Monday, December 3, 2012

Peace & Joy, In The Midst Of Chaos

I don't know about you, but it seems like the closer it gets to Christmas, the more frantic and hectic our lives become. We never seem to have enough time or money to do the things we want to accomplish, and then there are those innocent little molehills, that somehow suddenly become like gigantic mountains, looming over us, threatening to steal our joy and peace.

Holidays can be difficult for other reasons as well. Loss of loved ones, loss of jobs, heartaches, financial difficulties, health issues, and other circumstances and struggles, that always seem to escalate during the holidays, and we often find ourselves overwhelmed, exhausted, emotionally depleted, and most of all, so far removed from the peace and joy this special season should bring us.

We tend to lose sight of what the true meaning of Christmas is all about; the wonderful gift of a Savior, God's precious son, sent to us in Bethlehem so long ago. Yes, it is wonderful to have treasured Christmas traditions; the exchanging of gifts, the baking of delicious cookies and treats, the decorating of our homes, and the pleasure of celebrating with loved ones and friends. Somehow though, we tend to get all so caught up in the preparations, that by the time Christmas is finally here, we have lost our holiday cheer, peace and joy. It is a sad situation we find ourselves in.

Today I came across a special quote that I would like to share with you. Its meaning speaks volumes, not only during the Christmas season, but all year long.

"Peace is not the absence of noise, trouble, or hard work. It is to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart."  Anonymous

It also reminds me of this scripture, found in Philippians 4:7

"Now the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

If you look carefully at the next verse, the scripture tells us how this is accomplished.  It reminds us to focus, or to think or dwell on certain things; those things, which are the things that will empower us to remain calm, have peace and joy, thoughout the chaos of a busy holiday season, or whatever storms, trials, or difficulties that you are currently facing.

It comes as no surprise, that one of the most favorite Christmas Hymns is: "Silent Night." Imagine what would happen if we would allow ourselves to become still and silence our minds from all the chaos and confusion, and focus our minds on the things mentioned in Philippians 4:8. I believe we would then begin to feel God's peace that passeth all understanding fill our hearts and minds with those things that are eternal.

Let us prepare our minds and hearts for this special and holy advent season. Let us shift our focus and perspective at least momentarily from the craziness, and be still and listen, and hear the voice of God. He calls us to a place of peace, a place of calm; a place of serenity; will you join me there? 

Wishing you God's peace, love, joy and comfort during Christmas and everyday!


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Faith Versus Fear

Faith versus Fear.
Wow, I know that God has recently put this subject matter on my heart and I cannot shake it; and so, I feel (finally) compelled to just pull up my big girl panties, (so to speak) and face the subject head on.

I, dear readers, have been living in fear; not just a little fear, an entire room of fear. Have you ever been there? Now in that room of fear, I am not just in there with fear alone; Oh, no! Fear brings it's best friends over too, which include doubt, unbelief, worry, lies, anxiety, depression and sometimes many more, and we have a great big party. They provide more than enough food for fodder to keep me there, confined in that room with them; financial difficulties, crisis, being single, difficult circumstances, drama, insecurity and so forth and so on. Fear is cunning and crafty, it works on our most vulnerable points and attacks us with a vengeance. It wraps it's tentacles around us and grips us with all it's might; keeping us as it's prey. When we even think about leaving the room, fear rises up with another obstacle, blocking the door to the way out, keeping us trapped in it's domain of negativity. 

We know that fear is not of God. We know that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love and a sound mind. But how do we overcome fear, and get to the part of power, love and a sound mind?
Thank goodness, God has provided us with the weapons to overcome fear, and help us to break free from it's deadly clutch on us. Fear's greatest enemy is Faith. Faith you see, has the power to overcome fear, however, faith by itself is not enough to overcome fear. The only way to overcome come fear is to combine action with our faith. Let me explain. We can have faith and believe that God can deliver us from our fear, however, God requires something from us as well, and what that is required is action. When we take faith and combine it with action; that is taking action on our faith and what we believe about God, and His promises for our lives, then that allows God's miracles to transpire in our lives. So, to make it simple, here is the equation for conquering fear:
Fear plus Faith plus Action = Freedom and Deliverance!

Remember the room of fear I mentioned earlier? We can have all the faith in the world, but until we take action on that faith, and start taking steps to actually walk out of that room ( that's the action part) we will remain there, paralyzed in fear's control. Let me give you a few examples: For years I felt God calling me to write, but fear kept me from picking up a pen, or going to the computer and writing; but until I was willing to take action; starting to write this online blog and sharing it with others, I remained a victim of fear, paralyzed that I was not good enough to put myself and my writing out there for the whole world to see, (and criticize) or so, I felt. Another situation in my life was I had a desire to paint. Again for years the only thing I did was have faith; I bought the paints, the brushes, the canvases, and they sat there gathering dust. I looked at other painter's works and thought to myself; "I am not good enough, I can't paint like them," and so there I sat in the room of fear. But once again, until I added action to my faith and actually picked up a brush and attempted to paint, I stayed firmly planted in my fear.

One of the most powerful tools fear uses against us is Lies. Fear causes us to view our life, our circumstances, situations, our hopes and our dreams through the distorted lens of lies, to prevent us from living the abundant, powerful, amazing lives, God has planned and intended for us. Instead of looking to God for our strength and hope, fear teaches us to view life as a victim; that everything is hopeless, impossible, and the biggest lie fear tells us is that we don't deserve anything better.

Instead of using the lies of fear when we are going through a difficult situation, such as, oh, I am struggling financially, I don't know how I am going to pay this bill; we should use our faith, and take action by reframing our thoughts and saying, wow, I am in a financially crisis, God, I give this need to you, I wonder what amazing way you (God) are going to meet this need in my life! Then stop worrying about it; wait and see what God reveals to you, and trust that God will present an opportunity for you to make the extra money to meet the need. Now, this does not mean we are to sit on our laurels and do absolutely nothing, but to fearlessly take steps (without fear, anxiety, or worry) towards working towards that goal, knowing that God is already working behind the scenes, preparing things to work out for our advantage.

You see, fear is comfortable; it becomes like a warm comfy coat we wear, and if we allow it to, it can become our comfort zone. Faith and action allows us to step out of that comfort zone, out of the room of fear and into the world of wonder, of hope, of the possible and the miraculous.

What about you? Are you living in the room of fear? Be brave, be fearless, use faith and action, and leave that room immediately. You deserve to live an abundant, joyful life, you've earned the right, and more importantly, God has great plans for you. Take the leap, and see what is waiting for you! 

Blessings to you on your amazing journey,

Lolita ~ aka Lulabelle

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

We Are All Meant to Shine

Lately I have been thinking a lot about fear versus faith. Why? Perhaps I feel safe in my comfort zone of fear. It is familiar, it is non threatening, it requires nothing from me, especially no action on my part. I came across a segment this week from Marianne Williomson's book; "Return To Love," It really hit home, and made me realize what my fear really is all about. Marianne says; " Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine; as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone. And as we let our own light we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. as we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." The other day I made an observation, that prompted me to write this quote: "When we step out of the room of fear, and cross the threshold of faith, we enter the amazing world of unlimited possibility." And so, I ask not only myself, but everyone who is reading this post: "What is holding us back and keeping us paralyzed in the room of fear, when all we have to to do is cross the threshold of faith, and live the life God intended us to live?" Is it the fear of the unknown, or the fear of the amazing possibilities that await us, just by crossing the threshold of faith. This reminds me of another quote by Trina Paulus: "How does one become a butterfly?" she aked pensively. "You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar." I don't know about you, but I am tired of being a caterpiller, when I can be a beautiful butterfly and soar. I am ready to shine!

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Power Of Words

Many of my friends know that I am an avid Scrabble or "Words With Friends" player online. Both are word games using virtual lettered tiles with each letter allotted a certain amount of points. Players love using words with the letters J, Q, X & Z, especially when played on a spot that has double or triple the letter or word, thus racking up the points.

As I was playing the game the other day, I started to think about the words in general, and the tremendous power that's generated once they are spoken. No, we don't get "points," but the impact that comes from the words we speak can affect others in so many ways.

Spoken words can build a person up, or tear them down, they can empower others, or belittle others. They can strengthen or weaken another, they can be kind, tender, and loving words, or mean, cruel, hateful and vicious, and the list goes on and on. Too many times we use words as weapons, cutting swiftly and quickly, devastating & injuring others in a spiteful, vindictive way. On the flip side, when we use our words to inspire, encourage, uplift, or motivate others, their impact can also be long lasting, and in fact, life changing to someone who is in a desperate or dire place.

One thing for certain is that once a word is spoken, it is there for eternity. Even if we later regret saying something, and apologize for saying it, the damage is already done, the wound already inflicted. When I was young, people use to say; "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." What a totally ridiculous saying. Of course looking back now, as a child we would say it to prove that we were "tough," that even if someone teased us unmercifully, their words would be like water on a duck's back, and merely roll off us. How wrong we were. Just think about the many times someones harsh words hurt you and caused you pain. Many children today are bullied, subject to the taunting and teasing from other children. Oh, the pain that can be inflicted, with careless, bitter and ugly words. Take a moment a think about the times you have been the perpetrator, lashing out cruel words to someone else. Oh, you may feel an immediate rush of adrenaline, a sense of "one up pence," but after the initial feelings subsides, what you are left with is a deep, dark hole; a wound that you inflicted upon another person with the use of sharp, destructive words.

I admit that I have been the recipient of harsh bitter words myself; from other children teasing me in the third grade about my weight, to the gym teacher in eighth grade who's thoughtless, teasing words humiliated me in front of the entire class, resulting in my decision to quit school and never finish, until I went back as a grown woman and got my GED at age 38. I wonder if that teacher ever realized the result his senseless, taunting remarks made in my life, and how different my life could have turned out had that incident never occurred? I was a straight A student, and I should never have allowed his words to hurt me as deeply as they did, but I was wounded to the core, and made a decision, I have regretted to this day, all because a teacher (someone who definitely should have known better) used words in a belittling way.

That makes me reflect on some of the words I have chosen to use in my lifetime and what effect or negative impact transpired in someones life because I reacted and use words as a weapon, to defend myself; thus hurting the other person, making me feel better, or even worse, justified.

The power of words. They can be sweet or bitter, soothing, or provoking. I believe words come with attachments. What I mean by that, is that when words are spoken, they emit emotions or feelings; so when a word is spoken, it is not only heard, but it is felt as well. Think of a word, any word. Immediately your mind goes somewhere and you get a reaction feeling, just by thinking of a word. When a word is actually spoken, the emotion connected or associated to that word is then "released" so that the recipient of the word not only hears the word, but feels the emotion of it as well.

To me, some of the most powerful words a person can say to someone is; "I am sorry," "I forgive you," "I love you," and just simply "thank you." Think about how these words make you feel when someone says them to you and the emotions you experience, when you hear them. That my friends is the power of words. So simple, so basic, so elementary, yet so hard to get a grip on, so hard to control. The tongue is such a small member of the body, yet look how much damage is done every day by it.

How are YOUR words affecting other people's lives? Remember to take time to reflect on the power and the impact of them, BEFORE you speak them. Also remember that they are not "just words," they are the very tools that will either build up or tear someone down. Choose your words wisely and with caution, for they are worth far more than you know.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Men, Weed Eaters, and Hedge Trimmers

What is it about men with weed eaters and hedge trimmers? Seriously, do they feel some kind of extraordinary power once the power cord gets plugged in? Let me explain.

My landlord sent someone over to my house cut the grass, trim shrubs and yard maintenance.  I didn't know he was coming today, in fact I didn't even know he was here until I looked out my back window and saw him brutally attacking the gorgeous tall shrub separating my back yard from my neighbors. I was on the phone at time and as soon as I realized what was happening, I hurried out the back door as quick as I could (with a bad back ) and tried to get his attention, but he had head phones on and and couldn't hear me. After waving my arms wildly, and making loud noises, I finally got his attention. I explained how important the shrubs were for our privacy and asked him to please not to cut them any shorter, just barely trim them. HA! The next thing I knew my nice thick shrub had become so thinned to the point where not only Could I now see through the shrubs to my next door neighbor's yard, but also to the neighbor's yard beyond that. So much for privacy!

It reminded me of another painful time years ago (a different lifetime when I was married). We were living in a rental house that had beautiful ivy climbing up the brick wall. I was getting ready to cater a bridal shower the following week, and planning on using some of the fresh ivy for decoration. I had went into town and when I came back home my jaw dropped. Not only had my husband trimmed every single bit of ivy off the house, but also conveniently weed eated my hydrangea bush as well. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw my beautiful ivy lying lifeless on the ground. I cried. I was hurt, and devastated. I know it was just ivy but it was important to me, besides the point that now I couldn't use it for the upcoming bridal tea. My husband felt justified in cutting it by saying that he thought it was ruining the brick on the house.

 Just this morning I posted on my blog about how God sometimes "cuts back" things in our lives necessary for our good, but what was the lesson in all this?
Maybe God has a sense of humor and he was showing it to me. Do I need to set better boundaries? Do I need to release control over those things in which I have no control over?  Perhaps I need to go back to yesterdays post to just "Let Go and Go On." 

 As I ponder these things I realize once again that I am human and continually a work in progress. Good days, bad days and that I constantly need to be reminded of the serenity prayer;

 "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. 

 But some days it sure is hard: especially on those days when men have weed eaters and hedge trimmers!

The Second Chance Geranium

Through my living room window, I can see a potted geranium plant out on my patio. A few weeks ago it was in dire straights, literally.

Having survived the winter, I had neglected it all spring due to my recent surgery. It was alive still, but just barely. The dirt was dry from lack of water, the blooms that once was vibrant hung pitifully; faded and shriveled. The stems and leaves were dried up as well (as if embarrassed), with only a few green leaves and visible signs of life remaining. I thought, "What the Heck, I should probably just toss this old thing in the garbage and put it out of it's misery." But instead, I decided to give it a second chance.

I clipped away all the shrivelled, faded blooms, then started cutting away all the dried leaves and stems. By the time I was finished there wasn't much left. Then I watered it, and gave it some plant food, and waited. Each day I patiently made sure the soil had enough water to sustain it. Then I waited & crossed my fingers.

Today when I look out my window I now see one big beautiful red geranium bloom rising proudly above a now green, healthy and beautiful plant. Small miracles happen every day if we are willing to open our eyes to them.

I realize that I too, have been like that geranium plant that has survived a hard winter; (barely).  I have felt dried up, & have lost all my color. I have stopped blooming. I have been in a desert place of a different kind; (divorce, illness, fatigue, fear, anxiety). My soul parched and dry, my spirit shriveled away to nothing.

But God looks at me in my sad, dire condition, and sees hope in me. First, even though it is a painful process, he starts pruning away what is no longer useful in my life. I understand that even though it hurts it is for my good. Next he waters my parched soul with his holy spirit and my thirst is quenched. Finally he allows the glory of his son (sunlight) to bathe my spirit with healing rays of hope, renewing my faith, for a brighter tomorrow. And I, like the the red geranium on my patio, I will bloom again. Under the tender care of the master gardener have been given a second chance.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Let Go....Go On

 I recently came across a Mary Engelbreit card I purchased years ago because I loved the saying as well as the picture. it shows A girl taking great steps forward, with a branch in hand as a walking stick, and a opened suitcase trailing behind her with an assortment of personal items falling out of it.  What I like most about it is the caption: LET GO....GO ON.

There comes a time in all of our lives when we come to a point when we have a choice: hold on to the past (or even a current undesirable situation) or let go and go on. Wowzie! Sometimes just the thought of letting go of the familiar (even though it may be painful or toxic to us), paralyzes us into remaining rooted firmly in place because even as painful as it is, it has become a sort of comfort zone for us.  Fear grips us, holding us from going forward. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of being alone, fear of the unknown. Whatever it is that is that is keeping you from going forward becomes like quicksand; first by gripping our feet, but then eventually swallowing up our entire body so that we become immobile, helpless to go anywhere. I know, I've been there myself.

During the past two weeks following my recent divorce (which I finally had the courage to have finalized) I have seen the above phrase no less than three times.

Coincidence? I don't think so. I believe that when we finally take the leap faith to LET GO and GO ON, there will be road signs confirming we have made a step forward in the right direction. Sometimes we don't even know what direction that is~ we are just taking one step at a time, one day at a time and just moving forward to whatever God has planned for us. I read a quote the other day that said: "God will direct our paths, but we have to be willing to pick up our feet and take the first step. 

What are YOU currently facing today? What specifically is holding YOU back?
Be Brave. Be Strong. Be Courageous. Be Fearless. Most importantly;
 LET Go and Go On. Move forward and don't look back.

Blessings to you and your journey wherever it takes you! :)