How to find peace this Christmas + Giveaway

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 (NLT)

I’m betting peace isn’t a word a lot of us would use for this time of year. The chaos of all the gatherings, parties, shopping and endless to do lists can feel downright overwhelming.

It doesn’t mean we can check out of all the events and things we need to get done. But…it does mean we can invite peace to reside in us as we go through each day.

Yeah, I get it, this is SO much easier said than done. All too often we’re given some feel good, simplistic answer that in no way feels like it’ll work in our situation. Seriously, the chaos in our lives can feel completely overwhelming on a normal day. Add in all the extra’s of the Christmas season and peace can seem like a distant fairytale.

I found spending time with the Lord before I enter into these chaotic times helps tremendously. Dig into His word. Write down scriptures wherever you can keep them in front of you. I’m a personal fan of post it notes. They’re literally all over my house and car.

So once we’ve covered ourselves with His word and asked for His peace to fill us let’s go out expecting it.

Now don’t think I must be living in some pollyanna world where life is super simple. I’m sure it looks different in many ways from yours but I’m well acquainted with chaos. Many people have used that exact word to describe my family.

So our holiday get togethers can get a little messy too. (If I was an LOL kind of person I would add it right here.)

We know there is the power of life and death in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21) so let’s not continue to speak turmoil into our situations. How about we take a different route the next time chaos presents itself?

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Awhile back my sister shared with me a definition of “shalom” she had recently heard. It really stuck with me.

Shalom, the peace that devours the chaos of life.

It’s a complete peace which can only come from Jesus. A peace that passes all understanding.

I don’t know about you but I sure want that kind of peace! The peace Jesus offers us through His saving grace.

Many times the best I can do in a stressful situation is speak one word. When the chaos of the world feels like it’s closing in on me I simply say the name of Jesus out loud.

This may seem a little simple but that’s how I like things.

Try it with me will you? Take a minute to just breath and speak out our Savior’s name.

Study Guide Giveaway

So in continuing the fun with the blog anniversary I have another fun giveaway for you all!

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The Broken Way Study Guide with DVD: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life

In this six-session video Bible Study, New York Times bestselling author Ann Voskamp takes us on a personal journey along the broken way.

Ann helps you dig deeper into living the abundant life with great insight and questions to work through. You don’t want to miss out on this one!

Enter below! Winner will be announced next Tuesday, December 13th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I’m sharing this post with several other blogger’s at these Faith Linkups. I encourage you to check them out. If this post resonates with you and feel it would help others please feel free to share. Easy to share buttons below. ~Laura~

Do we crave God above everything?

Five Minute Friday is so much fun for me. No pressure! Simply a word prompt on twitter (#fmfparty) on Thursday night and then write. No over thinking or editing. There is a linkup on Friday at http://katemotaung.com where we can read other’s five minute free write.

This week’s prompt is: CRAVE

Okay, I have to admit, I WAY over thought this prompt! I almost decided not to write anything as I couldn’t decide which direction to go with it. So, I’m simply sitting down to write and see where the words take me.

We all crave. It’s just in us to do so. We’re created that way.

But how many times do our cravings lead us astray?

God keeps leading me to scriptures and lessons on intimacy with Him. I do spend time with Him but am I still enough to soak in His presence? Or am I letting outside distractions continue to keep me from the fullness of His presence?

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I long to crave closeness with our Heavenly Father more than anything else in this world. I’m learning that all the other distractions in life do just that – distract!

So I’m putting those distractions in their place. I know the path to full joy is being in close to the heart of Jesus. So I’m going to say no to cravings that don’t glorify Him and yes to those that do!

The winner of  last week’s book giveaway for the signed copy of  Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog is…

Nancy A!

Congrats! I hope you enjoy the book as much as I have.

I’m sharing this post with several other blogger’s at these Faith Linkups. I encourage you to check them out. If this post resonates with you and feel it would help others please feel free to share. Easy to share buttons below. ~Laura~

Christmas is a Reminder of Hope for All

I’m excited to be sharing the following post over at www.wearehisdaughters.com

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Luke 2:8-10 (ESV)

The good news of Jesus’ birth came to the shepherd’s first. Maybe this seems like something completely insignificant but nothing with God is without purpose.

I probably relate to this piece of information more than most as I am a shepherd. Not in the same exact way as the shepherds from the Bible, but still a shepherd. Thankfully I don’t need to live with them 24 hours a day but my whole livelihood is dependent on the animals we raise. It’s not a hobby I do on the side, ranching is our sole source of income.

Growing up in a cattle ranching community, it was all too common to hear derogatory comments about those “sheep farmers”. It something that started during the settlement of the west and has unfortunately continued to this day.

I have a feeling the shepherds of old could relate to feeling like second class citizens in their communities as well. They lived with their sheep full time so didn’t have much social interaction. Sheep are terribly skittish animals and as such the shepherds wouldn’t want to risk the new smells that come with cleaning up to go to town unsettling them. So going into town (which would be very limited) had its downfalls.

On one hand the loneliness of your job would get old but the feelings of being treated “less than” every time you did gather with other people would put a damper on gatherings. Maybe it would be easier just to keep to themselves and remain “out of sight and out of mind”.

But…God in His great wisdom came to the shepherds first as a sign of exactly what Jesus’ birth symbolized – HOPE!

The shepherds were considered among the “least of these”. They were exactly the right people for the earth shattering news! Jesus came for everyone not just the elite.

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I personally find so much hope in the fact the angels were heard in the quiet of the star filled sheep pastures. A cry out to those who had been set aside by society but were now set apart by God. Can you just feel the hope oozing out of that night?

The story doesn’t end there. Christmas is a reminder of God’s hope for all of us. Those who have felt socially unacceptable as well as those who feel included. The hope of the Messiah is for us ALL!

He’s offering that same hope to each of now. We can accept the good news of great joy God is offering to ALL people.

I’m sharing this post with several other blogger’s at these Faith Linkups. I encourage you to check them out. If this post resonates with you and feel it would help others please feel free to share. Easy to share buttons below. ~Laura~

 

It’s Safe to Surrender + Book Giveaway

Five Minute Friday is so much fun for me. No pressure! Simply a word prompt on twitter (#fmfparty) on Thursday night and then write. No over thinking or editing. There is a linkup on Friday at http://katemotaung.com where we can read other’s five minute free write. This week’s prompt is: SURRENDER

I have a feeling I’m not the only one who has struggled with surrender. Am I right? If you look it up in the dictionary one of the first synonyms for it is submit. Also, not a word I ever had in my vocabulary for years!

To be honest, I often cringed when I heard that word before. I felt like it meant giving up and the stubborn side of me wanted NOTHING to do with. Aren’t we trained to not give up at all costs?

Oh to have known how much I was resisting God’s perfect plans for me all that time. I was fighting to hold on to who I was but in the process of digging in my heels I was missing out on the blessing of being who HE created me to be.

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing. Psalm 143:10 (NLT)

Surrender is giving oneself up into the power of another.

I get that it seems scary to surrender our plans, dreams and even our own will over to another but when it’s the same God who sent His own son to die for each of us…it’s so worth it.

So, as I said last week, I’m celebrating 2 years of blogging here at www.laurahicks.org and want to celebrate with you.

To kick off the party I’m giving away a signed copy of the book – Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog. It includes a short story I wrote about my dog, Zac. He taught me so much about unconditional love and as such opened my heart to a deeper relationship with our Lord.

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I’m super excited to get this celebration going and hope you’ll join in the fun! You can enter several different ways and each way counts as an individual entry. So enter as many ways as you like and as often as you like.

Enter in the following ways:

  • Leave a comment on this post.
  • Share this post on social media (easy to share buttons below) and tag me in it so I can join you.
  • Subscribe to my email list.
  • If you’re already a subscriber forward this post to a friend and CC me on it.

One random winner will be chosen and announced next Friday, December 2, 2016.

I’m sharing this post with several other blogger’s at these Faith Linkups. I encourage you to check them out. If this post resonates with you and feel it would help others please feel free to share. Easy to share buttons below. ~Laura~

Thankful in the Least Thankful Places

We all have them. Those hard places we would really rather not have in our lives. Those trials we face for a day, a month or maybe many seasons.

They might look different for each of us but it doesn’t change the fact it can be really hard to be thankful for them.

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I’ve struggled with my weight my whole adult life. I have prayed countless times for the Lord to just fix it, please! I have swung the pendulum on both extremes – obsessing about what I eat/over exercising to complete neglect.

To be honest neither way is fun. I know it doesn’t sound earth shattering compared to so many other people’s struggles but it is a constant struggle for so many of us.

So how can we possibly be thankful for these struggles?

I wish I could tell you it comes natural for me to be thankful for my struggles. It doesn’t. But I do have hope for you – whatever your challenges in life – PRAYER!

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)

I’ve learned God will never abandon me in the middle of life’s challenging times. He’s revealed so much about Himself and His heart for me through my own struggle. I’ve spent so many hours on my face begging God to take this from me.

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So on the days I feel defeated I take it to Jesus. He loves me regardless of where I am on this journey, but He also loves me too much to leave me there. 

On the days I feel like I have a handle on it, I still take it to Jesus. I can’t do this alone. I’ve tried! It’s just not in me to do it in my own strength.

I am learning to be thankful for this difficult place because it keeps me completely dependent on God. My desire is to hunger and thirst after Him more than anything else in this world.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33 (ESV)

What areas in your life are you struggling with? Do you take them to God? I challenge you to do just that! Take them to Him daily. He’s more than capable of walking with you through it. He IS faithful!

Enjoy the Process – Blog Anniversary

Five Minute Friday is so much fun for me. No pressure! Simply a word prompt on twitter (#fmfparty) on Thursday night and then write. No over thinking or editing. There is a linkup on Friday at http://katemotaung.com where we can read other’s five minute free write. This week’s prompt is: ENJOY

Ready, set, go….

So, I have fun news to share with you all. It’s been 2 years since I started this blog. I’m super excited. It’s been such a journey and huge learning experience.

I’ll be honest I have enjoyed certain aspects of it more than others. I love to write and am especially fond of just getting my thoughts on paper. On the other hand, editing is the least enjoyable part of the process for me.

Yet for some reason I can get caught up editing as I write which completely kills the flow. I’ve heard it so many times not to edit as I go but I find that extremely difficult. I think that’s why I enjoy the Five Minute Friday free writes so much. It’s right up my alley!

I always want to give my best in everything I do. That includes writing and blogging. But it feels like there’s a huge learning curve and just when I feel like I’m getting it figured out something changes again.

So when frustration tries to creep in I remember that everything I do, including this blog, is for God’s glory!

I love to celebrate. I love to write. I also really love Christmas. So it’s a perfect time to throw a party, right? Will you join me over the next month as we celebrate 2 years of this blogging and writing journey?

Watch for the party to kick off and get started Thanksgiving week.

I’m sharing this post with several other blogger’s at these Faith Linkups. I encourage you to check them out. If this post resonates with you and feel it would help others please feel free to share. Easy to share buttons below. ~Laura~

Purpose in our Pain + Book Giveaway

God uses all for His purpose

Have you ever thought you had to bandage up the broken pieces of your life before you could be presentable to God?

As I read through my early copy of Ann Voskamp’s book “The Broken Way – a daring path into the abundant life” my heart soared with hope. She shows how our brokenness can lead to abundance.

As I read through the chapters it made me pause and dig into my own brokenness and the abundance God is bringing from it.

So much of my youth was nearly swallowed up by brokenness. Numbness had taken over as I tried desperately to escape my own broken pieces as well as the broken ways of those around me.

One particular day we were vaccinating horses in a run down setup. One young horse I was holding went over the top of me and got caught up in a panel. He and the panel came down hard on my leg. I jumped up and dusted myself off and said I was fine as we went back to work.

In reality, I wasn’t fine.

The panel had cut my knee wide open. As we finished working the ache began to grow. I pulled my pant leg up to see what all the warmth and tingling was about to find my cowboy boot had completely filled with blood and was spilling over the top.

This pretty much described how I dealt with life in general. I was so numb to the actual feelings of any kind –  I didn’t feel anything anymore.

“And this is always the choice: pain demands to be felt – or it will demand you feel nothing at all.”   Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

I was honestly more scared of the piecing it back together and the pain that would come with it then the actual wound itself.

It was painful to fix my knee, I’m not gonna lie. (They quit counting at 50 stitches.) But to leave it open would have been a slow bleeding out of myself. A gaping wound that at best I tried to ignore and at worst cost me everything.

There’s still a scar there to this day. It still feels different when you touch that spot compared to the other side.

Feeling pain leads to the opening up of us. As we begin to feel again we make room for other feelings we’ve been missing out on. It makes a way for God to work in and through us!

We must feel the pain in order to deal with it.

That knee, despite its brokenness, serves a purpose. It carried my babies through childhood. It walks along side my husband in marriage. It bends low as I come alongside friends as we kneel to pray. It dances now because I choose to the see the blessing in all of it.

God does great things through the greatly wounded. Ann Voskamp

The brokenness we all fight so hard to hide, has its purpose. We most often find our purpose in our pain. God never wastes a hurt.

We can be confident and full of hope knowing God is able to orchestrate something beautiful when we accept His invitation to live according to His plan.

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I’m so blessed to be giving one lucky winner a copy of Ann Voskamp’s new book “The Broken Way”! If you’re searching for freedom you don’t want to miss this book.

One randomly drawn winner will be announced next Tuesday, November 15th.

About Ann Voskamp’s new book – The Broken Way

This one’s for the lovers and the sufferers.

This one’s for those whose hopes and dreams and love grew so large it broke their willing hearts.

This one’s for the busted ones who are ready to bust free, the ones ready to break molds, break chains, break measuring sticks, and break all this bad brokenness with good brokenness. You could be one of the Beloved who is broken—and still lets yourself be loved.

You could be one of them, one who believes freedom can be found not only beyond the fear and pain — but actually within it.

Entering is super easy below. Please join in and share the fun!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I’m sharing this post with several other blogger’s at these Faith Linkups. I encourage you to check them out. If this post resonates with you and feel it would help others please feel free to share. Easy to share buttons below. ~Laura~

Embrace the Journey!

Five Minute Friday is so much fun for me. No pressure! Simply a word prompt on twitter (#fmfparty) on Thursday night and then write. No over thinking or editing. There is a linkup on Friday at http://katemotaung.com where we can read other’s five minute free write. This week’s prompt is: Journey

Ready, set, go….

How many times in life are we so focused on the destination? We set our goals and we’re singularly focused on the end result. But what if it’s about so much more then simply the destination?

We don’t simply arrive and then we know – we learn through the going.

What if we could just embrace the journey and enjoy each moment along the way? 

I know for me, it has helped tremendously to embrace the journey instead of trying to hurry through it. Let’s be honest that’s sometimes easier said than done. Especially in different areas of our lives. 

We aren’t stuck without hope however!

God promises in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Embrace the journey!

As we venture on our journey we can choose to enjoy each moment with God leading the way. 

My tagline for my blog says “serving an extraordinary God in ordinary moments” but the truth – is when we are serving God every moment is extraordinary!

Embrace the journey!

I’m sharing this post with several other blogger’s at these Faith Linkups. I encourage you to check them out. If this post resonates with you and feel it would help others please feel free to share. Easy to share buttons below. ~Laura~

Are old sins creeping back into your life?

I got pulled over today! Oh how I wish I could tell you I was the model citizen and did nothing wrong. Unfortunately, I did. I was speeding. Then to top it all off when the officer asked me why I was speeding I couldn’t even think of a good answer right away so what did I say?

“Because I was in a hurry.”

Yep, that was my brilliant answer! I wish you could have seen the look on his face. Poor kid must have thought I had lost my mind. I’m sure he was thinking, “Here you go ma’am, a chance to explain yourself and give some lofty answer of a crisis that needs your attention NOW! But, no, you just spit out the ugly truth.”

You see, I have prayed for deliverance from the sins that tripped me up for so many years. Not only has God delivered me He has made me extra sensitive to them now.

One of the biggies for me used to be…lying. Eek, I’m so sorry if I have just offended every high regard you’ve ever had for me. It’s true though and if nothing else I have to be honest. You see in high school, and probably even before, I learned to lie as a survival mechanism.

It started out as me telling the truth and no one believing me. Then it switched to telling people what they wanted to hear to avoid repercussions.

Quickly, I learned I was pretty darned good at it.

Let me tell you, it’s not something I’m proud of now. But, it’s also something I refuse to be held down in condemnation by either. The Lord convicted me of it a LONG time ago and He and I have dealt with it.

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As we walked through that valley together, I prayed He would make me so sensitive to my sin I would be able to spot it coming a mile away! He did that in abundance.

I’ve been asked before why I’m so sensitive to certain things such as cursing. You guessed it, I asked God to make that one like fingernails on a chalkboard to me as I’d become so numb to it. I’m not sure you want to know this much truth from a Christian writer but I used to throw the “F” word around more than most sailors.

I remember crying out to God as those old habits kept creeping up in my life and feeling powerless against them. Not even recognizing them until after the fact due to how numb I’d become to them.

Then, I gave up.

I said, “Here they are God – I’m tired of trying so hard to be good. There’s no way I can do this on my own, I’ve tried. Do what you will in my life. Have your way with me. Please make me so sensitive to these sins that I have no choice but to recognize them and turn from them.”

The more I humbled myself before the Lord the more He lifted me up. I finally felt free of the condemnation of my sins and ready to move forward.

Step of faith leads to freedom!

I’m so far from perfect and I’ll be the first to admit it. But you know what? It’s okay. I’m so grateful for the sensitivity to the Holy Spirit I’ve discovered. I know whatever new things the enemy throws at me now, God’s got me!

In case you’re struggling with this fact I want to remind you. God’s got you! Repeat it often to yourself. He has your back!

Now it’s your turn. In what ways are you progressing in your walk with the Lord? Are there old sins trying to creep back up in your life? Leave a comment and let’s hold each other up in prayer!

I’m sharing this post with several other blogger’s at these Faith Linkups. I encourage you to check them out. If this post resonates with you and feel it would help others please feel free to share. Easy to share buttons below. ~Laura~

What if we chose the abundant life?

My teeth wouldn’t quit chattering as the cold seeped into every ounce of my being. I longed for some kind of warmth to take over.

I was no stranger to cold but this deep kind of cold seemed to completely overtake me.

I cranked up the water’s heat knowing it would relieve the pain I was feeling.

As I slipped in under the running water and the heat ran over my head the pain intensified. Sharp pins and needles pricked me everywhere the water’s heat touched me. The feeling in my body was coming back.

Waves of warmth started to flow over me and crack open the frozen places. The pain was starting to subside.

The quivering mess that had stepped into the shower was now basking in the warmth. Soaking it all in as the iciness retreated.

Have you ever felt that kind of deep cold? The kind you can’t seem to shake. Not just the physical cold, but frozen places of our soul. Places we have lost feeling to long ago. Continue reading “What if we chose the abundant life?”