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!

NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER: Day 24

I’ve seen something similar before, but the message is still a great one and worthy of sharing here with you just as my precious #6 (Thanks, Lisa!) shared with all of us earlier this week. It is especially appropriate for those who are busy in the preparations of the days leading up to the “great day” of Thanksgiving…just TWO MORE DAYS, y’all!!

“Grateful for…

  1. Early wakeups = children to love
  2. House to clean = safe place to live
  3. Laundry = clothes to wear
  4. Dishes to wash = food to eat
  5. Crumbs under the table = family meals
  6. Grocery shopping = $ to provide for us
  7. Toilets to clean = indoor plumbing
  8. Lots of noise = people in my life
  9. Endless questions about homework = kids’ brains growing
  10. Sore & tired in bed = I’m still alive!

Amen

pumpkin1I’ve been thinking about that since Lisa sent it out to us Sunday morning. All of the things we so often turn into complaints have, at their heart, a reason to give thanks. Let’s not forget that this week…or next…or ever. So many people can NOT include those 10 things in their prayers.

That was brought home to me especially by a Facebook post last night from my friend, Linda:

“I heard on the news tonight that 14% of the U.S. population experiences food insecurity and for Mississippi, it’s 22%. Food insecurity in the land of plenty is mystifying. How blessed, and how truly unaware of that blessing, are those of us who don’t wonder how, when, or where our next meal will be.”

That’s pretty sobering, isn’t it? In this month of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER, and especially in this week of Thanksgiving celebrations, let’s remember those who are less fortunate …and then, let’s do something to change it.

Our mission won’t end at the end of this month. We can choose to be grateful. We can choose not to complain. We can choose to make positive differences in the world and in the lives of those who need our compassion and our assistance…even when they aren’t asking us for a thing. Start thinking now! True ThanksGIVING can start right in the neighborhood where you live. Will it? Will you?

Grace & Peace!

(*Beautiful mini-quilt made by hand and given to me as a blessing by my wonderful #3, Jody! That word “Blessed” sums up my life in ways I can never truly write about well enough to convey the depth of it. My friends and family  know that and generously continue to add to my metaphorical pile of blessings by loving on me every day!)

NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER: Day 18

The last few weeks have been “hectic” for us…and for most of the world. When that happens, it’s always good to take some time out to spend with friends and it’s even better when you can do it while using the experience to deepen your relationship with God.

LNO tablesLast night was such a night.

Over 300 women from our church and community gathered together for a delicious meal and some time of praise mixed in with a few stories about what God has been busy doing to make Himself known in the ladies among our community.

LNO 2015The room was filled with tables surrounded by women. All were beautifully decorated–both the tables AND the women. We weren’t there to show off our finery. We were there to use it much like the gifts the Wise Men brought to the newborn King so long ago: we were there to celebrate His coming and honor His place among us.

As I listened to the chatter in the room beforehand, I was filled–as always– with an amazing sense of being blessed. Women in accord. That’s a powerful thing. The program was wonderful. Four women from among us rose to share on themes of Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy. There were tears. There always are. You can’t get this close to the Christ without it moving your emotions. There was also laughter…because you can’t get this close to Him without that, either. We celebrated His original coming so long ago and we also celebrated that He continues to come and meet us right where we are even today.

Despite the trials that each woman in the room has certainly experienced or might be currently dealing with, no complaints were heard. God was there, and there was no room for anything else but Him. It was a much needed respite for me and the word “grateful” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

I came home and joined my husband in viewing a recorded program from the night before. There was nothing sacred about this competition to see who will become the next VOICE and rise to fame and success…right up until one of the contestants, Jordan Smith, took the stage and began to sing “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” in an incredibly worshipful way. I love that song! We even had it played at our wedding as our parents came down the aisle. It has such a message of hope and peace for me…that melodic reminder that my God has been and will always be trusted to be faithful no matter what I face in this life. At the end of his song, two of the coaches simply expressed their thanks for bringing a sense of hope into what had also been a difficult week for them, as well.

That’s what God does. He shows up and He’s faithful and He brings us HOPE in a world where there are angry words and unkind actions over everything from red cups to refugees fleeing for their lives. We’ve managed to lump those things into one big pile for public debate…as if they’re equal…or ever could be.

My challenge today is to take some time out to meditate on the faithfulness of God in my life. I’ll do it away from the news and the noise of this day. I’ll make time to tell God how glad I am that He is mine and that I am His…and I hope you’re able to do the same.

Grace & Peace!

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, anyone?

SONY DSCA few weeks ago I had the pleasure and the privilege of hosting a group of friends from college for a few days. It was our second gathering within the past few months and, while we had a couple of differences in attendees, it was still such a precious thing to have them here with me again so soon. Normally, we have to wait a whole year in between these gatherings!

When we are together, years melt away. We are temporarily no longer wives, mothers, employees, or any other label that we normally embrace on a regular basis. We are simply US.  We pile on furniture together and we stay up late and we laugh and eat amazing food together. We invade small businesses (wherever we are) and we get all kinds of looks from people in restaurants and even just passers-by on the street. (Seriously, at one restaurant there was a man who just gave up eating AND all pretense of ignoring us and turned his whole chair to watch us like we were a TV show! HA!) We are loud and, even if no one but us gets it, we are hysterically funny!

Our topics are like free-range chickens ducking in and out of hiding, small clusters of whispering voices morphing into a cacophony of high-energy, hand-gesticulating oratory on everything from religion and politics to oddly-shaped gourds and from trials to treasures and triumphs since our last togetherness. There is no substitute for the love and encouragement, the prodding and accountability level these beautiful, educated, highly-intelligent-but-oh-so-different women provide for me. I am better—by far!—because they are in my life. Gratitude for them both corporately and individually is beyond words. Splendid, I tell you! These women are simply SPLENDID!!!

I am always better after spending time with them. This time of visitation was no exception. As we shared our hearts and laughter, Jody (#3!) kept a running written list about our topical adventures to share with our friends who couldn’t join us this time. Anyone else who reads the list will believe we are either speaking in code or insane. One-liners, memories, questions, phrases, locations, product/book/movie/entertainment choices,  recommendations/reviews/warnings…it was an extensive list.

During one of our “sessions” (where we solve all of the world’s problems!) we wandered from intentional living into the topics of deliberate thankfulness, complaining, and how we deal with these issues in our “regular” lives. One friend had spent a whole year focusing on joy awhile back, a couple of them had joined together to reduce their consumerisim of various items by deliberately choosing a year of month-long fasts of all kinds of things from crackers and chocolate to clothes. One of us told about her deliberate choice to give up complaining for a whole month.

We kept talking, but I think we were also marinating in the scope of that endeavor. It’s pretty big. Choosing to curtail your personal freedom of expression is actually pretty monumental. At least it is for us. We rarely find a subject about which we ALL do not have opinions and we also feel pretty free to share those opinions with each other—and anyone else within auditory range. Agreements are optional for us. Unity, however, is a given. We are undeterred by our differences and, in fact, we often celebrate them. Having recognized the worth of each individual so long ago, how could we possibly go back on that now?

Once everyone returned home, Marsha (our #12) wrote a fabulous email compiling all the list points for those who couldn’t attend and sent it to the entire line as a reminder. That email started a whole chain of emails and our #2 (Hey, Patty!) announced, “…in November I will be intentionally trying not to complain.” I think most of us have jumped on the bandwagon with her and we’ve made our determination to try and have our first annual NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER. (yikes! That sounds suspiciously like we might repeat it annually! I didn’t consult them on that! We may need to see how it goes! HA!!)

We’ve already been talking about being personally responsible for what we put out into the world, about possible reminders that will help us focus, about verses to inspire and instruct us, and—of course—we’ll be reporting in to each other as we go along.

Our goal is NOT just to be intentional about monitoring our negative verbal impulses, but to be intentional about deliberately choosing to be positive, as well. Again, that’s big. Really big. It has the power to change us and to change those around us. IF we get into the habit on a regular basis…well, who knows how big the ripples could get, so I asked if they would mind if I shared this here. They’re all on board, so far, so here it is:

You—Precious YOU!—are hereby officially invited to join me and my most marvelous friends in our NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER! I’ll be checking back in with updates and, probably, some shared stories or suggestions as we seek to improve the world right where we are.

Question:  Aren’t you happy I gave you a whole day to think about it before it starts?!

And, more importantly:  Will you join us? (and if you don’t get to read this until after we’ve already started? Jump in where you are! As Patty says, “The more the merrier!”)

“Do not let unwholesome [foul, profane, worthless, vulgar] words ever come out of your mouth, but only such speech as is good for building up others, according to the need and the occasion, so that it will be a blessing to those who hear [you speak].” Ephesians 4:29 (Amplified Bible)

Yes! We CAN do this!!

Grace & Peace!

New days…

It has been quiet around here…not surprising for a blog entitled, “quiet ambitions”, perhaps, but after total silence for such a long while, I’ve found it difficult to start up the conversation again.  At first, it was because of scheduling and unpacking, the finding of old things and finding new locations for them. Later, it became something totally different.  It was at first a challenge that morphed into a cocoon. I got comfortable with the silence and found myself reveling in the quiet. Every now and then someone would ask when I planned to start blogging again and I would just smile and shake my head and say, “Whenever it feels right.  Whenever God says start again.”  It felt flattering to be asked…right up until I found I still had nothing to say…and so I waited…and waited…and waited…

I blogged in my head and there is a small red notebook with many snippets of notes inside–all hastily scribbled in the dead of night without so much as a light to keep me within the lined paper borders.  There’s a really poorly penned dream-note on one of the magnetic notepads on the side of the fridge.  I stare at it sometimes when I’m making out the grocery lists and it challenges me.  I can only remember a small portion of what would have been (I am certain!) of one of my most profound blog posts…ever.  (If at any point in the future God should allow me to complete the thought, I promise to share it…but I probably won’t mention that it is THAT post…just in case it turns out not as brilliant as I think it was supposed to be orginally.  grin)

I’ve missed being here.  I’ve missed you…and me…and all the quiet just took over and one day I realized that I wasn’t certain how to start over again here.  I asked God about it and He sent me this quote last week:

“People are always asking about the good old days, I say, why don’t you talk about the good new days?”  ~Robert M. Young

Well, God is never wrong and since He went to all the trouble of sending me  a quote and allowing a few extra thoughts to pass through the brain matter recently, here I am.

Things I learned in the quiet:

  • It is possible to be completely at home in a place you’ve never been before when you know with absolute assurance that God put you there on purpose…before He’s even made that purpose evident.
  • The mower that you had serviced at the end of the last growing season just before you moved will only break down when the grass in your new yard threatens to block the view from your front windows.
  • Sometimes, a broken mower becomes a blessing.  It keeps you from missing out on the shasta daisies that you didn’t know were going to come up over there and keeps you from decimating the tiny buds on the muscari that bloomed late and in a place you would never have thought they would grow. God has a purpose in everything.
  • I still need a Savior. Every. Single. Day.  (Even–or perhaps, especially, when I am all by myself.)
  • When you think you’re all alone, God will still be there…and the Jehovah’s Witnesses will find you…even in the woods.
  • It is really cool to take your trash out for pick up and get a hug from a neighbor in the middle of the road just because they’re happy to see you…and they don’t even know you well yet.
  • It is ok to take a break when everything still isn’t finished and the to-do list is huge and you have no idea what is for supper and…and…I never understood that before.  I’ve always been a work-past-the-point-of-sanity person, so this is new for me. If it is old news for you, then God bless you, why in the name of all that is holy didn’t you share it with me before? (Yes, I know.  I was busy and I wouldn’t listen, but perhaps someone else will, so share it with someone else near you soon.)
  • We only get one life and sometimes you need to celebrate the silly things.  Don’t wait on a big occasion to put on your party hat and giggle!
  • I’ve looked and tasted and, quite frankly, there doesn’t seem to be a really great Chinese restaurant near me now.  Naturally, I’ve been craving Chinese food for weeks!  Is it because I know I can’t have it or because I’m also missing the ones we used to go eat Chinese food with and worship with and pray with and laugh with, etc?  How wonderful to know that real friendships aren’t just food-related or proximity-dependent!
  • You have to make friends deliberately. I called the library the other day and a lady named Rosemary answered. Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs and has long been assigned to represent “Remembrance/Friendship”…she doesn’t know me yet, but I hope to make this lady at the library a really good friend.  (Who knows?! Perhaps she knows where they keep the good Chinese food!!)
  • I was born and raised in Mississippi.  We’re known as “The Hospitality State”…for really good reasons.  What I never expected, however, was to live in a place where hospitality is extended in such a publicly rehabilitative way…as evidenced by the photo of what is now my favorite new sign in my new location:

That sign made me smile, then chuckle and then full-out belly laugh when I saw it!  And isn’t that always the way it is? Almost anything can be solved with friendship, a good meal, a desire to help others and a really good laugh!

Sounds like the perfect way to break the silence to me…

Grace & Peace!!

 

For your weekend…

The past 24 hours have been another roller-coaster ride…and not just for me.  Yesterday, I was privileged to be asked to pray for another friend in another state whose home has been on the market for quite some time.  After all the waiting, they finally had an offer!

What a gift!  As friends from across the South–and perhaps even further–unified our prayers for a successful conclusion for our friend, we were united in spirit.  God was gracious–and perhaps, even a bit humorous–as He sent in a second contract for their review on the very same day.

Last night we were notified that our friend and her husband had accepted a contract and that the terms God had sent were very generous…just because He likes to do that sort of thing…and just because He can.  As we all celebrated our friend’s blessing, a comment was made that “Anyone who doesn’t believe in the power of prayer should read this message chain!”

Once again, I was reminded of our need for a faith family and additionally reminded that they will never all be located under one roof.  How fabulous that is!  We are spread across the globe on purpose!  We are sent to minister wherever we are!

What will you do to support your faith family this weekend?  How will you reach out and minister to those around you?  It doesn’t have to take up your whole weekend–it just has to come from the heart and bring glory to God.  What will you choose today?