"My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours. Maybe nothing is more important than that we keep track, you and I,of these stories of who we are and where we have come from and the people we have met along the way because it is precisely through these stories, in all their particularity,as I have long believed and often said, that God makes himself known to each of us most powerfully and personally." -Frederick Buechner

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wellness Wednesday - Be Thankful! It's good for you!

Honestly today's Wellness Wednesday suggestion is the easiest healthy habit yet!  Studies have proven that grateful people are happier, healthier people. REALLY!  Our local Christian radio station was talking about a study done with teenagers struggling with depression. They asked these teenagers to journal daily what they were thankful for.  Those that did it resumed a healthy emotional state sooner than those who did not. (My words and interpretation of the study)  I also noted that Jason Kent, son of Carol Kent, the author of "When I Lay My Isaac Down" states that one of the ways he copes with life in prison is to journal or to pray out loud all of the things he is grateful for.  If being thankful can help a young adult man who is in prison for life with no chance of parole keep his emotions healthy I would say that is pretty good proof of it's validity.

So I would say this Thanksgiving Day week is the perfect antidote to what ails you!  Enjoy it and it can be a balm so soothe your soul. Spend some quiet time with the Lord thanking Him for all he has given you whether it is a lot or a little makes no difference.  Spend some time with the people in your life letting them know that you are thankful for them, glad that they are a part of your life. Laugh a little. Watch an old movie (or a new one). Make something whether it be food, a card, a decoration, whatever! Working with your hands and engaging your imagination is a great refresher for all of us!

"I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart..."

Monday, November 21, 2011

We're Not Everything, but We're Something!

I just read a little story that caught my attention.  The author states that some good friends of theirs had a 4 year old son.  That 4 year old saw the author carrying a load of "rather large boxes."  The boy looked up at him and said, "Gary, are you the strongest or is God the strongest?" Of course everyone  knows just how ridiculous that question is, not just because it was "Gary" but because we know how incredibly strong and fantastic our God is. Then the author asked, so if that comparison is so absurd why do we expect our relationship with another person to "fulfill" us?  I"m thinking marriage but if you are not married it could be another relative or friend or even employer.  There is just no way our spouse (or friend) can be everything to/for us. HOWEVER, they are very special people that the Lord put in our life and this is a great time of year to remember to be thankful for who they are to us.  So today I would like you to forget about your "expectations" of your spouse/friend for a bit. Instead think of 3 things that you are thankful for in regard to your spouse. I challenge you to tell them and someone else.  As a whole we need to do better talking about what we like in people versus what we don't like. Maybe this little exercise will help us remember.

1. I like that my husband is very creative.
2. I like that he likes music and can sing.
3. I like that he will try new things with me - food, games etc.

Now it's your turn!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

It's a Heart Thing - Unthinkable Circumstances

So I've been pondering, mulling over, camping out on, and yes, even thinking about things. This last chapter in the study of "unthinkable circumstances" is my favorite. It puts words on my heart's thoughts.

I'm convinced most of us live life just trying to "keep up." Keep up with our job and home responsibilities, the kids' activities, church responsibilities and a hobby or two. Why? Because that is what life is in America, right? That's the "American dream" - work and a home, family, friends, hobbies and money to retire on. But what if that's not "really  living?"  My husband and I are singing the song, "Blessings" by Laura Story in Church tomorrow.  I've been mulling over the lyrics for weeks. If you don't know it you can listen to it here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CSVqHcdhXQ  The last chorus goes like this:
‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights
are what it takes to know You’re near?
What if my greatest disappointments,
or the aching of this life
is a revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy?
And what if trials of this life,
the rain, the storms, the hardest nights
 are Your mercies in disguise?
I "get" that thought.  I've always felt a little "different" than most of those around me. That's hard when you grow up in a very small community where there isn't much variety in people. But I know now it's not because I was "different" than them. I just learned earlier than most of them that this is not my home, not really.  My heart is sold out on Jesus. And now that I've experience a tiny, tiny bit of his suffering through the death of our son-in-law, grief of our daughter, depression and adultery of my husband, moving away from our  ministry and friends, my priorities are solidified. It doesn't really matter what it takes to get us there but we need to experience God's love, forgiveness, grace and faithfulness. Once we do there is the same. Nothing is better than spending time in His presence and then sharing Him with others. The best way to share with others is to be real. To be His hands, feet and maybe most importantly His ears. People need to be heard. That is showing them love. They don't care if you have "the answer". They just need to know that someone heard them. Someone heard their heart, not just listened a moment, said "there, there" quoted a verse and said "I'll pray for you." They need a hug, possibly tears or help packing their boxes or finding a ride to the hospital or grocery store. When they are ready to really hear the reason behind your actions, you'll know it. They usually ask.

These days I don't participate in as many activities as I used to, Church stuff or otherwise. I am getting to know my co-workers better. I'm listening more and talking less. (I know that's hard for some of you to believe but it's true!) I spend daily time with my Lord and Savior. I know I will never be completely content until I meet Jesus face to face. In the meantime this is an amazing life He has given me to live even though it's not exactly the way I pictured it. It's a heart thing.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Unthinkable Circumstances and Purpose!

Last night was the last night for our group of gals to meet together face t face.  We were small in number but once again God proved that He has a time and a place for everything and everyone. We were a notoriously late starting group so when there were only 3 of us at "starting time" none of us thought anything of it.  As we visited while waiting for others to come we were suddenly interrupted by one of our gals hustling into the room apologizing for being late and going on to say, "I can't stay long but I came for prayer. I need to pray with someone."  There was no hesitation. All three of us welcomed her in and listened to her concerns dealing with a very tough situation with some of her family. Lives are in danger and they are in another state with no family members near. She tearfully told us of this latest situation involving 4 of her great-grandchildren.  With tears in all of our eyes, but determination in our hearts we held hands, bowed our heads and prayed from our hearts. We asked the Lord to protect and provide for those in danger and we prayed for Solomon-type wisdom for our friend. After leaving our concerns with the Lord she got up and quietly left to meet her daughter to decide what to do next for their family.

Our nights theme was purpose. Purpose even when you are learning to live with a "new normal."  The piece of this lesson that spoke directly to my heart was when Carol Kent told a story of a Christmas spent at the prison with their son J.P.  She told of going to the rest room. While in a stall in the rest room a woman burst in, crying, cussing and saying, "I HATE THIS PLACE. I hate everything about this..."and on and on.  Carol quietly states, "My previous, professional Christian self would have come out, stood beside the woman and put my arm around her while quoting my top 5 favorite verses and then said a prayer for her and left.  My new self came out, put my arms around her, held her and said, "I know. It's awful. I hate this place too. My son is here." and after holding her awhile longer (as they cried together) she wiped her eyes and left.  Carol and I agree. We both believe she shared Jesus just as, if not more effectively with her "new self" than her "old professional Christian self."  There is nothing wrong with sharing scripture (I do it alot) but what she was talking about was the difference between being willing to truly feel with someone, being willing to hold them and possibly mess up your outfit or make up. Caring with all you've got - literally.  My husband and I were talking about this type of thing a few weeks ago. We decided that we want to be the type of people who won't just tell you we will pray for you, but will stop right then and there and pray with you. We are different people than we were 7 years ago. We don't want to waste time just talking about doing something or caring. We just want to do it, day by day, right where we are. People are way more important than our schedule, our list of things that need done and even our beautiful, comfortable, wonderful church building and services. Sometimes, like today, sharing a heart-felt big hug with a co-worker who's had a really tough time that got resolved today is sharing Jesus better than sharing my favorite Christian book.  That's hard for me say because I love reading and sharing what I read. But my co-worker would rather have me in her life than just my books.

Our group of three gals fulfilled their purpose with our friend last night.  We didn't worry about the evenings "agenda". We did what we knew we should. We listened, cried a bit and prayed with someone in need.  If you are reading this you are one of God's "treasured possessions". He has a purpose for your life, no matter what it looks like to you. In fact I'm going to be bold and say, especially if your life is looking a lot different than what you had planned and you are still faithful to our Lord. Your faithfulness is a fantastic witness to others of the greatness of our God. Thank you.

Please share a thought that the Lord has laid on your heart over the past few weeks. You just might encourage someone else to hang on, step up or patiently wait one more day. That just might be one purpose for YOUR life!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lessons from the Leaves

I didn't get anything posted yesterday mostly because I couldn't "land" on a subject. I figure if there are too many thoughts floating around in my mind and spirit there are too many to share. This morning I'm still considering something I noticed Saturday while working with my husband to take care of the leaves on the 17 acres of property we live on. (It's a part of his business)  Due to an early heavy wet snow he had "lost" time in the process so it was all hands on deck Saturday.  I didn't mind. There is a strange feeling of accomplishment in working hard, getting dirty and being able to see what you have done, even if just for a few minutes.

The weather was gorgeous and I was enjoying being outside.  While working to get the deep accumulation of leaves out from an inlet between two homes I suddenly had this thought, "I wonder if this is what God feels like sometimes? He sends us out only to watch us come back to the same corner, hiding with the walls high around us."  I wonder if He feels like saying, "Jody the way out is so obvious.There is really only one way out. It's my way." Now once were out of our hiding place there are infinite opportunities but getting out, well that's another story.

Then I was noticing the colors. Who knew there was a path between green to orange or red? God does. He created trees and leaves with this extravagant show of beauty. There were so many shapes and colors and sizes! (Hmmm, just like there are so many different kinds of people)

Then I thought about how the fallen leaves can be good to protect flower beds but too many leaves left on the ground can kill the growth underneath.

Well, can you see where I'm going with this. The Bible says that if we don't praise the Lord "the rocks will cry out." God's creation can speak to us, teach us if only we will listen. What is God saying to you this season? What do you see in the leaves of the trees or while watching animals store up for winter or even in just the temperature changing? Let's honor God today by sharing your thoughts? There is nothing too insignificant. Every detail no matter how small or great is purposefully placed there by God for YOU today! Enjoy!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Finding Your Way Through Unthinkable Circumstances

Unthinkable circumstances…they can be either those of joy or great sorrow. Odds are, you have experienced both at one time or another in life. My greatest sorrow was nearly 22 years ago.
After navigating through a seamless first pregnancy, our son Joseph was born on February 28, 1990. At 7 lbs., 5 oz. and 21 ½ inches long, he looked perfect and whole. But he wasn’t. At five days old, Joseph died from heart defects that were not detected before his arrival and these defects could not be fixed after his arrival. I found myself in an unthinkable circumstance…
My confusion, hurt, and misunderstanding was immense. I had come to know Christ as my Savior at the age of 13. I believed that God had a reason and purpose for ALL things that happened in our lives. I understood, even then, that the God that I loved and trusted throughout my youth was the same God that I must continue to loved and trust as I navigated through this unthinkable circumstance.
I did question why. I did question what I might have done to cause this to happen. I did feel anger and misunderstanding toward God. But I never doubted my faith. I knew I could not make sense of this through my own power. I had tried that for some time, and couldn’t. In the beginning, I felt some feelings of abandonment but as time went on, I began to know with certainty that was the enemy trying to use this unthinkable circumstance to shake my faith and cause me to turn away from my personal relationship with Christ.
Then my unthinkable circumstance shifted…living the rest of my life with anger toward God and a part from Him was something I could not and did not want to imagine. My relationship with Him and His love gave me great comfort. The assurance of His promises was something I could not abandon. Never.
 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine of nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, no any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35 – 39 NIV
That covers it definitively! NOTHING can separate us from God’s love and blessings. Not even this great sorrow I had suffered. I knew I could be more than a conqueror in not just this circumstance, but in EVERY circumstance I find myself in as I walk through life. I am so grateful that I did not allow this unthinkable circumstance to become a stumbling block in my relationship with Christ.  If that had been what I chose, what a sad waste of how this circumstance would have been used in my life and those around me.
I now have the advantage and experiences of 20+ years.  Since that time, I have come to understand the meaning and true-life application of James 1:2-4 where it says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.”
Unthinkable circumstances…joys, sorrows, testing, blessings…all are intended to push us on and up and closer to what God intends us to ultimately become—more like Him. I agree with C.S. Lewis when he says we won’t get there in this life, but He means to get us as close as possible until then!

Jan Rosales
Beavercreek, Ohio
Author of, “Given In Love But Not Mine to Keep: Finding Strength In The Loss Of A Newborn 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Unthinkable Circumstances and Joy?

This was a hard week.  It's hard to imagine "joy" in the midst of hard times. Yet some of us are eternal optimists. Some of us avoid reality by pretending to be optimists and filled with crazy faith. Some of us really are filled with crazy faith. Others just don't get, can't imagine it and aren't sure they ever will.  In our little group I would say there were women in every phase of joy.  Yes, truthfully we have a sister in Christ who can't imagine ever feeling joy again and says "I'm okay with that."

We talked alot about expectations and comparing. It's really dangerous to look at someone else and think I'm not as good or happy or bad or whatever as them.  Jesus never tells us to look at each other. He does, on the other hand, tell us to look to God.  We looked at a passage in Hebrews 12:2-3.  I've been reading it in the Amplified Version. Let me share a bit of it: "Looking away (from all that will distract) to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith....He, for the joy (of obtaining the prize) that was set set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame.... The first point and to me the most important is that we are to look at, focus in on God. We need to see life through the lens of God. Is that easy? Is it natural? No. Is it doable? Yes. Pray. Pray repeatedly. Ask God to help you see life through His perspective. Start the day and pray as often as you need to re-focus through out the day. How do I know He will answer? These verses tell us He is the "author and perfecter" of our faith.  HE is our creator. He not only created us. He continues to create our maturing into His likeness. HE gives us perspective, joy, faith, love. We can't do it ourselves and it only gets harder when we look at others and think we need to be "like them."

Relax today. Ask God to help you see life through His perspective.  Ask Him to help you experience joy and then watch for the answer. Be alert. Expect God to answer you but be aware He is "far beyond all that we ask or even think." (Ephesians 3) His answer very well may be different that the way you "expect" it to be.  If you have already experienced an awareness of God's perspective at some point in your life we'd love to hear about it. Share it with us. You can encourage others.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wellness Wednesday - Making Decisions

As I sit here this morning I must admit there are so many "wellness" topics it's hard to choose what to talk about. My friend Shari and I get together and share what we are learning about physical and spiritual wellness on a regular basis.  This is a time to share openly and honestly and then we always pray.  Truthfully this is the healthiest thing I do for myself.  There have been times when it is hard to say I'm going to take 2-3 hours "just for me".  BUT I know that I am better for having a safe place to be with a safe person who will listen, ask questions, love me no matter what and tell me the truth as she sees it.  I'm one of those people who mulls things over in my mind and heart.  When I do that one of two things can happen:
1. The lies get filtered out from the truth and a direction is determined.
2. The lies grow and grow and grow and the thoughts become bigger than life, distorted and no direction is determined.

Often I can tell the difference as I say things out loud to my friend.  Just hearing it spoken can sometimes show me the difference between the two sides of the subject I'm considering.  If not, my friend asks questions and we pray and God always finds a way through my thought processes.

Sometimes we use our time to sort out facts from fiction in the "wellness world". There are so many "health and wellness tips" out there. It's hard to determine what is factual.  We compare notes of life knowledge that we each have. We discuss the source and we think of trusted institutions or people that we can ask. My friend is taking classes on nutrition and holistic health and I am a nurse so we have a pretty good place to start. Right now I'm trying to sort out why I have Irritable Bowel type symptoms. I've tried several different approaches and so far not much success but it's looking like stress could be the biggest culprit. Between changes at work (which have infringed on my time with my friend) and trying to help my parents with some health issues I think I'm "stewing" inside.  I have a "date" with my friend on Friday.  That will help.

So my wellness thought for this day is to make sure that you have a safe place (person) to go to when you need to "sort out" the debate going on inside your mind.  This will help you make good decisions and bring more peace to you life.  What are some other things that help you make good decisions?

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Great Weekend Lesson

We had a great weekend going.  If you don't know me I like to have a good time but after the work is done. You know how that goes. When the "work" is done you are often too tired or it is too late.  Well since my husband's crash 7 years ago and the death of our young son-in-law I have learned "up close and personally" you just do NOT know what tomorrow is going to bring so enjoy today!  With that in mind even after a long week at work we had a "$50.00 date night!" This was a first for us.  Mark had done an "odd job" for a widow in our neighborhood and did not charge her.  She wanted to pay so he said "okay, give us some money towards a date." Wah-lah! $50.00!  We headed to a mall near our home to eat there are watch the people.  I know adventurous and romantic!(grin) Then we went window shopping, very leisurely. Nice.  Then we went to a movie. We don't generally go to movies in the theatre as they cost way too much and so many times they are surprisingly full of stuff we really don't care to see.  We actually laughed and enjoyed the one we saw.  Then came one of my favorite things - "no alarm clock morning".  I just love turning off the alarm clock and waking up when my body tells me to wake up.  I aim to have this happen once a week and enjoy it every time.  A quiet day doing housework and bookwork for our ministry ended with playing cards in front of the fireplace.  I even said to Mark, "it doesn't get much better than this!" Then only a couple of short hours later we were arguing. Can you believe it? It was nothing really important. I moved Mark's billfold to use a credit card number for some on-line Christmas shopping and somewhere a long the line a receipt went missing. Defensive attitudes sprang up like weeds. Stubbornness held them steady. Really? Yep.  He searched. I searched. The small white piece of paper had disappeared. Mark gave up and headed to bed. I stewed. I searched some more. No receipt.  I felt so sour.  Our great day had just been spoiled. All kinds of thoughts went through my head..."if he...it's not....I didn't..." All thoughts of my innocence and his guilt. Hmmm, if we are truly a team as we say we are then the lost receipt was our lost receipt and we needed it to return that item.  We did resolve our conflict and that was exactly the ticket, remembering that we are married, together, a team. The conflict was about a lost receipt, not about me or him or who did what.  One of the men in our small group last night used this object lesson.  He placed a pillow between he and his wife. He stated that when they have a conflict they need to do this -  he moved the pillow to the coffee table in front of them. Then he stated "our conflict is about that" and he pointed to the pillow.  "We just need to remember that. It's not about us. It's about the issue at hand."   Point taken. 

I'm thankful for my "great weekend." In amongst all of the "greatness" I just might have learned a lesson!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Unthinkable Circumstances - Faith and Perspective

When you are in the midst of your life's circumstance - whatever that may be - crisis, celebration or the mundane it is often hard to not have tunnel vision.  We often get so wrapped up in "me" that we miss much of life. There are times when we need to focus, concentrate and just do what is in front of us but I've come to believe that even in those times we need to share with a trusted family member or friend that that is what we are doing. Then we need to ask them to help us not stay isolated beyond the immediate need.  We also need those people to remind us that God is in control and we are not.

As we journey through discussing life and unthinkable circumstances I've asked some people I know to share. I will post those thoughts as I receive them. I believe our stories of life are important lessons that we all can learn from. Here is the current thought on faith through unthinkable circumstances from my daughter.  http://www.lifelovegreen.com/2011/11/when-i-lay-my-isaac-down-ch-6

I'd really love to hear from you. The people who were present Wednesday night at our group are stronger today because of two women sharing parts of their story of God walking them through (not around) some tough circumstances.  My daughter and I are sharing lessons we continue to learn after the main crisis of our life thus far has past.  Now I'm beginning to share lessons I'm learning while watching my father take care of my mother with Alzheimer's Disease, something he never dreamed of doing.  What are you learning?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Unthinkable Circumstances

"To walk faithfully with God will always bring a person to experience God's laying His Heart over his." Henry Blackaby. If there is one thing this study of "unthinkable circumstances" is reminding of it's that everyone has some. Yes, some, often more than one "unthinkable" thing in their life and it's surprising how many people have multiple things all surfacing at the same time like my family did.

This week we were an extremely small group meeting Wednesday night but as God would have it, it was exactly the right setting for two gals to share some of their personal unthinkable situation.  One gal shared carefully stating that there were just too many people around the first few weeks, some of them associated with her place of work and she just couldn't share. But now, she wanted to and she did.  Her honesty and open-ness led the gal sitting next to her to share a tragic event in her life from when she was 13 years old and this wonderful woman is older than me! (Which means she has been hiding these thoughts for a looong time.)  She told us she had never told anyone except her husband.  She had so much hurt stored away in her heart. One of the points of being open about your circumstance is to "clean out the wound."  When you are honest and open you don't have to hide anymore.  You don't have to carefully select your words or decide if to even speak.  You don't have to remember what you have and haven't told someone. You don't have to "put your happy face on" if you don't feel like it. You can be real.  That said, it is not necessary to tell every detail to every person.  One sweet gal in our group keeps reminding us that her counselor tells her not to "ruminate" on the past. He means of course that we do not have to rehash all the details every day. Learn the truth, deal with it and move on! Today is a new day.  That does not mean to live pretending "it" never happened. It does mean to learn from it. Live wiser but free from "it" controlling your every thought and decision.

Years into the healing of our circumstances my husband was asked to share his story with a group of men at our church.  He did so with great abandonment. He was so happy to share the victory from secrets and shame in his life.  Afterwards a young man came up to him asking with unbelief in his voice, "why would you publicly share all of that crud in your life?" My husband was smiling big as he told me his response, "only be to please the Lord. Because the Lord asked me to and because you no longer have any power over me. I'm not hiding anything."  That is HUGE.  My husband is living experiencing freedom in Christ due to his faith that God can handle his life, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Everyone of us in that small group meeting in a preschool room in our church Wednesday night could honestly say, "I believe in a God who can handle me and my life circumstances even when things look really lousy."  That faith has and is carrying us through each day of our life. Jim Cymbala said, "People with faith develop a second kind of sight. They see more than just the circumstances; they see God right beside them."  Amen!  Like Elijah praying for his servant, today my prayer for myself and for you is that God would open your eyes to see Him all around you no matter what you life circumstances look like today.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wellness Wednesday

It's Wednesday again - time to talk about living in wellness.  I visited one of my favorite Nurse Practioners last week. Something she said really struck me.  She said, "I always ask people about headaches and their bowel habits because there are so many people out there living with some level of discomfort that they think is "normal."  She assured me that living with discomfort more than 50% of your days is NOT necessary.  So today I simply want to challenge you to take 5-10 minutes to evaluate your physical and mental health.  Ask yourself a few questions and write down the answers.
1.  Do you experience headaches on a regular basis? 
2.  Do you worry about "things" in your every day life?
3. Are those "things" on your mind to the point of a distraction?
4. Do you feel bloated?
5. Are you constipated? (or have diarrhea) frequently?
6. Do any of your joints hurt?
7. Are you off balance or dizzy frequently?
8. Are you constantly tired?

Add any questions you think of and then answer it honestly.  If you are experiencing any of these symptoms on a regular basis it's time to talk to a health provider.  Check it out. You may be able to feel better with just a few lifestyle adjustments.  Need some referrals?  Let us know in the comment section of this blog and we'll be glad to help you find reputable resources.