Parallel Connections Between Self Care and Devotional Time

Welcome  I always believe that if we are truly listening, God will bring us the message we most need to hear on any given day.  I had an experience with this recently that has resulted in a new season of peace in my life.  I am so grateful for these messages and how God can offer us reassurance when we need it most.  Thank you for joining me today.

Food For Thought  Did you catch the title?  “Parallel Connections.”  You may be wondering how something can be parallel and connected at the same time.  Let me explain what I mean.  On any given day, I have several self-care, devotional, and prayer “projects” going.  I have a self-reflection journal, a gratitude journal, a devotional and prayer journal, a Bible journal, a personal Bible study, an online Bible study group, faith-based self-improvement books, and my Bible study work for the blog.  I don’t use every single one each day, but I usually spend time on several of these each day.  These activities are my parallel tools, all working side by side one another to help me grow in my spiritual walk and faith journey.  On occasion I may bring some of them together for cross-referencing, but often they are used individually so I can focus on one task or activity at a time.  But whether or not I intend to use them together, there are days or occasions when the connectedness between the activities becomes very clear.  Sometimes I get a message because of the connectedness between two of the parallel tools.  When this happens, I believe it is no coincidence.

One day last month I was working on my self-love challenge, reflecting on the following question:  What is the most loving thing I have ever done for myself?  Without hesitation, I wrote “Quitting my teaching job.”  Arriving at that decision was a complicated process of prayer, tears, stress, questions, long conversations with my husband, and some really ugly circumstances, so it wasn’t exactly a peaceful decision.  In the year since I quit teaching I have dealt with a variety of emotional fall-out, ranging from guilt to bitterness to sheer joy.  But it was still the most loving decision I could have made for myself, and honestly, for my family, too.  My health was deteriorating, with chronic leg and feet problems along with high blood pressure and daily migraines.  I also was getting to be a little bit unstable, mentally.  I was crying all the time, having huge melt-downs, and basically angry at the world.  I could literally say my job was making me suicidal, but that is a story I have to save for another day.  Quitting a job that was obviously making me so miserable should have brought a season of peace to my life.  But it has not been so easy.  During this journaling activity, to quickly and clearly identify this decision to be the most loving thing I’ve ever done for myself was a healing revelation.  Through this self-reflection I can finally accept that I wasn’t able to “change the world,” as I had envisioned in my early career.  But I’m also accepting the fact that I’m not a “failure” because I couldn’t impact the world in the ways that I had hoped.  I can also accept, finally, that life’s plans don’t always go the way we hope or dream, but again, this doesn’t mean I have failed at my life.  In this brief post it is hard for me to explain just how big of a process this has been for me.  Last year, I truly believed that I had failed at my life, I had failed God, and I had failed my family.  These feelings of failure can lead a person to some very dark places.  But in the past month, I feel as though true healing has begun.  Not just the outer portrayal of healing that I want the world to see, so that everyone knows I’m “okay,” but deep spiritual and emotional healing that will take more than just a year from which to recover.  As I closed my reflection time that day, I offered a prayer to God to bring me peace and calm and acceptance for this new season in my life and just trust that he is taking me on this journey for a reason.

Now, immediately following my journal time that day, I picked up my current devotional book, Where God Leads, I Will Follow by Jessie Fioritto (published by Barbour Publishing, Inc, excerpts used by permission.)  The title of the day’s devotional was “Follow Him.”  It opened with a Bible verse from 1 Peter 2:21, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”  Because of some spiritual experiences I have had in the past year, I was particularly drawn to the first few words, To this you were called.  The devotional was talking about setting goals and how we often stress to find God’s Will.  This line spoke to me, “We sometimes think that a single major decision, often a career, will set us on the path to God’s plan for our entire lives, but if we mess this one up, we’re doomed.”  Uh, yes!!!  I had felt for so long that God had called me to be a teacher, that I just couldn’t envision any other path for my life, so with all of the emotions I had felt in the last year, I did feel a little “doomed” because I had messed up His Calling for me and my life.  But then as I continued reading in my devotional, I found comfort from these words:

“God works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will (Ephesians 1:11).” (Just trust God’s Will and plan, Robin.)

“God’s objective in this world often isn’t the same as ours.” (God’s plan may look different for me now.)

“Our society is excessively materialistic, but the accumulation of wealth isn’t one of God’s priorities.” (Let go of the guilt about a “real job”, Robin!)

“So while we struggle for a bigger house and a shinier SUV, Jesus is calling, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’ (Matthew 4:19.”  (God keeps speaking to me about doing this faith and spiritual blog and book project.)

“He is calling us to introduce others to the love of Jesus.”  (I believe this may be my new calling God has given me; teaching, but in a different way.)

“Are you ready to surrender to His calling?  His goals might not match yours.  But the rewards far outweigh the cost.”  (Surrender to His calling, Robin.  Great things can come out of some really messy and ugly life circumstances, if I will just trust the process and plan.)

So, here it was, in a single day, two sources addressing my same pressing emotional issues.  God knew I needed the reflection time so that I could see that the decision to leave teaching was not only the right thing to do for happiness’ sake, but it really was an act of self-love and care for my physical, mental, and spiritual life.  Then, after reflecting on all the emotions I have had to process and deal with over the past year, God knew I needed some affirmations for my new stage of life.  The devotional was not long, definitely less than 500 words, but it spoke volumes to me when I needed it most.  And I can say I haven’t been the same since, but in a good way.  In the past month I have felt more peace than I have in quite some time.  I find myself stressing less about the future and where this new journey will take me, and my family.  I’m less concerned with the financial side of our new life, as God has proven to us again and again that He will provide to meet all our needs.  We are also more comfortable with the idea that we can actually live with less.  My focus has shifted from trying to be like other faith-based authors or ministry programs and striving for their level of success, realizing God may have another path in mind for me.  And I’m slowly beginning to stop questioning why God would want to use me in this line of work, knowing my story isn’t finished yet.

Today’s Prayer  My Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You so much for the messages You deliver to us in our times of need.  I know that You speak to us in many different ways, if we only become still and allow for Your words to reach us.  God, when I ask You to answer some of my questions or direct my paths, You find a way to let me know what I should do.  I am so grateful for this open communication You allow me to have with You, and I pray that I not take it for granted and use if for the good of service to You and to others.  Lord, I ask that You help me keep my eyes and ears open to the words You need me to read or hear.  God, there are so many people in our world seeking answers to their own questions and seeking peace for their own seasons of difficulty.  I ask that for anyone reading this today, if they have questions or struggles, that You will open up their eyes and ears as well, so they may see what it is You are trying to tell them.  If they are needing direction in their life or if they are simply needing comfort, let them see the message You have for them.  I pray these things through Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.

Today’s Scripture  

Today’s Recipe  If you have ever been looking for a cute and fast dessert, today is your lucky day!  I have a fast and easy, 3-ingredient treat you can make for just about any occasion, although these are decorated for spring.  Here’s what I’m thinking:  You can use the spring sprinkles like I used to be seasonal cookies, but they would also be adorable for a Mother’s Day Tea!  And, if you have a graduation party coming up, how about subbing sprinkles in the shades of the graduate’s school colors?  The possibilities are really endless here…fourth of July, summer picnics, fall, Christmas, Valentines, I could go on and on.  Here you go, Spring Sandwich Cookies.

This recipe makes 6 sandwich cookies, but you can adjust for the quantity you need based on your occasion.  Just remember you will need 2 cookies per sandwich and they don’t require very much chocolate filling to stick together.  You’ll need to have plenty of candy sprinkles on hand, in colors to match your holiday or event.

Easy Spring Sandwich Cookies

  • 12 pieces of frozen or refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough
  • 2 oz chocolate almond bark or candy coating
  • assorted sprinkles in spring colors, placed on a large plate

Bake cookies according to package directions and cool completely.  Melt almond bark or candy coating in microwave safe bowl, in 30 second intervals, until smooth.  Spoon some candy coating on the bottom of one cookie and then place second cookie against the coating, “gluing the two cookie bottoms together.  Squeeze slightly so that some of the coating oozes to the sides of the cookie.  Quickly roll the cookie through the sprinkles until coated.  Place finished cookies on wax paper to set.  They will be ready to serve in about 30 minutes.  No refrigeration required.  This is another easy recipe to get kids in the kitchen to help with.