try.

God Is Here:
I have no doubt that God is everywhere in my life in every moment of everyday.  He is always watching, He is always loving, He is always holding on to me even when I am having trouble holding on to Him.  I've experienced situations when God has revealed His presence to me through the healing of a loved one.  As I've matured in my faith and my walk with Him, it has become easier for my heart as well as my mind to accept His plans for the lives of my loved ones, whether His plan is to heal them physically and allow them to remain another day on earth or instead to give peace to their fragile earthly bodies and bring them Home for eternal rest. 
Another area of my life when He's made His presence unmistakable is in my job and my husband's job.  I've always said and will always believe that the current occupations which my husband and I hold were a gift from God and no one else.  We didn't get the jobs because of the qualifications or our character.  We got these wonderful blessings from God, and as a result, our faith has grown in leaps and bounds.  Our previous jobs caused us many tears, high stress, and rough times.  But we know now that there was a reason for it.  When God chose to reach down and pick us up out of those occupational rough patches to put us jobs we truly love, we learned how important it is to keep our eyes and hands open to God's blessings and to not take them for granted.  Now, even on the "bad" days, we still remind ourselves outloud that these jobs are truly a blessing from God and that we are grateful to have them.  He gave us the strength to take leaps that changed our lives forever!  For that reason, and many others, we give Him thanks!

Not My Goliath:
I'm always facing some kind of giant.  At work, I have many responsibilities, and find myself always taking more and inevitably getting strapped for time.  Sometimes, I can really buckle under the pressure of my everyday at work.  I always have a list of things to do when I get to work, but it feels like I can't get left alone long enough to complete the list!  Patients call and need something; patients walk in and need something else; co-workers and bosses need something else.  It never ends!  My giant in this situation isn't just the load of work and dependants, but also being able to keep my cool in a situation that could physically, mentally, and spiritually break me if I were to let it.  
A giant I'm facing at home is similar, in that I have a list of things I "need" to do at home, but just like at work, distractions inevitably arise.  Caroline gets sick or hurt, and the list takes a back seat to her needs.  My husband is a volunteer fireman, and I am very proud of him.  But being a volunteer means that we don't really know when he will have to go out.  It may be in the middle of dinner, church, early in the morning, middle of the night, or right in the middle of our family's night time routine.  He usually puts Caroline to sleep every night, giving me time to tidy up the house, finish laundry, or do dishes.  I'm a couponer and a "Troop-on"er, so I often use this time to organize and sort...which I ironically love because I can literally think about nothing else.  But if my husband gets called out to a fire or a car wreck, this obviously trumps my housework as it should.  I am not proud to say that many times I don't convey a loving, proud attitude toward my husband's work when it has to be done at an inconvenient time for me.  My giant in this situation is my very own selfishness.  Only when I'm ready to ask for His help can God give me the strength to set my selfish wants and tendencies so that I can actually show my husband how much I love him and how proud I am of him instead of completely taking him and the fact that he does many jobs I could never do for granted.  
Dear Lord:  I pray to you today first for forgiveness.  The situations I find myself in are stressfull and frustrating only because I choose for them to be.  Please give me the strength to change my perspective and to change my heart.  Help me to replace my frustration toward others with an attitude of patience and kindness.  Help me to replace my attitude of stress with a flooding of your peace.  Keep the demons of anger and resentment from my heart and my mind, and grant me the blessing of your grace to get through tomorrow possessing a better spirit than I had today.  
In your precious name I pray,

Check out my blessings blog!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Stressed-Less Living Blog Hop #6

Verse Mapping: Matthew 6:33

Last week I focused on definitions of the words which I thought were most inspirational in the reflection verse. This week, I want to look at the different translations of Matthew 6:33 and compare the most inspirational parts of each.

"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." NIV

"Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need." NLT

"Steep your life in God-reality, God initiative, God provisions. Don't worry about missing. You'll find all you everyday human concerns will be met." MSG

"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." TLV

"But first, but concerned about His kingdom and what has His approval. Then all these things will be provided for you." GWT

"Instead, be concerned about everything else with the kingdom of God and with what He requires of you, and He will provide you with all these other things." GNT (US version)

The word "seek" is used in the first sentence in half of the translations I researched. 

"But seek first His kingdom..." (NIV)
"Seek the Kingdom..." (NLT)
"But seek first the Kingdom..." (TLV)

Other translations use alternative words for "seek":

"But first, be concerned about His Kingdom..." (GWT)
"Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom..."(GNT-U.S. Version)
"Steep your life in God-reality, God initiative, God provisions..." (MSG)

seek:attempt to find/discover something by searching and questioning
**Melissa's definition of "seek" that she included in Monday's posting was my favorite:
"to pursue, crave, go after with all your might." 

concerned:be relevant or important to;
                  -worry, anxiety
                  -regard it as important or interesting to do something
                  -have a specific connection with or responsibility for

I'll be honest, "steep" was the word I was most curious to define.  I just thought it was a very interesting choice for least the definition I knew.  I've always referred to "steep" when I'm talking tea bags, and that is one of the definitions of steep.  But I think this definition was much more appropriate:
steep to saturate with or subject thoroughly to (some strong pervading influence)

I believe Merriam-Webster just defined how are God wants our relationship and dedication to him to be.  He wants our souls, our hearts, our spirits, and our minds to be saturated with Him and His unfailing Word.  He wants us to subject thoroughly to him...not just when we are doing our Bible study or sitting in church, but in everything we say and do.  This week, I've realized that my heart and soul are in the right place with God.  It's my mind that keeps getting in the way!
Check out the entire translations I looked up this week and see how differently, yet how similarly, these verses compare to one another.  It's pretty cool. 

"But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." NIV

"See the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need." (NLT)

"Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions.  Don't worry about missing.  You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met." (MSG)

"But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." (TLV)

"But first, be concerned about His Kingdom and what has His approval.  Then all these things will be provided for you." (GWT)

"Instead, be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what He requires of you, and He will provide you with all these other things. " (GNT-U.S. Version)

I'm A Big Girl!
 Yea.  Not nearly as big as I think I am.  Thinking I can "do it all" is one of my biggest flaws.  I have endless to do lists at work and at home, and getting me to ask for help is like trying to get water from a dry well.  It's a job.  It can be pretty pitiful actually, but I am getting a lot better with God's help.   Pride is a powerful demon, and I let it get the best of me far too often.  Pride is such a burden but it can be such a normal part of how I react in certain situations that I don't even realize it has taken me over until the damage has been done. 

Lay Down My Pride
Pride has always, in some way, been a constant stumbling block in my life.  I realize, especially now that I am a mother, that I am very particular about certain things--how my daughter is raised, my professional work, and sometimes just carrying out certain tasks.  I've never been a person that likes to ask for help.  Even as a child, no matter what it was, unless it was something I really did not want to be doing, I wanted to do myself and in my own way.  Even know, when I'm at home I get an idea in my head of how I want something done.  A lot of times, I got this way "Jenny's Scenic Route" because it usually involves me taking several extra steps to complete a task that otherwise could've taken one or two simple steps.  A part of me knows this, but a bigger part has an idea in her head and that is the way it has to be done.  When my husband comes in with a perplexed look on his face, and asks what I'm doing and offers to help in his way, I don't see it as help at all.  I see it as a personal failure because I can't do it alone.  Case in point...
I was changing our livingroom closet from a coat closet to a craft and games closet for our family, and in doing so, I had to adjust some wire shelving, which just involved moving three shelves a little further apart.  Didn't seem like a difficult task to my head.  However, 45 minutes later, guess who was throwing a fit as well as launching the shelf at the closet wall?  This girl.  When my husband came home and found me exhausted, furious, and sweaty, he calmly opened the closet door, asked where I wanted the shelves placed exactly, and in about 30 seconds, it was done.  I was so mad that I could've spit nails.  Who was having a pride-filled meltdown?  Yep.  This girl...again.  Two for two that day.  I don't even know if I remembered that thank my poor husband for relieving me of this endlessly frustrating task so that I could finish the project I'd initially set out to do!  I have plenty of ways I demonstrate patience with my husband, but this is one of the many ways he demonstrates it to me. 
Pride is such an evil monster, and is placed in our hearts by the great monster himself.  The worse thing about pride is that it attacks our spirits and our hearts in so many different facets of our lives if we let it.  I once heard that pride is the one deadly sin that as humans, we simply don't have the power to rid ourselves of completely.  I'm really starting to understand the meaning of those words.  Pride is a tough demon to kill, and it is impossible to even fathom without God.  We aren't strong enough to remove the pride from our hearts, but God is.  And the best we read in Chapter 6 and in scripture:
"indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep." Psalm 121:4
Thank God for His supernatural presence who is all knowing and ever present in our lives and in our hearts.  I am not void of all pride in my life.  In fact, I still have many daily battles with it.  The difference is that now I know it.  A long time ago, God opened a door of opportunity when He lead me to these online Bible studies.  With that, He presented me with opportunities to start making changes that would strengthen my daily walk with Him, and it's working.  I have my good days and bad, just like everybody else.  But the good days would be bad, and the bad days unfathomable if God weren't carrying me and my burdens on His shoulders.  As Laura Story quotes in one of her famous songs, What A Savior:

                                 ...You are my only hope.
                                 Your kindness is my friend
                                 In your presence You restore us...
                                 ...You are the way the truth and the life.
                                 You are my joy and my salvation.
                                 Stood in my place taking my shame
                                 Upon Your shoulders...
                                 ...What A Savior!

How my life will be so much sweeter when pride can finally be forever replaced with God's everlasting peace.  I'm so blessed He's a patient God.  He is without a doubt my saving grace and my only hope. 

Blessings and Prayers:
This week I received a call that my five-year-old niece had fallen at school and broken her arm very badly and was going to have to have surgery.  Immediately, my heart sank in fear and worry for this child who holds a special place in many hearts, not just mine.  She's a child who loves to dance and sing and giggle and be silly...and a piece of her was literally broken.  When someone I love is sick or hurt, I take care of them.  That's why I became a nurse, a mom, a wife, and an aunt..."Aunt G" to be exact.  My niece as well as my brother, sister-in-law, and my younger niece live 8 hours away, so physically there was literally nothing I could do.  Spiritually, my to-do list for my family was endless.  God always takes care of our family, so I knew in my heart that He wasn't going to be any different this time.  But my mind was being a "Doubting Thomas."  Not in thinking "God can't fix this..." but rather in thinking "I hope God will fix this."  And I had just read in depth last week's chapter that encouraged us to not do the exact thing I was doing.  I was letting the "what ifs" of my mind overshadow the certainty of God's greatness that is in my heart.  I know better.  God knows I know better.  Yet He still loves.  He's still patient.  Though she is still experiencing some pain, my niece came out of the surgery and was telling her "Mimi" (my mother) the whole story only a short while later.  God isn't good Monday through Friday, 8-4 or 9-5.  His working hours never stop.  His sleeping hours never start.  He is holding us through it all, and has promised to never let go. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Blog Hopping Through Chapter 5

Chapter 5 was definitely packed with awesome thoughts, scriptures, reflections, and experiences that will hopefully encourage me to continue trying a little harder everyday toward a stressed-less life.  Though this week hasn't felt stressed-less.  I've worked more days than I am used to as a part-time nurse.  I've had to do this for the past few weeks and it is wearing me out!  Luckily, I am headed to the beach with my awesome family in less than a week, and whoa.  I am ready.  I am ready to kick back, relax, and throw my to-do lists to the wind or the surf or whatever will take it away. 
The previous post I did a few days ago titled, "Verse Mapping" sums up my response to the first of this week's blog-hop topics.  Now onto the next topics...

Plugged In:  
I didn't plug into much of anything other than this computer, my tv, and occasionally, my cell phone prior to God opening the door for me with these awesome Bible studies.  These studies are my primary source of daily devotion and time spent with God.  Prior to obs I read Proverbs 31 daily devotions.  I actually still have the daily devotion emailed to me everyday.  I usually get them when I am at work, and when I have time, I stop and read them.  It's very uplifting in an otherwise chaotic day in the life of a nurse.  I also like to check out the blogs of some of my favorite Christian authors such as Max Lucado, Ann Voskamp, and any of the Proverbs 31 ladies.  I love all the different stories, devotions, and themes of the blogs.  I usually read my devotions whether they be from a blog or an obs when I first wake in the morning and before I go to sleep at night.  I'm always the first one up and last one down in my house simply because I can't spend the kind of time with God that He deserves, and that I desperately need even more than my daily cups of coffee, when the ones I love are up and at 'em. 
My husband got me a tablet for Christmas and I've downloaded some pretty great apps from well-written authors and also Bible study reference tools.  My new favorite reference app is the "Olive Tree".  It was a free app and it is awesome.  If you look at my previous post, you'll see all the different advantages it offers from cross-referencing, definitions, scripture searches and comparisons.  I love it!  It is really user friendly, for which I am greatful because a computer wiz I am not. 
I am still a fan of the old school style as well.  I don't keep a computer journal.  I'm a bigger fan of the write-it-out type.  I also have several Bibles in different translations, some devotional Bibles which are really great. 

Taking It Back
There are many wise words that really touched my heart.  The story of Hannah was appreciated and one I'd never actually read before.  What a fantastic story of a great faith test passed!  I found myself in a situation awhile ago with my job that reminded me of what awesome patience Hannah must have had.  I wanted so much to cut back my hours to a part-time nurse so that I could be home with my daughter more. When I went before the administration and received a response of rejection, I was frustrated and heartbroken.  Immediately on the way home, I started thinking of other job opportunities that would allow me to do what I wanted to do.  But as I was on the interstate, approaching my exit, I heard a voice whispering," Be still."  Any clue who that might have been?  No doubt in my mind!  I won't lie...I tried to fight His Will, and it didn't work.  Every door I opened for myself got slammed right back in my face.  This was a true blessing because I am not very good with subtle hints.  I've always begged God to guide me, and if He sees I'm going through the wrong door, please slam it shut in my face!  And He did.  It only took a few slams for me to finally say," Ok.  Ok.  I get it.  I won't fight it anymore.  I'll wait."  My husband and I used that time to prepare financially for me to go part-time until about eight months later when I actually did get to go part time!  Which brings me to one of my favorite quotes from the book:

"God is never late; He is seldom early; but He is always right on time."

Ain't that the truth...and thank God everyday that it is. 
I'm not very good wollowing in self-pity.  I cope much better when I'm productive.  However, I still have the hardest time being faithful and active.  God has proven time after time that He will always take care of me and mine.  Not just that, but He will take care of us with only His best if we will just be still and let Him get to work.  Nevertheless, "Doubting Thomas" here, I many times spend my time wondering when God's best is going to find me...hoping that it is soon...wishing it would be here already.  Not the greatest example of a strong faith.  Instead, I need to remember that God has always provided His best in my life, and He won't stop.  When it is to come is not really for me to worry about.  Neither is thinking I have the right to even attempt to advise God when His timing should be.  After all, He is the pillar of perfection.  If he was filled with flaws like the rest of us, there wouldn't be a reason to praise His name.  I call Him "Holy" for a reason...He is forever Holy and nothing less.  He has us in the palm of His perfectly loving and graceful hand, and with faith even as small as a mustard seed, there we shall stay.  Amen to that.

Check out my blessings blog!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Verse Mapping

Well I have to start by saying how much I love this Bible study, and definitely love our reflection verse this week.  I loved it so much that I decided to dig a little deeper with some heavy duty verse mapping.  Check out these pictures from my journal:

The first thing I did was explore the different translations of the verse to see which ones I liked the best.  I'm usually a huge fan of the "Good News Translation", but I had some other favorites this time as well.  Check them out:

The Lord said, "I will go with you and I will give you victory." Good News Translation

The Lord replied, "My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." NIV

The Lord answered, "My presence will go with you, and I will give you peace."
                                                                                   -God's Word Translation

God said, "My presence will go with you.  I'll see the journey to the end." MSG

The Lord replied, "I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest-everything will be fine for you." New Living Translation

Pretty cool translations I thought.  I loved looking up different translations and discovering how many ways God can show me this verse.  I will say that GNT didn't quite speak to me the way the others did, but they are all awesome. 
After I reviewed the different translations, I pulled two words out of the verse: "presence" and "rest".  I looked up the words on my "Olive Tree" app to see what kinds of definitions they had.  Here is what I got:

presence: (N) state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing;
-a person or thing that exists or is present in a place but is not seen
-the impressive manner or appearance of a person

The second and third definitions really stuck out to me in describing the magnificent presence of God because he is always present with us, even though we can't see His physical presence.  But overtime as my relationship with God has matured and continues to grow, I can actually see Him everywhere if I just know where to look.  My favorite place to see God is through the blessings He gives me everyday.  Listening to my three year old blessing say her prayers everynight as she snuggles into her bed...there He is.  When I see a bird way up in the sky with its wings spread completely, allowing powerful wind to sweep it from place to place rather than trying to fly against it, it is truly one of the most peaceful events to watch...and to me, there God is again. 
The Latin translation of "presence" is "praesentia" which means "being at hand."  And God always is.

rest: (V) cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength
           -allow to be inactive in order to regain strength, health, or energy
        (N):  an instance or period of relaxing or ceasing to engage in strenuous or stressful activity

I thought the above definitions of "rest" were good, but "rest" really became more apparent to me when it was combined with another word.  I had never thought about it, but "rest" when combined with certain words can also be objects that are used to support something, i.e. armrest, headrest.  I really thought about God when I read this definition.  After all, who is our biggest supporter?  Not necessarily in the cheerleader sense, but think about what an armrest does.  It holds your arm up so that it doesn't hang down and get tired.  Who holds us up when we are tired and can't take anymore?  Who is our eternal support and promises to not let us fall?  God.  When I have reached low points in my life, when I'm exhausted mentally and physically, and when all I want to do is give up the fight, God is there to hold me up and to support me with His powerful hands.  God carries me and the weight of my circumstances.  He graciously blesses me with His perfect and loving support so I won't fall out from under my own weaknesses and hardships.  Did He promise us a perfect life?  A life without heartbreak, pain, even suffering?  Absolutely not.  He promised something so much greater.  He promised, "...I will give you rest"; "I'll see the journey to the end"; "everything will be fine for you"; "...I will give you peace."  These are the promises of God, and God doesn't break His promises. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Blessing Received in the Undeniable Presence of God

I am going to start this week's Blog Hop by telling you how I received the biggest blessing of my life today and how God's presence throughout the situation was undeniable and soul-shaking.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a mother first before anything else.  I have a beautiful three year old baby girl, Caroline, who I would do anything for.  I work as a part-time nurse, and Caroline attends a fantastic babysitter on the days I work.  She has made some great friends, her best one being her sitter without a doubt, and for good reason.  She is amazing.  She loves each child like she would her own, and wants only the best for them. She is someone I completely trust with my child and can say I literally have no worries when Caroline is in her care.  Any mother will appreciate the kind of peace that comes with knowing that even though as her mother I can't be with her every hour of every day, she is always with someone that loves and cares for her, and continues to be one of my daughter's most positive influences.  
             Many times, especially in the warm weather the kids are all playing outside and when I pull up to the sitter's driveway only to be greeted by an angered, fit-throwing toddler who doesn't want to go home yet!  Mind you this is the same child who not 9 hours before was crying and reaching for me, begging me not to go.  Yes the same child.  Today, I decided to stick around for a bit and chat with the sitter so that Caroline could play a little longer.  When I told her it was time to go, she got angry again.  Now it is widely known that when I have Caroline outside, especially around roads, I generally watch her like a hawk.  I keep a safe distant so I don't smother her, but still watch her because she is still at that age where she will get into many dangerous situations without understanding the consequences.  Today wasn't any different.                  She was huffing and puffing.  I was watching but not responding,  and before I could catch her, she darted down the sidewalk toward the drive way which happens to be parallel to one of the most dangerous roads I've ever driven on.  I ran as fast as I could, screaming the entire way for her to stop, a warning she usually heeds.  This time she didn't.  
                 The only thing I could think about was to put myself between her and the road, but she was so fast.  But I'd seen cars race up and down this road much faster.  When I got to her, she was inches away from the road...I am not exaggerating.  I did a combination grab and toss of my child to get her away from the road and danger.  As it sometimes happens when your children do things to make your heart stop, I let my fear take over and I screamed at her and scolded her.  Then, noticing the sitter had taken the other kids in, I put Caroline in her car seat and advised that she was to go to her room immediately when we got home and wait until Mommy or Daddy came in for her punishment.  I called my husband quickly and told him what had happened.  
                  As soon as I got off the phone, the negative scary what-if thoughts started flooding into my mind.  What if I hadn't gotten to her in time?  What if there had been over sized speeding trucks racing down the road? And lastly, what if I would have lost her?  I pulled into the drive and got out of the car.  My husband met me on the driveway and immediately embraced me as tears streamed down my face and I verbalized all of my worst fears that had almost become realities.  He held me for a few minutes, and then retrieved Caroline from her carseat.  

 Protective Blessings
After Caroline had been punished, by her father because I was still sick at my stomach, I reminded her that God always keeps us safe.  This is something we've always taught her, and today she lived it.  We lived it.  God kept our family safe, and He granted us many blessings today.  The blessing of an empty road that at any given moment paves the way for many speeding drivers.  The blessing of the ability to run, not great but fast enough.  The blessing in the tears of a safe and healthy child.  The blessing of a husband who understands.  The blessing of a lesson learned in why we should not take each other, least of all our loved ones, for granted.  The blessing in the fear of what could've happened but didn't.  The greatest blessing of all...a God who knows exactly what we need where we need it and when we need it.  A God who, in our scariest time, did not leave us or forsake us.  The blessing of a Heavenly Father who sacrificed His child, but saved mine. 

Transforming Power Surge
I woke up this morning never anticipating how God was going to change my life today.  I always ask God to help me be a blessing to someone in my morning prayer time with Him.  But I underestimated the blessing He had in store for me.  I spent a small part of my morning frustrated because of a seemingly endless work responsibility and the fact that my husband and I both had forgotten to pack Caroline's bag containing clothes and other daily needs for the sitter in the car.  Regarding those events, I remained frustrated for a short time, then said a prayer asking God to release the stress and frustration from my mind and heart, and just take care of it all.  I thought that was going to be the how God made His presence known to me today.  But He had bigger plans.  
            God in His greatness and mercy, transformed me today, and my relationship with The Lord Almighty grew in leaps and bounds.  Instead of conforming to a world that has become content with doing it all alone, I'm transforming and doing it all with God.  My dream that I will continue to reach for is to keep my heart and my mind with God.  I definitely felt the power surge of His presence today as He wrapped our family in his protective embrace.  He reminded me what is truly important in my life as He returned my thoughts of the insignificant and worldy to their rightful place...out of my mind, and certainly out of my heart.  

Heavenly Father,
I don't even know where to begin to say thank you for the tremendous blessing you've bestowed upon me and my family today.  I am so grateful that you have complete control over my life and the lives of the people I love mostOnce again, you saved us, Lord.  Thank you for blessing Caroline, our beautiful gift from you.  Thank you for keeping her safe and surrounding her with your never ending presence.   I know that I can't ever fully understand how great you really are because there is no end to your greatness.  My hope is in you, Lord.  My life, my heart is in your hands where I know you will keep it safe.  You saved me again today, Lord.  You saved me from my greatest fear today, and for this and your never-ending presence in my life, I praise your name.