Heart notes

I keep note pads–usually sticky notes–almost everywhere I might sit down or rest my house, in bags of books, in my purse, the truck, or wherever else I can think of being. You never know when you might have an epiphany, right? Me? I’m actually planning ahead for mine, and as long as it will fit on a sticky note…or twelve!…I should be just fine. (grin)

Sometimes my note pads get filled up with reminders of grocery items I forgot to grab, chores that aren’t on my regular list, people I need to contact, prayers, and anything else that might help me clear my mental path and allow me to sleep without interruption when it’s time to do so. Many times, I will be doing a chore and need to stop and write something down before I move on or forget that thought. My favorite thing, however, is when I wake in the night and scribble madly in the dark–a tiny blurb to help me solve a problem, that missing link to make the point as I teach, or something that “neeeeeds” to be incorporated into a blog post…or a life.

Such was the case several weeks ago as I recovered among remade beds and laundry, reclaiming my house after a long and lusciously luxurious weekend of having friends with me in my home. Scheduled to speak just days after they left, I was ready for God to complete whatever it was that He was doing before He finished letting me in on what He intended me to say to these women who were kind enough to invite me to speak at their retreat. I had the second part, but not the first, and instead of giving it to me in one fell swoop, God seemed most content to send it along in drips and drabs…while I was doing laundry, sitting at stop lights, and finally (!) in the night, when I filled most of a newly unwrapped stack of heart sticky notes found on a nearby bedside table.

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Over the course of two consecutive nights, God and I filled up 13 sticky notes–IN THE DARK!–in no particular order and in remarkably straight lines, although the handwriting won’t win any prizes. A couple of them had nothing at ALL to do with the speech I was preparing to give, but I thought most of them would probably fit in there somewhere…and so it was…except for the one which simply said “chairs!” and this one…which says,

“Remind me to live in faith instead of frustration

I knew right away that THAT one was just for me.

I rarely worry and I have seen God be my Provider so many times that my most typical question is a “how” or “when” and not an “if” where it concerns something that must be supplied by God alone. That “how and when” part is what gets me, though.

Like most people I know, I want it how I want it and I really want it right now. (Anyone else relating to this?) The problem with that, however, is that God is rarely on my timetable and, since He knows everything, He has ways to do things that won’t ever even cross my mind. I THOUGHT I was being patient, so I knew this was a prayerful request for His assistance during this waiting time. It also served as my reminder to exercise my faith and not allow the frustration of His delayed response to overcome my assurance that He is my Provider, my Protector, and my Portion. After all, if He intended me to speak to those ladies, He would surely tell me what to say!

Knowing these kinds of things is the bedrock of my faith. Everything else is just window-dressing. On the side of my fridge is my bumper sticker which reads, “Jesus is life…the rest is just details.” It’s still true even though it IS written on a bumper sticker and attached to my fridge with magnets.

When I draw closer to God and make a point to be in close communion with Him, everything else WILL show up as and when HE decides it is time. MY part is to carefully choose my attitude no matter what I face…and now I have both a bright red and yellow bumper sticker AND a heart-shaped sticky note to remind me to raise my faith above the levels of my frustration when I’m called to practice my waiting skills.

Maybe they will remind you, as well.

Grace and Peace!

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Greedy

I woke up singing this morning. I love it when that happens. Today it was EVEN IF (by Mercy Me) and I woke singing it as a prayer about a lot of things going in right now.

My prayer lust is full right now. Yes, that third word was supposed to be “list” but I guess even autoINcorrect gets a score every now and then. (eye roll!) The list isn’t a physical thing so much as a running conversation with God about all kinds of things: the health issues of friends and family, the state of our world, upcoming speaking and teaching opportunities, the women who will attend these events, questions about the future, and SO many other requests that are full of details that are “too personal to share” but have been anyway because the hurt was too deep for someone to carry any further.

The trust of these requests always gets to me. That someone would open up that way and be so vulnerable to one who can’t fix anything, but knows the One who can fix everything…it can be a weighty honor at times. And then I remember: I can’t fix it, but my job is to simply take it to Jesus with them. It is the ultimate privilege to walk out Galatians 6:2 and help shoulder a burden that has become too heavy to bear alone.

Today, this weight was both reinforced and lifted as I read Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:3-10, and found myself and my prayer list all over again in each of these verses.

Blessed? Blessed when we’re down, when we mourn, when we hunger and thirst for righteousness, when there’s a need for the merciful and the peacemakers in the midst of such a lack of the same? Yes. Blessed. Blessed because when we bring these needs and these hurts to Jesus we don’t have to leave as we came.

We are changed even if our circumstances aren’t immediately altered. We leave strengthened for the work, armed for the battle, and confident in the knowledge that we are neither alone, nor following a directionless leader, but One whose plan is for our ultimate good and whose love for us is without end.

I am greedy for that knowledge today! I am greedy for you to know it, too. I am greedy for the answers to be swift and easy even as I know that it will not always be that way. I am greedy for the things we learn IN and BECAUSE of the trials that will make us more like Jesus and help us pray for others when they are hurting, as well. I am greedy for the celebrations over answered prayers and I am greedy for the witness that will come as a result.

In short (even though this has been long!–grin), I am greedy for God to show up and show out in us today no matter where we find ourselves and I am greedy for it to truly be well with our souls.

Grace and peace—and many, many prayers!

 

EVEN IF (sung by Mercy Me)
They say sometimes you win some
Sometimes you lose some
And right now, right now I’m losing bad
I’ve stood on this stage night after night
Reminding the broken it’ll be alright
But right now, oh right now I just can’t
It’s easy to sing
When there’s nothing to bring me down
But what will I say
When I’m held to the flame
Like I am right now
I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul
I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
You’ve been faithful, You’ve been good
All of my days
Jesus, I will cling to You
Come what may
‘Cause I know You’re able
I know You can
I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul
Songwriters: Bart Marshall Millard / Benjamin Glover / Crystal Lewis / David Arthur Garcia / Tim Timmons
Even If lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Essential Music Publishing, Capitol Christian Music Group

Being well

I recently got an email from Pinterest with “18 Mental Health Pins” for me to investigate.

How did they know?!

Seriously. I’ve been struggling a little bit because I’ve just “lost” almost a whole month…yes, a month. Gone. Just. Like. That (snaps fingers).

It all started the day I was transplanting the magic beans and managed to hurt my back. Yes, magic beans. At least that’s what my Uncle called them when he shared them with me a few months ago. Actually, I think they’re called hyacinth beans, but I like that magic beans thing better. (Insert silly kid Grin here.)

Anyway! The beans got transplanted, the back muscles suddenly went into DEEEEEP spasms with (thank you, God!!!) no disc involvement and I began what has been quite a long recovery process. It really wasn’t how I saw my July happening, you know?

I’ve said it for years: I’m the most blessed person I know. Still true. Absolutely positive about that…and yet…I will admit without any wiggle room whatsoever that I am a horrid patient. Because I’m not. Patient, that is.

Sitting still, moving slowly, reconsidering even simple chores, letting things go, ASKING FOR HELP!–All of these things make me cringe. They might actually be my top five things to avoid…well…in the top 10, anyway…right after reptiles, rodents, the plague, reptiles (on here twice because I REALLY despise those things!), and cancer.

And yet, this was my month…complete with an adoring husband, kind friends who called and prayed, and a disgruntled cat who was being denied his favorite perch (my lap), and me…being whiny and negative and frustrated because for the first time ever I couldn’t depend on my body to do what I told it to do. That takes some getting used to physically…and mentally, as well.

Interesting things I discovered this month:

  • the world ran just fine without me.
  • many, many things happened without my input or my presence.
  • you can’t even breathe without it affecting your back muscles.
  • I am not a fan of whiny people…even or ESPECIALLY when it is me.
  • my husband likes being the caretaker more than being taken care of…for the most part.
  • it is never a good idea to do a spiritual assessment of yourself when you’re grumpy and in pain.
  • I am not as far along on that “being ok about giving up control” thing as I would like.
  • if you have been praying for patience for me, you can stop now. Really. I mean it. Stop it. Now. Feel free to pray for strength and endurance, but let’s just let that patience thing slide on out of the picture, ok? I am serious about this one.
  • pain can actually make you a more dedicated prayer warrior for others.
  • God can and will show up and give you stuff to do even when you’re confined to a chair.
  • sometimes, having Margin is good for situations that you wouldn’t really expect…or want.
  • chiropractors can actually help with some issues (pardon me if you are one or love one, please. I had never been to one before this month. They were kind and helpful and caring–and Bama fans, which made me smile even though it hurt.)
  • people in pain are much more sympathetic to others in pain than people who are rarely ill and have abnormally high pain tolerances (me…I’m talking about me although I would REALLY have preferred to find this out a different way, God! BIG eye roll–at ME, again!)
  • Pinterest, who sent me an earlier email with suggestions for my “RED” board that were 98% YELLOW (?!), might not be the best place to look for mental health tips.

That last one is important. I am much better off talking to God about what ails me–body, mind, or spirit–and counting on the truth of His Word to keep my mind headed in the direction that’s best for me–and you are, too!

“You will keep the mind that is dependent on you in perfect peace, for it is trusting in you.” Isaiah 26:3 (CSB) 

As I am recovering, I am feeling the truth of that verse more and more. It’s not over…but neither am I. Returning strength gives me yet another reason for praise, another reminder to pray for those who still need it, and another call to gratitude for all my blessings: physical, spiritual, and mental.

May you be blessed and may you be well…in every respect.

IMG_20180720_194723477(and BTW, the magic beans are doing just fine…and so is Grace! In fact, she ought to be ready to transplant just in time for the Fall–although someone else may be digging THAT hole! grin)

Grace and peace!IMG_20180720_194741388

Response Time

I hate to admit it, but I might just be a little lazier than I used to be. I came to this momentous insight earlier today when my riding lawn mower suddenly decided to stop working as it should. I’m pretty sure it’s the fault of all of those nasty sweet gum balls that did it, but no matter what (or who, since I was driving!) is to blame, I have to say that my first thought was something along the lines of, “Well, maybe this just isn’t the day to do this!”

It was, though.  In fact, I was trying to get the back part where all of those sweet gum balls were mowed because I didn’t mow it the last time…and I had someone coming over later today and I wanted it all done so they could do what THEY needed to do without being obstructed by all of that higher grass back there, so I grabbed the push mower and went back to work. Once the guy was through with his job, I had to wait a little bit before I could be outside, so I took the time for an early lunch…and began to contemplate whether or not, the rest of the yard REALLY needed to be done today…and it did…so I filled up the push mower and started again.

I generally love mowing the yard. It’s pretty good prayer time as a rule, but today…wellllll…to be honest, I wasn’t really using that time to it’s fullest advantage. Oh, I was talking to God, alright, but it wasn’t all that constructive.

I was complaining…and at a pretty good pace, too.

It was hot. I was tired of things breaking down around here. I know it all belongs to You, God, but really?! It was incredibly dusty and the mask I wore made it even hotter. It was taking forever to do it this way. Why did this have to happen today? On and on it (I!) went. The only thing productive about the whole thing was that the grass was getting mowed…albeit at a much slower rate than I preferred.

About the second time my mower needed more gas, I finally remembered something: Yes, all those things I was complaining about were (are) true, but so is this: When one mower quit, I had another one to use. I had gas in the can and strong legs to push the mower around the yard. It would take longer than normal, but it would also mean I didn’t need to hit the treadmill later. The time I’ve been putting in on the treadmill lately has made me stronger for what I need to do today. That strength has also made it easier for me to handle the heat and God occasionally still allowed me some shade. Using the pushmower also meant I could get into some tighter places and wouldn’t need to do as much weed-eating later. That’s something to be grateful for, so I decided to change my behavior…and do what I ask others to do: I started telling God how grateful I was for all of the blessings I had listed and then I added to the list for several more rounds until my mower needed more gas and it was time for another break.

I also thanked Him for the opportunity to take a break when I need more gas (something I might have blown right past before He started teaching me about margin!), for the fact that Outshine makes an amazing mango popsicle that hits the spot perfectly when you’re hot and taking that break, that HE is God and I am not, for all those teachers I’ve had over the years that pointed me to Him and told me some of the very same things I tell others now. As I thought about that last one, I remembered some other things I know to be true:

  • God will take you seriously when you ask Him for something, and He also takes it seriously when He tells you to share Him with others and tell them that He can be trusted.
  • When you tell them He is your Healer, you may find yourself or someone you love in need of healing.
  • When you tell them He is your Provider, you may find yourself in need of provision.
  • When you tell them He is your Comforter, you may find yourself in need of comforting.
  • When you tell them He is the Source of all wisdom, you may find yourself in a place where nothing makes sense.

I think you get the point. When we share God with others, He will often put us in places so they can see US have the opportunity to have great need of Him. It will make the most powerful witness when we respond appropriately…and the worst kind of witness when we don’t. Though He may not answer our prayers in quite the way we think He ought to answer, He still has a plan and if we’ll get with it, He will be glorified, we will be blessed and others will get a front row seat to see it all. Just think, wherever you are and whatever you’re facing, you have the opportunity to become a person of influence…by just doing what you already know to do, and the best part of ALL of that is this: He will never leave you alone in the middle of any of that for a single solitary second. He has promised.

Today, He gave me the opportunity to live out what I teach. I’d imagine that He’s doing that wherever you are today, as well.

How will you respond?

As for me, my break is over and there’s still more grass to be mowed, more gas in the can, and more time to be spent in prayer. Funny how that mower quitting might just turn out to be one of my biggest blessings of the day…

Grace and Peace!

IMG_20180509_145744778_HDRP.S. If I’d been on the riding mower, I also might have missed the fact that one of my new iris blooms had fallen over and I’d have probably run right over it. Instead, I get to have THIS in my kitchen window for the next little bit. Now, tell me that’s not a blessing!

Timely reminders

I woke up Saturday morning and groaned. That knotted muscle that I thought was finally eased had tightened up again overnight. Neither knotted muscles nor groaning is my normal thing. (Thank you, God!) In fact, I usually wake up and talk to God first thing, but with our travels and getting back into the swing of routine at home, I suddenly realized that I hadn’t started up that way for several days, so after I stopped the groaning, I apologized to God and hobbled for the heating pad. I had a two hour meeting at the church later in the morning to help us share Jesus with others, tax prep paperwork all over the dining room table with a looming appointment, more upcoming travel, and I still needed to work on my Bible study before I could lead on Tuesday. I was WAY behind with more stuff headed my way, and I have to say this: I was not in the mood to share ANYthing with ANYone right then, much less Jesus. Oh, how I wish I could say I was more spiritual than that, but I just flat-out told God all of that as I asked Him to PLEASE change my attitude before that meeting.

As I reached for the bag with my study materials, I tugged on the handles (trapped under a heavy bowl without my knowledge) and out spilled fruit and snacks…all over the floor. Oranges rolled in every direction. This would require bending and that would be painful.

I just cried.

I  was hurting. I was mad.  I was behind and totally unspiritual. It was all my fault…and margin was nowhere to be found.

Thankfully, my husband was nearby and came to my rescue. He picked up all the oranges, got me settled on the heating pad, brought me juice, offered breakfast, and then left me to recover.

As I settled into his big chair, I had to start somewhere, so I prayed again. This time for a friend who was leading a women’s ministry retreat at her church using the same study our ladies had just finished: BREATHE, by Priscilla Shirer. As I texted my friend, I prayed for ALL of us to breathe God in so deeply that we have no choice but to breathe Him back out to those around us. I knew for certain that I needed that for myself!

I physically concentrated on breathing in and breathing out as I prayed. And then…the margin came…mainly because God showed up in the middle of my mess and my messy prayers and began again the work of peace for my soul.

I opened my study materials and the first thing I was asked to do was read Psalm 107 out loud. I turned to it and read.

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from trouble.”  Psalm 107:1-2 

More margin. More peace. More reminders about the goodness of my God and how he has redeemed me.

That word “redeemed” is something special. It means “bought back; recovered with a price.” We had studied it in depth last year and the lessons learned then flooded over me again.

My God loves me! He loves you! He loves us so much that He chose to pay the highest price so that we could all spend eternity with Him! The joy of that made everything else unimportant right then. I had to share it or explode…so I wrote this blog post to share it with You! (Because no one else was there at the time and I was sticking with that hot pad!) I knew this wouldn’t be published for a day or so and that you might not get to it for a bit, but I am still confident that the timing will be right when you finally read it. Maybe it will come when you’re in the middle of a meeting or a muddle. Perhaps it will come in on a day when all is going well, but you’ll still need to be reminded or know someone who needs to be reminded: God is good. He loves us–right in the middle of whatever we’re dealing with! He is with us. If we breathe Him in and breathe Him out, the margins begin to suddenly get larger automatically because He can’t be constrained by our circumstances.

God sent my reminder on time. I’m counting on Him to do the same for you.

Grace and peace!

 

A rose is a rose is a…

IMG_20171125_071403546_BURST001  IMG_20171127_111358812_HDR

IMG_20171129_104111525_HDRI transplanted a couple of roses earlier this fall. Actually, I pulled up two that bloomed only once a year with little-to-no scent and replaced them with two that have a much longer blooming season, amazing scent, and a special place in my heart. The new roses have acclimated beautifully and even began to throw some blooms my way late in the season. I’ve been sharing pictures of one of the later blooms with a nearby friend. It’s been too beautiful to keep to myself. She saw it in person at about the third-photo stage.

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I told her that it would change colors as it matured, but even though I’ve seen it over and over again, I’m absolutely certain that I didn’t communicate exactly how much the change would be or how much it always delights me to see it happen.

Some things have to be seen to be believed.

This rose (“Rio Samba” by Weeks Roses) changes size, shape, color, and the scent–which they mistakenly call “light”–seems to get a little “louder” the more time it spends on the bush. (kind of like me! Ha!) The late blooming season isn’t unusual for this rose. One year, my mother and I decorated the wedding cake for my Cousin Reyna and covered it up with blooms grown at the corner of my house in Mississippi…on Thanksgiving DAY! (We had to thaw out the water they were held in overnight with a hairdryer, but the blooms–and the cake!–were magnificent!)

Just for your reference, these photos are of the same rose! The first photo was taken on November 15th of this year right after my friend Linda headed back to Mississippi. The final photo was taken on December 3, 2017, once I returned home from my last show of the season. I missed the one where it was covered with snow…because the snow melted almost as quickly as I noticed it and Georgia snow isn’t much for hanging around waiting on me to take my photo op! (grin) Finally, just today, I pulled the spent petals from the bush and flung them into the air where they landed in a perky array of color all around the mulch underneath the rose bush.

I always do that. It’s kind of like making a wish or sending a prayer for more. Flinging the spent, but still colorful petals is pointless to accomplish “the more”, but it always makes me smile…and that’s enough.

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As the petals arced upward today, I thought about my recent visit back to Mississippi to see family for an early Christmas. We missed having my husband and my brother with us, but my parents are doing as well as can be expected. It’s only been a few months since I’ve seen them, but the nephews are smarter, taller, and stronger. My sister and brother-in-law remain busy and productive. In short, things are going pretty much as they should be. We’re all getting older and, hopefully, wiser. We’re all changing…and we’re all the same. We still have things to accomplish and though we’re not as young as we used to be, we’re still busy “becoming” what we’re all called to be.

There’s something to be said for that.

Change doesn’t have to be scary. The same God who was in control at Creation is still busy creating. He’s still giving us opportunities for growth and watching over us as we deepen, unfurl our petals, and find our voices. I see the physical changes most in my parents and the nephews, but I know it’s happening in all of us.

Lest you know them and become alarmed, rest easy. The parents are still lively and hysterically funny. They work together to accomplish what needs to be done and continue to bless and encourage others along the way. It’s just easier to see the changes when we’re all seated at the same table these days. Each of us still has work to do and we’re going about it the best we can. The start of a life, the middle, and the winding up of it are all a part of the Plan and the Planner.

No matter what stage you find yourself in today, I hope you’ll join me in praying the verse that’s been posted around our home for over a year. It’s over the sink and on the lamp, by the desk, and in my heart:

“And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands.” Psalm 90:17

The sticky notes and the one in my head are from the NKJV translation, but I also want to share the AMPC version with you, as well.

 

“And let the beauty and delightfulness and favor of the Lord our God be upon us; confirm and establish the work of our hands—yes, the work of our hands, confirm and establish it.” Psalm 90:17 (AMPC)

I hope you view these photos of the changing rose and see some of the same parallels I do with whatever season of life you’re in right now. It’s ALL beautiful! May the beauty, the delightfulness, and the favor of God be rich within you and evident in your own life as He directs the work of your hands today.

“The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8

Grace and Peace!

NCN 2017–Day 6

There will be many postings today on the tragedy that occurred yesterday at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX. Many will speculate about all of the whys and hows. Some will write profiles of the background of the shooter and will publish all kinds of interviews with shocked and horrified family, friends, or neighbors. None of it will change what happened: more than 2 dozen people left this life suddenly and without warning in a place that should have been the very essence of peace and safety because one person made an unthinkable choice.

The ripple effect of the loss is unimaginable. There are no words to pretty it up or make it more palatable. Nothing I write here will change it. I’m left–WE are left–with what to do now…even those of us who live far away and don’t know anyone connected with Sutherland Springs.

In the face of such loss, we mourn. We get angry. We vow to make changes–none of which will affect the fate of those no longer with us.

The choices left to us now will only affect the living. In the face of such loss, a simple 30 day challenge not to complain might seem too small to continue. It is not.

Creating a more positive life is never a small goal, even when it involves moment by moment choices that might go otherwise unnoticed. It is the cumulative effect over time that mounts up and makes the difference. It is in the consistent application of good choices that we make a good life for ourselves and those around us. It may not show up on a billboard campaign, but we can mourn this horrendous loss and not complain. We can grieve and not add to the empty noise of rhetoric and speculation. We can comfort. We can build up. We can encourage. We can reach out. We can CHOOSE to be people of influence for good…even in this.

Our prayers are with those who lost yesterday…and with those who will need to move forward today…whether or not they live in Texas. Reach for the hand nearest to you. Hug the one you can. Listen to the one who is closest. Pray for all of us. We have choices to make and they need to be good ones.

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18 (ESV)

Grace and Peace!