Remember…

I wrote this little post last year for Memorial Day. As the day has come around again this year, I don’t really have much more to say. With all the turmoil and division our country is facing, there is still nowhere else I would rather call home. I’m thankful for all the men and women who have sacrificed their lives to make freedom possible.

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There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

Memorial Day… What does it mean to remember?

. Is it more than a day off work, a picnic in the park, time together with friends, the beginning of Summer, a day at the pool, and some good food on the grill?Arlingtonandoldpic 011

a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

I grew up in an Army town. Young men with crew cuts, tattoos, fast cars, and fast lives were ever-changing parts of the backdrop. Seemingly ordinary lives and faces, they were such an familiar part of daily living that I failed to see the glory and sacrifice played out in everyday scenery. I was totally unaware of the tremendous sacrifice and the risks involved in being a soldier. I failed to understand the scope of service and…

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21 Things Being A Parent Has Taught Me

Today it’s official: I’ve been a parent for twenty one years! From first steps to first day of school, first car to college, first apartment to soon-to-be married… I have very few regrets. I haven’t done it all perfectly but here we are: not in jail, still speaking to each other, more good times than bad. Isn’t that successful parenting? I’m sure the title could read 21,000 things being a parent has taught me but I’ve narrowed it down.

  1. It’s not all about me. Oh, if everyone in the world could recognize that truth at the same moment how different the news headlines would read! Most women really embrace this truth about the time they feel the img_9638first tiny movements inside. How much more apparent it becomes with midnight feedings, a hundred loads of laundry, and a thousand diaper changes. It’s even more evident when big brown eyes look into yours and tiny fingers hold your heart.
  2. It’s not all about my children either. What a harsh realization when you discover that not everyone thinks your child is the center of the universe! This seems particularly apparent in the midst of play-dates and four year old soccer games. While you love your children and think they’re the best artists and athletes and scholars, sometimes other parents give their own children those titles as well. Teach them balance, respect, personal responsibility, and healthy pride in accomplishment.
  3. My heart is bigger than I thought. It was bittersweet when I first felt the deep pangs of parental love. Not that love for my own children was painful, but I suddenly became aware of all the people in the world, especially those that had never been loved as I loved my own. I saw people very differently. Either they were loved deeply and deserved my love and respect; or they had been denied that deep, unconditional love and protection and merited my compassion. The depth of that loss changed the way I viewed people in their pain and messiness.
  4. How to be brave. Noises in the night, scary looking insects, bad dreams, bad guys, and bullies can all seem overwhelming. What better way to overcome those fears than to become a fearless champion, knowing little eyes are watching? What about bigger fears? Sickness, stitches, broken bones, and bruised hearts? Parenting is not for the weak or the faint-of-heart.
  5. Spiders won’t kill me. Okay, this one should probably fall under the how to be brave category, but it was such a victory that it deserved its own bullet point. Enough said.
  6. I can’t stop all the pain. From lost stuffed animals, being left out of friendship circles, not making the team, to the death of pets and people, the sting and sadness of rejection and disappointment cannot be avoided. While I can’t stop it, dress it up, or discount it, I’m called and equipped to walk through it, providing support, encouragement, and hope along the way.
  7. The importance of presence. Availability. Attention. Acknowledgement. Who hasn’t noticed the eager eyes of children as they searched for a parent at a ballgame, a performance, or a school program? A field trip, a day of shopping, a quiet lunch for two? A funny movie on the couch?  When you are truly img_9630present, you are better able to really see, hear, learn, and know your children. You’re not only their greatest cheerleader; you also become a shepherd of their heart.
  8. Words are really important. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Speak life, truth, and encouragement. Tell them you love them, are proud of them, and are always available.
  9. How to say I’m sorry.  I messed up. I was wrong. Please forgive me. A little humility and humanity encourages grace and mercy. It says you can own your shortcomings and it models good communication and responsibility.
  10. Let go of guilt. “I wish I had..I wish I  hadn’t..I should have..I shouldn’t have..if only… Home school, public school, other moms, other kids..What if I make the wrong decisions? What if my kids end up in counseling because of me?” Let it go. Do your best. Pick your battles. Say your prayers. Love your kids. Repeat.
  11. Stop comparison. Younger moms, thinner moms, cooler moms, moms with more money, more time, and more creativity… Who hasn’t felt the drive to compete, compare, or self-degrade? Your children were given to you, not your next door neighbor, the preacher, or the lady down the street. You are good enough, smart enough, brave enough, and just what they need.
  12. Always eat dinner around the table. Mealtime is always good. Why? We love to eat. We love to laugh. There’s something about sitting around in a circle that encourages conversation and accountability. No television, no video games, no phone. It’s a time to recount events of the day, plan future events, and ask lots of questions.
  13. Cereal is okay for supper. It’s fortified with essential vitamins and grains. It’s cheap. It’s easy. Knowing that so many people in the world go to bed hungry, there is no condemnation in Frosted Flakes. Or pop tarts. 🙂
  14. Stepping over piles of clothes counts as exercise. So does walking around aimlessly, running in circles, and going the distance. Patience takes practice so that’s also a sport. Hiding in the bathroom counts as a cool-down routine.  🙂
  15. The car is a great classroom. It’s quiet. It’s confined. img_9636They can’t escape. The greatest lessons don’t happen in the classroom, but in the day to day moments of life when you can teach, share, and create real life and relationship. Believe it or not, they are listening.
  16. Make bedtime the best time. They’re tired. They’re vulnerable. They’ll open their hearts just to stay awake and to spend a few more minutes with you in the quiet darkness. What a sweet time to snuggle, to pray, and to listen to their hearts, dreams, and details of the day. It can be the great eraser of an awful, no good, very bad day.
  17. Take lots of pictures. There was no Facebook or Instagram when my children were little. Milestones and memories were captured in 4×6 glossy images in frames or behind plastic sheets. What seemed like too many at theimg_9635 time have proven to be never enough, but still offer glimpses into life and love and living.
  18. How to appreciate good art. Who needs expensive oils, French impressionists, and murky watercolors when hand-scribbled notes, finger-paints, play-doh shapes, fingerprint faces, and reindeer made of footprints can adorn walls and refrigerators?
  19. Laughing is the best. It reduces tension, stress hormones, and the need to hit something. Create inside jokes so no one else understands and you seem weird to other people.
  20. Remember to invest. Children are a treasure, a blessing from the Lord. Each season is to be savored and captured in word, photo, laughter, and experiencing each moment to the fullest measure. But…part of our investment is in teaching children to grow, stand, walk, move on, and create their own journeys. Then what’s left besides the memories, photographs, and holiday visits? What of the other relationships? The other investments? The spouse, the deep friendships, the knowledge and care of self, the spiritual growth that is left to explore and experience after the children marry, move, or follow their own paths? Cherish, but don’t idolize your children, as you make investments in other lifelong, life-changing relationships.
  21. How to let go. It starts the first time you leave them at daycare, with a relative, or a babysitter. It intensifies with the first “no” or “I can do it by myself”.  Then  classroom, camp, a car, college, marriage, moving away. There is beauty in freedom, success in standing alone, amazement as they fly. After all, they were only yours for a little while.

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverb 22:6

 

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Children are a heritage from the Lordoffspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior  are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them    Ps 127:3-5

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Didn’t Go To The Beach…

The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic.  Psalm 29:3-4

I didn’t go to the beach to find answers, but there I was…on the beach, the wind urgently clamoring and the waves pressing in: What are you afraid of? img_9429With every roar and crash of the tumultuous tide, my mind felt the same turbulence. It felt as if the waves were talking to me, calling me out…and in. Why are you running? Was that question for me or for the nervous little sandpiper that darted and dashed both toward and then away from the searching waves? Did it doubt its ability to fly? To swim? To navigate the rushing, unpredictable waters? I am that sandpiper, I thought. I get excited, I rush in, I get overwhelmed or consider the cost, I pull back or run away. I doubt my strength, my identity, my ability to navigate the deep unknown. Was I afraid? Was I running?

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.  Psalm 42:7

I didn’t go to the beach to forgive, but there I was…on the beach, studying the footprints of so img_9424many who had walked before, near, or over my own prints in the sand. As the waves gently washed over the prints, many disappeared, leaving fresh, untouched sand. A clean slate. Yet others remained visible until they were washed again, and again, and again. The waves were rough, it was hard, but it was cleansing. The remaining beautiful sand shone and sparkled with the radiance of the sun and the power of the cleansing waves.Still others remained long after our paths had crossed and I had moved far along the shore, not looking back. People leave footprints in our lives…tracks that are often deeply imprinted on our hearts and souls. Some are good and encourage us to follow. img_9425-1Some tread heavily with no regard to damage caused and tracks left behind. Are there tracks that I still guard with regret and defense? What tracks have I left behind?

Forgiveness is first for you, the forgiver, to release you from something that will eat you alive; that will destroy your joy and your ability to love freely and openly…You may have to declare your forgiveness a hundred times the first day and the second day, but the third day will be less and each day after, until one day you will realize that you have forgiven completely.    -Wm Paul Young, The Shack

I didn’t go to the beach to explore or question myself. But when the volume of the world is turned down, the responsibilities are left at home, and books and quiet reflection become the duties of the day, words speak. They speak from the wind and the waves and they leap from the pages you read lounging by the shore.

You need to claim the events of your life to make yourself yours.   -Ann Wilson Schaef

Sounds oversimplified. drseussDr. Seuss also said it with simple eloquence. As thunderstorms rumbled in over the beach, I settled in for a simple teaching video, Becoming Myself. That’s where I was reminded of the wisdom of Dr. Seuss. Childlike and simple, not tangled in the lies, deceit, and false facades the world offers and encourages. What does it mean to become myself? How does it happen and when will I know it is complete? Is it ever complete? And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. 2 Cor 3:18

I didn’t go to the beach to search, to forgive, or to learn. I went to enjoy sand, sun, seafood, and friendship. To relax. But the first day on the beach I read Psalm 29, and the voice of the Lord really was over the waters. (Ps 29:3)

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Together Is Better

heal  

verb   [heel]

1. to make healthy, whole, or sound; restore to health

2.to bring to an end or conclusion, as conflicts between people or groups,usually with the strong implication of restoring

 3.to free from evil; cleanse; purify: to heal the soul.
 Working in health care for almost thirty years now, the idea of physical healing is nothing img_9058-3abstract or new. There are some who search and commit to healing at any cost: the best specialists, the most rigorous testing, intentional planning, and conscientious living. Others ignore warning signs, isolate, deny their needs and symptoms, and continue to experience a slow steady decline and loss of vitality. But there is so much more to balanced health and wellness than stable vital signs, a good report on an annual exam, and routine scheduled procedures. Obtaining and maintaining good physical health involves a day by day, one foot in front of the other journey. What about good emotional, mental, and spiritual health? Are they any less important or demand less intentional thought and attention? Are there short cuts, quick fixes, and magic elixirs and oils to soothe a troubled mind, bind a broken heart, or set a spirit free?

So…what do the title Together Is Better and the term heal have in common?

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“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matt 18:20

I recently found myself in the midst of a small circle of women exploring and recounting stories, struggles, truths, and lies learned in the murky depths of life, loss, hurt, and healing. Anytime a tightly woven circle of believing women gather to go deeper into matters of the heart, not only is there coffee; invariably there are tears, prayer, hugs, words of encouragement, and usually snacks. 🙂 Where two or more are gathered, there is great potential for depth, accountability, searching, support, confrontation, and sometimes conflict. But there is also life and love and lessons that are not learned in text books, television, or self-help videos. Somewhere in the midst of the searching and sharing, words and images from a book I had read years earlier found their way into the conversation.

That’s why you’re here…I want to heal the wound that has grown inside of you, and between us…there’s no easy answer that will take your pain away…life takes a bit of time and a lot of relationship.

img_9068The Shack, by William Paul Young, was released to both raving accolades and scalding controversy. Different, edgy, imaginative.Yes, it’s fiction, but as God, yes God, met with and spoke those tender words to the struggling, hurting soul in the story, I was reminded of a phrase that my pastors frequently quote: Together is better. I attend a contemporary church that emphasizes the importance of small group ministry. I suppose it’s a phrase that I’ve heard at least a thousand times: a catch phrase, a cliche, a buzzword, good advice? More than that, it’s a direction, a building block, and a ministry. People matter. Words matter.They have meaning and consequence. Sometimes a few black and white words on a page can breathe the hope, healing, and breath of God to a hungry, hurting, searching people.

I suppose that since most of our hurts come through relationships, so will our healing…
Penned in the introduction to the book, those simple words explain much of life, love, loss, and restoration. They also foreshadow and frame the impending story: not only the fictional story in The Shack, but parts of our own stories as well. Too often people are wounded and subsequently withdraw into solitary shells and lonely retreats; or they build protective barriers that may quickly become fortresses with thick impenetrable walls… more like prisons, that eventually harden their paths, their choices, and ultimately their hearts.
img_9084People are imperfect. They fail. They’re messy, inconvenient, and burdensome. Sometimes they unintentionally neglect, wound, scar. Other times it’s not so unintentional. Sometimes it’s deliberate, calculated, evil, and unrepentant. There is no sorry, forgive me, or I was wrong.  In the book, Mack experiences a Great Sadness that is totally out of his control. He did nothing to put himself in the position of helplessness and wounding. Someone else’s hurtful thoughts, ruthless actions, and destructive sin choices thrust him into the depths of unrelenting pain and anguish. Loss and life change. In the pain, he recoiled reflexively, as if scorched by a searing flame and, in time, his scars grew thicker and colder. They created a solid exterior, tough and protective . At the same time forming a seemingly insurmountable obstacle dividing him from God and, in some ways, others. Then he had a choice. We have a choice.
Getting head issues out of the way makes the heart stuff easier to work on later…when you’re ready…I can set you free, but freedom can never be forced…you don’t even understand that freedom is an incremental process.
Freedom is an incremental process? Gradual? Progressive? Little by little? There is freedom in that alone! It’s permission to relax: to stop the striving, comparison, judgment, and the whys: Why can’t I get over it?  Why can’t I be like __?  Why can’t I just __?  In an era of quick fixes, easy answers, and temporary solutions, it’s easy to walk in discouragement and self- condemnation when easy or sudden healing and transformation don’t happen. Guilty. I’m guilty of great, speedy expectations: A drive thru breakthrough rather than three steps forward and two steps back. Cliches, but real struggles when discouragement threatens to separate us from God or others, when we feel like we will never get over it, we’re all alone,  or  just not good or strong enough. Maybe “since most of our hurts come through relationships, so will our healing.” Maybe together really is better.
That’s just a tiny glimpse into the story. Just enough to raise questions and start conversations, but maybe that’s enough. Some may want to dig out their old copies of the book and re-explore; others still claim it’s heresy. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty. (1 Cor 1:27)
img_9090Together is better. Yes, people can be messy; but people can also be the hands, feet, eyes, and words of Jesus to extend hope and healing in the valley of our Great Sadness, our daily struggles, or just our steady trodden paths.  The term, the Great Sadness resonates to something deep within me. That’s a whole separate post, or ten. It doesn’t have to matter what The Great Sadness is in someone’s life: an event, a loss, a lack. The goal is healing: recognition, reconciliation, and restoration. As I’m finishing up here, I realize that this post isn’t deeply theological, philosophical, or even anything new. It also seems rather incomplete… Like I could write for days and there would still be many corners, avenues, and deep wells to explore. Some people write to entertain or to influence. I write to process. Still processing.
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Friendship is born at the moment 
when one person says to another:
“What? You too?
                 I thought I was the only one.”                     C.S.  Lewis

And This is Love…

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.

Charles M.Schulz

LOVE is such a peculiar word. I love my husband. I love my kids. I love my friends. I love my dog. I love coffee and ice cream and sunshine and Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings.

img_8609It’s Valentine’s Day…one simple twenty four hour period out of an 8760 hour year that has the potential to stir as many emotions as there are hearts to feel them. 24/8760. Simplified: 1/365 of a year that can cause feelings of  elation and assurance that you are completely loved and appreciated. Or not. It can also be a reminder of more dark and cloudy feelings like depression, deprivation, loneliness, or loss. I’ve been all over the Valentine map: dateless and lonely, single but content, secure in a longstanding relationship, settled. There was a time when a dozen roses or box of chocolate sought to define how much I was loved, thought of, and admired.

The world and all forms of social media claim to know love: real love, powerful love. Love that’s “forever and ever, amen.” Love that’s worth singing about, posting about, making movies about, or getting tattooed across your chest. So much hype, noise, attention and technicolor devoted to sparkly, feel-good love. But what is love?

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, img_8600but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.    

 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.     (1 Cor 13:1-3)

And who am I to judge? How do you define love when you’re 10? The coolest toy or gadget, a new puppy, fitting in?

When you’re 20? A fun circle of friends, a late night party, an attractive date?

30? A good job, a tiny house, the pitter patter of baby feet?

40? A good night’s sleep, healthy kids, a secure relationship, a solid group of friends?

50? A rewarding career, a little time off, deeper friendships, a little money in the bank?

60? Fewer pressing demands, emotional and relational stability, time to travel, a nest-egg tucked away?

LOVE: how does one word effectively describe affection, adoration, or commitment in so many areas? I don’t speak Greek. I don’t write or understand Greek, but the specificity of the language is interesting, appropriate, and inspiring. The Greek language expands the word LOVE into multiple specific, well-targeted words. I will only mention three.

Phileō: brotherly, companionable love:

This love speaks of affection, fondness, or liking…This love is called out of one’s heart by qualities in another.   (Mcleanbible.org)

img_8599I love that! 🙂 “This love is called out of one’s heart by qualities in another.”  So it’s really okay to love my husband, my friends, my kids, and my dog. Their presence, their personalities, and their smiles call out and awaken my heart. ❤

What about Eros love?

This love is erotic love. Eros is a love of passion, an overmastering passion that seizes and absorbs itself into the mind.   (Mcleanbible.org)

The world thinks it knows that one, but too often tarnishes and distorts it. How pure and how blessed when we can state:

When I found the one my heart loves…
I held him and would not let him go.  Song of Solomon 3:4

What about Agapē? There are bible studies, bookstores, small groups, and coffee houses that bear that name. What is it? How is it different from the others?

i. Agapē is called out of one’s heart by the preciousness of the object loved. It is a love of esteem, of evaluation. It has the idea of prizing. It is the noblest word for love in the Greek language.

ii. Agapē is not kindled by the merit or worth of it’s object, but it originates in it’s own God-given nature. God is love.

iii. It delights in giving.

iv. This love keeps on loving even when the loved one is unresponsive, unkind, unlovable, and unworthy. It is unconditional love.

v. Agapē desires only the good of the one loved. It is a consuming passion for the well-being of others.     (Mcleanbible.org)

  This is how we know what LOVE is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.  1 John 3:16

So much more depth and insight than the simple four letter word LOVE.

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, img_8605it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  1 Cor 13:4-7

It’s a high and holy calling, to love…a privilege, a responsibility, a mandate. So love God, love your family, love your friends, love your pets, love yourself, love the least of these. You can even love chocolate.

That’s a whole lot of love. Happy Valentine’s Day!  ❤

“I found the one my heart loves.”    

**heart art credit: Mysti White Art  ( I love her! ❤ )

 

When It’s Cold Outside…

 

How many lessons of faith and beauty we should lose if there were no winter in our year.       

Thomas Wentworth Higginson

The world is white today. Beautiful, really. The same brush strokes that painted the world white also hit the pause button on the repetitive tapes of routineimg_8361 daily life and created a thousand still shots: mixtures of laughter, fun, relaxation, warm cups, warmer hearts, cozy mittens, scarves, and snowballs. Through filtered computer light I’ve seen pictures of snowsuits, snow boots, snowmen, snow forts, snow angels, sleds, and at least a hundred cold, smiling faces.

Our home is quiet. No one trekking in and out of the snow. No nudges or pleas to go outside and play. No sledding or snow forts. It’s a quiet sanctuary with no schedule apart from hot coffee, warm soup, and wide eyes watching the snow fall. The backyard bird feeders are frozen, the birdbath a mound of snow. So much to think about when the world is on pause…or at least moving in slow motion.

Measuring up. What a strange thought to entertain on a snowy day. Was it the varied predictions of how much snow, how low the temperatures, various cancellations, and other life disruptions that prompted the thought? Maybe it was images and thoughts far less img_8358tangible than measured inches or levels of mercury: laughter outside, pictures on phones and computer screens: rounded red faces flushed by winter wind, puffy balls of children swaddled in warm coats and hats, brave snowmen standing proudly in the midst of their cold, humble beginnings. They all seemed to project carefree laughter and unbridled joy from a three inch still shot photo on the computer screen. What did any of those images have to do with measuring up? It didn’t take long for a barrage of questions to assault my accusing thought processes. Was I a bad mom for basking in the warmth of  fuzzy blankets, inviting books, and warm, soothing coffee? Should I bundle up the kids and rush outside to make cold noses and warm memories? But wait… The kids are grown and making snowballs or enjoying quiet moments on their own. Then more questions…had I done it well, did they have good memories, why didn’t we get this much snow when they were younger and eager to play in the snow? Such simple, seemingly unimportant questions. How insidiously the comparison trap begins…

It isn’t really about the snow. It’s about the questions, the feelings, and the accusations. I see it everyday in a hundred different ways: comparison, competition, struggling, striving, never quite feeling good enough. I see it in people who have worked themselves into sickness and depression. I see it in the tired eyes of theimg_8301 lonely woman, the defeated man, the bullied teenager, the insecure child, the dropout, the addict, the weary. I see how it tries to sneak in, unseen, into simple everyday thoughts, plans, and observations. I should have… I could have… Why didn’t I… I wish… Like cold hard snowballs thrown mercilessly by the enemy, they always seem to find a weak spot or an unguarded target.

In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.

Albert Camus

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:1

Where do the thoughts, the lies, the accusations, and the comparisons come from? When did they start? Why are the voices so familiar? Could it be that the struggle isn’t new at all? Could it all be a picture of the ancient struggle that began in  Genesis 3 with two simple yet opposing questions?

Did God really say..?

Who told you that..?     apple-273839_1280

Who told you that you weren’t good enough, not smart enough, not strong enough, not pretty enough, not a good mom, not a good wife, not a good friend, not loved…just not enough?

What did God really say?

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  I Peter 2:9

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.   Romans 8:37-39

The Lord your God in your midst,The Mighty One, will save;

He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.  Zeph 3:17

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil 1:6

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made..  Psalm 139:14

Why snowflakes and snowmen made me think of measuring up..I’m not quite sure. Snowmen are created in various shapes, sizes, and circumstances. Their lives are intentional but fleeting. They are masterfully crafted and shaped and each is unique.

And us? Masterfully crafted and unique? Fearfully and wonderfully made? What will it take to believe that? How can we be intentional? snowmenWhat would it look like to find others willing to step into the cold, messy storm with us to lend a hand, to support, and to strengthen? What does it mean to take every thought captive? Frequently set aside time for a thought check and belief inventory: What do you believe? Who or what do you concede the power to define you?  And a support inventory: who do you love, trust, and believe? Who will walk with you and give honest reflection of your strengths, your weaknesses, and your worth? All the voices, images, memories, and ideas we are exposed to have power to create beliefs and self-imposed definitions. Some realistic and accurate, others false, unrealistic, or even unattainable. So we compare. Or we condemn. We measure. Others and ourselves. How will you measure your worth today?

 Those were my thoughts on this cold snowy day.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.   Micah 6:8

All Things New…

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…       Phil 1:6

Isn’t that a beautiful promise?  It’s practical, it’s encouraging, it’s good news. He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion: Conclusion. Closure. Attainment. Culmination. Finalization. Perfection. That has always been one of my favorite “go to” verses when I didn’t feel like I was doing, performing, or being good enough…when I had messed up, gotten discouraged, or felt hopelessly flawed. Fittingly, it’s also the motivational opening verse in the introduction of Elisa Pulliam’s newest release “Meet the New You.” *

 I recently joined the launch team for the book release, but didn’t initially make the connection that “The New You” would be released just in time for the new year.img_8161 Can you think of a more appropriate title to wave like a banner over the first day of the new year? New Year: New You. Popular circles, headlines, and social media are all ablaze with talk about resolutions, words for the year, new choices, and various lifestyles that focus on self-improvement, accomplishment, or personal satisfaction. How many fitness clubs are bustling with new members who pledge their commitments to better discipline and habits? At least for  a little while. How many bookstores offer stacks and displays that encourage better or trendy lifestyles and practices? Or at least offer to take up room on your already crowded bookshelf?

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“Real change happens when you start embracing fresh attitudes and focused habits, all in light of God’s grace and truth.” (Elisa Pulliam)

When I decided to read “Meet the New You,” it wasn’t necessarily because I felt stuck or discouraged. It wasn’t even that I disliked or disapproved of the old me. I think it was the subtitle that caught my eye and encouraged me to dig in with pen, paper, and bible in hand: “A 21-Day Plan for Embracing Fresh Attitudes and Focused Habits for Real Life Change.” Fresh? Focused? Count me in! All accomplished in a concise 21-day plan? Even better!

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  Isaiah 43:19

Do you not perceive it? How often do we not perceive what God has done or is doing in our lives? How do we so easily miss it? Are we distracted? Unaware? Opposed by life circumstances or an unseen enemy? Consumed by busyness, uncertainty, insecurity, or ambivalence?

How appropriate that the first section of the book is titled “A Fresh Awareness.”  I won’t outline the entire book, but in plotting the course the book would direct us, the author offers practical encouragement and suggestions:

  1. Seek the Lord for relevant, biblically sound solutions.
  2. Face the obstacles before you through the power of God at work in you.
  3. Discover your God given identity and wiring.
  4. Uncover the story God is writing through your life.
  5. Carve out a vision for your future based on God’s purposes for your life.    (Elisa Pulliam  #theNEWyou)

Those simple, specific words of instruction offer a framework, a point of reference, a compass as we walk into a new year. Notice the verbs: seek, face, discover, uncover, carve. They are active. They are intentional. Today is January 1, the first day of a new year. A blank page, an empty shelf, a fresh start. What will you write on the page, store on the shelf, or begin afresh and new? What will your journey and your story recount when you look back on the year from December 31st?

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“Time will pass between your fingers and weave around every breath. You can’t stop it, grab it, or bottle it. But you can live purposefully in it.”  (Elisa Pulliam)

 

 

I don’t make traditional New Year’s resolutions, but I have purposely chosen a motivational word for 2016: a word to think about, focus on, engage, and actively pursue. That word: choose. I have chosen to choose. 🙂  I will choose to seek the Lord, choose to face the obstacles, choose to discover my God-given identity and wiring, choose to uncover the story God is writing in my life, and choose to carve out a vision based on his purposes for my life. In addition to those specific choices, I will also choose to see, choose to feel, choose to believe, choose to heal, choose to live, choose to love, choose to try, choose to pursue, choose to speak truth and encouragement, and choose to be a newer, more complete me. Happy New Year!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  2 Cor 5:17

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The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.    John 10:10

*   “Meet the New You” is written by Elisa Pulliam,  life coach, author, speaker, and ministry leader. You can visit Elisa at http://www.moretobe.com or http://thenewyou.elisapulliam.com/