What Do You Do With The Bad Days?

Standard

I just wanted the week to be over and done with. That particular week in January had not been on a good course. It didn’t seem to matter what I said or did because I could not get my week back on track. I felt like a bit player in my own life.

It is easy to indulge the pity party when bad days become a bad week. God reminded me that His invitation is always better. One evening, I opened my devotion book to the words that articulated my emotions: frustration and anger over lack of control. God clearly showed me my current state of my mind and then reassured my heart of His presence. God spoke to me when I needed it the most.

The very next day, I received a return phone call from someone I left a voicemail with weeks earlier. As part of my ministry work, I often ask to pray with people before we hang up. It is not unusual for me to pray over them. However, it is very unusual for the other person to ask, “How can I pray for you today?” God orchestrated all the details to bring me special encouragement when I needed it the most.

I find that sometimes frustrations and fears lose their power when I verbally express them to other people. By admitting what was really bothering me deep down, I gained clarity in the various situations that comprised my bad week. I am thankful for trusted ones that listened without judgement and then faithfully prayed for me. First, I had to be honest enough about my own failings and insecurities to ask others for help. God provided fellowship with other Christians when I needed it the most.

I was glad that difficult week came to an end and I had a clean slate for the new week. As much as I wanted to forget about the bad week, I couldn’t. I realized that the week served a good purpose. God reminded me that He is active in every aspect of my life and responds with nudges to look up to Him. I can count on those closest to me and even unexpected phone calls from strangers to pray me through the hard times. As I react to bad days with faith, I grow in confidence of God’s will for my life. God showed confirmation of His path when I needed it the most.

God leads me through the valleys to the next peak. God’s view helps me appreciate the beauty of the rolling hills behind me and yet in front of me. January’s bad week made me realize what I needed the most: more of God!

Isaiah 35:2

Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! The deserts become as green as the mountains of Lebanon, as lovely as Mount Carmel or the plain of Sharon. There the LORD will display his glory, the splendor of our God. (NLT)

Isaiah 40:4-5 

Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Advertisements

How The Story Ends

Standard

It never gets old to say that I am a cancer survivor of four and a half years and counting. This post is my heartfelt thanks to those many people that prayed for the happy ending to my cancer story.

A cancer diagnosis evokes a reaction. Sometimes that reaction turns into a story. As I shared my breast cancer diagnosis in 2011, I heard many stories, including stories without the happy ending. “My first wife fought it for three years before she passed away.” “My mom died when I was in the sixth grade.”

The words from well-meaning people were a reminder that a cancer story can have a sad ending. Those were hard words to hear at any point, but especially so when the details of my cancer diagnosis were still unknown. I knew that their intent wasn’t to scare me. These people were deeply affected by cancer and it was their way to connect with me in my cancer story. Perhaps their words were poorly timed, but their compassion was evident in their broken and still healing hearts.

We were in this together. That was the point. That was the encouragement. There were people praying for me. There were people who knew exactly how to pray for me because they had endured a version of their family’s cancer story. There were people who loved and lost, but still survived cancer’s pain through God’s grace. I much prefer the happy ending. Regardless of the outcome, we are never alone.

Romans 12:15

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 

 

 

 

Has God Interrupted Your Day Lately?

Standard

Flowers at the Door

It was a busy day for a Saturday. I was prepping for a meeting later that afternoon and finishing up a few things for a family get-together on Sunday. A change in Sunday plans meant additional tasks were added to my to-do list. My Saturday of leisure shifted into high gear for getting things done.

As usual, I overestimated my efficiency and underestimated the time necessary. Now, I was feeling stressed. That’s when the doorbell rang. Both my husband and I heard it as I looked at him and commented, “I don’t have time for this.” Surely, it was the dreaded salesman pitching windows, a roof, pest treatment plans, or lawn care. None of which I needed.

I begrudgingly opened the door to find a smiling delivery man with a beautiful flower arrangement. “Are you Debbie?” he asked as he held out flowers. I received the flowers, but I was confused. It wasn’t a holiday or a forgotten anniversary. Thankfully, no one had passed away. Why for me? And why now? The attached card explained that the flowers were a thank-you for my leadership in a Christian ministry.

God’s interruption in my day wasn’t intended to frustrate or stress me. The interruption was God’s reminder that I am loved by the body of Christ and my work for the kingdom is appreciated. God pours out blessings just because He delights in His children. The depth of God’s love can still take us by surprise. Oftentimes, those blessings come through others. I thought I was too busy for the interruption of God’s blessing.

How has God interrupted your day lately?

Psalm 21:6

Surely you have granted him eternal blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence.

John 1:16

From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 

 

 

Time to Turn Back?

Standard
Looking for blueberries in the north section of Dolly Sods Wilderness Area

Looking for blueberries in the north section of Dolly Sods Wilderness Area.

Blueberries: the day of hiking in Dolly Sods was all about the blueberries. Two miles into the hike, I was starting to get nervous about finding berries. We passed the patches that provided last year’s bounty of berries to take home. (See that post titled I Hope There are Blueberries in Heaven by clicking here.) This year, the same patches were not hopeful as the berries were sparse and past their prime. It felt like we were looking in the wrong place. Was it time to turn back?

Just when my answer became a yes to turn back, we met some fellow hikers. Our containers and meandering off the trail identified us as blueberry-pickers. The hikers cheerily informed us that we were very close to a great patch of plentiful blueberries. Their encouragement pointed us in the right direction. Thank goodness we held out hope and did not turn back too soon.

Sometimes we turn back too soon in our faith in response to our circumstances or expectations. Maybe we think we are on the wrong path because we aren’t experiencing the blessings. Or we are sure something better has to be elsewhere. Or we get discouraged because we no longer have the vision in front of us. Maybe we are simply tired of walking.

Those are the times that we need to push forward in faith, expecting good things around the next bend of the path. May the encouragement of others refine our desire to continue following God. Let’s remain committed to wherever God is leading so we can bask in His presence.

 

Ruth 1:16

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.

 

Exodus 13:21-22

By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.

 

Garage Sale Wars

Standard

The garage sale wars begin even before we stick a sign in the yard and open the garage door.

I think my husband should clean out the garage. He thinks I should let go of my many boxes of memories. I think he overprices his stuff and underprices mine. Of course, he feels it is just the opposite. His philosophy is to simply put the stuff out and the people will come. My philosophy is to focus on the marketing and stage the stuff.

This year was no different. He made me re-price a tent. His rationale was that he didn’t care if it sold or not. I wanted to recycle his old engineering magazines before the garage sale. He insisted that I offer them as freebies instead.

My husband won the garage sale war this year. And I am glad for it. I was reminded of that familiar cliché, “Nothing is wasted in God’s economy.” He got his asking price for the tent. One of the last shoppers bought it for her friend, a young mother who planned to take her son camping. It was a good transition from so many fun and funny memories for our family to another family who will add new memories.

As for those magazines, they disappeared too. An older couple stopped by with their adult special needs child. Their child loves to turn pages and the glossy pages of the magazines will hold up to the love. I could see their child dancing in the car with excitement as my husband placed the box next to her.

“Nothing is wasted in God’s economy.” May I remember this point and expect this result for the next garage sale. I don’t even have to wait that long for it is a principle that applies to every day.

 

John 6:12

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over.  Let nothing be wasted.”

 

Three Questions for 2015

Standard

Holidays are a time to catch up with out-of-town family. Over the years, I have discovered an extra joy: worshiping together in their home church. Being in God’s house away from home, I always learn something new and am prompted to reflect on God’s word. This past Christmas was no exception. In her sermon, the pastor posed three questions:

1. What gift has God given to you?

2. What gift do you give to the world because of God’s gift to you?

3. What is the song of your heart?

These are my type of questions in that they bypass the fluff and get right to the heart of the matter. The first question: what gift has God given to me? Salvation is the obvious answer. Without God’s salvation, I would have nothing of eternal value. But that wasn’t my answer. My answer was hope. The birth of Jesus and the realized promise of salvation fill me with hope. Hope for every circumstance and relationship in my life. Hope for my future, both here on earth and in heaven. And hope for living the life of hope that God has called me to. The second question: what gift do I give to the world because of God’s gift to me? Hmm, as a professing Christian, I should have many good answers. I went with the first one to pop into my head: love. Because God’s hope swells up inside of me, I can express and share God’s love. In a world beset with wars, political divisiveness and bitterness, love is a beacon of hope. Love starts with me in my little corner of the world and can spread beyond my reach through God’s reach to the world. The last question: what is the song of my heart? This was the hardest question. I thought I needed a highly profound answer. I stuck with this one because it is the mantra that motivates me each day. “Everything, even the little things that I do in the name of Jesus, matter to God.” My significance and my influence stem from heeding God’s word in my life and exercising faith daily. Great questions to ponder. May God’s answers spoken to your heart guide you in 2015.

Please feel to share your answers (short or long version) to these three questions in the comments section of this post.

 

Romans 5:5

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. 

 

 Hebrews 10:23-24

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

 

 

Are You Swimsuit Ready?

Standard

The perfectly toned woman with the perpetual optimistic personality is trying to get me pumped up. In between cardio kicks and hip hop dance moves, she reminds me that all my hard work will pay off. I will be swimsuit ready. I really don’t care about swimsuit ready. I wanted a new workout and this DVD was a freebie. Now every time I exercise, I hear her words of encouragement. I can look good in my swimsuit. Are you swimsuit ready? There is a more pressing question I need to address. Will I be Jesus Christ ready? Jesus is returning to earth. Will I be ready for his second coming? The answer involves more than time in my schedule for physical exertion. The answer requires honest reflection. Let’s see. How is my attitude towards the people God has placed in my life? Am I serving God wholeheartedly? Who am I purposely sharing the gospel with? Can people recognize Jesus in me? Salvation through Jesus is a free gift. Living out faith in Jesus and being prepared for Jesus, now that’s work. Hard work done through the Holy Spirit. Real work that demands sacrifice of self. Excuse me. I gotta go. I have work to do to be Jesus Christ ready. And maybe I’ll dig out that swimsuit too. What about you, are you Jesus Christ ready?

Luke 18:8b

However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?

 

1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.