Permission to Believe

He believed in God, who gives life to the dead and calls things into existence that do not exist. – Romans 4:17 (HCSB)

This verse is permission to believe without hesitation. This verse sums up what God is capable of doing. This verse is a command to have faith that is not restricted by science, by reason, by man, by our tiny human minds that don’t understand. This verse is empowering and comforting all in one – empowering because we have access to this God who brings death to life and creates something from nothing, comforting because this God is on our side. Why would we fear anything of this world and beyond it when this God is our God? Be encouraged by this verse today – what is it that you desperately need? What miracle are you asking for? What trial are you facing? I pray that your faith will rise as a result of reading this verse and that it will no longer be restricted by things so much smaller than our God.

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Permission to Believe

Psalm 119 – Lying in the Dust

I lie in the dust; revive me by Your word. – Psalm 119: 25 (NLT)

I weep with sorrow; encourage me by Your word. – Psalm 119:28 (NLT)

Some days kick us down, and we don’t feel that we have the strength to get back up. We all have those days. You know, the ones where everything seems to go wrong and our hearts are discouraged because we’re not getting anywhere. We’re battling but not gaining any victories. We don’t feel like our faith is rising or our strength is renewed – if we were to be honest, we’d say that we were ‘lying in the dust’. Yesterday we spoke about how obeying God’s word can bring us joy and purity of heart but you and I both know that there are times when we don’t feel joy. God uses His word to encourage us and to build us back up – to pick through the rubble of our circumstances and grant us renewed strength and renewed faith. This is why it is so vital that we keep His word hidden in our hearts (Psalm 119:11) and that we know where to look when we need that kind of encouragement. Here are some of my favorite verses that I have written down in several different places for when I’m ‘lying in the dust’:

If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, He’ll help you catch your breath. – Psalm 34:18 (MSG)

‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you. – Isaiah 54:10 (NIV)

And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. – 1 John 4:16 (HCSB)

Forget the former things, don’t dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! – Isaiah 43:18-19a (NLT)

They will fight you, but they will fail. For I am with you, and I will take care of you. I, the Lord, have spoken! – Jeremiah 1:19 (NLT)

Psalm 119 – Lying in the Dust

Baby Must-Have – Sleep Sacks!

Now that Baby E is 12 weeks old, I am trying to get her used to sleeping in her crib for nap time so that when we decide to transition her into her nursery (which will be a while, because it ‘s on the other side of the house) she will already be familiar with her surroundings. Along with that, I am on a mission to get her used to sleep sacks versus blankets. So far she has been sleeping in her Fisher Price Newborn Rock n Play Sleeper (see my review of it and other newborn sleeping must-haves here) with blankets on her. Since she’s so near to my bedside I’ve not been worried about her getting smothered. However, when she’s far away from me in her nursery, I just don’t feel comfortable covering her up with blankets and not being able to just look over and check on her. The solution: sleep sacks! We just started using these last week when I bought some second hand at a local consignment event, Duck Duck Goose. She absolutely loves them! We only use them at night (another thing that she can associate with bedtime when we’re winding down) and I love that she can’t kick them off so her little toes don’t get cold! She wears a long sleeved onesie underneath. Honestly, I kind of wish I had a sleep sack too!

 

Baby Must-Have – Sleep Sacks!

Spinach Stuffed Shells

I found this recipe on Amazing Pinterest World. Chris and I  really enjoyed this, even though I am not a fan of ricotta cheese (it’s a texture thing) and we had loads left over for lunch the next day!

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24 Jumbo pasta shells

15oz container of ricotta cheese

2 cups shredded mozzarella (I actually just bought a bag of pre-shredded italian cheeses which included mozzarella and parmesan)

1/2 cup shredded parmesan

10oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (took me forever to find this as I only ever buy fresh spinach!)

1 large egg, lightly beaten

salt and pepper

1 tsp Italian seasoning

pinch of ground nutmeg

26oz jar of spaghetti sauce

– Preheat oven to 375degrees F. Grease a 9X13in baking dish. Cook pasta according to the directions on the box, drain and set aside to cool. While pasta is cooking, mix ricotta, 1 cup of the mozzarella, the parmesan, spinach, egg, s&p, Italian seasoning and nutmeg. Spread 3/4 cup spaghetti sauce over the bottom of the dish. 

Stuff your shells with the cheese/spinach mixture and arrange them in the dish. Spoon the rest of the spaghetti sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 10 more minutes, allowing the cheese to brown and bubble. Yummy!!!

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Spinach Stuffed Shells

Clinging to a Broken Spirit

“I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. You will know that I am Yahweh your God, who has delivered you from the forced labor of the Egyptians. I will bring you to the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and I will give it to you as a possession. I am Yahweh.” Moses told this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their broken spirit and hard labor. – Exodus 6:7-9 (HCSB)

I think that this passage of scripture is absolutely fascinating. Here are a group of people that are being told the promise of blessing beyond their wildest dreams, but they do not listen. Why don’t they listen? Verse 9 says because of their broken spirit and hard labor. The main thing I want to focus on is a broken spirit. How many times has your spirit felt so broken that although those around you may have encouraged you to read the Bible and the promises of God, you just didn’t want to? I’ll be honest, there are times when I flat out don’t want to listen, I don’t want to read the word because my spirit is so broken and I’m frustrated. Perhaps when your spirit is broken you don’t feel worthy to come to God in prayer and believe His promises in the word. Maybe you have felt like it’s all your fault and so to ask for help would be expecting something you don’t deserve. When our spirits are broken and we allow that to overtake our thinking, our vision can only stretch so far. These promises were supposed to bring joy and comfort to the Israelites but their vision was blurred because they were not willing to sacrifice their brokenness to the Lord. Psalm 51:17 says, “The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart”. How beautiful is that verse? It means that God can use everything – even the most broken spirit, despite what you’ve done or what’s been done to you. In fact, it goes so far as to say that a broken spirit is pleasing to God! He delights in our vulnerability before Him because that is when we humbly admit that we can’t do life on our own and we desperately need Him to break through. He wants us to want Him. As humans we have a tendency to hold onto what is holding us back. Are you holding onto bitterness, unforgiveness, a broken spirit, or anything else that is stopping you from hearing and believing the promises of God? If so, don’t hesitate any longer to sacrifice that to the Lord! He delights when we are vulnerable before Him and He longs to pour out His promises on us, if only we would give up what we cling so tightly to.

Clinging to a Broken Spirit

CrockPot 3-Bean Turkey Chili

I’m super excited about this recipe and I feel like it’s probably going to become a staple for our family during the fall and winter! I found it on www.skinnytaste.com and made a couple changes of my own too. The original recipe called for chickpeas, but my husband is not a fan so I substituted those for the Great Northern beans. I also forgot to buy chili powder so I mixed my own blend of cumin, paprika, salt & pepper, crushed coriander seeds and a dash of cinnamon. I like this recipe because turkey is much leaner than beef, and the beans make this chili packed with protein!

1 lb ground turkey breast

1 small onion, chopped

1 (28oz) can diced tomatoes

1 (16oz) can tomato sauce

1 (4.5oz) can diced green chilies, drained

1 (15oz) can Great Northern beans, undrained

1 (15oz) can kidney beans, undrained

1 (15oz) can black beans, undrained

2 tbsp chili powder

For the topping: fresh cilantro, shredded cheddar cheese (can also add sliced avocado, sour cream, chopped red onion)

– Brown the turkey in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Drain the fat (although I do like to leave just a tiny bit in for flavor), throw that in the CrockPot with the chopped onion. Add the beans, chilies, tomatoes, chili powder and mix well. Cook on high for 6-8 hours, or I set mine on low for 8 hours the night before, and then switched the setting to warm from when I woke up in the early morning until lunchtime.

I served ours with fresh bread from my beloved bread machine – delicious!

CrockPot 3-Bean Turkey Chili

Pursuing the Presence of the Lord

Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. – Exodus 33:15 (NIV)

I don’t want to make a single move if the presence of God does not go with me. I want to pursue His presence with all that I have, relentlessly. I cannot, and will not, move without knowing that He is with me. As I’m on this pursuit of His presence, I am realizing that it isn’t a matter of begging God to show up – He is already here! It is rather a ‘me’ thing. I need to become more aware of His presence in every moment of my life. I need to cultivate that awareness in my spirit so I don’t forget that I am never alone and that I have access to Him at all times. Genesis 28:16 says ‘Jacob woke from his sleep. He said, “God is in this place – truly. And I didn’t even know it!”. It is possible to ‘miss’ God sometimes but He promises that He is there.

Can anyone hide from me? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?” asks the LORD. – Jeremiah 23:24 (NLT)

It’s easy in the midst of everything we’re going through to forget that He’s with us, always. As James 4:8 so beautifully promises us, when we draw near to God He will draw near to us. He’s always accessible and always present, but this relationship is a two-way street – we must draw near to Him in order to get that deeper relationship. Our greatest desire, our only desire should be to dwell in the presence of the Lord, forever.

One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple. – Psalm 27:4 (NIV)

Psalm 27:8 goes on to say that the psalmist’s heart tells him to “Seek His face!”. I want my heart to be so in tune with that desire for His presence that in times when my brain forgets how close He is, my heart commands me to seek His face.

So how do we train ourselves to be more aware of His presence in our lives?

We must become familiar with the attributes of God and the ways in which He works for the good of those who love Him. God is so multi-faceted, we will never get to the end of Him – there will always be more to discover and more to love. I find that the more I learn about the nature of God and all that He’s done for me, the deeper I love Him and the more I praise Him. When we’re in that place of knowing His characteristics in our hearts we can become more aware of the ways in which He is working in our lives and more aware of His presence. If you believe that the Bible is God-breathed and true in its entirety, then you must scour the pages for more of Him. The more you learn about Him, the more you will love Him and the more you love Him the deeper your relationship with Him.

Colossians 3:1-2 says that because we have been raised with Christ, we must set our hearts on things above and not on earthly things. Hand in hand with that, we must keep our eyes on the prize at the end of this crazy race called life. Our reward is in heaven and our hope on earth is the promise of eternal life with Him where we won’t have any of the distractions and we’ll be in His physical presence – a promise that is too great for me to even imagine. If we bear these promises in mind during our struggles and even the good times, we’re drawing near to Him.

Another practical way to pursue His presence everyday is to recognize that EVERY good thing comes from God (James 1:17) and to take a second to thank Him. When I look into my baby’s eyes, I thank Him. When my husband texts me to say that he loves me, I thank the Lord. When the special parking space for mothers with children is free at the grocery store and I can park right outside the doors, I thank Him. It doesn’t matter what it is. If it’s good it came from God and He deserves every ‘thank you’ that we have to offer plus more. Recognizing that God is working for us every second of every day forces our souls to draw near to Him. I don’t know about you, but when I thank the Lord for something, no matter how small, a beautiful peace settles on me and I immediately feel Him near.

This pursuit of His presence is something that we’re told to do in the word and it’s something that will enrich your life ten-fold. Will you pursue His presence?

Pursuing the Presence of the Lord