Focus

Written by: Christianne Williams

I always believed I was a person who lacked the ability to focus. My mind would wander from one thing to another, I would seldom finish things that I started and this left me feeling overwhelmed.

My husband is my opposite, they do say it happens that way. He is driven. If he starts something, he will most certainly finish it and do it well. Sometimes this has caused conflict because he comes behind me, seeing the dishwasher half emptied or the dustpan still containing dirt, and he takes it upon himself to help me out and finish the job. This in turn makes me feel as though he’s shining a light on my undone tasks and I get irritated. At any rate, I’ve recently discovered that its not my inability to focus that’s the problem, but in fact, my ability to focus entirely on the wrong things.

In the example of my husband finishing up my chores, I don’t look at the heart behind the help, I concentrate on the message that I am not doing enough, I’m dropping the ball. That’s just an example of how when we focus on the wrong things, we lose sight of what it truly important. I’ve seen it many times at our kitchen table as well. Siblings sitting together, all working on different lessons but all working toward the goal of getting things done for the day so they can have free time.

One will lose focus and start making noises, soon to be followed by their neighbor and before you know it, I’m telling them to ‘focus on what you’re supposed to be doing!’ I don’t feel qualified to tell them that but I’m the parent/teacher so what can I do?

When we were in the hospital during each of our daughter’s three open heart surgeries, we had struggles with where our focus would lie. In the midst of all of the beeping monitors, medication pumps, and the story the numbers would tell the doctors, it became hard at times to focus on the One who calms our storms. Fear would creep in, and in being honest, I would become focused on what could possibly go wrong instead of what God could do in the middle of that desperate situation.

And things did get desperate. We were in need of miracles most days, I could compile a long list of times when we were told ‘there is no hope’ and how we would need to refocus on the truth that God can work things out for our good in any situation.

The truth is often silent. We can’t confuse it with the facts. The facts are often contrary to the truth, which is what God says. Sometimes our circumstances say there’s no possible way that anything good can come out of this, yet God works well with impossibility. They say that numbers don’t lie but God neither does God and He can make a way for your financial miracle, a way that you could never dream up on your own. The medical report may speak of death and hopelessness, but God is the One who gives hope, He restores sight to the blind and heals all of our infirmities.

The question is, where does our focus lie? In the bad reports? Or in the One who meets all of our needs?

In Numbers 13, Moses sent some men to explore the land of Canaan, the land they were supposed to inherit. When they returned, they spoke of the goodness of the land, but they spent more time discussing the size and power of the people they would have to overthrow to take the land. They were concerned that the greatness of the people would prevent them from receiving the Promised Land. Joshua and Caleb, however, were certain they could do it. The men argued with them, they gave them the reasons they felt it would be a death mission, but they remained confident that it was a battle that had already been awarded them.

They were focused on two different things. The majority on the greatness of the enemy, and the minority on the greatness of God. Focusing on the right thing gave Joshua and Caleb the confidence to be bold in the face of a great enemy, and in a circumstance that by our natural eyes seemed would surely go against them.

Isaiah 26:3 tells us, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in You.”

My ability to focus was not the issue, where my focus was directed was. Keep your eyes on Jesus and trust Him in all things, even when the facts tempt you to believe otherwise.

God Grit

Written by: Cindy Morrone

I have an enemy. In this season of change, loss and grief, he constantly tells me, my callings are worthless; I am worthless.

For our summer vacation, we visit the Outer Banks, North Carolina. After our long, 2-day drive, once parked at our beach house, we RUN to see who can make it to the ocean first.

I deeply inhale the salty air, take in the vast horizon and with eyes closed hear the crashing waves. The ocean welcomes me like a long-time friend and a part of me is once, again home, even for a short time.

On the shoreline, is where our love-relationship ends though. I let my feet and legs soak but to go past the ever-changing few metres of waves reaching towards me takes real commitment.

I know what it’s like to battle them. I’ve gotten caught in their relentlessness.

Few times I have been brave enough to plunge through them. Conquer wave after wave; either jumping over them or swimming underneath them.

The ocean rests calm on the other side of this turbulence.

‘Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.’ 1 Peter 5:8

During this season, I am weak and weary. And it takes alertness to realize the battle I am in.
Unlike, fighting the waves in my own strength and power, this battle will not be won in my own effort.

It will take grit but not my own.

‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’ 2 Corinthians 12:9

The victory is had by choosing to believe differently. That change when lead by God is and will be awe-inspiring. That loss and grief is because we love so well.

It’s only in Him, that I am strong! And as He carries me through the turbulence, I rest in His ever-calming Presence.

Boldly and Confidently

Written by: Angela Mercer

Thursday morning is one of my favourite times of the week. This is the day I facilitate our ladies bible study at church. One of my other favourite things is the mixing of generations. I love the conversation that happens each week. I love how the older ladies love on the young mom’s who need some support and encouragement and I love how the younger mom’s look up to and respect the older ones. I love hearing their stories about how God speaks to them or what He is showing them lately. I love hearing another woman’s perspective on life and faith.

One morning as we were cleaning up, our conversation landed on the topic of confidence. More specifically, growing in confidence as we age. A dear woman whom I greatly admire shared that she has always loved the colour purple but she didn’t really like standing out in a crowd. She would purposefully wear beige, grey and black until the day she realized she LOVES purple. So, she started wearing purple.

Don’t we just do that sometimes? Maybe you can relate? I know I can. I have always said “I just like to fly under the radar”. I have always loved fashion and following trends, but at times I prefer to just wear what everyone else is wearing so that I don’t stand out.

A few years ago when we bought a new house I was determined for the first time to make it mine. Which means, be brave enough to do what I really want to do. Flying under the radar as I usually do seeped into my home décor as well. I would use beige, wood, nothing too trendy, a little more traditional approach. So, when we moved in I painted one wall a dark teal. I love the colour teal and I thought it would look so great. I actually did it! I also love yellow so I spray painted a few things yellow and painted a little side table yellow too. I was having so much fun I started not thinking at all about what people might think and started to only think about what I liked. It was so liberating!

Do you ever wish you could tell your younger self something? Well, I would tell my younger self “do it anyway, there is always going to be someone who doesn’t like it. If you like it– that’s all that matters”!

Oh how I wish I had learned this when I was younger. God created me with certain talents, likes/dislikes, desires and passions and they are all unique to me. When we try to please everyone around us by “flying under the radar” we really just become very unhappy people.

If we are not careful we can take this same approach to other areas of our lives. It is very easy in our culture of social media and connectivity to concern ourselves with what the masses are doing and not enough about what we are doing. We ask why everyone else is fine with this or that. We start to wonder if anyone noticed something we did. If we aren’t careful, we will be so wrapped up in what everyone else thinks, far from who we are, and forget about what our Heavenly Father thinks.

Just as we need to be more confident in who we are and be ourselves, our focus needs to remain on God and doing what pleases Him. I think what truly pleases Him is being exactly who He created us to be. With all your flair and colour! After all, He is the only One that really matters.

“I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” Psalm 139:14

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” Galatians 1:10

Dare To Be Countercultural

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

I am so enjoying the #First5 App and the incredible bible teachings by the leadership that have created it. This week I thoroughly loved the teaching on Genesis 5 lead by Whitney Capps. She shared some thoughts on Enoch and how while there isn’t a lot documented about him, It does say that he was faithful to walk with God.

“Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” (Genesis 5:24)

Whitney reminds us in her teaching that Enoch lived in the days before the flood. Just a few verses later we read: “The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the Lord said, ‘I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth- men and animals, creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air- for I am grieved that I have made them.’ But Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:6-9)

Enoch lived in a time when God grieved the creation of mankind. Yet, the bible says that “Enoch walked faithfully with God.” (Genesis 5:24a) Enoch wasn’t a people pleaser, or a trend follower. Enoch went against the grain and faithfully walked with God while everyone else turned their backs on Him and lived lives filled with sin.

The line that truly spoke to me more than anything else this week was this:
He was countercultural.” – Whitney Capps

Think about that word for a moment. Countercultural. Would this be a good word to describe you? Your marriage? Your family?

Let’s face it friends, our world is messed up. It takes some serious guts to step out and walk against the current- culture is shouting at us every way we turn- but think of the treasure we will miss out on if we decide to take the easier route and go with the flow. I’m sure that walking with God for over 300 years wasn’t easy for Enoch- he was the only one amongst a world of sinners to do it- but the bible says he did and was faithful in doing so.

Will you dare to be countercultural? Will you dare to be an Enoch?

Father, please help us in our boldness in walking with you. Help us with courage in tuning out the shouts of the world for the joy of walking with you. You never promised that walking faithfully with you would be easy, but we hold tight to the promise that it will be worth it when we meet you face to face and spend eternity with you. In Jesus name, amen.

Words Written Within My Heart

Written by: Sarah Walker

Bind these words on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you. (Proverbs 6:21-22)

Each month my children learn a new Bible verse at church. The verse will stay the same for the entire month, and will be repeated often whenever their class gets together on Sunday mornings. The verses are recited with lots of inflection and are accompanied with fun and funny actions, which help the kids to remember each one. Repetition is a great way for kids to learn (and adults too!).

Each night in our house, we say the month’s Bible verse as a part of our bedtime prayers, but once we are finished saying this month’s verse, my daughter insists on saying all of the verses that she has learned so far.

Joined with actions and lots of energy, our nightly routine sounds like this:

The plans of the Lord stand firm forever!

Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid; for the Lord your God goes with you!

My God will meet all your needs!

I have loved you with a love that lasts forever!

God’s way is perfect!

Nothing can separate us from the love of God!

As a mom, my heart is full hearing their little voices speak out God’s word with so much excitement! Going over these verses has become a big part of our bedtime routine. Not only that, I have memorized them too! I have found that not only am I helping to write God’s truth on their hearts and minds, I have been writing it on my own as well!

I was unsure of my ability to take on something new this week, and in my moment of doubt, all of a sudden a common phrase entered my mind: “Be strong and Courageous, do not be afraid; for the Lord your God goes with you.” The words that we repeat as a family every night sprung into my thoughts, reminding me of God’s promise, and immediately changing my attitude toward the project at hand.

There was another time recently when my inner attitude towards someone was less than loving. I was beating myself up about my bad attitude. Suddenly, the words came to mind, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God,” and “I have loved you with a love that last forever,” two more verses from our bedtime repetition. Remembering those verses stopped me from traveling down the road where I would question how God could love me and my sinfulness.

To be honest, I have not put so much time and energy into memorizing Scripture since I was a child in Sunday school, when I would memorize Bible verses for a candy prize. Now I realize what a valuable exercise that was, and how I wish I had done more of this in my life! God’s Word encourages us, convicts us, protects us, and leads us, and we never do wrong by reading it, speaking it and committing it to memory.

Age is Beauty

Written by: D’Anne Mullin

I have to say, part of me does not like the idea of getting older, but another part of me doesn’t mind at all. I am not old by any stretch of the imagination, as I sit on the cusp of my 44th birthday. An age I remember teasing my mom about, back in the day, thinking 44 sounded so very ancient!

There are times I look at my hands and despise the faint spots that are starting to appear and the ropiness of the veins leading up to each finger. My eyebrows are ever encroaching upon my eyelids and the lines in my forehead are slightly deepening. Hair dye is now a necessity as opposed to a frivolity. There lies a little more weight around my midsection that is so difficult to get rid of. And this just covers the outward things!

What about the fact that I can walk from one room to another on a mission, only to arrive at my destination completely forgetting what the mission was? Or the times I am sharing a story with someone and mid-sentence the whole concept flees my mind for a few moments! Not to mention the realization of time passing quickly when a 20 something does not understand a cultural or media reference I have just made from the 90’s! It is still the 90’s right?

On the other hand, being in my 40’s is so completely liberating! I have a confidence and firm understanding of who I am, once lacking in my younger years. I am not worried about what others think of me and celebrate my individuality. I have learned the value of reflective thinking and introspection, appreciating solitude and quietness. I no longer need to fill conversations with my thoughts and opinions, but simply enjoy listening to others and exploring their points of view.

Spiritually speaking, I enjoy a much deeper and richer relationship with Jesus than I ever have before. Life is tough, with many knocks and twists, but through this I have proved the incredible value of spending time daily with my Saviour and soaking in His presence. More and more I am learning to trust in His faithfulness and provision. I am seeing that His plans and ways are much higher and greater than mine ever could be. Expectation grows within me as to how God is going to order my steps and watching for his signposts brings adventure. Surrender has become my anthem as I strive to be more like Him each day.

Recently, I came across a poem by A. B. Simpson entitled, “Himself.” It spoke to me of the great beauty of age as we transition through life and grow closer to God and reach spiritual maturity in Him. This poem is my prayer.

Once it was the blessing, Now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling, Now it is His Word.

Once His gifts I wanted, Now the Giver own;
Once I sought for healing, Now Himself alone.

Once ‘twas painful trying, Now ‘tis perfect trust;
Once a half salvation, Now the uttermost.

Once ‘twas ceaseless holding, Now He holds me fast;
Once ‘twas constant drifting, Now my anchor’s cast.

Once ‘twas busy planning, Now ‘tis trustful prayer;
Once ‘twas anxious caring, Now He has the care.

Once ‘twas what I wanted, Now what Jesus says;
Once ‘twas constant asking, Now ‘tis ceaseless praise.

Once it was my working, His it hence shall be;
Once I tried to use Him, Now He uses me.

Once the power I wanted, Now the Mighty One;
Once for self I laboured, Now for Him alone.

Once I hoped in Jesus, Now I know He’s mine;
Once my lamps were dying, Now they brightly shine.

Once for death I waited, Now His coming hail;
And my hopes are anchored safe within the vail.

AMEN

Let Go and Let God

Written by: Christianne Williams

Have you ever been asked by God to let something go? Maybe there were big changes happening in your life and it meant letting go of relationships. Perhaps it was a promotion at work that you desired greatly but because of the season your family was in it wouldn’t work out. Maybe you had to let go of a loved one because of sickness. The list could be extensive.

For the Rich Young Ruler it was his power and possessions. For Abraham, it was Isaac. The disciples had to leave behind their livelihood, which was lucrative at the time, and their families. Paul left behind his prestige. Stephen was asked to give up his life.

In the case of Abraham, God was looking for obedience, the willingness to do something terrifying and yet trust Him in it. I believe that the Rich Young Ruler was in the same boat, he was asked if he was willing and walked away disappointed because his heart was, in fact, not willing to give it all up for God.

I could say, all that He asks is willingness; He won’t actually require you to release whatever it is, He’ll provide the lamb in the thicket. I could say that, and in many cases, I’m sure that’s what He wants, but I’d be lying if that is the case in all situations. Sometimes the sacrifice was required: they actually had to be willing to let it go and watch as it drifted away. The disciples, Paul, and Stephen are just a few examples of that. Matthew 26:39 says, “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me, Yet not as I will, but as you will.’” Even Jesus, the Son of God, was asked to willingly surrender to His Father’s plan. He was asked to give up his life on earth.

A few weeks ago, while I was yet again praying for something that I wanted so badly and yet seemed so far out of reach, God showed me my gripped hand. It was closed so tightly, my knuckles were white. As I this picture played in my mind, my fingers opened slowly, and the wind began to gently blow away whatever was in my open hand. I felt as though there was great freedom in that act, that I was no longer striving to try to bring about results of any kind. It was as if God was showing me that my willingness to let go of everything I thought I wanted would yield peace as He brought about everything He knows I need.

In my lifetime, I’ve been asked to give up things that I held dear to me. Sometimes I had to watch things drift away and sometimes I was surprised to find that my willingness brought me exactly what my heart desired. I wanted to be a Mom so badly, and it seemed as though it would never happen.

Two weeks after I fell by my bed and gave that desire to God, asking Him to take it away, to replace it with peace even though there were no babies, we found out we were expecting our first. At the same time, when we found out our daughter was to be born with a severe heart defect, he didn’t rescue us from it, He blessed us immensely through it. And continues to do so. Only two examples, with different paths, but the same outcome. God saw us through. He gave us more than we could have imagined it just didn’t come about in the way we would’ve chosen. Of course, we would’ve preferred the path of zero sacrifice.

In each of those things that I had to release from my grip, God replaced the space in my heart with something so much sweeter than I could’ve imagined. If He required the sacrifice and not just the willing heart, He was faithful to fill my brokenness with beauty again. Open your hand and release to Him everything that’s in there and see what He lovingly bestows upon you. Embrace it, learn through it, grow because you’ve experienced it.

Christmas in July?…No, thanks!

Written by: Cindy Morrone

I don’t appreciate the attempts to celebrate a holiday in the hot of the summer, which takes place in the blistery, winter months. My apologies to those who would love to celebrate Christmas all year long.

A Christmas tradition in our home is to wake up early and together come down our stairs to the adorned Christmas tree standing tall in our front, living room window. The natural fireplace, pre-lit by the man of the house, sends dancing flames to reflect off the many presents under the tree just awaiting their opening. We cannot access our downstairs without passing by this magnificence.

In this season of grieving for me, this scene was impressed upon my attention. I thought about Christmas in July. I remembered those presents under the tree and how on Christmas morning, I cannot help but pass by the gifts just waiting to surprise, delight, provide and bring joy.

And I realized that gifts are waiting for me every day and I am passing them by.

So focused on what is lost, I am forgetting all that’s found.

So I start to look all around me and notice…..the everyday magnificent.

Gratitude and thanksgiving then remind me of God’s goodness; His faithfulness. How His blessings towards us are rich in abundance and pour onto us constantly.

And as I remember and my gaze is upon Him, I am drawn nearer in His Presence and then I am wrapped up in His abundant joy and peace.

Opening these presents all throughout the day, I experience better than Christmas all year long!

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100:4 & 5

Take it Full-Face

Written By: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God. It’s a good thing when you’re young to stick it out through the hard times. (Lamentations 3:25-27)

Every single morning I drag myself out of bed and make myself a cup of coffee in our keurig machine. Now, as much as I love coffee, believe it or not, I strongly dislike hot things. So, every morning after I brew my coffee, I wait. I wait until it’s an appropriate temperature for my liking.

Some mornings my coffee takes forever to cool down. Those really sleepy, I-need-to-wake-up-now mornings, are the worst. Yet, if I want to enjoy my cup of coffee; wait, I must.

Another thing I strongly dislike is waiting. Waiting sometimes seems like valuable time wasted. Especially when you’re waiting for something really wonderful to happen.

I remember those long years of waiting in anticipation to become pregnant. Month after month of negative pregnancy tests made me feel like precious time as a Mommy was being wasted. I also remember the 9 loooooong months of that first pregnancy. How I longed to hold my precious baby; this baby I had prayed so hard for. Those months seemed to last an eternity!

However, taking these very examples; important things take place in seasons of waiting. From the complex growth that takes place during those 9 months of pregnancy – to the few extra minutes I need to wait for my coffee to cool down. The time required to ‘wait’ is just as important as the treasure at the other end. The reality is, if I tried to speed up these valuable waiting periods, I would have given birth to a premature baby and suffered from a burnt tongue.

Jeremiah writes of the hope that God has given him during times of waiting in Lamentations 3. I love his guidance in these verses:
When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear. Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face. The “worst” is never the worst. Why? Because the Master won’t ever walk out and fail to return. If he works severely, he also works tenderly. His stockpiles of loyal love are immense. He takes no pleasure in making life hard, in throwing roadblocks in the way: (Lamentations 3:28-33)

Sometimes when we are seeking God prayerfully for a specific answer, He brings us through a season of waiting. Let’s remember these scriptures when these seasons arise and choose to embrace the waiting, rather than rush it; for we know that during a season of waiting, good things are being prepared for the treasure at the other end.

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your reminder that You are good to those who passionately wait. Thank You for practical examples that show us that waiting is an important time to embrace. Please help us with our impatience and help us see the joy in our seasons of waiting. I ask these things in Your name; Amen.

Party of One

Written By: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. (Matthew 6:19-21)

Have you ever met someone that is just truly never satisfied?! They throw ‘pity parties’ for themselves because this or that did not go the way they wanted it to….They wallow in self-pity when they don’t own the newest trend; act jealously if someone else has something that they’d like to have; and or withdraw when something really good happens to someone else?

Maybe this person is you?

Two important biblical truths come to mind when I meet or know a person like I’ve described above:

1) “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35

If you are always on the receiving end of things….you are not doing what The Lord asks of you. You do not have to have everything or even a lot to be able to help someone else. Helping someone else could be as simple as sending an encouraging word, making a meal and bringing it to their home during a difficult time, or, just lending a listening ear when someone needs a friend.

2) Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

I get it, friends, sometimes you just want to wallow. May I make a suggestion….? Don’t. It’s not healthy. No matter HOW bad your circumstances are, there are still SO many reasons to give thanks. The Lord is so good to us. It’s time to praise Him in all things, for His goodness to us.

Self pity is the act of dwelling on the misfortune of your own circumstances, rather than depending on God to meet your needs and desires His way.

If you occupy yourself with self-pity; such will be your reward.

Dear Heavenly Father! Sorry for all the times we’ve wasted on our own pity parties. We know that acting in such a way distracts us from the fullness of life that You have so generously given to us. Forgive us, Jesus. We desire to give thanks in all things; in all circumstances. Please bless my sisters; in Jesus name, amen.