“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) This is one of my favorite verses for a new year. Actually, it’s a verse, a life-goal, a mental-health axiom, and a prayer, all in one enchilada! Lemme break it down…
*For I KNOW*
God knows. God knows already what 2018 has for you and me. The bible teaches that he’s recorded our days before our very first day. So if God KNOWS what 2018 holds, I release myself from being a predictor of it. I don’t need a horoscope, an appointment, a dream-weaver, or a fortuneteller. I have everything I need in God KNOWING and I don’t have to pay him. Rather, HE paid his life for me. He made me, He knows me, I trust Him.
*They ARE Plans For GOOD*
Does this mean that in 2018 bad things can happen? Yep. And if I were a betting man, I’d say bad things probably will. But with God, and this promise, bad can happen but GOOD can come from it. How? By sticking with God. When we stick with God, God can bring good from bad. How can He do that? He’s God, and He is love and that is what love does. God already wrote my story. Until my story ends, it doesn’t mean I won’t have bad chapters, it just means bad chapters will eventually end in good results. God is good, and if we are with God, we are held in His goodness.
I hope this encourage you as you head into your new year – God has good plans in store!
Recently, I read about the time Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. I learned something great about Jesus, and not-so-great about myself. Jesus often loved, solo. When he knelt down to do the lowly, the dirty, he often did so by himself. He didn’t have to. He chose to. Love is a choice. Jesus could have asked one of his disciples to wash his feet. He could have asked the disciples to help him wash their feet. But He was secure enough to love, solo. I wonder if I’ve missed opportunities to love because I didn’t have the security to love, solo? It’s human nature to run in packs. Girls don’t even go to the bathroom, solo. But Jesus did something else, solo. He didn’t have anyone take his place, and He didn’t ask others to join him. He suffered and died on a cross, solo. I think some of the most loving acts are loving when no one else will. What do we get out of it? Sometimes, nothing. A few years ago, my husband didn’t align with a group when they casted me aside. It cost Raul a lot to love me, solo. Love does that. The bible says “Greater love has no MAN (not cliques, entourages, small groups, squads or teams) than this, than he lay down his life for a friend.” Sometimes, love means going solo. But know this, you’re never more like Jesus than when you do.
I don’t know how I remember this, but when we lived in Bowling Green, Ohio, I was eight years old when I went to Vacation Bible School at Plain Congregational Church. That summer, I learned an acronym I haven’t forgotten 30+ years later: J.O.Y. – (J)esus, first; (O)thers, second; (Y)ou, last. I always took it to mean, “back of the line, back of the bus, back of the room, back of the class, if you wanna chance at being happy.” Lately, after hearing “Joy to the World,” on my Christmas playlist, I’ve been thinking about that acronym. Yes, Jesus comes first. It’s biblical. As a matter of fact, it’s so biblical it’s in the Top Ten of all times, eternally holding first place: “You shall have no other gods before me.” As a matter of fact, the second is biblical too: “regard others as more important than yourselves.” I am a visual learner and love illustrations, metaphors, parallels and props (like Jesus, with figs, sticks, sheep). Instead of thinking of this acronym as some exclusive natural order where only the doormats, spineless, weak or boneless have a chance for joy, I’ve had a radical change in visual! Several years ago, my friends dared me to stick my face in a chocolate fountain. I did. Selfishly benefiting from all the sugary goodness in my (literal) face. Yea. And that’s my new visual for J.O.Y. You see, God pours amazing stuff from the tippy-top of His throne in Heaven, onto His Son Jesus, first. Then, trickling to the second tier for everyone I serve and put before me. But then? It trickles to the bottom tier–the biggest tier–containing, absorbing, even overflowing with this amazing goodness of his glory. So is it good to put Jesus first and others second and us last? It depends on how we see it. But this week, seeing it this way truly is bringing joy to the world…and me. I hope this encourages someone.
‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through my town, as the stockings went up, the sun came down. The trees were getting trimmed, the smell of pine near. It was Christmas now, was Thanksgiving even here? My kids sensed something fun in the air Yet I struggled with something that didn’t seem fair. In the midst of shopping, snow and fun, I wondered what it was like for a hurting kind of one. Ole’ St. Nick had a better view of my busy, boomin’ town. From the Pole, he saw every face I was around. He saw a single gal at Starbucks all alone. A child at our mall, avoiding his home. The moon was rising, night came on fast, But from the Pole, he could still see thru glass. “That family, in the gated home, you think has it all? “Not true. Thru their windows there is only a wall.” “The bagger at the store? Today with no reply?” “Not one person spoke to him, not even a sigh.” “And on the expressway with a line of cars” “Was a man in a tollbooth, a soul with a scar.” “And at the intersections of those major traffic lights? “They are homeless with hearts, not beggars of plight.” So may I offer a suggestion with this festive affair? Hoping my message conveys because I care. If there’s a thing inside, a holiday ache, Stop for a moment, cause it’s a nudge…take a break. My view’s the North Pole, but God’s view is MORE precise. Loving by what He sees, because He doesn’t have to think twice. This season, He implores, “Please help from where you are.” At Starbucks, the grocery store, when you’re in your car. Sure, at Christmas, as God, I could reach down & help nearby. But I’d like to partner with you, if you’d give it a try?” “Let’s slow down and make the season a journey. You’re made in my image, with love there’s no hurry. When in a store parking lot, take your cart to the man, Tell him thanks and go ahead, why not, smile, shake his hand. Dining at the Pancake house, ask your server for more–More about her life, and what her future has in store. I think you get the idea, tis the season, to have Christmas and to give without reason. But you know the last line; don’t forget this word, alright? It’s: Merry Christmas to ALL …because all deserve a good night.
Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year! But this time of year can also yield bouts of depression, or “blues” for people. I’ve had the Christmas blues before; and it’s not that I wasn’t thankful for Christmas. Rather, I had thankfulness and sadness at the same time. If you are having the blues, here are three things I’ve done. I am not a professional, just someone on a journey, sharing my story.
1️⃣ Consider Christian counseling in December. If you go once a week, that equates to four sessions. It’s probably the best Christmas gift you could give yourself because you are giving yourself the gift of release and peace. Don’t have the resources this time of year? Then when asked what you want for Christmas, tell them a 4-pack counseling session. If it’ll bring joy to you, it’ll bring joy to them to give it.
2️⃣ Go to Church. One of the hardest things to see is someone who tells me that can’t go to church because they’re sad. This can not be! The FIRST place we should run to in our sadness is God’s hospital. There is a supernatural, healing, holistic experience awaiting you that ONLY God can offer. Yes you will have to miserably drag yourself there, but I promise, you will leave better than you came.
3️⃣ Give. Give, give, give, give, give. Give old clothes to the homeless, give donations to your church, give time to the elderly, give free babysitting to a single mom, give volunteer hours. It’s true that it’s more blessed to give than to receive…I would also add…it’s more healing. It’s the ultimate paradox: giving away fills up. And that’s just what an “empty” soul needs–a fill-up. I hope this encourages someone today. May you know His peace.
Love is an interesting thing—it has more facets than we can count. One uncommon facet is loving people we only know in public, or who we only know on social media. [I preempt this by clarifying this post is OFF any kind of personal, proverbial soap-box.] Over the years, I’ve had a handful of bold people private-message me on Facebook with the intent to “vent.” Collectively, one assumption I could glean from these, is: they think I have it good. Maybe I do…to them at least. But in my private life and private prayers, I’m battling things and my loved ones are battling things that wouldn’t qualify as “having it good.” I don’t shun people who feel compelled to vent—it comes with the territory of the call. However, one lesson it’s taught me, is: who people are in public isn’t always indicative of what they’re dealing with in private. And Jesus would say, “love them.” Jesus exhorted us to love ourselves, our neighbors, our enemies. In my summation, that would mean loving people we know privately; and those we only know publicly (or on social media). I don’t know which one you fall into, but according to Jesus, it doesn’t matter. The ground is level at the cross and there are enough rooms in our Father’s House. And in the end, love wins. ❤️
Several years ago, I was in the kitchen making DJ a snack, when he struck up a conversation: “Mommy, I want to ask Jesus into my heart.”
“You do? Do you know what that means, DJ?”
“It means I’ll get to go to heaven.”
“It means that He will help me read and write.”
“Can you pray it with me, mommy?”
“DJ, do you know what Jesus did for you?”
“He helps me do everything.”
“Do you know what He did on the cross for you?”
“He died for all my sins.”
Then DJ hopped down, and with Raul, asked Jesus into his heart. When they were done, he came and whispered in my ear, “Now Jesus can speak to me.” That night, we didn’t know what we were doing. We didn’t have time to call a parenting hotline or Google, “How to pray with your kid.” But what I do know is Jesus makes himself known to all people, everywhere, all the time (see Ezekiel 38:23, Romans 1:19). For five years and 12 days, He had been making himself known to DJ. And that night, DJ chose to make himself known to Him. I hope you know Him too. ❤️
This question (today’s title) hit me like a Redline Energy Shot. Recognizing I couldn’t get it out of my mind, I yielded to it and used it for today’s post. I hope it encourages someone. Many of us, go many places, many times a week, and “put on” a smile. I suppose an argument could be made that that is fake, but is it? If we were to weigh on scales the amount of times we should show up with a smile vs. show up with sorrow, I believe the scale would tip toward smile. But consider this: if I am a Christ-follower, a smile covering my sorrow isn’t fake, if it is Christ-like. A smile is contagious, so it is a powerful witness. A smile is visual proof that the joy of the Lord is my strength. A smile can turn my entire disposition strong, even if my soul is weak (a powerful rudder for the Heather-ship, says James 3:4-5). A smile is part of God’s creation for my face–He wanted us to have this facial option. Since God smiles upon me (“May the Lord smile on you,” Numbers 6:25) I should smile. But what about the hidden sorrow behind the smile? I’m gonna do what you might not expect: validate the sorrow. Sorrow is REAL! Psychologists (and even the bible) say some may even have a tinge of sorrow their entire life span. But take heart, we are in good company. The bible says Jesus was, “a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.” (Isaiah 53:3). You’re not fake if you have sorrow behind your smile. Maybe you’re just normal, real, and Christ-like. One caveat to the hidden sorrow, make sure you are not letting it go unattended. For sorrow, left to its own, can become unnecessary depression or hardened bitterness. Deal with your sorrow with Christian counseling (let me know if I can help you find one); and don’t doubt that you are still smiling.
When we choose solitude it is a good thing (Jesus himself chose time for solitude). But sometimes life will give us seasons of UNCHOSEN loneliness. During these, perhaps no one is texting you, “liking” your posts, including you in everything, pouring encouragement into your tank, or all of the above. It’s a big world and you feel like the smallest one in it. Jesus experienced this too. He hung by nails on a cross, separated from the world; and the bible tells us what he did in his final, loneliest moments: he cried to God and he talked to God. If all we depend on is the encouragement of the world–what will we do when the world isn’t there? In my former seasons of unchosen loneliness, I had no access to community. I had to learn to look within (not around) for encouragement. Seeking encouragement from within, I discovered there was a bounty of encouragement there. A “still, small voice” reminding me that I’m God’s royalty! His heir! His favorite Heather Michelle Funk Palacios! My soul whispered to my loneliness that my Master-Artist was still actively showcasing me, His masterpiece, to this world! Maybe others were finished with me, but if HE wasn’t finished with me–I wasn’t finished with me! I learned to encourage myself by His declarations over my life and His promises in His book. Today, if you are “unchosenly lonely,” I hope you seek encouragement from within. They say it’s lonely at the top–your Savior would know from being abandoned atop a cross. So He gets you! And right now, he’s ready to encourage you, from within.