Serve One Another

As a missionary kid I grew up in the midst of people giving their whole lives to service, to making the difference in someone else’s life, seeking to help and to share the gospel. Opportunities to travel the globe as a child and youth exposed me to needs, to political structures which stifled and caused harm to citizens.  I knew from the age of 14 I wanted to work in public service.

This week thousands of us in public service, join the Points of Light Foundation in remembering President Bush’s inaugural speech and his call to action.  We honor him, the legacy he built.  I remember watching the speech.  I remember the reference to the non-profit and government programs spread across the country “like shining stars”.  I remember, in those moments, knowing I had chosen the career that was right for me. Today, as I serve the citizens of Arkansas, President Bush’s words continue to inspire me. Programs and processes do not change people.  Programs ad processes may offer help, they may meet a concrete need, but they do not change people.  People change people.  I believe that, not just because of years of service with government and nonprofit organizations, but I believe that because I know we were created by God to have relationship.  We were created to need one another.

My work plans for 2017 involve the launch of a system to connect people to other people, helping people meet the needs of others.  In my personal life my desire for 2017 is to strengthen existing relationships and open myself up to new ones, to respond to needs when I see them.  As a mother, my greatest desire has been to teach my children to connect to others, to see the needs of those around them and sacrifice their time and resources to meet them.  That character trait is one I have desired to instill and rates high above grades or popularity in our home.  My prayer this week is that they, my girls, and you will read the words of President Bush, be inspired, and then take action.

http://www.pointsoflight.org/people/board-members/president-george-h-w-bush

LoveAllHeart

 

Breathing,Breaking,Beholding

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I took a break from the blog.  I needed to step back, to really push through to the other side.  I began this blog as an accountability tool for myself.  It then morphed into an opportunity to share about my passion for home and organization, along with spiritual lessons.  Then one day, it just seemed there was nothing to say, my thoughts were dark and anxiety and bitterness were becoming more a way of thinking and living.

Somewhere between facing some changes in our finances, ongoing extended family relationship struggles, approaching the empty nest years, I began to spiral.  My thoughts were consumed with the “what if”…”why didn’t I”… “why does she” questions.  It seemed that nothing in my family relationships would change, and that depression and anger would continue to steal from our relationships.  It seemed at age 49 there were not many prospects for entering the workforce, engaged in something I was passionate about, creating a new identity for myself outside of motherhood.  The chaos of the world seemed to only confirm what I feared.  I was tired.  Anxiety woke me at odd hours, my chest feeling as though an elephant were sitting on it, and breathing was hard, shallow.  Fatigue kept me from moving, doing and too often the end of the day found me sitting face to face with regret, angry at myself for letting the worries win.

I would like to tell you that during my morning quiet time or a church service God spoke, pulled me from the pit.  I’d love to tell you about a “burning bush” moment, but that is not my story.  Instead, it has been a slow process, one that began with a desire to exercise, strengthen my physical being, burn off some steam.  I have slowly climbed my way out of the pit, dragging my body up the muddy hill, pushing, pulling, crying, laughing.

I joined a local gym and signed myself up for personal training.  I did it without talking to my friends or family (yes even my husband, which I do not recommend if you are on a tight budget).  I decided I had to do something on my own, for myself.  I needed to make just one small decision and just do something.  I am not going to lie.  I did it with a little bit of rebelliousness.  It has been amazing!  In a matter of thirty short minutes the trainer can push me through exercises that cause my heart to race, my muscles to ache and my body to sweat.  Learning to use equipment I didn’t know existed, pushing myself past that moment of “I can’t”.  At the end of each session with the last count done and the high five slap a sense of empowerment, accomplishment set in.  What I thought I could not do, I could do.  In fact not only could I do it, but I could do more than what was expected. Pushing myself physically, having someone to speak truth as I pushed, hurt, struggled, got me over the hump.  As I began to see and feel the difference in my physical being I began to realize how much I had let Satan fill my mind with his lies.  I realized that while I was a good Baptist girl who read her bible every morning, attended church and bible studies, I was not letting God’s truth fill my mind.  I was choosing to believe the lies, the distorted messages of Satan and it had and was robbing me of life.  I was focused on all that I didn’t have, on the hard parts of life and was ignoring all that I did have, all I had access to through Christ.

What began as a journey to renew my physical body has become a journey to renew my mind.  I have taken every negative thought captive and wrestled with it, searching out God’s truth.  Some wrestling matches have lasted months, while others stop and start. Some matches I have won and God’s truth reigns.  Everything about us, our thoughts and our actions, rest upon what we believe.  I believe I am the daughter of Christ, made in His image.  His Spirit resides in me and gives me access to His power, the power to overcome, to live free.

If you are struggling I want to encourage you.  Step back, breath, take a break and behold God’s truth.  Let each Word sink in.  Release the lies.

The funny thing is not a lot about my life has changed.  The truth is, I haven’t really changed.  I am still me, the girl I have always been, with the same personality, talents and gifts.  Depression and anxiety still have a hold on a family member.  My girls are still headed to college.  My husband’s business is still recovering from the economic crisis of a few years back.  I have had friends bury children, walk through divorce, and lose jobs.  The difference is what I choose to believe.

truth

 

No Goals, No Resolutions. Just a Theme. New Year, New Ideas, New Perspective.

I used to set New Year’s Resolutions and write out pages of goals.  Like many, I wound up stressed, feeling like a failure, repeatedly changing/modifying or updating my lists.  Not fun.  Not productive.  

Two years ago I was sharing with a friend and mentor that I felt God had given me a repeated message, summed up in two words.  I didn’t know what to do with them, they made no sense for that time in my life (at least not earthly sense) and I was finding myself discouraged.  She challenged me to consider the idea that God was speaking a “theme” into my life.  One He wanted me to heed, delve into.  One He wanted me to make the focus of my prayers, studies and thoughts.  Those first two words were “Come Home”.  I had gone back to work full-time after 11 years at home with my twin girls.  It seemed a necessity.  If you recall, we had a little financial crisis in our country-one that impacted my husband appraisal business, our investments and our joint home building business.  We had scaled back, were faced with some difficult decisions about financial support of some extended family, and in many ways jolted into a new reality. We had once been able to give generously to our church, ministries, friends and family.  His telling me to “Come Home” made no sense.  While we had made the financial changes we could, some that should have been made years earlier, we were by no means in a great place financially.  Nor did it look like there was going to be any great turnaround in our country’s economy. Yet, the more I prayed, the louder the words.  The more often something hit at those words.  The more I prayed, the more frustrated and unhappy my family became.  We were all scurrying around and behaving like little grumps!  Thankfully I am married to a man of faith.  After spending time in prayer himself and hearing me out, he knew to bless my decision.  We’ve learned the hard way not to mess with God’s guidance.  So, home I came.  No more working outside the home full-time for someone else.  I got my real estate license and began researching professional organizing.  

The next year, I felt strongly God saying, “Provision not Position or Prosperity”.  This time I heeded quickly.  At first I thought God was challenging me to have a little more faith.  To trust He would provide.   Didn’t sound too hard.  That was part of it, but certainly not the crux of it.  As I prayed over those words, found myself stumbling upon scripture hitting on that theme, I realized God was asking me to let go of what I thought had to be, what I thought I needed.  He was asking me to let go of my need to achieve, to do, and focus on being.  A huge part of the process was also developing a heart of gratitude.  The journey wasn’t easy.  Next to my six year battle with infertility, this past year was probably one of the most difficult spiritually.  I took almost a full year to go through Beth Moore’s “Breaking Free” study (lots of rabbits to chase as the digging in led me to other books, conversations and scripture), coming to grips with things holding me captive, keeping me from a full life in Christ.  It has been a freeing year, but I have felt bruised and battered at times.  I found comfort and words of encouragement as well as instruction and wisdom in blogs and/or books recommended by women of faith I follow on social networks.  Thus, the birth of this blog.  I saw a level of community, a way to develop my love of writing and most importantly a place to hold myself accountable.  

I share all of the above with you to say this:  I no longer set lofty goals or resolutions.  Instead, as the year comes to a close (about October) I begin earnestly praying for God to give me a word and a verse-a theme for the year.  I am open to the idea He might not change the word(s) because He might not be done with that area of my life yet.  I pray.  I wait.  I listen.  I watch.  I write (journal).  The words, the theme, become my guiding principle for the year.  As I make decisions about what to do, where to go, changes to make, I look at them through the lens of these words.  If there is a connection then it makes the list, it gets to stay.  If not, I put aside, knowing that if it is meant to be God will provide the way when the timing is right, when I am really ready.  

This year the given word is PEACE.  The scripture:  “You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You.”  Isaiah 26:3.  While my mind initially went to ideas of quiet days at home, no children fighting, a less than full schedule, time to curl up and read, that’s not what God had in mind when He gave me the word PEACE.  The verse speaks volumes to where He is leading me.  He desires I have peace of mind.  I struggle with that one.  It was an issue I had to face last year as I studied, learned to accept His provision and trust Him for future provision.  I am a worrier.  Yes, I am well aware that is a sin.  If I could quit cold turkey I would have years ago.  I am not going to say I can’t, because I know I can.  It hasn’t happened yet because quite honestly I haven’t been ready to really let go.  I believe this year He will do a BIG work in me.  So, I enter the new year claiming His word to me.  I claim the scripture.  I will spend the next few weeks listening for His guidance as I pray over what activities to continue, new opportunities, what bible study to engage in etc…  Here are a few things I will focus on this next year as I seek PEACE by keeping my mind on Him and developing FAITH that truly trusts, trusts enough to let go:

1.  Read through the Bible.  I have failed at this many times.  This time though it is not a task or just something I want to do.  He has called me to keep my mind on Him.  I have a morning quiet time each day, but I feel compelled to spend it this year in His word and His word alone.  No devotional, just His word.  I have combined this with my desire to give each of my daughter’s a bible read by me, with notes and comments made by me for them.  This year I am using a bible my daughters bought for my grandmother a year before she passed away.  I will give it to one of my girls next Christmas.  The following year I will use a bible my mother-in-law left me before her death.  I will once again read through the bible, this time thinking of my other daughter.  I will give it to her Christmas 2015.  

2.  Advocare 24 Day Challenge followed by healthier eating and 5 days of exercise per week.  I have come to grips with the fact my body, at age 46, does not behave as it used to.  My mind is WAY TOO engaged in thinking about my body-how tired I am, the hot flashes, the pants that are too tight or don’t look flattering…  I need to kick start my system and work towards a healthier me so I am not thinking about my body so much.  It has been said we spend most of our thinking energy on those things we have not done, robbing ourselves of the energy and thought to carry out the things we want to do.  

There are some other things swirling in my mind, but I haven’t quite yet been able to get them articulated.  On January 31 I will do as I always do.  I will have my 31st Retreat.  I have blocked off the day, keeping it open for planning and reflection.  (see previous post about how I practice this throughout the year on the 31st)  I usually make the January 31st Retreat a big deal.  In fact, I will probably be in a hotel (in my city) alone with my journal, family planner, calendar, bible and a couple of my favorite devotional books.  I’ll have paper, highlighters etc…  This year, not only will I be finalizing plans, but I’ll be celebrating the end of the Advocare 24 day Challenge and hopefully will have a new sense of well-being and be able to get one thing off my mind!  I might even have to indulge in a little sliver of chocolate cake to celebrate!