Around the Bend

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The woods that my Labrador and I walk in on a daily basis just threw us our annual curveball. Throughout the winter and early spring, we have been able to see far ahead through the leafless trees. Being able to know exactly what was ahead gave us a sense of security, comfort, and control. In the last couple of days, the leaves have matured to full capacity and have blinded us to whom or what might be around the next bend on our winding path.

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These newly flaunted leaves bring a touch of the unknown to our morning ritual and the unknown brings a bit of anxiousness. My dog likes to run ahead to make sure that the coast is clear. Lately, she has been giving me this look like “Oh my gosh something big is ahead of us… Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” (Yes, we are one of those families where the dogs are almost considered people.) With our sight impaired, we walk more cautiously. If we sense danger, do we retreat, change direction or proceed ahead?

Our path is traveled by hikers, cyclists, runners and dogs of all shapes, sizes and temperaments. (Note: the temperament of the dog often matches that of their owner) and the woods are inhabited by all sorts of creatures great and small. Only occasionally is there any kind of strange animal threat. A few years ago a bear was spotted around our neighbor’s bird feeder. (Very rare) Last year we had a coyote that stalked and attacked one of our sweet neighborhood dogs (He’s ok, in case you are worried). This morning, in broad daylight I heard an oddly, screeching fox sound getting louder and louder. I had to make a choice. Do we remain on course or do we retreat? I chose retreat, sensing that dealing with a rabid fox could put a damper on our day. I’m grateful the little fox gave us a warning.

shutterstock_111819521.jpgIn addition to the people and animal adventures, nature often delivers the unforeseen as well. Have you ever heard the old riddle: “When a tree falls in the woods when no one is around does it make a sound?” I’d say, quite confidently, yes! When walking with my kids on this same path an enormous tree suddenly toppled…BOOM! Its tippy top was about five feet in front of us. After the wow factor and thanking God for keeping us out of harm’s way, I thought… Phew! No warning. If we were ten paces further….

We don’t like to be caught “blind-sided”, we prefer to be “bright-sided”. (Good news only please!) How about an early warning system for life to give us a heads up when something scary is coming our way? But that’s not how it works, does it? When life’s toughest challenges sneak up from around the corners on your path, (poor health, death of a loved one, addiction, depression, chronic pain, divorce, wayward child, loss of a job, etc.) are you prepared? While there never is a perfect picture, a perfect life or a perfect person, there is a perfect God. It is during these precarious times in life that we most need to know and understand our faith. God’s word tells us that He will never leave us or forsake us. A friend said to me the other day, there is no better news than the “Good News”. (Amen!) When you are steeped in God’s word, the Holy Spirit is able to fill you with that lovely peace that surpasses all understanding and gives us power to endure.

This week is a good time to meditate on scripture that grounds you in your faith. No matter how dark or how bright your path seems to be, the God of love is right there with you. (Note: You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to do this.)

Write your favorite verse(s) on an index card and put it in a place where you can see it. (I will put one on my dog’s collar.)

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

“It is so strange. Everything can be going along just great, and then one day, WHACK, you’re blindsided – a lousy, crummy blow you didn’t see coming.” James Patterson, Author

“Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Thirsty?

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“These flowers are not from the hot house.” said Miss Marianne of Willoughby’s gift of wildflowers.

“Ahh, I see that my offering is not as grand as the one you already have. I’m afraid I obtained these from an obliging field.”

“Beaming with delight, Marianne replies, “I have always preferred wild flowers.”

Sense and Sensibility

Ever think you were meant for a different century? Being a Jane Austen fan, I say… “Yes, yes, a thousand times YES!” Minus all that spinster talk and women not being able to have a profession or inherit the family fortune, I would love to jump into an Austen novel. She knows how to bring us in with her dynamic and quirky characters, the poetic English language, and breathtaking landscapes. She sweeps us up and into a world of Saturday afternoon picnics on your front lawn, reed gathering for basket weaving, spying on siblings from tree houses, chasing the sunshine and, my personal favorite, picking wildflowers.

shutterstock_439136608What intrigues us about all of this? Why do I have a thirst for a time without a laptop computer and a smart phone? Could it be the raw beauty and simplicity of the picture Austen is painting? Even though most of her characters and their predicaments are anything but simple, something about it all makes me want to move to the English country side, start buying up sheep and write a thesis on why wildflowers are indeed, the superior choice in floral arrangements.

Snapping back into reality; it’s spring here in the Nation’s Capital. Native wildflowers are dotting our non-English landscape with their little hopeful spring-forward faces. My Mom and I are indulging ourselves with fresh bouquets of spring beauties, violets, and buttercup related species. We like to put them in little bud vases to cheer up our homes after winters chill. Recently, I was in a hurry and popped my two little bouquets into their vases and went on with my day. When I came back, one vase was completely wilted while the other one was perfectly beautiful. “Oh, no! I didn’t put water in that vase.” While I have had worse problems in life, I felt guilty. Sort of like Charlie Brown when he brought back the Christmas tree and, it too, wilted. “I killed it!” shutterstock_403780948After administering water and CPR, I waited. Sure enough, their thirst was quenched by the one thing necessary for their survival…water.

We all know that water is crucial for our survival as well; making up anywhere from 55% to 65% of our bodies. Without it, we will die. If we follow health guidelines, we are supposed to be drinking (8) eight-ounce glasses per day. If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Sometimes when you feel hungry, the truth is you are really just thirsty. Paying attention to our physical thirst is very much like paying attention to our spiritual thirst. Our spiritual well can run dry when too often distracted by, as Austen would say, diversions.

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There is not a day that goes by when I am not thirsty for God’s wisdom on any given subject in my life. Somedays insights flow like waterfalls; while others, radical dehydration. (Note: The parched days tend to be when I am not centered in prayer or scripture.) Are you thirsty to know God?  Good news…He is all around you!

 

In one of Jane Austen’s surviving prayers, she writes. “Thou art everywhere present, from thee no secret can be hidden. May the knowledge of this, teach us to fix our thoughts on thee, with reverence and devotion that we pray not in vain.”

 

Jesus says in Matthew 6, “Consider the lilies of the field. See how they grow. They do not labor or spin. How much more will God take care of you?”

Hold onto that this week as you tend to your spiritual well. Now go pick some wildflowers.

“And the Lord will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” Isaiah 58:11

 

“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” John 6:35

 

“The key to Christian living is a thirst and hunger for God. And one of the main reasons people do not understand or experience the sovereignty of grace and the way it works through the awakening of joy is that their hunger and thirst for God is so small.” John Piper

Eye See Now

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I was reading in my favorite chair, looking for some inspiration, when, unbeknownst to me, it was delivered in the form of an itch. A desperate need to scratch my eye lid and BAM, it happened! I poked myself smack dab in the middle of my right eye as if it were a purposeful target.

The sudden pain was so intense that I took my glasses and threw them across the room ~ crashing into the wall. The last time I did something like that was during labor and delivery when I threw a wet wash cloth at my nurse. (Sorry nurse, I wasn’t aiming at you, I was aiming at my husband.)

shutterstock_514763635.jpgI said to myself, “Don’t panic! You couldn’t possibly have injured yourself just sitting and reading.” About five minutes later, the pain seemed to subside a bit. “Good,” I thought, “I won’t have to go to a doctor. “As the day went on, the pain began to slowly creep back. I decided to disregard it…be a “tough girl”. Yup, grin and bear it. Stupid!

At nine p.m. it was clear that a rough night was ahead. An hour later … “I wonder if I should go to the hospital? I can’t even close my eyes!” By three a.m., I was shoddily folding laundry. Four a.m., unloading the dishwasher, five a.m, reorganizing drawers. My survival strategy ~ to keep busy and distract my mind from what felt like glass shards penetrating my eyeball.

At eight a.m., I was first in line at the doctor’s office. A kindhearted nurse escorted me to the exam room. Boy, did I look pathetic.(Definition of!) I sat in the exam chair and began to quietly weep. I’m not sure if it was because of the pain or because I knew someone was about to help me.

As expected, there were a few patients (with appointments) ahead of me. I caught a glimpse of the doctor as she zipped past my wailing room. I think she saw pathetic me because she stopped in her tracks. I overheard her ask the nurse what my situation was. Before you could say the words “Final Destination”, the nurse was administering numbing drops in my eye. Eureka! I felt healed…or at least temporarily.
shutterstock_597166418When the doctor came in she was calm and thoroughly empathetic to what I was experiencing. Just the kind of doctor we all hope for. She looked through her impressive, yet intimidating, “Slit Lamp” and said, “Oh, yes…deep” pause… “deep”…pause…“deep scratch in your cornea.”

Hmm, a worrisome comment indeed. But, she went on to share with me that even though the cut was deep, she knew exactly what to do to heal my eye and that the pain portion of this injury was over. I looked at her as though she were my personal angel of mercy! “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

She then explained that she was putting in a temporary contact lens coated with a healing medicine. This would act as a protective shield between my eye and eye lid where the friction was occurring and causing tremendous discomfort. (Tree-men-dous!)

Like the professional she was, she simply popped that lens in my eye and thank you Jesus, thank you doctor – I was a new woman! Tired but relieved, I had to wait a few more minutes before heading home. We had to make sure that when the numbing drops had worn off that the lens was doing its job. We didn’t want any false sense of relief. (No, we didn’t!) So, the gel did wear off, and, the pain… still gone! Before leaving, I sheepishly asked for some numbing drops “to-go” for fear of a relapse. Which I never needed. Why? Because the real cure had worked! The temporary cure was just that.

Do you ever look for temporary cures for life’s pains or sorrows? There are all sorts of numbing drops available. We live in a world full of short-lived cures and band-aids. Many of them shoved in our faces. There is no amount of distraction that can sustain you for long.shutterstock_561552367

Maybe you have never known the awesome healing power and love of God OR Maybe you have known this love but it feels like it has worn off over the years.
Remember this week as we ease closer to Easter, God’s love is the real thing. Being fooled by the quick fixes is just more time not spent getting to know God. The Great Physician knows exactly what to do to cure you. Won’t you open your eyes to Him?

 

“My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; For they are life to those who find them and health to their flesh.” Proverbs 4:20-22

 

Listen to God with a broken heart. He is not only the doctor who mends it, but also the father who wipes away the tears.” Criss Jami

 

“Oh Lord my God, I cried out to You. And You healed me.” Psalms 30:2

 

“I think the reason we sometimes have the false sense that God is so far away is because that is where we have put him. We have kept him at a distance, and then when we are in need and call on him in prayer, we wonder where he is. He is exactly where we left him.” Ravi Zacharias, “Has Christianity Failed You?

 

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalms 147:3

 

“As many have learned and later taught, you don’t realize Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.” Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods

 

“And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all.” Luke 6:19

 

Monday’s Must See Video – Lauren Daigle – “Come Alive”

 

Break It Up!

Is March Madness about basketball or the bizarre weather patterns this end of winter month seems to bring us? This particular March began like a lamb with pleasant spring-like sunshine. Then it briefly dipped into winter cold; back to lamb-like temps with flowers blooming ; and then, just to keep us on our toes… the lion awoke to deliver us cold, wet snow.

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The 3 inches of snow that covered our driveway was nothing we couldn’t handle but let me tell you about madness in March. My home team of more than capable shovel-meisters thought it was a good idea not to thoroughly shovel the snow off our driveway on day one of the storm. A slight shoveling around the cars would be sufficient. As Julia Roberts says in “Pretty Woman”…big mistake, BIG!

 

Overnight the leftover snow transformed into an all-out arctic shelf of solid ice.

(Question: Can three inches of snow turn into 4 inches of ice?)

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Observing the spotty job and knowing the forecast of frigid for day two and more frigid for day three, my initial reaction was to give my fellas the verbal once over. Thankfully, I made a rare choice not to complain for two good reasons.

(1) They did a beautiful job on our friend’s house who happens to be a widow and appreciated the surprise of a shoveled driveway and front walkway.

(2) I was inside warm by a fire reading a book while they were out braving the cold.

shutterstock_335642450Unfortunately, the next day the driveway became my problem. I had one helper, and my 87- year-old father who was climbing the walls after being iced in for two days. I looked at the clock and had one hour to free his car before a conference call I had to be on. I thought, No problem!

We grabbed our snow shovels and headed out. The plastic shovels proved utterly useless. Next line of attack was gardening shovels and even a pitchfork. “Nope.” They were all pain and no progress. Then I noticed a dusty, heavy axe nesting in a dark corner of our garage. “Aha, that’ll do it!” I grabbed it and went to work. (What a pity I wasn’t wearing my favorite flannel shirt to have that true lumberjack vibe going on.)

I barely had to put any pressure on the down swing of my tool slash weapon. Its sheer weight and sturdiness practically did the job for me. This new beloved axe not only broke through the ice, but it created instant large chunks that we could grab and toss away. It took some serious work but this axe was the answer to ice debacle.

The next time you experience a storm in your life and ‘good enough’ seems to be the easy choice … think again.  While it may seem easier to ignore or delay confronting a challenge, often a burden not handled at the onset can become the difference between a relatively easy clean up with plastic shovels and the hard labor of breaking hardened ice.

shutterstock_527921620The good news is God wants us to give our storms over to Him. He is the strong axe that breaks up our ice patches and frees us to move forward into the ice melting light and warmth of His love. The result? A freedom to live life fully and joyfully. This week, call on God in prayer to free yourself from the burdens of grudges or sin that have built up in your life. Make a check list of who you may need to forgive for something. Maybe it involves forgiving yourself for poor choices? As pastor and author Rick Warren says, ““We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.”

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:7-9

 

“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.” 1 John 5:4

 

“If man’s self is not kept clean and bright, his glimpse of God will be blurred. Like the moon seen through a dirty telescope.” C.S. Lewis

 

“Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” Albert Schweitzer

 

Monday Must see Video: Frozen – Ice Workers Song

How Little it Takes

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I spend a lot of time waiting in line at the local pharmacy which is challenging because it might be my least favorite task on the planet. Between both of my parent’s, I am responsible for picking up a long list of medications and vitamins. I am a familiar face to the staff and often joke about having an apartment above the store because of the time I spend there. It’s safe to say I am no stranger to line waiting.

shutterstock_515934664The pharmacy line is filled with people on a mission…to take care of business and that’s about it. Taking a closer look, you see people staring at phones or into space until it’s time to shuffle closer to the “promised land” of the counter. One day, I snapped out of my pharmacy fog long enough to compliment a pharmacy assistant on her beautiful cross necklace. It was sweet how much it made her smile.

As a line-dweller I’ve witnessed her efficiently taking on a sea of tasks. Searching for misplaced prescriptions, putting out customer insurance fires, searching the computer while simultaneously, handling what could be construed as verbal abuse from frustrated, often germ riddled customers. The least I could do was pay her an honest compliment.

The other day, I was mindlessly waiting in that same line sorting through my emails on my phone until it was my turn to pick-up. When I got up to the cash register, the pharmacy assistant surprised me by having my prescription shutterstock_518537248ready and waiting. I said, “What?! Could this be mine? I haven’t even given you my name?” She said, “I saw you waiting in line so I pulled it right away for you.” You would have thought she told me I won the lottery!
My sudden joy wasn’t simply that she had my prescription ready. It was because she happily went above and beyond the call of duty. She made an effort that I have never experienced before in that dreaded line. Instead of just going through the motions of taking care of business – which is what I was doing in that line – she took care of me because she remembered me. (I’m pretty sure it had to do with that simple compliment I had paid her the week prior.)

shutterstock_485045233I’ve got to say, this small gesture made my day! I was inspired! After making a fuss over her, I spent the rest of the day smiling more and noticing the people I encountered… even starting conversations with them. (Note: In the DC area, that can actually scare people.) This little incident made me hyper-aware of the indifference that was trying to overtake me and smother the joy that I have in my heart. An indifference that would like to see me turn into some sort of a pharmacy-dwelling, void of emotion, zombie.

When we lose focus on the important and we run around trying to get our “to-do lists” over with – we miss the big picture of what God has put us on this earth to do in the first place… Bring Him glory by showing His love to others! As servants of Christ, this is where we are called to be a light. As simple as noticing someone, understanding they have burdens too, offering a smile or word of encouragement, perhaps even a compliment can have impact beyond what we intend.

This week, take the drudgery out of errands by taking yourself out of the equation and putting God front and center. Ask Him to “raise your thoughts a little higher and use your words to inspire.” (See Toby Mac song below.)

 

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6

 

“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” Proverbs 16:24

 

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

 

“In prayer, it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” Mohandas Gandhi

 

“May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night and a smooth road all the way to your door.” Irish Blessing.

 

Monday Must see Video: Toby Mac – Speak Life

 

 

Stuck in the Muck!

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On my daily walk past our local beaver dam, I noticed a creepy addition to our little nature blockade. It was a yellow ball with a clown-like emoji face stuck in the dam. As I continued to walk on, I couldn’t get that ball out of my mind. It reminded me of one of those games… “Now what doesn’t belong in this picture? The logs? The leaves? The creepy clown face? The twigs?” Oh my, what kind of kid would play with that in the first place? Maybe that kid threw it down stream because it was so darn disturbing?

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Needless to say, that ball, not able to float downstream to the Potomac river, is still stuck and has slowly shriveled up bit by bit each day. Surprised the beavers haven’t nixed the ball, I considered suiting up in my son’s fishing waders to take care of the eye sore. But… I wimped out because I really didn’t want to touch it or go through the trouble of dressing up like a fisher-woman. (Can you say lazy?) Besides, what if I ticked off the beavers and they decided to play out some sort of a “Jaws” scenario? Nope, it would stay there.

 

Being stuck is not a desirable position to be in. I remember when I was a young kid and my family went on a cross country drive from Michigan to Colorado. My brother, sister and I must have been driving our parents ballistic because in order to shut us up my father chose a rather unconventional tactic. He picked up a disheveled looking hitch-hiker who was plopped right in between us in the back seats. He could have been a serial killer for all we knew. (And we weren’t even wearing seat belts in those days!) Let’s just say, you could hear a pin drop in that car. We were stuck with that guy through some place near Lincoln, Nebraska. Way to go dad! It worked and I have never forgotten it!

 

Have you ever found yourself struggling to break free from a “dam” in your life? Stuck in a place of fear or shrivel? Something is wrong but you can’t quite put your finger on it? In an immediate response to get free do you reach for the latest trends that the self-help industry prominently places at perfect eye level while you are stuck in the grocery store line?

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Or maybe you are going through the motions of what society thinks you should be doing but not deeply connecting to what it is that gives your life true meaning and purpose? Sometimes we settle for the masquerade. We have bought into the “fixes” that can only hold so much water… they fail you because they are temporary and not eternal.

 

This week, make a list of those things that are holding you back from being who God created you to be. Whole heartedly ask Him to show you His abundance. This is a calling to dust off your Bible. Get yourself into a Bible Study so actual understanding follows reading. Maybe you have chains of your past that need breaking and have kept you stuck? Keep the below verses at eyeball level on your desk and ask God to reveal himself to you like never before!

 

He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains.” Psalm 107:14

 

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

 

“You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

 

“I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance.” John 10:10

 

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

 

“When you take hold, grasp, and make your own all of what Jesus has already taken hold of for you, you begin to experience life to the full – the faith you’ve always longed for.” Sharon James: Author “Take Hold of the Faith You Long For.”

 

“The first step toward getting somewhere is to decide that you are not going to stay where you are.” Unknown.

 

Monday’s Must See Video: “Remember Your Chains” Steven Curtis Chapman

The Art of Waking

shutterstock_570908494The music starts out softly like leaves gently falling to the ground or the waters of a brook delicately babbling through its destined carved-out path. Slowly that gentle sound graduates with a bit more intensity but never, ever gets loud to the point of startle. That’s how I like to wake up.

Waking my mother each morning is quite another story altogether. Pulling up the blinds and telling her what day it is and finding something positive to say about the weather outside wasn’t working. And by the way, this winter, it’s been tough to come up with “half-full” scenarios about the weather. I’ve been saying… “Well Mom, it’s a great day too, um, stay inside and sew or work on your puzzle.” I can’t blame her for wanting to stay in her cozy bed!

shutterstock_522124174I’ll leave thinking I had inspired her to join the world of non-slumber only to come back with breakfast and see she is still bundled up and dreaming about a cruise she took to South American in the late 40’s. (Another blog post on that one, for sure.) I try again… “Dad’s breakfast is getting cold because he is waiting for you to join him.” “Oh, I promise, I’ll be right there.” (I’ve learned that with dementia, promises are not always kept. Ya think?)

I had to figure out a way to wake her that didn’t require constant needling. So, I decided that if I couldn’t softly get her out of bed, I would have to “startle” her out. I know that sounds harsh but before you decide to boycott this blog, remain calm and bear with me. You see when someone is afflicted with dementia; too much sleep can actually hamper their brain function.

shutterstock_149488397I needed to be creative… “Hmm.. what does she love?” Dogs came to mind. Aha! I’ve got it! Enter labrador retriever, Lucy, the “kissiest” dog I’ve ever known. I’ll get Lucy to hop on her bed and kiss Mom awake. (Dad wanted the job but I told him that would be gross. Ha!)

Lucy has taken to her new job as “Nana-waker” with flying colors. Now, Mom wakes up each morning laughing and instantly invigorated. Her question every morning now is “How does anyone not love dogs?” This new ritual has brought joy for mom, joy for me to witness, and Lucy gets in her service dog hours. A blessing all around.

All this talk about sleep makes me a little tired which reminds me of how important it is for us to be awake and aware of all that God has in store for us. While the outside weather may be dark and dingy; the love of God is warm and sunny. However, it won’t come in through your windows unless you open the shades and ask.shutterstock_552618301

When choosing to solve difficult dilemmas in your life, Go to God first and dig in. His voice only gets louder. He wants to “love you” awake each and every day! Remember that this week and remember this verse.

“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“I love you, LORD, my strength.” Psalm 18:1

“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:18-19

“Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.” Mother Teresa

“This was, I decided, my purpose as a dog, to comfort the boy whenever he needed me.” W. Bruce Cameron, A Dog’s Purpose.

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” Charles M. Schulz

Monday Must see Video: “Brandon Heath – Your Love / Christian Music”

 

Breaking Dawn

 

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What is it with these furry creatures that inhabit my household? They always seem to be teaching me valuable life lessons. Last week our blind black pug, Penny, handed me yet shutterstock_118566679another one when she disappeared for over an hour in the wee dark hours of the morning. (Hence the title ~ maybe I’ll pick up a few “Twilight” followers?

Our adventure began on an uneventful morning. Like every morning, my husband let Penny out to take care of her morning ritual. As she headed off into the darkness of the woods on the side of our house, he briefly left to grab a sweat shirt and when he returned… no dog in sight … or sound.

Even though you cannot see a blind black pug in the darkness, you can usually hear walking through the leaves. But he heard nothing. She had disappeared. He called out to her and looked around for over an hour. (He mentioned later that he couldn’t find our flashlight. Someone hadn’t put the it back where it was supposed to be. Sound familiar?)

Plan B, wake-up Christy. She finds everything. Upon alert, I jumped up, threw on my sweats and boots, grabbed my flashlight and was outside in mere moments. I called and called while I slowly paced our street and circled our property… but no Penny.

shutterstock_553635145Now the sun was coming up – usually my favorite time of day. I was starting to get frantic which always makes my brain wander and give way to fears…Was she eaten by a coyote? Did a fox mistake her for a chunky black squirrel? Did she feel it was her time and decide to wander out into the woods to die alone under a bush?

As the sun started to light up the horizon, I wearily asked myself… “Why is this my favorite time of day anyway, I’m exhausted?” I looked around and it became clear to me. It’s because this is when all is calm. It’s when God shows me His first light. And it’s when I pray about the day ahead. This day though, I went straight from waking in panic mode and skipping my prayer time completely.

So I took a moment; centered myself and prayed… “Dear Lord, please lead me to Penny. Please let her be ok. Forgive me for not turning directly to you. “
shutterstock_315518993Thirty seconds later I caught a glimpse of what looked like a blackened tree stump. It was Penny. (That was fast God!) She was just sitting there. My guess is that she realized that she was getting herself into deeper and deeper trouble the more she blindly navigated her unknown surroundings. The more she wandered on her own, without sight, the further she was from being home and safe.

As I most gratefully scooped her up into my arms, her gray, cloudy eyes looked up at me as if saying “Geez, what took you so long, I’m freezin’ out here!” I quipped right back at her… “Why the heck didn’t you bark to let me know where you were? You had to have heard me calling!” As I held her, her shaking gave way to a deep, sweet sigh of relief. “I’m safe.”

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Penny’s lesson: “When you are lost and alone; stay put, your master loves you and will find you… always. Trust.

My lesson: If you feel lost, cry out to Jesus in prayer. He hears you, loves you and will rescue you from a cold, dark world. In the dark your fears fester. In the light, they dissipate.

This week, Meditate on Psalm 46:5. “God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.”

 

“Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.” Helen Keller

 

The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. John 1:4-5 

 

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Monday Must see Video: “Lighthouse” by Anthem Lights

A Clean Slate

shutterstock_517648921The champagne bottles have been popping; the New York ball had its annual dropping and now is the time to figure out how to prevent our New Year’s resolutions from stopping.

Been there, done that? Had it with resolutions? It’s an understatement to say that mixed feelings abound on this subject. Some see it as a growth opportunity and a brand new start, while others see it as an overhyped, over-eager way to disappoint themselves with short lived make-overs.

shutterstock_356167211Those of us who find second-chances (or twenty-fifth ones)  appealing; see it as a clean slate! A big beautiful black shiny chalk board dying to be written on with a long slender unscathed piece of white chalk. A new start with a fresh opportunity to notch up certain personal aspirations. Perhaps to re-invent the person who continuously fell short of perfection the year prior.

Uh oh, here lies the problem, at least for me. I’ve done it again…the old “looking to per-fect all aspects of life” resolution. And how did my list get so long that it starts to overwhelm me just thinking about it?!

New Year’s resolutions can be like tetherball. You get all riled up…give the ball your greatest smash and smack! It comes around to hit you dead center in the face, knocking you flat on your back, sending you reeling into a reality that life may just get the best of you. Hmm, maybe next year. Sigh.

 

Then there are those “Oz” moments kicking off your new year. Sporting your best attire and sparkly red ruby slippers – you skip onto the yellow brick road, leading to the wizard who knows all with your besties and your adorable dog in tow.

shutterstock_438949933But there is always something lurking around the corner. Sorry, you know there just is. So where does our power to overcome those surprising, unexpected lions and tigers and bears come from?

Dorothy’s power was hidden within her red shoes. But the shoes could not be activated if their power remained unknown to her. Once Glenda the good witch revealed this power it was up to Dorothy to get in touch with the deepest desires of her heart. She wanted to go home where she was safe and loved. Even if the circumstances weren’t perfect there, she would face them.

 

I can picture Jesus giving me a hand up from the embarrassing tetherball incident saying, “Get up Christy, I love you, you silly girl. You never need to worry about conquering the world. Just be you and draw closer to me. You are perfect in my eyes and that is all that matters.”

shutterstock_355827521“I died on the cross to save you from your sins that will always lurk within you. That cross is why the Father has given you a clean slate! I want to write all over your heart and show you the hope of eternity. You can talk to me, the author and perfector of life, about anything and everything. I can’t help you if you don’t talk to me. You can’t truly know me if you don’t activate my power in you. Draw your power from me and no other sources and I will make you whole.”

When I go to God, seven hundred pounds lift off my shoulders. Are you weighted down with life’s circumstances year after year? Go ahead and set some dynamic and awesome goals but make sure to put God in the center. Then…watch your year, and watch your life actually change.

 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5 – 6

 

“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

 

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans fo welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

 

“Some beautiful paths can’t be discovered without getting lost.” Erol Ozan

 

“On the path to greatness, life teaches you to walk with stones in your shoes.” Matshona Dhliwayo

 

Must watch Video of the week: Jeremy Camp; “Walk by Faith”

Advent-ageous

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Advent: arrival, appearance, emergence, occurrence, dawn, birth, rise, development.

It’s that time of year again. Time to box up the burnt orange and brown harvest décor, the turkey salt and pepper shakers, the leftover turkey adorned paper plates and the Amish carved wooden pilgrims.

The new scene…a rustic Nativity scene; snow-flocked greens with red berries; a big sparkling tree lovingly decorated with years of memories dripping from its branches; miniature trees with lights; a lit up Victorian centered Christmas village; pine scented candles and countless Christmas knick-knacks I have not been able to resist purchasing over the years.

shutterstock_520435183.jpgAs the corncob door knocker is exchanged for a lovely bowed wreath, I start to think of what a well-oiled machine this holiday decorating has become and I feel a twinge of pride at my accomplishments. But something is missing. Ah, it must be the Advent wreath with candles. I must have put it in a ‘special place.’ Oh well, no time to find it before the first Sunday family dinner of Advent.

A smoldering of guilt is beginning to penetrate my thoughts. Could it be because our first night of the Advent celebration was basically a bust? I had substituted the five candle advent wreath for a much more beautiful fake crystal wreath around a single center candle. But that’s just ritual ~ not a problem of the heart.

To add to my feeling of spiritual discomfort, it dawns on me that I’m pretty sure we didn’t even discuss the coming of our Lord at our family dinner table on this first night of Advent. I immediately place the blame on being overwhelmed with my “To-Do’s” that conspicuously dot every page of my December calendar. And “Hey,” I say to myself, “it’s still only November. Let me recover from Thanksgiving for heaven’s sake!”
Funny… I see no person pointing a finger at me…nope; it’s just me being prompted by the Holy Spirit. I have started Advent and the celebration of Christmas on a shaky note. I was endangering a truly joyous occasion by my rote busyness and reducing this special evening to a hassle at best! I was putting the spectacular news of the birth of Jesus in the backseat when it should be in the driver’s seat. BUT… the God of forgiveness will not let go of me.

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A smile comes to my face and my heart warms up as I think about what God has done for us. (Phew, He’s putting me back on track…wipe sweat from brow.) As you keep your priority on Christ’s birth during this Advent Season, remember to thank God for loving us enough to bring His son to walk the earth as a human. And remember as you are decorating, whom you are celebrating!

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way. A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” Mark 1:1 – 3

 

A Prayer for a busy during Advent ~ “Father, I want this holiday season to be filled with light instead of darkness. Please help me discard my emotional masks and be real before You as well as my family and friends. Father, help me make this holiday season an offering of praise to You. In Jesus Name, Amen.” Mary Southerland “Turning Christmas Chaos into Christmas Joy” Girlfriends in God.

 

Monday Must See Video: Noel by Chris Tomlin w/ Lauren Daigle