Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful Doesn't Even Begin To Cover It...

Thanksgiving is the day when most Americans will gather together with family and friends and ruminate on all the blessings they are thankful for.  Laying here in bed this morning, I began to do just that.  While I am in awe of the new blessings the Lord gives me each and every day, the holidays make me even more aware of them and I begin to count them.  It seems though, no matter what kind of year I've had, I am always overwhelmed by the goodness and grace of my Savior.  This year, the past two really, has been no exception.

In scripture it says, in Romans 8:28: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  The Lord has faithfully proven this to me on more than one occasion over the last two years.  I've dealt with abuse, depression, divorce, unemployment, financial crises, moral missteps, death, and numerous family issues.  Some might look at that list and wonder how anyone could see any goodness in that.  Some might look at that list and pity me.  It's true that I have experienced enough heartache to make even Annie stop singing about tomorrow, but I have also experienced so much love and personal growth.  I am so filled with joy when I think of all the goodness I've experienced in the midst of these trials that my heart is bursting at the seams.  I want to shout from the rooftops how great my God is and how much I love Him!  I think I'm beginning to understand why David wrote the Psalms.

Through all the bad, I've renewed friendships, created new ones, and learned how important they are.  If you are reading this, and you know who you are, I want you to know that God used your fellowship to help me through some of the darkest hours of my life.  I am thankful for each of you, and praise God for allowing me to know each of you, however long we may have together.  Out of unemployment, I was given not only a job that I love, but a godly employer and co-workers that feel more like family.  I don't think I ever fully appreciated being employed until I wasn't anymore, and now being given such a wonderful job that I love and wonderful co-workers, I can say that this area of my life is one that I am truly excited about every day.  I love the work I do and I can't wait to see what God is going to do with it.  In my financial crises, I've been shown what God can do with less, and to be content with less.  More than that, to rejoice in having less.  I've learned how to manage my finances wisely, with biblical principals.  Through death and family trials I have learned to love and value the (sometimes messy) relationships I have with them.  I've grown closer to them, I can't even begin to calculate how valuable that is and I wouldn't trade them for the world.  I'm especially thankful today that my brother, who wasn't able to be with us for the holidays last year, will be here today.  He is alive, healthy, happy, and free from his chains.  I can't praise God enough for that.

There are so many more blessings I could list, but I'll end with my greatest and that's this: through everything, I have learned to lean on God and trust him fully with my life.  He has faithfully proven to me over and over that he is good, that he loves me (and you too, more than we can fathom), that he will never leave me, that he will never fail me.  It's not always easy to lay my burdens at his feet, but when I finally do my Savior comes through in ways I never imagined possible.  My greatest blessing is knowing my Heavenly Father, the personal relationship I have with him, and being able to share that with you.

I hope your holiday is filled with warmth, love and fellowship with those dearest to you.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

I can't believe I almost overlooked it!  April 14th marked the one year anniversary of The Brighter Side.  I gotta say, I'm in awe of what the Lord has done.  He took little old me, who has always hated writing, and sparked this passion in me to write.  What started out as something to share and grow my photography has morphed in to something else entirely.  Part journal, part comedic commentary, part devotional.  As I said, I'm just in awe of Him.  I fully expected to abandon this blog within 2 months of starting it, and here I am a year later...still clacking away on my keyboard.  I haven't written as many posts as I would have liked to, but I didn't give up either.  I searched for a verse to adequately sum up what this anniversary means to me, and as usual, the Lord pointed me to exactly what I was looking for: "May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works--" Psalm 104:31.  It is my sincere prayer that the Lord rejoices at what he has accomplished in and through me, and that he continues to use me and my little blog to bring blessings and beauty into the lives of others.

Here are some of my favorite posts from the last year:
Thank God It's Friday
Big Girls Don't Cry
A Heart Too Big, A Wallet Too Small, And Time Too Short
True Life: I'm A Grown Up Mary Anne
Go On The Internet And Complain Like Everyone Else

I can't wait to see what's in store for year 2!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Thank God It's Friday

***Note: I started this on Friday, but the subject matter is so important, I took my time completing it.***

It's been a while since I've posted anything, but I just haven't really been inspired lately.  I've been having a major case of writers block I guess.  Lucky for you though, something inspired me today.  Jesus.

Today is a day that Christians observe as the day that Jesus was crucified.  Denied and betrayed by his friends, beaten, ridiculed, and nailed to a cross to die by the very people he loved and came to save.  I've been trying to think of a way to relate this to our lives, an example I could give to help wrap your head around the love, faith, and obedience it took to make that sacrifice, and I thought of a few.  Each time I wrote them it seemed to trivialize what Jesus did.  What God did.  Even now, my words seem so weak.

God knew what was going to happen, Jesus knew what had to happen, and each of them, Father and Son, out of love followed through.  Jesus was fully God, but also fully human.  He prayed not once, but twice for this burden to be taken from him...for his dad to make it stop (Matthew 26: 39, 42).  He was afraid and anguished over what he knew was coming (Matthew 26: 37, 38).  It was obedience and love for his Father and His Fathers creation that helped him see it through to the end.  He even prayed for us (John 17: 20-26, Luke 23: 34), the ones responsible for His death, the ones He came to save.

I can only imagine the way it must have felt.  Mary, watching her son, her baby boy, being beaten and ridiculed.  Watching him die and wanting nothing more than to take his place, to make the pain and hurting stop like any mother would want to do for her child.  Yet, she was helpless.  I can only speculate that God maybe felt the same way, the only difference being he could have stopped it, but knowing that in this sacrifice He was saving His people, His creation.  And Jesus, enduring it all, because He to knew the greater good of bringing us into a direct relationship with God would far outweigh His short, albeit excruciating, suffering.

That is love.  (Romans 5:8, John 15:13)

It's a beautiful thing.  We no longer have to be slaves to our sin.  We all sin, every last one of us.  We aren't worthy of the gift of mercy and grace that God poured out so extravagantly for us.  It says in the Bible that the punishment for sin is death (Romans 6:23).  That always scared me as a kid because I never got past the first part of that verse.  But, the second part is the best part!  That sacrifice was made for us through Jesus!  We don't have to suffer because of our sin anymore.  That sacrifice was made for all of us, too.  It's just a matter of believing, having faith that Jesus is who He said he is, and in what He accomplished on the cross and in His resurrection.

Please keep in mind that I am in no way a biblical scholar or a pastor.  I'm not perfect and never will be.  I'm simply a passionate believer who loves Jesus.  I've experienced the freedom, hope, peace, healing, and joy that comes from a relationship with God, and I just want as many people as possible to be able to experience that for themselves.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Another Year Older, And What Have I Done?

Ok, so I know that the title of this post (sorta) comes from a Christmas song.  However, this post is not about Christmas.  It's more like an update/holiday post.  "What holiday" you ask?  Only the best holiday ever!  Established 27 years ago and occurring's MY BIRTHDAY!  I know I share it with like nine million other people, but that just means we are having one huge, global party baby!  So, let's get this started.

One of the children from Sarah's Covenant Homes, India.
First, my update.  You may remember my 12 by 2012 list that I posted back in October.  I am proud to say that I accomplished quite a few things on my list.  The one item on my list that I was incredibly excited to do was to plan a mission trip.  You can read about it here.  I decided that I wanted to go to India and I registered with Adventures In Missions.  Unfortunately, the trip I wanted to go on, which was scheduled for April of this year, got cancelled.  This turned out to be a blessing though.  I am no where near my fundraising goal, and the money would have been due by this coming Wednesday.  With the holidays and some unfortunate family events, I got a bit side tracked.  There is a bright side to this story, however.  There is another trip to India in August of this year that I am registering for.  I need to be fully funded by June.  I believe this is absolutely possible and I am incredibly excited!  I am still selling prints of some of my photographs to help raise money for my trip.  If you want some neat art prints and to help me reach my goal, you can visit my store here.  I'm also toying with the idea of designing t-shirts to sell also.  More on that as it develops.

Now, about my holiday.  I've got two projects in the works to celebrate another year in my life.  The first, and the one I am most excited about:  I have decided to establish a new tradition.  Each year on my birthday starting with this year, I am going to perform a number of random acts of kindness equal to my age.  So this year, on my birthday, I intend to perform 27 random acts of kindness.  They can be small or they can be grand.  I can't wait to start showing love and kindness to complete strangers!  The second project, which is kind of a big undertaking, will be to take a photo a day to chronicle 1 year in my life.  So from my birthday this year until my birthday next year, I plan to take one picture of anything that captures the essence of that day in my life.  Soon, I'll start a gallery and post a link to it on my blog.  This year is gonna be spectacular...I can feel it!