Monday Motivation

This week might be coming at you like a freight train. A packed schedule with a million things that need to get done. Appointments that need to be kept. Situations that need to be dealt with. Life that needs to be managed.

You might feel completely ready to take on everything that will come this week. If so, that’s awesome! Go attack the week with enthusiasm!

But maybe you feel like this week is overwhelming before it’s even begun. Maybe there are things, in and out of your control, that are intensifying the expectations and responsibilities. Exhaustion, pain, loneliness, anxiety, lack of confidence, lack of resources. These things can make everything seem extra difficult, maybe even impossible. It is for you, I write this post.

When I feel overwhelmed, I hold myself to only one expectation. Keep moving forward. One small step at a time. In faith.

For me, that first step begins on my knees. I pray messy, raw prayers that drain my heart of the anxiety and fear that’s holding me back. I lay it all out there to God, “hand” everything over to Jesus. I admit I cannot do it on my own, admit I do not know what to do or where to go next, and ask for help to keep my eyes focused Jesus and the hope I have through the confidence of faith. And then I take the next step out in faith.

Faith is a powerful thing! By faith, we can do impossible things in holy fear. By faith, we can trust God and obey even when things do not make sense. By faith, we can rejoice in weakness knowing He is strong. By faith, we can endure hardships and persecution, wander in “deserts” and desolate places. By faith, we can realize that difficult situations can (and will be) used for dynamic destinies.  By faith, we can take the next step, walk in love and grace, conquer the situations that come, hold on to the glorious, living hope, and be thankful and joyful in all circumstances knowing we are never alone.

Jesus goes before you. He sees your week and what’s to come. He promises to fight on your behalf (Deut. 1:30), level uphill battles and break down barriers (Isaiah 42:2) and guard your back (Isaiah 52:12.) Be encouraged! Take the next step in those truths.

Have a great week! I’m praying for you! ❤

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1


Peacocks and Nuns

biexplore

One of the reasons why I love walking is the interesting things that I might see or the unique people I might come across. There are routes and roads that I have been down a million times before but I always manage to find something new to discover.  I make it my mission to keep my eyes open, searching for a sort of keepsake or souvenir from the day. I collect these mental images and memories like snapshots filling an imaginary photo album that documents all of my “journeys.”

There have been many interesting encounters. A lot of them involving birds. I have quietly ducked under a perched hawk, followed an Eastern blue bird off the road and into the woods, and one time I met a handsome peacock.

I was living on a small island then. The quiet island roads and spectacular ocean views made walking a gift and a treat. It was a glorious, sunny day. The sea breeze was salty, cool and refreshing. I did not have a care in the world or any particular place to be.

As I walked along,  I started to hear this strange click-clacking sound coming from behind me. There was nothing else on the road. No people, no houses, no cars. I turned around to see what it was. Coming up behind me was a power-walking peacock. One big, beautiful, blue peacock shimmering in the sun. As the peacock came up to me, it did not slow its pace but looked me squarely in the face and straight into my eyes as if to say, “Excuse me! You are blocking my way!”

A little taken back, that a bird could display such arrogant behavior, I moved out of its way  to watch that proud peacock pass me and continue his walk with his beautiful tail swaying behind him. I have always wondered what that peacock was doing or where he has heading. Even though I never came across him again, our chance meeting has left me with a lasting impression of peacocks.

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Then there are the people I meet. A skull-cap motorcycle rider, the UPS guy, groups of teenagers, and the three cheerful, preppy, older ladies who all look the same and walk their dogs together.

Yesterday morning was abnormally warm and the sun was peaking out from an overcast sky.  I laced up my sneakers, secured my ear buds in place and pumped up Toby Mac on my phone. Dance-walking down my driveway, I turned on to the side walk. The beat of the music took over my steps and provided rhythm to my thoughts.

I was about twenty minutes into my walk when something caught my attention. I noticed two people gracefully making their way down a side street. Their long, black clothing and head coverings looked out of place in my empty, quiet neighborhood. I stopped to “check” my phone, very intrigued to see two nuns quietly walking and talking in the middle of the street.  Maybe they were visiting friends? Maybe they were praying through the neighborhood?  Regardless of the reason, their presence provided peace. It made me happy to see them and I purposely stalled to say hello and tell them what a beautiful morning it was. After they went by (and I snapped a picture), I continued on my way with a smile and my heart full with gratitude that we live in such a diverse world that still contains hope and good things.

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All these encounters makes me wonder what lasting impression do I leave on people. How do I impact someone’s day?  Am I leaving a lasting impression of cheerfulness, friendliness or peace? Or is it one of pride and arrogance like my peacock friend?  Am I like the hawk? Are people ducking to get out of my way and avoid my talons? Or am I more like a blue bird leading others to new discoveries and encouraging people to take a new and braver path? Oh, I so hope that I am more like a blue bird or a peaceful nun.

Our world is full of beauty and adventure. It is filled with good people and people who may need and desire more goodness in their life. Open your eyes to see the beauty and the adventure. Open your eyes to see the people who need a lasting impression of love and hope. Discover what makes your heart sing and search your heart to find ways to bypass paths that should be avoided. Discover ways that your heart can lead you to help other people. Bravely explore and move forward. And help others do the same.

 


Fear and Joy

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There is a difficult situation that I have been dealing with. It has caused many unsettling feelings and unwanted fear. No matter how much I have prayed about it, talked about it, thought through it, tried to release it, the fear has remained. Like a thick, heavy chain, fear has held me back and kept me where I do not want to be.  It has stolen my time and littered my mood. When I have tried to break free and I can’t, guilt brings another chain. Guilt over the fact that I shouldn’t be fearful, only joyful in all my circumstances. An either/or response. What a tangled, emotional mess!

Can joy and fear reside in the same situation?

In my devotions this morning, I read a passage that I have read many times before but today it spoke to what my heart has been needing to hear.

1 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, Greetings! And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”  Matthew 28:1-15

The guards and the Marys were both afraid by the events they were witnessing. Can you blame them? A great earthquake, an angel that looked like lightening sitting in front of them on an empty tomb. Their responses to the fear is what sets them apart.  The guards “trembled and became like dead men.” Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were afraid yet filled with joy .(verse 8) Their fear did not hold them back or chained them to the ground, they were able to move forward in joy to the mission they were tasked to do.

I realize that I have been acting more like the guards. Stumbling, falling to the ground, acting like dead man woman. Fear and guilt have been lying to me. Telling me that I cannot move forward.  This passage shows me that it is not an either/or response. Being fearful does not disqualify you from doing God’s work but it can paralyzed and rob you from the freedom and complete joy that the Lord so freely wants to give.

“Our fear lives side by side with our joy” – SHE READS TRUTH

Our joy comes from the Lord.

Move forward and break the chains of fear with joy and the strength from the Lord.

 

 


The Red Line

The Red Line

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

I bravely and joyfully walked up to my unknown neighbor’s walkway and stood ready to ring the doorbell. The feeling was a familiar one. I felt as if I was fifteen-years old again, carrying the tattered Romans Road prayer card in my hand, confidently uncertain I had the right words to lead anyone to the One who could save their soul from eternal damnation. Now much older and more confident, I held another tattered book in my hand and looked out over the beautiful faces of my group. It wasn’t the First Baptist Youth Group Evangelism Team that stood in front of me. It was twenty-five, enthusiastic, joyful church members holding matching tattered books-caroling books ready for adventure. They were my fellow companions on an adventure of song through the church neighborhood. Our mission, to spread Christmas cheer and joy to our neighbors.

Up until today, my caroling experience was limited to junior high choirs and visitations to nursing homes. I had never been caroling door to door before. We only had a loose plan. Walk, sing, and ring a doorbell here and there. It seemed easy enough and I was fairly confident it would be great fun. I was not prepared for what God had prepared for this day.

At each house, we sang a few songs, presented a kid-made Christmas card, and asked if there was anything we could pray for with them. No questions about knowing where they were going when they died, no judgments, and certainly no expectations. To our surprise, many people shared their stories of hurt, pain, and loneliness and so many people accepted the invitation for prayer. Humbly we prayed, lovingly we hugged, and joyfully we sang and smiled.

The world needs more HOPE, LOVE, and JOY.

I came back home on a Holy-Spirit high! I was so grateful and so humbled that God entrusted us with this type of “work.” In between my thinking and praising, I started to visualize a red line, like a ribbon, that stretched back to my childhood, trailing through present time, and continuing on through my unknown future.

Following the red ribbon back in time, I came to many different situations, opportunities, and experiences which seemed normal at the time. Everyday living, everyday interactions, everyday moments now seemed sacred and holy. Some of those encounters with people, places, and experiences specifically prepared me for the work God has for me to do now AND the work He has for me to do in the future.

My family, the church I grew up in, the correspondence Bible classes at age eight, prayer meetings that lasted long into the night, Christian friends/non-Christian friends, Southern Baptist summer camp, street evangelism with my youth group, college, separation from the Lord, teaching, and marrying my then teacher-now pastor husband. Some of these moments were fun, great, and exciting. Some of these moments were trying, painful, and paralyzing. But each of these moments stand as a marker, an ebenezer, of God’s help and faithfulness on the red line of my life. 

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. 

Jeremiah 29:12-14

I have no idea what’s in store for me next but God does. Some days, I am guilty of spending enormous, wasteful amounts of time feeling anxious, worried, and fearful about what the future will hold. I dwell on the next big thing the Lord is calling me to do, all the while almost missing out on what He has planned for me to do right at that moment. I can drive myself loopy with all that thinking. And while, it is good to think about future plans, dream, and prepare; it is wrong to be so caught up with worry and fear that you cannot seek the Lord with your whole heart.

We have a short time left in this year. This season comes so many emotions. If you are dealing with an anxious, hurting, fearful heart, I encourage you to ask God to replace the worry, fear, and weariness with peace, hope, love, and joy. If it is difficult to do, try following your red ribbon back in time, searching for markers of God’s faithfulness. You might be surprised what you find. Some markers will be easy to locate, wrapped in lots of red ribbon and right out in the open; but others might be hidden, tied with a simple bow waiting to be pulled out and discovered. Each marker is a gift from our Lord and our hope and assurance that our future rests in Him.

Live out each day for what it is. Embrace the people and interactions that come into your path. We may never know how God will use them in our future or in the future of another person. Lastly, enjoy! Enjoy this season for the hope that it brings and the peace that is offered. Embrace it all with the Lord’s help.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[for those who are called according to his purpose.” 

Romans 8:28  


On Sickness

We had made it three steps into the store, when my son began making an unpleasant but familiar retching sound. I didn’t even get a chance to think. He had already thrown up all over me and the floor of Rite Aid Pharmacy. Helpless and stuck in a puddle of sickness, I was not sure what to do next.

Almost eight years as a mom and this was a first for me. I had been ignorantly hopeful that I could escape a public display of sickness by one of my own.

My thoughts were interrupted by my crying son who was vomiting a second time, this time all over the store’s New England Patriot’s holiday merchandise display. Standing behind me, my daughter looked on in both horror and shock. I could relate! My composure and confidence were gone. I wholeheartedly yelled for help.

Out of the aisles, from every direction, a team of people came.  The first responder was a friendly, emphatic cashier. She spoke to my son in a soothing and comforting voice, “It’s okay, honey. Everyone gets sick sometimes.”  A stout, unemotional, authoritative manager came next. With her she carried an empty, plastic candy container which she tossed at me with skill and the authority as to say, you are a mom, you know what to do, now do it.  The third team member was a pleasant young man rolling a mop and bucket towards us with a smile. Cheerfully and dutifully, he cleaned up the mess with no judgments or a bad attitude, making small talk as he mopped.  When the cleanup was complete, our $300 + damaged merchandise bill was forgiven, and we were sent on our way with our souvenir plastic candy container. What had just happened???

Unfortunately, this was not the only sickness that I have been dealing with. From the outside I seemed a little tired but otherwise healthy. But in the weeks leading up to the pharmacy fiasco, I have been struggling with sickness of my own.  I had let my guard down and allowed lies, self-doubt, discouragement, lack of faith, joy, and hope a place to take hold and grow in my heart and mind. I was tired, some days in a very bad mood, and everything seemed just plain difficult.  I tried to pull myself out of it by halfhearted prayers, routine Bible readings, and depending on the prayers of others on my behalf.

I kept trying to heal myself with everything I knew how to do.  And I wondered why I wasn’t “getting better.”  It wasn’t until I was completely helpless, sinking down in my own puddle of sickness, not knowing what else to do, when I called out wholeheartedly to God, “HELP!”

Out of bends and corners of my heart and mind, the TEAM emerged. A peace that I had prevented myself from receiving started soothing the cracks of my weakened heart and mind. I heard the conviction of the Holy Spirit telling me,  you know what to do, now do it!  Verses and Bible passages that I passively read before, beckoned me to take a second look.  I reread passages about joy and thanksgiving through suffering, identity in Christ, faith, hope and love. I let the words linger and impress on my heart.

It was work. Some days were very hard.

I am still working on it. Some days are still hard.

But with God’s help, I am shifting my perspective and working on setting my eyes to see the good things happening around me. That means even in the sickness, sleepless nights, the hard stuff, the humiliating stuff there is always, always good stuff to see and blessings to be found.  Blessings like emphatic cashiers and cheerful, throw-up-cleaner-uppers.

I am persevering through doubts and lies by repeating and dwelling on the truths that I read. I am constantly resetting my mind to think on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8.) I have decided to surround myself with people that are uplifting, loving, and that have my best interests in my mind. And I am working to let go of control- my failing, imperfect, human strength and working on holding on to the perfect, all-powerful, never-failing strength of God.

There really is no I in TEAM. Whatever you are struggling with today, I hope you take a moment to surround yourself with a team of loving people, a God who cares deeply for you, and depend on the Holy Spirit to convict and guide you.  Shift your eyes to notice the good things. Find laughter in the difficulties. Come away from life’s situations with souvenirs of peace, joy, and thanksgiving.