NCN 2017–Day 30

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Today is the last “official” day of our NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER challenge, but it doesn’t have to be the end of this practice in your life. I hope that you’ve had some fun and learned a little more about yourself… like, maybe, that you’re stronger than the circumstances that surround you and that choosing to be positive is something that can make you happier…and even healthier. I hope it helps you to look for the good in life. I hope it makes you look for GOD in life!

I’m a ginkgo fan. I look for these gorgeous fan-shaped leaves wherever I go. They remind me of the many wonderful friendships I made in college at Mississippi University for Women. Some of the most important relationships I have in this life are from there. I even planted a tiny little ginkgo here in the yard the first year we lived here as a reminder of those friendships.

Relationships are important. They can influence us in all kinds of ways. The best ones happen when you find “your people” in life. I found many of mine years ago on a beautiful campus under the cover of ancient ginkgo trees. These women have pushed me and challenged me, comforted and cared for me. They insist on the best for me and aren’t hesitant to say when they know best or expect differently. I like that. I depend on it. I depend on them and their prayers. They’re the reason for this challenge, so…in a way…they’ve become your friends, too.

They make the world more beautiful. They’ve certainly made this past month more bearable and, like some of us, they’re ready for their next challenge. I don’t know what that will be, but I’m absolutely sure that they’ll succeed with that, as well. These women are kind and funny and generous and they push me to know God more deeply. Mere words are enough to say how much I love them, but I think they know.

Yesterday, our friend Audrey (hey, 9!) shared with us how she’s made it through this month. When asked how things are going, her reply has become, “I can’t complain!” It’s both a reminder and a declaration…and I think I’ll make it mine.

Maybe you should, too.

Grace and Peace!–And NO Complaints!

 

 

 

 

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On those days when nothing goes right…

On the days when nothing goes right…

You still get to choose your response, be it physical, verbal or silent.
You still get to choose your words.
You still get to decide which voices to listen to.
You still get to choose how your voice will be used.
You still get to decide IF your voice should be used.
You still get to vent to trusted friends and loved ones–and you can choose to accept their comfort.
You still get to choose, to act responsibly, to take time out to be healthy and make good choices for yourself, SONY DSCand most importantly, to praise God ANYWAY!

See! You have more control than you thought. You just have to choose. I was reminded of that today, so I thought I ought to share.

Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink,
he will still be with you to teach you.
You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear him.
Right behind you a voice will say,
“This is the way you should go,”
whether to the right or to the left.”
Isaiah 30: 20-21

Away with friends…

Right now I’m away with friends. This is the “mumble-something-th” year” we’ve done this since our college graduation from our beloved Mississippi University for Women.

There are just seven of us on the retreat this time due to jobs/moving and family health concerns. We miss those who aren’t here, but we are valiantly “retreating” just the same. (…and hoping they can come to one in the fall…if we can manage another quick one…in the fall? We’ll talk…)

The food is abundant. The laughter near constant. The joy of being together deeper than we’ll ever be able to vocalize or write. All these years together mean there are few silences and even fewer topics off limits (are there limits?) in our fellowship. We’re here to see, to shower with love, to lift up and empower.  We’re here to be reminded of who we REALLY are in a world where we each wear many hats…and, though we’re grateful for each hat, when we’re together, the hats come off and years fade…and we are just US.

Us-ness in a world seemingly committed to uniformed individuality. Celebrating our uniqueness and also our chosen togetherness is a marvelous gift we give to each other. No pressure to conform, but encouraged to be who we were created to be by the One Who loves us best…the One who has a way with friends who are away with friends.

Grace and Peace!

God and His “new things”

cropped-heart“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”  Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)

I did something different this morning. I made a big breakfast and sent my husband off to work. Y’all, that is cause for serious celebration around here! (grin) It may not sound like a reason to party for most of you, but I haven’t done that in 192 days. For those of you who are counting, that’s over 6 months–over half a year!! For those of you who are really counting, that says that on Day 2 of our NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER, my husband lost his job…and that God can have a really odd sense of humor when He decides to see if you’re serious about such a thing.

It was a shock to us. Nothing could have prepared us for the sudden and drastic change in circumstances. A business decision–nothing personal, but with no warning–suddenly severed a situation that we had come to count on for over 16 years. I guess God had decided to remind us that all we can really depend on in this world is HIM…and He’s taken His time and done that in spades.

As we’ve walked through the past few months we’ve discovered (or maybe RE-discovered!) some things about our God and about ourselves. I’ve been quiet here about them as they were happening because some things are just holy in the moment and I didn’t feel like they were really mine to share yet. Some of those things are still so intensely personal that I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to tell them (and certainly not without tears!), but here are just a few of the highlights:

  • God loves us far more than we can ever imagine. Sometimes He loves us enough to send us through things we’d rather not go through in order to show us that His love is constant, without reservation, and that He has no limits to the lengths He will go to prove that–as if the cross hadn’t already proven it!
  • God is indeed Jehovah Jireh—my Provider–and YOURS! He is MORE than ENOUGH no matter what circumstances He chooses for us because He orchestrates every single day so that we can see Him in action if we will but open our eyes.
  • He is charge and He knows EXACTLY what we need…even (especially?!) when it seems like a hard thing and doesn’t make a lot of sense to us on the surface. He is more than able to meet every single need we will ever face and we can never predict how our answers will come because our God is without limits and unfathomable in His ability to surprise and delight us with when we seek HIS answers, HIS timing, and HIS glory.
  • God’s people are AMAZING!! In our initial shock and throughout our “I don’t even know what to call it because it was hard and such a blessing all at the same time–thing!!” people we didn’t even know very well went to their knees on our behalf and showered us with encouragement, while those who know us best were unbelievable in their support for us.
  • We are still a great team. We’ve always known it (HA!), but it’s still nice to see our marriage work the way it is supposed to and we are grateful for the opportunity to spend over half a year together—even as unexpected as that opportunity was for us! We made the most of it and actually had a lot of fun in the process.
  • After over 23 years of marriage, we still LIKE each other and we know how to laugh together!
  • We were, are, and will always be “the most blessed people we know” because we CHOOSE to be. Circumstances cannot affect that. We belong to God and He is the Source of all blessing, so there’s that.

There will be more to share, but for today, did you read that verse at the top? Everybody likes “a new thing.” It’s really great to be in on the new thing, but sometimes we forget that one of the most exciting things can be to actually see God make a way in wilderness and rivers in the desert…and to see those things happen, you have BE in the wilderness and in the desert. If that’s where you are today, please don’t give in to discouragement. PLEASE be open to the new thing God has planned for you and know that I can and WILL pray with you for eyes to see the new things getting ready to spring up in the midst of your hard thing.

And now, there’s just one more thing to say: “GO, GOD!!!”

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!

 

 

Taco Bed Becky

SONY DSCGod started teaching me very early in life about change. My parents were foster parents. From that day when I got off the bus from first grade to find that I suddenly had two older sisters, I began to realize that change was a part of life and people would be coming and going from then on in it. Actually, I got the part about their coming into my life that day…the part about them leaving it didn’t really sink in until later.

My extended family wasn’t Ward and June Cleaver stable. They were more Smokey Mountain stable–rock solid and comfortably immovable, beautiful and a little bit wild around the edges, full of the kind of surprises that make you glad to be there and happy to be a part of it. They were big in number and in stature, loud in laughter and with a work ethic that just wouldn’t quit–everything from hoeing corn to shelling peas, picking up sticks for a bonfire, playing softball or badminton,and seeing who could find the best hiding place was a contest that ended in a good-natured joke. In my innocence, I didn’t realize everyone didn’t have that kind of stability.

Because we lived out in the country with no street lights (easier to make sure you weren’t being followed), my parents took in children from emergency rescue situations as well as some who stayed with us for years. I lost count of the number of times I rolled over in the morning to find a face I didn’t know looking back at me. As the foster children began to come in and out of our home, I learned the value of stability in life and how it was our responsibility to give that gift to each one for as long as they were with us. There were no favorites in the house–the rules were the same for all of us. For some, it was the first time they had ever experienced that kind of love. For us, it was just normal. Stability in fragments. It’s quite a concept.

Somewhere along the way, I managed to get a bit mixed up about the concept of stability, however. I truly didn’t mind the additional people in the house–I was used to large numbers of children because I had a WORLD of cousins and all the neighborhood kids were regularly in our yard, anyway. I was ok with change…as long as it didn’t involve ME or my stuff. Everything had a place and was in it. Woe to the one who moved it.

I began to set such store on keeping “things” as they had always been that I actually pitched one of the biggest fits you’ve ever seen when my parents were finally able to purchase a new mattress for me and my sister. Our old one was pitiful. We would roll to the middle and the edges would creep up a bit like a taco every night. My parents were doing a good thing in trying to change it, but you’d have thought they were trying to kill me from the ruckus I made. They prevailed. We got the new mattress…and the world did not end. We actually slept better. Change. It happens…and sometimes, it’s for the good, I thought then…as long as there isn’t too much of it. (grin/grimace)

I thought about that this morning as I stood over my sink looking out into the rain-soaked yard. My life has been chock-full of change now for as long as I can remember. Over and over, I’ve had to re-learn the taco-bed lesson as God has moved people and places and things all over my world. We’re facing a lot of it right now. You probably are, too. People we love are ill or hurting and the number of situations about which we have no control in our lives mounts daily. It makes the stability of relationship with God even more important. He has no favorites and the rules are the same for all of us…whether we follow them or not.

All of this “disruption” makes me glad He already knows what’s going on and what is to come. I trust Him to do the right thing for me…even if it makes me uncomfortable for awhile. As I mentally ran through a list of changes we and our loved ones are facing right now, I suddenly asked God to please not let me be Taco Bed Becky–hanging on to those things that need to change in order for His best to be evident in our lives. I’m so grateful that He is my stability among the fragments. I need that today.

And I’ll be praying that for you, too.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 (HCSB)

Ahhhh, stability…without stagnation. Now, there’s a concept.

Grace & Peace!

 

 

Waiting…

Potential“but when the fullness of time had come…”  Galatians 4:4 (KJV)

“But when the set time had fully come…” Galatians 4:4 (NIV)

“But when the right time finally came…” Galatians 4:4 (GNT)

No matter what translation of Scripture I’m reading, I love those words written by the Apostle Paul about the timing of the birth of Jesus…the One I call Savior. That makes them special. They were written after about 400 years of silence from God…yes, that’s right! That deliberate silence from God meant 400 years of waiting time for God’s people. It can’t have been easy. People came and went on this planet. They lived whole lives never knowing what we know now. They had no other choice but to wait. That sounds really harsh, doesn’t it? (Don’t worry about my offending God with that statement…He knows.)

Those words tell me that everything was finally in place for every single prophecy (over 300 of them!) about the Promised Messiah to finally begin to come true. They also tell me that

  • God was in charge back then just like He is now.
  • He has a plan and it is for my good–and yours!
  • He was particular about the details of the plan on purpose.
  • There were people who needed to be in the right places and in the right positions before the plan would work like it was supposed to work.

Those words carry hope. They cradle the thought that God had been busy on our behalf and was finally through preparing our Best Blessing ever…and that timing was EVERYTHING in order for it to actually BE the best blessing ever. Important words. Instructive words…

Those words also make me crazy sometimes–especially when they apply to MY life today because I’m not always the world’s best wait-er! (Who is?!) As an adult, I totally understand the need for waiting…I just don’t always fully embrace the concept personally! (You, either?! ha! Imagine that!)

What I do know, however, is that the same list of statements under my first paragraph are just as true today for MY life as they were when God was waiting to bring His Son into the world to save us…and those details that we’re all waiting to fall into place in our individual lives today? Well, once He has those in place in a way that will bless us best or teach us most, our wait will be over about whatever we’re praying over or holding our breath on now, as well.

Whether His answer is a “Yes!” or a “No!” or a comically rhetorical”What were you thinking when you asked Me that?! (because, YES, God has a sense of humor and sometimes I think we’re allowed to see the possibilities without the pain as a way to grow us up a bit!)…whatever it is that He’s chosen for your answers and my answers, it will be just what we’ve needed all along.

Welcome to the Advent Adventures!