Expectations · Experiences · Grace · Hope · Intentional Self · love · My Journey · Prayer · Seasons · Struggles · The Journey · The New Year · Uncategorized

2018… A New Year

Last day of 2017.

I’d be lying if I said I’m sad to see this year end and a new year begin.

I know it’s just a day on a calendar but there is something about anticipating a fresh start… a do-over of sorts.

I don’t want to dwell on 2017… in less than 16 hours it’s over! Bye bye!

This morning I’m up early reflecting on the past year… things that happened and did not happen. I made health and fitness “resolutions” last year and… well,  here is sit older and in worse physical shape than I’ve ever been. Hmmmm….

I made a resolution to”be closer to God” yet I spent most of the year staying away from church and keeping God at a  stones throw. Thankfully that has been restored… and rekindled.

So, in 2018, I’m resolving to not make resolutions… you know that list you make. The list that is full of things that are all about being a better person… usually on the outside. I’ve got journals full of them! If I lined them up they would probably all look the same!

2018… it’s weird to say and hard to believe. 18 years into the 21st century. 55 years after the year I was born. What does it bring?

2018 promises this…

365 days

52.18 weeks

8,765.82 hours

535,949.2 minutes

31,556952 seconds

What we do with that time is up to us. What will we fill our days, weeks, hours, minutes and seconds  with?

Here’s what I hope to fill my time with…

Love more… judge less

            Listen more… talk less

               Pray more… grumble less

                   Move more… eat less

                        Sleep more… worry less

                              Serve more…sit less

                                  Play more… strive less

                                      Connect more… hide less

                                           Encourage more… complain less

                                                 Live more… enjoy the moment… 

                                                      Love who I am and where I am right now. 

I’ll leave you with a few words to encourage as we embark on 2018.  It’s like getting a brand new journal – never been written in!  Ready for a new story!

“So, let’s take heart, keep on, fight the good fight, pray continuously, and do not grow weary.  There is nothing better than giving up everything and stepping into a passionate love relationship with God, the God of the universe who made galaxies, leaves, laughter, and me and you.”                              -Francis Chan

And now may the courage of early morning’s dawning,
And the strength of eternal hills at noontime,
And the peace of open spaces at evening’s ending,
And the love of God abide in your hearts now and forever.” Amen.
– Harry K. Zeller, from the BRETHREN HYMNAL

 

new year

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Expectations…

Expectations. We all have them.  We all have them imposed upon us.

Webster says that an expectation is a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future. Yep… my life has been full of expectations.

My biggest expectations come around the holidays. I tend to have a little Norman Rockwell in me and I imagine perfect family gatherings… like the ones you see on TV commercials and in the movies. Fabulous food (all hot at the same time!) around a beautifully set table (that fits everyone) and conversation that is bright and cheery, reminiscing days gone by.

Like I said… expectations… and this does not happen in my world.

Nine times out of ten I’m disappointed when all is said and done, along with exhausted from trying to make it happen.

My rose colored glasses have gotten in the way of expectations in marriage. In gaining a family after getting married.

Christmas is the most difficult for unmet expectations.  Every year I say I’m not going to get my hopes up and every year I have feelings of disappointment. I imagined starting some Christmas traditions which never materialized.  Some of the expectations I have are not worth sharing, as they are a bit shallow. They have actually been an expectation since I was a child and they have wandered their way into my adult life. Every year I promise myself I won’t let them get me down.

As I read Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift one morning recently, I came across these words…

                         Expectations can come steal the gifts. 

I’ve come to realize that I set an agenda for God each Christmas. Ann Voskamp says that when we have an agenda for God, we can’t see the gifts from Him. I am missing out on so much because I have MY idea of what I want to happen. As I’ve pondered this truth this past week, I’m praying that I can finally shake my years of expectations and settle in to all that God has in store for me and for my family. This year I’m open to receive His gifts and leave my expectations at the door. Oh the anticipation!

I am more sinful and flawed than I ever dared believe, more loved and welcomed than I ever dared hope.                             -Elyse M. Fitzpatrick

 

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The Anticipation of Advent…

For a second you catch a whiff in the air of some fragrance that reminds you of a place you’ve never been and a time you have no words for. You are aware of the beating of your heart. The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment. (Frederick Buechner)

As I child, I couldn’t wait for the toy catalog to come in the mail! It was big and the pages were shiny and filled with toys! We would sit for hours pouring over the pages and marking things we wanted. If there would have been brightly colored sticky notes back in the day it would have looked like a flower with all of the colorful petals sticking out of the sides!

Oh how we dreamed of the coming days of fun…more fun than we could ever imagine.  If only we could have all of the things we dreamed of. This  went on for weeks and we would leave the catalog out in obvious places for mom and dad to see.  We mentioned them in conversations around the dinner table, in our Santa letters and to Santa himself when we sat on his lap. The anticipation of Christmas morning and getting something from those magical pages… there was nothing else like it!

This year, the beginning of Advent reminds me of this. I’m beginning 25 days of reading through my favorite book by Ann Voskamp called The Greatest Gift – Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas. This will be my 5th Advent reading through it and I have more anticipation and excitement than ever before. I’ve let the negativity of the world and all that is happening right now get me down. I’ve let social media wear down my soul as I’ve spent countless hours reading and seeing all that others have that I don’t and all of the negative things that are making people feel anxious and angry. I’ve spent hours and hours looking out and not allowing God in.

So, today I’m giving myself a gift.  The gift of Advent. Do you need to give yourself this gift as well?

So now we pause.  Still.  Ponder.  Hush.  Wait.  Each day of Advent, He gives you the gift of time, so you have the time to be still and wait.  

                                                                                                     (A. Voskamp, The Greatest Gift) 

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The Battle Belongs to Him…

Life feels hard right now. Nationwide, people are angry. People are afraid. People are confused. The next four years feel very unsettled. Social media has exploded with all of these feelings and emotions pouring out everyday. I’ve tried hard not to let myself get too caught up in emotion.

Then there is the next layer of heartache.

For some life is hard right now because of very personal battles they are fighting. Their own battles or battles of loved ones. Some are being fought and some battles have been lost. Some are in limbo… waiting. Illness, relationships, death.

These past few weeks I’ve found myself standing in the gap on behalf of many… most I know and a handful I don’t know but have committed to pray for them. I asked God to break my heart for the things that break His. He came through. Daily I’m on my knees interceding for friends and loved ones and strangers… calling on Jesus to bring each one of these precious people just what they need at just the right moment. Peace. Comfort. Healing. Strength. Closure. Grace. Hope. Tears. Laughter. Memories.

At times I’ve felt so helpless, wishing I could do more. Wishing I could be there to give them a hug or sit and listen. I’ve prayed for them to be able to praise the heavens amidst the storm. I’ve prayed for their memories of their loved one to be sweet and comforting. I’ve prayed for healing. I’ve prayed for the stakeholders in the lives of the suffering, for those people also feel the affects of the heartache. Many times all I can do is pray for God’s will in the situation.

As I’ve been interceding on behalf of others, I’ve been reminded of the battles I’ve fought over the years. Difficult battles. Life-changing battles. Lost battles. Battles of loss.

A few of those battles felt as if I’d never recover. Life would never be the same. I would never have joy again. For when I am in the middle of a battle it is easy to lose sight of the other side. I forget that it is being fought by the greatest Warrior of all.

The battle is already won. Is it the outcome I want? Perhaps not. But the God of Hope will be our warrior and bring us the peace and comfort needed to sustain us as we venture on this earthly journey. The older I get and the more battles I see, the more excited I get for eternity. For this life is temporary and heaven is eternal. One day none of this will matter.

But in the meantime… we need to hold on to the hope of Christ.  No matter if our struggles and fears are for the state of our nation or closer to home… there is hope and the battle belongs to the Lord.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

 

 

Circle of Life · Experiences · Gifts · Grace · Growth · Healing · Hope · Intentional Self · Lessons Learned · life happens... · love · My Journey · Prayer · Seasons · Standing in the Gap · Struggles · The Journey · Uncategorized

2016… What a Year!

2016… oh what a year! It’s one that will go down in history for so many reasons. I’ve managed to NOT let the stress of things of the world get me down.  I’ve felt sad about the losses of well-known people who have passed away… people I’ve grown up with. I’ve managed to keep my emotions out of the presidential election. All I can do is pray for the days to come. I have no control of the worldly events of the past year.

All I can really control is the events of my life… and even those are not always controllable.  I can think about the past year but can’t change a thing that has already happened.  The story is written and published.  All I can do it reflect on the words on each page, take what I can that will propel me positively into the new year and then close the book, placing it carefully on the shelf with the other 53 books.

2016 was a year. A year of hard work, new relationships, loss, struggle, new memories, career challenges, laughter, tears, loving, choosing to love, growth, new beginnings, dreams lost and dreams being realized…

There are some definite things I can take away from 2016. While I’d like to take away only the positive, I realize that it’s some of the tough things that will change me and motivate me in the coming year.

Here are my take-aways from 2016:

  • I have infinite worth! Enough said!
  • I am the only one that can determine how my day will unfold. It’s not the responsibility of my husband, friends or co-workers… it’s mine.  I choose my attitude towards the day.
  • If I don’t include God in my day things tend to go south. Unfortunately I’ve allowed this to happen one too many times.
  • Everyday is a gift – wrapped with a beautiful bow. I get to choose how I open it and what I do with it.  Some gifts can be large and fancy, while others might be little and seemingly unimportant. It’s up to me to look at each gift and cherish what it brings… not wishing and hoping for more or different. Gifts are all around us and sometimes we miss them. It’s the tiniest things that can bring the greatest joy!
  • Just when you think you’ve loved something so much and losing it will leave you empty forever… think again! Be bold and risk loving again!
  • Two kittens are better than one! Just saying!  sleeping-kittens-12-31-16

As we move into 2017, my prayer for everyone is that we will all believe in our infinite worth and value.  I pray our lives will reflect that.  For me that means taking better care of myself… believing that I’m worth investing in.  Even when that investment is difficult but necessary. I pray we all have others in our lives to share the journey. I pray that we can all do the two simple things that God asks of us… love God and love people. This feels more important than ever with the coming months and changes in our nation.

May 2017 bring abundant love, grace and passion in each of our lives. I leave you with this prayer.

“And now may the courage of early morning’s dawning,

And the strength of eternal hills at noontime,

And the peace of open spaces at evening’s ending,

And the love of God abide in your hearts now and forever.” Amen.

                 – Harry K. Zeller, from the BRETHREN HYMNAL

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Seasons…Part of Living

today, tomorrow & every day  – THOUGHTS ON LIVING A BRAVE AND REAL AND GORGEOUS LIFE.        Written by M.H. Clark and illustrated by Jill Labieniec.

Here are my continued thoughts on this amazing book I received as a gift.

“Things really changed,” she said, “when I started to be more generous to myself.”

“I began to try to live like a tree,” she said…

“Who understand that life is filled with seasons and each one has its worth.                                                                        I stopped fearing the leaves falling away, the bare branches.                                                                                                         I understood that spring would come, that summer would come, that it was all a part of my living.”

Seasons.  I love the four seasons where I live! When the seasons change, so does life around us. We do things differently.  Some seasons are more enjoyable than others.  For me, winter is my least favorite.  The sun does not shine as much and it’s cold. It takes more work to be outside.  Occasionally I’m fearful of driving in winter weather.  The lack of sunshine can cause some seasonal affective issues.  We muddle through it and wait for spring.

Seasons of life are much the same.  We experience things that change as time goes on.

Some seasons are wonderful! When relationships are thriving…life is good.  When our job is going well… .life is good.  When our health is strong… life is good.

At times we go through seasons that are not so wonderful.  Troubled relationships… job stress or unemployment… health issues.

When in a season of struggle, I used to pray for it to be over or not happen at all.  Over time I’ve learned to lean into the struggle and ride the wave…waiting for the Lord to show His presence.  He never told us life would be easy, but He did tell us that He would be alongside us or holding us tight.  It took some really difficult seasons for me to learn this.  I’ve learned to praise Him in the storm.

Be still and know that I am God… my favorite Psalm.  It’s being still in winter and finding the joy of the season I like the least. When things are tough, I’ve experienced great peace while life is crumbling around me.  Pressing in to the Lord helps get us through the difficult time and ushers us into the next season.

I’ll be honest.  I’ve never had a difficult season that has lasted for great lengths of time.  I’ve known people that permanently live in struggle… at least in my perception.  They’ve learned to stop fearing the struggle and find the joys. In a sense, they move in and out of joy and struggles in one day.

Seasons come and seasons go… that is all part of our lives.  I want to be like that tree that stands tall and still as the seasons move around me. I want to be strong, even when I feel weak. I want to be full of life, even when I might be empty. I want to be more generous with myself… even when it’s difficult.

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Resiliency and Growth Over Time…

today, tomorrow & every day  – THOUGHTS ON LIVING A BRAVE AND REAL AND GORGEOUS LIFE.  Written by M.H. Clark and illustrated by Jill Labieniec.

Here are my continued thoughts on this amazing book I received as a gift.

She hadn’t always been this way.                                                                                                                         She hadn’t always been as strong and resilient and brave and joyful.

Like any garden or work of art, it had taken her a long time to make things the way there were.   To learn.                                                                                                                                                                                  To arrange.                                                                                                                                                                    To rearrange.

Sometimes, she grew as such in one year as others do in five.                                                                                      It showed in her spirit.                                                                                                                                                                 In her laugh.                                                                                                                                                                          It looked and it sounded like wisdom.                                                                                                                         And she liked it that way.

 53 years.  I’ve come along way. The change really started noticeably happening when I turned 50.  But seeds were planted long before that.  Life events that required me to be strong and resilient and brave… and joyful…regardless.

At times I stayed the same for many years.  Other times I grew more quickly.  I can look back now and see those moments in time.

  • Moving away from everyone and everything I knew and loved, to teach in California at the ripe old age of 23!
  • Moving back home to WA to pursue a job near family and not having success… back to CA I went!
  • Living alone in a strange house during a large earthquake.
  • Getting married at the age of 34… step-parenting with an ex that hated me!
  • Moving to a new city in CA and getting a new job… starting over.
  • Caring for my step daughter as she recovered from a horrific accident and a traumatic brain injury. (This one made me brave and strong and resilient and selfless)
  • Divorce… everything I ever believed about myself was challenged and questioned.
  • Sold my condo and moved back to WA.
  • New job… again.
  • Bought a house on my own.
  • Married the love of my life… step parent to three young children.
  • Lost both parents and one of my sisters.
  • Turned 50 and said, “The hell with it! I’m done trying to please everyone!”

Now I continue on this journey to live a brave and real and gorgeous life!  I’ve got a lot of scars and old wounds to heal, as well as many wonderful memories to hold on to! I’ve listened to many people who have shared wisdom and counsel with me. I’ve shared my experiences with many… passing along the same. I’ve also talked less and listened more. I was recently told by someone very special to me that talking to me brought her peace. That must be what wisdom looks and sounds like. Jesus in skin.

How have you changed over time? What has happened your life to make you strong and resilient?