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!

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The really spectacular day…

IMG_20170527_180617889It doesn’t take much to make us happy. Well, some days it does, but it’s usually stuff like spending time together and having both of us healthy at the same time and holding hands and having our cat, Smokey, oversee our every move. (As you can see from the photo, he thinks this is HIS blog today.) We have had just such a day.

We had planned a whole long weekend at home trying to kick the yuck of the previous weeks out of our lives and I had all the food choices figured out and ready for the grill, a slew of old movies and maybe a board game or two lined up along with the knowledge that we had a whole extra day to add to the mix on Monday. I woke up first and quietly made my way into the living room to break my way gently into the day. It wasn’t long before my husband joined me with a mischievous grin on his face. I could tell he felt better just by the way he was grinning. (MAJOR praise!)

“You know what I want to do today?” he asked.

“You want to go out for breakfast.”

He shook his head from side to side and began to spill out his plan for the day. Just the idea that he felt up to it made me want to join in the fun, so we made quick work of our morning chores and off we went. It took us off our beaten path and it was worth every single second.

When we arrived at our destination we giggled like school children. We held hands as we crossed the parking lot and shared one last (really big) grin as opened up the heavy doors and stepped inside…and then we parted ways. You would have thought it was Disney, but we had just entered the hallowed space that is the Barnes and Noble.

Let me pause here and let you exhale that great big breath you’ve been holding, ok? I know. That probably wasn’t even close to what you were expecting, but believe you me–it was a big deal to us. Even better? We made a pact to split up and go whichever direction we wanted and stay as LONG as we wanted…just because we could! Outside of a public library or a botanical garden, there’s just about no other place I’d rather spend some time than a room full of words all put in different orders and ready to share something new and pertinent with you if you just pick up the ones written in the right order to appeal to you.

We had traveled over an hour just to get to this one. Oh, there’s one about 20 minutes closer, but THIS one has a P.F. Chang nearby…and that cast the deciding vote on the matter. When our adventure–and yes, it qualified because we braved Atlanta traffic and survived all sorts of perilous drivers on the road there and back! In fact, I am actually the only one who made all the right moves on the entire trip there and back, y’all! It is harrowing to know that that many people who can’t drive actually do so!…ANY WAY!… When our adventure was complete, we each had a bag full of books and magazines with hours and hours of fun, entertainment, learning, and mind adventures just waiting to be started. We made another stop on the way home to get some minor fixes made to a recent purchase and then, to top it off we made a stop by the Sonic on the way home and purchased TWO Route-44 Fresh strawberry slushes…and if that doesn’t sound delicious to you, then we’re not sure you’ve really lived. (grin)

We heated the PFC left-overs from lunch while we got in our comfortable clothes. Actually, that last sentence should be more accurately translated into, “We then got into our pajamas at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon and settled in for the long duration!” Now that we’ve made sure Smokey has properly settled in for appropriate oversight and the delights of Crispy Honey Chicken with brown rice and the egg rolls have been consumed, it is here that we find ourselves…hoping and praying that one day you’ll manage to have such a splendid outing with someone you love this much and that you won’t let things like being over an hour away and not being on the schedule or feeling silly that if you’re going to go to all that trouble it better be something more spectacular than a bookstore and some really upscale Chinese food. (Fried green beans, y’all. Fried green beans. It would have been worth the trip just for the appetizer!)

The moral of this story is this: don’t wait to have a spectacular day until you can pay big bucks and do something stunningly grand to impress people. The little things actually make the bigger impact when you consistently fill your life with loving people, delicious food, and good words all written out in a way that makes you smile…and maybe even ones that will inspire you to get out and do something that wasn’t on your agenda at the beginning of your day, either.

Grace and Peace, y’all! I’ve got a stack of books to dig into right now! (happy dance, happy dance!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

self-limiting

 

cropped-heartThis post isn’t so much a rant as an observation.

We had a wonderful service at church yesterday. The kids were in charge. Well, actually, there were adults who were in charge, but the kids were the main ones on the stage. They sang and acted and led us in worship. It was amazing…for some of us.

I loved it! The kids were happy and energetic. They sang beautifully and the motions they had learned at Worship Arts Camp the week before will help them remember these songs forever. Several times during their program I had to wipe away tears because the message in the songs was so powerful and the image of the kids as they sang with gusto was just too precious for words. I noticed that my husband was similarly affected–and we don’t even  have children! We talked about it on the way home…about how God uses music to touch us in places we might not go to as often as we should, about how song lyrics can allow us to express things publicly that we might never bring up on our own, and about how wonderful it was that these young children were being taught such deep truths in a way that could really stay with them. We had worshiped and it was a blessing.

Not everyone seemed to have the same experience. I know that because there were people around me holding up cameras and phones, looking through tiny screens, hitting their rewind buttons and changing their lens focus…and getting frustrated when it didn’t work like they thought it should. I know, I know. I can’t begin to judge what was in their hearts and how their spirits were affected. I get that, but at times their frustration was palpable enough to be visible and that made me sad for them.

I also get that this is something that our culture is more and more prone to do: we make records of what’s going on around us instead of actually entering into the experience of it. I think that we’re missing out when we do that. Certainly, take a photo–or several!–but don’t miss out on actually participating in life by limiting yourself to what can fit on a tiny screen that you probably won’t watch that many times after it is recorded.

Take time to actually SEE the JOY around you and add some of your own to the mix! Head down, staring at a palm-sized view of the world is not the way to live. Kick back and actually WATCH the fireworks–or shoot them off yourself, if you’re so inclined! Play a game that doesn’t require a remote controller. Read a book together! Have conversations about IDEAS and CONCEPTS–or even politics, if you’re desperate!–and not about people you will never meet who just hired really good publicists. Build relationships, not miniature video libraries! Enjoy the NOW. It’s the only thing we really truly have for sure. Don’t waste this incredibly valuable God-given NOW by self-limiting behaviors and then find yourself unable to share your heart with those people on the tiny screens because you were too busy recording the moment to actually have the moment with them. Shared experiences will beat a shared video any day…and maybe twice on Sunday.

Observation over…for now. There are flowers to be picked and conversations to be had!

Challenge for the week: See if you can put away your phone or computer after your work hours are over and play a board game, work a puzzle, or go get an ice cream cone with someone you love…and have a conversation. It doesn’t have to be long or deep, but you just might be surprised at the benefits!

Grace & Peace!

Lap time…

“What are you going to do this week to increase your abiding in Christ?”

My friend Lynn asked us that question near the end of our Bible study last Tuesday focused on John 15:1-8, with emphasis on verse 5, which says,

““I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (NKJV)

She asked us to write our answers down on a 3×5 card since writing down your goals is supposed to help you follow through. And it would…if you actually did what you wrote down…or wrote down what you intended to do. I didn’t do either of those things. Well, not really.

I had an idea in my head of what I wanted to do, but it sounded a bit strange in my head and even more so as I tried to write it on paper, so I just wrote down that I planned to work on memorizing Scripture. I DO plan to do that, so I wasn’t missing the mark entirely.

What I really wanted to write down was “lap time”…but I didn’t know if she was going to take those cards up and, if she did, then that wasn’t going to tell her very much.

0221161718When I was little, my daddy loved to sit in the rocking chair and rock us. He wasn’t the only one who did that–because I come from a very big, loving family who got in the act with all of us–but he was pretty consistent about it. Many times, we would get a story as we rocked. That was the best thing ever. (and it might just be why I love words even today.)

Anyway, when I thought about what to write on my 3×5 card, that’s what popped into my head. Now, I’m WAY past being able to sit in a rocking chair and get a story from my earthly father, but one of the great things about having a big God is that you can never outgrow Him.

I decided that I would start re-reading the Bible “for fun.” Now, don’t get me wrong–I always love reading the Bible, but I’ve noticed lately that I’ve mainly been reading for specific study, for teaching prep, or to “do” a devotional activity. It’s been awhile since I just sat down and read the Bible because it was fun to read the story…and this is, trust me, THE Story.

We’re studying Matthew in Sunday School, so I decided to start there, in the New Testament. I made up my mind that at some point each day I would simply put everything else aside, and jump right into the Word without being concerned about analyzing, picking out base language meanings, or anything else the least bit academic. I just wanted to crawl up into God’s lap and read His story…which, incidentally, tells me how much He loves me…just like my earthly daddy did when we were rocking together all that long time ago.

It’s been amazing. There’s no pressure. There’s no schedule. I’ve been reading until I found something I wanted to ponder, or give thanks for, or celebrate and then I quit. I still have to do that ‘real study’ and prep, but this story time/lap time with God, has rested my spirit and calmed me down in a way that only He knew I really needed.

I shared all of this with a friend via text the other day and, before I knew it, felt like I needed to share it here with you, as well…you know, just in case you needed to crawl up in His lap this week, too. It will help you to rest, to remain, to abide and all those other good things that you’re in need of…and there’s plenty of room up here in the lap, because He’s a great big God and He loves you–way bigger than you can ever imagine…at least until you read His story and find your place in it.

Praying Grace & Peace…and some lap time for all of us!

 

 

Liberated in the Jiffy Lube

I had hoped God would speak to me. I hope that every day. (Some days I hear Him right off and other times, I seem to need some not-always-so-gentle prodding.) ANYWAY! Awhile back I was reading my Bible while waiting for the mechanics to replace my blinker light when it happened. (and MY, doesn’t that make me sound all super-spiritual?! HA!) The fact is that I rarely make stops of this kind without taking reading material along, but I didn’t think about getting the light fixed until I was actually on the road that day, so I just took my small pocket Bible from the console in with me. I was in multi-tasking mode: as in “how many things can I get done on this one trip to town” mode, so while I really wanted to hear from God, I wasn’t expecting Him to get too personal in the Jifffy Lube.

There were 2 men ahead of me when I sat down, so I expected to be there for a little bit. I opened the Book and started to read in 1 Corinthians. I hadn’t read very far at all before I was scrambling for my notebook and asking to borrow a pen. Some days, God gets loud with me. It was one of those days.

Here’s what I read:

Paul, called as an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, and Sosthenes our brother:  To God’s church at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called as saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord—both their Lord and ours. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I always thank my God for you because of God’s grace given to you in Christ Jesus, that by Him you were enriched in everything—in all speech and all knowledge. In this way, the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you, so that you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Check out verse 7, where Paul says “so that you do not lack any spiritual gift.” Does that sound like you? It doesn’t sound like me. I must have missed something, because I most definitely do NOT have every spiritual gift. Read it again. Did you see it that time? Don’t worry if it didn’t jump out at you quite as loudly as it did to me…you probably don’t have some of the same issues I do: ones about trying to be perfect and ending up more than a little frustrated in my determination to do all things…and do them well…and being frustrated because I can’t really manage it some days. Most days. Every day? Oh, so it’s not just me? Well, let’s look at it again.

Ok, who is Paul talking to in this passage? See verse 2. “To God’s church at Corinth” (that’s them). “To those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called as saints” (Oh, yes! We get added to the mix!) and then, “with all those in every place who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” (See! We get included again! Confirmation that this applies to me and you right when and where we are!) THAT is really great news for both of us because it means that I (we!) don’t have to do it all by ourselves. That’s what the church is for! It means that when we gather together to worship as a corporate body of Christ–no matter where we’re located!–and we each use the gifts that we’ve been given, then we won’t be lacking in the spiritual gifts that are needed to function right when and where we are! I don’t have to do it alone! Neither do you!

And if that isn’t bringing you some of that grace and peace from verse 3, then I don’t know what will! Whoever you are, wherever He finds you, know this: you are loved, you are blessed, and He wants to be yours. There’s freedom to be had here! There’s grace to be applied! There’s abundance to be enjoyed! There’s a church near you that needs you AND your gifts!–and there’s more to learn even when you’re you’re sitting in a Jiffy Lube!

 

NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER: Day 30

SONY DSCI’m not exactly certain, but this may have been the most relaxing Thanksgiving of my whole adult life. It started off with a driving trip with my husband to see our Mississippi family, supper and catching up with my sister and her family, and resting in the open home of friends…and that was just day one of our little trip. The rest of it was all about shared food, laughter, catching up and loving on our extended family.

It was wonderful. We were busy, but didn’t try to fit in anything that wasn’t about family on this one. It was what all holidays should be about, but so seldom are. Yes, we loved on a couple of friends and were well-loved in return, but honestly…well…they’re actually family of the heart, so it still counts.

Hey! Did you notice? We made it. Today is the very last day of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER 2015!

That doesn’t mean we’re all off the hook tomorrow! It means that now we’ve had a whole month to practice and we should be much better at this as we go forward! (You didn’t think I’d let it slide that easily, did you?!)

Here’s some of what I’ve learned this month:

  • It is possible. You can actually set your mind to let go of your “right” to complain every single day.
  • Choosing to participate in this has been a very positive thing for me…and more than a few others, as well! When we focus on being more positive, people are drawn to that and want to participate!
  • You can never have too many people who are choosing to focus on the positive things in life!
  • Encouragement and positivity are contagious–and courageous!–choices in a world so often focused on only the sensationalized negativity that passes for news.
  • Small ideas still matter. What seemed like a single, simple conversation among friends in October mushroomed into something much, much bigger than we ever expected.
  • Sharing our experiences–whether they are our radiant successes or our less than stellar results–brings us closer, deepens relationships, and makes accountability fun.
  • Knowing that you’re not alone in something that may seem impossible at first is pretty good motivation to keep working at it.
  • I’m STILL the most blessed person I know…and I have the family and friends to prove it.

I’d love to hear from you about what you learned this month, about your best days and your worst ones, too, along with how you see this extending out into your future. I’m still excited about this “experiment” of ours and I’m looking for ways to make it even better next time, so share away, please! If you’ve got a focus for December that you’d like to share, please feel free to do that, as well–we’re always up for more blessing!

I’ve been thinking about how I’d like to end this post and I keep coming back to one of the most beloved blessings in Scripture. I’ll share it with you here and pray it for all of us in the month ahead as we celebrate the One who came to bless us best: Jesus, the Christ…no longer a babe in a manger, but seated at the right hand of God making intercession for each of us even in this moment.

“The Lord bless you
    and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace.”   ~Numbers 6: 24-26 (NIV)

Grace & Peace! (and still no complaints!)

 

NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER: Day 23

The weather is beautiful, the temperature is deliciously autumn, and God is still in control. Could there be any possible reason to complain? (grin)

Well, I’m sure we could find one if we really wanted to, but…seriously!…we’ve made it this far without all the negativity! Let’s not blow that today!

Go for a stroll around the yard. While you’re out there, pick up a few natural beauties to add to your Thanksgiving centerpiece later this week. Just think about it! All this beauty just right outside your door…waiting on you to come share in the blessing!

And, if you can’t get outside today, take a moment to buzz around the internet for a few appropriate blessings or prayers for today…and the day to come. Thanks to whoever shared this one with us on the internet! I love it–and I hope “Marie B Designs” won’t mind that I shared it with you! It’s too pretty to keep to myself!

<b>Thanksgiving Blessing</b>