Tag Archives: joy

Just a Word

 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Ephesians 4:32 (NLT)

Have you gotten used to writing 2017 yet? I love a new year — new wall calendars, new devotionals, new Bible studies, new semester. Changing over from the past of 2016 and embracing all that is ahead in 2017— I love it!

Starting from scratch has a particular appeal for me. It gets my creative juices flowing and I begin to look at a project in new ways. Never compelled to operate under the guise of “I’ve always done it this way,” the new year gives me freedom to expand what I already know and look for new and better ways to do it. “It” may be the way I decorate my house, arrange a closet, organize my library, exercise routine, or choose which areas to serve my God, family, and church.

One routine that I began in 2013 is to choose a word for the year. I thought I was being original until I opened my email today and found a devotion from a pastor telling you how to do this very thing. My journey began in sheer desperation because life was hard and getting harder. My word was HOPE. I needed to know that I was going to make it, by the grace of God. And He provided the hope that sustained me then and continues to this day. Always HOPE.

Other words flowed from that original word to include joy and grace. Last year, I though the word would be love but God had another in mind — humility. He kind of hit me upside the head but proved over and over that being humble was something I needed to practice.

This year it’s kindness. I’m just beginning so I’m not sure how it will play out but I know it will affect what I do and how I speak to family, friends, neighbors, and strangers.

Our world has become impersonal, impatient, and often unkind. We expect our life to be solved with instant messages, microwaves, emails, and TV episodes wrapped up in 40 minutes. Friendships are “likes” on Facebook. Being kind is not part of the mix and requires persistence and intentionality; two big words that may require spell check because they are not in vogue.

Yet, the outcome of a little kindness may be a new friend, a smile from an overworked employee, a squeeze of the hand or a pat on the back to let someone know you care. It may be a meal delivered in the middle of illness or crisis. Or a simple note that says, “I care.”

To help me focus, I’m always on the lookout when I read the Bible for verses to include in my journal with a focus on kindness. Etsy is a great place to find a plaque that I place on my desk to remind me of my commitment when I glance at it. If you’re artistic, make your own. God is faithful to give you opportunities to use your word and encourages you in the process.

A special blessing happened this year when my grandgirlie, Kate, called a couple of weeks before Christmas and asked me what my word was for the year. Under the tree was a bread board that she had burned in the words, “be humble.”

So…do you have a word for the year? It’s never just a word. What is God whispering in your heart that He wants you to concentrate on for 2017? Let it be a filter that God will use in your heart and mind and add in ways you never imagined.

I’d love to hear what your word is. Feel free to comment.

 

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Bread

Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Deuteronomy 8:2-3 (NLT)

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Benjamin Franklin wrote in a letter dated 1789, “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

January is the month to collect the various statements needed to figure out taxes. Yesterday, I glanced at one, as I opened the mail, before putting it in the pile to give to the accountant. I paused as I did a mental rough and dirty calculation of how we are doing.  For most of us, when retirement hits there is a finite stack of money out there with our name on it and this letter proved it was not infinite. Troubling thoughts tumbled around later as I was falling asleep.

This morning, the gloom remained hanging over my head. (Notice, I said my head because I was still trying to figure it out in my mind.) I opened my devotional book in the still, dark hours of the dawn and read the verses Moses spoke to the children of Israel to remind them of God’s care for them in their wanderings.

I stopped reading when I got to the word bread. Bread is slang for money. (Light bulb moment.) But it didn’t stop there. Not only did He provide for their physical needs, He created something entirely new to meet those needs in a better way than they even thought was possible.

Both guilt and praise hit me. Guilt that I would even be worrying about this and praise that God will meet my needs in ways that I can’t imagine. He doesn’t need my help. He’ll just create something new. No worries.

And then—joy.

Thank you, Father, for taking care of your daughter…now and forever.

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Comparisons

Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. 

Galatians 6:4 (NLT)

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I relate to many young moms through MOPS and we recently discussed the topic of comparisons at our meeting. We all live in a world inundated with social media — Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest — to name a few. And it can be overwhelming to look at your own house and children after browsing though Pinterest and not be discouraged.

One mom mentioned that she no longer even looks at those sites. It depressed her so. Well done, young mom.

We have a tendency to think that “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” Comparison can lead to envy which is only a step away from anger and bitterness. No husband wants to come home to a wife who constantly complains about how much the neighbors have. That picture perfect moment on Instagram was taken just before the baby threw up all over you. Life is not perfect.

That comparison mentality is deadly because so many of our wants or desires are just that — not needs.  What is the antidote? Contentment…

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:11-13 (NLT)

…and gratitude.

Whatever happens, keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ. This is what God wants you to do. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (CEV)

I have a small red journal set aside to record the gifts that God gives me. Sometimes I write in it every day, other times, several days will go by. But I always ask myself before I begin, “What gifts has God given to me lately?”

I read through several of the pages this morning to remind me of His great love. It’s a great way to set the mood for the day.

Smile. You are right where God wants you to be, with what He wants you to have. It’s a good day.

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Giver or Receiver?

And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Acts 20:35 (NLT)

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“I’d love to bring you a meal.”

“I’ll make you a pot of soup and drop it off after church.”

“Is there anything I can do for you?”

I’m usually the one doing the checking and making sure that everyone is OK. But I have been on the receiving end twice this year — when I broke my foot early in the year and this week after surgery. It is not in my nature to be the receiver and I must admit it has not been easy for me to accept these gifts of love.

However, I noticed that not everyone has the same gift of giving.

I have one friend who told me before the surgery that making a meal was not her thing but she would be praying constantly for me.

People from various parts of my life offered to bring food — neighbors, MOPS, Bible Study. Some I know well and others have recently entered my circle of friends.

My natural response is to tell them I have it under control. Rather than turning down the offer, I discovered that it is an affirmation to the giver to accept their offer and a joy to me to be the recipient of  their love.

I was reading a devotion this morning about the woman who presented the costly gift of oil to Jesus the night before He was crucified. Others around the table criticized her for wasting the money — it could have been spent on greater needs. But Jesus, reprimanded then and told them the she did what she could. And her story is remembered right along with His death and resurrection.

And so it is with us. We do the things that God has gifted us to do and in that we make up the whole body of Christ. Be gracious in both your giving and receiving.

Anyone want a hot dog?

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New Perspective

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13 (NIV)

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2013 is in the history book: 2014 opens before us with a book of blank pages. What will be written in the next 365 days?

Reflection is a good thing if the goal is to learn how to live better today and not get discouraged by the past. Perspective is also important: it adds dimension to our attitudes and often gives us a different point of view.

I’ve learned a little about perspective in the last couple of weeks. Experiencing my world from a wheelchair is the last thing I expected my life would hold at the close of 2013.

Who knew there was a piece of tortilla chip under the chair that Parker couldn’t reach? Or a piece of Styrofoam under the buffet — a leftover from Christmas packaging? And then, how do I get it? The crumbs on the counter-top seem to call me every time I wheel by—along with the spots on the floor. Those things never bothered me before. It helps that my vision is getting worse but you can’t miss is when it is eye-level.

How do I get my coffee cup or open the refrigerator door to get the milk for my latte? How do I get anything out of the garage?

Always independent, it has been humbling to learn how to ask for help. Mark has been wonderful and available when I can’t reach something or maneuver the walker, wheelchair, or scooter. Unlike those who spend their lives in a wheelchair, my confinement is limited. Hopefully, my foot will heal quickly and I will be mobile again soon.

One of my goals in life is not to waste an experience that God gives me. Sometimes, His plans are far different from mine and I may question “why?” Yet, I know that I can trust Him for my best. That is one reason why HOPE has been my word for the year.

In Jesus Lives today, the opening line was, “I give you hope—hope that the best part of your life is not behind you.” I’m counting on that! Any course deviations or detours are just that — detours. But it will not deter me from the path and plans God has in mind for me.

JOY is my word for 2014. God proved His word, HOPE, over and over to me in 2013. I’m looking forward, with great anticipation, for the ways He will bring me JOY.

Happy New Year.

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Oops!

Carefully consider the path for your feet, and all your ways will be established. 

Proverbs 4:26 (HCSB)

20e7f715ecf045d26741879c61e1c58dThere was no reason to think last Tuesday would be any different from the day I had planned. Christmas was just around the corner and the month had been filled with choir concerts, neighborhood parties, and getting presents ready, wrapped and shipped. We decided last year that we would fly to CA rather than drive and I had found tickets early at a good price. Only one last fun event before the final countdown.

It was unusually warm for a Tucson December day.  A few girls were coming for a late afternoon tea and sitting outside seemed like the perfect place to chat. We enjoyed our conversation, Christmas tea, and a bite of Yule Log. But, the sun was sinking and everyone needed to return home. Hugs, happy wishes for a Merry Christmas, and waves as they headed to their cars.

I returned to clean up the dishes. Parker lead the way, always looking for any stray crumbs. I took a couple of steps onto the patio, when I bobbled over an uneven paver and in an attempt to right myself and not fall, I leaned one way and my right foot, the other. I heard the crunch. The pain spiked through and I called for Mark to bring me a bag of ice. Half an hour later, we headed to Urgent Care. Was it broken or just a severe strain? I sure hoped and prayed it was just a strain.

I was the last patient of the day and ex rays showed fractures in two places. The nurse arrived with the fashion-forward black boot to stabilize it, a copy of the ex rays, and instructions to see an orthopedist as soon as possible.

I sat in the car while Mark picked up some pain meds. My heart was breaking with disappointment. Not only were we planning the trip to see the grandgirlies for Christmas, but a week later, we were headed on a cruise for our tenth anniversary.

I called my daughter and we both cried over the phone. All those wonderful plans were dashed in an instant. What were we going to do?

Mel texted a few minutes later that they would rearrange things and drive to Arizona for Christmas. Relief, joy, hope.

But the foot? I know that God was nudging me because I remembered that a neighbor had been suffering from foot issues for years. Surely, she would know a good orthopedist. By the time the phone call ended, I had the name of the doctor and the offer of a walker, wheelchair, shower stool, bed wedge, and hints for how to make this all work. We were set. The plans had changed but God was in control. I still wondered whether surgery or a cast was in my future — neither option appealing.

We were both up early and when I called the doctor at 8 AM, the only appointment of the day was at 8:50 AM and I took it. After looking at the ex rays and my foot, the doctor said it would heal fine but I had to continue with the boot and could not put any weight on it for 6-8 weeks.

Again — relief, hope, joy.

Plans changed. No trip to California. No cruise. But some new Christmas memories will be made.

Life in a wheelchair is a different experience and I’ll be sharing more in the days to come.

The baby Jesus arrived on that starry night to bring us HOPE. Even if our plans get turned upside down, that HOPE will never leave us. The King was born that night. He is in control.

 

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Joy

They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. Isaiah 35:10 (NIV)

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As I was getting dressed this morning, I heard an interview on Good Morning America about how to tell children that Santa was not going to be bringing as many presents this year. In case you missed it, the economy has been in a bit of decline. I liked the answer the guest gave because she noted that young children don’t really care about the cost of the item, particularly if it is given with joy.

Years ago, I learned an acronym for JOY – Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last. Christmas is the perfect time to teach young ones about real joy. Children are naturally self-centered and one of the greatest challenges and responsibilities of parents is to teach them to think beyond their own needs and to share. You won’t have to sit very long in a room of young children before you hear a mother remind her child “to share.” Years ago, we wanted to teach our children to think beyond their desires and Christmas list, so we decided to adopt a family in need. We spent our time and treasure choosing special gifts for each one and it ended up being a great time for all of us.

This year is the perfect time for families to reassess what is really important and what is with just fluff or tradition. Are all those presents under the tree really excess and greed? I heard the story of one family that only allows three gifts for each child with the thought that if it was good enough for Jesus, it was good enough for them. It is something to think about.

In those quiet moments of reflection about this special time of year, let’s not forget that the greatest gift ever given was from a Father to His children…the baby Jesus. Even though it cost Him everything, it didn’t matter because He loved us so much. Our bank balance may give us pause this season, but when we accept that gift of life through His Son, then we, too, will enter Zion with joy and singing.

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