NCN 2017–Day 29

 

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Against the backdrop of fog this morning, the Japanese maple in the back walkway bed still shines like a beacon. It’s the same one that was all lit up in red and gold in yesterday’s sunny post photo, but the surroundings are a little different today. There’s a stillness to the air that replaces yesterday’s lively bird chatter and the air is a little bit cooler without the obvious rays of the sun. It is no less beautiful a day; it’s just different…

Kind of like this month has been for some of us. Sunshine and shadow, good days and bad, we’ve made a concerted effort to reduce the negativity in the world by…oh my goodness! Imagine this!:  placing limits on ourselves! We’ve chosen to speak the positive things and not the negative ones. We’ve CHOSEN to control what we can…or rather, WHO we can.

Truth be told, it’s all we can do on any given day, not just the ones in November. Remembering that can make all the difference going forward.

For the past few days, I’ve had a song in my head. An old hymn has run through the night and been with me almost constantly. These words, originally published in 1752, still seem most appropriate for us today and for the days going forward, as well. I hope you’ll see the connection and embrace the choice to continue our challenge long past our month of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER.

Be Still My Soul

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, be leaving, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

*Original words by Katharina A. von Schlegel, published in 1752
Grace and Peace!
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NCN 2017–Day 27

When I was a child, my cousins and I would always go for a walk after our Thanksgiving feast. We’d kick through crunchy leaves on the ground and chatter about everything from what was going on at our schools to what we wanted to be when we got older. Those were happy times and my walk after this year’s feasting with friends reminded me of that, so I thought I’d share a few of the sights with you to start your week. Remember, God could have made everything in black and white…and I’m so glad He didn’t! Only a few more days left in this year’s NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER! You can do it!!!

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“The smell of burning firewood and the molding of organic, earthy substances reminded her of jumping wildly into the enormous leaf piles of autumns past and she suddenly wished that it was appropriate for someone her age to do such a thing.”
― Abby SlovinLetters In Cardboard Boxes

 

OH, don’t let something silly like age stop you! Go have some fun today! Grace and Peace!

*all photos by Becky Childs

 

 

Challenging

In her recent Bible study on the Gospel of John entitled Proven, Jenni Allen shares several opportunities for “experiences” to reinforce each week’s lesson. One of my favorites, so far, has been from Week One where she asked us to celebrate the fact that God is a master experience-creator by creating an experience for some of our friends or family members. Her guidelines were simple: it had to be fun, inexpensive, contain something you’ve never tried or done before, and it had to be memorable.

A couple of friends agreed to join in the experience with me and I had so much fun with it that I decided to share it here. (Don’t get freaked out because there are multiple steps! These are SIMPLE!)

Step One: Spend a few minutes telling God God all the things you’re grateful for today! (I know, a few minutes isn’t nearly long enough!)

Step Two: Choose ONE word as your “today, I am most grateful for____” word.

Step Three: Now, you get to go on a nature walk/treasure hunt around the yard or house…for items that you can use to spell out your word! I don’t care what you collect for this project, but you can’t leave your yard and you can’t spend any money.

Step Four: Now go to the Word and find a verse about the word you’ve chosen and photographed.

Step Five: Send me a picture of your “word” and your verse so I can share in your creativity and celebrate with you! (BTW, I’m happy to receive them all personally, but you might want to share them in the comments section so others can share in your fun, as well…just a thought! Either way works for me!)

Step Six: Post your word and your verse on your social media platform and share the blessing with someone else.

Step Seven (because if I’ve gone this far, there HAS to be a 7!): Spend a few more minutes thinking about how you can incorporate more of “your word” into your life this week.

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As you can see, my word was “joy” and, although it doesn’t really match the traditional colors of Autumn, it was gathered right out in my yard on October 1st! Thanks to previous owners, hot pink and purple are actually signs of Fall around here. (grin–we’d hate to be predictable, you know!)

Last week, I was given a hug by someone who doesn’t know me very well. At the end of it, she turned to others nearby and said, “You can just feel the joy in her!” That blessed me really big. While I am rarely without joy, sometimes, my serious side shows more than my fun one and I have been challenging myself to work toward being more balanced in this area. I chose this word because I know that happiness is temporary, but JOY can be permanent because of my relationship with God. I grabbed the bungee cord because sometimes joy can stretch you and you need to be flexible to hang on to it when things get a bit hard. I opted for the echinacea flower over the bungee cord because echinacea naturally strengthens the immune system and joy is a healing thing. I picked the clematis bloom because it was the biggest blooming thing on the place (grin) and because clematis is happy to send tendrils up and out into the world grabbing hold and covering whatever you’ll let it. I settled on the twig from one of the camelias in the front because it was pretty, it had fully extended blooms along with buds that signal more beauty to come…and was also easily made into a “Y”–and practicality is also part of Joy for me! (ha!)

Your choices don’t all have to have hidden meanings, that’s where my mind naturally took me on this journey. I would LOVE to see what you come up with and, whether or not you choose to participate in this one, I challenge you to find more joy in your week. Grab hold and celebrate the beauty of the season, the goodness of our God, and the fact that Autumn seems to have finally begun to arrive.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 (NIV)

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11 (ESV)

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 (ESV)

Grace and Peace!

 

 

Sanctuary

IMG_20170718_161203627_HDROur friend the Barred Owl was back and hunting early today. We missed him yesterday, but had a hawk come to visit us twice in his stead. He landed, as he’s come to do, facing the house and peering our way as if looking for us in the windows. I stepped out on the back porch to take this shot and tell him how handsome he looked and how glad we were to see him back. He seemed to know both of those things already as he remained in place and posed.
Earlier this morning, we had a pale orange cat take up temporary residence under a table near the swing out in the back yard for a few hours…just sitting at ease and appearing to rest while being alert and guarding us from invading squirrels.
“Worshipers never leave church…we carry our sanctuary with us wherever we go.” ~Aiden Wilson Tozer
 Grace and Peace!

Early Spring

Our nation has seemed to descend into a vitriolic winter of the soul over the past few months that has far surpassed any depth I had previously thought possible. The loss of civility even between friends over differences in politics, the outright refusal to acknowledge that it is the right to have our differences that make this nation a place of desired residence for so many, and the apparent lack of willingness to remember that even those who hold polar opposite views can STILL both have  our country’s best interest at heart…well, these things are disturbing to me on many levels. Part of me has wondered if God wasn’t witholding a natural winter from us because we were already treating each other so coldly.

Even in the absence of a “proper” winter I am inordinately cheered by the signs of this early spring. I pray the signs of nature’s new growth will also stimulate a resurgence of kindness, a putting away of offended and offensive spirits, breathe into us a new determination to move forward despite the obstacles, and spur a willingness to find common ground and work from there in an effort to heal the vast breaches we’ve worked so hard to create.

img_20170224_102311867As I wander through my yard viewing the signs of an early spring, I pray for my nation. I pray for her leaders in both parties and ask God to grant them wisdom. I pray for healing and I pray for an abundance of obstinate seeds of hope and reconciliation to survive in all of us. We could all use an early Spring.

Day 18–NCN2016

I rarely watch commercials, so as we were watching a previously recorded show last night and my husband asked if I had seen “that commercial” (as they sped by thanks to the remote control), my answer was a definite “no” regardless of which one he meant.

He paused, backed it up, and we watched the one he wanted. Apparently, he had seen it while on a recent business trip because I’m pretty sure he hasn’t seen it here. We’re both1118160811a-1 fans of the remote control and its fast-forward button. (it gets you back to the game a LOT faster!)

That tiny little interaction has me thinking about life and wondering what else I might have been speeding past…things that are a lot more important than a commercial. What else have I gone “remote control” over and put on hold until I finished this task or that one? What have I outright ignored or just deleted before it finished because I was in a hurry?

1118160811.jpg“You’re spending too much time thinking about crazy stuff!”, you might say and, perhaps you’re right. I’ve been so focused on “getting through until…” lately that I’ve probably missed more than I realized. That changes today. I’m adding another element to my NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER, and you’re welcome to join me in that, too.

In my efforts to “get through” and “get it done”–and not complain about it!–I’ve missed out a little bit. I tend to get so task-focused that I forget to actually “enjoy” sometimes. Am I the only one? I don’t think so. Oh, I’ve taken some time out to have fun this month. I took friends on a picnic and decorated for the season a little bit and I’ve spent more time writing than I have in a while, but I also know that, while I haven’t complained (often!), I also haven’t deliberately enjoyed things as much as I could have, either.

That brings me to this weekend’s challenge: take time to appreciate who and where you are–and who shares life with you! Look for the beauty around you–in nature and in 1118160817.jpgpeople. Take a photo, write a note, drag someone you love out to enjoy it with you or celebrate the beauty all by yourself, but do THAT this weekend instead of remote-controlling your life while you miss out on actually living it.

Thanksgiving is coming up next week and we might as well start practicing for it today!

Grace and Peace! (and NO COMPAINTS!)

*And yes, I did go out and take these pictures while still in my pajamas today just for fun! The colors are even better in person and that late-blooming hydrangea picture had to be taken from my deck because it is higher than my head! (big grin!) Stopping to smell the roses actually happened today and it was worth every single second! 

 

One object, two lessons…

Leaves

My husband and I traded trucks yesterday. His heater wasn’t working and he left early enough to need heat.

The temperature had risen quite a bit before it was time for me to leave the house. The sun was shining and as I walked toward his truck, I noticed that it was completely covered in beautiful golden maple leaves. They looked so pretty against the navy blue paint with the sun shining down on them that I took a moment to marvel at the beauty of what God does just for the fun of it sometimes.

I drove carefully down my drive and began to pick up speed once I entered the highway. That’s when I noticed something else: I was leaving a trail of gold behind me. There were plenty of leaves to shed and share, and as I sped along the Georgia highway on my way to Bible study (because I was just a few minutes late!–all that admiring of God’s handiwork, you know!–NOT! I was running late before I stopped to do that! Honesty is always the best policy!), I was reminded of these verses from Isaiah:


“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.” Isaiah 58:8

and

 “…and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim…and they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;the whole earth is full of his glory. ” Isaiah 6:1b-3

Right there in the everyday task of riding down the road, God showed up and was just as beautiful as you’d ever expect Him to be.

Lesson 1—Look for God everywhere. He’s already there, but sometimes He likes for us to seek Him out on purpose…especially in the little things…and, by the way, it doesn’t hurt to leave a trail of beauty behind you as you go through life. It’s a choice. Make the right one.

 

After Bible study and lunch at the house, I took the truck in to have the repairman fix the heater. It wasn’t very long before he stuck his head back in the waiting room door to inform me that at least part of the problem was that “there’s about a 55 gallon drum full of leaves clogging your filter, ma’am!”

Leaves, again. This time quite a bit less glorious and quite a bit more problematic and costly.

Oh, God was still there and He was just as beautiful as He’s ever been, but the problem was due to neglect on our part. We’d bought the truck used and it had been garaged the whole time we’ve owned it up until about a year ago, so I know that all of that didn’t really happen on our watch, but the result was still the same.

It got me to thinking about all the other beautiful gifts that God shares with us and how we can get so busy that we fail to take proper care of them or use them for the benefit of others. Marriages, friendships, families…relationships are meant to bring us joy and comfort, but when we take them for granted and neglect to build or maintain them properly, they become problematic and costly, as well.

The same can be said of finances, house maintenance and septic systems. (grin)

Lesson 2—Stewardship is critical. Keep a watch on the blessings in your life. Even beautiful things can decline into decay and cause stress when they aren’t properly maintained. God is still there, even then, but the work of maintenance is meant to be just as much a blessing as the object or relationship. Be intentional in noticing, appreciating, and maintaining your blessings!

(I don’t have a Scripture reference that just pops into mind to back that one up, it’s just something I know to be true…and I’m sharing it for free, so I guess you’re free to do with it what you will! Ha.)

Grace & Peace!