Finding Happiness

As the new year approaches, we begin to think about our lives. What have we accomplished in the last year and where are we heading? People begin to make a list of resolutions and start to think of ways to improve themselves and become a more well rounded and happier person. The list begins with trying to quit things like smoking and overeating and ends with trying to accomplish more like joining a gym and earning that degree.

There is a man who loves sports to the point of making it his profession. He has lived and breathed sports most of his life. As he gets older, the reality of not being young forever has hit him smack dab between the eyes. How long will his body be able to continue with the stress of playing; what will he do once he can no longer perform? As he looks back on his life full of joy and hard work, he begins to wonder where his happiness will lie once his career ends.

In the second chapter of Ecclesiastes, Solomon goes on a quest to find happiness. First he tried to just "have fun", but he soon realized that it alone was "useless" and "foolish". Next he tried to focus on working hard, but soon found that it alone was like "chasing the wind". Next he thought if he truly had wisdom, that would give him true happiness. But,through it all, he came to the conclusion that both a fool and those full of wisdom will all end up in the grave someday. So, he spent his life looking for ways to make himself happy and in the end it says in verse 17, 18, "So I hated life. It made me sad to think that everything here on earth is useless, like chasing the wind. I hated all the things I had worked for here on earth, because I must leave them to someone who will live after me." After trying every avenue to get true happiness, he hit a dead end street, until he began to realize that true happiness comes from God. In verse 25, 26 it says, "because no one can eat or enjoy life without Him. If people please God, God will give them wisdom, knowledge and joy. But sinners will get only the work of gathering and storing wealth that they will have to give to the ones who please God. So all their work is useless, like chasing the wind."

As we glance back at the past and move on to this new year, may we understand that all the fun, hard work and wisdom can hold no joy unless it is given to us by God. All the stuff that we accumulate will be left behind one day. Our new years resolution shouldn't be how much weight we can lose, but how God should hold more weight in our lives. Remember, true happiness comes from God!


Being a Blessing!

At Christmas time, we think about all the presents, trees, lights, family & of course all the Christmas cookies. We plan church parties and family dinners. There are Christmas programs at school and church, and for those of us in the North, there's the sledding and snow ball fights. God has blessed us all so much. We have the freedom to celebrate the birth of our Saviour any way that we choose. There are no shortage of trees or lights; we can run to the nearest Walmart to get our presents and even buy our cookies. Head outside and there's a winter wonderland of snow, just waiting to be thrown or built into a fort! There are blessings all around us!

This has been a tough year for me. Two of my closest friends moved far away and a close family member was diagnosed with cancer; so much of what the holidays represent was lost to me. I was looking back on my year and I became very lonely. Things were just not the same to me anymore and it just did not feel like Christmas! I poured my heart out to my husband and his response was that it wasn't about all the circumstances around me; Christmas is about the birth of Jesus. I began to realize how selfish I had become. I may have had a rough year, but through it all, God taught me so much! He blessed me with knowledge and I truly grew to know Him more. I've learned to let Him lead me and trust that He knows where He's taking me. I also realized that I had been completely focused on myself and needed to be a blessing to others, just as God has blessed me.

So, no matter what you are going through this Christmas season, let us take the focus off of ourselves and try to be a blessing. Pray that God will show you a way to help others. There's people in need all around us, if we just take the time to truly care. Maybe there's a family that you know who doesn't have enough to buy their children presents this year. Maybe there's an elderly neighbor who is unable to shovel their sidewalk or can't get through the snow to get their mail or buy groceries. How about the many who have lost their jobs and are struggling day to day, making the idea of buying gifts one more added pressure. If you take the focus off of yourself and look around you, God will reveal to you those in need and will allow you to be a blessing.

Galatians 6:2 "Bear ye one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ."


Be Kind and Compassionate

I have been singing and playing piano in the church since I was very young. I remember as I started hitting those lovely teen years, my voice began to change. One Sunday, I was singing when my voice cracked. I remember just laughing at myself until the song was over, because I was so embarrassed I didn't know what else to do. From that point on, I decided I wasn't going to sing in the church anymore. Every time it was my turn for special music, I would play the piano instead. Years went by and I sang in several choirs at school, but had refused to step on that platform. Finally, my senior year, I got the courage to get up on that stage and sing. When the service was over, someone walked up to me and said how happy she was to hear me sing, and how she had really missed seeing me up there. Those kind words meant so much to me! I had been telling myself for years that no one wanted to hear me sing and that I was better off just walking away!

In Ephesians 4:32 the Bible says, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Those kind words from that one person caused a change in me. I became more confident and began to realize that I was refusing to use a gift that God blessed me with. Sure, I fail at times, and I get nervous. I make plenty of mistakes, but each time that I get on stage, I remember that all I can do is my best. I am there to minister to others and I have to just leave it in God's hands.

The world is filled with cruelty. We no longer care about neighbors, most of us don't even truly know them! We let whatever we think come out of our mouths without realizing what it could do to a person. What if that woman had walked up to me and said, "well, I sure wish you would never do that again"? Where would I be today? I probably would have gone down a completely different path in my life. Singing would definitely have not been a part of it. Words can either uplift a person or destroy them. We have all been there when someone has said something cruel and it crushed us. Let us be "kind and compassionate" to each other and remember that we are all imperfect. We also need to forgive each other when we have been offended. Showing compassion to those who have offended us, teaches them the love of Christ. Let's pray that God will begin to soften our hearts towards each other and that we will begin to encourage and uplift. Take a moment to tell your kids how wonderful they are, or tell your Pastor how much you appreciate him instead of always finding fault. Try to encourage and be kind to someone today. A smile and a kind word is the best place to start! And, if you have been cruel to someone, go to them and ask for forgiveness. Remember to think before you speak.

Proverbs 16:23 "The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips."


Just a "little" Disobedience

Knowing that he wasn't suppose to touch the gifts under the Christmas tree, my son still did. He claims that he only touched them, didn't hold them or shake them, and that it wasn't disobedience. I told him he could continue to argue with me, but at the end of the day, God told Eve not to eat the apple. Maybe she only took one bite and didn't gobble the whole thing down or bake an apple pie with it, but it only took a bite to be disobedience!

In today's society, nothing seems to be black and white anymore. Everything seems to be in this gray kind of area. Little white lies and half truths become second nature and are actually encouraged, especially if you want to spare someone's feelings. Telling the truth is no longer the right thing to do and has no longer become a sin or is seen as disobedience. We no longer feel the need to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us God.

In Proverbs 12:22, the Bible says, "The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy." It doesn't say, the Lord slightly dislikes lying and it is ok to do once in awhile as needed to get us out of a jam. It says He "detests" it. In the dictionary, the word "detest" means to "hate, loathe and abhor". Those are pretty strong words towards something we are slowly being trained to think of as ok, since we are sinners and well, everyone tells lies. I have a hard time finding shows for my kids to watch. These cute, little, cartoon characters seem so innocent until you look closer. They are constantly filled with shady glances, little small lies to their parents and friends, and then covering it up by saying, "just joking" or "I didn't 'mean' that", when you know they did. Don't get me started on the teen shows that my son begs to watch. It is filled with kids going behind their parents back and telling little "white lies" to cover their tracks. We have become so conditioned to think we are just "joking" that we forget we are in fact "lying."

We as parents need to set a good example for our kids. We need to make sure that what we say and do "match". We also need to "catch" ourselves before we begin to say things that are untrue and be sure to "catch" our kids doing the same. It is easy to let things go and figure that we are all human...and we are! But, that is no excuse when we can turn to God for help. Begin to pray for "clean lips" in our life and in our children's lives. Let us "detest, hate, loathe, and abhor" lying. Let us begin to pray that we will always "speak the truth in love".

Ephesians 4:15 "Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church."


Leaving a Godly Legacy

When I think about my upbringing, I think of my pink room, white canopy bed, turkey
at Thanksgiving with all the family, and a Christmas tree all lit up with no toys underneath, because Santa hadn't come yet! I remember a mom, who would tuck me in each night, pray with me, and who would sit on her bed and read the Bible. Every Sunday morning I would awaken to find my dad at the kitchen table with his Bible, preparing his Sunday school lesson. I remember a little brown Chevette that use to take us 3 times a week to church. And, I remember a small church, filled with friends, loved ones, and a youth pastor that was there with me every step of my teenage journey.

When I think about leaving a legacy, my mind goes back to the generations before me. Each generation holds a set of building blocks that either adds or takes away the foundation of their future family. For example, my grandparents were Christians who taught my parents about Christ, and my parents chose to add to that foundation by teaching me. But, what if my parents had chosen a different path? Where would my foundation and my children's foundation lie? When you build a solid foundation, you use the proper materials so that years down the road, your foundation does not begin to crumble. You also choose to upkeep that foundation by fixing any holes or cracks. But, if you get someone who starts out with a solid foundation, and then begins to not take care of or repair these imperfections, the foundation will slowly become destroyed, and the home that was once tall and strong, will fall one day, condemned.

Let's take our schools for example. When I was growing up, you said the pledge of allegiance every day. You put your hand on your heart and saluted the flag in honor. At our graduation, they would pray over the class as they were about to embark on their new college adventure. We were free to talk about God and have Christmas parties and celebrate Jesus' birth. As the years go by, they take God out of schools, no more pledge, no more prayer, and "Christmas" parties become "holiday" parties. The legacy of a God-first nation is slowly lost as we allow the cracks to go unfixed and it begins to crumble.

Such is a family legacy with Christ. Whether you grew up with a solid Christian foundation or your foundation is beginning to crumble around you, each of us has a choice to make. We can either neglect the foundation and allow it to continue to crumble, begin again and build that solid foundation for our future, or start to fix the cracks and holes that we have allowed to weaken it. You can start small by setting aside a prayer time, or maybe reading the Bible each day to your children, even if it's only a verse. Begin to attend church, and don't forget to drag that teenager along with you. Remember, building and repairing takes time; it can't be accomplished overnight. But, with prayer and taking it day by day, we can slowly strengthen our foundation and begin to leave our children a Godly legacy.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9
"...Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."


Giving Selfless Thanks

I asked my son what he was most thankful for. He was "joking" around and said, "A mom that cooks good food, and a dad who buys me video games!" Yes, this is a typical boy response, but it is also a typical "flesh" response. When we think of things we are thankful for, it usually revolves around us! We are selfish by nature and usually think of what has benefited us the most! My son is thankful that his mom makes food, "for him" and that his dad buys games, "for him!" Of course, he is truly thankful to have parents, but what he's focused on, is what we do for him.

Philippians 2:3-4 says, "When you do things, do not let selfishness or pride be your guide. Instead, be humble and give more honor to others than to yourselves. Do not be interested only in your own life, but be interested in the lives of others." This is a hard verse to wrap our selfish, little minds around. When things don't go my way, it is easy for me to become centered on what has happened to me, rather than how it affected anyone else. For example, I am not a lucky person. I could enter a million drawings and they would never draw my name! I'm pretty sure, it would be drawn last! Every time I lose, I think about how I could have really used whatever they were giving away. I never give any thought to the person who won it. What could they be going through right now that maybe God wanted to encourage them? Instead of focusing on myself, I should be thinking about the needs of others. Now, don't get me wrong, God blesses me daily! He has given me a wonderful husband, beautiful children, and health. But, those are things that God has given me! I am once again focused on myself.

This Thanksgiving when you are sitting around the table with your loved ones, what are you most thankful for? Is it that you have family that can be near "you," a home that keeps "you" warm, or food to fill "your" belly? What things have you done for others lately? Let's try to be givers this Thanksgiving. Let us remember those around us in need who may not have a family, or someone that may have just lost their job and don't have enough. Don't forget about those who are elderly or ill and can't leave their homes, or the family that might have recently lost a loved one, making this holiday season a difficult one. Let's try and focus on others this year, and as we do, our cup of joy and thankfulness will overflow.


Discovering Your God-Given Talents

God made us unique! We each have our own special talents. One person may know the ins and outs of a car, another may have the ability of speech, and when they talk, everyone listens. Some people are amazing cooks, and others can sing like a bird. But, what happens if your talent is taken away, and you are forced to find a new purpose in life?

Julie Andrews is well known for her beautiful voice that can hit notes only a dog could hear! She is famous for her musicals, such as "Sound of Music" and "Mary Poppins". She was traveling with a musical, when her voice became strained, and she started having trouble hitting her notes. She eventually had surgery on her vocal chords, and her voice never fully recovered. Devastated, she didn't know what to do anymore. Her talent since childhood had been quickly stripped from her, and she had no idea where to go from there. Her daughter encouraged her to start writing children's books, and she began to find joy in that. Later, her daughter told her that she had found a "new voice" through writing books. Had Julie never lost her voice, she would have never realized the amazing ability she had to write. Her books are now on the best seller list.

I have never considered myself a writer. I use to write poems and stories as a child, but later in life, music became my primary focus. Out of nowhere, God placed on my heart to start this blog, and told me that if I do what He asks, He will bless it. So, I began to write, and instantly became irritated that I just couldn't finish it correctly. So, I spent all week writing up a blog and finished it that Saturday. Frustrated that it wasn't sounding quite right, my husband told me that if it was going to bother me so much, to just stop writing. So, we went to church on Sunday, and the sermon that was preached was the same as my blog, right down to the Scripture verse. God had showed me that He wanted to use me, even though I would have never considered this one of my talents.

In the Bible, God tells Moses that He is sending him to the king, and he is to lead the Israelites out of Egypt! Exodus 3:11 says, "But Moses said to God, 'I am not a great man! How can I go to the king and lead the Israelites out of Egypt?'....God's response? "I will be with you." What an amazing response! What more do we need than God beside us?

What are your talents? Are you using them? Has tragedy struck you and now you feel useless? Or, maybe God has placed something new on your heart, and you are worried about failure! Begin to pray and let God show you the things He has in store for your life. If God can use me, He can certainly use you!


Train Up a Child

I got a call from a friend that I hadn't seen in awhile. We chatted and started discussing homeschooling and the public schools. She's a single mom, and her kids go to public school. She has become very concerned with the types of books that are given to her children, and how things are being taught at such a young age. She told me that her child's Science teacher had given her daughter a book to read, and it had very inappropriate "bedroom scenes" for her young 6th grader. I applauded her for being a parent who takes the time to check her child's books, before allowing her to read them!

As parents we struggle with so many things. Should we stay home with them or bring them to daycare? Should we put them in private, public, or homeschool? Will my child have the grades to get into a good college? I think many parents focus on the wrong things when it comes to our kids. We are so worried about getting them involved in activities and making sure they are "well rounded," that we forget what is most important. It's not necessarily where we put our kids in school, how many activities they are involved in, or how amazing their grades are. The most important factor in your child's life is you! Where you lead your child is where they follow. Do you lead your children to church or does sports, dance & music dominate your child's schedule? Do you go to church yourself, or do you drop off your children to attend activities, and then go off and get some shopping done?

The thing I find fascinating, is that parents want the church to teach their children. What the parents fail to realize is that a child follows the parents, not the church. Working for a church daycare for years, I quickly found out that parents would bring their troubled children to me, hoping that just being in a church would "fix" their problems. But, let me tell you, a child can spend 10 hours/day with me, and spend 3 hours/day with their parents, and yet, they will follow their parent's teaching, not mine. The amount of time a parent actually spends with their child is small when you factor in school, sleep, and extra curricular activities. Yet, what the parents do with their children in that small amount of time, can determine the child's path for eternity.

Growing up, I went to public school. I had to deal with all the pressures of smoking, alcohol, and boyfriends, just like everyone else. The difference between me and some of the rest of the kids, was my parents. I had very strict, Godly parents who would make sure I was in church whenever that door was open. But, just going to church is not what kept me on the straight and narrow. It was my parents, not only being an example by going to church with me, but being a Godly example at home. Kids see everything! If you are going to church and acting one way, and coming home and acting another, which way do you think they will follow? They see right through your bluff, even if others don't. My parents lived and breathed Christ. They were the same at home, as they were at church. Now, I was a very busy girl in High School, and I was gone all the time. But, even though I rarely saw my parents, the small amount of time that I spent with them, I always knew where they stood. After years of watching them, I made sure to never miss church, and made it a priority, just as they had always taught me to. No matter how hard the pressure of school and life became, I always knew where to draw the line, for my parents had shown me since childhood.

So, what are you like at home, when it's just you and your kids? Remember, they follow you....Are you leading them towards, Christ?

Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."


The Proverbs 31 Woman

Beauty Secrets! We all have them. You know the one little, crazy secret that each person uses to make their skin glow or their hair shine! Tyra Banks talks about how she uses Vaseline under and around her eyes every night to keep her skin soft and prevent wrinkles. People use mayonnaise on their hair and the most recent one I've read about is mixing mouthwash and water, put it in a spray bottle, and spritz your hair for extra shine! So, what's your strangest beauty secret? Mine...well..is Milk of Magnesia! Yep, you read it right! I take a product that is for our upset stomachs and use it as a mask for my face! Crazy, I know, and yet it keeps my skin free of acne and looking young and tight!

We all love to look our best, and who wouldn't want to look like a supermodel? But, God desires us to have the beautiful, Proverbs 31 heart! What are some examples of this woman? In the Bible it says, "she gets up while it is still dark and prepares food for her family." "She makes thread with her hands and weaves her own cloth." Now, anyone that knows me, knows I am an early riser and I love to cook, so I got that first one down. The problem would come with the weaving....I am not a seamstress by any means! Should I take this literally? No, a Godly woman focuses on her family and puts others first. She works hard, but most importantly it says, "she speaks wise words and teaches others to be kind" and she is "respected." It goes on to say, "her husband trusts her completely."

When my husband and I first got married, we made a decision to never mention the word divorce in our home. There would be no jokes about leaving each other or "trading up" or some of the other stupid sayings that people throw out in either a joking manner, or in the heat of the moment. We wanted to make sure each other felt safe and that my husband knows he can "trust me completely!" It also has given a true sense of security for my children. They never run around scared, wondering if mom and dad are just joking; they know that the idea is just not going to be entertained. We vowed to be together through thick and thin. I think in today's world, a woman wants to become strong, sometimes stronger than a man, just to prove that they can. But, in a marriage, God says that the man is the head of the household. A Godly woman is not only respected, but respects her husband. She trusts in him, and knows that the final decisions he makes for the family have been thought and prayed over carefully.

Proverbs 21:19 says, "It is better to live alone in the desert than with a quarreling and complaining wife." It is easy to start complaining that our husbands don't give us enough time, love & attention, but the blame should also fall on us. How often do we pray for our husbands? When I was first married, I had the typical "girl type" ideas of marriage. You know, you go to work and as soon as you get home, you spend all your time together and then of course, you go to bed at the same time. All the movies show this, and of course it had to be true! Well, I found out real quick that when my husband gets home, he is sick of talking to people and needs an hour of down time by himself. He is also a night owl and I am not! So, falling asleep at the same time was not going to happen! As a wife, I learned to pick my battles. Did I want a quarrelsome or peaceful home? I wanted us to learn how to work together. Did that mean changing my husband to fit my "ideal" marriage? No, I learned to pray about the things we disagreed upon, rather than fight about them. I also realized that as I prayed, these things that bothered me so much, became less important. As I learned to let go, my husband noticed an attitude change and then his attitude began to change, and we started working together. Isn't that what marriage is all about? So, instead of finding all the flaws in our significant other, let's start working on our hearts and focusing on all the positive. In this world of "cheating" hearts, let's learn to trust our partners again and help them feel safe that we would never leave them. Let's respect them and pray for them and in turn, they will respect us and God will fill our hearts with joy and contentment.

"Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised." Proverbs 31:30


Turning Fear into Faith

Good SuziQzie Morning to you all!

I went with my son to his JBQ tournament on Saturday.  He had been practicing all month and knew those questions cold!  The day before the meet, we went over the questions one last time.  He was doing well and then he started to forget them and began to panic.  You could see that frustration and fear had swept over him.  What if he forgets everything the next day?  What if he looks like a fool in front of everyone?  The faith in himself that he knew those questions had disappeared and fear had overtaken him.

Fear!  It is the opposite of Faith!  But, can fear be used to increase our faith?  Yes!  Years ago, my husband had this fabulous job that he really loved.  We had just purchased a brand new car and got our first home.  But, "life" happened to us and at his work there were mass layoffs.  He survived round one, round two and got hit on round three!  He came home just days before Thanksgiving to tell me the news.  I will never forget standing in my kitchen in disbelief.  I should have known, of course, since there were layoffs...but also, God had given me a dream that this would happen.  After the sudden shock, I decided that God was going to take care of us, and I immediately started praying that my husband would find a job before the money ran out!  Days, weeks, months went by, and all we could find were part-time jobs that paid hardly anything.  My faith grew weaker and weaker and fear took over.  I would cry alone, wondering if God really heard me and then I would get mad at myself for even having those thoughts!  Of course God was there, but why wasn't He helping us?  That year we made less than $10,000!  How we survived was only by the grace of God, and yet, all I could see were the hardships, not the blessings!  One day I found myself lying on the bathroom floor just sobbing!  It had been 3 years since he had a good job, and I was at my breaking point!  Fear had completely consumed me and I felt like God had left me.  At that moment, the 700 club was on and they were praying and announced that someone out there was going to get a job.  Soon after, we got a call, and it was job offer!  I will never forget that moment!  Through all the trials and fear, God reminded me that not one day did I go hungry!  Not one day did I have no water, heat, or no place to sleep.  He had taken care of us, even though it wasn't the way I wanted.  At that moment, God turned my fear into Faith.

Are you letting fear consume you, or are you turning that fear into faith?  When the fisherman were on that boat and Jesus was sleeping, they were consumed with fear.  The waves were crashing and they thought they had had their last fish meal!  But, even though it "appeared" Jesus was sleeping, He was always in charge.  You may be sitting in that boat, trying to steer yourself through the storms of life, thinking you are all alone.  But.....Jesus has always been right there with you, in charge of it all, even if it's not the direction you would have chosen!  I would tell you to strap that life vest on and step out on the water, but that's another lesson for another time! :)

Hebrews 11:1  "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."