NCN 2017–Day 13

1118160817Well, I blew it, y’all. I had a really good streak going on this NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER thing and on Saturday, I blew it over, of all things…a hotdog. I may or may not have also blown it again later that day watching football. Ok, I did. I tried to tell a friend that I was simply “encouraging with authority” (ha!), but truth be told, I was not happy with the way my team was playing and I started complaining…as though it might help. (smh)

You might think that I’d have picked something more important to  break my streak about than a hotdog and football game, but as our interim pastor said yesterday, “It isn’t the big things that will get you, but the little ones.” Was he ever right!

Also over the weekend, I found myself “rehearsing the bad” for a moment…again. Each time I failed, I was caught almost immediately by my sweet husband and encouraged to start over.

I’m sharing this because I wanted to make sure you knew you weren’t alone. We all fail at something. The most important things to remember, however, are that we get to start over every time and that we should continue to encourage others along the way.

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NLT)

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)

Happy Monday, y’all! Failure isn’t fatal. It’s time to start over. It’s time to encourage those around us and make a renewed effort to become a person of influence for good…and for God. 

Grace and Peace!

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Early Spring

Our nation has seemed to descend into a vitriolic winter of the soul over the past few months that has far surpassed any depth I had previously thought possible. The loss of civility even between friends over differences in politics, the outright refusal to acknowledge that it is the right to have our differences that make this nation a place of desired residence for so many, and the apparent lack of willingness to remember that even those who hold polar opposite views can STILL both have  our country’s best interest at heart…well, these things are disturbing to me on many levels. Part of me has wondered if God wasn’t witholding a natural winter from us because we were already treating each other so coldly.

Even in the absence of a “proper” winter I am inordinately cheered by the signs of this early spring. I pray the signs of nature’s new growth will also stimulate a resurgence of kindness, a putting away of offended and offensive spirits, breathe into us a new determination to move forward despite the obstacles, and spur a willingness to find common ground and work from there in an effort to heal the vast breaches we’ve worked so hard to create.

img_20170224_102311867As I wander through my yard viewing the signs of an early spring, I pray for my nation. I pray for her leaders in both parties and ask God to grant them wisdom. I pray for healing and I pray for an abundance of obstinate seeds of hope and reconciliation to survive in all of us. We could all use an early Spring.

Storm Warning

Becky’s Immutable Law of Lines is universally accepted to state that no matter which line I choose at the check-out area, said line will immediately grind to a halt and I will be stuck there for all of eternity. Selah. (That’s a Biblical word that basically means, “Sit there and think on that for awhile”–because you will have time to do so in that line.) While ETERNITY may have been a bit of a stretch, I think you get my point. It does no good to change lines as said Law of Lines will follow me there…as it is Immutable, after all. This, along with several other such Immutable Laws have been conceived after much time spent in many such lines. After all, I’ve been there for a long time and have to do something to entertain my brain after the people-watching begins to pall…or frustrate.

Such a thing happened the other day when I went on my regularly scheduled grocery run to find that all parking lots in the locally known universe were filled by anxious Southerners participating in the elusive milk, eggs, bread, and battery stampedes that inevitably follow any announcement of a possibly impending precipitation forecast with temperatures less than 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

I didn’t have a lot to buy at this particular store, but I had more items than could “legally” allow me to stand in their fast lanes. After searching out the entire line situation,  I thought that God had gifted me with as short a line as possible to complete my business. When I arrived I was number 4 in line behind others who also had the same legal buying issues that I did. No one had over 25 items, I’m sure of it. AND YET! We were in that line for a-WHILE, y’all; long enough, in fact, for my popsicles to lose their formerly frozen-solid state and the boxes no longer have any degree of coldness to them whatsoever! (I am being serious when I say that–it is not an exaggeration and I did not buy them and I stopped at another store closer to home and picked up another box of them because, well, those are MY winter-storm preparedness items. You can see that I take these things seriously.)

Did I mention that the store was overrun with panicked Southerners–who are prone to moseying at it’s finest? Did I fail to say that ALL of the scheduled cashiers were on the lines and that the management had been pressed into service there, as well, in addition to having to periodically leave to go help an over-pressed cashier? OR did I mention that while Southerners can be the most polite people evah (yes, that was deliberate), during any weather panic, they can become hostile at a slightly higher rate of decay in public manners and under such circumstances some real ugliness can fall right out there in front of everybody? ( I know. I may not be helping us in the public image department, but I’m trying to set the scene here, ok? I strongly suspect we are not the only part of our country where this kind of thing occurs.)

ANY way! I was in such a line and was feeling really bad for the sweet elderly woman ahead of me who had been on her feet too long and still needed all her medical items so she was stuck. I was also similarly frustrated, but determined to wait it out, when I heard a hard exhalation of breath behind me. I looked around and, very casually with a grin said, “You might have picked the wrong line today, too.” I was referring to the time I had already spent there and nothing else. The heavy breather, however, had  eyes on something else…and took my comment as a sign that I had observed and commented–and therefore must have agreed with their particular area of frustration. What followed was a louder public commentary about the person then currently checking out and their method of payment. No actual ugly words were uttered, but the sentiment of racially motivated judgement and the contempt and the ugliness of it were there just the same.

It broke my heart. Really. I honestly wasn’t sure whether to  laugh at the stupidity of the attitude, cry at the intended hurtfulness, or slap some mouth-washing soap into a hand and go to work. I wanted to do ALL of that and more. I wanted to introduce them to Jesus and I wanted to erase that time so it didn’t happen and I wanted to go hug the person checking out just in case they heard it and thought they were alone or thought that everyone else around them agreed with those words. I didn’t do any of that, however. I simply dropped my head for a moment, took a deep breath, looked right at them and said, “My comment was strictly regarding the TIME. I have no problem with anything else today.” Then I turned my back and just stood there while the person grumbled a bit and then moved on to another topic.

Y’all. It was sad. I felt dirty just being next to those words. I’m still not sure what else I could or should have done. I don’t think for a moment that the lecture I wanted so desperately to give would have found a fertile home and changed a thing. It bothered me so much…and it still does. It rang in my ears again this morning when my husband told me of the recent Facebook streaming of a crime against a mentally challenged young man. I had been unaware of that due to my recent limitations of public media, but I scrambled eggs with tears in my eyes while my heart broke all over again at the ugliness in this world.

Father God, WHAT have your creations come to and how long can your forbearance last in the face of all we have  convoluted and polluted about Your desire that we “love one another even as Christ loves the church” when we see these things happening and remain silent? We JUST celebrated Christmas, y’all; the time when Love left heaven and came down to a dwell with us at OUR level instead of requiring US to somehow come up to meet HIS level without a hope of doing that on our own! It is unfathomable to me that as advanced as we have become in society we still have this foolishness in our midst. It is actually more than that though, isn’t it? It is evil, so I guess I shouldn’t be all that surprised to find it fighting for a place, but I am still appalled.

I am also praying. I am praying for the Love that came down to fill me up in such a way that I will not tolerate such behavior in my presence or allow it to take root in any place within me even–or especially–when I am under pressure, because in those situations, what is in the heart often comes out of the mouth and I want to be so full of God that HE is what comes out no matter where I am or what I’m doing. This isn’t political. This is personal. God made us as individuals and He made us ALL in His image no matter what we look like or where we live. If you can’t get your head wrapped around the fact that GOD chose every single detail of your creation to bless you and bring Him glory including your skin color and your geographical and socioeconomic placement before He ever put you on the planet with the brainpower and opportunity to improve the world where you can and worship Him while and WITH the doing of that, then you’re going to be pretty surprised when you finally meet up with Him. Nothing about you and your creation was a mistake. NOT A THING.

There are many things up for debate in our world, but this shouldn’t be one of them and the sooner we can get on board with HIS plan for how we treat each other makes it that much sooner that we can get busy bringing some of this other foolishness in the world to a halt.

How we choose to use those choices that God has already made for us says more about us than we realize. Not a single one of His choices for us was intended as either a slight OR as an indication of His higher favor. They were made with love and care because  He has a plan that is for our good and part of that good is about making us more like Him! As our Creator, He alone would know exactly what was needed to make that happen. Every detail about each of us has been deliberately and lovingly chosen in order to help us reach as many people as possible and illustrate His greatness to the world.

What will you choose to do with His choices for you? Those choices are yours.

Grace and Peace!

Oh, Yes! We are in such dire need of GRACE and PEACE…and HIM.

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.)

Day 30!!–NCN2016

34777“NCN has been so much better this year. Can’t say I haven’t whined at times but the Holy Spirit has used the exercise to at the very least make me aware. Can’t believe tomorrow is the last day I’ll actually pen the words, no acronym I needed to write it out to live it out!!, on my daily to-do list. Thank you for starting and continuing NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER! Looking forward to next year. I love you.”

These were the words that came to me yesterday from my lovely cousin Leigh. I wasn’t surprised by them. She’s always encouraging and I loved that she shared this spontaneously. It DID, however, cause me to prompt some responses from a few others that I knew had made the NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER journey with us by sending the following:  what’s your evaluation of NCN and how you observed it/what did you learn? 

Here is a sampling of what I received in response:

“I honestly think some people are complainers by nature. And I might be one of them!  This has been a great tool for bringing that awareness to me! Seriously…my husband…doesn’t complain. In fact, he rarely says much. LOL. I find this personality-flaw cruel and unfair.

And during the first 5 minutes of breakfast I might have been “explaining” my use of said husband’s Fitbit charger cord and all the reasons mine was unavailable to me…when he sweetly asked, ‘Is it still November?’

Wow.”

 

“…I have to admit I wasn’t as diligent as I should have been toward the middle to end of month. So much going on I fall back into bad habits. I will say, however, that my priest’s homily Sunday evening revved me up again. He spoke about the beginning of the advent season and how we should all make an effort to honor the season and prepare for Christs birth. He talked about how small efforts every day add up and put us on the right track. Made my mind up then to make more of an effort to be positive and take NCN into December. Kind of my way of making up for all of the Days timeI messed up in November!”

 

“First answer: I refuse to answer the question on the grounds that it might incriminate me.

Second answer: while I wasn’t very successful, NCN and your blogs brought me back to the right head space, at least for a few moments.

Third answer: I’ll catch up with you in December.”

I love it! See! I have something to anticipate! (grin)

I chose these responses deliberately because they all have a theme. In fact, it might as well have been the theme for the entire challenge: NO ONE is going to do NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER perfectly! That’s not a complaint. It’s a fact…and I’m more than ok about that. I knew going in that this would be a challenge and the whole point of a challenge is to IMPROVE a performance.

I agree with Leigh. It WAS easier for me this year, but I’ve spent the past 11 months trying to keep it going from the last NCN, so that was to be expected. In some ways, it was also more difficult because of all that was going on politically, but I thought that just made it better in some ways, as well.

One of my friends who responded above also sent me an article the other day about a woman who had blogged about trying not to complain for a whole day. I chuckled. Apparently, we are over-achievers, and yet I still applaud the effort to reduce anyone’s “complaint footprint” on this earth! It is a worthy goal.

As we come to the end of our challenge–don’t give up! We still have this one last official day of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER to conquer! I hope that we will ALL be conscious going forward about reducing our own complaint footprint in our respective environments. Thank you for sharing this challenge with me, for sending me your texts and emails about your successes and your “almost made its” along with your complete melt-down failures. In every single case, you challenged me and encouraged me to do better and know that I was not alone in my attempts to get it right–along with giving me good company in which to repent and try again when I got it wrong.

You have blessed me and I am grateful. I have NO COMPLAINTS about my companions in this challenge for you are a valiant lot and I’m proud to know you–even those I’ve not yet met.

I can’t wait to see how you make this world a better place!

Grace and Peace! (and NO COMPLAINTS!!)

Day 15–NCN2016

Confession time. Over the weekend–and with my own challenge taken fully to heart about trying to love on the people around me as a way to counteract all the negative activities that have been going on!–I had a really hard time. I had the strongest urge I can tell you to share ALL about NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER with someone…JUST so I could also share about how much it was SAVING THEM from me at that moment.

Sigh…when I shared this with a couple of friends, they…laughedreally hard. Apparently, this urge is “such as is common to man”…and woman. (very tiny wry grin…or perhaps more accurately, grimace) Even now, I’m not entirely certain I’m “over it” enough to be completely rational in my sharing of the tale–and doing so would COMPLETELY obliterate my NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER goal for today, so I will continue to remain quiet about the details and celebrate that the one who engendered this response is alive and well and happy and has absolutely NO idea how close they came to annihilation by verbiage. I’m counting that as a victory and moving forward.

I shared all that to say this: WE’RE ON DAY 15!!!!! We’re at the half-way mark of this challenge and NO, I am not the Pollyanna that some would claim and YES, this is harder than it looks some days. Maybe it shouldn’t be–and my goal is that one day it WON’T BE!–but until that day comes, I’m choosing to move forward and keep trying. I also hope that it encourages you–whether your record is absolutely perfect so far this month or whether you’ve started over multiple times every single day!–to keep at it! We CAN do this!

We can change the world right where we live. And that is a goal worth pursuing.

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NASB)

Grace & Peace! (and NO COMPLAINTS!)

Day 10–NCN2016

Can I just make a few of observations here today? (And since it’s my blog I’m going to proceed, so just nod, ok?)

  • Either yesterday was the most terrible “Day After” EVER or there are there are a lot more people who need to join us in celebrating NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER than we thought. (and, FYI, that was an independently confirmed observation, not a complaint, but don’t get me started on that!)
  • Oddly–THANKFULLY!!–both President-elect Trump and former Secretary Clinton along with President Obama led the way and delivered strong, conciliatory speeches hoping to reunite the country and move us forward. PLEASE feel free to follow their lead in this!!
  • No matter who you voted for, you are NOT all the horrible labels that were hurled your way yesterday…otherwise God would have mentioned it.
  • He didn’t mention it. I promise.
  • Instead, He said that you are loved. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
  • He said that you are cherished. (Jeremiah 31:3)
  • He said that you WOULD be held responsible for your words and your deeds. (Matthew 12:36)
  • He said you need to be kind. (Ephesians 4:32)
  • He said forgiveness is not only possible, but realistic…if you ask Him. (1 John 1:9)
  • That forgiveness-thing? He’s serious about that, but that name-calling stuff is going to have to stop.

Seriously. It’s going to have to stop. I know that all of the divisiveness can’t be erased overnight. It wasn’t limited to just one campaign. The rancor and name-calling was the hallmark of both major parties/candidates and it went on too long and too deeply for it to fade away quickly. It DOES need to start, though, by supporters in BOTH camps and soon.

Speaking the truth in love is critical to our being able to unite and work for the common good. However, most of what we heard and saw yesterday was neither truth, nor love–it was just critical. What kind of influence did YOU bring to the national conversation yesterday? Think about it: how willing would you be to work with those who called you what you called them yesterday? If you really want your side to be heard and your agenda to be advanced, we’re going to need to work on our people skills, people!!

Consider doing your part to make that change today? Personally, I’d really appreciate it…because it would make MY NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER celebration a LOT easier to celebrate. That may sound pretty selfish, but I think it would probably help you with yours, too. At the very least, we all wouldn’t have to feel like we need a shower and a week in solitary just to recover from a short visit on Facebook.

Grace and Peace! (and NO COMPLAINTS!)

“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Colossians 4:6 (NKJV)

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)