I used to…

I used to be a lot louder. That was back when I knew more. (grin) I think the quiet started when I began to realize how much I didn’t know. Incidentally, that probably started about the time I began to get serious about having a personal relationship with God. Coincidence? I think not.

Getting to know the One who knows it all, kinda shuts you up sometimes…or, at least, it ought to. “Before,” I just looked like I knew Him. That was pretty easy since I was raised in a home that taught the Scripture to us practically and deliberately from Day 1 of breathing on our own.

It was easy to look like I knew Him because I knew all about Him. (Just ask anyone who played “Bible trivia”  with our family. {BTW–“Bible trivia“?!–Is that even a possible thing?! The phrase kind of makes me cringe a little bit right now.} I made all the right appearances and I did all of the right things in public. My parents were praised for doing it right, but inside, I hadn’t really made a choice for following Jesus so much as a choice to ruffle as few feathers as possible on my way out the door. I had all of the head knowledge and very little of the heart knowledge or life application of all that I “knew.” I had plenty of the rebellion going on inside despite all appearances to the contrary.

I used to be louder. My temper was fierce and while I’m not entirely sure those days are past, but I know there are a whole lot fewer of them and that makes me happier in ways that being louder never could. Louder meant being called on for all the right answers even when my heart wasn’t in it–or NOT called on “so other people can learn for themselves.” Louder meant being perceived as right even when I was wrong. Louder meant being praised for WHAT I knew instead of WHO I knew. Louder meant more to me then than relationships did.

I didn’t know that a quieter spirit meant I would be able to hear God more clearly. I was too busy charting my own path to be very concerned about His plans. The fact that my path looked a little like His to those who weren’t looking too closely made it even harder to figure out that I needed a change.

I didn’t know that a quieter Becky meant time for others to grow and opportunities for me to grow and learn, as well. Turns out, I didn’t know all I should have…or needed to know. I didn’t know that being quieter would grow me up instead of just growing my reputation…and, oddly enough, would make me more concerned about God’s reputation in me than I was about my own.

I didn’t know what I didn’t know…and I wasn’t all that interested in finding that out. I was good. Just ask anyone who knew me! I was good. It was enough. I was enough. Writing that down makes me cringe a bit now, too, but I’m doing it anyway because I don’t want anyone else to make the same mistake that I made…when I used to be louder.

“The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.” Proverbs 17:27 (NIV) 

Today, I am reminded that God’s Word is always true…and I am praying for a world that still thinks like I used to when I used to be louder.

Grace and Peace!

 

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In Dependence

Today is the birthday of 3 very important people in my life. It is also, incidentally, my cat’s birthday, as well. (He’s 13 years old today!! I know that makes you happy. LOL) All of that means this is a big day for me. Why ME? Well, because I’m always excited to celebrate the day that God decided to pack so many wonderful blessing into my life!

Speaking of celebrating…have you ever gotten a present that…well…it was hard to celebrate? I mean, you KNEW that person meant well (or at least you HOPED they did!), but you HAD to wonder what they were thinking when they picked that particular gift out for YOU! Maybe it wasn’t the right size or maybe it showed up in your least favorite color or flavor. Perhaps you even considered if it might even be a joke…one you weren’t privy to or didn’t really find funny.

The main thing you have to consider about gifts that come to you like that is who is giving them to you. The individual who brought the present is the main determinate for me when I get something like that. It is the person who chose it–and not the one receiving it (me…or you?)–that helps me decide what emotion my face, my voice, my words, and even my attitude going forward will be.

That’s an especially good thing to consider when the Giver happens to be GOD…and the gift is something WAY less than you’d ever hoped or dreamed about receiving. THAT is when it becomes really critical to know all you can about the Giver.

The Giver. Yep. That’s one of His many names. In fact, 1 Peter 5:10 spells it out even plainer when Peter–the ULTIMATE reactionary when receiving/hearing anything he didn’t like!–tells us this:

And God, the giver of all grace, who has called you to share His eternal glory, through Christ, after you have suffered for a short time, will Himself make you perfect, firm, and strong.

I don’t know about you, but that verse has some pretty stout stuff in it for me right now. It has felt more personal these past few months than it has in quite some time. Why? Because some people I love are having a pretty hard time of things right now and because I love them so dearly, that means my life is affected, as well. Right now I’m tired. I’m tired of waiting for the phone to right with good news. I’m tired of seeing the texts that say my prayers aren’t being answered…yet. I’m sick to death of seeing people I love struggle with hard things like mental illness, physical pain, substance abuse, and not knowing what to do or who can help them or their loved ones. I’m ready to see some solutions, sing some praises, and dance in victory over some of these things!

In his book, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, Francis Chan asks the following question:

“…Why would we need to experience the Comforter if our lives are already comfortable?”

Well, phfft! Why did he have to go and make Scripture practical again?! (You know I’m kidding, right?! Scripture is ALWAYS practical. WE–and our interpretations of it!–are the ones who all too often aren’t.)

And yet, long before Frances was ever a thought, Peter drove right up beside all of our hard circumstances and told us that God is the Giver of Grace. Grace means “unmerited favor” and, I’ll be perfectly honest with you and say that some of what is going on in my life NEEDS some Grace, but it doesn’t feel very much like it has arrived just yet. 

img_20190109_151124788Some of us are right smack-dab in the middle of those “suffering” times and it can be mighty difficult to see those times as a gift,  and yet,  (oh, how I love that word!) because we know the Giver, we can also have some hope. Oh, we’re always ready to share in some of that glory and who doesn’t want to be considered “perfect, firm, and strong” in life?!

It’s the getting to it–or, rather, the getting through to it–when the going gets rough and the cheering crowd gets a little thin that we have to gather up all we know about the goodness of our God and keep moving. Hard or not. Cheers or not. No matter what hard thing we are facing right now, we need to remember this, as well:

  • For right now, He is giving us the GIFT of greater dependence on Him. While we long for INDEPENDENCE, He knows it is best for us to be IN Dependence on Him—and who would seek it if we all remained comfortable and able to completely handle quickly and efficiently every circumstance that comes our way?
  • ALSO right now (YES! In the MIDDLE of our hard time!!), He STILL has a plan–and it is for our good. (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • AND right now, He is right there beside us…in this thing–whatever it is!–with us! (Hebrews 13:5) We are NOT alone!!

Take courage, friends, there IS a way through and His name is Jesus. There IS a Plan, a Planner, and a Giver Who knows exactly what we need even when we fail to recognize it, like it, or appreciate the value of it in the midst of receiving it.

I’m counting on it. Better yet, I’m counting on HIM. I hope you are, too.

So, Happy Birthday to all of my loved ones and Happy IN Dependence Day to us all! While we’re here, we might as well celebrate!

Grace and Peace!

“Making it through” Lent

“He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37 (CSB)

My house is being deliberately filled with music this morning. Praise music. I’m listening to songs about the goodness and the greatness of my God. The one that is on currently just had this to say, “I know that I can make it. I know that I can stand. No matter what may come my way, my life is in Your hands!” It is both an encouragement and a reminder for those of us who are right in the middle of a hard thing that we are not alone.

My husband and I are both fine. Some of our loved ones are not. I’ve spent most of the past several days in prayer and waiting. There’s more of that to come. That doesn’t make me spiritual. It makes me part of a family–both physical and spiritual. The wait is not over and the situation isn’t fully resolved. In fact, we’re just beginning to see the tiniest glimmers of hope that might not even register on anyone else’s scale, but  I am choosing to celebrate them just the same. I am taking encouragement from the reminder on Sunday (and from several other sources lately!) that God calls us to do hard things. Well, here we are…right where we’ve been called to be.

I know others in vastly different, and yet similar situations. In fact, several of my closest friends are “right here with me” even though they live far away. Today, we are mourning the loss of life and the destruction of the tornadoes that swept through the South this past weekend, and also celebrating the safety of our friend who was right in the midst of it and remained untouched despite the destruction in her yard and neighborhood. Today, we are missing family far from us by distance and wishing we could be there to help, all the while knowing our skills are insufficient for the tasks they face. Today, we are the guardians of those who once guided us and are now in the middle of trying to make sense of even the smallest things. Today, we are, as my friend Patty wrote the other day, “just trying to survive” and love on those who are closest to us.

I’m still relatively new to the practice of Lent, so my mind doesn’t automatically go in the ways of those who have practiced it their whole lives. I don’t wish to offend anyone, but I began observing Lent for ME as a way to direct my own spiritual focus on worship. My walk with God is truly personal. It’s not a religion, but a relationship. Because observing Lent is voluntary for me, I’ve wondered whether or not I needed to even bother with it this year or simply ignore it in favor of “just surviving.” As of last night, I still hadn’t figured out a way to observe it and as I laid down, I mentally decided that maybe I would just skip it this year, since this isn’t a practice that my spiritual tradition usually observes. As I resigned myself to this decision, a verse floated through my mind about the ways I am to love my God: with all my heart, all my soul, and all my mind. 

Just thinking those words encouraged me to go ahead and celebrate this Lenten season. In fact, I really want to carefully follow that verse no matter what season it is. Today, however, I find myself in need of deliberately observing it, so I’m going to take it as my verse for Lent. I plan to find a way to do something good for my body, something good for my soul, and something good for my mind each day as I make sure I remain focused on the gift of Jesus the Christ and the sacrifice He made for all of us. I’m looking forward to adding health, encouragement, and knowledge over the next 40 days. 

I don’t have a clue what all of those observances will be or what those days will hold, but I do know this: “I know that I can make it. I know that I can stand. No matter what may come my way, my life is in Your hands!”

Thank you, Jesus. You came for us. The least we can do is live for you. Help us to focus on the gift of You and all You have done for us today and live in ways that worship and bring You praise.

Grace and peace!

 

Choice of the day

I didn’t really want to go meet her, but it seemed important to my new family-to-be that I meet their neighbors, so I dutifully crossed the street following my new fiance and his sister. We were headed to visit Mrs. Jewette Grogan, a long-time neighbor and family friend. Her small brick house was attractive, neat, and well-kept. She matched her house.

We were warmly welcomed in although she didn’t receive any advance warning of our visit and invited to take a seat. She was lively and seemed interested in hearing all of their latest news. As they introduced us, she leaned forward and said, “How delightful!” It wasn’t a word I had heard actually used in a very long time. She seemed to mean it…I mean, really mean it. We spent less than an hour there and when we go up to leave, Mrs. Jewette said–again–how “delighted” she was to see them and meet me. Delight. It was a word I would often associate with this little lady over the coming years. That simple conversation has stayed with me and has often helped me choose my attitude when faced with unexpected “interruptions” in my schedule.

Fast forward the many years between then and now and I have noticed that my attitude has become a bit more jaded of late. Perhaps it is all of the gloom and rain of this winter weather (I seriously notice the lack of sunshine during the winter months!), the recent health challenges in our household, the news about challenges some of our loved ones are facing, the accident awhile back–or, maybe a combination of it all, but I’ve noticed a level of “blah” that I’m just not accustomed to feeling. It has affected my effectiveness at even simple tasks in addition to my mood.

I am not a fan of the “blahs” in life. Those nebulous yucky feelings are often as stressful as having a specific trial to overcome! I am, also, not alone. I know this because I’ve received emails and texts from several friends who are lately battling similar issues. Just yesterday one of them sent me a meme about the following words: “I’m so stressed that relaxing makes me more stressed because I’m not working on what’s making me stressed.” (LOL–and yes! I totally understood!)

I responded, “Trying to catch up on homework, taxes, apps, spending time with Mike…and have a good attitude. Made myself pull out the homework this afternoon…and in the top of DAY TWO (eye roll emoji here!) there it was. Pray and tell God “what is on your heart and what you need to know to understand.” I just broke down and said, “God, I want to be delighted in your Word, in the computer work, in learning the new software for photos and apps, for doing the tax work, for creating, for everything! I just want to be delighted.” I barely got it out before I heard in my spirit, “Choose to be delighted. Choose that no matter what you’re doing.” Girl! I closed my book, got out some new watercolors and made this (photo below) to put over my computer.”

IMG_20190225_063946870

Oh, I’m not kidding myself. I know it isn’t “fine art” by any stretch of the imagination, but as I brushed the colors across the paper, I thought about all of the tasks ahead for this week that will overlap, the choices made in one area that will make a difference in another one, and how the overarching theme about how they will ALL be done depends on me and the attitude I choose as I do them. Today, I am deliberately choosing to BE delighted. I am determined to go beyond the simple (or not-so-simple!) task of getting things done. I am choosing to delight as I do them. I think it is a God-honoring choice and another way to draw closer to Him as I deliberately choose to celebrate the ABILITY to do the tasks in front of me and celebrate the wonder that is all around us whether or not we stop to acknowledge it.

I realize this simple choice won’t cure those in the throes of deep depression, but maybe it will make a difference in just the tiniest part of your week so that it gives us all a place to draw a breath and keep going forward with a little bit lighter step? Who knows?! Maybe it will spread across our whole calendars and creep into our homes and the way we deal with those we love…and even, with those we struggle to love? I chose the verse at the top of the painting to remind me as I go forward that even those things that take a more concerted effort to choose delight in are STILL POSSIBLE with God’s help. I’m expecting to need His help to get my to-do list done, but I am supremely confident that He is up to the task and because of that, I am, too.

How very grateful I am for a God who keeps me on a short leash about my attitude!!! It is a CHOICE for me to make–and for you, as well! Let’s choose to be delighted today! It just might make Monday FUN!!

Grace and Peace!–and DELIGHT!!!

 

Some help required

I hate asking for help.

Maybe I’m the only one, but I’m guessing that’s not the case.

According to the writer of Acts, Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35 NIV)

I could try to pretend it is a “holy thing” and say that I’m just trying to live up to Scripture (insert VERY wry grin here)–and I do!—but I think that Jesus was simply stating a very human truth in addition to giving us a reminder that it is our job to help those who are weaker than we are.

It’s that word, I think: “Weaker.” I’ve never liked that word; refused to be that word; been absolutely determined not to live a life defined by that word. To be perfectly frank, I don’t remember applying that word to anyone else unless they were really, truly in that state through no fault of their own…and, even then, I’ve applied that word as a label very rarely. “Younger, smaller, sure, but weaker? Not so much. It just seemed unnecessarily mean. I was taught to be self-sufficient as much as possible. I probably took that to an extreme.

On the other hand, I am generally happy to lend a hand when asked. (That sentence had “always” in place of “generally” when it first slipped out onto the page, but honesty compelled me to change it.) I like helping most of the time—especially if it is something that makes things prettier, more efficient, cuts down on waste, or makes a loved one’s life a little easier. I don’t think of that of helping “the weak” at all. It is simply an expression of affection or the opportunity to be of service to those in my community.

Why, then, do I hate to ask for help…for myself? I have no issue asking for help for others. I’m happy to lead the way in that! But…for me? I hate it. I’d rather just do without.

Until I can’t anymore.

I’ve found myself there lately and I haven’t liked it even a little bit.

A couple of months ago, we dropped my husband’s truck off for repair and he took the big red truck to work the next morning. I didn’t have anywhere to be and it didn’t change my day plans at all…until he called. He wanted to let me know that while he was stopped at a traffic light behind a long line of cars—who were backed up because the police were working an accident scene at the intersection ahead!—he heard a horrible squealing-tire sound…just before being struck from behind. To be accurate, he wasn’t the first point of impact. That dubious honor belonged to the lady behind him who was then sandwiched between the car making impact and the bumper of the big red truck.

It seemed a simple matter, but then it turned out not to be so after all and here I am—about two months into this and still no resolution date for sure and certain. Although I wasn’t even part of the accident, my life has been the most affected by it in our household as I am still without my big red truck, which is currently receiving a new frame and being knit back together because they discovered there was more damage than previously understood.

I’m grateful that they’re able to repair it. I’m grateful that there are people who know how to do that–because I most definitely do not! I am grateful that most of the time I work from home and, at first, my thoughts actually led me to a mini-celebration about all the things I could legitimately say “no” to since I didn’t have transportation for a bit. It seemed a slight bright side in all of this to this introvert who loves being home more than anything. We’ve made it work pretty well for the most part, I’d say, but lately, I’ve begun to notice a change. There are only so many things that I can work into the time when the blue truck is here, when my husband is available to do them, or that can be postponed for the apparently indefinite time it will take to repair the big red truck and return it to factory specs.

I’ve begun to chafe a bit at my confinement. I’ve had to ask for help. (Did I mention that I hated doing that?) Oh, I know. It’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t make me weak. It doesn’t even mean that I’ve been forced into an untenable position in any way–except that I really don’t like to ask or admit a need for help…or a ride…or to borrow a car…or assistance of any kind…despite the number of INCREDIBLY kind people who have volunteered or called to ask if I needed anything…including my very kind neighbor who graciously loaned me her car to drive to Bible study and get my hair cut yesterday! (THANK YOU, SUE!!!) I’ve just mainly associated community as a means of society, not as an avenue for assistance…at least for myself.

I’m pretty sure it’s a part of a pride thing. I’m good at that. Sad, but true: I really get that pride thing. THIS, however, has also had a different element to it: I’m learning a lesson, albeit a lesson I didn’t desire–or even know I needed.

I’ve needed and I’ve needed community in a way I’ve generally been able to avoid previously. Me! The introvert who celebrated at the opportunity to stay home even more than before! I’ve needed…and I’ve needed community. That’s different for me. It’s also been instructive and humbling, a little bit scary, and more than a bit frustrating for me. Additionally, it’s also been probably the most necessary lesson I’ve had from God in quite awhile.

Scripture is always true. It IS better to give than to receive, but it is also a good thing to  be on the receiving end of things sometime so that we don’t take for granted the many blessings we have, the opportunity to bless others when they are in need, and we learn to bless them in ways that show how grateful we are to help. It’s also good to be part of a community that loves you and be reminded of that, as well. Needing community doesn’t make us weak. It makes us human. Life lessons all around. I’ve had a refresher course in attitude around here lately.

Apparently, God knew I needed help with that, as well.

Grace and Peace!

Edited for update: Just moments ago my phone rang. Although this post wasn’t intended as an actual request for assistance, another precious member of my community called to say that she had read my blog post and she wanted to offer me the use of a truck until mine is returned. Once again, I am humbled–and once again, it is because of the goodness of my God and the graciousness of His people. I am, indeed, the most blessed person I know. Go, God, and thank you, sweet friend!

 

 

Reading recipes

I seem to have developed a taste for books that combine fiction with recipes. It wasn’t intentional, but I just noticed that I have several books of this sort on my shelves. Perhaps it is a latent, inherited trait since my mother has long read cookbooks for pleasure.

I used to think that was odd. I would pass through a room and see her losing herself in  words combined as a road map to bring a taste of deliciousness into the world. Why in the world would you want to just read a cookbook?! I couldn’t imagine.

Sometimes Mama would look up suddenly and say, “Listen to this!” and then rattle off a list of ingredients assembled by someone from long ago that she never even knew…and she would always seem surprised when I didn’t get the taste of it like she had just by reading them out loud.IMG_20190202_205905963

Tonight, however, I got it. I read a recipe for lavender scones and, though I’ve never eaten anything like it before, I had that taste and texture in my mouth as I wondered if I could substitute a little lavender oil, instead…or maybe just add a little for some extra oomph…

I smiled and wondered if it would have tasted the same to my  mother…just by reading the words.

I started this day off early by participating in an effort to read through the Bible as part of a missions conference at our church. For the past several days member after member has read for their assigned time and been relieved by another. Each of us giving up something to gain the treasure of unity; sharing and consuming the Life we find in the written Word. I teared up as I began to read my portion and was equally moved when the one who followed me had the same reaction to what he read, as well.

These ancient words fill me with hope and joy. They are not fiction, but facts…and so much more. They give direction when I need to make decisions. They instruct when I have questions and lead when I feel lost. To hear them read aloud and see their effect on others who know and love their Author reminded me that cookbooks weren’t the only words my mother reads for pleasure. She also reads her Bible, for in it she has found–and shared!—the recipes for life.

“Taste and see that the LORD is good. How happy is the person who takes refuge in him!” Psalm 34:8 (CSB)

Grace and peace…and happy memories.

 

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!