Saturday morning

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“Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls…'” Jeremiah 6:16a

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Rest for your souls…doesn’t​ that sound lovely? Make room for some soul rest this weekend. There’s room on the porch…

Grace and Peace!

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!

 

 

The Today Blessing

I’m cleaning out again. Still. This time it’s the table top beside my chair. Old cards, magazines, photos, pens, paints, sticky notes with prayers and verses on them, books and Bible study materials…yes, I’ve managed to amass quite the collection of treasures here.

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As I’ve sifted through all of the detritus of many yesterdays, I unearthed this poem. I’ve had it for so long that I can’t remember where I found it, so I can’t give credit where its due, but it’s too good to keep myself, so here it is, just for you in case you need reminding, too…

Living in the Present (by Helen Mallicoat, 1977)

I was regretting the past and fearing the future.

Suddenly my Teacher was speaking:

“My name is I AM.” He paused, I waited.

He continued, “When you live in the past

with its mistakes and regrets,

it is hard. I am not there.

My name is not I WAS.

When you live in the future

with its problems and fears, it is hard.

I am not there. My name is not I WILL BE.

When you live in this moment,

it is not hard. I am HERE.

My name is I AM.”

Grace and Peace…and as Jim Elliot said, “Wherever you are, be all there!”…because that’s where God is, too.

Learning New Old Things

As odd as this sounds, I think I may have grown up a little bit this past week. A few of my friends are snorting hysterically right now because they think  I may or may not have been “born old” and, maybe (again, Ha!), I’ve acted like that ever since.

I was (AM!) the first-born. A daughter.  A responsible one. The oldest female of the second set of grandchildren on both sides of the family—after a few years break—so I got plenty of attention for just by showing up in the world. That attention came with a lot of expectation, as well, because they seemed to think I could do anything and everything well and, with that much focused attention and instruction everywhere I turned, I learned a lot and I learned it fast or I kept at it until I was satisfied. Sometimes that took awhile, but I’m also stubborn, so that time element never really got in my way other than making me impatient with myself, because—truth be told?—my own expectations for me were even higher than theirs for me.

Knowing how to do things made me more independent and made them excited to see their instruction pay off, so it was a win-win situation for all of us. I just automatically assumed it was my job to keep on meeting  those expectations as I got older, and so I did so…on the surface, at least. I’m grateful for those expectations. Personally, I think they were good for me. I KNOW that the people who expressed them love me and are good for me and that was enough to make me just go DO whatever goal was set… sometimes without even thinking about whether or not it was I really wanted to do or something they had suggested for me.

On the inside, I wondered sometimes what it might feel like to not have those expectations, but then, I’d usually pick up another book and lose myself in the words and find new worlds to conquer and new things to learn and more expectations from myself that came with having all that information up in my brain. You can see where this is going, can’t you?  I come from a long line of seriously capable people and I suspect this pretty much describes their path, as well.

Stubborn, firstborn, introverted-yet-over-achieving female with a large built-in encouraging support system…yes, I was born old…and that’s not a complaint for me, just a comment…and more of a blessing than I’ve given it credit for being until just recently.

I’m not the smartest person I know—not by a long shot!—but I can hang in there with them for awhile and finding out what I don’t know has been as valuable to me as gold over the years. That information helped me focus on what I wanted to learn next, do next, be next.

In fact, I’ve often been so focused on that “next” part that I ignored the “now” part of life. That has been a mistake. I don’t often admit to making those (Mike, quit grinning!), but that’s one of my biggies. All of that go and learn and do has gained me skills, but often left me wondering what I planned to do with all of that…and feeling more than a little frustrated when I couldn’t fill in the blanks for those questions. I still don’t have all those answers.

This past seven months, however, of having the most definitely unplanned luxury of being with my husband and choosing to slow down and enjoy our unexpected time together has taught me a lesson I hope I never forget:  how to just BE in the moment.  I realized just this week that I’ve finally learned that those skills and that knowledge don’t have to be put to work every single second. There are times when you just need to breathe, times when you can fill a whole day (or weeks or months!) with counting the blessings God has poured into your life, times when gratitude for every single thing—good AND bad–about your life needs to consume you and put you on your face before God.

I don’t want to lose that knowledge going forward! I don’t want to go backward and be so determined to know and go and do that I forget to just BE God’s grateful child. I’ve always said that being stubborn was both my worst characteristic and my best—especially as it pertained to my faith!—but now, I want to apply it to this filling gratefulness; this drenching awareness of the goodness and grace of my God. I want to be stubborn about holding on to and living THAT out for the rest of my days.

I almost wrote that I wish I’d learned this lesson earlier, but on second thought, I realize that God’s timing is always perfect. All the steps that led up to now and made me who I am today give me an amazing list of things to be grateful for right now. I may have been a little bit slow (it’s only taken me over 50 years!), but as for tomorrow, well, I plan to know more then, so I expect to be more grateful then…and I plan to be stubborn about that in the future, as well.

“Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;

Praise him, all creatures here below;

Praise him above, ye heavenly host;

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.”

                                                                         ~Thomas Ken, 1674

(1674! And still worth singing.)

Go, GOD!

Listening

Sometimes I want to sit in front of this computer and write long, amazing posts full of all the things God keeps showing me. I mean, I REALLY want to do that like you just wouldn’t believe…and He just won’t let me. I’m going through something like that right now and thought I’d let you know why it’s been a bit quiet here lately.

  • God’s been saying plenty. Trust me on this. Apparently, however, now is not the time to share those things.
  • Maybe it’s because you’ve got to really “GET” the lesson and have it worked down into your life before you’re really able to share or teach it properly. And He’s giving me a lot to take in right now.
  • Maybe it’s because He’s apparently got a lot to say through the people around me and doesn’t need my voice to get in the way of theirs.
  • Maybe He’s just teaching me how to listen when He says, “No.” to something that I want/crave/view as “mine”…and learn to respond to the “No.” in ways that still honor Him.
  • Maybe…who knows?

Whatever the reason for the time-out, know this: God is good. Amazingly good. He is loving and caring and personal and He sees you right where you are and He knows what you NEED even when it isn’t what you want and He still has a plan that is for your good.

Are you listening? Even if He says “No.” to you, too?

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FYI: Pity Parties and Praises Don’t Go Together

FYI:  Pity Parties and Praises Don’t Go Together

There are times (for everyone!) when you’re just tired of the way things are going in your life. Those are the times when, whatever the tipping point or reason, you are just ready to throw in the towel and walk away for a break. It doesn’t have to be a long one and it certainly doesn’t mean that you’re ready to walk away permanently, but you just NEED A BREAK from the problem, circumstance, people or attitudes (maybe even YOUR own attitudes!) in your life. You may not even know WHY you need the break…you just know that you do. So what then?

Well, I’m not an expert on your life, but I’m gradually gaining some experience with my own (ha!), so I’ve found that if I can just change the environment a little, it will help. I know this because I had it happen just this morning.

I love my life. I love the people in it and I’m very aware of how blessed I am to have the life I have…and yet…this morning, I was ready for some major venting. I was pitiful and it wasn’t really pretty. Fortunately, I managed to keep it all between me and God (well, until now, of course!) and I got myself ready to go to church this morning because I knew I needed to be there.

Oh, I wanted to be there, too, of course! Due to circumstances beyond my control, it’s been several weeks since we were able to be there for Sunday School and Worship time and I’ve missed it something fierce. I’m well aware that God is always with me and that His Word is never far from my fingertips or my ability to see it on a screen, but there is something life-altering about being involved in corporate worship with others who need it just as badly as you do.

My problem (well, one of them, anyway!) was that I wanted to do corporate worship all by myself. Yes, I know. It isn’t possible. That didn’t matter to me at all. I still wanted what I wanted. I wanted the life and vitality of corporate worship while I sat in a bubble and soaked it in and participated without having to consider what anyone else thought or wondered or wanted or needed for a little while or be intruded upon or…or…or…(you’re seeing the trend here, too, right?) It was all about me…and worship isn’t that at all.

ANYWAY! I took me and my pitiful attitude to church this morning and then God showed up and reminded me that it wasn’t about me at all by having my pastor preach on…the poor. Yes. Score one for God and Pastor Chris. If ever there was a sermon I needed to hear this morning, it was this one. I needed the reminder to look outside myself. I needed that reminder that there are people who live with a whole lot less than I have on my worst day. I needed that reminder that when it comes to serving Christ, I bring nothing to the table that will save me and the only thing I truly have worth sharing is HIM. I needed that. I needed that jubilant worship that filled our sanctuary and the knowledge that we gather in comfort while so many in the world don’t even have the luxuries of intact structures and indoor plumbing and freedom from the fear of where the next mouthful of food will come. I needed that reminder to LOOK OUTSIDE MYSELF. (And yes, I do know that I wrote that sentence twice in one paragraph—I really needed to be reminded of that…and maybe you do, too.)

I also needed the reminder that being poor in spirit does NOT apply to being pitiful and that my ever-gracious God who knows it all and still loves me anyway will still love me even when I lose my mind and forget how very blessed I am…even if for just a short time.

All praises to God for reminding us that we are not as pitiful as we feel some days and that we are, instead, most abundantly and amazingly blessed to be who we are, where we are, when we are, how we are and for giving us those with whom we share our lives every day. From pity party to praises…HE can do that for you, too.

One of these things is not like the other ones…

I’m not sure what season it is at your house right now, but it’s officially Autumn here in Georgia.  That “Autumn” designation comes with certain expectations, right? Cooler temperatures, falling leaves, pumpkins, harvest scenes, small town fairs and festivals, fields freshly mown with large bales of hay stacked on the side…and lots of changing colors.  And what colors do we normally think about when it’s time for autumn? Reds, oranges, yellows, browns, darker greens and hot pink.

HOT PINK?!

Yes.  Around here, we like to be a little different.  We like to shake things up a bit and throw in a bit of the unexpected…and hot pink is camelia1most definitely unexpected in the color palette for this time of year…

…unless you’re a hot pink camellia that’s loaded with blooms and more buds than can be counted.

We have one of those.  Actually, we have three of those, but one of them has decided to get her bloom on a bit earlier this year and she is really showing out right now. (Don’t you love how the hot pink really pops against the yellows and greens of the other trees?) She’s been blooming out for almost three weeks already with absolutely no signs of stopping.  I love it!  It’s like having my very own object lesson right out in my front yard every day!

Lessons learned from the camellia, you say?  Absolutely.  camelia3

  • Make people smile when they see you.  Be cheerful…deliberately cheerful! (I mean, seriously, who can be depressed around gorgeous hot pink flowers in abundance?!)
  • Bloom where you’re planted…and when you are supposed to!…whether others think you’re supposed to right then or not.
  • You don’t have to fit in with what everyone around you is doing. Choose to be bold!
  • You were made on purpose by a God who loves you!  He has a plan that is just for you, so your dreams may not look like every one else’s around you. That’s a good thing.
  • It’s ok to be different!  In fact, your differences just might be what someone else needs to see so they’ll have the courage to be who they were created to be, as well.
  • You are more than what you appear to be right now.  You have the potential to bloom more than you’re blooming.  Keep going!
  • You were created by a Master Craftsman–the Ultimate Artist!–and you are beautiful…just as you are.

My other two hot pink camellias are also loaded with buds, but they appear determined to wait a bit longer to begin their blooming. That’s ok, too. In fact, it’s another great lesson to learn:

Sometimes it’s a good thing to allow others to enjoy the spotlight all on their own.   

Grace & Peace!

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