Life Changing Choices

Last Sunday, my daughter, sent me a text asking me to read her blog. It’s a requirement for her English class. A rather brilliant teacher, has required her students to spend an hour each week outdoors and then blog about it.

Last week’s prompt was a little different, “Share with your readers one of your favorite memories that took place outdoors in your life. It may be an everyday moment, or it might be one of the most transformational events in your life. Take us there and tap into our senses with vivid details. Additionally, I would like for you to make a connection between this memory and your current life/self.”

When I read it, I got goosebumps. I had just written on my own blog about the angels and prayer warriors God has put in her path and she felt lead to write about some of them herself.

God is always at work in our lives. Often, we can’t see it at all. But, when we do get to see it, it’s truly amazing. I’ve included a link to her blog. I hope you enjoy it.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂
You will need to copy and paste the link! Sorry!

https://carolinegainesnatureblog.wordpress.com/author/carolinegainesnatureblog/

Categories: Building Christian Character, Community, Watching for God | 8 Comments

The Blessings in the Struggles

No one wants to struggle, but it’s during the struggles that we see so many blessings.

Last Friday night, my daughter, who is a freshman in college, sent me a text. It was a forward of an email she had received from her college. It announced that she had made the Dean’s List for her first semester. I don’t know when I have been so proud her.

Both of my children have had the misfortune of being of school age during the time of constant standardized testing. A well meaning group of legislators in the Federal Government, sometime in the late 1990’s decided that the best way to see if schools and teachers were doing their jobs, was to regularly test the students and let’s face it, standardized tests are easy to grade and track.

Unfortunately, neither of my kids have the gift for taking those types of tests, so school was a constant stress and struggle.

But, they are hard workers and both have had some awesome teachers along the way, that totally saw their potential and their work ethic, along with the flaws in the system. These teachers encouraged them and cheered them on along the way. They believed in them.

I don’t know if my daughter ever really believed me when I reassured her regularly, that once she got to college, nobody cared about standardized tests, that it was really about being a good writer, a good communicator and a hard worker.

So, when she sent me the text that she made the Dean’s List, I couldn’t wait to post it to Facebook and when those teachers, including one who taught her to play guitar, who always cheered her on, were the first people to comment with even more encouragement, tears of gratitude streamed down my face.

Her first semester was very stressful and when some of the prayer warriors that I had asked to pray for her, commented their congratulations, I had to grab a tissue.

We always want what’s best for our kids and it’s never easy to see them struggle. We tend to pray for smooth paths for ourselves and for those we love. We often wonder why other people seem to have to have such an easy time with everything they do, from standardized tests, to health issues, to relationship issues, to financial issues.

Yet, when we struggle, we get to see all of the angels that God sends our way. We get to see Him working and intervening. And when we look back, we can see that He rained down blessings all along the way, even if we couldn’t see it at the time.

The struggles build our faith. The struggles build our children’s faith. The struggles allow others to bless us and in the end, we are so much stronger for it.

Some Facebook comments reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

Categories: Building Christian Character, Choosing to See the Bright Side, Watching for God | 4 Comments

But God

The minute the rain stopped, the birds began to sing. They were unconcerned about the forecast.

As I checked the weather forecast for the weekend, I let out a tired sigh. There was a hundred percent chance of rain both Saturday and Sunday. We have been in a little pattern lately and have had rain for the past two Sundays in a row. When I say rain, I mean all day rain that doesn’t let up, the kind of rain that Forrest Gump talked about, sideways rain, pouring rain; you get the picture.

So, when I saw the forecast for two full days of it, I’ll have to admit, I was discouraged. It was my last couple of days dog sitting for my parents, so that meant I would be out walking them in it.

When I woke up Saturday morning, the skies were gray as expected, I trudged downstairs to let the little fur babies out. But, to my surprise, it was not raining. It was gray, foggy and wet, but there was no rain.

It was a happy surprise and as I walked them through the wet leaves, I noticed all of the birds singing. There were squirrels running around too. The animals were out doing their thing. They apparently, hadn’t seen the weather report. The air felt clean from all of the rain and the temperature was much warmer than it has been.

In fact, my little walk with the pups, encouraged me to put on my tennis shoes and go for a cardio walk. I marveled that the birds of all shapes and sizes serenaded me the entire time. Not a drop of rain fell on me and I gave a prayer of thanks that I had the courage to venture out.

If I had believed the forecast I would have stayed indoors. If I would have gone by my experiences from the past two weekends before, I would have stayed indoors. The only reason I would have even dreamed of going out in the weather, was because I was forced to.

A little voice in my head reminded me that, that is often the case. We often miss out on all kinds of opportunities because of fear, because we believe others when they tell us we can’t, because we judge our future plans by our past, because we believe the rain will never stop or we sit indoors in fear, idly waiting for the perfect weather.

But, God… when God calls us to do something; our past or what others think or say is irrelevant. The weather is too. There’s nothing impossible for Him, nothing too hard, nothing too big or too small.

He doesn’t seek the perfect, only the willing. A walk on a cloudy, wet day reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

Categories: Building Christian Character, Choosing to See the Bright Side, Trusting God | 1 Comment

Prayer Requires Talking and Listening

Do we pray for guidance or for affirmation?

In a recent sermon, our pastor made the comment, that often when we pray, we don’t really want God’s guidance or even for God to show us His will for us; he said what we really want is God’s affirmation. We want Him to bless what we are already doing.

That notion stuck with me for days.

It reminded me of true friendship. Our closest friends are never afraid to tell us the truth. If we are on the wrong path, they are not afraid to speak hard truth to us. They do it in a loving way, but they don’t blindly agree with us simply because they don’t want to make us angry or hurt our feelings.

They can do it because they love us and they want what’s best for us. Those friendships are precious and if we’re honest, we will admit that they are rare too.

It shouldn’t surprise me that our strongest human relationships would be a close image of what our relationship with God is supposed to be. After all, our loving one another was a call to us from Jesus, Himself.

But, that also got me to thinking about how we tend to pray. Do we approach God with wide open hearts, eager for Him to light the next step of His plan for our lives, and wide open ears for the whisper of His voice, or do we approach Him with a to-do list of all the things we think we need and all of the situations and circumstances we feel need changing?

Do we have a tendency to talk or to listen?

Do we ask Him to show us His will and patiently wait, or do we do what we want to do and ask Him to bless our plans?

Do we ultimately seek guidance or affirmation?

Those questions can be difficult to ask ourselves and maybe even more difficult to answer. Yet, if we truly believe that He loves us and wants our highest good, we have to be willing to ask Him to reveal His plans and let go of our own. We have to wait for direction before we take off down the road.

We also have to be open to the possibility that we might not be on the right road and need to choose another path. He will let us know where we need to be if we are quiet and still.

A sermon reminded me that, prayer involves both talking and listening. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

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Broken Umbrella Lessons

The wise person buys an umbrella before the rain begins.

Last Sunday, it was pouring down rain when it was time for church. At one point in my life, I had a stack of umbrellas. Somehow that stack has dwindled down to one and that one is broken. It no longer pops out when I push the button and one of the little metal pieces has come unattached from the material, so it doesn’t even completely cover me. I get wet even when I have it.

Now umbrellas cost less than ten dollars at Walmart, where I am unfortunately, shopping like once a week. Why, you may wonder, don’t I just pick one up when I’m there?

That’s a fair question. Here’s the answer: “I only think about needing an umbrella when it’s raining.”

It’s silly and short-sighted; I know. I mean seriously, It’s always going to rain at some point. Right? Why would I choose not to prepare?

My rainy Sunday got me to thinking about other areas in my life that might need umbrella attention. Sure, there are things like keeping around ibuprofen for unplanned aches and pains and as my family’s recent bout with flu taught me, cough medicine, throat lozenges, Kleenex and Clorox wipes. But, I was reminded of the spiritual realm too.

I’ve learned in my faith walk that in order to stay close to God, I have to read a little bit of His Word everyday and I have to take a little intentional prayer time. When I make those disciplines a priority, I’m covered when the spiritual storms come.

And make no mistake, they always come. There will always be times of sickness, hardship, discouragement and strife. This broken world is full of cliffs and valleys. For us to think they are never going to happen to us is incredibly foolish. Jesus even told us Himself we would have troubles on this side of eternity.

But, if we are prepared, if our faith is in tact and our foundation is strong, we can weather them without too much damage.

Jesus also said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

The trick is to be prepared before the storm. We can absolutely look for and find Jesus in the midst of it, but it’s so much easier when we were already close by His side. The peace that comes from already knowing Him is an amazing comfort in times of earthly trials.

A broken umbrella on a rainy day, reminded me to always be prepared both physically and spiritually for life’s storms. Perhaps you needed reminded too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

Categories: Biblical Wisdom, Building Christian Character | 1 Comment

Lessons from an Owl Encounter

If I wasn’t paying close attention I may have missed the danger close by.

This week I’m looking after my parent’s dogs while they go on a cruise. Now, I never mind helping my parents out. Their little dogs are high maintenance, but sweet. However, being responsible for them for a week, makes me a nervous wreck because they are tiny and fragile.

My backyard is covered in giant hardwood trees. There are many squirrels and chipmunks that make their homes in and around those trees. Those of you who remember basic biology, will remember what a food chain is. Those little aforementioned rodents, are at the bottom.

There are much larger predators at the top, which puts those tiny little dogs in danger. Mama and Daddy adore those little dogs, so I take their safety very seriously and I have to be constantly at watch when I take them out to do their doggie business.

The very first afternoon I had them, I decided to run them out for their longest walk before the sun went down, thinking they would be safest at that time of day. We had just stepped off of the back deck area and onto the ground, when I spotted it.

A giant owl sat close by, watching us.

On the other side of the yard, sitting on a bird house, sat a very large owl. I froze. We stared at each other. I literally said to him, “You’re not supposed to be out this early.” I knew if he came for the little dogs, I would have very little chance of escape. A couple of minutes went by and he flew away with like a five foot wing span.

I breathed a sigh of relief as we finished our walk, but I constantly scanned the area, like I was some kind of soldier in a combat zone.

I thought about my owl encounter long after the little pups were safely back in the house.

As disheartening as it was to actually see him my very first day out with my little charges, it was a very effective reminder that I have to be vigilant while they are in my care. For them, danger lurks everywhere.

And as He often does, God used nature to speak to my heart as well. We have spiritual predators that are always lurking close by as well. There are things like anger, jealousy, resentment and ongoing pain that we carry around, that eat away at our souls. They leave gaping holes that allow bigger predators in that can really harm us.

As Christians, we are called not to walk in fear, but to be on guard. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

We are called to pray for strength, protection and wisdom. We are called not only to ask for forgiveness, but to give it to others as well. We are called to be vigilant with our souls.

An owl reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

Categories: Biblical Wisdom, Building Christian Character, Watching for God | Leave a comment

Pot Luck Lessons

We usually have something to contribute even when we are convinced that we don’t.

Two of the grade levels at my school, were planning a Groundhog Day luncheon. It’s just a fun reason to do a potluck on a Friday. Like most pot lucks, everyone was invited to bring a dish to share and they were nice enough to include those of us who work in the office.

When I first saw the invitation, I got excited. It’s always fun to try new dishes and to participate in a feast of sorts. But, as the week wore on, I found myself not feeling very well and fighting off some of the many germs that are floating around an elementary school this cold and flu season.

By Thursday afternoon, I had forgotten to sign up for anything or shop for anything and my parents were delivering their pampered pups for an extended visit, right after work, so I didn’t have time to go to the store and I was exhausted. I made the decision not to participate. After all, I had nothing to contribute.

Now, I have to say, that I work with some of the sweetest, most gracious women on the planet. They wouldn’t have thought twice about me not contributing anything. They would have welcomed me to sit down and eat with them anyway. The hang-up was completely mine.

When one of my front office co-workers inquired about what we could bring, they said they were covered. But, she persisted. There had to be something. They did say they could use some drinks and plates.

She said she could do some drinks and another lady said she could as well. Then she looked at me and asked if I had any paper plates at home. I was pretty sure I did. She instructed me to bring them.

When I got home and looked in my cabinet, I had almost an entire pack of paper plates.

I can’t tell you the gratitude that washed over me when I saw them. I did have something to contribute after all, no matter how small it seemed and a tiny thought began to grow.

Those plates reminded me that we are always invited to the table with Christ. Some of us will go with platters heaping over with gifts, talents, love and joy. Some of us come with just a little to share. Some of us come empty handed because the world has has stripped us of all we have to give.

But, the beautiful truth is that we are all welcome. There’s always plenty of grace, love and mercy to pass around, no matter what we have when we arrive. And in the end, when we all come to the table together, we feed each other and no one leaves hungry.

A school luncheon reminded me that Christ welcomes us just as we are. When we choose to miss the banquet, the hang-up is ours. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

Categories: Building Christian Character, Community | 2 Comments

We Are Known

The Creator of the universe knows us by name.

Since I work in the front office of an elementary school, one of my morning duties is to write tardy slips for the kiddos who arrive late. Sometimes there is no one at all who didn’t make it on time and sometimes the line stretches out to the door. There are some children that we see only once or twice over an entire year and there are some we see weekly.

We get to know those frequent tardies so well, that we don’t even ask their names or teacher’s names anymore. There was a little boy last year who was one of those frequent fliers. He was in the office once or twice a week. He was in kindergarten and this year he’s moved up to first grade.

I haven’t seen him much at all this year.

Yesterday, the tardy bell rang and I din’t see anyone coming in late. I sat down at my desk and got to work on my to-do list. A few minutes later, that little boy from last year, came walking into the office on my side of the counter.

I asked him in a stern voice with a smile if he was just getting there. He told me he was finishing breakfast. I asked him what took him so long and he launched into a long story. When I got out a tardy slip, I asked him his name, because it was one of those crazy mornings, and it had simply slipped my mind.

He told me his first name and I immediately remembered his last. But, his next words stayed with me all day. He asked me in an annoyed tone: “Why don’t you know my name?”

It was a fair question. I’d written it a dozen times. I did know his name; I had just momentarily forgotten it. I laughed and told him I was old and doing the best I could. He laughed at that and he headed off to class.

I thought about that little guy all day with a chuckle. I thought about how he boldly asked me why I didn’t know his name.

It made me think about and give thanks for our God who does always know our names, our God who never forgets us, who never gets overwhelmed, who never get old and never changes.

The Bible tells us, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 138:13-14

In Luke 12:7, Jesus tells us the very hairs on our heads are numbered. That doesn’t point to a far away or distant God. That points to an active and involved God.

Yesterday, a little boy reminded me of how blessed we are to be known and loved by our Creator. Perhaps you needed reminding too!

Have an awesome day!

Wendy

Categories: Biblical Wisdom, Building Christian Character | Leave a comment

Storm Reactions

God does some of His beast work in bad weather.

It rained all day here on Sunday. As I sat in my church worship service the rain steadily came down. It never let up. While our sermon was not about rain or storms, the incessant rain reminded me that God does some of His best work in bad weather.

We all know the story of the disciples in the boat in the storm. Quite a few of them were actually fishermen and fishermen don’t panic very easily over weather.

I remember one time as a child, being out in the ocean with my family, with my daddy at the wheel and a storm came up in the Gulf of Mexico. There were whitecaps all around us and thunder loudly crashing. I remember worrying that I might bounce out of the boat, but Daddy was a Navy man. He wasn’t concerned at all. He lead us safely back to the dock.

So, when professional fishermen were terrified in a storm, it must have been bad. Yet, Jesus was asleep. He wasn’t the least bit worried. He knew they would not sink because He had them. But, when they called on Him, He had compassion for them and He calmed the storm with three words. “Quiet! Be still!” Mark 4:39

Over a thousand years later in 1735, John Wesley was on a ship bound for America as a missionary. A horrible storm struck. A group of Moravian missionaries were in the middle of a worship service, the main sail was split in half and ocean water poured over the decks of the ship. The other passengers were screaming and in full panic.

But, the Moravians kept singing and praising God, even their children. Their faith left such and impression on Wesley that he visited one of their services a couple of years later and found his heart, “strangely warmed.”

He took that spark and along with his brother Charles, started the Methodist church.

God does some of His best work in the storms. Not only does He use them to grow our faith and trust in Him, but if we allow Him, like the Moravians, He can use our faith reactions in the storms to plant seeds and grow faith in others.

As our pastor pointed out yesterday, God is never surprised. He knows where we are going and He holds us in His hands, so we have a choice in how we will react to the storms. We can choose to panic like the disciples did or to have faith like the Moravians. Our choice can have far-reaching repercussions.

A rainy Sunday reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

Categories: Biblical Wisdom, Building Christian Character, Trusting God | 1 Comment

Choosing Love Over Anxiety

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3

A couple of days ago when one of my coworkers arrived at work, I asked her how her evening went. We always chitchat in the mornings and we are both typically positive people.

But, that morning was different. She had received some bad news about a family friend the night before and was concerned about his health. She had also learned that her mama had the flu, along with a few other pieces of bad news. She had been up most of the night and was frustrated.

I listened sympathetically. Who hasn’t been there?

But, then she showed me a picture of what she did when she couldn’t sleep. She made cinnamon rolls in the shape of hearts, for her daughters to have for breakfast when they awoke.

Her gesture really struck my own heart. Life was throwing punches at her left and right. She could have coped in dozens of different ways, the vast majority probably unhealthy. She could have taken something to sleep. She could have just watched television. She could have tossed and turned all night.

Yet, she chose to do something beautiful and creative in the midst of the chaos. As the storm swirled around her, she focused on her love for her children.

I thought about her gift most of the day. I thought of her decision to give to those who have been given to her rather than to singlemindedly focus and worry about what she had no control over. That takes a certain amount of faith.

The Bible tells us not to worry in many places. Christianity teaches us that God loves us and that He’s always in control. Worrying and anxiety has never solved anything. Yet, we worry. There are so many aspects of our lives that are completely out of our control and instead of recognizing that fact and releasing them to God, we worry.

It’s our attempt at gaining control and taming the chaos. It never works, but we have an enemy who would like for us to believe that it does.

There is another way.

We can choose to be thankful during the storm for all the blessings that we do have. We can live thankfully and share the love with those who are in our circle. We can hug those closest to us extra tightly. We can trust that God is in control.

We can live with wide open hearts. There will always be storms on this side of eternity. We can’t control them. We can control our reaction to them.

Some heart-shaped cinnamon rolls reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

Categories: Building Christian Character, Choosing to See the Bright Side, Trusting God | 2 Comments