NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER: Day 3

“You ok?

“Yes.”

“You’re not saying anything. Are you sure you’re ok?” My husband was doing what he always does: he was taking care of me and trying to make sure–no matter what else happens–that I’m alright.

“Yes,” I replied. “I’m just sitting here repeating this verse over and over right now.”

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” Isaiah 26:3 (NLT)

I told you. Yesterday was a really rough day for the two of us. Sometimes you just need to be quiet and lean in on the things you know soul deep…and on the One you trust completely.

No matter what we’ve faced together, my husband and I have always known that God was in control and that we could trust Him with anything. Some people don’t have that and, quite honestly, I’m not sure how they survive on regular Mondays, much less the difficult ones.

1029141355And now, suddenly, I had another example for the lesson I would be teaching for my Tuesday morning Ladies’ Bible Study. Yipp-ee. “That wasn’t really what I had been going for, God. What are You up to? How can we glorify You in this, God? I know. I just wrote that prayer that said, ‘Whatever You choose, I’m in.’ And I meant that. You know I meant that, God,…but this didn’t even occur to me. Help me honor You in this. Help US to honor You even as we honor each other in this difficult thing.”

My prayer was honest and it wasn’t said with anger or even frustration–it was said out of a heart of genuine shock and a “what’s next, God?” mentality. I really want to know. I mean, I REALLY want to know what He’s up to and what His plan is and why this was necessary. He’s got me curious, I tell you. I’ve got experience, you see, that He always works things out for my good. I know He’s faithful and I know He’s got a plan, but, right now, we’re still in the dark about it. We’re waiting. That isn’t always easy. Who am I kidding?! It’s NEVER easy for me! I’m way too much of a control freak. Talk about a plan? I can make you one of those in a heartbeat. For this, however? Well, we didn’t even see it coming…so I (we!) didn’t have a plan for it. This one is all on HIM.

I was talking with one of my best friends today on the way home from Bible Study and she said, “I’ve got to tell you, when I read your text yesterday, I thought, “Oh, MY! And she’s just started this NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER thing!” We both laughed and it was a great tension reliever for me. This is someone who knows me well. I know she chuckled about it, but I also know she prayed–and then prayed some more!

The great thing, however, is that I got to share with her that I haven’t been the least bit tempted to complain about our situation. I’m too busy praying and asking for help from the only One Who can fix it–and Who can fix US in it! We’re doing as well as we can be physically, and we’re loving on each other, and praying up a storm over here. It’s what we do–whether we’re in a tight spot or not. We’re just loving and praying, loving and praying, while we do what we can with the mundane things that are still left to do whether you’re in a tight spot or not.

I’m just putting that out there in case you’re still having a tough week, too. Or just in case, you’re dealing with something that is really hard–whether it started yesterday or not. Find you someone close by to love on and pray with and let the temptation to complain about it just wash away. Complaining won’t fix most things that are really wrong and it just ties up energy that’s better spent elsewhere.

I’ll see you back here tomorrow! Maybe we’ll have something great to celebrate! It could happen!

Grace & Peace!

NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER: Day 2

How are you doing with this challenge so far? Is it easier than you thought? More difficult? Hopefully, you’re still going with it! Our group is hanging in there and actually thriving, I think, based on the texts and emails from today. I know. It’s only Day 2 (some of you just grinned; others of you just groaned! ha!), but keep at it even if you’re finding it more challenging than expected! Great things are ahead!

My husband read the first blog post on Saturday evening. He liked it…the writing, I mean, and he was impressed with the response to it, but he was less than exuberant about joining in with us at first. I asked him if he was in a bit later and he said, (and I quote!) “Sure! Right up until I have an epic fail!” and then, he laughed. Actually, we both did…and then I reminded him that it would certainly be ok to start over at that point! I’m putting that in here because you need to know the same thing! Even epic fails at this challenge aren’t reason enough to quit! They are simply signposts that we need to take a big breath and start again.

LeavesYou may also need to know the following: While we were getting ready for church Sunday morning, my husband suddenly exclaimed, “Why do ALL of my shirts have spots on them?!” Before he could go any further, I simply asked him, “Is that a query or a complaint?” He was quiet for just a bit and then I heard (in a much quieter voice), “It’s a query…and I really DO want to know WHY?!”

Not all questions are complaints, We need to remember not to be touchy with others as we’re in this challenge and not let our perceptions get in our own way…or in someone else’s.

It’s Monday now, and if ever there were a day for my husband to have an “epic fail” for this challenge, today would certainly qualify. I haven’t seen that happen, however. What I’ve seen is that he has personified grace under pressure, calmness of spirit, and resolve. I wish I could tell you that all of that came just from participating in this challenge, so it would be the same for you, as well, but it doesn’t. It comes from his personal relationship with God.

Today has been ROUGH for us. It has been a lot rougher than I can share right now, but here are some things you might want to know that we found out a long time ago and they are what is getting us through today:

  • God is still in control.
  • He is never surprised or taken aback by our circumstances.
  • He is good.
  • He is faithful.
  • He has a plan–and it is for our good.
  • We are loved by Him…completely, permanently, and unconditionally.

If we didn’t know anything else but that, we’d still be ahead…with no reason to complain.

Praying that you know these things already, that you’re relying on them (and HIM!) fully, and that you’ll jump in right where you are today share your blessing with those around you. See you back here later!

Grace & Peace!

(By the way, the leaves are for Audrey (my #9), who shared that God has been using red & yellow leaves to remind her of His faithful Presence during this challenge and make her aware of her blessings. If God is using something to remind you of YOUR blessings during this challenge, I’d love to hear about it! Feel free to contact me in the comment section and share with the others who have joined us, as well!)

NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER: Day 1

Well, OK! I guess my last blog really hit a nerve! I just checked the stats, and I’m amazed at what is happening! So many shares for the post and private notes for me and for friends texting to say that they’re joining in and bringing family and friends with them–looks like God is up to something! What fun to get to participate!

One of the first things I saw this morning was a text from Patty (my #2). It was a cute Charlie Brown thing that said, “What if today we were just grateful for everything”…and I sighed really big and said, “Yes!” That’s exactly where we need to begin this journey!

My friends and I have been texting a bit and laughing at all of the negative thoughts/complaints that have run through our minds in the days leading up to today. Seems like the old saw is true about trying NOT to do something makes you focus on it even more than you would normally…and we’ve certainly been the rule, rather than the exception for this one.

So, whether you’ve made it this far into Day 1 without complaining or not, take Patty’s advice:  just pick up right where you are and start being grateful. In fact, it might do you good to make a list of a few of the people you’re grateful for, a few of the blessings you’re surrounded with, or something you’re good that you’re working toward or looking forward to over the next month.

If you’re stuck, let me get you started:  You’re alive, have internet, and the ability to choose at least a few things in this life including what you choose to focus on today. So CHOOSE to celebrate YOU today! Choose that for the rest of the day…and then we’ll meet back here tomorrow.

And we’ll celebrate you and me and a whole lot more in the days to come. This is just our first day.

This NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER-thing? We CAN do this–and there are lots of reasons that we should!–including the opportunity to change the world in a positive way and become a person of influence.

Now, who wouldn’t want to do that?

Grace & Peace!

Mercy drops…

It started off slowly. Drop…drop…drop…so slowly that you could almost ignore it…except for those few wet blotches on the wooden banister of the back porch landing.

“There’s nothing on the radar,” he called out, and I decided right then to just tell God a big old “THANK YOU!” for each and every drop.

We need them. Every single one…and we need them to bring their friends.  We’ve been dry. For awhile.

The week has been challenge-full. It started with an accident. Crashing, folding metal right at my driver’s side door. We were all mobile under our own power at the scene, however, and that was all God.

A few days later, we watched a second tow truck haul away the second vehicle…in need of a pricey new fuel pump, but at least it happened here in the driveway and not where I couldn’t get to the rescue.

Brakes in need of repair on the motorcycle…it seemed God’s suggestion that we just stay put.

And so we did.

We had quiet week nights here at home prepping for upcoming tests and waiting out the healing while bruises faded and peace reigned and ease of movement began to return.

All in all, it’s been a good week. Maybe others wouldn’t think so, but I know better.

We’re all still here and there’s the gift of rainfall coming down right now, the ebb and flow of drops making it too fast now for me to count blessing for each drop…and trying to just the same.

I curled up on the ancient glider on the screened-in porch and just rested in the cooling rain-breeze telling God “thank you!” for all we know (and all we don’t!) as our little bird friend took refuge in the front porch corner once again.

Welcome back, bird. We’ve been missing you.

Oh, Father, help us not to miss You. There are puddles in the driveway…with standing water on the ground…praise!

“Mercy drops ’round us are falling, but for the showers we plead!” ~Showers of Blessings, lyrics by D.W. Whittle, 1883

Start!

Autumn Lavender Bloom

Lavender Bloom

When I get on my treadmill in the mornings, I see a small sticky note that I placed there quite some time ago which says,

“Start by doing what is necessary; then do what is possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” ~Frances of Assisi

I put it there on purpose to remind myself that sometimes those things that we need to do won’t always be all kinds of fun or even be our end goal, but they’re still necessary so we can get to where we want to be.

So where do YOU want to be? What is it that you feel deep in your soul that you’re supposed to be doing? Have you started toward it yet?

Change isn’t always comfortable, but if we want our lives to BE different, we must choose the often unfamiliar and, sometimes, even the uncomfortable get where we need to be. Choose what is necessary today…even if it feels like it won’t really make that much difference. Not every step forward has to be a giant leap. Get in the habit of doing something toward your goal every single day and see how God can use your consistency and His faithfulness to build something wonderful into your life!

It’s up to you! You have today. What will you do with it to get closer to where you want to be?

(And now, it is time for me to get on that treadmill and then get started pulling weeds out of the back flower bed…and, yes, I know. Sometimes we just have to do what is necessary…I’m preaching to the choir…again.)

Grace & Peace!

It’s all in the doing…

I’m not sure if this is actually a blog post or a personal memo. Either way, I can’t get it off my brain, so here it goes.

My pastor preached on forgiveness this past Sunday. He used Matthew 5:21-26 as his primary text and did his usual phenomenal job of teaching us how to appreciate the way the words were deliberately chosen, as well as bringing the Word to life and making them practical. I can appreciate all of that. I love the way words are crafted, too…and I thought he brought out some really great points.

He talked to us about Romans 12:12 tells us to “be transformed” and then began the process of showing us how the rest of the Word makes that both possible and practical. Pastor Chris reminded us that we’re not to stop at the standards set by the world, or even by those set by historical religious teachers…we’re supposed to meet God’s standard.

In case you don’t remember just off the top of your head or haven’t reached for your Bible yet, Matthew 5:21-26 deals with anger…and forgiveness.

I thought Pastor Chris did a great job. I loved the sermon…and then…

I had to apply it this week.

Don’t ever think that God doesn’t have a sense of humor…or timing…cropped-heart

Now, it’s up to me to get busy with the doing.

“Forgiven people forgive.” That’s what we were taught on Sunday. That’s where I’m walking this week.

How are YOU doing the Word this week?

Grace & Peace!

Light afflictions?

Light afflictions…

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”   2 Corinthians 4:17

I’ve been thinking a lot about heaven these past couple of weeks. I’d love to say that’s because I’m so lofty-minded, but the real reason is because I keep getting news about people I know who have just recently gone there.

That’s right. This is about that…and a few other things. I’m fine. We’re well and hoping to continue that way, but a lot of people I love are really hurting right now. Within the past two weeks I’ve learned that a friend lost her husband, one lost her mother, another lost her father, one lost a son and, just this past Sunday, a family member lost a son…all that in addition to the realization that I may have actually lost count of the recent surgeries and the difficult diagnoses that are out there, too.

It would be easy to hear all this hard news and become discouraged and angry and bitter, but it wouldn’t change a thing. In fact, it would just slow down the process of learning what God has to say about all these recent challenges. I lay in bed the other night just thinking, “Heaven must be incredible! These things are hard, God, and if these are some of the “light afflictions” and the joy really is that great… no wonder John didn’t have the vocabulary to tell us all about heaven in words that we could all easily understand at will. Dear God, help us focus on THAT.”

I mean, think about it! The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus went through all of that agony, took on all the sins of the world, endured the turning away of His Father (!), was despised and rejected by men (then AND now!)—all of that!– “for the joy that was set before Him.” He did all of that just to make sure He could take us with Him and keep us with Him forever because the joy that is coming is SO MUCH BIGGER than our deepest pain in this world. Wow.

And yet we waffle in our belief. We lose sight of the goal and choose to be less some days. We forget that our inconsistencies can keep others from seeing His light…and in doing so, we make it easier for the world to deny Him even now.

One thing is certain in this life. Hard things will happen, but wait! There’s something else that is just as certain:  God will be there with us in the midst of it…and He wants, more than anything, to have us all with Him forever. There is promise in that. There is hope in that. There is healing in that. I need all of that and so do you!

So here’s the next step today:  we get to choose. We get to choose what and WHO we believe, and we get to choose how we’ll live, and we get to choose how we’ll share HIM—how we’ll LIVE HIM—before the world who is ALSO dealing with these hard things…without Him.

Here’s what I know: I can’t fix the hurts here or wave away the hard news.  What I can tell you is my deliberately chosen response to these things:

  1. Heaven is gathering a new fascination for me simply because my Jesus is there and He’s got a great and growing collection of people I love who have already found themselves there, too.
  2. I’ve got a life to live here that makes other people want to go along with me as I travel there.
  3. Until that happens, I’ll be…

 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:2

Want to go with me?

Grace & Peace!

cropped-heart

Identity Secure?

I found out this week that someone was trying to use my name…and that they were also trying to use my debit card number…and it wasn’t me. I wasn’t alarmed when my card was declined while trying to buy fruit at the Kroger store, but I did follow up on the matter and I’m really glad I did.

My first call was to my banker, who heard my voice and called me by my first name. It was exactly what I expected of her because we’ve known one another for years. We’ve talked many times–in and out of her office. We’ve worshiped together, exchanged stories about God’s goodness, and prayed together about matters of concern to each of us. She knows me by more than just my name or the string of numbers which represent me on her computer screen. She immediately took safety precautions and started the necessary procedures to take care of the matter for me. Her response reminded me of why I chose to do business there in the first place and reinforced that decision in a major way.

“Annoyed” doesn’t even begin to touch how I feel about some nefarious person trying to steal from me and others using my card number, but the fact is that sometimes that kind of thing happens in our electronic society where we’re known by numbers instead of by face. It means we must be on our guard–and it makes a strong argument for using cash!

As I monitored my accounts in the early morning hours, the following thought occurred to me:  I’m so glad that can’t happen in Christ!

My true identity is not one marked by a specific sequence of numbers and it can never be stolen…electronically or otherwise. My true identity as a child of God is safe because I am HIS! I am safe and secure in Him. I am loved by Him. He knows my voice and, even better, He knows my heart. I am deeply and personally known by Him and He is always watching over me.

I am comforted by that. You can be, too. Do you have that kind of security?

“See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.” Isaiah 49:16 

“But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.” I Corinthians 8:3 

cropped-heart“O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.”   Psalm 139: 1-5

Grace & Peace!

Lesson #8: Make a list

I’m a list-maker.  I’ve done this all my life.  It helps me take stock for the day (month/year/situation, etc.) and figure out the next thing to do.  List-making has the additional benefit of creating order and making me really think about how things should be approached and prioritized.  I’ve found that really helpful in situations of stress because—as long as my priorities have already been established—choosing the next step seems really natural to me because the important things have already been decided.

List-making scares some people for that very reason.  I know…there are worse things out there, but it is the very idea of creating a set of “non-negotiables” for life seems a bit daunting for some people.  I guess they haven’t thought about the fact that by choosing not to make a stand on important issues, they’ve already chosen their main non-negotiable. (grin)

Once we knew for sure that we were moving, it became obvious that we couldn’t stay where we were.  (You may be laughing at that, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t realize that and react accordingly!)  You know the old adage about “Failing to plan means planning to fail!” and all that is actually true (there’s a reason those quotes stick around).  This move means we have a whole host of changes coming and while we can’t control all of them, it is a pretty good idea to decide to take control of what you can…or be prepared to live with the decisions made by those who won’t have to live with them.  In short, you need to make your own choices in life. (and that little nugget is all yours for free.)

Moving means that we will need a new place to live, a new church family, a new community, a new favorite place to eat/shop/share with guests, etc.  These aren’t things you just leave to chance, in my opinion, and the first thing you need to do is…you guessed it…make a list.

Our list included things we wanted to consider:  kinds of housing available, location/proximity to work/shopping, drive-time, long-term goals (yes, that lifetime of list making keeps those things close) and short-term goals.  We made a list of things we wanted in our next home based on the idea that this is the area of country where we hope to stay for a very long time.  That means our new home will have to accommodate where we are now, those who will visit (we tend to get a lot of visitors), those we love who are aging (all of us!) and any possible mobility issues for the future…not to mention our needs for security and privacy, a place to store our stuff and create new things, convenient drive-times and general aesthetics.  We were blessed to be familiar with the area since we’d previously lived nearby.  That told us a lot because we knew where we’d been and what we didn’t want, as well.  Armed with this list of must-haves—and must-not-haves!–we set off to hunt down a new house…and…didn’t find it…and didn’t find it…and didn’t find it.

Were we so weird?  What was up with all these people who lived in these places that didn’t meet our criteria?!  How could they possibly manage to live normal, healthy, productive lives?!  (grin)  I mean, I had in my head a picture of what our new place would look like…and I just couldn’t find it.  Finally, after another day of desperate searching, I told my husband that we would have to make some serious adjustments to our budget, our locations or our willingness to compromise on issues of privacy.

After some thought, budget and privacy won out and we decided to expand our search into areas we had already decided we didn’t really want to live.  Nice areas, but we’d already been there/done that/long drive time, etc.  In case you’re wondering, compromise doesn’t always taste good…at least at the beginning.

Armed with an adjusted list and a somewhat pitiful-me attitude, I set off the next day to look at another list of houses.  I was mentally resigned that my house wasn’t out there and I was just marking time until spring when the people who were holding on to my private and perfectly located house would find out they were moving and put it on the market right in the middle of my price range and I’d be the only one who saw the listing.  Yes, I know.  I think big.  (laughter!)  Seriously, God’s word says that He can do more than we can ever ask or think, so I like to prove that by thinking big at the start of things.

My realtor chose the starting place and we set off.  I was amused to find we were heading into very familiar territory…I’d shopped there before, worked there, I knew who lived there, had eaten there…gone to church there…and then we turned into the driveway.  As odd as it sounds, I felt like I was coming home and I’d never even seen that house before.  We got out and went inside…and I wanted to sit on the couch and just cry with relief because it felt even more like I was coming home.  This was my house…way out here…in this place I didn’t really want to live…further from work and shopping and…it was still my house.  Crazy.  This wasn’t on the list…and yet it was almost everything on the list that we’d originally made and prayed over before we started this process.

God is funny that way.  He likes to expand our comfort zones and challenge our expectations.  He likes to do things that only He can do so we know, for sure, that He’s the One who is doing it.  He likes to throw stuff in just because He can and He loves to bless us…even when we’re sure we know better at the start.  That doesn’t mean that His gifts don’t come with additional challenges.  In fact, God’s best for us will often include things that force us outside of what we would ordinarily choose.  It means that He really does know what we need more than we do…those things that will make us more like His Son and help us to put what pleases Him…at the top of our list.

“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”  Jeremiah 32:27 (ESV)

“Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”  Ephesians 3:20-21 (HCSB)

What if…?

Ever play that game?  The “what if…” game?  Everyone does at one time or another.  Some of us play it more than others.

The way you play makes all the difference in the world!  For example, IF all of your “what ifs” are about

  • trying to mitigate circumstances that haven’t happened yet…and may never happen…
  • the things you want, but don’t have…and may never have…
  • the people who are causing you grief or frustration…
  • wondering why you’re gong through the stuff you’re dealing with today…
  • asking why other people always get what they want…

Well, I think you see where this is headed.  Anxiety and negativity is guaranteed when we play by these rules!  While we all wonder those things from time to time, spending lots of time on those kinds of questions just leads us blindly past the blessings we’re already surrounded with and right into a really bad place.  Who needs that?!  More than that, who wants to be around it?!

Today, why don’t we play by different rules?

What if we…

  • counted blessings instead of problems…
  • gave thanks for the strength to face our challenges today…
  • chose to think about how we could bless others as a way to lift our own mood…
  • decided to be responsible for our own happiness instead of depending on others…
  • deliberately chose to be grateful for what is and what is not…
  • chose to pray about our problems instead of worrying about them…

What if…God is right? (grin)

“Anxiety leads to depression, but a good word encourages.” Proverbs 12:25 (CEB)

What if…?