Advent ~ Celebrate and Anticipate the Coming of Christ

Will you find a way to celebrate advent this year?

Will you find a way to celebrate advent this year?

Advent.  The holiday season is right around the corner ~ and all the busyness that comes with it. In all the hustle and bustle, it’s easy to forget what it is we are supposed to be celebrating! For Christians, it is a time of celebrating the birth of the Messiah, Jesus, the Christ, and also anticipating His return.

The word advent comes to us from the Latin word “adventus” which means “coming”. In the 6th century, St. Gregory the Great was the first to associate this season of Advent with the coming of Christ ~ but originally it was not the coming of the Christ-child that was anticipated, but rather, the second coming of Christ. Many Christians celebrate Advent not only by thanking God for Christ’s first coming to Earth as a baby but also for His presence among us today through the Holy Spirit, and they celebrate in preparation and anticipation of his second coming. This year I am going to find a way to celebrate advent, to carve out a little time in my hectic schedule to focus on Immanuel, God with us, and remember that He’s coming back.  Would you consider finding a way, no matter how small, to celebrate the season of advent? The real purpose of advent is to remind us that Jesus really is the reason for the season! Below are some links to additional resources and ideas on how you and your family can participate in the season of advent.

Christianity Today Article on the History of Advent

How Will You Observe Advent? Blog Entry on BibleGateway

Focus on the Family Celebrate Advent

Lifeway Advent Resource – See the first link for a PDF Advent Worship Guide

Advent Conspiracy ~ A Movement to Focus on the True Meaning of Christmas and Less on Consumerism ~ Encourages Christians to Be a Blessing

Advent Devotional From Fresno Pacific University Biblical Seminary

Advent Devotional Guide: Preparing for the Coming of Christ

Free Billy Graham Advent Devotional Download

Advent 2013 Family Devotional Guide

Sign Up for Free Celebrating Advent E-Chart from Rose Publishing

Gospels from the Pocket Testament League – Equip Yourself to Share

Saddleback Advent App

I know you will be blessed if you find some small way to consistently spend some time preparing your hearts and minds for the advent of our Lord, our Savior, our Redeemer, our Christ ~ Jesus.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:60

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Changing Seasons

Is God's light shining in your life?

Is God’s light shining in your life?

Trees. It’s fall in Indiana and the trees are beautiful. Ever since we arrived from Southern California a week ago, we have been admiring the amazing array of colors that adorn the trees here.

“Wow! Look at how red that one is!”
“That one is a mix of gold and orange!”
“Look at that grove – it’s magnificent!”

Where we come from in Southern California we don’t have near the display of fall colors, nor the number of trees, that they have here in Northern Indiana, so we have been busy taking pictures to capture the beauty.

This morning I was captivated by one very tall, robust tree that sits in full view outside the sliding glass door where I am drinking my coffee. The sun is rising from behind the tree, extremely bright and powerful. The only thing between me and the power of the sun is the tree – it’s leaves acting as a filigree barrier. The sun, in all its glory, filters through the barrier creating long beams of light that shine on the frost covered grass. It’s beautiful. Pictures can’t capture the moment – I wish you were here to see it yourself.

I was mesmerized by the scene in front of me. Maybe my fascination is peaked because I am re-reading the letters of Brother Lawrence, a Carmelite monk who lived in the 17th century. Brother Lawrence shares his conversion story that came about as the result of a tree. A barren, leafless tree of winter that would soon be renewed with new life and fruit revealed to Brother Lawrence the providence and power of God. Yes, it’s true, God uses His creation to speak to us in many ways. This morning, my view of the tree spoke to me in a different way.

I wondered about the barrier of the leaves. Their thickness all but blocking out the brightness and power of the sun, and how incredible those beams of light were that were able to break through the barrier. I saw myself in the tree. My arms, long branches, laden with leaves, the cares and worries of this world. Branches, too many to count, covered with leaves of sin – hurtful words, unkind thoughts, overlooked needs – all weighing me down. I saw myself blocking out the light of the sun. It hurt my spirit to think of myself this way and I wanted to shake off those leaves that covered my life.

I thanked God, knowing that a new season was coming. As I give my life to Christ, He is faithful to take me through the seasons of life that will allow the kind of transformation that will strip my leaves and allow the light of the sun to shine through…if I let Him. Or, I can cling tightly to the leaves of this world, leaves that get heavy and numerous and needy and so full that barely a beam of light can break through. There is nothing wrong with a tree in the season of spring, but if left in that state we would never see the beauty that comes from the transforming hands of God. The vast array of colors, the depth and richness that comes from the next season of life. And if we stopped in this state of beauty, never shedding the colorful leaves, as beautiful as they are, then we would never reach that naked and vulnerable state that allows the fullness of the light of the sun to shine through. It is in this state, with fallen leaves, free of the sin and burdens of the world, that the glory of the sun can be revealed.  And I really want the light and glory of the Son to shine through my life.

Brother Lawrence saw in the barren tree a season to follow, a season transformed by the hands of God to bear beauty and fruit. I looked at the tree, full of beauty and fruit, and saw a season to follow and a tree transformed by the hands of God to break the barriers of this world and reveal perfect beams of light. Praise God for revealing so much to each of us through the beauty of His trees.

Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:15-17
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Faith Training

Flexed your faith muscles lately?

Flexed your faith muscles lately?

Training. I am not a fan of lifting weights. Actually, to say I am not a fan implies indifference when in reality, I dislike lifting weights. I think it’s boring, hard and I never “feel the pump”. I am more of a cardio girl when it comes to exercise. But my husband? He has been a long time weightlifter with the biceps to back it up. He loves it.

“I had to put another plate on the leg press machine,” he will beam.

“Awesome!”

“I almost broke the squat rack!” he will exclaim.

“Fabulous!”

“I pressed five hundred trillion pounds!” Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but you get the idea. He loves to push himself because he knows (and I know because he has told me many times) that this is the only way for your muscles to grow. High reps won’t do it. Staying with the same weight won’t do it. I guess muscles get lazy, complacent and they don’t want to exert themselves unless you put the pressure on by adding more weight.

While I wouldn’t consider myself a weightlifter, I do understand about pushing yourself and your muscles. This past year I participated in a half marathon, even though I am not in the best shape and I am certainly not a runner. I wanted to push myself and grow in my own level of fitness. It was fun but also very hard and a little painful. But I know how it goes ~ no pain, no gain.

Recently our business has been going through some growing pains. The buyers have been scarce while the bills never go away. We began to feel the pressure, the stress, the added weight of uncertainty. We wondered why? Why the seeming void of income producing activity? What are we doing wrong? We consider ourselves people of faith, but we wondered if God had forgotten us.

And then it was time for a pep talk. In the words of Hans and Frans from Saturday Night Live, God was there to pump us up! In reading His words in the Bible, I was reminded that life is full of trials and tests that add weight and pressure in the gym of life. Just like our muscles, our faith would become complacent if we didn’t face challenges. It is precisely because God loves us and has His eyes on us always that He allows periods of uncertainty and stress. He wants us close, He wants us to depend on Him, every day for every little thing. He wants our faith to grow strong, and without trials and tests our faith wouldn’t have a chance to grow. No pain, no gain.

With a renewed faith, we faced our business challenges and God was faithful to see us through, as He always is ~ which is a good thing because we are told that we will face trials of many kinds. Are you feeling the weight of uncertainty over a situation in your life? Got some muscles that have gotten flabby from being too comfortable? Is God wanting you to grow? If so, let’s get the weights out, put another plate on the machine, and flex those faith muscles! You couldn’t ask for a better trainer.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  1Peter 1:6-7

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Do You Suffer From UTRS?

Thankfully children don't suffer from UTRS!

Thankfully children don’t suffer from UTRS!

Relax. “So, what do you think about doing a garage sale on the 24th?” I asked my husband. Every other Saturday box on my monthly calendar had some kind of chicken scratch in it.  But there was one empty box screaming to be filled in; like a Sudoku puzzle where leaving a box empty means failure.

“Sure, sounds good,” he said. So it was decided and now it was shaping up to be a busy month.  I started wondering when we would fit in a day off ~ a real day off.  I tried to remember the last time I had a completely empty box on my calendar ~ not a day off for scrubbing, or socializing, or serving, or sorting, or any work.  Just a real day of rest and relaxation without obligation. It had been a while.

Our lives are busy, aren’t they? For me, I equate busy-ness and getting things done with value and significance. Two weekends ago our country celebrated Labor Day, a day characterized by vacation get-aways and time away from work. We decided to stay home this year which makes resting and relaxing even harder for me. There is always so much to do at home, especially when you work for yourself. Work follows you everywhere.

The weekend was a mix of work and relaxing, but by Monday afternoon I was beginning to feel…well, a little worthless. First, I slept in. Late. Morning. Gone. Then I got pulled into a British sitcom marathon my husband and son were watching. The only thing I was getting done during that time was some serious belly laughs. I tried to sort through some stacks of paper. I tried to get some writing done. But try as I might, I just couldn’t seem to get anything really done. Desperation set in. Anxiety levels began to rise. I realized that I was suffering from UTRS – Unable To Relax Syndrome. My whole psychological well-being was at risk! There was only one thing to do. Make a list.

Yes, a list was sure to restore my sense of well-being and self-worth. I would make a list of all the things I had done, no matter how trivial, and then I would cross them off. That is the best medicine for this type of sickness ~ and it is a sickness. It didn’t make me feel 100% better, but my uneasiness at not getting anything meaningful accomplished was minimized.

Do you ever suffer from UTRS like me? Do you ever struggle with just taking a day to rest and relax? God has a name for this kind of rest from work ~ He calls it a Sabbath. A day of rest, a day to worship Him, to reset your mind and your perspective, to fill your basket. And God is so gracious that He gives us the freedom to choose what day we take a Sabbath. I think it’s interesting that I would be appalled at myself if I knowingly broke one of the “big 10” (you know, the commandments) and yet, I realize that I do that every time I don’t take a Sabbath (oh, and on those rare occasions when I covet…but I will save that for another post).

It’s time for a change. It won’t be easy; I’m not sure how I will do leaving my to-do list behind for a day. I am sure the healing process will be hard, but God is the great physician and an expert in the hardest of UTRS cases, so I know I will be in good hands. And I suppose now would be a good time to read the book we got from our daughter ~ Margin by Dr. Richard Swenson. Think she was trying to tell us something?  Ohhh, now that I think about it, I should put that on my to-do list! To Do: Read Margin There, I feel better already!  (Don’t judge me ~ it’s a process!)

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lordblessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Exodus 20:8-10
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Do You Take Cuts in Line?

Ever want to cut in line ahead of God?

Ever want to cut in line ahead of God?

Patience.  I love waiting in lines. Really l-o-n-g ones, like the kind at Disneyland ~ the more times the line wraps around a corner, the better.  And I really, REALLY love it when the person in line in front of me at the grocery store s-l-o-w-l-y pulls out her checkbook and starts writing a check. That’s my favorite…NOT! (And for those of you not familiar with checks, they are small rectangular pieces of paper that are actually bank notes that allow you to draw money against your checking account.)

Patience…it eludes me sometimes.  Actually, lots of times. And if I get impatient with the insignificant things in life, what about the important stuff?
Like waiting for test results from the doctor.
Or waiting for a prodigal to come home.
Or waiting to find out if I got the job.

Sure, it’s a cliché, but like many clichés, it’s still true ~ patience is a virtue. You won’t find those exact words in the Bible, but you can’t miss the fact that a patient attitude is a reflection of God’s spirit in us. The apostle Paul tells us in the book of Galatians that it is one of the fruits we will bear if the spirit of God is leading our lives.

So what is patience exactly? Besides waiting, which is something we do ~ what is patience, which is actually a state of being? First, I can tell you what patience is not:
It isn’t worry.
It isn’t frustration.
It isn’t complaining.
And it isn’t taking cuts in line.

Patience is trust. It is trusting in God’s timing as we wait in peace. No wonder they say that having it is a virtue! I was struggling with having a patient attitude this past week.
I am waiting to hear back regarding a speaking opportunity that would be so exciting to have.
I am waiting for people to buy the many things we have listed for sale as part of our business.
I am waiting to hear how my mother-in-law is recovering from a recent fall.

Waiting. And in the midst of waiting, I find myself fretting and trying to make things happen on my own. I’m about to take cuts in line…and then a few words from the gospel of John jumped out at me this morning.

Jesus’s words, “My hour has not yet come.” It was a simple request. His mother wanted Jesus to turn water into wine. But first he tells her, it wasn’t time for him to do a miracle. He went ahead and honored her request, and I do wonder why, if it wasn’t time. But he is God, after all, and often his ways are beyond our understanding. Really, though, it was probably because it was his Mom that was asking!

The point is, and it is shown in other parts of scripture, that even Jesus, in His human form, subjected himself to the perfect timing of God’s plan.
He didn’t allow the people to make him a king on earth.
He didn’t forgo the suffering of the cross.
Being God he could have cut in line and skipped all that; but he didn’t.
And he doesn’t judge us without first giving us a chance to accept his sacrifice of love on our behalf. Instead, he patiently waits.

I can’t say I won’t be annoyed the next time the person pumping gas in front of me at Costco can’t figure out how to make the pump work while I wait for my turn…hey, I’m human. But I can say that patience is a virtue worthy of practice because God and his timing are worthy of our trust.

Do you ever want to cut in line ahead of God?
In what ways do you struggle in trusting in God’s timing?

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12

Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.  2 Peter 3:15

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Every Step is a Small Beginning

Each step a small beginning...

Each step a small beginning…

Steps. There was a familiar looking box on the front step. Is that what I think it is? A quick look at the label confirmed my suspicions ~ Simon and Schuster! Yes! My books arrived! Well, not my books exactly, Chicken Soup for the Soul books, but they did include one of my stories. This was my sixth story to be published in a Chicken Soup for the Soul anthology and the excitement of getting my books hasn’t diminished at all since the first box made its way to my doorstep.

“It’s a good start,” I said when I handed my mother-in-law a copy of “my” book.

“Good start? What does that mean?” she said.

“Well, I mean, this is great,” I nodded towards the book, “and I appreciate it, but I want to do more.”

“Why? Like what?”

“I don’t know. Something longer,” I said, almost apologetically. “Maybe a novel, someday.  And I’ve been working on a memoir about my season of marital separation.” That got us off the topic of my writing and onto a new topic that could be a post of its own.

Since I was a little girl I’ve wanted to tell people stories, bring them on a journey through the neural pathways of my imagination. For years, I succumbed to fear, distractions, and who knows what other undiagnosed neurosis that kept me from doing what I have always felt called to do ~ to inspire and entertain through my writing. But I finally took the first step, my own small beginnings, with short personal essays. And now it feels like it is time to take the next step.

I’ll never stop writing my stories and submitting them to the Chicken Soup for the Soul publishers. I am pretty sure I will continue to squeal like a schoolgirl when the books come and I cash my check. I love sharing stories from my life that might encourage or inspire someone else. And I really love that, through Chicken Soup, I have the opportunity to expand my audience. I consider it a tremendous blessing and I am grateful…but… I can’t deny that lately I have felt restless, ready for more.

Still, I know in my heart that God’s blessings are in these small steps, these small beginnings. He is in the process, He is building me, and He wants me to appreciate every step.  I am reminded of His words to the prophet Zechariah about the rebuilding of His temple and I say to myself, Oh, Lord, I won’t despise my small beginnings, and I hope You, Lord, will rejoice to see the pen in my hand.

Do you ever make light of small beginnings?

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand. Zechariah 4:10

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People Are Fragile…Can You Be Trusted to Handle With Care?

People are fragile..can you be trusted to handle with care?

People are fragile..can you be trusted to handle with care?

Kindness. I must have been four or five years old when it happened. It happens to most kids at one time or another. I stepped on a piece of glass. I remember crying, probably more like screaming, when my father attempted to get it out of my foot.

“No, no, Dad! Don’t touch it!” I remember screaming.

“Lynne, sit still! I have to get it out!” my frustrated father replied.

No! Not! You! I want Nana to do it!” At some point he must have resigned himself to the fact that if the glass were coming out of my foot, his mother was going to have to be the one to remove it, because my next memory was my Nana working on removing that piece of glass.

So you may be wondering what special skills my grandmother had – was she a surgeon? No. General practioner, then? No. Okay, how about a nurse? No. Any kind of first aid training at all that would make her qualified to remove offending glass from tiny, delicate foot? Not particularly.

But my Nana was trustworthy and kind. I knew that if it did hurt, then there was no other way to get it done. And she did get it done. I am pretty sure I cried, and she consoled, and it was all better regardless of whether it hurt because it was Nana.

I was reminded of my grandmother’s kindness as I worked on a talk I will be giving for a mother/daughter luncheon. If there were unkindness in her, it just didn’t show.  At least that’s how it was in all the years I knew her. My father, well, he says my grandmother isn’t the same woman who raised him and he has muttered things about brooms and beatings – but if there is any truth at all to that, I would guess then he probably really, really deserved it.

I never saw her be unkind to anyone – even when people hurt her or the ones she loved. And more amazing, I never heard her say anything unkind to or about anyone.  Oh, how I wish I could say that about myself! How I wish there were a kindness gene that got passed down, woven into my DNA, that would make me inherently kind; but, sadly for me, most times I have to work at being kind.

I wish my Nana were still alive, now that I have lived enough years to fully appreciate the depth and impact of her example, because I would love to ask her how she did it. When my grandmother died, she didn’t have a lot of stuff to leave her grandkids. No big bank accounts, or precious heirlooms. No fancy degrees or list of accomplishments. In fact, if I were to write her obituary today, I think I would say something like this:

Nana Rose is survived by many who loved her and she will be dearly missed. She was a loving woman, a great cook and she could be trusted to be kind.

I want to be trusted to be kind, don’t you? Now that’s a legacy.

A kindhearted woman gains honor, but ruthless men gain only wealth. Proverbs 11:16

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Where Does Your Hope Come From?

Your Love is Sweeter than LifeHope. I sat at the table next to my son, turned on my laptop and scanned my inbox. An urgent prayer request from Pastor Rick. I opened the email. Each word I read seemed to suck another breath from my lungs. It was tragic news. Our pastor’s son had taken his own life. My chest tightened as I imagined Pastor Rick and Kay, hearts broken to the core, trying to process the loss of their child. It was more than my imagination could take and I closed my eyes tight.

When you listen to a pastor, week after week, for over ten years, you begin to feel like you know him personally; though, the closest I’ve physically gotten to Rick was the one time he strolled through the church, patted my shoulder and warmly greeted me. And Kay I have only seen while she spoke from the stage. But to see them, to hear them speak, to read their books, well, you know these are two souls with tender hearts. Mom and Dad hearts. Human hearts. Crushed hearts.

You could be the pastor of one of the biggest churches in America, have faith that can move a mountain, and trust in the Lord with all your heart, but let’s be real, this has to hurt like hell. Maybe I’m not supposed to say that as a Christian, but the reality is, Christ followers are far from being immune to pain here on earth and hell hurts.

“What do people do who don’t know the Lord?” I asked, as much to myself as to my son sitting next to me. We both just looked at each other, still in shock and sadness. But my question has resonated with me since.

There is tragedy in the world every second of every day. You only have to log onto the world wide web to know that the tears shed from broken hearts creates a perpetual wave of sorrow. So when tragedy strikes, where does our hope come from?

Some people find hope and comfort in other people; but we are a very unpredictable species. Sometimes we can be loving and kind, comforting to those who hurt, and sometimes we can be preoccupied and busy at best, even cruel and callous at worst. Some people find hope and comfort in achievement and experiences, a means of distraction from the pain; but how long can you keep a body in motion? Every body needs some down time, and then what do you do? Some people find hope and comfort in things, in the process of acquiring things; but things get old, they break, they rust, they tarnish. Some people find comfort, though maybe not hope, in alcohol and drugs; but I know first-hand the consequences for this kind of grief therapy is unhealthy and the cost is too high.

It’s a broken world and a broken world can’t offer the kind of hope and comfort a grieving soul needs. Our Creator, God, knows this. And He knows the pain and grief associated with losing a precious son. His heart breaks with every heart that breaks, and He sees each tear that falls. He longs for us to call out to Him so He can wrap His heavenly arms around us.

And He knows how much hell hurts ~ and it is His greatest desire to keep us out of it. In fact, it is His fervent desire to have each one of His precious creation with Him in heaven one day. Heaven ~ paradise, a place free from pain and suffering, free from inhumanity and tragedy and most importantly, a place filled with the glory of God. Filled with His glory because that’s where He is ~ waiting to welcome His children, like Matthew, with loving arms. This, my friends, is where my hope comes from ~ a loving God, a redeemer, a place in heaven. And I know from years of listening to Pastor Rick that this is where he and his family have their hope . I also know their hope would be for you to know Jesus the way they do ~ if you don’t, would you consider getting to know Him now?

“But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.” Psalm 39:7
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Does This Turtle Have Something To Worry About?

What's your perspective? Is he hanging by a thread?

What’s your perspective? Is he hanging by a thread?

Perspective. I love this picture from my recent trip to the central coast of California. It’s sort of an optical illusion, isn’t it? I mean, is the turtle really on a limb, in a grove of trees, perilously hanging who knows how far above the ground below?

There are times in my life when I feel like I am the one perilously hanging on a limb high above the ground without a safety net ~ feet dangling, nails gripping, ready to crash any moment. Recently I received a notice from our friendly taxing authority nicely requesting a tax return. Their request, nice as it was, included a deadline. I did all I could to meet the deadline, but I couldn’t reach our tax preparer to see if she had completed the return. I phoned. I faxed. I used snail mail. I emailed. Silence. The deadline date was quickly approaching and my grip on the limb was getting weak.

In addition to a tax deadline, we had plane tickets to go visit family and so it became even more important to get the return taken care of. I was losing sleep, worried about what would happen if we didn’t get the return filed ~ certainly there would be penalties. Would they also garnish our bank accounts? I spent a lot of time thinking about the problem, wondering if everything was okay with our tax preparer. What would we do if she were unable to prepare the return? Who could we trust to do it for us?

Finally the day had come ~ the next morning we would be flying out of town for over ten days, well past the deadline for our return to be filed and we still hadn’t heard a word from our tax preparer. I felt certain that the chance of getting another extension from the state was slim, but I didn’t have any choice but to try. With a knot in my stomach, I made the call.

Your call will be answered In approximately 17 minutes. If you would like to have a representative call you back, please leave your name and telephone number, the recorded message stated.

No, I thought, I better just wait and talk to a human being, no matter how long it takes.

Within a couple of minutes a pleasant sounding man answered the phone.

“Let’s see what we can do here,” he was so upbeat. I was so nervous. I rambled on about how I hadn’t heard from our preparer, how we were heading out of town to visit my mother-in-law who was celebrating her 86th birthday, how worried I was about getting this straightened out.

“Well,” he said, “no need to worry. Here, how about we give you a two month extension. That should give you enough time to get it in, don’t you think?” I was speechless! Two months was a gift of time I never expected!

“Now go on your trip and don’t worry.” I just couldn’t believe my ears. Then I decided to try calling our tax preparer one more time. Two rings and she answered the phone! Within an hour she emailed over a copy of our return for us to review on our trip.

Because of my limited view of the world, my perspective on the situation was narrow, negative and not right. I worried and wasted mental time and energy for nothing. It didn’t feel like nothing, it felt like I was barely hanging on a limb that hung high over the ground ready to crash any moment. But in reality, my limb was buoyed on water, gently being held afloat by the One who promises to meet my needs. You see, God’s perspective isn’t mine. When I have done all that I can do in a situation, and my perspective is limited, I need to trust the One who sees it all. Oh, and the turtle? He, too, was resting on a limb that was buoyed by water, but unlike me, he knew he was safe and so he didn’t have a care in the world.

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Luke 12:25-26
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Fearful Thoughts Are A Train Wreck

Walking Through the Fear

Walking Through the Fear ~ A View From the Top

Thoughts. When I looked at the beauty all around me, I shook my head and sighed, thinking about how I might not have made it here to enjoy this part of God’s creation. I hiked up this hill located in a nearby state reserve and looked around in awe, grateful that God had found a way for me to be here. It wasn’t illness or a broken car that almost kept me from coming to the beautiful central coast of California ~ it was, and is, the fearful thoughts that seek to sabotage what God has planned for me.

You see, last week I was out of town, in the Midwest visiting family. It was a long week, and if truth be told, a bit of a stressful week. We arrived home on Sunday and my nerves were shot, my emotional basket drained but I didn’t have time to pause. Instead of unpacking, I began repacking to make the trip to Central California where I was scheduled to speak at three separate luncheons. The week in the San Luis Obispo area had been planned many months before, and when I think about it, was an answer to prayer from God for some quiet time to write and reflect. I was provided a lovely place to stay during the week, a refuge complete with a beautiful garden.

When my father heard that I was heading up here and had a place to stay, he decided to join me for the first few days of my trip. What a wonderful opportunity to spend some time with my Dad! And an added bonus was that I would only need to take the train to his house and he would drive the balance of the three hour trip. I would only need to take the train to his house…

That was the fearful thought that almost ruined it. If you can keep a secret, I will tell you something about myself. Sometimes I suffer from anxiety. Many years ago it was relentless and I was plagued with panic attacks. It hasn’t been that bad in a very long time, but there are times when I still struggle; especially when I am tired and emotionally drained and need to go outside my comfort zone. Like Sunday night.

At 1:30am I woke up. I can’t take the train, I thought. What if I have a panic attack on the train? What about transferring at Union Station? What if it happens there? What if? What if? What if? Until the alarm went off at 6am and it was time to continue packing so I could catch the train in a few hours; a train that my fearful thoughts had convinced me I couldn’t ride.

I ended up not taking the train and I am a little disappointed in myself for not, this time, pushing through the fear. Instead, my sweet husband made arrangements for a friend to drive me to my Dad’s. I’m not proud of this. I wish my story had a really great, dramatic paragraph about how I boarded that train with my luggage in tow and even shared my story of triumph with some other poor soul while we clackety-clack made our way to our destinations. But even so, God is so good and so gracious that He made a way for me to be here, in spite of my fearful thoughts.

I know I made it here on the prayers of friends and family. Their prayers brought me the peace and presence of mind to share my story with a sweet group of ladies at my speaking engagement yesterday; and their prayers will continue to carry me through the rest of the week.

I am feeling more rested, my time here with the Lord is refilling my basket. And that is why this morning I decided to walk up the street and hike up that mountain, in spite of fearful thoughts ~ mountain lions, the boogey man, my own anxiety. It was glorious! When a fearful thought emerged, I replaced it with a thought about the Lord. This thought thing is a process. It will take time and practice ~ and come Saturday I will have an opportunity to put the practice into play since I will be taking the train home. I am already imagining the dramatic and victorious paragraph I will write!

“Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them;  for the Lord your God is He who goes with you…” Deuteronomy 20:3-4 NKJ
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