Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Are You Ready to Receive a Miracle?

“Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.” – Luke 1:37 (MSG)

Do you believe in miracles? Are you ready to receive one? Are you sure?

The truth is, we all want to believe in miracles. There’s a reason why “Touched by an Angel” was so popular and is still aired on cable TV channels. I’ve noticed that it is played a lot in hospital rooms, actually. Why is that? Because even medical research shows that faith plays an important role in healing.

How many times have you actually seen a miracle, though?

I would be willing to bet that you’ve seen more miracles than you think. They’re happening all around, you know. The question is whether or not you recognize them as such.

We tend to think that miracles are like magic: wave a wand, and our troubles will disappear; wish upon a star, and our dreams will come true.

What we often fail to realize is that miracles come in all shapes and sizes. They also don’t begin with us. They begin with God.

I haven’t always believed in the goodness of God. I spent many years cursing the darkness of my circumstances, instead of chasing the light. But there was a point at which I gave up. I let go. I let God. I sought His will over mine. And when I did, the miracles began. Slowly, yet surely, my eyes were opened to what God was doing in me, through me, and around me. Hope was reignited. Joy filled my soul. My life began again.

This Christmas, I began to see the parallels between today’s miracles and one that happened over 2,000 years ago to a young peasant girl named Mary.

“You’re beautiful with God’s beauty, beautiful inside and out!” the angel Gabriel said to Mary when he first greeted her.

When God works a miracle, He first examines our hearts. 

“God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.”

God’s miracles are often quite unexpected and can even be disruptive.

“But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”

When God shares His plans for us, our first response is frequently disbelief. We question “how?” and “why?”

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you … therefore, the child you bring to birth will be called Holy, Son of God.”

God tells us how He will accomplish His purpose: His part and our part. 

“And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant!”

God inspires us to believe in our own miracle by reminding us of another.

“Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.”

He assures us that whatever we are believing for IS possible with Him.

“And Mary said, ‘Yes, I see it all now: I’m the Lord’s maid ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say.’”

We believe … we accept our part … and we receive.

When we see the process of how miracles occur, it’s easier to see how we may be hindering them in our own lives.

When I was in an infertile marriage, I prayed for a baby. God provided one. Not through a miracle pregnancy, but rather through another type of miracle: adoption. But it wasn’t like waving a magic wand or wishing on a star. It took work on my part. It took time. It took faith. Day by day, month by month, year by year. I had to let go of my way, to find a better way: His. And in the end, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It wasn’t the first miracle I experienced, nor was it the last. I've seen others healed. I've been healed myself. Lives have been transformed. People have been made whole. Relationships have been made new. Some miracles have come quickly, without human intervention. Others have taken time, in partnership between God and man. But make no mistake, every miracle has made its mark.

I have learned, through the power of these miracles, the hope for many more and the truth in Ephesians 3:20, which says, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely MORE than we might ask or think.”

God is at work.

Miracles abound.

Are you ready to receive one?

Where do you struggle the most with regards to miracles?  Trusting God’s heart for you, that He hears your cries and cares for your needs? Preparing your heart, as you align your will with His? Believing in the possibilities that may be bigger than what you even dare to dream? Accepting your part in His purpose? May the wonder of Jesus' miracle birth carry you with hope for more miracles into the new year ahead.

Are You Ready to Receive a Miracle? originally appeared on Spring Sight blog, by Linda W. Perkins. Click here for more posts. Get even more encouragement by following me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter

Many of Spring Sight's posts can also be found each week on Crystal Storms' #IntentionalTuesday,  Kelly Balarie's #RaRaLinkUp,, Holly Barrett's Testimony Tuesday, Arabah Joy's Grace & Truth and Woman to Woman's Word Filled Wednesday.

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Hope for the Holidays


"But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint." - Isaiah 40:31

I wonder sometimes how many of you came to this page because of one word: "hope." We are all looking for hope, aren't we? The world is not as we wish it to be. Crime. Violence. War. Broken relationships. Shattered dreams. Illness. Death. Whatever our struggles, sometimes they can overwhelm us and leave us feeling...hopeless. It is then, when we feel like giving up, that we reach for the word "hope," as if just reaching for it were enough. We want to believe that if we just hold on a little longer, then everything will be OK.

I have to ask you, though...in what are you placing your hope? In a half century of life, I have placed my hope in all the wrong places. Friends. Family. Diets. Doctors. My education. My wallet. My intellect. Even my own tenacity and determination. All good support structures to lean on, but not quite enough to bring me through the toughest times in my life. No, when I hit rock bottom, I found there was only One I could truly put my hope in. Day after day, time after time, year after year, I have found Him faithful: the Lord. my God.

Today, as we draw close to Christmas, I wish you love, I wish you joy, and I wish you hope in the One who loves you right where you are, who will never let you go. Life may not be all we wish it to be sometimes, but I know it is better with God by our side. Will you take His hand and let Him lead you into the abundant life He so desires for you? Will you choose to hope in Him?

May you experience the best gifts of Christmas that God has to give you this year: faith, HOPE, and love.

Blessings.

Linda

PS - For more on hope, visit these two previous Spring Sight blog posts: Life Questions Answered: What Gives You Hope? (+ 7 Promises) and Hold Onto Hope!

Hope for the Holidays originally appeared on Spring Sight blog, by Linda W. Perkins. Click here for more posts. Get even more encouragement by following me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Five Ways to Be Festive When You Don't Feel Well

“Don’t cry on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the Lord your God— it is a time to celebrate with a hearty meal and to send presents to those in need, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” – Nehemiah 8:9-10

I thought this year would be different. It would be the year I would have the energy for all I wanted to do, rather than creeping along with a companion of constant fatigue. The year I would be able to enjoy every holiday moment with a smile on my face, rather than feeling I was running an endurance race, wincing with every step. The year I would forget about my chronic illness and celebrate the Christmas season like a “normal” person.

Alas, it is not.

Living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is often described like being on a roller coaster. While getting on a DMARD (disease modifying anti-rheumatic drug) this past year has definitely given me the gifts of more energy and less pain overall (thus the reason for my hopeful outlook towards the holidays), it comes with one teeny tiny drawback: a lowered immune system.  It keeps my body from attacking itself constantly over nothing (the very definition of an autoimmune disease), but when a real threat – aka a cold, flu bug, or any other type of illness – comes around, I don’t have what it takes to fight it off very well.

So here it is, the holiday season, and I’m sick. I had a fabulous weekend. I dressed to the nines for a Christmas party, we put up our outside lights, and I even entertained thoughts of holiday baking. Then last night, it hit. Aches. Chills. Fatigue so extreme that the dinner I had planned to cook for my family was scrapped in favor of microwaved packaged meals and breakfast cereal, and I was in bed by 7:45. So much for putting up the Christmas tree.

I know whatever is ailing me isn’t serious. It’s my faulty immune system going into what’s called a “flare.” Maybe it’s a delayed reaction to the flu shot I got last week. Perhaps I have picked up my daughter’s cold. My symptoms don’t warrant going to the doctor. The over-the-counter cough medicine is working, and tiny doses of lemon sorbet and lactose-free ice cream are soothing my scratchy throat. But I still don’t feel well. A part of me would like to hide away for the rest of the holiday season, while another part wants to scream “but it’s Christmas!!”

So what is there to do?

If you’re like me and have a chronic illness, or perhaps you’ve just got the holiday blues or a case of the flu, you need to know this: we have a choice. We can focus on what pains us, or we can try and make the best of a bad situation. Even though I don’t feel very festive right now, I refuse to let the holidays go by without me! So here are some ideas that perhaps we can try together:

Make Merry with Music
I have a confession to make: I have been known to pull out my Christmas music CDs in July … and any other time of the year.

Whether it’s nativity-focused hymns that warm the soul or jolly songs about Santa Claus, Christmas music has a way of making us feel the holiday spirit. It can bring back favorite childhood memories or just provide a backdrop of happy tunes for while we work. And, scientifically, it is proven to make us feel better! Studies have shown that listening to upbeat music can boost your mood, which in turn can make you physically healthier. This isn’t a new idea, either. In Psalm 28:7, David says “My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him (the Lord).” So let’s get this holiday party started by turning on the tunes!

Don A Santa Hat
Did you know that in the Bible, there was an instance where someone who was going through loss was actually commanded by God to put on a hat, in order to hide his grief? Whereas taking off his hat would have been an appropriate way for him to publicly demonstrate his mourning, God wanted Ezekiel to show the people that he was OK, and his way of doing that was to leave his hat on. These days, most people don’t wear hats that they would need to “leave on” so the best alternative is for us to find a hat to put on!

When we don’t feel like putting on a happy face, a good way to “fake it ‘til you make it” is to put on a Santa hat, or any other festive headgear. Since it’s a traditional sign of merriment – and you have to admit, we all look a little cuter or funnier in it – people are apt to see you in a happier light. And as they offer their smiles and giggles (depending on exactly WHAT you’re wearing on your head), you’ll end up feeling better too.

If your blue feelings get the best of you when you’re alone, grab that hat and a mirror or selfie stick! With a few funny faces, I guarantee you’ll be able to muster up a grin or two, even if you’re just hanging out on the couch.

Accessorize with Shiny Objects
Confession number two: I have been known to leave my Christmas tree up waaaay past New Years! Not only does the task of putting it all away feel a little overwhelming, but when all of the glittering glass balls are removed from my living room, it just feels … plain.

Conversely, decorating the house for Christmas should have the opposite effect, right? Right. There is something about those sparkly Christmas ornaments that dresses up a house like nothing else.

But wait, I know what you’re thinking. You’re tired. You’re sick. You have no energy for putting up a Christmas tree, much less the gazillion other decorations there in your attic (which you may or may not be able to get down, depending on your physical condition).

Here’s a tip: A little goes a long way. A handful of gathered pine cones from the back yard in a basket with a ribbon bow makes a beautiful holiday arrangement. Or place some shiny metallic balls in a glass vase or silver bowl. You can even use a potted house plant for a Christmas tree! Hang a few small ornaments on its branches, perhaps add a bow on top, and voila! When it comes to holiday decorating, the “bigger is better” philosophy is not always the case.

Decorate Your Plate
For many people, especially those with chronic illnesses, the idea of preparing a big holiday “feast” or spending hours in the kitchen baking Christmas cookies is intimidating. And if we came from families with these holiday traditions, this can be an especially difficult part of the holidays for us. Trying to keep up may be physically impossible, whereas not doing it may create a sense of guilt.

Once again, the answer is not trying to do it ALL. This past Thanksgiving, we went to Honeybaked Ham for a turkey. Having an already cooked bird – along with canned cranberry sauce and fresh-frozen green beans that could be micro-steamed – took a lot of the legwork out of preparing the holiday meal. We also picked up some themed paper plates and napkins for dessert, which not only added a festive feel to the meal, but reduced the clean-up time.

Another trick, for anytime during the holidays, is to add a little d├ęcor to what’s already on your plate. Garnish a piece of purchased cheesecake with cranberries frosted with sugar. Use pomegranate seeds to add a touch of red to a green salad. Use holiday candy sprinkles to dress up store-bought cupcakes and ice cream. Get creative and have fun!

Find Your Inspiration
All of us are inspired in different ways. Seeing the beauty of God’s creation in nature, or in the wonder of a child. Lending a helping hand. Giving to charity. Lighting a candle. Sending a card. Spending time in the Word. Meditating on His love. Even watching movies that embody the Christmas spirit can lift our moods and encourage us to find joy in the holiday season.

For my family, worshiping together keeps us focused on the reason for the season, while hunting daily for our Elf on a Shelf keeps the love and laughter flowing.

Think about what inspires you. What draws you closer to others and closer to God during the holidays? What can you do today to amplify God’s gifts of joy, hope and peace in your own life or in the lives of others? Sometimes a tiny step is all it takes.

What are some things you do to shake off the holiday blues and to add sparkle to your Christmas season? Do you have specific coping strategies for when you’re not feeling up to doing all you’d like to?

Five Ways to Be Festive When You Don't Feel Well originally appeared on Spring Sight blog, by Linda W. Perkins. Click here for more posts. Get even more encouragement by following me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter

Many of Spring Sight's posts can also be found each week on Crystal Storms' #IntentionalTuesday,  Kelly Balarie's #RaRaLinkUp,, Holly Barrett's Testimony Tuesday, Arabah Joy's Grace & Truth and Woman to Woman's Word Filled Wednesday.


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