Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

For many people, Memorial Day means pools are now open for the season. Beaches are begging to be visited for the weekend. The work week is shorter. And the day isn't complete without cookouts, friends, and fireworks.  And we are truly blessed, that today, we have the freedom to be able to do any of those things.  

But, let us not forget what Memorial Day is really for- it was established as a day to remember and honor the many men and women who died while serving in the military.  You may not be personally associated with anyone who has ever served in the military, but there are many families who know first hand the sacrifices that are made by not only the soldiers, but also their families.  There are long hours of training and many days they spend separated from their families.  And for some, the ultimate sacrifice of their life has been given.




So whether you have a cookout, go to the beach, or place a US flag on the grave of a fallen soldier please take just a moment to remember the many men and women who gave their lives for your freedom. I encourage you to thank God for them and to pray for the families they left behind.  And also, pray for the safety of those who are currently serving and their families.


Love in Christ,

Alyson


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Thank You God for Sleep

I am a HUGE fan of sleep. I love naps and long nights- just give me a comfy bed, a soft blanket, and a cooler temperature so I can wrap up and I am a happy girl!  But even though I know how wonderful sleep is, there are times that I spend precious sleep time on my cell phone, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or watching TV instead of shutting things down and resting. And at times there are other things that keep me from sleep, like my adorable son, or chatting with my husband- or my mind working overtime worrying about this or that... But did you know that sleep is a gift from God?



"It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep."

Psalm 127:2 (ESV)

 Yep, sleep is a gift given by God to his beloved- who, as Christians, we are!  But we can't miss the first part of the verse, "It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil." Is God saying we should sleep in and go to bed early while not eating bread?  Umm not exactly.

The first verse of this Psalm says that unless the Lord is the one doing the work or watching in the night, then those who try to do it without him do it in vain- or for nothing.  So this verse is carrying that same message saying that God has given the gift of rest and those that neglect sleep for their own anxious toilings are doing so for nothing.  This includes working for selfish gain or even staying up late with those overactive anxious thoughts.

Striving after worldly fame and fortune is fruitless and vain.  Instead we are to rest and be still in God, quiet and content, trusting him and not being anxious.  Too often we let selfish ambition and worry over worldly troubles rob us of our rest. But sleep brings refreshment and renewal, which God knows very well that we need daily.  And in using that rest as God intends, then we are better able to serve him and give him the most glory.


I have a friend who has a son who is five days older than Bug and a few months ago she posted a status on Facebook that said something to the affect of, "I don't know why my son fights sleep so much when it is so good." (Sorry Stephanie, if I murdered that quote.)  I had to laugh because I know how true that is and uttered the same thing to my crying baby on multiple occasions.  And sleep IS good! And sleep is a gift.  Yes, when you have children you will lose sleep and you may lose sleep talking to your spouse, staying up with a friend, or being a chaperone at a lock-in (which is more difficult to recover from the older I get) and there may be some of you who have chronic pain and sleep escapes you.  If this is you then know that it is but for a season that your children will be small and I've heard you miss these days; sometimes the only time my husband and I have to talk about our days and plans is when we are laying in bed; and being a friend and serving the Lord are wonderful opportunities to show the love of God to others. And for those in pain I am so sorry for your struggle, and though you may not be able to sleep fully, know that you can still take part in the gift from God by resting in him and allowing him to work through your life.

Sometimes it is inevitable that we will lose sleep, just don't let other stuff rob you of your sleep that are for no good purpose because they aren't part of God's purpose.

Are you spending your time working as God has called you or are you striving in vain for your own wants?

Are you allowing social media, TV or anxious thoughts to rob you of precious rest that God wants for you?


Tonight, "unplug from the matrix" as my husband likes to say and quiet your mind and soul with prayer, "casting all of your anxieties upon him" (1 Peter 5:7) and bask in the wonderful gift of sleep!


Love in Christ,


Alyson



 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Grace Report

Hello all, this post is a check-in of sorts, to you who I am using as my accountability group.  Back in January I shared with you that instead of the usual resolutions that I struggle fail to keep throughout the year, I had decided instead to focus on one word for the entire year.  The word I chose was Grace.  Please read this post that tells you all about One Word and you can also read this post from February that is the first status report.

We are now four and a half months into 2014 (can you believe it) and I can tell you that I still struggle with grace.  Specifically in giving grace to others.

I would love to be able to tell you that I have seen this area of sin in my life and in the past four months I have allowed God to remove that sin and that I freely give grace to others with a smile and a cheerful heart. But then I would be lying.  And the purpose of this blog is to share life with you- the nitty-gritty work in progress that I am, the lessons I am in process (and continually) learning, and the absolute fact that God's grace- through Jesus Christ- covers ALL of it.  So here you go, my for real status report.

I am a fan of justice.  Of facing consequences.  Of being rewarded for hard work and determination.  I like rooting for the underdog, who overcomes and eventually wins! My first inclination is to reward those who deserve it.  I don't want to give people who are slack and lazy a break.  I don't want to cut mean people slack.  I DO NOT want to allow those people to get in front of me while driving when they have cruised past the loooong line of cars waiting to merge, even though they know the lane is ending and they just don't want to wait in the long line, that I have been sitting in for the past 5 minutes  because of people like them...can you tell this is a pet peeve of mine? But as you can see, I still struggle with grace.

Sure, I understand that I need to forgive other people who wrong me as Christ forgives me- "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."  Surprisingly that isn't the biggest grace struggle I have.  The hardest time I have in extending grace are in the everyday things.  The people who are rude while driving.  The cashier or waitress who have an attitude.  The people who don't hold the elevator as you are walking into the hallway.  I don't quickly forgive those slights.  Instead I get quickly angry and sometimes mutter about them when they are gone.  Or tell someone else, "Can you believe what they did to me?"  Or post about it on social media. *ouch*  Yep, I have done these things.  I am guilty.

And you may wonder why it matters and what the big deal is?  Well, I tell people I'm a Christian.  I want people to see Christ in me, through my actions and the words I say.  If I'm complaining about people or muttering in an angry huff about them, what example is that sending?  Who does that look like?  Not Jesus.


So, though I have not perfected the art of giving grace to others who I feel don't deserve it (which is the very basis of God's grace to us- favor/forgiveness when we do not deserve it) I have at least come to recognize when I am being ungracious.  And I can say that I have consciously decided to choose grace and to just let it go (perhaps Frozen was an inspiration) more than I used to. 

And more and more I focus on God's grace for me.


What about you?

Do you struggle to extend grace to others?

Do you want to choose a word to focus on for the rest of the year?  It's not to late!

Feel free to share in the comments below.


Love in Christ,

Alyson


Monday, May 12, 2014

Moms' Night Out

On Mother's Day afternoon, my mom, aunt, husband and I went to see "Moms' Night Out." (Movie website here.) I had already seen the various trailers and interviews, so I had a basic idea of what the movie would be about: a stay at home mom, burnt out and in need of a "free" night that instead of being carefree fun, turns into a crazy night where nothing goes as planned where even her van gets stolen.  And the movie was all those things...and so much more.



From the moment it began, I felt like the writers had had me under surveillance in order to get their material- I mean come on, the main character's name is even Allyson (though misspelled, so obviously they were just watching my life and not reading my mail or anything, thank goodness). And just to reiterate how much this movie was about my life, my husband looked at me at least 20 times throughout the movie with the, "that-sounds-just-like-you" look.

I'm not going to give you the entire plot, but I can relate to many of the scenarios that Allyson finds herself in, like arriving at church with mascara all under my eye (I mean A LOT, not just black flecks)- though I talked to multiple people before I discovered that I looked that way!  And I have also had those break downs of exhaustion, even though the house is still not clean, and there are so many things to do, and crying on the shoulder of my husband for not being enough.

So in fascination I watched my life (if I had 3 kids) unfold on the screen.  But as the movie progressed and the entire theater laughed so loud at the same antics, I realized that, this movie is really about all of us moms.  Whether you are a homeschooling mom, a stay-at-home mom, or a mom who works outside of the home- we are all FULL-TIME MOMS!  Whether you have 1 kid or five kids.  This movie has something for every one of us.  The single mom trying to do the best she can, the mother who finds out there is an unplanned (by her) baby in the future, though she already has two toddlers, and even the pastor's wife who hasn't been invited out for a girls night by anyone in five years.

Yes, this movie that has been publicized as a comedy is just that.  You will laugh and laugh and laugh some more, but you may also cry a little, when you realize that you aren't alone in this crazy world of mommyhood.  In fact there is a whole lot of women who face the same self doubts, high stress levels, and everyday struggles that you face.  And then you realize that though you aren't a perfect person (because there is only One), you are the perfect person to be the mommy to the children God has chosen specifically for you.


The book
AND, did you know there is a book? Yep, Tricia Goyer (Christian author, speaker, mom) was asked to write the novelization of the movie. How cool is that- instead of a movie based on a book, it's a book based on the movie! You can find it on Amazon, or at a Christian store or even Wal*mart!


Have any of you seen the movie or read the book?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

And if you haven't, then what are you waiting for?  Grab those girlfriends, moms, aunts (or husbands who will also enjoy it) and go see it- you will be so glad you did!


Love in Christ,

Alyson

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Mother's Love


Being a good mother is tough.  More times than not, it is a thankless job.  You give of yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually, and most days you feel drained and exhausted.  Or is that just me?

I have but one wee one, and though he is the cutest little booger, sometimes he gives me a defiant look, takes off crawling across the floor and does the very thing I've told him not to.  Little stinker.  You see, he didn't have to learn how to misbehave. Because of the fallen world we live in, he already knows how to push mama's buttons, without ever having to be told.

And that is where our jobs as parents is so crucial.  We are supposed to guide our children and teach them wrong from right.  We must train them to listen and obey even if discipline is needed to make it stick.  If we fail to teach them now how to obey, listen, respect, pray, and love then those are the very things they will be lacking as adults.  The Bible says,  "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)

Not only should we be training our children to behave, but it is also our responsibility as their parents to teach them how to be Christians.  We should be making God a priority in our lives and teaching our children who God is and why Jesus is so important.  We should be teaching our children why prayer is important- not just at meals and bedtime, but at all times.  We need to teach them about worship and reading their Bibles.  And most importantly we need to share the gospel with them.  I want my son to love Jesus and be saved.  From the time my son was born and even before, I have been praying daily for his salvation.  And I pray also for both of my nephews.  Though I believe that the responsibility to train children and teach them about Jesus rests on the parents, I still know that I have influence in the life of my nephews and other children I work with at church, so I pray for them and hopefully teach them more about Jesus also.  But they can't get all they need from church!

Think about what type of person you want your child to be when they grow up. My biggest hope is that my son would come to love Jesus and grow up to be a godly teenager, adult, and eventually a godly husband and father.  I of course want him to make good grades, go to college and get a job, and his dad wants him to play football and become a pro one day. ;-)  But more important than those is that he live for Jesus and go where God leads him.

As a mother my responsibility is to love my son- to meet his needs, care for him, teach him, train him, discipline him and it's in doing all that, that I show my love for him.


Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers, aunts, grandmothers and any woman who has loved and cared for a child as if he was your own.  I pray for you precious women, who long for children, as I know Mother's day is tough for you.  Just remember you are loved and even though you may not have a child to call your own, you still have an opportunity to love children and tell them about Jesus!



And if you are fortunate enough to have your own mother still living please make sure she knows that you love and appreciate her.  Even if you don't consider her to have been the bet mother, she still chose you whether through adoption or to bring you into the world and that is worth a THANK YOU at least!

And of course to my own mother, I could fill up the page with how amazing she is and what a wonderful example she has been to me, but instead I'll simply say I love you mama, I thank God for you, and Happy Mother's Day!


Love in Christ, 

Alyson

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Power of Words

Most of us if not all have heard the phrase, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me."  Now everyone who believes that, raise your hand... I doubt any of us raised our hands (except maybe those who just do that sort of thing to be contrary/funny). And the reason no one believes that phrase, is because most of us at some point or another have been hurt by words... or perhaps have hurt someone else with our words- through careless words... gossip... words overheard by the person who was never to hear them... But don't worry, I won't ask anyone to raise their hands on that one.  Instead I'll ask you to open your hearts and minds to the power of words and prayerfully consider the ones you choose to say.

Because words do have power.  Think about it, God spoke creation into being.  Obviously, God's are the most powerful words ever and his word speaks to our choice of words over and over:

Ephesians 4:29- Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Matthew 15:18- But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.


Proverbs 12:18- There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Matthew 12:36- I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,

Proverbs 16:24- Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

Colossians 3:8- But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.

Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. 
And James devotes many verses describing the power in the tongue in James 3:1-12:
"Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water."
What we say is so important.  And though the Bible was written many years ago, I think in today's terms the Bible's warnings about what we say not only includes the words spoken from our mouths, but also the words we type!  Today's technology has replaced face to face interactions with screen to screen interactions between people.  And just because the words aren't physically spoken by the tongue they should still be held to the same standards as words we speak out of our mouths.

The words written on social media, in emails, in comments, in texts can still sting with the same fire that the spoken word can.  And in most cases it seems that people now feel more "free" to write what they actually think from behind the safety of the screen and though I know why they may feel more safe it can still be hurtful and perhaps best left unsaid.

I've mentioned before that I read several blogs and I also at times peruse the comments.  I don't always do this, though because it saddens me that people feel they must "blast" people for having a differing opinion than them.  There are ways to share different opinions without becoming angry or mean.  And though you may not think that your comments are mean, think first before you say them- are they good, are they useful, do they build up or tear down?  If someone said this same thing to me, how would I take it?  Remember the verses listed above and use them as a checklist. Also, if something someone does makes you angry, it is far better to take a break and step away for a time before responding- if a response is needed at all. 

We live in a fallen world and if you haven't already, then you probably will experience negative comments (either spoken, typed, or hand written) that will hurt you.  I encourage you, to right then and there, pray!  You won't feel like it, believe me I know, but if you seek to be a mature godly woman (or man) then you need to pray for strength to get past the hurt.  Pray for God to tame your tongue.  And pray for God to help you forgive that person.  Then pray for that person, and not a negative prayer for God to "take care of them" but genuinely for them.  Perhaps they are misguided in their information, or they are going through a tough time. Or they may just be a hurtful person- but they still need Jesus, so be an example of him in your dealings with them.  And if you are the one who "spoke" the negative words, then I recommend prayer and confession, then deleting them if possible and apologizing to the person or people you hurt. 



Pray before you speak and pray before you type.



*Updated -I was doing my Bible study this morning and it was this passage from Colossians 3 that I had to add because it fits perfectly with this post:
12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Oh that we would actually "put on" kindness, humility, meekness, patience, compassion and love. Forget that the rest of the world hasn't, because they haven't.  You will be treated unfairly but the command is clear that Christians are to have those qualities.  Do you?

Love in Christ,

Alyson

Friday, May 2, 2014

Clean Out the Cobwebs

I've heard it said that being organized is a great way to relieve stress.   I very much hate the process of cleaning and organizing though. And sometimes there are things that need to be done that I hide away by closing the door! But when I know there is chaos and I don't try ordering it, it seems like cobwebs start forming not only in my house, but also over my life. However, if I deal with things and get organized I automatically feel better- it's just the process is so hard...
Photo Credit
It reminds me of when sin starts growing in my life.  The process of dealing with that sin and removing it can sometimes be painful- okay most of the time it's painful, but sanctification is a daily process.  Every day as Christians we should be seeking more Jesus. John 3:30 says, "He must increase but I must decrease." But sadly, there are days when I focus on me more than Christ.  Sometimes, I begin to compare myself to others. Then I become jealous and I think about how I want my life to be and I try to take control.  And a lot of times I begin to complain. And if I don't recognize this attitude, this pride as sin in my life, it can take root and begin to affect all the areas of my life.  Because sin is like a cancer, it grows and grows until it consumes. And like cancer it is much better to remove the sin when it has just started before it affects more areas.  The process of acknowledgement, confession, and removal is tough though, no matter how long it's been there.  It means you have to swallow your pride. You have to admit that you are a sinner in a more specific, pointed way, by actually naming the sin. You may have to apologize for actions or words that hurt another person. And you may even have to change your lifestyle completely.

It really is a tough process, but when we are living with sin in our lives we can never have peace.  Whether it's gossiping, complaining, laziness, bitterness, gluttony or it's addiction, adultery, or not tithing- sin is sin.  And when it is unconfessed and allowed in your life, you are not in close relationship with Jesus.

"This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:5-10 (ESV)

"If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell." Matthew 5:29-30 (ESV)


"So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin." James 4:17 (ESV)

And I highly recommend you read Romans 6- the whole chapter speaks about this very thing.  Here are a few verses, but seriously read the whole thing!

"What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?" Romans 6:1 & 2 (ESV)

 "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions." Romans 6:12 (ESV)

Are you walking in the light? 

Do you have fellowship with other believers?

Are you obeying sin in your life, or are you obeying God?


Cut out the sin in your life before it consumes you.  If you are a Christian, then Satan can't pluck you from the hand of Christ, BUT you can become ineffective and a hindrance.  And you will fail to give God the worship and glory that you were created to give. 





Love in Christ,

Alyson