The one who steals our joy

In  John 10:10 Jesus says “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

The devil never stops, and one of his tactics is that he tries to steal my joy. I so often find myself struggling to walk in joy. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, so by seeking God’s face consistently, I will find myself full of His life and therefore full of joy. But it’s so easy to let some minor thing annoy or worry me, and if I don’t recognize this as a point of attack, I’ll soon be consumed by it. This just happened to me this morning. I found myself becoming overwhelmed and distracted by something that was not even a real issue – nothing that I needed to repent of, nothing that truly needed to change. But I couldn’t get past it, and instead of focusing on God, I found myself unable to stop thinking about this “issue.” And my joy was soon replaced with fretting and unprofitable thoughts.

I am thankful I’m getting better at stopping in these moments and realizing what is going on. When God is the one bringing conviction, He always brings hope and direction with it. He shows me what’s wrong and what I need to do. When it’s the devil bringing something to my attention, I just feel overwhelmed and confused. It steals my joy and brings discouragement and despair.

I’m so thankful Jesus died to give us victory, freedom and power over our thoughts and emotions. Through the enabling power of God’s Spirit, I don’t have to let the enemy steal my joy! As soon as I recognized the lie I was believing and that I didn’t have to give into it, the enemy began to lose this battle. I simply looked to God and asked Him to help me believe the truth and focus on Him. And before I knew it, peace and joy returned and I was no longer worried about that non-issue. Thank You, Lord! Now, on with life and life more abundant!

 

Lemon Curd

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This lemon curd recipe is wonderful. It’s incredibly rich, so a little goes a long way. Try it with berries and whipped cream, in crepes, or simply by the spoonful!

Ingredients
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup lemon juice
Zest of one lemon (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup low-carb sweetener or sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted and cooled for five minutes

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Directions
In medium bowl, whisk egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla and sweetener until mixture is very smooth.
Add melted butter and whisk until smooth.
Using a double boiler or a glass bowl over a pot of boiling water, cook mixture over very low heat, stirring regularly, until mixture thickens – about 10 minutes.
Enjoy!

Makes 8 servings

Choosing Joy

Recently, I found myself battling a severe case of discouragement and weariness, and a need for direction from the Lord. Often times, I am able to pray and ask God to give me what I need, and I soon find that He has given me joy and strength in place of discouragement and weariness, and has given me things to encourage me. This time, however, it wasn’t happening as quickly as I wanted. As I was expressing my frustration about this to God, I felt like He said “Choose joy.”

I immediately felt my spirit resist and bristle. “No, Lord!” was my initial reaction. I was still waiting for Him to give me clear direction. And, I actually wanted Him to just give me joy without requiring any step of faith on my part. Choosing joy right there in that moment sounded like too much for Him to ask of me. The real problem was that I felt entitled to a little self-pity and a little frustration. I felt I had the right to avoid choosing joy, and instead wanted to wait until God gave me answers before I let my heart be joyful.

This time He was asking me to choose joy before He answered my prayers for guidance and practical encouragement. And I didn’t think that sounded fair or easy. But I knew if He was asking me to do it, then it wasn’t impossible, and it was the best thing for me to do. Nothing in me felt joyful or wanted to feel joyful. But when it comes to obeying God, our feelings can’t be the determining factor. So, I took a step of faith and told God I would choose to be joyful right in that moment, and I asked Him to help me do it.

And as soon as I took that step of obedience, guess what came? Joy. The hard part is that something like choosing joy when we don’t feel like it isn’t a one-time choice. The waves of doubt and discouragement didn’t stop trying to overwhelm me, and I found myself having to choose joy over and over again. But “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). That’s not just a flowery phrase. That’s a promise from the throne room of heaven, a promise backed by the blood of Jesus Christ for those who truly put their trust in Him.

Choosing joy when nothing in me wants to choose joy is included in “all things” – just like every other thing God calls me to do. Not by my own effort or power, but through faith in Christ and in His power. “Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Ephesians 3:20).

I’ve learned that I can choose joy regardless of my circumstances, and regardless of whether or not I’ve gotten an answer to my prayer yet. And God did give me the guidance I needed and the practical encouragement for which I asked. He is so good!

Pea Soup with Bacon

In the past, I never thought pea soup sounded appetizing. But maybe after making smoothies with spinach, kale and avocado for several years now, my ability to enjoy various green purees has grown. I saw a recipe on the Food Network recently for pea soup. It looked good and easy to make, and I do like peas, so I thought I’d give this slightly altered version a shot!

pea soup ingred

Ingredients
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken stock
2 pounds frozen peas
Several strips of bacon
Oil or butter
Salt and pepper

Instructions
In a stock pot, heat oil or butter over medium heat. Add the onions and saute for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the chicken stock, frozen peas, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender until coarsely pureed. Alternatively, use a blender to puree the soup 1 cup at a time. Season to taste.

Chop cooked bacon and sprinkle on soup.

pea soup

Adapted from: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/spanish-pea-soup-with-crispy-ham-recipe.html

A European Vacation

Some of our good friends from church have to be in Denmark for about three months for business, so my friend Steph and I decided to visit them recently. So glad we did! It’s officially my favorite vacation ever. It was the perfect blend of relaxing, sightseeing, traveling and spending time with our friends. Plus lots of great shopping and eating! Here’s a taste of our trip:

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Day 1 in Copenhagen – lovely!
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We enjoyed lunch with our friends at one of the restaurants along here.
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Day 2 we took the train to downtown Copenhagen. What a fun day!
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Joe & the Juice – we seriously need one of these in Fort Collins! We ate there three times – it was so good!
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Blocks of chocolate on sticks that melt into your drink!
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Day 3 – Tivoli Gardens, oldest amusement park in the world, founded in 1843
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Tivoli inspired Walt Disney as you might be able to tell
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Beautiful lights come on throughout the park at night
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Sights from all over the world can be found here
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This ride topped even Cedar Point! So fun…
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Days 4 and 5 were spent in Stockholm, Sweden. Loved it!
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Dinner in old town Stockholm. Wonderful.
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Founded in 1252, we loved the old buildings and cobblestone streets. Definitely a favorite!
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Lunch next to the palace. Of course!
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The house our friends are renting and where we stayed.
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My wonderful and cozy little room.
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So charming!
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Apple orchard next to the house. And yes, I did swing on the swing!
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The view approaching our friends’ house. Ahhh…
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A 15 minute walk to the beach from their house includes passing through these lovely woods.
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Days 6 and 7 I took advantage of this. So relaxing!
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Day 7 included a train ride to nearby Holbaek, Denmark. Here Steph and I enjoyed lunch and shopping. And maybe a few sweet treats!

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Day 7 ended with a fire on the beach. Doesn’t get much better!
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Day 8, one of my favorites, included a visit to a castle. We followed this lovely path to the entrance.
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Frederiksborg Slot is a 17th century castle in Denmark. Loved walking through it and the beautiful grounds.
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Wow!
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The far end of the ballroom boasts this amazing fireplace.
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Several of our friends’ kids were able to dress up, and we tried our hand at writing liked they used to. Such a great day!
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Had a wonderful time being with our good friends and enjoying many new things. I’m ready to go back!

Keep Moving Forward

I recently read a great book called The Lion’s Gate. It’s about the Six Day War – when Israel was attacked by several surrounding countries in 1967. One day I was reading in it about a situation where Israeli forces entered an area surrounded by enemy soldiers hidden in trenches. The enemy began firing at their tanks. They were like sitting ducks. Staying where they were meant certain death for those soldiers. They had to move. The orders were given to enter the trenches and attack on foot. It sounds insane to attack on foot, but it was the only option, and the Israelis were able to overcome the enemy and keep advancing.

I had been battling discouragement the day I was reading this and wasn’t sure how to get past it. I was frustrated about still waiting for certain things in my life, not knowing how or when they’re going to happen. Frustrated over what can seem like a never-ending string of disappointments. And because all I could see before me was more of the same, I just began to feel paralyzed and overwhelmed, unable to fight off the looming despair. I began praying and asked God what to do.

His answer to me was “Keep moving forward.”

Now, this is not the answer I wanted! It doesn’t tell me how long I have to keep going. It doesn’t even tell me where to go beyond the next step. But then I remembered what I’d just been reading in The Lion’s Gate. It would have been terrifying to leave the tanks and attack those enemy trenches. But staying in the tanks was only going to get them killed. To achieve victory, they had to move forward. And I realized that moving forward was the only way to avoid being swallowed by fear and despair. And even if I didn’t have any answers beyond the next step, my God is with me and He is guiding me and He can see far beyond what I see. If I will trust Him, then He will lead me to victory.

What is required to keep moving forward? Hope. Hope that things can change. Hope that victory is possible. Hope that the waiting will one day end. Hope is what enables me to take the next step. When I’ve faced another disappointment, it can feel like the hardest thing to keep hoping. But Romans 8:24 says we are “saved by hope.” Why are we saved by hope? Because if we choose not to hope, there is nothing left but despair and destruction. Those Israeli soldiers moved forward out of necessity. They had to choose to hope and believe they could defeat their enemies because the only other alternative was death.

God encouraged me that when I feel surrounded by the enemies of my soul – despair, doubt, fear, bitterness, and whatever else – that the way to achieve victory is to keep moving forward toward Him, to refuse to give up. That day, I chose to hope and to take the next step forward – toward God as opposed to a step of retreat into doubt and unbelief. And as soon as I took that step of faith toward God, He met me. He renewed my strength and filled me once again with joy and confidence. And what had been a very hard point in time for me became a time full of unexpected blessings and new things!

So, if you find yourself overwhelmed by doubt and discouragement, keep moving forward and keep your eyes on the Lord. Do not retreat into bitterness and despair. Keep hoping! And when we do, the Lord will provide for every one of our needs, fill us with the fruit of His Spirit, and move mightily on our behalf. And we will not be ashamed of our hope!

Cedar Point

About three weeks ago, I joined some friends on a trip to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. It’s a huge amusement park built on a Lake Erie peninsula with some of the most exciting and fun rides I’ve ever experienced. We spent two full days at the park going from ride to ride, taking a few breaks to eat and sit down – but not many! We had great weather, and I rode enough thrill rides to last me quite awhile. Other highlights were walking along the beach as the sun was starting to go down and staying at a really neat cabin near the amusement park. I was exhausted when I got home, but it was so fun. Lots of laughs and great memories from this trip!

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