Beauty regimen

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 (NKJV)

I found a graphic on Pinterest awhile back and haven’t been able to shake it. My mama had a saying: “Beauty is as beauty does.”  (I’d guess all the mamas I knew while I was growing up had that saying!) It took me quite awhile to fully appreciate the truth of it, but these days seems more on-target than ever.

In this world where we are more likely to share our lives online with more people than we actually see in person, our lines of right and wrong, our filters for kindness and civility,  and our boundaries of what is real and what is virtual have a taken quite a hit.

Freedom of speech is such a precious gift! What a shame that we’ve used it to cheapen ourselves by sharing our deepest hurts and joys along side photos of what we’re having for supper and attacking others for having the temerity to use that shared freedom of expression to disagree with our political opinions. It makes all of those things seem equally important…and they are most definitely not.

Earlier this month, those of us in the United States celebrated our nation’s independence. The formation of a single nation created specifically to harness the power of each individual’s right to think for themselves and express those thoughts and beliefs without fear of reprisal:  That’s an anomaly in this world…and an important one. Using the very freedom of expression granted to us by the first amendment of our Constitution to denigrate others with opposing viewpoints instead of using that power to educate, encourage, or entice them to see the merits of your own seems to indicate a lack of character–and that is far more damaging to our society than we can afford. Why wound and belittle when you could bridge gaps and find common ground for a common good? Why not become a person of influence for unity rather than one who divides and derides? We don’t have to agree on everything to cooperate on a lot of things!

I don’t mind people disagreeing with me. In fact, there are days I relish it. I’ve even been known to argue the side of the opposition just for the fun of it. The ability to see both sides of an issue helps me make better choices and it helps me to pray more specifically as I seek to do what God wants me to do.

More than ever I find that He asks me to speak words of encouragement. He asks me to look for the positive. Sometimes, He just asks me to be silent and extend grace…and grace is never easy…except when you’ve found that you’ve needed so much of it yourself.

I love the black and white of an issue and I love “being right” (who doesn’t?!) and I love that we have been gifted with both words and the ability to share our thoughts. This is not about being silent when we need to defend. I wonder about this though…and I think I want to be beautiful.

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Day 2–NCC2016

Well, yesterday was a real treat for me! I kept hearing from people who have decided to join us in the NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER challenge and I have loved hearing the stories of those they’ve asked to come along, as well.

One sweet friend laughingly told me that she had made it “about 20 minutes!” into her day before she caught herself! Another texted and told me that one of her friends had just done “sober October” and wasn’t sure they could manage a NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER right on the heels of that one. (HA! Good for YOU, person I do not know, and how fabulous!) I also received notice that one of my friends is on a very “technical” jury case right now but is “determined not to complain tomorrow.” I love it! Soldier on, sweet people!!

Along with the experiences of Day 1, I’ve also learned that among the many who are attempting this is a returning group from last year–of PRISON NURSES!! Ok, y’all, if THEY can do this, so can we!! From homeschooling mamas, retirees, theatrical professors, public school educators, nurses, accountants, and  engineers  to Bible study aficionados and children, this challenge is for EVERYONE!

Several of my friends suddenly noticed the TIMING of this challenge takes us into the election next week…and they are already cringing. (Don’t even think God wasn’t entertained by this, too! grin) Another sent out the following, “Well, so far, NCN hasn’t been too tough, but I’m fixing to leave the house and mingle with society…fingers crossed and prayed up.” (hilariously true)

My favorite communication, however, arrived late in the day. It was a text that simply said, “Define complaining.”

Y’all I seriously laughed out loud!! As I shared it with some of my line, however, I received confirmation that, perhaps that IS needed, so here it is according to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, the “simple definition” is:

  • to say or write that you are unhappy, sick, uncomfortable, etc., or that you do not like something

  • : to say (something that expresses annoyance or unhappiness)

while their definition for students says:

 

  to express grief, pain, or discontent :  find fault

The Becky-version of complaining adds a little bit more to the pile: to find fault in a negative manner, stating more than the obvious, “throwing shade”, continuing to restate a particular issue, having a bad attitude…even if silent.

Well. I may have just lost some people with that one. (laughter) Certainly, we will all have situations where we will need to make statements about things that need to be better over the next month. It might be a health issue, a broken piece of equipment, or an action or attitude being portrayed in our presence. Such things DO need to be handled, but they do not need to be belabored. State your case and move on. Illustrate your ability to use language succinctly the first time and extend the grace of moving on after you do so.

You can do this! YOU can! And, if necessary, you can also illustrate the concept of self-forgiveness and start again. That’s a lesson we can all use, as well.

Grace & Peace! (and NO COMPLAINTS!)

 

Kicking off the heels…

I used to love wearing high heels. I can close my eyes and still smell the brand new leather as I opened the box…oh my…wow…yes, moment of silence for that. And, since we have LONG since established my little bit of OCD-ness, I can admit that opening closet doors to see all the boxes lined up with their labels facing outward…

(Ok, I got a little lost there for a moment. Suffice it to say that I loved that image.)

Image. That says something to me about the heels, as well. As a teenager, they said I was growing up. As a college student, they said it was time to dance. As a young professional, they said I was making it on my own. Quite the talkative things, my shoes…and they always came with a lot of attitude–some of it good and some of it not so much.

After I got married, my husband was surprised to learn that he had to move a whole refrigerator box full of shoes to our new home. Work, church, and in between, I had at least several pair to choose from and I couldn’t imagine life any other way. I had other styles, too, of course, but the heels always made me feel special…almost like social armor, which really isn’t often necessary when you’re almost 6′ tall and know who you are. (grin) Well, maybe I just thought I knew some things back then.

I pared down over time. Styles changed. Life changed. I bought more flats, wedges, tennis shoes, and fewer heels, though I always kept a few in the back of my closet. In fact, I’ve had three pair that have survived the multiple purges over the past several years as I’ve gone from acquisition mode to the search for space and the peace of “less.” At first, I stopped wearing heels after I took a tumble down some stairs and needed some recovery time. After that, I just never went back to them. I found other options that suited me…and weren’t as perilous.

That’s not all that’s changed over the years. You know, Saul’s armor didn’t fit David…and not because it was too large, but because they had different battle styles. That’s true of me, as well, now. I’m still me, of course, but my life is different and my current battles aren’t the same ones I used to fight. That means some wardrobe changes are in order. I’ve decided I no longer need to hold on to things that don’t fit the life I’m living now, so I’m finally letting go of those last three pair of heels…and a whole lot of other things like attitudes and life strategies that haven’t always served me well. I’m a lot less rigid these days, a lot less judgmental, and I’m a lot more at peace. I find I laugh more–mostly at myself!–and I like me a whole lot better, too–and that is really saying something. (Ha!) I’m free to be ME: the one GOD knows and loves, and I can rest in that a lot more than I used to. I find I’m less concerned about any images that might be held in other places when I focus on HIS image of who I am. I’m more grateful for little things and I’m more aware of my gifts and limitations without being hampered by either thought. God is good and I am His. It is enough.

Oh, by the way, I tried those 3 pair of shoes on and I loved the way they looked. I almost put them right back in the closet! They felt ok on my feet and I found I could still walk in them just fine…for a little while. Then I tried on a few other styles–and my back gave an almost audible sigh of relief and my feet did, too. There are better things out there for me than the things I once held onto “just in case”, you know…so I’m making room for the now and finding that memories take up less room in the closet. So, out go the heels–gorgeous as they are –along with a pair of Keds and 2 pair of flats! Today, you’re more likely to find me in tennis shoes and they suit me just fine…in fact, it’s a lot easier to kick up my heels than ever before.

Question of the day:  What are YOU holding onto that you need to let go? Make room for the life GOD wants for you now. You just might be amazed at how great it can be!

 

 

His face

 “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

I ended my last post with these verses. They haven’t ended it with me, yet. They keep showing up and rolling around in my brain like some wonderful gift. I keep thinking about those words:  “his face” and they kind of melt me.

It’s considered cross -cultural, I think, that when you’ve been abandoned or disavowed or just disapproved that the symbolism for those who feel you’ve outstayed your welcome is that they turn their back on you. Sometimes that’s just figurative. Other times, it actually happens physically.

These verses show the other side. They’re beneficent, encouraging, hopeful, and personal. They are grace. They are life-giving. They are possible.

No matter where you are today or what you’ve done before, these words are for you. God wants a personal relationship with you! He WANTS to turn His face toward you and be gracious to you. He WANTS to give you peace–peace that lasts forever, not just until the next crisis arrives.

That means you’ll have to look at Him, too, of course. It means you’ll have to see past all of the misconceptions and half-truths and preconceived notions passed as fact by those who don’t really want to do the work of getting to know Him. It means you’ll need to dig deep. It means you’ll have to go to the Source and ask Him to come in. He can do that. He will do that…if you ask.

It isn’t complicated. It does have to be deliberate. You have to choose it–NO ONE just falls haphazardly, or by heritage, or by just being a good person–into a personal relationship with God. It is simple, however. You’ll need to acknowledge the vast gap between who you are and the perfection that is Him. You’ll have to recognize that you can’t make up the difference on your own. You’ll have to see yourself for what you are: someone with sin (and if you’re like me, a lot of it)…someone who has missed the mark…repeatedly. You just have to ask Him to get rid of that sin and make you whole again.

Be ready, though. Asking this isn’t temporary. It will change you. Completely. Forever. He will rock your world in ways you can’t currently imagine…and it will be amazing.

It’s worth it. HE is worth it. The peace is worth it.

These verses are more than just an ancient blessing. They are prophetic. When you ask God to come into your life and be in charge, these words will leap to life and this will happen:

  •  The Lord bless you–with a new heart and a clean soul!

  • and keep you–forever! Never alone again. Always in His care!

  • the Lord make his face shine on you–able to know the Almighty and experience His pleasure in you! He values you! He loves you! He made you on purpose, so He’s already on your side!

  • and be gracious to you–grace = unmerited (unearned!) favor! Who couldn’t use more of that?

  • the Lord turn his face toward you–He will let you see Him! He will be personal with you! He will choose to have a relationship with you that will surpass anything you’ve ever experienced.

  • and give you peace–long past this holiday season. His peace is for a lifetime…and our world needs this now, more than ever. It can start with you today. Just ask.

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

Newsworthy?

Well. This has been quite the week for news, hasn’t it? More than that, it’s been quite the week for anger and vitriol and finger-pointing (from every side) about what is right and what is wrong–especially if your last name is Jenner. Interestingly enough, it is just barely mid-week and the main story in the news…isn’t really the main story…for any of us.

Somehow, in the midst of all of the goings-on, I think we’ve managed to miss a few things.

Here’s the real news:

  • There’s actually something wrong with all of us. What’s wrong with us is that we’re all flawed and we’re all sinful…all of us.
  • NONE of us have gotten it every bit right so far…and we never will as long as we’re still on this planet.
  • Perhaps the saddest news of all is when someone (anyone!) is unaware of who they are created to be…in Christ.
  • When someone doesn’t have that knowledge, it is absolutely impossible for their lives to look like they have that knowledge.
  • LOVE does not equal APPROVAL of every action or attitude. It isn’t even acceptance of every action or attitude. Love is a lot tougher than that…and a lot more resilient than we ever give it credit for being.
  • If I focus on the things that still need to  be fixed in ME, I won’t have time to finger-point…at anyone.

Here’s the better news:

  • God still loves us!
  • God didn’t wait for us to get it all together and act like we should before He decided to love us…or show us how MUCH He loves us!
  • There’s still time to act like we know and believe that.

SONY DSCHow will you LOVE today? How will you LIVE HIM today? How will you entice the world to want to know our God today? (Hint: They ARE all the same thing!)

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”  John 3:16-17

Grace & Peace!

Choosing the right lane…

I am most definitely an introvert, but I’m not sure I really drive like one. I am more…shall we say…pro-active on the road…than a lot of people. My husband and I have switched up driving chores since day one of our marriage. He has no problem putting me behind the wheel. It means he can take a nap. It also means that when he wakes up, he’s often been surprised to find out how far we’ve traveled during his beauty sleep.

I think I’m a pretty good driver. I’m generally polite and I follow most of the rules…most of the time. See? Even here I have to qualify my statements. Justification. That’s never a good sign, right? To be fair, I’ve only ever received one ticket for speeding. It was in 1989. A friend and I were headed back to GA after a wedding and we were having an absolutely marvelous time laughing and carrying on about our weekend and just generally catching up on each other when we passed a policeman headed in the opposite direction. It was a divided highway entering a small Alabama town with a well-known speed trap. Blue lights flashed as he headed to find a place to turn around. I just pulled over. My friend Betty looked totally puzzled and asked me how I knew that was for us…after all, there were several other cars in the area when it happened. My answer was simple: “Betty, we’ve passed every single thing we’ve seen since we left this morning. It couldn’t help being for me.”

Moments later, the largest biceps I had ever seen before—or since!–appeared in my window. They were attached to an extremely nice policeman who looked at the two of us, took in my MS drivers license and my AL tag and the fact that I now had a Georgia address–and that I was going a little over 80 mph as I entered his 55 mph speed area (I hadn’t even made it to the slow-down area!)—and simply shook his head and gave me a lecture about how he was concerned that we would become a holiday statistic if I continued along at my current pace. He said his name was Sam Washington. I won’t ever forget him. He wrote me a citation with a pretty reasonable fine all things considered and extended grace as he sent us on our way instead of putting me under the jail…where I probably wouldn’t have learned a thing given my hardheadedness at the time.

That grace, though, made a difference. I recognized right off that he didn’t have to do things the way he did and I paid that ticket without a single thought about complaining about it…ev-er! It was the very least of what I deserved. I think about that man and I smile and slow down every single time I drive through his town… and I have done so for over 25 years now.

Some years back I made another friend who came from that town and I asked her if she knew a Mr. Sam Washington. She laughed and said yes, she was extremely familiar with him. He’d given her many tickets as she raced toward the church where she had helped serve the youth. Each time he gave her a ticket he also gave her a lecture similar to the one he gave me. She wasn’t mad about it, either. She understood grace, too.

I’ve thought about that a lot. To do a thankless job in a small town and do it with grace and kindness, to genuinely care about the people you’re rightfully reprimanding and still extend grace in the process, to do your job well and consistently…I don’t know for certain, but I’d guess that Sam Washington knows a thing or two about God. Whether or not that is true, Sam Washington taught me more than he could have ever imagined about God and grace and using your position of influence for good…and that was worth every single penny of that ticket.

Oh, that we would all walk and talk and work out the grace of God in our lives as we go about our business! Think about that for a little bit. What would it look like for you to live HIM as you go about your work this week? Who and how long will you influence for the better as you seek to serve God where you live and work right now?

Imagine what could happen if we all chose to travel the right path (or lane, as the case may be) to get where HE wants to be…in His time.

“We never know which lives we influence, or when, or why.” ~Stephen King (and yes, I’m as surprised as you are that I quoted Stephen King for this one!)

 

“Live lovingly, just as the Messiah also loved us and gave himself for us as an offering and sacrifice, a fragrant aroma to God.” Ephesians 5:2 (ISV)