The other day I was talking with someone about a situation and they said “I remember when you responded like this….” The response she was referring to, my response, was NOT something I was proud of. It was the kind of thing you wished could be buried away, forever forgotten, never to resurface again. Ugh!! I couldn’t deny it, it was all me, so I laughed uncomfortably and opened the door for revived shame to beat me down.
After dwelling on and rehashing the situation for a good amount of wasted time, I had had ENOUGH. This was a past situation. I couldn’t go back and “fix” it. My perspective has changed since then. I have learned and grown since then. My heart is in a different place now. And I am confident I would approach the situation differently. Repeating these truths broke the cycle of the worry and regret. I am (and always will be) a work in progress and progress is a present thing.
Friend, your past has passed. Don’t give your past tolerances, reactions, words, mistakes, and actions the power to haunt you. And don’t use them as an excuse to keep doing the same thing over and over again. We’ve all made poor choices, some which come with weighty consequences. Don’t let consequences hold you in the shadow of shame and guilt. Care about what you can change. Today is a new day. A right-now opportunity!
set a new boundary
change your perspective
make a new goal
choose a different reaction
answer with kinder, gentler, or if necessary, more assertive words
stand up for your convictions
ask more questions
take a break
learn from your mistakes
say no to unhealthy choices/influences
make a new friend
ask for help
take a chance
start something new
combat lies with truth
give yourself grace
keep moving forward one step at a time
All these things require courageous intention. Keep trying, keep learning, and keep going! ❤
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 3:13-15
Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.- 1 Timothy 4:15
The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars but do life’s common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.
– Robert Louis Stevenson
If we are not careful, we will miss it. We might overlook the joy and satisfaction found in ordinary things. We may fail to notice the extraordinary things disguised as common, everyday experiences. The brilliant lessons masked as seemingly dull duties. Within our routines there are priceless opportunities to build character and relationships, practice joy, and learn how to rest in contentment. These are the sweetest things in life.
Yet so often, these are the very things we cast aside and replace with desires and wants of enticing, more showy and sparkly things. The things we see in our Facebook and Instagram feeds that tempt us to identity crises, make us think we need more, need to do more, and make us question who we are. Envy, entitlement, and discontentment start cracking away at our hearts and seep into places that conquer and steal our attention away from the things right in front of us- the people, the tasks, the little tedious things that are often add up to some of the most valuable things in life.
We must be careful not to miss out on the work of our
present circumstances. Faithful, ordinary work can be the extraordinary beginnings
of dreams coming true. The hard and difficult situations, the ones we wish
would vanish, are battle grounds of victory and strength that may be needed in
the future. The daily grind of dealing with people and their needs can turn
into connections that give us the resources and tools to move our hopes into
new territories of growth and confidence. These are the sweet things, my
My prayer for today is that we see clearly. When we find our
mind and eyes wandering to greener pastures, may our hearts bring us back to the
sweetness of nearer things. To the places and circumstances where good, sustaining
things are found through common, hard work and mature into sweet, beautiful lessons
that bring us lasting joy and satisfaction.
Twenty eighteen went out with a bang. An actual, literal bang.
I was having a great hair day. I had just left my hair stylist and needed to pick up a few things at the store before going home. The traffic was heavy, but I knew a shortcut. I zipped right by the line of cars and laughed at my good fortune of avoiding the long wait. When I arrived at the market, I was even happier and pleasantly surprised to find an open parking space right in the front of the store. Everything seemed to be in my favor!
About one minute later, my positive mood and character were challenged. Pulling into the parking space, I took the turn a little wide. An awful metal scrunching, fiberglass crunching noise accompanied the turn. It took me a minute to figure out what had happened. Did I really just bang into and swipe the PARKED car next to me? I hoped I had imagined the noise, but from the looks of the people passing by, I knew it really happened. I put my van in park, slowly stepped out and shamefully walked around the back. Silver streaks from the front of my van beamed and highlighted the dark gray fender of the other car. Ugh!
The driver of the car was not there. For a split second, I dabbled in the thought of what it would be like not to have a conscience and enjoyed a scandalous moment of how easy it would be to leave the scene. Conviction quickly crushed the faintest of wrong thoughts to a complete close. My conscience and the Holy Spirit gave me forceful push forward into the market on a journey to find the owner of the struck vehicle.
How do you find a stranger in a whole store of strangers?
Embarrassed and annoyed at myself for getting into this situation, I mulled over
the next steps. I called my husband for support. I walked in and out of the store
several times. I talked to myself- possibly aloud. I most likely looked crazed.
I needed help.
It seemed best to start at the market’s little café. I walked up to the hostess and explained my situation. She smiled a gracious smile and told me without criticism that everything was all going to be okay. She tried to encourage me with the fact that most people would have just left (yep! But, no, not an option.) She said she would do what she could to help me find the car’s owner.
Within seconds, the hostess had a team of people in action- she mobilized the servers. She sent word to the employees in the back room and at the serving counters. The open layout of the store provided me a full view of the word being spread. With each person told, I waited to see if they would stand up and move forward to me in annoyance and irritation. It took less than ten minutes to ask everyone and no one stepped forward. I thanked the hostess for her help and walked back out of the door disappointed the situation was not resolved.
Back at the van, I scribbled a note of apology, with my
contact information, on a ripped piece of scrap paper. I tucked it under the
other car’s windshield with a prayer. About thirty minutes later, I received a
phone call from a very nice man explaining he was the owner. “Accidents happen,”
he said. He even thanked me for being an outstanding person for taking responsibility.
The hardest part was over, an insurance claim was made, it was all very easy, and
we all went on with the rest of the day.
This small little blip in my day had not destroyed my peace or happiness. It did not wreck my good day nor did it cast a gray shadow over it. This tiny accidental bang gave me one more intentional opportunity to test out some things I had been working on all year.
Growth- my chosen word of the year. Growth in my responses versus my reactions. Growth in my resilience. Growth in the knowledge of what’s important and what’s not. Growth in the ability to ask for help, to let things go, and to be able to accept my mistakes with grace and understanding. These things and more.
If this small incident happened at the beginning of 2018, at a time when I was stretched too thin by over commitments, running around with my priorities out of sort, and in a place of depriving myself grace, this little incident would not have been so little. It would have taken up way more emotional space than it deserved and would have skewed my perceptions of my abilities. It would have left a negative mark on my day.
“All growth depends on activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort. And effort means work.” Calvin Coolidge
In many ways, this was one of the most flourishing years of growth that I’ve experienced since becoming a mother ten years ago. It was also a continual season of hard work provided by challenging situations that were taxing physically, emotionally and spiritually. I experienced both the pain and beauty of growing. And it often came in unexpected ways at unexpected times.
The most important thing for me, was to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18.) With this as the foundation (or soil,) everything else I wanted to grow in would flow from it- the way I think, act, respond and love. When we are rooted in a place of truth, secure in our identity of Christ, and nourished by the grace and love of Jesus, the perfect atmosphere of growth is created. The more I meditated on things of God, the more I felt a greater inclination to change and an intentional shift to focus more on life’s important things.
When we are rooted in a place of truth, secure in our identity of Christ, and nourished by the grace and love of Jesus, the perfect atmosphere of growth is created .
My priorities needed to be rearranged. I reevaluated my schedule and our families activities. What once seemed pressing and demanding, seemed like things that could wait. I worked hard to create a balance of work and rest. I wasn’t perfect. Many times things went off-kilter. There were times I felt overwhelmed. But instead of staying in the rushed craze, I used those times of induced stress, hurrying, and irritation to remind myself why the balance was important. I breathed more slowly, lingered with my children longer, asked for forgiveness A LOT, and prayed constantly.
By the work of the Holy Spirit, grace
and love for others grew in ways greater than ever before. My eyes were open
wider to seeing people for who God created them to be and seeing their need to
feel loved and valued in different ways. I tried to take time to sit and listen
to people, give them my attention. I felt (and feel) compelled to hear their
stories, give them a chance to use their voice. I pray my words and actions in
those conversations and interactions, left streaks of grace and love beaming
and highlighting their lives.
The hardest part of growth is the pruning part. The part when things are cut away,and weeded out to make room for healthy growth. This year brought about a lot of change and pruning. I had to say goodbye to expectations, to some people and a role I loved. I had to keep reminding myself that it was all for the good. That it would work out the way it was suppose to, all in the right time. I tried hard not to let the “goodbyes” be a distraction, but allowed myself some time to grieve. I kept moving forward in the direction I felt God calling me too. And I’m still moving. Moving and growing.
The hardest part of growth is the pruning part.
Growth doesn’t halt at 2019. It doesn’t change because a yearly focus word changes. It doesn’t stop, even when we wish it would. It is always a continual process in all our lives. The important thing is what we do with the opportunities and how will we respond to the situations that will grow our character. We will be embrace them? Or with the opportunities make us wither back in fear, anxiety and selfishness?
Growing is not easy. It’s messy, and effort is needed. But the end result is beautiful and good. For many of us, we do not have to grow alone. When we actively seek to grow as a person, desire to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord, and rely on dependence of Jesus, the courage and strength to do this type of character growing is available to us. There are people who want to help us too. They want to cheer us on, tell us that we are outstanding people (even when we feel unable, messy and foolish) and maybe mobilize a team of other people to help us find the things we need. Let them.
I think all of us should start 2019 with a bang! Hopefully, not an actual, literal bang like an accident. But a bang of growth. It’s a new year to take responsibility. A chance to reevaluate priorities. A time to embrace challenge. And an opportunity to ask for and accept help more often. Be on the lookout for the beauty that comes out of all of it. You may be surprised where you find it. I’m cheering you on. Happy New Year!
There are many ways to respond to a gift. When the gift is something we want, it’s easy to react in delight and excitement. Unwanted, unwished for, and undesirable gifts are much harder to receive. It can be difficult to respond with gratitude and grace. It’s best to accept these presents with a polite smile, a “thank you,” and a focus on the heart and (hopefully good) intention behind the gift.
The gift of today is unique. It will bring something different to everyone. Some of us will be delighted. Others will struggle to respond gratefully to what may seem like useless and confusing things. We may wish we could return unwanted, ugly things and situations. We can’t. Time can not be returned. We need to figure out how to make the best use of them and learn from each situation. Many times, undesirable things are useful and needed things for the future. They are surprise gifts that help us grow into stronger, more experienced people and allow us to relate to and help others.
There is something good to be found in each day. Embrace today’s opportunities as chances to change our perspectives and be a gracious receiver. Pause and intentionally choose to respond in gratitude and joy- even when it’s challenging and difficult to do. And make today a gift for others. Regift your time in acts of kindness and show love in action that will keep giving long into tomorrows.
What will you do with your gift of today? ❤
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
I went to put my purse down and noticed the small puddle filling the center console of my van. My five-year old son had “given” me his cup of water, which really meant he had half-haphazardly placed it on the uneven tops of the odds and ends we keep in the tray. Now the cup was on its side, water trickling out near the straw. Soggy receipts were turning to watercolored prints. Drowned coins reflected in the shallow bottom of the compartment like in a small wishing pool.
I took a deep breath and made a conscious effort not to say something snarky or say something I would regret. Yes, he was being impatient and had not wanted to wait for me to take his cup. Yes, my patience had been tested many times today. Yes, this was one more thing to clean up. Yes, this was an minor inconvenience. But really this was just an unintentional accident and an opportunity to show a little grace.
I started to mop up the water with some napkins I had just grabbed while we were at the coffee shop. I didn’t realize they would be used so soon. It was quiet in the van- a rare moment of silence. My son was thinking and watching. When the last napkin had been used, he declared with admiration, “Wow, Mom! You are always prepared. Really, always!” These words seemed too big for his sweet little voice. A compliment so gracious it disarmed any lingering sour feelings. I had almost traded kindness and grace for irritation and annoyance, but I hadn’t. This time I hadn’t let my emotions hijack the situation. Kindness won! “Thank you, Bud! Mommy tries,” was all I could reply.
Words…powerful little things that add up to big consequences. When we stop and think before we speak, we can change someone’s day. (We can change our day.) I have no doubt if I had said some things I had initially been thinking during the water spill, it would have left a dark shadow over the hour. Instead, it turned a small incident into a moment of positivity. When we speak encouraging words, we are giving people around us an emotional boost of hope, support and confidence. We are building stronger relationships.
About two years ago, I wrote a post called “78 Kind Words to Say to Your Children.” I thought I could do better than just 78 and came up with more things to say. So, here’s a new list- “100 Kind Things to Say.” Originally, I had thought to use this list to encourage my children but there are many things on this list that would encourage anyone- family, friends, and co-workers too.
And one more note, some of us have a natural inclination or a gift to speak words of affirmation and encouragement. For others it can be difficult and takes practice. If you feel like it’s difficult, do not be discouraged. Try saying one or two positive, encouraging phrases at a time and work up to speaking several each day. Like with anything new and with some practice, speaking encouraging words will start to feel easier to do and the people around you will benefit from your practice.
“Like sands through an hour glass, so are the days of our lives….” The signature words and distinctive tune flowed from the TV. It was one o’clock and I sat comfortable and warm on my aunt’s couch. With a bright smile, my aunt came over to serve me lunch, a turkey sandwich and a cup of Folgers instant coffee. She sat down beside me like she had done on so many other weekdays.
Over the next hour, we allowed ourselves to be swept up into the drama of Salem and followed the unfolding of the Horton family’s stories. We watched the trials and triumphs of Bo and Hope’s love. We laughed over ridiculous storylines and plots, and debated which characters the writers would bring back from the dead. This was our shared guilty pleasure and this time turned into one of my fondest memories. Memories that had little to do with the soap opera and everything to do with the time we spent.
I didn’t have the years or the perspective to appreciate it then. I knew my aunt was a busy woman- a wife, mom, personal trainer and volunteer- but I didn’t know what it really meant to choose people over to-do lists.
My aunt made it seem like there was nowhere else more important than serving me lunch and spending time with me. She made me a priority. She gave me her full attention and time. How much I wish I could go back and thank her. Thank her for providing me a safe place. Thank her for her hospitality and presence. Thank her for her gentle guidance and inspiration. Thank her for taking time to stop, look, listen and linger.
I can’t go back or even tell her now. My aunt was stolen away from us twelve years ago from complications due to cancer treatments. Even when she was in her hospital bed, weak and in pain, she still managed to smile and made you feel as if you were the only person that she wanted to be with. Her presence offered hospitality. She wanted to hear how you were doing and made sure you knew your situations were just as pressing as what she was going though.
Although I can’t go back, I can move forward. I can be thankful for the time I had with my aunt and put into practice what she modeled. I can be thankful for every day, and what it brings, the good and the disappointing. With intention and sacrifice, I can see each person as an opportunity to encourage and build up, to make them feel valued and special. And make them feel like there is no other place I would rather be than with them in that moment.
Like so many of us, my schedule is busy, expectations are high, the demands and distractions seem unlimited. It’s hard to stop. But time seems to be slipping through my hands more quickly than ever and I’m more of aware of this than ever before. Time and people are precious gifts and to treasure them is wise.
So with these realizations, I’ve been making difficult and intentional choices to stop, look, listen and linger. I’m making space in my schedule by saying no to things and saying yes to people. I’m trying not to be swept up into ridiculous dramas or the fantasies my imagination writes so well. I’m debating over things that need to be let go of, handing them over to God to overcome, and not letting the destructive ones make a reappearance from the dead. I’m always, always, continuing to work at presence with people- with littles and bigs.
It is here I raise my Ebenezer. Thanking the Lord for His help so far. Thanking Him for the strength, energy and grace to get through my days and the reminder that time and people are special gifts. It is here I thank the Lord for the people in my life, like my aunt, who took time for me and modeled what it looks like to stop, look, listen and linger; and what it means to use our precious days wisely before they slip away.
What if we turned things upside down today? What if we gave people what they didn’t deserve and didn’t give them what they did deserve? What if our words and actions were so infused with grace, they were able to disarm negativity, counteract conflict, and give courage and boldness to others when received?
Grace is unmerited love and mercy. It’s an undeserving gift and it’s not easy to give. It’s difficult to bite your tongue in response to a bitter comment or biting criticism. It’s hard to think beyond hurt feelings and bruised emotions and offer forgiveness. It’s tough to be a presence of grace with an offensive person. The message of the world says, “Give ’em what they deserve!” ”You deserve better than that!”
I am not promoting we go around acting like feeble, push-overs, or passive, fake happy people throwing grace around like magical, rainbow fairy dust. Giving grace is a bold, brave, intentional choice. It means choosing to respond instead of react. It means pausing, getting our thoughts together, and then speaking truth in a loving, respectful way. There are many situations that need to be further addressed, processed through, and worked on; but grace is the invitation to a pathway of respectful discussions. Grace can be a gateway to a journey of healing and restoration.
As a follow of Christ, we do not have to rely on our power to be a grace-giver. We shouldn’t. We have access to power, life-supporting love and strength through the Holy Spirit. By excepting and receiving God’s grace, we in turn can extend grace to others with God’s help.
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. -1 Corinthians 15:10 NIV
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. -Hebrews 4:16
So today, join with me in the practice of grace giving– and keep in mind, there will be a time when we are in need of grace too. ❤