December 17, 2013

Persecution is a Blessing .

We'd be naive to believe that people don't speak negatively about us. If you're doing something positive and trying to serve God, there will be nay-sayers and negativity. The enemy will use ANYONE to try and get you off of your game.  It's all a matter of learning how to handle the criticism in such a way that it doesn't rock you to your core. Everyone will face criticism especially when on a path that's positive. If you haven't faced criticism, you're probably doing something wrong. That's really uncomfortable to think about because we all want to be liked and adored. However, that won't be the case. People will literally find reasons to dislike you. 

I am so encouraged from the text for today. I really like the Message translation because it's so conversational. 

"Not only that -- count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens-- give a cheer, even!--for though they don't like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble." Matthew 5:11,12. 

Here are two reminders I'd like to share to encourage you in the Lord! 

1. When you are earnestly seeking to do God's will and people talk about you, you are blessed!
That's weird, right? When I think of blessings, I think of the fruit of the spirit. I also think of tangible blessings like good family & friends. I don't like to think about slander & persecution as blessings but Jesus Christ says to be happy and cheer when these things happen because you are in good company. Anyone that was considered a warrior for Christ experienced this blessing. Consider it an honor that God has confidence that you can rise to the occasion and wear the blessing of persecution well. 

2. When you are living a life that pleases God, your mere presence is a rebuke to people who are in the wrong. You don't even have to say anything. The light of God that's in you says it all. So when you come around people and they get uncomfortable and feel judged, it could be a result of your enemies knowing the difference between right and wrong but still choosing to live in the flesh. Be careful not to shrink as a result of their attack. You still need to shine for Christ because there are people are in desperate need of a Savior and will not reject Him. Your testimony is needed. Make a commitment to yourself to live boldly for Christ in spite of the discomfort that may come with persecution. 

I hope this encourages you to continue in your walk with Christ. I'm learning these lessons as I write them so we're in this together. May God bless you as we continue to unashamedly pursue Him! 

God bless you!

December 13, 2013

What's Your Plan?

Ever since Nelson Mandela's passing last week, I've been contemplating how I can be a better person. When a great man like Mandela passes, it's hard not to do some self-reflection and consider how to be great like he was. In church this past Sabbath, my pastor reminded us of what Mandela had to endure as a prison inmate for 27 years. My pastor shared that Mandela had to eat soup that stank. The thought of eating stinky soup for 27 years was enough to make me want to act right.  I can't imagine going through 27 years of prison without coming out a teensy bit bitter but Nelson Mandela harbored no hatred or bitterness.  I'm inspired and charged to be better as a result of his life. I think that with everything, you must have a plan. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I've been alive for 27 years and in that time, I've learned a little bit about trial and error. I've figured out what I need to do in order to be better with the knowledge and wisdom I have right now. So I've created a plan. I've entitled it the Dani Plan. I've broken it down into breakable bits of realistic goals. I've already begun to get the ball in motion and I'm so excited. To encourage you to be proactive about your goals and dreams, I'd like to share a little bit of what's on my Dani Plan!

The Dani Plan
1. Spirituality
a. Express gratitude daily (early morning). 
- Habit to implement: Write in gratitude journal first thing in the morning instead of when you remember. Showing gratitude is not only showing appreciation in a relationship but it's also polite. Have some manners on a regular basis with God. Always say thank you!

b. Committed Service
- Habit to implement: Do a random act of kindness/service for someone every week. Service is the rent you pay for living. The act can be a card via snail mail, a bouquet of flowers, create some artwork, a dish, a thoughtful visit or phone call, etc.  

2. Physical Appearance 
a. Skin improvements
- Habit to implement: Lemon juice mix for skin/ 5 minutes a night. 

b. Hair
- Habit to implement: Incorporate ACV/Rosemary rinses back into regimen every 2 weeks. 

3. Hobbies
a. Crocheting/Looming
-Habit to implement: Work on & complete one new piece every two weeks. You could even give some away as gifts: infinity scarf, afghan, blanket, beanies, 

b. DIY projects
-Habit to implement: Take time out to do a DIY project you've always wanted to try but never took the time to do. See DIY list docx. 

There are more parts to the my personal plan. However, I'm taking everything in sizable portions so that it doesn't feel daunting. 

Apparently it takes 21 days to make a habit stick. So here we go! 
Let me know how you've felt charged to be better as a result of anything that happened this year and more importantly, how are you going about the change? 

December 11, 2013

Where Does Happiness Come From?

After listening to a recent sermon from Pastor Steven Furtick, I've been determined to make sure that the words that shape the season I'm in are words of positivity and encouragement. 

It's easy to get discouraged and STAY discouraged when we can't imagine a way out of difficult challenges we face in life. I just want to encourage you to keep pushing and don't give up. Here's what I've found to be important in creating an atmosphere of gratitude and ultimately, happiness: 

Count YOUR blessings and not your neighbor's.

I believe that contentment is a discipline that must be developed. It's very easy to get into the habit of counting the blessings of family, friends, enemies, celebrities and total strangers (social media) and comparing what you have.  Our ultimate purpose and reason we were created is to glorify the Father. You have everything you need at this moment to fulfill your ultimate purpose in Christ. If you ever felt like you were lacking in some area, allow God to supply it. If He hasn't supplied it, He obviously believes you can work at your greatest capacity without it. By getting caught up in what you DON'T have, you miss out on the beautiful blessings of what you DO possess and what God is doing in your life. Be thankful for the grace God gives anew every morning and be determined to see the positive in every situation. 

For example, speaking a single woman, I've found that it's easy to get into the mindset that "one elusive day" if I get married, THEN I'll be happy. This is a way that many singles decide to put their happiness on hold. It's common to hear of people who are happily married which is a beautiful thing. Have you ever noticed that there isn't much talk about  the "happily single" person? A lot of times, single people are considered incomplete, late bloomers, or behind. That mindset has become a cultural norm which doesn't allow us to unashamedly follow what Christ would have us to do in every aspect of our lives. It's possible to be happily single. It's also possible to be lonely and unhappily married. I wouldn't wish the latter on anyone but I really wish more people were vocal about the fact that being happy doesn't happen as soon as you get the dream job, spouse, house, life, etc. If you aren't happy before obtaining those things, when you receive it, it may boost your happiness temporarily. Unfortunately, in the long run, those blessings (that can often become idols) only amplify the unhappiness. 

Make a decision to fall in love with Christ and the portion of His grace, mercy, and love that He's bestowed in this season of your life. Love Him and watch your life overflow with more than happiness but an unspeakable joy. 

God bless you!

December 4, 2013

No Spoon Feeding

I really love to learn more about God in His Word. The Bible is undoubtedly the best book ever! It was written by 40 different authors but is still so cohesive. What a remarkable way to display the consistency of the Lord! Stories of warriors like David and dreamers like Joseph are pretty straightforward and simple to understand. There are, admittedly, a few books that can seem pretty intimidating to read. However, I’d like to encourage you to become an avid reader of the Word of God. There are so many spiritual treasures to discover that can greatly enhance the intimacy of your walk and understanding of Christ. It's very easy to get into the habit of reading devotionals, listening to sermons and getting the Word second-hand so I understand how that can happen. Don't get lazy though. Dust off the Bible on dresser and open it up! As I continue to study the Bible, I’ve picked up a few habits for making studying a little more fun and memorable. I will share a few of mine.

1.     The S.O.A.P. Method- I’m not sure where the S.O.A.P method originated. I know it’s a popular bible study method. I first learned about it when I was part of a women’s small group. S.O.A.P. is an acronym, which stands from Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer.  At the beginning of the study, we would pick one chapter and take turns reading it aloud. We would then take time out to individually observe the verse that stood out the most to us. We would then figure out a way to apply the lesson of the verse or chapter to our lives. Then we would end with prayer. It’s a pretty awesome way to study and apply the Word of God to your life in a very practical way.
2.     Color Coding- I write in a gratitude journal with vibrant colored markers. I also use those same markers to highlight the verses that stand out to me along the way while I’m reading. I also keep an ink pen handy to write notes on the pages. Unfortunately, the markers do bleed through the pages a little bit but they don’t make a big mess.
3.     Index Cards- My sister put me on to this trick of using index cards and sticking them in the Bible at the place where something stood out to her. She’ll also write the verse on the card and any notes she may have. Even though she said that her cards don’t fall out of her Bible, I prefer to keep them in one place outside of my Bible. I guess I’m a teensy bit OCD. You can punch a hole in the cards and keep them on a ring so they’re easily portable but also in one place together.
4.     Early to Rise- As a child, I always remember hearing the quote; “Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise!”  I find that when I wake up really early in the morning to study my Word, my mind is a lot clearer and my heart is more receptive to what God is saying. I also feel like there is such a beautiful intimacy because it feels like God and I are the only two awake and we get to spend private time together.
5.     Where do I stand in the text? -  One of my pastors did an exercise where we read the parable of the Good Samaritan. Afterward, we put ourselves in the shoes of one of the characters in the story and imagined how it must have felt to be in their shoes. You’d be surprised how relatable Bible stories can be once you put yourself in the text. If you were Eve, you’d like to think you’d do things differently than she did, but truthfully knowing yourself, would you have been any different? This exercise gives you those types of questions to stretch your studying muscles pertaining to the Word of God.
6.     Look it up- If I’ve gotten to a point in the scriptures that I don’t understand, I’ll use my trusty phone to Google what I can’t understand or I’ll read other translations. I know that a lot of Christians laugh at The Message translation but it really helps me when I am stuck on a certain passage! J

Let me know if you’ve adopted any of these exercises before. If you plan on trying some of these, let me know how they work for you! If you have any great study tips that have worked for you, please feel free to share! Leave a comment below!

God bless you!


December 2, 2013

Fighting Back

Let me tell you something:

No weapon formed against me shall prosper.

I am a Christian. I love God and believe His Word. My walk is far from perfect but I really do love Him and am striving to be like Him. As a result of this, the enemy will throw any darts/attacks to throw me off guard. I have been blogging consistently for a little while now and was getting into a groove when a spiritual attack was sent my way. It's been a little over a month since my family and I have been going through an extremely challenging situation. While having supportive family and friends is an awesome comfort, I need to be intentional about resting in Christ with absolutely no anxiety, worry or fear about the future.

Because of the nature of the situation, I was tempted not to blog anymore. I was concerned because there have been quite of few slanderous accusations and I wasn't sure what to do. I had been praying and crying about it for a while and it hit me this weekend.

NEVER stop living in your God-given purpose because the road gets rough. If God gives you a calling/purpose to fulfill, He WILL give you provision and protection for the journey. Never back down due to fear or doubt. The perfect love of God casts out all fear. How can I profess to be a Christian if I don't walk in that truth? I will continue to blog about Christ, love, and the little hobbies I enjoy. Christ is the light of my life and He is worthy of all praise.

Kari Jobe has a song that says "every secret, every shame, every fear and every pain live inside the dark and that's not who we are. We are children of the day." I see God's hand in my life simply because I've chosen Him. When you make the intentional decision to chose Christ, truth will prevail and you won't be afraid of being put in a spotlight. Light encourages accountability, transparency and walking in truth. I'm not the first person the enemy has tried to attack and I won't be the last.

So, the road may get rough but know that God is on your side no matter what you're going through. I'm excited about continuing this blogging journey and will fight ferociously for Christ to shine in my life! I'm grateful. I believe God. I anticipate His blessings, miracles, and healing. And I look forward to connecting with all of you.

God bless you as we dream something up together!