Challenging

In her recent Bible study on the Gospel of John entitled Proven, Jenni Allen shares several opportunities for “experiences” to reinforce each week’s lesson. One of my favorites, so far, has been from Week One where she asked us to celebrate the fact that God is a master experience-creator by creating an experience for some of our friends or family members. Her guidelines were simple: it had to be fun, inexpensive, contain something you’ve never tried or done before, and it had to be memorable.

A couple of friends agreed to join in the experience with me and I had so much fun with it that I decided to share it here. (Don’t get freaked out because there are multiple steps! These are SIMPLE!)

Step One: Spend a few minutes telling God God all the things you’re grateful for today! (I know, a few minutes isn’t nearly long enough!)

Step Two: Choose ONE word as your “today, I am most grateful for____” word.

Step Three: Now, you get to go on a nature walk/treasure hunt around the yard or house…for items that you can use to spell out your word! I don’t care what you collect for this project, but you can’t leave your yard and you can’t spend any money.

Step Four: Now go to the Word and find a verse about the word you’ve chosen and photographed.

Step Five: Send me a picture of your “word” and your verse so I can share in your creativity and celebrate with you! (BTW, I’m happy to receive them all personally, but you might want to share them in the comments section so others can share in your fun, as well…just a thought! Either way works for me!)

Step Six: Post your word and your verse on your social media platform and share the blessing with someone else.

Step Seven (because if I’ve gone this far, there HAS to be a 7!): Spend a few more minutes thinking about how you can incorporate more of “your word” into your life this week.

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As you can see, my word was “joy” and, although it doesn’t really match the traditional colors of Autumn, it was gathered right out in my yard on October 1st! Thanks to previous owners, hot pink and purple are actually signs of Fall around here. (grin–we’d hate to be predictable, you know!)

Last week, I was given a hug by someone who doesn’t know me very well. At the end of it, she turned to others nearby and said, “You can just feel the joy in her!” That blessed me really big. While I am rarely without joy, sometimes, my serious side shows more than my fun one and I have been challenging myself to work toward being more balanced in this area. I chose this word because I know that happiness is temporary, but JOY can be permanent because of my relationship with God. I grabbed the bungee cord because sometimes joy can stretch you and you need to be flexible to hang on to it when things get a bit hard. I opted for the echinacea flower over the bungee cord because echinacea naturally strengthens the immune system and joy is a healing thing. I picked the clematis bloom because it was the biggest blooming thing on the place (grin) and because clematis is happy to send tendrils up and out into the world grabbing hold and covering whatever you’ll let it. I settled on the twig from one of the camelias in the front because it was pretty, it had fully extended blooms along with buds that signal more beauty to come…and was also easily made into a “Y”–and practicality is also part of Joy for me! (ha!)

Your choices don’t all have to have hidden meanings, that’s where my mind naturally took me on this journey. I would LOVE to see what you come up with and, whether or not you choose to participate in this one, I challenge you to find more joy in your week. Grab hold and celebrate the beauty of the season, the goodness of our God, and the fact that Autumn seems to have finally begun to arrive.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NIV)

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11 (ESV)

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 (ESV)

Grace and Peace!

 

 

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Sanctuary

IMG_20170718_161203627_HDROur friend the Barred Owl was back and hunting early today. We missed him yesterday, but had a hawk come to visit us twice in his stead. He landed, as he’s come to do, facing the house and peering our way as if looking for us in the windows. I stepped out on the back porch to take this shot and tell him how handsome he looked and how glad we were to see him back. He seemed to know both of those things already as he remained in place and posed.
Earlier this morning, we had a pale orange cat take up temporary residence under a table near the swing out in the back yard for a few hours…just sitting at ease and appearing to rest while being alert and guarding us from invading squirrels.
“Worshipers never leave church…we carry our sanctuary with us wherever we go.” ~Aiden Wilson Tozer
 Grace and Peace!

Something to look forward to

My husband and I have been noticing a common denominator in the majority of our friends and family lately:  they’ve been going on trips and taking significant time off to enjoy themselves. We’ve been pleased to see photos of people loving life as they traipse across Europe, screaming with joy while rafting down white-watered rivers, and enjoying their time at concerts, beaches, and theme parks. Good for them! It’s summertime in the South and lots of people wait all year for those kinds of things.

We are not those kind of people.

SONY DSCWe are much more inclined to head to the top of a mountain or go wandering through the country-side in search of beautiful scenery and enjoying each other’s company. We tend to do these things in the middle of a week if he can get a half-day off early or whenever we can be pretty sure that most other people will be doing something else. We enjoy the solitude and the quiet of the uninhabited. We get excited about things like actually having blueberries in our own yard this year! (Finally!) We talked about it the other night, though, and decided that we’re ready to start planning our next big trip. We’re trying to decide if it will be one of our typical adventures with an eye toward the restful or if we’re ready to head back to New York City, Washington, Boston, or some other place we’ve loved and have an actual “doing” vacation–or even an actual vacation instead of just a long weekend. It’s been a long time since we did one of those. As my husband said, we’re ready to have something to look forward to.

We’re really big fans of that. Planning ahead for something special gives us the joy of anticipation that pays off way before the actual trip. It helps keep us focused financially and actually eliminates quite a bit of wasteful spending because we have a goal in mind…a target, if you will. Speaking of targets, my husband just walked into the house with a new toy. He’s been talking about it for a little bit and, after much deliberation, decided that today was the day and this was the prize. He asked me if it made me happy. (He’s sweet like that; always wanting to make sure I’m happy.) My response was that what really made me happy was seeing him be happy.

Despite the appearance of so many smiles in those vacation photos we’ve been seeing, the whole world isn’t really filled with a lot of happiness right now…or at least that’s what you’re probably thinking if you watch the news every day (which is why I do not!). What I do watch for everyday is to see where God is going to show up next. I look for Him to show up in the beauty of nature and in the faces of friends. I see Him at work in the jobs (both paid and unpaid!) that we’re doing right now and in the provision of beautiful/fun things that might otherwise go unnoticed…like that barred owl that has taken to hunting in our back yard every night for the past few weeks, or that stray black-eyed Susan plant coming up between the bricks in the back walkway and that blueberry that is actually PINK!–or the way our friends and neighbors rushed to our rescue in a time of crisis a few weeks ago. I even see Him in the multiple prayer requests that have been coming my way lately because each one is an opportunity to talk with Him and, in turn, encourage others around me.

This morning, my own encouragement came in the form of an email from my Sunday School teacher, Althea. She’s a powerhouse packed in miniature and she is absolutely fabulous. She’s got more energy than I may have had in my entire life. She wears me out with her serving and her loving of everyone around her…but I’m ever so glad I’m one of the ones around her. Today she sent us this on the heels of another difficult request for prayer:

“When they are diminished and brought low through oppression, evil, and sorrow, he pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes; but he raises up the needy out of affliction and makes their families like flocks. The upright see it and are glad, and all the wickedness shuts its mouth.”  Psalm 107:39-42 (ESV)

It’s easy to look at that and think it reads like the news right now: depressing and hard to get through, but look at that last part! “…and all the wickedness shuts its mouth.”

Wow.

Wouldn’t we all love to see that? Just imagine how quiet it would get! Imagine how much room there would be to hear all of the good things that are happening then! Imagine how much room there would be for people to see what God is doing and hear from those He is blessing!

So what’s stopping us from sharing that now?! Shouldn’t we–the upright ones, the blessed ones, the loved ones, the saved ones, get busy sharing all of that makes us those things despite the noise created by all of the wickedness in the world?! Shouldn’t we battle that cacophony of evil with the truth about God’s grace and His mercy and the difference it makes in and for each of us?

I’d like to see us do that. I’d love to see us overcome the din of negativity with praise and adoration of the One who can raise the needy out of affliction and make their families like flocks (unified, cared for, multiplying and at peace) and, as a bonus, shut the mouth of wickedness.

Now, THAT is something to look forward to!

How will you help make it a reality where you live today? What praises will you sing? What prayers will you pray? What hand will you hold for comfort or reach out to give an upward boost? That’s something to look forward to, as well–and it’s something we can actually do right now wherever we are.

Grace & Peace!

Saturday morning

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“Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls…'” Jeremiah 6:16a

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Rest for your souls…doesn’t​ that sound lovely? Make room for some soul rest this weekend. There’s room on the porch…

Grace and Peace!

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.

Day 21–NCN2016

0910160758a-1I found a small sprig earlier in the year while I was cleaning out the back flower beds. I let it stay.

All through the summer I watched it reach higher and higher, marking time until it would reach the screens of the back porch. I kept watch over it as it grew. I documented it in photos. I let it grow.

It didn’t bloom. It didn’t produce fruit. It didn’t do much of anything, really, except keep on reaching higher and higher. It stayed the same beautiful green as the day I first spotted it for the longest time, but I knew what to expect, so I kept it safe.

1121160728-1It is higher than the back screen door now and curls around the edge of the back gutter. Just this past week, it has come into its own and completely changed colors…all shades of red and burgundy and even a light pink up near the top. I love it!

I’m celebrating the season. I’m celebrating the life and the growth and the changes. I’m celebrating the choice to deliberately wait for those things to happen. I’m celebrating the choice to allow joy to grow at its own slow pace and keep it safe and to look for it to show up in unexpected places.

Oh, I know. Its just a plant–and a wild one, at that, but it looks like joy to me and I’m celebrating the journey of this year and giving thanks for all God has done as He’s let me grow and kept me safe and waited on me to come into my own a little bit more this year, as well.

Happy Thanksgiving week, y’all! Most things in life don’t show up in their full splendor. It takes some time. It’s a process. Sometimes you’ve got to plan ahead and let the joy grow at its own pace…and give thanks for it all along the way.

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“in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV)

Grace and Peace! (and NO COMPLAINTS!!)

Day 18–NCN2016

I rarely watch commercials, so as we were watching a previously recorded show last night and my husband asked if I had seen “that commercial” (as they sped by thanks to the remote control), my answer was a definite “no” regardless of which one he meant.

He paused, backed it up, and we watched the one he wanted. Apparently, he had seen it while on a recent business trip because I’m pretty sure he hasn’t seen it here. We’re both1118160811a-1 fans of the remote control and its fast-forward button. (it gets you back to the game a LOT faster!)

That tiny little interaction has me thinking about life and wondering what else I might have been speeding past…things that are a lot more important than a commercial. What else have I gone “remote control” over and put on hold until I finished this task or that one? What have I outright ignored or just deleted before it finished because I was in a hurry?

1118160811.jpg“You’re spending too much time thinking about crazy stuff!”, you might say and, perhaps you’re right. I’ve been so focused on “getting through until…” lately that I’ve probably missed more than I realized. That changes today. I’m adding another element to my NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER, and you’re welcome to join me in that, too.

In my efforts to “get through” and “get it done”–and not complain about it!–I’ve missed out a little bit. I tend to get so task-focused that I forget to actually “enjoy” sometimes. Am I the only one? I don’t think so. Oh, I’ve taken some time out to have fun this month. I took friends on a picnic and decorated for the season a little bit and I’ve spent more time writing than I have in a while, but I also know that, while I haven’t complained (often!), I also haven’t deliberately enjoyed things as much as I could have, either.

That brings me to this weekend’s challenge: take time to appreciate who and where you are–and who shares life with you! Look for the beauty around you–in nature and in 1118160817.jpgpeople. Take a photo, write a note, drag someone you love out to enjoy it with you or celebrate the beauty all by yourself, but do THAT this weekend instead of remote-controlling your life while you miss out on actually living it.

Thanksgiving is coming up next week and we might as well start practicing for it today!

Grace and Peace! (and NO COMPAINTS!)

*And yes, I did go out and take these pictures while still in my pajamas today just for fun! The colors are even better in person and that late-blooming hydrangea picture had to be taken from my deck because it is higher than my head! (big grin!) Stopping to smell the roses actually happened today and it was worth every single second!