Are There Voices In Your Head?

I didn’t blog earlier this week partly because I needed to pack for a trip. But instead of completing the packing task and writing this post, I found myself selecting paint and traveling to The Home Depot. What in the world was I thinking? Anyway I painted, attended a bridal shower and am now I’m about to jump into the shower because the wedding is today. No worries Rachel you will finish only a few minor details remain.

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While I painted the other day, I continued to hear this voice in my head accusing me over and over. “Why are you doing this? You realize you should be getting other things accomplished. You need to be writing a blog, why do you plan to do this project today?  You are so random and you’re not very disciplined otherwise you’d be writing.

ENOUGH!  I realized the source.  The voice I had been listening to was the accuser who was trying to make me feel badly about myself. That’s what he does 24/7 he accuses.

I recognized it as his voice and spoke the truth, God made me and He knows how I’m wired. He knows I do random tasks even when it makes no sense. He is delighted to spend time with me!  I asked God, “Do you want to take today to do this with me? He said. “Yes!” So we headed to Home Depot.

I asked God if he’d help me. He said, ‘Yes!” We listen to music and painted the living room. It was a beautiful time. Later I got to thinking about how we are human beings not human doings. I believe we need to have enough time in our schedules to just sit and soak and be in His presence.

I also know that we can’t fight against the way we were wired and sometimes we need to embrace it. God made us each the way He made us so we too can delight in ourselves the way he delights in us.

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I was walking back to my house thinking through what I should try to accomplish when I finished my walk. I really should get a blog post written, but I still don’t have something I desire to write about. I then heard the sound of a car behind me. I was met by a friend who slowed down and said, ” Hey pretty lady!”

I removed my hood and turned my head toward her familiar face grinning at me. She had the window rolled down so we caught up about my upcoming trip and her recent time away in California.

She then asked, ” Hey, would you blog sometime about the four things that you need to do when it comes to listening to voices in your head? What were the four things again? I saw something on Facebook from one of your retreats about it. I still need to be reminded.”

I said. “Really? I was wondering, what I will blog about today? She stressed again, “Seriously, Rachel I so needed this, this past week. Please write about it!”

So here are some of  my thoughts about the voices in our heads. We must realize there’s always an inner dialogue going on. You’ve heard it, right? Yes, there are voices in our head. We MUST learn to distinguish the source of the voices that we’re listening to.

Here are some things to keep in mind. If the voice is the voice of approval it is from God.  If it’s a voice of accusation it is from the enemy. If it is a voice of comfort and confirmation it is from God, but if it is a voice of condemnation it’s from the enemy. If the voice is based on behavior and your past it is from the enemy but if the voice is based on your purpose and your destiny it is from God.

God; Comfort & Confirmation                  Enemy: Condemnation

God: Affirmation                                         Enemy: Accusation

God: Your position in Him                         Enemy: Your Performance

God: Purpose & Destiny                              Enemy: Your Past & Mistakes

So with that in mind realize there could be four voice sources:

  • An Angel
  • Holy Spirit
  • Your spirit
  • An ungodly spirit – or the devil.

So recognize the voice or even straight up ask Holy Spirit, “Is this from you? God is this you?” Remember the voice is NOT from Father God:

  • If it does not bring you encouragement…
  • If it does not tell you, you are loved…
  • If it does not show you your future, which is bright…
  • If it does not have kindness and comfort… Remember, even in correction God is good and kind.

(Scripture tells us, it’s His kindness that leads us to repentance.)

So if the above list is the VOICE you hear- then it is NOT from God. When it comes to that kind of voice you must choose NOT to listen. I’ve told my audiences many times and I will repeat it again in this blog today at the request of my friend. We MUST:

1. Recognize

2.  Reject

3. Repent

4. Replace

It’s pretty simple. When you recognize it’s from the enemy or voice you shouldn’t listen to then reject the thought. then reject the voice and don’t give it any more “head space” or” airtime.” Third you have to think again on a higher level. Think in a kingdom way, re-think on a higher level…in the heavenly places with Christ where we are seated. (Ephesians 2 you have to repent)

BUT REMEMBER you can’t leave the shelves in your brain empty because the thoughts from the negative voice will come flooding back in so you must replace those accusatory thoughts with the truth.

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Let’s use my earlier example of when I was painting the room. I was hearing all the voices about why I shouldn’t be doing this or that. I needed to be writing a blog instead. Blah, blah, blah. I don’t even want to rewrite the garbage thoughts again. I had to silence the voice.  Recognize, Reject, Repent, Replace!

I had to replace it with truth. I had to say aloud, “You know what? This is how I’m wired. Psalm 139 tells me I’m fearfully and wonderfully made. This is the way I roll. I may make my husband crazy, I may drive people around me nuts but I am keeping in step with the Spirit and today this is what we are going to do. We’re going to paint this room!”

I don’t know what you’re battling today. I don’t know whether you’re hearing the voice of condemnation or not. But I do know God is speaking to you and his words over you are words of LOVE. They are words conveying His pleasure with you because He made you. He wants you to know He is proud of you and He sees your circumstances and how you are pressing forward. He wants you to know you are an overcomer. He wants you to know greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. He wants you to know no weapon formed against you will prosper. It may be formed but it will not prosper.

He hopes like nobody’s business you know: you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. He wants you to know He is the friend that sticks closer than a brother. He wants you to know the righteous have NO FEAR of bad news. He wants you to know  He will provide for your every need. He wants you to know you don’t have to dwell on the past. (If you confess your sins He is faithful and just to forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.) He doesn’t want you to dwell on things Jesus paid for on the cross. He wants you to leave the past behind and go forward in faith.

Okay, I guess I DID have something to say today and at the risk of ranting, I just want to leave you with the thought that you too can do the four “R’s”. Maybe it’ll help you to remember Rachel said them and they all start with the letter “R”

  • Recognize
  • Reject
  • Repent
  • Replace

(I wrote about this in my book Lily Pads – Stories of God on Display.  Chapter Two- Identity and the Tooth Fairy.  rachelinouye.org)

Let me lead you in a prayer:

Father, help all of us recognize the voices that are coming in and help us to know if it’s from you or not. Lord, if the voices that we listen to are from an ungodly spirit or the enemy I pray, in the name of Jesus that we would reject them. Lord, we repent of partnering with any thought that is not the way you think about us or our circumstances. We repent of thinking on an earthly level when we are kingdom people.

We repent of partnering with the lies and the negative voice of the accuser. We ask you for forgiveness. Give us the ability to think again on a higher level. Lord, I thank you for your word.  Your word is the truth. We can replace any negative thoughts and lies we’ve believed with positive thoughts of what you think about us straight from your word.

Thank you for what you say about us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. You never make junk and you have started a good work and are faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. We thank you, we thank you, we thank you, we believe you are doing a good work in and through our lives. I pray this, in Jesus name, amen!

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Weary- Give Me Strength!

Today I have been a bit weary. I think I’m just a wee bit tired. I have so enjoyed my time with Ying Ying, but the time and energy spent doing things out of the ordinary and the effort of wanting to be a good hostess took a toll. Don’t get me wrong, I loved doing all the things I have done in the last few days, however they have contributed to my weariness, I’m sure.

Here is a quick glance at just a few of the activities from the last few days:

  • Downtown Milwaukee
  • Historic Lighthouse
  • Milwaukee Art Museum
  • Eat
  • Retzer Nature Center
  • Shop
  • Thrift stores
  • Walk
  • Bible study
  • Eat
  • Eat
  • Life group
  • Eat

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I just returned from O’Hare airport where I dropped Ying Ying off to catch her flight back to China. I grabbed a set of verse cards and sat down outside on the back deck and reviewed some of the promises of God. I melted into the cushion and simply sat for a moment. I was grateful for the safety and for the chance to just catch my breath before I would think about writing a blog post.

I sat there a minute before I realized I was crying. Tears streamed down my face I flipped through the cards with promises of God printed on them. Why so downcast oh my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:11 (Serously, that’s the first card I turned. 

I wiped my tears as I continued to read but the tears kept coming. God what’s going on with me? Am I just tired? Do I miss Ying Ying?  Do I miss my children? Am I going to be okay? I feel so tired and weary.  I don’t have any strength to write a blog post today, but you know how much I like to encourage people. I want to write but I don’t have the energy or the strength.

I had a melt down really. God didn’t demand, “Rachel get it together!” Instead He let me cry it out.  He then comforted me and we had a bit more of a chat. I had wiped off all my mascara so I went inside to grab a tissue because I had the “snotty-nosed, ugly face kind of cry” going on.

When I returned I flipped to the next section of promises of God entitled: GOD WILL GIVE YOU STRENGTH.  BOOM! Then I knew what to share with you today. Let it be for the both of us!

PROMISE God will give you strength:

  • My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness… 2 Corinthians 12:9a

 

  • Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73: 25–26

 

  •  Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Isaiah 40:28 – 29

 

  • For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. 2 Chronicles 16:9a

 

  • So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

 

  • I can do everything through Him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

 

I sure will miss this  beautiful young lady and her precious face.

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I am thankful to God for how relational I am. I am also thankful God gives strength to the weary.  His promise to me was fulfilled. I started to write, went on a walk, attended a meeting, finished this blog post all after the earlier melt down.  I believe God will give me continued strength and rest. He promises to do it. Let it be an encouragement for you as well. God will give you strength.

 

Seeing Through The Lens Of Another

My husband’s second cousin came to visit us from Wuhan, China. She secured her visa and flew into O’Hare airport last week. It has been delightful to meet Ying Ying and see things through her eyes. It’s been interesting for me to answer her questions as she compares her life in China to mine here in the States. Ying Ying speaks English well and I get a kick out of when she really agrees or wants something, she simply uses one word emphatically, “YES!”  She enlightened me about my own surroundings, family, friendships and marriage. Here is a bit of our few days and weekend endeavors:

Some of the things that she wanted to see and do were not exciting really. She told me right away, “I just want to visit you and Michael and see your life and the regular things you do.”

She arrived and we headed to the Willis (SEARS) Tower for a bit of sight seeing. She loved it and paid a boat load for their tourist photographs as a treasured memory. She couldn’t be dissuaded.

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While she was still in China, I told her via a FaceTime conversation, “Ying Ying as soon as you arrive I have to leave to travel to Iowa for a bridal shower for my nephew’s fiancé. I don’t want to leave you here by yourself. Would you like to come along?” (I explained a bit about the American tradition to SHOWER the bride before her wedding day.)

“Oh, yes I have heard of that. I would love to go to American bridal shower with you! I would like that very much.” She smiled and nodded excitedly. So that is what I planned even though I knew she might be dealing with jet lag. I wanted her to meet my sisters and my parents, visit an Iowa farm and experience a bridal shower too.

As we passed the outlet mall on our way to Iowa, we stopped quickly. She had expressed interest in getting some gifts to take back to China with her. We spent so much time in the chocolate shop. I didn’t mind, we got free samples of truffles! It was fun to see her make her decisions, compare prices and assert herself with the sales clerk.

She bought so many things I hope she will be able to take everything with her on her return trip back to China. The two bags were full and heavy. Ying Ying was giddy with excitement and even found some special chocolates for her daughter’s kindergarten classmates.

“Oh, I’d like to buy some more of these please. She counted them out as the salesman waited while she made her final selections for gifts to bring back to China. I had fun watching her generosity and excitement. I watched her compare prices on the web. She was delighted by her deals. Standing in the outlet with her gave me a new vision for things we may take for granted here.

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“Auntie Rachel, let’s get a photo where we see the face of that man making the Lindt Chocolates please? I’d like it better to have his face in the photo.”
“Okay, sure! That would be good.” I concurred.

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I had to reign her in a bit at another store. “We need to get moving Ying Ying, in order to make our over five-hour drive and still help with the preparations for the shower.”

“Oh, okay I’d like to help you.” she agreed.

I had the trip planned, but I did NOT plan the warning light on the dashboard of my car. Nonetheless it did, so I stopped and tried to figure things out at the gas station. I couldn’t even open the hood of my car, even though I have done it before.  I laughed at myself. She opened the glove box and we read up on the warning light that had illuminated.

Ying Ying looked at me and asked, “Does Uncle usually take care of the car issues for you?”

“Oh, yeah! I am blessed and pretty pampered when it comes to the way he cares for me.” I answered.

She said, “I can tell he really loves you. You know. I can tell you love each other. He told you today when we left your house he would miss you and I could tell you will miss him too. You both hugged each other and say kind things.”

I was a bit puzzled. I thought, Yes of course I will miss him and he will miss me while we are apart. (Ying Ying elaborated more about some marriages in China and her observations of them over the years and the isolation that happens over time.)

I called the local Volkswagen dealer. I was delighted to find out we could get my car looked at in just moments. While at the dealership she was so impressed with people’s kindness I received and the warm welcome everyone gave us.

“I think people are happy in their work here in America.” She commented.

I had some work done on my car but I’m not sure she even remembered it. Jet lag kicked in and she slept during most of the time.

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She was Zonked! I texted my husband during my car dilemma and he advised me and enjoyed the photos I sent as we went about our day. We were back in the car and ready to head down the highway for the last three hours of our journey to my sister’s farmhouse. I wondered if she needed anything.

“No, I’m full from lunch and I don’t need to use the bathroom.” She assured me.

We were off! And a moment later she was OUT.

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She was delighted to meet my sisters and parents and it was sweet to have her chat with women at the shower too. She was taking TONS of photos and sending them back to China. Ying Ying had a selfie stick that responded to a voice command to snap the photo. We heard her over and over say “Ceeensaw!” And the shutter would snap.

I took a few photos of the shower too.

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We had a great time together and were invited out for dinner by my parents and we had, wait for it… Chinese food. Ying Ying thought her food was delicious and especially liked how kind the chef was. We met him during our dinner. He is a friend of my parents and they frequent his restaurant often.

As we finished our meal, we all thanked my father for the wonderfully fiiling and delicious meal. “Thanks Dad!” I said.

“You bet!” he smiled in my direction. “It was fun, always a good time.”

Ying Ying walked into the kitchen, pushed the swinging door open and loudly proclaimed, “Excuse me! I’d like to talk to the chef. I just want to thank him.”

“He’ll come out again in just a minute the waiter assured her.

When he emerged Ying Ying said. “I just want to tell you how happy I am to be in your restaurant and how honored I am to have you care for me. Thank you for the special sauce it is just like I have in China!” She bowed.

I was touched by the way her gratitude was apparent to us all.  I love and adore my parents. Fresh eyes on them and their spirits was a wonderful perceptive. She commented, ” Auntie Rachel, your parents are so kind to me. I feel loved and they listened to me.”

I agreed. I said,” They are the real deal. They truly love and care for people with God’s love and they want the best for everyone.” She smiled and nodded at me and stared into my eyes with her black ones.  Then Ying Ying concurred with her typical emphatic response that I learned to love. She simply said, “YES!”

 

 

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Can You Sit Or Do You Flit?

I’ve been busy lately. I painted and redecorated my kitchen so I was on my feet constantly. I enjoyed a daily walk too. So at the end of the day my feet have been on FIRE. “Yeowza! My feet are killing me!” I exclaimed.

I sat down on our love seat and rolled my feet across a cold cylindrical water bottle I grabbed from the refrigerator to extinguish the burning pain. (my cousin shared this little trick from her podiatrist) ” Aw, that’s much better!” I sighed.

I popped back up again, shifted a small potted succulent from one side of the counter to another and stood back to decide if I liked the look when I heard my husband say, “Rachel, Stop flitting! Come sit down!”

He knows me well, that’s what happens after thirty-three years of marriage, I guess.

I do scurry and often hurry or sometimes even shuffle in my slippers all around our house. Back and forth and around and around I go! I’m like a wind up toy that spins and bumps into things and backs up and goes about it again.

“Come sit down.” It’s an invitation to rest, take a load off and relax. Is relaxing and resting hard for you? Can you sit or do you flit? I find it interesting how we are often more aware that our phone battery needs to be charged than when we ourselves need charging!

What is true in the natural is true in the spiritual too. When I sit down it demonstrates I am able to rest. God set up and modeled so well that we work for a time and then we need to REST.

That is what the Sabbath is all about.

I’ve been resting and I’ve been “soaking” for awhile. It is a way for me to cease striving and just BE! I select some soaking worship music, close my eyes to eliminate distractions, think about God and let him love me.

It’s like the way meat marinates in a sauce…instead I sit and be still and “marinate” in the presence of God. I’m really in the practice stages of soaking but I love it. Graham Cooke says, “Our rest is a weapon against the enemy.” I love that realization.

I joked the other day saying it is good for me to paint my finger nails before I soak. Then I’m forced to sit because I HATE to gunk up my nails and I know it is so important to get alone with God and be still.

Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)

Noise and constant motion can be a major area of stress in our lives. We crave quiet even though we continue to to flit and move and make noise. Instead we must carve out time for rest. Just sit, don’t flit.

Jesus has an awesome invitation for us:

• “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

In some ways my feet hurting has been a good thing because it has also afforded more times for me to stop flitting and sit down and rest with God.

What is your normal mode of operation? What are the rhythms of your days and your week? Have you ever practiced soaking with God? I highly recommend it.

Get What You Pay For

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Story One:

It was a blustery Sunday. Not a typical spring evening at all. We were in the middle of our painting project and had finished the first coat of paint throughout the entire area. We felt a HUGE sense of accomplishment and we were hungry.

“Who’s hungry? Janet are you getting hungry?” I asked a friend who had come to assist my husband and me in this kitchen project.

“Sure! I could eat.” She responded. Michael placed an order for our favorite things we often get and some of her desired choices as well.

As we unpacked the bags of take out chinese food, my husband set each carton on the counter and we noticed that one of the dishes we ordered was missing. We both looked inside the bag as if expecting it to suddenly appear.

“Oh bummer, they forgot to include my order of mei fun!  I think I heard you ask for that dish.” I affirmed him. “Look on the receipt it’s stapled to the bags. Did we pay for it?” I inquired.

“Yep! It’s listed right here!” He insisted. “I’ll call back and have them send the delivery guy back out. I’m sure they’re swamped on this snowy night.”

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You should get what you pay for, right?

Story Two:

I was privileged to stay in a beautiful friend’s condo in Door County, Wisconsin for a girlfriend weekend away. We laughed, ate, read, slept, watched a movie, led each other in a time in God’s word and of course, shopped. We hit some of our favorite boutiques, the candy store, the local consignment shop and a few other highlights along the way. When we had seen enough or had spent our cash we looked at each other and said, “Ya ready to go home? Are you finished shopping?”

As we returned to the condo, we parked in the driveway and unloaded our treasures.  I immediately glanced in each of the shopping bags to see which ones belonged to whom.

“Okay, this one has the towels in it. That’s mine. Here is Jan’s jelly she purchased at the first place we stopped.” I pulled a few bags closer from the back of her SUV and peered inside. “Who bought this?” I asked pulling out the contents for a brief inspection and identification.

“Oh, that one is mine!” Jeanne acknowledged her treasure she had nearly forgotten.

It took just a few more minutes to sort all the bags then we gladly marched back into our cozy “home” for a brief rest before dinner.

As I pulled out the bags I remember thinking. You would never take a bag that belonged to someone else. It doesn’t belong to me. I didn’t pay for it. You should get what you pay for, right?  

SO Jesus should get what he paid for, right?

HE paid for all our sin, all our disease and all things that weigh us down and burden our lives. He even invites us to come to him. and give him our burdens and He will swap our burden for his. HIS BURDEN IS LIGHT!

Do you carry a load of regret, mistakes, sins, shame, condemnation, anxiety, guilt or sickness? Don’t carry these things around with you. Jesus paid for it and he wants it back. It’s not for you to carry. HE paid for it … It belongs to him now and he should get what he paid for. Give it back. Don’t take it, it’s not yours to own or lug around. Just the way we wanted our full Chinese take-out order and I wouldn’t take a shopping bag from the trunk if it wasn’t mine.

I love the old hymn, “Jesus paid it ALL.”

Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.

The modern hymn says:
“Oh, praise the one who paid my debt, who raised this life up from the dead.

I’m quite certain Jesus should get his full reward for the price He paid. So, if He purchased my life and yours, we should give him all of it and stop carrying around anything he already purchased.  Our role is to trust Him and respond with gratitude. I believe Jesus should get his full reward for what he paid for.

  • Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5 (emphasis mine)

 

  • I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.  Galatians 2:20-21  (emphasis mine)
It is very personal. Do you sense it? It is marvelous to think of what He has done for you and for me. Jesus paid it all.

 

Choice Overload!

I grabbed the car keys, my purse, sunglasses and bolted to the paint store to purchase my final selection of wall color before I changed my mind again. JUST GO GET ONE! 

The decision of selecting a paint color for the kitchen paralyzed me and indecision had become my friend.  I’d painted the kitchen cabinets early last summer, with the help of my honey, but now it was time for the walls.

Part of the problem of starting this project was I know painting the kitchen will cause a domino effect throughout the ENTIRE house. That’s a good thing of course, but it all requires decisions, time and resources as well.

“Well, our ceilings really need to be painted before we even begin with the walls Rachel.” My husband commented, “So let’s start there.”

“He excitedly climbed his new ladder and began to tackle the job. I love the way he attacks things and sticks to it. It was late at night when he began so he had to stop before he would have liked. More work is still required on that front.

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I’d been mulling over the decision of color choice for a few weeks now.  In the most recent days I have kicked it into gear. I have:

  • Selected multiple color swatches
  • Solicited advice while attending the Home and Garden show.
  • Driven to a friend’s house to look at a color she recently used.
  • Received a partial paint container to “TRY IT OUT.”
  • Marked the backs of paint chips with notes.
  • Taped up colors on the cabinets and watched for changes throughout the day.
  • Asked for advice and polled colors used from my sister and multiple friends I trust.

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Just this morning I called and dear  friend and said, “I need you to walk me off the ledge about something quite shallow compared to some of the things you deal with. I know this  is a first world problem, but I want your advice on a paint decision for my kitchen.”

“What cha thinking?” she asked.

” I know the rage is grey with white. But I’m pretty sure I want just a white. You know how ridiculous it is to select from the whites. It’s like choice overload, right?” I sighed.

“I’ve got a color that may work for you let me text you its name and brand when I get home. We need to talk later and just catch up.”

“I know, I really appreciate you taking my call to talk through this.” (She knows I’m a verbal processor and she listens well.) “Sounds good. Love you, Bye!” I hung up.

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I have had more paint chips taped to my white cabinets in the last few days than I care to tell you about. My poor, patient husband, I’m sure he didn’t know what to do with me. I would ask, “Hey, honey look over here. What do you think about this color?” Then I’d run over to a different area in the room with the same color for point of reference and comparison. “How about in this light, do you like it?” I’d ask.

” Mmm, too dark.” He’d chime in.

I’d then whip out another chip and compare it. “How ’bout this one? I really like this BUUUUUT it’s a little blush colored. Maybe this one? Is it a little too blue? Here, now this one has warmer undertones. Nah, it will to end up looking a little yellow, I think.”

Michael smiled at me, probably thinking,  JUST CHOOSE ONE!

I stopped at a paint store and brought home even more choices of  grays and whites. I was glad I could rule out so many immediately as I stood in the kitchen.

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After all that agonizing about a color… should it be gray, would beige look good? I’m not sure if I will paint the wood work yet.  I better make sure I like it either way. Trim painted or not! FINALLY,  I selected a paint color!

Will wonders ever cease?  Are you ready? Wait for it. It’s called CHALK DUST. Perhaps my past teaching days contributed in the color choice. I know you’d laugh if you saw it.

So after I made my decision, grabbed my stuff and drove to the hardware store, I waited patiently as my first gallon was shaken in the machine. The can was carefully pried open by the precious, helpful, young woman who assisted me. We both peered into the can as she released the lid to reveal the color. We looked at each other. Simultaneously we smiled then blurted out, “It’s…white!”

She bagged my paint tray liner and a couple of paint sticks, “It’s always a good idea to give it a stir! There you go,” She handed me the bag. “Have a good one!”

I drove straight to a Starbucks drive-through on my way home and I treated myself.

A voice came across on the speaker. “Welcome to Starbucks! What can I get for you?”

“Hi there, I’ll have a grande, decaf, coconut milk latte, with two packs of honey please.” I smiled at the menu board.

As if I thought the decision making process and having chosen a paint color was worthy of some sort of celebration, I sipped my coffee and drove away, pleased.

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“Let the project begin!”

Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. Proverbs 16:3 NIV

The Futility of Worry

I felt anxiety bubbling up with a threat of worry about to come over me. It wanted to wrap me in its unknowns like a cocoon. Have you experienced it? Let me state from the start that I am not a typical worrier nor am I plagued with anxiety.

My concern, however, was about the upcoming visit by my parents and my sister and brother-in-law. The many logistics that could potentially be a concern, but I was equally delighted to have them visit the weekend of my son’s birthday and also for Easter.

During a walk with a friend we prayed about all the logistics. I admitted. “I know it’s going to be fine, but this is the first time I’ve had my mom here since she is using a walker for stability.

I hope she can navigate all of the steps in my home and get in and out of the restaurant and our church on Easter morning.”  Blah, blah, blah. I rattled on for a bit then said, “Let’s pray about it. I know it will work out.”

We prayed about my family coming and the overall visit. There were many moving pieces to the weekend. I was slated to sing for the services which meant rehearsals and added time away.  I would also lack time to fully prepare Easter dinner. We also planned to meet at a local restaurant to celebrate my son’s birthday on Good Friday together.

Even though we had prayed about it, my mind looped over the logistics. I mentioned worrying about my mom’s mobility to my son when my daughter-in-law said, “Oh, there is underground parking and the elevator is right by the restaurant. You can park there, take it up and be right at the entrance of Cafe Hollander.”

“I didn’t know that. Wow! Okay, I’ll do that, thanks.” I said.

Between when she mentioned the helpful information and the time of the actual event my mind was concerned about these things:

 SPECULATIONS & WORRY

  • forecasted to rain
  • never been to the parking lot nor used the elevator
  • wait time at the restaurant, the last time was 90 minutes
  • standing for a long time waiting for a table – will my mom be okay?
  • getting to our table with my mom’s walker- will we get through?
  • arrival time to meet the my husband and our children.

I once heard Pastor Bill Johnson ask his congregation this, “You know the verse- Be anxious for nothing? Well, everything I was ever anxious about WAS nothing.”  (Meaning it NEVER came to be…It was nothing. Never an issue-came to NOTHING! It’s a bit of a play on words but I liked it.)

That is my testimony too. I was concerned about everything. BUT my anxiousness was FOR NOTHING! Instead, This is the way it panned out.

REALITY & FUTILITY OF WORRY

  • It did not rain
  • drove directly to the well-lit underground parking
  • parking – first handicapped space.
  • the elevator – directly in front of us.
  • arrived at the hostess station – seated immediately.
  • received a text from my kids be there in ten.
  • rode the elevator again to get to our table – upper level.
  • settled in – no problem getting through with the walker.
  • my son and his wife arrived – only moments later.
  • my husband made it safely on his motorcycle, he came in with a grin on his face and a kiss for me!

My anxiousness was for NOTHING! I’m NOT kidding, everything about that evening was accomplished lickity-split, easy as pie, smooth as silk and slick as a whistle! My…BE ANXIOUS was for absolutely NOTHING!

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

I like the way the New Living Translation states it:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

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This is just one tiny snippet of the way my Easter weekend was divinely orchestrated and completely blessed. I could go on and on about Saturday’s events and Sundays too, but that’s for another blog, I guess. I saw God come through above and beyond all I could have asked or imagined. He is so faithful and He promises to do it. (Ephesians 3:20)

I wanted to remind myself and you of the futility of worry. Yes, we may be tempted to worry or be anxious. God knows that. It’s probably why he commands us not to. He cares about us too much to waste our time. Worry is a time EATER! I fully believe he cares about every little detail in our lives and delights to go above and beyond what we could ask or imagine in all the areas we bring to him.

So as the verse says: “Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians 4:6a

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Father God, Help us to see the futility of worry, anxiety, fear and distraction. Help us to see how you are active in the details of our lives. Thanks for who you are and how much you love us. You are such a faithful God. Help us to be anxious FOR NOTHING! In Jesus name, Amen.

Consider these words of Jesus. “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” and later he says. “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”  Matthew 6: 27, 34

 

 

Life like a children’s story

When my kids were young we often read them children’s books one of our favorites was, If you Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Mumeroff illustrated by Felicia Bond.  The premise of the book is described on the inside cover of the book this way:

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(If a hungry little traveler shows up at your house, you might want to give him a cookie. If you give him a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk. He’ll want to look in the mirror to make sure he doesn’t have a milk mustache, and then he’ll ask for a pair of scissors to give himself a trim.…

The consequences of giving a cookie to this energetic mouse run the young host ragged but young readers will come away smiling at the antics that tumble like dominoes through the pages of this delightful picture book. HarperCollins Publishers.)

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  • I cannot tell you how much the energetic and distracted mouse reminds me of myself!   Like today, a day set aside to write, I tried to clear my distractions, but before I sat down I did these things and more:

 

  • 6 am coffee date- girl friends
  • breakfast with my husband
  • time in the word with my honey
  • made the bed
  •  phone conversation with my son
  • 3 mile prayer walk with friend & dog (See blog post Pick and Save)
  • made lunch
  • cleaned the kitchen 
  • soaked in God’s presence listening to instrumental worship music
  • found some ice-cream to eat in the frig
  • started at load of laundry 

I try to clear my distractions so I can focus on the task at hand. BUT it never really works completely. The scenerio falling dominoes that If You Give a Mouse a Cookie talks about could play out in my life this way.

If Rachel takes a walk in order to expend some energy before she sits down to write her blog. She may return from the walk thirsty. If Rachel drinks lots of water she is going to have to use the bathroom to relieve her full bladder, when she is in the bathroom she’ll notice the laundry basket is getting full so she’ll go start a load of darks. While she is in the laundry room she’ll notice a… You get the picture. This was me today. No, no, the truth is, this is me EVERY day.

Years ago, I admitted my constant struggle to focus to a friend. I joked a bit as I told her, “SueAnn, it can get pretty bad. So, for instance, if I want to clean my family room, I have to chant, ‘stay in the family room, stay in the family room, stay in the family room!’ repeatedly. Otherwise I’ll see something, like a fork that belongs in the kitchen, but when I go to the kitchen I’ll see a few dishes and start to wash them instead of returning to the family room to pick up the toys and vacuum the carpet.

So I out smarted myself. I put a laundry basket near the exit of the family room. Then if I was tempted to leave I would just drop whatever I found from a different room in the basket instead of exiting the room-otherwise, who knows when I’d return to finish vacuuming!”

She reassured me, “Rach, You crack me up! I get-cha, I find myself doing the same thing sometimes, so I’ll try it.”

After all these years, I have learned to accept the way my brain works and the amount of things I accomplish in a given day. I just do NOT get them done in a sequential order at all.  I may drive an observer nuts who is trying to track me or a person working alongside me. I used to get so frustrated at myself and now I have realized it is the way I am wired and I appreciate the way God made me. I a fearfully and wonderfully made-His works are wonderful I know that full well.  So I roll with it!

When I have to, I can stay on task.  I mean seriously, I am able to drive and get from point A to point B so I know I can do it. I can maintain a conversation with people and do accomplish quite a great deal in a day.

But accomplishing tasks is not all we’re made for, right? I remember a phrase my father would quote from a colleague  of his, “Do! What do you mean, what do I do? Why do I have to DO anything? I’m a human being, NOT a human doing!”

Take that comment for what you will, but sometimes it is important to clear the tasks the  TO-Do lists and just BE. This has been one of my actual tasks this week. in light of this being Holy Week, I have tried to slow my  pace and not overload myself so I have time to reflect on the events of the last days of Jesus life.

I have the privilege of singing for the Easter Services and because of that my schedule is pretty full. I am not adopting shame over my failed attempts to “BE” more than “DO”, but I am aware of the continued desire to practice the presence of God in the daily life I live and clear my mind of distractions and stop some of my tasks in order to not be run ragged by the life I’ve chosen to lead.

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This is my prayer for myself and for you.

Father God, you made me and love me. You know how I am wired and what I’d like to accomplish and what I feel needs to get done each day. Thank you for ordering my steps along the way. Thanks that I can keep in step with your Spirit.

You are good and I am incredibly grateful for this Holy Week, the cross of Jesus Christ and the victory you won over sin and death. I am so grateful for empty tomb and the resurrection power you’ve given me to live my own beautiful and easily distracted life. Thank you for life eternal. Thank you so much, thanks! In Jesus mighty name I pray, Amen.

 

 

The Struggle and Ordered Steps

I was all bundled up with double mittens, my hat and a parka. Yep! That’s my style. I hate to be cold.wylhxlteqigsu0ouzfwua.jpg

As I walked briskly along, I chuckled to myself because I spied a young man running towards me with shorts on!  He also wore a tight long-sleeved running shirt and his baseball cap backwards. His cheeks were flush. He nodded politely and sprinted past me with his dog on a leash running beside him.

“Hello.” I said.

Burr! He makes me cold just to look at him. But I’m finally beginning to warm up. No, I am actually getting hot the farther I go in all these clothes! I have to unzip my coat a bit.

I was nearing the end of my walk, when I saw a car slowing down. I glanced to the left and I realized it was a precious friend of mine. FunnyI was thinking about her earlier! She lowered her window.

“Hey, Girl!” she said.

I walked from the sidewalk into the street where she had pulled over and stopped.

“Hi friend!” I said. “I’ve been thinking about you. Congratulations!”

“Aw!  Thanks. The new baby and new mama are doing well.” She responded with a grin.

We chatted about the delightful new grandbaby in her life and about some of the struggles she’s facing too. Sensing both her joy and concern, I said. “Hey, let me pray for you.”

She sighed. “Oh, Thanks.”

I reached inside her car and placed my hand on her shoulder. Who knows what I prayed. I don’t really remember. I do know the Holy Spirit did the praying on her behalf. We’ve become trusted friends and prayer warriors so I added my own weighty concerns to the prayer. I knew she would be okay with it. She would agree with me in prayer and she did.

“AMEN!” she said.

Just before she drove away, she sat back in her seat, exhaled and said, “Well this was a God ordained moment in my day, I’ll tell you! I sure needed to pray like that today.”

We smiled at each other. “It was so good to see you.” I waved as she pulled away.

Man! That was great fun to meet right here on the road. She has the most beautiful and twinkly eyes ever! I am delighted! God you amaze me!

God, we are both facing trials that are developing a new level of trust and dependence on you. We’re surrendering the struggles and submitting our wills to yours. We agree your way is best. We’ll keep praying and trusting. Thanks for hearing us.

Is the struggle real for you today? Perhaps it concerns:

  • a child
  • an illness
  • a job loss
  • some legal entanglements
  • an uncertain future
  • a financial deficit
  • your spouse

Know that God knows what you are struggling with today and he hears your prayers. I know God heard our prayers there at the side of the road because He promises to hear our prayers:

  • The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry. Psalm 34:15
  • Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. Isaiah 65:24

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Sunday is Palm Sunday and I thought about how not too long after His triumphal entry, Jesus submitted to the Father in the garden of Gethsemane. And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed saying, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39

I am amazed by the way God ordered my steps.  I know we were both on God’s mind (the truth is we always are) and he brought us both down the same road at the exact same time because He knew we both needed it. The struggle is real. The weight can be lifted and He orders our steps. I so am amazed and grateful.

The steps of a man are established by the Lord when he delights in his way; Psalm 36:23  

 

 

Simple yet Profound

I turned the door knob and opened my bedroom door this morning.  A bit surprised, I was immediately and delightfully hit by brightness. So much light streamed into my kitchen windows. The sunshine was like a congenial greeter at a fancy hotel welcoming me to a brand new day.  Aw! It’s a beautiful day. I’m a huge fan of light and sometimes it’s the little things that help us enjoy the journey, right? This was true for me today.

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Here are a few simple things which filled me with joy today:

  • Waking up from a great night’s sleep in a bed with newly changed clean sheets. (Heavenly)
  • Eating a piping hot blueberry waffle made by my honey! (Delicious and thoughtful)
  • Breakfast enjoyed together with him and not alone. (Important)
  • The crisp March air filling my lungs as I walked outdoors with a friend. (Invigorating)
  • Praying as we walked and enjoying God’s presence. (Vital)
  • A friendly reminder text on my phone “Good morning Ms.Blogger today is blogging day!” (Needed)

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As I started to write today, I had so many things in mind and I couldn’t get my mind to land on anything. Then when I finally sat down to write all thoughts and ideas that had been ping-ponging around in my head vanished. “POOF!”

Shocked by my mind’s completely blank canvas, I sat.  What? My mind is NEVER blank. I’m always thinking about something. Why am I at a loss for words? Well, Rachel if  you don’t know what you’re thinking how are you going to articulate any thoughts to anyone else?  Oh, just grab the laptop and get started anyway. 

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I opened my laptop and entered the password, but something caught my eye beyond the screen. I saw a small stack of verse cards with a green bow tied around them. These verse cards we had used when our three children were tiny. I found them in a cabinet months ago and have used them from time to time. I flipped through a few again today. Maybe I was stalling or looking for inspiration. I ‘m not exactly sure. But I landed on one. It hit my spirit today.  It was a zinger!  In quietness and trust is your strength.

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This set is called “Foundation Verses” It contains a note to the parents on the first card. Here’s part of the note:

(Children are never too young to begin memorizing Bible verses! Although their minds may not understand every word, our prayer is that their spirits will be touched. As their life experiences add to their understanding, these verses will come to mean even more to them. Foundation Verses are intended to be used with preschoolers but may also be used by others. These verses have been chosen for the basic truths they contain. God bless you, David and Sally Michael.)

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Sometimes it’s the little things that matter. These simple truths are so important not only for the preschooler but to ME. They may be short enough for the pre-schooler to memorize but that doesn’t mean they are any less profound. (As their life experiences add to their understanding, these verses will come to mean even more to them.) That sentence in the note to parents rang true in my mind. It was incredibly impactful to me.

My life experiences have taught me the importance of these verses and do mean so much to me. This is exactly the lesson I am learning. I’m learning to trust God in many situations and quietness is a great companion for trust.  In quietness and trust is your strength. Isaiah 30:15

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 Here are a few “Foundation Verses” I’d like to share:

  • The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 18:10

 

  • And do not forget to do good and share with others. Hebrews 13:16 a

 

  • What is impossible with men is possible with God. Luke 18:27 * I needed this one too!

 

  • I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. Philippians 411 b

 

  • This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

 

  • Every good and perfect gift is from above. James 1:17

 

And I’ll repeat and conclude with the simple yet profound verse I needed today:

  • In quietness and trust is your strength. Isaiah 30:15

 

Maybe you needed one or more of these above mentioned foundation verses today. Select one and say it aloud because as I mentioned in last weeks blog post, it’s good to talk to yourself.

What verse or passage has been helpful to you recently? Do share!