New Year’s Eve

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I sit here tonight reflecting, as we all probably do in some form.   There have been times this year that have been amazing and times that have been extremely hard.

What has your year been like?  I’m guessing it’s been kind of the same-some great things and some not so great things-maybe some horrible things.  At this time of year, it’s easy to focus on how to make next year better.

We begin to dream about what would make our life easier or happier or less chaotic or more fulfilled.

I guess it’s ok to dream but what would it look like if we focus on joy in the moment?  Not joy for a year or even for week or a day, but for this moment.  What would it look like to live in this moment?

Yes, it’s important to plan and to prepare and to look ahead.  It’s also important to look back and reflect so that we know how to change, but we can’t change on our own.  We’re not promised tomorrow or even the next moment.

So how will we live in joy in this moment?

What can you praise God for right now?

How are you living for Him right now?

What do your relationships look like in this moment?

Where do you see God at work in this moment?

How are you seeing Him work in your life or your friends’ lives or your family’s life right now?

Are your thoughts glorifying Him in this moment?

Do you have sin to confess right now?

What can you talk to God about in this moment? (maybe it’s the sadness or the fear or the sin…maybe it’s the gladness or the thankfulness.  Whatever it is, He wants to know. He wants a relationship with us).

What choice can you make to live in joy right now?

 

(Yep, you’ll have to make another choice in the next moment…but let’s not worry about one yet:).  God will be there meeting us in the next moment just as He is meeting us in this moment.

Happy New Year!  Let’s commit to living in this moment this year.

 

Monday Moment-Thankful for Memories

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Tonight I was thinking about what I was grateful for.  I’m in a Bible study that is studying  prayer.  Tonight we talked about the different kinds of prayer-one of those being thankfulness.   When I got home, I was reminded  grateful I am for the body of Christ.  I’m thankful for long term and shorter term relationships.  This Bible study is a combination of both.  Several of us have been together for years but about a month ago, several new women joined our study.  Tonight I was grateful for getting to know these new women (even though I’ll admit that a month ago, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to open up to a new set of people:).

When I got home, I found a list of things that I was thanking God for in December of 2009.

Here are some of them…

  • Fun family gatherings – birthdays, spur of moment times, Christmas celebrations-thank You for growing us and helping us to love each other more and more
  • Healing-time to grieve-as I stepped back from leadership at church ,You gave me some time to be emotional and to do a little more healing and to see Your presence
  • Tears
  • Smiles
  • Newness of life
  • Times of grace within relationships in the body of Christ
  • The women’s ministry at church growing to be more real
  • The women that have been involved in my life from church
  • Your grace in the midst of my sin and my inability to give grace to others on my own
  • My job-in the midst of a very hard year, You’ve shown me Your grace and helped me to give grace to some students and families that I never would have been able to give grace to on my own. Thank You!
  • Thank You for those students and families that are hard to work with.
  • Long term relationships –friends from high school, family, friends from church, youth at church, students and families from school

Wow!  What a great blessing to find that list of prayers of thanksgiving written down.  It make me realize how important it is to actually thank God for those things that I am feeling grateful for.  When I got home from Bible study tonight I was grateful for the body of Christ, but I hadn’t actually lifted up that prayer of thanksgiving to God.

Thank you God for the body of Christ!

What are you grateful for?  Have you told God yet?

Sunday Surprises

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I sit here in shock, in sadness and in prayer.  The last few weeks, it has been my goal to start blogging again.   I thought that I’d start with a post on a Monday so I could begin, again, a pattern of praising God for what He’s done.  I began thinking of things that I could share-things that God has done recently but today I realized I couldn’t wait until a Monday.

Today I’m mourning the sudden death of a friend’s son. It came as such a surprise.  There have been conversations about why this happened.  Our church has had many surprise deaths in the last few years.   What is God doing?  How come He took someone so young?  How will this family and the body of Christ get through this again?

There’s hope in knowing  that this world is not all there is but it doesn’t make the pain go away now.  It did, however, remind me that today matters.  We don’t know what tomorrow will look like or whether we’ll still be here.  We don’t know what God has in store for us, but we do know that He is present with us today and that He holds the future.

How will I make today matter?

I don’t always understand why things happen but I know that I have a God who cares about me and desires to be in relationship with me.  I can go to Him with my fears and my questions and my anger and my shock. He’s big enough to hear all of those emotions, and He promises to never leave me.   He promises to walk alongside me in the good times and the most difficult times.

These things may have surprised me but they haven’t surprised Him.    I don’t understand His ways but I can look back and see how He has been faithful in other hard times.

Today I’m thankful for His presence and that I can run to Him when I don’t understand this life.  I’m thankful that He invites my questions.   I’m thankful that even when I don’t know how to express my feelings, He is there listening to my tears and walking beside me.

What are you questioning today?  Run to Him and talk to Him about those things.

Grateful Monday-He guides and leads us.

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Today I’m thankful for God’s sovereignty.  Listen to what Isaiah 52:12 says.  “…for the Lord will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.”

As I think about this new year, there are many things that I could be anxious about.  There are also many things that I’m excited about. I don’t know what the future holds.  I don’t know what tonight or tomorrow will be like, but I can trust that God is there ahead of me.  He will lead and guide me along the way.

I remember kayaking down the Colorado River a few years ago.  I was a bit nervous at times about what was around the corner.  Would there be a power boat rushing at us?  Would I be able to navigate around that log or that rock that’s jutting out up ahead?  I had to learn to trust our guide who had navigated this river hundreds of times.

As I think about this new year and all the unknowns, I can trust my Savior and Lord. I may not know what is around the corner, but He is already there!  He’ll know how to guide me around that corner.

That verse also says that He is our rear guard. I take comfort in knowing that He protects us from behind as well.  Sometimes, bitterness or regret or frustration or anger creeps in from our past.  As I read that verse in Isaiah, I am encouraged to know that God will guard us from those things as we move into the future.  There’s hope in knowing that He walks with me before and behind.

I pray that as we move into this new year, that we ask God for his courage to step into those new adventures, for His joy and forgiveness as we move through things that have happened in the past and for His hope as we consider His sovereignty and His active care for our lives.

Satisfied Saturday: a Funeral, a Wedding and the Body of Christ

Here it is Saturday evening, and I sit here satisfied.  Last night as I thought about my schedule today, I began to dread the long day.  I had a funeral and a wedding on the schedule for today.  Both were things that I wanted to go to, but I was a bit worried about my tiredness since I was still getting over the flu.

Tonight, however, I’m thankful!  During both events, I was reminded of God’s faithfulness.  His faithfulness to a couple who had been married over 60 years.  His faithfulness to that family as they are now mourning their mother, their grandmother, their great grandmother.  I pray for her husband who, with his wife, has modeled a life of joy for years and years.  I pray for comfort and joy for him in these new circumstances.

I’m thankful for the pastor who preached about God’s peace and about how God is present with us now even as we miss this dear woman.  We can and should grieve our loss but also find strength and hope in God’s presence as we continue on to live our life for Him for as long as He has us on this earth.

I’m also thankful for God’s faithfulness in the body of Christ.  I’m thankful when the body of Christ works the way God designed it.  Tonight I got to reconnect with some dear friends who I spent years in ministry with.  We got to celebrate one of those couple’s son’s wedding.  What a joy to watch him lead worship with his wife.  What a joy to see how God continues to work in people’s lives even when we don’t see each other often anymore.  It made me stop and remember how much I learned about the body of Christ through these believers.

I’m praising God for the way that He works through the people in our lives to point us to Himself.  I’m satisfied in His faithfulness.

Thankful Monday

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“Great are the works of the Lord.  They are pondered by all who delight in the Lord.”  Psalm 111:2

So another school year has started for me.  I started the day with great positive thoughts and ended it feeling more stressed. Sometimes days (or weeks) just don’t go way I plan!

As I began to think about posting my Monday Moment of Joy, I was having a hard time coming up with thoughts that made sense. 

Then I read those words from Scripture.  “GREAT are the works of the Lord.”  I began thinking….”what are the works of the Lord?”  Psalm 111 then says “They are pondered by all who delight in the Lord.”  So I was reminded that the act of remembering and pondering God’s great works can give me joy.  

So, today I’m just going to make a list – a list of God’s great works.  Why don’t you help me make that list?  Feel free to comment and add to the list of God’s great works.  

Then let’s ponder those together!  It will help to put our focus back on Him instead of on our circumstances.

-He saved me.

-He showed me His grace in sending Jesus to die for my sins

-He loves me with an amazing love.

-He gave us His Word.

-He gave us the body of Christ to encourage and sharpen us.

-He gave me a family that loves me and is always there for me.

-He made me unique with gifts and talents that He allows me to use for His glory. 

-He gave me a job that I love with a team that I love.

-He knows me inside and out and yet He loves me anyway.  

-He gave me friends that help point me to Himself.

-He takes care of His people over the ages.  Remember all those times that Israelites walked away from Him or grumbled against Him?  He forgave them over and over and continued in relationship with them!  He does the same for me!

-He left the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us.

What else?  There are millions more of His great works!  Let’s ponder them together.  

There’s peace when we are still and think about Him!

Nature’s Beauty

 

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Tonight I’m satisfied after spending some time in God’s creation.  After several long, busy weeks, I had a few hours to slow down and enjoy some downtime.  My friend found this great little park by the water.  I read and prayed and enjoyed the beauty.

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As the sun went down, music floated across the water and the sky was painted with beautiful colors.  I’m thankful for the time I sensed God’s presence in His creation.  Although it was only a few hours, it felt like many more.

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I’m thankful for the time to take a few moments and just enjoy being still.  Where did you see God’s presence today?  Let’s remember to slow down and take those few moments to enjoy His beauty this week.

Monday Moment of Joy in His Word

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One of the things I’m thankful for in the summer is the slower schedule and the time to slowly savor God’s Word in the morning. This morning I was reading 1 Thessalonians and was encouraged.

Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking about the phrase “Relentless Positivity” that I got from the conference.  I’ve ALSO been thinking, though, about how much I want to enjoy this week and make it go slow because I am a bit nervous about how the new school year is going to go.

Change is hard.  I know it’s part of life, though, so I’ve been praying that I would find the joy even when things change.  This morning as I read 1 Thessalonians, I was reminded, once again that the joy comes from our God and Savior.

“We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thess 1:3 NIV

Look at that!!  Our endurance comes from hope in Him!  I don’t have to trust in my own strength to make it through life but I can trust in Him and find joy and hope in Him.  He is my Savior and Lord, and I can find strength and endurance in that.  Paul also was encouraging the Thessalonians because their labor was prompted by love.  That love comes from Him as well.  Is my labor prompted by the love of Christ?

I don’t have to go into this year stressed about all the change.  I can trust that He knows me and loves me and has a plan for me.  I pray that as you start this year that God would remind you to find hope and joy in Him and not in circumstances of life.

A Positive Outlook for a Satisfied Saturday

So Satisfied Saturdays are back (or at least that’s the plan:).  Yesterday I was reminded of the importance of being satisfied with where we are and with who we are.

At the last minute, I decided to go to a Temple Grandin conference.  Her mother, who is in her 80s also spoke.  What an amazing treat to hear both of these women live!

The other speaker is someone I had not heard yet but had definitely heard a lot about! Jennifer O’Toole, with Asperkids, spoke twice.   Check out http://asperkids.com  -an amazing place for encouragement and resources!  In her first talk she encouraged us to find the positive in each person-thus her phrase “relentless positivity.”

As I thought about teaching, I realized that many times, we (or at least I) get sucked into the negatives…I think we truly care about kids and want what’s best for them, but it’s so easy to see all the needs and not to focus on the positives.  Yes, we want kids to make progress so we have to know their needs, but what if we made a point to focus on their strengths and what they do well and then use those strengths to help them grow where they have needs.  Isn’t that what we want people to do with us?

I also had the unexpected joy of spending time with some good friends throughout the conference.  We started talking about the term “relentless positivity.”   I think it might be my new mantra:).  Am I being relentlessly positive?  Am I looking for ways to be encouraging with those around me?  (not just my students, but my neighbors, my family, my friends, the cashier at the grocery store, etc)  Are my eyes open to see the good?  Am I enthusiastically searching for strengths?   Am I determined to find the beautiful things in those around me?  Am I uncompromising when I share positives with others or do I get caught up in the gossip or in the negativity?  Am I unstoppable when I start looking for the constructive instead of the destructive things in life?  Am I unrelenting when I look to affirm others instead of tearing them down?

Do you remember my last post-how I tend to stress when August is upon us?  Well, yesterday was just what I needed.  I walked away from the conference encouraged and excited about starting the school year again:).  I was once again reminded why I do this job.  Thanks to Jennifer, Temple and Eustacia for encouraging us to think positively!