Saturday, October 31, 2009

Life Changing Reading

Rarely do I read something that immediately impacts my life. Rather, rarely do I read something besides God's Word that changes me that quickly. Yet this morning, in cumulation with the reading that I've been doing the past few weeks (in His word, and though the book "The Noticer"), the article I read in the Ozark Christian College magazine "The Compass" really hit me between the eyes.

The article, "A Single-Minded Focus Always Wins" written by President Matt Proctor, really spells things out clearly and concisely. You can go to the link to download the Winter 2009 Compass here:

Click on that issues link, then go to the "President's Perspective" article on pages 4 and 5. It is TOTALLY worth the few moments it takes to read. You'll understand the rest of what I'm about to say if you read that first. Don't worry, I'll wait.  :)

I have never set a goal. Well, I've talked about goals, wanted goals and achieved things that took planning (like weddings, events, etc) but I've never said "at this date and time I want THIS (whatever "THIS" is) to be done."

Now I'm seeing how the LACK of goal setting in our household has affected my kids, for better or worse. For me - an empty nesting grandparent - it's affected me for the worse. I can't undo the years of what they have lived with, but I can change me NOW and hopefully they can glean from my experience.

I am a "jack of all trades, master of none" and have been my entire life. I love to read, and gain a little bit of knowledge from everything I read. The occasional fiction I read is entertainment - I mostly read non-fiction and biographies, trying to learn more. I guess I'm more an avid LEARNER - not reader. :)

The jobs I've had have been obtained more by "prayerful happenstance" than a career path plan. I don't recall not getting a call back on a job interview...although I'm sure there have been a few.  I've always loved writing, art, music - although I don't play an instrument at all. Although I am right handed, I think I am more right brained....the creative side rules. Perhaps this has kept me from making plans and staying focused in my life.

I have ALWAYS had too many irons in the fire. I'm rarely content with life "as is" and always seem to be stirring some pot to get some other result. I love to cook, and this always opens doors to opportunities to feed people. I love people (although I feel like I'm a recluse at heart). I think that the circumstances in life have kept much moss from forming on the bottom of this rolling stone. Even though we've lived in this area for almost 19 years, I could pack up in a heart beat to meet new people somewhere else. I feel that my "real" home isn't on this earth, but in heaven. Perhaps that's what really keeps me moving.

But for now, I'm stuck here on earth, and in this area too. I have a full life. Too full really. I need to simplify in a new way. Not just with material things (I think we've done ok with that...although we've gone a bit overboard with the Wii accessories in the past year!), but with my time. Where am I spending my time and energy?? How can I become more of a "hedgehog" and less of a "fox" in my life??

First off is my "business venture" with Jordan Essentials. I LOVE these products!! My skin is SO much better (healthier, happier, never a breakout, so much less dry skin, and NO RASHES!!), but the reality is that when I started as a consultant my goal was that this would be a ministry to others; mostly to women, to reach them in their homes and that through that I might share Jesus' love with them. My hope was to create income enough to tithe to missionary friends from that - the reality is that I barely sell enough to pay for my supplies and I am my own best customer. I just need to stop trying to sell it at all, and just give my sales to someone else if an order happens to fall in my lap. I won't buy any more supplies to run my business, will stop sending out fliers and notices on the sale items. My time is best spent somewhere else.

Secondly is the way I spend my time thinking of things that I can not control - even if it affects my future....namely my kids lives. 2 of them are happily married, and I pretty much have let those apron strings detach....I hope they are anyways! My single child still has a hold on me. I have thought that it was healthy, but it's not. I can pray for them, encourage them, but I have got to stop allowing them to involve me in their life - and stop involving myself when I'm not invited!! In the same breath, we have got to set some stricter boundaries on time and space.  I've started it by deleting the single one from my friends list, as well as some of the friends that we shared. I don't want to know everything that's going on. Perhaps in the future we can be "friends" again - but for now it's a distraction (ok, sometimes an obsession on my part) and I need to grow up - and apart.

For my married kids, the change has to be in focusing on my marriage. Rarely do Mark and I venture beyond state lines to take a trip "for us" - and as much as I LOVE my kids and grandkids, I need to be focused on enriching my marriage; and this includes making new discoveries together. We need adventures and discoveries - we are life long learners!! I could spend days on end chasing my grandkids around, but I really need something more than this - while we can do this. I'm not in back-backing shape, but not ready for the rocking chair either. I want to make the most of these years and I will be a better grandparent (and parent) if I remain happily married and in love with my husband- and this takes time away for us.

I also need to encourage my husband to devote time to nurturing our friendships - even if it's only for me.  He has always taken much pride - and has gotten much pleasure - in his friendships at work. I have some great friends that have traveled the globe with me, and we have stayed in touch on line, in letter, and on phone. We need "we" friends with other married couples....people that are facing the same dilemmas and issues as we are, and that we can have fun and discover new places with.

I need to set a few goals for ME. Is it the fear of failure that keeps me from setting them?? I'm not sure. As I fine tune my personal life I need to set some goals to cross off my "bucket list" and regain focus. I don't know if there are more than a few that I'm comfortable putting down...but know that I'm taking steps towards achieving them even before I've set them. I want to finish a book - not reading one - writing one! I feel that God's given me a great vision for a book that I hope to finish by early spring. Hopefully with narrowing my field of vision I will be able to set and complete this goal. OK - I guess it IS set!! I want to write more, not just blogging, but to be published more on line and in print. I want to be disciplined in this!!

One thing that has been a constant in my life is my love for reaching little ones for Christ. I will continue to love on them, and plant seeds of faith in their lives. I didn't realize how important a part of my life this was until I started to put the pieces together about empty nesting....I didn't miss my adult kids nearly as much as I missed my kids when they were YOUNG. Obviously, I didn't want them to be little again, I love that they are well adjusted adults and nurturing relationships, marriages and kids on their own; but it left a hole in my heart and a need that I wanted fulfilled. God has provided an opportunity for me to keep a few kids during the summer that are in many ways surrogate grandkids, and one little boy year 'round that has helped fill this void. I love sharing the love of Jesus, singing songs, reading books and discovering new things with them. I was blessed the other day when one of the girls called one evening "just because" and I smiled the entire time as she told me about her day, what's going on at school, and the recent choir performance that she got to sing in. What a blessing! I hope that as my own grandkids grow that they will bug their parents to call me and talk too! I love it!!

Service is also another area that my life can be a "hedgehog" and enlarge my footprint for Jesus. Through our church and a world reaching missions organization we can encourage others to draw near to the One that loves us most. This is an area that I choose to spend time and make a priority in my daily life. Doors have opened wide in being able to use my passion for writing to share about reaching others for Jesus, so this is a no brainer for me.

All in all - my "fox" activities coming to a close are few, and my "hedgehog" activities are already in my life - just not done with a common purpose. I pray that He will entwine them together and bring fruit to this effort, and I will continue to thank Him for bringing my life into order...even if it has taken me several years to see this connecting purpose. I'm so grateful that he doesn't give up on me!!


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Intro to "JOY" that I didn't use on Sunday...

   Don’t you love that song (I’ve Got Joy Joy Joy Joy Down in My Heart)?? It always reminds me of kids at camp and campfires and laughing silly. LOVE IT!!
   I’m always wondering how I’ll open the topic for our weeks of planning….and God is always faithful!
Friday morning I woke up from a dream that really impressed upon my memory. I have really vivid dreams, like it’s real life. A lot of times going to bed is like going to the movies and not knowing what movie I’m going to see!
   This dream I had was sort of scary for me….I was driving along a freeway, and I felt like it was in a rural area, but it was raining really hard. A bad storm, with driving rains and windy out, and I was driving a high profile vehicle, actually, I think it was a van. There was a woman beside me and kids in the back – but I have no idea who they were, they were just people I felt comfortable traveling with.
   Well the storm kept getting worse, and my windshield wipers were not able to keep up with the rain and I wanted to pull over to get out of the storm – but there was nowhere to stop, and I couldn’t see to get off the road. All of a sudden there is water dripping on me, then it’s FLOWING on me, and I look up and there’s an air vent above me to blow air back to the people in the back of the van, and the wind is blowing rain water IN through that vent, and it’s pouring on me. Suddenly there is NO vision in front of me….it’s black!
The rain is still pouring in, but I don’t hear it raining any more and it’s not hitting the windshield – but the sky is this blackness in front of me, and we are moving! Clearly we are in a huge tornado, and in my dream I am thinking “why didn’t I turn on the radio? I always listen to the radio when the weather gets bad!”. I’m eerily calm in all of this. No one is panicking – we’re just in our seats, in our seatbelts, and it’s just like we’re traveling….no screaming or crying or anything. I think it happened so quickly that we didn’t have time to react that way.
   Then it stops. We’re under a freeway overpass, in a large city. Clearly we’ve traveled a long distance. There are houses on the side of the freeway, and people are coming out of the houses and going back to their vehicles. A man and woman get back on their motorcycles and drive away….and I’m pulled over on the side of the road….and for whatever reason take out my cell phone and call 911, but we’re clearly all ok. Just a little shook up. We get out of our van and start talking to others on the side of the road, and I’m on hold waiting for 911…not sure why. Then a man walks up and he’s hurt, so I ask if he needs emergency attention and he says no, he’ll be ok, but his friend has a broken clavicle (who dreams like this???) and I repeat it wondering how he’s so sure that it’s a clavicle that’s broken – but he explains that he’s an intern and I look to the side and a woman is sitting on a block wall with a piece of lumber under her chin, bracing her and immobilizing her upper torso….like it would help her somehow…and I’m clueless…just waiting for 911 to answer and wondering what the heck just happened here. Then I wake up.
   The dream in itself has NOTHING to do with our topic today, which is JOY. But waking up from the dream has everything to do with it. See, I dream all the time. I am super sure that Mark is SO TIRED of hearing my nighttime escapades as I tell him the infinite details of what I’ve just experienced, things that make no difference at all in the grand scheme of HIS life. But sometimes in my dreams he has done something that’s hurt me, or made me mad. I know it was a dream, it didn’t really happen, but it’s hard for me to separate that fact from the reality of it. My brain can’t move in that direction – to NOT be mad/upset/or even thrilled with him. I have to make an effort to move beyond it, I have to make a choice to get over it and move on. So I do.
   OK – maybe the dream really did have something to do with our topic. Because in reality, in that dream, I was caught up in living life, traveling down my road. Bad stuff happens, and sometimes we are coping with it the best we can, and even stay in the direction we are supposed to be going in but it gets to be too much. We just want to pull over, stop the car, get out of the way of life for a while until we can regroup and get a better perspective of it. But we can’t. We don’t see the bigger picture of life and where we are in the storm. We just keep moving. Then something catastrophic happens, and we think “oh my, now what do I do??” realizing that there really isn’t ANYTHING we can do at all…life’s just pushing us, or pulling us, or moving us along. We have NO control over it, and sometimes we have time to panic but sometimes we don’t.  Sometimes we’ve been moved by God into a place of safety and solitude and we have to just choose how to respond, how we will react, and to choose the right way – to serve ourselves? Do we need help?? Or are we concerned with others? Maybe they have a different story to tell about their place in the storm and we need to help them – take our eyes off of ourselves and just focus on who needs the Savior’s attention – and how can I be used to help them in their journey – because CLEARLY that wind was blowing and He moved me in a way I could not have moved alone – and he put me in this place of the storm and He moved me IN the storm and he brought me OUT OF the storm and made me to land here….and I am choosing to live in the JOY of that! Not in the fear of storms, or of driving vans, or even going to sleep because I might dream again!! I will live in a place of JOY to celebrate the story, the journey of how He is moving me, changing me, making me realize that I have a purpose – even if all I can do is call for emergency to assist others – which in reality is calling to our Father in prayer. 
   In the film clip we’ll see how someone else has chosen to focus on the places of  JOY through the scriptures, and the effect it can have on their life too…even when bad stuff happens, and how our choices affect how others feel. (Show clip of “PollyAnna” by Disney, scene is where she meets the minister out in the field as he is practicing his sermon, and they discuss “the happy texts” from the Bible).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Choosing to Live in Joy

This is traditionally a difficult season for me in matter where my kids are! Loss of loved ones, decreasing sunlight, changing of seasons....they all play a part. That's why it struck me as odd when it became our "assigned time" to plan the topic of worship at our church and focus for Communion, God prompted me to choose "Joy" as the focus.

I wanted to share a little about what God's taught me over the past year or so. I'm SO sure that I'm not done learning...and I don't have Mark's devotion part in hand, so I'll have to add that after Sunday, but this is what I've learned:

  • We can't change our circumstances, but we can control how we respond to those circumstances. I need to choose daily to live in a place of joy and happiness!!
  • Our brains will lie to us! I had no idea, but it's scientifically proven (and that's a great tool of the "Great Deceiver" isn't it?).
  • We can trick our brain into creating "happy chemicals" by smiling and laughing...even if we don't "mean it"! (That's a part of the reason that patients are helped and sometimes healed by watching funny movies, comedians, etc). I want to be dependent on my need for the "good chemicals" and not the lack of them!
  • I need to remember to constantly run things through my "God filter." (i.e.: am I responding appropriately to this sadness/anger/confusion?; God's still in charge here!; What's the bigger picture of this?)

As we all approach the holidays, let's encourage each other to places of greater Joy, given by our Father. Mark shared that he is planning on using a film clip from "Pollyanna" where we're reminded that God gave us the "Glad" texts (or "happy scriptures") mentioned over 800 times in the Bible. Yes, there are seasons for mourning, and weeping with those that weep, but let's continue to give glory to God for each and every GOOD thing!!

Blessings to you,
PS- we are opening with the song "I've got that joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart...."  : )

Monday, October 5, 2009

10/5/2009 Out of I write...

When I was a teen, I loved to read and write. I loved to write poetry most; sad stories of broken hearts and doomed romances. I over dramatized EVERYTHING romantic...or what I imagined to be romance. I imagine, had I been born 10 years ago, I would have been a Goth...all black stringy hair and baggy black clothing.
Back then, any writing done was purely out of pain. It was a raw nerve that when set off would create the most descriptive lines to put on paper. I had pen pals too, so they were my "blogging" outlet of the day. I remember one friend that I wrote to several times a month....letters filled with broken hearted romance that was safely stored on handwritten pages and sent off to MI to visit her. She was my therapist, my journal, my best friend. Who cared that we had only met a few times and was the cousin of my cousin? Even now I'm sure I would not have survived the young teen age years without the help of MaryAnn's pen pal wisdom. I am sure the postal employees wondered about us, reading short essays on the envelopes of our letters, whatever last minute doom occurred as I hand carried the letter to the corner mail box to mail is across country.
Even today, it is out of my pain I write. Maybe it's the fact that I feel more alive when I am in pain, or that it brings out the best in me that needs to be put on paper via the web or the pen. Maybe it's only my filters that see this as the best...surely I've written good things (or written things well?) during good seasons of life...times where I am happy or joyful? Perhaps it's only that when I'm down (or blue, or depressed, or in times of trouble) that I stop long enough to write at all?? Lord only knows!
But write I must!! So, in hopes of getting "back on track" over the fall and winter seasons, I am writing again. The seasonal change, as beautiful as it is, is enough to put my mind at work - stopping me in the middle of the day to jot down ideas for blogging, articles, letters. Then the daily lack of sunlight, the fullest of moons to keep me up at night, the frosty mornings and low daytime highs....these will fuel the pen (or the Mac, as it may be...).
I hope that you don't suffer from SAD! I hope that you reside in a sun-shiny place where the temps barely dip and that you can get a tan year around without resorting to fake bake tanning salons! I hope that when you are faced with freezing temps it's because you are on a holiday trip, and the sound of the snow swooshing under your skis brings joy to your heart - and the wind whipping at your nose is from the speed of snowboarding down the side of a mountain!!
That is not MY life!! I don't want to be there. I will live with the cold seasons here, and will be grateful for the little bits of snow, hope that the freezing temps will kill off next season's bugs, that the cold winter winds will only nip at my nose from my car door to the front of whatever market I'm shopping at this week, and mostly enjoy the warmth from my oven when I bake toasty goodies to share....and of course be grateful for heat that doesn't have to be fed at 3 am in the morning with buggy firewood.... :)
Living through the season's of life with you....seeing all things good!

Romans 12, Parts 2 and 3: Balanced and Beautiful in Christ

The new posts that I wrote for Balanced and Beautiful in Christ are now live on their Facebook page, and here on my new blog site (subscrib...