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!

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NCN 2018–Day 30…and beyond

IMG_20181130_071351806_HDRDay 30, and the end of this month is finally here. In this month of Thanksgiving and holiday prep, of increased activity and decreased time allotted for it, of focusing on the good and trying to eliminate the negative, THANK YOU for participating in NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER with me again! Your stories and your encouragements have meant a great deal to me. Once again, I am reminded that I am the most blessed person I know…and that you can be, as well.

As we have chosen to direct our thinking and constrict our voicing of the negative this month, I have found that some days were a lot easier than others…and that THOSE were the days when practicing the discipline of not complaining was most critical for me and those around me. Encouragement is always most needed when it is in least evidence. That will be true going forward, as well. It is the CHOOSING to keep moving forward toward the goal that becomes the mainstay of any decision, and so it will be with this.

Tomorrow we will enter the season of Advent, a looking forward season. What are you looking forward to where you are? Will you continue this challenge? Will you set new goals? Will you heave a sigh of relief and work to find rest or will you keep hurtling along at breakneck speed? Every choice has both blessings and consequences, so I find myself praying that as we go through this last day of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER 2018, our choices will reflect a greater discipline because of what we’ve learned, a greater joy because of how we’ve learned to look for the goodness around us, and that the world will become a better place because we continue to acknowledge the areas that need work and get busy changing them without taking time out to complain about them first.

May all of your choices going forward be the best ones, so that your blessings will be many and your consequences can be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). In short, I pray that your choices reflect a life filled with the goodness of God and a ready display of His Presence will absolutely permeate every nook and cranny of your life. He is good–despite all of the hard things in this world–and He loves you! May you learn to love Him more than you ever thought possible and may you–and those around you!–see Him at work in and through you as we celebrate His coming. I pray He finds a home in your heart and that you always find yourself most at home in Him.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21 (NIV)

Grace and peace!

(and yes, those roses really are blooming out on my kitchen counter today!)

NCN 2018–Day 29

IMG_20181127_111626618You never know what’s going to happen next. That’s why planning is so important. I realize those two statements may sound at odds, but they’re really not.

I’m a planner. For every day I face, I’ve usually thought ahead, looked at options and possibilities, and made a plan…and at least one list. (grin) I’ve been doing that since I was a kid.

Plans can adjust when necessary and the important things will still get done reasonably well and in a timely manner. Since having a plan in place generally makes for less confusion and stress, it also helps make a good attitude even easier when the changes aren’t what you would have ever chosen.

Good attitudes are invaluable in times of change, stress, and dealing with the upcoming unknown. I’m living that out today and so are most of the people around me. Although God wasn’t surprised when our plans changed suddenly yesterday, we were. The choice of how we choose to deal with the change is up to us, so I’m happier than ever to have been practicing a good attitude during NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER.

The month is almost over, but each of us can continue this discipline as we move forward. We’ve been strengthening our good attitude muscles all month. There’s no reason to stop that now that the plans have changed. In fact, it may be more important than ever before.

Grace and peace!

Romans 12:21!

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!!!

NCN 2018–Day 27

Today is #givingtuesday, a time to be generous and contribute to worthy causes. I don’t know when it got started, but I definitely applaud the whole idea, and it makes me wonder…

  • What if we decided to be make every day a giving day?
  • What if we made a plan (not a wish, but a PLAN) to support worthy causes with regularity…because our priority was to become more worthy, too.
  • What if we looked at our resources with an eye toward blessing those whose needs we’re aware of long after “the season of giving” has passed because we realized that the Source of all blessing has promised to never leave or forsake us…and others need to see that promise in action so THEY can believe it, too?
  • What if our whole lives centered around making those around us know they matter, that they’re loved, and that their gifts are needed to help others, too?
  • What if we decided to become walking, talking, giving billboards for grace and peace and the One whose idea they were in the first place?

What if…?

What will you choose to do today…since you’ve given up complaining…and have all that extra time on your hands? (grin)

Grace and Peace!

Romans 12:21!!

NCN 2018–Day 26

We all have our days and I guess ours might have caught up with us this weekend. Although we’ve been more careful about adding to our schedule and trying to stay rested this year–and especially this show season!–the husband and I were on the verge of a crash Saturday night. We were beyond tired all of a sudden, so we had a mini-conversation and decided we would just stay home on Sunday instead of going to church. We would sleep in, set no alarms, and take the day to rest and recover.

IMG_20180418_104244495_HDRExcept…it was only the second Sunday in a row since September that we had been free and without a show. I’ve missed being in church. It’s too easy to get out of the habit of going and I had actually asked a few prayer partners to pray about that specifically for us: that we wouldn’t be drawn away and lose our desire for the fellowship. As I got ready for bed, I looked at the alarm and still chose not to set it. Instead, I just told God, “If I need to be there, wake me up in time to get ready.”

Boy, did He ever. 4:35 AM. Wide awake. Nope, rolling over wasn’t going to help. I just got on up and started doing little quiet chores in areas away from the sleeping husband and the cat who thinks he must be with me…loudly…as much as possible. I laughed about it to myself as I straightened the guest rooms and cleaned bathrooms: Apparently, I really needed to be in church…and, when my husband walked into the living room about 6 AM, I figured that he needed to be there, as well…but I didn’t say anything.

I finished preparing a few “happies” that needed to be delivered that morning, we fixed breakfast and finished watching the game that almost never ended. (LSU v Texas A&M–SEVEN overtimes?!! I am SO grateful for the DVR that allows me to sleep and watch football when my eyes can stay open!) I got up and started getting ready. It wasn’t long before my husband was preparing to go, as well. Sometimes, the encouragement of seeing someone else do something you know you should do is enough to help you push through and do it, too.

We arrived without incident and I set out to deliver my happies. Before I could leave the sanctuary, however, I spotted a friend who has been battling cancer for quite awhile. She was there despite the pain etched in her face. I stopped to hold her hand and pray. She is amazing. Leaving the sanctuary, I saw her husband, who is equally amazing. He had stopped to take a break, having gone as far as he could in that moment. I went over to tell him that we loved him and that we were continuing to pray for him, as well. He never looked up; he just said, “Dear Lord, don’t ever let’em stop.” I moved on before I burst into tears on the spot, praying for them as I went.

I also had to pray–for myself–and ask forgiveness for my attitude. Though no words of complaint had left my lips, my attitude was not a positive one…because I was tired. Here were my friends, battling pain, significant health concerns, and weary beyond belief from their long battles, making their way in to worship. I was humbled. I was chastened. I was encouraged. I had already received my first sermon and the services hadn’t even begun. I was reminded, for the second time that day, that sometimes, the encouragement of seeing someone else do something you know you should do is enough to help you push through and do it, too.

I’m sharing this today, at the beginning of this week–this MONDAY after a long holiday weekend when going back to our schedules feels harder than we remembered–as a reminder to all of us:  complaint isn’t always verbal. Choosing to do what we know we should and doing it with a good attitude helps more than just us. Be a good example to those around you. Honestly, when I first typed that, it came out as “be a GOD example”–and that’s not bad advice, either, since that is what those of us who love God and are called to bear His name are supposed to do anyway, right?! Because, sometimes, the encouragement of seeing someone else do something you know you should do is enough to help you push through and do it, too.

Help those around you today by choosing a good attitude along with your choice not to complain. You never know who needs the encouragement to keep doing the same.

Grace and Peace!

Romans 12:21!!!

(Side note: no, that’s not a picture of my church, but one of my favorite small chapels in the world. This one is at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, GA. If you’ve never gone down to see the Gardens, you need to do yourself a favor and plan yourself a trip. If you happen to be there on a Sunday afternoon, you can sit in the chapel–or outside and enjoy the beauty there!–and hear hymns played on their organ as the music swells out into nature and it feels like the flowers are joining in the worship. Really. You should go sometime!–and save me a seat.)

 

 

NCN 2018–Days 23-25

IMG_20181123_105324483_HDRI always find it interesting that immediately following a feast of giving thanks for all they’ve been blessed with, some people rush out to push and shove and “beat out the other guy” in an effort to acquire even more. Does it mean that they’re actually also “more” thankful as they fight to add to their piles? I wonder.

I vividly remember the first time my mother and I attended a Black Friday event. I was about 12 years old and I stood in awe and wonder as I watched grown women fight–in public!!–over sheets! I mean they literally exchanged blows and yelled at each other over SHEETS in the JC Penney! My mama would have whipped me on the spot for such behavior. It was immediately official: I was DONE with Black Friday sales.

I have friends who do Black Friday as a social tradition with friends and family, and while I can’t quite figure out why that is enjoyable for them (since I am usually happily at home sleeping in and having a late breakfast! Yes, Lord!!), I applaud their determined pursuit of family, friends, and fun. I’m also incredibly grateful that they remain friends with this blog-writing hermit despite her lack of participation in such things! (seriously grateful!)

The husband and I did manage to  venture out into the world of “Black Friday” today…to purchase the world’s largest Sharpie marker and some hot pink flagging tape. We’re preparing for a specialist’s yard sale tomorrow and I’ll need to make directional signs and cordon off parts of my yard so I can keep some of my smaller planting areas safe.

After much deliberation, my husband has decided to pare down his hobby list to create some margin for himself in the areas of shop space, time, focus, and need for supplies. The hobby he’s “giving up” (for now, at least) is wood-turning. He was gifted at it, enjoyed creating functional art, and was fully stocked to participate in this hobby…and hadn’t had time to do so in a very long time. Choosing to walk away from something he’s REALLY good at was a difficult decision for him, but he’s taken his time, considered his options, and made the choice to focus his creativity in different directions more aligned with his current goals and schedule.

Last weekend, I challenged you to review your family calendars in an effort to make sure the events and appointments on it matched your current agendas. This weekend I’m challenging you to consider letting go of events, hobbies, and “stuff” that no longer fits who you are or who you want to become. This will be harder…because you will need to think about where you are and where you want to go as a person.

Make sure you don’t rush this and don’t be afraid to ask yourself some difficult questions. That’s they way we learn, improve our focus, and make room for the things we can enjoy in the time we have. In short, it’s another way to eliminate yet another reason to feel guilty and complain.

Does something immediately come to mind that you need to eliminate? If so, how can your changes benefit others (and maybe even your pocket book!) as you pare down and share those resources with others? OR, maybe, this is your wake-up call to get busy working with the things you already have and doing the things you LOVE to do!! Either way, make the most of what you have and take advantage of the next few days to have SOME FUN!!

Grace and peace!!

Romans 12:21!!!