What do you think the greatest gift someone could ever give someone is? My first thought is giving someone either their life or your life. God did both of these! He gave you life by allowing you to be born. Then, He sent His son, Jesus, to die on the cross for you; thereby, giving up His life for yours.
After these two wonderful and amazing gifts, the third greatest gift I can ever imagine giving someone is the gift of freewill. The dictionary defines freewill as made or done freely or of one's own accord; voluntary. Or, the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one's own discretion. And, the good Lord gave us all that incredible gift as well. Our Lord is nothing, if not giving!
Being able to make up our own mind about how we live our lives is a precious, precious gift. We are able to decide for ourselves what we believe, what we do, where we do it, why we do it, and how we do it.
This runs the gamut from what flavor ice cream to buy and eat, to whom we marry, what job we choose, or where we decide to live.
Have you ever considered the enormity of this?
God bestowed us with freewill because He loves us so very much. He loves us enough that He sets us free and allows us to make our own choices. It is up to us to decide if we believe in Him. He would never force this, or anything else for that matter, on us.
Could you image having a child and forcing that child to do the things only you want? Or, creating a being that wouldn't think freely? That was made only to do certain things or be made to do things by force? That would basically be creating robots, or lifeless souls. How horrible would that be? I can't even image it!
What a blessing freewill is!
It is up to you to use this gift wisely. It is up to you to choose what you do with your life and what you believe. It is your choice--no one else's. Let's remember to be thankful to God for this cherished gift!
It is an unprecedented time in our history. It is a time of fear and unease. We are smack dab in the middle of a global pandemic called the coronavirus. A lot of us are “social distancing” right now—or at least, I hope we are. And in response I think people are spending more time on social media.
One of the ways we are coping is by trying to focus on fun and light-hearted things. One of the ones I like that have been going around Face book is people listing songs that fit, or go along with, the COVID-19 crisis. They are naming songs like “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” by the Police, “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor, and “One is the Loneliest Number” by Three Dog Night.
For some reason, as I was lying in bed last night, another song popped into my head. One that I have not thought of in a long time, but realized would be the perfect song to be my “theme” song during this scary time. And, then I realized that it should not only be my theme song, but everyone’s theme song. The song I am referring to is “Heaven Is a Place on Earth” by Belinda Carlisle, which, by the way, hit number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 on December 5, 1987. (I was eleven years old.)
In Matthew 22:36-40, Matthew asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and will all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
If you listen to “Heaven Is a Place on Earth” you will note that it’s more of a romantic-type song. It's a song that sounds like Belinda is singing to her love. Well, if you read the lyrics, you can actually paint a different picture for yourself. Read the words to yourself and direct them towards our Heavenly Father. They don’t need to be romantic at all. When you read them as if towards the Lord, they fit and make so much sense--especially in this time of fear, worry, and the unknown.
When the night falls down
I wait for you and you come around
And the world's alive with the sound
Of kids on the street outside
When you walk into the room
You pull me close and we start to move
And we're spinning with the stars above
And you lift me up in a wave of love
Ooh, baby, do you know what that's worth?
Ooh, heaven is a place on earth
They say in heaven love comes first
We'll make heaven a place on earth
Ooh, heaven is a place on earth
When I feel alone, I reach for you
And you bring me home
When I'm lost at sea I hear your voice
And it carries me
In this world we're just beginning
To understand the miracle of living
Baby, I was afraid before
But I'm not afraid anymore
Once we know God as our Lord and Savior, we don’t need to be afraid of anything anymore. As Isaiah 41:10 reminds us, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” And, as we learn in Matthew, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves.
And, Mrs. Carlisle drives all of these point home with this song; "I'm not afraid anymore," “love comes first” and, “we’ll make heaven a place on earth”—just as Jesus tells us. By knowing and trusting in the Lord Jesus, we can do all of these things! What an encouraging and needed reminder in this time of the coronavirus.
We don’t need to physically be near people to love them, encourage them, and uplift them. We only need a heart that cares. So, let’s take Belinda’s advice and put love first and make heaven a place on earth.
We moved into our new home three weeks ago. If you haven’t moved in a while, I must remind you that moving is stressful. And tiring. (And, categorically sweaty in the summertime). Plus, moving with three cats and one dog is even more stressful and tiring! I would really like at least one week on a beach somewhere doing nothing but reading books and sipping pina coladas and allowing my body to recover! Alas, that won’t be happening any time soon. Le sigh…
Anyway, I had to share with you one part of our moving experience that was simple, and if I may say so, amazing. It was literally a God-send.
We hired a local moving company to move our belongings to our new home. We had used them before and remembered them doing a good job for us, so we figured we would use them again. And, I am so thankful we did!
The company we hired is called A Better Way Movers. They are part of A Better Way Ministries, a local nonprofit that helps men find refuge from life controlling issues such as drugs and alcohol. Their program is Christ-centered and Biblically-based. The moving company is used to help fund their ministry. They offer packing services and do both local and out-of-state moves. You can get a free estimate by visiting their website or giving them a call. And, we were blessed to have them help us with our move.
On the morning of our move three guys showed up. Being the natural introvert that I am, I always find it awkward to meet new people, and this was no exception. But, as soon as one of the guys reached his hand out to let our dog smell him in way of greeting and expressed how much he liked animals, I knew we were in good hands.
Broderick, Jordan, and Joshua were our movers and they were top-notch. Not only did they do their jobs quickly and effectively, but they did it with smiles on their faces the whole time. They took extra special care of our items and did not damage anything—not the items, not our old home or our new one.
By the end of the day, I had felt like we had made three new friends. However, I hadn’t seen anything yet. Before these new friends left, they presented us with a printed “House Blessing” and asked if they could pray with us! I was floored! I looked at Paul, my hubby, and, just like me, he had tears in his eyes. Of course, we heartily accepted their invitation.
We all gathered in our living room and Joshua led us in a wonderful, spirit-filled prayer. Afterwards, I asked if I could hug each of them, and they were happy to oblige me. I had realized that not only had we made three new remarkable friends that day, but we met our brothers in Christ. We were truly moved by the whole experience. (Horrible pun intended!)
That evening as we sat exhausted in our living room, I told Paul that I felt like, once we got everything settled into our new home, we should have a cook-out and invite our three new friends over. Who knows? Maybe sometime soon we can actually do that!
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.
This past week I was cleaning out my old desk. After years of using one I bought from the thrift store, which was basically salvaged and painted, I came to my senses and decided to buy a nice, new, adult one. (The old one was rickety from the start and only got worse as the years went by. I was worried that it would collapse one day and take my iMac out along with it. Plus, I had painted it a funky blue with flowers and stuff on it. I loved it at the time, but looking at it now as an adult, it just wasn’t “me” anymore. I still love bright colorful stuff, but I have really grown up in my decorating tastes. And, my hubby couldn’t be happier about it! ...I digress…)
That old desk had three drawers that were packed full of stuff. Some things I kept, some I put in a box to donate, and some stuff I just threw away or recycled. I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel so accomplished to clean up and clean out stuff. I have realized that that old saying, “less is more” is so true!
Anyway, in cleaning out my old desk, I came across a two-page article that I had printed out four or five years ago. As I have relayed in a past post, I have struggled mightily with my “job journey”. Over the years, I have done a great deal of research, spent loads of time on the internet reading articles, taken various tests, read tons of books, and even had a job coach. (And, I am sad to say, spent and wasted lots of time and money in the process.) But, as I re-read this article, I knew that God led me to save it and come back across it for a reason—and I am so glad He did!
At the time, it obviously struck a chord with me—otherwise, why would I print it out, highlight a section, and save it? For whatever reason, I was not in a place in my life where I could process or use the great information that the article shared. But, I can sure use it now. Re-reading this article was like an epiphany. And, I am now in a place where I can use it. Thank you, Lord for allowing me to save it and come back across it when I needed it!
So, what was this article about, you ask? Well, in a nutshell, a lady wrote into Human Workplace (a fabulous website, btw. I highly recommend you check it out.) asking for advice about her career. She was in a bad situation at work she wanted out of and was looking for advice and help to figure out her next move. Liz Ryan, from Human Workplace, responded with this: (This is the part I highlighted, because it really hit home with me.)
The key is to always be moving toward something, not escaping from something. What we find when we try to escape a bad situation is that no escape is possible, because until we figure out where we're headed and why, we most often find that whatever we've escaped to is no better (and sometimes worse) than whatever situation we left.
From your lips to God’s ear, Liz. I have job hopped so much in my life, you might as well call me Frogger. The reason(s) why have always been because I wanted to escape from something; be it a bad boss, a bad workload, a bad commute, or just an overall bad work environment. For the longest time, I was just looking to get out of a bad situation, to escape. And, I had no idea how to focus on where I was headed. (Mainly because I didn’t know where I wanted to go, much less how to get there.)
All I know is I just wanted out of the current bad situation, or as I refer them, toxic environments. And, just as Liz stated above, I always ended up in a situation that was just as bad, if not worse, than the one I left. I was basically in this horrible vicious cycle. I would go from one bad job to another to another. It was maddening and at times I felt like I was losing my sanity. It had gotten to the point where I had given up hope for ever finding anything even half-way decent.
However, about six months ago, an idea popped into my head. It is an idea that I would never have had, had I not been on this job journey. And, while I don’t want to share the specifics with you right now, I will say that it is an idea that I have been working on for the last six months. It is something I have a passion for. It is something that energizes me and excites me. It is something that I can use my God-given talents on. It is something that I can focus on and it is giving me the much-needed direction in my life that I crave job-wise. And, the bonus, for me, is that it is something that God put into my heart and mind.
So, I just wanted to share a little encouragement with you today. If you don’t know where you are headed in your job, or in any aspect of your life for that matter, start thinking about what gives you joy. Then, start thinking of ways you can do that activity more. Or, in the case of a job, if you can turn that activity into a way to generate income. Then, go after it. As Nike always tells us, "just do it".
Pray a lot. Talk to God. Take steps each day towards what you want. Even tiny, little baby steps. Forward progress is forward progress. Start thinking positively and write everything down. Whatever idea you have, right it down. I believe that keeping a notebook is so helpful. It allows you to remember things and stay on track. Share your thoughts and ideas with someone you love and trust. Let them help guide you and cheer you on. You need to do these things. Trust me on this!
Two crucial elements of this whole thing is to: 1) pray and trust God and 2) move forward towards something. (Don't always be escaping from something.)
Honestly, I think the most vital aspect it to put God first in your life. When you start spending more time with Him, talking to Him and thanking Him for all of your blessings, He starts to really show up more and more in your life. At least, He has in mine. And, God wants to play an active part in our lives each day. God desires a relationship with us. And, when you develop that relationship, you will notice more and more the blessings flowing around you from God. It is the most beautiful thing ever! Please don't miss out on it.
I hope and pray that you find this information as useful as I have. Now, go get out there and start working your way towards something wonderful!
Here in the Atlanta area, we are now getting the rain and wind associated with Hurricane Irma. So far, so good, especially when you consider what we all thought very bad things were going to happen.
Irma is one of the most powerful storms ever recorded in the Atlantic basin. As a category five hurricane with consistent wind speeds of up to 185 miles per hour, it is the longest-lasting top-intensity cyclone ever recorded. (A category five is anything with sustained winds of over 157 miles per hour.) And, not only are the winds crazy, but the sheer size of the storm has had everyone on the edge of their seats. (And, not in a good way.) Irma can cover the entire state of Florida and is more than twice the size of Hurricane Andrew.
Irma was projected and predicted to hit south Florida and move up along either the east or west coast wreaking total-destruction in some areas, along with life-threatening storm surges and heavy rain. And, hit Florida it did. And while we don’t know exactly how bad things are down there, especially in the keys, we do know one thing; it has NOT been the catastrophic event we all thought it would be. (I kept re-playing Katrina over and over in my mind.)
When I went to bed last night, I was expecting to see thousands of homes and buildings flattened when I got up this morning. I was expecting to see to thousands of people in terribly rough shape. I was expecting to see complete towns wiped off the map. Basically, I was expecting to see hell on earth. Thank God, praise Jesus, I didn’t see any of that.
That’s not to say that horrible things didn’t happen, but it is definitely not on the level that I was expecting. And, while we are not out of the woods yet, I, for one, am breathing a huge sigh of relief. What we have left now are winds and rain that feel manageable, live-through-able.
The only thing I can chalk this up to is God. I know many, many, many people prayed about this storm. A friend of mine shared an amazing video on Facebook yesterday of people gathered on the beach in Jacksonville, Florida praying and singing to God.
He heard our collective prayers and acted. He weakened this storm, the biggest on record, and spared the good people of Florida. I truly believe this. It is because of his hand. He sees each and every one of us and He hears our prayers. And, thank the Lord, He answers prayers as well.
And, I do know we still have a sketchy evening ahead. There is a lot of rain and wind and possible tornadoes. But, I am going to keep on praying and trusting in God. He has taken very good care of me so far in this life, and I know He isn’t going to stop now.
Please join me in prayer for all of us who are feeling the effects of Hurricane Irma. Also, please pray for all the people in Caribbean who did feel the devastating effects of this hurricane. Together, we can continue to see his hand at work through all of this.
Some days I just feel like crying. Do you? Sometimes, I don’t even know why. I just want to cry.
It’s been rainy here the last few days. A stupid terrorist killed people at a concert in the UK the other night. A sweet girl I know has a dear aunt in hospice and they don’t expect her to live much longer. A girl I went to high school with had her house burn down a few days ago. All of these things make me sad.
I know the purpose of this blog is to focus on God and good, but let’s be honest—it is not always an easy thing to do. Real life is tough and I want this blog to reflect that. You need the bad to know what the good is. You need the lows with the highs, the winters to contrast the summers, etc.
And, you know what? It’s ok! It is ok to be sad. And, no, you don’t always have to have a reason. I just needed to share that.
If you are feeling down or a little bit blue for any reason, I suggest listening to this song from We Are Messengers called Magnify. Listen to the words. Let them seep in. And, I hope you feel better.
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.