Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Turning 50!

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The year 1967 is a very special year to me. It is the year of my birth, and last weekend I celebrated my 50th birthday. I always enjoy my birthday, because it is a chance to reflect on my life and see God’s faithfulness interwoven throughout my days.

This year was especially meaningful. My husband organized a party at a local pizza place, and we invited our family and friends to join us. We were blessed with more people than we anticipated, along with some surprise arrivals. It was thrilling to be surrounded by such a loving and supportive group. Some people have known me for many years, other people are more recent friends, but each one has a special place in my heart.

I soaked in the sweet camaraderie of the evening, and pondered the gift of life. The fabulous evening punctuated my resolve: I don’t want to waste this precious gift on meaningless pursuits or to secure my own comfort. Instead, I desire to focus my attention on a few things that really matter.

Jesus. My Savior and Lord is absolutely everything to me. I dedicated my life to Him at the age of 13 (which was a long time ago). It is easy to settle into a spiritual comfort zone, but I don’t want that. I want to love and serve and know Him with all that I am. I want to passionately follow Jesus Christ in joyful obedience, and live as a bright light for Him. I want to be in the habit of saying “yes” to Him, and step out in faith to do whatever He asks of me.

Relationships. I dearly love my family and friends. I am also wired to be task oriented and goal oriented. I like structure and organization. I like to check off my to-do list, preferably in order. Tasks and achievements bring peace to my mind. Unfortunately they can interfere with relationships. However, connecting with loved ones nourishes my soul. I want to engage in the sacred, messy work of building and restoring my relationships.

Growth. The older I get, the less I know. I won’t presume that I have ever arrived. Rather, I submit to the process of life-long learning. I want to become more like Jesus, allowing the Holy Spirit to transform me into His likeness. I want to continue to heal from the effects of childhood and more recent traumas. I want to develop the skills of being a better servant leader in myself and others.

Service. I don’t want to be guilty of being enraged by all the injustices in the world and not doing something about it. I can’t sit on the sidelines while people are hurting. I must invest in improving the lives of those who are disadvantaged or marginalized, the “least of these” who are so important to Jesus.

I just had the privilege of celebrating 50 years of life. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. But I can live each day I am given with intention.

Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy (Ephesians 4:21-24).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of life. May I not take it for granted. Help me to identify what really matters, and then live with intention. I know I cannot do this by my own strength and abilities. May I thrive through Your Spirit, as You empower me to make each day count. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

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Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

It’s Okay to Be Weak

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I don’t like feeling weak. It’s discouraging to know that I don’t have the skills, strength, confidence, or health needed to get the job done. I’m the lady who, when nine months pregnant, insisted on rearranging my living room furniture by myself. Don’t tell me that I can’t do something, because it will make me work even harder to prove you wrong. At least that’s the way it was when I was younger. However, for the last ten years or so, around the time I turned 40, I have started taking a more gentle and realistic approach, as the paradoxes of God’s Kingdom make more sense to me.

God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs (Matthew 5:3).

The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (Matthew 23:11-12).

The poor are blessed; the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them. The greatest are servants. The humble are exalted.

Jesus’ teaching are contrary to the way things run in the world.

The Apostle Paul makes a statement that also seems contradictory.

Each time [the Lord] said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Throughout the Bible we see that the Lord called people who doubted their own abilities to accomplish His plans. He used them in miraculous ways. We’re in good company.

There is a saying that describes this principle, “God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called.”

This doesn’t mean that the Lord will only use people who are unqualified for a position. Rather He uses those who rely on Him to go beyond their own natural skills. As the Creator of the universe, He can take what we have, no matter how small, and turn it into so much more. He is not limited when we are weak. Instead the power of Christ works through our weaknesses. His presence and anointing make us strong. He can provide unseen opportunities by making a way where there seems to be no way.

Two times Jesus fed the multitudes. He took the few fish and loaves of bread offered to Him, and provided for the masses.

If you’re like me, the tendency is to resist when encountering weakness and obstacles. I get frustrated with my perceived lack of resources or ability. However, such a response is counter productive. The Lord delights when we respond by surrendering to His will and trusting Him to accomplish it. It may not seem possible. It may not make sense. Yet, we rely on Him to do amazing things.

It’s okay to be weak. Really. It’s then that the Lord reveals His mighty strength through us.

Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power (Ephesians 6:10).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, You are strong and mighty. Nothing is impossible with You. Help me to trust in Your faithfulness, believing that You use foolish and weak things to confound the wise and mighty. I surrender to Your will, and ask that You take my life and use it for Your glory. I offer You my weaknesses. Flow through me with the strength of Your Spirit. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

About Pie Crusts and Personal Growth

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My husband and I have a business called “Love My Pies.” As the name suggests, we sell artisan pies made to order. It may surprise you to know that my husband is the baker.

Jonathan’s grandmother and mom were gifted in the kitchen. They shared their love for cooking with him, showing him the secrets of making homemade biscuits and gravy, cornbread, cinnamon rolls, and pie crust. I, on the other hand, did not develop such a gift. I was the main cook while raising our kids, and I enjoyed making cookies of all kinds. But I avoided any dish that required lots of time and attention, especially pie crusts. I asked Jonathan to teach me a couple times, only to be reduced to tears by my own impatience and frustration. He made it look so easy, and I struggled to roll the dough into something that even resembled a circle.

A few years in our marriage I decided I would leave the pie crusts to my husband. Why should I keep trying when he could do it so much better?

I think it is a good strategy to focus where we are gifted. We thrive when we work with our strengths and abilities, and allow other people to work with theirs. However, it is also important to have a growth mindset, to be open to discovery and innovation. I had a bad case of a fixed mindset, the opposite of a growth mindset. I had decided that I would never be good at making pie crust.

A fixed mindset leads to personal stagnation and an inability to recover from mistakes. It believes that success happens naturally through talent rather than effort. It gives up when frustrated. It avoids being challenged, because failure is final.

A growth mindset leads to personal growth and resilience. It looks forward to challenges and will persevere when facing difficulties. It believes that learning may not come easily, but that’s okay. Anything can be learned eventually with desire and a positive attitude.

Here is a picture of the first pie crust that I made all by myself this weekend. It is a huge accomplishment for me, because after all these years, I determined to have a growth mindset. Recently we have had several requests for gluten free pies. My husband is busy baking for our pie orders, so I am the one with the time to experiment. My first pie crust was made with gluten free flour. It was far from perfect and the recipe needs to be adjusted, but I did it! I am excited to continue learning.

Having a growth mindset is one of my goals as I get older. I want to keep growing in faith and as a person, and to keep learning new things. I don’t want to become stagnate and shrivel. I believe that the Lord, with His eternal nature, is creative and vibrant. He imparts His life to us in the midst of the aging process. It’s nice to know that it’s never too late to practice a growth mindset. We can start with something as simple as a pie crust.

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11).

Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church (Ephesians 4:15).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, You are the God of life and transformation. Challenge me to have a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. Help me to keep growing as a person and in my relationship with You, to become all that You intend me to be. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

One Way to Change Your Perspective

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Sometimes I am my own worst enemy. One of the downsides of being emotionally sensitive is that I am prone to depression and thinking negatively. I have come a long way since childhood. As a kid, there were times I felt intense hatred toward myself. I would beat myself verbally with harmful words, and even physically on occasion. When I became a Christ-follower, the Holy Spirit began to transform the way I thought about myself. As I learned what God’s Word said about me as His dearly loved child, I began to speak those truths as personal affirmations. Slowly my self-talk and self-treatment became more positive, reflecting the affirmations I began to believe.

Today, affirming what God says about me is an important part of changing my perspective and thriving in the midst of challenging circumstances. Like every person, I am more susceptible to destructive thoughts and emotions when I am tired or hormonal (the joys of womanhood) or haven’t taken time to care properly for myself. If I am not aware, I can easily spiral into a deep pit where hopelessness resides. There I imagine every part of life falling apart, with me left alone unable to pick up the pieces. As soon as I realize what’s going, I start using affirmations.

Affirmations centered on God’s Word are powerful, because they change my perspective.

When I feel like I am too weak to accomplish what the Lord has called me to do…

  • I affirm that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
  • I affirm that His grace is all I need, because His power works best in weakness. He is my strength when I am weak (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  • I affirm that I depend on Christ’s mighty power that works within me (Colossians 1:29).

When I doubt that my life has meaning and purpose…

  • I affirm that God has a purpose for me and He is fulfilling it in me (Psalm 57:2).
  • I affirm that every day of my life matters. God’s thoughts about me are precious (Psalm 139:16-17).
  • I affirm that I am His masterpiece, created anew in Christ, so that I can do the good things he planned for me long ago (Ephesians 2:10).

When I feel unloved and alone…

  • I affirm that I am more than a conqueror through Him who loves me (Romans 8:37).
  • I affirm that nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus my Lord (Romans 8:38).
  • I affirm that God is my refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

Affirmations can address any area of struggle. They are personalized statements in present time based on God’s Word, declared out loud. Affirmations are powerful, but they aren’t magic. It isn’t enough to mindlessly recite an affirmation over and over again. Affirmations must be believed and then acted upon. They certainly do not take the place of hard work. However, when believed they will change your perspective of yourself and your world, making healing and growth possible.

I encourage you to identify an area in your life where healing or growth is needed. Find Scripture that relates to that area. Make it personal and declare it when you find yourself thinking or feeling otherwise. Trust the Holy Spirit to transform the way you think and help you thrive.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:2, NLT).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for the work of Your Spirit in my life. You see where I am, the places I get stuck, the places where I am broken. Help me to believe Your Word and declare Your Word as truth about me. Take the affirmations I make, and change the way I think. May I develop a positive perspective about myself and my situations, knowing there is always hope. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

Seeing God in our Midst

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I wake up with a start. I had wanted to get some extra much-needed sleep after an intense week but something has roused me from slumber. Not something, but someone. Actually someones. I slowly focus on two precious faces, their large brown eyes framed by long lashes, their smiles lighting their up their countenances with eagerness. In that moment I am aware of a choice. I can respond to the inconvenience of being awakened too early on my only day to sleep in. Or I can see God in my midst. What will I do?

I adjust my mind and enjoy the blessing of my five-year-old granddaughters. They crawl in bed and cuddle with me, chatting freely about the things that concern them. Almost as suddenly as it began, I am alone in bed again and the sweet girls are off and running. The sacredness of the moment lingers and gratitude fills my heart.

How often have I missed these opportunities, because I didn’t see God in my midst. Too much of my life has been spent in pursuit of a well-structured, tidy, productive, comfortable life. Anything else has escaped my attention.

It’s all too easy to keep God confined to my mental box. I often allow divine appointments to pass me by. However, I am learning to pause, to look with different eyes in hopes of seeing Him.

I can see God in the face of my grandchildren. That isn’t much of a stretch. I also believe that every person I come across is a divine appointment, whether rich or poor, whether their lives are neatly put together or they are struggling, broken, in chaos. I love seeing God in our midst as I share the Gospel in actions and words. However, there are also times when I am ministering to someone in need, and they say something in conversation that catches my attention. They are unaware, but the Lord uses their words to impart His wisdom or encouragement to me.

Seeing God in the midst of disappointment, traumatic events, and natural disasters is more challenging. But it is possible. There is no situation that we face where He is not present.

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
~Psalm 46:1-3, NIV

Several years ago I had a vivid dream. My family and I were climbing on some rock formations near the turbulent ocean. A storm began to rage, and we tried to reach safety in the fortress at the top of the rocks. The rest of my family was secure, but I lagged behind carrying my youngest daughter and knew I wouldn’t make it. A tidal wave formed in front of me, and I cried out in desperation, “Jesus!” Instantly Jesus appeared towering in the wave. He stepped forward and placed us in the fortress, as the wave crashed directly below us. As the scene closed, a large choir declared these words in the background.

Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
the Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is he, this King of glory?
The Lord Almighty—
he is the King of glory.
~Psalm 24:7–10

The Lord’s presence remained with me for many hours, and the memory of this dream continues to strengthen me in the midst of life’s turbulence.

Our God is the most awesome and all powerful King. He is ever-present in every situation. He is perfect love and delights when we recognize Him. There is nothing more sustaining to our minds and souls than seeing God in our midst.

The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth (Psalm 145:18).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You that You are always present in my life. Sometimes You are mighty and powerful. Sometimes You speak in a still, small voice. Please help me to see You in the midst of the every day, ordinary situations, and in the midst of circumstances that threaten my well-being. Strengthen me to be still and know that You are God. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Communication Skills

The Art of Clarifying

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My husband, Jonathan, has the worse luck with drive through restaurants. There is something about the pitch of his voice that makes it difficult for the person on the other end of the speaker to hear him. It doesn’t matter where he goes or who is there to take his order, his experience is the same.

“I’m sorry, would you say that again.”
“I can’t hear what you’re saying. Please repeat that.”
“Ummm…Have you said anything yet? I don’t hear anything.”

If I were Jonathan, I would quit trying the drive through and go directly inside. But he isn’t deterred in the slightest. He keeps going back, determined to enjoy the convenience of staying in the car, and work through the inconveniences of communication difficulties.

Effective communication is rarely easy. Most of us don’t have problems ordering at a drive through. However, sharing an important concept on the job or working through a relational issue can create quite a challenge. But it’s worth the effort for the sake of our personal or work relationships.

As a young woman I used to imagine being married to a wonderful, thoughtful, romantic man. He would sweep me off my feet and know what I was thinking without me needing to say a word. In fact, the more he loved me the more his mind reading abilities would increase. I went through a lot of disappointment and heart ache before I realized how unrealistic my expectations were.

I am married to an amazing man who loves me very much, but he is no mind reader. After almost 32 years of marriage I realize more than ever how important it is to invest time in effective communication.

Each of us brings our own experiences and mindsets to the table, but we must be careful not to assume that others, even those closest to us, have the same perspective. Assumptions stand in the way of communicating well.

When we do not assume, we are more comfortable practicing clarification. Clarification is a type of reflection that seeks to remove ambiguity, confusion, or misunderstanding.

Don’t be embarrassed to ask for more information. In some settings, I can hear words but I don’t grasp the concepts. I can either pretend that I understand, or I can ask questions in order to understand. To me, effective communication is more important than looking intelligent. I set aside “my image,” to ask questions because I want to truly understand.

What did you mean when you said ____________?

What does that look like to you?

When, where, how, or why questions are great for helping to clear things up.

Also, don’t be in a hurry. Hurry is another obstacle that hinders effective communication. If it’s important, you can’t rush the process. Approach the subject when there is time. The clarifying statement is another tool to guide the conversation.
I hear you saying __________. Is that correct?

It sounds like you feel _____________. What else would you like to add?

Let me summarize your main points. __________ Did I cover them all?

Practicing clarification requires courage and time. A crucial part of effective communication, the goal is to promote understanding, so that you and I can be on the same page and work together.

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry (James 1:19).

May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14).

Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets (Matthew 7:12).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, help me to communicate clearly and with grace. Teach me how to treat others the way I want to be treated and to build understanding with those around me. May I become good at clarifying. I long to be an ambassador of peace, representing You in speech and action. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Four Steps to Facing Failure

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In my life time, I have heard many quotes on facing failure and learning from mistakes. Just listen to the wisdom of some people who have been successful. They can be quite inspiring.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
– Samuel Beckett (novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet)

“When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.”
– Eloise Ristad (musician and author)

“Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.”
– Robert T. Kiyosaki (businessman and founder of Rich Dad Company)

On the other hand, sayings like these can be very discouraging to someone who has just experienced the sting of failure. Their simplicity seems to delegitimize the pain of failing.

Can I be honest about this? It hurts to fail. I don’t want to put time, energy, and resources into planning and reaching a goal only to fail.

I’m certainly not successful like the people featured above, but I just have to say this. It’s okay not to like failing. Really.

Maybe you made a plan, put in lots of effort, and didn’t meet a goal. Maybe you studied hard and didn’t pass a test. Maybe you thoroughly researched an idea and it didn’t produce results. Maybe you made a commitment to a relationship and it didn’t last. It’s okay to be upset. It’s okay to grieve. Failure is a type of loss, and loss is painful.

Eventually though, when you’ve properly experienced the loss, you need to get back up, learn from the mistakes, and try again. How can you face failure in a healthy way?

  1. Take time to experience the loss. I know I already said this, however, don’t skip over this step. Each situation will be different, but it is important not to minimize your emotions.
  2. Identify what you did well. All is not lost. Celebrate the positive elements and accomplishments. Ask others for their feedback. Their perspective is valuable.
  3. Examine what you need to improve. Think about how you could do things differently, and then determine to make the necessary changes. Again, ask for input from others. They may see things that you missed.
  4. Above all, remember that you are dearly loved by your heavenly Father. Your worth is not determined by your failures or your successes. He loves you. Period.

So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you (Deuteronomy 31:6, NLT).

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love (Romans 5:3-5).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You that my worth is not based on my accomplishments. Help me to answer Your call, give my all, and learn from my mistakes. Be my strength and encouragement. Be my teacher and guide. Please remind me that failure is never final when I keep my eyes on You and refuse to give up. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.