Stronger

New photo by Lauren Varney / Google Photos

I took this picture a few weeks ago, after dragging myself outside to tend to my tomato plants.  It was truly a gift, a meaningful gift.  You will understand why as you read this post.

I’m coming out of a rough summer.  Sickness joined forces with sadness, frustration, disappointment and discouragement and they got the best of me.  Recently the clouds began to lift and, for the first time in a while, I began to feel more like myself.

In the midst of all of this, I was drawn to the pocket in my prayer binder that I use to save meaningful papers.  I pulled one out and began to read it.  It was a photocopy of a church bulletin that a good friend gave to me when we lived in Vermont.  On this page, Father Tom, who I have never met, wrote something he titled, “Be Proactive”.   I began to read it again.  I am amazed at God’s timing.  This time, it was more than a meaningful devotion shared with my by a friend.  It was a personal letter of wisdom and encouragement that came directly from God, through Father Tom, at exactly the time that I needed it.

Here is what he wrote, word for word:

“Every day in our daily life there is a lot of problems and fear along with physical and mental distress.  We are many times reactive to the problems in life.  We start to accuse and curse everything and everybody, even God.  But Jesus calls us to be proactive.  I grew up on my father’s farm where we grow pepper and tea.  One day as I was helping my father to collect pepper, I saw a butterfly cocoon hanging on a twig.  I clipped the cocoon with the twig and took it home.  I kept watching it and after a few days I saw some movement in the cocoon but the butterfly did not emerge.  The next day I saw some more movement but the butterfly did not come out.  And the third day the same thing but the butterfly still did not come out.  I decided to to help the butterfly to get out of the cocoon.  I took a knife and slip the cocoon.  The butterfly crawled out.  I was surprised it didn’t have fully developed wings and couldn’t fly.  So I asked my father why the butterfly could not fly.  My father explained, “God arranged it in such a way that a caterpillar must struggle to get out of the cocoon.  It is the struggle that causes them to develop and that is how they get their strength and beauty but now you have destroyed its life by helping it.”  Similar things happen with us. God allows us to struggle in our lives.  It is His way to help us grow strong.  God arranges things so that at certain points in our life both spiritual and physical, we must struggle. That does not mean He is not with us, he is with us but still we have to struggle to be better Disciples of Christ.  So let us not try to run away from the struggles we may have in our life or react to it but take it with a proactive mind and prove what we are.  God watches us close so that He will never let us fail, for He knows that everything has a reason.  Like the familiar poem says, “For every pain we must bear, for every burden, every care, there is a reason.  For every grief that bows the head, for every teardrop that is shed, there is a reason.  For every hurt, for every plight, for every lonely pain racked night, there is a reason.  But if we trust God as we should it will turn out for our good.  He knows the reason.”  God wants us to be like the lovely butterfly, He wants us to fully develop into His own beautiful image accepting and facing our daily struggles.”

-Fr. Tom (St Mary Star of the Sea, Newport, Vermont, 2014)

Thank you, Father Tom, for your words of wisdom.  I’m passing on your blessing in hopes that it will encourage someone else in the midst of their struggles.

I’d also like to share a song that goes along beautifully with what Father Tom shared.  Take encouragement from the words of this song if you are currently in the midst of struggle and pain, and especially these words:

“When the waves are taking you under, hold on just a little bit longer.  He knows that this is gonna make you stronger.”

“Stronger” by Mandisa

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3TPq8ZSvTk

Blessings,

Lauren

 

Teach Me to Love

The Greatest Thing in the World

As Easter approaches I wanted to share a sermon that I stumbled upon last year around this time and decided to read again this year as I prepare my heart for Easter. In it, Ray Stedman says, “But it seems to me that the true glory of this Easter message, the greatest message that this day can have for us, is to remind us that in the risen Lord Jesus we have an endless supply of power to love.  That is what Easter is all about–the fact that we have an ability to love.  Love is the greatest need of the world today.”  If you click on the link below, you will be given the option to read it or listen to it.  Even if you read it over a few days, I believe that it is well worth your time.

https://www.raystedman.org/new-testament/romans/the-night-is-nearly-over

I’ve been thinking a lot about agape love. I want to love well and love like God, whose love never fails.  How can I do that? So often I fall short.  I am right there with Ray Stedman when he says, “I am amazed to see how many times in my own life I pass over the opportunity to love.”  David Jeremiah addresses this question in his current radio series, “The Power of Love,” based on 1 Corinthians 13.

http://www.davidjeremiah.org/site/radio_archives.aspx

In his message on the topic of love’s power over time, he says this:

“Love never fails because God never fails and God is love.  Love never fails because Christ never fails and Christ is love.  But here’s where it comes down to all of us.  How can our love never fail.  Can I get in on this? I can’t be God and I can’t be Christ. How can my love have the quality of eternal value.  How can my love not quit when human love would give up?  Well, let me explain it to you, and here’s the truth: Love never fails when it is God’s love that is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.  You see, my human love isn’t good enough to qualify under the Corinthians 13 passage.  I’ll fall short.  Have you found that?…How in the world do I do all of this?  How do I put all of this to practice?…Well, you can’t and let me just tell you right now that if what you are doing is listening to what I’m saying about God’s perfect love and then going home and trying to figure out a way to do it in the flesh, you’re dead.  It’s not going to happen.  Your love will fail…Human love is failing over and over again…and the love that should be God’s love shed abroad in our hearts is being substituted with what the world has to offer and that love will always fail somewhere…  But when you have God’s love shed abroad in your hearts it can have the quality that is given here (love never fails)…  Christian love is that which God gives to us when we come to him ask for it.  How can we be kind to those that are unkind to us? Humanly we can’t.  But if you have God’s love in you he will give you the strength to love those people in his love even though humanly you could not do that.”

Lord, thank you for loving me so much that you sent your son to die on the cross, for my salvation.  I want to experience your love, though it is too great to understand fully. I want to love like you.  Fill me with your love and control me with your Holy Spirit so that my love can be unfailing.  Remind me of your presence all throughout the day. May I look to your power to supply love when my human ability to love falls short.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Ephesians 3:16-19 (NLT) I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.  Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him.  Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.  Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV) Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Below, enjoy a beautiful song by Unspoken, called “Follow Through.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tlvi3bpGF4Y

Here’s an older classic by Hillsong called, “The Power of Your Love.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9_0jiO5ZRM

Blessings,

Lauren

Worry Through the Eyes of my Child

Haven and Darren Mulligan from the band, We Are Messengers.

A few weeks ago my 11 year old daughter, Haven, and I were talking about this blog and she asked if I could post something that she wrote.  When I asked her if she had anything in mind, she told me that she wanted to share what she has written about worry.  So, here it is, a post from my beautiful, real, courageous daughter, on a topic that is close to the hearts of so many children and adults.

 

My Worry by Haven

I struggle with worry.  When you worry a lot it’s hard to look at yourself and say, “You’re worth it, you’re loved and your beautiful.”  It’s easier to say, You’re stupid, you are dumb, you are ugly.”  Sometimes I feel as if I need to give up on myself.

I’ve worried ever since I was six or seven.  It’s hard to manage all the negative thoughts in your head.  My mom and dad have been the parents to have through this situation.  My mom has always given me sayings and verses to memorize.  This is an example of a verse: I prayed to the Lord and he answered me he delivered me from all my fears (Psalm 34:4).  An example of a saying is: faith not fear, hope not worry. My dad also supports me in all of this because when I’m sad he makes me laugh or tickle me.  Both my parents comfort me in the night when I wake up in the middle of the night scared or with a big headache.  The reason I wake up with a big headache is because I get scared in the night and it overwhelms me with bad thoughts.   I’m always afraid of everything.  I can make something that is not dangerous, dangerous in my head.

I still have trouble with anxiety but my mom told me something to remember. She told me fear is…

False

Evidence

Appearing

Real

When my mom told me that it helped me a lot.

I went to a concert on November 14th, 2016.  It was awesome.  At the end me and my mom were going around to all the singers for autographs. Once we got Darren from We Are Messengers we asked him to sign a CD for a friend.  Right as we asked him he turned to me and said, “Let go of your worries and fears because you are God’s daughter and He made you beautiful.” We hadn’t told him that I struggle with worry.  It was just God sending a message to me through him. This helped me a lot because I feel as if God sent that message through him and that I am BEAUTIFUL!

I still struggle with worry but know I know God is with me and I am loved!!!!!!


A long time ago I was listening to David Jeremiah preach on the topic of fear.  He asked what the opposite of fear is.  Immediately I thought of the word trust.  His response was not trust but LOVE.  I’m going to have to paraphrase here the notes I wrote in my Bible that day because they had such an impact on my soul:  “Just as a child with a nightmare will run to someone that loves him/her, God wants us to throw ourselves into his arms because He is our father.  When we understand how much God loves us, when we grab hold of that truth, we will not be afraid.”  David Jeremiah spoke this truth to me.  Darren spoke this truth to Haven and she received it and responded to it in such a beautiful way.

My prayer for my daughter, and for anyone reading this that struggles with worry or anxiety, is this:  Lord, you tell us in your Word that there is no fear in love and that perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18).  Thank you for loving us with your perfect love.  Help us to not just have a head knowledge of that love, but to understand exactly what that means as we get to know you more and more.  Transform our hearts and her minds with your love.  Teach us to answer with prayer whenever worries come knocking on the door of our hearts.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

LIVE LIKE YOU’RE LOVED!  HIS LOVE HAS MADE YOU MORE THAN ENOUGH!!!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oP4WFN-i9BM

 

Little By Little

Lessons From the Pineapple and the Poppy

“Fruit bearing is a beautiful process.  First there are leaves; then the flowers; then the fruit.  God provides the water from beneath and the sun from above.  Day by day the branches develop; day by day the fruit is produced.  If you are looking for instant fruitfulness, you will be disappointed.  Fruit must be cultivated.”    – Warren Wiersbe in his book, “The 5 Secrets of Living”

I have a print of poppys that was given to me by my best friend after her mother died of breast cancer.  It has traveled from home to home with our family as one of my treasured possessions.  I treasure it because Peggy’s mom, Beverly, painted it and her mom has a special place in my heart.  When we moved to Vermont, we bought a home with flowers galore.  As spring arrived and plants and flowers started to bloom for the first time I was so thankful for the beautiful flowers that kept appearing, and also frustrated with the many weeds that grew alongside of them.  One of the struggles I have always had in weeding is knowing what to pull and what not to pull.  Someone once told me that if I don’t like it, just pull it. One day, as I worked in a small bed on the side of our deck I noticed a prickly ? weed.  Though unsightly, perhaps because it was ‘different’ to me, I left it alone and forgot about it.  I’m not really sure how much time passed after that, but it was long enough that when I walked past this same flower bed some time later I was shocked to find this, my one and only poppy.  The others never had a chance to bloom because I pulled them, thinking they were weeds.

img_3045

My other story is about a pineapple.  When we lived in Guam, my neighbor was a master gardener.  She told me that I could take the top of a pineapple, put it in the ground and grow a new pineapple.  I took her advice one day and there the pineapple sat in the dirt for what seemed like forever.  When our house flooded and we had to move I went back to my old garden to see what I wanted to transplant to our new home.  The pineapple wasn’t on my list, but my friend, Cindy, later took it and planted it at her house.  A loooong time later I was visiting her home and this is what she was so excited to show me:

feb2008-020

I guess my point is this: Growth takes time, and it takes patience. It is so easy to desire so much of ourselves and then to place expectations on ourselves to, in our own strength, make change happen overnight.  Whether our desire is to eat better, exercise consistently, stop raising our voices at our children, start praying every day, stop eating junk, or whatever change or desire is pressing on our hearts, if we are looking for instant fruit we will be disappointed.  Most of the time (there are exceptions, praise God!) change doesn’t happen overnight, but rather one step at a time and one decision at a time.  If we tell ourselves that we’re going to change overnight, and then we don’t, or if we don’t like the ugly in ourselves that is revealed to us along the way, we’ll be tempted to give up on ourselves and the growth process that WILL yield fruit in time.  There is beauty in change and beauty through change.  Rather than setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves, let’s expect great things from God in time as we grow in relationship with Him, ask Him to show us our next step and, in faith, take it.

I want to share a little known children’s song with an amazing message.  After you click the link, play song number 3, “Little By Little.”  It’s a message not just for our children and about our children, but for us and about us as well.

http://tidido.com/a35184373620293/al55d60ab913b521ef223e5de5/t55d60aba13b521ef223e5e0a

Phillippians 1:6  (NLT) And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.