Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanksgiving Worship Playlist

Worship Playlist

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and the holiday season officially begins! While I love this time of year, it can be extremely stressful. Rushing from house to house, buying presents, dealing with difficult family members, keeping track of all of the holiday parties, taking on serving opportunities, it's all great, but we take on so much and put so much pressure on ourselves that we begin to lose sight of what the holidays are truly about. 

Lately, with a lot going on in my life, I have really begun to understand the value and the power of praise. I have always loved worship music, but when I'm feeling stressed out or just plain depressed, turning it on is usually the last thing I feel like doing. During this busy season, however, I've been very intentional about cranking up my favorite worship songs when I find myself in a bad mood or overwhelmed. I turn it up as loud as I have to and I always end up feeling so much better! It refocuses my mind and my heart on what is truly important and reminds me where true and lasting joy comes from, Jesus.

So with this hectic time of the year upon us, I thought I would share some of my favorite worship songs with you. My hope is that these songs will give you peace in the busyness, restored joy and a more meaningful holiday season.  


I'm always looking for new music. What are some of your favorite worship songs? Let me know in the comments!

"Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands." 
Psalm 63:3-4

Friday, November 17, 2017

I Walked into the Woods with My Husband and this is What I Learned

My husband, Roger, loves to hunt. The world stops from October to January for him and it's all hunting, all of the time. I learned early on that I couldn't beat him, so from time to time, before it gets too cold because cold is not my thing, I join him.

A couple of weeks ago we went out on a Sunday afternoon. After loading me down with flashlights and reminding me how to use my gun (insert eye roll emoji), we headed to our stands. As Roger led the way, he checked the ground in front of us, stepping over fallen limbs and watching for dangerous critters. He held back limbs for me (most of the time) as I walked safely under them. He knew exactly which way to go as we made our way deep into the woods. He had walked that path many times before. As I followed in his footsteps, I thought of Jesus.

If I had been alone that day, I would have chosen a safer spot. I would have been afraid of the wildlife that I may have come across. I would have been scared of getting lost, especially when it got dark. I wouldn't have wanted to walk so far with so much stuff. But because my husband was with me, I had the courage to take the riskier path where the most deer would be. 

It's the same in our lives. When we trust God enough to follow where He leads, He doesn't necessarily lead us down the most safe and convenient road, He leads us down the path that leads to the most blessing. 

In Exodus 13 and 14, we find the Israelites recently freed from the hands of the Egyptians and ready to embark on the journey to the land that God promised them. They could have taken a straight, fairly short path to get there, but instead God instructed Moses to lead them through the wilderness and by the Red Sea. God had a plan to reveal His glory through this alternate route. 

Shortly after, God hardened Pharaoh's heart and Pharaoh began to regret his decision to set the Israelites free. He gathered his large army and went after them. When the Israelites saw that the Egyptians were coming, they became terrified. They questioned why Moses would lead them out of Egypt just to die anyway. 

God caused a pillar of cloud to separate the Egyptians and the Israelites through the night as the Egyptians continued their chase. As they reached the Red Sea, Moses stretched out his hand and God caused a great wind that split the sea, allowing the Israelites to walk on dry ground to the other side. The Egyptians reached the Red Sea and attempted to run through it in pursuit of the Israelites, but when they reached the middle, Moses stretched out his hand again and the sea closed up, drowning each and every one of them, saving the Israelites from their hands.

Because Moses was obedient to follow God down the most unlikely path, the Israelites experienced God's power and therefore believed in Him and trusted Moses. 

I'm sure when Moses and the Israelites learned that God was going to take them through the wilderness and the Red Sea instead of straight to their destination, the Promise Land, they were confused and probably a little irritated. But, if they had not gone the way the Lord instructed them to, the Egyptians probably would have caught up with them and they would have lost both their freedom and the opportunity to witness God's power at work. 

It makes me wonder what in my life I have missed out on because I was afraid or unwilling to be inconvenienced. I don't know about you, but there have been many times that I have clearly heard God's direction, but have told Him "no thanks, I'm going to stay right here where I'm comfortable. That would be too painful, too hard, I'd have to sacrifice too much. I know you'll love me even if I don't so I'm not gonna."

God doesn't promise us that His way will be easy or even safe. All throughout scripture though, we see that what He does promise is that He will go before us. And as He does He says He will fight on our behalf (Deuteronomy 1:30), make the rough places smooth (Isaiah 45:2), protect us from behind (Isaiah 52:12), and will not fail us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8). He says that if we follow Him we will not walk in darkness, but have the light of life (John 8:12). Psalm 23:3 says He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake. The places He leads us are for His glory so we can be assured His ways are good. 

Just like I would have chosen a safer spot if I had been hunting by myself that day, I think if the Egyptians had a say, they would have chosen the quicker route to the promise land. I would have hunted safely on the edge of a field and chances are, I would have seen a few does. But if I've learned anything in my short time hunting, it's that the bucks are not typically found in the fields. They're found deep in the woods. God's glory wouldn't have been as evident to the Israelites on the short cut, it was revealed in the long path through the wilderness. 

Maybe today you're on a path that doesn't make sense. Maybe you feel God calling you to something that seems scary and uncomfortable. Maybe you've heard His voice over and over, but you've ignored Him for whatever reason. Be encouraged that just like my husband did for me that day, as we walk down the path God has set for us, He walks ahead of us. He watches for danger and is careful to help us over every obstacle and lead us to the most prosperous place. He honors our obedience. There is a blessing waiting for us at the end of His path. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

More Than Turkey: Cultivating Gratitude This Thanksgiving


Happy November everyone! If you're a holiday lover like I am, on November 1st the holiday season officially began for you. I love all things holiday and Christmas. Decorating the tree, wrapping presents, the lights, the food, the traditions, holiday movies and music, spending time with family. It really is the most wonderful time of the year for me. 

All of those things are great, but the truth is the holidays are about so much more. Thanksgiving is right around the corner and I want to celebrate by spending this month focused on gratitude. I wanted to do a little more than the typical "30 days of things I'm thankful for" posts on Facebook so I've come up with some ways to cultivate gratitude this season. I hope they are helpful to you too! 

Keep a Gratitude Journal

This Thanksgiving season, start the practice of reflecting on your day and writing down a few things that you are thankful for each night. Get a new journal or even just jot them down in the notes section of your phone. However you do it, take the time to actually write (or type) these things down instead of just thinking about them. Doing that will cause you to really slow down, appreciate all of your blessings and solidify them in your mind. 

There is always something to be grateful for, even on the hardest days. Focusing on those things will change your perspective of your circumstances, whatever they may be. 

Hand Out Thank You Cards

I think it's important not to just express our gratitude to God, but to others as well. Throughout this month, when someone does something nice for you or you catch someone in the act of generosity or kindness, take "thank you" to the next level and leave them a note of appreciation or recognizing them for what they did. There is nothing better than getting a hand written note. You could even leave it anonymously if you wanted. 

When people feel appreciated it makes them want to continue to do a good job. So the result of showing our gratitude to others is more kindness, more generosity and more love. I don't know anything our world needs more of than that!  

Read Through the Psalms

I know for me, one of the best ways to get my heart aligned with God's is to read His word so I think it's the first place we should turn when we want to cultivate gratitude in our minds and in our lives. 

The book of Psalms is full of songs of praise and gratitude to God so it's a great book to read through during the holiday season. I'm currently going through She Reads Truth's "Psalms of Gratitude" study. Join in with me or just spend some time every morning or before bed at night reading and meditating on a few Psalms. 

Give Back

"He will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. You will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God." 
2 Corinthians 9:10-13

Paul explains to us in this passage from 2 Corinthians that God's purpose in blessing us is so that we can in turn be a blessing to others and the result of our generosity is that God is glorified. Giving is gratitude in action. 

I challenge you to find a way to put your gratitude to action this holiday season. Donate food to your local food bank. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Invite someone who is alone or in need to your family's Thanksgiving dinner. 

Give back in what ever way you can, big or small, and watch your gratitude multiply into the lives of others. 

I would love to hear how you're planning to make your Thanksgiving about more than turkey this year. Leave me your suggestions in the comments below!

"In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
1 Thessalonians 5:18