Influenced by Your Surroundings

My Studio Creative Space

This is a little different post for me, but I feel so strongly that many are living with less and less satisfaction and well-being on a daily basis and need some encouragement. I have found that my surroundings make a HUGE difference in how I feel, and how I handle the challenges and disappointments that come into my life. Do you think that your surroundings play a part in how you feel on a daily basis?

Today, let’s talk a little about how your environment impacts you.  I believe, you may understand that you can influence your mood and well-being. For example, rooms with bright light, natural or artificial, can improve depression and anxiety. It can motivate you to action. A room that is cluttered and messy will probably be someplace you will continue to drop things as you come in the room or entry. However, a space that is cleaned and organized, will motiviate you to keep it that way. It will encourage you to have a new habits of wanting to put things away in their place so it stays that way. Let’s take an entry for example of your home or apartment. Does it invite people to come in?  Does it encourage or discourage interaction among family and friends by the way you set up the chairs or furniture in the room you will walk into? Does it encourage people to sit for a spell? Reducing stress or creating stress is also influenced by your feeling of well-being so how it appears when you come can determine your feelings, as well as, your guests. So… we can see by a couple examples, that this it isn’t just what is going on in the inside of you but also what is going around on the outside of you. How you see your space has a great impact how you feel in your surroundings. All this in turn has impact on your psychological health as well.

Think about this scenario, you have dishes in the sink and on the counter from dinner or maybe even a couple of days, and it bugs you to see it before you go to bed, but you don’t feel like doing it. However, doing it makes you feel like you are accomplishing something, and you will feel better waking up to a clean kitchen the next morning. Or, maybe its city life that makes you anxious and you would rather be in the country, even though friends, and even family members, love the hustle and bustle of the city. Maybe you are like me and the ocean is your happy place. I love the ocean and it does it for me every time. There is the place where I get quiet enough to lean in to hear what God has to say to me. The water and nature do that for me. It may be different experiences for you that cause stress or help you dial down. Looking at your surroundings as you read this, is there good light around your home and work space? Do you like what is around you? Do you like how you feel sitting there in that spot? Your mood is affected by that. What about the dynamics of your surroundings?  Do you thrive in high-pressure, or does it make you shut down? Messy work spaces elevate stress and the feelings of chaos. Do you need to attend to that area?

Here is the bottom line…your surroundings are so impactful to how you feel on a daily, or even an hourly basis. You may be in many different environments during a day. But do something about the ones you can control…your own.  Your surroundings influence your senses such as what you see, smell, touch and hear, and even the colors you have in your surroundings. Color can completely change the whole feel of your room or home or space and paint is inexpensive. All of these areas has influence on how you feel. Just like you love to go to the beach and see a lovely sunset, so it is with the feeling of our homes. It welcomes us in with a feeling of belonging. It is a soft place to fall.

Sometimes, our environment and/or circumstances can dictate what we choose to do rather than what we want to do. Your environment is what is important to YOU. So if you look around and see with new eyes what brings you joy and well-being, and also what makes you anxious, then you can begin to take the first step in making your surroundings special. Gain habits that help you keep that environment. Minimize distractions around you whether it is furniture, too much in the room, or messy areas that need to be tidied up. Items you might need to get rid of or share. You know we hear daily how we can change our lives, but we forget that we have a real need to feel content in the place where we live out that life. First let’s change our surroundings where we can so we are more motivated to make the changes in ourselves, to be used of God.

It is a proven scientic fact that when you have things around you that bring you like, or you see things that bring you a feeling of love, it changes you inside…that feeling of contentment. It increases your endorphins. It changes then how you look at life. It helps us enjoy life more. It motivates you without you having to push yourself. You begin to WANT to have it look a certain way because of how it makes you feel. It may begin with the smallest step like changing furniture around, or adding a piece that helps you organize the space. It may be adding a special item to your space. But the change gives you the sense of accomplishment and that one small step is making some progress toward that feeling of contentment and well-being.

I learned this years ago, and have always set the priorities for our home to be in good order where possible. It feels good to have things in place. When I have too much in a room, I tend to think about it and it is stressful to even have the items. So in the last few years, I have been slowly trying to streamline my home and everything in it, so that, I will have a feeling of calm in my home. I love it when people come in and feel comfortable in my home. That is my goal; to make any guest feel welcome.

So let me share with you how I have done that in my surroundings.

  1. I alway surround myself with items I love. I have surrounded myself with family heirlooms, photos that give me good memories, my Norwegian heritage, music, collections, good books, candle light is often seen in my home, and items given as gifts to me. I love to look at them and remember how they fit in my life story.
  2. I have colors I love that brings me joy. I love reflected light of crystals hanging in strategic places to catch the sunlight. I hope to paint the whole condo at some point, but I’m also open to God opening a door for just the right stand alone home too! He works behind the scenes, so I’m ready. But in the mean time, I am making this environment what we love.
  3. I change the look of each home I have lived in. It is important for me to make it my happy place. I spend a lot of time here. Once again, I also like it to feel that way to others also.
  4. I also include things around me that enhance all my senses. For example: I have a wonderful soft, furry rug that is placed by my bed. I love waking up to put my feet on that rung every morning, and to enjoy it at night as I get into bed. Candle light and the fragrances relaxes me.
  5. I almost always change lights in my home to styles I really like. It isn’t that expensive if you shop around, but it sure boosts the well-being factor to see them up in our home.
  6. I’m a vintage gal, so I love old things and the stories they could tell. Some of the stories I know. Others I do not. But, I am the keeper of that secret story.
  7. I live in a condo that is very dark. In the day time, if I don’t have lights on, especially if no sun is out, it is very dark light almost like evening time. That’s hard for me because I love windows and light. So I do whatever I can to make it lighter and brighter with shades up and the right kind of light bulbs in my lights and lamps. Sounds simple but it can make all the difference. Use of full spectrum lighting can also make a big the difference in the lighting of your home.
  8. I changed my whole bedroom around; moved furniture, changed bedding, new curtains on sale, different furniture that fit better with the new set up, added a few pieces that I love to the walls, rugs in the floor, and I have a room I love to walk into.
  9. I’m a fireplace gal, so I often have it on in the mornings and later at night, with my mocha of course.
  10. I burn candles whenever I can. Something about them…and that light. I grew up in a time where many of my relatives when I was a child, used kerosene lamps for lighting, so it has good memories for me too.
  11. My surroundings start with a quiet time in the morning, with my mocha and fireplace burning and devotions. No better way to start my day. When I am feeling good about where I am, I can so feel the work of God in my life. I’m motivated to be a part of what He is doing around me.
  12. I inspire myself by looking at ways to bring the outside inside. I like to spend time on my patio and that is a place we are working this spring. So I will want to see that space from rooms on that end of the home. I love outside lighting also and hope to do that soon on the patio.
  13. I enjoy the BBQ life and do it often all year long. I really enjoying have that good smell going on a super crisp day, knowing I have a good meal planned. I get to enjoy being outside also. God has made a beautiful world around us. Let’s look to the good things we can see and hear in nature because God has given that gift to us.
  14. I spend time doing what I love. Activities such as music, photography, creating items with photography, drinking mocha from my cup collection, and reading to just name a few. So I have spaces in my home where it invites me into that activity. Nothing better than making music and singing to Jesus at the piano.
  15. I have a couple of essential oils I use every night before getting into bed. They relax me and give me that sense of well-being… and sleep comes. It is something I look forward to. A little step that may seem insignificant, but it can be huge to my well-being. I also have a diffuser so I can bring wonderful fragrances in to my rooms.
  16. My husband and I love to go for drives. It is very enjoyable for me to get out and see what I can see. Getting out to in a different environment, can change up an attitude in no time. I will sometimes just get in the car for a ride with my camera to enjoy the beauty around my area. Or as in our case, go to the cabin and enjoy the outdoors, camera in hand. I also enjoy traveling to Norway and seeing my relatives there and learning Norwegian VERY slowly…well more like turtle pace. But I’m learning.

Are you getting the idea that your surroundings are important for all areas of your life? Can you see how you are affected by the lack of any of these things or can benefit from including them in your life? I have been sharing these types of ideas in photos to encourage others to change their surroundings for many years. Some have been inspired and made the changes and are loving every minute of the changes they made. It doesn’t have to be costly because many things I have done are through thrift stores and selling apps or groups. I have found some great items!

It comes back to the big take away…our surroundings most certainly affect our well-being!! Changing our surroundings changes us. It makes us feel like we can tackle our world. Because we are happier, we feel more motivated to make the changes and live with joy. That in turn gives us just what we need to be Jesus to someone else. It’s an exciting way to live. Life is hard at times, and we need need that soft place to fall called “home”.  We need that place we go to for work every day to be as much of a spot to enjoy as we can make it. Even where we eat lunch, if we are at work, can make a difference how refreshed we are going back to it.

Hit the Reset Button in your surroundings and see what you can change to make your surroundings more like a place that brings a sense of well-being to your soul. I believe you will build an environment where God can really grow you in ways you may not have thought of just by making a place for your soul to be content. I walk into the rooms of my home and feel a sense of peace, calm, and contentment. It always makes me smile. It is exciting when you get started and I would love to see what you do. Please feel free to leave your big and little changes in the comments. Start with one step.

The best way forward in our lives is to start back at the beginning…changes in our surroundings.

Until next time,

~JoAnn

 

Advertisement

Where Do You Live?

Where do you live?  No, not physical addresses, but where do you live in your life and choices?

We often times find ourselves living in the past where we remember things we have done that we wished we wouldn’t have, or a sin we feel we can’t be forgiven of, or we can find ourselves living in the future where we dream of how things will be, or what we want or desire them to be.  BUT, we don’t often think about our present moment or day except in terms of a schedule.  How much of your life do you live in the present?  I came across some notes that I had written down when I was studying about circumstances, and how they can affect our thinking, and thus our lives.  I thought I would share some thoughts about that in this post.

We all have a story…the way we live our life, is our story.  It doesn’t always look like we envisioned for ourselves, but it can become more about how you approach living it out.  Gifts to us can come from the hardest places that we find ourselves.  If we are trying to heal from hard circumstances, that healing can move us out to help others.  It gives hope on the other side of our pain, and our hope makes it possible to share it with another.  Don’t be afraid to step forward into that.  With eyes of faith, we can see our script as something that is a part of a bigger story, or part of a bigger picture.  Our current circumstances are not the end; just part of the bigger picture.  Do you know that God is always in the NOW?  And guess what????  He doesn’t want us to miss it!  How much of yourselves do you live in the present?  We don’t want to miss the moments!

It’s true that in looking back we can gain some information for our life, and faith in action can help us rearrange our lives in terms of patterns, or see God’s faithfulness.  It can help us notice what God wants us to see.  But it starts with our thought pattern.  God can give us the ability to see our story in the bigger story; the one that God has for us.  Unfortunately, we don’t get to choose who our parents were, our family, the economics of our family, or where we live(d).  Are we in a thought pattern of wanting a different life?  God really wants us to live the life He has planned for us.  But walking by faith means we are not going to always know the details.  I always liked the idea in the scriptural stories where they gathered stones and built an altar in places of remembrance where God did a great thing.  I thought about making a wall of stones in a small area of my yard.  It would kind of be like a gratitude wall just like I do the gratitude jar that I use.  But God is so good that I would quickly have a stone wall!  I would have to use mine strictly for the BIG things…of course, they are all big things to me!  See my issue???  🙂

However, time can give us a different or re-interpreted perspective on what happens in our lives.  That is always the blessing of a faith walk; spiritual eyes to see.  We have the Holy Spirit to help and guide us in the direction Jesus wants us to go.  Here are some questions to ask ourselves:

  • What about working on re-framing our lives?
  • What about choosing to look into what really makes up our life?
  • Are the above areas in line with God’s plan, or in more in line with our plan, and asking God to bless it?
  • What we think in our head affects the heart, which affects the heart, and makes our habits.  How’s our thought life?
  • Ponder the kind of life we would like to look back on at the end of our life.  Does it look the way we would like it to?

I just got back from a couple of days of road trips for our anniversary.  It is always good to get away from the existing environment and it’s requirements, in order to give our brain a break.  It’s amazing what thoughts and ideas come to us during those times when we let time teach us.  As I contemplated the above notes and what I was writing for this post, I thought it was also important to share how this works out in life as we allow it to be implemented.

I think of my past life with love and compassion for the hardships my parents had as they built a life and provided for me.  You see most of my generations’ parents lived through the depression.  It gave them some unique traits that got hardwired into their lives by their experiences.  We all have been influenced that way.  Some of my generation tried, and are still trying, to outlive that mentality.  My parents were simple in their living; it was to MAKE a living and provide for the family.  Our house wasn’t anything fancy, our cars were mostly paid for, so not new.  My clothes were sewn by my mother or hand-me-down from my cousins.  But as I started to say, many of my generation and forward, look at success as having the brand new home, and a big one, new cars, the best home furnishings, and work 24/7 to have it, by golly.  Where I saw my parent’s generation work hard, but also play hard.  Gatherings of family at reunions, sharing Sunday dinners or dessert together, picnics, and cousins playing together and actually staying in touch as we got older, as well.  So…I look at my past, not as something I have to get away from, but something that I embrace, take all the good from, and implement that into my life.  My past is different from yours.  Granted.  But we all can take what is good, and be thankful for that which is good.  Leave and dump the negative.  We didn’t live in their shoes, and there is something in their lives that made their lives the the way they are/were.  Love them in spite of it.  There are many things I didn’t understand about my mom at the time, but when I look back now and think about it, I now understand some of her life better, how she may have felt, and what made her the person she was.  In my life, I choose to take every ounce of good and create that good in my daily life.  That is something I can do.  And…I keep creating that for myself.  It’s my life’s journey to live it out in such a way, that my family is encouraged to remember what is good, and take that with them however it looks, into their lives.  I want that for all of you who read this blog.  I’m not perfect by ANY means.  I have my struggles too.  However, it never stops there.  If I have a struggle…I take it to the One who does not.  He knows what to do, and will gladly bring it to mind when I need to change up my view.

Here is a photography analysis.  I live a life of “re-framing” or as I like to call it, “re-inventing”.  It’s my daily focus…kind of like a camera taking a picture.  If view is not quite clear, I refocus and then take the picture.  I can change the angle of how I see it in the view finder.  I can decide what to include, and zoom or crop out to exclude what I don’t want.  Maybe I need to shed some more light on the subject to get a better picture.  In other words, I do what I need to do to get the best results.  Do I always get a great capture?  Nope.  I am sometimes in too big a hurry to spend time getting the best photo.  But I can always try it again, and this time, I will know better what to do.  You see, if we look into what makes up our lives, we might find areas that take up our time, but add very little value to the end of our lives.  Because of that, we may not be living out God’s plan for our lives either.  We may actually be living out what we want, and asking God to put HIs hand of favor on that.  Nope.  Wrong way to go about it.  Remember, what we think affects our hearts and what affects our hearts, make up our daily habits.  We need to be watchmen/watch women on the wall of our lives.  Recognize it before it gets to close as to whether you holler out a warning or a hallelujah!  By faith, we can do that.  I like this statement from Anne Graham Lotz, “Faith is not a “gift” that some people have been given and other have not.”   So good.  We all can have faith.  So on the trip in the car, I did some re-framing through faith, and I believe God has given me new direction to take.  It may not be easy, but it will be best.  Knowing God in a deeper way gives us a better understanding of our relationship with Him, as well as, where He wants us to take action.

I am many things…wife, mother, teacher, encourager, proud Norwegian, a proud American, believer in God, photographer, blogger, lover of music and playing instruments…and many more things, yet, I am one person.  We all have facets just like a diamond.  But just like the diamond, all of us make up one beautiful creation that gives off light and reflection of who we are and what we value.  So…ask the hard questions.  We learn from them.  Sit a while and ponder life with sweet tea and time, or coffee and time, and see where God is leading you.  Have a happy journey!

Until next time…

~JoAnn

 

 

Remember to… Stand Up

ebenezers-mug-3

Boy!  Are you feeling the waves of life hitting you today?  I have to say, I sure am feeling it.  So when these kinds of things happen for me, I seek out the things that will bring my heart back into alignment.  What do I do?

  • I start with a mocha in the morning.  img_6696
  • I don’t just drink it from the cup.
    •        I ENJOY the taste of it, enjoy the cup I use, and the place where I am drinking it.  The whole thing becomes an experience.
  • I dial down.
  • I listen for the birds talking.
  • I ask God to give me the perspective I need for my situation.
  • I and The Captain are taking a drive,  which is always a treat in my car!
  • The Captain and I are driving to the ocean today, and that is one place where I can FEEL my rhythm come back.
  • I begin to put hearts in my Gratitude Jar to remember what God HAS done.
  • I ask God to give me the love in my heart that only He can give.
  • I stay in the Word and study on a regular basis.  That in itself, gives me more knowledge and it reminds of how God wants me to live.
  • When I am in the Word, it also keeps my focus in the right place, and on the right things.

img_6687This was challenged this week as it become very apparent that my sweet vintage range is not going to be something that I can keep.  (I am going to sell it though, if anyone is interested.)  So begins our search for a range.  We have looked at so many, trying to find information and make a decision about what would be best for my kind of cooking.  It can be overwhelming.  Of course, money is an issue also.  I’m trying to be gracious about what I get and the money that is spent.  I am also having to get a fridge and so in order to do both, I may have to spend less on my range.  I could feel my attitude tanking a bit after going around to see so many different ranges that I would love to have.  My attitude surfaces: “I mean, how many times do I have to compromise?”  And THEN… the Holy Spirit taps my shoulder and reminds me of what He HAS done:

  • my ongoing faith journey with God
  • the car I drive
  • the car my hubby drives
  • the house I have
  • the extra for some of the work in the house
  • the remodeling I have been able to do
  • the back yard paradise

Aren’t we funny creatures?  We have the waves of life hit us, and we let them come and pull us under.  But really, all we have to do is stand up!  When we do, the waves aren’t nearly as high.  I know many of you are dealing with waves way worse than a decision about a range.  But the premise is the same.  We have to allow God to work.  We can’t sit in the waves, wonder why they are so rough, and why they won’t stop. They won’t.  They may become less ominous, but they won’t go away.  There will be another one.  It is best that we learn how we can stand up against them and move forward, and even away from the big ones.  Let the waves wash away the ugly and take it with.  What comes back is fresh and new.

Getting back to my revelation about what I had been given, there many.  Too many to count.  Then… I have to ask for forgiveness.  Yep. I silently ask God to forgive me, and give me what He thinks would be best for our kitchen.  And as I have done before, I lay it down and ask Him to give me joy; joy that I can even GET a new range and fridge.

ocean-for-two-3I once again heard a song this last week called, “Leave It There”.  Boy!   That is so fitting for me this week.  Take all my burdens to the Lord and leave it there.  So, once again, God knows what the desires of my heart are… He cares… and He will do what is best for me.

And maybe, just maybe, our TV will quit working.

Walking the journey with you…

IMG_0094

 

It’s A New Beginning

IMG_1392-2As I have been planning my new year, I just want to take this opportunity to tell you how much I appreciate your faithfulness in being a part of this community!  Sometimes, I’m not sure if it helps or encourages anyone, but then I will get a message from one of you and it is thanking me for post.  So, as a part of my new year, I will continue to share my thoughts and life with you in hopes that it will bring hope and encouragement to you just when you need it.

It has been an interesting start to my new year  I have been sick since shortly after the New Year.  I spent a week and a half just laying in bed, for the most part.  I tried everything imaginable to help myself get over it rather than getting a doctor appointment, spending the money on a co-pay, and have them tell me, “Just drinking lots of fluids and (take some over the counter thing) get lots of rest.”  So I doctored myself.  Did ok, but my tummy is seriously a mess from whatever it was I had.  The upside?  I can’t eat very much because of the tummy issues, and so I think I am losing some weight!  There IS a silver lining, right?  🙂

But I am excited about 2016 and have a few questions for you:

  • So what does your life look like as you start the year?
  • Are you happy to start something new?
  • Do you feel any anticipation about this year?
  • Do you breathe a sigh of relief that last year is finally over?

IMG_9330Go get your coffee, tea, hot chocolate, put your feet up for a few minutes and let’s chat about this.

What are you thinking as you live out the daily life of 2016?  It’s not about a list of dos and don’ts.  It’s about positive changes.  For me, I remember God’s faithfulness to me last year and all that He did, and I look with anticipation for all He will do this year.  But there is something about thinking of a new year that pushes us to believe that it is going to better than last year.  Really?  So… does that mean you are going to do something different this year in the way you live, the way you think, how you look at your life and circumstances, or trust God MORE than you trusted Him last year?  Because if we don’t change “us” then we don’t change this year either.  We will continue to have the same patterns.  There may be things that iron themselves out, but over all, we are the ones that change how things go for us because we change how we do our life.  We are the ones that choose how we look at things that happen around us.  Not everything happens to us, but it can feel like that sometimes.  I am thankful that I have a new year to change how I look at those times.

Here is what is different for me:

  • Go to God first!  Sometimes in the midst of emotions, we forget.  Prayer is the key even more than last year for me.
  • I have learned that making my life less busy helps me to concentrate more on the areas that I want to improve.
  • It is about looking at what is right, instead of all that is wrong.  I know for myself, I can get into what is wrong and right a book about it.  I don’t want to be an author of that kind of book of life.
  • I will look at what is right and build on it.
  • If I have a hard day, or even a few hard days, it doesn’t mean I have a hard life.
  • Just because things don’t go the way I would like them to go doesn’t mean that it’s going the wrong way.
  • Be IN God’s Word.  Get it down deep in my heart, not just in my head.

Take the walls down.  Lean on people God has placed around you.  Be a part of a community of people who you can go to and feel good about asking for help.  Learn to lean.  It’s ok to call someone and say, “I’m having a hard day and feel like I can’t keep going.  Could you pray for me?”

IMG_1374I have had some hard decisions that have had to be made just in the last couple of weeks.  It has been hard not to be disappointed, or get angry over the circumstances, or feel like I have always had to do things this way.   It would be nice for just once, to have it be different, where what is a problem is never an issue for me anymore.  Been there?  But when I start looking at through the lens of gratitude, things shift and God changes my heart.  I get back up, dust myself off, and say, “Ok Lord.  I don’t know the why, but I know YOU, and you do.  Now, help me, by the work of the Holy Spirit, to remember that the next time I’m a stinker about it.”  It’s like playing a detective about ourselves and asking ourselves the hard questions, but then walking it out when the answer comes.

I am seeking to live well.  I desire:

  • Having good health
  • Enjoying more quiet and reflective time
  • I desire to walk deeper in God’s Word
  • Spend designated time with my grandson
  • Appreciate more and more the nature around me and with my camera to document God’s goodness
  • More community with friends than last year
  • Put more of the music back in my life
  • Enjoy my heritage that God has given me
  • Get a ukulele and learn to play it
  • Live without regrets

_DSF4722-1I have a couple of pages in my little book so far of my goals for this year.  It’s fun to consider the journey God will take me on to enable me to fulfill desires I believe He has put on my heart.  I pray for each post that I write in hopes that it reaches hearts to encourage.  So my desire for you is that you are encouraged not to look at your life as something too busy to implement any changes, but as a new opportunity to live each day in the moment, and totally change your life from something you live each day to something that fulfills you each day!  God bless you to that end.

Walking the journey with you…

 

 

Grace Moments

_DSC0103_1I joined a group a couple of weeks ago that started the study 1000 Gifts.  It has really got me thinking.  That can be dangerous at times, but I think this is a good thing!  What is it about the little things we have around us, that given we would quiet ourselves, we love to enjoy?  For me, I have many colorful glass or crystal pieces in my home that I love to watch the light reflect off of, or through.  I have red crystals that hang from my kitchen window curtain, and it gives me great delight to watch them reflect shimmering lights around my kitchen as the sun hits them.  I look around my home and I have so many memorable items that bring memories of my grandparents, parents, kids and grandchild.  It makes me happy to have them.  I consider each of them my gifts.  I also enjoy being outside to smell the fresh air, or taking a walk again, watching our flowers and trees budding up, or an extra cloudy sky that reminds me that no matter what chaos I may be going through, I have someone who cares, and never leaves me.  You see, I think all of those things are gifts…every day.

IMG_6020As we were reading, all of our moments shape us one way or another.  However, we do have moments that may stand out, and other feelings that we experience.  It might be looking at something that strikes a chord deep in your heart, or even something that was not a very enjoyable experience.  How do I handle a day of disappointments?   When chaos comes, how can I turn it around?   We all have minutes, and they are experienced and lived in different ways.  So I asked myself once again on Friday afternoon, “How do you spend your minutes?”  To be honest, I found that there were certainly areas that I could handle my minutes much better than I do.  There are times I need to stop, and just sit and enjoy what I see or what I hear.  Or maybe, I need to listen to something that is uplifting.  I might need to encourage someone who God puts on my heart.  Maybe, it’s that you have a day planned one way, and something else comes up to side track you.   Maybe God is taking you on a completely different path for the day.  How do you handle those times?

_DSC0100_1

Whatever it may be for you, taking advantage of all these minutes that God gives us, is what it is all about.  I think her study is a prime example of how to learn to see life through a totally different lens; the lens of grace, thanksgiving, and gratitude.  As you may have read in previous posts, I have kept a gratitude jar, and I find that concentrating on the things that are right in my life, or that are good, or that make me happy, is the way to put my focus on the right track.  It might be as simple as a reflection of light as I stated above, or it may be something as sweet as a lunch with a friend.  Maybe the sun shining through your window as you have breakfast.  But it has purpose in your life and God wants to use those gifts to cheer you on, bring you joy, and lift your spirit.

IMG_5978

What is one gift you can think of right now?  Leave it in the comments.  Because I am in this study, there is a monthly calendar on her website that helps you look for those gifts around YOU.  So, for the month of March, or while I’m in this study, I have posted a picture on my Facebook page of three gifts each day of the month of March.  God says, “I AM.”  That means He is present always.  Ask Him to show you.  Try writing the gifts down.  Try the jar.  But DO give it a try.  Living in thankfulness, grace, and joy is like a muscle that needs to be exercised.  Once you do it, it will become a stronger and stronger influence in your life.  It WILL change your life.

Walking the journey with you…

 

~JoAnn

In Times Like These

The Locked Door

In times like these where we have once again endured the plans of Evil trying to focus us on the evil, I find it best to focus instead on what is good!  Does that mean I have my head in the clouds?  No.  I just choose not to listen or watch the events over and over again in my mind.  But instead, watch how people come to the aid of those in need; many running TO the situation instead of from it.  It was great to read the positive comments and messages of others to encourage and lift up the spirits of the people in need. THAT’S what can make all things bearable.

I believe that we can learn many truths in the times of trials that we face, no matter what that difficulty is. If we would remember this same kind of love and encouragement that we give each other during difficult times, and give it out all the time, then maybe our lives would be much better lived.  I love the idea and the opportunity we have with social media to be used as a way to lift each other up and share positive messages. Anyone can be negative. But it takes a special way of thinking to focus on the good. We are all capable of it though with God’s help.  It’s a choice.  I want to read things that make me stand up or rise up and say YES! That’s what I needed to hear!  I agree with that caring message enough, that I am going to pass that message along to encourage someone else. I am going to pay it forward!  I take the focus off myself, and instead, focus on others.  It’s pretty hard to be negative and say encouraging words at the same time.  When we do a good deed, we aren’t thinking of ourselves but of someone else first.  I loved going through the Starbucks line the other day and buying the coffee for the person in back of me.  That’s what it is about for me.

I also think that we see how events are sensationalized during these times.  We need to stop the drama.  Hopefully we recognize it for what it is, and we come back down to the basics of our lives and realize how blessed we are to have the lives we have.  We may not have experienced attacks here, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.  How would we want others to respond towards us in a given situation?  Let’s pray for protection daily over our world.  Now.  We have a responsibility to pray for our nation, leaders, families, and people. Let’s do that on a daily basis, not just when something horrible happens.

So how does this play out for us? We can ask ourselves a few questions:

  • How should I respond to my own responsibility to live out my life differently?
  • What can be learned from this difficult time/season so I may avoid it happening in my future, or at least respond better to it?
  • Am I communicating through prayer to ask Him for protection and guidance every day?
  • What does God want to me to do about it?

Here’s a starting point…

  • Love on your family and those around you every day!  Show them and tell them.  Stay connected with each other.
  • Your friends?  Let them know how much they mean to you!  We aren’t guaranteed a tomorrow.  They are a treasure given to us.
  • Be a giver and share what you have to give; a word in due season, a dinner, a cup of coffee, your time, a donation, whatever it is that God puts before you.
  • Live your life every day LOOKING for what He has for you to do.
  • Live as if it could be your last days, and it will change how you look at EVERYTHING.

I only have to look back at my trip to Honduras to remember there are places that have needs FAR greater than I.  But I can also find those same needs right here in my own back yard.  So, I ask myself, can I do something about it?  If I can, I must.  It’s hard at first to be obedient in everything, especially if you haven’t lived that way before.  But, when you do, you will find it brings you joy and it certainly brings glory to God when I am His hands and feet here on earth.  I reap the benefits, feel better and also feel closer to God. It should never be out of obligation.  But, author Stovall Weems says in his book, Awakening, “If you don’t feel like obeying God, then something is wrong with your feelings.”  Ouch!  But true.

Do you know what happens when we look at life this way?  It eventually becomes a natural way to live. You will have so much more joy in your life every day!  Then, when the hard times come, your bank is so full that you can handle the hard stuff when it comes so much easier.  God tells us that we will have trials so I shouldn’t be surprised when they come.  He doesn’t give us multiple choice in what comes our way either.  Can you imagine what would happen with that?  We are dealing with things that past generations have had to live through, they just didn’t have the media around to follow the stories live-to-the-minute.  I think sometimes we just think because we are the generation living with the most knowledge available to us, that we should have gotten past those horrible times; learned something.  In fact, we have not.  These things are happening to many other people in the world all the time.  We have people being killed for their faith.  We just don’t see it or hear so much about it.   We, like many people in biblical times, have not learned from our past.

My challenge? Spend the next thirty days living differently than you have before in terms of being a great friend, a great parent, a giver, an encourager, and looking for the next good thing you can do.  I know it will change your life!  We don’t need to live as defeated people by the very things going on around us.  We are free to live out our lives for Him. It should make us more determined to live every day to its fullest.

Are you living your best each day? If not, hit the reset button in your life today and start again.  Learn new behaviors.  Break open the doors that have been locked before you or in you!  It will energize you!  I have made this my priority in life to live in gratitude over every little thing that comes into my life.  I see it as good.  Am I perfect to respond all time at the first onset of difficult times?  No, not always.  But a great percentage of the time I can.  The more I live that way, the happier I am.  I can honestly say that I am happy in my life and where God has placed me, as well as, where He leads me.  I hope this has sparked something deep inside you that motivates you to move forward towards this similar life style.  God will always bless it.

Now THAT is worth living for!  Walking the journey with you…

Why Does It Have To Take So Long?

Trust In THe Lord
Trust In The Lord

 

This new year has been monumental for me! I have spent many years praying for certain things to come to fruition and was placed in “waiting mode”.  Been there?  Nothing seems to be going on and you don’t see any answers?  Did you give up?  Think God wasn’t listening? Lose your joy? Get all negative?  You can’t see where it’s going so you aren’t even going to take the next step?

I have seen and read a lot of negative things around me lately.  Lest we forget how blessed we really are, I want to share some personal thoughts with you.  Did you know that sometimes we have to wait for the answers for MANY different reasons? I have found that God sometimes is teaching me things that I need to know during those times when I think He isn’t doing anything. BUT…in reality, He IS doing something! It all depends on whether I am willing to be obedient to what He says to me during these times. I may gripe, complain, get a short fuse, even get discouraged about my whole life, but, all the while, God is working on the solutions. I can’t seem them.  Shoot!  I don’t even know they EXIST yet! BUT GOD…is faithful. He never let’s go of my hand. The only time our lives get in this situation is when we have pulled our hand away. Possibly, we have tried making things happen on our own rather than waiting.  Oops…never a good thing.  But then, when we put our hand in His, all of a sudden, things become a bit clearer. We start to see things through His lens and view-point. We see His hand at work and we can begin to see the wheels turning toward what God has in mind for us.  In my case, I am much more willing to step out with Him.

These last several months, I have seen God…

  • Bring us to a point of being debt free.  We have been praying and working on that for about 8 years.  Something always seemed to happen that kept us in debt. But we began diligently seeking God about this area of our lives, and asked Him to help us, AND we got some Holy Spirit gumption and determination!
  • Bought a house that had lots of work to do on it.   He has helped us accomplish that the work.
  • We sold a house that took many months to sell which meant we were making double payments.  But after many offers falling through, He brought the EXACT right couple.
  • We made additions to our home, that under normal circumstances, would seem impossible.  Yet, God did it.
  • Money unexpectedly coming to us to pay debt down.  Also, through scrimping to make extra payments, somehow the money spread around to all expenses.
  • We were faithful in our giving.
  • We even enjoyed some “get away” times together.

God just did it!  The important part of this whole process was, OUR involvement with Him. We prayed and listened.  We were obedient to say no to ourselves,  in order to say YES to God.  So, He was faithful to honor our needs and some of our wants.  We can’t ask Him to be debt free and not be willing to do our part to get there.  THAT was our process.  We listened.  We learned.  We followed.

Next BIG point?  We thanked Him ahead for what He would do.  We thanked Him for

The Perfect Reflection
The Perfect Reflection

being debt free, we thanked Him for the appliances, we thanked Him for the items we needed to save on daily living expenses, and we thanked Him for the savings that we had.  We thanked Him for how He made the money stretch.  You know what?  He did it over and over again!  We might find just the right thing for our home (the mirror in the picture) and He blessed us with a way to make that happen.

Now before you think it is all about “things”, He will do those exact same things in ANY area of our lives.  AND, He cares about the smallest desires of our hearts.  I love that about the Lord!  In this process, I have learned to love the daily, simple things that come my way and never take them for granted.  I have a Gratitude Jar that I am keeping this year and every time anything good comes my way, I am putting a heart in my jar with the written word of my blessing, and at the end of the year on New Year’s Eve, we will take that jar out and read what God has done.  Anyone coming into my home may add to that jar.  Last week, my grandson asked if he could add another heart to the jar!  Now THAT does a grandma’s heart good!

So don’t let the devil get you all tied up in knots over time lines.  Know that God is working the night shift, and He KNOWS what you need.  But you need to walk in faith “in the mean time” and trust His timing too.  Leave your cares in His hands because He cares about you.  ALL about you!  Don’t put your mind to the negative.  Find the good in your day.  You are alive here on this planet today to enjoy your friends and family and to be a light to others.  Make it count!  Count your blessings one by one so you SEE what the Lord has done!  Remember that song from when you were younger?  It is true.  It will bring joy to your heart.  I promise, and God promises that very thing to us in His Word.  “This is the day that the Lord has made.  I will rejoice and be glad in it.”  THAT is the best way to fight the good fight.  Be a warrior and start wielding the sword of the Spirit!!  Don’t let the evil one whisper in your ear anymore.  Bring out your Sword!

Bottom line?  I have walked this journey with the above ways for most of my life.  I can tell you it works.  Do I get discouraged?  Sure I do!  But not for long, because my experience with God tells me that He knows.  He cares.  He is always working.  What He has done before, He will do again!

Give Him your cares, SO THAT, He can show Himself faithful.  Don’t give in, give it up to Him!  Walking the journey with you…