Freedom Friday: The Reality of Freedom

Yesterday, I read this, God’s Word through Isaiah (44:21-22):

“Pay attention, O Jacob,
for you are my servant, O Israel.
I, the Lord, made you,
and I will not forget you.
22 I have swept away your sins like a cloud.
I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist.
Oh, return to me,
for I have paid the price to set you free.”

The price has been paid. The cross is empty.

I keep telling you all that this season has been so challenging. I’m starting to think maybe all seasons are challenging, in their own way.

So many things are uncertain. No steady jobs, our home back in Boston still unsold, my father passing away, no beds or dressers or couches (but we do have a kitchen table!).

I’ve taken my father dying especially hard. I suppose that’s within the realm of normal. I’m not even sure during this time I’ve had the faith of Mary or Martha, as shared in one of my favorite Biblical stories (John 11). They struggled to see God’s power and promises through their tears of grief. While Martha stated that she believed Jesus could do anything, her words showed the unbelief that still lived in her heart.

When Martha first saw Jesus:

“If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus said Lazarus would rise again:

“I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

And when Jesus asked that the stone be moved:

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

And yet, she believed in the midst of her unbelief.
******
I am Martha lately. I believe, yet often I act or think as if I don’t. I have lots of good excuses as well. I’ll spare you the details.

A few weeks ago, I tweeted:

Freedom is not a dream I made up; freedom is a reality Jesus created.

Freedom is real. It’s possible. It’s within reach.

Martha wanted to believe that freedom for her brother was possible, yet she focused on the appearance of what she could see.

I know freedom is possible. I’ve seen it, felt it, tasted it.

It’s time to get back to basics folks.

As I shared at a recent conference, a free person actively overcomes life-controlling issues through grace-inspired, spirit-empowered choices.

Spend time with the Freedom Giver.

Spend time with Freedom Seekers.

Embrace grace.

Think like a free person.

Act like a free person.

The reality of freedom is simple a series of good choices. One foot in front of the other, with God’s help.

Freedom Friday: Practicing Gratitude

Last week, my husband & I went to see a documentary on modern-day sex slavery.

It opened my eyes to the challenges, economic, political, emotional and spiritual, of addressing this type of slavery. My heart both broke and soared at the victories and obstacles in the real-life stories of women who are trying to come out of prostitution.

Yesterday morning, I read the blog post of a woman named Sarah Lenssen. She started the Ask5for5 campaign in an effort to help families suffering from famine in the Horn of Africa. Two of her children were adopted from Ethiopia and born in regions now affected by the drought that is causing millions to go hungry.

Sarah brought tears to my eyes when she said:

If my children still lived in their home villages, they would be two of the 12.4 million. My children: extremely hungry and malnourished? Gulp. I think any one of us would do anything we could for our hungry child. But would you do something for another mother’s hungry child?

I have NEVER once opened my cabinets and found nothing to eat for my children. Never. In fact, my cabinets literally overflow with food. Roy & I will adopt a child at some point (we are homestudy-ready and waiting). Is our child (or children) out there going hungry right now? I wept and prayed at the mere thought.

After reading this, I headed to a moms group I attend. A member of this group died of cancer on Tuesday. She was 36, married, with 2 daughters, age 5 & 12.

I didn’t know her, as I joined this group a year ago when she was already in intense treatment. But I’ve been praying for her. Yesterday as the moms group gathered, there was much pensiveness, gratitude, and grief.

It all makes me thankful for every breath. We’re not promised another.

I have been praying for many sick relatives and loved ones this week, people facing unfathomable challenges. On Monday, I happened to pick up a little book off my shelf that was recommended by a relative. This book talks about the importance of giving thanks in all circumstances. I can’t say I completely agree with some of the author’s theological conclusions, but his thoughts encouraged me to search the Scriptures for myself.

Upon study, I found the Bible implores us over 60 times to “give thanks”, as translated in the NASB. Over 60 times, God commands we give thanks!

Here are a few examples:
1 Chronicles 16:34
O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

Psalm 7:17
I will give thanks to the LORD according to His righteousness And will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.

Psalm 9:1
I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders.

Psalm 54:6
Willingly I will sacrifice to You; I will give thanks to Your name, O LORD, for it is good.

Psalm 100:4
Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.

Psalm 109:30
With my mouth I will give thanks abundantly to the LORD; And in the midst of many I will praise Him.

Psalm 139:14
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.

I think Paul summed it up when he said the following:

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Give thanks in everything? Really? I should give thanks when I get sick? When my car breaks down? When my bank account is empty?

The answer is YES.

I gave this a try today when I suddenly had a bad headache. It was time to get my younger son down for a nap, and he was not giving up without a fight!

The best I could come up with was this: “God, thanks that I have a head. If I didn’t have a head, I wouldn’t have this headache right now. I’m really thankful I have a head.”

I know, I know, kind of pitiful. But that’s a start!

Honestly, I have a good life. It’s hard at times, but I have SO much to be thankful for.

Gratitude flows naturally when I compare my present circumstances to the challenges others are facing. Gratitude causes us to get our eyes off ourselves for a minute. It challenges us to look at the bigger picture, to ask for God’s perspective, to get a glimpse of His tender heart for us and others.

It’s God’s will that we give thanks in everything.

What are you grateful for today? What can you praise God for? What difficult circumstance can you thank Him for?

Today, I’m thankful for breath. I’m thankful for my boys, who keep “interrupting” me as I try to write this. I think I’ll end with that and go hang out with them!

Aren’t they sweet?

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.” Psalm 28:7

Freedom Friday: Resting in God


My youngest son as a baby, napping on my lap

Have you ever watched a child sleep?

My younger son is now 20 months old, but he is still beautiful when he sleeps. He took an extra long nap today after a short sleep last night. I went to check on him a couple of times, and had to restrain myself from taking his face in my hands and covering him with kisses.

So calm. So content. Not a care in the world.

“I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, O LORD,
make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8

I have been thinking about the concept of resting in God lately. I seem to be continually encouraging people in my life to stop striving, trying to measure life by achievements and accomplishments, and just rest in Him. Like a good father or mother, God watches over us, carrying us, when we rely on and cling to Him.

“He will not let your foot slip;
He who watches over you will not slumber
Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you;
The LORD is your shade at your right hand.
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm;
He will watch over your life.
The LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121:3-8

Are you resting in God, secure in His love? Allowing your worth to be found in Him and who He created you to be, rather than what you do and accomplish?

We generally spend a lot of time doing what I’ve heard called “should-ing on yourself”.

“I should be doing this; I shouldn’t be doing that. I should have accomplished this, I should be at this certain point by now.” Of course, it’s good to recognize what is beneficial in our lives and what is not, what is edifying and uplifting and what is dragging us down.

But what types of feeling do these “should” statements usually bring up in us? Encouragement and passion for growth? Or shame and condemnation? It’s usually the latter.

Whose arbitrary standards are we trying to meet, anyway?

That’s why resting in God is so important. When we rest in Him, He puts in us a desire to do those things He wants for us to do, not what we or someone else thinks we should be doing or achieving.

Cling to Jesus. Come to Him as you are.

When you are struggling, even in the moment, invite God in. Allow Him to just love you because He loves you – not for anything you’ve done or will do, but because He created you, He called you by name, and you have been adopted into His family. This may not be how your family & friends have treated you, or even how you treat yourself, but it’s how God treats you. He desperately wants to love you and fill you with His peace.

So stop. Right now. Plant your feet firmly on the floor and imagine that God is your firm foundation. Take a deep breath. Like a baby bird, picture yourself resting in the shadow of His wing.

Smiling in his sleep

“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

My little one was so exhausted that he slept for 3 hours in perfect peace. His brother and I finally woke him with snuggles and kisses.

Your Heavenly Father delights in you. Soak that in. He sings over you, quieting you with His love.

Rest in Him. His burden is light.

Freedom Fridays, Tools for the Journey (New Series): HALT

I had a blog post started for today but decided to simplify it. Various events lately have reminded me that sometimes, we just need to keep things simple. So today’s post will be the beginning of another series within Freedom Friday called “Tools for the Journey”. Yes, I will continue to finish the “Learning to Walk in Freedom” after this brief diversion 🙂

How do we keep recovery simple? What small things can I keep in my toolbox as I learn to walk in freedom?

I’ll start off the “Tools for the Journey” series by talking about a number of things we can do when we have a “Moment of Maybe” as described in “Act like a Free Person, Part 2“, those moments where we are tempted:
To sin
To see ourselves in any other way than how God sees us
To believe the lies and fall back into old patterns, tempted to take our unhealthy/unhelpful thoughts and run with them
To fall into despair and hopelessness

In those Moments of Maybe, we need to stop and do some evaluation & self-care. So the first thing I want to share about is HALT.

We need to practice HALT.

In recovery, HALT stands for:
Hungry
Angry
Lonely
Tired

In evaluating HALT, we ask if our most basic needs are being met. Our need for food and sleep, as well as our need for relationships and true expression of feelings.

My older son has food sensitivities (can’t eat wheat, dairy or soy). And we discovered not long into his little life that if he doesn’t get adequate protein in his diet, it manifests itself in his behavior.

So every morning, he starts off the day with protein. He has to eat his protein before he gets anything else. Protein helps regulate blood sugar, and drastic blood sugar drops cause mood swings. 3 year olds are moody enough without adding blood sugar issues to the mix, so we make sure he gets plenty of healthy protein.

The reality is people who feel bad act bad. We can’t use our physical or emotional feelings as an excuse to behave poorly, but we can use those feelings as an opportunity to evaluate:

Am I hungry? Am I angry? Am I lonely? Am I tired?

If we find one of those things to be true, then we can take care of it. With my son, he sometimes doesn’t know that he needs a snack; thus, asking, “Are you hungry?” in the middle of a tantrum isn’t all that productive. Instead, I put a drink and a protein-rich snack in front of him, and as a general rule, he’ll devour it.

Since I’m a grown-up, I can get myself a small snack and then re-evaluate how I’m feeling. I can think about whether or not I’m getting enough sleep. I can look at the recent weeks and see how much time I’ve spent developing my relationships. And I can stop for a minute and consider whether or not I am angry or upset & unsettled about something.

The next time you’re in a Moment of Maybe, stop and practice HALT.

More Simplifying in Regards to Blogging & Blog-reading

I’ve added a “Subscribe to” in the top of the right column of my blog (there has always been one at the bottom of the page). Then I went to every blog that I read & added it to my Google Reader. This will further streamline my internet time. Last night, I cleaned out my other 2 e-mails accounts (one had over 800 e-mails in the inbox!), and I’m down to 14 e-mails in one inbox & only 8 in the other.

I feel lighter already!

Thoughts on Life, Work & Music


I started reading this book, The 4-Hour Work Week. I read a review over at The Simple Dollar and got a copy from the library. The young man who wrote it (younger than me, at least!) is obviously quite entrepreneurial, and his methods definitely wouldn’t work for everyone, but there is a lot of meat to be taken from it. I’ve started taking some notes & jotting down some ideas.

One of the ways I’m simplifying my life is by clearing out the inboxes of my various e-mail accounts, as well as trying to reply right away when I can. My main e-mail account now has 36 e-mails waiting to be replied to rather than the 150+ it usually has. Now I have 2 more accounts to clean out.

I’m not sure if some of my new blog friends know that I’m a singer/songwriter. I don’t have a professional CD, but in the past had a CD made of a concert. I also, in the past couple of years, did rough recordings of 2 newer songs, “

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” & “

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“. I already have about 10 songs written for another project. The drummer from church said we should get some studio time and record some of the songs, which I’d love to do. So one of my goals for the next 6 months is to record at least a few of the songs for my next CD project, which will be called “You”. That’s one of the things the book has reminded me that I’d like to do.