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You are the Light

29 Apr

Today. Before you get busy checking items off your to-do list. Before you get distracted, annoyed, frustrated, and stressed. Before you respond in a negative way. Make a promise to yourself that you will be the light.

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You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. – Matthew 5:14

There’s enough darkness in our world. We need to be the light, the good, the blessings for others. Make a commitment right now to be the light in your corner of the world today.

Blessings,
♥Rachel

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Never Have Liked Goodbyes

25 Apr

I remember being a little girl and traveling from Alabama to Kentucky to visit all of my grandparents (and aunts, uncles, great-grandparents, and cousins, too!). It was usually around Easter, Thanksgiving, or Christmas and we would stay for several days, sometimes a week I think. We slept on pull-out sofas or cots in a small house that only had one bathroom. But I didn’t mind. Well, I take that back. The only time I minded was when Dad would try to follow through on his threat to fold us up in the pull-out sofa if we didn’t get up. Haha!! Oh, how us girls loved (still love??) to sleep!

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This is me around 3 or 4 years old – in the aftermath
of Christmas at my grandparent’s house.
I’m pretty sure those pants weren’t supposed to be
cropped pants, but hey – I was rockin’ them!

Whenever we got into the car to go home, I would cry because I didn’t want to leave them. Even as I grew older, as a teenager, my eyes would tear up as we pulled off that gravel drive and headed down the street to travel home. I always felt like a part of my heart was staying behind.

Barry and I visited my parents a few weekends back and I experienced the same feeling as I hugged their necks and got into our car to go home. The tears started to form and I tried with all my might to choke them back refusing to let them leave my eyes. But then as we drove down the driveway, I saw my folks standing there waving goodbye. And the tears came.

I’m not a kid anymore, and I still don’t liked goodbyes. Most of us don’t, I suppose.

My sweet cousins are having to say a very difficult and painful goodbye to their dad this week and my heart hurts so badly for them. I want them to have more time, give more hugs, and create more memories. But, sadly, that is not to be.

tears

You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.
Psalm 56:8

Goodbyes just stink. And it seems like our hearts are never ready for them.

Those who believe in God and have accepted Him as our Father have hope. That hope can lessen the pain of loss because we know that although the goodbye feels permanent, it is not. But today, hope is struggling to break through their pain. Right now, the pain is fresh and harsh and breathtaking at times. And it hurts.

If you are someone who prays, would you mind saying a prayer for my cousins today? It would mean so much to me.

Blessings,
♥Rachel

Love Always Wins

18 Apr

I saw the first inkling something was wrong on Twitter. The news outlets were reporting two explosions near the finish line at the Boston Marathon with numerous people injured and possibly dead.

And I thought, not again, Lord. Please, not again.

no-more-tears

[Mumford & Sons, “After the Storm.” Image Source: Pinterest]

The tragedies seem to come in waves. We, as a country, are knocked down by the waves of shock, sadness and grief only to stand up, spit the water out of our mouths, and keep moving forward. Before we know it, another wave comes along and knocks us down again.

I’m at a loss for words today. Not because what happened in Boston on Monday was the greatest tragedy to every occur – although it was and is a horrendous act of violence. I’m at a loss for words because this “stuff” continues to happen, I don’t understand why, and I don’t know how to stop it.

I mean, I do understand why things like this happen. I know there is evil in the world and that, at times, the evil wins – even if only for a brief moment – before love rises high enough to heal the broken hearts. I also know that no matter how good God is that freewill can result in tragedy and devastation. And I do believe that God is good and that He will ultimately use these events for good.

So, I sit here thinking.

I think of all the runners who trained and worked and pushed themselves to get to the point of not only running in the Boston Marathon, but nearly completing it . . . but who didn’t get to. And without regard for their own feelings of disappointment, stepped up to help those who had been injured.

I think of the young boy, Martin Richard, who truly had his whole life ahead of him, but now that life is gone. And his family. A sister whose leg had to be amputated. A mother in critical condition. And a father, running in the race, who is most likely numb with shock.

I think of the others who were seriously injured and I see their pictures in my mind – pictures I wish I’d never actually seen.

And I think, not again, Lord. Please, never again.

Father, I pray that you will heal the bodies of those wounded in Monday’s explosion. I ask you to please heal the hearts of those grieving loss of life and loss of limb. Please comfort those families who are preparing to bury someone they love. Ease the emotional and physical pain being experienced by those recovering in hospitals and provide strength for their families as they support them through the challenging days ahead. Most of all, Lord, I pray that you would show us how to love each other in such a powerful way that it squashes the hate. Teach us how to care about and for those around us, compel us to be compassionate, and show us how to be sensitive to those you place in our paths. May your love, expressed through us, be so powerful, so big, so consuming that it swallows up all anger, bitterness, and hate in the world.

Because hate never wins. Love always does.

Blessings,
♥Rachel

By His Great Mercy

28 Mar

I hope you enjoy this Easter weekend. May your heart be reminded of God’s great, big, ginormous love for you and the promise of eternal life given to us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. – Romans 5:8

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All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. – 1 Peter 1:3-5

Blessings,
♥Rachel

Holy Week Readings

25 Mar

The week leading up to Easter Sunday is different than any other week of the year. It reminds us of heartache and physical suffering, yet culminates with the hope we know because of our Risen Lord.

he-is-risen

[ Free Printable from AKA Design. Click on image to download. ]

I think it’s so important during Holy Week to take a few minutes, set aside the chocolate bunnies and marshmallow Peeps (no matter how much you love Peeps!) for just a moment, and reflect on the sacrifice Jesus made as well as the promise we have because of his resurrection. This week symbolizes sacrificial love and hope for all of us.

To help us focus our minds on the divine nature of this week, here are some brief scripture readings for each day.

Palm Sunday | Monday | Tuesday | Holy Wednesday | Maundy Thursday | Good Friday | Holy Saturday | Easter Sunday

Palm Sunday

Philippians 2:6-11

Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Monday

Isaiah 42:1-4

1 “Look at my servant, whom I strengthen.
He is my chosen one, who pleases me.
I have put my Spirit upon him.
He will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout
or raise his voice in public.
He will not crush the weakest reed
or put out a flickering candle.
He will bring justice to all who have been wronged.
He will not falter or lose heart
until justice prevails throughout the earth.
Even distant lands beyond the sea will wait for his instruction.”

Tuesday

Isaiah 49:1-4

Listen to me, all you in distant lands!
Pay attention, you who are far away!
The Lord called me before my birth;
from within the womb he called me by name.
He made my words of judgment as sharp as a sword.
He has hidden me in the shadow of his hand.
I am like a sharp arrow in his quiver.
He said to me, “You are my servant, Israel,
and you will bring me glory.”
I replied, “But my work seems so useless!
I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose.
Yet I leave it all in the Lord’s hand;
I will trust God for my reward.”

Holy Wednesday

Matthew 26:14-16 – Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus

14 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests 15 and asked, “How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?” And they gave him thirty pieces of silver.16 From that time on, Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus.

Maundy Thursday

John 13:12-16

12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message.

Good Friday

Isaiah 53:1-5

Who has believed our message?
To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?
My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot,
like a root in dry ground.
There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance,
nothing to attract us to him.
He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.

Holy Saturday

Romans 6:3-11

Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.

Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. 10 When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. 11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.

Easter Sunday

John 20:1-9 – The Resurrection

Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed— for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead.

May you have a blessed Holy Week!
♥Rachel

The Thing About Happiness

21 Mar

Yesterday was the International Day of Happiness. (There’s a day for everything, isn’t there?) Not surprisingly, this day devoted to  being happy coincided with the first day of Spring which, in my opinion, is definitely a reason for feeling some happy! Hello Spring!!

joy

On my drive home from work (which offers me numerous opportunities to lose my happy), I thought about being happy – what it means to be truly happy, why some people seem happy and others do not, and how we can get to happy-ville & stay there.

The key, I think, is quite simple. In fact, it’s just three little words: joy. Happiness without joy is shallow and temporary. Something will happen in our circumstances that will change our happiness to sadness, grief, frustration, anger, or a thousand other emotions. Without joy, we can’t retain happiness.

Many people believe the purpose of life is to be happy. You’ve heard the phrases before – you may have even said them yourself:

  • “Do what makes you happy.”
  • “I just want to be happy.”
  • “I’m not happy in this {marriage/job/relationship/city} anymore.”

But the elusive “happy” can be frustrating to capture and even more challenging to maintain. That’s because happiness is a temporary emotion brought on by a positive experience. Without positive experiences, there is no happy.

Joy, on the other hand, is a decision, not an emotion. It is a conscious state of being that we choose to achieve or we choose to avoid.

I’ve realized it’s not happiness we should try to secure, but instead we should work toward living life filled with joy. If we are able to do that, happiness will follow at appropriate times. But don’t be misled, living a joyful life doesn’t mean you have to always smile, be perky, or hum a happy tune all day. On the contrary, a joyful life means that in the middle of the everyday struggles or gut-wrenching pain, we can experience peace and keep resentment at bay.

We can experience joy even when we are not happy.

  • I can choose to be joyful in the face of a cancer diagnosis.
  • You can choose to live with joy while dealing with a personal crisis or heartache.
  • We can choose a life filled with joy, no matter how difficult this season of life may be.

And by choosing joy, we open up the door and invite happiness inside. By choosing joy, we refuse to allow bitterness to take root. By choosing joy, we embrace the good, look for the beauty, and trust that God’s got this.

I know the Lord is always with me.
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.

No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice.
My body rests in safety.

Psalm 16:8-9

Blessings!
♥Rachel

The Elimination of Sorrow

21 Feb

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Oswald Chambers says this in his devotional, My Utmost for His Highest (which, by the way, is one of THE best devotionals ever written):

As a saint of God, my attitude toward sorrow and difficulty should not be to ask that they be prevented, but to ask that God protect me so that I may remain what He created me to be, in spite of all my fires of sorrow.

Ok, let’s take a poll. Raise your hand if this is your perspective on sorrow and difficulty? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Me, either. My prayers almost always sound more like this:

“Lord, please take this from me,”

or

“God, please remove this cancer from my body,”

or

“I’m not strong enough for this, please don’t make me go through it.”

Sorrow is defined as “distress caused by loss, affliction, disappointment, etc.; grief, sadness, or regret.” Not exactly a pleasant definition, is it?

We try with all our might to eliminate sorrow from our lives. We don’t like it, don’t want it, and will implore all of Heaven’s power to keep it from us and from those we love.

But maybe we’re going about it all wrong.

Maybe we need to stop fighting the sorrow, stop running from the pain and just stand strong in the storm.

Consider this. What if the sorrow is meant to refine you? What if the struggle you are facing has a greater purpose? What IF the sorrow you are experiencing is being used to mold you into the person you were born to be?

We all know we cannot escape difficulty, sorrow, grief, sadness, and tragedy. It’s a given and no matter how hard we try to protect ourselves or shield those we love from pain, it will find us.

When we focus all of our efforts and energy on trying to avoid the hardships, we have no energy left to devote to savoring the moments or finding the blessings hidden in the midst of the trials. We lose perspective and are unable to see the beauty in the every day.

I still pray that God would remove every last speck of cancer in my body and keep it from ever coming back, but I pray more often for strength, protection, and courage to face whatever comes my way. We don’t get to chose our battles, but we can chose how we adapt and respond to them. I want to be the person God created me to be. If that means I have to face struggles in order to become that person, then I’ll do it. Not always with a cheerful heart, but with a heart open to the journey I am on.

“Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But this is the very reason I came! Father, bring glory to your name.” – John 12:27-28

Blessings,
♥Rachel