Can You Feel God’s Love in the Hard Places?

But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in my weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9a

Have you ever felt like you’ve had the wind sucked right out of your lungs? Or that you’re suffocating under the weight of your heart breaking?

It all happened so fast I didn’t have time to think or prepare in any way.

Jag was a working dog. He was a handful as we started training. He was full of tension and didn’t always deal with it in the most appropriate ways. I struggled to figure out ways to help him.

But, his heart was so big and he had so much try I just couldn’t give up trying myself.

I discovered through Jag it can include animals as well. We had been through the fire together and the bond formed through it was amazing!

A wonderful bond develops when a person weather’s a storm with someone else. I discovered through Jag it can include animals as well. We had been through the fire together and the bond formed through it was amazing!

Border Collies are a stoic breed by nature. So looking back it doesn’t surprise me that he never let on he was in trouble. We were moving sheep for several hours and I noticed he started to favor a hind leg. Yet he still didn’t want to quit. When he was still favoring it the next day I raced him over to the vet.

It’s amazing how fast things can go downhill. I wasn’t prepared. My heart wasn’t ready for what happened next. I’m not sure it ever is. We discovered he had a tumor strangling the main blood vessel into his heart. He was bleeding out internally and despite my vets best efforts we were unable to save him.

So many people tried to tell me he was “just a dog”. I suppose if you’ve never felt the loyalty of countless hours spent together it would seem that way.

So many people tried to tell me he was “just a dog”.

I suppose if you’ve never felt the loyalty of countless hours spent together it would seem that way. My heart felt like it had been ripped out and stomped all over. I had been cheated and on top of the hurt, anger soon followed suit.

Yet in the middle of it all, God met me. As I was crying out to God in anguish I could almost audibly hear a scripture reference whispered to me. I raced to look it up and sobbed tears of release as words I’d read many times took on new meaning.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Only God! He’s there for us even when it feels like our world is falling apart. He loves us in the hard places when we have doubts. He holds us up when we’re struggling to move forward.

There were still valleys of heartache to travel but I was grateful to feel God’s presence with me in those valleys. He wants to strengthen and hold us up in this life. Let’s allow Him in to do just that!

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10

It has been several years since Jag went on ahead and every now and then I still shed a few tears. More often than not though I smile over the memories and am reminded of how faithful our God is in the hard places!

I want to share a poem with you I have always loved. It sums up the love and loyalty God gifted a dog with so beautifully.

Loyalty

God summoned a beast from the field and He said, “Behold people created in my image, therefore, adore them. You shall protect them in the wilderness, shepherd their flocks, watch over their children, accompany them wherever they may go – even into civilization. You shall be a companion, an ally, a slave.

“To do these things,” God said, “I endow you with instincts uncommon to other beasts:  faithfulness, devotion and understanding surpassing that of people. Lest it impair your courage, you shall never foresee your death.

Lest it impair your loyalty, you shall be blind to the faults of people. Lest it impair your understanding, you are denied the power of words. Let no fault of language leave an accord beyond that of people with any other beast – or even people with other people. Speak to your people only with your mind and through your honest eyes.

“Walk by their sides; sleep in their doorways; forage for them; ward off their enemies; carry their burdens; share their afflictions; love them and comfort them. And in return for this, people will fulfill your needs and wants which shall be only food, shelter and affection.

“So be silent, and be a friend to people. Guide them along the way to this land that I have promised them. This shall be your destiny and your immortality.” So spoke the Lord.

And the dog heard and was content.

Author unknown

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~

3 Practical Ways to Learn to Trust God

The day started out bright and sunny with so much promise. Loping along on my little horse alongside my brother and dad. The day was beginning to unfold and there were many adventures left to be had.

I was living every little 6 year old girl’s dream. Well, I’m not sure every little girl dreams of living completely off the grid in a tiny, chicken wire, stucco house but it was the one of the biggest highlights of this gal’s young life.

We lived well over an hour from the nearest town and spent every day of the summer horseback. It was glorious.

On this particular day we were out checking fence lines. Life wasn’t the hurried mess we often find ourselves in in this day and age. It was just a day of glorious adventures with my family.

I was never one short on words, especially when I was young. So the questions flew out of my mouth almost as fast the wind blew through my hair. Dad always humored me well answering my questions and making me feel completely loved and safe with him all the time.

We were miles and miles from home as the clouds started to roll in. In the wide open country of SE Montana you could see storms coming from many miles off. Dad decided it was best if we headed for home and hustled a bit in doing so.

The sky was growing darker by the minute, the wind was beginning to howl and the temperature took a drastic turn south. My little girl heart just knew to stay close to my dad as he would know the way.

It wasn’t too long before the rain started to pick up and the drops got larger. I lowered my head and trusted my horse to follow my dad’s. Suddenly something hit me on the top of the head. Then another and another. Ouch, it kind of stung. I had spent enough time outside to immediately know the hail had arrived in full force.

They started small but quickly grew in size and amount. My dad pulled his horse up and my brother and I followed suit. There was a cutbank we had been running alongside and my dad spotted a badger hole. He took a quick look inside and then had my brother and I stuff ourselves in there the best we could. He leaned over the hole covering his head the best he could and shielding us from the pounding hail.

Okay, I have to admit, I’m not sure which I was more scared of at the time. The hail outside or what might still be inside the hole with my brother and I! I just closed my eyes and trusted my dad.

Dad had to know we were scared about going into a badger hole. But, he knew what was best for us and we had to make the choice to trust him or not.

3 ways to learn to trust God.

Get to know Him:

We need to spend time getting to know God. We won’t trust someone we don’t know. So we need to get into His word and discover the heart of God. Once we know Him personally it makes more sense to trust Him.

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? Numbers 23:9 (ESV)

Learn from past experiences:  

Just as I had learned to trust my dad from him proving himself trustworthy in prior experiences the same can be said for God. As we go through life we’ll have opportunities to put our faith in Him and learn to trust Him more each time. We need to recall those past experiences and thank God for them often so our trust in Him can grow.

Oh Lord, I will honor and praise your name, for you are my God. You do such wonderful things! You plan them long ago, and now you have accomplished them. Isaiah 25:1 (NLT)

Tell Him about our fears:

When I first went into the badger hole I was too scared to tell dad I was scared. Guess what, it added to my fear!  Once I told dad I was scared he was about to help reassure me. When we keep our fears in the dark they grow even bigger in our mind.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)

We go through so many things in life where we aren’t sure what’s scarier, what we feel on the inside or what’s happening on the outside.

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 You Trusting God with Your plans?

How’s your new year going so far? Are you excited over the new adventures to come? Or is there a sense of dread over all the unknown?

Are you trusting God with your plans?

I spent quite a bit of time over the month of December reflecting on the past year and preparing my heart and mind for this one. I invited God into the planning process and am asking Him to continue to guide me.

How often do we set big goals in the new year only to be overwhelmed 2 – 3 weeks later? Then condemnation tries to sneak in and throw shame all over us. So we give up all together. I’ve been there and unfortunately more than once!

I love to set goals, dream big dreams and plan everything out. Preferably in pen with lots of added color for effect! Then I hope no one bumps into my perfectly orchestrated schedule for myself.

Not just once in the planning but also in the rearranging of all my plans.

How I long to be flexible enough to write my plans in pencil and trust the Lord when things need to be rearranged or even left behind all together. His kingdom come – His will be done!

Trust the Lord

Can we unclench our death grip on our plans this year? Let’s go ahead and dream big dreams, set goals and plan for what God is calling us towards.

But, hold all of them with a loose grip. Be ready to bend in new directions when God places new situations or people in our path.

I’ve been guilty of being so caught up in my schedule I missed appointments God had designed specifically for me. I don’t want to be ruled by my schedule. I want it to help guide me, not be an anchor that holds me back.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6 

When we seek the Lord’s plans for us and stay in touch with Him we can let go of the panic. We get the choice to simply trust.

When I say simply trust I believe the choice is simple but I also know it doesn’t make it easy.

There are seasons for everything and a time for everything under Heaven. (EC 3:1) There is so much freedom in enjoying the season we’re in right now. Being fully present instead of always dreaming and planning for the days ahead.

How about this year we take a step towards recognizing the divine appointments God has scheduled for us? Let’s open our eyes, ears and hearts for what God puts in our daily planner. Then trust Him enough to be present in those moments.

What is one way you can make more room for God’s appointments for you this week? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear.

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.  Continue reading “Thankful in the Least Thankful Places”

God’s Best is Truly Best

Do you ever think of God as some kind of Genie in a bottle? Or maybe even hope for it?


“C’mon God, I really need that new car!”
“I’m sure this job is what would really be best for me, God.”
“Could you please just make this person fall in love with me so I can finally be happy?”


Okay, I realize that sounds a little silly but how many of us come to God with our well laid out plans and say, “Here they are, make them happen God.”


I’ll be the first to admit I’ve been guilty of that in the past. I still have to do a heart check daily to make sure I’m seeking and putting His will in my life first.


“If you want to hear God laugh just tell Him your plans.” Woody Allen


God has put dreams and passions in each of us. He’s not withholding good from us when things take longer to come together than we hope. Even when things don’t go the direction we feel would be best for our life, God’s best is truly best.


For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Eternal, “plans for peace, not evil, to give you a future and hope—never forget that.
Jeremiah 29:11 (VOICE)


All too often we spend so much time making our plans before we even talk to God. Instead of the frustration of making our “to do lists” as well as the pro’s and con’s of each endeavor, let’s simply ask God first.


He loves us more than we can fully understand! He wants us to be complete and have a full, abundant life.


Our view of a full and abundant life needs to be viewed through the lens of our mighty God who is able to accomplish more than we could ever ask!


May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.  Ephesians 3:19-20 (NLT)


Am I the only one who’s ever struggled with the idea that maybe God’s best isn’t really what’s best for me? Sorry if I burst any bubbles with that statement but I just want to be honest.


How about when God whispers to you as you’re about to eat something that looks and smells so yummy, “Not my best for you”? I’ve heard that and decided God didn’t know what He was talking about in that moment. Surely popcorn that smells that good and is loaded with butter and salt was the best for me right then. “Trust me God, I’m sure of it.”


God isn’t forceful. He just nudges at us to point us in the right direction. What we do with that nudge is our free choice.


My choice that night wasn’t the best for me. Oh how I paid for that choice all night. Miserable stomach ache. He wasn’t try to deprive me. He was trying to spare me the pain.


I’ve also been through a time in my life where I was pretty sure I didn’t deserve God’s best so there wasn’t any point in believing or asking.


I pray if you’re at that point in your life you’ll give God a chance to whisper to your spirit that His best is truly best. We deserve it because when we believe and accept Him we’re given the *rights of children*. (John 1:12)


As a mom, I know I want the very best for my kids. I also know that sometimes what they want and what’s best for them doesn’t line up.


Lord, help me to not throw a tantrum when I don’t get what I’m sure is best for me. I want to trust You completely, knowing that You want me to live a life of fullness IN You. Guide me to where You want me to be each day so I can serve fully in the work of Your Kingdom. In Jesus name, Amen.

Blessings in the Middle of Pain




It’s a New Year and full of so much promise. You can just feel the fresh heartbeat, can’t you?  Change is in the air.  In the process of all this change, it’s always wise to reflect on the past year and see where God has taken us.

This past year has been a chock full of ups, downs, and heartache but also so much joy for me! It’s been a chance to really come to know the Lord on a whole new level. I’ve been brought to my knees countless times this past year. When the enemy brings us to our knees, we can either collapse in despair or surrender in prayer.

I’m pretty sure I’ve spent more time in doctor’s offices, hospitals, surgery centers and rehab facilities in this one year than I have in the last 5 years combined.  That’s saying a lot considering the fact that we’re sure our younger son helped pay for part of the new wing at our local doctor’s office.
I’m not sure which is harder honestly, being the patient or being the spouse, mom or sister. 

This could have been a year to just crawl up in the fetal position and feel sorry for myself and my family.  I could have become calloused emotionally.  My attitude could have taken a turn for the worse and thus making everyone around me miserable too.  I’ll admit I most likely wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows to live with every moment either.  I stumbled from time to time.

But, and this is a very important BUT, I made the choice to run to Jesus every time I felt my attitude starting to turn sour.  Or when I felt doubt starting to creep in about the outcome of yet another medical procedure.  I’m also very blessed to have an amazing family that helps point me back to Him when I’m struggling.

This isn’t to say that we are supposed to just ignore our emotions and stuff them down so no one sees that side of us. People have questioned my family all year on how we can stay so positive in the middle of all of these challenges.  To be really honest, there have been many tears shed.  I have felt scared, confused, nervous and even angry.

So what do I do with those feelings?  I cry out to Jesus. I play worship music.  I invite Jesus in to change the atmosphere. I tell him I’m hurt, confused or feel like I’m sinking.  I can’t hide those feelings from Him anyway so I may as well take them straight to my Creator. He’s a big God, with big shoulders. None of my problems are too big for Him.

I have Godly people all around me and if I’m really struggling I will call them to vent.  Most of the time they let me get it out but then quickly redirect me back to God’s promises. I put my trust in Jesus.  He is the only source of true peace.  Everything else can come or go, but He never changes.  He is the rock I anchor to.
  
Father God, thank you for the blessing of this past year.  It didn’t always feel like a blessing in the middle of it but I know that you have plans for me to prosper and not to harm me.  I cling to that promise and know that you work out all things for my eventual good.  Help me to trust you completely.
In Jesus name, Amen.



Deliverance to Freedom

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. 

Galatians 5:1 (NIV)



Freedom is defined as the state of being free or at liberty as opposed to slavery or bondage.
The Israelites were held in slavery for many, many generations. (400 years according to Acts 7:6 and Genesis 15:13)   When God delivered them from their captors (Egypt) you would think they just walked out into the world and claimed their freedom.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  Even though they had been delivered from slavery they still had the minds of slaves.  They were not living in freedom.   
                       
Deliverance is only part of freedom.  An important part no doubt, but still just a fragment.  We need to be delivered from our captors such as addictions, strongholds, lies and fear to name a few.  Then we need to receive the freedom that comes with deliverance.
The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years.  Delivered but not really living in complete freedom.  Their minds often still held in the bondage of slavery.  Wondering if it might be easier just to go back to slavery than live a life delivered but not really free.  They enslaved themselves even amidst their own deliverance.
How many of us live just like them?  I know I have struggled for many years knowing God said I was delivered from an addiction but still living in a mindset of captivity.  That’s not freedom.  Freedom is no chains.  Freedom is the ability to live without constant fear of falling back into that trap if I take one misstep.  Freedom means I don’t just throw it all away if I do make a mistake.  It means I can accept God’s mercy and move forward with grace.  To me it means the enemy can’t use the addiction I was delivered from to pull me back to slavery.  I AM free!  I need to claim it and not look back. 
The Israelites wandered in their deliverance for way to many years.  So do many of us!  Often we’re too paralyzed by fear to know what steps we need to take from deliverance to freedom.  Every time they let their eyes drift from God they would wallow in their circumstances.  I’m guilty of the same.  If I take my eyes off Jesus for even a brief time the enemy tries to drag me back to the desert!
The Israelites could see the Promised Land.  Freedom was within their reach.  They stood on the hill to look.  They even stepped out into freedom to check it out.  Unfortunately, all most of them could see were giants in the land.  So they grumbled amongst themselves.  It spread like a virus.  How could freedom lie there?  It was there because God promised it!  So in an act of disobedience and lack of faith they turned away from their own freedom.  Just to walk back into where they had been delivered out of slavery to.  Stuck in limbo.  Not slaves but not free.
Let’s be like Joshua and Caleb and despite the giants we face, receive the gift of freedom Christ has promised us.  Accept the deliverance He has given you and walk out into freedom.

Jesus, help me to accept Your deliverance as a done deal.  Never again to pick up that yoke of slavery.  I know my freedom is IN You.  Give me the strength through Your Holy Spirit to make the choice to walk in freedom each day.  Keeping my eyes on You and Your promises!  In Jesus name, Amen!

Leave Fear Behind

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.  2 Timothy 1:7


I have known fear.  I have felt that growing, ever nagging fear of failure many times in my life.  I’m pretty sure I’ve known it since I was born.  Many of us experience this.

Why?  What is in us that makes us so scared to fail?  That kind of fear that cripples so many of us from even trying.  Because somehow if we don’t try at least we can’t fail.

Simple answer is fear is from satan!  The enemy knows that if he can keep us crippled by fear he can keep us from walking forward with Christ.  If we’re too afraid to try to walk into the freedom Jesus promised us, then the enemy can keep us bound up.  This in turn will keep us from doing the kingdom work God has called us to.  

I’m trying to be honest here but even this is a scary situation for me.  Putting your fears out there for the whole world to see opens you up to others as well as facing those fears.  I’m ready to face those fears though!  I have to say that to myself loud and proud as it’s still not easy and sometimes I’m really still trying to convince myself!

I have been scared to let my family down as well as myself by choices I make.  Even ones I’m sure were good at the time.  I’ve been afraid of looking foolish if I don’t succeed at things I put out there for the world to see.  What if I pour my heart and soul into something I feel God has called me to do and I fail?  Does that make me look weak?  What will people think of God if I’m such a failure?

If I looked in a mirror more often I would tattoo to my forehead, “If God calls me to it HE will see me through it!”  God can’t fail.  I’m not saying I can’t fall on my face, but not trying is the bigger failure.  When God calls me to do something, even if it looks like a failure to the world, my obedience IS success!

Let’s just say that one more time to really get that to sink in – “My obedience IS success”.  

I’m making the daily choice to stand up to these fears and call an end to them. I realize I can’t do it on my own.  It’s only with the help of the Holy Spirit in me that I can say no to fear!

Father God, I have tried to fight fear on my own in the past and lost the fight.  Please forgive me!  I know I can only truly be free from the grip of fear by trusting YOU with my life.  Help me to follow wherever YOU lead and do it without fear.
In Jesus name, Amen.