Your own…

I had an anxiety attack at church this Sunday. I feel foolish, even stupid, and super embarrassed. A wonderful friend and mentor asked the simple question, How are you doing? She knows my birthday is in the next few weeks and wanted to know how things were going as we prepare for company.

I started to tell her about the condition of things- stuff that doesn’t normally bother me. It was the domino that knocked me down, soon I found myself feeling “snappy” at a couple of other friends. I texted my husband and asked for his “buzzer bands.” Shortly after I put them on, I felt myself calming down. He learned about the TouchPoint bands from his counselor and they have made a huge difference for us.

It has been almost six months since I had an anxiety attack. I thought once I left the previous environment that triggered them daily, I would be all better, as I used to tell my boys. That’s the thing about anxiety, it works in stealth mode, all while setting up trap doors and other innocent looking situations that will send you reeling.

My hubby has also faced some emotional traps recently. Situations that previously would require serious intervention and keeping him under watch. Gratefully, he passed the test without fraying his mental health. I was so proud, am so proud, of him. Our marriage has been strengthened by supporting family and friends, our faith, counseling and medication as needed.

Hubby and I have been our own worst enemies in the past, which led to us being enemies of each other instead of helpers for one another. Mental health is one of the things I never thought I would have to face. I mean, who cares, I am fine. I can do anything I set my mind to do. I often feel that I have to always be producing successes and marking things off my to-do list. I never knew how harmful this behavior could be, until I found myself on the verge of screaming tears. My successes were becoming failures at a rapid rate.

As I age, my hubby has been reminding me that I can put off until tomorrow what I cannot do today. What a contrary way to see life.

Again and again, I am grateful for the husband God prepared for me. Hubby Dearest is very good at helping me slow down and not cram 14 hours of tasks into a 6-8 hour window. One would think I could recognize that on my own. But, with severe anxiety and an engrained producer mentality, it is hard to see anything but the To-Do list waiting for another check mark to show I completed the task.

Best Beloved, are you able to recognize when it is time to walk away from the list of things you want to do? Are you able to accept that God is not looking at you for the things you do each day? Our worth is not based on what we do, but on what He has already done.

His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him, who called us by His own glory and goodness (2 Peter 1:3 HCSB).

WE DO NOT HAVE TO TRY TO DO IT ON OUR OWN.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Amen indeed.

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All sorts of things

Mornings come earlier than I’d like some days. While my alarm is set at 5:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, I still think it is too early, especially on Monday and Thursday. You know what I am talking about Monday because it starts the week before recovering from the weekend’s activities. Thursday because we’ve almost made it to the weekend.

Hubby and I are in the midst of the last push for the house before the birthday party he planned for me. We’ve been fighting the trim work in the kitchen, trying to get the paint to adhere to the wood. Something that was applied to the wood in 1910, during the original construction, has caused issues with the paint we are trying to apply today. Lots of aggravation, a few choice words, and multiple attempts to get the right materials have been filling the days.

We’ve been able to attach a small wood stove in the kitchen to the original stove pipe placement. It does a great job of heating the kitchen, which is often the coldest room in the house during winter, as well as our bedroom. When the addition was added in the 1920’s, which includes our bedroom and my sewing room, the only heat source was the radiator system. Now that the radiators/boiler are no longer attached, our room can get very chilly.

So many things we’ve accomplished and experienced as our house has evolved over the past four years. From removing trash, discarded clothing, furnishings, and appliances, to sleeping in various rooms as the restoration has continued.

I am proud of the work dear hubby and I have done in our house. The effort we’ve put into it has not been a sprint, it’s been a bit more than a marathon even. I often think of this house and wonder at the ways God has moved in the middle of it all. Our marriage has been in the middle of it, some growth, some struggles, a lot of learning.

Our process keeps me leaning into God. This house has become such a symbol of my faith walk. Who I was, who I am, who I am becoming. I am no longer lost, falling apart, unloved, and messy. I am loved, I am restored, I am becoming whole.

I want to have my whole house perfect before my birthday. I want to be perfect. It’s just not going to happen. My house will be finished, but I also know that it will have tweaks along the way. That’s the way God is working within me. While I am already perfected through Christ’s death and resurrection, God is also perfecting me every day.

From Beth Moore’s book, Audacious

Dear Ones, I wish I could say the right things, listen and respect the decisions of others, and always be obedient. I aim for those things, but I also know (hard lessons learned) that I am not going to be able to mark these things off my list. It will always be a daily journey toward being more Christ-like than I was yesterday.

My prayer is that you will grow more like Christ, too.

Blessings,

oxoxox

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On chicken salad, senior pictures, and baseball

I am the oldest grandchild on my mother’s side. My grandmother was forty-five years old when I was born. One of my uncles was twelve years old when I was born. He was so excited when he answered the phone and heard I was born, he actually dropped the phone and jumped up and down.

As time went on, more grandchildren were born; in total four granddaughters and three grandsons. We are spread across the United States, coast to coast, each of us full of tales about this grandmother we share. Being the oldest, I have many memories of her as a younger woman. She treated me as another child, instead of a granddaughter, which was both good and bad. I would often visit her when I was in college since she lived a few minutes away from campus.

One of the meals we shared was her chicken salad; a chicken breast, celery stalk or two, salt and pepper, mixed together with some mayonnaise. Super simple, yet in a way a special meal. I have many memories, including rolling out sugar cookies at her counter, as I grew up.

It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized how much I had learned by her side. Bargain hunting, how to judge if the deal was really a deal, the way a lady should sit, walk in heels, and how to throw a wicked baseball. She was the go-to mom in the neighborhood when the kids got a ball lodged in the crook of a tree. She could knock it out every time.

After she passed, my mother shared Gram’s senior photograph with me. I had always believed my features were from my paternal grandmother. After all, I had inherited her hair color, height, and physique. When I put my senior picture next to Gram’s, I was amazed .

While there are over forty years between the two pictures, there is more resemblance than I expected. Family tends to bring with it many things that cannot be chosen, genetics being one of them. I am grateful to have features of both of my grandmothers, what I also have are some of their mannerisms and personalities.

All of these parts of them are part of me.

As a believer, I wonder if someone who met me would think that I had features and mannerisms that reflect Christ. Do I show kindness to others, do I have patience with those who need it? Am I as forgiving of others, as He is forgiving of me?

Best Beloved, what characteristics have been passed down to you? Which characteristics of Christ do you long to have developed in your life? My prayer is for more love, less judgment, more grace, less pride. I pray the same for you.

Blessings,

xoxoxo

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A tricycle, harmonica, and paper ears

My mother would often read to me from her favorite books, The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner and Bezzus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary. I read them dozens of times as a child and then again when I had my children. As a little girl, I understood the frustration Bezzus felt toward her little sister, Ramona. I was the older sister with a rambunctious younger brother who could not seem to follow the simplest rules – like staying out of my room.

Now, as I prepare to have another birthday, I find myself relating to Ramona more and more. She may not have followed all the rules, but she did follow the ones that mattered. Love family, do not give in and conform, be confident in your abilities, and know that mercy and grace are the best parts to give and receive.

My favorite images of Ramona are of her riding her tricycle in the house, playing her harmonica, and wearing her bunny ears from preschool. She might be seen by some as defiant, in some ways, I believe she was determined to experience life in a way that might actually challenge others to look at life differently too.

One of my favorite parts of Bezzus and Ramona is when Ramona gets into the apple bin and promptly eats one bite out of every single apple. When her exasperated mother asks her why, she responds, “Because the first bite is the best bite.” As if it should be obvious to everyone else.

While I am too big to ride around on a tricycle, I do own a harmonica and I have owned a set of bunny ears -also from my preschool days. Maybe it’s time for me to stop conforming a bit more and begin confirming who I am. Whose I am, and why I am here.

I am a child of God, loved, redeemed, restored, and precious in His sight. I am not here to become part of the world, but to conform instead to the image of Christ and bring glory to Him through my obedience to Him. I am to seek God and join Him where He is working. This is who I am. This is Whose I am. This is why I am here.

Best Beloved – I don’t know where you are today, who you may most relate to in your season. I do pray you will know and receive the love God has for you. Seek Him always. You will never be disappointed.

Blessings,

xoxox

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rose hips

One of my favorite parts of living in the country is foraging. Sunday afternoon I took a basket and some scissors and went for a stroll along the road. The weather was chilly, with a strong wind that made the cornstalks whisper and rustle in the fields. I knew the wild roses that grew along the roadside had rose hips ready to be collected and I was looking forward to filling my basket.

Instead of quickly filling it, I found just a few, not even enough to cover the bottom of the basket. I continued down to the intersection of our road and decided to turn west. I mentally identified the plants as I walked, but found only a rose hip or two to add to the basket. Turning around, I debated going home. Maybe the birds and mice had already eaten many of them.

My feet went across the intersection and continued east. I hadn’t planned to go further on, I was resigned to having a nice walk instead of gathering rose hips. I glanced to the right and found a few in the tall grass. As I looked further ahead I saw more and more, hundreds in all.

I had almost given up the very thing I intended to find.

After picking nearly a quart of the berries, I slowly turned and headed home. I was so proud of the bounty I carried with me and looked forward to rose hip tea during the winter.

My lack of faith to find what I was seeking nearly brought me home empty handed, instead of with my arms full. How often have I missed out on blessings and lessons from God because I didn’t want to keep going forward? Or change course all together?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise (Psalm 111:10 NIV).

So many of the most amazing blessings have come when I quit trying to make my own path. I never intended to go to New Mexico and work for the summer, but thankfully my cousin invited me to come with her and my life was forever changed. I never intended to get married after my fiancé called off the wedding. Here I am now, married for 22 years to my best friend. I never thought I would live anywhere else but Illinois. Here I am living in Nebraska, in a rambling, beautiful home surrounded by farm land as far as the eye can see.

Each decision that was made only came after fighting God. I want to follow Him and I don’t want to give up control. Someone has to give. It must be me. God’s plan and purposes are always better than mine.

Where are you wandering today, Best Beloved? Are you trying to make your own path? Are you trying to model yours after someone else ? Put down the map, the machete you’ve been using to cut the path clear, and look up. God is standing right there, waiting for you to see where He is leading you. For you to go after Him, not your own desires.

The blessings and wisdom, the direction and peace you are seeking may just be around the corner.

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Invested

I’ve been learning about monetary investments lately; from closed-end funds to margin accounts, and so much more. I had no idea there were so many options for a person to put their money. Today, as our pastor spoke about John 3:22-26 I realized the similarities of monetary value and spiritual value.

As Jesus’ ministry began, John the Baptist’s ministry was coming to an end. John’s disciples are concerned, even angry that Jesus is gaining followers and John is losing them. John knows that he is not the focus, Jesus is. Jesus is the one in whom the disciples should be following. They were to be investing their time, their lives, their very souls into following the Son of God.

Investing all of my money to a stock and trusting the future of the stock would be daunting. There are no guarantees with monetary investments. In fact, in the United States it is against the law to promise guarantees for investments made.

With Christianity, we have the freedom to invest our time, lives, and very soul because there is a guarantee that our investment will not experience a loss. Ephesians 1:14 says, The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him (NLT).

There are other verses that also confirm this guarantee. Genesis 9:12, And God said, “This is the guarantee of the covenant I am making with you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all subsequent generations (NET).

and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us (1 Corinthians 1:22 NLT).

If God has guaranteed our life investment in His Kingdom, then He is worth investing my soul in every single day.

Best Beloved, when we die we will not take a single thing with us. Not the money we’ve invested, the money we may have lost. But we will always take with us how we invested our souls.

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:26, ESV).

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Produce

Living in the middle of farmland, it is always obvious when harvest is in full swing. Combines, semi-trucks, grain hoppers, pick-up trucks, and tractors are part of the daily traffic on the roads. It makes me smile as I think of the toil, sweat, occasional cuss word, and lots of prayer that tend to go into each field during the growing season. Coming from a farming heritage, I can only imagine the number of bushels that have been taken to market over the past century and a half.

As a believer, I am also to be producing in Christ’s name and through the Holy Spirit. Nothing that is for me or my legacy, but for the purposes God has given me. I was blessed with some one-on-one time with a young lady who was part of the high school group I led a few years ago. She is dear to me, someone I think of and pray for even today. My prayer is that she will continue to grow in her faith, as I pray for the other girls who were in the group. Many who are now in their final year of college, first year of “life.”

My husband knows I am easily distracted, so when I trying to accomplish a number of things, he recommended making a list. Last weekend he noticed that this plan backfired, as it seemed that I was focused on checking off the items, how many items can I check off in a day? I tend to make a Cinderella chore list and try to do it all in 24 hours or less.

Ok.

So I have been reviewing my purpose; am I looking at the quality I produce or the amount I produce? Scripture has over 500 verses in the New Testament alone that include the word, produces. Many of these verses refer to the kind of growth I am striving toward.

“Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us, ” (Romans‬ ‭5:1-5‬ ‭HCSB‬‬).

Or these verses:

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples,” (‭‭John‬ ‭15:1-8‬ ‭HCSB‬‬).

Woof.

It all comes back to what am I trying to produce? A completed “to-do list” or a completed heart, grown deep and rich in the soil of the Holy Spirit?

Best Beloved, I long for the richness and depth that come from consistent study of Scripture. I know all the different parts that will make my roots grow deeply, my heart longs for it. My flesh on the other hand, seeks the check marks next to the tasks.

I will pray for you, I ask that you pray for me too, that we each reach deeply for the Love of Christ and not the applause of others. May we seek only the Audience of One.

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Are you ready to rumble?

My department has been having a fun competition this week at work, playing Rock, Paper, Scissors, to determine the champion among our coworkers for the next year.

If only battles could be fought and won with such simple terms.

My best friend called yesterday and shared some tender and powerful thoughts about The Church and the current victim mentality flooding society. As we spoke, we found we were on the same page, there is a time for grieving and repentance and there is a time to move on.

We spoke of those who want to leave the church when it does not measure up to whatever standard they might have set. Fingers are pointed, names are called, people, including pastors, are called out for their fallible behaviors. What my best friend and I have noticed in the exodus is too few seem to remain to fight for the Church. I don’t mean the little white chapel in town, I mean The Church, the Bride of Christ.

Brothers and Sisters, I cannot say this strongly enough. It is time to move. It is time to rise. Time to cast off the role of victim and time to put on the robe of victor. We are victorious today because of Christ. We are not called to timidity, groveling, or even staying in the muck.

Jesus was never described as “nice” in the Bible. In fact, there are no passages anywhere that use that adjective for those who believe in Christ. We are called to humility, living for Christ, not for our own purposes. We are called to live in the victory of the Cross.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) says, Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything goOd that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

We are soldiers in God’s army, we are in a battle, it may have been won by Christ, but we are still participating in it. Too many people want to wear the victim mantle. Get up, brothers Get up sisters. Shake it off, this should not be where you lay down. There is still breath in your lungs, there is still strength in your muscles. If you are still sucking air there is still work to do, as an old pastor of mine used to say.

It is time to dust off the armor we are given to wear, belts of Truth, breastplates of Righteousness, helmets of Salvation. It is time to draw our swords and step on the battlefield.

In 2 Samuel 23, starting at verse 8, we are introduced to three men, mighty men who served under David. Josheb-basshebeth, Eleazar, and Shammah. Shammah stood his ground in a field of lentils and fought off the Philistines when all the other Israelites ran away. He knew he had to stand, had to stay, had to fight. He didn’t leave the field because others had. He didn’t leave because the Philistines had a reputation for being brutal in battle. He stayed because it was his job.

Did he feel fear, probably. Was he exhausted before it was over, certainly. But he remained. He didn’t whine that he didn’t like what was going on. He took his stand in the midst of the plot and defended it and struck down the Philistines, and the LORD worked a great victory (2 Samuel 23:12 ESV).

Women, it is time to step out onto the field and defend it. Whether it is our family, our home, our faith. It may be time to come alongside the hurting and broken and help them toward healing.

Kneel before God, stand before anyone

Men. For far too long society has inferred you cannot handle the job. Maybe for some, you’ve started to believe it. DON’T. It’s a lie from the pit of hell itself. You are needed. You are called to a role we cannot and should not try to fill. Men, it’s time. Stand up. Take up your sword. Step onto the battlefield.

Men and women are to stand together and fight together for the Faith.

Take up your armor (Ephesians 6) and dig into the Word of God again. Study men and women who are held up for their strength in the LORD.

It is time to rumble. Are you ready?

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Study up

Part of my new job requirements include studying for (and passing) a securities examination. To prepare for the exam I have been reading and reviewing a twenty-chapter book that covers the various parts of my position. I have been taking notes, reviewing flashcards, taking quizzes, and anything else to be ready for my examination next week.

As I have been deep within my textbook, I noticed how similar it was to my early days of Faith. I made memory verse cards, highlighted and noted passages of Scripture, and discussed my new knowledge with my mentors. I felt like I needed to learn it all, to absorb every last word to really grasp this new life I had chosen.

Even with the years I have been walking with Christ I find that I am still a new student. No matter what I have read before, I still find new insights in verses I may have read a hundred times.

Anchora Imparo is Italian for I am still learning.

This is the approach I am taking with my studies at work and in my faith. I would be a fool to think that my faith, after nearly thirty years, had grown to the full size and shape it would ever become.

I still do not know how to walk fearlessly every day, how to recognize the prompting of the Holy Spirit fromm my own whims, or how to pray without ceasing and with the fervor as a married woman that I had when I was single.

I am reviewing for my examination this week. I will be taking it next Tuesday, October 8th. If my “final exam” for my faith was next week, I would like to believe I would be studying for that as intensely.

I don’t know where you are Best Beloved, are you studying for your faith to grow? Are you letting the things you did in the past coast you through today? Dearest Ones, will you join me as I seek to open my heart, clear out the cobwebs, and let His light shine in the dusty, dark corners again ?

Lord, light our fire again.

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Listen my children and you shall hear…

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was one of my favorite poets in college. He wrote with clarity, drawing in each reader to the scene he painted with his words. One of his poems, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” written April 19, 1860, comes to mind often. His words draw us in, calling us to imagine our newly emerging nation, still battling for the flag it would raise. The ride of Paul Revere, described as both brave and dangerous, recalls the colonists and British soldiers prepared to come face to face for the first time.

His ride, and the ride of others that night, alerted the Minute Men and farmers, merchants, and untold others to prepare to fight, that the British are coming.” No one knew that the battle at Lexington and Concord that day would mark the beginning of the Revolutionary War. The shot heard ’round the world,” (see Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem “Concord Hymn”) changed the course of history as the world would know it.

What would our faith look like, if we tuned our ears to hear the cry to prepare for battle?

John the Baptist was the one who called to us to prepare for Jesus arrival. ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said (John 1:23 ESV). John announced to all who would listen that Jesus’ arrival was unprecedented and would radically change the world as we knew it.

The next day he saw Jesus coming roar him and said, ‘Bell, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel,’ (John 1:29-31 ESV).

John knew he was not as important as the One who was coming. The One through whom all mankind could be saved. John continued in verse 32;

“I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God,” (John‬ ‭1:32-36‬ ‭ESV‬).‬

It was not about John. It was about Jesus. John knew this and made a point to tell everyone who would listen. When the Jewish leaders sent men to ask John who he was, if he was a prophet, if he was a reappearing of Moses, each time John said no. He wanted none of the attention.

I wonder, Dear Ones, what are you listening to today? Are you listening to the world whisper you do not measure up? Are you listening to the Holy Spirit tell you that you are His child? When we tune our ears and hearts to the whisper of God we will hear His correction, direction, love, and even His song (Zephaniah 3:17).

May we tune our ears to hear Him today.

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