We Want the Blessings, but…

Have you ever tried to prepare a meal for a picky child?  They want pizza and ice cream. They’d rather skip the veggies because it doesn’t taste as good as the pizza and ice cream. Do we as adults allow our children to consistently consume only what our children desire?  No.  Why is that?  Because we know that type of diet is not healthy and will not allow them to grow and develop the way they should.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. ~ I Corinthians 13:11

Too often, we want our cake and we want to eat it too.  We adopt a belief system that offers the inconsistency that we can live our lives, as Christians, without adhering to the doctrines of the Word of God.  Today’s ideology seems to be that we can pick and choose our beliefs, much like a salad bar.  We don’t like this commandment or that commandment, but we love the forgiveness part.  We love the “love” part and the peace part, but what about the putting God first in your life part?  Or the loving your neighbor as yourself?  Or the maintaining a pure lifestyle before marriage part?  Or the keeping a pure heart part?

There is so much more to being a Christian than saying a prayer and believing that Jesus died for your sins!  That is simply a starting point and a vital starting point at that.  But, as in any aspect of our lives, we should continue moving forward in our faith.  With faith comes a commitment.  That commitment to Christ requires obedience and trust.

How will others know that you belong to Christ?  By your fruit!  What does your fruit look like today?  Does it point others to the foot of the Cross so that they, too, may receive such grace and forgiveness?  Or is it stagnant fruit that isn’t any different from how you used to live?

We are called to be the “salt and light” in this world.

Matthew 5:13 says, “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.”

So, our testimony as believers of Jesus Christ is worthless and good for nothing if our lives do not point others to the Cross.  We want our trees to have good fruit that display not only the love of God, but the holiness that such love demands.  God loves us too much to leave us in our sin.

I encourage you to really study the Word of God and ask God what is He requiring of you today?  Tune in with sensitive spiritual ears to really hear what He is speaking to you.  Our prayer should be this:

“God, I surrender all.  I give you everything, every part of my life.  If there is anything that is not pleasing to you, please show me.”

If we are daily picking up our crosses and following Jesus, reading His Word, praying and listening to His voice, we will be well on our way to producing good fruit that points others to the extravagant grace that we have found.

May that be said of us.

Psalm 1:1-3

“Blessed is the man that walkers not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitters in the seat of the scornful.  But his delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law doth he meditate day and night.  And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, the bringers forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither and whatsoever he does shall prosper.”

 

 

 

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Taking Cues from our Bodies

Isn’t it funny how our bodies send us signals all the time?  They tell us when we’re tired, hungry, angry or when we’re stressed to the max and when it is time to take a break!

If this stye on the inside of my left eyelid could speak, it would say, “Who do you think you are?  Wonder Woman?  Slow down, missy!”

And so, here I sit typing on my bed, where I plan to be for the majority of the next two days…taking a break!  I knew I was stressed, but why is it only when an illness knocks that you are actually somehow granted permission to rest?  At the moment, I wear several hats … wife, mom, daughter, caretaker, sibling and friend.  And somewhere in there is the hat with my name on it…only it gets buried underneath all the other hats at times.  So for the next two days, I plan on dusting off the “Amber” hat and being very nice to her.  She deserves it.

If we neglect ourselves and do not listen to our internal cues, illness can result.  I thought I was doing my best to juggle my hats but clearly I need to do better.  I am caregiver to my 80 year old father who lives with us and he has had two hospitalizations recently with many follow up appointments, home health nurses, aides and physical therapists coming and going pretty much daily.  On top of trying to see that he is cared for, I am still recovering from multiple surgeries and dealing with some issues.

(Just a little example of what my life looks like):

This morning I got ready and headed out for my G.I. Dr. appointment, although I seriously considered cancelling it due to this painful stye.  (and the fact that I wasn’t sure I would be able to drive!). But, I marched on like a good soldier.  I called my eye doctor in hopes they could squeeze me in their schedule today.  Thankfully, they got me in at 10:15a.m. and I was able to get the much needed prescriptions for antibiotic eye drops and an oral antibiotic.  Then, I hurried to my car in order to make it down the street in time for my 11:00a.m. G.I. Dr. appointment!  Whew!  I made it in time to turn in all my updated forms and recent imaging reports.  I had a thorough appointment.  CVS did not have my antibiotic eye drops in stock so I decided to go to another store in hopes they would have them.  I really needed them today!  Thankfully, after waiting over an hour, probably closer to two hours…I left that CVS with my prescriptions in hand!  Then, I went to the lab for the blood work that the G.I. Dr. ordered, although I was in pain and worn out.  I wanted to get the blood work done prior to starting the antibiotics so it didn’t throw off the results.   I came home and checked on Dad to see how he was feeling and showed him my swollen eye.  To which he responded, “So does this mean we’re not going to have my ultrasound done today?”  Holy Moly!!  In the midst of my health crisis of the day, I completely forgot his appointment at 4:00p.m.!  I quickly called the imaging center and they graciously rescheduled his appointment for next week.  Whew!

I have never been in a season like the one I’m presently in.  Those who know me, know that I am fairly laid back and I have a very good memory.  I’m a planner by nature and I’m usually pretty good at keeping all the balls in the air…

But, then surgical menopause happened….

and I have not been the same since my last surgery!  I am, however, determined to outlast this phase!  I am stronger than the chaos!  Tougher than the pain!  I am an overcomer and rest in knowing that God’s grace is sufficient for everything I am facing!

In my weakness, He is strong!

And, so, today my priority is to be extra kind to myself.  I know that with God’s help, I will get through this.  Life will not always be filled with constant pain.  My father will not always be here and need my care.  But he is here today and today I will make sure he is fed, clothed and cared for.  It is my duty as his daughter.  In doing so, I am honoring God through my obedience to His Word to honor your parents that it may go well with you and that you may live long upon the land which the Lord God gives you!  I rest in that promise.

………..

So, another hat I wear is wife….

My husband called to see what is for dinner a while ago…. Meanwhile, I had just set up my trusty, gray reading pillow and laptop on the bed to entertain myself during my misery.  He wanted to just pick up subs, but I assured him that we would make a beef stir fry and rice.  So, I called my eighteen year old son on his cell phone and asked that he meet me in the kitchen for cooking instructions.  (He was downstairs and we have crazy, spiral stairs that my back revolts against!).  So, he got instant cooking lessons on making beef and vegetable stir fry and divided it into two pans so we will have leftovers.  He cut up an onion while I quickly loaded the dishwasher and washed a few dishes by hand.  I told him that the dinner dishes were all his, though.  So, you see… although I have determined to stay put in bed until the worst of this infection and pain clears, I am constantly beckoned for one reason or another.  I don’t mind but this is a time for rest and self care.

And, so, if you don’t mind, I am hanging a “Do not disturb” sign on my door for a bit.  For you see, I’m slowly but surely learning to take cues from my body.

Slow down, missy!  Life is not a sprint.  It is a marathon.  And if you expect to make it to the finish line, you better pace yourself.  And set boundaries that cannot be negotiated.

Rest.  Balance.  Grace.  Boundaries.

Words to live by.

 

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Budget Tinkering…

Some people like to tinker with cars…I like to tinker with our monthly budget.

I am a recovering perfectionist and I am also quite competitive.  Haha!  So, this combination lends itself to routine tinkering with our budget.  Now that I’m further along on my road to recovery from multiple surgeries, I am in a better position to lend my attention to our financial goals.

My husband and I discuss our financial goals and aspirations pretty much on a daily basis.  While we openly communicate about upcoming purchases, savings goals, bills, etc., I am the one who generally implements these things.

While listening to a Dave Ramsey podcast recently, I learned about every dollar.com, his new budget website that is absolutely free!  I checked it out and it has some really neat features.  Once you plug in your specifics, it will tally it all up and show the percentage of your budget for each area.  You can upgrade to another tier on the website, but the free features are great as they stand.  There is also information there about the “Baby steps” toward financial freedom.  All very good information.

So, I am inspired, once again, to pay closer attention to not only our spending, but our savings goals.  The two really go hand in hand.

Dave Ramsey said something the other day that really caused me to pause and think about it:

“Your greatest financial asset is your income.”

He went on to say if we give it all away, you are left with nothing to show for it.  That is obvious but begs the question – “Who do you want to give it to?”  “What goals do you have in mind?”  “What would be a better use of your money?”

Money is a vehicle.  But unless you are the driver, it will take you down roads, you do not want to go. …

So, where do you want to go?

Where do you want to be next year?  In five years?  Ten?

We all are living in a finite span of time with a finite earning potential.  With this in mind, where do you want your time to be invested?  Because all money is … is your time. It is a tangible representation of your time.  Your life.

What do you want to show for it?

Do you want to leave an inheritance for your children?  Do you want to travel internationally?  Do you want to donate to charitable causes?

You only have so much time.

What do you want to be remembered for?  Your generosity?  Your wise stewardship?  …

Tinkering.

What does it mean anyway?  Well, it means to adjust, repair, fix, play around with.  Budgets are constantly in need of such.

If you wrote out a list of your goals and dreams, would your monthly budget be a reflection of them?  Or is your budget more of a lack of attention and just floating along?

Would you gladly give up cable t.v. if it meant you could contribute more to your retirement fund?  What about giving up sodas and lattes, if it meant you could cash flow Christmas this year?

Life is about trade-offs.  Would you rather have “this” or “that”?  Which one is more important to you?  It is about intentional living.  Choices.  Determine today that you are going to begin implementing your goals that are close to your heart rather than spending money like it’s going out of style.

So, I’ve been tinkering with our budget and, so far, I’m liking the outcome.  I’m glad I’ve reached this epiphany now rather than later because time seems to slip through our fingers like sand, my friends.  Now really is the time to tell your money where to go rather than wondering where it went! (Dave Ramsey quote).

What if you began making extra payments toward your debt?  What if you sold a few things toward that end?  What if, once your debt was paid, you began chunking away money in a Christmas, travel fund or other savings goals?

Periodically, we must take stock in the direction our income is going.  Recently, we switched our car and homeowner’s insurance to the annual savings tune of $1,600!!  That’s like newly found money right there!  Yes!

That is just one example of tinkering that has been very productive!

What budget category can you tinker with today?

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Buying Items “Off Season”

I absolutely love a bargain!  Don’t you?  The thrill of knowing that you paid only a fraction for an item is euphoric! … and addicting, I might add.

Recently while perusing at Goodwill, I found several boxes of Hallmark Christmas cards for $1.99-$2.99.  Very few are thinking about Christmas in July, but I have learned the best deals are found when stores are trying to get rid of stock.

We live in Florida, but if one was shopping for a winter coat, it’s best to look for one in the spring or early summer when no one wants to think about cold weather any longer!

It’s back-to-school season around here and I am waiting for everyone to do their shopping and for the stores to begin marking things down to near clearance prices.  That’s when I will stock up on spiral notebooks for the year.  My youngest is a senior this year and he needs very few supplies, fortunately.  In the past, I have purchased spiral notebooks for as little as $.10 each.  We’ll see how low I will find them this year.

A couple years ago we needed an outdoor table and chair set for our balcony but the prices were more than we wanted to pay.  So, we waited.  Then it came time for Home Depot to mark down their summer items and we got a $1,000 set for $500!  That was worth the wait!

We’ve done this over and over again in our twenty-two years of marriage.  We make every effort to be wise in our spending and will gladly buy second hand when feasible.  Spiral notebooks are one of those items that are difficult to buy second hand and even if you found them in mint condition, our local thrift store would likely charge more than the price I can get them on sale.  So, you just have to be savvy.  I try to keep a running list of items I know we’ll be needing in the short term, so when I’m out and about, I can look for those things.

I recently bought some long sleeve shirts, which is somewhat strange on a day that was about 97 degrees!  But, I know I will need them in a couple months when we take a trip.

Quite paradoxically, a few weeks ago I ordered a new bathing suit and a scarf.  Ha!  I needed to purchase an additional item to avoid the shipping cost, so I found the scarf at a deep discount.  Again, I wouldn’t wear the scarf at home, but when traveling, it will come in handy!

Saving money is all about planning.  When we wait until the last minute, most of the time we will wind up paying more than we should.

This is where a budget comes into play.  I love this Dave Ramsey quote:

“A budget is telling your money where to go,

instead of wondering where it went!”

Love it!

So, I challenge you to begin thinking about your shopping needs for the next few months and keep a running list.  Then, brainstorm… “Where can I find this item at a reduced price?”  “When is the best time to purchase said item?”

Timing is everything.  And shopping “Off season” is a great way to save a lot of money.

 

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What Are You Doing?

Really.  What are you doing with your time?

Recently I discovered Podcasts.  Yes, I’m late to the game but that’s okay.  I’ve been busy with life.  I digress…

So, as I was listening to this NPR talk about “Deep Work” by Cal Newport, who has written a book on the topic, I began to think about all the distractions I face on a daily basis.  In fact,  ….

Excuse me, my cell phone just dinged, signaling a text message…

It really did.  Perfectly on cue, I might add.

So, as I was beginning to say … In fact, my entire existence of late seems to be one series of “interruptions” or distractions.  Let me explain.  First of all, I am a stay at home mother whose youngest will be a senior in high school this year.  So, life lately is all about applying for a job, getting his learner’s permit, starting a checking account, plans for life after graduation, etc.  Grown up stuff.  So, as I am busy herding my youngest toward adulthood, I also find myself as a caregiver to my 80.5 year old father, who came to live with us last fall.  It has literally been ten months of pretty much back to back emergencies with him with few breaks.

And somewhere in all of this, I, myself have had three major abdominal surgeries in a twelve month period and the shocking discovery of a rare, aggressive cancer.  Thankfully, as of today’s writing, I am cancer free.  It appears that it had not spread and that the surgeon was able to remove it all.

Did I mention life has been a little more than crazy of late?  All of this is to illustrate the situations and scenarios that life can throw at one.

But, what is my focus?

What do I really want to be spending my time doing?  What do I want to accomplish in the days I am allotted?

Those are the meaningful questions we must ask ourselves if our lives are to have merit and lasting legacy.  And once we’ve discovered the answers, it becomes imperative to cultivate intense focus toward achieving our goals and dreams.

So, this podcast discussed all the interruptions such as email, texts and social media that keep us from achieving a higher level of work.  This really got me to thinking.

I’ve been on Facebook since 2007 when my nephew and niece talked me into joining so I could keep up with them long distance.  I’m hooked.  So I’m not likely to give it up any time soon.  I can, however, refrain from checking it every time I have down time.

The podcast also challenged me to remove certain distractions or unnecessary things from my life in order to focus on the things I really want to accomplish.  Somehow we get this impression that our days will surely be endless but the contrary is actually true.  Our days are measured and they are likely fewer than we sometimes think.  That may sound morbid but it’s not intended that way.

And so, I find myself accepting this challenge of more intentional living.  I have longed believed saying no is not a bad thing.

Now, I am choosing to opt not to do some good things in lieu of greater things.

You see, there are many good things in this life.  Many worthwhile uses of our time.  But are they beneficial to us and our end goal?

I think these are “tune-up” questions we should periodically ask ourselves.  We give our cars a tune-up.  Sometimes we must evaluate and fine tune our personal and professional lives as well.  Are my habits creating a desired outcome?  Or are they becoming baggage or a negative thing in my life?

Am I taking care of myself adequately?  Or am I placing others’ needs ahead of my own?  When is the last time I learned something new?  What do I get excited about?  What really angers me?

What am I placing before my eyes and ears?  Is it helping me to become the person I desire?  Or am I just filling time?

We don’t get to choose the day we are born or the day we die, but everything else … Well, that’s up to you!

Cheers to a less distracted life!

 

 

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Humanity in a Techy World

The world sure has changed just over the last twenty years – the way we interact with a quick text or a short email, etc.  Blogging has exploded … which is why you’re reading this.

In general, the way we interact with one another on a daily basis has drastically changed.  The method in which we give and receive news has been forever altered. There are positives and negatives to this transformation.

But the point to this post is that with so much technology at our fingertips 24 hours a day, we run the risk of losing our humanity.  We run the risk of de-humanizing our existence and the existence of those around us or even those half way across the world.

Drivers often behave in an aggressive or unthoughtful manner when they wouldn’t be as quick to engage in such risky behavior if there was not a shield of metal in between them and their fellow travelers.  They have a buffer of glass and metal.  In the same way, we have a buffer of technology in between the writer and the audience.

I think this is the reason (to a degree) the vitriol and level of hatred has escalated in our media and is evidenced in our usage of social media.

We have forgotten our audience.  We have forgotten the hard working man on the receiving end of our callous words.  We have forgotten the mom who is doing the best she can.  The dads, brothers, moms, sisters, etc.  The people.  They are just people.  Like you.  Like me.

Sometimes I think it’s important to take a step back and unplug for a moment.  Go look someone in the eye while discussing current events over lunch.   Plan a family dinner where no one is constantly checking their phones, but instead shares inside, family jokes.  Reconnecting with humanity will help to preserve our human condition and serves to also preserve some decorum.

Before you fire off that text, email, post, tweet or blog … Remember your audience.

They may not be who you think they are.

They may be just like you.

They may be you.

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Finding Rest

We spend our lives hanging our hopes and dreams of true happiness on the hat of achievement or success while its fulfillment is fleeting.  We tend to tell ourselves that ‘we’ll be really happy when’…

…we reach a certain pay grade

…we find the perfect match

…we have x number of children

…we buy a larger home

…we retire

…we travel the world

….While these are lofty and worthwhile goals and dreams, we will never be satisfied or at rest in these alone.

…or what about  – we’ll be really happy when…this storm passes or I am healthy again?

THEN, I will be happy and my soul will be at rest!

What if true rest is found in surrender?

What if the peace we seek is found in the person of Jesus Christ?  I submit to you that it is only then that the searching, the seeking, the striving … is fulfilled and complete.

All too often our focus goes askew.  We lose sight of the fact that He is the Potter and we are the clay.  Does the clay tell the Potter what to make?  No.  Never.  Sometimes our lives segue into unchartered waters and we fear we may drown.  It’s during those times, especially, that our focus must be redirected on the One who has all power in His hands.  That doesn’t always mean the storm will be averted or our path will miraculously veer around the storm.  It does, however, mean that God is there no matter the circumstances.  He is our Peace in troubled times.  No matter the situation, we can find rest.

Each of our journeys are unique.  We each run a different race, face particular battles, etc. But we are all created by the same God who made us to only find true peace and satisfaction in a personal relationship with Him.

We live in anxious times, no matter your geographic location.  We just do.  For all the academic achievements of mankind, sometimes we can be too prideful to realize our full dependence on an Almighty God.  For all our intellectual ability and strivings, we remain completely lacking in every way.  It is when we realize this, that we have begun to live.  Really live.  Life is so complex.  Happiness can seem elusive if we continue looking in all the wrong directions.  It is, however, completely attainable when we wholeheartedly surrender to God and know that no matter what we may be going through, He is there with us.  He promises to never leave us or forsake us.  In that, our future is secure and peace is attainable.

Rest today, friend, knowing that your circumstances do not somehow escape the watchful eye of an All-Knowing God.  He sees.  He knows.  He cares.  Rest.

“Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  

~ Matthew 11:28

 

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