Journey to Faith

Journey to Faith
Follow your own path

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Dealing with Change at the Holidays

The holidays are upon us and with them come a mixed bag of emotions, fun, stress, drama and anticipation. Perhaps like me, you have lost someone or something you value this year. It may have been a parent, a home, a job, a son or daughter or a relationship. The holidays will not be the same this year, you may be thinking to yourself.

But are they ever the same? A lot changes in the course of a year, doesn't it? Friends get married. Others get divorced. Babies are born. Loved ones die. Old friends move away. New friends come into our lives. Things rarely stay exactly the same as the year before.  Life changes and that is a good thing. The certainty of change means there is always hope.

As the season of Advent begins, the focus for this week is Hope. It is the first gift of Christmas.
It is a time to reflect back on the year and ask ourselves what can we do differently next year to improve our lives, to live closer to God, and to walk more in love. Each of us is on our own path and we each have different lessons to to learn, but learn them we must, if we want to move forward into a more peaceful and abundant life.

We may need to let go of unforgiveness or bitterness; be more grateful, generous, less self-centered. We may need to laugh more and stress less; surrender more and control less, trust more, and fear less. We are on the potter's wheel. In other words, God is molding us into His likeness and He uses the circumstances of life to change us. In every trial, there is a hidden treasure in the form of a lesson to be gleaned and applied to our lives.

Whatever changes have happened in your life this year, fret not. God can and will work it all out for your good. It is all a matter of trust and timing.
 
Where is your hope this season?  Is it in your job? Your relationships? Your family? Your bank account? People and things are subject to change in the blink of an eye. Rather, I choose to put my hope in the dependable and unchanging person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever changes are going on in my life, I know I can stay steady because I hold on to Him. Even when others abandon us, Jesus promises to never leave us or forsake us. Even when finances are tight, Jesus promises to provide for all our needs. Even when we are stressed and anxious, Jesus promises us his peace.

This Advent season, I encourage you to put your hope in the Lord. No matter what changes you may have experienced this year, God's grace will be sufficient for you. Allow Him to change you. Be a prisoner of hope.

If this post has encouraged and you'd like to receive my bi-weekly posts plus my free guide entitled "7 Steps to Finding Your Spiritual Path", enter your email in the box provided and do pass it on to your friends. Someone you know may need a little hope this season.

Until next week, keep looking up!

Ariel 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Don't Give Up Hope

Have you lost hope? Tired of waiting for that dream to come true? Another year is coming to a close and it's easy to focus on what is missing from our lives, rather than the gifts that are already here. Perhaps you're dealing with an illness. Maybe a loved one has died or a relationship has gone sour. Or you're single and feeling lonely and depressed. Whatever is trying to pull you down today, this post is to encourage you to keep your spirits up and to keep expecting good things.

This week the season of Advent begins. Advent means "coming" or "arrival". It is the time of preparation leading up to the celebration of the birth of Christ. The Advent wreath is made up of evergreens to remind us that even though we may be in a season of winter where we don't see anything happening, new life will come again. Advent is a time of expectation and anticipation. It is a time to focus on the true gifts of Christmas - hope, peace, joy and love. So how do we keep hope alive when bad things happen to us?

Sometimes things happen in our lives we don't expect. Challenges and trials come at us out of the blue that throw us off course. Our dreams for the future can be dashed to the ground. Yet, when we look at our lives through our spiritual glasses and the lens of faith, it is possible to maintain hope even when things don't turn out the way we had expected.

Let's look at the example of the young girl named Mary in the Bible. When the angel of the Lord told her she was going to be with child, which in essence meant she was going to be an unwed mother, a crime punishable by stoning, what was her response? "Let it be done unto me according to your word." Mary was willing to trust and to surrender her life and her will for God's purposes no matter what the cost. She was willing to endure the shame of being an unwed mother and possible death to be obedient to God. Mary had no idea of the pain and suffering she would endure to bring the Christ child into this world. Why would she do this?

Mary's hope was in God and in His great love for her. For this same reason, we, too, can have hope this holiday season. When we are secure in the knowledge of God's immeasurable and unfailing love or us, no matter what comes our way, good or bad, we can rest in God's promise to always be with us. Jesus is also called Emmanuel, which means exactly that - God with us. God promises to be with us, particularly during the tough times. One of my favorite verses is Ps. 34:18. "God is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Like Mary, sometimes we don't know what the future holds, but we can hold fast to the One who does.

What are your hopes this holiday season? What is the longing of your heart? Whatever it is, give it to the Lord, and trust that He will surround you with His amazing love this season. His gifts are for every child of His and that means each and every one of us. When all else fades, Jesus is still there to light our way. "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)

If this post has encouraged and you'd like to receive my bi-weekly posts plus my free guide entitled "7 Steps to Finding Your Spiritual Path", enter your email in the box provided and do pass it on. Someone you know may need a little hope this season.

Until next time, keep looking up!

Ariel






Monday, November 28, 2016

5 Tips to Keep You From Being Exhausted By the Holidays

The holidays can be draining. Can I get an amen? From the endless stream of invitations, parties, and family squabbles, the holidays are definitely a high-demand period. If we're not careful, we will end up exhausted and depleted making us prime territory for the winter flu and cold bug.

As each year has come and gone, I have made small but significant changes to stay happy, healthy, and at peace into the New Year. I have learned techniques to handle the demands of the season and my relatives so today, I am going to share some of them with you.


Tip #1: Choose activities carefully. 
Sometimes we can get in the habit of doing the same thing year after year after year. It becomes routine and loses it's joy. When this happens, it is time to let that activity go to make space for something new. There are so many delightful events this time of year, why be bored by the same old thing? Here are some ideas we've tried and enjoyed:
      - find a local church and attend their musical holiday production
      - get tickets to the Nutcracker and enjoy the dancing and music of Tchaikovsky
      - take in a performance at the Mormon Temple in Washington, DC
   
There are so many invites so I take my time making a commitment. I don't say "yes" right off the bat without considering what else is going on. For example, I typically say no to anything that is not Christmas-related during the month of December. I want to give my time and energy to celebrating the season. I have the entire rest of the year to do other things. I also want to pick the best activities, not just any activity to fill up the calendar.

Tip #2: Minimize exposure to energy-suckers. 
These people often seem pleasant enough at first. Then you begin to see the signs.
They chatter incessantly.
They are drama queens.
They thrive on relating negative stories from the past.
They are emotionally reactive and easily offended.
They like to be the center of attention.

When I encounter one of these types of people, I run. Energy-suckers can be male or female so be on guard. If you get home and realize you are drained, you probably were in the presence of an energy-sucker.

Tip #3: Maintain a regular exercise routine. 
I know the holidays are extra busy and time is limited but do not neglect a short workout of some sort. When it's too chilly to walk outside, I take a brisk walk in the hallways of my complex. Even a short walk can defuse stress and help clear the mind. Go for a run. Take a different group exercise class. Lots of fitness places offer discounts this time of year so take advantage. Just be sure to wash your hands when you get home.

Tip #4:  Don't overcommit. 
It's so tempting to say "yes" to every invite, every party, and every get-together. The problem is most commitments take more time and energy than we estimate. If we are bringing a food item or a gift this all takes time. Women have to figure out what to wear, do the nails, hair, etc. I used to do back-to-back activities and I was proud of it, believe it or not. Then I learned. It's too much.  There are always extra factors that add to the stress of an activity such as traffic, parking, cold weather, people missing their flight, etc. Allow extra time for any given activity. This is called "margin" and is useful in everyday life. Don't be like I was, trying to pack so much into any given day. Slow down, enjoy the event and allow yourself enough time to breathe.

Tip #5: Make time for solitude. 
This is a personal biggy. I need solitude! After a long day of people, I need to be alone. People wear me out. It is important to quiet our minds and just be with ourselves. We can curl up in a favorite chair with a book, take a hot bath, or just turn off the phone and the tv and enjoy a quiet house. It is a gift we give to ourselves. If you're not comfortable being alone, give it a try for maybe just a half an hour. You'll be surprised how good you will feel when you disconnect.

Okay, so these are my 5 holiday tips on how not to end up exhausted by the holidays. Give them a try and write and let me know what tips you use to stay energized and at peace.

If you'd like to receive my bi-weekly posts, enter your email in the box provided. I'll also send you a copy of my free e-guide entitled "7 Steps to Finding Your Spiritual Path". 

Until next time, be happy and keep the joy flowing!

Ariel




Thursday, November 24, 2016

Ignite the Power Within Step 6: 4 Ways You Can Benefit from Meditation

How often do you sit down during the course of the day, close your eyes and just do and think nothing at all? Most people are so tired that when they do sit down and close their eyes they fall asleep. Others find it difficult or even uncomfortable to sit still and do nothing. I know, because I used to be this way myself.

As a single mom of two boys working at a mentally draining career while balancing the demands of home, health, and child-rearing, I wish someone would have suggested this to me years ago. Sit down and rest my mind. The second step in learning to discipline the mind is meditation, a practice which archaeologists and scholars believe has been around for over 5,000 years. The earliest documentation of meditation is found in the Hindu sacred text known as the Vedas from ancient India but it has its own place in Western religions as well.

As industrialization and the rapid advancement of technology have dramatically increased the pace of life, the hurry up, get-it-done-yesterday mindset has side-lined this important discipline. As the rate of stress-related illness soars, many are realizing this non-stop freneticism is not only unhealthy but unprofitable as well.

In the same way the body needs a good amount of sleep to restore and renew itself, so too does the mind.  Often, even when the body is asleep, the mind continues to churn away on the problems and issues of the day. No wonder we wake up feeling unrefreshed. The mind didn't know it was bedtime.

When we sit down to meditate, we allow the "mental clutter" to settle.

Benefit #1: Meditation calms our minds and our bodies. 
It slows the heart rate, the breath, and lowers the blood pressure. Also, it allows confusion to dissipate and clarity and creativity to spark so we can find answers to our problems.

There are different forms of meditation so whether your spiritual path is eastern or western, you can benefit from this ancient practice. In eastern religions, such as buddhism, the goal of meditation is to focus the mind on something constant such as the breath. The basic premise is that by focusing the mind, the practitioner becomes increasingly aware of the flow of thoughts as they occur and is able to disengage, clear the mind and enter the place of rest where the mind is calm. Some well-known forms of eastern meditation are Vipassana and Transcendental meditation.

Benefit #2: Helps us to connect with ourselves and God
When we still our bodies, the monkey thoughts in our minds settle as well. This allows us to see what is going on with our feelings and emotions and to get in touch with what we truly desire in life. When we are moving so fast all day, we ignore that still small voice and our thoughts and emotions rarely get noticed.

The practice of meditation in Christian religions is similar in that the goal is to focus and calm the mind. In addition, Christian practitioners also have the goal of calming the spirit and connecting more deeply with God which is done by reading or repeating phrases or words of Holy Scripture or Christian devotions. Early proponents of Christian meditation are St. Teresa of Avila, St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. John of the Cross.

Benefit #3: Brings awareness of negative thoughts
Whatever your spiritual path is, meditation is an important skill that will help you in many areas of your life. I try to clear my mind once or twice a day. When I meditate, I find I am more aware of the pesky negative thoughts that try to steal my peace and joy.  I am more easily able to dismiss them, refocus, and carry on with my day. You will come to find stillness as a gift and look forward to your times of meditation.

Benefit #4: Increases sense of peace and well-being
Most of us run around all day frenetically going from one thing to another. As a single parent, this pace became my norm. Now, when I feel like I'm moving too fast, I make myself sit down and meditate for 15 - 20 minutes. If I fall asleep, then that means I'm tired. I don't berate myself for falling asleep. Meditation helps us to become more aware of when we are feeling stressed and hurried and we will enjoy a greater sense of peace and well-being during our busy days.

If you 'd like to receive my posts in your inbox twice a week enter your email in the box provided.I'll also send you a copy my free e-guide entitled "7 Steps to Finding Your Spiritual Path". 

Until next time, I wish you peace and stillness and remember - keep looking up!

Ariel 





Tuesday, November 22, 2016

4 Ways to Keep Your Joy During the Holidays

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and some of us might have a bit of angst about dealing with relatives and loved ones. Holidays mean getting together with family and this can bring out a mixed bag of emotions.  Often there are unresolved issues, personality clashes, and people who just don't get along. There may be loved ones missing from the dinner table due to misunderstandings. If we aren't careful, anxiety over relationships can cause us to lose our joy and our focus. We don't have to allow these issues to get in the way of enjoying the festivities.

Thanksgiving has been very different for me these past few years. Instead of enjoying the fun of shopping for the turkey and all the trimmings, setting a beautiful table with cherished china and silver, and the fun of basting the turkey and enjoying leftovers, I will not even be having Thanksgiving at my house. Family members have moved away or passed on. One has gotten married. In transition times such as these, it is easy to drift into a melancholic woe-is-me state. But that is not my choice and I hope it isn't yours either. If you have experienced similar losses and changes this year, keep the faith. There are ways to keep our joy during the holiday season and here are four of them.

1. Utilize the power of choice.
 Happiness, as I say in my book, The Power of Faith, is a choice. We choose what we focus on at any given moment in time. There will always be positives and negatives in our lives, and it is up to us to decide which we will focus on more.

2. Refuse to dwell on sad things or what is missing in our lives, instead do this.
  Choose to focus on our blessings. I am thankful my sons are independent and self-supporting. I guess they learned that from their mother:) I am thankful I am at peace and content with my life. I am thankful I have a roof over my head and a steady income. I am thankful I live in this country and in freedom. I am thankful I can write this blog to encourage others. I am thankful for good friends who include me at their holiday table.

3. Focus on how to be a blessing to others.
For me, writing this blog is part of that gift I give to you. There are many ways we can give to others this holiday season: donations, food baskets, invitations to holiday festivities, even a cup of hot coffee or hot chocolate to that lonely person sitting on the bench. We never know what heartache someone else may be enduring or how lonely someone may be. When we reach out to others, we take our eyes off our situation and onto someone else's. We give God a chance to work through us.

4.  Remember to thank God.
God is the giver of all good gifts. It is important to maintain an attitude of gratitude. When we appreciate our blessings, we don't take things for granted. We get more joy out of the simple pleasures of life such as a good meal, a warm home, a bouquet of flowers. Gratitude is part of keeping our joy meter high. Give thanks where thanks is due.

This Thanksgiving, my prayer is that the Lord will comfort you, bring you peace, and surround you with His great love and provision. If you are blessed with a happy family and plenty of loved ones, remember to reach out to someone who may not be so fortunate. The holidays are an especially difficult time for singles. If you find yourself alone, reach out and let your friends know so you don't have to spend the holidays by yourself. People are busy so don't expect your friends to be mind-readers. Holidays are meant to be shared by all.

Until next time, if you'd like to receive  my bi-weekly posts  and a copy of my free guide entitled "7 Steps to Finding Your Spiritual Path", please enter your email in the box provided.

Until next time, Happy Thanksgiving and may the Lord bless you abundantly!

Ariel 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

How to Strengthen Your Spiritual Muscle

Are you a person of faith or fear? Do you worry about outcomes of situations? Do you get easily overwhelmed when things get out of control? This week I have been contemplating the issue of faith. When it comes down to the core issues and people in your life, how do you respond? Do you see the glass as half full or half empty?

I like to think of faith as our spiritual muscle. Just like our physical muscles, we have to exercise it. The Bible says each of us has been given a measure of faith (Rom 12:3). Like a muscle, we must exercise our faith for it to grow.  In order to live well, it is important to learn to walk by faith and not by sight. In other words, we need to expect good outcomes even before we see them. Faith pleases God because it shows we trust Him to intervene in our lives.


Perhaps like me, you trust God when it comes to some things, but not in others. Do you spend too much time and energy trying to "do" things that please God and not enough time listening, trusting, and believing?  I have worn myself out at different times in my life and by not trusting God to work in others and by trying to do too much in my own strength.

Rom 4:4 says "Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness." In other words, God sees us as righteous, not because of all our good works, but because of our faith and trust in Him. While I may be thinking I am pleasing God, I am saddened to realize that this does not please God at all. Scripture says that all my good works are like filthy rags (Is.64:6)

Nowadays, I expect a positive outcome even when I don't see it at the present moment. I don't have to know how God is going to work it out. All I have to do is trust that He WILL work it out. It has been a process to change my perspective, but slowly but surely we can all grow our faith. I've heard it said that we get what we expect. What are you expecting?

Faith is a positive expectation of the future. It helps us pull the dreams of tomorrow into today.
If you'd like to have more faith, you can start learning my simple but concrete steps by ordering a copy of my book, "The Power of Faith". While you're at it, order one for a friend. They make great Christmas gifts.

If  you enjoyed this post and would like to receive my bi-weekly posts of inspiration and personal growth, enter your email address in the box provided. I'll also send you out a copy of my free e-guide entitled" 7 Steps to Finding Your Spiritual Path". We're all on this journey together so do share it with a friend or loved one.

Until next time, have a little faith and keep looking up!

Ariel 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

How to Develop an Attitude of Gratitude

November is here and Thanksgiving is only a week away. I love this month for several reasons:
1) it is my birthday month,
2) the trees are so beautiful, and
3) I love celebrating Thanksgiving.


I like to dedicate the entire month to focusing on gratitude. We in this country have so much to be thankful for and so much we take for granted. It is so important to be grateful for all our blessings and to take time to acknowledge them on a daily basis. When we are thankful and cultivate an attitude of gratitude, we also increase our energy and our joy. 

A tradition I started at my house many years ago was to put out a small basket with a pad of paper and a pen next to it. The basket is known as the "Blessing Basket". Each day, each member of the household and whoever comes into the home that day is asked  to write down one thing for which they are grateful for and put it in the basket. It can be anything, but the idea is to focus on the many blessings in our lives on a daily basis. Then on Thanksgiving Day, we read all the slips of paper. They are anonymous of course, but it really makes us realize how much we have been given.

I know I have much to be thankful for: a lovely home, two wonderful sons, and good friends. I am also thankful for the intangibles in my life such as love, joy, peace, kindness, and most of all, faith. I bet if you stop and think about your life, no matter what else may be going on, you have much to be thankful for as well. There will always be negatives in life. The key to keeping our joy is to focus on the positives more than the negatives. This is where faith comes in. We do our part and then we trust God to work out the rest. It's a team effort and God is always on our side.

If you want to increase your gratitude quotient, try starting each and every day by giving thanks for something or someone in your life.  When we learn to develop an "attitude of gratitude", our outlook on life changes and we are better able to handle the difficult circumstances of life.

If you enjoyed this post and would like to receive my bi-weekly blog messages enter your email address in the box provided to the right. I'll also send you out a copy of my free e-guide entitled "7 Steps to Finding Your Spiritual Path". 

Until next time, remember to be a blessing and, as always, keep looking up!

Ariel