No Greater Joy

standard March 25, 2017 3 responses

Today’s Reflecting Light is brought to you by my very special friend, Lesli Thomas. Lesli is an AMAZING wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, volunteer, and much more. She makes God’s Word a priority in her everyday life and it shows up in everything that she does, especially in raising her handsome boys. I know you will enjoy her wisdom!

Two years ago I chose to adopt a word for the year – JOY – to dig deep into and find out how God desired that in my life.  Joy means so much to me as I have seen it bless my life by the reality that it is a daily choice… sure there are times that someone blesses my life which brings joy but most days it is a choice to find joy in my circumstances.  Fast forward two years to 2017 and the word of the year became TRUTH.  Then this scripture jumped off the wall at me…   “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”  3 John 1:4

My husband and I have two little sports loving, outside playing, lego building, bayou fishing, dirt covered boys.  Most days as parents seem so full with school, sports, homework, playtime, laundry, cooking, baths, bedtime, repeat.  It’s easy to get trapped in the cycle of “life” and wake up days, months, or even years later and feel like what just happened?  How are they already 6 and 8 years old?

This verse speaks such life to me… and so much intentionality!  I desire to experience a life full of joy, don’t you?  And I desire even more for my children to “walk in the truth.”  Then this got me thinking about 2 things: 1) What is truth? And 2) How will my children know truth?

In an effort to answer the question of “what is truth,” here are a few truths found in God’s Word.

Truths about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit:

God is our refuge and our strength, an ever present help in times of trouble.  Psalm 46:1

God is our strength and our shield, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.  Psalm 28:7-8

God is with us wherever we go.  Joshua 1:9

God is our deliverer from all fears.  Psalm 34:4

God is our consoler, the bringer of joy.  Psalm 94:19

God is my helper.  Hebrews 13:6

God cares for me and lifts me with His mighty hand.  1 Peter 5:6-7

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  John 14:6

Jesus is our advocate who speaks to God in our defense. 1 John 2:1

The Spirit of God gives us power, love, and self-discipline.  2 Timothy 1:7

The Holy Spirit comforts us, teaches us, and reminds us of Jesus’ teachings.  John 14:26

The Spirit guides us in all truth.  John 16:13

The Spirit helps us in our weakness, intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  Romans 8:26

Truths about us:

I along with my children must know Jesus Christ – the way, the truth, and the life – to come to the Father.  John 14:6

To have fellowship with one another and be purified from all sin by the blood of Jesus, we must walk in the light.  1 John 1:7

We must love God and love one another.  1 John 4:21

We are known as children of God when we do what is right, obey his commands, love one another, and bear fruit.  1 John 2:3-6, 3:1, 3:10

We are His hands and feet, the body of Christ.  1 Corinthians 12:27

We are children of the Most High.  Psalm 82:6

We are not our own; we were bought with a price.  1 Corinthians 6:20

We are adopted to the sonship.  Romans 8:15

We are strong and courageous.  1 Corinthians 16:13

We are the light of the world.  Matthew 5:14

We are created by the Lord, His masterpiece, to do good things.  Ephesians 2:10

We are redeemed, summoned by name, the Lords.  Isaiah 43:1

We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.  Philippians 4:13

We are given strength when we are weary and increased power when we are weak.  Isaiah 40:29

We are strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.   Ephesians 6:10

We will soar on wings of eagles, run and not grow weary.  We will walk and not be faint when we hope in the Lord.  Isaiah 40:31

We cannot be separated from the love of God in Jesus.  Romans 8:38-39

Truths about Salvation:

By the gospel you are saved… for what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and then appeared to many.  1 Corinthians 15:1-8

In an effort to answer the question of “how will my children know the truth,” here is where I as a parent find such conviction.  One of my God-given responsibilities as a parent is to teach my children His Word – the absolute truth.  Take a minute and soak that in… that is heavy!  I must be intentional!  I play a part in experiencing “no greater joy.” 

And if 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 holds true, then of first importance is that I teach my sons about Christ and the gospel that saves.  Judges 2:10 is a stark warning to us as parents.  It states that “after that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.”  The Israelites had been rescued out of 400 years of slavery in Egypt yet it only took ONE generation not teaching their children of what the Lord had done for them to not know the Lord.

So, let’s make this practical for our everyday lives.  How can we as moms do our part to make sure that our children know the truth and bless us with the greatest earthly joy?

  • We as moms must be in God’s Word… seeking His absolute truth so that we may know it, talk about it, teach it, answer questions about it, and be confident in His promises. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on 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.”  Talk about God’s Word and promises around the dinner table, in the car driving to practice, when you tuck your kids into bed, and when you send them out the door to school.
  • Make God’s word tangible for your kids, your husband, yourself, and your house guests. Deuteronomy 6:8-9 states, “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.”  Scatter the truth of the Lord around your home… notes on the bathroom mirrors, index cards by their beds, canvas scriptures on your walls… fill your hearts and minds with God’s Word.

If we are willing to seize this awesome opportunity to leave a legacy for our families by patterning a life lived in the light and truth of God, then we are raising up children who will walk in this truth that gives eternal life. There truly is no greater joy!

Note to my 20-year-old Self

standard October 20, 2016 7 responses

Dear 20-year-old Self,

Happy Birthday, Love!  You look so cute today in your Kappa Delta party shirt strutting around ULM…oops, I mean NLU’s campus.  Isn’t college so much fun? Yeah, I know. Maybe you should pump the brakes on those late nights out though.  Just a suggestion. 😉

You’re a Junior in college now and it feels like you’ve lived a million years already, but I promise these next 20 years will fly by.  Within the next year and a half, you’ll be entering the working world as a career woman.  You’ll have to trade in your jeans and flip-flops for pantyhose and high heels. But hey, there’s good news in the fact that pantyhose will eventually bite the dust…thank God for small miracles, right?

Here’s a few things that I think will be helpful to you as you journey through these next 20 years.  Take them or leave them, but just remember, I’m older and wiser than you.

  1. Accept and love your body.  (Especially your flat stomach!  You will miss it every day once it’s gone.)  I know that as a woman you tend to be concerned with your weight, but here’s the reality: there will always be someone skinnier than you or prettier than you or more athletic than you.  Let them be.  You be exactly who God has called you to be, which is beautiful by the way.  This is so hard to do when comparison is the name of the college game, but let me tell you, Comparison is the Thief of Joy and joy outshines physical beauty any day of the week.
  2. Enjoy your family and friendships. I know it’s easy to get caught up in boys at this stage in your life, but strive to keep your head out of the clouds. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t date or even kiss a few of those frogs before you find your prince.  What I am saying is that the time that you spend with your family and friends will produce much richer memories and will have lasting effects on your life. There will be a time when you go through a drought of having close girlfriends by your side and you will ache to have that camaraderie again in your life.  Don’t lose heart. God will give you another set of close friends and this sisterhood will be one of the biggest blessings in your life.  In the meantime, appreciate your girls.  Equally important is the time that you spend with your family.  Hug them and spend time with them every chance that you get. Trust me, you will thank me on this one.
  3. Learn to have a teachable spirit. Nobody likes a know-it-all.  I’m not saying that you are one, but learning to have a teachable spirit will provide tremendous favorable outcomes for you IF you will embrace it.  Keep your eyes wide open and learn all that you can from the lessons that God is presenting before you.  In order to do this, you need to get back into God’s Word.  Dust off that Bible…yes, I know it’s in a box somewhere…and start to remember the Scriptures that were taught to you in your youth. They will be an enormous source of comfort to you in the future.
  4. Make every day count and always remember that God is faithful!  By the time you reach 40, you will have gone through some pretty significant valleys in your life.  There will be times of questioning God and His goodness, but rest assured that you will make it through to the other side. Within these same years you will also experience mountaintop peaks that will absolutely blow you away. And when you stand on these peaks, take a minute to look around and give God the glory. He is not only able to do immeasurably more than you ever could think or imagine to ask Him for, but He actually WILL do these things in your life (see Eph. 3:20).  Your job is to make every day count as you reflect the light of Christ and also know that never once will you ever walk alone.  Your God is faithful.

That’s all we have time for today, Sweetie Girl.  Believe it or not, your life is pretty busy at 40. I know you’re thinking that you will have achieved all your life goals by the time you’re my age, which makes me chuckle because I’m over here praying that the best is yet to come!

With much love,

Your 40-year-old Self

P.S. One last thing: you might want to pay attention to the cute drummer in your marketing classes.  He’s a keeper. 😉

 

 

What’s Your “Word” for 2016?

standard January 13, 2016 6 responses

Years ago at the church I attended, our pastor would always encourage us to adopt a specific word for the year.  I thought this was a great idea in theory, but I never took the time to actually implement it.  Boy, was I missing out on a simple joy that this life has to offer!

Speaking of joy, fast forward several years to 2015 where my friend Lesli adopted the word Joy for the year. You may remember her post JOY: A Choice, Not a Feeling.  I watched her take this word and run with it. And guess what? Joy permeated her entire year.  And not just hers but also those she came in contact with.  It was truly a joy to be around her.

Another good friend of mine chose the word Love to focus on for the year and she noted how crazy it was that she would see the word everywhere around her…in her news feed, on her favorite brand of clothing, and in verses of Scripture that she had read a hundred times before but never really noticed the word love.  It got to where so many others knew her word was Love and they would send her text messages or post to her Facebook wall whenever they saw the word.  How nice to be known to others as love!

So how does one go about picking a word for the new year?  Well, there are several ways.

  1. Think of something that you’d like to work on in the new year.  Not just as a new year’s resolution, but something that you will carry with you throughout the year.  One great idea I heard was from a friend who wants to improve her self-discipline (i.e. putting limits on entertainment; doing the hard things first instead of procrastinating).  Now, that’s a word!
  2. Choose something you want more of in your life: Gratitude, Peace, Patience.  The list is endless.
  3. Let the Holy Spirit lead you to a specific word. Now, of course I know that He will be at work in the above two ways as well, but this approach is just strictly having Him lead you to a random word.  Such was the case with the selection of my personal word for 2016: Hope.   A precious friend of mine gave me a stack of cards on HOPE.  At first, I was thinking, “I’m digging it. Hope for the future, and all that.”  But when I really sat down to think about it, there IS so much for me to be hopeful about in 2016.  Hope for my mom’s total healing from breast cancer.  Hope for my girls and their continued spiritual growth.  Hope for this new Bible study that has formed that I have the honor to teach.  And such an expectant hope of where God wants to take Reflecting Light as a ministry after my graduation in May.  The Holy Spirit whispered to my soul, “Take it, April.  Pick up the word Hope.”  So I did and I am loving what He is teaching me through this “not-so little” word.

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Once you have your word selected (or in #3’s case, given to you), take some time to look it up.  You can go to Blue Letter Bible and plug your specific word in and voilà…every verse containing that word will be listed and you can study it in-depth with their study tools.  It’s so easy and you don’t ever have to be intimidated by an old-school concordance again.

Lastly, let the word take up residence in your heart and in your actions.  If your word is gentleness, let it be evident to all (Philippians 4:5).  If it is self-discipline, memorize 2 Timothy 1:7.  If it is hope, then study the book of Jeremiah and learn exactly what God meant when He said He will give us a “hope and a future.”  The point is simply to carry the word with you throughout the year and let God teach you about it through His Word.  Nothing could be more fantastic.

I told you, Dear Reader, that our future is bright for 2016 and it can be richer with a simple word.  So, tell me, what’s your “WORD” for 2016?

When The Earth Keeps Spinning, But Your World Has Stopped

standard September 9, 2015 5 responses

Sometimes life is incredibly hard and there’s no getting around it. There are times when you go to bed with a broken heart, certain that the earth has quit spinning, only to wake up the next morning and find that it had the audacity to keep going even though your world has stopped.

Have you ever experienced this kind of pain?

Maybe you were carrying your first baby and were thrilled that God gave you the desires of your heart only to find out that you had miscarried and the doctor wants to know when would be a good time to schedule the D&C. ~  No, Lord! There is no good time to let go of this baby!

Or maybe you have spent the past several years building your family, trying to keep things running as smoothly as possible and out of the blue your husband tells you that he’s filing for a divorce.  ~ Please God, don’t let this be happening!

Or it could be that you received a phone call from the doctor’s office saying that they would rather you come in to discuss your test results.  ~ Help me, Jesus! I need You now!

Or what if the unthinkable has happened and you are given the devastating news that your loved one is simply gone. Their life is over.  ~ There was no time to even beg God for mercy.

This is part of My Story and it is now the story of a family in our community. A young man went on the football field on Friday night to play in his first high school game and he left the field fatally injured. It was a terrible accident.  ~ How can this be, Lord? How could it have happened? It’s just a game and now lives are forever changed.  ~ The family members and friends of the young man, his teammates and classmates, the opposing team members…all of these people have experienced their world stopping in an instant.

No matter the circumstance, it still remains that God is sovereign. Yes, you will hurt. Yes, you will cry rivers of tears (and you should!). Yes, your grief will threaten to paralyze you at times. But trust me on this: your God is faithful and you WILL experience joy again.

We serve a big God and He is big enough to handle your hurts and your questions. Take them to Him, like Job did. “If only my grief could be weighed and my devastation placed with it on a scale. For then it would outweigh the sand of the seas! That is why my words are rash.” (Job 6:2-3 HCSB) Call out and be honest before Him. God already knows how you feel, so give Him your pain.

After my brother, Jeremy, died it took me well over a year to begin dreaming dreams again. And longer still to sing “It Is Well With My Soul.” But day after day Jesus held me in His loving arms and slowly but surely made my soul well again. Eventually, I found that I wasn’t mad any longer that the earth was still spinning.  It didn’t bother me quite as bad to see people going about their everyday lives, completely unaware of my pain. I finally submitted to God’s sovereignty and found solace in the Word of God, especially Isaiah 55:8-9:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not My ways.”
This is the Lord’s declaration.
“For as heaven is higher than earth,
so My ways are higher than your ways,
and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

What’s even better is that a few verses later in Isaiah 55:12, we find a beautiful promise from our God:

“You will indeed go out with joy
and be peacefully guided;”

Yes, my friend, there may be pain in the night and your personal world may have stopped spinning, but rest assured there is indeed JOY in the morning and He will once again peacefully guide you.

Jesus, you know our hearts and the pain we are experiencing. Wrap Your arms around us. Take this wrong and make it right. Restore our joy. Amen.

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If you feel comfortable, will you share your story? Please leave your response below.

 

Comparison Is the Thief of Joy

standard June 3, 2015 3 responses

Summertime is upon us and I, for one, am extremely grateful for the slower pace and a chance to sit in the sunshine with a book in hand.  However, with the change in season comes the trap of comparison.  A trap that every woman knows all too well.

If you would, please consider the following scenarios with me:

Scenario 1: While at the neighborhood pool you see an acquaintance that you know recently had a baby, but there she is looking oh, so thin in her two-piece swimsuit.  No belly fat whatsoever.  And here you are (having had your last baby five years ago…but hey, who’s counting?) feeling like the roll around your midriff could quite possibly be misrepresented as a built-in inner tube, lest you need an immediate floatation device.  You could have sworn that the mail catalog swimsuit model did not have this inner tube you are sporting, and you can’t for the life of you imagine why it is presenting itself now.

But then you hear that still, small voice whisper in your ear: You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalms 139:14) and you are precious to Me (1 Peter 2:4). I take great delight in you and I will rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).

Scenario 2: You are having a pretty good day.  Grilled cheese sandwiches have been served, the kids are behaving themselves (for the most part), and you have told them that after naps you’ll take a trip to the local library for their summer reading activity.  As your angels are sleeping you begin scrolling through Facebook.  “Oh look, Jill is on a trip to beach with her family and nanny….How nice, Jessica is on a get-away with her husband in Seattle….Is that Jacqueline zip-lining through the tropics???  Ok, now I’m just bummed.” All the while forgetting that you and your family have had plenty of fun trips that you have enjoyed.

And then you recall the words from Lesli’s post on JOY: A Choice; Not A Feeling: Don’t compare…just don’t!!  Don’t let others “highlight reels” on Facebook steal your JOY as you live in the real-life, behind-the-scenes with your precious family.

Scenario 3: You sit at your desk working furiously toward a 3:00 pm deadline for a major proposal your team has been competing to win.  Your phone keeps buzzing every three seconds showing the GroupMe texting app that you use to communicate with a group of friends. They are texting about how they are going to the pool, or the Children’s Museum, or Art Camp, etc. And while in capable hands, your kids are spending their days with a babysitter so that you can work.  You try to stay focused, but you begin to feel doubt creep in.

Until you remember that God told you: Commit your work to Me and I will establish your plans (Proverbs 6:3) because I have put you here for such a time as this (Esther 4:14).

You see, Friends, comparison is a lonely place to be and it only leads to a lack of joy.  There is always the possibility that someone is going to have a better body than you, a better vacation than you, a better (insert your own scenario here) than you, but thank God, you are made to be YOU and I am made to be ME!

So, what is the antidote to comparison? I submit to you that it is a spirit of thanksgiving for the blessings that we do have and a confidence that God will fulfill His purpose in our lives.  And just as David gave thanks in Psalm 138, we also have the ability to choose joy and say:

I give You thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart….The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.

 

 

JOY: A Choice, Not A Feeling

standard January 27, 2015 8 responses

Today’s blog post is written by Lesli Thomas. Lesli is a woman who walks an authentic life of faith. She has been married to Chris for 11 years and they have two adorable boys, Cooper (6) and Brody (4). Lesli loves her morning Dr. Pepper, Mexican food, painting, and organizing things.

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I recently debated if I was ready to claim a word for 2015 and the one that continued to rise to the surface was JOY. Admittedly, I kept pushing it back down really feeling like that would be quite an overwhelming task to grab ahold of… I mean JOY in and of itself is a wonderful state of mind that we all would love to live in, right? But when the going gets tough — JOY is A LOT! Then I was reading in Beth Moore’s Children of the Day study where she put into words just what I had been struggling with.  She says, “Joy in hardship is WEIRD… and weird means strange or extraordinary character… and to delight while walking through (life) one must be either delusional, detached, or engulfed by the Holy Spirit!”  Joy is a “sustainable quality that shows who we really are and to whom we belong!”

So, because JOY is my word for the year, I did some research on WHAT JOY IS:

1. Joy is Something we can BE full of JOY.

Be Joyful! Grow in Maturity. Encourage each other. Live in Peace. And the God of Love and Peace will be with you. ~ 2 Corinthians 13:11

2. Joy is an Action we Choose; not an Emotion we Feel.

Be Joyful Always, Pray continually, Give Thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

3. Joy is Something we have to Fight to Possess Sometimes.

The pain that you’ve been feeling can’t compare to the JOY that’s coming. ~ Romans 8:18

JOY comes in the morning! ~ Psalm 30:5

Be truly glad. There is wonderful JOY ahead. ~ 1 Peter 1:6

 4. Joy is an Inside Job that Bursts Forth.

A Joyful Heart is good medicine. ~ Proverbs 17:22

From where the sun rises to where it sets you inspire shouts of JOY! ~ Psalm 65:8

 5. Joy is not about us it’s about HIM.

For the JOY of the Lord is my strength. ~ Nehemiah 8:10

You have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for JOY! ~ Psalm 63:7

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought JOY to my soul. ~ Psalm 94:19

The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with JOY. ~ Psalm 126:3

 

And because I’m a list-making planner, I listed some practical things we can do to function in a JOY-filled life:

1. Practice an attitude of gratitude. 

It is not joy that makes us grateful. It is gratitude that makes us joyful.

Choose to focus on the good and many blessings that surround us.

2. Don’t compare Just don’t!!

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Don’t let others “highlight reels” on Facebook steal your JOY as you live in the real-life, behind-the-scenes with your precious family.

3. Recognize that the source of your JOY is GOD.

Not your hubby, not your kids, not your job, not your stuff!

Knowing God is your source of Joy really takes the pressure off of you, your hubby, your kids, your friends. We will all let each other down from time to time, but GOD never will!

4. Find someone to sprinkle some JOY on today!

Share a cup of coffee and an ENCOURAGING chat.

Crank up an ENCOURAGING group text with some other women who are in the same season of life as you.

Drop off a SONIC drink to a new mom with an ENCOURAGING note.

I guarantee you will be filled with JOY and that your JOY will spread to them!

5. Say “no” to the good so you can say “yes” to the best.

As women it feels like we are being pulled in so many directions and we feel obligated to say yes ALL THE TIME. I promise the world won’t fall apart if you say “no” (from my experience the person asking you may look a little dumbfounded at the moment, but life goes on) and one “no” can empower you to the next “no” and the end result is the opportunity to say a really great “yes” to the best things!

6. Choose JOY in your reactions to what life throws at you.

Busy is a choice.

Stress is a choice.

Bitterness is a choice.

Thanksgiving is a choice.

JOY is a choice.

 

Today I choose JOY! Won’t you?

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