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

Sunshine….

An amazing thing happened yesterday in my part of Texas: the sun came out! It’s just so amazing how something as simple as a sun shiny day can refresh your soul, lighten your load and put a little pep back in your step.

Now this particular day of sunshine came after days upon days upon days of rain, which made it even sweeter. I literally felt lighter yesterday and full of hope.

My husband and I took the angel dog for a walk this morning and now I am sitting outside with the sun warming my face. What a simple pleasure this Saturday after depressing rain.

And that’s when I heard God whisper, pay attention! My light is always around the next corner. I will not allow the rain forever. Just hold on. My SONshine will warm you. He will refresh your soul, lighten your load and put a little pep back in your step. He will make your steps lighter and renew your hope. The rain is temporary; but, the Son lasts forever!

Be joyful!

Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.
Psalm 119:116 NIV

Can’t…

I taught Pound class last Saturday morning and found myself talking to one of my friends after the workout. I was, once again, belly aching how “I can’t” seem to get my act together on making better eating choices and how “I can’t” seem to string more than a couple of days together, and how “I just can’t” seem to lose this weight! My friend looked me right in the eye and said with complete sincerity, “Can’t? That’s funny, I don’t consider you a can’t person.” WOW! She stopped me in my tracks and sent me into some serious soul searching for the rest of the weekend.

You see, I have never considered myself a can’t girl. Quite honestly, I was not raised to be a can’t kinda person. Honestly, I don’t think I even realized the fact that I had said can’t three times in that conversation. Words have such power and they often dictate our strength or weakness. My internal dialogue had shifted to all the reasons that I can’t get my act together instead of focusing on the straight truth, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I verbalized that morning the problem: there is no can’t in Christ!

How many times in our lives do we allow the internal “can’t” to manifest externally and stop us from achieving our goals? How many times in our lives do we allow the lie that we “can’t” stop us from making progress toward I can? How often do we allow our words to defeat us instead of boldly claiming the victory we have in God’s Word?

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7 NIV

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 NIV

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 NIV

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16‭-‬17 NIV

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13 NLT

Christ turns every situation we face into I can every time! And He has given us His Word, His Strength and His Companionship to accomplish good goals for Him! He also gives us people to remind us along the way who we are and who He created us to be! Glory!

I dare you to turn your “can’t” into can today! And then claim your victory!

Be joyful!

How Can I Help…

Wouldn’t our lives be so different if we approached every situation with the simple question, how can I help? I watched the show, New Amsterdam this week and was struck by this simple question that occurred time and time again during the show. The interesting part is that each time the question was asked, it was sincere and was asked in a way that made you believe that the intention of the person inquiring to help was genuine, encouraging and willing.

You see, I think we live in a culture that glazes over the importance of eye to eye, sincere communication. We isolate ourselves from each other with busyness and a lack of real human concern and empathy. I’ve said it before; but it merits saying again here: often we spend so much time with our head and eyes down on those small cell phone screens that we miss EVERYTHING.

How can I help my daughter achieve her goals and dreams for her life? How can I help my friend who suffered a death recently? How can I help my husband feel supported and appreciated? How can I help that stranger feel noticed? How can I help that stay at home mom feel valued and encouraged? How can I help this broken world find light and truth?

Helping starts with pausing, focusing, listening, and asking. How many times in life do we set out boldly to help with a situation, never even asking how indeed we can. Jesus said in Matthew 7, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” He was showing us the way to approach helping right here in His precious Word. Helping requires getting our focus off of ourselves and onto someone or something else.

So, let’s be diligent today to open our eyes and ears to those people and situations around us. Is help needed? First, we have to notice. Then, we have to ask. And then? Well, then you have to stretch out your arms and give it every last bit of your energy. Ask, seek and then open that door, meaning jump into action. It’s what Jesus would do!

Be joyful and more like Him!

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
Revelation 3:20 NIV

I Won’t Worry ‘Bout a Thing…

I struggle with worry. It creeps into my thoughts even on the brightest of days. The worries can be small, “is so and so mad at me?” or “why did I eat all of that ice cream?” to bigger worries like “what would I do if something happened to my mom?” or “what if my daughter gets in a car accident?” Big or small, daily worries can add up and leave us mentally exhausted. Have you ever noticed that worry can cause our thoughts to spin out of control? Before you know it, that small mole hill has become Mount Everest. It’s no wonder that God tells us so often in His Word not to worry.

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. ‘Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.'” Matthew 6:30‭-‬34 MSG

I love this version of these assuring passages in Matthew. It would do us all some good to steep our lives–hang out and soak up–some God-reality, God-initiative and God-provision. The definition of worry is to give way to anxiety or unease; allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles. In essence when we worry we are putting blinders on, zeroing in on the trouble at hand. When we allow God’s Word and Hope to penetrate that worry, we allow God to remind us of His reality, His love, and His peace. And just like that those blinders come off and we can see Him, in all of His radiance. He is bigger than any trouble. Stronger than any worry. And He is in complete control. Glory!!

So, let me put some assuring lyrics into your heart that we learned this summer at Shipwrecked VBS. And I encourage you to sing along the next time worry tries to take over…

Free like a bird in the big blue sky. Not a cloud or a care for a million miles. I won’t worry, worry ’bout a thing.

God loves me and He loved me first. He rescued me when I was in a lurch. And I won’t worry, worry about a thing.

To the left I’ll fly, fly, fly.

To the right, I’ll glide, glide, glide.

No, and I won’t worry, worry ’bout a thing!

Gonna scoop down low, low, low.

Gonna soar up high, high, high.

And I won’t worry, worry about a thing.

Be joyful and don’t you worry ’bout a thing!

You are enough.

Let me take some time this Saturday morning to remind you that you are enough. You are precious to your Father in heaven. His love for you stretches as far as the east is from the west. There is absolutely nothing you could do or say to make Him love you more or less than He does right now!

He sees you and He has designed everything about you in His image. You are uniquely and wonderfully made, no mistakes. Your outward appearance and inward personality is a reflection of His beauty and goodness. You take His breath away. Quite literally, He breathed very life into your frame!

He chose you to serve Him during this time in history. What you do with the life He gave you matters to Him. You are part of the biggest love story known to man. You are extraordinarily part of His story. And you have what it takes to serve Him mightily!

You are strong, mentally and physically. Your Father’s strength fills you up. You do not face the trials of this world alone. He is mighty to save and you can rise above any challenge with Him as your guide!

God keeps every promise. He will never let you down. He will never give up on you. He will never turn His back on you. He is faithful, honest, and true. Every time. You can rely on Him!

You have His approval. Because of His precious Son, Jesus, you stand blameless in His sight. You are forgiven. Cherished. And you have eternal life. Now. And forever.

You are enough. Because He is everything!

Be joyful this weekend!

It’s an Opal Kind of Day…

It is a beautiful day here in my part of Texas, bright blue skies and white, billowy clouds fill the sky. My Grandma Hart would have loved it. I will always remember her on days like today.

My Grandma had a wicked sense of humor; was always up for a game of Yatzee; loved to eat breakfast on the beach (a little sand in your eggs makes it authentic); made the best tuna salad; grew kumquats in her backyard; and would take me to the mall and to Captain D’s during every visit. I loved spending time with her! Isn’t it fabulous how something as simple as blue skies and billowy clouds can unleash a flood of fond memories?

At Vacation Bible School we encourage the kids to share God Sightings, those things in every day life that make them think about their Father in heaven. I wonder how different this Labor Day weekend would be if we looked around with open eyes and heart, seeking to find Christ around us? And then allow our thoughts about Him to bring back a flood of fond memories and ways that He has and continues to touch our lives. Surely it would change our hearts, our perspective and provide a peace that surpasses all human understanding.

I’m in! Are you?

Be joyful!

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8 NIV

73 is the new 43….

I just spent ten glorious days with two of my favorite people: my mom and dad. They both turned 73 this year; but, you would never know it. Their genuine zest for life and overall health could put me and some of my friends to shame. I have always admired them; but find the older that I get the more that admiration grows. I want to be like them when I grow up. 😉 So, I thought that I would share some things that I have observed about them.

Put God first in everything you do: your life, marriage, home, vocation and decisions. Do everything for His Glory. Remember it’s not about you. It’s about Him. Always.

Surround yourself with things that you love. My parents have pictures of family everywhere. They also have family heirlooms, cows, crosses, lighthouses, positive affirmations and other things that they love around their house.

Take time to prepare a good meal and sit down to eat it family-style.

Climbing stairs is a good thing. My parents house on the river is only accessible by a flight of stairs. And their bedroom is up another flight of stairs.

Spend some time gardening. Both of my parents are Master Gardeners and they love to grow flowers, vegetables, and herbs, which means they spend time outside tending to their garden. (Oh and those good meals mentioned above involve lots of homegrown, seasonal vegetables.)

Give back to your community. Volunteer and promote commerce, fellowship and service within your city. Roll up your sleeves and work when help is needed.

Games are good for your soul and a great way to keep your mind active and alert. My mom is an avid bridge player and is involved in playing cards each week with other women. We love to play board games when we get together as a family.

Take time to sit outside and soak in God’s creation. Watch birds. Enjoy the sunshine. Float on the river. Watch stray kittens play. Ha!

And no matter your age, keep dreaming. Look forward to what God has in store for you next. Talk about the future, make plans to travel and imagine amazing things for your life. In every season. You see, eternal life begins now in Christ. What are you waiting for?

Be joyful!

I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God. Ecclesiastes 3:10‭-‬13 NLT

A River Runs through It….

I went kayaking yesterday with my man. We put in at my parent’s house on the Greenbrier river and went about 11 miles. It was a beautiful day on the river. Each stretch had its own unique personality: the banks looked more or less plush with greenery; the flow of the water varying; and the mountains surrounding grew larger in some areas. (I noticed that my husband and I have both grown in our mid-sections as well.) Yes, change is inevitable on the river. And growth is a given.

A couple of years ago, the river experienced flash flooding which devastated this particular area of West Virginia. There were areas of the river where debris was still piled, including a couple of boat trailers that had been swept up in the flood. In the midst of such beauty, there were reminders of past devastation and hurt.

Our lives unfold before us much like a river. Each season is unique and brings it’s own set of obstacles and beauty. Sometimes the mountains we face seem larger; sometimes the waters we manuever are more turbulent; sometimes the scenery surrounding us is more plush and sometimes flood waters come out of nowhere and sweep us away.

Yet in the midst of it all, God stays constant and in complete control, orchestrating the ebbs and flows. Lest we forget that He created the beautiful, powerful, ever-changing river itself. He knows each stretch like the back of His hand. And He knows you too. And me. He also knows when we need a flood of water to wash us clean or maybe push us through to our next calling.

Now let me tell you about my favorite part of our kayak. Just around one of the bends, a gorgeous long haired golden lab came swimming out to see me. He swam up to my boat and laid his nose in my hand in the water for just a brief second and then swam back home to the river bank. It truly delighted my soul and made me giggle with joy.

God will show up along the way and surprise you with simplistic joy and satisfaction. Sometimes it will seemingly swim out of nowhere and leave you astounded at His goodness and perfect timing. So, I say, let’s keep paddling. Our journey will end in complete healing, complete joy and complete satisfaction. In Christ. And His river always runs through it.

Be joyful!

But the river itself, on both banks, will grow fruit trees of all kinds. Their leaves won’t wither, the fruit won’t fail. Every month they’ll bear fresh fruit because the river from the Sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing. Ezekiel 47:12 MSG

Photo creds to my beautiful daughter.

Flair for the Dramatic…

I have always had a flair for the dramatic. In fact, growing up my mom often referred to me as Sarah Bernhardt.

The first time I got sick after my man and I were married, I asked him to set me up on the couch. I needed lots of pillows, blankets and and of course my TV tray close by with kleenex, my drink, saltine crackers, remote control and anything I might possible need within easy reach. He thought that I was all set and was about to leave the room when I asked him where my bell was. You see, my mom would put a bell close by for me to ring if I needed something when I was sick. True story. I’ll just say it for you, SPOILED. The look on my man’s face was priceless.

My best friend came to class today at the gym after being out for a couple of weeks. She passed kidney stones last week and has been in a lot of pain. I told the class that if I passed kidney stones last week that I would probably take maternity leave for my recovery. Yes, I have a natural flair for the dramatic.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how much those early Christians suffered and were persecuted for following Jesus. “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.”
(Phillipines 1:21 NLT). This profound revelation from God could only come from deep relationship with our Savior. Jesus was the example of courage that those early Christians relied on to do His work against unbelievable odds. They relied on the power of the Holy Spirit to do miraculous things, stand up against enormous fear and continue to cling to the message of hope and love in the midst of horrific persecution.

Think about how differently and more boldly we would live for Christ if we fathomed that His very Spirit fills us, moves us and gives us all the fruit we need to proclaim Jesus in this broken world. The very “I Am” fills us with His power. He sets us apart to do mighty work for Him and He gives us the tools we need to accomplish the task. I am because of the great I AM.

Am I willing to live every day so boldly that I might venture out of my comfort zone? Am I willing to go where God leads me even if that road is unfamiliar? Am I willing to serve in ways that are uncomfortable and out of my normal ministry areas?

I think it is time for me to put my flair for the dramatic to good use for Christ. Go big or go home folks.

Be joyful!

For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. Philippians 1:20‭, ‬22‭-‬24 NLT