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Motivation for Mondays

Motivation for Mondays and Anything That Feels Like One

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God has never needed….

God has never needed a great facility to be able to show Himself as great.

God has never needed crowds of thousands, to be able to touch the heart of one.

God has never needed a mass production of a service to be able to create massive change in our lives.

God just needed ears that hear and eyes that see.

God just needed helping hands and giving hearts.

God just needed a people willing to show His love everywhere they go.

That is all He will ever need.

You can have the grandest of buildings and a program list a mile long, but nothing compares to or is as compelling as His Love.

With total disregard to His own heart, His own feelings, and even inevitable rejection of some, He loves us wholly, and fully, and without fail.

He will always greet you with open arms.

He will always meet you with compassion.

He will always be overjoyed that you came home.

He will always save room for you.

He will always hold your place at His table.

That is what love does.

I wrote this on the Sunday morning of my church’s 20 year anniversary service. My church had humble beginnings yet because of God, has been able to change the lives of so many.

-Rachel Ray

Pass the Turkey and the Love Please…

A new puppy who hasn’t heard the term “potty training”, let alone begun to master it.

7 kids of various ages playing, laughing, running around the house, and being our entertainment for the day.

5 people in my kitchen built for 2 all putting the final touches on their dishes. I’m there solely to provide a cleaning service much more than catering service, but my taste testing skills are those on expert levels. Don’t let the name Rachel Ray fool ya….

Wanting everything to be perfect, but happy at the end of the day that everyone was fed and full, and were in a home full of love.

We had Thanksgiving early due to the impossible schedule of families, and step families, and those that live out of town. My family, much like yours I am sure, has a wide variety of personalities, likes and dislikes, and maybe even beliefs…but the one thing we all have in common is there is always love.

One Grandpa has devoted his life to ministry, and has spent his weekends preaching from a pulpit. One Grandpa has spent much of his life playing in a band at the bars on the weekends. Both showed love…

One Grandma has, for the majority of her life, been a stay at home mom. One Grandma has always been a working mother. Both showed love…

My husband and I have chosen to raise our kids in a super small town where literally everyone knows your name. My sister in law and her husband have chosen to raise their kids in a huge city atmosphere. My brother, on the other hand,  lives in a chic, urban, downtown apartment and gets to make plans without even once having to check a single soccer schedule…we are all a little jealous of him. All, however, showed love…

There were those that would proudly wear a red hat that says, “Make America Great Again”, and those that wouldn’t be caught dead donning such apparel. There were those that will be on a church pew come Sunday morning, and those that will be enjoying a camping experience with their children come Sunday morning. All, however, showed love….

So many differences represented in my living room filled with puppy toys and laughter, exited children, and hard to impress teenagers. At the end of the day, do you know what is consistent with all the different choices….love. No one proclaiming their way of life is the only way or the right way. No one pushing their beliefs on another, no one arguing over whose choices are right or whose was wrong. Just jokes, full plates that led to full bellies, football games, big ole’ hugs, and entertainment from my brother and sister in law ….that no doubt would become millionaires if they ever took their show on the road.

I mean, we are not completely perfect. We reserve the right to raise an eye brow at your SEC team of choice, but that’s about it. If you are anything but an Ole Miss fan, we might pass a  little judgement….our “Hotty Toddy” pride runs deep…but the all the rest is all smothered in love much like our biscuits are smothered in gravy.

And….that’s the way it should be.

May you be greatly blessed, may your bellies be full, and may you not only receive love but, give just as much away. AND….while we are at it, may all the calories you consume not show up on your scale!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

 

Ummm…God, I have a question..

Ummm….God, I got a question. There are lots of your scriptures I hold on to everyday to give me encouragement.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.

“You will never leave me or forsake me”.

“You have plans for me, not to harm me, but to prosper me, to give me hope and a future”.

I like all of those, they feel good to me. They let me know you have my back, that I have you on my side, and that I never, ever have to face things alone. These give me comfort. While meditating on these, I feel, as your child, I can just crawl right up in your lap, and you will take care of it all.

But then…I run across a scripture that makes want to ask, “where’s the love, God”. Why are you trying to set me up? Like this one:

James 1:2-4 The Message (MSG)
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.

Uhhh, What? Why would I consider it a gift, a SHEER gift, to be tested and tried from all sides? I don’t know about you, but during times like this, I DO NOT consider it a gift. I whine, I cry, I moan and complain, but never have I considered it a gift. Oh, thank you God for this hard time I am having to endure…..those words have never came out of my mouth.

So, you are telling me that when I am tested on ALL sides, to think of it as a gift. When my marriage is on the rocks, when I am lost at any direction to take as a parent, when I am not happy in my job, when I struggle financially to just barely make the ends meet, when I have lost motivation, when I face a loss of a loved one, when my emotions are scattered and I am just trying to maintain control, when it’s all I can do to put one foot in front of the other…..count all of that as a gift? Wouldn’t it make more sense to count your blessings a gift, to consider my accomplishments, my achievements, the times I get it right, the times I’m happy, the times I do have things together, when I am motivated, and love everyone around me….wouldn’t it make more sense to count those times as a gift?

But, this is what I have learned over the past few years; there are some strengths, and some really amazing stuff on the inside of you that will never see the light of day without some sort of hardship to bring it out. Facing hard times brings out the fighter in us, when facing easier times usually makes us complacent.

The rest of James 1:2-4 (MSG) says this: You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

The couch potato will not be as strong as the guy that goes to the gym and puts some resistance against his muscles. It’s the resistance that makes him strong, not the relaxing.

Place a seed on a table, or the floor, or carry it in your pocket, and it will always be a seed. But bury this tiny, weak seed in some soil, and it will have to fight to grow to bust through the soil, but it will, and it will become so much more just a tiny, weak seed. It will produce itself many times over and will become a harvest.

When life offers resistance, pressure, and places that make us uncomfortable, it is just the platform in which we can shine and become more than we were, if we choose to “try not to get out prematurely”.

I do not believe that God ever puts hard times on us, but I do think He uses them to our good, to grow us, to show us our own strengths, to produce something in us that was there all along, to make us a harvest and not just leave us a seed. (Rom 8:28)

So, whatever “tests or challenges” you are facing today, draw comfort from all the scriptures that we love to quote an make us feel all warm on the inside, but realize that nothing can come against you that God can’t bring some good out of. Know that it is this resistance that makes you stronger, know that maybe, just maybe, there are some amazing capabilities to be found within that you would have never went looking for until you really needed them. He has equipped us with everything we would ever need, sometimes we just have to find that out for ourselves. Resistance is not fun or easy and certainly not enjoyable, but it makes our muscles grow, it makes our faith grow, and it the way we see our own selves grow.

You have grace to face this day, this challenge, this obstacle.

You have the grit you needed to push against the resistance. Grunt if you must, but push.

You are going to look back one day and be amazed at your own strength.

Consider it a gift…

-Rachel Ray

 

Wearing a Borrowed Cape…

So, I have this little secret. I admit, I can’t face life alone. I just can’t, it’s too hard. If I had to depend only on my own wits, my own ability, my own knowledge….well, I would fall short more times than not.

Just like I depend on my concealer to cover my dark circles…

Just like I depend on my spanx to keep everything from jiggling…

Just like I depend on my hairstylist to work her magic…

I depend on God for all the real problems in life. Not that dark circles, jiggly bellies, and nappy hair aren’t real problems! But for the deeper, more meaningful things I need His help on a daily basis. Every. Single. Day.

One day I was praying, cause that is what good little Christian girls are supposed to do, and it dawned on me…. I am speaking to the Creator of the Universe, the fountainhead of all wisdom and knowledge, the one who knows all, and knows how to do everything but fail…. and I am the one doing all the talking. That maybe, just maybe, I should spend some a little time listening.

You know…

He’s the only that knows how to parent my specific children, what they need from me exactly.

He’s the only one that can show my how to love my husband and have a successful marriage.

He’s the only one that can put turns in my path that lead me to somewhere I only dreamed of being.

He’s the only one that can fill the deepest desires of my heart.

The longer I have known Him, the more I know I can trust Him. I don’t have to always understand His plan, but I can trust His plan and know all the way down to my toes, that He wants nothing but the very best for me. That He cares enough to steer me away from obstacles that would set me back. He cares enough to steer me in the direction that is in my best interest. I heard a wonderful woman speaking one time, and this line that she said has always stuck with me; “He puts turns in our paths that no man can make”.

So if you see me succeeding at ANYTHING, know that have borrowed power from the source of all power.

If you see me loving my children like I should, just know I am in connection with the one who is love.

If you ever catch me giving to another in any way, just know that I was once with out anything and He gave me all that I have.

If you find me going about my day with a smile on my face and a pep in my step, just know that it is His joy that gives me strength.

If you see me going about doing good like some fictional superhero, just know that my cape is borrowed from my Daddy, and He is the real superhero. He just let’s me play dress up from time to time.

 

-Rachel Ray

 

Getting past the 80%…

Don’t worry this is not a self-shaming post about how most people give 80% and you should give 100%. I do good some days just to meet the bare minimum of living to get by. So, no….not going to tell you that you should do more.

As I see it, our days  can be divided up into 3 segments, if you will. Rest, the list, and where the magic happens.

The Rest:

Simple enough, it is where we lay our sleepy little heads down and sleep. The goal here is to sleep, sleep well, and not wake up till morning. Of course if you are a parent, especially of the little ones, you are laughing at how far fetched that is. I have been there. But, our bodies, our minds, and our souls don’t just request rest, they require it. As simple as it is, it is important to make the rest of our day even work well.

The List:

This….this is the 80% of our day that inspired my title. This is the never ending list of things to get done. This is never the fun list, like a bucket list, this is the errands to be ran, the laundry to wash, the groceries to buy, the yard that needs mowing, the leaking sink that needs repair, the oil that needs changing in your vehicle, the dust that accumulates on the shelves time, after time, after time no matter how much you clean, it comes back. This 80% is all the things that take up our time. The list. The list that continually calls for your attention. Sure they are things that have to be done, but they NEVER END! These are items that require so attention and it seems that no matter how much you work at marking them off your list, they just keep coming back.

Like laundry…..as a household of 6, the washer never stops. Don’t matter how much I do, it just keeps coming. Like how does EVERYONE in this house wear 6 different outfits a day and require 5 towels to shower….it just don’t add up. UGHHH!

This list is what we are tired from at the end of they day. The things that keep us from resting in our own houses. The houses we pay money to live in and to enjoy, we can’t because of the list. We feel obligated to it, and driven by it, and feel guilty if all the items are not completed. The list..that even if we could get to a place where it was all done, our efforts won’t last long and there will be no award giving to the best duster. No parade thrown for the one that can (only by divine help) keep up with laundry. No one will remember you for how well you kept up with your list.

Where the magic happens:

This is the part of our days I rarely get to, and when I do, I have to make it happen on purpose. I have to toss out the list and choose to go where the magic happens.

Let me explain. This is where we actually choose to live, not just breathe in and out, but live with a purpose.

This is where you choose to put the list down for a minute to do something that feeds your soul.

To connect with the ones in your household and make a memory.

To chose to spend some quality time laughing over something stupid with your spouse and  discussing bills, or kids, or work.

This is where you work on being a better person.

To take a look at your life, where you are wanting to go, and making a plan to get there.

This is where you choose to educate yourself further.

This is where you make time for that friend that gets pushed down the priority list, because, God forbid there are dirty dishes in the sink.

This is where you choose to explore.

This is where you take time to yourself to recharge your batteries, because taking care of you, means you are able to take care of everyone else.

This is where you volunteer, or give something somehow to someone.

This is where you make life better.

This is where you invest in yourself and those around you. This is where you ENJOY YOUR LIFE…that’s the magic.

How many times have you gone from rest, to the list….and never even stuck your toe into the areas where the magic happens? How many days have we traded what could have been special for the mundane? How many times have we traded chores over playing with our children?

We get up from rest, go work our 8 hour day, and as a “reward” for working all day we lay on the couch, eating ice cream, and binge watch whatever show has our attention for the moment?

You, my sweet friend  are worth so much more. So, soooooo much more. You deserve, not only to stick your toe in the areas where magic is made, but to dive in head first and ENJOY this life you are given. Enjoy the season your in. You deserve to be able to feed your soul everyday.

This is not about shaming you to put more on you already full plate, it is the make you reevaluate what is on your plate.

Be careful how you spend your time, for that is what our lives are made of.

-Rachel Ray

Can I just be real?

Life is hard.

Being a parent is hard.

Holding down and being good at your job is hard.

Trying to even sort of eat right is hard.

Getting enough sleep is hard.

Keeping the pantry stocked at all times is hard.

Maintaining friendships is hard.

Keeping a marriage thriving is hard.

Keeping clean clothes for all the people living under your roof is hard.

Leaning something new is hard.

Getting out of the box of our own comfort zone is hard.

Taking risks is hard.

Becoming a better person is hard.

Getting out of bed is hard.

Exercising is hard.

Being a good person is hard.

I. GET. IT! Doing anything worth while is hard and a struggle, and a thousand times you will have the chance to give up. A thousand times the voice in your head will want you to quit, and a thousand times you will have to tell it no.

The most successful people I know are not geniuses and were not handed everything they have. Successful people work for it. But not only have they worked for it, they  continually take an inventory of what they are doing and how well they are doing it. Is doing this getting me to where I am trying to go? Is there a more effective way to do this? Is this making me better? Am I still progressing/growing? They don’t continue to do the same things repeatedly just because that is what they have always done. The smallest adjustments can have a magnitude of results.

Here’s a truth bomb:

You are strong.

You do have what it takes.

You are up to the tasks at hand.

You are smart and creative.

You can figure it out.

You have a purpose to fulfill that only you can do.

You are talented and can’t be held back by anyone but yourself.

You are responsible for your happiness.

You can choose to have a good day regardless of what happens.

You are able of making decisions to push you further down the road you want to travel on.

You are have the ability to crush your goals.

You can have a happy heart.

You can wear a smile.

Why is it so easy to believe the list at the beginning of this blog to be truth, when the second list is just as rock solid? You, my sweet friend, are capable of so much.

Choose on purpose to be great today. Choose to put your full weight behind whatever your hands find to do. Do it to the best of your ability. Take an inventory of your actions and make adjustments as necessary. Work at becoming better at every little thing in life, even stocking the pantry. You got this…..prove it to yourself. You are worth your own effort.

 

-Rachel Ray

 

 

 

 

The Dangling Carrot…

The ole proverbial dangling carrot..

The premise of working toward something and being able to see it, but the further you progress, the prize is that much more further ahead than you.  Never being able to grab hold of what you are working so hard to get.

I have seen God this way in my life. I saw Him as an “if-then” God. IF I pray enough, THEN He will answer my prayer. IF I believe just enough, THEN He will be faithful to His promises. IF I do enough good for others, THEN He will find it in His heart to bless me.

Ever been there? Begging and pleading with God so that you can see His hand move in your life. Feeling the need to tug at our Father’s coat tail to get His attention, because we feel He is unaware we are in need.

Those feelings are absolutely a lie… but here’s the truth:

  • 2 Chronicles 16:9 – For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.

No need to get His attention, you fully have His.

  • Hebrews 13:5 – …. I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

He’s always with us.

  • 2 Timothy 2:13  – If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

Regardless of me or my behavior, He is faithful.

  • Numbers 23:19  – God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

You can take His promises to the bank.

Self focused faith will forever and always come up short. If you are trying to pay the “if-then” game, you will always come out the loser.  There will always be a feeling of needing to be more, be better, to pull on His coat tail. Like chasing after a carrot that you can never catch, faith in our own hands in unattainable.

God focused faith works automatically. Seeing Him as faithful,  seeing how He cannot fail, seeing how He is always there, seeing how He has a plan to provide for us, and seeing that none of it hinges on you…makes your faith work automatically. You can’t keep faith from building and doing it’s work when it is on the foundation of the one who is forever faithful to us.

  • Hebrews 12:2 – Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…

He provides our faith, and it works like a charm, as long as we let Him be the finisher of it and not try to take that task on ourselves.

 

-Rachel Ray

 

 

I bring nothing to the Table…

I remember going to Sunday School as a little girl. Since my Father has been in ministry for my entire exitance,  church was a pretty big deal at my house. I would be all dolled up in a frilly dress, my lacey socks and paten leather shoes, and had probably slept in sponge rollers the night before so my long locks would look the part as well. I remember learning all the stories in the bible, about all the heroes and about the ones who failed God. I remember singing catchy little songs that I still, to this day, find myself humming in my head. I remember making crafts and pouring out my heart in the Mother’s Day and Father’s Day card I had made from a piece of construction paper folded in half.

And….I remember them taking up an offering. Since church and all it’s parts were ingrained in me so deeply, I didn’t want to miss out on a single part of the service.  My parents would so graciously provide me with an offering so that I would have something to give. I had not worked for this money or earned it in any way. I wasn’t asking for this money to buy the latest toy or candy for myself, I wanted to have something to give, even give as a form of worship, and my parents always provided without hesitation.

My Sunday School memories got to flooding my mind the other day and got me thinking, I really don’t bring anything to the table when it comes to God. Just follow my sometimes crazy train of thought here….

No matter what position we try to get in life, one question we are always faced with is, “what do you bring to the table?” Trying to get into college, well … show us your grades, where you have been a part of a community, and in short how can you benefit this college if we accept you. Job Interview? The MAIN question is “what do you bring to the table?” If we decide to pay you salary, what will we get out of you in return. As my husband says, “is the juice worth the squeeze?” Meaning is the effort of hiring you and training you going to be worth the work you produce. We even face this question when getting into a relationship with someone. We want to know if our partners are going to contribute to the relationship in positive ways. We want to know they will put forth effort, right?

So being faced with this question so much in my life, I brought that same question along when in my relationship with God. What can I do for you? What do I have to offer that would be beneficial to you and make you want to love me? I began to search for something worthwhile, something of value, something He would love, and ….. I came up empty handed. Actually not only empty handed, the things I did find was things He was certain to turn His nose up at. I found guilt, shame, bitterness, anger, rebellion, disappointment, failure, and my list here could go on and on. You get my point, I felt like I needed to keep up my end of the relationship, and had nothing to offer.

Thing is when we come to God, we are NEVER asked, “what do you bring to the table?” Matter of fact it is quite the opposite. He begins showing you what He will give to you. He will make trades with you such as for your bitterness, He can give you compassion. For your anger, He can give you love. For your guilt and shame, He can give you a place of standing in full righteousness. Truth is, there is nothing good that I currently possess in my life that He hasn’t given me. I have known some levels of success, I have friends and family that love and care for me, and I have goodness in my heart…..and every bit of that is because of Him. EVERY SINGLE THING. The condition of my heart and the satisfaction in my soul all stim from a God that is excited to give good things to His children.

One step further, He never gives without wanting a portion of that gift to be given away to someone else. I’ve been shown grace when I deserved His wrath. I’ve been given love when there was nothing about me lovable. I have been treated like a child that was loved and cared for when I was acting in rebellion. In case you didn’t know already, God is by far the coolest person you will ever get to meet.

Just like the loose change I was given in a small backwoods church to place into the offering pan as it made it’s way past me, I’ve been given lots of gifts from my Heavenly Father that should be shared as well. I didn’t earn them or work for them in any way, they were given freely to me, and should be freely given to others. I know it is not easy so give grace to someone who does not deserve it, but God does it over and over again. I know forgiving is almost impossible when someone has hurt you or abandoned you, but God does it over and over again. Not easy to love the unlovable, but that is our Savior’s specialty.

Don’t worry about what you bring to God’s table, the feast has already been prepared and He has a place set aside just for you. When you leave the table so full that you can barely breath, just make sure to make a to-go plate and give it to someone on your way home.

Rachel Ray

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ugly Part of Progress

You know what makes us happy? Progress. Looking back where we were and seeing just how far we have come. Reaching that final destination of a goal, getting to say you made it,  you did it, you accomplished it…..well, that sure does feel good. No matter if that is passing a test, crushing some sales goal, being a better parent, loving your spouse on purpose, or learning something new. We like the feeling of rising to the challenge.

Oh there is joy and excitement, and anxiousness at the beginning, when plans are being made, when you think of all the possibilities that could/might happen. The wheels in your head going 100 miles per hour wondering, dreaming. The butterflies in your stomach as you begin to take a step or two toward a goal and you are so happy to be going for it. The beginning….well it is fun and maybe a little nerve-wrecking, but it’s anything but boring.

However there is an ugly part of progress…..the middle. The in between time of starting and finishing. It’s the plans of a daily workout routine and heathy meal preps that, you know, about 2 weeks in when the bed feels better than the gym equipment and M&M’s are better than broccoli. It’s a man’s plan to grow a beard and a couple weeks in you really can’t tell if he is indeed growing a beard or if he is just homeless. It’s wanting to further your education, but class after class and test after test you question if it is really going to be worth it.  It’s stepping out in faith on an instruction from God, then questioning if that is really what He said to begin with. It is starting strong, but wondering if you have what it takes to see this to the end. It’s seeing a little bit of progress and wondering if that is enough, can I just stop here?

The middle where the new has worn off and there is still a lot of work ahead to do. The middle where you diligence and discipline have to take hold to keep you on track. The middle where if you stopped now, people would understand that you tried, and that it was hard, and would completely understand if you stopped. The middle were the mundane of the routines and the challenges progress brings, tests your strengths, your character, and your determination. It’s the middle that no one really sees.

It’s attending a college graduation ceremony, but not seeing the times these students stayed up till 3 am, not partying, but studying, cramming for exams.

It’s going to a baby shower, but not seeing the years the couple tired to get pregnant and the countless tears shed after each disappointing month.

It’s seeing someone succeed financially, but not seeing the blood, sweat, and tears, the time away from their families and the sacrifices they have made and have poured into their business to make it what it is.

It’s seeing someone with a very close relationship with God, but not seeing the times they questioned Him, or was too afraid to believe in something bigger than themselves.

It’s hearing of testimony’s at church where they share the problem and how God provided the answer, but skip right over the middle where their faith was tested and they didn’t know when the answer was going to arrive, or if it would.

It’s the middle. Where your heart has to cling to the dream it wants to see happen. Where your mind has to stay focused on the goal ahead. Where your soul has to hold tight to every shred of faith is has.

BUT the middle is where we grow, where we see what we are made of, where we prove to ourselves we can do exactly what we set out to do. It’s where we grow closer to our God and find a strength in Him that we can use as our own. It’s where our discipline develops and character is created. It’s where we learn not everything we want comes easy, but that doesn’t have to keep it from coming.

As the good book says, let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Galatians 6:9

 

 

 

 

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