It is that time of year again. You know—that time when we look back over the past year and start thinking ahead to the new, up-coming, year. Many of us will be making “New Year’s Resolutions” and trying to figure out ways to make said resolutions do-able and achievable.
Now, I am not here today to talk about looking ahead with hope. (Although, that is what you should be doing.) Nope, today I want to talk to you about looking back, about being retrospective.
When I was in high school, our yearbook was called “Retrospect”. I always thought that that was a cool and fitting name for a yearbook. Having a yearbook allows us to “look back” and contemplate and remember the past. And, if you enjoyed high school, this is a nice way to reflect on those happy times. If you didn’t enjoy high school, well, I suspect you would not want to even own a yearbook. Who wants to be reminded of anything painful?
Many people will tell you not to look back. There is a popular saying that goes something like, “Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.” The Bible even tells us in Luke 9:62, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” And, while I agree that it is better to focus on the future, I do believe there can be significant value in looking back. (Just don’t stay there too long!)
As I grow in my spiritual life, the main reasons I like to look back, are three-fold:
1. When I take time to consider my past, I can see just how much I have changed and grown. This is a good thing. It shows me how far I have come. Plus, it is great encouragement and motivation that will help to keep me moving forward and stretching myself. I long to be a reflection of Christ. And, while I will never fully get there in this life, I have a drive within to get as close as I possibly can.
2. Looking back allows me to see God working in my life. It allows me to see His hand at work. This is a marvelous thing! I can look back on situations that, at the time, I thought were horrible, but in hind-sight I can see the beauty that was created from them. It is a powerful reminder of how God can work everything for our good, if we let Him. (See Romans 8:28)
3. And, finally, mulling over my past grants me the opportunity to simply be grateful. As I shared in a recent post, having an attitude of gratitude is fundamental in our spiritual growth and in our everyday walk with God. Every chance we get to be grateful should be seized upon immediately. What better way to be grateful than by looking back at our past blessings?
So, as the new year fast approaches, I implore you to spend some time in active retrospect. Don’t be afraid to look back, draw out all the positive things over the last year, and use those things to grow into the person you long to be.
The key is to understand that you can’t live in the past. You can’t spend your entire life looking back and dwelling on things that have already happened. You need to move forward. But, by taking the time to consciously look back and use that occasion to grow spiritually, you can develop into the person you truly want to be.
As Christmas approaches, I can’t help but think about how many people are hurting in this world. For whatever reason, Christmastime seems to put a spotlight on people who are suffering or are in need. (At least, it feels that way to me.)
The older I get and the more I grow in my own spiritual relationship with God, the more I realize that we are all hurting in some form or fashion. Some of us may not even register it. Are there things that you do that you don’t like, but take comfort in? (Eating sugary snacks or smoking, for instance.) Do you find yourself being resentful of other people and what they have? Do you battle feelings of insecurity? Are there aspects of yourself that you hide from your loved ones, because you are ashamed of them? I think all of these are signs that you are hurt and need healing in some way.
Our hurts can be physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental. This is why you see so many people who are sad, angry, insecure, discontent, or just plain lost.
What we need is healing. We all need it. You need it. I need it. Our country needs it. Our world needs it.
So, instead of waiting for the new year, make a resolution now and start your healing today.
And, I am sure you are asking, exactly how do I go about this? Well, I am certainly no expert, but I will tell you that a great place to start is with God. I truly believe that God can and will heal you. And, He is really the only one who can.
The second thing I would tell you is that kindness works wonders. Kindness is a miracle drug for the soul.
Learn to be kind. Start your healing today. This is my Christmas wish for you.
Be kind to yourself. Be kind to everyone around you. Be kind to your environment—the world and all of God’s creatures living in it.
Wisely pursue healing and start with kindness. Rewire your thinking and start creating thought patterns that are kind. Start with being kind to yourself. Practice thinking about yourself the way that God thinks about you. Start your practicing now and don’t stop! Remember that old joke about Carnegie Hall? If not, let me refresh your memory. Question: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Answer: “Practice, practice, practice.”
How do you get to healing? Be kind, be kind, be kind. Practice being kind. Think Godly thoughts about yourself. God created you and He loves you unconditionally, just as you are. God thinks that you are an amazing and wonderful person. Every negative thought you have about yourself, stop them as soon as they start and redirect them to the powerful and positive ones that God thinks about you. This way of thinking about yourself is much healthier. And remember, God already knows the plans He has for you and they are good plans to prosper, not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future. (See Jeremiah 29:11).
Once you start thinking more kindly about yourself, turn your kindly thoughts towards others. This not only allows you to help in their healing, but it allows you to continue in your own healing as well. It has been scientifically proven that being kind is good for your health. Kindness eases anxiety, is good for your heart, helps you live longer, reduces stress, and helps prevent illness. A key thought to remember here is the “Golden Rule”—treat others the way you want to be treated. (See Matthew 7:12). I don’t know about you, but I very much appreciate being treated kindly.
Being kind changes your heart. When your heart changes, your outlook on life changes. And, this is where true healing begins. Ask God for His help—He is just waiting to hear from you, help you, and heal you.
My Christmas wish this year is for healing. Healing for you. Healing for me. Healing for all of us.
I will leave you with this wonderful prayer to get you started. It is from Susie Larson:
I know You want this for me. I want this for me. Help me to retrain my thoughts and reframe my perspective. I marvel at how often my thoughts take me downward. But like an eagle that soars in the sky, You call me to set my sights on things above. I need supernatural help with this! Fill me afresh with a strong sense of Your presence and Your peace. Help me to remember the great things You have done. May I one day marvel at how my thoughts reflect a heart and mind that are healed and whole, just like You always intended them to be. Do a miracle in me, Lord.
In Your Name, I pray.
Have you ever noticed that God spelled backwards is dog? I don’t think this is a coincidence. As a matter of fact, I think that God did this on purpose. Being a dog-owner, and lover, and having had multiple dogs in my life, I have realized that dogs are a reflection of God. (Maybe not a perfect reflection, as nothing and no one can be perfect but God—but dogs come pretty darn close!)
Having a dog in your life does more than just teach you about responsibility, as most of our parents told us as kids. Having a dog can teach you so much more than that. Having a dog can teach you about love, friendship, loyalty, and family. Having a dog can also teach you about God. How? Because God and dogs truly share a lot of the same qualities.
Here are all the ways I have found in which dogs and God are alike:
Dogs are loyal and faithful, just like God. Dogs are devoted to you, they are steadfast and trustworthy. That is just how God made them. You go to work in the morning and come home that evening. Who is anxiously awaiting your return? Your dog! Your dog will sit by your front door and wait on you forever, if that is what it takes. God is the same way. God is faithful. God will be with you always.
Dogs accept you just as you are, just like God. Dogs stick by you through thick and thin. They don’t care who you are, what you look like, what you have done, if you are rich or poor, if you are black or white, if you are young or old. They don’t care about any of those things. Neither does God.
Dogs are playful, and so is God. Dogs just love to run around, chase balls, or play tug-of-war. Now, you may not think of God as playful, but I beg to differ. Just think about some of the wonderful creatures God has created, like the otter, penguin, dolphin, and platypus. These all bring us delight and they must bring God delight too. I think that God has a great playful side and a great sense of humor. Also, since I know I enjoy laughing and having a good time, and I was created in God’s image, He MUST be the same way!
Dogs are courageous protectors, and God instills courage and protects us. If you have ever had a dog, you know that they are natural born defenders and would gladly protect you from anyone or anything that threatens you with harm. God is the same way. Once we enter into a relationship with God, He becomes our protector. Not only can God protect us, but He can give us courage as well. (David and Goliath is a great example.) Knowing that God is on our side gives you all the courage you need!
Dogs are joyful and give you joy, and God is joyful and gives you joy. As I mentioned above, dogs will faithfully wait for you forever. And, then when you do show up, they are there to meet you with the most joyful greeting ever. You know exactly what I am talking about, right? Their butts wiggle all around. They excitedly jump up and wag their tails. They display that same kind of joy whether you have been gone five minutes or all day. (This is just one of the many reasons dogs are so great, in my humble opinion.) The joy that dogs have is contagious. Just being around them will give you joy. And, once you have a true relationship with the Lord—well, nothing in this universe can give you more joy than the Lord.
Lastly, and most importantly, dogs love us unconditionally. Just like God. If you have a dog, you know that they love you no matter what you do to them or how you treat them. I have seen story after story of poor pups that have been abused. But, when they are rescued, they are still the most loving creatures. Sometimes it takes them some time, but they always love people again.
God loves us the same way. No matter what we do to Him, He continues to love us. We forget about Him, take His name in vein, scoff at Him, rebuke Him, and deny His existence. Yet, He still loves us. There is nothing, absolutely nothing you can do that will ever make God NOT love you. You are His child. He created you. He loves you and will always love you, no matter what.
So, what do you think? Dogs and God are extremely similar, aren’t they? Did I miss any of their shared attributes? I would love to hear your thoughts!
Before I leave, I must share with you a wonderful article I came across recently called “What a Dog Taught Me about God” by Phyllis Schomaker. Take some time and read it. You will be glad you did.
Also, if you don’t have a dog in your life, I highly recommend adopting one. Who couldn’t use more joy and love in their life? There are thousands of homeless doggies out there that are in need of a good, loving home. Check out Petfinder.com and adopt the newest member of your family today!
I have always enjoyed making things and doing artsy-craftsy stuff. Ever since I can remember, I have had creative juices flowing through my veins. In the past, I would often make items to give as Christmas gifts. I have made hair barrettes, jewelry, storage containers, and photo albums. I have knitted scarves and throws. I have painted pictures and sewn zipper bags and books. And, it has been years since I have done this. So, this year I thought I would get back to my artistic roots—but in a little different way.
Ever since I found out about my “mystery” illness, I have done lots of research on what could be possible causes. In my research, and in my walk with Christ, I have come to my own personal conclusion that the more natural substances we can consume and come in contact with, the better. There are so many chemicals in what we eat and come into contact with each day, that are having very harmful effects on us. It is just not good.
God has created our bodies to be wonderfully complex. They have the power to heal themselves. If we just give our bodies the proper nutrition, the proper fuel, you can feel a difference. This is why I try my best to eat as many organic fruits and vegetables and grass-fed/natural proteins as I can. I limit my intake of anything processed. I am also working towards being completely gluten free and eating only natural sugars.
Most of the products we come in contact with, and use on a daily basis, are filled with harmful chemicals. I am talking about harmful chemicals that can be found in our water (fluoride for instance), food, plastics, furniture, cookware, cans, carpets, electronics, shower curtains, beauty products, and even home cleaning and body cleaning products. They are everywhere! (I warn you, don’t google it, unless you want to freak yourself out.)
When I first started reading up on this, I wanted to sell everything we own, buy some land in some remote part of Georgia, move, and figure out how to live off the land. Sadly, my hubby would never allow this! So, I am trying to do the next best thing—limit my contact and exposure to these chemicals as much as I possibly can. (A great resource is Suzanne Somers book Tox-Sick.)
So, how does one do this, you ask? And, what does this have to do with making Christmas presents?
Well, first, let me start by telling you that you can make your own cleaning and body products at home. Most of them are easy to make and are exponentially safer for you and your loved ones. Plus, in most cases, it is cheaper too! The majority of the all-natural ingredients you will need are probably already in your home: castile soap, baking soda, vinegar, witch hazel, raw honey, essential oils of your choice, and carrier oils of your choice. It is also good to have some washing soda and Himalayan sea salt handy.
Below I have a list of some of the most basic household items that we use day in and day out. These are all things you can make at home. I have included handy-dandy links from some great bloggers on how to make them.
These are the top 20 items I want to try and make soon. If you do research on Pinterest, you can find recipes for just about anything and everything. I am sure there are lots more than just these 20 items—but these will get you started. (In alphabetical order)
(Also, I would be remiss if I did not share with you about a company called Norwex. A friend of mine from high school introduced me to them. You can purchase wonderful, chemical free and all natural products from Norwex. My personal favorites, so far, are their EnviroCloths and kitchen towel and cloth sets. The EnviroCloths are great for cleaning just about every surface of your home. Check Norwex out by clicking here.)
Now, on to the gifts. Buy your ingredients and some cute containers to put them in and get to work! Instead of making Christmas cookies this year, make some peppermint body wash or lavender laundry detergent! Trust me when I tell you, your body will thank you. And, so will everyone you give these special homemade gifts to. There is nothing quite like receiving something that was specifically created just for you.
I must share something with you today—there is nothing, absolutely nothing in this world more freeing than praying about your problems and then handing them over to our Father God to take care of.
I am finally in a place in my life where I can do this—well, 95 percent of the way there! It is the most amazing and peaceful feeling there is. Just being able to put your full trust in God and knowing that He will take care of you no matter what is so liberating. It is a like a heavy weight has been lifted from your chest and you can breathe again. I can’t think of any other way to describe it.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean that we can simply pray and then sit by and do nothing. We can’t just pray and then hang out on our couch and watch TV. We must do whatever it is that the Holy Spirit calls us to do. We must continue to spend quality time with God each day in prayer and by reading His Word. We must continue to grow in our spiritual lives and lead a life that is pleasing to God. We must fight the good fight. We must put our trust, hope, and faith in Him.
There is, however, one thing we can stop doing, and that is worrying! There are at least 30 different Bible verses that tell us not to worry or be afraid about anything. I think that God wants us to take all of these to heart. (Otherwise, why mention it so many times?) I find Matthew 6:25-34 is especially reassuring:
Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith? So, do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
There is so much peace to be found in the Word of God. And, there is an even greater, more profound peace to be found when you hand your life over to Jesus and have a true relationship with Him. We all tend to make life so much more complicated than it should be or needs to be.
Do yourself a favor and let God handle everything. Let Him take control. Be free.
Thanks to Thanksgiving being in November, November has become known as the month for thankfulness. As I posted last year, One Day Isn’t Enough to be thankful. I think now is the perfect time to remind each of you, and myself as well, that having an attitude of gratitude every day is vitally important for our emotional well-being and general overall health.
Being grateful is defined as “warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received; thankful.” As we grow in our spiritual lives, and realize how powerful and transformative gratitude is, we will embrace all it has to offer with arms open wide. Every experience we have, every situation we face, no matter how seemingly good or bad, is an opportunity to look for things to be grateful for. In every situation, a blessing can be found.
Oftentimes, these blessings can only be found as we look back. Retrospectively looking back allows us to find hidden gems that we couldn’t see at the time—if we only take some time to search for them carefully. I know that in my own life, I have repeatedly found this to be true. Every time this happens I think of the “beauty from ashes” Bible verse. (See Isaiah 61: 1-3)
When we have an attitude of gratitude about everything in our lives, it will change our perspective. We shift. We grow. And, ultimately, we will transform. And, that my friends, is exactly what God wants us to do. It benefits not only us, but everyone around us as well.
When we start looking at our lives through the eyes of gratitude, it can greatly change our views. All those little annoyances that drive us crazy every day, all those petty, insignificant jabs that life throws at us on a day-to-day basis, they can be gone in the blink of an eye. How? Gratitude! It is the way in which we can overcome all these things and more.
If you do some research online, you will find numerous scientific studies have documented a multitude of benefits come from practicing gratitude. Being grateful increases joy, pleasure, and optimism, as well as reduces anxiety and depression. When we are grateful, our physical health improves; our blood pressure lowers, our immune system strengthens, and our symptoms of illness are reduced.
Grateful people sleep better. (And, who doesn’t want that??) They get more sleep, spend less time awake before falling asleep, and wake up feeling more rested. If you want to sleep more soundly, this is the perfect opportunity to spend good quality time in prayer, thanking God for all your blessings.
Having a grateful attitude bolsters relationships. It lets us feel closer and better connected to our family, friends, and even strangers. It has been proven that when partners feel and express their gratitude for each other, they become more satisfied with their relationships.
When we are grateful, something magical happens. We become more loving, compassionate, gracious, helpful, and generous. In essence, we become more like Jesus. His love and light shines through us for others to see. And, then a domino effect starts to take place. When others see, and sense our gratitude and the joy and contentment it brings, they want to be like that too. It is such a beautiful way to live our lives and share the glory of the Lord with others. Don’t you want to try it?
I leave you today with a quote from Richard Carlson:
“Demonstrate gratitude for the simple things in life…a sunset, rain, insects, birds, children laughing, or a kind gesture…Appreciative people are happy; they see the beauty in life while others miss it.”
Thank you, Lord
for the rain
Thank you, Lord
for the pain
That allows me to grow
in love and light
Thank you, Lord
for the trails I face
Thank you, Lord
for your redeeming grace
That reminds me
I am not alone in this fight
Thank you, Lord
for your guidance and your Word
Thank you, Lord
that your voice can be heard
That all show me
how to live each day and do what is right
Thank you, Lord
for the joy you bring
Thank you, Lord
for giving us your everything
That we may reflect and be
a shining star in your sight
I am so glad you are here! I am Erica Strickland, a girl who loves God. My goal here is to simply share His love and light.