Highs to Lows…

Yesterday, my daughter went on her first true date. Her boyfriend picked her up and took her to the movies, unsupervised. Today, he broke up with her. Within twenty four hours, I went from hearing her giggling voice filled with teenage puppy love to a tear-filled voice filled with teenage heartache. Oh, the highs and lows of life!

Goodness, we’ve all been there haven’t we? One day, we are crushing it in life and things seem to just be clicking. The next day, we get that news about our health we weren’t expecting; or maybe we receive harsh criticism from our boss; or a friend says something that hurts our feelings; or possibly we experience complete rejection by a loved one.

Even Jesus experienced this during his time on earth. The same people that laid palm branches down and shouted “Hosanna” as he rode triumphantly into Jerusalem on a colt, raised their fists and shouted “Crucify Him” only a short time later. Oh, the highs and lows of life!

Let’s pause right there. Jesus experienced it too. Please don’t brush past this point. Jesus understands and can provide comfort for us in the highs and the lows of this life. There is absolutely nothing that He did not experience. He stands beside us in the highs and he holds us in the lows. He laughs with us in the joy and he wipes our tears in the pain. We are not alone in the highs and we are definitely not alone in the lows.

Hebrews 4:15-16 reminds us, “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (NLT)

Mercy and Grace come in the highs and the lows. All Glory be to God our Father!

Be hopeful!

Imperfections…

I woke up Friday morning with a pimple the size of Texas on my face. Seriously, this thing was humongous and I’m pretty sure it had little eyes and hands that were waving at me. The reason I say this is I could literally see this thing hanging out on my cheek at coffee with the girls that morning. I was afraid to turn my head for fear of wiping one of them out. Ridiculous. I haven’t had a pimple like that in years.

The funny thing is it brought back all kinds of memories of my years of acne. It’s truly a wonder that I didn’t do permanent damage to my skin because my friends and I would use enormous amounts of benzoyl peroxide on our faces. I’ll put it to you this way. I had to sleep on a white pillow case for fear that my face treatment would bleach it. Honestly, my chest was where I would smear the cream because that is where I broke out most, so I had to sleep in a white tee. Thank God that white tees and men’s boxer shorts were stylish to my friends and I. Do you think I am kidding? Here I am in the 8th grade.

Yet, I digress. Back to the issue at hand, which is the second nose now growing on my cheek. You need to understand that even as a write, I am dealing with the aftermath of who I now call, Gigantor.

Imperfections. They come along and shift our focus on a regular basis, don’t they?

And I think that is just what the enemy wants for them to do. He wants us to focus so much on our imperfections that we are completely distracted by our perfection in Jesus. You see, if all I am focused on is the ways in which I fail to measure up, then I fail to look up and find my treasure, my hope and my Savior.

We live in a world filled with imperfect, broken people. Yet, because of Jesus, we find perfect hope, perfect love and perfect freedom from our brokenness.

Where is your focus today? Is it on that blemish on your face? Or is it on the perfect face of Christ Jesus, our Savior?

Lord, help me look up at Jesus!

Be hopeful!

Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help. Hebrews 4:14‭-‬16 MSG

Promises…

I consider myself a woman of integrity and place value on my words, especially when a promise is made. I hope that most people have experienced this to be true when interacting with me. If I say that I will do something, I will do it.

Lately, I have been wondering how many times I have made a promise to myself and promptly broken that promise. Unfortunately, I think this list of broken promises might be longer than I want to admit.

How about you? Do you value a kept promise? How would you score on keeping promises you make to your self?

In Luke 10:27, “Jesus answered,  ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

Love God with everything you have and then from that vertical relationship of love flows a horizontal relationship that extends love to everyone around us. But what I find fascinating here is that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. Self, now that’s something that gets all the attention in today’s day and age. But what if it doesn’t? What if how we truly love ourselves is lacking?

You see a pattern of broken promises to myself is not a reflection of love. The same kindness, forgiveness, love, and benefit of the doubt that I extend to others should also be extended to me, myself and I.

I was reminded in church this morning the sweet message of grace. Because of Jesus, I will not be judged on my sins, failures and shortcomings; rather, my name appears in the Book of Life and someday I will spend eternity in heaven with my Father. God loved me so much that He sent my Savior Jesus, keeping His promise to Himself and to me. Now that is some new year hope!

Lord, help my love you more. Then, let that love fill me and spill over to everyone around me. Help promises to myself be as valuable as promises to others. But, above all else, let me honor you with every promise! Amen for me. And Amen for you!

Be hopeful!

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. John 3:16‭-‬18 MSG

Tush Neck…

So, a funny thing happened this morning when I was putting on my make up. I noticed that the skin in my lower neck was sagging. Sagging in such a way that it reminded me of a baby’s tush. Seriously, like a little tush right there on my neck. I found myself analyzing it and if I’m honest sort of playing with it. Here was yet another comical reminder that 50 is rapidly approaching. Maybe it is time to bring back the ‘ole turtle neck. Or maybe I should just find a nice sweetheart neck line and let my sagging bat arms join in on some fun! Tush neck meets bat arms! If you can’t beat them, join them right?

The irony is that on January 2, I adopted the hash tag #fitandleanin2019 and selected the word hope for my new year inspiration. Four days in and here I am met with tush neck. I mean really shouldn’t the reflection in the mirror show me that fit and lean gal by now? It has been FOUR days of clean eating for goodness sake.

I finished putting on my make up and went out to show my husband my latest discovery. I’ll let you imagine his response to my new insight.

It’s funny how reality can meet us right smack dab in the middle of our perception, isn’t it? Now before you give me a lecture about being self absorbed, I realize how blessed I am to have arms to hold my husband and miles traveled in life to have a bit of sagging skin.

Each day, we have a choice. We can focus on our imperfections or we can allow our imperfections to make us stronger. And we can choose to remember that there is more to us than our imperfections. We are part of the most exciting story known to mankind: God’s Amazing Story. Laugh a little, shake it off and get back to work folks!

We are all works in progress and there is beauty in every ounce of sagging skin and flapping arm. My tush neck reminds me that I have some work to do and to laugh and not take it all so seriously along the way. And the even bigger take home is that my Father in heaven has important work for me to do through and for Him. He knows all about my tush neck and loves me still.

Be hopeful!

To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 1 Corinthians 9:22 NIV

He’s Here…

We had a Birthday Party for Jesus last night at church. We played a version of the game musical chairs with the children, using a wrapped present. The children passed the present around their circle while the music played; then, when the music stopped whoever was holding the present unwrapped a layer of paper. The person to unwrap the last layer of paper got to keep the gift. This game is so much fun to watch! Each time the music stopped, all of the kids squealed with delight. One little girl in particular caught my attention last night.

She was absolutely “all in” when it came to this game. She squealed along with everyone else and while another child was unwrapping the present she whispered, “please let there by another layer, please, please”, eyes full of delight, she was so stinking cute!

It occurred to me that I want to approach these next four days leading up to Christmas much the same. I want to squeal with delight at the lights, trees, cookies, carols and gifts that surround me. I want to gaze at Jesus in the manger, eyes full of delight and remember that Jesus is born. He’s here for me. I want to whisper to that baby, “please let there be another layer of your love, your hope and your joy in my heart. Please, please.”

I don’t know where this Christmas finds you. Maybe you are dealing with a broken heart, illness, separation from loved ones, depression, anxiety or other disappointments. I encourage you to take time to gaze at that precious baby boy in the manger and find comfort, joy and peace. He dwelt among us. He could have left us on our own. But, He did not. There is nothing that Jesus did not endure after He arrived lowly in that manger and He went on to save each one of us. You are not alone this Christmas, this year or the next. He is here!

Francesca Battistelli reminds us of the beauty of Jesus with her song, You’re Here. I pray these words wash over you and give you Christmas hope!

Hold on now, I gotta take a deep breath; I don’t know what to say when I look in your eyes.
You made the world before I was born; here I am holding you in my arms tonight.
Noel, noel, Jesus our Emmanuel.
You’re here, I’m holding you so near.
I’m staring into the face of my saviour, king and creator.
You could’ve left us on our own, but you’re here.
Don’t know how long I’m gonna have you for; but I’ll be watching when you change the world.
I look at your hand, they’re still so small; someday you’re going to stretch them out and save us all.
Noel, noel, God with us Emmanuel.
Someday I’m gonna look back on this; the night that God became a baby boy.
Someday you’re gonna go home again; but you leave your spirit and flood the world with joy.
Hallelujah! You’re here! Hallelujah! You’re here!

Be joyful! Jesus is here!

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 NIV

Oh Christmas Tree…

Christmas season is in full swing. Like many others, I typically love this time of year! I spent the day cleaning, doing laundry and thinking a lot about Christmas. Honestly, I have been feeling a bit disconnected from the wonder and joy of the holiday. I don’t know if it is life or hormones (or both); but for some reason I am feeling a bit blue.

I just sat down in front of my Christmas tree, the room darkened from the incoming storm outside and realized that God was once again trying to get my attention. Sweet whispers, “you are blessed. I am light. Take my yoke. I’m still here.”

Consider the lights on your Christmas tree tonight. Have you ever noticed that those lights bring warmth and hope into the room? The lights of the tree are an open invitation to linger, relax and stay a little longer.

Jesus is the Light of the World. And He enteted the world as a baby in a lowly manger to save us. His light is an open invitation to linger, relax and stay a little longer. Jesus brings warmth and hope into our hearts. On such a day as this. Pure radiant glory! We are not alone! Consider His light!

I wonder if you might be feeling disconnected too? If so, I pray that God speaks to your soul today, reminding you of His presence. And I encourage you to look at those Christmas tree lights with complete innocence and abandonment. Jesus is calling. Can you hear Him?

Be joyful!

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29‭-‬30 NIV

Small Annoyances…

I’ve been dealing with a few small annoyances lately. You know, those things that creep into your life that are subtle; but, find their way into your daily thoughts and in some cases force you to change your routine.

The first of these annoyances has been my heel. I have a bone spur the size of Texas in my right heel and something I did a couple of months ago irritated it. I’ve had to make adjustments to my teaching schedule at the gym and have been working with a podiatrist. (By working, I mean receiving cortisone injections in my heel, ouch!) Oh and I have to make reasonable shoe choices. Y’all, I am sick of sneakers! I made the choice of walking in my boots this past weekend in a Boot Walk fundraiser in memory of a dear friend of mine. It was an easy walk, just over a mile. Turns out that was not the wisest of choices. My mom has lectured me twice, as well as said podiatrist. My heel is again agitated. Annoying.

Two of my closest friends have recently been diagnosed with life changing diseases. Both are amazing woman, strong and brave. But, they are facing new normals with their health, along with that comes fear, helplessness, change in habits and new routines. They are both present daily in my thoughts and prayers. But, I find their situations annoying. Especially for them.

It’s the time of year where the “to do” list grows longer, the days seem shorter and my time seems stretched, making most days feel like a marathon race from the minute my feet hit the ground. Again, if I am honest, I feel slightly annoyed with this too.

Yet, in the midst of these small annoyances, in the midst of life, God sends fresh reminders to look up, reach out and slow down. You see, we are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. (Priscilla Shirer, Gideon). Small annoyances are part of the human experience and many times God uses those annoyances to grow us to be stronger spiritually.

The pain in my heel has allowed God to connect me with some amazing women for a bit of an easier workout, walking and then talking over coffee. God has used my friends working through health issues to remind me to value my own health, as well as value each and every moment I have with them. My growing “to do” list comes from a happy, highly active and involved family, which I spent years hoping and praying for.

When faced with annoyances, we are faced with a choice too. We can choose to be annoyed or the opposite: pleased. Being pleased over annoyances comes from trusting that God is good and the absolute best teacher. Look up, reach out and slow down!

Thank you Jesus for life’s small annoyances. Help me change my focus from these annoyances back to you, allowing you to grow me stronger in my faith. Help me embrace annoyances during this human experience and to be pleased. For I am a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. (James 4:14)

Be joyful and less annoyed!

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2‭-‬3 NIV