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The Inspiration Behind the Dream

kindness winsAs the founder of the Linden Pay It Forward Project, this post is written from my heart.

Many years ago I became a part of the Linden community by marriage. Some of you know the person I married, others may not; that is not important. What IS important is, after the marriage ended, I felt abandoned in a community I did not know.

I had to find my way and it wasn’t easy. But God’s grace is sufficient in our time of need and that grace was more than I ever hoped for.

ROLL BACKWARDS

For whatever reason, I believed my self-worth was based on my martial partner. Hmm…. any of you been down that path of misconception? Now, at age 63, I can’t even imagine that I gifted that former spouse a digit on my scale of worth. But it happened.

ROLL FORWARD

My point of sharing is to enlighten you that WE create our future; WE reshape the circumstances that we thought would define our destiny.

I started to step outside my comfort zone. I joined a gym where I met some forever friends. I became active in my community through a Bunco group with friendships still shared to this day.

My daughter’s participation in sports throughout high school brought new friendships with parents in the community. When I started a home-based global business, I hired students from Linden High to help out. To this day, these gals are like daughters to me.

Bottom line, I choose to reshape my destiny. I went back to college, finished my degree and in the process recognized that I was worthy. I finally got it.

GOT WHAT?

I finally got that my faith, the love of family, friends and community is what really matters.  Some of you know my deepest struggles, some don’t. Again, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the knowledge that whatever life throws at us, God’s grace and community friendships will see us through the pot holes of life.

FAST FORWARD

The community that once felt foreign to me is now my safety net, my fortress and my forever hometown.

PAY IT FORWARD

My reason for starting the Linden Pay It Forward Project had a dual purpose. It was inspired by an act of kindness by two high school boys within our community. On a more intimate level, it was a desire to make people feel like they belong. Perhaps, their life story differs from mine, but in the end, it’s all about a need to be accepted, appreciated and loved.

We all have stories of loss, personal heartache and remorse. I can think of no better way to recover, regroup and regain whatever it is we have lost than to reach out to others in their time of need.

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Held to the Flame

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There are times in life when we are held to the flames. Perhaps it is divorce, separation or a battle for your health. Addictions, loss of a family member or job can quickly place our faith next to the flame.

I get it, and have experienced all of these ‘held to the fire’ moments within my life. Was it easy, NO! Was God faithful, YES! It is God’s holy fire that transforms us. When held to the flame, our spirit is transformed into something new.

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. (7) These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1 Peter 1: 6-7

We are valuable to God. Giving up His Son to death so that His blood would bring us forgiveness of sin is certainly proof of that. If your life is being held to the flame, God may be trying to tell you something.

Open your ears to hear God’s voice; He speaks to us through His Word. Read it!

Open your eyes to your surroundings. Are you hanging out in places and with people that give cause for concern?

Open your heart to change and the deep inner stirring of the Holy Spirit within your soul. That comes through prayer and meditation with our Heavenly Father.

Sometimes our life is held to the flame for no apparent reason. REJOICE! God is testing your faith for a divine purpose. You may not see or know that purpose while on earth, but eternity holds all the answers.

Dig in your heels, hold tight! Let your faith be increased and proven to be genuine because it has been held to the flame.

“So now, beloved ones stand firm and secure. Live your lives with an unshakable confidence. We know that we prosper and excel in every season by serving the Lord, because are we assured that our union with the Lord makes our labor productive with fruit that endures.” 1 Corinthians 15:58

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Never Under Estimate God’s Purpose

quoteCleaning homes is not something I ever expected to be doing in my sixties. Heck, I had already retired from one job and sold a prosperous LLC company by age sixty.

It’s not that I consider myself above house cleaning; it’s just that the thought never crossed my mind. Apparently it crossed the mind of God and I was assigned to be a house cleaning missionary.

It’s true. Not only that, but God also hand-selected someone I had never before met to work with me in the mission field. Pretty crazy, isn’t it? At my age, nothing surprises me about God and the ways He will use us for His purpose IF we are willing.

THE STORY

A single mom, married multiple times, who didn’t finish college until later in life. A woman broken by life’s struggles; a woman, by the grace of God, who found a secure job with decent wages and benefits to support herself and daughter.

I am guessing many of you have a similar story to share that is filled with shame, regrets and 20/20 vision. It’s that history that gets us to the God-designated place we are today. It takes unplanned events, heartaches and, in some cases, losses to get us to where God wants us to be.

THE WHY

In hindsight, the why is very clear but since glimpses of our future are not made known to us, we impatiently choose to move forward without a God-ordained plan. That is me, even to this day. I want to see the road ahead but when it’s not visible, I forge a path in the opposite direction of what God has planned for my life. It’s what I do and I do it very well.

THE HOPE

Be still my heart for there is still hope for us wayward souls who tend to take the path less taken. The path filled with thorns, burs and barbed wire. The path that ultimately leaves us scarred, wounded and crying for help.

And, then there is Jesus. His mercy and grace beckons us in another direction. A path we never considered, but a path that leads us to still waters; where he can restore us anew.

THE REASON

The life paths and direction God has designed for each of us is as different as our DNA. Our divine purpose on earth is unique because it is eternal based. We can’t see the big picture; we only see what is here and now.

I often ask God the reason I’ve been chosen to be a house cleaning missionary at this time in my life; an age where I can barely step in and out of a bathroom spa tub and scrubbing floors can require knee pads. His answer comes in ways I never imagined.

  • The woman crying in her car across the street from one of our house cleans who willingly accepted our offer to pray with her because her mother was dying.
  • The widow who looks forward to our visits because we make her laugh.
  • The busy doctor and PA with small children who continually show gratitude and thanks for the service we provide.
  • The grandmother who acquired custody of her grandkids because of family addiction issues and needs a sounding board.
  • The single father who needs help with housekeeping.
  • The single mom at the corner store who needs encouragement; so, we left her a goody bag.
  • The guy who noted the name ‘My Magic Mop’ on our vehicle and his laughter when I replied, “I ride the Magic Mop to work.”
  • The retired military man, a widow, who needs help with cleaning.

THE MISSION

To remain sensitive to the needs of others and continue to joyfully serve in the mission field God has placed me in at this time in my life. There are days I come home sore and tired. Other days, I come home exhilarated by the small victories, the challenges I’ve overcome and the new friendships acquired.

Never under estimate where God places you at certain times of your life.

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Stuck in the Mud

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Sometimes in life we find ourselves in a mud pit spinning our wheels and getting nowhere.  No matter how much effort we put into moving forward in life and overcoming challenges we are stuck; we’re in a funk and can’t get to where we need to be or want to go.

I’ve been immobilized in mud many times for many reasons and there key questions to be asked when that happens.

  • Am I secretly coveting the life of someone else?

How we see another person’s life is one dimensional. We don’t know what’s going on in the shadows. It’s futile to desire the lifestyle, job, wealth or relationships of others. If you choose to do so, the only place you will go is the mud pit.

Looking from the outside paints a deceptive facade of what chaos, agony and personal pain this person may be suffering on the inside.

  • Am I waiting for someone or something to change life for me?

If that is your mindset, you will remain in the mud pit. Only you with God’s help can bring change. If you want to get moving again then shift your life into four-wheel drive. That requires you, not others, to assume responsibility for your emotional, spiritual and physical well-being.

What does that require?

  • Refuse to play the blame game. What has happened in the past is just that, the past. Your focus should be the future.
  • Switch it up and change your routine. A change of venue is a powerful tool to change your mindset and see life from a different perspective.
  • Stop making assumptions based on past experiences. Realize you are empowered to forge new experiences, change your course and choose your fate.

 

  • Have I invested in mud flaps?

If you are spinning your wheels in mud, you’re going to need some mud flaps to keep the backlash of those who have no interest in YOUR destination but are quick to offer opinions, judgment and their point of view. Mud flaps guard our vision from the dirt and debris that life throws our way. They keep us from being directionally challenged so we don’t end up in the mud pit.

I got mine for free by asking God. The set includes: Guidance of the Holy Spirit (guidance), the Word of God (intervention), Prayer (road-side assistance) and fellowship with other Christian believers (support). It’s a free-standing offer that I highly recommend.

  • Have I learned to say no?

Don’t be afraid to rearrange your priorities a bit and make “no” a more commonly used word in your vocabulary. The ability to say ‘no’ reflects you are in the driver’s seat of your life and empowers you to avoid the mud pits and navigate life according to God’s plan.

There are times that God deliberately places us in a mud pit to reform and transform us for a greater purpose. When we stop focusing on our circumstances (stop spinning our wheels) and focus on Him we find rest, encouragement and renewed passion.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
(Ps. 32:8)

If are currently in a stuck in the mud season of life, I encourage you to fully, completely, and absolutely surrender your own will and seek God’s. Let go of the lies, shame, worry, doubt, comparing yourself to others and take hold of your grace-filled pardon.

Dare to dance to the unique rhythm God has fashioned for your life and invest in mud flaps.

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The God of Comfort

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I appreciate art because it has the ability to make us stop in the moment and give pause to what the artist is hoping to convey. Art arouses our visual awareness and powerfully evokes emotions undefined by words.

This statue by Albert György uniquely captures the feeling of emptiness that coincides with loss. Life may appear normal on the outside, but internally there is an all-consuming void. I have to believe that a great loss inspired this artist’s piece of work.

We all encounter loss and can relate to the giant hole it leaves in our innermost being. We find countless ways to preoccupy ourselves in an effort to fill that hole; but the void remains. Even God experienced loss when His son, Jesus, died on the cross.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 34: 18

Prayer for Today:

Lord, I know, you are the God of comfort and when my whole world shattered, you have been with me every step of the way. Continue to be ever near and my constant companion when the giant hole wants to pull into the depths of darkness and despair. In those moments, draw me ever closer to you and fill that hole with the knowledge that you are only a breath away and your arms of comfort are everlasting.

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When There Are No Words

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Today I find myself chasing after words as I try to pen them to paper. It’s unusual for me to be at a loss for words but writing is a creative process and creativity is a fickle beast when shrouded in unexpected grief.

 “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.Proverbs 17:22 (NLT)

Within a 24-hour period I received news of two deaths and the energy that drives my thoughts is caught between two polar opposite extremes of grief: Ex-spouse and child of a close family member. My emotions seem displaced and off-balance.

The first life account was closed many years ago by divorce and in time we both opened new joint life accounts. Life goes on, or so I thought. I discovered that memories of love lost and shared intimacy never give divorce permanent closure.

Long forgotten emotional attachments surfaced upon news of his death.  Any hope for answers to questions I have longed to ask now rest in his grave.

The closure of the second life account is filled with moments I want to embrace and deposit into my forever memory bank. This life bears no emotional resemblance to the other, but both provoke feelings of grief. It’s a catalyst of mixed emotions that render me wordless.

Pervasive thoughts fill my thoughts and the reality that life ends with or without notice hits me head on. Did this life account close with a plus or minus balance? Did they know Jesus? Was the life account eternally insured?

I am convinced that our life encounters and relationships with people aren’t random. Even messed up relationships, the ones that go way bad, have a God-ordained purpose. Death compels us to pause and reflect on those shared connections and come to terms with our loss and the grief that follows.

Prayer for Today:

Heavenly Father,

I want my life bank account to be insured in Heaven.  When life circumstances bankrupt my life account and grief overwhelms me, disperse mercy and grace.

Let forgiveness cover any circumstances that overdraft my life account and when my words become captive to grief, allow me to rest in you.

Amen

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A Funny Thing Happened: Life

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Life happens in the most unusual places and the most inappropriate times. It could be in a grocery store, it might be while chaperoning your child’s school field trip, or picking up pet waste in your backyard. Life is funny that way. It doesn’t wait for you, it just happens.

Scenario One:

I decide to go fishing with my nine-year old grandson. How difficult is that? Bait a hook and cast the line off the shore line. BINGO, BANGO, BONGO something is tugging at my line. The pole bends beneath the weight of my catch and the bobber sinks into the water. The adrenaline pumps through my veins and I know I’ve got a live one.

And then life happens. I pull my line from the water only to discover I’ve caught an empty pop can that is entangled in a massive amount of lake weeds. My annoyance level grows when I realize the only wacky worm bait I own is at the bottom of the lake.

It’s in my power to make it a SH@# or SUGAR moment. What to do?

Scenario Two:

It’s Saturday morning.  With a shopping list in hand and three kids in tow, I am grocery store bound. It should be a flawless outing. But then life happens. Pulling the cart into the checkout lane I realize it’s not my cart. Oops! Thank you, grandson, for assuming the cart belonged to us because you saw Fruity Pebbles and strawberry pop tarts.

I can either make it a SH!# or SUGAR moment. What to do?

Yep! The odds of life going amiss are high.

When faced with life happen moments we are presented with two choices:  See the humor or get angry.

I’ve opted for the anger route more times than I care to admit and could author a book on How to Get Angry When Life Happens. Unfortunately, the last page of the book would be a repeat of the first page. Why? Because anger spawns a repeat cycle of past mistakes. Nothing is learned through anger and we end up in the same place we started.

When we allow humor to kick start a life happens moment the page turn reads differently.  Let’s backtrack to the first scenario and consider the options.

My fishing line is tangled and an aluminum can is the only catch of the day. The vile profanities perched on my tongue are but one breath away. My nine-year old grandson watches as I reel my catch onto the shore. He’s waiting to see how Neenee will react to this hot mess attached to her life happens fishing line.

“Run up to the house and bring back the biggest platter you can find,” I called out.

“Why,” he questioned.

“Stop with the questions and just go,” I said.

A few minutes later he returns with a cookie sheet. “That’s perfect buddy! Why don’t you pack up our fishing gear and head back to the house. Tell Poppy to set the table for dinner and I’ll be there shortly.”

I quickly cut the tangled fishing line from the pole and carefully arrange my catch of the day on the baking sheet and walk to the house.

“Wash your hands because dinner is almost ready.”  I walked into the kitchen and plopped the cookie sheet in the center of the table.

“No way, Neenee,” laughs my grandson. “We’re not eating that.”

“No buddy, we aren’t. The restaurant up the road is bringing us their fresh catch of the day. They felt bad that they caught all the fish in the lake today and the only thing left was aluminum cans.”

Yes, a funny thing happened: Life.

Oh how I wish I had understood in my youth that humor is the best Band-aid for so many day-to-day life happens moments.

Just for Today Prayer:

Jesus, life happens and not always as planned, but even then, those unplanned moments are purposely designed by you. It offers us an opportunity to grow in you in humorous ways we never thought possible.  Remind me that,

“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22 (ESV)