I decided…and you can, too.

IMG_20190906_092212433I woke up late (at 6:15A 🙄) this morning and found that my wonderful husband had packed his own lunch and gone on to work without a single complaint. His simple act of grace was much appreciated and such a blessing that I DECIDED that I would fill my day with his example. As I walked my way through my prayer list this morning and worked around the yard, I’ve been determined to make this a day when I simply gave God praise for the blessings of life.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve got to tell you that I almost didn’t make it through my prayer list. I almost slipped up and asked for something! (EEEEK!) I’m kidding of course–about the eeeek! I know that God doesn’t mind our asking for things, but my goal for the day is to just tell Him “thank you!”…so…I had to revise a couple of things as I went through my list.

For the family God placed me in and continues to bless me with, I thanked Him for His watch-care and the privilege of a Godly heritage, for strong and healthy nephews, and the gift of actually LIKING my family members. I know that is a gift many cannot claim.

For the friends who encourage my heart and keep me accountable, I praised Him for His personal touch through their counsel and told Him how glad I was for those who know Him and reflect Him in my daily life.

For the ones who have survived and and are still facing hard things, I gave God praise for the strength I see in them because I know it comes from Him.

For those dealing with difficult health issues, I gave thanks that God is our Healer and our Provider.

For the ones with difficult family issues, I told God how wonderful it was to see them love even when it is hard to do so and how proud I am that they haven’t given up when so many others would.

For the ones who have just faced the physical storms and are now facing the aftermath and cleanup from Dorian, I thanked Him for their personal safety.

For those who, like us, are dealing with the heartbreak of dementia within the minds of loved ones, I gave Him praise that we can still lift each other up and encourage each other in our shared experiences. I have become grateful that I can pray for them (for US!) with new understanding.

For the one who has just lost her father, I gave God praise for his legacy and the beautiful picture she posted of the last time they laughed together.

Along the way, I met a new-to-me neighbor, trimmed back some shrubbery and a couple of rosebushes while I thanked Him for the delightful scent of the roses and for places along the stems that aren’t covered in thorns. I also managed to liberate a VERY green frog who had gotten trapped in my rain barrel and I expressed my gratitude for clean water and the luxury of sharing it with plants in need. I found limbs that needed pruning and gave thanks for the right tools to use and the ability to drag the detritus to the fire pit out back.

IMG_20190906_102932890_HDRAs I finished my yard work and made my way to the porch, my phone rang and I rejoiced to have time for a conversation with my brother, whose great joy in getting to cut hay on his birthday made me laugh. I sat on a small pew on my porch, read through some of David’s songs of praise and allowed the wonder of having a hallowed place of my own to sweep over my spirit. I was reminded that I have a hand in MAKING a hallowed place anywhere I DECIDE to give God praise and enjoy the blessings He has provided. We are unusually blessed–and when we decide to think about it, celebrate it, and share those blessings with others around us, we can help them remember that they are, as well.

I hope you remember that and celebrate your blessings today. Feel free to share them with me so I can tell God “thank you!” on your behalf, too!

Grace and peace!

 

 

 

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Quilted

I’m cleaning out again. This time, I started with my linen closet…errr, closets (Plural. Eye rolls..Plural…again.) I love linens. There’s something about thread counts and coziness, colors and cleanliness that makes me smile.

As I’ve sorted through my collection of goodies, I unearthed a stack of older quilts. Several of them were purchased from various antique dealers across the South, a couple were gifts, and a few more were created by my maternal grandmother and one of her sisters. Those are the best!

I have a stack of more modern quilts that are larger and made to fit up to a king-sized mattress. While I find them to be useful and comfortable, my favorites are those smaller ones that are pieced together from colorful bits of cloth that served a different purpose and used to cover up people I know and love. Seeing a family quilt where the makers can tell a history of who wore what and when…well now, that is special.

There is the one with the big multi-colored corduroy squares made by my grandmother that wrapped me up and kept me warm on more high school football/band trips than I can count. It went with me on through college and was one of the first things I spread over that mattress on the floor in my first–and mostly empty!–apartment after grad school. Though it is ragged along the edges and in need of repair now, it is far more valuable to me than any of the others.

IMG_20190514_120636948Another one, made by one of my grandmother’s sisters, shows off the double wedding ring pattern and is full of bright, colorful rings on a cream background with scalloped edges. Aunt Pearl did this as one of her last quilts and I consider it a prized possession even though she missed a stitch or two due to failing eyesight. I love this quilt because she refused to quit doing what she loved just because it became more difficult. It now adorns the foot of a guest room bed so I can see and enjoy it regularly.

There’s something about resting under a handmade-with-love or out-of-necessity quilt that the store-bought and machine-made ones just can’t provide. There’s the love that came from the making along with the love that came from my daddy as he purchased another Aunt Pearl quilt with little Holly Hobby-like silhouettes because it reminded him of me and a Girl Scout project I did in elementary school. I also have a couple made by a beloved cousin and a treasured friend.

There’s the one my grandmother made out of scraps from clothing worn by all my aunts and uncles when they were growing up. I can’t tell you who wore what patch, but she could have… probably because she made those clothes for them, as well.

As I’ve sorted through these beauties I’ve begun to sharpen my focus. I’ll be keeping the love and passing along some of those I just purchased because something about them caught my eye…even the handmade ones from someone else’s family that ended up in the antique stores.

IMG_20190514_120846943Of those that are departing, there is one that reminds me a little of what my life looks like right now. While one side is a smooth and somewhat faded floral, the other side shows a definite pattern. Unfortunately, it looks like it might have been someone’s (or even several someones!) first shot at quilting. The pattern edges aren’t clean and clear. The points don’t always join where they’re supposed to join. It’s what I’d call a life lesson quilt–more than a little messy, but still capable of getting the job done. I still like it, but I think it’s time for the lesson to be passed along…now that I’ve been reminded to keep doing what I can for the people I love even when it gets hard and looks messy on the surface. Despite my perfectionistic tendencies and desires to be in charge of the results, God will have the job of sorting the outcome. I just need to keep covering up my people with love…and lots and lots of prayer.

Wishing all of us a day pieced together with love…even if it looks a little wonky or in need of some repairs!

Grace and peace!

 

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!

 

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!

 

 

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 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!!!