I’ve been documenting how I spend my days recently, something like a “journal of days.” I want to be sure that I am living my life purposely, using my time wisely. My plan is to do it for two weeks to get an accurate picture. I’m trying to prepare my schedule for a new season of writing, creative projects and be sure that my schedule doesn’t crowd out relationships. It's a pretty day today, cool enough to actually sit outside and write and Ken has fixed the fountain, again!
Sometimes we just get paralyzed with our time. The calendar and "to do lists" are overwhelming. We feel like there are not enough hours in the day to do it all and so we don’t accomplish much of anything. We let our time with the Lord slip, letting the voices that cry out the loudest win the moments in our days.
I’ve done this “journal” several times over the last 15 years. The first time, I still had children at home and was working at least 30 hours a week in ministry. I felt the Lord was calling me to write Bible studies and teach the Word, but I couldn’t see a way to fit in more time for study. I felt the need to develop more intimate friendships. I needed to see where the hours were really going.
Was there time that I could spend more wisely? The process was very revealing. When I looked at my days, I found that while the demands on my life were great as a mom, wife and employee, there were things in my life that I could change. My journal of days showed me the truth of how I really spent the hours in my days and I found it was a little different from what I thought. For instance, if I would just organize the family meals ahead I wouldn’t have to run to the grocery 4 times a week! This may be a no brainer to you organized types, but for me it was a discipline that I needed to develop. There were things I needed to let go of, some simple and some rather major, if I wanted to answer the Lord’s call on my life in that season.
As I am writing, the doorbell rings. It’s a friend with a little gift. We had been texting yesterday about a Bible book for children that she wondered if I knew. We often exchange spiritual quotes from favorite books and authors. Today, she decided to bring me some quotes on little cards. A blessing. Words that inspire and encourage us in the journey. We share a love for reading, writing and the arts.
Our conversation was brief. She couldn’t stay. She spoke about how the Lord was teaching her about her schedule as she struggles with physical limitations that she now has requiring her much more rest than she is used to. She’s had to guard carefully how she spends her days, where and how much energy she can give.
Her life is a picture to me of devotion to Christ. As she left she said, “The Lord said to me, Am I not enough for you?”
She’s one of my friends that I love to sit down with to share a cup of tea sprinkled with wisdom. There’s not much small talk with my friend. Conversations are purposeful, centered on Jesus and what He is doing in our lives. Whenever she leaves my house the conversation always lingers in my mind and spurs me on to consider how Jesus is speaking into my life.
How is He speaking into your life? It might be through a friend.
How would you answer that question from the Lord? Am I not enough for you?
Are we living our days in a way that reveals to the watching world that we are saying yes to the Lord with our lives?
Or are we chasing after things that don’t matter, things that rob us of precious time we could be spending in relationship with Him or with others?
Are we wasting precious moments, looking more like the culture we live in rather than a life that is set apart for Christ?
I remember when I first started keeping a journal of my days. The process led me to look at how Jesus spent His days. Who ever lived on earth with more demands on their time, more people clamoring for His touch on their lives than Jesus? Yet, He made it a priority to pull away and spend time with the Father in prayer, in worship. He also lived His life in relationship with others. They broke bread together and had meaningful conversations that spoke truth, hope, and love.
As I look back over my journal of days for the last week, I see that the times spent that give the most lasting value were the hours spent in relationship over a meal, a cup of tea. Conversations. Words of Life spoken from one to another.
I think of the visit with my friend last week where she shared the joy and new hope she was experiencing with her daughter in their relationship.
Then there was the evening spent with the woman I mentor. We cooked a meal together. We had talked about picking up Chinese food, but I thought it would be more fun to cook together. So we made the one Chinese dish I know! Then we discussed a chapter in the book we are studying together, “Owning Your Life” by Sally Clarkson.
We prayed and laughed and discussed some really deep questions like...
“What are the things or people in your life that are creating chaos?”
“What voices in your life are influencing your decisions and are they worth following?”
“How can you invest the resources of your money, time, and heart commitment to build a life that matters for God?”
Yes, they are tough questions, important questions to ask even if you don’t know the answers today.
There were the few hours with a friend who has mentored me through the years in prayer and a life of faith. We shared a simple cup of tea and some pumpkin bread. I invited her over because I know the need to stay connected with people who know your history, know your heart, and will hold you accountable.
I shared a wonderful evening with my husband at the home of some new friends. Dinner together, sharing our stories, building new relationships, an evening of joy and blessing as they shared their ministry of hospitality with us.
Tea and prayer with Sherry. Making Restore plans for “The Light of Christmas,” sharing dreams, and prayer together.
And then there was the visit yesterday with mom. We talked about the girls, but she can’t remember their names today. She asks the same questions over and over because the alzheimer disease keeps her from remembering my answers. Ever the hostess, she offers me a coke and a piece of candy. I water her flowers and fill the hummingbird feeder. We walked through the butterfly garden together. She’s so concerned that they are not dead heading the roses in the garden that I fear she might try to take her walker into the beds and get to work on those roses! Once a gardener you are always wanting to care for God’s beauty even at 87!
It’s one of those bittersweet visits..... As I leave she thanks me for coming. She won’t remember that I came tomorrow. Relationships aren’t always easy to pursue and sometimes there is sorrow intermingled with the joy, but they are time invested well.
When we open our home to offer hospitality we invite the blessing of God. When we look at the life of Jesus we see that sharing a meal together was often at the heart of the gospel. Some of the most profound truths found in the gospel were shared by Jesus at the table. Throughout the New testament we see Jesus giving spiritual nourishment around the table. Think of the meals at the home of Lazurus, Mary and Martha, with the tax collectors and sinners, and the Lord's Supper. Even the resurrected Christ prepared breakfast for his disciples. Before his ascension Jesus promised the Holy Spirit over a meal with His disciples. It's as if He was saying "Come to the Table" and I will share my life with you. Food for the body and food for the soul fit together and bring blessing.
It’s easy to lose sight of this simple truth in our fast paced, fast food culture. I believe in the family meal... sitting down together, without the TV, and sharing the events of the day. It promotes friendship, family and relationships, and provides an opportunity to invite Jesus into the conversations, the everyday, ordinary moments of our lives.
So make time to savor a meal and savor a relationship.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying you should never pick up a meal or order pizza. There are certainly days when that makes the most sense to keep peace in the home!
But, I wonder, as a culture are we losing the art of a home cooked meal, are we practicing hospitality, are we sharing words of life around the table?
The summer before each of my girls went off to college, we had cooking lessons. Then I made them each a cookbook of all their favorite family recipes and space to add their own. It's just a three ring binder filled with quotes, recipes and lots of love. I wanted them to be prepared to have their own family meals one day and offer hospitality wherever they were. They were often the only ones who cooked among the many roommates. It’s a tradition worthy to pass on. My mom made it a practice in our home to sit at the table together for family meals. It was a value in our home growing up. It was the pattern of Jesus’ life - sharing a meal and conversations together.
Take some time to celebrate the bounty of God's provision in your life.
Use your imagination....
Plan a romantic dinner in the garden, a fall picnic with the kids, set a table for breakfast on the porch,
Invite some friends over for appetizers or dessert, or simply light the candles and share a pot of soup and break bread!
Come to the table!
Enjoying His abundant blessings,
***Special note: If you are reading these blogs through your email reminder, it's best to click the blue title at the top which brings you directly to the Restore website. Then you will be able to read in the original format which is especially helpful for photographs, slides shows, etc.
Resources - Pinterest, Own Your LIfe - Sally Clarkson
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If you've been reading our blog for any length of time, you can quickly discern the writer of the week! I tend to think in terms of "object lessons" and this was a week of random thoughts for me! Not that they necessarily reflect any specific thing that is going on in my own life, but simply observations that came to mind. I thought I'd share two of them and well, when I got to the content of the second one, a little more discovery for me took place. Perhaps they are tied together in some way and have a significant message for one or more of you who are reading today. I pray God uses these thoughts and object lessons to speak and stir your heart to seek Him more intently.
Random thought #1 - Damaged Borders or Boundaries
How are your boundaries holding up? Are you giving in or standing firm?!
These are the borders that you have placed in your life to help you move toward a goal, stay spiritually/morally clean, or keep you safe or on track. Remember that broken borders work as a two way door!
This break in the fence...my border, caused me to peer into a window of spiritual truth and ask myself some questions!
When a boundary is cracked open either by damage, significant circumstances, or curiosity, a choice is made. When being a little lenient, overtaken by a weak moment, or simply neglect, a domino effect is released! What was once just a crack is now a gap. Before you know it, it becomes a gapping hole no longer keeping out the undesired. The ugly creeps in, crossing and invading the border. Do I quickly repair that hole or do I let its neglect become a larger problem? What is equally as bad, is the fact that now others clearly see that the border is damaged, reflecting perhaps a sinful or unhealthy activity. As friends or spouses, is encouragement offered or even help to repair that border? Maybe when it is noticed, you just shake your head, say a little prayer, and hope they will pull it together. I hope not! A little compassion, courage, and confrontation may be what is in order. Just be sure to do it with a loving attitude, sincerity, and covered in prayer! Be sure there's not a beam in your own eye, first! (Matt. 7: 3-5) It is good to have someone, a friend, whom you trust and who loves you to help keep you accountable. Are you that friend to anyone? Perhaps they need you and don't know how to ask. There is always the risk of rejection, but I believe truth given in love will always move toward deeper, trusting friendships & marriages. It's the exercise of "risk taking" that reveals an honest heart of trust and love.
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” Proverbs 27: 6
“Let the righteous smite me in kindness and reprove me; It is oil upon the head;
Do not let my head refuse it, For still my prayer is against their wicked deeds.” Psalm 141:5
“Iron sharpeneth iron;
So a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Proverbs 27:17
“Better is open rebuke than hidden love.” Proverbs 27: 5
Today in church, our pastor hit on a very important element that I believe goes well with my blog. It's a simple truth but not always easy to do: Love One Another! As he touched on this topic, I asked myself, do I really love well? Apart from loving those who persecute you, though that is important, how well do I love even my closest of friends or family? Since we are designed for relationships, this scripture kinda hit me:
"Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart..." 1 Peter 1:22
Yeah, it was the "fervently" part that got me, meaning - displaying a passionate intensity - stretching beyond. The other part that hit me was "from the heart." Which in fact is from a true and pure heart, one that is honest and seeks not with selfish intent. Can we say that we really love like this? How do we show it. Revealing our love for one another is the Christian badge! What would the world look like if we put ourselves to the side and lived to truly love others...fervently and purely?
Random thought #2 - Together we are strong!
I had another porch moment as I was watering my beautiful and brilliant mandevillia! Take a look at these pictures and see if you get the same message I did!
This crazy vine has discovered the art of attaching itself to other vines. Also remember that each is an extension of the only One Strong Root. As they intertwine and grow together, they become stronger. The wind doesn't blow it as easily, it becomes less fragile, they seemingly move together with purpose seeking a place to grow together, help in the climb, and display fruit (Flowers!)
So the running theme of my random thoughts seems to be the importance of living life with others. We need one another! I mean, truly NEED. Relationships are essential. We are weak on our own but strong when another is present.
Jesus knew the importance of assembling a core circle of friends. Each had their own particular gift and personality. Within that circle, He had an inner circle which was much smaller. The bond that these shared would in fact help change the world. The most important relationship that needs nurturing is ours with the Father. What a sweet and unforgettable taste when we spend time pursuing Him. Building relationship with Him causes earthly relationships to be more meaningful.
Think about those with whom are in the story of your life. Those outside of your family circle.
Do you have a core of relationships to do life with? Do you have an inner circle?
Are you showing your fervent love by encouraging and admonishing? How have you been loved by others this past week? Let me encourage you to touch base with your inner circle of life partners. Touch base with an honest and pure level of stretching beyond - passionate intensity - fervent and sincere love from your heart.
If you find yourself questioning whether or not you have such a group of people, perhaps it's time for you to show yourself friendly. It requires vulnerability, honesty, and devoted time to develop such a circle. The reward is sweet!
A person who has friends, shows himself friendly...Prov. 18:24
When I look at that twisted vine, I am reminded that even though it is supported by other vines, it's life does not exist because of the others. It exists and grows as a direct result of being an extension from the main vine. Together with the other vines, this mandevillia displays its beauty as it is supported and strengthened. A lesson that we can all learn.
Summer has ended and with it comes a new season to embrace. I love fall. It’s always slow coming to Louisiana. I try to urge it on by pulling out the fall decorations, checking the temperatures each day, anticipating the pumpkin bread and hot chocolate we’ll share around the fire pit, and pulling out my favorite sweater when it finally cools off in October!
As I wait, I think back over the events of summer. I’m filled with gratitude for the faith lessons God has woven into my story. Since I last blogged much has happened. My youngest daughter spent the month of June with us - a rare and unexpected treat before her move to New York. My oldest daughter, son-n-law and grand daughter came in for Father’s Day weekend and we were all together to celebrate. They were able to see their father lead worship at our new church, another amazing blessing.
Each Sunday as I hear my husband play the piano and lead worship and I join my voice with the chorale to sing praises, I’m grateful that God has provided a place of ministry, a home to praise Him and serve the body of Christ with our gifts.
Faith lessons - Sometimes God has other plans and they are better that what you had asked for.
We prayed and prayed that our daughter would find an affordable apartment and roommates for June in NYC. She didn’t, but we got to spend precious days together instead.
We thought that perhaps our days of leading worship in a church were over, but the Lord had a new season of ministry planned for us.
I spent much of May and June in severe pain in my back. I’m grateful that after 2 months of therapy I can finally walk without pain. My how we take for granted the simple daily tasks we do until suddenly we can’t!
My back healed just in time to move my daughter to NYC the first week of July. I’m grateful that the Lord provided her with sweet Christian roommates and a safe place to live. We worked hard all week moving, unpacking, cleaning and making a home for these four young musicians who are braving the Big Apple and following their dreams. As we set up her room I reflected on a blog I had written last spring as we drove home from one of our last college visits with our youngest daughter. I wrote about all the lessons I hoped she had learned. Lessons I prayed I had modeled. Lessons to prepare my sweet daughter for life on her own. I decided to make her Soulcare cards to hang in her new little room in her apartment. I started that process and prayed over each one I made, hoping that they would be a reminder in the days ahead of truth and wisdom for her life’s journey.
As we hung the Soulcare cards in her room on a frame I found, I was filled with gratitude that I have been given the privilege to be a mom in this life, the privilege to invest and love two daughters so deeply.
And it is a privilege as well to let them go and find their wings to fly.
We worked hard all week and rewarded ourselves with a few Broadway shows at the end. Such fun to laugh together. One of the shows we saw was, “Something Rotten” which was nominated for 10 Tony awards. It was written by two men we had worked with in our church ministry years ago during their high school days. They were a brief part of our story of working with young musicians through the years. You never know what the Lord has planned for the lives that He weaves into yours. What joy!
And again, I was filled with gratitude - for a home for my child, a husband who loves the city of New York and keeps me brave in it, for years of music ministry, and for the joy that a night at the theater can bring.
All too soon the time came for us to leave Mary Elizabeth and fly home. Before we left I walked through her apartment and that it would be a haven of the Father's love and light. Then we gathered all together and prayed with her roommate. It was a sacred moment.
As we were standing in the line at the airport to check our bags, a woman who looked to be at least 80 came in behind us struggling with a giant suitcase. It was much too heavy for a woman her age to be handling. I offered to help and engaged her in conversation and asked where she was headed. She said she had lived in NY for 50 years and was going to visit her daughters in Miami. “They don’t want me to live with them,” she said, “ so I just go for visits. I live with my 60 year old son and when I leave he doesn’t eat what I have left. I hate for it to go to waste. I know what it is to have nothing, so I bring it with me. I remember those days. And I hate to arrive with nothing to offer when I visit my daughters.”
I pondered her words, looked at that giant suitcase and wondered what was in it, hoped it wasn’t perishable and didn’t get lost! But, as we left toward our gate and boarded our plane, I thanked God for the reminder to be grateful for the abundance of what we have. Jesus had given me a sacred moment in LaGuardia airport.
I have never known what it is to have nothing.
Then I began to get excited about our last summer trip for the season. My birthday falls toward the end of August and for many years (about eight I think) we have spent the days around my birthday traveling to move our daughters in and out of college dorms and apartments. But this year, all the moving was done and for my 60th birthday I had requested that everyone gather together to celebrate in the mountains. I love the mountains!
And so we spent a week together - family flew in and drove the distance to soak in God’s beauty and blessing in our lives. We simply relaxed and enjoyed each other, ate way too much wonderful food, and took in the spectacular mountains of North Carolina. God blessed us with cool temperatures. We even had several fires in the outdoor fireplace at the home we rented.... in August!!!
And I am so grateful - for family, for the sacrifices they made to be with me, for the grace and love poured into my life through them all these many years. I’m grateful for majestic mountains, rainbows and waterfalls, dinners on the deck, pedicures with my girls, laughter and tears, quiet times in God’s presence, grand baby hugs, and memories to cherish for a lifetime.
We ended our summer on labor day weekend with a gathering at our home of some special friends....just a sampling of the many who have prayed for us over this last year.
As we gathered in a circle and held hands to pray before dinner together, I thanked God for them, for their love, for their prayers during one of the most difficult years of our lives. A year ago last September, my heart was heavy, our life was in total upheaval. We couldn’t imagine what lay ahead, but the Lord knew.
He had a plan for the story of our lives, for our future together and in ministry. And, yes, there have been hard days, uncertain days, days when tears fell and I thought my heart might break,
but there have also been deep friendships, laughter, music, provision, new beginnings and adventures, and lessons in trust, resting in His faithfulness, and discovering the sacred moments in our days.
It’s been a summer and a year of blessings, some hidden that we had to look for through sorrow and some just ready to embrace and enjoy.
What faith lessons has the Lord taught you this past summer season?
Sometimes it’s good to take a moment to reflect back before you move forward. As I read over this blog before posting, I realize that the making of the Soulcare cards for my daughter were as much for me as for her. We all need to tend to our souls, to the truths found in God's Word, and the wisdom learned from the faith lessons the Lord weaves into our daily lives. The creative process helped me to make a sacred space to soak in what the Father is doing in my own life and has brought me to a place of deep gratitude and hope.
What blessings have you experienced?
Take a moment and thank Him with a heart of gratitude.
A new season is coming!
Ask the Father to give you a grateful and expectant heart.
Make space for the sacred in the everyday moments of your life.
What will be your story?
His grace....it pours out everyday.
His love....it’s lavish and abundant.
Look for it and take the time to treasure it.
With a grateful heart,
If you're interested - here is the link to the original "Soulcare" blog from 3/8/2015
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What is it?
How do we get it?
Why does it seem to flee so quickly once we think we have finally achieved it?
It is defined as quiet or tranquility.
It is also used as a greeting, or a command!
Everyone strives for it!
Peace, in this world, is often short lived.
It seems that just before entering into a teaching appointment with a Restore Retreat, God must lead me down the lane of learning, trusting, and discovering. I use the word lane for this purpose, for it is a narrow road. Not much room to deviate. His boundaries are tight for this hard-headed determined gal, who seems to plow through and often looses sight of important issues like resting and refreshing my soul AND mind. I find it amusing that God has chosen me to help women like you to learn the importance of soulcare. I totally relate with you! We all need a soulcare retreat! Desperately!
I just happened to have one this summer that wasn’t on my agenda and in a place that well…I would have never chosen!
A little warning and wake-up call, I believe from the Lord, landed me in the ER and a night in the hospital for observation. No need for worry. I am fine. Though we think we are Wonder Woman, our bodies are really quite fragile and need much attention. They need rest, quiet, healthy nourishment, less stress and lots of peace! The key to this is knowing how and when to pull away! I am still learning. It doesn’t come natural and I was raised in a productivity environment. Yes, we need to be productive, but we also need rest! It’s okay to veg out every now and then. I implore you to, especially if you are not in the habit of taking time for yourself. My husband Brian likes to quote this to me..."if you don't come apart, you will come apart!" Even Jesus took time away and knew the importance of it.
My veg time of course is on my porch! It is a place that I have set aside to soak in nature, contemplate, dream, create, and hear from God. I hope you have created a space to do those things, too! It’s quite refreshing and my location for soulcare to take place. I just recently read an article about Ecotherapy and the need to be in nature. My soul longs for the mountains, streams, wide-open spaces, and the smell of honeysuckle and giant trees portraying umbrellas shading a rocky winding path. Even God placed Adam and Eve in a garden, a place of beauty, fragrance, and life! I believe He knew the importance nature has on the soul. Let me encourage you to break away. Go into a place created by God, breathe in His beauty, soak in His majesty, feel the many textures, listen to the birds, and release your worries. Take time experience the magnificence of our Creator, our Father, and the one who designed you and loves you intimately. He is a jealous God and desires us. Come, all you who are weary and heavy laden…He will give you rest! (Matt. 11:28) I’ve taken 20-minute excursions to Hilltop Arboretum, Rural Life Gardens, Independence Park, and walks in my neighborhood just to get away from the mundane and stress simply to give my mind and soul a little care. But for me, the porch is my favorite for short breaks! ...Especially early in the morning.
During one of my days on the porch, I began to think about PEACE. It didn’t seem that I had very much of it lately and finally I took a little time to ponder it! I tried to recall every scripture about it, every song title and location where I could remember feeling at peace. I focused my mind and heart on a way to remind me of His peace. In this fast-paced rush of life, people everywhere are screaming out for peace! In my own world, I have found that when my life is in chaos, peace is absent. So, "How do you maintain peace in a chaotic world?" I ask. Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ! (2 Corin. 10:5) And as I thought, I began to piece together each letter of peace with a word. These acrostics remind me of things that I must release or embrace. Some are created with deep thought and personal meaning, perhaps making no sense to you, but I wanted to share them. Let me encourage you to create your own. How many can you list? I pray that some of mine may cause you to think or encourage you as you seek after peace.
Peace is a heart at rest and is given to us by Jesus! It was one of the gifts He said He would leave and give us as He was preparing for the cross. John 14: 27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” When something is given, it is a choice we must make to receive. The world can provide outward peace. It is only the peace of Jesus that can give us inward peace and it is often an unexplainable peace. So why does it seem that it flees us so quickly? My thought is this…peace doesn’t flee us, we flee from peace. Peace is found in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Our neglect of Him, our personal strength or will, and our push to be earthly productive moves us away from sustaining our peace and dependence on God. It’s seems a simple fact but not one that is easily maintained. He never leaves us but sometimes we turn our face from Him. We must continue our steadfastness by drawing near to Him.
Perhaps you need a little peaceful breakaway. If you don’t make time for it, God will surely put you in a place to make you rest! I’ve seen it happen too many times in my own life and in the lives of my friends and family. Let me offer you this solution. Come to our October Restore Retreat and pull away for a weekend of restoration and renewal, spend time in the richness of God’s Word, prayer, worship and enjoy a little ecotherapy in the beauty of His creation! October is a great month to get away! And…I will be teaching a little more about the peace that God gives. Click the picture for more information and registration. Won't you join us?
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