Grumbling…

I usually start my writing with a confession, so here goes another…

…I am not a gardener.

I mean I am seriously not.

I do not enjoy weeding, I do not find it relaxing, I do not like to mulch, Sam I am (sorry, Dr. Seuss humor).

My man and I have recently had the opportunity to weed and mulch some very large areas.  Neither of us are chomping at the bit to do such tasks.

But, the need for such jobs arose, and we went to work.

Usually I have pictures that I can show you of before and after the event.  This time, however, I have none.

The main reason I don’t have any is because I didn’t know I was going to be led to write about it–my God is so surprising…

So let me ask you… how do you approach tasks that you don’t really want to do?  Are you a go-getter, eager to accomplish what is placed in front of you?  Are you a procrastinator, finding any reason at all not to do what is in front of you?  Are you an Eeyore, knowing you have to do it, but only do it with the minimal amount of enthusiasm necessary to finish what’s in front of you?  Are you a grumbler, intent on finding a problem or reason to complain about what’s in front of you?  

I hate to admit it, but I found myself in the last category with this particular task.  Sorry all you gardener fanatics; I cannot share your enthusiasm.

I did not, however, share my grumbler attitude with anyone.  That’s probably one of the greatest gifts you can give if you find yourself as a grumbler–keep it to yourself.  Typically, grumblers turn other people into grumblers.  And, generally speaking, grumblers aren’t usually the most fun people to be around either.

As I was pulling weeds in the hot North Carolina sun, my gracious Lord did some work on my hot, parched soul.  I should have expected it–He seems to do a lot of speaking to me when I’m working outside.  Anyway, He started reframing my experience.  A few posts ago, we discussed how to rename circumstances in order to see them from a different perspective.  Take a look at “Unkind…renamed” if you’d like to read or re-read about that.  You see, my sweet, what I found myself doing was not a project at my own home (if that was the case, the weeds would still be there…I told you, I’m not a gardener!)  This project was for others, in this case, for people that we love very much.  They are unable to complete these tasks, and since my man and I are available and able,  we were asked to do the job.  

With that as background, the first thing my Lord reminded me of will not seem like a surprise:  Philippians 2:14 says, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing…”  That is so hard.  Especially when we don’t really want to do what we are doing.  My friend, there have been MANY circumstances when living out this verse was difficult.  Yes, even in times when service to others was the reason behind the task…

I’m not afraid to admit it. I hope we’re still friends.

Think of your own life and the times when grumbling was the easiest emotion to have.  I’ll give you a few that just popped in my brain–and not because they have happened to me or anything…

  • finishing someone’s work because they left before it was completed
  • filling in for someone because they were unable to attend
  • changing clothes because your child spit up on you…again
  • running to the grocery store because you forgot an important ingredient…again
  • cleaning up a mess because the mess-makers didn’t
  • organizing an area knowing that someone else will disorganize it…again
  • folding someone else’s laundry
  • running an errand
  • helping out in a ministry at church (ouch!)
  • calling a family member
  • making a trip to see someone/attend an event

We have lots of opportunities to be grumblers, don’t we?  And really, I’ve just scratched the surface…

It takes a God-sized movement in my life to turn my grumblings into gratitudes…and leave it to Him to do just that in the hot sun on a regular July day.

My God started reminding me of the real reason I was involved–to serve another person.  It had absolutely NOTHING to do with me or my comforts or my wants or MY anything!  As a Christ-follower, I am to serve others in any way that I am called.  Hear the words of 1 Peter 4: 10–“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”  In that moment, in this job, my man and I had a few gifts to share:  time, health, strength.  Giving those over to the work that God had placed in front of us as service put that experience in a whole new light.  As we were working, sweating, getting stung by various flying bugs; we were doing what He had purposed for us to do.  Even though it wasn’t our choice, it wasn’t our favorite, it wasn’t our plan…it was His.

So today, what is something you will be doing that may make you feel grumbly?  How can you reframe your experience so that, instead of grumbling, you can show gratitude for the work God has placed in front of you?  Believe me friend when I say, I never would have thought that I needed a “grumbling adjustment”, but God met me in the weeds and the mulch and turned my attitude around.  He can and will do the same for you.  The next time you feel a case of the “grumblies” coming on, ask God to show you how to have a heart full of gratitude for the opportunity.  Ask Him to show you how your task could be used as service for another. I know that I now have a renewed vision for service, and am anxious to see where God will place me next with His plans.

…I just hope it doesn’t have anything to do with weeds

 

 

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Interrupted…

We interrupt this blueberry season…

Let me tell you about this blueberry season.  I was chugging along, picking delicious berries as they ripened to just the right sweetness.  Taking my time.  Exercising patience.  Having time alone with my Father among the bushes.  Yep, everything was going well…

…to bring you the attack of the mean, big, brown birds!

I don’t know what kind of birds these are.  I don’t care what type of birds these are.

All I know is they have put a whole other level of aggravation into my perfectly peaceful life (well, mostly peaceful.  OK– sometimes peaceful!)

I had seen the birds in the bushes earlier, and thought they made a cool sight.  Imagine a LOT of birds in blueberry bushes, flying and fluttering from branch to branch, from bush to bush.  The bushes were shaking from the sheer number of birds.  I told my man about it, and I hated that he hadn’t had the opportunity to see that in action.

How little did I know…

Later that evening we went outside for a walk.  I went over to one of our many bushes, tested the berries for a picking, enjoyed the peace…

…then my man stopped my peace by saying, “Look under the bushes!  The ground is blue!”

When I looked over to where he was standing, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Take a look at what I saw…and that’s under only ONE bush!

Needless to say, my peaceful, enjoying the berries, time was over!

We went back in the house, came out with big bowls, and picked the ground for blueberries until it was too dark to see.

Never in my life would I have imagined writing that last sentence…you don’t pick the ground for berries, you pick the bushes!

We went back out the next morning, picking the ground and the bushes for berries.  We spent four hours in the hot North Carolina sun trying to save the bounty that we had been given.  Oh, and while we were out there, we also played bird shoo-ers as those mean, big, brown birds tried to land in the bushes and create more chaos on the ground!  I am not a fan!

After another day of work picking the ground, we finally felt “caught up” from the bird fiasco.  We will still be bird shoo-ers every time we look out the window and see birds– open our front door, clap our hands, yell at the birds–stupid birds. Our beautiful bushes that held such promise of ripening berries are not a gentle hue of blue/purple anymore.  Yes, there are still berries on the bushes, and we believe that we will be able to pick from the bushes again.  But our perfectly peaceful, take-my-time-picking blueberry season has been…

…interrupted.

I don’t know about you, but when I have plans, I do not like an interruption.

My man and I are staying around here this summer for the first time in a few years.  Several events have necessitated that choice, and I was looking forward to a non-rushed blueberry season.  I could enjoy my time in the bushes, alone with God, talking about whatever concerns that came to mind, listening for His guidance in the situations.

So, not only did the birds interrupt my peaceful blueberry season, they interrupted my quiet time with God.

Not cool.

Plus, “catching up” outside did not equal “catching up inside .  I had to do something with all those berries. They couldn’t just sit in bowls on my counter.  We would need those bowls for the next day.  It took me two days to “catch up” with processing these berries.

This also did not enhance my bird experience…

How about you?  How do you respond when something comes along that interrupts your plans?  I know my blueberry/bird chaos is minor in nature when compared to the other things that interrupt our lives–but it still interrupted my life.  It still caused me to alter plans, and it threatened to steal my joy from blueberry farming.

Notice I said threatened…

When something happens that is unexpected, if my mind will let me, I try to look for God in it.  What can I learn from it?  How is He using this to speak to me?  Why is He allowing this to happen?  Who can benefit from this?  I don’t do this every time–because I’m not perfect, and sometimes unexpected stuff just makes me mad or saddens me–and it’s in those times that I need some breathing room to process…

In this situation, I was mostly mad.  And tired.  And sweaty, oh so very sweaty!

But in the next day of bird chaos, I had some time to let my brain go and let my heart take the lead.  In those moments, I thought of Matthew 6:26:  “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”  No, they definitely didn’t sow or tend these blueberry bushes.  They do need to eat, but do they have to cause all those berries to hit the ground, and create more work?

Then, Genesis 3:19 came to mind:  “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground…”  This “cleaning up of the ground” is part of God’s plan for we “earth dwellers.”  There will be times when we have to do the “unfun” stuff–weed, cut, prune, pick, scoop, and other things to “tend the earth.”  That’s what we are supposed to do–take care of the earth.  And that, in our case, includes providing food for mean, big, brown birds, and picking up the mess they create.

God, in His infinite wisdom, found a way to speak to my tired soul even in those moments of interruption.  He whispered truth into my heart.  He made me look at this unplanned situation differently.  Do I love those mean, big, brown, birds?  Absolutely not!  But, I do see them as a creature that God made–and see our blueberry chaos as His way to both feed the birds, and feed our hungry souls.  If we allow Him, He can help us see situations differently–it’s really up to us whether or not we listen to Him in those times when we just wonder “why.”

And in those moments of interruption, my Jesus spread the most healing of balms on my soul.  “Are you not much more valuable than they?”  (Matthew 6:26b)  Am I, (whiny, sweaty, stinky, bug-bitten) not more valuable than those birds?  Does He love me more than them?  His answer was sweet–and one that I needed to hear.  He loves me, and you, my sweetheart, more than those birds.  Situations come and go, but His love never changes.  Let that soak in, soothe over, your tired body and soul.

God always loves.  Even when we complain, even when we cry, even when we sweat, even when we curse, even when we…

…are interrupted.

 

Timing…

I came to a realization today…

I am a berry farmer.             

Definitely a not-for-profit berry farmer, more of a just-for-fun berry farmer.

As I was walking the bushes, looking for the ripest and sweetest, this thought came to mind:

Wouldn’t it be great if all these berries ripened at about the same time?  Then I wouldn’t have to come out in the heat of the morning to check them.  I could just pick most today, come out and pick the rest tomorrow, and everything would be just great…

…yep, that’s what I thought as I walked in 80 degree temps at 8:00 am. The joys of living in the south…

Anyway, as I was thinking these things, a thought came to mind.  It’s funny how my Lord uses these times to remind me of His truths, not the ones I construct in my head: Isaiah 55:9 (take a look right…)

As much as I would love to not have to walk the bushes every other day, this is all part of God’s plan for the earth.  What would I do if all the berries ripened at the same time?  I would lose my mind trying to pick them all and prep them all for storage!  God’s ways are higher than my poor attempts at wisdom and problem solving.  His timing is perfect.

But then, my God took me deeper, as He so often does.

You see, my sweet, I want to do big things for God.  I mean really big things.  I think all believers have the desire to do something great to further His kingdom.  Everyone’s “big things” look different, and that’s what makes those “big dreams” so awesome!

I’ve been struggling recently with a situation.  Someone else is getting to do a “big thing” that I really feel called to do.  When I watch her do her thing, there is a part of me that says, “Why not me?  Why can’t I be doing that right now?  I believe I’m called to do it, and my affinity for this is huge.  Why not me?”

Can anyone relate?  Oh please say yes…

It’s in these “poor pitiful me” moments that I am reminded of a Bible study my girls and I did recently.  In the book “Why Her?”, Nicki Koziarz touches on the very feelings I’m having (yes, if I’ve already done the study, why am I having these thoughts?  I wonder that myself…)  One of the truths that she gleans from the story of Rachel and Leah in Genesis chapters 29 through 33 is, “You haven’t done anything wrong.  It’s just not yours.”

When I apply that to my situation, I take a step back.  The “big thing” I want to do isn’t going away just because “she’s” doing it.  It will still be there.  God’s not telling me “no” to the big thing.  He’s just saying not now.  Again, I put the truth of our verse to this thought.  His ways are higher than my ways, His thoughts take into account all the things mine haven’t…

…I have a very busy next few months… I wouldn’t be able to give my full attention to that big thing…  I have another opportunity that comes after the busy time that is the “big thing…”

Not now.  Not His timing.  It’s not right for me.

Because, just like the thorny wild raspberries, even though it may look like something I should have, it isn’t something God wants me to have.  And if He doesn’t want me to have it, I shouldn’t want it (another great truth from “Why Her!”)

So think about your “big thing.” What is it that you want to do for God? How are you progressing in it?  Have you even started trying to figure out what your “big thing” is?  Remember my sweet, everyone’s is different.  Just determining what it is can be a huge first step.

After you have done the work to find it out, pray about it.  And I’m not talking about mentioning it briefly in a prayer late at night–no, my dear.  I’m talking PRAY about it.  This thing God has planned for you is tremendous–no one else has the exact call that you do.  God has purposed something that only you can do through Him and His strength.  Don’t take it lightly or think you know it based on your own thoughts..remember our verse?  It can be applied here as well.  I honestly would never have thought my “big thing” would be my “big thing.”  But I know it is mine because I have, and continue to:

  • spend time in God’s presence;
  • listen to His voice;
  • find His truths within the confirmations;
  • look for opportunities to do this “big thing” and say yes when they arise;
  • pray about what He wants me to do.

Today, spend some quiet time with God.  Ask Him to show you through His Word, His whispers, His people, what your “big thing” is.  Then, keep on praying about it.  Ask God to give you opportunities to work in the big thing–in HIS timing, not your own.  Then, have the courage to take those steps and set out on the greatest adventure you’ll ever know–living fully in the purpose that you’ve been created to live!  Wow, I get excited just thinking about that for you…and for me!

Now, off I go to work on berries…that come at just the right time…HIS…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unkind…renamed…

…I had a day when I became “unkind”…

…and I make no apologies.

It was just a normal day…

But suddenly, it wasn’t just another day.  Suddenly I was dealing face-to-face with yet another untruth that had come around.

…about me.

I wish I could tell you that I went all humble and took the blame for something that I didn’t do in order to help the student “save face” in front of a parent.

…nope, didn’t do that.

I wish I could tell you that I spoke with kindness and compassion to the student who had obviously told the parent something that didn’t happen.

…nope, didn’t really do that either.

I wish I could tell you that everybody walked away from our encounter feeling encouraged and optimistic about life.

…well, I hope that happened for somebody.

My sweet, I have been in a battle this entire school year it seems.  This parent doesn’t like what I’m doing, that parent believes I am not the best teacher for their child.

Hey, I get it.  I can’t hope to be all chummy with everyone, but I can and do expect that everyone will have respect for me and what I am trying to do daily.

…yep, that doesn’t happen.

Instead, I get whispers behind my back, in social situations, through other teachers, in parent circles…very few of those people who have some sort of issue with me are willing to talk with me about it.

This day in question however, a parent did come to me.  I told the parent later that I appreciated the discussion…

…after I had been unkind.

I know, you are wondering what a teacher could possibly do that would be seen as unkind in her own eyes.  Well, be prepared to be shocked…

…I told the truth.

Yep, I didn’t sit and cower.  I refused to let myself and my reputation be manipulated by what was happening.  I stood up for myself… and even more importantly…

…I stood up for my Jesus.

Each day is an opportunity to shine Jesus’ light into my world.  And I try to do that–sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much…

So when I was accused of something that I did not do, it ruffled my feathers.

Let’s be honest, it made me mad.

I’m human like the rest of us, but I try to move out of the way so that God can do His thing in my life.  In that moment, I felt like my Jesus light was being blocked by yet another lie that had no place in my classroom.  I couldn’t let this stuff continue.

…but then, it got worse.

I heard another something that completely threw me for a loop.  What is happening?

In those moments, I truly questioned why I was in this classroom, in this position.  I mean, I believed that God had placed me here…so why have I had to battle this chatter outside these walls about me?  Surely, if God placed me here, He should protect me, right??

As I typed that, a verse came to mind… John 16:33–“I (Jesus) have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  In those moments when I was conversing/defending/disbelieving/admonishing, there was a peace that I cannot describe–even though I was upset about the situation, I had a peace knowing that I was doing the right thing.

My Jesus was there with me.

So as I listened, and explained, an overwhelming sense of “it’s OK” was present in my soul.  To be able to type that in the afterwards of the circumstance is a pure testament of the power of the Holy Spirit in the life, heart, and soul of a believer.  

Maybe I need to frame this encounter in a different manner.  I have just finished a fantastic book by Nicki Koziarz called “Why Her.”  In the accompanying Bible study, she talked about taking circumstances and “renaming” them–giving them a new name in order to change your perspective on them.  By the way, if you’re looking for a great book to read–I highly recommend this book and the Bible study–our group has enjoyed it and I believe it’s been life-transforming. Instead of seeing this as an unkind encounter, maybe I need to see it as another thumbprint of God in my life.  Let me explain.

I have been thinking for a while that I needed to leave the classroom (for those who know me, you’re thinking–again!!).  But I truly love what I do, and I just couldn’t make that final decision.  After attending a Beth Moore (fabulous!) event, I really felt that God was opening the door wide to another adventure–your reading of this blog is part of it!  But I just couldn’t make that final decision, even though I know I heard Him telling me to move on.  Circumstances at work finally made the decision easier–as if God Himself was saying, “OK, you can’t take My subtle hint–here’s a swift kick to the rear!” I don’t know if I’m the only one who does this, but I usually experience “decision remorse” after I make a major change.  So I was wondering if I really should follow through on that resignation, or ask my principal to “hire me back”–see, if you ever wonder about your sanity, come read my blog–you’ll feel much better about your brain after reading the chaos that goes on in mine!!  ANYWAY, after this day and this experience, I have to believe that, instead of my brain being crazy, this is actually God showing me that I do not belong in that environment.  A sweet, wonderful, long-time friend of mine at work said something to me that absolutely clicked–she told me that “you (me) can’t let things like that bother you.  You let them hurt you…” I do care, it does hurt, I don’t need to be somewhere that my heart can’t handle.

Maybe that’s you today.  Perhaps you are somewhere your heart can’t handle.  If you are, spend some time in prayer asking Jesus to give you strength to make it through the day, survive the day.  Then, ask if you need to move on–and have the courage to do so if He says so.  I still waver, because I love where I work and what I do; but not enough to stay doing what I’m doing.

My heart can’t take it.

So instead of seeing this situation as “unkind,” I am choosing to see it a different way–renaming it as “Divinely appointed.” God knows my heart, and He knows that sometimes He has to be tough to get through this thick skull–and reach the very soul of me.  He has used that very unkind situation to open my eyes even further to the possibilities that lie outside the classroom.  Make no mistake–I’m sure that I will have “decision remorse” again and again because that’s how I am.  But, as I face these last weeks in a job I love, I hope to keep my eyes on Jesus and want only what He wants–not what I want.  It will not be easy–but nothing worth having ever is…

My sweet, I am praying that you are able to take those steps to either move out of a situation, or rename that situation so that your perspective can change.  When I started writing this, I had no idea that God would stir my heart in such a way as to cause me to redefine a very upsetting circumstance.  The original title of this writing was simply “unkind;” now you see it has a bit more to it…

Never put God in a box…

He has helped me rename, find a place of rest, and refocus on what is ahead.  Praying the same for you, my darling…

Cold…

it was one of those mornings…

…I didn’t want to get out of bed…because it’s cold...

…then I didn’t want to get out of the shower…because it’s cold…

…then I didn’t want to leave my house…because it’s cold…

You get the picture…

After I motivated myself out of bed, I started thinking about the things that make our hearts cold.

Disappointment, loss, rejection, fear, rebellion, separation, apathy, jealously, agony…

…Doesn’t sound like emotions we want, but does sound like how we feel at times.

Contemplating cold as I continued to shiver, the Lord brought this verse to mind:  Revelation 3:16–“So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”  In this verse, it sounds like it’s better to be cold–and I suppose it is because at least there are no pretenses when you are cold to the leadings of the Holy Spirit.  As a lukewarm Christian, which I believe at some point in our lives we all fall into that category, a lot of pretending is happening–pretending to be fully sold out to God, pretending to be fully involved in ministry, pretending to go to God for guidance…

…pretending.

I don’t know about you, but I have spent part of my life pretending, and I don’t want to be there anymore.

So, how do we battle those cold feelings within our soul?

I love how my God shows me things while I am writing.  Take a look at the verse He showed me:  Philippians 4:8–“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  Remember our list of things that make our hearts cold?  If we could replace those cold thoughts with things that fall into the categories of the verse above, I believe the Lord will honor that effort and warm our hearts.

Sweetheart, I know that there are times in our lives when we just feel “cold.”  We’ve lost the fire that we had when we first believed in our Savior, or the passion we had when we first started in a ministry.  It happens.  Believe me, I know fully how it happens and how those feelings can become the normal.

I can also tell you how amazing it feels to give those feelings of apathy to God.  When we allow Him to “remove our hearts of stone” and give us a “heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26), we can know the passion that we once felt.  I wish I could tell you that, after giving those feelings to God, that they won’t return.  Unless we “think on these things” mentioned in Philippians 4:8, and “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” as we see in Colossians 3:2, our hearts will “default” to the ways it knows.

…Cold…

So, let’s do a “hard reset” and allow God to remove that heart of stone, and when He replaces it with a heart of flesh, let’s allow it to stay that way.  Stay away from those things that may harden our hearts again.  Make up our minds to stay “warm” or even, dare we say, “hot” to the things of God.  Fan the flames of love for and service to our God–find a ministry that we are passionate about–and put yourself in a place to actually be involved in it (not just think about getting involved–I’ve been there, too, my sweet!)  Make it a priority to find a local church that makes your soul happy; but don’t stop there.  Find a ministry within that church and make a difference for God.  I once heard a pastor say, “God didn’t save you to sit, but to serve.”  As Christians, we have the incredible opportunity and obligation to serve God–after all, Jesus came to serve others and to die for our sins, shouldn’t we find a way to serve Him in response to His unimaginable, un-repayable gift?

Aaahhhh… I believe our souls are getting warmer!

Maybe you aren’t sure where you should be serving or how you could use your gifts for the greater good?  Or maybe you aren’t even sure what those gifts are (been there too, my dear!).  There are lots of spiritual gift inventories available online that will give you insight into where your giftings may lie (Lifeway offers a simple to use survey.).  One that takes it a step further is the SHAPE survey–this one asks questions that help determine your spiritual gifts, but then also asks additional questions to help better determine your joys, passions, aptitude, personality, experiences.  This one is quite in-depth and may point you in the right direction.

Above all else, pray.  Ask God to show you what He wants you to do.  Pure and simple.  Don’t ask once and move on.  Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on listening, keep on.  There is no survey, no online tool that can EVER take the place of spending time in His presence in the present.

Because when we do that, my dear, our hearts can’t stay cold.  Our God just won’t let that continue.  Slowly, or even in a blink, He will warm our hearts, touch our souls, stir our brains, and motivate our bodies into action.  Lukewarm isn’t where we want to be…be willing to warm.

 

…now if only the warmth in my soul would radiate out to my cold hands and feet…

 

Snatched…

…it came out of nowhere…

…no warning…

…no time to stop it…

…we weren’t even aware…          

…all of a sudden…

…it happened…

…and then it was over.

Our chickens were all fine and dandy when I left for work.  I did not see them all, but I saw most of them doing their morning duty of hunting and pecking for some insect nourishment.  Everything was normal…

…until I got home.

My man told me that there had been a great impact to our egg production while I was away.  Four of our goofy chickens had disappeared.  This is all that remained of them–spread out in several places on our farm…

I couldn’t believe it.  We had never had a problem with predators before.  Sure, there are hawks, owls, coyotes, stray dogs, cats, etc…all around but we hadn’t had a mass disappearance like this occur.

Those four, silly chickens that had: followed me around, come when I didn’t call, “talked” with me, gave me such chuckles–had just been…

…snatched.

Now I live on a farm, so life and death is just part of the way things are.  I’m not losing my mind in sorrow over chickens.  They’re just chickens.  But the suddenness of their departure got me thinking…

Go with me to John 10.  Jesus is talking about His sheep, how they will recognize His voice, and follow what He says.

Check out the graphic to the left for verses 28 and 29 of John 10. These are truly comforting verses, but…

You see, my sweet, the snatching of my chickens made me think about how quickly we can be “snatched” out of our happy life.  Bad things happen, quickly, without warning. One day, you could be thinking your life is good.  Maybe you’ve recently been blessed with a “mountaintop” experience with our Lord.  As soon as your feet hit the valley lands, something unexpected may happen to “snatch” that feeling of communion with God.  You may find yourself doubting what you know you heard from your Savior.

That’s exactly what our enemy wants you to think…

I’ve been there, friend.  I’ve been there more times than I should be.  I seem to get all fired up about something and believe it’s what I should do…until the reality of life steps in and tries to move my focus onto something totally unrelated.

I’ve been there as recently as the last few weeks.  I’ve had something brought to my attention that completely threw me for a loop.  I mean a serious loop.  It hit me out of nowhere.  No warning.  No time to react.  No time to defend.  Just…BAM!

My enemy wanted to attack me–and I know why.  I’m a child of the King, and that’s reason enough right there.  But I had “changed my mind” about a few things, and my enemy didn’t like where I was headed.  So, he chose to hit me in one of my “safe” areas.  I wasn’t prepared.  I wasn’t watching.  Why would I be?  I had just experienced a major encounter with God…but my sweet, that doesn’t protect us.  If anything, it makes us a bigger target.

I didn’t sit in a corner and let my enemy have his way.  Oh no, not this warrior princess.  I informed those who needed to know about the situation, and left it in their hands.  Now granted, my enemy knows this still bothers me, and tries his best to stir me up (and sometimes I let him).  He has even in a backdoor kind of way tried to use this to sway me to not do the things my Lord and I had discussed.  Our enemy is cunning, and on our own, we can never hope to defeat him.

But take a look at our verses in John 10 again.  If we are children of the King, we are not on our own.  We have a secure resting place, and we cannot be snatched out of God’s hands.  We may feel like we are teetering on the edge of those mighty hands, but we will not fall.  During this time of trial, I have felt overwhelmed–but not crushed.  Knocked down, but not knocked out. My enemy wants nothing more than to snatch me out of my Savior’s hands–or cause me to step out of the plans that God has made known to me.  These verses in John 10 have been a healing balm to me as I walk through this time. I am safe in the hands of God.  This situation will not defeat me.  I will be victorious.

Look to the left.  These are the words that my Savior brings to mind every time this situation comes to mind…

Nothing can “snatch” me from the love of Jesus.  Nothing can make Jesus love me any less or any more.  No thing I can do, or think, or say, can remove me from His love.  No matter how many times I think about this situation, or talk about this situation, or turn my eyes toward this situation–even when I act like I didn’t hear His guidance through His Word and the words of others. The same is true for you, my sweet.  Nothing can move you from His love.  Nothing.

Doesn’t that sound wonderful?  To be in a relationship that can last forever.  Maybe you’ve never thought about this.  Maybe you’ve been looking for something, but you aren’t sure what.  Maybe you feel like something’s missing, but you’re not sure what.  My darling, it isn’t a “what.”  He is a “Who.”  My Jesus loves you the same as He loves me.  If you enter into a relationship with Him, nothing can snatch you out of His hand.  You are safe in His loving embrace forever.  If this is something you are interested in, or if this has spoken to the very depths of your soul, please get in touch with me.  Leave me a comment and I will get back with you.  Or, go to a local church and speak with someone there.  I know anyone at that church would be more than thrilled to talk with you about Jesus, and how a relationship with Him can truly change your life.

As you go on your way, turn your heart to God, and keep your eyes on the sky.  Rest in the love that never changes.  Find comfort in your position of safety in the hands of our Lord.  Breathe in the peace that comes from knowing that NOTHING can separate you from the love of Christ.

Open your heart to a world of possibilities with God, confident that you will never be…

snatched!

 

 

 

 

Wholeheartedly…

2 Chronicles 25:2

He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly.

Wow, what a way to start our time together, huh?

I will confess to you–this verse leapt off the page several months ago, but I just wasn’t in a place to write about it.

I’m not sure I’m in a place now–but…

While I’m in confession mode, I’ll tell you something else:  there are days when I just don’t want to do whatever it is that I have to do.

Shocker, right?

I know we all have those days when we just want to stay snuggled up under the blanket and let the world pass right on by (kind of like today–it’s cold, rainy, yucky and I am under my blanket!)

Anyway, it’s at times like these when I am not wholeheartedly doing something. And, if I were honest, when I’m not wholeheartedly doing something, it gets real easy to not do it at all.  I wish I could say that I do everything in my life with gusto and enthusiasm…  But I try to be honest here!

Let’s take this whole confession thing even a step further.  If we look at our verse, my toes want to curl right under my foot to keep them from being stepped on by our writer.  Why?  Because I have done the very thing that our verses speaks of…

…someone is needed to work with the children at early service.  I don’t necessarily want to, but somebody should, so I do it.

…someone needs to be in charge of a branch of ministry.  I don’t really want to do it, but somebody needs to do it, so I do it.

…somebody should step in and give guidance to a struggling teacher.  I really would like to stay out of it, but somebody needs to talk to her, so I do it.

…someone needs to teach a Bible study.  I’m a teacher, so it is assumed that I would like to do it.  I really don’t want to do it, but the pressure is there, so I do it.

I could fill up this entire page and then some with times that I did something “because it needed to be done.”  All good things.  All God-honoring things.  All things that, when standing on the other side, I could see God’s hand in placing me in those situations.  I am grateful that God placed me in those circumstances because I had the chance to serve Him in ways that I wouldn’t normally.

Did you read what I wrote on the end of every scenario?  “So I do it.”  Not, “So I happily jumped in and did everything I could to make the situation the best possible.”

Nope…not at all.

As our verse in 2 Chronicles says, Amaziah, a 25-year old king of Israel, did what was right in the eyes of God.  But his whole heart wasn’t involved.  What does it mean to be wholehearted, anyway?  Well, you know by now that I’m a huge fan of dictionary.com–so here’s the definition:  fully or completely sincere, enthusiastic, energetic, etc.”

How I wish I could tell you that everything I have done in service to our King has been wholehearted.  Truth is, my sweet, there are times that I have done it grudgingly, half-halfheartedly, grumbly.  Even times when I did it because someone else was doing it and I thought it might be fun.  Even other times when I have done it because I was bored, upset, disgusted, spiteful, prideful… I think you get my point.

I have been, on this journey, just like King Amaziah.  I have tried to do my best, but not always for the right reasons, or not always to the very best of my abilities.  I haven’t served wholeheartedly, and, even though I know our Lord can and does take our meager offerings of service, I wonder what I impacted by not being “all in.”

So I’ve started really looking at my life, my ministries, my relationships.  If for whatever reason I have been reluctant to dive in wholeheartedly, I’m asking the hard question:  Why?  Why can’t I…

Have I gotten any answers?  Not yet, but I believe this is a process that will require dedication (wholeheartedly!) and openness to what God has to show me.

I invite you to join me on this path.  If you are feeling like something is missing in an area or two of your life, ask God to show you if you are “all in.”  Are you fully involved?  Are you ready to do whatever it takes to be fully devoted?  Are you really meant to be involved in this situation in the first place?  Ask the why questions.  I know it will be difficult, and there may be parts of your life that God may prune away or cause to grow stronger and more important.

I’m OK with that, because as I’ve thought and studied this part of scripture, I’ve realized something:  I want to live wholeheartedly in all the relationships that truly matter.  I want to be fully immersed, engaged, devoted, present, in those places that God has designed just for me.  Apathy in a lot of areas has left me feeling detached–with an “all in” attitude, God will show me where I need to be–and where I do not need to be.

I don’t know about you–but that sounds pretty amazing to me.

Wholehearted…Purposeful…Fulfilled.  Who wouldn’t want those things?

Scatter…

 “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give,not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.  As it is written: ‘They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.'” 

 2 Corinthians 9:6-9

Yep, sometimes I like to shake things up a bit and start out with Scripture…

There seems to be a “movement” lately about scattering kindness…I’m guessing it has to do with a movie theme, but I don’t know what.

I don’t do movies much…unless they are on the Hallmark Channel…don’t get me started…

I thought these verses in 2 Corinthians were particularly appropriate considering this kindness idea.  Incidentally, I am one of those people who loves to have a “word” to guide my year–I’ve had adventure, joy, and my word this year?  Kind…yep, that’s it.

So I’ve been thinking about myself in light of kindness.  How would I rate myself on the kindness meter?  Or perhaps even more appropriately, how would others rate me on that scale?  Though it seems like a goofy question to ask, walk with me for a moment…

When I break 2 Corinthians 9:6-9 down a bit, I find that there are biblical reasons to be kind and to make kindness in life a priority.

  • reaping generously–our verses say if I sow whatever sparingly, I will reap sparingly; and if I  sow generously, I’ll reap generously.   Hmm…do I really sow kindness generously?  What in my life do I sow generously?  I am a teacher to the core of me, and that teacher-ness comes out in places other than the classroom.  I find myself in situations where I am “instructing” in some form–while singing, studying the Bible, cooking, doing things on the computer.  I love showing others how to do things–but am I truly sowing generously those gifts that God has given me?  It does make me stop and think…
  • giving not reluctantly–God loves a cheerful giver.  I know that in my heart, but does my head really let me do that?  Let’s be honest, there are times that I just don’t want to share my “gifts.”  I’d rather stay home under my comfy cover, relaxing.  It is at times like those that I am a “reluctant” or “not-at-all” giver–am I missing out on a blessing because I don’t embrace those times as opportunities to give, and instead, I see them as inconveniences?
  • God is able to bless me–oh my!  He has and will continue to “bless (me) abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that (I) need, (I) will be abundantly supplied in every good work.”  God is able to take my teacher self, the one who is lazy at times and just wants to sit, and give me an abundance of what I need in order to generously sow the gifts that He has given me.  Those times when: I don’t want to write, I don’t want to sing, I don’t want to think about ways to help a student, I don’t want to reach out to a friend to see how she’s doing, I don’t want to lead a study, I don’t want to…well, you’ve read enough of my true confessions.  Take a moment, my sweet, and think about the things you “don’t want to do”–could you take a look like I have and see that, when I give reluctantly or not at all, I am denying not only the chance to help others, but also the chance to receive a blessing from the Almighty? My world has just been rocked...
  • freely scatter–wow, this verse ends with a punch.  I love how Scripture can do that to you.  A section of Scripture that I’ve read before comes to life just when I need it.  Yes my sweet, my Jesus has really been driving this message of kindness home in many ways.  I’m seeing it through my personal Scripture reading, a Bible study that I’m involved in, sermons at my local church, postings I see on social media.  Kindness is all around me–sayings and promptings, that is.  Looking at our world today, there are lots of opportunities to be kind, but we don’t always take those chances.  I’ve given you some of my confessions earlier–but let me go deeper.  For whatever reason, and only my God really knows why, I have been in situations where I am asked for guidance or am looked to as a “leader” of some sort.  I have done my best to get out of those roles, with no real success.  Maybe now, I can see why.  When we are in a position of leadership, or in a place where others respect and ask for our opinions, we have a major opportunity to freely scatter our gifts.  God knows everything that we will encounter, and some of those are ways for us to be a cheerful giver of our time, talents, treasures.  Maybe it’s time for us to embrace those “guiding opportunities”  in order to be a not-reluctant, generous sow-er, abounding in blessing, scattering gifts to whomever we encounter.
  • Radical idea, isn’t it?  Today, my sweet, will you join with me?  Will you see your day as full of opportunities to scatter kindness intentionally, to share your unique giftings, to show the love of Jesus through the abundant blessing that you have?  For, even if you have what the world would define as very little, you are still abundantly blessed because your Jesus woke you up this morning–and He is ready to work through you to touch a desperate world.

So…go scatter, my friend…

Guard…

Photo credit from hug2love.com

 

Happy New Year!

Isn’t it always so funny how we view today as a clean slate?  As a new beginning?

Sweetheart, we don’t need a date on a calendar to start new.

Anyway, I’m standing here in Be Very Well Fed’s kitchen, putting together a new, interesting concoction using cabbage (my man’s FAVORITE veggie…NOT!), hamburger and tomatoes.  Nope, I have no idea how this will turn out…we may start out our year eating pizza!

Actually, it would be protein shakes for everyone…yummy!

Taking myself off the topic of food (though I do love that topic!), and back to the topic of new beginnings,  let’s talk for a minute about the one thing a lot of people do on this day each year…make resolutions.  I’ll just go ahead and put it out there–I don’t do resolutions.  Typically I try to avoid doing things that will make me feel like a loser…and not sticking with some half-achievable goal set doesn’t exactly bolster the confidence meter!

But, I did find a nugget of wisdom that I wanted to share with you that could kind of be considered as a “goal” for 2018–I Corinthians 16:13-14:

 “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.  

Do everything in love.”

When I read these verses, I was amazed at how they jumped off the page at me.  On a day when our resolutions involve losing weight, managing our time better, spending less and doing more; isn’t it refreshing to see an idea from the Bible that could benefit others as well as ourselves?

Let’s unpack these verses a bit…

One commentator on Bible.org calls these verses “The Exhortations of Spiritual Maturity”…what?

Exhortation–emphatically (with LOTS of feeling) urging someone to do something

Spiritual maturity–the development of Christlike character and behavior in the Christian

So, with that bit of knowledge, Paul (the author of both I and 2 Corinthians) is giving a final rapid-fire list of commands at the end of the book.  These commands were written as present tense imperatives, which means that the ideas are to be continuously undertaken and examined.

“Be on your guard”–what a way to start the New Year!  We have an enemy, and he is constantly looking for ways to stir up trouble.  Make his life difficult–stay alert; stay away from places, people, things, that take your focus away from God.  Sounds like a great goal…

“Stand firm in the faith”–don’t we all want to be known as someone who stands firm in the midst of everyday trials and temptations?  Hold your ground, sweetheart.  Refuse to be overtaken or overwhelmed by the world and all its’ troubles.  Fight everyday, knowing that the God of all creation is fighting for you, with you, through you…

I just had church here in my chair…let me share with you how I did that…  this song…this truth… Exodus 14:14, Deuteronomy 1:30, 2 Chronicles 20:17, 2 Chronicles 32:8, and other verses as references…

Sweet, sweet time with my Jesus… OK, back to writing…

Our next command–“Be courageous.”  Be brave, my sweet.  We will all have situations that come up in this new year that are scary.  Know that God is there with you, and take those scary steps with Him by your side.

“Be strong.”  The same commentator on Bible.org says that this speaks of being strengthened, so it goes along with the previous command.  We all like to think that we can handle things on our own–my dear, I have had to meet that lie from the enemy on several occasions, and kick it (and him) to the curb.  Our strength comes from God alone–He gives us what we need, to do the things we need to do.  Relying on God for our sense of strong will never be wrong.

The final command of these verses pulls it all together–“Do everything in love.”

OUCH!

That’s the hard one.  But, I had a sweet friend once tell me that, as she folded laundry, she prayed for that person.  I was amazed at that, and found it very helpful as I picked up clothes off the floor.  Life isn’t always glamorous (mine never is, and I am perfectly OK with that!), and sometimes we have to do things that aren’t pretty, fun, exciting, “ministry-worthy.” Showing kindness isn’t always our first response.  This much I know:  We can love in anything we do, but it is a choice, my sweet.

A choice I must admit I do not always make.

2018 offers me a clean slate, a new year to be a new me.  A chance to take advantage of the date on the calendar, and begin fresh.   A year to be different…  I’m making the choice, because I want to be…

Alert. Steadfast. Courageous. Strong.

Loving…

Join me, won’t you?

 

As an update, here are my “cabbage 2 ways” that we enjoyed–yes, my husband liked the one with the burger, and did NOT care for the plain cabbage.  Oh well, still a win!

Knot…

I could feel myself sinking…

It had been one awful, terrible, sad, exhausting day.  And…it wasn’t over.

I still had several hours to go before I could leave this small classroom and head to the sanctuary of my home.

I didn’t know if I would make it.

A very difficult situation had gotten worse, and I was literally at my wits end.  Not a great way to feel in a room full of small ones.

Just hold it together for a little longer.

Somehow, through the grace of God, I made it to the end of the day.  After finishing up a few housekeeping chores in my room, I bolted for the door.  No good-byes to workmates.  No cheerful “see you tomorrow”‘s.  Nothing but an overwhelming need to escape.

And escape I did.

My man is the most wonderful guy in the world.  He listens to my gripes, holds me close when I need a hug (and even at times when I think I don’t need one).  This time was no different.  I talked, constantly on the verge of tears.  Where is this coming from? After a bit of talking to him, I retreated to the quiet of our bedroom.  Whispering a silent plead for help, I waited.

In the chaos of my heart, I felt prompted to reach out to my Bible study girls.  We’ve known each other for a while.  We are close sisters in Christ, and serious prayer warrior princesses for each other.  Even with this history, I still felt a little weird.  Do I ask them to pray for me because I feel like I’m teetering on the edge of a really big hole? A really big hole of sadness and defeat?  I haven’t shared much of this with them–do they need to know the details?  Can I even tell them the details without falling apart?

These questions and so many more ran through my distracted mind.  Finally, I wrote the text.  I asked for prayer because, girls, I really thought I was going to fall into that hole.  Just exactly where the enemy of my soul wanted me.

I knew that wasn’t where God wanted me, but I also knew that I couldn’t stop myself from going there.  

You see, my sweet, our God wants us to bring our needs to Him.  I also believe that He wants us to share those burdens with others so that they can have the “joy” of bringing someone else’s troubles to the throne.

There is something powerful in knowing that others are speaking to the King of Kings about you.

My girls went to work.  They sent me encouraging texts, Bible verses, prayers.  I knew that they were “working” on my behalf.  I knew that they were taking poor, sad, depressed, little me to the very Creator of the universe.  They did not know the details that had sent me to this dark place.  All they knew was that I needed them–and when I didn’t know how to pray, they interceded for me.  To know that the Holy Spirit was praying for me, and that my sweet sisters also were on their knees–I am more humbled than I could say.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what                 we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself  intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:26

By the end of the evening, the chaos in my soul had been replaced by a calm.  I had reached the end of my rope, and my God tied a knot.  He secured it with the prayers of my “girls”.  All I had to do was hold on.

But that’s the hard part.

Because, guess what?  Another day dawned.  Another day of possibilities.  Another day that could be just as bad or worse than the day before.

I am constantly so amazed at my Savior.  Before I left for work, I decided to click on social media–and there I found words that spoke the cries of my oh-so-weary soul.  Borrowing them from Stormie Omartian, here they are…

Lord, I pray that You will always be on my side in every battle with the enemy of my soul. If you are with me, I will always have victory. If You are with me, I don’t need to be afraid or grow weak in the face of an attack. You give me strength to stand, and You will always show Yourself more powerful than any opposition I have. Help me in the battle I face today. Thank You in advance for the victory You will accomplish on my behalf.
In Jesus’ name I pray.

I prayed that prayer with fervor, with belief, with raw desire.  These words spoke to me so deeply that I wrote them out and hung them in my classroom.

I referred to those words several times during the day.  I did not expect a radical turn-around in the situation–I expected a radical turn-around in my heart.  Though the day wasn’t stellar by ANY stretch, knowing that those words were in the room with me helped me cling so tightly to the knot at the end of my rope.

Because Sweetheart, that’s all I could do.

God got me through the day, and I once again drove home feeling low.  I have to be honest with you–teaching isn’t always fun.  Some days are very difficult– lightbulbs don’t always go off, students don’t always behave, situations don’t always turn out the way you imagined.  Days and days like this in a row are hard to shake; I’ve been doing this long enough to have thrown away the rose-colored glasses long ago.  Still, I have always found the positive in whatever comes…

…but not now.

Coming home with the weight of the world on my shoulders really stinks.  As I walked into our home, I really didn’t know what to do.  I had been speaking, pleading, with God on the drive home.  Once again, I reached out to my girls and they responded with encouragement.  Sitting down in the quiet, I thought about the prayer that God placed in front of me earlier that morning (had it only been 10 hours before?  It certainly felt longer…)

It was then that my God reminded me of Bible verses:

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”  Exodus 14:14

“Do not be afraid or discouraged… For the battle is not yours, but God’s.”  2 Chronicles 20:15

He used His words to calm my mind and open my eyes to probably one of the most profound moments in my walk with God.  Remember the prayer I shared?  See how He used it…

Girls, my Jesus showed me that, even though I walk through defeating circumstances, I do not have to be defeated.  You see, I had made it through the day–the string of days.  Victory was mine by the hands of Jesus.  His strength had gotten me through, His voice had prompted me to reach out, His grace had enabled me to tie the knot at the end of my rope, His mercy kept me clinging to that knot, and His love had surrounded me to protect me from a complete breakdown.  I was victorious–even though I felt defeated, I truly was not–I had survived.

That revelation was so powerful, and I know I’ve done a terrible job of writing about it.  Just know that the situation still waits for me–my enemy will do his best to defeat me, but my Jesus will frame the day as a victory.  He will fight my battle; I need only to be still (and keep my mouth shut!).

So, my sweet, what will you choose?  To view the day as a victory through the grace of Jesus, or as a defeat at the hands of your enemy.

I almost let the enemy win…

…and he will be back…

…but my strength comes from God.  And He will fight my battles…

…I will see the victory…

But I would greatly appreciate your prayers, because standing in battles can be oh-so-hard sometimes…