Choose to Praise God

Thank you Mary Southerland for today’s message:

I once saw a refrigerator magnet that said, “I know that God promises to never give me more than I can handle. But sometimes, I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.” When trials come and life seems hard, we plead with God to deliver us from the problem when many times, His plan is to deliver us in the problem. Praise does not depend upon an understanding of the circumstance or trial. Praise depends upon an understanding of and faith in God.

As humans, we will never fully understand God – this side of heaven. God is holy and without blemish. God is all powerful and omniscient. He is Creator of the universe and yet lives in me. He is the only true, living God! We may understand some of His ways and comprehend the reasoning behind some of His plans. We may even come to the place of knowing him on what we call an intimate level, but a full understanding of God is reserved for heaven. Until then, we walk by faith, not by sight. We praise him in the darkness, knowing that the light is just ahead. We trust him for things we cannot see and turn to him in the valleys. Honestly, the thought of serving and relying on a God I can understand is not a reassuring thought.

Most people who know me well would describe me as a strong person, someone who can usually handle what life holds. I thought the same thing until, in 1995, I found myself a powerless, prisoner of the darkness as I battled clinical depression. It took me two long years to climb out of that pit and not a day goes by that I am not reminded of that wonderful, horrible time.

One of the many lessons I learned from my “pit experience” was that I cannot depend upon my own strength or my fickle emotions. God often asked me to praise him when, as far as I could tell, there wasn’t a whole lot to praise him for! I didn’t feel like praising him.

I began to understand that praise is not a feeling but a choice, a step of obedience taken without the assurance of a changed circumstance or the elimination of a trial. Praise focuses on God, not the circumstance, and fixes its gaze upon God’s truth and God’s character instead of the trial at hand or just ahead. That is why we can celebrate the battle before it begins. The outcome is neither our responsibility nor our goal. Praise begins and ends with faith in the very nature, personality and integrity of God … and that never changes.

No matter what lies ahead, God is faithful. No matter how hot the fiery trial may be, God will deliver us. No matter what man says or does, God loves and accepts us. So praise God! Thank Him today for every victory tomorrow holds! Celebrate – knowing that the battle belongs to God and because of that single truth, victory is certain.

Have a blessed day!

#MSWillNotDefeatMe


Over the last month, I have reconnected with people I haven’t seen in years (27 years for one)…. It should be a time for excitement as we reminisce about past adventures, unfortunately, it has been a struggle.  I’ve shared my diagnosis and the most devastating part is not being able to remember….

When they ask “What’s it like living with MS?” Uhm…there’s just not a simple answer.  To those who don’t see me every day, they don’t know the subtle changes taking place.  They figure all must be well since I am still walking.  I mean isn’t MS all about not being able to walk and constant pain?  The truth is there is so much more to it….

When I try to describe the occasional physical and daily mental difficulties I experience because of MS, it is often met with some interesting responses. They have stemmed from “eat healthier”, to “eat more potassium” for the spasms in my legs, to try those pills on TV to help with memory, to “take B12” for the exhaustion. When I explain, I do some of those things already but they simply don’t work, They look at me like I have 12 heads!   After all, it works for them so it should for me too.

Some people just don’t seem to understand that those of us living with MS aren’t like them. We have a damaged Central Nervous System and our immune system is in chaos causing our own body to attack us. Some of the damaged areas to our nerves have healed well over time but some haven’t and new damage appears all the time.

The exhaustion I experience isn’t always because I didn’t sleep well the night before or because we aren’t eating nutritionally. It’s a debilitating symptom which isn’t always remedied with natural herbs and better sleep. Those things can help, but it’s not a “fix”. Catch me between 1PM – 3PM and you might find me falling asleep mid-sentence.

The loss of memory is something i will have to live with FOREVER!  Some things come back – you know those random things – but maybe only a snapshot instead of the whole movie.  LOL.  I’m learning to be honest about it and thankfully most people understand.

A trip to the mall is exhausting!  Some days just making my way across the parking lot of the grocery store presents a challenge.  When I am with my mom I always say, I wish I could walk as fast as she does at 82!

Through it all, I have learned to look this disease of MS square in the eyes and say, “I am not defeated because of you and regardless of what happens in life I am thankful for each new day I am given.”  A friend said to me recently, “God has a plan for you through all of this, just remain faithful”.  My recovery and working the steps has helped tremendously with this process.  I am turning things over and waiting for God to tell me what to do!

We will never understand all the why’s in life. Why MS? Why now? Why me?

No matter what the storm is you are going through; face it and be determined to be thankful as you go through it. Yes, it is possible to be thankful even in the most horrible of circumstances, but it’s a choice; and you have it within you to make the choice. You can stand up (even if only on the inside) and say, “I refuse to be defeated by MS (or whatever storm you are experiencing).”

Strength isn’t measured by the amount of things I can do or by how big my muscles are, it’s determined by the attitude I have while going through the difficult times in life. You are doing it. You are making it. Square your shoulders back and hold your head up high today because you are STRONG even though your body is weak!

This is MS Awareness Month and his has been my mantra lately.  I’ve had more days then I can count where the reality of MS has hit me. From struggling to walk with an ache in my legs, to brain fog which never seems to end to not be able to process thoughts, words or sentences.  God has placed loving people in my life who help me through the struggles.  It is his plan and even though some days I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel…. I will hold onto my faith.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

A Braver, Smarter and Stronger You

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Thank you Gwen Smith for today’s message…

One of the most lovable and charming characters in the history of cartoon animation has to be Winnie the Pooh. He simply oozes adorableness and positivity.

In the movie, Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin, Pooh and Christopher Robin, who are the closest of friends, have a moving conversation high in a tree where strength and love flow heart-to-heart.

CHRISTOPHER ROBIN: “Oh, Pooh. If ever there’s a tomorrow when we’re not together, there’s something you must remember.”

POOH: “And what might that be, Christopher Robin?”

CHRISTOPHER ROBIN: “You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

POOH: “Oh, that’s easy. We’re braver than a bee, and, uh, longer than a tree, and taller than a goose . . . or, uh, was that a moose?”

CHRISTOPHER ROBIN: “No, silly, old bear! You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is even if we’re apart; I’ll always be with you. I’ll always be with you. I’ll always be with you.”

This conversation reminds me of the conversation Jesus has with His disciples after His resurrection. He gave them new marching orders and assured them that though He had to leave, they would never be alone.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You trust in God; trust also in me.” (John 14:1)

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)

“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:15-17)

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:26-27)

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing… If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:5, 7-8)

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19- 20)

May these last words of Jesus serve as a reminder to you today that you are not alone or ill-equipped in your life. Because of this truth, you are enabled through Christ to be a woman of great courage and faith! Live like it. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think because the Spirit of God is at work within you to embolden, strengthen, and guide you.

Above all, remember this: God is with you. Always.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

When the Big Bad Bully Messes With You

Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s message

“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).

Being from North Carolina, I love the old black-and-white episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. (And no, we don’t all talk like that.) In one episode, the neighborhood bully is picking on Andy’s boy, Opie. This blond-headed newcomer taunts and makes fun of Opie until he feels like a total loser. He’s ashamed of his own cowardice and embarrassed in front of his friends. After Andy, the wise father, figures out what is disturbing his moping son, he gives him a little lesson in standing up to bullies. The next day, when the bully threatens Opie, the little freckle-faced boy looks his opponent in the eye and refuses to crumble under his threats.

“Do you want to fight?” the bully taunts.

Opie doesn’t say a word. He just puts up his fists.

“Oh yeah? Well, knock this rock off my shoulder and I’ll—”

Opie knocks the rock off his shoulder before the bully has time to finish his sentence.

“Oh yeah? Well, step into this circle,” the bully continues as he draws a circle around himself in the dirt.

Opie steps into the circle.

Suddenly, the bully grows nervous. “You better be glad I’ve got on my good pants,” the bully says as he backs away.

Opie never had to throw the first punch. All he did was stand his ground and the bully backed away. Bullies don’t like it when we stand our ground. Never have. Never will.

Notice how many times Paul admonishes us tostand in Ephesians 6:13-14. “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able tostand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then…” No one can stand for us. We must stand on our own two feet and stand up against the Enemy—and we stand onthe Word of Truth to do it.

In his book The Reason for God, Timothy Keller said this:

“If anything threatens your identity, you will not just be anxious but paralyzed with fear. If you lose your identity through the failings of someone else, you will not just be resentful but locked into bitterness. If you lose it through your own failings, you will hate or despise yourself as a failure as long as you live. Only if your identity is built on God and his love…can you have a self that can endure anything, face anything.”

We need to take our stand when the big bad bully tells us that we are no good losers who can’t do anything right, who will never change, who will always struggle with doubt, or who will never be free. He’s just messing with you. Don’t let him.

Paul said, “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).

Maybe you’ve been running from the bully for way too long. Go ahead and take your stand. He’ll probably slink away because he has his good pants on.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

You’re Enough as You Are

imagesThank you Holley Gerth for today’s message…

I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  Psalm 139:14, NIV 

“I am enough because of God.” -Eve, before the fall
“I am not enough.” -Eve, when the serpent tempted her (read Genesis 3)

A cool breeze brushes Eve’s cheek as she walks through the Garden of Eden with her husband and her God. All around her, trees and flowers bloom in brilliant colors. Animals peacefully rest in the shade. She breathes in a deep sigh of contentment. Life is good. She feels no self-consciousness, worry, or fear. Everything is as it should be. She is loved. She is content. She is safe.

The next day she hears an unfamiliar voice as she picks fruit from a group of trees. “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1). She furrows her brow and turns to reply. No one has ever questioned God before! She says to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die’” (Genesis 3:2–3).

Perhaps she expects this explanation to satisfy this snake in the grass. But he continues, “You will not certainly die . . . For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4–5). We know how the rest of the story goes. Eve eats and paradise is lost. But what lie entrapped her heart? What did she believe?

When I read this story, one phrase jumps out at me: You will be like God. In other words, you’re not enough as you are. And with that lie comes a sinister implication: God is holding out on you. Ironically, it’s the same reason the serpent fell. Not content with his identity or position in heaven, he grasped for all of God’s glory and lost everything. But even then he didn’t learn his lesson. He’s still trying to drag God’s daughters down with him.
When I talk with women as an author, counselor, life coach, and friend, I hear the lie Eve believed repeated so often. And I’ve heard it in my own heart as well. The enemy has not changed his tactics much since the beginning of time. That one lie has a variety of versions . . .

You’re not lovable enough.
You’re not good enough.
You’re not beautiful enough.
You’re not smart enough.
You’re not cool enough.
You’re not successful enough.

But all of those expressions have the same message. Somehow, in some way, we must be lacking. Who God has made us and what He has given us are not really adequate. That can seem true because we were once all sinners in need of a Savior. But once we give Jesus our lives, He restores all that was lost in the fall. We live in a post-paradise world, but our identities in God’s eyes are post-cross perfect. We are enough because Jesus is enough in us.

When the enemy tries to convince our hearts that’s not true, what can we say in response? He started his temptation of Eve with, “Did God really say . . . ” I believe we defeat him by answering with “Here’s what God really does say . . .” That’s the tactic Jesus used when the devil tempted Him.

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be temptedby the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. The tempter came to Him and said, ‘If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Mark 4:1–4).

The devil tempted Jesus two more times after that, and our Savior always responded with Scripture. We can follow His example when the enemy tries to ensnare us as well. For example, when we hear the lie, “You are not enough,” we can answer with what God says to us through Scriptures like these:

I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14)
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life. (2 Peter 1:3)
I can do all this through Him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

The only weapon that’s part of the armor of God is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). The enemy took advantage of Eve, and she acted as if she were defenseless. But we don’t have to do the same.

You are a woman.

You are a warrior.

You wield God’s truth, and it cannot be overcome.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!