Mother’s Day Reflections

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. Some of you had a fulfilling day. Some cried over unfulfilled longings. Many grieved. Women’s emotions ran the spectrum from loneliness and disappointment to joy and that warm glow of satisfaction.

So how do we deal with the aftermath? With gratefulness, joy and investment.

Gratefulness.

As hard as your day may have been, you do have much to be thankful for. You are alive today, which means God isn’t finished with you yet – He still has a purpose and a plan for you. You are loved. Maybe family members didn’t come through as you had hoped, but you have a Creator who loved you enough to give up His throne room for a time and come walk this earth experiencing emotions, struggles and tragedies just like you.

Joy.

Seek out joy in small ways. As walk. A phone call. Flowers on the table. Coffee with a coworker. A good book. Snuggles with a pet. Quiet meditation in God’s glorious sunshine. Don’t neglect to slow down and savor those little God-moments when He places something special to you in your path just for your enjoyment: a perfect sunset, finding something we lost, or a sweet word from a stranger.

Investment.

Invest some thought, time, and money in someone else. It can be small, but meaningful: a card of encouragement or a text or call to someone you haven’t been in touch with lately. Or it could be bigger: cooking a meal or cookies for someone grieving or hurting. Or it could be acts of service: mowing the neighbors grass or volunteering with a service ministry .

When we do these things we set our mind on important things instead of fretting or regretting. We will be renewed by kindnesses done for others, moments of sheer joy, and simply taking time to be grateful for what we do have.

Be Blessed!

Remodeling

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

2 Corinthians 5:17

HGTV has been a big hit for several years now. Many of us have watched Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Fixer Upper or Ben and Erin Napier’s Home Town or even The Property Brothers for years now. We’ve studied the open concept, shiplap, and the color schemes that are trending. Most have probably considered a remodel, and many of you have done one or may be in the middle of a big make-over project yourself. What is it about a remodel on our house that thrills us? A fresh start? The beauty and up to date appearance? Perhaps just a longing for something new.

A make-over of our surroundings is very appealing. We love this kind of change. But some other changes are not so welcomed nor embraced with such enthusiasm.

Internal personal changes in our lives are not often met with the enthusiasm of of a home make-over. In fact, we would much rather be left alone to wallow in our familiar ways. “This is just the way I am. Take it or leave it,” is our mantra.

God’s Word tells reminds us that is not the way God works. He is in the business of changing hearts and lives. In fact Scripture says He makes ALL things new.

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:5

How does that strike you today? Sure we would love for parts of our lives to be straightened out, but other parts we really don’t want the Holy Spirit messing with. It sounds painful to change. It seems like we will have to turn loose of some of self-protective ways and be less selfish in general. It could reveal some hidden dirt and decay in our lives that we are vaguely aware of but really want to keep denying, much like the termite-ridden beam crumbling in that grand house remodel. It appears to be humbling, and our prideful hearts don’t want to choose that kind of change.

Be spiritually encouraged by our HGTV home man-overs. It can be hard. It can take a long time. It can be expensive. But a remodel, whether it is of a home or a heart is always worth it in the end! Allow the Holy Spirit to begin tearing down walls in your heart today.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu

Did you find yourself singing this song from The Sound of Music as you read that? Me too! It causes me to recall the children singing and the whole movie summed up in a few seconds. That movie is a family favorite, and the charming song of farewell warms our hearts.

But goodbyes are rarely heart-warming. Many of us struggle to some degree with those big farewells: kids moving hours away into a college dorm, the husband in his uniform being deployed, grandkids heading back to their home hundreds of miles away with no idea when they may return, a family member with a new job moving to another country. Even things like aging parents moving out of the generational family home and into an assisted living, severe illness, abuse, or addicted family members can cause us to have to say goodbye to memories, our way of life, or our expectations of what we thought would be.

How do we handle these emotional transitions?

If we know Jesus and trust that God is in control of our lives it helps make these times easier. What do we need to keep in mind?

  1. God’s plan for His world includes each of us. He manages the world and allows the people, places, and circumstances of our lives to carry out His plans, not just for us but for others we impact. This goodbye is for purpose.
  2. When bad things happen to us we keep in mind that walking with the Lord does not guarantee an easy journey. Joni Erickson Tada has said, “God permits what He hates to accomplish what He loves.” We must choose to walk through it with our eyes on Jesus. (Hebrews 12:1-4)
  3. God loves us and has promised to be our strength and our refuge. (Psalm 46:1) When we have said “So long” to a family member, we put them into God’s hands and trust His love and provision for them and for us. We can run to Him in our tears and loneliness to find comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
  4. Life is an adventure! God is taking us on this great adventure to new lands or new situations. Some may be scary. Some will delight us. Some may stir up doubt and worry. But just like riding a canoe down a flooding river, we hang on, paddle like mad and trust Him to get us through. When we come out on the other side we will be exhilarated with the thrill of it all, and boy will we have a story to tell! (Isaiah 43:2) Embrace your adventure!
  5. Faith triumphs over fear, worry, or loneliness. When the time comes to say goodbye, those negative feelings may overwhelm us. It is usually an attack on our heart by the enemy. We must prepare in advance for battle by staying in God’s Word and must oodbyechoose to trust God every minute, then we set our thoughts on the proper things to make it through the lonely days. (Philippians 4:8) Set your mind on the things of the Father.

I don’t know what “Adieu” you have said recently or what “Goodbye” is looming for you in the near future, but I know that we have a Father who loves you. He is walking through this time with you, He has a purpose in your situation. Cling to Him, the One who will NEVER leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5) There are no Goodbyes in Him.

You Are Loved!

Here it is again – the one day out of the three hundred sixty-five that many people seem to dread – Valentine’s Day. It stirs up regret of what was or longing of what has yet to come. It seems totally focused on Eros – that romantic, physical love. And while romantic love is nice, there are so many other aspects of love that are so much more fulfilling and rewarding: friendship, nurturing, that brotherly/sisterly love, and most of all God’s perfect agape love.

God’s true love is precious beyond imagination. With Him you are loved no matter what you’ve done and NOT because of what you’ve done. But because you are His beloved creation made in His image. God loves you and nothing you do will change His great love for you! He knows you! You are HIs, Precious One!

You don’t have to measure up. Just as you are – that’s the girl He loves, “warts and all” as my grandmom used to say.

So … Be kind to yourself. In fact, be as kind to the girl in the mirror as you are to your best friend. you wouldn’t shame her or guilt her or point out all her negative attributes or call her “Stupid.” So show love to yourself as much as you do to others. Why?

Well here are some thoughts. We all know these famous words of Jesus on love from the book of Matthew:

Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

Matthew 22:37-39

We are told to, first, love God, but also to love others. There is a third person to love in these verses, did you catch it? I’ll give you a minute…

We are to love ourselves! We cannot genuinely love others well until we learn to truly love ourselves with all our failings. So here’s the process:

  1. Love God. His love is unconditional and He teaches us how to love.
  2. Love self. Not in a selfish “me first” kind of way, but accepting ourselves the way God has made us and not overdoing our focus on our achievements or our failings, but having a correct view of ourselves, and loving who we are because we are His. (Romans 12:3)
  3. Love others. Out of the abundance of love God has for the world, he enables us to love, genuinely love, even those that are hard to love.

So your challenge today is to accept God’s love for you, love yourself, and spread that love to those you encounter. Here’s a song that will help heal a wounded, unloved heart. Know today that I love you and better than that, God loves you.

You Are Loved by Ellie Holcomb

White as Snow

Though your sins are as scarlet, They shall become as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be like wool.

Isaiah 1:18

A recent trip through the mountains became a sermon God preached to me as we drove.

The night before, snow fell steadily along parts of our scheduled route. The morning of the trip dawned sunny but frigid. As we headed into the snow laden territory we were cautiously optimistic about road conditions and thrilled to get a chance for our Southern souls to experience snow.

Within an hour of starting out we encountered patches of “a dusting of snow” here and there. Even that is enough to excite an Alabama girl. By lunch the shady side of the road had an inch or two, and though the sunny side was khaki-colored, dead, winter grass the excitement was mounting in the car. Eventually, the last few hours gave us our hearts’ desire, inches of white covered every hill and valley, laced the branches of trees, and powdered the mountains in the distance.

With clear roads – thank you very much snowy state, you know how to do it – and praise music filling the car, my heart soared! As white as snow! That was the whitest white, reflecting every bit of sunlight that hit it on that clear sunny day.

Though MY sins are as scarlet they shall become as white as snow…

The burning red of my anger and jealousy – made white!

All I could manage was trying to dust the the dirty landscape of my life with white.

The crimson of my selfish pride – made white!

My spotty cover up of sin with legalistic behavior in random places, useless.

The blood red depth of the evil thoughts and intents of my mind – made white!

Man-made snow, false whiteness, an attempt to appear pure myself.

The filthy, black soil of my sinful heart – made white!

All human attempts prove useless in cleansing and purifying.

I couldn’t make myself white any more than I could make snow. Left to my own means, I wallow in the devastation of my sin.

However, there is a solution – a Savior. I can place myself in the hands of the one who can make me white as snow, the one Who bled crimson blood to cover the depths of my sin, the purest of pure sacrificial Lamb Who paid the price for my failings. Thank you Lord for restoration, for giving us purity where we have been impure, and for scrubbing this dirt-dweller up to the brightest, cleanest white – whiter than snow! My life is in Your hands.

Be gracious to me, God, according to Your faithfulness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion, wipe out my wrongdoings. Wash me thoroughly from my guilt
And cleanse me from my sin. For I know my wrongdoings, and my sin is constantly before me. Psalm 51:1-3

The Best Mother-in-Law

We’ve all heard them, the mother-in-law stories! Husbands who don’t want the mother-in-law to come over. Tales of rude conversations between in-laws. Sarcastic comments and evil references. Our society seems to accept that type of strained relationship among in-laws.

Here’s a story that goes against that negativity.

When I married, I had in my mind an antagonistic in-law attitude. I felt that was how life worked, at least that was what the culture had taught me. Those first couple of years I did not want to accept my mother-in-law’s help. I guess I felt I had to prove myself worthy of her son. I over-analyzed her comments, was touchy around her, and doubted myself frequently. Fortunately, I am a generally amiable person, so I was never rude or ugly towards her, but my inner dialog was a battlefield in my mind.

After those first few months and years I finally realized that my “other mother” was on my side. She loved me and rooted for me simply because her son had chosen me. Her love for her son spilled over on me!

As I began to change the frame of reference in my mind I settled down. I grew in love for her and our relationship became strong and important in my life. She was a godly woman worth learning from and listening to.

What did she do, or not do? She never judged me. She was a humble servant to our whole family and everyone who knew her. She was honest and forthright without drama, I knew where I stood with her and we were able to work through difficulties without turmoil. She loved my/our kids and spoiled them in a healthy affirming way. She sewed for us, babysat for us, cooked for us, took me to women’s events with her at church, vacationed with us, and never complained, even when you knew her arthritis had her feeling bad.

One of the most important things my mother-in-law did was, she let me be me. I wasn’t skilled and talented in the same ways she was, but she always appreciated my gifts and never tried to get me to conform to her standards. I was more blessed than I realized at the time. She was an example to me of how to be a mother-in-law, and I believe I am a relatively good (though not perfect of course!) “mother-in-love” to my new children who have married into our family.

So why do I write this today? To challenge all of you who have in-laws.

Think about the cultural biases and expectations you have towards your mother-in-law. Are they realistic and just? What if a person had these biases and expectations of you? Would they seem fair then? Make a conscious decision to have a wonderful, close relationship with her. Decide to become one of her closest friends – as much as it depends on you. Find ways to serve, love, and give to this wonderful woman God has placed in your life. Appreciate her for raising your husband to be the man you fell in love with. When you do these things you will learn from her, grow in grace and wisdom, and have a calmer life.

Consider making this a goal for 2022! Let this verse be your theme:

 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Romans 12:18

When it comes to in-laws “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” is a good motto!

When Life Takes an Unexpected Turn

“Choose Joy!”

It’s a slogan that is popping everywhere from journals to key chains to wall decor. It’s a feel good slogan and a lifeline to many. But it doesn’t seem enough when life takes those detours.

What do you do when life takes a sudden turn and …

… you end up in a hospital bed with all sorts of scary tests being run.?

… you discover a hidden issue with your child that rips you to your core?

… you get that pink slip out of nowhere with a family to feed and bills to pay?

… that true love of yours is caught in a web of untruths that breaks your heart and your trust?

… ______(you fill in the blank) ______?

You “Choose Joy” right? Nope, it’s practically impossible in those shattering moments. Besides, joy doesn’t have answers for us. Joy is a fleeting emotion hard to hold onto. So what do you do?

You choose Jesus. He has the answers. He knows what lies ahead when you can’t fathom where to go and what to do next. He has the power to restore the devastation and broken things. He can redeem people, relationships, and things. He is the source of true life and true joy. He loves you!

Choose Jesus through the tears.

Choose Jesus through your fears.

Choose Jesus in your pain.

Choose Jesus in your darkest hour.

When we choose Jesus at those unexpected turns, joy comes with the package!

CHOOSE JESUS!

Want to SURVIVE or THRIVE in the New Year?

Alone. Ten-thirty p.m. New Year’s Eve.

The ballgame was over. My sleepy husband and daughter had called it a night, but I was wired up from the exciting game. As I scrolled channels looking for anything entertaining and waiting for the ball to drop, I felt sad.

Extroverted me would’ve loved sharing the evening with family. Friends. People. Any people. I was alone and mopey, feeling sorry for myself. As I sat there in the dim glow of the Christmas tree lights and TV screen I knew I should be happy and content, but I wasn’t.

I wasn’t terminally ill. I had a warm place to live, family, and friends. I was in relatively good health for some over the hill. Why couldn’t I be grateful? I knew so many people who had so many more struggles than I currently did: cancer, Covid19, broken marriages, addicted kids… For several it was their first Christmas without that child, spouse, or parent; death is a thief.

So why did my limping knees and my husband’s sciatic pain send me into an emotionally dark place? I don’t know, maybe I’m just a selfish greedy person. I should be able to put my woes into perspective.

Sitting there, tears blurring the TV screen, I desperately said to myself “What do I need to do to fix this? I need hope. But I need to trust God, too. And I need rest – real rest. My soul is weary.” As those words came out, I thought of those three particular words: Trust, Hope, and Rest. Yes! That’s what I need more of in 2022! The first letters of each word came to my attention: T… H… R… and the word THRive came to my mind. I knew in that moment THAT was my word for 2022 – thrive.

A few minutes later when the ball dropped, I was at a place of peace and able to doze off.

The next morning I got up pessimistically wondering what catastrophes this year might hold. I don’t like myself when I think that way. I really wanted to have a good day, and that required a good attitude which I didn’t have in the moment. So I set to my normal morning routine: coffee, Bible, journal – sip, read, listen, pray.

***************

I’m so grateful that godly people and the Father Himself have taught me the importance of spiritual habits. Bible reading, praying, journaling to listen, and scripture memory all used to be hit or miss activities in my Christian walk through life. I usually did them when I was needy, depressed or emotional, kind of as a bribe to get God to do something for me, I guess.

But after 40+ years of walking with God, He had convinced me to come say Good morning! to Him each (and every) morning no matter what I was feeling or had to do that day. At first it was hard to develop that habit. Laundry, computer work, or the network news shows vied for my attention first thing in the morning. But month by month over the years, I slowly came to see that having that relationship with Him, that routine of meeting with Him, during happy or mundane times would be a lifeline to me in my sad or tragic times.

***************

So New Year’s Day 2022 I set about my morning routine.

Our pastor encourages us to find a watchword and a scripture verse each year. Every year for the past five or six years I’ve known my word going into the new year. Father God has brought it to my attention in the last few weeks of the year, and I’ve been able to start off day one with a focus word and verse. Perhaps that was part of my gloominess the year, I had yet to receive a Word from the Lord and I felt… lost, adrift, sailing into the new year.

As I sipped my peppermint mocha coffee, I thought over the word I’d had dropped in my mind last night. I believed it was my word for the year, but I always pick a word that is found in scripture, and I doubted I’d find the word THRIVE in the Bible. So opening my Bible and journal, I started off a bit skeptical.

And guess what I found! It’s there! The word “thrive” is in God’s word in several places! Who knew?! It is translated as thrive, flourish, or prosper. But the idea behind it is to blossom, break forth, grow, increase, rise, grow fat, push forward, germinate, or bear fruit! Yes! That’s what I wanted for this year, to break out of the dark soil of depression and weariness and grow into a thriving, fruitful vine! A vine pleasing my Maker and bearing fruit that nourished other believers.

Ezekiel 17:24 is the verse God gave me. “Then all the trees of the field will know that I am the LORD. I bring down the tall tree, and make the low tree tall. I cause the green tree to wither and make the withered tree thrive. I, the LORD, have spoken and I will do it.’ ”

Though we may feel like a small, withered tree – the Lord will cause us to THRIVE – to Flourish! God has spoken good for His children in His Word and He will do it! He. Not I. I can’t make myself into a tall, thriving tree, but Father God can. I cannot fix my weary soul, but He, the LORD will do it. I can take joy in that. It doesn’t depend on my trying, fixing, or controlling. Whew!

So what is my part? Nothing and everything. Nothing. Nothing to manipulate or fret over or manage or worry about. But everything. Every single day I must come sit at His feet, read, pray and listen to Him, coming into a closer more intimate relationship that will sustain me through everything: the discouragement, heartache and fear. A relationship based on Trust in Him, Hope in Him, and Rest in Him. A relationship where I Thrive.

That is my prayer this year, for me and for you as well. May we not just survive another year, may we Thrive, germinate, break forth from the dark, and bear fruit.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” ~ Jesus

John 15:5

10 Resolutions You Can Actually Keep

How many of us make and fail to keep some of the same resolutions over and over?

Did you raise your hand? Diets, health and fitness, self improvement plans, education or career intentions, or spiritual growth commitments usually top the chart. Sound familiar?

As we head toward New Year’s Day, why don’t we plan some resolutions we can actually keep this year?

Sounds good to me too!

So here’s a quick list of 10 ideas that may get you thinking. Chose one and keep this resolution in 2022.

  1. Smile once a day, even if it is when you look at a child or a sunset or smiling to yourself in the mirror.
  2. Learn one new thing each day.
  3. Pray a simple prayer each day. It can be I need You, Jesus. Teach me, Father. Help me, Lord. Or even Forgive me.
  4. Laugh once a day. Find a lighthearted, humorous website that makes you laugh and visit it once a day for a few minutes.
  5. Read a verse a day. A good way to do this is to to get a scripture verse calendar and read the verse as you plan the day’s agenda.
  6. Hug someone. It will encourage them and you.
  7. Write down one thing a day for which you are thankful (maybe put it on your Bible verse calendar!)
  8. Keep a video diary this year. The “1 Second Everyday” app is an easy way to document your life.
  9. Buy a bouquet of fresh flowers for yourself once a week.
  10. Put $1.00 in a container each day. Use the money at the end of the year to do something nice for someone. (Don’t dip into it during the year!)

Use your scripture calendar as your check-off place to hold yourself accountable to your commitment.

Wishing You a …

May your heart be filled with great joy today at the Good News that never grows old!

May you praise God as the angels did.

May you worship Jesus as the wise men did.

May your remember the greatest gift of all as you exchange gifts today – the Gift of our Savior, Jesus Christ!

And just as Mary did, may you ponder and treasure all the glories and blessings of Jesus this Christmas Day!

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Luke 2:1-20