following and leaving

My parents always taught us that we were supposed to leave a place at least as nice–if not better!–than when we found it. It wasn’t so much that they always SAID that; they just lived it. I’ve thought about that a lot over the years and tried to do the same. It’s often easier to say than to do, but little things add up when you’re making deliberate choices.

img_20181228_142623459The other day a friend and I were heading out from the church in the rain when she suddenly pointed out a small bit of ivy growing at the base of one of the columns. “One day you’ll need to write about that!” she said before pointing out where a large pot of ivy used to sit nearby. “I’m always amazed to see where things take root.”

 

img_20181228_142654417I looked around and spied the pot and its contents across the way–no longer in the same spot, but still making an impact. I could see the ring caused by the pottery and the ivy sprig left behind growing in a tiny crack and spreading out and I wondered, “What kind of trail am I leaving? What kind of impact am I making and how does that need to change or be improved? Am I leaving my own footprints behind or God’s?

While I rarely make a long list of resolutions, I’m always aware that the start of a new year is a pretty good time for an evaluation of progress. My personal new year starts later in the year–on my birthday–but this was too good to pass up, so ever since then, I’ve been thinking about how I want to use 2019 to reach the next steps.

Last year, my focus-word for the year was “Margin” and God used that to teach me and make quite a difference in how I made decisions. In fact, although the past 4 months was one of our busiest in schedule, it was also one of the most relaxed for me because I made the necessary margin calls so that schedule was even possible. I was busy, but it was a busy that made sense based on the priorities my husband and I had set for us and our business after a long time of prayer. I’m already seeing the footprints of my 2018 Margin decisions affect the path for 2019, and I want that to continue.

When I started considering my focus-word for this new year, the decision didn’t take very long. My word for 2019 is both simple and complex: “Jesus.” I want to follow more closely, linger longer, deepen and enjoy our relationship, and see where He wants me to stay long enough to leave parts of us behind and where He wants us to move onward in new adventures. I want to follow more closely and leave more of His influence behind than my own when I leave a place. That’s the way I want to make things better than I found them this year…by following and leaving. I want to move more of me out of the way and make more room for Him to show up. I want to keep making good Margin calls so I can stay where I need to be and not be concerned because I’ve filled up my calendar with so many good things that I don’t have room for the God-things.

Following and leaving…it sounds like something that will make a difference this year. I pray it will be a good one.

“And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.” Luke 5:11 (ESV)

Grace and Peace!

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Beholding and being held

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:10-11 (KJV)

IMG_20171221_124155195My history with these verses goes WAY back. In fact, I don’t remember there ever being a time when I didn’t know about them. My parents and extended family saw to that. My teachers did, as well. In fact, years ago–in 5th grade, to be precise–one of our teachers, Mrs. Hayes, gave us the prize of a giant peppermint stick if we could recite Luke 2: 1-14…or maybe, through verse 20…I’m not exactly sure now because that was a VERY long time ago and other teachers encouraged me to learn the longer passages. To this day, I still recite it (in the King James Version, of course, because that’s how I learned it! LOL) whenever it is read or shared during the Christmas season.

I love that the angel starts off with “Fear not…” because I’d imagine suddenly seeing heavenly hosts in the middle of nowhere would have been a little scary. I also love its relevance today because “scary” things still seem to come out of nowhere even now sometimes and we still need that reminder that not all of them are bad–just different than we would have expected…or planned, if WE were in charge.

I also love that next word…”behold.” It’s the King James version of “Stop what you’re doing and look over here at what God is doing for you today!” I still need that reminder, too. Regularly, I need it. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can get sidetracked and miss out of what God is up to, so this reminder is just as freshly needed today as it was all that time ago. I don’t want to miss a thing that God has planned for me, but I’ve got a history of getting caught up in the details of my own life and, perhaps, missing out on the big picture of what God has planned.

I also love that the word “behold” reminds me that as I am looking for Him, I am actually being held by God. He’s at work doing things for me every day because He loves me and holds me in His more-than-capable hands. This year as I’ve been consumed with business details, He’s been bringing me people to share Him with at our shows. He’s brought us people to pray with and people to bless, people to encourage and people who just need a friendly smile…because He’s holding them, as well.

He’s held us as we’ve faced new challenges and continued to deal with older ones. He’s held us in our joy and held us as we faced the desperate need of it. Through it all, God has given us the constant reminder that He is HERE with us no matter what we face. Being held–a source of comfort and great joy–is available to ALL people because of news that came to shepherds long ago. We have a Savior and He is Christ the Lord!

As we celebrate the Season of His coming, let us also remember to share the good news that He is here to behold and we are able to be held. People need to know that. I know I do.

Grace and Peace…and a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

 

Lessons in love

IMG_20181205_071214882Even after years of practice and a whole month of November in intensive training, I still felt like I was failing yesterday. I am out of my element this week and I was out of sorts about it! Once again, while nothing escaped my lips, my mind was absolutely rife with complaint, all while battling situation and provocation…and Scripture. That last one is always a heavy hitter! (grin)

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2 (NIV)

I read that verse pretty early in the day as I moved ahead with preparations for an upcoming Bible study. I sailed right past it at first. God knew that.

He brought it back around.

He had me focus on it, and then He proceeded to bring that theme up over and over and over throughout the day from the words I typed, the people I saw in the grocery store, and even in the book of fiction I picked up at the local library.

It shook me. It schooled me. It made me do some self-evaluation…and I wasn’t always pleased with what I found. Scripture does that. It is both a mirror and a standard of perfection side by side. Given my state of mind, I really wasn’t in the mood for either, yet God continued to push me. I know He does so out of love, and I truly felt that, but I was also frustrated by so many things I couldn’t change externally. That helplessness to “make things better” rages against my internal “fixer” motif and frustrates me no end.

By the end of the day, I felt beaten. That’s rare for me. I’m usually the most positive person in the room–and I still was!–but God knew I needed to feel, not just love, but empathy…and that is always harder after a day of battle of multiple fronts.

Today, I woke up to a new verse. Matthew 25:40 says,

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

and THEN, there was THIS one…

“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17 (NLT)

When you can’t change the situation or fix the people in it, you still need to move forward in love. That instruction never changes. That standard never changes–and neither does the fact that we are still representing Jesus wherever we go. AND (I usually hate when people start  sentences off with AND, but here is one to remember), if the battle makes us weary and our feelings are less than loving or empathetic, we can STILL love on Jesus by doing what we can right where we are. I am responsible for my actions and, yes, even my attitude. He is responsible for the outcome. Today, I needed to be reminded of that. Maybe you did, too.

Let’s go represent Him well today. Happy Wednesday!

Grace and Peace!

NCN 2018–Day 30…and beyond

IMG_20181130_071351806_HDRDay 30, and the end of this month is finally here. In this month of Thanksgiving and holiday prep, of increased activity and decreased time allotted for it, of focusing on the good and trying to eliminate the negative, THANK YOU for participating in NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER with me again! Your stories and your encouragements have meant a great deal to me. Once again, I am reminded that I am the most blessed person I know…and that you can be, as well.

As we have chosen to direct our thinking and constrict our voicing of the negative this month, I have found that some days were a lot easier than others…and that THOSE were the days when practicing the discipline of not complaining was most critical for me and those around me. Encouragement is always most needed when it is in least evidence. That will be true going forward, as well. It is the CHOOSING to keep moving forward toward the goal that becomes the mainstay of any decision, and so it will be with this.

Tomorrow we will enter the season of Advent, a looking forward season. What are you looking forward to where you are? Will you continue this challenge? Will you set new goals? Will you heave a sigh of relief and work to find rest or will you keep hurtling along at breakneck speed? Every choice has both blessings and consequences, so I find myself praying that as we go through this last day of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER 2018, our choices will reflect a greater discipline because of what we’ve learned, a greater joy because of how we’ve learned to look for the goodness around us, and that the world will become a better place because we continue to acknowledge the areas that need work and get busy changing them without taking time out to complain about them first.

May all of your choices going forward be the best ones, so that your blessings will be many and your consequences can be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). In short, I pray that your choices reflect a life filled with the goodness of God and a ready display of His Presence will absolutely permeate every nook and cranny of your life. He is good–despite all of the hard things in this world–and He loves you! May you learn to love Him more than you ever thought possible and may you–and those around you!–see Him at work in and through you as we celebrate His coming. I pray He finds a home in your heart and that you always find yourself most at home in Him.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21 (NIV)

Grace and peace!

(and yes, those roses really are blooming out on my kitchen counter today!)

NCN 2018–Day 29

IMG_20181127_111626618You never know what’s going to happen next. That’s why planning is so important. I realize those two statements may sound at odds, but they’re really not.

I’m a planner. For every day I face, I’ve usually thought ahead, looked at options and possibilities, and made a plan…and at least one list. (grin) I’ve been doing that since I was a kid.

Plans can adjust when necessary and the important things will still get done reasonably well and in a timely manner. Since having a plan in place generally makes for less confusion and stress, it also helps make a good attitude even easier when the changes aren’t what you would have ever chosen.

Good attitudes are invaluable in times of change, stress, and dealing with the upcoming unknown. I’m living that out today and so are most of the people around me. Although God wasn’t surprised when our plans changed suddenly yesterday, we were. The choice of how we choose to deal with the change is up to us, so I’m happier than ever to have been practicing a good attitude during NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER.

The month is almost over, but each of us can continue this discipline as we move forward. We’ve been strengthening our good attitude muscles all month. There’s no reason to stop that now that the plans have changed. In fact, it may be more important than ever before.

Grace and peace!

Romans 12:21!

NCN 2018–Day 28

Only THREE more days, y’all, until the end of this year’s NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER!!  (and, yes, I DO know that some of you have it timed down to the minute! LOL!) As we wind it down, I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned/re-learned/remembered this year. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are my biggest practical takeaways from this year’s challenge:

  • Encouragement always helps make life easier. CHOOSE to become an encourager wherever you may be and whatever you may be doing. It will bless those around you and it will actually make your load a lot lighter, as well.
  • “Tired OF or tired BECAUSE?”–our speech choices tend to give us away even when we are trying to cover up the fact that we’re complaining. “I’m tired OF…” usually heralds the sound of a coming complaint. “I’m tired BECAUSE…” tends to mean that you’ve been busy…and it really is ok to be tired when you’ve been busy. If, of course, you’re tired because you’ve spent the day complaining…well, not cool. At all. AND… If you’re tired BECAUSE you’ve spent the day with a complainer…dear one, I beg you to call a good friend and ask them to pray for both of you. That’s a legitimate issue in need of some prayer because being around complaining people WILL wear. you. out.
  • That last statement is a good thing to remember. You don’t want to spend lots of time WITH “that person” any more than you want to BECOME “that person”, so make sure you don’t give up all the ground you’ve managed gain this month. Keep up the good work! You CAN continue this positive pattern of behavior. It may mean that you have to alter your calendar, buy your coffee elsewhere for a bit, or simply say, “No” (in your kindest and most positive voice, of course!) the next time a chronic complainer wants to spend lots of extra time with you–especially if even the invitation is covered in complaints. While I am ALL FOR and created for ministering to people when they are hurting, there comes a time when you also have to extend the kindness of speaking the truth in love to them. I get it. They need Jesus–and so do I on a MOMENT BY MOMENT basis!! It is totally appropriate to continue to introduce them to Him. Beware of putting yourself in HIS place, however, by becoming the one they turn to with every issue, problem, or complaint. You can’t save them and you can’t fix them, but HE can. Be aware of the need and beware of becoming it. Some distance might just be the best and healthiest thing for each of you.
  • Hurting people hurt people. Y’all already know this. Just as you can’t fix or save THEM, you have to know that you are responsible for pursuing your own healing so that you don’t continue to injure the people around you. Some things are a matter of determination and being stubborn can actually help you with those things. (I am living proof of this!)  Other issues require a good, qualified, Godly counselor who will take you to the Source of all wisdom and help you find your healing in the One who made you and has the best plan imaginable for you. Jesus can do more in an instant to move you toward healing that you can struggle toward in a whole lifetime, so if you’re tired of struggling–with more than just this NCN challenge–I’d be happier than you can imagine to introduce you to God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture. He adores you. He created you for good things. He desires a personal relationship with you and He’s so set on that goal that He was willing to give the ultimate sacrifice so that you could be with Him forever.

You might not think this last one is really practical unless you already know Jesus. That’s ok. He’s not going to give up on you whether you’ve done NCN poorly, well, or even given it a shot at all. Neither am I. Because He loves you, I do, too. I’m grateful for every single one who reads these words–even those of you who disagree with me on this. (Insert big wide grin here!) I appreciate your willingness to take on the challenge of making the world you live in a more positive place even if we don’t live close to each other, because choosing to be more peaceful in your part of the world automatically affects my part, as well.

Happy Wednesday, Y’all! Only three more days to go…You can do it!!

Grace and Peace!

Romans 12:21!!!

NCN 2018–Day 27

Today is #givingtuesday, a time to be generous and contribute to worthy causes. I don’t know when it got started, but I definitely applaud the whole idea, and it makes me wonder…

  • What if we decided to be make every day a giving day?
  • What if we made a plan (not a wish, but a PLAN) to support worthy causes with regularity…because our priority was to become more worthy, too.
  • What if we looked at our resources with an eye toward blessing those whose needs we’re aware of long after “the season of giving” has passed because we realized that the Source of all blessing has promised to never leave or forsake us…and others need to see that promise in action so THEY can believe it, too?
  • What if our whole lives centered around making those around us know they matter, that they’re loved, and that their gifts are needed to help others, too?
  • What if we decided to become walking, talking, giving billboards for grace and peace and the One whose idea they were in the first place?

What if…?

What will you choose to do today…since you’ve given up complaining…and have all that extra time on your hands? (grin)

Grace and Peace!

Romans 12:21!!