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Are you ever disheartened by your inability to meet everyone’s demands and expectations?
Some days my heart vacillates between being raw with paralyzing frustration and simultaneously stimulated by a thousand agitations.
In the midst of my obsessive mental processing and impaired human emotions, I starkly realize that in the insistent whirlwind of life, I still have so much for which to be grateful.
Yet continuously … the floods of demands, disciplines, people, habits, chores, vices and commitments create a massive quagmire in my life that can only be described by one desperate word, “overwhelming”!
The call of life is just so deafeningly loud sometimes …
David the worshipper … the man after God’s own heart … shares my incompetence at dealing well with all that life dishes out.
“Hear my cry, O God; Give heed to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For You have been a refuge for me, a tower of strength against the enemy.
Let me dwell in Your tent forever;
Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings.”
– Psalm 61:1-4
Although I do not know what specifically overwhelms you, I can assure you that though the source of your staggering obstacles may look much different than mine, the answer for both of us is the same.
“Hear my cry, O God! Give heed to my prayer.”
When you are overwhelmed, take it from David: the first thing you need to do is cry out to God. We need prayer more than we need our circumstances to change. Just going to my infinitely gracious God, Who is lovingly attentive in all of His ways, reminds me that I am not in charge. There is Someone mightier and more powerful than I am Who is well able to bring relief to my mountain of stress.
“From the end of the earth I call to You, when my heart is overwhelmed!”
There is no sin in calling out to God when you are completely and utterly overwhelmed.
The sin would actually be in turning to other less satisfying options. Have you ever mistakenly believed that spending, eating, being entertained, going to the spa or responding with your emotions is what you need to conquer the overwhelming circumstances and events of your life? Those things are deceptive distractions and possess all the healing power of a miniscule band-aid following open heart surgery.
“Lead me to the rock that is higher than I …”
The second word of advice that is discernable in David’s prayer is that we all need God to lead us. We need Him to take us by our human hands and then to guide us with His divine hands to a higher place. He always wisely leads His children to a more secure vantage point than the circumstances of life are able to offer. The benefit of standing on a rock that is taller than I am is that I am above my circumstances and therefore can see them from heaven’s perspective.
One of the most destructive mistakes that any of us can make during moments of overwhelming madness is to be led by our emotions. Anger and impatience will do damage to relationships that may be difficult to repair. I must humbly realize that my emotions often lie to me but God will lead me in triumph even in overwhelming times … especially in overwhelming times.
“For You have been a refuge for me, a tower of strength against the enemy …”
When you are feeling overwhelmed, focus not on what is causing the irritation or annoyance but begin to declare Who God is. Remove your eyes from your circumstances and set your mind, mouth and gaze on the only One Who is able to help you! God is your safe place and will strongly protect you against the enemy forces of busyness, difficult relationships, a failing economy, health challenges and priorities. He is more than able!
“Let me dwell in Your tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings.”
There is no safer, more peaceful place to be than abiding in Him and with Him. When I linger in His presence and enjoy the safety of His Word, the overwhelming things of this earth truly grow strangely dim. When His nearness overshadows all that calls my name, I am at peace at last. The life that He gives is the life that I have dreamed about and longed for.
His presence miraculously empowers me to face another day of the demanding details of life. The Word of God powerfully protects me and shields me from the rapid fire of life’s demands. Prayer helps me to wisely focus on that which is eternal and not on that which merely stirs up a raucous.
So … the next time that you or I find ourselves in similar and overwhelming circumstances … let’s not walk but run to Him and all that He is! I resolve to take a break from this mad, mad, mad, mad world and to set my heart where it has always belonged … in Him.
While others are juggling the voices, the tirade and the insistence of this temporary world, I will be the one with my hands in air, gaze fixed on heaven and crying with gut-wrenching desperation, “HELP!”
5 Foods Never to Eat after the Age of 45
9 Things Extremely Successful People Do After Work
20 Things every Twenty-something Should Know How to do
7 Things You Totes Need to Stop Saying If You’re Over 30
5 Things Super Successful People do Before 8 AM
Are you overwhelmed yet? Would you read ANY of these lists and actually believe that the insight could change your life in any significant way?!
What other lists are out there with the guarantee to change some aspect of your obviously less than perfect life? How about these …
37 Things You’ll Regret When You’re Old
10 Things Successful People Do on Monday Mornings
23 Signs You Are Secretly An Introvert
36 Things That Are Going to Make You Feel Ancient
18 Things Everyone Should Start Making Time for Again
It’s true … I spotted all of these condescending, brilliant, too-good-to-be true lists on Facebook in a 24-hour period.
I timed myself.
When I realized that I saw this hysterical trend developing, I decided to make my own lists of lists.
There I sat … paralyzed by the glow from my computer screen with a pen and piece of notebook paper beside me. Every time a new list popped up, I read and documented said list.
For 24 hours I made my own list of the epidemic lists that I saw posted on social media. And what you have read today is the kind of stuff that my desperate friends were posting. Oh … but I’m not done yet …
10 Reasons I Keep My House Clean
5 Ways to Be Unsatisfied with Your Church
10 Marriage Tips Every Wife Needs to Hear
20 Things My Mom Was Right About
6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You A Better Person
You are either highly frustrated right now … feel like a miserable failure knowing that you will never amount to anything at all … or … like me … you are laughing hysterically!!
Can you do it … can you read just a few more of the titles of lists that I discovered on social media? And then I will get to my point … I promise!
Top 10 Mistakes Christian Parents of Teens Make
32 Cheap and Easy Backyard Ideas that are Borderline Genius
10 Things Successful People Do Differently To Reach Their Dreams
But I have saved the very best for last:
2014 Is Going To Be My Year Now That I Know These 89 Genius Solutions to Simple Problems
Stop gagging RIGHT NOW … because I have one significant thing to say to you!
All you really need is Jesus. All you really need is more of Him and more of His presence.
For me, this has never been and will never be a get-rich quick scheme or a religious platitude. It is not a spiritual band-aid nor is it a condescending panacea.
Knowing Jesus gives me a life bigger than life. Spending time in His dear presence is all I need to battle any giant … move any mountain … or discover any wisdom or truth.
Spending my life knowing Him … loving Him … giving to Him … talking to Him … listening to Him … is better than any diet, any idea, any worldly solution or any regret that I will encounter this side of eternity.
“One thing have I asked of the Lord and that shall I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.” – Psalm 27:4
If you want me to make it practical for you … let me put it this way …
In 2014, whether you are a teen-ager or just one breath away from eternity, open your Bible and enjoy His presence, His power and His wisdom.
Whether you are the mother of 19 kids and counting … or are experiencing the lonely pain of an empty nest … or are walking through the wilderness of infertility … what you need to help you get through these days is the joy that is found in the Word of God.
Whether you make a six-figure income or are standing in line for your next unemployment check, your validation in life will come from knowing Him and not from what you do or do not earn.
In 2014, whether you are married or single … divorced or planning the wedding of your dreams … a widow or on your honeymoon … what you need to feel unconditionally loved, is to know His love that surpasses all others.
If we are going to number anything at all, the Bible tells us to number our days and apply our hearts to wisdom.
“So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” – Psalm 90:12
What does it mean in to “number our days”? The Hebrew word for “number” is the word “manah” and it means to “count, number assign, prepare or tell”.
Rather than reading the noxious lists on Facebook or Twitter, why don’t we spend our days numbering our days?
Buy a calendar for the new year … and begin to fill its pages with what God has shown you … what you have planned … what you long to accomplish with your life … scriptures to memorize … people who need encouragement … books to read … books to write … the lyrics of songs that have touched you. The possibilities are endless!
When the calendar year then turns to 2015, you will have a diary of all that happened of significance in your life during 2014. You will look back and see the hand of God and hear His voice every day of the calendar year. You will have numbered your days in the very best way possible!
I have always loved eavesdropping on conversations that Jesus had with those He loved while He was on planet earth. One afternoon, He had a teaching moment with 2 women by the name of Martha and Mary. They were sisters but oh! So completely different from one another … as sisters often are!
Martha was the type-A girl … she got the job done! There was no mountain of laundry she couldn’t tackle, no crowd of men she couldn’t feed and no person whom she wouldn’t boss around. She was one take-charge, intimidating glob of estrogen!
Mary was the quieter sister … perhaps an introvert … who had found great meaning and sustenance by simply sitting at the feet of Jesus. It might not have seemed like she accomplished very much … but perhaps, in reality, she had learned the secret of numbering her days.
“But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part which shall not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:41 & 42
My prayer for you in 2014 is that you will number your days not read lists. I pray that you will choose the one thing that will make your life count for eternity. I pray that you will know the One to Whom everyone and everything else will someday bow.
Happy New Year from Just Joy! Ministries!! Are you ready to move into the
year 2014 with all of God’s promises and plans for your life?
Have you ever treasured a memory so deeply in your soul that not only does your mind recall the facts of the moment but your heart also is instantly tied to the memory with intense and poignant feelings?
Such is the memory that I have of a December evening when I was only 6 years old …
I attended kindergarten that morning in the one room schoolhouse that was just around the corner and up the street from the safe haven of my home. I lived in that century old home with my mom and dad, my older sister, a younger brother who loved to tease, a collie named Lassie and a white cat named Tinkerbell.
It was a snowy, wintery day in Western New York and I had spent the after school hours sledding with my older sister and with the “redheads” from across the street. My toes were nearly frostbitten from the time happily spent in the sub-freezing elements. My mother, after taking off all of my snow-caked outer garments at the door, handed me a fresh nightgown that had been warmed in the dryer. She then stood me on top of our old-fashioned register where the heat came blazing up from the basement furnace.
My mom put “The King Family Christmas Album” on our record player so that I would have Christmas music to listen to while I was slowly warmed from the tiny register holes.
I revolved around in a little girl circle while the heat found its way to warm my numb toes, raw fingers and red nose. While facing one direction, I saw the piano sitting in the corner of the oversized room; in another direction, I saw the dining room table bedecked for Christmas in true 1960’s fashion; and in the third direction I looked into my parents’ bedroom and at their huge canopy bed.
The fourth view that completed my slow rotation was out the front windows of my home and at the Post Office across the street. I remember that the snow was gently falling down around the little brown building which was truly no more than a glorified shack of governmental importance. The postmaster, Mr. Hawley, had just the day before strung lights around the roof and windows of the US Post Office located directly across the street from my girlhood home.
My slow circle stopped the moment that I looked across the street at the obscure building.
As the King Family sang of city sidewalks, chestnuts roasting and finally about a Baby Boy, I stopped my circling and just stared, transfixed at the beauty of the brown building surrounded by Christmas lights.
I remember placing my hand on my chest because what I was experiencing in that moment was so wonderful and grand that it made my heart hurt. As I wiped the tears away from my no longer frozen cheeks, my mom walked into the room.
“Why, Carol!” she exclaimed. “Why are you crying? Are you not feeling well?”
I didn’t even realize until that moment that there were tears on my cheeks. I responded, “Mom … it’s all so beautiful. It makes my heart hurt.”
The joy from my heart was leaking out of my eyes and down my innocent cheeks. A little brown shingled building … decorated with Christmas lights … made my heart hurt.
And with repeating those words to you today … I can still feel the glorious pain all over again.
Christmas is so beautiful … so filled with wonder and glory … that it makes my heart hurt to this very day.
When Christmas lights up the ordinariness of my feeble attempt at life, the raw marvel paints a picture of stunning impact. When viewed without the message of the manger, my life is truly just a shack of little significance and certain obscurity.
However, when I dress my life in the majesty of the manger and with the glory of the angel’s song it is then that I become who I was always made to be. When the human hut of my life is changed by the purpose of the manger and by the star that led the way to His dear presence, I realize why my heart aches for something more than this world offers.
Even now … the joy of Christmas is leaking out of my eyes and my wizened heart hurts with the joy of it all.
Has the joy of Christmas changed you? Have you allowed the miracle of the manger to decorate the humdrum of your life? My prayer for you this year is that you will take a moment out of the busyness … and away from the craziness… and observe with no distractions what the glory of Christmas is truly all about.
I hope that you will warm yourself with the joy of His presence. I hope that you will hear the angels’ song and that your heart will constrict in sheer and joyous pain.
I pray that you will have a moment when the joy of Christmas leaks out of your eyes and onto your face.
Your life was always meant to be more than a shack … a hovel … a hut of humanity. Your life was meant to be the showplace of Christmas every day of every year.
Merry Christmas with joy –
The men and women in the story of Christ‘s birth…gave more than they could afford…in order to be involved in the plan of God. What are you giving this year?
Our sacrifice of praise means giving thanks…even when you feel there is nothing to be thankful for.
This one singular heart attitude, that of choosing to live in a place of gratitude, holds more sway over the quality of your life than does your income bracket, your street address or even the pain of your past.
Gratitude will erase days of pain and create days of blessing.
Thanksgiving will enlarge the small places of your life into rooms of grand bounty and sweet strength.
Praise will turn the gray and blah of humdrum responsibilities into sparkling opportunities of service in the Kingdom of God.
It is in choosing to be thankful … sincerely and joyfully thankful … that ordinary days turn into holidays.
Days that are identified by wretchedness and wreathed in ugly become events of heavenly inspiration and sweet remembrance when we use the paintbrush of gratitude to change their color.
This is your life … you will never have another. This life is your only chance at joy … your only opportunity for destiny … your only occasion for capturing a delightful heart.
You must discover the power of thanksgiving if you long for your life to make a difference.
If you are thankful for even the small things in life, you have discovered an eternal treasure.
If you can make snow angels with the little girls in your life … you have tapped into treasure.
If you can catch fireflies with a freckle-faced boy … you have tapped into treasure.
If the glory discovered in vibrant rainbows … in the majestic roar of the ocean’s waves … and in the morning song of the bird cause you to well up with praise … you have learned how to value the truly important commodities in life.
Conversely, if you choose to focus on your deficits rather than on your gifts, you will always be miserable. If all you do is whine and complain and worry … you are the only one whom it wounds and ultimately subtracts from.
Did you know that it doesn’t really matter what your circumstances are? Once you begin to lock into this miraculous lifestyle of thanksgiving, although your circumstances may never change … you will change! You change from being in bondage to disappointments and pain to living a life of the joy found only within the gates of His powerful presence!
The moment that you become grateful, it changes the atmospheric conditions of your life. Thanksgiving will take you out of your human pain and place you in the very courts of His presence! What a miraculous possibility!!
“Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful singing.
Know that the Lord Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations.”
I would love it if you would respond to this blog by telling us what you are grateful for today!
It’s November! The 11th month of the year is 4 glorious weeks of exhilarating football games, homemade pumpkin pie and jumping raucously in the leaves. It is the month of geese flying southward, pulling out Gramma’s well-loved recipes and going on that annual family hayride.
However, the most important aspect of this month that marks the beginning of the holiday season is the time that is set aside for sincere gratitude and thankfulness. November reminds us of the strength of counting our benefits and not whining about our deficits. There is no other month that carries such a strong regard for the giving of heartfelt thanks and the joyful taking stock of one’s blessings.
But what if this November, you are more aware of what you don’t have rather than what you do have? What if Thanksgiving 2013 is a painful reminder of the prayers that have not yet been answered and the “Blessing List” that lies dormant and bare?
My friend, Monica, is one of my heroines in life. She is a sister of the heart, a partner in ministry and a dream-builder extraordinaire. Monica has prayed for nearly 7 years for another baby … and yet her arms and her nursery are longingly empty. Her message and her heart challenge me to pray again … to believe again … and to give thanks “in spite of” and not only “because of.”
This is Monica’s story and Monica’s blog. Maybe you will find yourself between the lines of this heartfelt journey.
I thought about writing this many times over the past 7 years. I’ve written and re-written it in my mind too many times to count. I’ve always waited because I thought…once the deepest desire of my heart has been fulfilled…that’s when I can share the testimony. That is when I can encourage someone else to hang in there…the promise is coming. But here’s what I’ve learned through this journey…the testimony doesn’t necessarily come in one big bang at the end of the road. Sometimes, it’s during the lowest of lows…during the deepest pain and despair…and even during the relentless questions of the heart…that the true testimony is birthed.
This journey began for me about 8 years ago, on a cold winter morning in February. Paul and I had been married for just over 8 months. We had decided early on that we would wait until we’d been married for one year before we started a family. But after eight months of wedded bliss…I didn’t want to wait any longer! I was ready for babies!! That morning in February…as I was blow-drying my hair…the Lord spoke to my heart. I heard the name “Faith”….and then “Faith Marie”. It was so clear to me that I think I’ll never forget the feeling of hearing my Jesus whisper that name to the deepest part of my soul.
A few weeks later, I heard Him whisper the name Zachary. Imagine hearing two names…within a couple of weeks! My poor husband had no say in the name of our son. There was no discussion about names…no baby name books being poured through. I just knew that we were either going to have a “Zachary” or a “Faith”!
About a month later, we found out we were pregnant!! I’ve wanted a little girl since I can remember. I have a sister…and she has three daughters…and my mom was one of two girls. And the Lord had given me the name ‘Faith’! Never in my wildest imagination could I ever picture myself with a boy! So, when I found out we were pregnant with a boy…I was slightly shell shocked. However, over the next 9 months…I fell completely, head over heels, over the moon in love with my Zachary. And when he was born, I thought…THIS is what perfection looks like! (And I still think that today, 7 years later)
We were beyond blessed with our beautiful little family. And so, when Zachary was about 10 months old…we decided this would be the perfect time to do it again! We were pregnant with Zachary exactly one month after we decided to begin trying. We took it for granted the second time would be so easy.
However, with each month that passed with a negative pregnancy test, I had to fight feelings of fear. I had to fight off the nasty little “I” word (Infertility) that would creep into my thoughts. After several months, we began fertility treatments. And after years and years of herbs, and acupuncture, and holistic treatments, and pills, and needles, and hormones….praying and declaring…seeking God’s wisdom and guidance at every turn…I wasn’t getting pregnant. One of the biggest blows came after several more tests and procedures and a consult with an IVF doctor. My test results showed early menopause and no chance of IVF working. He told us our only hope was to use an egg donor or do traditional adoption. The news was almost more than I could bare.
BUT – during all of these years…and more negative pregnancy tests than one person should ever have to endure…I knew that Jesus was with me. I felt Him near me every time I would cry out in despair…each time I questioned whether I had really heard the name Faith…He would reassure me. “Now FAITH is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen” (Hebrews 11:1)
My God would send me scriptures and encouragers and the deepest knowledge that He loved me….and He understood the pain…and my anger would never make Him move away from me or love me less.
Earlier this year, we adopted 2 embryos through the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption program. We knew that my body wasn’t producing eggs…but the doctors told us that I could easily carry a baby. And that has always been my deep desire…to be pregnant again. To feel the life growing inside me…to feel those magical first kicks…to feel my baby move as soon as she felt her daddy’s hand on my stomach. I loved those beautiful nine months with Zachary…and I desperately want it again.
The process of embryo adoption was daunting. It’s treated just like a traditional adoption, so we went through the homestudy and began the process of choosing the family who’s babies we would adopt and grow inside me. When we received word that a family had chosen us to adopt their embryos, I prayed that the Lord would give us a sign so that we knew that these were the babies He had for us.
I’ll never forget the day I received the pictures of the family. I’ve never in my life felt more loved by the God who created this universe! When I opened the first picture, I saw two little boys who could’ve been my son’s twins. These were the siblings of the embryos that we were about to adopt. When I put the picture of the one little boy next to a picture of me when I was his age…we could’ve been brother and sister. The resemblance was uncanny. I knew that God had answered our prayers. The God who was so big that He created the Grand Canyon….knew the deepest desire of my heart.
We began the process of getting my body ready to accept these babies. We flew to Kansas standing and declaring that we would come home pregnant! Our friends sent us off with letters and cards of encouragement….declarations over these babies, who had been wanted for so many years. We came home after the procedure…after being told by the doctor that the embryos didn’t look great…still full of hope and declaring all of the promises that God had given us. I had called this baby by name for 7 years. My little Faith…my vision of blonde curls and freckles on her nose…the little girl who would grow up to be my best friend. The moment was finally here…we couldn’t wait to celebrate with all of the friends and family who had stood beside us…prayed with us for so many years. This little girl who had lived only in my heart…
Two weeks later, the doctor called from Kansas with words that would literally…truly…smash my heart into a million pieces. We were not pregnant. Those two babies that had been placed inside me were now in heaven.
The hours and even days after that phone call are a blur. I felt like I had lost two babies. I felt like God had broken my heart. It hurt to talk to God…it hurt to read my Bible…it hurt to look at all of the scriptures that I had declared over this baby. Everything just hurt.
But, He never left my side. Slowly…and ever so gently…I could hear Him whispering to me. I knew that God still loved me. I knew that He had a plan for me…a great plan…to prosper me and not to harm me. I knew that, although my heart was broken, it wasn’t Jesus who had broken it. I needed to let Him back in…because He was the ONLY one who could truly heal my heart.
I remember asking – WHY? Why would you send me this beautiful, perfect match – the perfect fit for our family and then take these babies to heaven? His answer was soft, gentle, and so comforting. He gave me that match to show me just how deeply and intimately He knows my heart…my deepest desires…the dreams inside me that no one else knows. He knows. He sees.
I am still working through the process of letting Him heal my heart. I am still learning how to live with an unanswered prayer…by thanking Him for the million prayers that He HAS answered. Jesus has been with me at every valley and every mountain top of this journey. I am learning that the testimony isn’t really about the destination…it’s about finding God during the journey. It’s about choosing to declare that He is a good God…He does want the best for me…He loves me…and He never has or never will leave my side. I will be thankful for every good gift that He has so graciously poured out in my life. That He continues to pour into my life. It’s a choice I make everyday…to be thankful…to worship while I’m waiting…to trust Him.
That..…is my testimony.
Habakkuk 2:3 – For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay.
1 Chronicles 16:11 – Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face continually.
Proverbs 16:9 – In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.
Jeremiah 17:7 – Blessed is the (wo)man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is in the Lord.
Monica is Mom to Zachary, Wife to Paul. and the Executive Director at Just Joy! Ministries. Her blog is called “Faith for the Journey”
November is the month of being thankful…but let’s take it a step further and be thankful, not only “because of” our circumstances…but “In Spite Of” our circumstances! Join us on the facebook page – Carol McLeod, Bible Teacher & Author, and list 3 things you are thankful for with the hashtag #inspiteof