The really spectacular day…

IMG_20170527_180617889It doesn’t take much to make us happy. Well, some days it does, but it’s usually stuff like spending time together and having both of us healthy at the same time and holding hands and having our cat, Smokey, oversee our every move. (As you can see from the photo, he thinks this is HIS blog today.) We have had just such a day.

We had planned a whole long weekend at home trying to kick the yuck of the previous weeks out of our lives and I had all the food choices figured out and ready for the grill, a slew of old movies and maybe a board game or two lined up along with the knowledge that we had a whole extra day to add to the mix on Monday. I woke up first and quietly made my way into the living room to break my way gently into the day. It wasn’t long before my husband joined me with a mischievous grin on his face. I could tell he felt better just by the way he was grinning. (MAJOR praise!)

“You know what I want to do today?” he asked.

“You want to go out for breakfast.”

He shook his head from side to side and began to spill out his plan for the day. Just the idea that he felt up to it made me want to join in the fun, so we made quick work of our morning chores and off we went. It took us off our beaten path and it was worth every single second.

When we arrived at our destination we giggled like school children. We held hands as we crossed the parking lot and shared one last (really big) grin as opened up the heavy doors and stepped inside…and then we parted ways. You would have thought it was Disney, but we had just entered the hallowed space that is the Barnes and Noble.

Let me pause here and let you exhale that great big breath you’ve been holding, ok? I know. That probably wasn’t even close to what you were expecting, but believe you me–it was a big deal to us. Even better? We made a pact to split up and go whichever direction we wanted and stay as LONG as we wanted…just because we could! Outside of a public library or a botanical garden, there’s just about no other place I’d rather spend some time than a room full of words all put in different orders and ready to share something new and pertinent with you if you just pick up the ones written in the right order to appeal to you.

We had traveled over an hour just to get to this one. Oh, there’s one about 20 minutes closer, but THIS one has a P.F. Chang nearby…and that cast the deciding vote on the matter. When our adventure–and yes, it qualified because we braved Atlanta traffic and survived all sorts of perilous drivers on the road there and back! In fact, I am actually the only one who made all the right moves on the entire trip there and back, y’all! It is harrowing to know that that many people who can’t drive actually do so!…ANY WAY!… When our adventure was complete, we each had a bag full of books and magazines with hours and hours of fun, entertainment, learning, and mind adventures just waiting to be started. We made another stop on the way home to get some minor fixes made to a recent purchase and then, to top it off we made a stop by the Sonic on the way home and purchased TWO Route-44 Fresh strawberry slushes…and if that doesn’t sound delicious to you, then we’re not sure you’ve really lived. (grin)

We heated the PFC left-overs from lunch while we got in our comfortable clothes. Actually, that last sentence should be more accurately translated into, “We then got into our pajamas at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon and settled in for the long duration!” Now that we’ve made sure Smokey has properly settled in for appropriate oversight and the delights of Crispy Honey Chicken with brown rice and the egg rolls have been consumed, it is here that we find ourselves…hoping and praying that one day you’ll manage to have such a splendid outing with someone you love this much and that you won’t let things like being over an hour away and not being on the schedule or feeling silly that if you’re going to go to all that trouble it better be something more spectacular than a bookstore and some really upscale Chinese food. (Fried green beans, y’all. Fried green beans. It would have been worth the trip just for the appetizer!)

The moral of this story is this: don’t wait to have a spectacular day until you can pay big bucks and do something stunningly grand to impress people. The little things actually make the bigger impact when you consistently fill your life with loving people, delicious food, and good words all written out in a way that makes you smile…and maybe even ones that will inspire you to get out and do something that wasn’t on your agenda at the beginning of your day, either.

Grace and Peace, y’all! I’ve got a stack of books to dig into right now! (happy dance, happy dance!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting expectations

I just received a book I ordered on Amazon. I love books. This one had been on my radar for several years–ever since another blogger I love had shared a couple of quotes from it. Since it wasn’t a necessity or pertinent to any particular project I have pursued since then, the book title has simply languished on my personal wish list. I have periodically searched for an affordable copy to own. Oh, I checked with the library first, but they didn’t own a copy–not even a single one in the entire Georgia Pines system that could be transferred in so I could read it! I searched for it in bookstores locally and nationally as I traveled, but Books-a-Million and Barnes & Noble haven’t stocked it, either.

At long last, I found a used copy online that was within my means. It had the added bonus, I thought, of having an inscription by the book photographer. It was described as being “clean with no other markings.”

It arrived today. I was all excited and couldn’t wait to liberate it from all of the packaging.

It wasn’t what I expected.

Yes, there was an inscription by the photographer, but there were also multiple pages (8, to be precise) that had markings where a previous reader had chosen to mark passages that appealed to them…but not necessarily to me. I was crushed. After waiting all this time, it just didn’t live up to my expectations.

That’s a word I’ve been reading a lot about here lately. Expectations. Set them too high and disappointment is sure to follow. Set them too low and no one will express any interest.

I’ve had a little more time to read and think lately. Deciding to limit my time online has been a real treat during this busy holiday season. I’ve had more time for prayer (which I’ve needed) and I’ve accomplished more than I thought possible on my chore list each day. I am loving it! In fact, I may just adjust a few of my parameters and keep this personal challenge going for a little while.

The story about my new book and the report on my latest challenge may not seem to mesh at first glance. What they do, however, is remind me that I need to make sure I take the time to think about what I set others up to expect from me–by the things I say and the things I do–and the things I expect of them in return.

Additionally, if I’m supposed to represent Christ well every day (and I am), then I need to make certain I live up to the expectation He sets for me in the Bible, not just those others set for me or the ones I might set for myself. Quite honestly, His expectations are often both more difficult and much simpler than those I’ve set for myself in the past. His is a law of liberty and I’ve managed to complicate that liberty more than once by allowing myself “a pass” on some elements and adding my own brand of adherence to others. Thinking back on some of my past behavior, I’m often amazed that God was been allowed to show up at all some days. (my goodness, aren’t you glad you don’t do things like that?!)

As I’ve had more time to think lately, I’ve also had more time to talk to God about what I’m thinking (and doing) and how that lines up with His expectations of me. I’ve been reminded that He is full of grace and forgiveness, so I must choose to be the same.

It’s already made a significant difference in the way I’m choosing to celebrate this Christmas. I’m choosing to let go of some expectations in the way the season ought to be celebrated. Some of those expectations are mine. Some aren’t. The main thing I’m doing is choosing to expect God to show up just like He did so long ago to save a world that was in such need of Him…and that looks like me this year…so I’m actively looking for Him in my days. I’m choosing to believe that He is enough. I’m choosing peace over pursuit. I’m choosing rest over activity. I’m choosing relationships over technology, and I’m choosing to look to for Him in the quietness of the room and in the depth of my heart.

He is here and He enough. Expectation met…and exceeded.

 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

 

(Btw, I contacted my bookseller. They were gracious enough to apologize for the misrepresentation and then they went even further: they refunded my money and told me to keep the book! Seems like they might know something about meeting expectations, as well.)

Lap time…

“What are you going to do this week to increase your abiding in Christ?”

My friend Lynn asked us that question near the end of our Bible study last Tuesday focused on John 15:1-8, with emphasis on verse 5, which says,

““I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (NKJV)

She asked us to write our answers down on a 3×5 card since writing down your goals is supposed to help you follow through. And it would…if you actually did what you wrote down…or wrote down what you intended to do. I didn’t do either of those things. Well, not really.

I had an idea in my head of what I wanted to do, but it sounded a bit strange in my head and even more so as I tried to write it on paper, so I just wrote down that I planned to work on memorizing Scripture. I DO plan to do that, so I wasn’t missing the mark entirely.

What I really wanted to write down was “lap time”…but I didn’t know if she was going to take those cards up and, if she did, then that wasn’t going to tell her very much.

0221161718When I was little, my daddy loved to sit in the rocking chair and rock us. He wasn’t the only one who did that–because I come from a very big, loving family who got in the act with all of us–but he was pretty consistent about it. Many times, we would get a story as we rocked. That was the best thing ever. (and it might just be why I love words even today.)

Anyway, when I thought about what to write on my 3×5 card, that’s what popped into my head. Now, I’m WAY past being able to sit in a rocking chair and get a story from my earthly father, but one of the great things about having a big God is that you can never outgrow Him.

I decided that I would start re-reading the Bible “for fun.” Now, don’t get me wrong–I always love reading the Bible, but I’ve noticed lately that I’ve mainly been reading for specific study, for teaching prep, or to “do” a devotional activity. It’s been awhile since I just sat down and read the Bible because it was fun to read the story…and this is, trust me, THE Story.

We’re studying Matthew in Sunday School, so I decided to start there, in the New Testament. I made up my mind that at some point each day I would simply put everything else aside, and jump right into the Word without being concerned about analyzing, picking out base language meanings, or anything else the least bit academic. I just wanted to crawl up into God’s lap and read His story…which, incidentally, tells me how much He loves me…just like my earthly daddy did when we were rocking together all that long time ago.

It’s been amazing. There’s no pressure. There’s no schedule. I’ve been reading until I found something I wanted to ponder, or give thanks for, or celebrate and then I quit. I still have to do that ‘real study’ and prep, but this story time/lap time with God, has rested my spirit and calmed me down in a way that only He knew I really needed.

I shared all of this with a friend via text the other day and, before I knew it, felt like I needed to share it here with you, as well…you know, just in case you needed to crawl up in His lap this week, too. It will help you to rest, to remain, to abide and all those other good things that you’re in need of…and there’s plenty of room up here in the lap, because He’s a great big God and He loves you–way bigger than you can ever imagine…at least until you read His story and find your place in it.

Praying Grace & Peace…and some lap time for all of us!

 

 

Weekend challenge…

Happy Friday, everyone! I’ve been looking at my calendar a lot over the past few days.  I can’t seem to keep the dates all in order in my head and I’ve been really grateful that it’s all written down somewhere…well, most of of it…ok, well, a lot of it, anyway!  I’ve been doing truckloads of paperwork this week and I think being indoors so much has made me lose some of my connection to the passing of the days.

That can only mean one thing:  I need to get away from the computer and go do something “real life” this weekend and that’s my challenge for all of us.  I’m giving myself until 5 pm today to get all the computer work I can get crammed into the day and then I’m planning to be as “technology free” as I can get this weekend.

Golden canopy

Golden canopy

No, I won’t be doing anything with bank statements or spreadsheets or the e-version of anything.

No, I don’t plan to be on Facebook or Pinterest or text (unless I hear a really bad joke that I can text to my nephews in MS or if they send me a photo of them at the game or…well, as you can see, the nephews are pretty much my exception for any of my arbitrarily made-up rules).

No, I won’t be checking my electronic calendar, so if I’m supposed to be somewhere and I don’t show up this weekend, I hope you’ll feel free to take great pictures and tell me all about what I missed when I see you again, because this weekend I’m planning to kick back and just enjoy being with my husband and maybe pick up one of those books that have been stacked up and calling my name…hey! I’ve resisted for most of the week already, ok?!

Yes, I’ll still answer my phone when it rings. (Maybe…depending on who calls and when!  ha! For best results, do not call while the game is on, please…that’s just for your own good, ’cause I will not answer then…or when I’m eating–despite what some of my friends think about that rule of mine on that subject.)

Yes, I plan to watch some college football and because I live in the South, I plan to condition some air if God decides to make it too appleshot to leave the doors and windows open.

Yes, I’ll use the kitchen appliances…because I’m always going to make sure there is some good food going on here and I’m in the mood for some homemade lasagna and a nice green salad.

Yes, I’ll be using the truck to get me where I remember I need to be and if I see something cool on the way that I need to stop and explore a little further…

Anything other than that, I’ll be making it up as I go along. That’s part of the challenge, too–what’s your plan?

Whatever you decide about the technology, make sure you have a wonderful time with some real people and don’t forget to have a great weekend!

Grace & Peace!

Memory Lane: First day of school

The big yellow bus just passed by my window carrying children on their way to the first day of the new school year.  I love this day!  Every year I have the biggest grin on my face as I stand and wait at the window for this to happen.  Yes, even though I don’t have children and I’m not going to be there myself!–I still do this!

I get excited about all of the possibilities they will have in the upcoming year:  new teachers, new friends, new knowledge…new notebooks and pencils and all kinds of other really cool school supplies!  And, once again, yes, I know that makes me more than a bit of a school nerd.

I’m ok with that.  In fact, I think it’s a pretty great thing to be!  I wish every child could have the joy and anticipation about going to school that accompanied me throughout most of my educational experience!  I wish they could ALL have the kinds of dedicated teachers who were determined to inspire that joy of learning and be personally invested in the success of each of their students the way I had at that age.

This morning, I’m also smiling because I remember that very first day of first grade which I was so excited about…right up until I got there and discovered that they didn’t even know my name!  Can you imagine?!  That’s when it suddenly became unthinkable that my mother would turn me over to a bunch of people who were supposed to know more than I did…but didn’t even know my name!  In my whole six years of life I’d never been anywhere that had happened before!  This school thing had one strike against it and the first bell hadn’t even rung yet!

Oh, my mother had pre-registered me as she was supposed to do, but something had obviously gone horribly wrong in the process because my teacher…on her first day of her career…tried to pin a yellow lion-shaped name tag with the word “Rebecca” on it…on me.  I refused.  She asked “why not?” and I responded that that wasn’t the right tag.  She assured me that it was and tried again.  I assured her that it wasn’t and asked her to look again.  We reached a stalemate pretty quickly on this one.

No, I couldn’t read every word on the walls around her classroom yet, but I did know who I was…and it wasn’t Rebecca.  That simply was not an option.  I was also smart enough to know that if I allowed that liberty to pass, I’d be Rebecca for the rest of my life…and I wasn’t Rebecca at all.  I was Becky.  They could all just get over it and do me a new one!

Oh, I was polite in my refusal–my mother would have tanned my hide if I hadn’t been!–but I was absolutely adamant.  It was not happening.  So right there, in the middle of all the first day of school chaos, my new teacher let her aide take over the greeting at the door and she cut out a new name tag for me…some other animal shape that I don’t even remember, but I know it was pink and it had my “proper” name on it this time.  (grin)

Knowing who you are is important.  It’s just slightly more so than knowing who you don’t want to be.  You need to have a good idea about both of those things in order to do life in ways that make sense and gives you a path to follow.  Even at six I knew that and I was happy to find that the people who were going to teach me all the things I’d need to know  were smart enough to know that, too.

For your weekend…

Calling all patriots!  This is a ‘read a book’ challenge…just in time for our celebration of Independence Day here in America on July 4th!  Yes, I know.  It’s a little bit early.  That’s the point.  I want you to have time to go to the library, the bookstore, do a Kindle download or whatever it is you need to do in order to read this book before July 4th.

I’ve been an Andy Andrews fan for a long time, but this little book of his is truly something special.  The one I’m referring to is How Do You Kill 11 Million People?–why the truth matters more than you think…and yes, you read that right and no, I have not lost my mind!  Published in 2011, this tiny book is only 80 very short pages long, but the message it contains is absolutely HUGE.SONY DSC

You need to read this.  Whether you live in the US or somewhere else…it does NOT matter.  You NEED to read this book.

Although I heard an interview with the author shortly after the book was published, I didn’t read it until just a few months ago.  Afterwards, I couldn’t believe I had waited so long to do so.  I have waited to share this challenge here for several reasons, but the time for it has finally arrived.

Never before has there been a time when our society has been so thoroughly fractured–with each and every side having so many paid–and loud!–proponents representing each faction.  Opposing political, spiritual, moral and legal issues are center stage for all of us and although I know we’ll never have a day when everyone agrees on every single issue, this book is all about something we CAN all agree on:  the need for truth and what happens when we make decisions without having access to the truth beforehand.

This challenge will take you less than an hour to complete, but I promise you:  it will stay with you much  longer than that and it will make a difference in how you evaluate what you hear for years to come.

I’m not going to tell you anything else for now.  I want you to have time to read this for yourselves…and then…I want you to chime in and tell me what you think!  You can do that here in the comments section, reach me by email, phone, in person or by snail mail.  I don’t care how you do it, just let me hear from you on this one!  This is one of those things we need to do for ourselves and for our nation.

Take the challenge!  Read the book!  Meet me back here to share your thoughts on it!  Oh, yes!  One more thing:  if you’re smart, you’ll go ahead and buy more than one copy so you can share it with others!  It will save you another trip later.

Grace & Peace!

Trusting God: it’s a process…

 I had the privilege of facilitating a Bible study last night at our church on Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts.  If you haven’t read it, please consider this my personal endorsement and invitation to do so…for a lot of reasons.

 Last night, the topic was about trusting in God.  You’d think that in a church setting the topic of trusting God would be a ‘no-brainer’ for all concerned.  You’d be wrong.  I noticed more than one head nod ever-so-slightly when I asked if anyone had ever had difficulty with this issue.

 As the questions and conversation continued, I began to notice something interesting.  There is a pretty wide age range in this group—something I really love about them!—and what I noticed was in the responses (both verbal and non-verbal).  There were some universal concerns/agreements on some questions and there were some definite differences on others.  The differences seemed to be based around more life-stage issues:   for example, those who were raising young children/teenagers had more specific instances of where it was difficult to trust God than the ladies who had adult-aged children/grandchildren. 

 That told me something important:  trusting God is something we can grow into just like so many other growth opportunities we face.  Growing older doesn’t always mean that we continue to grow in our faith—that is a choice requiring a consistent “yes” to God no matter what He sends our way.  In the same way, youth doesn’t necessarily mean a lack of maturity in the faith, either.

 One of the advantages of age in one who has loved and served God for a long time is the opportunity to have seen Him at work longer!  Being consistently thankful is a way to remind ourselves of all the ways God blesses us.  It’s an important step to building that trust in Him over time.

 Ann Voskamp makes a bold statement when she says that choosing worry and stress is an exercise in practical atheism.  She goes on to say that while Christians (those who have chosen to believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died to save them from their sins and lives to make intercession for them now while waiting to bring them home to heaven and present them as a gift to God the Father) can not be positional atheists (our position is sealed once we are saved) we can exhibit practical atheism.  This is different from making sure that we’ve taken common-sense precautions.  Once you’ve taken the necessary precautions in a situation, you can move on.  Ann is talking about making a habit of choosing to continually recycle negative thoughts over and over in our minds without arrving at any productive solution.  In short, she’s saying that when we consistently choose worry and stress—-we’re telling the world that God is not enough and that He can’t be trusted.  Since we’re called to share the Good news of our Lord, who would possibly want to follow Him if He can’t be trusted?  It’s something to think about…seriously.

 We come from all kinds of different backgrounds.  Some of us have faced many difficult challenges and may even feel we’ve managed them quite nicely all on our own.  Some of us are dealing with pain even in this moment and know that we could never handle it without the help of a God who loves and cares for us in such detailed ways.  No matter where you are in that spectrum, there’s always room for improvement.  There’s always room for more trust in God.  He can be trusted.  No matter what you face today or have dealt with in the past, God can be trusted.  That’s never going to change.  What can change is our response to Him and our decision to take Him at His word and begin to trust Him more right now.  It’s a process.  How will you progress in the process today?

  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)