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TIME TO BE RENEWED

renewAs I prepare for an upcoming trip to Italy, I find myself spinning around in every direction. There doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything done before I leave. As I race against the clock, stress hives (that itch like crazy) have taken up residence all over my body. To me, they are a divine indication that my mind, body and spirit need to be renewed by my Creator.

It’s so easy to take on too much at one time and I’ve never been one to pace myself. I tend to jump into umpteen different projects all at once within an unrealistic time frame. Part of it is my personality type, but the rest is a stubbornness that refuses to listen to the quiet inner voice telling me to slow down.

Yet, even in my stubbornness God continues to patiently urge me toward a time of renewal and He is not above presenting physical signs, like my hives, to warn me it is time to back away from life situations. My creator knows when it is time to allow my mind, body and spirit to be renewed by Him.

God divinely notes when we are in a life overload moment. He remains persistent and lovingly directs us to the foot of the cross to find mercy, grace and forgiveness.

Today, I find I am way overdue for a renewal, perhaps you are too. If God is calling you to step back from the chaos that currently surrounds you, then take time to meet with Him. He can empower you to move forward with renewed strength in both body and mind.

“…they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)

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THE LAST GOODBYE

exhaustedI slumped onto the sofa like a wet noodle after the last few guests departed our annual holiday party. It had been a success with plenty of food, beverages and outdoor activities for every age group.

The day concluded with family sitting around a fire pit where big kids set off fireworks and little ones waved sparklers. It was a wonderful family day, but after the last goodbye, I collapsed in total exhaustion like it was my last hurrah.

I have always considered myself to be tenacious, ready to take on any challenge or task with everything I’ve got. However, the next day when asked to help disassemble the outdoor party canopy, I quickly realized my body parts had finally caught up to my age. Unable to lift the heavy framework, I was assigned a new job of grouping the pole extensions by their assigned number. Even that required reading glasses due to the small print size.

My giddy-up was gone and I no longer possessed the strength needed to complete the task at hand. It was time to say my last goodbye to youthfulness and accept the limitations that accompany the aging process. Don’t get me wrong, we should do our best to stay fit, eat healthy and seek out life adventures; but we should do so with an acceptance of our limitations.

Jesus certainly experienced what it was like to collapse from total exhaustion. Look no further than the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed,

“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Luke 22:42

Jesus wasn’t assigned a new job just because the weight of the cross or the sin of mankind was too much to carry. The outdoor activities planned for His party included torture, beatings and being nailed to a cross. In light of this, my exhaustion and limitations pale when compared to what Jesus accomplished as his body collapsed in death and spoke His last goodbye, “It is finished.”

Jesus’ last goodbye to us gave birth to eternal life; my last goodbye to guests gave birth to a 2-hour nap.

While putting away tables, chairs, food and outdoor games from the weekend party, I considered that I am not being nailed to a cross, eating my last supper or sentenced to death for my religious beliefs. Yes, I may be weary, tired and aged; but I’m not wearing military dog tags, navigating through mine fields or looking at my child’s photo inside a combat helmet.

Our youth may fade, but the glory of the privileged life we enjoy remains intact. Because of the selfless acts of love imparted by others and their allegiance to uphold our freedoms at whatever cost, I am able to sit by a fire pit with my family, watch grandkids light sparklers, eat from a bountiful table and curl up on the sofa like a wet noodle at day’s end.

When faced with utter exhaustion and your strength seems like sand in a sieve, you are not alone. Our ability to face life’s challenges and understand all the fine print it entails requires the help of others and an acceptance of our own limitations.

The last goodbye doesn’t mean we can no longer function, it only means we may require the strength of others or a higher power to get the job done. All we need to do is ask.

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LEANING AGAINST THE WIND



sailboatSome of my best life lessons have been learned while leaning against the wind with my sails pointed in the opposing direction because I refused to be navigated by the tailwinds of popular opinions.

In my mid- twenties, I participated in catamaran races at Higgins Lake in Northern Michigan. There were times tailwinds were so strong you would glide across the lake on one pontoon. It was smooth sailing. Then, there were races where it was a struggle to reach the next marker because head winds forced you to sail in a zigzag pattern. It was a struggle to move forward, but there were no other options other than sit, sink, or sail.

In today’s world, Christians are continually faced with views that oppose and challenge our faith and moral beliefs. We find ourselves leaning against the wind while others glide forward on one pontoon; they appear to be winning the race. But are they?

Whether by choice and or an unexpected change in wind direction, our Christian faith grows when we are faced with adversity. It’s easy to sail through life with a belief system based on popular opinions, liberal attitudes and no regard for biblical principles. But being the first to the finish line doesn’t guarantee a trophy. Unless we point our sails toward God’s finish line, we lose the race.

Are you currently leaning into the wind because your Christian beliefs are being challenged? Hold tight to the ropes of your sails and know that when you ‘come about’ you will be pointed in the right direction. Allow the Word of God to navigate your direction in life; it’s your only GPS in a world ripe with opinions and beliefs that contradict fundamental Christian values.

Don’t fail to lean against (or into) the wind when necessary to stay on course to the finish line. Let Jesus guide your sails when faced with adversity. You may not take first place, but you will finish with your integrity and Christian beliefs intact.

“And a tiny rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot wants it to go, even though the winds are strong” (James 3:4).

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WHEN MEMORIES TAKE LEAVE

on-emptyI sat in the squeaky backyard swing with my great-grandma and watched grandpa as he dumped dry ice into the chest freezer in the garage. My great-grandparents were cotton farmers in the South, but their age now limited them to a small garden plot next to their house.

It’s odd the things we remember from our childhood. Unlike my sister, I never seem to remember the important things. Nope, I remember things that are trivial like squeaky swings and dry ice being dumped in an old freezer box. I remember the color of my grandma’s Avon bag from 1965 and the exact shape and color of the Avon Topaz cologne on her bathroom vanity; yet, have no memory of more important and relevant things. It leaves me to question if my brain wasn’t damaged by forceps at birth.

How we experience and remember life is different for each of us. The things I will remember about my upcoming trip to Italy will be much different than my analytical husband. He will remember the name of every cathedral and monument we visit. I will remember the color of the roses in the flower gardens and how our dinner napkins were folded. As a visual/tactile person I categorize life moments in snapshots and by touch; and that’s OK.

I love that God has created us so divinely and uniquely different from each other. Yet, when we come together and share our life experiences, memories and journeys those differences complement each other and the diversity unites us to see life through the eyes of another.

And so, I will continue to remember crazy stuff like my home phone number from 45 years ago, the pink and white checked swimsuit I wore my first time on water skis or the material I picked out for my 7th grade home-economic sewing project.

I am certain my memory will continue to fail me on things of importance, but one thing I will never forget is that I am fearfully and wonderfully made by God.

“Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it.” Psalms 139:14 (TLB)

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GOING TOPLESS

topless driving“I’m headed to the grocery store,” I shouted to my husband, “I think I’ll go topless today. “
“Great idea,” he replied, “I would join you if I didn’t have to mow the lawn.”

I grinned as I walked out the door; I knew going anywhere topless was a favorite for my husband. Throwing my handbag onto the passenger seat, I put on my favorite sunglasses and applied sunscreen in anticipation of my topless drive.

Seated in the driver’s seat, the top was removed, the parking brake disengaged and the shift stick positioned into first gear. I was ready to rock some tunes in the open air with no barriers between me and the warm sunshine; every pore of my body was tantalized by the freedom of going topless.

I circled the grocery store parking lot and found a spot near the entrance. As I exited the car, an older gentleman called out, “You might want to pull up the top, you know…just in case.”
“In case of what,” I queried, it’s a beautiful day to be topless. I clicked the remote to lock the car, grabbed a shopping cart and entered the store.

With grocery bags loaded in the trunk and still feeling adventurous, I entered the freeway for a short, topless joy ride home. My husband greeted me in the driveway to help carry in the groceries.

“How was the topless drive?” he asked as he pulled up the convertible top of our roadster. “Invigorating, as usual,” I replied. We clasped hands, brushed lips and walked into the house knowing that ‘going topless’ was a private joke between us. Eyebrows are raised and intrigue ignited whenever we speak of our topless driving excursions and the sense of freedom we experience each time we drop our top.

To my husband and I, the expression ‘going topless’ is our way of saying we are going to take our BMW roadster for a drive with the rag top down. Of course, there are those who perceive our conversation in a much different way.

In the New Testament, the Pharisees are a good example of how others can seek to misinterpret the true meaning of our words. The Pharisees listened to Jesus, but not without preconceived ideas about the message He conveyed. Ruled by human nature, they twisted His Words to fit their agenda and cause.

When human nature rules, we stand ready to discredit and fault anyone or anything that opposes our mindset. On the other hand, when ruled by our spiritual nature, we seek to comprehend, understand, and accept others in the same way Christ accepts us; we forgo assumptions.

The next time you are privy to a conversation, a sermon, or directives you don’t quite understand, I invite you to step back and listen with the heart. Digest the words spoken without judgment; you might be surprised at how wrong you are in your assumptions; I speak from experience.

“Be honest in your judgment and do not decide at a glance (superficially and by appearances); but judge fairly and righteously.” John 7:24 AMP

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KISS THE DIRT AND GROW

IMG_1214As I watered the hanging plants, I couldn’t help but notice some of the hardy perennial flowers were hugging the ground. The recent hard rains had beaten the stems into the earth. The once pretty flowers were nothing more than petals scattered around the flower garden and those flowers that survived the rain pellets were no longer cut-flower, vase quality stems.

With clippers in hand, I began to cut-back all the plants that had been crushed and beaten during the storm. It was heartbreaking to see the affected plants reduced to stubble; but it was necessary for new growth.

The fallen and broken stems would eventually extract the life out of the new buds that longed to bring restoration and growth.

Mankind is no different than our garden plants. When we become broken by the storms of life and find ourselves kissing the dirt beneath us, we look up to find the Master Gardener standing over us with pruning shears. He cuts back the dead weight and prepares us for new growth so we can once again be cut-flower, vase quality stems.

This morning, I walked outside to survey the outcome of the plants I had pruned a few weeks ago. Sure enough, healthy new growth had pushed through the earth anxious to unfold new blooms.

Nature truly represents the heart of our Heavenly Father. With pruning shears in hand he snips, cuts and resurrects our brokenness. He will dig up and transplant our roots in more fertile soil if we fail to show new growth. Like a true Master Gardener, God never gives up on us.

There are plants and shrubs in my flower garden I have moved every year to find the perfect location to promote growth. God has done the same with me. He continues to transplant my spiritual roots until he finds the perfect place for me to grow.

If your life is currently kissing dirt, maybe it’s time for God to use His pruning shears and bring you back to life.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15: 1-2

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THE DANCING DONUT BOX

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“Holy Shenickies, what the heck is going on”, I shouted as I walked into the kitchen. Everyone ran to see what the commotion was all about. They all stopped dead in their tracks as they watched the do-nut box dance across the counter and fall to the floor.

The box of partially eaten donuts had been left on the counter the night before with intentions of discarding the contents the following morning. We watched in disbelief as hundreds of black carpenter ants scurried across the kitchen floor. I have never seen anything like it to this day and pray I never experience an encore.

That chilling episode exposed a hidden enemy hibernating in the foundation of my home. The do-nut box with all its sweetness only served to draw out the army of ants silently destroying the wooden shell that supported the structure of my home. The dancing do-nut box had exposed the truth that would have eventually brought destruction.

We all face dancing do-nut boxes in our lifetime. They are filled with sugar-coated sweetness that attracts all kinds of predators who seek to destroy us. It may all appear good on the surface, but when we open the box, we discover the enemy that lies in wait; an enemy who seeks to devour our soul.

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 (NIV)

Like the ants in the do-nut box, our enemy, Satan, scatters in every direction when we open the cover of God’s Word. In truth it exposes the deception inside the dancing do-nut box moments of our life.

When was the last time you opened the cover to your Bible?