Archives for July 2010

Jul 23

Top 10 Ways You Can Choose Hope and Claim Peace

This was the hardest “Top 10” list I’ve written yet.  I wanted to give practical ways to achieve peace, but that was a challenge.  A big part of achieving peace is based on what you’re putting into your mind.  What I’ve determined is that peace is a choice.  I don’t mean to trivialize it because I know how easily peace can be snatched.  Ultimately, when we put our hope in God, peace is achievable and will follow.

Top 10 Ways You Can Choose Hope and Claim Peace

By Melissa Taylor

10.   Begin by living in the light.  Of course the light of Christ, but also light up your world. Open the blinds. Take a walk in the sunshine.  Turn on some lights in your house.  Listen to music that brightens your mood, not dampens it. Get rid of the misery around you and let light surround you. Invite hope into your life.

9.  Spend time in God’s Word.  I know Christians tell you to do that all the time.  And you probably wish you had more time to do so don’t you?  I get that, I do.  But it’s true that God’s Word is a “lamp to your feet and a light to your path” (Psalm 119:105) And since #10 instructed you to get a little more light in your life, well then give it a try.  Romans 15:4 says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (NIV)  The knowledge of the Scriptures affects our attitude toward the present and the future. (Life Application Bible) Attitude is half the battle in gaining a hope perspective that leads to peace. God’s Word can help.

8.  Dismiss depressing thoughts quickly.  Be aware of what you are thinking. Do your thoughts tend to be negative, condemning, or gloomy?  Not much room for hope in the company of those characters. Next time you find yourself dwelling on something depressing, stop it!  You don’t want to do that. 2 Corinthians 10:5b, “…We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.” (CEV)  So, catch those thoughts, give them up, and listen to Jesus who says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 (NIV)

7.  Here’s a practical one. List 5 things that bring you hope or 5 things you are hopeful for. Read them when you need to. Can’t think of 5?  Then make them up. You gotta start somewhere.

6.  Don’t give up. “You feel hopeless because you have been using your own power, not because there is no hope.  You feel hopeless because you have been headed in the wrong direction, not because there is not hope.  You feel hopeless because you have cut yourself off from others who could help you and guide you, not because there is not hope…You are not hopeless because there is not hope.  There is hope for you, if you will just persevere long enough to find it.” Stephen Arterburn (from Tammy Maltby’s book Confessions of a Good Christian Girl)   Choose to persevere long enough to find hope.

5.  Choose to be hopeful even when you don’t feel it.  I struggle with this so I remind myself to choose hope.  I wear a bracelet almost every day that says “HOPE” on it.  I have a Willow Tree Angel of Hope in my den. I have Scriptures of hope posted at my desk at work. I’m choosing hope and hope brings me peace. ****When I’m struggling greatly with this, I get help! I talk to a friend, ask my Bible study gals to pray for me, or when it’s been too overwhelming, I have sought professional help. Do whatever it takes, but don’t live life based on your feelings. They can be so fickle. Choose hope. Live in peace. Don’t settle for less.

4. Thank God for your trials and hardships.  Believe me, I know that sounds crazy. These next verses give big time purpose to our trials and suffering, therefore offering peace.  Romans 5:3b-5a, “we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us…” (NIV)  I’ve been through many trials where hope seemed lost and these verses have restored that.  And that brought me peace. Take it for your own.

3.  Take a time out for yourself.  Psalm 46:10 instructs us to do that so we will understand Who is in control.  Remember, when life is chaotic and peace seems far away, get quiet where you can hear God and God alone.

“Be still and know that I am God.” (NIV)

“Calm down and learn that I am God.” (CEV)

“Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God,
above politics, above everything.”
(The Message)

2.  Pray hope and peace for yourself.  Like this:

“Lord, when my peace is broken by problems that come, remind me that You are always there caring about anything and everything that concerns me. I want to praise You through the painful places I walk through so I can rest in Your perfect peace.  Thank You for giving me hope and being my peace.  Please help me have hope and peace today.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen    (portions of this prayer are from Prayers to My King by Sheri Rose Shepherd)

1.  Accept God’s plan for your life.  When you’ve lost hope, you have nothing.  Nothing to look forward to.  Nothing to believe in.  You begin to question if God exists for you or just other people.  This verse tells us very different.  Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God does exist for you.  He has plans for you.  He has a purpose for your life and it is good.  But you have to choose to trust Him.  Choose to accept the hope God offers.  Take it for your own. Look ahead with hope.  As you do, soak in the peace it gives you.

God loves you.  He created you and He had a good reason in doing so.  I pray that you will give Him a chance.  Never lose hope.

Once when my marriage was on the verge on ending, I asked my husband, “Is there any hope for us?”  He replied, “Just an ounce.”  I immediately took that “ounce of hope” to the Lord and asked Him to multiply it. That was my prayer for the months ahead where we fought for our marriage.  The restoration process wasn’t easy, but because I had hope, I was able to hang in there and claim peace.  Peace that didn’t come from my circumstances. Peace that wasn’t a part of my surroundings. It was inside of me.  It came from God.  I had to choose it and I’m so thankful I did.

I don’t pretend that life is easy.  It’s not.  Hope and peace are available to us at all times, but we have to take them. In the middle of our sometimes raging world I’m praying that you will claim them for your own and live life how God intended, with His peace in your heart.

Melissa
Jul 22

God’s Will for Me to Grieve

Welcome to my blog. Maybe you are here because you saw it on Encouragement for Today, Facebook, Twitter, or you regularly visit.  IDK.  Whatever the reason, I’m glad you stopped by.  Kick off your shoes and stay a while.  I’m very informal.

Where do I begin.  It’s almost been 4 months since Mom died. I hate writing that. “Mom died”….No way.  Did she really?  No. I can’t believe it, but I know it’s true.  I know because she’s not here. I can’t call her.  I can’t see her. I can’t hear her. I can’t smell her.  And I really want to.

Since then Mother’s Day has passed and her birthday too.  Those were some of the saddest days I’ve had.  Very hard.  Thank God I have hope.  That’s about it, but I do have hope.  My mom loved the word hope.  I think the word itself gave her more hope.  Make sense?  I try to keep her perspective with me.  She would want me to be full of hope and to carry on.  And I try to do that.  One day at a time.

What I’ve learned is that grieving for everyone is different.  I can’t compare my grief to another’s.  I have not run from it. I’ve tried to face it, let it happen.  But I’m that type. I’ve learned from my past that it’s best for me to face how I’m feeling head on.  Deal with it…or at least acknowledge it.  I’ve allowed myself to feel the pain and I’ve told those close to me how I’m feeling too so they know I’m ok.  They haven’t always understood and at times I feel like no one could understand.  That is until I get a note or call from someone else in this “club” (membership requires that you’ve lost a parent or loved one…not a fun club) like my sister Tricia or Julie or Jamie or Kelly or  LeAnn or Rachel or Barb or Zoe or Robin or Andrea or Heidi or well would you looky here, there are people who understand.  I’m smiling as I type that :)  Yes, even though I “feel” like no one understands, there are quite a few who do and their words and even the pain they’ve experienced has helped me get through.

For the first few months after Mom died, I cried a lot.  Every day. Tears came easily and often. When I wasn’t crying,  I felt numb or kind of in a daze. I didn’t feel like having any fun.  And I didn’t want to talk about it or I would cry again.  I wondered if I would ever be able to have fun again. I think it was hardest on my kids. They probably thought their mom was eternally depressed.  I thought about putting up a front for them, but that didn’t seem right. They needed to know that I was hurting.  I made sure though that they knew, even though I was hurting, I wasn’t hopeless or depressed.  God was my rock and I trusted Him.  I was just really really sad! They missed their MaMaw too and they could understand that.  We all hugged lots and lots.  I think they all became a little more compassionate by watching me grieve.

Life without mom just seemed wrong. It was unnatural to me. It still is, but thankfully I’m not brought down as much as I was.  I’m not sure exactly when that stopped.  But I transitioned from crying a lot into crying a little.  And now, even though I think about her every single day I’m not as down.  When I cry now, it’s usually because something triggers it.  A commercial with a mother and daughter.  A movie that Mom liked is on Hallmark. Little House on the Prairie. The smell of fried chicken and macaroni & cheese. Or if  I need to talk to someone (like Mom) and there’s no one else who would understand.  The person who was always on my side since the first breath I took isn’t there anymore.  :(  It still makes me sad.  I guess it always will. I want her back so very bad.  With that said, I wouldn’t take her back if offered. She’s with Jesus right where she belongs and what a glorious great fun time she’s having Up There.  I’m a bit jealous I guess 😉

About a month ago I had a dream. I walked in the back door of my house and Mom was sitting at the kitchen table. She looked beautiful.  My sister was sitting with her and she had the biggest smile on her face. I couldn’t believe that Mom was there…I mean here in my home, alive and so beautiful.  I reached out to touch her, but I knew she wouldn’t really be there. But when I reached, I felt her. She stood up and hugged me tight.  I took her hair and rubbed in on my face, buried my head in her neck. I wanted to inhale every bit of her.  She said, “It’s ok.”  That’s all. The dream ended.  I woke up with a peace I hadn’t felt in a while. My emotions were mixed. Happy that I had the dream because it was so real. Sad that it was just a dream and not real.

Lately I’ve been unsettled…again and feeling a little anxious.  I’ve been thinking I need to be busier, more pro-active, more productive.  Then I read my devotion.  That’s exactly what it was about!  Ha.  I even needed it.  God’s will is for me to grieve right now and I need to keep reminding myself of that.  To rest. To not predict what’s next. To just allow Him to lead.  And y’all I like to be in control so this isn’t easy.  It’s not easy at all. But that’s ok, He has a plan and it’s His plan (not mine). I need to trust Him. I’m blessed for what I’ve lost and because God is with me all the way. (Matt. 5:4)  Sure I’m in this place because my mother recently died, but I think many of us are in a place of wait or grief for other reasons not just because we’ve lost someone.  Grief doesn’t always take place because someone died.

I’m not sure where you are.  You may be grieving the loss of a loved one like me.  You may be grieving the loss of a dream.  Maybe you don’t know what God’s will is for you.  Or what your next step in God’s will is. Remind yourself daily that as Mom said in my dream, “It’s ok.”

I’ve developed my own “Top 10 Ways I Can Choose Hope and Claim Peace”.  It has helped me so much and I want to share it with you.  It will be posted tomorrow.  To receive it, you can subscribe to my blog or just check back on your own.  If you subscribe, you’ll also receive my other Top 10 lists that will be posted in the coming days and months. The previous Top 10’s that have already been posted can be found in the “By Melissa” section of this blog.  I pray they bring you hope and comfort like that have me.

Thank you for stopping by my blog today. I appreciate your time. If you can relate to my feelings here, I encourage you to comment.  You can probably help me!  If you have some encouraging words for others, please share.  I’m a firm believer that we are in this together and we need each other.  I read every comment and email I receive and I’m thankful for each one.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for your copy of my “Top 10 Ways I Can Choose Hope and Claim Peace.”  It’s my gift to you.

Blessings and Lots of Love <3

Melissa
Jul 19

Special Guest: Interview with 13 yr Old, Dylan Taylor

In case this is your first time joining me on my blog, let me get you caught up.  July 2, 2010, the devotion,  Is God Enough? , was featured as the Proverbs 31 Daily Devotion.  The devotion spurred me to write 13 Years Ago Today on my blog.  Both received so much feedback (and are even being featured in an upcoming release by a well known author/speaker) that I felt like I needed to do more.  One more step was required to complete this series on “Is God Enough?”  It was an interview with my 13 year old son, Dylan.

If you read the blog post mentioned above, you know that Dylan was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at a very early age.  What I didn’t tell you was that he was also diagnosed with a coordination disorder and had severe speech issues. On top of all this, he was born with Aplaisia Cutis .  Although this was no risk to his health, it was very visible on his scalp. Plastic surgery helped this not to be as noticeable, but it did leave a scar.  Occasionally people have asked Dylan about it.  It was enough to cause major insecurity and believe me, my husband and I had concerns.  Dylan has handled it wonderfully, but it was one more obstacle he had to deal with.

When I interviewed Dylan, I asked him to be honest and pretend I wasn’t his mom. I am printing exactly what he said, not adding or taking anything from it.

As promised, here is the interview:

1.  When you are explaining your disorders to your friends, how do you explain it or do you even share with your friends?

I don’t think I’ve ever shared it with my friends.  Didn’t need to.


2.  What would be the best advice you would give to other kids suffering from anxiety?

There’s really nothing to be afraid of or embarrassed about.  If you are like me and carry other people’s burdens , it hurts yourself more than them and doesn’t help them at all.  I learned that.  I realized there was nothing to fear.


3.  You have a scar on your head. Does that bother you?

I didn’t even know what it looked like until a kid made fun of it in school.  Then I was self-conscious about it. I knew I had a scar because my mom would put sun screen on it, but it wasn’t a big deal until then. It was bad and I was a bit embarrassed.


4.  Does it still bother you?

Now I don’t really care as much what people think.  I don’t care about their opinion.  As I began to overcome my anxiety I stopped listening to other people.  I started listening to people who said good things like good friends, God, Mom, Dad, and Pastor Steven (pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC).


5.  How does having a Mom and Dad that are devoted to the Lord and to each other help you in your struggle, if at all?

No one else understood, but they could help me with my problems to overcome them and work on it.  I trusted my parents.


6.  Do you feel like you can talk to your parents about anything?

Hmm.  Not really anything, but most things.  Some stuff is just personal and I tell people my own age, like my friends.  Not Mom and Dad.


7.  How do you feel about your family?  Have they helped?

Yes.  I guess Mom would always comfort me and introduce me to things with a Christian perspective. Blake (older brother) was a great role model.  Hayden (older brother) showed me how people basically are.  Hayley Grace (younger sister) has been a friend.  Dad has been a friend, father, watched over me, and helped me.


8.  What kinds of things help you to relax, and what do your parents do for you which help you de-stress the most?

Take a breather (a time out for just me).  My parents comforted me and told me they weren’t disappointed in me and love me the same.  I learned to ask for prayer.


9.  How did it feel when you were little and afraid of things?

I was sorry for people and afraid something would happen to them. I worried about other people a lot.


10.  How does it feel now?

It’s not a big deal for me now.  I’m used to things now and I’ve grown out of it I guess.  I learned there wasn’t anything to be afraid of.  I still feel sorry for people though.  I care a lot but I don’t worry as much.


11.  Was there a time when it all “clicked” and you made a decision to change your thinking or reaction to life? You are a hero in overcoming trials and I want to learn from you and pass it on!

I guess around summer after 4th grade.  I was embarrassed at school about crying over stuff and I realized I didn’t need to cry over the stuff.  I learned to deal with my problems other ways.  Instead of crying, I would talk to someone or focus on something better going on in my life.


12.  How did medication help you?

It made me feel used to being relaxed and I accepted that feeling and then I was able to do it on my own.  I’m not on any medication now.


13.  In your opinion, what can a Sunday School teacher/leader do to keep her students motivated in their walk with God?

Encourage them to get involved serving and let them know how the Bible can help in your life.  Take the verses beyond the next level, like Pastor Steven does and explain them and how they apply to modern life and how they can use them. It gives you hope.


14.  Do you ever feel like God is going to use you in a really big way?  I’m thinking about Moses, who was way too scared to lead, but once he trusted God, he became one of the most powerful leaders in history. Do you ever think that could be you?

I never really thought about myself as a leader until this year.  I started to lead my life myself.  I got involved in serving at Elevation myself and I brought my friends to come volunteer some too.  I do feel like God is going to use me in a really big way.


15.  What are the most effective ways you’ve found to manage anxiety?

I guess having supporting friends in addition to family to help cheer me on.  Family has always helped me, but my friends made me feel like I could get over it at my age.


16.  What Scriptures (if any) did you cling to?

My life verse (Proverbs 3:5-6) that my mom prayed for me and gave me when I was a baby helped me.  But my brother’s life verse (Joshua 1:9) helped me too.  It said to be strong and courageous.  I knew I had to be brave about this stuff.  And the Lord was watching over me so nothing could go wrong.


17.  What do you do for fun?

Play drums.  Have friends over.  Swim.  Serve at Elevation.


18.  What advice would you give to someone who does not want to go to church any more?

Give church another chance because God gives you another chance.  Don’t give up on God because God never gave up on you.


19.  What did your parents do to help you overcome all of your stuff?

Took me to the doctor.  Prayed for me.  Got their friends to pray for me.  Loved me always.


20.  How did a doctor help you?

He had me talk about it and helped me understand it and what to expect. He also helped me learn about what to say to others about it.


21.  Why did you ask your mom’s friends for prayer when you were scared?

That’s all I knew to do.  There was nothing I could do to make it settle, so I left it to Mom, her friends, and God.


22.  Did that help?

Yes.


23.  Who do you talk to when you are down or troubled?

My close friends.  I pray about it. Depends on the problem.  I’d go to my parents for big stuff.


24.  How is your relationship with God now?

Pretty good.  I don’t have much to ask of Him other than to keep my life how it is.  I trust Him. I believe in Him.


25.  How do you feel about you?

Pretty good.  Around 5th grade I started making friends and that helped my self esteem.  Playing drums gave me a hobby and that helped.


In closing:

Today I still fear when there is something to fear, but I don’t fear harmless things.  It didn’t happen quickly, but because of the people in my life, I’ve learned to trust.  God is enough.

Dylan, thank you so much for taking the time to share straight from your heart with my blog readers, Facebook and Twitter friends, and anyone else who may stumble across this interview.  Your strength, determination, and faith are amazing to me.  I love you and I’m so proud of the man you are becoming.  xoxoxoxo  (hope that doesn’t embarrass you too much!)

Melissa