When the Clutter Piles Up

The kitchen island gets a lot of traffic in my home.

Piles of mail.

Car keys.

My husband’s wallet.

Dirty coffee cups.

My daughter’s latest craft supplies.

School papers.

It doesn’t bother me if just one of the above items gets plopped down. But usually it’s a combination of these items together that drives me bonkers!!

After coming and going in different directions, things begin to pile up. And finally it gets to where I just can’t take anymore!

In that moment I am on a mission. (And anyone who is in the room is strongly encouraged to help me in this mission.)

It’s time to clean up the clutter. Time to put things away in their rightful place.

The wallet and keys need to go somewhere else, but not here. The dirty cups need to go in the sink. Pieces of scrap paper need to be trashed.

And junk mail? That’s a no-brainer…in the trash!

Once that’s accomplished, I feel better and can function again.

Just maybe this is a powerful picture of what we do with the clutter of LIFE.

Things slowly begin to pile up.

First it’s one thing. And then another.

One emergency to throw us off. An unexpected episode that sets you in a tail spin. A forgotten commitment. Someone asking you to do something else. People and projects pulling you in opposite directions.

Just one of these things might not be so bad by itself. But when they start to pile up, you can feel it coming. When you go from full to empty with no time to fill up. And before you know it, your life is full of clutter.

I can’t take this anymore!

And one by one, we can start to tackle the things that clutter us up. Not a clutter we can see. But the clutter on the inside. The clutter of our negative thoughts. The clutter of our distorted perspective.

The clutter of our soul.

Some things just need to be put in a different place. (Do I need to delegate something to someone else? Do I need to say no to a request of my time?)

Some things we need to get rid of. (The feelings of hopelessness. The toxic thinking that spirals out of control.)

And some things we just need to accept. (That person we want to change is out of our control. The season of life we must go through to get to the other side.)

And once we start to clean up the clutter, we can breathe again. We receive clarity.

We feel hope.

We can even invite others around us to help. People to hold us accountable. Friends to walk alongside us.

To help us sort through the messes of life.

I will probably continue to lose the ongoing battle of keeping my kitchen island cleared of clutter.

But I can most certainly win the war that stirs in my soul.

It’s a constant battle.                       Day after day.                                 Moment by moment.

But when I surrender to God and reach out for help, the clutter of life gets put in place. Not an overnight fix. But a gradual victory over time, through each season of life.

I think it’s okay to want an uncluttered kitchen. But I most certainly need to be more aware of the clutter of my soul.

What about you? Are things piling up in your world? Feeling overwhelmed with the clutter?

Let’s reach out and call on the One who can help us sort through it all. I believe with all my heart that Jesus is waiting for us to ask Him to clean up our clutter.

The less clutter there is, the more room He has to give us PEACE.

Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths; guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. ~Psalm 25:4-5

Blessings to you!

Lisa

Check out my devotional book, Embracing The Race

 

Facing the Giant of FEAR

A once-in-a-lifetime trip to Israel.

My husband, daughter and I stood in awe on the top of Mt. Azekah overlooking the valley of Elah. This was the place where David killed Goliath! Trying to wrap my head around what took place here, I tried to envision David coming face-to-face with the one who taunted him. Threatened him. Dared him to come one step closer.

Ted, one of our teaching pastors had just walked us through this historical event.  Pulling nuggets of truth from scripture, he took us back in time to what played out that day. He finally challenged us to identify the giants in our own lives. 

The things that taunt us. The things that ignite fear, leaving us paralyzed.

How will we respond when we come face-to-face with these giants?

Just four hours after our group hiked back down Mt. Azekah, I’d be forced to answer that question.

We’d just finished eating dinner at our hotel’s dining room. My daughter, Breanna, smiled as she began to dig into a piece of chocolate cake. The chef had just informed us the dessert was nut free.

She’s severely allergic to nuts. We have to take extreme caution with anything she eats. The slightest amount of nuts ushers in a dangerous reaction.

After three bites, Breanna’s smile turned to shock. She spit out what looked like a tiny piece of nut.

“Mom, I think this has nuts in it and I’ve already eaten some!”

In that moment, fear ignited in my heart. Grabbing the plate of cake, I gasped and held my breath as we quickly made our way to the chef on the other side of the room. Showing him what we’d discovered, the frown on his face confirmed my fear.

“I didn’t realize this cake had walnuts in it.”

This is when the spark of fear engulfed into horrendous flames in every part of my being.

It had been six years since Breanna had accidentally ingested nuts. She’d broken out in hives all over her body. I remember distinctly what the doctor had said in that moment.

With each incident, the reaction gets worse. Just because ingestion doesn’t affect one’s breathing in a given moment doesn’t mean it won’t the next time.

This was her next time. Would she experience anaphylactic shock?

Anaphylactic shock shuts down the respiratory system. In some extreme cases, people die.

My husband, Jim, and I looked at each other in total disbelief. Is this really happening?

Just minutes after Breanna ingested the nuts, her lips and left eye swelled up. Panic washed all over my daughter’s face and in that moment I came face-to-face with my giant.

The giant that all parents face…

The fear of something tragic happening to one of your kids.

When others in the dining room realized what was happening, Roy, a doctor in our group, offered his assistance. Not only was he a doctor, but he understood our fear. One of his grown daughters also had a severe nut allergy. Looking back now, I realize in that moment God began to slowly extinguish the flames of fear with His comfort.

Fear of the unknown is another giant we all face.

And in this moment, we just didn’t know what was going to happen. Breanna didn’t have trouble breathing. She hadn’t broken out in hives either. Would her lips continue to swell? Could it eventually affect her breathing? Should we wait it out and see what else happened?

Based on Dr. Roy’s experience with his own daughter, he urged us to get Breanna to the hospital.

Other giants stomped onto the scene, shaking the core of my heart.

We’re in a foreign country!

We know nothing about hospitals in Israel!

Will our insurance cover us out of the country?

How far away do we have to go?

If she goes into shock, are they equipped to treat her?

An ambulance pulled up outside the hotel. We made our way through the crowd that had gathered in the lobby. Four Israeli medics (yes, four!) greeted us and immediately got Breanna hooked up in the back of the ambulance. Jim sat up front with the driver. Was there room for me?

“You, get in here with us!”  I squeezed in next to the other three medics and hung on tightly, trying to stay strong for Breanna.

The tires of the ambulance screeched in reverse, making our way down extremely narrow streets.

This is when I began to pray like crazy!

God, please help us. We need you now. I beg you to protect Breanna. 

 

The medics continued to monitor Breanna’s vital signs. They assured me we were getting closer to the hospital. At this point she was breathing fine.

The ambulance continued speeding to our destination, at some points driving up on sidewalks to get around stopped traffic.

God, please get us there safe. 

Breanna suddenly bolted up from her reclined position, fear all over her face and yelled, “My throat feels strange, I can’t breathe!”

Just seconds later, she threw up. (Sorry to be so graphic here!)

“Please help her!” I pleaded with the medic next to me. The one in charge immediately gave her an injection of epinephrine.

Immediately she announced to us that she could breathe okay now. (It turned out that she had not experienced anaphylactic shock, but because her throat felt strange before vomiting she thought it was affecting her ability to breathe.)

Finally, we arrived at the hospital and they took her right in. No waiting.

I walked beside my courageous daughter to the room they pointed to. Jim filled out paperwork at the front desk and would join us later.

A nurse with beautiful long, black hair took Breanna’s vitals and smiled,assuring us we were in good hands.

In that moment, I felt the comforting hands of God holding us tight. Earlier I’d felt stricken with panic. But now felt saturated with peace.

I looked over at my precious daughter and a smile washed over her frail face.

“Mom, I had a six-year streak going and now I’ve gotta start all over!”

I thought back to where we’d stood earlier that day. On top of Mt. Azakeh, overlooking the valley of Elah. The place where David slayed the giant.

And here we both were–in a hospital emergency room. We’d just walked through our own valley, staring our giants face-to-face.

My daughter’s worst fear? Ingesting nuts…knowing it could be deadly. 

My worst fear? Something tragic taking the life of my child…and feeling out of control to fix it.

 I believe God sometimes allows us to experience our worst fears so we can experience the truth that He is more powerful than anything we fear.

 

We pray for the giants to stay away so we don’t have to face them.

But sometimes the giants march out right in front of us. A decision must be made.

Will we let them threaten us and leave us paralyzed? (This is what King Saul and his soldiers did when they looked at Goliath.)

Or will we look to God for strength and by faith let Him fight the giants for us?

God fought the giants for us and provided exactly what we needed that night:

*A doctor in our group who understood the urgency of the situation.

*A hospital close by, which I found out later was one of the best in Jerusalem.

*An amazing medical team who acted quickly and accordingly.

*Breanna experienced swelling and hives, but no anaphylactic shock.

*The hotel paid for our medical bill in full.

After four hours of observation,Breanna was released. We were all washed over with exhaustion. But we stepped out into the streets of Jerusalem praising God, knowing the situation could have been so much worse.

We’d come face-to-face with our giants that day. And just like David, we walked away victorious.

I don’t know what giants you are facing today, but I can promise you this:

If you look to God for strength and put your faith in Him, He will be your giant slayer. 

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

Check out my book Embracing The Race: 40 Devotions for the Runner’s Soul!

When Love is Hard

Valentine’s Day.

A popular time for people to declare their love for one another.

A husband confirms his love for his wife with beautiful roses and a special dinner at a fancy restaurant.

A parent excitedly lavishes candy and gifts upon her children, hoping they will feel the love oozing out in between each bite of chocolate.

A young man chooses this day to propose to his girlfriend, their love so explosive for all to see.

Yes, these are ideal expressions of love we long to give. Or even better, the kind we long to receive.

But what if this is not reality in your world today? What if you can’t identify with any of these scenarios?

You can’t go there today because for you, love just feels HARD during this season of your life.

Your marriage may be crumbling and there aren’t any flowers or fancy dinner date on the horizon.

You’re in the midst of conflict with one of your kids and no amount of candy or gifts will make things right.

Or perhaps you’re single and there isn’t anyone in your life to declare their love to you. You are literally all alone. By yourself. Going through a divorce or a break-up with a significant other.

Yes, this is when love is hard. It doesn’t feel good. In fact in feels down right miserable. 

But the kind of love I’m referring to in the above scenarios is human love. And because humans live in a fallen world with sin nature, their love will fail. It will disappoint. It will leave you feeling empty at times.

Even the best of marriages? Yes, their love will fail at times.

Even the best relationships between mother/daughter and father/son? Yes, their love will fail at times.

What about the love between two people who are soul mates…made for each other? Yes, their love will fail at some point, too.

Not trying to be discouraging on this Valentine’s Day, but this is a reality we have to come to grips with.

Human love will fail and disappoint. But the love of God is unfailing and always dependable. 

When He declares His love for us, we’d better take notice and cling to it with all we have.

Psalm 13:5 says “But I trust in your unfailing love, my heart rejoices in your salvation.”

Psalm 6:4 says “Deliver me and save me because of your unfailing love.”

When love is hard with the people in your life, remember that His Love Never Fails. 

He also tells us that NOTHING can separate us from His love.

Romans 8:35,39 says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So nothing or nobody can separate us from His love! I don’t know about you, but I just really need to soak this up and camp out here for a while.

It’s easy to get discouraged by our loved ones when they hurt us. Disappoint us. Let us down.

And if we aren’t careful, we can let the disappointment of human love override the declaration of Holy Love. A love that is unfailing. A love we can depend on. A love that will never be separated from anyone or anything.

So where are you on this Valentine’s Day, dear friend? Are you in a place where love is hard? Has someone you love disappointed you? Whether it’s your spouse, child or friend, you are not alone.

An amazing thing about God’s love is that when we embrace it and let it ooze out all over us, it gradually begins to trickle out to those around us. His love will come out through us if we stay still long enough for it to soak through our souls. And then we are able to love others like He loves us.

Even when love is hard.

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Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

Taming the Waves of Fear

Standing on the edge of the shore, I peered out into the ocean as far as my eyes could see. Way out there, the waves appeared so huge and powerful.

Overwhelming. Unstoppable.

I sure wouldn’t want to be caught out there! Those waves would crash over me, taking me under to be drowned.

Caught up in anxious thoughts, the water suddenly splashed around my ankles. The bubbling water refreshed my tired feet, white foam tickling my toes. This felt invigorating and relaxing as my feet sunk into the wet sand. Soaking up the moment, I peered out once again at the huge waves in the distance. And that’s when it hit me.

The threatening waves that started out enormous, had gradually diminished into tame wavelets by the time they reached the shore. 

What was viewed from a distance invoked fear and anxiety. But when viewed up close, now tame and subdued.

This image paints a powerful picture of what we do with the fears and worries of our life. When we peer into the distant, unknown future, our minds get tangled up in waves of anxiety. Things that haven’t even touched us yet threaten to pull us under, drowning our faith with fear.

What will I do IF that happens?

How will I survive IF they do such-and-such?

I will surely crumble IF this comes true. 

While these enormous waves of fear build their power and momentum, we allow defeat to crash over us, drowning out every ounce of peace and joy.

Viewed from a distance, these fears lurk heavily in our mind. But if only we would wait…

Wait for those fears to lose their momentum. Wait for those threats to diminish. Wait for those worries to dissipate to wavelets.

By the time our “what ifs” reach the shore of reality, we will often realize that the very things that once threatened to drown us, are now tame ripples we splash with our feet!

The things that appear powerful are now powerless. The things that seemed overwhelming are now manageable. The things that looked impossible are now hopeful.

In past seasons of my life, I’ve allowed the waves of fear to pull me in. I’ve allowed my thoughts to run wild with worry instead of letting God’s peace soak up my parched soul. I’ve learned that when I live my life out in the distant waves, I can’t possibly enjoy the abundant life back on the shore.

On the shore there is solid ground. On the shore I can stand still. On the shore I can soak up the sunlight.

Just as the bubbling water foams around my feet from the broken waves, God’s presence and peace soothe my aching soul.

So how do we live on the shore when the waves threaten to drown us? I truly believe the secret is where we focus our eyes. 

I can glance at the waves in the distance, but I don’t stay there. I can get a glimpse of an approaching storm, but I don’t get caught up in it. Instead, I focus in the other direction.

The day I stood on the beach at the edge of the shore, I turned around and heard the laughter of children. Their shrieks of joy drew me in. They were picking up shells. They were running back and forth, splashing in the ripples. Some were flying kites, throwing balls and building sand castles.

They were too busy having fun to notice the huge waves in the distance. They lived in the moment, enjoying the blessings of life.

I didn’t see any child looking out and focusing on the waves that could swallow them up if they drifted out. I didn’t see any child paralyzed by fear, refusing to budge from their beach chair.

Maybe this is a picture of what it means when God tells us to become like a little child. A child playing on the shore, refusing to get pulled under by the waves of fear. A child trusting their father to take care of their every need.

Where are you today? Are you living in fear from the “what if’s”? Are you letting the waves of worry control your every move?

If that’s where you are, I urge you to turn around. Walk upon the shore.

Trust God with the things that seem to threaten you. Enjoy the abundant life He wants you to have. Surrender to Him your fears and worries you see in the distance.

I pray that the peace of His presence will refresh your tired and weary soul.

shore

Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

 

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow in the Scriptures

If you live in certain parts of the country, you’re most likely staring out your window at a ground blanketed with SNOW.

School children–giddy with delight–are building snowmen, creating snow angels, and sledding down steep hills covered in snow.

Even if you dislike the cold, the beauty of a winter-wonderland is captivating. What is it about snow that dazzles us?

God has some things to say about snow. These insights may be hidden in scripture, but they’re worth looking into. Grab yourself a cup of coffee (or hot chocolate) and your Bible. I invite you to dig into God’s word and join me!

Psalm 145:6 “He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes.”

Job 37:6 “He says to the snow, ‘Fall to the earth.’

Isaiah 55:10 “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater”

As much as the experts try to predict what this powerful white stuff is going to do, God is all his power is sovereign…even over the SNOW!

Matthew 28:3 “His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.”

Revelation 1:14 “The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.”

In these verses, the word snow is used to describe Jesus and our Heavenly Father.

Proverbs 31:21 “She is not afraid of the snow for her household, For all her household are clothed with scarlet.”

In this verse, maybe you can relate if your kids are home from school, scurrying around to find their coats, hats and gloves!

 

My favorite verse about snow is found in Isaiah 1:18:

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

Maybe the snow captures our attention because it is so WHITE! A symbol of purity.

Perhaps God created snow as a reminder of what He’s done for us. How the blood of Jesus redeems and renews our dirty, ugly sin.

Look out your window and let this truth sink in. Soak up the promise of what He’s done for you.

Our sins, once as red as crimson, shall be as white as SNOW!

Now that’s a forecast worth believing!!

 

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

 

When you don’t FEEL thankful

This time of year everyone focuses on things they’re thankful for.  We post our thoughts on Facebook of what we’re thankful for. Our kids make crafts at school and proudly display what they’re thankful for. Maybe your Thanksgiving gathering will include a time for each person to express the favorite things they’re thankful for.

It’s usually pretty predictable what we’re truly thankful for: God, Jesus, our family, our friends, good health, employment, and of course all the food we will stuff ourselves with on Thanksgiving Day.

These are all wonderful gifts to be thankful for. I would be the first one to speak up that I am thankful for everything I just mentioned.

But what about those things we really are NOT thankful for? What about the things nobody would dare to mention on their top 10 things I’m thankful for list? What about those things that hurt deep inside us that we just couldn’t possibly imagine being thankful for?

*Your doctor grimly explains to you that you have cancer.

*Your boss informs you that you are no longer employed.

*Your check book balance is lower than the total amount of your bills.

*Your marriage is hanging by a thread and you are ready to call it quits.

*Your child does something that leaves you heart-broken and your stomach in knots.

*Your loved one is not here with you on this earth any longer.

*The sin that so easily entangles you continues to drag you down.

*Someone you thought was your friend has betrayed you.

*Your aging parents are needing you more than ever but it’s causing major stress.

*As a momma of young children you’re overwhelmed, spiraling into despair and depression.

Seriously….are any of these things on your top 10 list? Are any of these things gushing out of your mouth when it’s your turn to declare what you’re thankful for? I didn’t see any of these things on anyone’s Facebook status in the last 30 days. I’m pretty certain that nobody’s child came home with any of these things plastered on their Thanksgiving craft from school. Nope.

Why in the world should anyone be thankful for anything like this? Why would we even consider it?

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 we read the following words from the apostle Paul: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Really, Paul? What were you thinking when you wrote those words? You’ve got to be kidding me! Who is he to tell us the conditions under which we should be thankful?

He was beaten and stoned multiple times. He was shipwrecked multiple times. He went without sleep and food. He was imprisoned. He even spent an entire day and night in the open sea.

Yet he could still pen those powerful words in his letter to believers.

I’ve read and re-read that verse countless times, it still says the same thing. Give thanks in ALL circumstances. It doesn’t say give thanks only when things are going your way. It doesn’t say give thanks only when your marriage is thriving, your kids are well-behaved, your bank account is full, your health is stellar and nobody is saying anything offensive to you. (It would be MUCH easier to give thanks if everything were perfect in our worlds!)

So what is the secret of expressing thankfulness in our worst circumstances? How can we really do this?

Here are two things I’ve gathered from this challenging command:

1. The verse does not say to be thankful for these things, but to be thankful IN them. What’s the difference? It’s just one little word. To be thankful IN something is to trust that God is still good no matter what. It’s not a feeling, but an attitude of surrender. It means that although my heart may be full of hurt, my spirit is still full of hope. I don’t deny the pain I’m feeling, but I take it to the foot of the cross and thank God that He is still in control.

2. If you back up to verse 17, just one phrase before this command, you’ll see something that a lot of people skip over. I missed this for years! Here it is: Verse 17 says to pray continually. I used to think this verse was only meant for monks and nuns who lived in isolation from the world and could be on their knees in a continual state of prayer. But it’s meant for all believers! For me. For you. When I am in a continual conversation with Jesus throughout my day, talking to him about everything and being aware of his presence moment-by-moment, then my heart can focus on him in every situation….the good and the bad.

I can focus on Him when I feel hope, but also when I hurt.

I can focus on Him for the victories throughout the day, but also when I blow it and can receive his grace over and over again.

I can thank Him for the blessings, but also for the challenges that drive me crazy at times.

This is not an easy thing to do! It is truly a process. A process that builds character in us. A process that brings us to our knees….bringing us closer to the heart of God.

I want to encourage you to truly search your heart and not only express the blessings you are thankful for, but to offer up a sacrifice of praise for those things you wish to be thankful in, and see what God will do. His love is overwhelming. His grace is powerful. His mercy is never-ending.

 

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Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

What Google Can’t Search

Google. It’s become our natural default to almost anything we want to search for. You name it, you can search for it.

Recipes for cookies that are nut free and gluten-free. Google it!

Directions for any place you want to go. Google it!

The definition of that word you’ve never even heard of. Google it!

The lyrics to the new song you’ve heard on the radio. Google it!

How to get rid of chigger bites when you’ve tried everything imaginable. Google it!

And the list could go on forever. Everything under the sun is searchable on this thing we call Google.

Except for one thing…..

The greatness and riches of God. 

Psalm 145:3 says this: “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness is unsearchable.“

The apostle Paul uses this word again in Ephesians 3:8, “Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ…”

Oh, you can most certainly type in the words God’s riches and God’s greatness in your Google search box. But no matter how many websites come up, it doesn’t matter.

The most eloquent writers and theologians could not even begin to explain the depths of the riches and greatness of God.

Unsearchable. What does it really mean? The Greek meaning for this word used in scripture means this:

Impossible to fully investigate, no matter how great the effort; impossible to discover; going beyond all human ability to even locate.

I don’t know about you, but I need this reminder. Living in a world with information constantly at my finger tips, it’s easy to get sucked in to the false belief that the answers to all my questions can be figured out by typing them into a search box on Google.

What about these kinds of questions?…….

How can God continue to forgive me for that same sin that trips me up?  unsearchable!

How can God love me during my seasons of doubt? unsearchable!

When will the pain and hurt from my current trial come to an end? unsearchable!

How can anything good come from this messy, broken situation?unsearchable!

No. I won’t find the answers to these kinds of questions on Google. Even if I actually type them into that search box and pull up hundreds or thousands of websites, it will all just be someone’s commentary or opinion.

God’s riches and greatness are unsearchable. The answers to a lot of our tough questions are also unsearchable.

Yet he beckons us to SEEK him. He longs for us to SEEK him with all our heart.

We may not get the exact answers we’re longing for, but if we stay close to him–one step at a time–we will experience the unsearchable riches and greatness of who he is.

And no matter what Google says, He. Is. Enough.

 

 

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Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett