Wise Wednesday 10/19/16

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“One of the gifts of being a Christian, is being content where you are.” I was in a conversation this morning when I heard these words.  They weren’t spoken about me, but they sure spoke TO me! Loud. And. Clear. And, I have no doubt I was meant to hear them.

Content: “satisfied with what one is or has”  May I be honest with you?  I don’t know the last time I’ve felt content!  In my mind, there always seems to be something lacking: in my circumstances, my relationships, and myself! It hadn’t occurred to me, until now that is, that trying so hard to be a good Christian has caused me to miss out on a gift of being a Christian!

 Striving is second nature to me…..striving to always do better and be better. That’s good, right? I’ve been telling myself it’s not only good, but it’s necessary! Now I’m wondering, is it? Constantly attempting to improve, worrying when I don’t, and the negative words that I repeat in my head DON’T feel like rewards at all. 

It took another conversation for me to see that I’ve been depending on…..wait for it…..ME! I don’t want to admit it, but all that striving is really my attempt at pleasing God through my efforts, my works!  Whoa!  As much as I’d like to deny it, and believe me I tried, this striving girl has been struggling so hard I’ve ignored the Giver and the gift!

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV)

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:8-9 (NIV)

What about you? Are you as ready as I am, to stop the striving? It isn’t going to be easy.  There’s a part of me that’s scared at the thought of not constantly monitoring my progress but there’s also a sense of relief that comes with the knowledge that in my weakness, God’s power is made perfect. So, I say it’s time! Let’s open the gift! First, untie the ribbons that bind us to our performance. Then, let’s unwrap ourselves from the belief that we have the strength to do anything on our own. And finally, let’s  open our hearts and know there’s true contentment found in the “presence” of God’s grace. 

P.S. Thank you to my mother-in-law for sharing her wise words and to my husband, whose patient guidance helps me in this journey of life.

Wise Wednesday 10/12/16

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“Oh, I wish I had long, straight hair like her instead of my wild, curly hair.” “How could I let myself get this heavy when they look so slim and fit?” “I can’t speak in front of them. They know much more about the Bible than I do.” Why would anyone want to read what I write when there are so many better bloggers than me?” “They wouldn’t be my friends if they knew how many more times I fail than they do.”

Comparison. To be honest, it’s been a way of life for me for as long as I can remember and I always end up feeling I come up short.  It’s easy, especially with social media, to find someone who appears prettier, thinner, smarter, wiser, or more talented and successful than I am. Ever been there? Jumping in and spending time in the comparison pool is just like treading water.  It gets you no where fast and is exhausting!  The longer we stay there the more shriveled our souls feel and our joy truly is swept away with the tide.

Try as I might to avoid immersing myself in all the ways I don’t measure up, I somehow seem to dip my toes in and before I know it I’m being pulled under. Why? It’s hard to stay afloat when I’m weighted down with me, me, me.

“Do not copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2 (NLT)

I’m not there yet, but I am beginning to realize that God never intended for us to compare ourselves to one another.  He created each of us, just the way we are, to do His perfect will. Stop for a minute. Just think about that…..The things that we may wish to change are the same things God gave us with a purpose.  Switching our focus from “me of this world” to “God has a plan for me in this world” offers us relief from drowning in comparison. We’re not supposed to be like anyone else! Let that sink in.

I had to take a break from this post and come back today because as I wrote these words on Wednesday I became disappointed with myself for not being able to tell you I have this comparison thing whipped.  I. Don’t.  Knowing comparison is not what God wants for me and doing it anyway makes me just plain frustrated with myself! Do you have similar struggles? I’m glad to say that since beginning this Wise Wednesday post, God has reminded me that our transformation doesn’t happen quickly.  It’s a lifetime process.   My prayer today is that we become more aware of those things, like comparison, that keep us from seeing who we really are and that we’re able to change the way we think so we can joyfully splash in the good and pleasing will of God!

M’m! M’m! Monday 10/10/16

"This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook--try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, BE FEARLESS, and above all have fun. ~Julia Child

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook–try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, BE FEARLESS, and above all have fun.
~Julia Child

It’s the Little Things

Challenging times can cause me to have vision problems. Oh, I can see just fine… but I find myself focusing on the big (or perceived big) hurdle ahead and I miss the gift of little things. Ever been there?  So today, I’m trying to take notice of those little things God has recently brought my way:


~A
friend’s offer to sit with me during the demolition of our house
~Familiar birds at my newly moved bird feeders

~Offers to help with my laundry
~An entertaining chipmunk outside my temporary kitchen window
~Kind, reassuring words
~The support of our children
~A car that’s dependable (ever think about that?)
~Safe travel
~Time with my grandson
~A patient husband (and believe me, he’s needed to be)
~Answered prayer
~Brightly colored leaves against an even brighter blue sky
~Music that touches my soul
~Time to type a list of little things…

It occurs to me as I reread my list, that maybe these things aren’t so little after all; for it’s through these gifts that we recognize God’s presence. Whether you’re lost in the midst of a storm, finding your way in the dark, navigating a hard road, or in a time of wait and see like me; seek out the little (or not so little) things that remind us that when we are blinded by worry, we’re not walking alone.  We have a guide who will see us through!

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  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?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:25-27 (NIV)

And now for a “little” recipe….

Little because it has few ingredients, takes little time to prepare, and there’ll only be a little left because it’s so good!  I know when you read this recipe you might question it, but I promise it’s my husband’s most requested dish (even on his birthday!) and everyone I’ve ever served it to has cleaned their plate. It’s been in my family since I was a “little” girl (that’s a loooong time), given to my mom by our neighbors, the Irons family.

Iron Burgers

Ingredients

  • 1 Lb. lean hamburger
  • 0nion, chopped
  • 1 can Campbell's Tomato Soup
  • 1 can Campbell's Cheddar Cheese Soup
  • 1 soup can full of milk
  • Hamburger Buns

Instructions

  • In a large skillet, brown hamburger and chopped onion over medium heat breaking meat apart like making sloppy joes.
  • Drain, if necessary. (I like to use hamburg with 7% fat to avoid this step)
  • In bowl, combine soups and milk. Stir to make smooth sauce.
  • Pour sauce into skillet over meat. Stir.
  • Simmer until bubbling, stirring occasionally.
  • Lay opened hamburg buns on a cookie sheet, inside up. Place in oven under the broiler until golden brown. Keep an eye on them as they can quickly burn. (You can also use your toaster if you have a bagel setting)
  • To serve: lay bottom of bun on plate, spoon meat mixture over bun. Add top of bun and place another spoonful of meat mixture over it all.
  • Eat with a fork to get it all....you won't want to leave even a ....little!
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A Little of Both (M’m! M’m! Monday and Wise Wednesday) on Friday…

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Letting go is exactly what I’ve been doing for the last several months: of clothes, of stuff,  and of bits and pieces of my life that I’ve clung to so tightly. As of last week, I’ve even said my goodbyes as I let go of my beloved pine tree and old blue house. To be honest though, “beautiful” is not how I’ve been looking at any of it. Exhausting, emotional, overwhelming, just to name a few, would better describe my attitude…..That is, until I came upon these wise words which got me thinking……

I don’t know about you, but it’s way too easy for me to fall into the trap of “woe is me”. As I’m purposeful in reflecting on this crazy house process, I’m beginning to see it a little differently. Shifting my focus has revealed the fact that every day I’ve spent letting go leads me one step closer to making memories in a brand new house. There is beauty in this chaos.

 Sorting and sifting through everything we own opened my eyes and let me see that we’d collected so many things we didn’t use or need anymore. What’s a pack rat to do? It took a while, but I finally recognized that maybe there was someone else who needed exactly what I didn’t.  While emptying drawers, closets, and storage spaces was hard work; I’ve come to realize something. There’s beauty in giving.

I’m pretty sure those close to me (and maybe even you reading this) are more ready for this stage of my life to end than I am. Let’s just say my thoughts, worries, conversations, and yes, my blog posts have been pretty much like a broken record, but despite it all, my family and friends have prayed for us to let go of our fear, cheered us on to let go of our doubts, and urged us to let go of the past and look to the future.  My biggest lesson about letting go?  There’s beauty in encouragement!

The calendar shows that it’s officially fall.  Nature proves it true.  The sky is a more brilliant blue.  The Hummingbirds and Monarchs are migrating. And yes, the trees are “letting go” of their leaves.  As they float on the breeze, let them remind us that there IS beauty in the act of letting go, not just of things, but of all that hinders us from living our best life; the one God’s designed just for us!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

Since it IS officially fall here is a super simple dessert/snack that’s perfect on a cool, autumn day!

Pumpkin Spice Rice Krispie Treats

Ingredients

  • 6 cups of Rice Krispies
  • 40 large marshmallows (I usually add one for the pot to make 41)
  • 4 Tbls. butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Instructions

  • Spray 9 x 13 pan generously with Pam. (I spray my spatula as well)
  • Over medium heat melt the butter in a large pan. Add marshmallows and stir until smooth.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Add pumpkin pie spice and blend well.
  • Stir in Rice Krispies until all are coated with marshmallow mixture.
  • Put in the prepared pan and using spatula, spread and smooth to fill the pan.
  • Cut into squares while warm.
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Wise Wednesday 9/28/16

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It’s funny how different, members of the same family can be. Growing up, my mom, youngest sister and I loved to read.  My middle sister on the other hand wanted nothing to do with it and often tried to “rescue” us while we were lost in a book.  (Annoy us may be a better way to say it!) And in my own family, my better half, son, and I of course, love to read.  My daughter would rather do almost anything else than pick up a book.  The differences don’t stop there though….when my son and husband find a book they love, they’ll read it over and over until the cover is worn out.  I on the other hand, only want to read a story once……

Uhhhhh……unless of course, it’s the story of my life! Then, I want to immerse myself in those chapters which were set in my comfort zone and had happy endings. I long to linger with those characters who’ve meant so much to me.  I’ve survived all the adventures, challenges, disappointments, and triumphs that have been woven together to create my story. Rereading it is safe.  I like safe!

Then….the page turns. A new chapter awaits. What’s a “play it safe, memory hoarding, stay on the sidewalk, status quo” kinda gal supposed to do?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 

 We know there are volumes of things that can go wrong….cliff hangers, plot twists, surprise endings….and they can make us want to slam the cover shut and demand a rewrite! But, I’m learning (slowly) it’s exactly those things that help develop OUR character and make our story richer.

 A chapter in my book of life came to an end yesterday.  Perhaps one is ending for you as well. It leaves us with a choice. Are we going to reread the pages we know so well or are we going to trust with all our heart, turn the page, and start discovering the paths that await us in our new chapter of life?

Sisters ~ Wise Wednesday 9/21/16

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It’s been there from the beginning.  That bond. The connection. Stronger at times than others, but always there…..sisterhood. I’ve recently returned from seeing my sisters. It was a quick trip, but being in their presence, even for a short time, fills an empty place in my heart. I’m lucky, no, blessed to have the two beautiful (inside and out) sisters that I do. They get me. They challenge me. They support me. They cheer me on.  We may be separated by miles but we share a relationship so close that when one of us is suffering, we all three experience the pain. Celebrating? Joy abounds! Sad….tears are shed in unison. My sisters are part of me as I am of them. We walk through life together sharing experiences, observations, frustrations, and victories. And laugh?  Oh my! Do we ever laugh! (mostly at each other and ourselves)  As the big sister of the family, I couldn’t be prouder of the women my sisters have become!  They truly are my “Gifts from God”!

“Strength and honor are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.” Proverbs 31:25 (KJV)

Murunga’s Miracles: The Secret Weapon

Miracles of Living Hope

Marilyn Uhl will be the first to tell you that establishing and running Living Hope High School in Bungoma, Kenya could not happen without God. She will also tell you that the longer she’s in Africa, the stronger her faith grows. Marilyn has seen God work things out in strange and powerful ways even when she didn’t believe He would.  “I don’t know why we don’t have total faith because He never lets us down.” she reminds us. “He might not answer us the way we want or when we want, but He always has our good in mind.”  The Living Hope journey continues with these true stories of the miraculous ways God is working in the lives of Marilyn and her students.

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Murunga’s Miracles:  The Secret Weapon

At times, Murunga still worried that he would wake up and the life he now knew would be nothing but a dream.  No longer would he be a graduate of Living Hope High School or a Hospitality Major in college. Thinking back to where he was just a few years ago to where he was now, felt almost too good to be true.

But here he was, on his detachment (internship) at the museum.  Murunga enjoyed the work and had so impressed the museum manager that he’d left Murunga in charge while he was away. Things were going smoothly until Murunga looked out the window.  What he saw sent chills down his spine and put fear in his heart.  FIRE! Smoke and flames rose from the grass down the hill from the museum and were headed his way.  Not knowing what to do, he picked up the phone and called the only person he knew he could depend on.

Marilyn listened to Murunga’s panicked voice on the other end of the phone line.  He quickly reported that he thought someone must have thrown a cigarette down and now the grass was ablaze.   She heard a click on the other end and Murunga was gone.

Not five minutes later Marilyn’s phone rang again.  The pitch of Murunga’s voice told her that the situation had worsened.  Words spilled rapidly as Murunga described what he saw out the museum window.  Not only had the fire grown but now the wind was whipping the flames in a path that led directly to him and the museum he’d grown to love. All he could think about were the ancient artifacts and precious pottery that would be lost, never to be replaced, if the fire reached the walls of the museum. Murunga needed a miracle and he needed it at that very moment!

Rushing outside, Marilyn found a large group of girls sitting together washing greens for supper.  She recounted all Murunga had told her.  They immediately put down the greens and with Marilyn, they began to pray together: some in English, some in Swahili, and still others in their own tongue.  They prayed fervently in unison, their voices becoming louder and louder with each word.

The ringing of Marilyn’s phone sent a hush through the group.  It was Murunga. In disbelief he announced that for no reason at all, the fire had died.  He couldn’t understand why the flames that had been furiously consuming the dry, brittle grasses had suddenly gone out.  His confusion didn’t last long however, as Marilyn explained that she knew why the fire had been extinquished; they had used a “secret weapon”…..prayer.

That day has significant importance for Murunga, Marilyn, and the students.  Not just because God provided the miracle of extinguishing the fire, but also because it was the first time the “secret weapon” had been used.  Oh, prayer is a regular part of the day on the Living Hope campus, but on this day there was nothing regular about that prayer!  Those Spirit filled words lifted to Heaven-when everyone was praying for the same thing, at the same time, and determined not to stop until something happened-changed everyone. They gained a new understanding that together, their prayers are powerful!

The Secret Weapon is now a vital part of life at Living Hope High School.  Murunga continues to learn much as he works in the once threatened museum. But the most important lesson he’s gained is the knowledge that God offers us great power in prayer; a power we don’t use often enough; a power that can put out a fire in a field and at the same time light one in the souls of those who accept it.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

copyright Living Hope High School, Bungoma, Kenya

For more information on Living Hope High School, go to www.livinghopehighschool.org

Wise Wednesday 9/7/16

“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9 (NLT) / Pixabay

Funny how things work out. My last post compared a TV show ending with a season of my life coming to an end (“It’s a Wrap”) and today I actually watched the last show of a favorite series of mine. In this final episode, the writers “wrapped up” the life stage each character was in and let us get a glimpse of what new season awaited them.  If a wonderful show has to end, this was a perfect ending.

My wise words today come from the farewell lines of character, “Detective Vince Korsak” and oh, how they spoke to me!

“I hate endings, the truth is I hate beginnings too.  I like middles, the steady sameness- comfortable- forever. But, I know you don’t always get to pick when life changes so I have no choice but to embrace this and I’m going to make it the best version of the next step that I can.”

I so often find myself digging in my heels and clinging to the “steady sameness-comfortable-forever”, but we all know that isn’t how life works. Change happens! Our endings probably won’t be perfect and we may not have a clear vision of what’s to come; but whether you’re retiring like Detective Korsak was or walking into a new career, welcoming a baby or leaving your “baby” at college,  keeping pace with teenagers or slowing your stride to care for a parent, or even moving forward with tearing down an old house while waiting for a new one like me; let’s embrace the path we’re on and be determined to make it the “best version of the next step that we can!”