Category Archives: Blog

Big Buts

 

“Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” Psalm 86:11 (ESV)

Do you have a big but? (Sometimes I crack myself up!) Well, I do! Today, while praying during my devotions, I earnestly told God that I desired to be radically used by Him.  The words however, were not yet off my tongue before I felt a tightening in my chest and breath caught in my throat. Yep, there it was.  I knew it and God definitely knew it because it’s been in my prayers before.  

My BIG BUT…….

Wanting to be used by God, to hear his calling and answer, IS my sincere desire BUT:  I want to do it without leaving my comfort zone, sacrificing too much, or suffering in the process.  In other words, I want to do God’s work BUT do it MY way!  

Do you remember the “Parable of the Talents”?  (Matthew 25:14-30)  Jesus told his listeners a story about a man who gave his servants some of his money to take care of in his absence.  Two of the servants used the money they’d been given to make more for their master.  The last servant was afraid to take a risk…he had a “big but” if you will; and so, he buried the coins only to return what he’d been given.  I am afraid I’m an awful lot like that servant; offering a poor return on God’s investment.

God entrusts us with talents, time, money, and other gifts.  What we do with them is up to us. Will we use them to serve God or will we, ME, make excuses or let fear keep us from doing what He asks of us?  

So, what’s a gal with a BIG BUT to do? I don’t have it all figured out yet but here’s where I need to start:

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God.  May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on firm footing.” Psalm 143:10 (NIV) (emphasis mine)

Did you catch that? We’re not supposed to do it on our own! (You’d think I’d learn by now). It’s God’s instruction and guidance we need to depend on to make the task before us  attainable. It’s also important to be willing to put one foot in front of the other and “walk the walk” in our everyday lives to prepare us for all God calls us to do. I’m certainly not there yet and it won’t happen all at once, but I believe with prayer, practice, perseverance, and taking baby steps as I follow after God, my BIG but will shrink until it disappears from my prayers all together. I look forward to the time when it’s finally “behind” me! (Get it? behind? I did it again!) How about you? Is your BIG BUT getting in the way of doing all God calls you to do? I pray that this may be the first step for you AND me on our “but-free” journey to doing God’s will God’s way!     

 

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A Divided Heart ~Wise Wednesday 6/28/17

“When a child is born, so are grandmothers.” ~Judith Levy Pixabay

Divided: separated; shared; to diverge; cleave………..

I have decided that being a grandparent causes you to suffer from a “divided heart”. Beginning at the instant you learn your child is having a child, it’s as if a magnetic force immediately draws your thoughts, dreams, prayers, and overwhelming love in the direction of that tiny, beating heart, hidden from the world. 

Fast forward to that breathless moment when the miracle that will call you “MiMi” (replace this with whatever your grands call you or will call you) is placed in your arms.  Everything else fades away. Cradling this precious armful, older heart to brand new heart, it seems they beat in unison, filling a place you didn’t know was empty, and nothing is ever the same again.

Time is both precious and tormenting. The longer you want to savor the sight, breathe in the scent, and caress the tiny fingers and toes of this new person in your life; the faster the minutes, hours, and days seem fly by. All too soon you’re faced with saying goodbye. Your stomach clenches.  Tears flow.  A heart divides.

A temporary condition?  Afraid not. A one time thing? Nope! Carson is two now: my heart?  Still  pulled in different directions.  We’ve recently been blessed with Owen: my heart? The chasm has grown.   The struggle is real! While my very being wants to wipe every tear, experience every milestone, calm every fear, and read bedtime stories every night with my grandsons; I’m also drawn home. My normal: the routine, responsibilities, schedule, and those that wait for me, beckon. Yes, a heart divided….wanting to cling to one place while yearning for the other.

Pondering this heart situation, it has occurred to me that we suffer in a similar way as Christians.  

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
Colossians 3:1-2 (NIV)

Above?  Earthly Things? Earthly things? Above? A heart divided! I  often find myself torn between a heart that is focused on me and my wants and one that is looking to follow God’s plan for my life. Maybe you do, too. And while we want to be home with Christ, where our fears will be calmed and our tears wiped away; to get there, we are faced with saying goodbye to THIS home. We cling to our earthly life and yet yearn for Heaven. Thank goodness God sent Jesus to bridge the gap of our broken hearts! Jesus said:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You believe in God; believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.” “I am the way the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 14:1-4, 6-7 (NIV)

I wasn’t prepared for the powerful love that comes with being a grandparent. I’m blessed to only live four hours away from the boys and technology helps keep us connected in-between visits.  Goodbyes will always be hard. As my heart continues to pull me in different directions, I pray it reminds me to always stay connected to the One who, with the greatest love of all, is preparing a place for me where my heart will be divided no more.

 

 

 

 

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M’m! M’m! Monday 5/8/17

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10(NLT)

Container Problem

 I have a container problem!  It never fails! When I go to pick out a container for the left overs from dinner, I almost always come back with a dish that’s too big for the amount of food I have.  On top of that….I’ve usually picked up and put down three or four different sizes before deciding on the one that ultimately ends up being too big!  Nine times out of ten, I don’t have what it takes to fill the container I picked to do the job. 

You know? Sometimes I feel the same way about myself!  (Yes, I’m comparing my Rubbermaid and Tupperware to life, now!) Stay with me….There are times when I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to do something but I’m afraid I don’t have enough…enough wisdom, enough energy, enough courage, enough whatever to fill the position or to do the job and so I. Don’t. Do. It.  Ever been there?  

Just like digging in my container cupboard looking for the right fit, I sort through in my mind  sizing up all the other people who I think would be better able to fill the need. The problem is: no one has started that book study that I’ve felt compelled to start, the idea to provide a free lunch for those in need remains just that, an idea, and opening my house as a gathering place? A big dream waiting to be fulfilled. 

Here’s what I’m learning. It’s not about me! (I know, I know. You’ve heard this before.  You should know by now I’m a slow learner!) All throughout the Bible we find people who believe they aren’t at all suited to do what God asks them to do.  Some of them tell God He’s making a mistake, some tell Him to find someone else, and some even run in the opposite direction. Me? I sit in my chair and think about what God wants me to do.   God reassured those He chose that He’d be with them and would provide all they needed until they’d become a perfectly filled vessel for the job. 

“By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.  We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of His marvelous glory and excellence.” 2 Peter 1:3(NLV)

It’s the same for you and me.  We can be confident that if God is calling us to do something, He has chosen us because with Him we will be the right fit for the job.  We may have to step out of our comfort zone (talking to myself here). It may require more faith than we’re used to. It might just be plain scary! But, in the end when we open ourselves to God’s calling, trusting in Him to give us what we need; we may just find we are a match with what He’s prepared us to do…..just like the right lid for the perfect container!  Oh dear, don’t get me started on my problem finding the right lid……

Instead, let me share with you a delicious recipe where the bites are small and the flavor is big! A perfect combination to me! Hope it “fits” into your dinner menu soon! 

Steak Bites

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs. top sirloin steak
  • 1/2 c. low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 c. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbls. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 Tbls. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. black pepper

Instructions

  • Place all ingredients except steak in a Zip Lock Bag.
  • Stir to combine.
  • Cut steak into one inch pieces. Trim fat.
  • Drop steak in to bag and seal shut. Shake and squeeze gently to coat steak with marinade.
  • Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to 24.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat until skillet is very hot.
  • Remove steak pieces from bag using a slotted spoon and place them in hot skillet.
  • Throw marinade away.
  • Cook steak according to your desired temperature. Stir occasionally. Medium is approximately 3 minutes. (I like mine well so cooked them 5-6 minutes)
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Ezekiel’s Journey

“Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.” Psalm 25:4-5 (NLT) Pixabay

Miracles of Living Hope

Marilyn Uhl will be the first to tell you that establishing and running Living Hope High School in Bungoma, Kenya couldn’t 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 when even 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 true stories of the miraculous ways God is working in the lives of Marilyn and her students.

Eziekiel’s Journey

Most of us cannot imagine living in the world that Ezekiel was living in during the post-election violence of 2007.  His whole country had erupted into tribal warfare, corruption was rampant, and no one could be trusted. At the time, Ezekiel’s parents were teaching their children the family business of preparing alcohol to sell to customers. It was a dangerous business, not one suited for children; but was the means of survival for them all.  Thankfully, Ezekiel’s parents also believed in the importance of school, so he had attended elementary classes and was excited to enter 7th grade with his friends, but… a brutal attack changed everything.

Ezekiel’s family lived in a mud and grass hut on land bordering another tribe.  It would be that tribe who would take everything from Ezekiel.  The tribal leaders decided they wanted the land the family owned and so in the dark of night, they surrounded the small home and set the roof on fire.  Ezekiel’s father was the first to confront the trespassers.  He was killed immediately.  His mother then ran from the home and Ezekiel watched in horror as she was dragged, screaming into the bush never to be seen again.  As the roof of the hut began to collapse, the children had no choice but to leave the “safety” of the hut, too.  Miraculously, the attacking tribesmen weren’t interested in the kids. With fear propelling them, they scattered into the pitch-black night.

Separated from what was left of his family and with no way to communicate with his brothers and sisters, Ezekiel decided to try and make it to his Uncle who lived on the family home place. It would be a long, hard journey.  Ezekiel was thirteen and his life had been violently ripped from him.  Getting to his Uncle was the only way he could see to start a new life and so he began to walk. He walked all day and hid himself along the road to sleep at night.  He walked and walked and walked some more all the while trying not to think about how hungry he was. Terrorized by the memories of what had happened to his family, exhausted, with no food, no money, he continued to put one foot in front of the other.  Ezekiel will tell you that he didn’t know Jesus at this time so he wasn’t praying, but hope still arrived in the form of a rumbling sound behind him.  He knew the approaching truck would take him into town.  In a split second, just as the truck passed by, Ezekiel leapt onto the back of the semi and held on for his very life!  Once on, he knew he couldn’t safely get off until the truck came to a stop; so there he was, a young boy, weak from hunger, clinging with all his might as the truck made its way over bumps and around curves in the small hope that he was on the final leg of his journey to a new life.When the truck finally arrived at its destination, Ezekiel literally fell off the back. He’d held on to the truck for so long he could hardly stand.  It had taken him two weeks to get to this point and he was exhausted, but from deep within, Ezekiel found his strength and finally made it to his Uncle’s home.

Ezekiel settled in and returned to school.  He was informed that he would have to repeat Grade 6 but he never gave up because he knew that education was important. Ezekiel moved on to High School.  He hadn’t been able to pay the fees but the teachers let him attend until he could get the money.  At the end of the second term Ezekiel still was unable to pay and so the school sent him home.

In the time Ezekiel had spent with his Uncle, he’d come to know and accept Jesus as his Savior.  As time passed and it looked like school wouldn’t be possible, Ezekiel’s Uncle reminded him not to worry, but rather to pray. And pray he did.  One evening Ezekiel’s Uncle went with friends to a wedding.  While traveling back and forth his Uncle learned of Living Hope High School and the help they provide for students who can’t afford an education.  Hearing this, Ezekiel’s prayers increased.  Waiting was hard but he knew his journey wasn’t over.  January turned into April and finally Ezekiel was asked to go to Living Hope for an interview. He soon received his admission letter and found himself a student at Living Hope High School. Ezekiel was dedicated to learning as much as he could both in his subjects and about the Bible, all the while thanking God for the miracle of continuing his education.

Ezekiel’s journey was difficult.  It was long.  It wasn’t the one he’d ever planned to take, and yet, he is right where he’s meant to be! He graduated from Living Hope High School and now is studying Dentistry at the University.  Ezekiel says he was lost, but God found him and step by step led him to his future. He now plans to use his skills as a dentist to give back to his community. More than that though, it is Ezekiel’s greatest hope to tell everyone he meets his story about God and all that He has done; inviting them (and now you) to join him on the miraculous journey that leads to everlasting life!

“So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do?  Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.  When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’” Luke 15:3-6 (NLT)

copyright Living Hope High School, Bungoma, Kenya

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

Wise Wednesday ~ 3/8/17

“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”‘
Matthew 19:14 (NIV)

Time With Carson

My soul can get weary.  Been there? For me, it’s the striving I think.  Maybe it’s the same for you or maybe something else takes its toll on your soul. No matter how it gets that way, having a drained soul weighs you down. Joy is hard to find. Peace seems out of reach. And the energy to love as we should? Not there, disconnected, out of order.

I found myself in just such a place not too long ago. While blessings abounded around me, inside that most sacred place I felt hollow. It’s not that I’m ungrateful for all I have or don’t recognize God working in my life: I am and I do.  It may be those very things that shout and echo against the walls of my tired soul; “God has abundantly blessed you so Do more! Be more!” And then I don’t……I’m not…..My soul sighs.

It so happens that at the very time my soul felt depleted, I was privileged to babysit my wonderful grandson, Carson!  It may have appeared that I was taking care of him, but from milk and Mickey first thing in the morning until bedtime stories and goodnight prayers at the end of the day, Carson was mending my soul.

“And he said:  “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3 (NIV)

Who’d have guessed that playing at the park, throwing sticks in a pond, or a walk along the creek would revive my tired soul? I watched as he stooped low to get an up close look at moss growing on a rock, spotted a bird gliding high across the sky, laughed at leaves on the wind, nestled in a pile of well loved blankets to fall asleep, and when afraid to go down the slide alone? He kept his eyes on me, let go of the sides, and sailed down into my waiting arms!

“Change and become like little children.” My time with Carson reminded me to: like him, engage in the world around me, find joy in little things, rest in the knowledge that I am loved, and most importantly:  to take my eyes off myself, loosen the grip I have on wanting control, and trust that even when I’m not sure what’s waiting for me; I know WHO’s waiting for me!

Children really DO heal our souls if we’ll only watch, listen, and learn to humble ourselves to become more like them.  Of course, this MiMi thinks Carson is the cutest, smartest, strongest, most talented child of all! (I’m sure you know one of those too!) When he puts his little hand in mine and looks up at me with his perfect tiny toothed grin my heart overflows with unconditional love and I want nothing more than to be sure he knows he’s treasured! And isn’t that just like God? He waits for us to put our hand with childlike wonder in his, look to him, and to know without a doubt that we are precious and loved.  To become more like a child, HIS child……now that’s refreshing to the soul!

M’m! M’m! Monday 2/6/17 ~ A Gathering Place

“For where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them.” Matthew 18:20 (NIV)

Time has passed. It’s been months since my last M’m! M’m! Monday!  A lot has sure happened.  And now, here I am at one of my favorite places in our new house:  My “sit down, catch up, tell stories, laugh, play games, decorate cookies, dine, and type a blog post table”.  OK, ok, we’ll just call it the dining room table for short.

I love everything about this spot!  I love the long table, comfortable chairs, the inviting colors,  rustic textures, and the soft light that filters through the curtains.  I love that it’s the center of our home.  But most of all, I love that it beckons to be gathered in.

A gathering place. A place where friendship is offered, love is shared, and memories made.  Where new recipes are served, celebrations had, and plans are formed.  A place to talk over the day, remember times past, and hope for tomorrow. A place where hands are held, heads are bowed, and prayers are said.

There seem to be so many things pulling people apart these days. It saddens me. I worry about our future.  What if instead of moving further apart, we made more of an effort to get together, to create more gathering places? What if the line at the grocery store, the bleachers in the gym, or the waiting room at the dentist office could become a place of camaraderie and encouragement?  It doesn’t take a “sit down, catch up, tell stories, laugh, play games, decorate cookies, dine, and type a blog post table” to create a gathering place; it just takes a smile, an outstretched hand, or a kind word to draw others in.

Our new home is such a blessing to us.  I don’t want it to stop there though.  The desire of my heart is for it to be a gathering place; a place where others feel served and treasured, find respite and renewal, and feel just as blessed to be here, as I do!

And now here is an easy recipe that’s sure to bring them to the table!  You can’t go wrong with Oreos!

Oreo Cheesecakes

Ingredients

  • 22 Oreo cookies
  • 2-8 oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp.vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
  • Place 16 paper liners in muffin tins.
  • Put one whole Oreo in the bottom of each lined cup.
  • In a large bowl, use a mixer to beat the cream cheese until it's smooth. Add the sugar and beat until combined. Mix in the vanilla and the add the eggs until blended. Beat in the sour cream and salt. Do not overmix.
  • Coarsely chop the 6 Oreos that are left and stir in to the cream cheese mixture.
  • Divide the batter among the cookie-lined cups filling each almost to the top.
  • Bake until the filling is set, about 22 minutes.
  • Transfer to wire racks to cool completely inside the muffin tins.
  • Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight before serving.
  • *I topped each individual cheesecake with some whipped cream and a little crushed Oreo to serve.
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Stanley’s Dream

 

Miracles of Living Hope

Marilyn Uhl will be the first to tell you that establishing and running Living Hope High School in Bungoma, Kenya couldn’t 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 when even 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 true stories of the miraculous ways God is working in the lives of Marilyn and her students.

“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (ESV) Pixabay

Stanley’s Dream

It’s unlikely that you or I could navigate the narrow, winding paths that lead through the bush-covered interior outside Bungoma to find the small, isolated house where Stanley’s story begins.  He was the first born of four children to proud parents who encouraged them in all they did. The family worked hard on their small farm to survive and while they were rich in love, there was very little money.

Stanley enjoyed school and excelled in his high school courses but as the time drew near for his final exam, he faced a cold, hard truth.  As much as his parents desired to help him, they just didn’t have the funds; so Stanley did the only thing he knew to do: he prayed.  He prayed fervently.  He prayed continually.  He prayed right up into the evening before the registration money was due and still he had no answer.  As the family sat down that night for supper something unusual happened.  They were startled by a knock at their door.  Much to Stanley’s surprise, and an answer to his prayer, there stood one of his teachers. This teacher recognized the potential in Stanley and told him that he would pay his school registration fees enabling him to finish high school and take his exam.  Stanley immediately began praising God and thanking his teacher.  Songs of rejoicing filled the tiny home.

As often happens in life, rejoicing turned to sorrow as Stanley experienced a crushing blow.  His father unexpectedly passed away.  Seeing an opportunity, Stanley’s uncle swooped in and offered to help the family by taking Stanley to live with him.  Stanley’s life would never be the same.  Outside the uncle’s kitchen was an old side shed that at times had been used to house cows and chickens.  It was small, dark, had a stench, and now was Stanley’s room.  He soon learned that he was expected to be his uncle’s house boy receiving no pay in return.  He worked all day: cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and caring for his small cousins.  The only food Stanley got each day were the few sips or nibbles he was able to sneak as he prepared the family’s meals.  Stanley was now a slave but he never stopped praying for the dream he held deep in his heart to somehow come true.

Days turned into weeks and weeks became years when one day while Stanley was doing chores he noticed a woman moving into the duplex next door to his uncle’s.  He soon learned that Marilyn was a teacher and administrator at her own school: Living Hope. They quickly became friends and he shared with Marilyn that he’d been with his uncle for six years and in that time he’d prayed every single day for God to provide a way for his dream to be realized.  Having never shared the words aloud with anyone before, they felt strange crossing his tongue as he confided in Marilyn that his dream was to be a teacher too. He revealed  that somehow he’d always known he was supposed to be a teacher even though he could see absolutely no way for it to happen.

Other than praying, Stanley had no idea what it would take to make his dream of teaching a reality; so Marilyn sent him on his bike to the small teaching college in town.  The trip home seemed to take much longer than the trip to the school as he now carried the heavy burden of knowing he’d never experience the joy of being a teacher.  Up until now, he had no idea what college would cost and it was just too expensive, especially for someone who had nothing!

But “nothing” didn’t describe what Stanley had because He. Had. God.  AND God had a plan! We’re promised God hears our prayers so when Stanley needed a miracle a teacher arrived on his doorstep. When Marilyn needed a place to live, she miraculously found an answer in the duplex next door to Stanley.  Now, Stanley needed a way to make his dream of being a teacher more than a dream and he was about to find his miraculous answer in Marilyn!

When Marilyn saw the look of defeat on Stanley’s face her heart was moved. It didn’t take her long to offer to pay his tuition for the first semester and buy all the supplies he’d need; but she told him that after that God would have to handle the rest. And handle it He did!

Stanley flourished at college but at the end of the semester, as expected, he was out of money and at the time so was Marilyn.  Prayers were lifted once again, and Marilyn’s sister stepped in when she realized how troubled Marilyn was about Stanley’s situation and her inability to continue to help him.  She provided for Stanley so that he could finish his two year program and receive his Associates Degree.  It was a bittersweet achievement as Stanley found himself in the exact spot he’d been in time and time again…holding on to the dream of being a teacher, having no money, and praying fervently for God to make a way.  Meanwhile, Marilyn was home in West Virginia traveling from church to church speaking about Living Hope High School.  While at Faith United Methodist Church, she felt compelled to tell Stanley’s story.  As church dismissed, coming up from the back of the church, a couple approached Marilyn.  They’d been so moved by Stanley’s story that they pledged to support him through his final two years of college.

Knowing his teacher, Marilyn, her sister, and the family from Faith Church were answers to his constant prayers, Stanley never took their gifts to him for granted.  He worked diligently to make his dream come true and graduated with his teaching certification!

Some would say that Marilyn’s moving next door to Stanley’s uncle was a coincidence.  Marilyn, Stanley, and now you, know differently.  God works out His plans for us in miraculous, unexpected ways.  They may not happen just as we imagine or on our time table, but He works them out for our best.  You see, Stanley’s story doesn’t end here….He is now the Head Administrator and Marilyn’s most trusted employee at Living Hope High School! God sent Marilyn to Stanley and she will tell you that Stanley is a Godsend to her. Neither could do what they do without the other. Now, I’d say that’s a dream come true!

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28 (NLT)

copyright Living Hope High School, Bungoma, Kenya

For more information on Living Hope High School, go to www.livinghopehighschool.org or call Helen Markwell at 304-567-2254.

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!

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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