Praise Him!

Psalm 148–Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise him in the heights. Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts. Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light. Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. Let them praise the name of the Lord: for he commanded, and they were created. He hath also stablished them for ever and ever: he hath made a decree which shall not pass. Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps: Fire, and hail; snow, and vapours; stormy wind fulfilling his word: Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars: Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl: Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth: Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children:Let them praise the name of the Lord: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven. He also exalteth the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints; even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him. Praise ye the Lord.

We are such a blessed people that we have the freedom to praise our God out loud. Not all enjoy that luxury, even as far advanced as our world is today. The sounds of the earth itself are praises to the Lord. The wind, the animal noises, the silence of the stars and sun– Everything around us reflects praise to Him. And yet, many days I forget to praise Him. I think about thanksgivings in my head a lot, but it’s rare that I say them out loud during the week. I want to change that. I am going to make sure to praise God, out loud, for something every day until it becomes a habit I can no longer just happen to forget to do. I am so blessed, and I want to share that with others!

What did you praise God for today? Share your story in the comments please!!

P.S.-Tomorrow is the last day to join my email Prayer and News Friends group for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card. I’d be honored to have you as a member and pray with you. Prayer and News Friends receive free weekly prayer emails, quarterly newsletters with recipes from my family’s kitchen and updates about my writing life, sneak peeks about upcoming giveaways, and more. You can sign up at saralfoust.com!

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Pine or Oak?

I Corinthians 15:58–Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

We had a pine tree fall in the wind and rain last night. It had been leaning for months, slowly bending further and further until it could no longer support its own weight and came crashing down, yanking its roots from the ground. It woke me up-the sound of the wood cracking and the monstrous hollow thump when it hit the earth. I went out to inspect things this morning and noticed that as the pine fell it took a branch off an oak tree, but the oak tree didn’t budge one tiny little bit. I’m sure the whole oak tree quivered with the blow, but its main trunk is still just as straight and strong this morning as ever.

I’ve been both of those trees. On my spiritual walk, there have been times I’ve been the pine tree. Feeling the pressure of the current storm, the heaviness of my own worries and doubts. And, I’ve let my roots slip from my foundation and come crashing down. As I came down and let myself become filled with my own failure, I’ve taken others around me down too. Broken my own strong faith and bruised theirs. To my shame.

At times, I’ve been the oak tree, too. Reaching into the sky where my hope comes from, keeping my eyes fixed on God. Remaining strong through the storms. Withstanding the blows of life as they come at me left and right, I’ve held on strongly to my faith, clung even more tightly to God, and weathered the wind and rain. And in those strong moments, others may be falling around me, but, with God’s strong hand, I have remained upright so I can help others get back up.

A forest of trees actually helps protect each other by breaking winds as they rush through. Once people start cutting the trees, rearranging the earth, like we have, the wind can reach weaker trees and pull them down. I imagine that’s what’s happened to our pine tree. They are weaker-rooted, softer-wooded trees and the wind is simply too much for them. We, as Christians, can help protect each other from life’s storms. We can help support each other by lending helping hands, praying for one another, and checking on each other when one is weak. Those of us who aren’t in the middle of a storm, or are and feel stronger, can circle around the one who is struggling and protect them-lend them some of our strength.

I pray that when the next storm of my life comes, I’ll be like the oak tree and remain assured of His strength. I pray that I’ll be a help to someone who needs some extra strength. Surely, I have enough to spare for now. But, I also pray that if I get weak, you will lend me some strength and help hold me up. Together in our faith we are stronger. Together we can continue to work for God and press through the problems. Together with love we can hold each other up.

 

(It’s warm here and we don’t have any ice. Just lots and lots of rain, but I love this picture. I took it a couple years ago here at my house during an ice storm. It was so beautiful!)

Confirmation

James 1:22–But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

I had a hard time with the transition from being foster parents to closing our doors. God called me to be a foster parent and I am so thankful we had that experience. I am so thankful that we were able to adopt our two foster children and make them permanently part of our home. But, that also meant we had to know our limits. We all have them, and though it has been tough for me to admit it, I believe I’ve reached mine. It’s hard because my heart still longs to help. There are SO many children in the foster system, so many infants that need loving homes to help them wean off the drugs they are born dependent on. And it kills me that I can no longer help them.

So when we prayed and realized that it was time to move on to our next callings, there was both relief and sadness. I truly believe that my current calling from God is to write. To pen down the words and thoughts He gives me and create. I’ve always loved to write, ever since I was a very small girl, and I am passionate about it. Being an author is my dream come true. But something about it feels smaller than the difference I was making as a foster parent, and I’ve struggled with that. Fostering was such an obvious change in our lives. Everywhere we went people could tell we were ministering to these children, because there were two more with us. And, though it isn’t about what other people think, it was a bit validating to know that what God called us to do was obvious. We were doing good each and every day, witnessing to others, encouraging people to think about a problem right under their noses they hadn’t thought about.

My pastor read this scripture along with some definitions of ‘doer’ at church last Wednesday. And I was suddenly humbled and elated. God confirmed my new calling for me. Doer means author. I needed that confirmation to show me that I am truly on the correct path now. Writing is doing for God. Authoring-writing with inspiration from God with the intention of bringing His love to others- is more subtle than fostering. But it is still a work for Him and it is time for me to embrace it and feel fulfilled that I am answering His calling. While I am happy we were able to foster and adopt and change the lives of these two little ones, I am even happier that God has given me a way to pursue a dream I’ve had since I was four years old. A dream that excites me daily, that fills me with a sense of accomplishment and purpose once again.

 

Photo taken by me at our house in TN. Ice on grass. Jan 2013

Barely Hear His Whisper

 

As the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
“I’m with you”

Are you facing something that seems so much bigger than you are capable of handling? I am. And a lot of people I love seem to be in the emotional trenches, too. I have had diagnosed depression since I was a teenager and it seems that the stress of life and loss have combined to give me a bit of a flare-up right now. Nothing new, but through my tears yesterday I was able to see the truth. And this song has been playing in my mind since I woke this morning. It doesn’t matter what I–you–face, God’s got you in the palm of His amazing hand. I made a decision yesterday to choose happiness. To choose to keep my eyes focused on Him and take steps toward things that make me happy. It was a small decision yesterday. Even though my eyes were heavy and I could have laid on the couch continuing to sink further into depression, I took the kids to Chick-Fil-A (thanks to some amazing therapists who gave us a gift card for Christmas–thanks ladies!). It was worth the effort that my weary mind and body didn’t want to put out. I smiled and laughed as they enjoyed the indoor playground, and I felt more like myself as I drove home.

People who don’t have depression, have never experienced it, don’t understand what it’s like, I’ll grant. But, for those of you who have, you know what I mean when I say that it’s something you have to fight through daily when you’re in a “funk.” Some days it’s easier than others, but my prayer for you is that today will be an easy day. That you will find something that will make you smile and feel more like yourself. That you will have the energy to seek out something that will lift you up. Whether it’s an activity with your kids, a quick walk outside, or reading a good book, I pray you have time for that today. Take it one day at a time, finding something each day that helps you feel better, and soon you’ll have a string of positive days.

Sometimes I can barely hear God’s whisper, but it never fails to be there. He’s waiting for us to seek Him and trust Him. With open arms. With healing. With love.

Trust in the Lord

Psalm 84:12–O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.

Trust is a fragile thing. I have a trusting nature. I tend to see the best in people and give them the benefit of the doubt. I pretty much start out trusting someone and it depends on their actions if that trust remains or gets yanked away. I like living this way. Some may call it naive, but I find putting my faith in people usually is a good thing.

There have been times, though, when the trust dynamic has changed between myself and someone in my life. I still pray for those few people, but I don’t subject myself to their less-than-forthcoming ways.

Isn’t it wonderful that we never have to worry about that with God? This verse reminds us that trusting in Him brings blessings to our lives. No matter what the issue is, we can trust God with it. We can trust His answers and direction in our lives, even if we don’t yet understand the outcomes. God will never steer us wrong. He will never abuse our trust. Man will sometimes fail us, but God never will. I’m thankful I’ve had the opportunity to trust Him in my life. Aren’t you?

Romance in Life

Ephesians 3:19–And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

It’s hard to find romance in life sometimes. Especially when you’ve been married for twelve years and have five children. My husband and I both get caught up in living and daily the tasks that we often forget to appreciate each other. Television and movies portray love as something that requires a great deal of romance, and leave me feeling like my life lacks something when I am finished. There are times when I feel sad that I don’t have that mushy-gushy love in my life right now, but then I look around me and realize the type of love I do have is much longer lasting. Five children look to me and call me, “Mommy.” A husband needs my support. I have friends and family and a church family that I would be lost without. I have so many different types of love in my life, how could I ever feel sad to lack that “movie-type romance?”

The most important love that I have is God’s love. And, in that type of love, it is the definition of movie ‘romance’–bear with me a moment. What it is about movie or TV love that we find so appealing? For me, it’s that sense that these people must have each other in order for life to be right. They would die or fight monsters or go on some crazy, harrowing journey just to attain togetherness. Our Savior did exactly that for us. He went on a journey and suffered and died because of His great love for us. Just so He could be with us for eternity. Thefreedictionary.com defines romance in many ways. In this instance, I prefer this definition: 2. love, esp romantic love idealized for its purity or beauty. Jesus’ love for us can find no purer match here on earth. No more beautiful love ever held form anywhere. So, I can rest assured that no matter where I go, no matter how I feel the loves in my life are going, no matter how un-romantic my days seem, that I have a God who went the distance for me to attain my presence forever. And, that sounds pretty romantic to me. 

 

(Note about today’s devotional: Please do not think for a moment I associate romance in this form with sexuality. Two TOTALLY different things!)

Picture taken by me at Museum of Appalachia, Norris, TN

Embracing His Commandments

Psalm 119:47–And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved.

Sometimes it’s hard to love the rules that feel like they are fencing us in, especially as we are growing up. It gets easier over time for most of us. We begin to see the validity of those rules. We begin to acknowledge the fact that they are keeping us and others safe. And, we see the morality of them as we grow and learn right from wrong.

God’s commandments and rules are for our own good. They keep us on the “straight and narrow” and we should be thankful for them. The above verse says we should even delight in and love them. God was kind enough to give us a road map of written rules, and we need to delight in that love He has for us.

It’s pretty easy to follow the ‘big’ commandments. Don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t commit adultery. But how about the ‘smaller’ ones? Sometimes it seems they aren’t so important. We don’t get a physical law punishment for not observing the Sabbath day, or for coveting what someone else has, or for swearing. But, God wants us to observe all the commandments (not just the ten, either) that He laid out for us in the Bible. Above all else, we are to love. If we can find it in ourselves to love God’s rules, then loving others will come easier. Following all the commandments, which is a tall order for anyone, will become easier. Finding delight in walking within the boundaries of what God desires, too, will become easier. Once we embrace the virtues He prescribed for us.

I’m so glad God is patient with me. I am a work in progress. Every. Day. And every day He teaches me something new and reprimands me gently for the things I am falling short in. I want to delight in his laws and commandments and love them each so that I can become the person I am meant to be!

 

Above picture, moss on a log, taken by me at … yep, you guessed it, Cades Cove!