Choosing To Be Thankful

IMG_1315

“Praise the Lord! Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever,Psalm 106:1, NKJV.

Today is the first Thanksgiving I am spending motherless. I’ve heard from others that the first year of losing a loved one is always the hardest. They say things eventually get better. I hope they’re right . . .

Instead of focusing on the void in my life, I’ve decided to concentrate on all that I have and still have. One thing about me is that I am a glass-is-half-full type girl. I’ve learned that gratitude, hope, and just about everything we view in life is a matter of perspective. I could easily have a woe-is-me party. I’m an only child, and the loss of my mother has left me with great feelings of loneliness. There are times when I have to force myself not to think about the “what ifs.” What if my dad passes away as well?

If I allow that thought to linger, I will begin to feel anxious and fearful about losing another parent and truly being the only one of my immediate family left. My dad is 78; he ain’t no spring chicken! I have to make a conscience choice not to give in to worry and fear, but to be grateful for each day that he is alive and well. Besides, my daddy is an extremely active 78-year-old in good health. He’s on the go so much I can hardly keep up with him!

I know there will be a day when I’ll once again sit on the front pew, but there’s no reason to dwell on and react emotionally to something that has not occurred. I choose to be thankful in this moment, even with the losses that have occurred this year because I can. I refuse to grumble. Yes, I very much feel the impact of my mother not being here, but the truth of the matter is that I am abundantly blessed. Among many other things, I give thanks for:

The wonderful memories I have of my mom to cherish.
The values that were instilled in me during childhood.
My father living in Columbus and being independent.
My hubby and children who have been blessings in so many ways.
My puppy who came into our lives at just the right moment.
My friends who have navigated through this journey of grief with me.
My extended family who checks in with me from time-to-time.
My parents-in-law with whom I have a great relationship.

This list isn’t exhaustive by any means. I could go on, but then neither of us would ever get to that delicious Thanksgiving meal. I am a firm believer that feelings aren’t always true despite how real they are in the moment. Yes, my feelings of loneliness are very real, but they are not true. I’m not alone. God is love and He has surrounded me with people who are extensions of His love. Today, I get to be with some of them.

There will be no pouting today, only praise. I’ve made a choice to be thankful. Will you join me in thanking God for all that is instead of focusing on what isn’t? He’s too good for us not to!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Advertisements

Beauty in All Creation

Paco

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end,” Ecclesiastes 3:11, NKJV.

Ever since I met my husband in 1996, he has shown great care and concern for animals. From the cats his mother used to have, to the three pit bulls we previously owned, to the squirrels he throws peanuts to in the morning, to our current paw child, David’s soft spot for animals has been evident.

He seems to have a soft spot for bugs, too. If he sees a spider (or hears me scream for him because I see one), he’ll do his best to remove it and take it outside to continue its life. I’m not as understanding of bugs inside our dwelling. If I see one outside, I’ll leave it be because that’s its natural habitat. But, if it’s inside of my home and I have to encounter it because David isn’t around, well let’s just say that it’s self-defense in my book.

When it comes to animals, I’m selective. I’m not fond of cats in the lease bit, and the squirrels have only gotten peanuts from me when David forgets and asks me to throw some outside. The one animal I do find myself having a soft spot for are dogs. If you’ve been around me for any length of time in the past few months, then you know this miniature pinscher we call Paco has us wrapped around his paw.

I will spare you the details about how Paco takes up half of our queen-sized bed and literally has us on the edge, or how we travel with a collapsible water bowl and a bottle of water when he’s with us in case he gets thirsty. It’s sickening. I know. Though it seems like David and I have lost our minds when it comes to Paco, I assure you that we have retained some of our sanity. You won’t see us letting Paco “kiss” us in the mouth! Though I’m very much aware that Paco is a four-legged creature, our little dude has been the perfect comforter during this season of grief.

My life literally went to caring for my mom and traveling with Tia for volleyball to having no one to care for and no more volleyball tournaments to attend all within a matter of weeks. It was a jolt to my system, a drastic change from what I’d been doing for the past six years. We got Paco about a month before my mom passed. Perhaps subconsciously, I was preparing myself to still look after another being. Whatever the case, he captured my heart with his little acts of kindness such as the times he’d cuddle up next to me when he observed me crying. To me, it felt like God was giving me a hug through Paco and saying, “I’m here.”

Sometimes I stand outside and watch the squirrels interact (without feeling compelled to give them unsalted peanuts), or I see ants traveling in a line along the sidewalk and I think, “God, You’re awesome.” It’s nothing short of amazing to me that animals communicate with one another and do what they are supposed to do. There’s a purpose for every one of God’s creatures. I may not understand why He saw fit to craft some animals like cats (I’m just saying), but it’s not for me to know. If I look hard enough, I can find beauty in all the work of God’s hands. This isn’t only true for animals, but for people as well.

If you are having a hard time seeing the purpose of an animal or the good in another person, ask God to help you see through His eyes. He made everything, and everything He made is beautiful!

 

 

Favortism in the Church

untitled

“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors,” James 2:8-9, NKJV.

I’m weird.

For those who also think this about me, I am admitting that I can be a bit abnormal at times, particularly when it comes to my thoughts about salvation, church work, and ministry, in general.

I sometimes struggle with the way that we (the Body of Christ) do things. My concern about the Body of Christ is that we are too divided as a people. Instead of truly embracing the diversity of gifts that the Lord has given to us all and respecting everyone’s gifts, we tend to favor those who are more visible in the operation of their gifts — the pastors and other leaders of the congregation.

That bothers me way more than anyone knows. But, then again, I’m weird, remember? 🙂 It is my belief that the person with the gift of hospitality or exhortation is just as important as the person who has been called to preach. Yet, go to any church and you will find people who almost seem willing to drink the bathwater of the “man of God,” but they wouldn’t even give a cup of water to the custodian. After all, the pastor has a closer relationship with God than anyone else in the congregation, right? (I won’t even go there!)

I know . . . people always say “give honor where honor is due.” Unfortunately, that has led to idolization of pastors, people coveting preaching as the “best” spiritual gift one can have, and other things like total disregard for those who labor faithfully behind the scenes. This is where the weird girl in me begins to show herself because how well someone can light up a pulpit on Sunday morning is not important to me. Neither is having a specific leadership position at church. What matters most to me is that we do what we do, not for self-glorification, but because of our love for God, His Word, and His people. So, those with spiritual gifts that don’t put them in the limelight are as important, in my humble opinion, as those who are front and center. I believe the Word teaches this as well.

“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.  And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all,” 1 Corinthians 12:4–6.

“And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another,” 1 Corinthians 12:23–25.

Some of you may wonder if I’m writing this because I failed to get a leadership position at my local congregation or I’m mad at my pastor. Neither of those things is true. I absolutely adore (not idolize) my pastor, and I do lead a ministry at church. It’s not because my pastor is the pastor that I value him. It’s also not because I agree with how everything runs at the church that I have such admiration for him. I’m drawn to him because of his servant heart. Even when I may disagree with some policy or procedure, I know that we as a local congregation are perfectly imperfect as I am as a person. If this were a perfect church, I wouldn’t be allowed to enter the building! 🙂

The bottom line is that I’m a firm believer that we are all equal under the Cross. It doesn’t mean that everyone is at the same level of spiritual maturity. (That’s a whole different issue in and of itself!) It is dangerous for us to forget that all members of the Body are important. Even as I step into leadership positions in and outside of my congregation, it is my prayer that God keeps this truth at the forefront of my heart. Titles are not important to me. They are so unimportant that I struggle with how titles are used in the church. For me personally, the only title I truly desire is that of a Kingdom servant.

Earlier, I stated that we should do what we do because of “our love for God, His Word, and His people.” Paul says this:

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing,” 1 Corinthians 1–3.

Love will keep us from having self-serving interests. Love will prevent our pride from getting in the way of serving. Love will remind us that whatever gifts we have are not a result of anything special we have done to deserve them, but they have been entrusted to us by God to use for His glory. When love is truly at the center of all we do, then we will value everyone!

With that, I shall say “amen” and finally end this post!

 

 

 

Defeat Is Not An Option

faith

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart,” Galatians 6:9, NKJV.

If we look hard enough, we can find lessons in each of life’s challenges. From the “big” problems to the smaller ones that no one seems to care about but us, there is something we can glean from every situation. Such was the case for me when my daughter’s cell phone stopped working.

On a side note, I think companies build cell phones to only last a specific amount of time so we (consumers) are forced to upgrade. Yeah, I know, this makes me sound like a conspiracy theorist, but it seems like the phones in our household start acting up when we are close to the end of our contract date. Just a little something that makes me go, hmm… Anyhow, thanks to the cell phone insurance, we were able to get her phone replaced for free. (We actually needed two replacements, but that’s another story and feeds into my conspiracy beliefs.)

We couldn’t get Tia’s information to transfer to the new phone because the screen on the old phone had stopped responding to touch, which meant she’d lose everything. I wasn’t so concerned about her losing all her selfies as I was her losing all the photos from our Canada trip. Despite our cell phone carrier’s employees saying that there was no way to retrieve the photos and discouraging information I found online about this issue, I refused to give up looking for a solution. It took a micro USB dual adaptor, an external keyboard, and a lot of patience, but about two weeks and ten dollars later, everything on the broken phone had been transferred to the new one.

There was a great sense of satisfaction when all was said and done. My daughter had even lost hope at one time, and we talked about the importance of perseverance. While I thought I was teaching her a lesson, I felt God teaching me one as well. I was convicted. I’d given up on some other things in my life, but I sensed Him telling me that I needed that same level of determination to see those things through as I had with retrieving information from that broken cell phone. Thus, my passion for some goals and dreams have been re-ignited.

What about you? What’s something that you have given up on for whatever reason? What mental obstacles have you allowed to get in the way? Our thoughts play a big role in our actions. The mind reveals the inner workings of the heart. What do your thoughts uncover about the essence of your being . . . your core identity and beliefs? If God has made you a promise, but you have given up on it ever coming to pass, then your heart is saying that God is a liar. However, His word says that He’s incapable of such (Numbers 23:19).

I had to face the ugly truth that I’d lost hope about some things that He had promised. It was a sobering reality because I don’t consciously think God is a liar. But, actions always speak louder than words. My behavior indicated that I didn’t really believe Him. Thanks to my daughter’s broken cell phone, I’m on the move again, taking action on some things that I’d let collect dust. It may take some sweat equity, tears, and prayer, but most of all, it will take faith.

As I re-start my journey, I invite you to travel with me on your own, trusting that God is leading the way.

Share on Facebook

download

 

Trusting God to Heal

Mended Heart

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds,” Psalm 147:3, NKJV.

Someone recently said to me that difficulties in life tend to reveal the true nature of those around us. When we are going through, we discover who is there for us and who isn’t. Sometimes we are pleasantly surprised by those who step up when we need them most. Other times, we are hurt when someone we counted on lets us down. Depending on the depth of the offense, it can take time to overcome, especially when the person doesn’t seem to understand the damage that his or her actions/words have caused.

My mother’s passing has left me feeling pain that I’ve never before experienced. I appreciate the outpouring of love, prayers, cards, words of encouragement, emails, phone calls, etc. that I’ve received. The fact that so many people have gone out of their way to see about me during this season means more than I can ever express in words. Simultaneously, the behavior of a close friend during this time has deeply wounded me. Her actions seemed selfish and insensitive and as a result, I lashed out. Recently, I met with her in an attempt to explain my outburst. Though our encounter was peaceful, I left the meeting feeling like our relationship may be strained for quite some time.

I know myself. If I’m not careful, my heart can become hardened as I navigate through this grieving process. I don’t want it to be. I’ve learned from past experiences that a hardened heart toward one person can lead to me building walls with others for no other reason besides not wanting to get hurt again. The Lord has shown me that when I build these emotional walls, not only do I keep myself from giving love to others, but I also block myself from being a recipient of their love as well. And so I’ve made a decision . . . no walls.

For real, for real, I’m not putting up emotional barriers. (By the way, when people say “for real” twice, they are serious.) Instead of focusing on the emotional support I didn’t get from that individual, I’ve turned my attention to being grateful to God for all the other human angels He sent to help me through this time. While I’m wounded by my friend’s actions and words, I can either choose to become bitter or I can make a conscious decision to take my hurts to God and let Him heal me. It may take some time, but I choose healing.

For real, for real. 😊

As you journey through your own challenges in life, remember that people are fallible and hurt isn’t always intentional. Don’t focus on who isn’t with you, rather concentrate on who is. Ultimately, the One you need by your side is Jesus. My friend may not understand the magnitude of the pain I feel about my mom’s death and her subsequent actions, but God does. People will let us down, but He never will. As long as we trust and lean on Him, He will make sure we have everything and everyone we need to help us through tough times.

“The best way to heal a broken heart is to give God all the pieces.”  — unknown

Share on Facebook

download

 

Unbreakable

Unbreakable

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed,” 2 Corinthians 4:8–9, NKJV.

In 2005, my husband and I were going through a turbulent time in our marriage. It was so bad that we separated twice for a total of about 10 months. Our first separation was right before the release of my first book, Soul Matters, and I found myself having to travel and put on a “happy face” when I was torn about the fate of my marriage. I remember God leading me to the book of Daniel and the three Hebrew boys who had come out of the fire unscathed. Though David and I were in a fire, I was given assurance that we would emerge unharmed.

This is not to say that we haven’t had other rough seasons over the years. (If any married couple states that they never go through strenuous moments, please run . . . fast! No marriage is perfect no matter how good and healthy it is.)  We have certainly had our share of ups and downs. All experiences have worked together to shape who we are as a couple. No matter how tough things got, we learned one important lesson — we’re not built to break.

I don’t only feel that way about my marriage, but also my person. Over the years, I’ve learned that I could survive things that I thought would kill me or, at the least, send me to the loony bin. At this point in my life, I believe I can make it through everything if I remember that I can’t get through anything without God. Ultimately, He’s in control. If I believe that, then I also believe His Word. I don’t understand why He allows certain things to happen and I’m sure I’ll go to my grave not knowing. What I understand for sure is that nothing catches Him by surprise and, if I am determined to trust Him no matter the outcome, I will be okay.

These last two years of my life have been extremely stressful. Some stress is external; some internal. With everything I’m going through, I am constantly reminded that I’m not built to break. God didn’t wire me to crumble. Trials serve a purpose. In James 1:2–4 we learn to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

God is my source of strength. He can be yours as well. Whatever life has you enduring at the moment, remember, like the slogan for Ford, you were “built to last!”

downloaddownload

 

Out of Control

selfcontrol

“Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls,” Proverbs 25:28

This is the first year in decades that I have made what some would call a New Year’s Resolution. In actuality, I made it around November 30 and started December 1. What was it? I decided to give up cookies, cake, and candy for a year. (Officially, candy wasn’t added until January.) The decision came a few days after my mom’s 73rd birthday celebration. We ordered a full sheet cake and had about a fourth of it left over. It was the best cake ever!  For real, no lie! That cake was good. So good that the leftovers didn’t last long. I don’t remember eating it all by myself, but apparently, I did because no one else in my household had any and they were sure to let me know. (I tried convincing them that I sacrificed myself to save them from all the extra calories, but they didn’t quite buy it!)

Embarrassed by my gluttony, I knew something had to change. Furthermore, I started looking through my workout logs and saw the years of sweat and sometimes tears I had invested in physical fitness. Yet, my problem areas were no less a problem because my workouts had only been helping me break even after filling my body with junk. I knew I had to change my habits and not on a future date like after my birthday . . . after Christmas . . . after the New Year. I decided to make the change immediately.

In 1 Corinthians 6:19, Paul refers to the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit (NKJV). Though he’s speaking against sexual immorality in that passage, it doesn’t change the fact that we must take care of our bodies in every manner.  Now, let me be clear and say that eating cake isn’t a sin. The reason I took this drastic measure is because I can’t handle the responsibility of eating such things at this time in my life. When it comes to sweets, I don’t seem to understand the concept of moderation. If I did, I wouldn’t have eaten all the cake by myself or — and this is really bad — use a knife to scrape the leftover icing from the box and eat that, too, after the cake was gone. (I know . . . sad!)

Each of us has a different threshold for something. I can’t handle sweets, but yours could be something else. For instance, listening to certain music or watching shows that you know don’t sit well with your spirit. Or, for some people, it could be friendships in which you find yourself doing and saying things that you normally wouldn’t do if you weren’t around a particular individual. Only you and God know what you need to say “no” to. Only you can make the decision as to whether or not you will.

For me, the issue was lack of self-control, which is one of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Experience has taught me that lack of self-control in one area will lead to a lack of self-control in others. While I’m still not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions, I understand why people make them. It’s a way for a fresh start. Personally, I don’t like the idea of waiting until January to make necessary changes in one’s life. Sometimes action needs to be taken immediately. If you have become defenseless to something or someone ruling your spirit, don’t wait until next January 1 to make a change. Start now!

downloaddownload