Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Peace

I have one area of concern tonight: peace. I have been lacking in the peace department of late.
Lots of factors come into play here; the possibility of drastically rising rates for my healthcare insurance, the government shut down and the domino effects it is having, and the uncertainty that seems to be prevailing in my life right now. In short; I have a bunch of questions with no answers.

The bottom line is this: I have let the thief that comes to kill, steal, and destroy do just that. I let him have my peace. I handed it to him in a nice, neat package tied up with a bow.

Why did I do that? It's simple, really. I started focusing on the things I was afraid of. This is exactly what Peter did, when he started walking on the water toward Jesus.

"Then Peter called to him, 'Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.'

'Yes, come,' Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. 'Save me, Lord!' he shouted.

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. 'You have so little faith,' Jesus said. 'Why did you doubt me?'" Matthew 14: 28-31 (NLT).

Jesus rescued Peter when he cried out to Him for help. He is doing the same for me. I just have to keep my eyes on Jesus, not my circumstances, or the BIG SCARY QUESTION MARKS IN MY LIFE.

I also have to remember Philippians 4:6,7: "Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." (NLT)

I'm just reminding myself tonight of something I had lost sight of.  Jesus is the answer.  Period.

"You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock." Isaiah 26:3,4 (NLT)


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Awkward!

"Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The old life is gone; a new life has begun!"  2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

I've been divorced for sixteen years, and I've had many challenges to overcome as a single person. One that plagues many singles is eating out. Do you notice many people eating alone?  It's just not a common occurrence. No doubt the reason is the awkwardness that goes along with it. It's often easier to just go through a drive-through and get something to go, or just eat at home. The problem with that, though, is the single person often ends up feeling like they can't eat some places because of this. So they are left with three choices: find someone to go with them, go alone, or just go home. There isn't always someone to go with, though, so option 1 is really not a good one.  Option 2 is usually awkward, and option 3 can leave the single person feeling like a reject from society if they have issues with rejection or self-esteem. 

So what to do?  In our society, mealtime can be as much a social event as it is for one of nourishment. But that's another blog post, so let's just set that part of it aside for now and deal with the actual practice of eating out alone.  

Fortunately for me, I finally overcame this hurdle about 3 or 4 years ago.  I don't remember the exact date, but at one point I had a revelation: most people don't even notice me when I am sitting there alone.  I've come to the conclusion that as a whole, people are too self-absorbed to get outside themselves to make eye contact or act like they notice. I used to fear that people would stare at me, like I'm part of a side-show at a carnival.  That sounds extreme, but I used to be painfully shy and extremely self-conscious. That's how I used to feel when I found myself in a situation where I had to dine out alone. Oh the freedom I felt when I realized I do not care what anyone thinks about me! I now march into everywhere from fast food places to nice restaurants, all alone, and I do not feel awkward anymore.

Occasionally, though, there is a situation that comes up that challenges that freedom I feel. Today was one of those. I had been craving the hibachi fried rice of a local Japanese restaurant for weeks. If you like Japanese cuisine, cooked right in front of you on a hibachi grill you know what I'm talking about. There's just no substitute for it. Today, as I drove away from church to go eat lunch, I realized, as I drove through town looking for inspiration, that this was really what I wanted. So I went there. They seated me at the end chair of an empty table and I sat there alone. Of course I knew they would wait until some more came in to serve me, so I settled in and prepared to wait until the table, which seats 10, was filled up. I've done this several times and it's always been fine.  

I hadn't been there long when they seated, in the remaining 9 chairs, a family celebrating a birthday for a teenage girl.  So there I was, the only stranger in a family birthday party!  Awkward. For the first time in 3 years, I felt a little self-conscious, being the introvert that I am. However, this was a nice place that I love to go to. It's a rare and expensive treat for me, so I got over it quickly and still managed to enjoy my meal in spite of it.  

I wanted to be upset with the restaurant for doing that to me and to them, but I knew I couldn't blame the restaurant. I wondered at God's sense of humor about this, and I figured it was a test. I came home after a wonderful meal, full of fried rice and chicken and a to-go box of the leftovers (tomorrow's lunch!), and prayed about it. I asked Him, are you asking me to blog about this?  Many times He prompts me to blog about things I have had problems with but have gained victory over. I had wanted to blog about eating out singly before, but it just never felt right.  Today, though, I finally came to the conclusion that this is what He was asking me to do. There must be readers out there who would benefit from knowing that others struggle with this issue, but it's ok to eat alone, even in an awkward situation. 

The funny thing is, I think the birthday family was more uncomfortable than I was, because I think they felt bad for me because I was eating alone...sorta. Ha!  It became amusing after a little while, and I actually felt bad for them...but not for me! I know who I am in Christ, and I am comfortable dining out with or without company.

So if you struggle with feeling like you're on display, or violating some kind of social custom when you dine out alone, take heart!  There is freedom in knowing that you have every right to enjoy a meal all by yourself in a restaurant.  Chances are, no one will even notice.    

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

I Love School

I love school. This is really good, since I work in a school, and have for the last 18 years.  I think it's the prospect of learning something new that intrigues me.  I definitely have the right job.  It's what I was created to do. I also love being a student, though.

I love the first day of a new college class, getting a syllabus and finding out what we will be doing for the next 16 weeks. I love the sight and smell of new books, the uncharted territory waiting to be explored. I love school supplies; new notebooks, all clean and unspoiled, ready to be filled with knowledge from the notes I take.  I love finding that new pen that writes really well, too. I love learning; there is so much out there to learn.

I love school!  

I went to the college bookstore this afternoon after work to buy my books. I had waited until last night's class to make the decision between buying Kindle books or real books. I opted for the real books, so there I was in the bookstore, clutching my books like a first-grader, and I realized I had a few minutes to kill. Those who really know me know that this is not a good combination; time to kill in a business dedicated to books and school supplies. I browsed for about 30 minutes, admiring all the shiny new gadgets, books, notebooks, pens, pencils, planners, and jump drives.  It was a paradise.

Then I pulled myself together and reminded myself that I already had new notebooks, pens, pencils, folders, and a jump drive that will still hold a bunch of homework. I headed to the counter and paid for my books. Let the semester begin. I'm ready.

I have been a college student for a long time. I started back in the 90s when my eldest was still in middle school. I took office administration courses, where I discovered that I not only loved school, I absolutely loved computers. For the next few years I took one or two classes at a time, ambling on toward an associate degree in office administration. Then, 2 things happened:  life got really busy, with 3 kids who had reached the magical ages that transform moms into taxi drivers, and my health took a downward spiral.  I had 2 major surgeries within 10 months. School was on hold.

Many years passed.  One by one, the children grew up and went off to college. I went through a divorce and some severe economic distress. College seemed to be an elusive dream that would never be reached.  It was still in the back of my mind, but I considered it an impossible goal. I was convinced that even though I was insistent that my children get their educations, I was too dumb to be able to finish college.

I went back when my youngest was in college when I became aware I qualified for a Pell grant.  I stayed with it until I almost had the associate and I got discouraged and quit again.  It wasn't until around early in 2006 that I decided to finish the associate degree.  However, the office administration degree was no more. I was about 12-15 hours away from it, and it didn't exist anymore.

A good friend encouraged me to go back anyway, so I went back, determined to finish what I had started. Working with a college advisor, I found that I was fairly near to completing an associate of general studies, which was the best I could do without totally starting over on a different degree. So I set off to do that.

In the spring of 2007, I was in my last 2 classes to complete the associate and scheduled to graduate.  I was really excited to be completing a goal that I had been working on --off and on-- for over 15 years. However, something happened to me during that semester:  I discovered I wanted a bachelor's degree.  I had innocently remarked to a friend that I was glad to be getting the associate, but if I had gone to college when I was young, I would have gotten an English degree, because that was my lifelong dream. At that moment, I knew I was settling.  I knew I had to go on and chase that dream until I caught it.

So here I am, 4 classes after this semester from a B.A. in English.  It hasn't been easy, but I have learned so much. I have prayed every step of the way, because without God I would not have had the courage nor the ability. Not only have broadened my horizons and learned a wealth of information about the English language and Rhetoric (my minor), I have made another interesting, surprising discovery:  I am not too dumb to graduate from college after all.  I have gained confidence in myself and my abilities. I have relished the experience of it all.  I have stayed with it since 2006 without stopping.

I am going to have that long-awaited B.A. in English. I am in the home stretch; the goal is in sight!

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13 NKJV  

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Progress

The last time I posted on here, I was struggling with perfectionism. I would love to tell you I have conquered it, but I have not. I believe I am making progress in overcoming it, but it's still hard for me to do things like sit down and watch a movie if the laundry isn't finished, or if I intended to vacuum and still haven't, or I had planned to work on the picture albums but haven't managed to. I have these goals; things I want to work on, and I am usually not happy if I fail to stay on course and check off items on my "list."

This is not to say that goals are bad. I believe in setting goals and striving to be better. It's when the "checkmark" on the "checklist" becomes an end unto itself instead of merely tracking progress toward a goal that checking things off a list becomes a negative thing. This is the behavior I am overcoming, one step at a time.

I currently have to take 6 more classes and I will be finished with my bachelor of arts. Only six classes! I've been a college student for a long time, and it's a goal I am definitely reaching! It has taken me a while because, as a single woman with a full-time job, I have only taken 2 classes a semester most of the time. Last semester was a rarity; I took 3....and survived.

So, progress has been made. I no longer think I'm a failure if I don't do everything on my list, for instance. I have learned to accept that it's ok if I don't get around to everything every day. Progress, whether a little or a lot, is good and a positive thing. As long as I'm making progress, I'm moving forward.

I had goals at the beginning of the summer, and I've made fair progress. I started painting the kitchen. I consistently had time with God every morning, even though some days it was 5 minutes. I have read the Bible almost every day. I have started the journey towards living a more "minimalist" lifestyle by going through my "stuff" and giving some of it away. These are all positive steps...progress.

I think it's ok if I haven't achieved everything on my list. After all, God hasn't finished working on me, so why should I think I have to have my goals all completed? I'm a work in progress, just like it says in Philippians:

"I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." Philippians 1:6 NLT

So I keep on keeping on. 

Progress.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Imperfect Situations

I went outside this evening before dark and sat on the back steps.  I have lived in my house for 3 1/2 years and I still don't have the deck I want back there.  I decided to go outside anyway, without a beautiful deck and deck furniture to sit on.  In hindsight, I should have sat in the lawn chair, because getting up off the steps was painful!  But, I digress...

Imperfect situations.  Isn't that what has been plaguing me for years?  Waiting until I have the "perfect circumstances?" Waiting for it to warm up, cool off, quit raining, stop being so....whatever?

It's time I pushed through the imperfection that life is and just live. It will be one step at a time, as the Spirit leads, but moving forward at least.

With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I've discovered that I've been trying to "set the stage" like my life was a play. Wanting the right chair, the perfect table, a window to sit by in the kitchen for my devotional time (but the only one is over the sink, so that's not happening). Not having a real, consistent quiet time with God except sporadically for years, all because the "props" weren't right.

Yes, I just admitted that. I am not proud of it, and I have suffered much because of it. We are mostly hurting ourselves when we neglect our prayer life, as I have discovered the hard way. That's a little nugget of truth I will just throw out there for free.

Last year when I went through a major battle, I suddenly found a way to meet with God, perfect circumstances or not. Actually, I just got still; HE came to me.  Right where I was, in my recliner, as I sat and cried and poured out my heart, He met me at the very point of my need. That was a very painful, but very special time for me.  Soon I found that I had to have that time with Him, whether it was an hour on Saturday morning or merely 10 minutes before I got ready for work. It didn't seem to matter how long I was there; the point was, I was there.  Through that painful but special time, He became my very existence.  I had to have time with Him like I had to have air, water, and food. In the long run, what I found I didn't need was the approval of others. With His guidance, I slayed a huge giant that I had never been able to get around before: having to be accepted, needed, and valuable to others. It's nice to be accepted, needed, valuable, even loved, and I still enjoy it when it happens, but I don't need it like I have all my life until now. My worth is in Jesus.

So what's the problem?  It seems that perfectionism is the next giant in my path that has to fall.  I have such a list of things I "need," like

__a deck so I could comfortably sit outside
__better chairs for the deck
__a porch swing or glider for sitting on the front porch if I should choose to.

The unchecked off list, or at least, part of it. So many things are not as I would like them to be.  Yet one day fades into the next and I still don't have these things.  And life goes on.

I was recently reminded of a time a few years ago when I was so motivated to do some simple little projects around the house, but money was tight and I couldn't  really go and buy the things I thought I needed.  I prayed, and God said to work with what I have. I looked around and found I already had the ingredients  for the project. When I got the thing done with what I already had, the means to have what I thought I needed was provided eventually.

So here is where I find myself again. I don't know who needs this, but I had to blog about this. Maybe someone needs it; maybe I just needed to be obedient and share it.

This is my prayer:

"God, show me how to work with what you have already provided.  Reveal to me what is right in front of me, and show me how to proceed. Help me to slay the giant of perfectionism that looms in my path, because no matter how I try to veer away from him and go another way, I turn a corner and there he is.

Thank you, Father.  In Jesus' name,

Amen."




Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Simple Things

Journal excerpt from this afternoon:

Apparently, I am only journaling in my Word document now.  I can’t recall even starting a handwritten one this year.  I have been so remiss in writing, but I am determined to do better, even if I only journal on the weekends.  Maybe it’s because I don’t write when life is clipping along pretty well, a bad habit I must break. 

I had an entire day yesterday to get a long list done, but I had no energy or motivation to do the things I knew I needed to do. In desperation, I finally went to God yesterday afternoon and asked Him to show me why I was seemingly unable to be as productive as I wanted to be.  It wasn’t because I felt bad physically; I am even over the sinus stuff I had a couple of weeks ago.  It wasn’t back pain, it wasn’t even emotional pain. Wow, no emotional distress; that's a big one for me. 

So what was it?  It was simply that I hadn’t done something I knew God had asked me to do.  It was a simple thing: turn off the TV sometimes and just have worship music on. It’s time to fill my house and my heart with praises to God.  I knew this, but sometimes the simple things we know to do, we still do not do.  I'm not saying it's wrong to have the TV on.  I'm saying that the Holy Spirit had been urging me for days to put some worship music on, and I just didn't do it.

There are plenty of distractions in today’s world. A lot of them aren't even bad, but they need to be in their place.  They don’t belong above God.  He deserves our praise and worship first; all the other things can be added in as there is time or inclination. I believe that this even includes asking Him for the strength to do the simple things we need to do. 

"Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need."  Matt. 6:33 NLT

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Small Town Girl Goes to DC, part 2


So...As I said in my last post--two months ago!-- I flew into Reagan Airport in Washington, D.C. on November 18, the Sunday before Thanksgiving.  Small town girl or not, I still managed to get from the airport to the train station in plenty of time. It was a wonderful time.  I got to spend time with Jeff and Alli, Mary (Alli's mom) and I saw Breaking Dawn 2 in an imax theater, and we saw lots of historic sights.  We saw the home of James Monroe on Monday and toured Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello (pronounced Mon-te-CHel-o, as our tour guide was quick to point out) on Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday, we headed to Washington, D.C. after a fantastic breakfast at one of Charlottesville's local restaurants. It's only 2 hours away from there, so we were there in no time.

We stayed in a row house apartment in the beautiful Old Town section of Alexandria, Virginia, which is just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. I loved Alexandria!  So beautiful, and so much history.  We cooked  and ate our Thanksgiving dinner, then took the subway into DC to see some sites.  We saw the Mall area, including the WWII memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial.  The reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial is break-taking at sunset, as you can see from the picture. We were going to see the Vietnam Memorial, but it got dark before we got a chance.  We did see some of the Korean Memorial before it got too dark to see--at little freaky in the dark until you realize that it consists of life size statues of soldiers. After this, we went to see Lincoln in the theater.  It was a very good movie.  And that concluded Thursday, Thanksgiving Day.  What a day!

Friday, we went to see Arlington National Cemetery and the changing of the guard, which is amazing.  That whole place is amazing. Wow.  After that, we hopped back on the subway (I loved the subway!) and went back to the Mall area of DC where we visited parts of the Smithsonian.  It would take a week to see it all, but Jeff and I went through one while Alli and Mary went through another.  The Smithsonian Museum of American History is such a cool place!  I wish I  could have seen some of the others, but there just was not enough time.

It was a wonderful adventure, this Thanksgiving trip to see my youngest son and his wife.  I will never forget it.  What a fantastic time we all had.  I came home thankful for my family, thankful for our wonderful nation and its rich history, and most of all thankful to God for all of it.  He not only created it all, He provided for me to go.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Small Town Girl Goes to DC

The weekend before Thanksgiving had finally arrived, and I finished up packing on Saturday, then headed for Little Rock for my early Sunday morning flight. I had never spent the night in a motel by myself before--I know, I'm sheltered!--but I did ok. I couldn't find anything good on TV, so I found a movie on Netflix and watched it. Before I knew it, morning was there and I was on my way to the airport. 

I was checked in and waiting on my flight to board in record time. On the way to my gate, I found a Starbucks! I knew then it would be a good day. I spent the hour I had to wait reading, so the time passed quickly. I flew to Memphis, where I discovered that my connecting flight was boarding as I got there. I don't really like to cut it that close, but I did manage to get there before my zone was called, so it worked out. Finally! I was on my way to Washington, D.C.! It was a good flight. I read some more of my book I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron. She was a really great writer with a flair for humor. It was the perfect choice for a book to read on the plane. (Thanks Norma, for loaning it to me!). Funny is always a good idea when flying. It helps keep my mind off the things I tend to worry about when at cruising altitude.

It seemed like it took no time at all before we were coming into the D.C. area. I have included a picture of what I saw out the window. I had just enough time to get this before we were instructed to turn off electronic devices. We landed, I headed toward baggage claim, and thankfully was united with my luggage. Next I found my way to the information counter, where a very kind and helpful man gave me a map to the city's excellent subway system. It's an intricate and very organized color coded (my OCD loved this!) network of trains and stops that get you anywhere you want to go in Washington, D.C.

I was so impressed! I discovered that I had to get on the yellow line, ride to Gallery Place, and switch to a subway on the red line, which would take me to Union Station, where I had to get on an Amtrak train to Charlottesville, VA. This was an amazing experience, and this small town girl had a blast! I managed to navigate the subways without a hitch, and was soon at Union Station. I had to wait over 2 hours for my train, but I spent the time finding the right gate, eating lunch, and just generally taking in the whole experience. 

My train came, I boarded it, and I was finally all settled in for the 2 hour train ride to Charlottesville. The sun was setting as we left DC, and it was beautiful! I got a picture as we crossed the Potomac River. 

I really enjoyed the train ride. It was a great experience. I had never ridden a train before, and even though I had my book and intended to read, I kept getting distracted with all the sights we were passing. I arrived in Charlottesville about 7:30, and Jeff, Alli, and Alli's mom, Mary, were there to meet my train. 

More to follow in the next post as I tell about my fabulous trip to Virginia and Washington, D.C. on Thanksgiving break 2012. 

(to be continued...)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Resolutions and Writing

One of my resolutions for 2013 is to be more consistent in with my blogging.  I have tended to wait until I had something really good that I felt God had shown me, something that could be an encouragement to others and even myself when I needed it later.  I have written in a journal all my life.  I have always enjoyed writing everything down. There's something therapeutic for me about documenting events in my life, and it became more about my spiritual journey after I became a Christian in 1994.  

This year, though, I am taking Heartfelt in a different direction.  It will still be for journaling about the ups and downs of life in this journey God has taken me on since I gave my life to him 18 years ago. However, if I am to write more often, perhaps weekly, I might have to diversify. It's not that I'm writing for the sake of writing. It's more about disciplining myself.  Writing is just the way I am exercising that discipline.

So, the first of these posts will follow this one in a day or two.  In November of 2012, I traveled to Virginia to see my son and daughter-in-law, and we went to Washington D.C. to see some sights.  I had never been to the D.C. area.  It was quite the adventure, and I really am looking forward to writing about it.  There will even be pictures. 

See you soon!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Forecast for the New Year

"Day by day the Lord takes care of the innocent, and they will receive an inheritance that lasts forever. They will not be disgraced in hard times; even in famine they will have more than enough." Psalm 37:18-19 NLT.

I sat up to see the new year of 2013 in, as I usually do.  As I sat here, a few minutes before midnight, I was praying and asking the Lord for protection and provision in the coming year. Times are uncertain, even scary these days.  None of us can be absolutely sure how the nation's economic situation will affect us personally.  As I was thinking about this, the Lord led me to Psalm 37.  It is jam-packed with promises for God's own; those who have put their trust in Him.  Most Christians are aware of the opening verses, that promise we need not "fret because of evildoers," but dig a little deeper and you will find many more promises.

"Trust in the Lord and do good.  Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.  Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart's desires" it says in verses 3 and 4.  "The wicked will be destroyed, but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land." (verse 9). "The Lord directs the steps of the godly.  He delights in every detail of their lives.  Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand." (verses 23-24).

Those are pretty good promises if you ask me.  If we really believe God and take Him at His word, we have no reason to fear.  There are promises all throughout His word that proclaim that He is our provider, protector, and Savior.  He will take care of those who put their faith and trust in Him. 

I'm looking forward to seeing what God will do in this new year.  People all around are worrying and wringing their hands, proclaiming doom and despair.  They might say I just don't understand how big a mess our economy is in.  My answer to them is, they don't understand how big my God is.

"The Lord rescues the godly; He is their fortress in times of trouble.  The Lord helps them,  rescuing them from the wicked. He saves them, and they find shelter in Him." Psalm 37:39-40. NLT.