Tuesday, February 7, 2017

What I Learned in January 2017

I'm a list maker. I've found joy in looking back at things accomplished, whether the task is small and insignificant, or one I've been putting off, fretting over, and finally checked off my list. I also take delight in stopping to notice the simple pleasures along the way.

So it would seem natural for the list making diva that lives in me to write what she's learned in a given period of time. Many of my blogging friends write these kind of posts. I get so much enjoyment from reading them, I decided to share my own. Because really, isn't it the every day moments that make a day, a month, a life?


1. I put all my measuring spoons in a cute caddy. Cooking and baking is so much simpler since I'm not digging through the drawer looking for the proper tool.

2. I don't multi-task well with people when I have major projects I'm working on, or tasks that need to be accomplished. I'm single-minded and my brain forgets everything but what I'm working on. Why has it taken me so long to discover this?

3. Essential oils really do work. All the hype was lost on me until I started having hot flashes. I was desperate for relief and found a book with recipes. I'm a believer.

4. I may have left one of my Christmas trees up throughout the month of January. Tucked away in my bedroom, the sparkle of lights gave me joy as I read at night, much more than during the hustle of the Christmas season.

5. I went to my first book club. In fact, two book clubs in one month. And I was giddy as a school girl with her first crush. What have I been missing all these years? The two clubs were different in style, but I've loved both. My Friday morning Bible study decided we wanted to read Beth Moore's new novel in the interim before our spring study cranks up. It has been fantastic reading it together and discussing the ongoing saga of a murder mystery/redemption story of a dysfunctional family. The second is a club at a book store in Greenville, completely out of the box for me. My introverted self even joined in the discussion.

I'm sure there were many other things I learned this month, but these were the highlights. I hope you'll take a moment to look back at January before you move on to February. Notice the simple, small ways your life has been changed for the better. It doesn't have to be earth shattering. There may be someone you need to give thanks for, or a note you need to send. Remember, it's the simple acts of kindness people see and feel the most.

Monday, January 30, 2017

There is Rest, and Then There is R E S T

January is a time for a fresh start, a time for new beginnings. Madison Avenue discovered how to market advertising many years ago, with the weight loss industry leading the way in January.

I am no different. As Christmas decorations are stored for another year, I want all clutter removed. A new year begs for closets to be rid of unwanted clothing, and all junk hauled to the thrift store. While I write about rest, it's the last thing on my agenda. My brain won't slow long enough for thinking of all the projects I'd love to do, places I'd love to go, books I'd love to read.

And then I silently scream...S.T.O.P.

I rush through two devotional books, read my Bible, sip tea, and wonder what I just read, all before 6:00 a.m. My mind is so hurried I'm already leaning into 10:00 a.m. and it's still dark outside.

How do I change the inner working of my brain? How do I slow my life to an unhurried pace and really listen to the words on the page I'm reading? Shouldn't I be reading less and applying what I read, rather than trying to zip through more and more books?

Looking out my window, winter is still on the ground, yet my gardener's heart beats at a faster rate. It yearns to work in the soil. Summer temps during most of the winter haven't helped either. The month of January is supposed to give a welcome reprieve from summers' toil, yet the warm weather beckons me outdoors. And my stress level rises.

Jesus tells me to find rest in Him. He says to bring my burdens to Him. My soul, the core of who I am, the innermost being of all my genetic makeup where God speaks to me through His Spirit, needs to slow to a pace where she can rest. In this rest is where His still, small voice is clearly heard.

In this place of rest the trees become a place of refuge from the storm. Birds become the symphony for one. Nothing and no one stand in the way of communion with the One who knows me best. He has the power to soothe my troubled soul and lift the burdens from my shoulders. Through His gentle words of love and comfort, I'm reminded of my worth in His kingdom. He refreshes me with words of encouragement for the tasks He's gifted me with, and prepared me for.

As He leads me to the water for a time of reflection, I'm reminded of His blessings. Every good and perfect gift is from Him and my heart is thankful. As a child who feels safe in the lap of its parent, I feel loved and cherished in the strong arms of my Savior. His promises are true and give me strength and hope to face the challenges of life.

This, is the kind of rest my soul longs for.

How about you? Do you find it difficult to rest? How do you slow your mind for the kind of rest needed for the body and soul? We were not made to live as robots in this fast paced world of ours. Please share how you find rest for the dailyness of your life.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Rest, Renewal, and Reduction for 2017

I don’t know about you but I’m glad to see 2016 fade into the distance. I’m facing the coming year with a renewed sense of God’s presence and I’m at peace with much in my life, though a work in progress for sure. He has been faithful to bring healing to broken places I’ve carried since childhood.

I don’t normally make resolutions, but sometimes pick a word for the year. As I was looking at the books I received for Christmas, a theme emerged, one of rest, renewal, and reduction. My reading journal for the past year reflected books centered around these topics as well.

When I speak of rest, I’m not only referring to the Sunday afternoon kind of rest. I want to live an unhurried kind of lifestyle that allows me to find rest in God for my every need. I want to know complete peace when I lay my head on the pillow, no tossing and turning from carrying my own burdens. Jesus offers rest down by the water and I plan to take Him up on His offer.

I love pretty things. I love decorating my home, making it cozy and comfortable. Going through counseling over the last few years, I’ve learned a lot about myself. I have a difficult time letting go of things. It’s deeply rooted in childhood trauma. I’m not a hoarder, but I could be. My family of origin was too neat and practical. My solution is I don’t buy much. I’m learning how to reduce clutter so I can live a more productive life. More things equals more time to manage all those things and less for real living...reading a good book out on your back porch, or taking a walk. Going out to dinner with family or friends, or strolling through an antique store at your leisure. 

Every turn of the calendar on December 31st gives an opportunity for renewal, that day we begin again, reset goals, thought processes, inner voices, however you choose to name it. If you’re blessed and breathing, you get a do-over.

Scripture speaks a lot of renewal. It begins in the mind. Aligning my thoughts with His thoughts will begin the renewal process. I’m asking God to renew my mind through His Spirit. He says if I ask and seek Him, I will find Him. In His presence I find peace, because He is Peace, and He will never lead me in the wrong direction. 

There’s a fourth “R” after Rest, Reduce, Renewal…well kind of…Writing. I want to write about my progress in each of these areas. Writing helps keep me on track. I don’t know how I’m doing until I’ve processed it through the written word. My thoughts are a swirly mess in my brain until I journal what I'm thinking. When I write, it either sounds silly and I discard the thought, or it makes perfect sense and I explore how I can weave it into the fabric of my everyday life.

What are your plans for 2017? Do you choose a word, make resolutions, or set goals for yourself?

How do you sort through your dreams and goals for your life? Do you journal like me, or do you need to talk it out with another person?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, December 16, 2016

When Hope Healed Broken and Scattered

I opened my eyes today, and for the first time on this date in forty-two years, there are no tears. I  wrote this on the anniversary of my mom’s death. To write these words is a miracle. I believe God is in the process of doing a work in me, but I never imagined this possible. I’ve lived with the ache of unresolved grief and burdens for so long I couldn’t fathom life any other way.

I read Looking for Lovely by Annie Downs this week. In her book she states, “I had to be broken to be rebuilt, but breakdowns seem to often come before breakthroughs."

And man, have I been broken. Broken and scattered.

But God…

He is restoring my brokenness one piece at a time. He didn’t forget where all the pieces were scattered. What I didn’t know was that He’d already picked up all the pieces and kept them safe until I was ready to put them back together.

"He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted...and provide for those who grieve in Zion...to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor."
Isaiah 61:1-3

I had to return to my five-year-old self and come forward to see the life He ordained before I took my first breath.

The thing is, I have hope. I can feel His Spirit healing me and it’s because of Jesus; the same Jesus who came to earth in the form of an infant, lowly and meek. The same Jesus who traveled to Jerusalem with His parents at the age of twelve and stayed behind at the temple. The same Jesus who gave His mother fits when she couldn’t find Him, and they had to circle back to retrieve the young lad. When His parents found Him he said, “didn’t you know I’d be about my Father’s business?”

This same Jesus approached the woman at the well, healed the sick, raised the dead, and resisted temptation from Satan himself.

This same Jesus sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane as He agonized over what was to come. This same Jesus prayed for me in John chapter 17, and every believer throughout the ages.

This Jesus went to the cross and died for me. He arose for me and makes intercession to the Father for me…and you.

This is the Author of my hope. He is the reason I get up in the morning. He is the reason I had no tears on December 14th.

This Jesus has been my healer and protector. He has been my deliverer of more fears than I can count. He is the lover of my soul, faithful, and true to His Word.

He will do the same for you. Your date on the calendar no longer has the power to hold you prisoner. He will set you free and give you the same hope I have. 

This flesh and bone story of Jesus began long ago in a manger, in a land appointed by God on high, but it continues today in a risen Savior who dwells in us. He is the One who heals our brokenness, forgives our sin, and changes the way we view ourselves. 

At Christmas, and always we should celebrate Him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He lives, He reigns, and He will return for all who believe in Him.

May you have the merriest of Christmas holidays!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

30 Days of Thankfuls

The older I get, the more I treasure the days I have left. Does that sound corny? That's my stage of life. I'm a retrospective person, and yet I ponder the future and how to make the most of the days ahead. Not wanting to waste a single moment, I need to celebrate the here and now. My soul needs a break from worrying about the unknown, and a reminder of the blessings of my life or I will implode.

My tender heart gets broken way too often, and though I know the Word says, "cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you...," I try to carry my own load. Maybe you fall into the same trap as me.

I'm choosing to be thankful in this season we focus on the blessings of our God. It goes without saying I'm thankful for my salvation, my family, my church, and friends. These are the extra gifts from the hand of my Provider. He knows my needs better than I do, and surprises me when I'm at my weakest. As you read my list, have a go at writing your own list of thankfuls. It does wonders for your soul, and it may bless someone else as you share.

These are in no particular order of importance...just random thoughts gathered over a steaming cup of tea on a cool, November morning.

1. Crisp, fall days.
2. Winesap apples.
3. Bringing out my worn jeans. We're like old friends.
4. Long walks where I don't drip sweat.
5. Two-for-one lattes at Starbucks.
6. Dark-thirty = Permission to read.
7. Sweatshirts and sweaters, need I say more?
8. November elections are over.
9. Friends who stick closer than family.
10. Pictures of West Virginia family on Facebook. I miss them so much.
11. Opportunities to love the needy.
12. Making new friends where age isn't a factor.
13. Answered prayer.
14. Doing the hard thing.
15. Celebrating God's goodness and faithfulness.
16. Ladies I serve with in missions.
17. Ladies I study the Bible with on Friday mornings.
18. Pets who bring comfort and companionship.
19. Sunday walks with a treasured friend.
20. Contrast of orange and yellow leaves against a Carolina blue sky...breathtaking.
21. Pansies and pumpkins.
22. The long inhale and exhale of rest.
23. The anticipation of upcoming celebrations.
24. Coffee dates.
25. Tea parties.
26. Music that speaks to my soul.
27. Sitting around a fire pit with friends.
28. Second chances.
29. Writing the words my lips cannot utter.
30. Gift of family.

What are the gifts you've been given? We all have them, even if we've been blinded by loss, pain, illness, financial ruin, or our own poor choices. Thanksgiving is the perfect time for do overs. It's the time of year to stop, and realign priorities, to think of someone other than yourself. It's a time for giving thanks for all you've been given, and then giving to others out of your bounty.

This is my favorite time of year. I love an excuse to slow the rhythm of life. My natural inclination lends itself to pondering the goodness of my Creator. Long walks with leaves crunching beneath my feet while a steaming cup of coffee or tea awaits is my happy place. I'm a simple person and it doesn't take much to keep me content. Take time to enjoy the next few days before the hustle of Christmas sucks the joy out of your days of thankfulness. Look into the faces of those sitting around your table. Have meaningful conversation without the distraction of technology. Love one another, for they are your greatest gifts.

Happy Thanksgiving Friends!