Do The Next Thing

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for just 5 minutes without heavy editing on a one-word prompt. Today we talk about the word “next.” 

I have a tendency to get overwhelmed fairly easily. I can look at all the things I have to do, all the things that are coming up, and stress about what that’s going to look like to my low-energy body. And I have a heart rhythm issue that rears its ugly head when I am stressed. This week had that over-stressed potential.

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My husband has been gone this week, my daughter and mother in law, who lives with us, have both been sick, and life still had to go on. I still had to have food in the house. I still had to care for my 15-month-old grandson most of those days.

And then our water heater went out.

And I have 36 people coming for Easter.

And my oldest is graduating from college in a couple of weeks.

And now I’ve got the cold my daughter had, albeit a light version.

So how do I maintain peace and not let the stress, well, stress me out?

Just do the next thing. Don’t look too far down the road. Just take the next step.

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And I breathe deeply, letting the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

It’s oh so necessary.

Especially when I just now got a text that my husband’s flight home this afternoon has been cancelled.

Breathe in peace. Breathe out stress. Breathe in peace. Breathe out stress.

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Lacking in Nothing

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for 5 minutes on a one-word prompt and see what happens. Today’s prompt is “lack.”

Don’t we all want to be without lack? We want to be able to have all that we need all the time. Our bank accounts always have money in them. Our fridges always have food. Our cars always have gas. Our lives have meaning and our hearts are full of love.

Sounds idyllic doesn’t it?

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Yet what does James, the brother of Jesus, say is necessary for us to be without lack? Let’s listen in to his letter to the 12 tribes of Israel who were scattered in the dispersion.

“Count it all joy my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).

Whaaat?

Ugh.

I’m sorry, but I don’t want to have to face trials in order to be perfect and complete. That doesn’t sound like a lot of fun.

Why can’t we just get that by being good? By doing what we’re supposed to do? By crossing our T’s and dotting our I’s?

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Because, my dear friends, that doesn’t produce steadfastness. It doesn’t make us stronger. It doesn’t drive us to the arms of Jesus.

In her brand new book Glorious Weakness: Discovering God In All We Lack, Alia Joy says, glorious weakness“Sometimes the holiest ground is the emptiest.”

In all our trials, in our lack here on this broken planet, we find Jesus. Perfection and completeness won’t happen until we see Him face to face.

Press on. Lacking nothing will be worth it in the end.

 

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Help! I Have A Teenager!

Today’s post is a part of my 10-Minute Tuesday series. I write for 10 minutes, give or take, without any heavy editing, on a one-word prompt. Today’s prompt is “teenagers.”

People tend to think that parenting teenagers is pretty scary. It can be, if you’re not prepared for what you might encounter.

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For me, preparation for parenting teens started when they were born.

I mean, it makes sense, doesn’t it? If you are a constant source of rules and punishment and harshness when they are little, the rebellion they are going to feel when they are beginning to spread their wings and figure out what they are capable of will be greater. But if you are there to build a relationship with them, give them solid boundaries and are a safe place for them to process, then the likelihood of constant turmoil in your household will be diminished.

OK, stop right there. I’m going to make a big statement right now.

There are no guarantees. Your kids’ decisions are their decisions. All the best parenting you think you’re doing may not be enough to keep them from making stupid and life-altering choices.

Just like us, our kids are endowed by their Creator with free will. So don’t think that if your child starts down a path of destruction that the fault is yours. If you have been doing the best you can and leaving the results to God, then you have a clear conscience. Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes.

Maybe I let me baby cry in his crib too long when I was wanting him to take a nap. Maybe that’s why he chose to walk away from a path of faith.

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Maybe the time I yelled at my daughter for not doing something I had asked her to do made her try to find friends who would tell her what she wanted to hear, but ultimately led her into a destructive lifestyle.

We can second guess ourselves all day long, but in the end, we do our best to love our kids and bring them up to love and serve the Lord, but they ultimately have to decide how they want to live.

The greatest lesson I’ve learned over the past couple of years is that prayer is absolutely essential. And so is community. If my kids make bad choices, I can’t carry the burden of their behavior. To be able to share what’s going on in vulnerability and safety with close friends is life giving instead of life draining. I only have one teenager left in my house. In three and a half years, she’ll be 20. It’s been quite a roller-coaster ride, but God has been faithful as always.

FledgeI recommend a few books for those of you in the throes of raising teens.

  1. Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind, by Brenda Yoder. This book was definitely life giving to me as Yoder said, “We are not called to raise godly children, we are called to be godly parents.”
  2. Parenting Today’s Adolescent: Helping Your Child Avoid the Traps of the Preteen and Teen Yearsby Dennis and Barbara Rainey. It’s been many years since I read this book (it was written in 2002), but from what I remember about it, the principles were solid, #1 being have a close relationship with God yourself. Seems to echo the “be a godly parent” quote from above.
  3. Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teensby Paul David Tripp. Again, it’s been many years since I read this book written in 2001, and I can’t find my copy (I probably loaned it out to some parent of teens), but I remember most that Tripp talked about not being afraid. Of using every opportunity you have with your kids to build relationship. I do hesitate a bit on recommending something with a subtitle like “a biblical guide,” but I don’t remember this book being a “do this and get that” type of thing.

For me, the bottom line is that we are trusting God to keep writing our kids’ stories—and our stories as well. Our goal should be heart change, not behavior change, and only God can change hearts.

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Make Me An Offer

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for just 5 minutes on a one-word prompt and see what happens. Today’s prompt is “offer,” and this post is completely stream-of-consciousness, without form, and unedited. My thoughts were pretty jumbled so feel free to let me know what you think.

In order for an offer to be worth something, the person being offered it has to accept it.

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Someone can make an offer on a house that’s for sale, but the owner’s have to accept the offer.

When Cain and Abel made their offerings to the Lord, Cain’s was accepted, but Abel’s wasn’t. I have always wondered about that. Someone has probably preached a sermon on that over the years, but I haven’t kept it in my memory long enough.

I can offer to help someone with something, but they have to accept that offer, or it goes to waste. You know that saying, “It’s the thought that counts”? Well, I’m not sure I’m convinced of that. I think that the offer has to be appropriate, sincere and accepted in order for it to mean something to the other person.

I also think offers made in such a way should be seriously considered before they’re just turned away.

My husband likes to say, “I come from a long line of people who don’t want to be an inconvenience.”

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That’s something we want to work with our kids on. You don’t need to, nor should you or can you, do everything on your own. Ask for help and then accept it. There are members of my family who will turn down offers all the time, even when they are in great need. Especially offers of financial help. Somehow they think that they must do whatever it is they need to do on their own. But I remind them of how easily they would offer their help if the shoe was on the other foot.

Don’t keep someone else from experiencing the blessing of giving just because you’re too proud to receive.

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Measure Up

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for just 5 minutes, without heavy editing, on a one-word prompt and see what we come up with. Today’s prompt is “measure.”

Luke 6:38 records Jesus saying, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

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If you use kind words, kind words will be returned (ideally).

If you give generously, you will receive generously.

If you love greatly, you will be greatly loved.

I have a sweet friend who just underwent a series of chemo treatments for breast cancer. And then she had surgery. All the while she gave glory to God for the growth she had seen in herself. She always had tons of friends making comments to her on her Facebook page whenever she would post about her cancer journey.

At one point she thanked everyone for their support and love and prayers. She couldn’t believe she had so many great friends and family. The support really helped her get through it.

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As I read that, I just had to comment that people loved her well because she loved well herself. She wasn’t grumpy or a back stabber or unkind in any way. She might have been amazed at the quality of her friends, but it was because they were a reflection of her, and she was a reflection of Jesus.

The measure which she used was the one used to measure back to her. And it was a beautiful thing to behold.

The golden rule is right: treat others the way you want to be treated. Not the way they treat you, no matter how good or bad. Just the way you want to be treated.

Do you want a large measure used for what you will receive? Then use that large measure in your dealings with other people.

It just makes sense.

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Get Moving

This post is a part of my 10-Minute Tuesday series. I write for just 10 minutes, without heavy editing, on a prompt that a friend has provided. Today’s prompt is “moving.”

I haven’t moved very often in my 57 years of life. When I was a tiny baby, my family moved from Sunnyvale, Calif., to Cupertino, Calif. Then we moved when I was 7 to Oakland, Calif. I moved away to college for 2 years, then I moved back home, then I moved to an apartment in San Bernardino, Calif. when I started my first job with Campus Crusade for Christ.

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The house in Oakland, Calif., that I consider the home I grew up in. We lived in that house from 1968 until my mom passed away in 2007. The house was sold later that year.

In San Bernardino, after the apartment, I lived in a house with 3 other women, then a house with 2 other women while I was engaged, and then my husband and I moved into our first little apartment.

Then came the big move across the country to Orlando, Fla. We lived in an apartment first, then built a house, then moved into the house we currently live in. We’ve been here for 19 years almost exactly.

So 57 years, 11 residences, including my college apartment.

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Friends helped load the moving truck for my husband’s sister and her family as they relocated from Texas to Orlando.

To me, moving means going somewhere. It means not staying in the same place. When we say a movie or a photograph or a speech “moved us,” it should mean not just that it made us feel something, but that it changed something deep inside us. It took us from one place of being to another.

If we were moved, we should not be in the same place we formerly were.

If the picture of a starving child, orphaned by the ravages of war, moves us, we should not stay where we are. We should do something about it.

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This sweet hummingbird enjoys a treat outside my younger sister’s home in Crested Butte, Colo.

Moving is not always easy. It’s not always comfortable. Often, things get lost in transit. Or broken. When we first moved into our apartment in Orlando, we found that it wasn’t what was promised to us. All our earthly possessions were on a truck headed our way, but we had to have the apartment complex move us to a different unit because the one we were given was not right. New checks had to be ordered with our new apartment number; the moving company needed to be contacted to bring our stuff to the right door. We spent a  few sleepless nights on the floor of the wrong place until things could be made right. Our cat was not a fan of all this upheaval.

But where we ended up was better than where we started. Moving across the country from my entire family made me sad. In the ensuing years that distance would be made more difficult by my mom’s bouts with cancer and eventual death and my dad’s sudden death 16 months previous to mom’s. But we weren’t supposed to stay where we were.

Even when we live in the same house, we’re not supposed to stay where we are.

Christ Is My Reward

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday link up. We write for 5 minutes on a one-word prompt, stream-of-consciousness style, without heavy editing. It’s harder than you think! Let’s see what I come up with today on the prompt “reward.” 

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When our dog was younger, we taught him some basic commands: sit, stay, lie down, come, back off, leave it. Stuff like that. Nothing extraordinary. We added roll over, shake, speak, when he had gotten the others down pat. Each time he obeyed, he would get a reward. In dog training, rewards are key.

In my life with Christ, I’ve had to learn that His love is not a reward that I have to earn. If I learn to obey well, I will receive His favor.

I’m so grateful that’s not how salvation works. He loves me no matter what. My reward comes in eternity from those things in which I’ve invested on earth. I’m not exactly sure what those rewards will look like. Will they be jewels in a crown that I then cast at His feet, signifying that all I did was for His glory? Will I have a bigger mansion than some if I do more for the Lord here on earth?

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Hillsong has a popular worship song that says:

Christ is my reward
And all of my devotion
Now there’s nothing in this world
That could ever satisfy

If, when I get to heaven, I have no crown waiting for me, if I have no jewels that sparkle in the sun, but I have Jesus, that will be enough.

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