Category Archives: joy

Do You want a “Stable” Life?

img_3766We love Christmas. Advent reminds us of the wonder of childhood. And it’s an amazing and wonder-filled story, isn’t it!? After riding a donkey all day, Joseph and his wife Mary, a virgin, arrive in Bethlehem with her in labor — to deliver our King in a stable!

We were in a restaurant having dinner, just minutes from the hospital when my daughter-in-law was in labor… and my son and I were nervous to get her to a good, sterile place for a safe delivery!

But Joseph and Mary couldn’t find a room… the city was booked. A feeding trough in a cave filled with livestock was their best bet.IMG_1035

I heard a story about a 3rd grade Christmas Pageant. The Inn Keeper dressed in sheets had one line, “There is no room at the Inn,” but when he heard “Joseph” explain young “Mary’s” predicament, compassion overtook him and he went off script, “okay, come on in. We’ll find somewhere for you.” We might all do the same!

But our Sovereign God is intentional… nothing in the Bible story is off script or a Plan B detour.

Jesus came from heaven to earth to live among us; He lived a sinless life.  He freely chose to bear our sins, to pay our debt with His life, so that through Him we will never be condemned — though without Him, we deserved the wrath of God.

IMG_5886He would be born in a humble stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. He would perform many miracles, and teach with Wisdom unexplainable. But He would also be rejected and scorned. The “Inn crowd” would not recognize or accept Him. He would be greeted by shepherds (the lowliest, dirtiest crowd) and dine with sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes. His crowning Glory — the plan from the beginning — was His gruesome death on a Cross. He came to Save each of us, if only we’ll believe.

But the trouble is, as I have told you before, you haven’t believed even though you have seen me. But some will come to me—those the Father has given me—and I will never, never reject them. For I have come here from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to have my own way. And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them to eternal life at the Last Day. For it is my Father’s will that everyone who sees his Son and believes on him should have eternal life—that I should raise him at the Last Day.” (John 6:36-40, TLB)

IMG_1134“O Holy Night” is one of my favorite Christmas Carols. It gives wonderful insight into why Jesus left heaven:

Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.

“And the soul felt its worth.” Jesus left heaven to rescue you because you are of great worth to Him. God loves you so much that He gave His very life so that you could be with Him forever.” (Michael Youssef)

If there had only been YOU, He still would have come. His love for YOU drove Him from his throne in Heaven to  a lowly stable on earth, to die and be raised to life to set YOU free. You, my friend,  are completely loved  — just as YOU are — by the Creator God of the universe. His Son Jesus, is His personal Gift to you.

Have you opened your incomparable Christmas gift yet?

Are you feeling anything as you’re reading? Could it be Him stirring your soul? God makes Himself known… and when He does, you’ll know it. Don’t be too smart, too proud, too anything to miss His gift, Jesus Christ.

“So what about these wise men, these scholars, these brilliant debaters of this world’s great affairs? God has made them all look foolish and shown their wisdom to be useless nonsense.

He has chosen a plan despised by the world, counted as nothing at all, and used it to bring down to nothing those the world considers great, so that no one anywhere can ever brag in the presence of God.”  (I Corinthians 28-20, 28-29 TLB)

IMG_1142Do not harden you heart when He stirs you with the worth of your soul and His great love. What good is a gift that is never opened?

How then shall we to respond to this unbelievable act of love and grace? Listen to “O Holy Night” with fresh ears and an open heart. The end of the song provides the answer: Christ’s sacrifice (lowly birth, sinless life, death on the cross, and resurrection) is a call for each of us to fall on our knees in surrender, worship, gratitude and adoration.

How may God be inviting you (personally) to respond to Him today?

Christ in your heart is your only hope of glory. He must reside IN you. Have you accepted Him? Not just believed the story in your mind? “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.” (James 2:19 TLB)

Matthew 7:21-23 says “Not all who sound religious are really godly people. They may refer to me as ‘Lord,’ but still won’t get to heaven. For the decisive question is whether they obey my Father in heaven.  At the Judgment many will tell me, ‘Lord, Lord, we told others about you and used your name to cast out demons and to do many other great miracles.’  But I will reply, ‘You have never been mine. Go away, for your deeds are evil.'”

Intellectual understanding or belief is not all He is asking.  Going to church isn’t the ticket. Giving and serving are not your admissions price — God has infinite resources.

IMG_1132He wants your heart. Your surrender. Your worship. The God of the universe wants an intimate and personal relationship with YOU through sincere conversation (prayer and reading your Bible). Would you talk to Him now?

If you already know you are saved, know Him and love Him — His gentle words will be even more direct and personal. The more we return to Him and spend time seeking His face and understanding who He is, the more peaceful and joyful our lives will be. The more you and I will be transformed into the likeness of Jesus — and God will be glorified in our beautiful worship!

In the midst of the wonderful energy and excitement of the coming weekend, I pray your soul feels its worth. And that with all that is in you, you find time to praise His holy name. Merry Christmas.IMG_1139

 

 

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On the 13th Anniversary of my 40th Birthday

I read an article a few days ago assuring 40-somethings that increased life expectancies and healthier lifestyles have pushed the official midlife age from 41 to 53! How wonderful… for THEM! My Granny Mabel lived to 107 (giving me 6 more months to the half way point) — but no matter how I slice it, dice it or determine to define it — “midlife” is in the house.IMG_5052

Reading on, that scholarly article said, “You are seen as middle-aged if you enjoy afternoon naps, choose comfort over style and groan when you bend down.” Busted.

I take comfort in the fact that when I ran into my similarly-aged doctor at the tennis courts last week, he said, “At our age, if you aren’t hurting, you aren’t moving enough!”

I’ve written about midlife several times in the last few years. It’s definitely been a journey. But lately there have been BIG things to process. And everything points in the same direction — sort of a changing of the guard. After a lifetime of my focus being primarily mom and homemaker, this new season is not just an age.

Recent mid life changes bring with them a lot a heightened perspective as I celebrate – yes, CELEBRATE – that I am 53! So, what’s been happening?

ONE –All three of my children will be married within 15 months — two down, one to go. As they start new families (I’m grateful to be blessed with two beautiful daughter-in-laws and a wonderful soon to be son-in-law), I am full of joy. It’s an answer to many years of prayer for their some day spouses. We are close and see each other pretty often, but by definition, I have become their “family of origin” as they create distinctively new family units.

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Webster’s Definition of Family

  1. a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household.
  2. all the descendants of a common ancestor  —  I have moved to definition number two in reference to my children — still important! but secondary — HOWEVER, I have a chance to make up for lost time with ROB who now shares my #1 family definition with no one (except two adorable Springer Spaniels!). Despite appearances, the picture below is from a Wedding Luau Celebration and NOT an old folks cruise. We can still hang til midnight with the 20-somethings — listening to “our” 70s and 80s music that they claim as theirs! IMG_4777

The many emotional changes and challenges involved in my growing and aging family really mean that things are are as they should be. And I am certain God has an abundant, new plan for us all moving forward. He will use everything for our good. All is well.

And lest we think of “slowing down,” Rob’s given me two more adult children in the pipeline to keep us busy and active!

TWO — Full circle, I’m going back to the name of my earliest years: Easie. I will be a grandmother soon! A beautiful baby girl is on her way, and I’m already smitten. Tears fill my eyes as I type about her. I’m so excited to love her, meet her, hold her and watch her parents raise her.  I’m certain they will be amazing parents.

I am so proud, but a grandmother?!?  I’ve looked forward to this… but in my dreams it was always in the distant future. Grannies are plump, grey-haired, smiling, available, loving… could it be I’m becoming one? I’ve been getting a jumpstart lately on that “crown of splendor.” Again, all is well and as it should be, and God is on the move.

IMG_3041THREE — And I am moving. Not much more about that here, but Rob and I will soon be residents of Georgia. Know anyone who wants a great family home in Tallahassee?

Either God has a great plan for us in a new place, or we have misunderstood. 😉 Either way we are in His loving care and desire to follow Him, and that’s always a safe and adventurous place.

But it’s not easy. Home maker is a big part of who I’ve been. I’m beginning to emotionally divorce myself from this home I love. A home God provided to offer me peace, beauty, rest, and close proximity to my parents, just when all were most needed. I’m going through the many bins (5 children’s worth) of keepsakes and memory albums. Letters to Santa, poems, cards written with crayons. Handprints and endless artistic treasures.

Christmas morning photos… some of the sweetest memories.  And some of the hardest to let go of. Am I really finished raising children? Am I really the grandparent generation? I am, and it’s part of the passing years of time.

But God (the promise and hope in those two words will be the title of a post to come)… But God is a God of the present. His work in us is always redemptive. He has plans for all my family moving forward. Different than it has been, but Glorious just the same.

FOUR — My dad recently passed away. Tears of a different flavor flow as I type this.IMG_4685

It’s still too soon to write much about Daddy. Of course, God is my ultimate Protector, Provider, Advisor, and Father. But He gave me my Dad (and more recently, Rob) to put some skin on Who He is. To show me a Father’s love. I feel a vulnerability with Dad’s passing.

I am forever changed because of the part of me Daddy took with him. Nothing prepared me for losing my father. I’ve been distracted, unproductive and sad. I tear up at all sorts of reminders that all is now different in my world. I’ve learned that grieving can’t be rushed and must be felt.

If you’re over 45 you’ll get this: I feel like the same “me” on the inside as I was at 30. In the same vane, my vision of “family” exists in a world where I have parents, grandparents, siblings, children and grandchildren —  all the generations I have ever known and loved — together in one life, just as they are in my heart. The reality of my vision only exists in heaven. But OH WHAT A PROMISE!

I woke up on my birthday waxing philosophical and wanting to write after a long dry spell. Looking back at my life I am sure of one thing in the midst of overwhelming changes. God has been, is and will be faithful.

IMG_4300Lamentations 3:22-23 “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.”

Psalms 119:90  “Your  faithfulness endures to all generations;  you have established the earth, and it  stands fast.”

And I will place my full faith in God who loves me completely and has never let me down.

Hebrews 11:1  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

I am so grateful for the promise God gives us that all His children will be reunited one day in Heaven — from every generation and time. It motivates me to live differently here today.

I want to talk to everyone about Jesus. About how we can be assured of God’s love and our heavenly home for eternity. It’s what really matters. After 53 years I have so many wonderful examples of what God has done in my life — stories of His redemptive work, His faithfulness and His love.

And God-willing, I have half a life left to share HIM with anyone who will listen! The rest is in His hands. Hallelujah!

Anybody can know God and know you have eternal salvation through Jesus. Just pray something like this with all your heart —

God, I know I’ve sinned.  I need your forgiveness,  I believe you sent Jesus, your Son, to earth to live and die and to be raised from the dead. His blood was shed to pay for my sins, so I can be forgiven. I believe Jesus offers a free gift as an answer for my eternal life and for this life.  I receive this gift of eternal life. I want a personal relationship with you, God. Not a religious relationship only, but one where I know You love me, I love You, and You live in me and through me — to make a difference in my life and the lives of others. I love you God, and thank you for loving me. Amen.

 

 

What do a Fire, a Wedding and Glitter all have in Common?

I’m not sure where this one’s heading, folks! But I feel nudged to write, so here goes.

IMG_1560Yesterday, I started about 50 tasks, but made no progress. While “working” I also read, napped, talked on the phone,  played with the pups, and checked Facebook 8 times. The irony? I wrote web copy stating social media addiction as a specialty. Hmmm, might need to revisit my own triggers for that!

Why so antsy? I’m recovering. Life has been coming at me in double time. Curveballs — an endless barrage of the stuff that makes up our days. Some of it wonderful. Some, not so great. All without pause. I think God has been reinforcing two Truths  that are so well known, we can easily forget their magnitude:

  1. to trust God no matter what the circumstances, and
  2. to keep Him on the throne as my number one priority!

Pushing through life in the strength of my flesh, I needed a reminder. Busyness is no excuse for neglecting time with God, but we all cave sometimes under pressure. And He still loves us and works for our good. Maybe that’s why God allowed “life” to drive His plan home and give teeth to my faith before I launch my business. A business that only makes sense if He is central.

Early June, I was in Atlanta for an engagement party, when that party’s mother of the groom interrupted to say Rob had called me on HER cell. My heart sank. There had to be a problem… a big one.

IMG_2384The building we had moved our business into weeks before was next door to a building struck by lightning. The firemen let Rob through the barricade as he explained, “I own the building on the right… but I heard we’re ok.” When the deadpan reply is, “You’re gonna need to talk to the chief” you might have a BIGGER problem.

The fire had spread to our roof, and 550,000 gallons of water poured into our first floor space — 100% interior total. I kept telling myself this is “an act of God,” and He has a plan. All will be okay. Rob is a calm guy — even in the face of fire and devastation. I’m not always so steady, but one employee thought it was weird how cool and collected we were.

IMG_2399It wasn’t an act; we were consciously placing our faith in God. Trust was our only choice, as we added a major fire to our already full plates. But we weren’t without our moments. It was awful to go to the building. It was oppressively hot as they tried to dry out the framing, and the stench spoke to the devastation. Depression and overwhelm hovered nearby.

We looked for silver linings, but I was weary.  I didn’t have much energy for prayer  — beyond the typical ones that rise out of chaos and confusion. “Why? God, is there a message in this? We thought this business was your will? But it’s not going as we thought it would…”

IMG_2396I learned during a long and arduous 2008, that favorable outcomes are not an accurate indicator of whether you’re living in God’s will. His ways are not our ways. Things can look bad to our eyes, when all is going according to HIs plans. The building is still only protected by a tarp, but He is providing. We feel His peace.

Wedding time! I had to quickly shift gears for my son’s July celebration! It was a welcomed distraction; I’m thrilled with their marriage. But my energy was depleted, when I wanted to enjoy every moment. The joy of the Lord truly was my only strength — and it was probably a blessing I didn’t have any “fight” of my own left in me… as life kept happening.

IMG_2664 2The wedding weekend started with tux mishaps and wild storms. Two hours before dinner, I got another call…  the restaurant venue had a problem. There had been no power for 2.5 hours in a small area of downtown (also affecting the wedding hotel). The city estimated another 2 hours, despite crews working.  They were searching for another venue, but hadn’t found one.

By the grace of God, I wasn’t ruffled. We made the executive decision not to change venues. I would trust however they handled it — they didn’t need me to micromanage. Pizza could work if it had to. God had allowed the storm. All would be okay.

I only had time to text a few sisters and ask them to pray that we would have a rehearsal dinner — any kind.  I had to go to the church! I HAD to trust God had this…He had us, no matter what the outcome.  It helped that the laid back groom remained happy, as did “bridechilla.”

IMG_2761When we arrived the restaurant had miraculously cooled down, linens and flowers were on the tables, and they served the delicious original menu. Guests never knew there had been a crisis.  Shout out to amazing staff at The Edison: it was impossible to pull this off! I’m so thankful God always answers our prayers — and has a soft spot for wedding feasts!

Saturday morning was relaxed. I got my makeup and hair done with “the girls” then returned to my house to be with “my boys.” Such a special time — but it didn’t go as planned. The hairdresser finished my look with a flourish of sticky spray across my head, face and chest. I was bedazzled with glitter!

The mirror revealed not only was I “glitter mom,” but let’s just say the up do was not my style.  Flustered, but not falling apart, I went home thinking I probably needed to shower again. My boys didn’t disagree!

My sister and daughter-in-law-to-be came to the rescue (as did a groomsman with a mimosa). Bedazzled make-up was removed, and releasing my hair shook out most of the glitter that scotch tape hadn’t lifted. I washed my chest 4 times and voila — the show girl was gone, and the mother of the groom reappeared.

Everyone says most women would have flipped out. I AM most women! God’s grace and joy overwhelmed the problem, and allowed me to share the grace He has so generously shown me.

IMG_2731The slight confusion caused by the rain falling as everyone was entering the reception, only rattled me for a short while (admittedly, someone put a glass of champagne in my hand again). Nothing life threw at us could have dampened the joy of the night. It was perfect and oh so joyous, despite more than a few technical glitches along the way. God is good, all the time. So thankful I was too spent to assert my own agenda and compelled to trust Him through the weekend. Resting in Him is always the very BEST life.

I’ve almost completed two Christian Coaching courses, One serves to set up the legal, financial and technical structure of my business in a systematic way. I was on top of it… then came the fire, the wedding, the glitter and a myriad of untold circumstances.  I felt frantically behind as I worked yesterday. I hadn’t called the lawyer, accountant, web designer, etc. My perfect office was trashed — most destroyed room in our building — all except my paintings. Everything crashed to the floor, while they hung miraculously on the soaked walls like a rainbow.IMG_2698

I think God was lovingly molding me through the fire, wedding, glitter and all the other setbacks and crises. Reflecting and writing has calmed my countenance. Maybe I needed to praise God for His love, blessings, provisions and grace before moving forward. Today, I’ll tackle my task list again in earnest… after seeking Him in trust and surrender, and with so much gratitude and joy. Life just works better when my trust rests solely in Him — no matter what happens.