Precious Reminders

I didn’t grow up going to church. I had a wonderful friend in sixth grade who invited me to church, and it truly changed my life. It opened up my curiosity about God. Over the course of middle school and high school, I attended probably every church at least once in my small town. I would attend with various friends who invited me. I remember my fifteenth birthday vividly….all I wanted for my birthday was a Bible…a New King James version Life Applications Bible for Students with a purple cover. I still have it today. The pages are now well worn, multiple different colors of highlighter across the pages, and written messages beside verses that have spoken to me over the years. It is still my favorite Bible. I use it for my morning devotions and regularly carry it upstairs from my bedroom to downstairs to my favorite recliner. For church, I have resorted to my online Bible Gateway app…for a couple reasons….one, it’s just easier, and two, well, this precious Bible has also become the keeper of special things. Tucked inside my Bible are handwritten notes from my children, a handmade card from my husband, a letter from my best friend, and notes from church sermons. When something tugs at my heartstrings, it usually ends up tucked inside the sacred places of my Bible.

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The other morning as I sat in the quiet solitude of my darkened living room, I took a moment and pulled out a few of those special artifacts of my heart…moments captured in time….reminders of the blessings God has showered upon me….reminders of His goodness and all-consuming love for me. All the painful moments of my life…highlighted verses in my Bible whose words have carried me through me these valleys…precious reminders tucked inside my Bible of His never ending love, grace, and mercy.

Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you may continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. Hebrews 10:36

Even now as I enter a time of uncertainty in my life, I know I have the promise of His love, grace, and mercy. The precious keepsakes, a tangible reminder of God’s love and promise in my life.

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Sunday Reflections for the Week Ahead

I love surveys and personality quizzes…I don’t know why, I just do. I recently attended a leadership meeting for my new job, and one of the things we did was to complete a few leadership personality quizzes. The purpose? To help us understand why we do what we do and how it affects our leadership style. One particular leadership quiz we completed looked at our motivational style. Mine? Achievement oriented. What does this mean?

According to this quiz, it means I need to perform well, and I am motivated by achieving challenges that I have set for myself. I am self motivated and take great pleasure in a job well done and work best when I am in control of my own tasks.

Those who know me well know I like to be in control of my own situation and circumstances. Another classic clue to someone motivated by an achievement style? Makes to-do lists and checks off completed tasks. Bingo! This describes me to a “T.” I have “To Do” lists in my personal planner and in my work planner. I love to highlight off tasks as I complete them. I love sticky notes and have them all over the place. My crazy disorganized, organized style. Works for me….most of the time.

This whole thing about control and “to do” lists has me thinking. The purpose behind my “to do” lists is so I keep my priorities straight. I have learned in my line of work to be flexible and this flexiblity has poured into my personal life as well. The best laid out plans and intentions sometimes have to be adjusted.

For example… with fibromyalgia, I never know how I  will feel in the morning. I have a list of things to do at work but I can’t preplan a staff call off or a resident issue. I can’t predict an email from my son’s teacher notifying me of some schoolwork issues with my son that requires a parent teacher meeting. Life happens. It just does. My “to do” lists are great to help me stay focused, but I need to be flexible in adjusting life as it happens.

Besides flexibility, another lesson I am strongly learning is that of balance. Balance of work and family time. Balance of rest and work. Balance of time to myself and time with others. Where does God fit into all this?

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How much time do I truly give freely to God? The morning devotions, prayers on the way to work, listening to K-Love…all that is important, but how much time do I spend on social media, texting and talking to family and friends…is there a need for more balance in my life? Does God even make my “To Do” list some days? And if so, where is He on my list? He deserves more than just the leftovers of my day,  the remnants of my time and energy.

So, as I plan my week, I want to make a conscious effort to give God more of my time and energy. Regardless of how I feel in the morning…when the fibro is flared, when I am feeling tired and overwhelmed, or when I simply would rather do something mindless like scroll through my Facebook feed, I will work to spend more time with God because I know when my priorities are in check, everything else falls into place.

 

 

Faith over Fear

Ever had that moment when you knew God was speaking to you…and you didn’t know what it meant?

On Saturday night, I felt strongly led to read my Bible before bed, and I felt strongly led to read the book of Obadiah. Obadiah is a short, one chapter book of the Old Testament. As I read the brief introduction it shared how Obadiah was a prophet but his book in the Old Testament was not filled with happy news. There was no good and bad news, only bad news. I remember thinking…Okay, God, whatever You desire for me to learn from this book, please open my heart.

It didn’t take long…the third verse: The pride of your heart has deceived you.

The pride of your heart has deceived you….Obadiah 1:3

I finished reading the rest of the short book of Obadiah, and then I wrestled with these words as I tried to fall asleep. I woke up still wrestling with what these words meant to me. I wrestled with them as I went to church. We talked about pride in Sunday School, how pride can manifest itself in many different ways in each of us. We talked in terms of how difficult it can be for us to accept the help of others because our pride gets in the way.

It became clear to me…pride and fear are so closely related. Pride is all about self. Fear is about protecting self. Both push others away. The pride of my heart has deceived me…the self protection of my own self sufficieny, of not wanting to reach out to others for help, of wanting to cocoon within my own self preservation and figure things out on my own.

The pride of your heart (my heart) has deceived you (me).

My husband and I will be stepping into unknown territory very soon…a future with unknowns as he prepares to lose his job the beginning of February. This rocks our world financially, our sense of security pulled out from under us, the comfortableness of the normal, everyday routine, the expected….gone.

God is asking me to lean deeper on Him, lean deeper on my husband…faith over fear. He is asking that the pride of self sufficiency melt away into trust for Him, trust in my husband’s decision as he seeks the Lord’s leading in his life.

My friend reminds me often that the Lord disciplines those He loves. Well, Sunday I was feeling very disciplined through this conviction. Once I ackowledged the pride for what it was and the basis  for my fear, I began to feel freer. I journalled and poured my heart out to God.

It’s a new year full of new beginnings and new opportunities. My husband’s word for the year is opportunity. So, with God’s guidance, I will  choose faith over fear.

I encourage you…whatever you may be walking through today or tomorrow…choose faith over fear and trust the One who sees the bigger picture of your life.

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Obedience

Obedience. What does that word mean to you? What do you first think of when you hear that word?

Asking your child to let the dog out, fold the towels, take the trash out…

As adults, we don’t always think of obedience. We do what is expected of us at work because well, that’s what is expected of us for our employment. I doubt many of us think in terms of being obedient to our bosses.

I recently read a devotion that suggested that Christians approach obedience as a way to avoid negative consequences of disobedience. I immediately thought of a memory from a few years ago of my son. I had asked him to clean his room. He looked at me with those big brown eyes and with a serious look on his face asked, “What happens if I don’t?” That little negotiator wanted to decide if the consequences were worth the time and effort to clean his room. He did clean that room…I made sure the consequences were more than he would want to risk! The thought of a week without TV was all it took to get him moving!

My word for the year is serve. As I have been praying over this word, I have asked for opportunities to serve. I realize that God will provide these opportunities…I need to be obedient to Him if I want to grow in my faith. I work for a faith affiliated organization and every morning, we read a devotion. One day this week, we talked about servant leadership. My administrator made the statement that sometimes, it may even feel like when we are choosing to serve, that we are being walked over by others. Being a servant leader, choosing to serve, requires obedience and the willingness to humble ourselves.

I have learned that saying yes to God, choosing to follow His leading and being obedient to His direction, is not always easy but He knows what I need when I need it. Looking back over the past few years, I can see how the difficult situations of my life have fit together like a patchwork quilt, connected pieces moving me forward on my journey.

Serving, obedience, surrendering…all closely related as I continue to seek God in this journey called life. I am learning that when we are obedient to God, when we choose to say yes, when we choose to trust His guidance, when we choose to trust that with Him, everything will be OK even when everything seems and feels so uncertain, He is with us. Christian obedience is love…pouring out in trust.

So, as the morning dawns, even before you know what is coming your way, choose to say yes to God. Obedience. Trust. Faith.

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The path, though uncertain, guided by His hand, trusting Him along the way. Obedient to His leading. The path paved for adventures for 2016, your hand in His….protected by His love and protection.

A new year…full of opportunities to serve, to grow, to learn if we will only say yes to the One who sees the bigger picture along the path called life.

 

 

A Word for the Year

The New Year is an opportunity many take advantage of to start fresh with New Year’s resolutions and goals for the year. Many people resolve to lose weight, eat healthier, exercise more, organize….among a variety of other common themes. K-Love posted the popular resolutions from the 1940s…improve my character, spend more time with my family, and attend church more.

I have made resolutions in the past, but the past few years, I have decided to focus on a word instead of a laundry list of resolutions. This year, my word is serve. I am asking God to reveal to me opportunities to serve others. I also need to reflect upon how I spend my time…it reveals what I serve.

I was very humbled when I left my previous job just a few weeks ago. I was humbled by the reactions and kind words of others who were genuinely sad to see me leaving. I try to embody servant leadership. I believe opportunities to serve exist not only at work but all around me…at home, at church, even on a simple trip to the grocery store.

One of the family members from my previous job thanked me for helping with the transition of her mother’s admission to the facility where I worked. She thanked me for embodying JOY…placing Jesus, others, and yourself in that order. That was very humbling to hear. It has given me a wonderful reminder to accompany the word SERVE…I will serve Jesus, others, and myself in that order.

I will spend time with God and be open to His leading in my life. I will pray for opportunities to serve others and help, even in simple, everyday things….even when I don’t always feel like it. I will be kinder to myself and extend grace and forgiveness to myself when I miss the mark and don’t live up to my expectations for myself.

Serve. My word for 2016. What about you? Do you make resolutions or choose to focus on one word? If so, what is your word for the year?

My year of 2015 can be summed up in the word SURRENDER. And, as I look forward to the promises of another year…I will seek to SERVE.

Wishing you the very best for 2016!

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