Unintended Benefits

My friend Jody (hey, 3!) inadvertently sent me on a mission as she shared about participating in an online Bible study through her church. I’ve been out of the “official” Bible study loop over the past several months as we’ve worked to settle our loved one into her placement and routines. In the process of that, my own routines have quite gone out their own window and, as anyone who is part of a care-giving team for a loved one can tell you, concentration abilities can sometimes take quite the hit.

Mine did, anyway. I understood the why, but I haven’t liked the process of trying to regain ground that had always felt so ingrained as to be considered permanent. Stepping away from leading and then from even doing my own in-depth study was quite an adjustment. (So was regaining ground on some of my neglected chore list!) I reveled in the Psalms after my daily walks and God allowed David’s writings of his own struggles to help sooth my own. Over and over I read them. They are familiar ground to me, so I chose to read them in a “different” translation (ESV–English Standard Version) so I wouldn’t gloss over the meanings on my way through them. That helped. I saw things I’ve never noticed before and these new-old words were a balm and a blessing, so when Jody shared her new challenge, I jumped on board immediately.

Her online group is using a book by Susan Goodwin, Jennifer Peterson, and Molly Sawyer (all new to me), entitled EVERY WORD A Reader’s 90-day Guide to the Bible. It’s short and just exactly what the title implies:  a guide to reading the Bible through in 90 days. I’ve read through the Scriptures many times, but never really put a defined timeline on it. Even so, the 90-day thing sounded just like what I needed:  an opportunity to dive into the Word with some concentration and discipline. This isn’t intended to be a “deep” dive. It’s supposed to be more of an overview reading and the authors have included some general questions/commentary/points of interest for the reader to consider along the way. Ninety days through the Bible translates into about 10-15 chapters a day, so far, and although I generally read pretty quickly, I am finding that I’m deliberately pacing myself to match their targets instead of just racing through as I had previously thought about doing.

(Annnnnnddddd…Falling behind makes for a tough catch-up process. Ask me how I know and insert an eye-roll here!)

This journey through the Bible follows a chronological reading schedule instead of the more traditional route, so that change has been intriguing to me, as well. I already knew that Job and Abraham were likely contemporaries, but reading Job right after Genesis made me truly connect some of their cultural dots in a new way. Perhaps that is also due to my decision to read through these 90-days in the Christian Standard Bible (CSB)-translation instead of my trusty NKJV with decades of notes in the margins, dates out beside SO many of the verses, and sticky notes protruding from many pages to mark topics and notes along the way.

I’m a “word nerd” and that means I’ve always loved the lyrical nature of the King James English. I typically use the New King James because that translation retains the lyrical poetry without the formal Thees and Thous for readability. I’ve used my burgundy leather-bound copy of that translation for years, so I wasn’t quite sure I would really enjoy a more contemporary language styling for these ancient Words. I wanted a fresh start for this project, however, so I picked up my purple-bound (I love purple!) CSB translation which I have used for additional clarification during previous studies. The CSB remains faithful to original text and translates in a word-for word and thought-for-thought manner to give us a wonderful readability of the truth within the covers. Win-win! (Did I mention that this one is purple?! Love it!!)

I expected to use this challenge as a way to marshall my now-all-too-often-scrambled thought processes and help me regain some stability of study habits. I hoped to be alert to learning along the way, of course, but the 90-day pace doesn’t allow for in-depth study right now, and that seemed to be all I could handle. That’s really different for me, but the logical side of my brain says I have to start somewhere to regain the ground, so this was my shot. What I hadn’t prepared myself for was something I should have thought of from the beginning: the Word of God is powerful and healing and interesting and entertaining and instructive…and just reading through it in this measured pace has sparked my interest in finding out more/digging deeper to the point that I’ve had to actually force myself not to stop and dig deeper along the way…every few minutes or so! (grin) The “new” language for these ancient truths has made me fall in love with the Words all over again and I’ve found myself caught up in the drama and the history of it all. (Even reading through Leviticus wasn’t a chore this time!)

Along the way, I’ve also been highly entertained by the way the more contemporary phrasing has caught my attention and made me laugh and see imagery I know that I’ve missed in previous readings. I’ve started a small sticky-note reminder of some of my favorites. I’ll close with the two that made me start the list:

“If only you would shut up and let that be your wisdom.”  Job 13:5 (CSB)

and

“…All fat belongs to the Lord.”  Leviticus 3:16b (CSB)

I’ve got to tell you, those two gems–and the wisdom and the hilarity that ensued in my mind as I read those words–are worth the entire project! I needed that truth and humor combination. Maybe you did, too.

Spend some time in the Word today to deliberately draw closer to the One Who made you and loves you most. I think you’ll learn more than you intend…and God has way of giving us gifts that we didn’t even know we needed as we choose to be obedient.

Grace and Peace…and laughter with God!

 

NCN 2019–Days 27-30

IMG_20171125_071335337Well, it’s here! We’re right at the end of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER 2019. This will be my last post for the month because I am choosing to celebrate Thanksgiving and LIFE with people who hold the biggest part of my heart. I pray that your days will be spent in much the same way. I pray that they are GOOD DAYS and, even if they are less than you’d like them to be, that you will choose to make the most of them.

I have been truly honored to share this month with you and I’ll be looking forward to seeing how well we all do carrying the lessons we learned into December and beyond. Despite all of the faults we hear so loudly proclaimed, God has given us a good world and plenty of opportunities to make the difficult places better simply by choosing to respond in positive and healing ways.

We will be people of influence…no matter what responses we choose. I hope we all choose the best ones.

Thanks for joining me this month! May God be praised by your life, your witness to the world, and your choices to make life better for those around you!

Remember: you can do this! PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION!

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17 (ESV)

Grace and Peace!

NCN 2019–Day 25

tablescape1Happy Monday, everybody! I hope your weekend was a great one! We managed to get several things knocked off the to-do list…like…going to the eye doctor and finding out that we’re getting old..er…well, at least our eyes are! (LOL!) As we searched though all the frames in the universe for our next glasses–let me pause right here and give God praise for the patience and entertainment factor from our assistant in this venture! She was fantastic!–we realized that we’re in that “awkward stage” between not wanting to look too old OR look like we’re trying too hard NOT to be too old! HA! It was actually quite a bit of fun choosing new frames and trying on all kinds of new personas just by changing out this tiny thing about our lives.

It’s made me think: What other tiny things can we change that will make a difference in our lives. Hmmmm…MAYBE we could extend NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER into DON’T COMPLAIN DECEMBER? (did I really just hear a collective groan?! seriously?!…or was that just me? oops!) No, I’m not serious and, yet, yes! I am. While we won’t continue the official challenge, I am going to ask you to seriously evaluate “what looks better on you” as a new month approaches. Have you noticed a positive change from this challenge? Has it made an impact in your home or work place? What if you decided to keep it up…and made it a lifestyle?

Many people I know have chosen to make a list of blessing this month instead of trying not to complain. I suspect that both challenges have resulted in a more positive outlook and, hopefully, a permanent thought process shift. Why give up either of those challenges as we keep moving forward? Let’s end 2019 and begin 2020 on the high note of choosing to become better people and inviting others to join us in the adventure! Let’s find new ways to work the wonder of the Savior’s birth into our upcoming year instead of just focusing on it for the month of December! I could use some extra wonder in my life! How about you?

What kinds of lessons learned will you take with you into this next month and beyond? How will you choose to celebrate the season of God’s greatest gift? Wouldn’t an attitude of gratitude STILL be appropriate as we enter the coming new year? What if you chose to permanently be a person of positive influence in the world?

As we gather together to give “official” thanks later this week, let’s stay focused on all we truly have to consider as blessings. Stay positive, stay aware of your blessings, and keep on finding ways to “not complain” as you celebrate this last official week of NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER!

Remember: you can do this! PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION!

Grace and Peace!

NCN 2019–Day 21

Twenty-one days! How’s it going for you on this month-long challenge to change your life? (grin) MY GOODNESS! Doesn’t that sentence sound dramatic?! Yes. It does, but I’ve found that sometimes the biggest changes can begin from the smallest of starts. Consistency is key and choosing to consistently eliminate the negative words and attitudes withIN us will, over time, help eliminate more and more of the negative words and attitudes around us!

This year has been quite the adventure for us. It’s been a time of…well…it’s been a challenge. That’s not a complaint. It’s a fact. As I spoke with some neighbors just yesterday I mentioned that 2019 has been a challenging year for more people that I know than those I know who’ve sailed through it.

Earlier in the year (and not too long ago–as in OCTOBER!!) I became overwhelmed for a short time by all that needed to be done. God, in His grace and wisdom, gave me a break and a talking to by my husband. (HA!) I was frustrated by all the many things that had interfered with my oh-so-carefully crafted schedule…repeatedly...as in: I no longer seemed to HAVE a schedule. (This might take a little bit, so get comfortable, ok? Hang with me, though. I promise: There is a point and an application.)

That was a problem for this slightly OCD/schedule-oriented person. I desperately wanted things to be different–on SO many fronts that I couldn’t fix or fight!–but this lack of schedule was right at the top for me and I just couldn’t get a handle on it. My frustration had built up until it just overflowed like lava one Sunday morning and I had a meltdown right out there on my back porch. Overwhelmed didn’t even touch it. I was tired in every way possible and, for the first time in a very long while, I wasn’t sure I was going to figure it out…at least not in time to make it happen for all of the others who were depending on me.

I had put so much pressure on myself to get everything done to my own personal standard in such a shortened time frame…do you see where I’m going with this? Maybe you’ve done that, too? At some point…or eight? Yes, I thought so. I am Wonder Woman, though, so of course this shouldn’t have happened to me! (insert a VERY wry grin and a great big eye roll here.) Ever notice how easy it becomes to head into the dark side when you’re tired and frustrated?

ANYway! The gist of the conversation with my husband revolved around his assessment of my efforts (which was FAR more generous to me that I had been to myself!) and his loving observation that in making every other person we were trying to serve as a couple a much higher priority than I had made my own self I had gotten lost in the shuffle. That needed to change. He asked me to list some of the things I was most frustrated by and was a little bit taken aback, I think, by all that poured out in response. He began to list some of the ways he thought might help me–INCLUDING taking time out to take care of ME and do something that didn’t have anything to do with anyone else. He thought I should start painting again. To be honest, at first it felt like a condemnation of just one more way I was failing and even more things that needed to be added to my “schedule.” Knowing his heart, however, I stayed still and tried to listen for the intent and not just the content of what he was saying.

That conversation saved me. Literally. It saved me and my sanity and my attitude and my heart that was hurting with all of those unrealistic expectations–that were mostly (allmine and never ever said by the people I was trying to serve. I never want to forget all of that grace and love and wisdom that God sent through my husband and straight to me in my time of desperation. Although he was doing the talking, I was being HEARD and that made all the difference in the world.

At the end of it, he asked me what I had gotten out of our conversation. There were lots of things, but the one that came out of my mouth was this: I need to make a list instead of making a schedule.

I’m not sure he was expecting that, but he readily agreed and reminded me that doing so ALSO meant that the list would evolve over time. It would grow and it would shorten, it would change directions, it needed to include things that would take care of ME and not just everyone else…and it didn’t all have to be done at once. RELIEF! A list is something that I could manage right then–and he encouraged me to do so…right then. 

IMG_20191121_072157403I headed into the house and grabbed some art supplies. I’m not sure that was what he expected, either, but it was crucial for me. He was right. I needed a list, but I also needed to take care of me a little bit before I could go back to taking care of everyone else right then. A short time later I added this tiny painting to my window sill in the kitchen so I would keep a reminder before me and, hopefully, avoid another meltdown! I was too tired to even be creative on my own, so I chose an image from Pinterest that I liked and just made my own personal version of it along with the words, “make a list, not a schedule,” and down at the bottom I added a tiny heart to remind me that I needed to love on myself while I loved on those I was working to serve.

It’s helped me.

So did the 8 pages of list that I made right after that. Yes. EIGHT pages. It’s no wonder that my mind was on overload. I was trying to remember everything and do everything all by myself. I use to make lists for every day in addition to the “continually running schedule in my head” and I had gotten away from doing that. Now, making my list helps me to remember that I can be more flexible. “THE LIST” might never get completely done, but I can make some serious progress! I can take it in smaller doses instead of setting unrealistic expectations or time lines. I can be proactive and do smaller tasks/ mark them off when I need to see progress or I can choose to do larger tasks based on actual priority instead of the order it popped into my head and got added to the list.

All that to say this: the holiday season is almost here. There will be a LOT to do on top of your already big to-do list, so actually MAKE A LIST and start to check it off instead of trying to keep the one running inside your head or make a schedule that only puts pressure on you. Maybe you need to grab some art supplies, too, or a take a walk, listen to music, or sit and actually pet your pet! Whatever it is that will feed your soul, put THAT on your list, as well. Build some time into every day that doesn’t have anything else to do with anyONE else but you. It might just make NCN over the holidays become an easier effort for you and everyone else, as well.

Remember: you can do this! PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION! (even on the list! grin)

Grace and Peace!

 

NCN 2019–Day 19

Have you found your purpose yet? Do you know who you were created to be? These are some big questions. The answers can be even bigger. IF you’re still not sure at this point, maybe this verse can help you clarify some things.

“For am I now trying to persuade people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of God.” Galatians 1:10 (CSB)

This little gem just arrived in my email and I think it came just in time. There’s nothing wrong with making other people happy. In fact, I think we’re actually supposed to care about others in ways that make their lives better. Doing so will, quite naturally, help us to feel at least a little bit happier about our own.

The problems come when we make the happiness of others a higher priority than making sure that we’ve first been pleasing to GOD. Being God’s servant doesn’t mean living a life of unrelenting, punishing service. It WILL mean that we’ll be called to do some things that we’re not always comfortable doing, but AS WE DO THEM God generally comes alongside us and brings His sweet peace and joy and, before we know it, we’re feeling better and being grateful for some of the very things that made us wonder if He really knew who He was asking to do them in the first place! (grin)

And what, exactly, does this all have to do with NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER? It’s a reminder that when we live in a way that is consistent with our calling we won’t have as much time (or the desire!) to complain. Consistency in living out our purpose. That’s the key. It is the very fitting definition for our “progress, not perfection” theme this year.

Yes, we all get out of alignment with our calling from time to time, but if we look closely enough when that happens, we’ll see that we’re trying to please people instead of trying to please God. Don’t take my word for it! Take HIS:

“When a person’s ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” Proverbs 16:7 (CSB)

Sounds like another great way to eliminate some complaining to me! Give it a try and let me know how it works out for you. The peace with others may take a little time to get here, but the peace between you and God (Who is really in charge of everything!) will be immediate and healing while you wait on those around you to catch up and find who THEY were created to be, as well.

Did you need to see this today? Maybe someone you know does, too! Spread the peace! Share the Word! Reap the rewards of pleasing God.

Remember: You can do this! PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION!

 

NCN 2019–Day 18

Honesty alert! I’ve been tearing up my house looking for something that’s important to me. For some reason–and I cannot imagine the WHY of this–I failed to put this thing back where it belonged. That’s almost unheard of for me about this particular object. Consequently, I have to report that I would give myself a failing grade on NCN over the last 12 hours or so…and some of that was sleep time! (ha!)

Ever done that? Misplaced something? Failed at something you usually do well? Well. All I can say is that I hope you are calmer and more gracious than I have felt about this. I am much more likely to be the one who finds things than the one who loses them. I typically put things back where they “live” when I’m finished–and typing this sentence actually made me laugh because it reminds me of my sister.

When I first moved to Atlanta after grad school I didn’t have very much. It was easy to find things because there wasn’t a lot of competition for space in my apartment! I found that I really liked that, so as I began to acquire things, I opted for choosing defined homes for my stuff. My sister visited and commented about how nice everything looked. Several months later, she came back, walked in, looked around, and said, “Everything is in EXACTLY the same place. This is a sickness.” HA!

That’s the way it goes, isn’t it?! What seems right to someone also seems strange to someone else! HOW WONDERFUL is that?! We are NOT all the same! No clones, No carbon copies, NO BOREDOM because there is this gorgeously and divinely planned patchwork of crazy-quilt people in the our world! GOD has made us different ON PURPOSE–and at least part of that, I am convinced, is so that we can see and get to know a little bit of HIM in every person we meet.

We get to choose how we react about that, you know? We can choose to celebrate the differences and look for ways to see them as strengths–because they ARE for the other person who lives a different life than the one life we live. We can choose to look for the good–and GOD–instead of starting to complain or rush right to frustration over all of the ways someone else does it “wrong.”

This is not a plea for political correctness. It is not a call for allowing chaos. It is most especially not a promotion of the idea that we’re all somehow nebulously “Divine” or a rejection of the God we learn about in Scripture. It IS, instead, a call for greater harmony as we look past our differences and annoyances to seek out ways we can encourage the strength and the blessing of those around us this week.

Heading into the holiday season can up the ante on schedules and attitudes as we gather with those we don’t see very often and spend more time in “confined spaces” with those we do, but it doesn’t have to be a negative thing. We can CHOOSE our responses to our differences! Let’s make better choices this year! Who knows what our encouragement can help others achieve?

Remember: you can do this! PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION!

Grace and Peace!

 

NCN 2019–Days 15-17

Another week! We’re almost  half-way through NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER! (Does that seem strange to anyone else?! This is flying by SO quickly this year!)

I’ve mentioned that I’ve been doing a Study by Max Lucado during this NCN. It’s entitled, Life lessons from James. The James in question is one of the leaders of the early Christian church and, perhaps more significantly, the half-brother of Jesus. Think about that for a moment. Your big brother is the son of GOD…and you only realize this as an adult. What in the world ran through James’ mind as he thought about the tricks he’d played, the brotherly insults, and the realization that at one time…he and others had gone to “take charge of/restrain him” because they thought Jesus was out of his mind?! (yes, really. Mark 3:21) Oh, my. The things–and the people!–we color with our limited minds, incomplete information, and bad attitudes!

I love James’ passion for right thinking and righteous living as he realizes the truth about his big brother! It makes me wonder what we might be missing in the people around us today. Don’t get too excited, now. I’m certainly not advocating that we have friends and relatives with such a Divine heritage, but I AM saying we need to look around and appreciate those who bless us in this life!

 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” James 3:10 (NIV)

That verse is part of the challenge for today and for this weekend (and, well, EVERY day!): Look past the things that might annoy (since you’re already getting so good at not complaining about them anyway, right?!) and focus on those people who uplift–and then, reciprocate! Max Lucado actually suggests taking 2 minutes (just 2, so EVERYONE can do this!) and making a list of the people who are blessings in your life right now.

If you’re like me, you’ll find that you need to stop with an incomplete listing after such a short time for this task. I’m passing along the challenge today, though, because I want you to consider not only your family members, but also your work-family members. It’s vital that we nurture those relationships since we spend so much time with them. The 2-minute list is the first part of the challenge.

The second part of the challenge is to go beyond “not complaining” to/about those who made your list, but to acknowledge their presence as a blessing in your life. You can do this in any number of ways: a note (stickies will do!), a fresh cup of refreshment, completing a task you know they hate doing, a hug (Actual family ONLY and ONLY if appropriate and appreciated, please!), a phone call to those out of town, a small gift, or a simple “I appreciate you! You are fabulous!” spoken as you pass them in the hall or at the table as you share a meal together.

Let’s take the time to acknowledge the value of those we have in our lives before we no longer have the blessing of that as an option!

Remember: You can do this! PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION.

Grace and Peace!