The day before the day before

Today is the day before the day before the new year begins. A time to reflect on what was and a time to plan for what we hope will come.  There have been so many things that have taken place over the past year.  Too many to count or list in one space.  Today, I’ll enjoy reflecting on the random thoughts that so often race through my mind …

I wonder about the hound sometimes.  Woke up to a cold and wet morning this morning.  Letting the poochies out, I reminded each of them to “stay out of the mud” as if they 1) understand me and 2) will comply. I glanced up from the book I’ve been reading only to witness the bassett hound sitting. in. the. mud.  {{sigh}}  Thankful for towels and mops.

Glanced up a bit later from aforementioned book to see a hawk perched on our back fence.  A remarkable sight because we live in a subdivision and our back fence blocks our backyard from a busy street.  The hawk, like the female cardinal and wren I spied earlier hopping from branch to branch in the sage below our kitchen window, had plumped it’s feathers to keep warm.  All three reminded me of the little brother in “A Christmas Story” with so many layers of clothing on his arms stuck straight out.  My mind works in mysteriously weird ways.

I love reading. Always have. I read a lot of books this year.  Not a Fan, Gods at War, AHA, Love Does, Unglued, The Best Yes, Quiet, Every Bitter Thing is Sweet, Soul Tattoo, to name just a few.

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Another thing I love? Highlighting passages in the books I read.  There was a time I would have been horrified to have my books anything less than pristine.  Now? Not so much. I’m usually within arm’s reach of a pen or highlighter when I’m reading, a habit that remains from my college days.

Better than paper & ink? eBooks!  Goodness how I love eBooks.  I carry my whole electronic library with me literally EVERYwhere.

I highlight, I take pictures of pages with passages I want to remember, I share pictures of pages. I, ahem … make collages of pictures of passages I’ve highlighted.  And I share the collages.

Looking on the outside in, this seems to be a problem. I think I might need help.

Nah …

Our Wedding Day

Our Wedding Day

Hub & I started the journey into our 30th year of marriage a few days ago.  30 years seems like such a long time, such a large number of years.  In the scheme of our lives, the years have flown by.

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Hub & I were so young when we covenanted ourselves to each other. 24 (he) and 22 (me), we were babes almost fresh out of diapers but oh so grown up and ready to conquer the world when we made our vows!

I read the book One Word that will change your life at the close of 2012.  My goal-setting hasn’t been the same since.  I loved the concept of encapsulating all my resolutions, all my goals into one word.  And to allow God to lead me in the process? Doubly awesome.

Truth time: my quest for my word for 2013 was more selfish than selfless.  There were some serious conversations beween me and Hub prior to me reading One Word that actually guided me toward my word for the year:

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I reread One Word during my Thanksgiving break in 2013 and committed to really surrendering the process to God and allowing Him to guide me to my word for 2014:

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While this was God’s word for me for 2014, I still managed to make a mess of it.  My intentions began honorably but I still managed to lose sight of the important on more than one occasion.  All part of being human, I know, but I couldn’t help but beat myself up for my actions not matching my intentions.

Which leads me to today … the day before the day before the first day of 2015.  Just as I did last year, I surrendered myself and my word to His leading.  I am amazed and humbled at how much He loves each of us and how, if we let Him, confirms His words to us.  He meets each of us right. where. we. are.  In all our messiness, in all our falling-short-of-the-mark-iness. He is here.

Every day, but especially in 2015, He is calling me to one-word-poster-1.php

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2014 – How’d I do?

“Everybody has a story”  

While I know this, I seem to have lost my voice.  Or perhaps what I’ve lost is my focus and I can’t remember my story.  Oftentimes my life keeps me running so fast I can’t remember who I am or how I got here.

Tired.

Many days I wake up tired and I go to bed exhausted. Days roll into weeks and before I can even comprehend what is happening or give it a second thought, a year — a WHOLE YEAR — has passed.

How did THAT happen?

I’m all about setting and meeting goals, preparing and completing “To Do” lists.  Our house? While not the showpiece of the neighborhood, it’s tidy. The dogs? Healthy.  Our marriage? Not without it’s ups and downs but we love each other and we’re determined to not let any obstacles or challenges destroy us. Or each other.

All this is to simply say: I don’t sit around and do nothing. I do stuff. Daily. I’m busy.  Too often, I’m too busy. Type “A?” Guilty.

And maybe that’s the point.

imagesMy One Word for 2014 was “Focus.”  My goal for 2014 was to focus more on the important than the urgent.  Looking back over the past twelve months, I could throw my hands over my face and cry about how miserably I failed at Focusing.

I have plenty of excuses: work, work, and oh yeah … work.  I’ve promised Hub, my parents, and my life group sisters to cut back and not work so late at night.  I even promised to not work on the weekends.

But there’s always that “one thing” that needs to be taken care of …

Really, who am I fooling? Urgent matters really aren’t that urgent. Especially when they’re at the expense of the important. ESPECIALLY if they’re at the expense of the important! If I’ve learned anything this year, I’ve learned this.

So maybe I didn’t fail as miserably as I thought I did.  I can beat myself up over where I think I failed in 2014 OR …. I can move forward and stop this cycle of regret.

I choose to move forward.

I read a dozen or so books on a variety of topics in 2014.  They all centered around one common theme: No matter how badly I fail at serving others or miss the mark on meeting timelines, or choose Urgent over Important … I am loved:

  • By a God who calls me child
  • By a husband who is my rock, even when I drive him nuts with my obsessions
  • By close friends & family that understand my absence is not personal and I’ll be there in a heartbeat if they need me

My story, my voice? It’s been here all along. I just had to stop. And listen.

Praying for Ferguson

I stayed up last night to watch the news with Sweet Husband.  It was sad to see the destruction taking place in protest to the grand jury’s verdict in Ferguson, Missouri.  To witness the destruction and pillaging of stores, businesses that did nothing but simply exist at Ground Zero of the protest. To hear the vile, hateful speech flowing uncensored out of our television and into our bedroom.

I rolled away from the TV and pulled the pillow over my head.  I knew sleep would elude me as I replayed all this violence in my head, trying to make sense of it all.

Why did this happen?

Why was there so much HATE on display, not just in Ferguson but throughout the country?

Why?

I scrolled through posts on my Facebook newsfeed earlier today.  More hate. More accusations. More …

I click the “I don’t want to see this” button when I read these. I’m not playing “ostrich” and burying my head in the proverbial sand.  I know it’s out there, I see the ugliness that develops into this kind of hatred in its many different forms in the part of the city where I work. My heart cries and I ask:

Where, in any of this, is God being glorified? What am I doing to further His kingdom?

A dear friend wrote, “A sweeping, true Holy Ghost revival may be the only way to fix the brokenness rampant in our land. Lord, help us all! Praying for Ferguson…”

My Lifegroup is currently studying 1 Timothy.  Talk about a Holy Spirit-driven, God-ordained divine appointment! We studied chapter 2 last week.  Check this out:

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4 [ESV] (emphasis mine)

Did you catch that?  The church is called to pray for all people.  I’m no theologian, but I’m thinking this also means we should be praying all the time for all people, not just when tragedy or violence rears it’s ugly head.

All this nastiness inside and outside the family of God can’t possibly be pleasing to Him.

And the irony? We celebrate Thanksgiving in a couple days.  A day set aside to give thanks to the One who provided every good and perfect gift to us. A day to count our many blessings and to reach out to those in need with open hands of help, not clenched fists of fury against our neighbors who have truly done nothing wrong but to try to make a living.

So, what does this mean to me?  I’m on break this week and so over the next few days, I commit to stepping out my front door and visiting my neighbors; to be “Jesus with skin on” to those around me.  To be emotionally and physically present while we talk because I’ll never know their needs if I don’t stop to hear what they’re saying. And if I can’t help them fulfill their needs, perhaps I know someone who might know someone who can help.

What happened in Ferguson, and around the country last night, shouldn’t have happened. If I don’t want to see last night repeated on the evening news or in my neighborhood, I have to be a catalyst for change.  Church, we’re called to pray for our neighbors as well as those in positions of authority.

We. are. all. called:

  • To pray and turn from all the hate back to God,
  • To serve in our communities in mighty or small ways,
  • To love our neighbors so much they can’t help but see God loving them, calling them to Himself through us.

To pray, to serve, to love.  If we do this, maybe … just maybe, revival will sweep over this land. Praying for the people of Ferguson, Missouri. Praying for us all.

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. [2 Chronicles 7:14, ESV]

Will v. Want

During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. Acts 16:9-10 [NIV]

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I’ve had a “nagging” on my heart lately: do I stay in my current position or look for another area within education? Am I being called to remain at the district level or move to the campus level? Is He calling me to head back into the classroom?

I have to admit: I’m pretty comfortable doing what I do and, with the exception of the occasional stresses, I enjoy my job. I get to work with a variety of people on multiple campuses within my school district and the opportunity to be “Jesus with skin on” to everyone I meet is a responsibility I take seriously. Even so, I’ve been asking myself lately if there is something else, somewhere else, God is calling me to serve.

When I shared this with my Lifegroup sisters recently, I acknowledged I hadn’t had a specific leading from the Holy Spirit to move. I’ve learned when I have no confirmation, my only response needs to be stay where I’m planted.

It really is a matter of God’s will versus my want and I want to remain in God’s will!

This caused me to wonder: what if Paul hadn’t responded to His call to travel to Macedonia? (Acts 16:9-10)

  • Would Lydia have become a believer in God? (16:14)
  • Would the jailer have had the opportunity to witness the mighty acts of God as well as Paul & Silas’ response to remain where they were? Would he have ever asked what he needed to do to be saved? (16:25-30)
  • What about all the other unnamed people Paul and his companions encountered in Philippi? Would there even be a Philippian church?

What about you?
Who is God calling you to share His good news with?
Are you where God is calling you to be or is He prompting you to move?
How do you know?

Here are a couple helps from “How to Seek God’s Guidance” by Anne Graham Lotz, Decision Magazine, Feb 2003:

  • seek confirmation of God’s Word through Bible study (she’s not talking about “point and peek” but actually study His Word)
  • seek the counsel of godly and mature Christian friends

If you don’t receive clear direction to move, it’s time to be still and wait.

Read Acts 16

Click this link to view where it is published on my church fellowship’s devotional site: New in You

Be the Change

images There’s a certain drive-through I’ll arrange my schedule to use for one simple reason: the voice that comes through the “box” and the man behind the voice when I arrive at the window.

This man, although working a brutal morning shift for more-than-likely minimum wage, blesses me every time we meet.  Our meetings don’t last longer than a couple of minutes and we’ve never exchanged comments more than, “Thank you” and “You have a beautiful day.”  But that’s enough.  He impacts my day with such a positive start I can’t help but carry that energy with me through the day.

This was our routine … until yesterday morning.  His voice didn’t contain it’s usual chipperiness and I was worried for him.  This man who has blessed me so many mornings by how he treats me and my fellow customers needed to be blessed.  And so in the time it took me to travel from the “box” to the window,  I prayed.  I prayed for this man and I prayed for every person I would meet during the day.  I asked God to provide me with opportunities to be a blessing to them.

Which is right about the time this song began playing on my radio:  Be the Change

Wow, talk about a “God moment!”  I was getting giddy and couldn’t wait for my turn at the window to bless this man who, whether he realized it or not, has blessed me countless times.

Sitting in the parking lot munching on my breakfast (you didn’t think I ate while I drove, did you?) I thought about how I needed to not “just” be thankful for the blessings in my life but to look for opportunities to be a blessing to others.  I remembered the blessing bags sitting on my back seat.

My life group had decided to create “blessing bags” a few months back.  My sweet friend, Lorrie, put them together and I received mine the other day.  These are little care packages filled with things like socks, toiletries, and snacks we are giving to people we encounter that are in need of a little assistance.

I was headed downtown to a meeting and I knew I was going to be driving past a place under the highway where many people without homes sleep.  I knew … just KNEW … this was going to be an opportunity for me to be a blessing to someone!  Would you believe the area was clear when I drove by? I actually stopped and laughed because I was doing it again.  Instead of allowing God to orchestrate my day, I was assuming the role of creative director.

Humbled, I headed on to my meeting and determined to use my eyes and ears to find the opportunities instead of trying to create the opportunities that would be most convenient for me.

The day progressed and it was fairly uneventful.  The meeting was filled with lots of great information for me to take back to my campuses, and I came away with many kernels of ideas I plan to discuss with my adminstrators to possibly develop into full-blown action.

And then it happened.

A colleague and I were chatting as we were heading to our cars and I fell.  My foot slipped off the sidewalk and before I realized what was happening, I was on the ground, face-up, with all my bags on top of my face.  All I could think at that moment was, “How in the world did my bags end up on my head?”  My colleague helped me untangle myself and I just kind of laid there for another moment, mainly because I couldn’t figure out what had just happened.  I looked up and saw another colleague running toward me and everyone was asking me if I was okay.  I really was okay, hugely embarrassed, but okay.  My coordinator arrived as I was climbing up from the ground and said I needed to fill out an accident report.  (Great.) Then she said it could wait until Monday.  (Great!)

So … how was I blessing others, you ask?  As I’ve reflected on the incident, I really believe the blessing was allowing others to serve me.  If I had been alone when I’d fallen off the sidewalk (yes, it’s happened … ), my colleagues wouldn’t have had that opportunity for service.

It’s a crazy way to look at the incident but the reality is, God doesn’t typically work in ways that make sense.

And I’m learning sometimes the way to be a blessing … to be the change … is to provide others with opportunities to serve.

Common No More

 

In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use.  Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.  2 Timothy 2:20-21 (NIV)

How often have you asked yourself: Why am I here, what am I meant to be doing, what’s my purpose?  I don’t profess to know the answer to these questions but I know One who does.

My take away from the verse above isn’t we’re able to cleanse ourselves, but we’re cleansed through our surrendering ourselves to Christ. He’s the One who cleanses us so we’re able to be used for His purpose.

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Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”  John 2:6-10 (NIV)

The amazing and awesome takeaway I got from this passage focuses on the jars.

Jars. Probably made of clay. Common. Their purpose? To store. Jars don’t make water; they have to be refilled in order to fulfill their purpose. Who refilled those jars? The people who need to use the water contained in the jars.

We’re like those jars. Left on our own, we fill our jars with our wants, our desires, our plans. Our focus is inward.

When we surrender ourselves to the Master and His plan? The old water, our plans and purpose, is thrown out; we’re transformed into vessels filled with fresh water, fresh plans, fresh purpose.

Who fills us with this fresh water?

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  John 4:13-14 (NIV)

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What’s our purpose … to share one truth: God loves us.

 

 

Lovin’ Summer

“So, what did you do on your summer vacation?”  There was a time I didn’t like thIMG_0353is question.  This year, I’m eager to answer!  What did I do?  Well …

My Word for 2014 is Focus; my summer was spent developing my focus.  My focus commitment is 4-fold:

  • God
  • my family
  • what’s important
  • my health

 

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Excerpts from Unglued, Believing God, The Carpenter, AHA, Gods at War, Love Does, & Not a Fan

My heart’s desire is to be Jesus’ hands & feet to those around me.  I’ve been devouring a lot of books this year which focus on being a strong follower (as opposed to a fan) of Jesus.

I’m so thankful for this time in the mornings and evenings to read and marinate in the Word … time without constraints to read and study passages of Scripture and glean truth.  Time to read … just read.

I’m not sure if it’s my desire or if it’s Holy Spirit inspired, but I believe I should be sharing this knowledge instead of hoarding it.

Time to move into the application phase!

How will I do this?  Lead a Bible study? Minister to my neighbors? Head out on a mission trip over Spring Break next year or next summer? All of these, none of these … I have no idea.  What I do know is I am committed to focusing on the important.

Digging into the Word is important.  So is my family.

Hub and I continue to believe we are called to be parents and are praying about plans to expand our family.  Will we be more than a family of two humans and three dogs next summer?  Again, no idea.  We’ve been waiting for almost 30 years to be parents, so our answer is: we both hope so!  In the meantime …

IMG_1261Hub and I were able to coordinate our schedules and head out of town for a couple trips this summer.  These were places we were able to head to and return from on a tank of gas.  We had a great time together, even when things didn’t go exactly as planned.  The important fact was we were spending time together which is something we’re not really able to do during our “normal” life.

I got to spend time with my family and even managed to squeak out a win over my intelligent & talented niece when we played this:

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To her credit, she did win one game

 

 

I couldn’t resist laughing when she commented, “I can’t believe I’m actually playing this against a TEACHER!”

 

 

Hub & I have lived in this house for over a decade and there are things we’ve dreamed of doing in the home-improvement department for quite a while now.  I decided to surprise him and begin working on one of those projects on the 4th of July.

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“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:4-6 (NIV)

It’s not done but “in progress.”  I still have a few things I’d like to do before I can call the project complete.  And I like it that way for now because it’s a tangible illustration of how I am in His hands.  I was overgrown with lots of mess in my life before God began working on me.  He’s had to cut a lot of dead wood and overgrowth out of me and I can say with confidence He won’t be done pruning and shaping me until I cross that finish line at the end of my life.  My joy is anticipating the moment I’ll hear Him proclaim, “Well done!”

 

 

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Sunflowers in Gruene

Summer vacations for educators aren’t ever complete without the requisite doctor appointments we schedule so we don’t miss time from our students and staff.  I found a field of these outside my doctor’s office on a recent visit.  It was a nice opportunity to take the time and snap some pictures before heading home.

What did I do on my summer vacation?  A little bit of this, a little bit of that.

And a whole lot of focusing on what is important: God, family, faith