Finding the Blessing Behind Every Curse

Have you ever been stuck inside on a rainy day feeling sorry for yourself and like the world is out to get you? Of course you have! You work hard during the week and you want nothing more than a beautiful, sunny day to enjoy with your friends and family.

It’s human nature to be bummed out about plans that went awry or for catching a cold when it’s most inconvenient. But if we allow our circumstances to make us happy then we are tying our happiness to something way too inconsistent.

We have to instead tie our happiness to God because He is always consistent. The Bible assures us He never changes! Not yesterday, today, or tomorrow! So practically speaking, how exactly do we do that?

Look for the Blessing Behind Every Curse

Sure it’s raining outside when you’d rather it be sunny. But you know what? That means you get to spend valuable time indoors with your family. It means your lawn will be all the greener. It even gives you a chance to slow down and curl up with a good book you’ve been meaning to read.

Rather than cursing the rain, we can thank God for the blessings He has tucked away for us in every circumstance.

Shift Your mindset from Disappointment to Gratitude

One of the best practices you can do to shift your mindset from disappointment to gratitude is to make a gratitude journal. Each morning when you wake up, challenge yourself to  write down 10 things you are grateful for.

Eventually this mindset will become a habit and you will be able to see the world through gracious eyes.

Distance Yourself from Negative People

Some people are bent on being negative and bummed no matter what. You need to remember you cannot control their mindset, but you can control yours.

Being around negativity will breed more negativity, but by surrounding yourself with joyful, gracious people, you can’t help but let a little positivity rub off on you!

So to help you get to a place of gratitude and joy today, let’s take some time to apply these steps. I promise you won’t regret it! Here are three questions to help you gauge your mindset:

  1. What are you disappointed by today?
  2. What hidden blessings has God tucked away in these disappointments that you could focus on today?
  3. Are there any negative or toxic people in your life that you need to create distance from?



Blessed to Be a Blessing

This month at New Vision, we are talking about all things gratitude!

We love that the holiday season offers a chance to slow down and take a look at the gifts God has blessed us with over the years. God loves His children and it gives Him great joy, just as it would give any father, to bless his kids.

And while we believe that God loves to bless His children, if we stop there and think that His blessings are intended for us and us alone, we actually miss one of the greatest blessings of all!

The Bible is full of examples of how God blesses His people and then commands them to use those blessings to be a blessing to others who do not yet know Him. It’s one of the sweetest forms of evangelism! By sharing the blessings God has provided us and our families, we are pointing others to see that there is a good and loving Father who will love, care for, and provide for those who choose to follow Him.

So rather than simply focusing on the blessings God has given us this holiday season, how can we take inventory and intentionally share these blessings with those who do not know God yet?

Say for example you received a gift card to your favorite restaurant recently. Rather than using it for yourself, maybe there is someone who you feel the Lord is tugging your heart to get to know and show love and grace to. Then share that blessing by taking this person to lunch. This kind gesture could go a long way in building a relationship which God could use to alter this person’s story.

What could be a better blessing than knowing that you could play a part in the salvation story of a friend, neighbor, or coworker? And what a great way to show God gratitude for all that He has blessed you with!

Let’s try an exercise together and commit to taking intentional steps in sharing our blessings this holiday season!

Blessings Exercise:

  1. Take a sheet of paper and fold it down the middle from top to bottom.
  2. Consider what gifts God given you in this season. Write those gifts in the left-column of the paper.
  3. Consider how each of these gifts could bless someone else who does not know the Lord. List these in the right-hand column next to each gift.
  4. Look at the list and see if any specific faces or names come to mind that you could bless. Jot down those names next to each blessing in parentheses.
  5. Now it’s time to take action! Place a star next to a blessing you can share this week. Then write it on your weekly calendar.

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The Fear of Setting Boundaries

Do you find it difficult to say the word, “no?” I’ve met very few in my life, especially in ministry, who admit the word “no” slips seamlessly off of their lips. There’s something about the word “no” that just feels wrong or selfish. In many cases, it feels like the word “no” communicates weakness. While very few of us think someone is weak when they tell us “no,” (often it’s the opposite) we all have this rooted fear that by saying “no” we will appear not organized enough, not dedicated enough, or not strong enough. How do we fight this fear and start to view boundaries as an act of strength and health for ourselves and our relationships?

Write a List of Your Current Responsibilities

If you sat down to list all of the tasks and people you are currently responsible for, chances are you might be a bit surprised by how many things are currently on your plate. If you’ve been feeling tired or worn thin lately and your list appears long, well guess what! You’ve found the culprit! It’s tempting to pack our days with so many responsibilities that we are spread too thin to do any of them well. Before we can create boundaries and remove items off of our plates, it’s important we take inventory first to become fully aware of the mental and physical loads we are carrying.

Pray and Consider what God has Called you To in This Season of Life

It’s simple math--there is only one you, and only so many hours in the day--so the longer the to-do list, the less energy, attention, and time you can dedicate to each task. The problem is, some responsibilities can afford less attention and time, while others, such as your family or your relationship with God, can’t afford to be neglected.

You may be familiar  with the rubber or glass ball analogy. Consider each responsibility or task in your day as either a rubber or a glass ball. If the rubber ball gets dropped (work, laundry, golfing with your friends, etc) it will rebound and bounce back safely in your hands. The glass ball, however, cannot afford to be dropped (God, family, finances, etc) because it will inevitably shatter.

Looking at the list of responsibilities you just made, consider which responsibilities are rubber balls which can be placed on the back-burner if necessary, and which ones are glass and should be made top priority.

Set Priorities and Cut-Out Any Areas You Can’t Afford to Uphold Right Now

Now that you know which responsibilities you cannot afford to neglect, it’s time to protect those items and take proactive steps to ensure you are able to do those tasks well. This doesn’t mean that you create a list of good things to say yes to and a list of bad things to say no to. Serving in the church is a very good thing! But if saying yes to every single request for your time and service by the church starts to eat away at the foundation of your marriage, then it’s vital that you say, “no.”

Don’t Apologize for Saying No and Holding those Priorities Firmly

Don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you need to apologize for taking charge of the tasks God has called you to oversee. So what  if your boss has a hard time understanding why you can’t work late every night when you have a family to go home to. At the end of your life, you won’t have to stand before your boss and give an account of how well you treated your wife, how much time you spent with your kids, or how well you led the family you’ve been entrusted with. You will have to give an account to God, though, so don’t feel the need to be apologetic to the call God placed on your life. Once you realize that saying “no” is an act of obedience to God, it becomes easier to see it as an act of courage and strength, rather than of fear or weakness.

 

Learning to say, “no,” and holding firm to healthy boundaries is not an easy thing to learn. It takes practice, effort, and a whole lot of prayer. As you begin to evaluate your own list of responsibilities, ask God to give you clarity. I promise He will! And feel free to use the following questions as a starting point:

  1. What has God called you to in this season?
  2. What is keeping you from investing fully into those responsibilities?
  3. What do you need to say “no” to this week?

5 Keys to Help Children Face Their Fears

We’ve already discussed in this series how as Christians, we are called to face our fears and take steps towards overcoming them through faith and perseverance. We’ve also shared how this is not an easy command which is why God provides over 365 daily reminders to “Be strong and courageous.” The fact is that facing our fears takes practice, and what better way to equip our children and our families to be bold and courageous warriors of God than to begin training them young. Of course, it takes a great deal of discernment to decide when a child is ready to take the first step towards overcoming a fear, and the method should always be age appropriate. However, no matter what ages your children are, here are five simple steps you can take today to create a culture of courage in your home:

  1. Pray

You may not always be around when fear creeps into your child’s heart--but God will! By teaching your children to pray when they are afraid, you are teaching them that ultimately God is the only one who can protect and shape their hearts into hearts of courage, and that He will always be there for  them, even when you are not.

2) Model

If we avoid facing our own fears, how can we expect our children to willingly face theirs? By acting as though nothing scares us, we are setting the wrong example. Model what it means to face your fears. Be transparent about what you are afraid of with them (age appropriately). Allow them to help you work through a fear of your own and don’t be afraid to let them see you struggle at times. This will reassure them that even their role models struggle with fear from time to time.

3) Look Deeper

Many fears are shallow, but some are much more complicated than face-value. Yes, your son may be afraid of the dark, but maybe the dark represents a deeper fear--fear of the unknown. Maybe your daughter is afraid of sitting in a room alone, but what if deep down she is afraid of being abandoned or left behind? You can’t heal what you can’t see so try to look beneath the surface ask questions identify the root of your child’s fear.

4) Push

As parents, our first instinct may be to protect and nurture our children from what scares them. However, without the ability to face their fears, they will struggle as they grow to be more independent. Hold their hands but fight the instinct to carry them through their fears or they won’t learn to walk through fear themselves. This may be the most difficult step!

5) Give Grace

This process will take time. Sometimes, if the fear is encroaching on your own life (ie. you have a child terrified to sleep in his own room so he still shares your pillow) it is easy to lose heart and patience. In moments of frustration, remember that God how patient God has been towards you as you faced fears of your own, and whenever necessary, pray for more grace towards your child.

 

We hope these five steps will help you nurture your children to be courageous and brave warriors of God! We want to hear from you, what steps have you taken to help your children face their fears? Share your tips in the comments below!

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What the Bible Says About Fear

Did you know that “fear” is one of the most common themes discussed in the Bible? Believe it or not, God has a lot to say about how His people should be careful not to live in fear or give it control over their lives. Is fear a natural part of our human nature? Absolutely. Does that mean we should give it free reign over our lives? Absolutely not.

Did you know that “fear” is one of the most common themes discussed in the Bible? Believe it or not, God has a lot to say about how His people should be careful not to live in fear or give it control over their lives. Is fear a natural part of our human nature? Absolutely. Does that mean we should give it free reign over our lives? Absolutely not.

Of course that’s much easier said than done.

The Bible shares some variation of “fear not” over 365 times! That’s right--a reminder for each and every day of the year. God in His grace knew before we were even designed what would keep us lying awake at night. He knew what circumstances would make our palms sweat and our knees wobbly. When God tells His people to “fear not,” He isn’t condemning them or shaming them for being afraid. God is always kind not to minimize our problems or our fears. The things we fear can be very real and very big to us, but the kicker is this…

God is bigger.

Remember David and Goliath? David didn’t step up to battle because he thought he had any stamina, experience, or height over Goliath--he stepped boldly up to a giant because the God He serves, who loyally protects him, is so much bigger!

Many times when we are afraid of something, it’s because we feel outmatched or out of control. Something we all need to learn is how to be okay with taking the reins out of our hands and placing them into the willing and able hands of God. Take some time to reflect today by asking yourself these simple questions:

  1. What are you afraid of giving to God that is holding you in a life of fear?
  2. How has God been faithful to you when you gave Him your fears in the past?
  3. What Bible verse do you need to memorize for when fear starts to creep in?

If you would like to learn more about our services and see how New Vision can serve you or your family, contact us today. If you have a loved one who is struggling with fear or anxiety, share this message with them so they can feel empowered to regain control in a healthy way.



Is it Nostalgia or Fear of Change?

Ah, the good old days…when life was easier, we were younger, and the world was as it should be.

If you’re like most people, chances are you’ve surrounded yourself with items that bring back memories of a special time in your life. Maybe you’ve stayed in touch with friends and laugh over old photos on social media. Perhaps you kept certain items from those years, even if they are now outdated. You may even find yourself doing things a certain way simply because that’s how you’ve always done them.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling nostalgic of the past. In some seasons, it can even be healthy to look back and remember the ways God blessed you. But sometimes, what we may mistake as nostalgia is actually a deeply-rooted fear of change.

It is only natural to fear the unknown. We are creatures of habit and cling to what’s familiar. But if our eyes are constantly locked on the past and the way things used to be, we miss valuable opportunities to make new memories here in the present. Even worse, though, we take our eyes off of God and the incredible blessings He has in store for our future.

I had a client several years ago who shared the negative impact nostalgia had on her family. When she was in high school, her grandfather unexpectedly passed away. While she and her family grieved over this loss and painfully accepted the new way of life, her father became so fixated on the memories of his childhood with his dad, that for the next five years, her family wondered if any of the new memories they created were valuable to him at all. Her father was so fearful of what it would mean to live in a life without his dad, that he unintentionally forced his children to live without theirs.

In Jeremiah 29:11 God makes a promise. He says, “I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” You can’t afford to miss out on the amazing plans that are about to unfold, even if those plans come after a season of difficult and painful change. Remember, when God calls you to something, He will get you through it as well. So when you find yourself reminiscing, make sure you aren’t grasping for the past, but instead remembering God’s faithfulness so you can face this new season without fear.

Some questions to consider as you enter your weekend:

  1. What memories are holding you so tightly in the past that you’re distracted from the present?
  2. In what ways was God faithful to you in those seasons of blessing?
  3. Do you believe God wants to bless you in this new season He is calling you to as well?

One Simple Step to Overcome Anxiety and Sadness with Joy

I don’t know what you believed growing up, but I thought it was all about me. I wanted my mom to serve me, buy for me, and take me places I enjoyed. When I dated girls I thought of how they could meet my needs. On my birthday I looked for people to make me feel special. It was about me, me, me… . This created a state of anxiety because rarely did anyone, including myself, meet the standard of what I needed to feel valued and satisfied. So I worked harder to get my needs met and became progressively more anxious and unhappy in the process. Can you relate?

God outlines a different way to live. He says to focus on how I can serve and bless others. To stop evaluating my happiness by what I get and live my life to invest in helping others get what they need. And as for me, look to God for my identity and for Him to meet my needs. This is more then a simple changing of the mind, it is a chaining of a belief system. A shift that says others are as valuable as me and worthy of my attention and investment. Today’s growth opportunity is to make this shift through Identifying three people you can serve in some way over the next week.

As you make this shift you really enjoy the coming changes. You will begin to experience the reward of your outlook on life growing brighter as you become a light to others and joy growing in your heart as you become a blessing to others. This simple yet profound principle of sowing and reaping will keep you on the bright side of life even when circumstances of life grow dark.

Shawn Maguire is a Licensed Professional Counselor who has served marriages, families and individuals for almost 25 years. He is the owner of New Vision Counseling, a place where therapists integrate their faith with cutting edge counseling techniques to offer hope and healing in any circumstance of life.