I’m in Love!

Bluebird flying

Are you in love?

Ohmygosh! I am! Who woulda thunk?!

How about you? You in Love?

Maybe you feel you’re too young or too old. Maybe you don’t have time for love or you’re already in love. That sweet, old song is true, “love can come and tap you on the shoulder, some starless night…”. It’s true! I thought I was callus, not interested in any new love. But wow! There he was!

OH!

He sat so still. He seemed be waiting for me to notice him. And then when I did, my heart jumped for joy. Really. (I always thought that was just an expression, but it really happens sometimes.)

He sat longer. Patiently. It seemed like he knew my eyes were drinking him in. He was magnificent. I thought briefly about getting my phone and taking a picture. This IS the 2000’s, ya know. We take pics of everything, right?

But no. Not this time.. I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want to take my eyes off him- what if he left again? He was so sweet and beautiful. I hadn’t seen him in years! And here he was… back again! (Obviously, I did take pictures. Lots of them! I’m still taking pictures.)

I’ve seen him every day for weeks now. He’s on the fence, on the planter, in the crepe myrtle, on the bluebird box. On the bluebird box?! That means he’s moved back in and yes! I’ve even seen his spouse inside the box.

Bluebird on house

Seeing them makes me so happy. The bluebird of happiness. Yes! He does bring happiness.

And that’s who I’m in love with!

This spring has brought me birds like never before. It seems they’re here in my little yard just to remind me of God’s love. I see each one as a gift. Although I have to admit I have favorites, each of them is a sweet gift. The bluebirds. The cardinal family. Robins like crazy! (LOTS of robins!) Sparrows, of course. Chickadees, oh yes. Silly little house wrens. Even the hummingbird has been around- back again this year after a years long absence. (I need to clean out the feeder! Put out the nectar! I want to encourage Mr. Hummer to stay awhile!) All I need now is for the yellow finches, who came when we first moved here, to come back! THAT would be a miracle I think.

Last week, I sat outside finishing my tea, enjoying the breeze and birds’ singing. It was lovely. The bluebird came and chatted with me for a moment. I watched the breeze blowing the newly greened trees against a bright blue sky.

Suddenly I realized something was different. There was an OPPOSUM making its fat way slowly along the top of the fence. It came from the back corner and seemed to be making its way toward the bluebird house. UGH! I’ve never seen one so close-up. It didn’t scare me so much as make me mad!

Opossum on fence

I yelled and clapped my hands, it wasn’t fazed.

I threw pinecones. No response.

Finally, I found a good-sized rock, prayed it would make contact and… it did! Finally, that got the ‘possum’s attention and it slowly, slowly, slowly turned around and made its way back long the fence. UGH. Now we need to find a way to get rid of the thing! It was big and fat and there’s no need for it to be in my yard! I’m so glad I was outside to see that thing. It is not welcome. Colin says it’s part of the bio-sphere and so it is. It’s just not going to be part of our yard’s bio-sphere!

Meanwhile, the birds seem unconcered about the unwelcome visitor.

Bluebird couple

Cardinal on railing

And I’ve gone back to simply enjoying the bird-drama. Lord and Lady Bluebird definitely have a family getting ready to hatch in their house. The Cardinal Family has been busy “chick, chick, chick-ing” around the yard. I haven’t found their home yet though.

The other day, the Blues and the Reds seemed to be having a bit of a border dispute- both in the same bush, close to the Blue’s house. The Blues won. Red moved on.

And so, life goes on. Challenges and victories come and go. Meanwhile God gives us these small, but glorious, blessings to encourage us along the way. To me, birds are the salt and pepper of everyday life. They give us joy. They cheer us up.

Thanks be to God that I am in love – again.

Thanks be to God for His everyday blessings!

 

I’d love for you to share your everyday blessings in the comments below. Life is hard and it’s the little things that make it bearable. God is always with us even though we don’t always recognize Him there. Seeing the bluebird, enjoying the coffee, noticing a child’s laughter. These are the spices. These are the important things.

Thanks for reading and thanks for sharing your little gifts.

Many blessings…. Until next time!

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Judy

Spring trees

Sure, we say nice things about people when they die. It’s expected, right?

Well, in Judy’s case anything nice you say about her is true and more. She was one in a million: truly caring, loving, forgiving, gracious, generous, considerate, kind. She was inclusive, made a friend of anyone she met. She happily looked for opportunities to serve others. She took in “strays”. She did her best to rescue those in over their heads.

Judy loved her family… even those who weren’t connected by blood. She was the glue that held together not only the immediate family but nieces and cousins, great-grandmothers and great aunts…. In-laws, outlaws and everybody in between. She’d travel miles to see an elderly aunt or participate in a niece’s baby shower.

Judy remembered my tears and held them as her own.

She was a woman of great faith… faith-filled, faithful.

She knew how to have an elegant, but absolutely fun, dinner party. She was the perfect Southern woman- from New York! But she actually meant it when she said, “bless your heart”! If she was hurt, she’d quickly forgive.

Here was a woman who had walked through some really hard stuff. Things that would easily bring someone with less faith in Jesus, less strong belief in His goodness, to their knees. She had learned to walk through the hard circumstances without dwelling there. She was able to see beyond the pettiness of others and live in grace and mercy. She had empathy. She knew. Judy reminded us of what God is like- beautiful and loving and kind, always.

Jude was not only beautiful inside, she was beautiful outside as well. She was always dressed so pretty. And she’d sweetly tell you that gorgeous scarf was given to her by a friend, or the brooch was once her hubby’s great-aunt’s. She cherished the kindness of others toward her.

And Judy’s smile! Oh. Her smile would light up the room. She had the most radiant smile; it sparkled with true joy. And, believe it or not, it was never forced, never fake. Judy’s smile was the real deal. You could bank on it. And you could be sure she was genuinely happy to see you.

The expected news came about 8:30, just as the sun was clearing away morning clouds. I was sitting, phone in lap, staring out the window. I didn’t know I was expecting the news until it came. But there it was… my sweet friend, Judy, has passed into Glory, leaving a huge hole in the hearts of so many. Certainly in mine. I can’t believe it. How did this happen? This is a tragedy.

I was in the carpool line the day before, when I got the call from our friend, telling me Judy’s light was failing and she’d soon be going to her Heavenly home. So, it wasn’t a “surprise”. But, somehow, it’s always a “surprise” when it actually happens. Even knowing it’s coming, feeling the void before getting news, it’s a heavy blow.

I am so thankful we were friends. Judy was truly the dearest of the dear. She has indeed touched my life, blessing me time and again… all the time. A loving, encouraging, faithful woman of God. A true gentle-woman. A one in a million kinda girl.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness can never extinguish it. John 1:5

Her light is in Heaven now. She is singing with the angels, dancing with her Savior. She is free of pain and suffering. How can we be sad? Although we will always have her light in our hearts, we are sad for ourselves. But so very happy for our precious Judy.

I love you, Judy!

I hope you enjoyed meeting my friend, Judy.

Now… Go hug your friends!!

HOPE – yet again

Nest in flowering tree

Hope Yet Again

I planned to move on from Hope. I thought three blogs in a row on the same subject might get boring. But, like Nellie in South Pacific, I seem to be “stuck like a dope with a thing called “Hope”, and I can’t get it out of my heart- not… this… heart.”

I am definitely no “cockeyed optimist”, as Nellie was. At the same time, Hope doesn’t seem go away no matter the circumstances. Since Hope won’t leave, perhaps I should entertain her; give her tea and cookies.

Even though she seems elusive when you’re desperate for her, she’s right there at your side when you feeling like throwing in the towel or calling it quits or dissolving into a puddle of despair. There she is! And she’s not quiet either. She’s cheering you on- telling you to keep going!

… it’ll be better, she says.

…it’ll change, she says.

…it’s only been a week… 6 months… 9 years…, she says.

…the breakthrough is close, she says.

…don’t give up now, she says.

I was sitting at the kitchen table feeling glum (right, I know, that’s my first mistake) and feeling the usual will-this-ever-change-feeling and suddenly, I felt Hope standing near (on??) my right shoulder.

She said, “I’m still here. It really will be Okay. Don’t give up now.”

Really? I kind of wanted to smack her. (Not very nice of me, is it?) At the same time, I was glad she was there. That’s the thing about her, she’s THERE. She’s “hard to kill”*. Not that I desire her demise, of course.

So. Here I am stuck with Hope. Finding it tucked here and there. Finding it the subject of many article and blogs!

I had planned to just share scripture and related posts from lots of other writers. But the following will be enough- this time.

From Ann Voskamp on Facebook, March 11, 2018:

“Hope is defiant reliance on God keeping His Word… (because) God is trustworthy… and when you know God is trustworthy, you now today and tomorrow is worthy of Hope. … As long as you still are, all is not lost. Being is hope and hope is presence and this present moment is a gift pulsing with Hope.”

WOW! I love that! “a gift pulsing with HOPE!”. Thank you, Ann Voskamp!

From incourage and Holley Gerth, Instagram, March 12, 2018:

“Tell all the feelings

Say all the things

Just know that underneath all of that

There can still be HOPE.

…God isn’t finished with your story yet. Even if what you’re doing feels useless. God has a plan and it will come to pass. He knows the desires of our hearts even better than we do and He is still writing all our stories in wild and mysterious ways today.”

Oh! I do hope that God is still writing my story in “wild and mysterious ways”! Hey! Even knowing He’s just writing anything is encouraging! Thank you, incourage and Holley Gerth!!

“Find rest in God alone, my hope comes from Him; He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I shall not be shaken.” Psalm 62:5, 6. See that? When we rest, we find hope and are safe in Him and will not be moved.

Ann Voskamp says, “You have to let Hope always carry you- or fears will carry you away.”

So, Hope continues. There’s probably no end to the things we can say about Hope. Hope is from God, so it’s voluminous!!

Dare to Hope again… and again…and again….

Romans 15:13 says to overflow with Hope!

Romans 5:5 says Hope doesn’t disappoint.

Alexander Pope, way back in the late 1600’s, said, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” Like Emily Dickinson’s “thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune… and never stops at all.” Hope is.

Let Hope be the phoenix that rises from your ashes. Or the angel that rises from dead leaves and says, “Come along. There’s still Hope!”

angel sitting in dead leaves

Hope is the last thing released from Pandora’s box because HOPE truly overcomes all evils.

So, friends, “… stretching tenuous muscles… reaching outstretched hands to the wind to find my brave wings to soar again.” (Rebekah Ellis on Instagram). Let Hope carry you. She’ll help you fly through adversity. Invite her into your home, give her the best chair. Make her comfortable. You’re “stuck” with her anyway!! (Does this picture look like I’ve stretched my hand and am ready to fly? )

Outstretched hand

Thanks for reading and sticking with Hope and me as we journey together.

Please share how your friendship with Hope is progressing. Are you flying with her? Or still getting to know her? Has she moved into your home? Or is she just visiting for tea and cookies? Whatever stage our friendship is in, we can always strengthen it. I know I’m not soaring with her. Not yet. I am cleaning out a spot for her to move into the house, though. We’re getting along pretty well. Learning to trust one another.

Please consider subscribing if you haven’t already. And don’t be bashful about sharing with friends!! They may need another look at Hope as well.

 

Credits:

Cockeyed Optimist from South Pacific: https://youtu.be/p0DusO6ipLw The quoted phrase begins about 2:39 in the video. I hope you’ll watch it. What’s not to love about Mitzi Gaynor?! (I also hope this link works. It doesn’t seem to be live…)

Celtic Woman; lyrics from “When We Believe”

A Little More Hope

Flowery Hope

Hello, Friends!

Here it is- the First of March!

Spring has sprung here in NC, complete with bushes and trees rushing into full bloom even with the possibility of more cold weather. I know it’s silly but this warm weather at the end of February/beginning of March is messing with me… I look outside and see springtime; the weather feels like spring and yet my calendar is telling me it’s still winter! Ugh! I think these trees have an abundance of Hope… hoping against all hope that the weather has truly changed for the warmer.

Photo blooming crabapple

As you recall, I ended the first HOPE installment with a question to myself… “Where is all this Hope I’m writing about? Am I really the one who wrote all that stuff?” It sounds so, ya know, HOPEFUL! I didn’t realize I already knew so much about Hope. After all, the reason this year’s word is HOPE is because I have a tenuous relationship with her.

I want to become intimate with HOPE. I certainly need Hope this third month of the year because the newness of the year (or month or day, etc.) changes nothing in and of itself. I am the one who has to change my thinking and tell my heart to “take heart, be Hope-filled”. I am the only one who can drain the sludge of discouragement or fear or negativity. I must work at it. The new month is a nice demarcation but the month isn’t going to be any different unless I do something different.

Sadly, Hope doesn’t come easily or naturally for me. (Will it ever, I wonder? Will I ever be a naturally, easily Hopeful person? I suspect -with my negative tendencies- that the answer is NO.) It’s hard to have to work so hard to be Hopeful. But there’s no other choice, I guess. Not really. Hope won’t give up and go away, it’s always there, somewhere or another, hiding from my tantrums or slinking into my little toe. But she won’t quite leave entirely. Thanks be to God. Since she won’t leave, I really should become friends with her.

I keep having to set and re-set my mind and take command of my heart. Really, my heart wants to Hope. It’s my heart that wants me living in peaceful-Hope (as opposed to fight-for-it-Hope). Again, I ask: can the fight-for-it-Hope become peaceful-Hope? I sure Hope so!

Sometimes Hope is easy… you’re full of faith, things are looking good and you FEEL Hopeful, Hope-filled. Hang onto that feeling, marinade in it, savor it, experience it, notice how great if feels! Enjoy feeling that your Hope is tough-as-nails and can withstand anything that comes your way; notice having “confident expectation”.

Often, “anything” does come your way and Hope becomes harder… things are not just gloomy but seem nearly impossible. If God Himself doesn’t come help you, you’re sunk, done for, dead. You have to fight hard to remember all those quotes and scriptures about Hope. You feel like you’re carrying heavy weights. Having that easy-Hope stored up gives us something to grab hold of in tough times.

I am asking God continue to open my eyes to see His Hope. I’m trusting Him to help me be less negative and re-wire my brain for the positive. I’m hoping to engage in Hope that is the evidence of what will be but isn’t yet. I’m still Hopefully Waiting , my winter-season theme, resting in anticipation of what’s coming next.

Winter is transitioning into spring with a whip-lash of sunny and warm one day, chilly with rain the next.  And my Hopeful Waiting seems to be transitioning into something new.

My Hope is built on Jesus’s faithfulness!! What is my problem, anyway? Jesus did it all! He takes care of it all, He loves me even when I’m awful. Why would I not Hope in Him? I can truly rest in Him and all He has done for me! Even though I’m still somewhat back and forth, like the weather, my Hope is becoming stronger. We’re getting to be friends.

 

Thank you for reading this today.

I’d love for you to share what your relationship with Hope is like. Is she your best friend? Is she just an acquaintance? I Hope both you and I will get to know Hope better, and that our relationship becomes intimate. Please, leave your comments below.

And if you haven’t already subscribed, please do! There’s a button (very tiny) above the right column. Thanks so much!

God bless you as winter turns to spring and you become better acquainted with Hope!

Hope 1

Straight Hope

Hope, #1

Hello and Happy February!

Here it is, the first of February! It’s still a brand, new year! Whether January was a jackrabbit or a snail, it was only 1/12 of the year. Previously, when I made resolutions, by this time most of them had gone by the wayside. How about you? Are you continuing in your resolutions? Are you still focusing on your theme for the year?

It’s good we all want to resolve to make changes at the beginning of the year. It shows we are hopeful that things can be different. Hope is a good thing. Not the wishful- thinking kind of hope but the determined-to-believe and expect-it kind of hope. Hope is an active verb. Otherwise, it’s just a wish, an impossible dream with no substance.

Did you choose a word or phrase for this year? I received some responses to that question. They include: rest, trust and follow, healthy, optimistic, prosperous and evolving. Good stuff!

I’m finding that focusing on one word is different and do-able! For 2018, my word is HOPE. Without even looking for a sub-word (is that a thing?) for Wintertime, WAIT presented itself and I think it’s very appropriate.

This 2018 Winter season, I’m Hopefully Waiting.

Winter is a season of quiet waiting, it’s being snuggled down in rest while we await springtime and warmth. I’m hopeful that the rest-time of winter is indeed growing good stuff within, unseen. Like the flowers that seem to be gone; or the trees that seem to be dead, my Hope is that I am experiencing re-generation, gaining strength and developing clearer vision as I wait in expectation of good things to come.

I’m not rushing into anything. I’m just trying to get better acquainted with HOPE. I’ve found that I’m better off when I learn some basics about a subject and then let it develop into understanding. Allow it to engage my mind, and feed my body, soul and/or spirit.

So, for “basics”, I like what Bible.org has to say about HOPE:

“What is hope? Is it a wishy- washy maybe or a kind of unsure optimism? The modern idea of hope is “to wish for, to expect, but without certainty of the fulfillment; to desire very much, but with no real assurance of getting your desire.”

“In Scripture, according to the Hebrew and Greek words translated by the word “hope” and according to the biblical usage, hope is an indication of certainty. “Hope” in Scripture means “a strong and confident expectation.” Though archaic today in modern terms, hope is akin to trust and a confident expectation.”

“Hope may refer to the activity of hoping, or to the object hoped for—the content of one’s hope. By its very nature, hope stresses two things: (a) futurity, and (b) invisibility. It deals with things we can’t see or haven’t received or both.”

Hope is hard, moment-by-moment work- at least it is for me. But when I “lose hope”, it’s really simply misplaced. There’s a song that says, “Hope is frail but it’s hard to kill”*. I might have shoved her into a dark corner when I gave way to the fears that plot against me. But Hope is nearby. Hope is there even if I’ve scared her under the bed when I gave in to weary desperation that sometimes nips at my heels. She is always there.

I can coax Hope out again with gratitude. I can nurture her and help her get healthy again by paying attention to her, trusting God and believing. Hope needs to be watered and tended with care. Like that houseplant sitting in the corner all shriveled up, Hope might appear dead but, given sun, water and a little fertilizer, she will green up and grow again.

Hope can be shared with someone who has misplaced theirs. She must be offered gently, though, and with honesty. Hope isn’t a pat-answer or a glib-response. She’s not a pat on the head, either. No. Hope must be given quietly, with compassion that says, “I understand”. She must be given with a deep but gentle hug that embraces not only the person but also their sorrow. Hope is best shared with few words.

Hope does not disappoint (Romans 5:5). She may not come the way you want or look quite like you expect, but she will come. And when she does, it’s our choice whether we embrace her as she is or reject her. If we reject rather than nurture Hope, it’s we who have sent her away. We have not lost Hope, we have turned away from her, choosing instead the fears and disappointments. But even rejected, Hope is still there. She is forgiving and will gladly be embraced when we realize how much we need her. In the darkest, longest, stormiest night, the dawn will come. And even if the dawn is cloudy, it still gives us light. If fear or pain briefly gets the upper hand, we must turn as quickly as possible back to Hope.

A “thank you” will ignite the smoldering ember of Hope. A “thank you” through gritted teeth is ok too, if we turn toward Hope, no matter how rocky or insincere it feels at the moment. Hope can take whatever small thing you give her and cause it to grow until the thankfulness is sincere and the Hope has filled us to overflowing.

Good grief! All that sounds sorta sappy and “La-dee-dah”.! No matter what it sounds like, though, it’s true. I just need to temper it with some hard reality… next time.

Let’s just marinade in this for now. I hope you will seek out Hope and engage her. Or maybe she’s already your close friend. Let me know in the comments … what’s your relationship with Hope? Of course, we all have her but how closely acquainted with her are you? I’m developing this relationship. I need to know her better. She’s a close friend of Jesus and that’s a good reason to want to know her well!

I’ll continue these thoughts next time, in two weeks. Meanwhile, I’d truly love to hear your thoughts about Hope… or your New Year’s resolutions/words. Or whatever is on your mind!

Thanks for reading. Stay warm! I hope you find a way to enjoy winter! Please subscribe if you haven’t already. Thank you!

God bless you with extra doses of HOPE- whatever your situation!

*When You Believe, Celtic Woman

The Quiet of Winter

nighttime snow scene

I’m always sad to see the Christmas lights come down, it feels so bare and empty, but I do not want to push spring. I feel a need to allow the bareness. I don’t want to see bulbs being forced into blooming in these months of quiet contemplation. I know that plants need this winter rest. And my heart seems to feel the same desire for rest, for quietude and empty space, to embrace whitespace.

We’ve just finished a year and we ended it with happy celebration. At Christmas, we cap off the current year with bright lights and beautiful decorations and as many presents as we can! We celebrate our Savior’s birth and we are thankful to Him for all His gifts of grace and beauty and mercy. We are glad to have made it through another year. And at the same time, we are happy to have a new one, so we can try again. The old year may have been good to us, but we know there are still better things to come. The old year may have been challenging, sad or just plain hard. We are ready to move into a new place, with hope in our heart that the new one will indeed be better.

A good year creates confident HOPE for the new one.

A hard year gives us the hope-through-gritted-teeth kind of HOPE. It may be a small hope, but it’s there, hope for better things to come.

Our hearts, need time to process the old to be able to move forward. Unprocessed difficulty leads to baggage in the form of fear or perhaps a wrong belief (such as “I’ll never…”, “I’m not good enough to…”, “no one cares…”). Personally, the last thing I need is more problems, especially the kind I create for myself.

When we allow ourselves to marinade in the quiet emptiness of winter, we are processing the events that affected us, and let any hardness soften. Just as plants are re-grouping and gaining energy in their rest, we need that time as well. I’m trying to let January be a total, down-time. Having “the cold from hell” helped me rest. Well, truthfully, it MADE me rest. I didn’t want to rest and for a few days my mind did not rest. I fought and fussed and felt like I’d somehow failed because those germs got the upper hand. There was a conference at church that weekend and I wanted to participate! Why couldn’t I shake that cold and go to church?? Finally, I gave in and just rested. No. I didn’t not stop doing everything I could physically to combat the cold, but I made my mind be quiet. I did not spend that time thinking about what goals need to be set or what changes I want to see for the coming year. Having a snow event also made me slow down. Just as I was feeling better, the snow brought everything to a sliding halt. But, miraculously, I allowed myself to become fascinated with the process of tiny flakes of snow creating a huge blanket that covered everything and, no matter how ugly, it all became beautiful and soft.

February will see me setting some plans for change, but it will be mixed liberally with large portions of quiet and rest. I need rest to soften the edges of my soul. And like snow, it takes a lot of time to put together enough quiet to affect a change. I want to hear God’s voice, especially when I’m seeking direction for plans and changes. But God doesn’t shout very often. He doesn’t yell at you when you’re dashing down the road. For me to hear God’s voice generally requires silence on my part. Sure, I hear whispers as I hurry; I can hear small directions, little encouragements. But, like those small individual snowflakes require many working together to create a blanket of peace, for me to hear fully I must take the time to be still.

All the “crush your goals” and “force your bulbs” people wear me out. I’m not ready to rush into hyper-organization mode. I’m not lazy. I like a good project as much as the next person. And plans? Oh please! I love plans! I just do not want to start running before I’m prepared. You cannot run a marathon before you’ve conquered a mile. You can’t (shouldn’t) run a mile before you’ve stretched. I don’t want to dash off in the wrong direction and waste time.

Rest is not time wasted. Rest is preparation. Remember those plants in the ground?

Our human body and soul needs rest.

My body and soul needs the quiet rest of winter, to be ready to bloom in the spring.

 

How about you? Have you made resolutions? Do you have plans for change this year?

How do you feel about this silent winter season? Do you embrace it or fight it tooth and nail?

And one last question that might seem unrelated…. Have you chosen a “word for the year”? It could be a phrase or scripture, but it’s your central theme for the New Year.

I hope you’ll comment below and share your thoughts.

I hope you will subscribe. I publish every first and third Thursday of the month. There’s a “Subscribe” button at the top of the right-hand column. Please, feel free to share this blog.

Thank you so much for being part of the journey through whatever Pathways or Portals lie ahead!

May this winter season bring you peace as you listen for God’s voice. May you find comfort in the quiet as your soul regroups and prepares for new growth. God bless you!

Happy 2018!

Happy New Year, ya’all!! May 2018 be a year of breakthrough for each of us!

There’s something exciting about a brand, new year- fresh and clean and bright with hope.

Of course, every day, every hour, every minute is fresh with hope and new Mercies. Someone once described those Mercies as being “excited to greet us”, excited to help us out each day. They show up whether we’re aware of them or not. They are ready to help even when we’re too messed up to notice. God’s Mercies are ready and willing do all the heavy lifting, ready to carry the burdens.

Lamentations 3:22-24 (NKJV), “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion”, says my soul, “therefore I hope in Him!””

For all my good intentions, goals set and resolutions made (not that I make them anymore), it’s God who accomplishes change. I will fail: sometimes in small ways and sometimes really big. But God is willing to give me new starts all the time, any time.

1 Thessalonians 5:24 says, “Faithful is He who has called you; it is He who shall perform it.”

I get so frustrated with myself…. Doing the same dumb things over and over. At least that’s what it feels like. Those new Mercies every morning get put to the test. They really earn their keep- when I ask for their help. I must ask. Otherwise, they are like an unopened present- it’s nice and it’s pretty but it does me no good if I don’t open it and use it!

God doesn’t wave a finger and say “Oops, nope. This time you’ve gone tooo far.” He is always, all ways, ready and desiring to embrace me, soothe my brokenness and help me do the things He put in my heart. Each failure is just a bump in the road. Each moment is a chance to change course, and use that bright, new Mercy at my disposal. I can choose, moment by moment, to follow God into His plan, with His help. I can put aside the goof-up and move boldly into His arms. Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV), “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

“let new life happen to you”, says Nayyirah Waheed. God is always wanting to give new life. He will happily make His plans for us work out.  All I have to do is turn to Him, moment by moment, use that Mercy He provides!

Jeremiah 29:11-13, says God knows the plans He has for us- they’re good plans for prosperity and hope and a good future.

So. Here I am, starting the new year by preaching to myself. I do that a lot (I should really pay closer attention). I want to make changes but the only way they’ll stick is if I do it with God’s help and do it small…. small steps, small changes that add up to big ones over time.               2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

What are your “changes” for this year? Do you make resolutions? Set goals? How does the new year inspire you! Please share in the comments below. I hope you’ll subscribe (above, on the right) so we can journey through 2018 together! And please feel free to share this with your friends.

Thanks so much for reading.

Happy New Year and God bless you good!

Beginning Again

 

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Hi Ya’all!

I’ll keep it short today, especially since today IS short! I know we’re all running around checking off those last-minute items from our Christmas lists. Or maybe, like me, you’re late to the party and still shopping, still making those lists. Either way- today- short is good.

Breezing through my Instagram feed the other day, I saw a meme from Patsy Clairmont, that said in essence, “Begin Again: Add Joy”. It was just what I needed at that moment. It’s what I need all the time!

My sister and I saw a sign in a gift shop that said: “It’s never too late to start the day over!”, so I understand the theory of beginning again. It’s become something of a theme with us. We’ve been known to “start the day over” after dinner! It’s a handy tool to have, the “start-the-day-over” button in my brain. It’s like a reset button.

It is a mindset, really. I don’t know about you, but I can get bogged down in a project and next thing I know, my mood begins to decline (doesn’t that sound better than saying “have a melt-down”?) and the lovely project transforms into a monster that is not going to bless anybody.

Last week, I spent every moment I could eek out working on a project, only to scrap it at the last minute. I wasted precious time at a time of year when time is hard to come by. I was so disappointed in myself. The harder I tried, the worse it became. I was mad at myself. I didn’t hear from God evidently. There was nothing accomplished, nothing complete. I don’t know if starting over would have saved the project but I’m sure adding joy would have made a big difference.

Starting over is one thing. It’s very helpful. But adding JOY to the start-over is like a super-charge to your thought processes. The Bible says the Joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Joy is: feet spread wide, arms outstretched above your head, happy. It’s also a deep abiding peace that permeates your whole being. If I need to begin again, I need joy and that will give me strength too!

JOY can be found by taking a few moments to thank God for what is going well. It’s noticing the beauty in creation. It’s stepping back, taking a deep breath and turning your thoughts away from the problem and toward the Source of all Help. Do I need a short walk? Nap? Water? How about coffee? Maybe a good stretch and some upbeat music will help me re-focus. Joy is there;  all i have to do is find it!

So… I am practicing beginning again- and again- and again! It’s better than getting muddled in the middle of something that’s not working. Starting over AND adding joy is like hitting the jack-pot. It’s truly a fresh start.

Starting over and focusing on JOY is my Christmas miracle- at least for today- because I’m at peace (yikes!) even though there is still SO much to do. In spite of all the doing, it’s really about the JOY of the Lord’s birth and His great, joyful love for us!

Disclaimer: I know. There are plenty of times to keep going. Hang in there. Stick it out. The trick is knowing whether to start over or keep going. With all the busy-ness of Christmas, I think it’s good to start over- with JOY added because… really? When we joyfully start over, we are re-setting our mind.

Merry Christmas Blessings! Enjoy. Just do it… in-JOY!

I’m looking forward to seeing you next year! 2018! Let’s make it a great year together.

Please leave a comment and follow Pathways and Portals. There’s a button in the upper right sidebar. I’d love for you to join me in traveling the pathways of life and exploring new portals. God bless you!

Slow Down

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“Pick one thing today and do it well, then exhale.”

Thus ends the devotion* I was reading. In “exhale”, she is saying to stop and enjoy the work you’ve done. Did you do laundry? Stop and enjoy the smell of clean clothes. Notice the symmetry of folded towels in the linen closet. Did you paint a picture? Write a chapter- or a thank you note? Take a deep breath. Smile and think about the encouragement your work will bring to someone.

It’s true. Everyone seems to be writing and talking about slowing down. But somehow, it’s appropriate for everyone to say something about it. It needs saying- frequently!

I know I need to remind myself often. It especially applies to the “good” stuff, the things that are good to do and hardest to say “no” to. It applies to all the great blogs and posts I feel like I’m missing. I want to stay up to date, stay inspired and encouraged, after all! But even the best blog by the greatest inspirational writer can turn into One. More. Thing. To. Do.

Dare I say it? Advent, as beautiful and important as it is, can add too much stress. Advent is certainly worth slowing down for, taking notice of, and preparing our hearts to celebrate. But, my friend, if it’s just adding stress, don’t do it. How does it sound to read, “…the angel said, ‘I bring you tidings of great joy…’”, in a hard, sarcastic voice? EW! Allow this time of year be about finding Jesus wherever you are, rather than being bound by a schedule.

November galloped past and we hung on for dear life, dashing into Thanksgiving (forgetting Veteran’s Day completely). We barely stopped to enjoy what is supposed to be quiet, grateful reflection with family. Did you catch the Black Friday deals? Have you decorated the tree and put the lights on the house! Let’s be sure to write Christmas cards and go to concerts and bake cookies and roast a goose and don’t forget to shop ‘til you drop! There’s the kids’ teachers to buy for, the boss’s party to dress for and grandma’s house to go to. Sing in the choir. Give to the poor. Support the cause. And don’t forget to plan New Year’s Eve. And – LOOK! In January they’re starting a Bible study! Better put it on the calendar. Oh! Did we make Valentine’s dinner reservations? How about summer camp sign up?

Phew! Just writing all this leaves me breathless. Our society seems bent on bullying us into doing the next 5 things before we even get to the real NEXT thing.

STOP!

I don’t know about you, but I need to make RIGHT NOW the important thing. Then, the next thing, when it’s time to do it, can be important. I need to CHOOSE what to devote time and effort to and then enjoy it, savor it, rest in it. It really IS okay to “rest on your laurels”- for a few moments.

I need time in the day- preferably in the morning- to be quiet. I need to connect with God, to find peace and direction. I need to connect with myself, and the “to-do” list, to find out what really needs doing. (Like it or not, if there’s no underwear, I MUST do laundry!).

Guess what? We all need time to be quiet, silent. We are created with a built-in requirement for rest. Our bodies must have quiet rest to function well.

I’m resisting the efforts of our run-away, do-it-all culture. Sure, I’d like to “do -it-all”, there’s value in the things I mentioned earlier.

But consider:

#1- what is God saying to me? and

#2- what can I reasonably do and do well?

I need to keep a sharp focus on what’s important to my heart and my family. We are all different, so what’s important to me probably isn’t to you! Don’t throw out something that speaks to your heart just because your friends don’t do it. If you’ve determined to do a project, do it with gusto. Do it with your whole heart.  Turn off the negative talk in your head.

Rather than dash and crash headlong to the next event (even if it’s your Bible study) enjoy, notice, even relish unloading the dishwasher, the job at hand. Be “mindful” and “intentional” (those oh-so-popular buzz words).

There will always be voices yelling at us to do, do, do… and make it snappy!

Let’s tame those bullies, shut them down entirely. Let’s hear from our heart, hear what God has put there. Let’s do one thing well and allow that one accomplishment to nourish us and fill our heart, enabling us to do the next thing with a full heart.

Exhale. Rest. Relish. Breathe.

 

*Day 333. “A Different Way of Looking at Success”, by Denise J. Hughes. Page 335     A Moment to Breathe, published by (In)Courage.

 

Do you relate to feeling overwhelmed, even by the “good stuff”?

I’d love it if you share and tell us how you tame the bullies.

Please share your thoughts in the comments. Thanks so much!

 

I’d be honored if you subscribe to Pathways and Portals! There’s a button in the upper right.

Share this with a friend who might need encouragement to slow down.

My plan is to publish on the first and third Thursday of each month. Be on the lookout for another edition December 21st!

THANKS for reading! God bless you!

We Don’t Have to Agree to Have a Good Relationship

With Th2016-11-21 21.21.40anksgiving coming up and all the talk of having to spend time with a fractious family, I realize, yet again, just how blessed I am to have a super great sister.

Although my sister and I are often opposites, we decided long ago that we would “get along”, because family is important, no matter what. We all have a family- blood, friend, adopted, alienated, nutty. What we have to decide is: how important is this family in my life?

How do my sister and I match up?

Politically- very different. Left versus right. Conservative versus liberal. Once in a blue moon we probably agree but since we agreed not to talk about it, it just doesn’t usually come up! You really can have hour-long conversations and never once mention politics!

Different life-style. Hers gives me a glimpse of another way. She has been single for many years but is now in a new relationship. It’s good to remember what it’s like to be newly in love. Since I am 50 years into marriage, it causes me to think about love in a new way.

She enriches me. Do I enrich her? I hope so.

We both love God- in our own way.

We share many questions… and answers…. And some family mysteries that we’ll probably never figure out. We are interested in family dynamics. Although she is more interested than me (yes, I admitted it, Sis), it makes me think about things I’d probably not notice otherwise. That’s a good thing.

We both love cats.

We both read a lot- maybe born of wanting to escape an unstable, volatile father. Although I was into mysteries for many years, I’ve gravitated to more non-fiction, and that is what’s on her bedside table.

She likes movies. I can’t tell you the last movie I saw. (Oops! Not true. I saw “Hidden Figures” and loved it.) Of course, I like a good movie, but for her, it’s a “thing”!

Apple fritters- definitely a point of agreement!!

Lactose-free versus “there’s no such thing as too much cheese”.

As kids, she had black hair with soft curls. I was blonde with straight hair.

She is smart… with advanced degrees to prove it. Me? I don’t know. But she remembers me teaching her to read. I am 5 years older, started school when she was born! If I taught her to read, I must be ok, right. *wink* *smile*

She’s an international Leadership Coach. She’s good. She’s kind. She will help you! But there are times she says I coach her (I’ve learned all her best techniques!). We “coach” each other!

One more thing: My sister is a wonderful cook and puts a lot of effort into turning out some scrumptious meals. Me? I’m happy to get something on the table. Of course, I love beautiful food- especially if someone else cooks it, or if it’s easy to make! (I do make good gravy, thank you very much.)

So, you see, we have things we share as well as some areas where we disagree. It’s the things we share that are important. Listening to each other’s opinion and beliefs encourages us to think deeper, consider differently, read more widely. We don’t have to agree in order to like each other. We don’t have to be the same. We may not be “opposite” so much as “different”. Think how boring it would be if we were exactly alike. We love each other because we’re sisters, we like each other because it’s more important than being “Burger King” (having it your way!).

If I get a little annoyed about something, I let it go, allowing her her thoughts. (I will, however, challenge her if I feel she’s in danger. But even that is more of a nudge. I cannot save her from my perceived dangers.) I’m sure I don’t annoy her… hohoho. But she allows me the same grace, letting me be me (and gently challenging when she’s worried about me).

Not all relatives are as kind as Linda. Some only want to be with you if you totally agree with them, are in lock-step with them. They don’t seem interested in relationship or family or shared history. And that is so sad. If you want relationship without abandoning your own morals, they make it very hard. But it’s possible. Ask yourself… is it more important to have relationship or to be “Burger King” (like a petulant two-year-old stomping her foot and yelling because she can’t have it her way)?  You get to decide what’s important to you.

Perhaps we, as a nation, need to gather together and ask the same question. We have a shared history. We are related by the blood of all the soldiers who died to keep us safe. Is it really more important to have it exactly our way than to work together for a higher cause?  There are usually ways to come together if we listen, consider and compromise. To do what’s right rather than … well… be “Burger King”.

We might not be able to do anything about the entire country. But maybe we can bring some peace to our family. Do you have anyone you’re not too excited about seeing next Thursday? Is there someone in the family gathering that just rubs you the wrong way? If you plan ahead and decide how to be proactively kind, maybe you can make a difference. What will you do?

I will miss being with my sister next week. We’ll be with our kids and grand-kids and that will be lots of fun- not stressful! I don’t even have to do much cooking. My sis will be with her sweetie’s family.

My prayer is that you have a good Thanksgiving, that you bring a little more peace to a volatile situation and that your peacemaking will bring even more peace to the upcoming Christmas gatherings!

I hope you’ll share how you deal with family situations. I’d really like to know.

I also hope you will follow my blog. There’s a button on this page now- yay!! It’s right up there on the right…

Thanks for reading!

God bless you and Happy Thanksgiving!

(PS- I like Burger King fine. I like to “have it my way”! I am not saying anything derogatory about BK.)