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This is a work in progress, just like me. Please feel free to add your thoughts on my posts. Have a blessed day.

October 9, 2015

Words in the Shower

Full disclosure, these are not just any words, but God's Word. Six sections of scripture from Ephesians, to be exact, one from each chapter. To give you a visual, the verses are printed on a piece of paper, which is inside a plastic sleeve, and taped on our shower wall with black electrical tape. Hopefully my friends in the decorating industry are still hanging with us after that last comment.

When I attended a Bible Study at my church, and Wendy our leader told us we were going to get weekly memory privileges, I was both excited and nervous. I humbly consider myself a student of the Word. I for certain love it, and therefore read it daily. That being said, I have never been able to embrace the spiritual discipline of memorization of scripture. Thankfully reading the Word never returns void. When a timely verse comes to my mind, I can always recall just enough of the words to be able to google it and find where it resides in the Bible.

I decided to embrace the challenge as we went through the six week study but was not feeling overly optimistic at my chances for success. I quickly had the idea to put the verse of the week in front of me as much as possible.  I took it in the shower with me, it was next to me as I did my makeup and ate breakfast, and it even went to a few doctors appointments with me. I guess I treated it similarly to a Flat Stanly. (Where else can my weekly verse travel?)  I was comforted with the fact that meditating on the Word would be a blessing to me even if I was not able to commit it to memory.

I wish I could say I went to each class with my verse perfectly committed to memory, but I didn't. I often thought I had it locked down in my mind only to find myself at a loss as I tried to recite it with my partner or group. When the class was over, however, the discipline was starting to take root. I first thought I would pick a verse each week to memorize but decided first to make these five sections such a part of me that they would be impossible not to recall. I was determined to learn them even if I had to sit with each section for months. This was when the fun began.

It is amazing, yet not really when we think how big our God is, that in reading and meditating on the same verses for weeks, one can still get new insight and council daily. It has been a little less than three months since our Bible Study ended and I am ready to start memorizing the last section from Ephesians 6. As I mentioned, I was going to take my time. Now I can with confidence say, I have these treasures in God's Word memorized, and that knowing and meditating on them has blessed me immensely.

One verse I found myself seeking more insight and clarity about was Ephesians 3:20.  I wanted to understand how I could be in agreement with the power referenced here. Was this power the Holy Spirit, our prayer life, our faith?

"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

One morning, as I found myself once again reflecting on this verse, some of our pastor's words from the previous Sunday's teaching came to my mind. He had spoken about one of his greatest fears. It was that he would get to heaven and realize the Father had so much more for him on earth that he did not tap into or appropriate.

As I was thinking on this, the verse "according to your faith be it done unto you," came to mind. I did not know where this was located and wanted to know the complete verse, so I turned to google. As I scrolled down the words listing Matthew 9:29 in various translations, I found the answer I had been seeking. Ephesians 3:20 was listed in this search amongst all the listings of Matthew 9:29. Faith is the power that is at work in us being described in the letter to the Ephesians.

The Holy Spirit took me on a mini excursion that morning to tell me the answer was faith. Then He reminded me, faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the Word of God.

August 9, 2015

Eye Shadow and a Lesson from God

I am both what one would call, a ‘girly girl’ and a ‘product junky’.  When you put those two "traits" together,  it is not surprising that I am a big fan of Sephora. I love to peruse their site looking for a new eye shadow palette or a fun nail polish color to add to my collection. Recently when I turned in some credit card points I selected a Sephora gift card. I was excitedly looking forward to some guilt-free shopping.  Little did I know that this shopping would come with a unique free gift; a hard lesson from God.

Last week when I opened my guilt-free order from Sephora, I was surprised to find two of the exact same Stila eye shadow palettes inside. I knew I didn't order two, and a quick glance at the order summary confirmed that I ordered and paid for only one. "Woohoo  free $16 palette for me!!!"

I'm kidding, I knew I had to call and let them know about their mistake. The truth of the matter was if I kept the palette, it would be stealing.

As I prepared to call the customer service line the next day,  I found myself thinking, "I bet this will really surprise the customer service rep.  I'm sure this doesn't happen very often, most people would just keep the eyeshadow and not say a word. They will probably say thank you and tell me not to worry about it as it was their mistake. Maybe they will even give me a gift card or coupon for a future purchase."  This was the beginning of my very wrong thinking.

The phone call did not go at all as I had expected.  I was put on hold multiple times, and at one point when I expressed concern about how I was going to return the item, I was told; "If you don't return it, we will have to charge your credit card."  No mention of any gift card coming my way or a coupon for my next purchase.  As I ended the call, the voices in my head went something like this, " I can't believe this. All the things I have purchased from them over the years and this is how they treat me. They should have let me keep the palette and avoid the hassle of packing it up and going to the post office to ship it back-it was their mistake, after all.”  More wrong thinking.

Before I knew it I was leaving a snarky comment on the Sephora Facebook page about my experience (which may or may not have included a vague threat about “needing to rethink where I purchase beauty products in the future”).  Truth be told, Sephora would have to commit a much worse transgression to lose me as a customer, but it seems truth goes out the window when you continue down the path of wrong thinking.

Before I was able to read the response from Sephora, and as I was contemplating what my next Facebook or email initiative would be to voice my grievances, God intervened.

He held a mirror up, as only He can, and it was not pretty. How did I get to the point of thinking so highly of myself and patting myself on the back for not stealing? God helped me quickly realize I was not the wronged party here. I needed to return the item quickly and move on-end of story.  This needed to be done because it is the right thing to do.  And it was not to be accompanied by feelings of self-righteousness.  How could I be so blind?  I know better than anyone how totally unworthy of praise I am.

Pride is insidious.  It sneaks into our thoughts and actions, and before we know what is happening, we are headed for a fall.  As Proverbs 16:18 tells us, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

The Bible gives us many warnings about pride.  We all know that pride was the downfall of Lucifer, who was a beautiful angel before he tried to exalt himself over God.  Now he uses pride as his greatest weapon against us.

Below are a few of my favorite verses on this subject:

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” -Proverbs 11:2

“Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.” -Proverbs 13:10

“Your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God.” -Deuteronomy 8:14

“The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.” -Proverbs 16:5

God had one other point He wanted to make as He brought Matthew  6:1-4 to my mind.  (See below.)  Although returning an eyeshadow palette isn't mentioned specifically in these verses, the point hit me as if the words were written just for me. Through these verses, I understood that any reward God wants to give me for my works is forfeited when I look for praise from people.  I don't know what gift would have been waiting for me in heaven for this little act of honesty, but this I know for sure: I will not receive it.

Matthew 6:1-4 “’Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.  Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.’”

May 25, 2015

Opposites Attract

Many marriages truly do reflect the saying "opposites attract."

The extroverted party animal is attracted to the introverted book club member.  The class clown falls in love with the debate team leader.  The spender merges bank accounts with the saver.  The hoarder shares a home, and more importantly a basement, with the purger.

I have been married to my husband, Gary for over 25 years now.  As I look at the examples above I realize we fit many of them.  'The spender joined together with the saver' definitely fits us.  I, being the smart woman I am, will not be detailing any specifics on that comparison at this time.  I can almost hear my fellow shopaholics saying, "wise decision sister."

What I am willing to explore with you are the dynamics of the management of our "stuff." In this example, I am the purger and Gary is the hoarder. Now to be fair, Gary isn't really a hoarder, but he doesn't draw a hard line during closet and basement cleaning like I do.  Someone has to make the tough decisions in every household. 

Gary holds the belief that we will sometime in the future find a use for the things that are wasting away in our garage, basement and closets. This belief is not dampened in any way by the fact that many of these items have not been used for 20 plus years.  In the rare event that we do have a North Carolina 'Snowpocalypse,' I'll be thankful for the snowblower that's been collecting dust in our garage. Otherwise, I guess I will label him an optimist.

Sometimes to offset this optimistic tendency I do something a wife should never do- purge in secret. Purging in secret is always risky, but less so if you have a husband who doesn't miss anything or notice the changes you make around the house. For instance, if you rearrange the living room and paint the kitchen while your husband is out of town, and upon his return only  receive the response, "Did you miss me? What did you do while I was away?" I say purge away to your heart's content.  Gary does not fall into this category; he has an excellent memory. So much so, that I rely on him to remember things for me.  This saves me a lot of brain energy, of which I seem to need more and more as the years go by.  Case in point, my questioning to Gary as we peruse the menus at a restaurant we frequent,  "Do I like the veggie burger here? Have I tried their house dressing?" Most of the time he knows the answer. 

I apologize for the digression, but this example illustrates a very important point. A wife should never purge in secret when up against a memory such as this! In this situation it is inevitable; you are going to get caught and it is not going to be pretty.

Recently I cleaned out one of our attic closets where we store our luggage. I was very careful and only discarded items I was positive would not be useful to us.  I erred on the side of conservative purging with the thought that suitcases would come in handy for our upcoming move. All of these facts escaped me a few days ago, however, when Gary couldn't find one of his suitcases and asked me where it was. "Gulp." As I begin to get a nauseous feeling in my stomach, I try to remember if I threw said suitcase out. As you may have guessed, if I can't remember the important things, like whether or not I enjoy the veggie burger at our local burger joint, I have no clue as to whether or not I have thrown this suitcase out!  As I try to appear calm and not let on that I am starting to break a sweat, Gary mentions my recent closet cleaning. I am fairly confident he doesn't intend to hint at any possible blame, but the sheer fact that he remembers this event makes me more nervous than ever.  "Is it hot in here? Why do I feel the need to purge and why can't I remember what I get rid of?!"

Thankfully, I am put out of my misery fairly quickly when Gary remembers that the suitcase is in his office in Buffalo.  

I cannot tell you how many times this scenario has played out in our marriage. Early on when my purging was less controlled, the ramifications were often different. Gary would realize that a treasured possession was no longer occupying space in our basement, and I would have to try to justify why we didn't need it. "Baseball cards-really, Gary? We don't even have a boy to pass them on to." "Trophies? It's not like we are ever going to display them."  Now, before all my sports loving readers abandon me, the above examples are not at all based on reality. If you came to our home this evening, you would find plenty of trophies and baseball cards that I would gladly get rid of, but have not done so because they are important to my husband.  However, through the years my purging has caused some loud voices to be heard in our home, followed by extended periods of quietness. 

I do not have many words of wisdom for those readers who identify as purgers like me, except this: be very discerning, and keep a list!

October 18, 2012

Ammunition for the Battle Over Worry

I have never considered myself a worrier.  Maybe I have been able to avoid this tendency because I have always had others around me who seemed to have the  job covered.  My mother was a champion level worrier.  I think she believed worrying about her children would somehow keep her fears concerning them from ever coming true.  My husband has been a worrier ever since he was a child.  He has recounted to me that when his parents went out for the night he would often wait by the window until they returned home.  Perhaps by having my closest family members worrying around me, I never felt the need to join in.

It seems, as of late, this has started to change.  I am not sure if it is because my mother is now gone and I feel the need to carry the torch of worry for our family.  Or maybe it is just a normal right of passage, with age comes worry.  Although I am not sure of the exact reason for the shift in my worry habits, the change is very real.  I currently find myself fearful and worried about a myriad of things. These worries float in and out of my mind as I go through my days.

Some are political concerns:
How will our nation overcome the huge deficit we now face?
Who will win the election?
If my candidate doesn't win, will our country be forever changed?

Some are family concerns:
When will our house sell?
Is my husband's new job the right position for him?
Will my brother-in-law find a better job?

Some are personal concerns:
Should I go back to work?
How do I best pursue my dream of writing?
How will I adjust to the move to Buffalo?

My list could go on. I seem to have no shortage of things to worry about, only a shortage of peace.

As I ruminate on my worries and concerns, I often remember something I heard many years ago. "Worry is a mild form of atheism." When I first heard this I did not have a problem with worry.  Now these words echoing through my mind hold more conviction.  Knowing I had to stop my new and strengthening habit of worry I turned to the scriptures for help.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.  Psalm 56:3

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:25-27

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you;  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makes me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8

As you can see the bible gives us many verses to cling to as we battle our tendency to worry. God also gave me insight into another scripture which has helped me tremendously in my battle with worry.

The scripture God spoke to me is Matthew 18:3.  And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.".  God impressed on me that I needed to take this scripture and apply it to the worries in my life.  The image I was given was of a loved and well cared for child. The child is able to live totally carefree as she knows she is protected and taken care of by her parents.

God showed me that I have Him, my Heavenly Father,  and He is handling everything for me. I can live my life free from worry because my Dad has it all covered. As I have meditated on this simple fact, my worry habit has all but disappeared.  I pray that these words will help in your fight to overcome your worry tendencies as well.

September 26, 2012

Living with Uncertainty; Life Does Not Come Complete with a Bow

I should be used to a life that is somewhat unsettled. I should be at peace with knowing that change is coming but not knowing in what form. I should be comfortable with not having everything in my life planned out. Through the years my husband, Gary, and I have walked through countless reorganizations, acquisitions, and mergers in his employment as a mortgage banker. Unsettled has often been the feeling of our 25 years of marriage.

Lately these feelings have escalated even more as Gary and I face a cross country move after living in our current home in Charlotte, North Carolina for 14 years. Or do we? Every day I, and sometimes Gary, have different feelings about whether this move will actually take place.  Gary started working in Buffalo NY in June. He is currently commuting back and forth each week with the plan that once our house sells we will relocate to Buffalo.                                                      

Daily I talk to Gary about how his day is going. Some days it is going so badly and the information seems so dire that I start to question our plan for the future. Does this company have a culture that is healthy? Do I want him in a job that is so stressful? More importantly is this move in God's will? Other days the news is better and I feel more optimistic after our conversation. At these times I begin to believe yes, we are in fact moving to Buffalo.

The problem is day to day my feelings change and the result is a huge cloud of "unsettled" is following me around. I find myself complaining to God "Why is my life not wrapped up in a bow like other people's lives seem to be? This is so hard. I want to know the direction our life together is going to take."

Thankfully, as always, God is gracious.  He takes my bad attitude and my questions and gives me answers and hope. As I listen to the truths found in God's word, I find peace in the midst of my unsettled life.

“ 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' ”  (Jeremiah 29:11)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5)

"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'  "(Isaiah 30:21)

"Thus says the Lord, Your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: 'I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way you should go.' "(Isaiah 48:17)

"The Lord will guide you continually …” (Isaiah 58:11)

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord … ”(Psalm 37:23)  

This is only a small sample of scriptures that speak to trusting God during uncertain times. They teach us not only to allow God to lead us in the way we should go but also to allow him to determine the speed of the journey. In our world of instant gratification, God's timing often feels painfully slow.

Daily I can look to these scriptures to remind me God is in control and he has a plan for my life. Surely this knowledge will strengthen me to endure this unsettled season until God is ready to reveal his plan for our lives.





August 13, 2012

Holding on to God When Life is Taking You for a Ride

"Stop! Let me get off!!!" That is what has been running through my mind lately as my day to day life makes me feel as though I am on a scary amusement park ride and I just can't wait for it to stop so I can get off.  My husband, Gary, and I are both in a very busy season of our lives. Gary accepted a job in another state a few months ago. This started a sequence of events and changes in our lives.  One of these changes is the two of us living apart four, and sometimes five, days a week. He is in Buffalo working and getting adjusted to a new area and the responsibilities of his new job. I am in Charlotte where since quitting my job, I am spending my days preparing our house for sale and getting ready for the move to Buffalo.

In the midst of all these changes, I lost my mother. Sadly, or maybe purposefully, I have been so focused on all the things on my daily to do lists that grieving for her has been pushed aside. I know when things calm down I will need to allow myself time to grieve more fully. But for now, I am in the mode of full speed ahead and the stress of a never ending list of tasks to be done is starting to take a toll on me.

As I reflected on my current situation, Matthew 11:28 came to mind. "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." I knew where to go for help, my Heavenly Father would provide the relief I was seeking. I not only sought relief from feeling overwhelmed but I also needed a way to prevent my business from crowding out my time with God. I was sure God would show me the way to get off this busy, stress filled ride, and He did!  

God blessed me by showing me four things we as believers can do, when we face the busy seasons in our lives. By making these practices a part of our daily lives we will reduce our stress levels as well as stay connected to God.

Remember + Recharge + Refocus + Rely = Relief

Remember: We must purposely remember the God whom we serve.  "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9. No matter how stressful our days become we are never alone. God is walking with us, guiding us, and providing us the strength we need to see us through whatever we are facing. Also, reflecting on ways God has seen us through other stress filled times in our lives will help give us perspective that this too shall pass.

Recharge: We need to allow ourselves time to relax and take breaks from our daily responsibilities. This means time for fun things that bring us joy as well as time with God allowing him to refresh us. "But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." Luke 5:16.  If taking time to pray was important for Jesus to fit into his busy days, how much more so it is for us. Our time with God should be guarded and prioritized. The little things that bring joy to our lives such as spending time with family and friends or enjoying our favorite hobby are also very important. Even if our busy days allow us only brief moments of our favorite activities, these small bits of refreshing will ease our stress levels. Thankfully, as with nature, seasons change and as our schedules ease up we will most likely be able to enjoy more of our favorite pastimes.

Refocus: We need to find someone else to think about besides ourselves, someone whom we can bless. " For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10. This verse clearly calls us to serve others so we must guard against letting our busy lives prevent us from doing this work.  It may be providing a listening ear for a hurting friend. Or perhaps as simple as an encouraging word to someone on Facebook. This may be the hardest of the practices to implement. We often find it hard to justify taking the time to add something else to our "to do" list, when our schedules are already overcrowded. However as God has called us to do this he will also provide us the ability to carry it out.  

Rely: We must choose to rely on God as we face the uncertainties in our lives. Stressful times can often cause us to think the worst about situations and easily feel overwhelmed by our day to day struggles. We must rely on God's goodness, everything that has come into our lives has passed through the filter of his loving hands.  "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28. We must also rely on his strength, no problem we face is too big for God.  "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10. Lastly, we must rely on his love for us. "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor 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 8:38-39.

The last verse I want to leave you with is Matthew 7:7. "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." As Christians we are not immune to problems and struggles. In fact, Jesus himself told us that in this world, we will have trouble. Thankfully we have someone we can turn to for help. When you feel stressed, overwhelmed and beaten up by this world, turn to Him. He is always listening and He has all the answers.    

This post is dedicated to my husband Gary. Although I have been feeling overwhelmed and stressed lately, I know how much more so he is feeling the same way. He is an awesome husband and father who works extremely hard to provide for our family. I hope in some small way this teaching blesses him and blesses you, my dear reader.

July 26, 2012

Do You Know the Hot Buttons in Your Relationship?

People often say their spouse knows how to "push their buttons". I would have said that was true for me too. However, I never took the time to think about what my buttons might be and try to identify the specific actions or behaviors from my husband which cause me to react negatively. That is until recently, when I found myself angrily sitting across from my husband, Gary, at one of our favorite restaurants, eating my dinner in silence.  

It was a Sunday night, and we were enjoying ourselves until one of my buttons was pushed and I reacted. This resulted in my husband becoming upset, angry words being exchanged, and ultimately a meal eaten in silence.  I wish I could say the silence was short lived but it wasn't. It continued after we were home and sadly into the next day as well.

What was the behavior that I have now identified as one of my hot buttons? It was my husband using his cell phone. I do not like it when my husband checks his email, writes emails, or texts when we are out to dinner. Sometimes when it is a timely work issue I am more forgiving and do not complain or react negatively. This particular evening it was an email to a friend and I was not happy about it being written during our dinner. My exact comment was "I should bring a book with me."  

Later, as I was reflecting on the events of the night, I realized how often similar scenarios play out in our relationship. Gary using his cell phone during our date-nights  is most certainly an issue for me. As I continued to think on this issue, I identified one of Gary's hot buttons. If I seem to be distracted when Gary is talking to me (for example. when I am doing the dishes or cleaning) he gets upset and accuses me of not listening.  This scenario too has played out in our home far too often resulting in various levels of discord between us.

Upon further reflection I realized both of these reactions come from a place of feeling not honored, not respected, and maybe for me, not feeling loved. Ephesians 5:33 speaks to this; "However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." In 1 Peter 3: husbands are again directed similarly; "Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers."  These verses make it very clear, both spouses are called by God to respect and honor one another. No excuses.

How do my husband and I solve this dilemma? Does this mean Gary can never use his cell phone when we are out together? Does it mean whenever we are talking at home I need to sit still and give him my undivided attention? I'm sure Gary would agree those changes do not provide a workable solution to our problem.

Just as in AA the admittance of a problem is the first step to recovery the same may be true here. If we can identify what behavior from our spouses causes us to react in a negative way we may be better able to prevent discord. We may not be able to realistically expect our partner to stop the behavior but we can share with them how the behavior makes us feel and why it makes us feel that way. Armed with this information from each other we can explore options for preventing these behaviors from doing their normal damage.

We can all gain help in this area by following the advice of Paul found  in Philippians 2:3-4; "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." When we know what behaviors set our partner off we may self limit the behavior as an act of honor. On the flip side once we have had a chance to explain how the behavior makes us feel it may lose some of it's power over us. At least when it does happen both partners will recognize they are entering dangerous territory and will be on the alert to avoid conflict. 

Now, dear reader, it is time to answer the question. Do you know the hot buttons in your relationship. Let me know your thoughts and ideas.