Purposeful Faith

Category - Regular Contributor

For the Not-So-Shiny Days

Post by: Angela Parlin

Some days, the sun shines, and I jump out of bed early. I slept enough hours without any interruptions, and I feel good. I start the day with the Lord and a run and then the kids come trickling out of their rooms, ready for the eggs I’ve made. Then I head upstairs for a quick shower with some great music to help me get happily ready to start the homeschool day.

Some days.

Other days, it’s much harder to see beauty–because other days look a lot more like chaos. Can you relate?

Maybe someone needed me in the night, or I stayed up late with Jimmy Fallon.

Maybe the kids leave their rooms an hour before the time we’ve set. They forget to complete their morning chores, and so the laundry piles up and the bedrooms are a mess.

Maybe I’m tired and it’s a cloudy day and I don’t have time for quiet time and I didn’t get a run and I haven’t made breakfast and I don’t feel well.

Maybe.

Do you ever think about the back-and-forth of our lives? The up-and-down? Does it frustrate you the way it frustrates me?

I can get on such a roll of seeing-the-beauty days–of good, productive mornings, of day-before preparation, of starting the day out right. But then–something changes. Often, I don’t even see it coming. A cold. A sick kid. A misunderstanding. A big disappointment. Hard work that doesn’t yield results. Whatever it might be.

Then I get on a roll of seeing more chaos than beauty.

The kids are still waiting on me, so I have to quickly figure out how to deal.

How do you deal with days that look more like chaos,
with the cloudy days and your own clouded mind?

Last week, on one of the not-so-shiny days of my life, I learned that I have developed an unfortunate habit. That instead of dealing with the chaos, I try to escape.

After trudging through a rotten morning, I sent the kids off to read in their bedrooms in the afternoon. I was discouraged, and I spent a few minutes praying to the Lord about my problems, asking Him for help.

And then I moved on.

I COULD NOT WAIT to sit down on my comfy sofa to turn on Gilmore Girls, and so I fixed a glass of iced tea and resumed my position.

But as I sat there, I felt a holy conviction.

I knew it wasn’t my own voice, because my voice said–There’s nothing wrong with this!

And that’s true. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Netflix, or many other forms of escape.

But there’s a problem sometimes with the way we use them.

I felt the Spirit saying, Run to Me. Seek Me. Look to Me. And I saw my error.

I realized how often I seek the Lord—and then run off to my own fix.

My fix, which feels comforting at first, always leaves me wanting.

I saw that I was trying to escape my life rather than working through the hard parts, while looking to the Lord for His strength.

So by God’s grace, I started a new habit. I hope it will continue to be the way I deal with the not-so-shiny days.

I’ll seek the Lord, and then I’ll wait on Him alone—especially on the difficult days.

Because as Lamentations 3:25 says, The Lord is good to those who WAIT for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. (ESV)

But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired. Isaiah 40:31, AMP

 

Angela Parlin

Angela Parlin is a wife and mom to 3 rowdy boys and 1 sweet girl. In addition to spending time with friends and family, she loves to read and write, spend days at the beach, watch romantic comedies, and organize closets. But most of all, she loves Jesus and writes to call attention to the beauty of life in Christ, even when that life collaborates with chaos. Join her at www.angelaparlin.com, So Much Beauty In All This Chaos.

 

Find Beauty in the Restlessness

Blog Post by Abby McDonald

The feeling swept in with the morning rain clouds, as I sat by the window drinking coffee. Restlessness.

There were no defining edges to it. I couldn’t quite grasp where the emotion came from. It was just there. And it consumed me.

I daydreamed about moving to another town. We’d lived here four years so it was time, right? There were plenty of good reasons to migrate further south.

Like my mom’s stroke last year. Being over five hundred miles away was not ideal, and my parents weren’t getting any younger.

And I won’t even dwell on the winters here. This southern girl learned how to use a snow shovel a few years ago and purchased a new set of all-season tires, but I’d prefer not to have to use either.

Yes, I change of location was exactly what we needed. Wasn’t it? I was sure my restless ache would stop when the scenery became white sand and Palmetto trees.

But as the sun set later that evening and I watched my boys soaking up the last daylight hours, I sensed God speak.

Look for the beauty. Right here. Right now.

I saw the way the rim of the mountains slowly transformed in pink and deep blue right before nightfall. I felt the crisp evening breeze I often longed for on the sultry, humid evenings down south.

I watched the boys play and laugh with friends they’d made at church and smiled when the teacher bragged about my oldest son at a school fundraiser.

Later that week at dinner, I listened to women I’d grown to love share their kids’ latest antics and make plans for summer camping trips, trips to the pool, and marshmallow roasts.

Yes, there was beauty here. In all my restlessness and longing, I was missing it.

Sometimes instead of changing my situation, God changes me.

He wants me to see with his eyes and notice the blessings right in front of me. He is molding me and transforming me, and the some of the biggest, most life-changing transformations start with gratitude.

A full life isn’t made of moments counting down to the next major event. It is made of the moments we count our blessings.

 There may come a time when God moves us closer to my family. He knows how much I miss them during their absence and how I long to savor the time I have left with them.

But he also has an assignment and a ministry for me right here, within the walls of my home and in the community around me. When we are faithful right where we are, God is honored.

 He is glorified when instead of counting the days until my next trip south, I am present in the now.

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14 NIV

Today, if you’re feeling restless and cannot seem to pinpoint why, I encourage you to count. But don’t count the minutes until vacation or naptime or bedtime.

Count blessings.

Instead of counting the minutes, let’s savor the day.

Guest Contributor

Abby McDonald is a writer who can’t contain the lavish love of a God who relentlessly pursues her, even during her darkest times. When she’s not chasing her two little boys around, she loves hiking, photography, and consuming copious amounts of coffee with friends.

Abby would love to connect with you on her blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

Get all Purposeful Faith blog posts via email – click here.

Like a Treasure

Treasure Kingdom of Heaven Jesus

Post By: Angela Parlin

What do you desire?

It may be the most important question you’ll ever answer.

Before you respond with the answer you think you should say, give it some thought. Resist the temptation to use the fast-pass. Let these questions help you get to the heart of what you desire most.

  • What makes you happy?
  • What is it you crave, that you’re sure would make you happier?
  • What do you worry about?
  • What are you afraid of?
  • Where do you run for comfort?
  • What do you fear losing, or fear never attaining?
  • What would you never want to live without?

Think about these questions, and you’ll probably yield more than one honest answer. You’ll uncover the truth not only of what you desire, but also what you treasure.

Jesus spoke about treasure in the book of Matthew. He told a mini-parable, comparing the kingdom of heaven to a treasure.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” (Matthew 13:44, NIV)

After this, Jesus moved on. He told another parable, with the same storyline.

Many people think Jesus makes the point that we should treasure the kingdom of heaven so much, that we’d give up everything in order to gain it.

While most of us would agree, that finding the kingdom of heaven is like finding treasure, we struggle with the part about giving up everything.

Let’s be honest, don’t you want to believe Jesus wants you to have it all—and Him too? Yet this parable shows us something different.

In his Joy  he went and sold all he had and bought that field.

Clearly, the man saw something wonderful there. He found joy in the treasure.

We, too have found joy in God’s Presence. But like our mothers used to say, we “want to have our cake and eat it, too.”

We’ve turned our eyes upon Jesus–but for many of us, the things of this earth have not yet grown dim.

We know He’s the only One who satisfies–yet we look to other people and things and involvements and accomplishments and pleasures–to fill our souls.

We need to bring it all to Jesus–to offer Him our worries, dreams, fears, and desires–and then ask Him to BE our greatest desire.

Even so, there’s another interpretation of this parable. It changes the whole conversation.

What if the man in the story who found the treasure is Jesus?

He sold all He had to save the world. With joy, He gave up everything, to reconcile us to God.

But the story didn’t end there.

He endured the cross, with joy, so we could taste and see His goodness. He bought the field, to make us His family.

He gave up all, in order to open wide the door and let us enter. And then everything He owns becomes our own.

The man in the story is Jesus. Which also means WE are the treasure.

And the world grows dim. Does it not?

May the world remain behind us, and the cross before.

 

Angela Parlin

Angela Parlin is a wife and mom to 3 rowdy boys and 1 sweet girl. In addition to spending time with friends and family, she loves to read and write, spend days at the beach, watch romantic comedies, and organize closets. But most of all, she loves Jesus and writes to call attention to the beauty of life in Christ, even when that life collaborates with chaos. Join her at www.angelaparlin.com, So Much Beauty In All This Chaos.

 

The Change Starts Here

Blog post by Abby McDonald

For months I wondered what would happen if one of the city’s homeless graced the doorstep of our church. Would the lady I’d often seen walking the streets be welcomed in with warm smiles?

Her tattered comforter was always wrapped tightly around her like a cape. It seemed to be her only source of security as she made her way from one location to another.

What would occur if she came to this place which could bring her hope not just for this life, but for eternity? Would she be given looks of disapproval?

My husband and I had spoken with her before, asking how we could help, but were turned away. She continued wandering around the canal, setting up a small camp of belongings here and there. I couldn’t get the picture of her out of my mind, the way she always seemed to be talking to no one in particular.

Then one day she was there.

She stood at the doorway to our small church as worship began. Instead of being given looks of disdain she was invited in not once, but three times by various people.

She politely refused.

As I heard about the interaction she’d had with the church, I uttered praises to God. Whether she’d chosen to come inside or not, a seed was planted that day.

It was a Sunday just like any other. But that Sunday she saw a little bit of Jesus here on earth.

He said,

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least one of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:45 NIV

It isn’t about you and me, friends. It never was. Whatever we do to those who are lost, hurting, and wandering the streets, we do to Jesus Christ.

If Jesus stood at the doorway of your church, would you invite him in? Would you recognize him?

Every day, we have the opportunity to bring a little bit of heaven down to earth.

Many times, we choose to go about with our everyday lives, blinded to the world and the great need around us. And we don’t have to travel across oceans to find it.

We can simply look across the street or in our back yard. We can look into the eyes of a depressed new mom who needs a friend or a young soul who’s been transplanted so many times she lost her anchor somewhere along the way.

The desperate and hurting are everywhere around us. We simply have to open our eyes.

I wish I could say the homeless woman had some miraculous salvation experience that Sunday morning. I wish she’d accepted the invitation to come inside and had felt the warmth of Christ’s body around her. However, that isn’t what happened.

Our job is simply to plant a seed. Often, we don’t see the results on this side of eternity, but we plant them nonetheless. It is God who makes the seed thrive and flourish into something beautiful.

Today, my prayer is that the Spirit will soften my heart just a little bit. I pray my vision will be widened beyond the walls of my rancher to the widow next door, the lonely down the street, and the callous around the corner. Whether I deliver a meal or simply engage in conversation, I can make a difference.

Change starts when we move from an attitude of “I’m only one” to “I’m the one.”

Guest Contributor

Abby McDonald is a writer who can’t contain the lavish love of a God who relentlessly pursues her, even during her darkest times. When she’s not chasing her two little boys around, she loves hiking, photography, and consuming copious amounts of coffee with friends.

Abby would love to connect with you on her blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

Get all Purposeful Faith blog posts by email – click here.

Why We Need Revival (Linkup)

Truth Lies Rooted In Him

By Angela Parlin

Even with truth living in and around me, somehow the lie came along too.

I believed in Jesus so young. No major questions, just a big Yes, I believe. I don’t ever remember saying yes to the lie, but it followed me anyway.

It’s the oldest lie on the books, the same lie that poisoned Eden. It wears the mask of something more, something better. But it spoils. After it weasels in to take root in our hearts.

God doesn’t truly love you, not enough. You need more. That’s the lie.

Did you know we can hold the truth in one hand, and reach for something better with the other?…

Continue reading this post at Angela’s blog – click here. And don’t miss the #RaRaLinkup today as Angela Parlin hosts it on her blog!

Sign up for all Purposeful Faith blog Posts via email – click here.

 

Mercy Inspires Worship

In View of God's Mercy

Post By: Angela Parlin

Everyone worship the Lord.

Ascribe Him the glory due Him. Proclaim His majesty.

Be in awe before such power.

Come worship wonderful Yahweh, in all His holy beauty.

Give Him the honor due His name!

(Excerpts from Psalm 29, NIV & Passion Translation)

One of my highlights this year has been sitting with the Lord alone most days, praying without multitasking. In this time, I worship and adore God, confess my sins, thank Him for an incredible amount of blessings, and pour out my cares before Him, asking for His help.

I had no idea worship would become the part of my prayers I long for most.

I didn’t realize I would set out to give the Lord the honor due His name–yet I would receive so much blessing.

It’s not that I failed to worship the Lord before. It’s just that I didn’t take regular time away from other people–and other tasks–in order to worship Him alone. To worship without multitasking.

But what is worship, really? Worship is often more than sitting with God alone, in prayer and song.

Look up the definition of worship, and you’ll find a number of ideas. Some think worship is a service you attend, a feeling you have toward a deity, or homage paid to God or another sacred object.

Oxford Dictionary defines worship as “the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity.”

Paul, the apostle, offers another definition of worship in Romans 12:1-2,

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind… (NIV)

True worship begins with a view of God’s mercy.

We have done nothing to deserve His kindness, yet He heaps it upon us.

His mercy includes His unending love for us, even while we were yet sinners, His grace and forgiveness, eternal life by faith, our reconciliation to God, the gift of the Holy Spirit, newness of life, peace, joy, hope, freedom, and even more than all of this.

Just try to remember God’s mercies toward you, without being moved to worship. It’s impossible!

So we worship God, by focusing on His mercies, by preaching the gospel to ourselves again and again, because we so easily forget who God is, the depths of His love for us, and all we have IN Him.

Paul urges us further, to offer our bodies, our whole selves, to God. This is our action step.

We present–or give over to God’s control–our bodies, including our heart and thoughts and attitudes. We do not follow the pattern of the world any longer, because as we offer ourselves to God, He cleans and changes and renews us. 

This practice of viewing God’s mercies, of simply remembering who God is and telling Him, has surprised me this year. The more I worship God, the more I adore Him in my heart.

My whole life falls into clarity when I adore God and remember who He is, and who I am in light of Him.

My cares and concerns don’t disappear–but they fade behind the majesty of God.

So everyone, let’s worship the Lord. Let’s remember who He is, in all His holy beauty, and give Him the honor due His name.

Get all Purposeful Faith blog posts by email – click here.

Angela Parlin

 Angela Parlin is a wife and mom to 3 rowdy boys and 1 sweet girl. In addition to spending time with friends and family, she loves to read and write, spend days at the beach, watch romantic comedies, and organize closets. But most of all, she loves Jesus and writes to call attention to the beauty of life in Christ, even when that life collaborates with chaos. Join her at www.angelaparlin.com, So Much Beauty In All This Chaos.

 

Where is Your Hope?

Blog Post by Abby McDonald

“What’d you do that for? Because you wanted him to lose?”

My husband recalled the conversation he had with the scout master just minutes earlier as we sat in the fellowship hall, waiting for our son’s turn to race his pinewood derby car. Those words were directed at my husband after he’d explained that we let our six-year-old do the majority of the work.

I was seething. I wanted to march over to the leader and give him a piece of my mind. However, as I watched the joy on my son’s face when his car raced down the track, my anger dissipated.

He saw what so many others in the audience didn’t: the joy in the journey. He followed the rules of the game, and put hard work into making his vehicle just the way he wanted. Now he was reaping the benefits of his dedication.

Win or lose, he was proud of what he’d accomplished. His excitement filled the room.

As we conversed with others at the race, we became aware that several placed their hope simply in winning. It was in the end result. And isn’t that the same pattern so many of us fall into?

We see that goal in our mind’s eye, and we put all of our hope and faith into achieving it. We brush past anyone or anything that gets in our way, seeing obstacles as a nuisance rather than a chance to grow.

We claim our dreams and say God gave them to us, and this much may be true. But God’s timeline is often different than ours. Some growth may be required before we are prepared to handle the spotlight of success.

When we place our hope only in the end result, we face overwhelming disappointment if things don’t go the way we envisioned. Often, we beat ourselves up and call ourselves failures, not realizing God often uses setbacks to mold and develop us just as much as success.

I am reminded of Hebrews chapter 11. Commonly referred to as the “faith chapter,” it lists many heroes of the faith who are set as examples for us to emulate. However, none of these men and women received what was promised to them in their lifetime. If their eyes were simply fixed on the end result, they surely would have been crushed.

No, God had something much better awaiting them in their eternal destiny. And so do you and I, my friend.

“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” Hebrews 11:39-40 NIV

Do you know where the Bible says we should place our hope? In Christ alone. Not in measurable results, not in the final destination or end goal, but in Him.

When our hope is put in the only place where it can be securely held, it renews us. We have the strength to move forward.

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31 NIV (emphasis mine)

Having goals is not ungodly. Being competitive and wanting to do your best isn’t negative. But when we place our hope in the outcome alone, we will be continually frustrated.

So keep your eyes fixed on the unseen and put your hope in the only place where it can stand firm: in the arms of Christ your King.

He is preparing a place for you. Do you believe that?

Let us run forward with renewed vigor knowing that our hope will not disappoint.

Guest Contributor

Abby McDonald is a writer who can’t contain the lavish love of a God who relentlessly pursues her, even during her darkest times. When she’s not chasing her two little boys around, she loves hiking, photography, and consuming copious amounts of coffee with friends.

Abby would love to connect with you on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

 

Living From A New Identity

By: Angela Parlin

As a preschooler, I learned I had a sin problem and needed Jesus to save me from it. When I asked Him to be my rescue, I became dead to sin and alive to God. I learned the old had gone, and the new had come. But I was also encouraged to put off sin and put on Christ.

Just one little problem. How exactly do you put Christ on? That was a hard idea to wrap my head around.

Then I grew up a bit and realized–I really don’t feel so dead to sin.

So I managed my sin by trying to hide it, trying to look the way I was supposed to, or pretending it wasn’t there. Back then, there was a Sin Rating System floating around, and for the most part, my sins stayed off the really naughty list.

To be honest, sin didn’t grieve me. I didn’t think holiness was possible, for me or anyone else. And so I occasionally asked God to forgive me of “all my sins”–without owning any of them.

When I grew closer to the Lord as an adult, I started to care more about holiness. I didn’t want sin to control me, to be my master, in any way. I wanted to live in victory, and began striving for it. But that didn’t work out so well.

Victory over sin begins with belief. Not only belief in Jesus as the Resurrection and the Life. But also belief in our new identity in Christ.

Romans 6 says,

Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

To count yourself means to accept it as true, believe it, and act as if it were true.

Once we call out to Jesus for salvation, we are IN Christ. We identify with Him. This is our position—our status before God: dead to sin.

We have been baptized with Christ. We have died with Christ and been raised with Him to a new way of life. Sin no longer controls us. It has no power over us.

Now we can LIVE FROM a place of victory, instead of trying to attain victory.  

But our position often does not match our practice. The Bible says we have been made new (positionally), but we are being made new (practically). For the rest of our lives, the way we live should grow closer and closer to our position IN Christ.

I struggled to believe my position, my new identity in Christ, because I knew what was in me. I lived out of that reality, which I could see and measure—more than I lived by faith out of my position in Christ.

Even as new creations, sin deceives us. We get entangled in it sometimes. We forget who we are, and we need to remember our identity in Christ.

IN Christ, we are dead to sin and ALIVE to God.

We are new, but we are also in the process of being made new.

So put on Christ and learn to see yourself this way. Offer yourself to God day after day, and He will enable you to live the life you were meant for.

 

Angela Parlin

 Angela Parlin is a wife and mom to 3 rowdy boys and 1 sweet girl. In addition to spending time with friends and family, she loves to read and write, spend days at the beach, watch romantic comedies, and organize closets. But most of all, she loves Jesus and writes to call attention to the beauty of life in Christ, even when that life collaborates with chaos. Join her at www.angelaparlin.com, So Much Beauty In All This Chaos.

Pray Without Multitasking

By: Angela Parlin

We are two weeks into the new year, and I’m ready now to declare my word.

Near the end of last year, I thought it might be strength—as in living in God’s strength and not my own. I wrote it on the front page of a new journal, but it didn’t feel like “the one”.

As I studied strength, it took a backseat to prayer.

Because there’s no living in God’s strength without wholehearted, earnest prayer.

So this year my commitment is simply to Pray–in a consistent, intentional, wholehearted way.

I don’t know if it’s the same for you, but I think some prayers are easy. Many years ago, I read about practicing the presence of God, and started a habit of talking to Him throughout the day, believing He’s near.

I whisper lines of thanks or requests for help to God throughout the day. I ask Him regularly for wisdom, especially as a Mom. I keep a list of family and friends’ needs, knowing He waits for us to come to Him, and He listens.

I trust that God is able to do more than all we ask or imagine. 

We have needs, and God is able to meet them. Furthermore, we are busy, so these throughout-the-day, on-the-go prayers work for us.

But other times, prayer feels hard, even unnatural. Other times, prayer requires us to put down everything else we’d like to do at the same time.

That’s the kind of prayer I struggle with. To put that more honestly–that’s the prayer I often don’t pray. The one where I close the door to my world, and enter the presence of God, with only God and nothing else.

What about you? Do you regularly slow down to be with God alone?

I don’t think it comes naturally to most of us, to make a full stop in our lives and stay with Him a while.

We tend to do everything in our power, first.

We rely on ourselves instead of relying on God.

We value self-sufficiency, and pride ourselves on independence.

Or we’re rarely alone, and when we are, we turn on something noisy, so we don’t feel alone.

In my quiet times, I love studying books of the Bible. But the hard part? Pouring out my heart to God and listening for Him through the silence. Which is to say–I like to learn about God, to get to know Him through His Word, but I struggle to just sit with Him.

Back in December, I wrote down a few goals for this year. Since then, I’ve realized my goal above all goals for 2015 is to spend time each day, praying without multitasking.

I commit to daily adore God, thank Him, confess my sins, and lay my requests before Him. And then to wait in the silence for His Holy fire to fall upon my heart.

At each and every sunrise you will hear my voice as I prepare my sacrifice of prayer to you. Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life on the altar and wait for your fire to fall upon my heart. Psalm 5:3, Passion Translation

Will you join me? If the Spirit is calling you to spend time daily, praying without multitasking, let me know and I’ll be praying for YOU. Come, Holy Fire…

***Don’t miss Purposeful Faith blog posts.  Get them via email. Click here! 

Angela Parlin

Angela Parlin is a wife and mom to 3 rowdy boys and 1 sweet girl. In addition to spending time with friends and family, she loves to read and write, spend days at the beach, watch romantic comedies, and organize closets. But most of all, she loves Jesus and writes to call attention to the beauty of life in Christ, even when that life collaborates with chaos. Join her at www.angelaparlin.com, So Much Beauty In All This Chaos.

Counting Gifts Instead of Problems

Good gifts from above

Blog Post by Abby McDonald

Christmas vacation came to an abrupt end as my husband and I listened to water gush underneath the bathroom floor. It wasn’t just coming out of the drainage pipe. No, it sounded like a waterfall beneath our feet.

The longer we stood there waiting for the noise to stop, the more dollar signs I saw adding up in my head. This was the second plumbing issue we’d encountered during Christmas break, and we still had not received the bill from the first service call.

As my mind raced with endless possibilities, I sent up a frail prayer hoping the damage would be minimal. Although I avoided complaining outwardly, I inwardly assumed the posture of punished child.

Why did this have to happen right after Christmas, when we’d just spent money on travel and gifts? Why did these types of things always happen in multiples?

Potty training a high-maintenance, strong-willed child added to my list of stresses. A struggling family member kept me awake at night.

As my inner monologue rehearsed all of these things, it sounded like a six-year-old whining. But the thought that disturbed me the most was one I’ve seen countless times from followers of Christ when times get hard: Why was God punishing me? What had I done?

Had we missed a tithe check, neglected acts of service or turned a blind eye to someone in need? As my mind sunk further into a downward cycle of self-pity, I knew my thoughts were not from the Creator. I was in the midst of a battle of the mind, and I needed to grasp onto the light of Truth.

I stole a few moments by myself and counted gifts. I thanked God that I have a husband who is handy and able to make repairs when times get rough. I thanked him that we live in an area where we have resources available to us. As I walked our dogs, I praised God for the beautiful weather we came home to the previous day. But the further I went down a rocky, uneven path, the more one question kept repeating itself in my head.

Why do I perceive negative circumstances as punishment from God, but often fail to recognize blessings as God’s love?

I reflected on everything I love about my life on a given day. A song that comes on the radio at just the right time. The way my three-year-old throws himself into hugs, his whole body wrapped around you. A beautiful sunrise that turns the entire horizon a deep shade of orange.

How could I not look at each of these gifts and think, “Wow, God must really love me”? And if I recognized each of these blessings as an expression of love from my Creator, how would it change me?

James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

He does not change, friends. He doesn’t have a mood swing and decide to clog up your drain. He doesn’t get hormonal and decide not to listen to your prayer. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

When he allows us to face trials, it is not because he is angry with us, but to draw us to Him and refine us. Each struggle we face is an opportunity to build character.

Tonight, as I sit in the soft glow of the Christmas tree, I’m still counting. I’m counting not only the gifts he’s given me, but the ones I know will come. Because he’s that good.

As the list grows, I feel his love swelling up inside of me. He loves me so much. And he loves you, too.

So today, as your brewing your coffee and listening to your favorite tune on the radio, remember he created this day just for you. Let truth of that realization sink in and fill you with a love so deep it overflows.

 

Guest Contributor

Abby McDonald is mom, wife and southern girl who fell in love with writing at a young age. She started Fearfully Made Mom because she felt God gently pushing her to share her writing with others who may feel alone in their struggles with self-doubt, accepting God’s grace, and finding their identity in Christ. Her desire is to show women they are fearfully and wonderfully made by a God who will relentlessly pursue them, even during their darkest times.

When she’s not chasing her two little boys around, Abby enjoys hiking, photography, reading, and consuming copious amounts of coffee with friends.

Abby would love to connect with you on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

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