Category Archives: Inspiration

Silence (Is Golden) ~ Five Minute Friday

“LISTEN & SILENT are spelled with the same letters. Think about it.” / Pixabay

Time Starts Now:

I’m a talker. I love to tell stories, to think aloud.  Several years ago I was riding in the car with my husband and father-in-law; chatting as I normally do when it was suggested that I couldn’t be quiet for a designated period of time.  What? The gauntlet was thrown and the challenge accepted! Not only did I proclaim I could be silent for that period of time, but rather for the entire trip! The prize if I succeeded? My father-in-law had to buy me flowers.  I’ll have you know I won that contest….well… sort of……when the flowers finally arrived, the note on the card simply said: “Silence is Golden“!

I now believe there’s more truth to that statement than I was willing to admit to back then. Recently, I’ve come to realize that when someone’s sharing their situation with me, my first instinct is to open my mouth and tell my version of their experience or to offer my solution. Neither of which were asked for.  Thankfully, I’m now learning to keep the noise in my head from tumbling across my tongue and to just listen instead. “Silence is Golden“!

My quiet time with God also tends to be anything but quiet! When I try to be silent before the Lord, song lyrics may start singing in my head or my grocery list appears out of nowhere and I begin to talk my way through it. Before you know it, I’ve filled the Holy Space I wanted with racket that I could do without!  Tell me I’m not alone! “He leads me beside still waters”. “Be still and know.” You see?  God’s been trying to teach me that “Silence is Golden” all along.  Now all I have to do is listen.  I think I’ll take that challenge! How about you?

Time’s up!

 

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Refine ~ 30/31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes

“Bless our God, O peoples, and sound His praise abroad, Who keeps us in life and does not allow our feet to slip. For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined. Psalm 66:8-10 (NASV) / Pixabay

I’ve discovered that editing is something I enjoy. I have an author friend who recently trusted me to fine-tune her latest book.  Looking closely at writing to find just the right place to pause, adding the perfect words to produce the greatest impact, and yes, to eliminate what’s unnecessary are jobs I like to do……for others, that is!

Having my own writing corrected is another story.  It can be difficult to receive feedback about the places that need improvement, to see lines crossed out that when written, seemed so right, and to find characters dear to my heart noted to be underdeveloped.  Each red mark feels as if it’s written directly on my heart. Every author knows that editing is vital if you’re going to improve as a writer.  As painful as it may be, the process results in a much better finished product.

That brings me to today’s prompt: “refine”.  It’s not a word we want to think about because like editing words on a page, we need refining to progress. Refinement evokes thoughts of intense heat to remove impurities, fervent cleansing to get rid of stains, and the smoothing and shaping of any rough edges.  Every Christian knows that those often are the result of going through difficult circumstances. Painful as it may be, we also understand that refinement is vital if we’re going to become the “much better” person God designed us to be.

I don’t know about you but when I’m in the fire, I often find myself bargaining with God, making promises of change if He will just remove the heat.  Refining is aimed at our heart and its fine-tuning isn’t something we can accomplish on our own. It takes trust in God’s process. He may show us where we should pause and rest, teach us how to develop our character, or identify those things we need to eliminate so that we’ll have a greater impact on others; whatever it is, we are assured that the Author will continue to write our story until we are refined like silver, His pure and precious finished product.

Follow ~ 29/31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes

“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” 1 Peter 2:21 (NIV) / Pixabay

My husband is having a cowboy themed Halloween at work.  So in keeping with that idea, I followed a new recipe today for the Former First Lady Laura Bush’s prize winning “Cowboy Cookies”.  She has experienced victory with her combination of ingredients and those that have  tried them have shared their rave reviews!  You would assume then, to get the same positive results it would make sense ( she was the First Lady after all) for me to adhere to her instructions step-by-step. But, you would assume wrong.  Oh, it would’ve made sense; but no,….thinking I knew best; I deviated from the proven method still expecting the same (or better) results!

Ever have the lightbulb suddenly come on when you haven’t been the brightest? Well, that’s exactly what happened to me. As soon as I went my own way instead of following the plan laid out for me, I realized it may not have been the best idea. And in that moment, I recognized that I often make the same mistake in my Christian life, too! Sheesh! These lessons just keep coming at me!

How many times have I, knowing God’s “recipe” for life is perfect, veered off in my own direction because I wanted what I thought was best? Ever been there? I don’t know about you, but for me it’s more times than I’d like to admit.  I tell myself, “a little extra of this won’t hurt” or “less time on that can’t make that much difference” and even “I don’t need to add this to my life at all!” As you might guess, the results fail to meet my expectations.

When Jesus said, “follow me” to the disciples, He expected them to follow Him all the way to the cross. His plan for each of us is exactly the same. Recognizing that Jesus died so that we might live and sharing that with others offers the BEST possible results.  So, the next time we’re tempted to alter our way, we must remind ourselves that God’s already given us the winning combination; we need only to keep our eyes on the Prize and follow Him step-by-step to true victory!

 

 

Connect ~ 28/31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes

“I call out to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy mountain.” Psalm 3:4 (NIV) / Pixabay

My mom and sisters are together today in Michigan and I’m home in West Virginia.  Days like today are hard on me as I’m far away from the women who’ve loved me the longest. I can’t believe I’ve lived 500 miles from them for 35 years now!  We’ve talked about those times when we were all young mothers and weren’t able to connect with one another very often.  Back then our only options where calling long distance….but who had the extra money….or writing letters……but who had time! We missed out on a lot of each others’ lives and when we finally got together? Non-stop talking to try and catch up! 

Now, here we are.  Our children are grown and on their own and I have grandchildren!  We’ve come a long way and so has staying connected.  I’m so thankful for texting, cell phone calls, and Face Time.  Technology today helps bridge the miles so that sharing the big events and little moments keeps us close even though we’re hours apart. And when we finally get together? Still non-stop talking!

 I long for connection.  I ache for time with my grandsons and family, but also with my friends and those in my church .  It goes even further than that as a writer because I also yearn for a connection with those who read my thoughts and reflections. I don’t know about you, but being separated leaves me feeling depleted and isolated.

You know? The same is true about our relationship with God. It’s so easy to let ourselves become detached.  Busy lives, difficult circumstances, relationships, or our priorities can cause us to become disconnected from the One who has truly loved us the longest! Talk about depleted and isolated!

I’ve issued a connection challenge to myself, maybe you’ll want to join in.  Am I (Are we) seeking God’s message as often as a text? Looking forward to being one on one with Him as much as with those with whom we Face Time? Spending the same amount (if not more) time in conversation  with God as with the contacts in our phone? I can tell you, I have some changes to make!

God designed us with the desire for connection with others, but more importantly with Him; so He sent Jesus to die for you and me, giving us free access to His direct line.  No dead batteries. No glitches in the internet. No blocked calls. He’s anxiously waiting for us to finally put down our phones, call out, and connect with Him. And just a little reminder to myself:  When we get together? Less talking and a lot more listening!  Just say’in………………..

 

I’m glad to “connect” with you today!  It’s hard to believe this 31 Day Challenge is about over!  If you’d like to read more thoughts on connecting go to http://www.fiveminutefriday.com

 

Change ~ 26/31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes

 

“Don’t 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)

Thinking about change today has brought several things to mind: changing diapers, changing the sheets on the bed, changing appointments, changing the toilet paper roll….none of these are things I love. I’m not surprised though, because my relationship with change has always been a little challenging, ok, maybe a lot challenging!

I like an even keel, status quo, comfort zone kind of life! The familiar is my safety net. And then out of nowhere, along comes change. It pulls back my net , lets go, and flings me kicking and screaming into the unknown!

Have you ever watched a caterpillar become a butterfly?  Every year my Second Graders and I would collect Monarch Caterpillars, put them in a large pickle jar I kept in the classroom, filled it with Milkweed, and then waited. Each day we’d watch for any sign that would signal a change. Then sure enough, a brave caterpillar would climb up the ruler in the jar, attach itself, and hang upside down. I spent many evenings sitting with my lesson plans and papers to grade in front of that jar observing the process.  When it’s close to the time for the caterpillar to become a chrysalis, it begins writhing to and fro. It flings itself back and forth just as if it’s kicking and screaming against the unknown! And then, in a blink of an eye it is encased in a green tomb.

I so feel that those caterpillars and I have been kindred spirits.  Change has turned my world upside down, too.  My mind has twisted and squirmed until I’ve wrapped myself in worry and felt enveloped with fear.

“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly.” (Richard Bach)

 I’ve written other blog posts on change and now this one today, it’s becoming clear that God is teaching me something. I don’t know about you but maybe you’re with me and it’s time for us to change how we view change! Yes, it can be painful and it can be scary but instead of seeing it as an ending, I’m learning we need to embrace change as a beginning. Regret creeps in when I think about all I might have missed because I was attached to status quo.  You too? What if leaving our comfort zone and being flung into change is what it takes to teach us to fly?

So, to end I’m going to bravely test my wings and begin to transform my thinking about change.  “That brings several things to mind:” changing from working to being retired, changing into “MiMi”, changing from old house to new, and changing to become what the Master calls me to be! All of these are things I love! Now that’s a change!!!!

How about you?  Will you too, share a few changes you love in the comments below?  I can’t wait to see you soar!!!

 

 

 

 

 

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Work and Revise ~ 23&24/31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes

Well, this rule follower is stretching the rules today. I’m combining two days into one post to finally catch up.  I might as well admit it now, I’ll probably stretch the five minute limit too….

“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:4-7 (ESV) / Pixabay

“Work harder!” “Do better!” “Don’t fail!”  This was my mantra for many years.  Those of you who are close to me or who have read some of my blog know that I’m a recovering perfectionist.  For oh so long, I believed that I had to earn the love and approval of others and God.  I guess we all know how that worked out!  The harder I tried, the more I failed, so the harder I tried.  It was an exhausting vicious circle! Attempting to be a flawless daughter, teacher, wife, mother, friend, and Christian seemed right to me, but always impossible. So of course, I concluded that I’d just have to continue to work harder to measure up!

Enter God and a circle of Christian friends!

Joining a small group changed everything!  There I learned that I needed to revise my thinking and the way I was living. What a relief it was to finally understand that I. Absolutely. Will. Never. Be. Good. Enough! It’s a large learning curve for a works girl to believe, live, and become a grace girl! It takes a lot of editing! Rewriting the dialog in my head, deleting my “saved by works” attitude, and amending my focus from what I can do myself to what God has already done, is definitely an on-going process.

Jesus went to the cross because you and I cannot do anything on our own to be worthy of eternal life.  I’d be lying if I said it’s easy for this perfectionist extraordinaire to let go of her ways. Maybe you can relate. I take comfort in, and you can too, that each of us is a work in progress.  Revisions are required. But, what peace it brings to know that we can trust God, the true Author of our story, to complete it to perfection!

 

Light 22/31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5 (NIV) / Pixabay

You might find this strange, but one of the things this city girl had to adjust to when I moved to rural West Virginia was how dark it was at night.  I know, I know night is supposed to be dark but when the sun goes down here, it is DARK!

The unfamiliar inky blackness of living in the midst of farmland and the shadows of  mountains is quite unsettling when you’re used to street lamps, neon signs, and porch lights illuminating the way. It wasn’t until my then fiancée went home with me that he finally understood dark and DARK!

As with so much of this beautiful place I now call home, I’ve come to love the DARK.  Why you ask? Because in the DARK you can see the light!  The night sky here is a spectacular sight!  Standing in my yard on a clear evening, the brightest lights around are the stars, planets, and  Milky Way shining down from the vast heavens. I’d never have experienced this amazing light show had I not stood in the DARK.

Isn’t life just like that?  As much as we (I) don’t want to venture into those DARK,  we can’t see how everything’s going to turn out places; that’s exactly where we experience the beauty of light.  It may be a flicker, but in the DARK a flicker is all it takes to brighten our way.  Maybe it’s a meal provided by a friend, a card or phone call, flowers, a visit, or an offered prayer. When it feels we’ll never find our way out of the DARK, God uses the love of those around us to begin to lead us step by step into the light. It isn’t easy.  We may stumble, fall, and lose our way as we struggle to leave DARK behind.  But, life’s taught me that God doesn’t leave us to find the way on our own. Once we emerge from the DARK we are then able to look back and see that His Light was guiding us all along! And the amazing thing? His Light will continue to shine, leading us Home where finally, DARK will be no more!

 

 

 

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Give ~ 21/31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes

Weekends are always a challenge for me where writing is concerned, so once again I’m a little behind on my 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes…… I’m going to “give” it a try to get caught up!

Time Starts Now!

“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. Ezekiel 36:26 / Pixabay

Have you ever considered giving up everything you’ve known and are comfortable with in order to follow God’s call?  My friend Marilyn did exactly that.  After a mission trip to teach gardening skills, Marilyn came home, left her Principal position, sold her house, truck, and most of her possessions so she could get on a plane that took her to a new life in Bungoma, Kenya and eventually to establishing Living Hope High School.  Getting there took miracle after miracle and Marilyn’s journey is inspiring beyond belief!  (you can read her entire story here at myseaofthought) 

As much as I admire Marilyn and all she’s accomplished, I cannot see myself giving in that same way! Can you? That being said, I know that if God has a plan like that for my life or yours; He’ll prepare and give us what we need to be willing to go where He leads.  But, here’s an amazing thing about God; He doesn’t gift us all with the same things or lead us on the same paths.  Each of us has our own unique way to answer God’s call.

I wish I could say that I know exactly what mission God has for me, but I don’t.  I do believe though, that each of our journeys begin with us giving our whole heart over to God.  Not just the parts we’re comfortable with (I’m sure guilty of that) but to be willing to offer every fiber of who we are to Him to use as He wills.  I don’t know about you, but that’s scary to me!  At the same time it’s exciting to see what He can accomplish through this hesitant gal! So, are we willing to give up everything for God?  I pray we are. After all, long ago, He gave up His “Everything” on a cross, Just. For.You. And. Me.

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Discover ~ 20/31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes

Linking up today on http://www.fiveminutefridays.com

The prompt for 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes/Five Minute Friday is “discover”. I’m looking forward to seeing where that leads!

Time starts now!

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.”Psalm 23:1-2 (NIV) The Big Muskie Bucket

I used to be a “take the shortest, quickest route to get me there” kinda gal.  Life was busy.  My schedule full.  I didn’t want to meander my moments away. Funny how time changes things!  Now, you’ll find me on a quest to discover every two-lane back road to travel on, not worried about the minutes or miles it adds to the trip.

To visit my family in Michigan, we’ve driven on the highways through Ohio many times, but not long ago, my husband and I decided to take a jaunt on the country roads instead.  Was it a slower trip? Yes!  Take longer? Yep! Did we enjoy every minute? Most definitely!  On that relaxed journey we delighted in the fall countryside, the pristine farmland, and quaint small towns. We also discovered two extremes:  the smallest church in Ohio and the Big Muskie Bucket!  To this day, that leisurely , scenic drive is one of our fondest memories!

My grandparents always told me that the older you get, the faster time goes by. They weren’t kidding!  Life still get busy and my schedule full, but I’m learning to slow down in the midst of it all to discover and savor the gifts God is presenting me in those moments!  Maybe it’s as simple as the smile of a stranger, light reflecting on the dew, a leaf twirling on the breeze, or as precious as a grandchild’s touch: things we easily miss when we focus on our shortest, quickest route to take us from one day to the next. We can’t go back but I wish I’d realized sooner that discovering the little things tucked inside the big things are much more important than the tasks on my to-do list.  So now, big or small, I’m anxious to discover all God has in store for this “take it slower, enjoy the scenery, soak in the moments” kinda gal!

 

 

 

Brave ~ 19/31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes

Brave is the prompt for today’s Five Minute Free Write.  I don’t consider myself to be brave (I wish I was) but I am surrounded by those being brave everyday!  Here’s my five minute definition of “Brave”. Needless to say, I could go on and on but…..

Time starts now!

 

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” Philippians 1:20 (NIV) / Pixabay

B eginning a new life, not by choice but necessity.

R aising three girls on your own.

A nswering God’s call to go where He leads.

V isiting aging parents even when they don’t remember your name.

E ntering the military with the world in turmoil.

 

B elieving in your dreams when no one else does.

R eturning hate with kindness.

A ccepting opportunities outside your comfort zone.

V enturing into a classroom day in and day out.

E nduring the unexpected with grace.

What’s your definition of “Brave”?  I would love for you to add your own examples in the comments below!