Category Archives: Christianity

Declaration and Disclaimer

So many, many, many, MANY professional bloggers insist that any good blog must have a disclaimer.  In this litigious society, it does seem necessary.

*The coffee in this cup is hot.

*Do not use handheld hairdryer while showering.

*For external use only.  Do not ingest dish soap. (Hmmm, someone should have told me that when I was younger…)

So now for the not-so-fun stuff.

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Disclaimer

Everything Beautiful E311 is a personal blog. In this blog you will read about my personal opinions, experiences, likes, dislikes, faith, family, and ideas.  Since I am only a human, I cannot guarantee that you will have the same or better or worse results from information or ideas I share. I will write about what worked or did not work for me. If you undertake any projects, it is at your own discretion and liability.  I am not a professional, therefore you should consider your own abilities and needs, and get professional advice if needed.

I am not reimbursed or paid by any sponsors or companies whose products or services I review or recommend unless otherwise noted.  I share my real experiences with real reviews about what works and does not work for me.

I am the legal copyright holder of material shared on this blog unless otherwise noted.  Please do not reprint or distribute without my written permission or consent.  Anything shared on social media must include the website. I reserve the right to change the format or focus of this site at any time.

Your email address or personal information will not be shared with anyone.  I am not responsible for the privacy policies of any advertisers or commenters on this site.

That was the disclaim portion.


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Declaration!!!

I am a Christian.

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Although I do not write about my faith in every post, I pray that the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the love of God the Father, and the life-giving salvation of Jesus Christ the Son are present in every word, phrase, sentence, and paragraph.

I will not force my faith on anyone, since I believe that pushing someone to Christianity only results in pushing them away.  I simply promise to do my best to talk the talk and walk the walk in everything I say and do.

 

 

Panic at the _______!

isaiah-26-3

A difference exists between panicking and having a panic attack.

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Have you ever lost your car keys, and you were worried that would get in trouble for arriving late to work?  Were you frustrated, irritated, and upset that they were misplaced again?  Did you turn your entire purse or your entire house upside down looking for them?

You probably panicked until you found them and immediately went about your day.

keys-clip-art

Have you ever lost your car keys, and you were worried that you would be fired for arriving late to work?  And then worried that you would not get a paycheck, that you would get your utilities shut off, that CPS would take your children for not having electricity, that your house would burn down because you had to use a space heater for warmth in the winter when it got down to -25°F (because you know if you misplace your keys that each and every one of these things really will happen)?  Did you get dizzy, did your heart and pulse race, did you feel extremely nauseous, did your knees go weak, did you start shaking and shivering violently, were you unable to get your words into a sentence, were you looking for the escape route from the worst possible scenario?

Then you probably had a panic attack.

            …and I literally just now had to go make sure that my keys were where they belonged.  I almost sent myself into an attack by simply writing that scenario…

keys-clip-art

I cope with my anxiety on a daily basis.  It is a part of me, it is a part of my OCD (no, I am not so OCD – I have OCD), it is a part of my life.  Unless you have had a panic attack, a for-real panic attack, it will be difficult for you to completely understand what is happening.

My family and friends know that I get these episodes occasionally.  They do not know what is going on inside of me, however.  I am pretty sure that most of them just think I am weird.

panic-attack-letter

I am extremely thankful for a husband that loves me no matter what (pretty sure he got the worse of “for better or worse”…), and a doctor that understands and cares.  I am thankful for a diagnosis that I am not crazy, and for medications and information to help me function like a ‘normal’ person.

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I have been asked, “But I thought you were supposed to be a Christian?  Should a real Christian have these issues?”

I cannot decide whether to cry or overturn tables when I hear this type of statement.

Even when that statement comes from inside my own head…

Isaiah 26:3 tells me that God will keep those that trust Him in perfect peace.  Why then, am I not in perfect peace?

not-perfect

The Hebrew words for ‘perfect peace’ mean to be completely safe.  I understand this to mean that as I focus on Him, He will keep me safe within His plan.  I don’t know His plan, (As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9) but I know I can trust Him to stick to it and carry me through.  I am a human though, and my will to trust and have faith will falter sometimes.

That is why we have the Bible.  Think about it – if God knows everything, and He does, then He knows that we need reminding of His promises, and we do.

I will fail.  So will you.  The good news is that I am not a failure.  And neither are you.

So when I have that panic attack, and you just don’t get it because you see no reason for my distress, I hope you will remember what you have read here.  I hope that even if you cannot commiserate, you can be compassionate.  I hope that you will remind me of Isaiah 26:3 and help me focus and function.

I hope you will remind me that this too shall pass…

faith-is-not-a-feeling

Lessons Learned

Not everything that ends badly was all bad.

You can learn valuable lessons from even the worst mistakes and miseries.  Sometimes, you just have to look really hard to find the redeeming reward.

There is almost always one to be found.

beauty-for-ashes

Personal case in point:

Relationships and marriages (…or some of what I learned from my exes…)

Ex #1 – I learned how to be a mom.  I was young, I made many mistakes, and I discovered a love so big that I felt my heart would burst.  I also learned that sometimes it is better to remain friends than to get married, and that you can remain friends after a divorce.

Ex #2 – I learned how to shoot a gun, how to clean a fish, and how to ride a motorcycle.  I also learned what it feels like to be at the wrong end of a loaded twelve-gauge shot gun.

Ex #3 – I learned firsthand how illegal drug use and alcohol abuse (his addictions) can destroy a marriage, a family, a life.  That is a place I never want to experience again.

Ex #4 – I learned how to hang drywall.  I learned about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the government.  I learned about how to study the Bible to find out what it really says instead of just believing what someone else says it says. I also learned that just because someone says they are a Christian and a patriot doesn’t necessarily mean that they live like a Christian or have the same definition of patriot as most people.  This is when I began to identify more than a little with Sarah Connor of the Terminator movies…

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            Example (not ex!) #5 – I learned that there are good, decent, honest, trustworthy, Godly, kind and loving men in the world.

davemy holy hottie!

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Another lesson that you may learn from your messes is how to make great meals!

From the mother of ex #4, I received this recipe for Hot Hamburgers.  It is spicy, but not too spicy (well, for most people – I still have to put sour cream on mine to calm it a bit).  It comes together quickly and cooks in the crock-pot as you go about your life.  It also makes great use of a beef cut that is rather difficult to prepare on its own, namely beef cubed steaks.  This dish comes out so tender and flavorful!

hot-hamburger-ingredients

Hot Hamburgers

5 cups tomato sauce

15 ounce jar of mild or hot pepper rings, undrained

3 medium onions, sliced or diced

1 teaspoon garlic powder or 1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

½ cup Tabasco sauce

1 teaspoon chipped red pepper

3 pounds of beef cubed steaks

hot-hamburger-steps

hot-hamburger-serving

Combine all ingredients except beef cubed steaks in a crock-pot.  Stir well.  Cook on low for two hours.  Add beef cubed steaks.  Cook on high for two hours.  Serve beef cubed steaks on buns or with cooked rice.  Top with sour cream if desired.  May substitute chicken breasts for the beef cubed steaks.

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optimist-or-pessimist

Build-A-Prayer Workshop

Too many people spend too much time trying to perfect something before they actually do it. Instead of waiting for perfection, run with what you do, and fix it along the way… (Paul Arden)

One of the scariest things many of us are ever asked to do in public is to…

 

PRAY.

walrus-prayer

Why is the very thought of leading a group in a prayer so dreadfully daunting?  Are we fearful of friends finding fault?  Or afraid of approaching an awesome God and being appraised as inadequate?

Perhaps a primer on prayer, what it is and what it is not, is appropriate.

I asked my sixth grade girls in youth group to help me brainstorm just what prayer is to them.  Their thoughts were:

prayer-isPrayer is…

Amazing   Talking to God   Something you should not be ashamed of   Hopeful   Not complicated   Short or long    Inspiring   Listening   Whenever and wherever   Reading the Bible   Gratefulness   Being honest to yourself   Beautiful   Mine   Worship   Realizing there is a higher authority   Important   Helpful   Conversation   Healthy   A lifestyle   Worldwide   Love   Time with God   Talking to the Creator of the universe   Not fearful   Something you can do on your own time   Self-less   Forgiveness   Unique   Saying “Thank You”   Not all about you   Relationship   Something that can change your life   Something that should be repeated   Main priority!

 

Still, the social aspect of praying in public is intimidating.

So I suggest you practice in private.  Even if you are never called upon to call upon God in community, we are called to commune with him.

john-wooden-on-prayer

Practice may not make perfect, but practice does make prayer more powerful.

charles-spurgeon-on-prayer

To assist in making prayer a potent priority in your life, I have created an acrostic to help cultivate your communication with the Creator.

If you would like to receive a .pdf of this acrostic and accompanying scripture notes, please contact me.

build-a-prayer-workshop

 

 

 

What Were My Words?

Have you ever tried to literally ‘watch your mouth’?

After a teacher said this to me, I was soon trying to watch my backside due to a paddling.  Note to self (and anyone else reading this) – when you are already in trouble, don’t make it worse by being silly.  Ouch, ouch, ouch…

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Your words are the only thing in life you have absolute control over.

While we cannot actually watch our spoken words, we can watch our written words and we can listen to what we say.  It is even better to consider, and reframe, and perhaps refrain from our words before they are shared.

Do your words reflect your true self?

two-things

I did an experiment on my own word usage on a very social platform to put myself to the test.  I chose a random month, August of 2011, and I read every post I made.  (Granted, I did not include shares, comments, or memes/photos – I concentrated only on the letters my own fingers typed.what-were-my-words

These are the results this little analysis:

  • Out of 31 days in August, I only posted my own words 17 times on 14 days. All other posts (and there was a post almost every day) were photos, memes, shares, and Happy Birthday greetings on a friend’s page.
  • Of these 17 posts, 6 were questions or requests for assistance.
  • 4 posts were simply sharing information, some exciting and some not-so-exciting but still possibly helpful
  • 5 posts were just plain complaining.
  • 2 were random thoughts
  • 2 posts were about things that nobody really cares about, i.e. “I’m going to bed”

Yes, I realize this adds up to more than 17.  Some posts fit into more than one category.   I also realized that I needed to change.  So I set myself a challenge.

I learned a little lesson on words a while back, and it is still relevant. Just remember the word “THINK” and apply it to the words you are choosing before you say them or before you hit ‘send.’

think

When I apply the T.H.I.N.K. acronym to these posts, I am more than a little embarrassed at what I find.

  • Is it True? I can confidently say that I did not lie about anything in these posts.
  • Is it Helpful? Two were possibly helpful, announcing a neighborhood garage sale and available childcare in the area.
  • Is it Inspiring? Not. A. Single. One.
  • Is it Necessary? Admittedly, Facebook in itself is not necessary. Still, I applied this portion more to mean that what I wrote didn’t fall into the “Well, that was unnecessary” category.  And only one fell to that level.  One more than there should have been…
  • Is it Kind? This one hurts. Although I wasn’t really unkind (except for probably that remark about the golf caddy – see Necessary), neither was I kind or considerate or uplifting.

Ouch, ouch, ouch again…

I had a confrontation with my conscience well over a year ago.  I don’t remember the trigger, but I do recall the results.  I was convicted that although I wasn’t a mean, hateful or heartless person, I was also not living up to the hype.  I did not walk the talk I was teaching.  I needed to make a positive transformation in my world of words.

The first step was to wait.  I don’t mean I sat around and did nothing at all.  WAIT is another easy way to consider your conversation.

wait-why-am-i-talking

Why am I talking (or typing)?  Is it to make a particular point?  Is it to share some splendid insight?  Is it to offer comfort and consolation?  Is it to provoke thought or make a call to action?  Why am I talking?

The next move is to consider what you are consuming.  What are you putting into your head and your heart?

But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.                                                                                                                                     Matthew 15:18-19

I had to change some habits.  I had to unfollow some people.  I had to find places to feed my faith and feelings.  This was not difficult at all.  I simply changed my focus and found myself fulfilled.

mudslinging

The final footstep was to share my breakthroughs with my beloved friends and followers.  This can be accomplished in a variety of ways.  Since I am a weaver of words and a social media maven, I employ these as my platforms.  I created a Facebook page, Positive Post Pledge.  I manage my social media to uplift and encourage as often as I possibly can, and I watch my words carefully (most of the time – I still slip occasionally because, you know, humanness…).

…and I share the positivity repeatedly and persistently and purposefully.

Will you join me?

13 Ways to Better Your Days

camp is my happy place

I almost always come home from summer camp a different person than I was when I left.  I am not sure if it is the change of scenery, the change in schedule, or the change in my mental mood.  Whatever it is, I am changed, at least for a while.

I will let you in on a secret – I was privately worried that I would not make it all the way through camp without having to retreat from the retreat.  With my medical issues, life is hard to predict from day to day.  Surprisingly to me, I not only survived the entire week of camp, but I thrived!  I only had to take four pain pills, and two of those were during the same day.  I struggled a little, but way less than I thought I would.  Maybe it was combination of adrenaline and the power of God…

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Rabbit Trail  For insight on health and wellness

            Now why did I get through the week without major issues when I can barely get through a week at home without major issues?  Who knows?  I do know that I am willing to try making some changes that at least seemed to work during my camp week.  Will it help?  Who knows?  The least I can do is try it out for a while and see.

In adapting my church camp lifestyle to my home lifestyle, I thought of these thirteen areas that I handled differently at camp.

  1. Schedule

I had a fairly strict schedule at camp, and duties that had to happen at certain times.  I didn’t have just any old time that I could veg out playing a word game on my iPad or peruse Pinterest for hours.  I had places to be and jobs to do and people to see.

  1. Study

The first part of each day was devoted to Bible study and prayer for about twenty minutes.  This did come after a shower and getting dressed; otherwise, it was top priority.  Getting with God first thing in the morning – is there any more positive way to begin a new day?

Bible study

  1. Diet: Meals and Snacks

I ate.  I ate more.  I ate better.  This eating habit was an important part of the daily schedule.  Breakfast at 8, lunch at 11:45, snack at 3:15, dinner at 4:45 (that was a little tough), and another snack at 8. I paid attention to what I was eating and added what I needed to add (i.e., extra protein or iron, again due to my health issues).  Today, I didn’t eat anything until after I took a bath, which I didn’t do until 1:15.  An entire morning wasted away…

  1. Work

From 9:30 to 11:45, I taught lessons and led the campers in making a project each day.  At home, I equate this to my writing and my online income.  It doesn’t contribute much to our bank account, but it does contribute a little money and a lot of accomplishment.

  1. Service

Missions time was in a morning time slot, but we addressed it throughout the day.  At home, my main mission and service is to my husband, my home, and our house guests.  Housekeeping, community concerns, and my extended family and friends are my focus of ministry and service.

  1. Medications

This should be a no-brainer.  The problem is that sometimes, I can be a no-brainer.  If I forget to take my meds, I have difficulties and if I have difficulties, I forget to take my meds.  Since my medication are important to my health, I need to be sure I take them at the appropriate times.  At camp, I had my camp nurse that helped me remember to take them.  She never had to remind me; just seeing her hanging out would remind me.  I plan to figure out some trigger that will have the same effect here at home.

  1. Exercise

I did not have an exercise plan in place when I went to camp.  Just being at church camp tends to be an exercise in itself.  Walking, doing the motions to worship songs, just hanging out with faculty and campers gets me much more exercise than I am accustomed to getting.  Incorporating a walk and maybe a worship song or two into my day will go a long way.

  1. Nature

I am often saying or typing “Get out and play out.”  There are some very good books written on the topic of the nature deficit of modern children.  I tend to forget that adults need time in nature too!  Even if it is as simple as sitting out on my deck enjoying the outdoors, I need some nature in my life.  So do you.

Drake and Gertrude

  1. Friends

I was surrounded by friends this entire week.  At home, I tend to sequester myself inside my own four walls.  It’s not that I don’t like people.  I just don’t go out of my way to be where the people are. (Cue “The Little Mermaid”)  Everyone needs that human connection, including those of us who consider ourselves introverts or ambiverts.

faculty foosball

  1. Delegation of Duties

            Help!  I need somebody!  Help!  Not just anybody!

            Trying to do it all by myself is exhausting.  Doing this with my health is even more exhausting.  The past few years, I have started delegating more and dropping duties less.  At camp, I had others lead two nights of group games, others led campfire, others led meal time prayers, and others led all kinds of things.  This helped me then and it can help me at home.  Instead of leaving things undone because I cannot do it all, I will ask for help when I need or want it.

  1. Rest Time

            Naptime!!!

I will nap here

            A rest and relaxation time was built into the camp schedule after lunch.  I tended not to get much rest at this time because of other duties.  Instead, during the campers’ swimming time that followed, I was able to get an hour of rest, sometimes even sleep.  Recharging my battery is very important.  How can I help others if my own battery is running dead?

  1. Me Time: Creativity

“We were created by a Creator to be creative” was our camp theme this year.  During the day, I was able to get my camera out and practice using it.  I was able to doodle in my notepad.  I was able to write out thoughts.  I was allowing God to speak to me through my gift of creativity.

  1. Greater Good

I think the most important part of the camp week was that I was focused on the greater good.  I was there to serve, to lead, to show by example, to experience God and help others to experience God.  Sometimes, I feel my life has no focus, but that never happens at camp.  Maybe my camp mindset is one I should carry year-round.

camp confession 200

 

Being Beautiful

Recently, I have found myself tagged in posts on Facebook, encouraging me to post five photos of myself that make me feel beautiful.  I understand the sentiment behind the request to post and share with others.  Many women do not acknowledge themselves as being pretty, pleasing, or even acceptable to look upon, much less beautiful.

There is a big difference between looking beautiful and being beautiful.  Think about some beautiful people you know.  Just what is it that makes them beautiful?  Minus the makeup, what is left?

Let’s go at this another way.  Think about a peacock.  Most people will agree that they are beautiful birds, right?  Check out this peacock video.

Beautiful display on the outside, horrid noises from deep inside.  And sadly, I know people like that.  And, some of the most beautiful people I know aren’t much to look at if you are searching for Mr. or Ms. Universe.  What good is a lovely face without a lovely soul?

Pretty ≠ beautiful ≠ lovely

Let’s change this idea of what constitutes beauty and what makes us feel beautiful, shall we?

My Five Photos That Make Me Feel Beautiful

Beautiful Eyes

Tomi

…in order that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you (the) spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of Him, having had the eyes of your heart enlightened, so that you might know what is the hope of His calling, what is the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power in us, the ones believing according to the working of the might of His strength…                            Ephesians 1:17-19

To me, this passage encourages me to use the vision and knowledge God has given me of His grace and how I can bless others with that grace.  I can see the hurting, I can see the needy, and I can see what I can do for them.  That is why my eyes are beautiful.

Beautiful Hands

skin

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us – yes, establish the work of our hands.  Psalm 90:17

I believe that what I do shows who I am.  Maybe not absolutely every little thing shows my belief, especially when my physical needs are overwhelming me, but overall, it is not difficult to see how I feel about taking care of God’s children and His creation.  I don’t wear my Christianity like a badge; I wear it like my skin. I want to always share His awesomeness in my actions.  That is why my hands are beautiful.

Beautiful Belly

Beautiful belly

Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.  Proverbs 17:6

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him.                               Psalm 127:3

 My belly is soft and sometimes saggy.  The skin is stretched and scarred.  This same belly that sometimes causes me dread and disgust is the same belly that was home, nourishment, comfort, and safety to four of my six children.  How can I deny the marks from the miracle of giving life?  That is why my belly is beautiful.

Beautiful Ears

Tomi and Sharla

The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.                                 Proverbs 12:15

Jesus called the crowd to Him and said, “Listen and and understand.”                        Matthew 15:10

I have a 40% hearing loss in my right ear.  Due to multiple swimmer’s ear infections I had as a child, scar tissue on my eardrum, causing the tissue to not vibrate properly in response to sounds.  Unfortunately, some of my husband’s vocal tones fall into the sounds that I have difficulty hearing.  I have learned to tune out some of the distracting noises when he is talking, along with focusing on his face during discussions.  This is actually a good thing to practice with everyone.  By listening closely, avoiding distraction, and focusing on the speaker, I can sometimes hear what is not being said along with the spoken words.  How can I help someone without knowing their needs and feelings?  How can I understand unless I seek to understand?  Listening with love is life-giving.  That is why my ears are beautiful.

Beautiful Feet

Cruise vacation 2012 085

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?  And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?  As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”  Romans 10:14-15

Let’s face it:  I do not like feet.  Is there an opposite to a foot fetish?  If so, that is what I have.  Feet tend to be dirty, they look funny, and they smell.  But they are also pretty important.  If you don’t have feet, or even have only one foot, you have to adapt, using prosthesis or other devices to get around, or even just figure out a different way to move.  The most important movements we can make are toward sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.  This doesn’t require feet or even mobility in this day and age like it did in 50 B.C.  Feet are handy (ba-dump-ump-shkish) but faith is forever.  My feet remind me to take His message of salvation and share it wherever I go.  That is why my feet are beautiful.

Take Away

The most important lesson I would like you to remember is this:

lovely thoughts

 

Rethinking Thankfulness

For the past few years, I have noticed a trend of people posting thankfulness posts on Facebook in November.  One thing is named each of the thirty days in November for which the writer is thankful, from having a good job to living in a warm home to enjoying the company of many friends.  I have nothing against this practice.  In fact, I am delighted that so many take the time to count their blessings, even if it is mostly just for the month and is usually seen as a challenge instead of an act of true gratefulness.

I propose a twist to this practice.  What if each of us still express our appreciation for our blessings in a more tangible way?  As my friend Kevin states, “Faith on your fanny is useless.  It’s faith with feet that matters!”  How about professing our gratitude with action in addition to our words?

Are you wondering how this could work?

What can I do

How about:

I am thankful for the home I live in and the comforts it contains.

Express your thankfulness by preparing some “Blessing Bags” to distribute to someone who doesn’t have a home with or without its comforts.

I am thankful for my place of employment, a great supervisor, and wonderful co-workers.

Show your co-workers and your supervisor recognition by bringing in some baked goods or other treats to share during breaks.

I am thankful for my children and family.

Help out a single parent by offering a baby break while he or she gets a little “Me time.”  Sometimes just a trip to the grocery store without littles means so much!

I am thankful for food on my table, in my cabinets, and refrigerator, and the ability to get more whenever I need or want.

Volunteer in a soup kitchen or a hot meal line.  Remember, these places and people can use volunteers year round, not just at the holidays.

I am thankful that my children get to participate in various programs, such as soccer, dance, music, basketball, and so on and son (and so on)…

These programs can always use support, in helping to teach or coach, in providing snacks or meals, in monetary support (besides fees), and in word-of-mouth advertising and appreciative words of praise.  Talk to program to see how you can help out.

I am thankful that my children or grandchildren have toys to play with.

Sort through the children’s toys and donate some that are in excellent shape with a distribution center for the less fortunate.  Some locations here in Indiana are found at Indy With Kids .  A personal favorite of mine is located in Lawrence County and is called Santa Joe

I am thankful for my health, whether it is fabulous or fatigued.

Monetary donations are always appreciated by many health organizations, but there are other ways to help.  Volunteer, participate in a fundraiser, spread the word about the services provided – sometimes it takes no money to make a big donation toward a worthy cause!

blessings

These are just a few ideas to get you kick-started on your own campaign of thankfulness!  Share your own ideas in the comments below.  I am thankful for my readers!

Resolution Revolution

2014 has been a rollercoaster year, and my memories more easily tend to the downs instead of the ups.  Thirteen deaths of family and close friends, including the untimely death of my beloved son-in-law at the age of 26, have skewed my vision toward the difficult moments.

I am thankful that life is not always dark and dreary.  The birth of my seventh grandchild, a beautiful little girl, and my graduation from college (at age 47 years and 11 months!) have helped to balance the scales with joyful positives.  As time goes on the, the pain of the losses will become less sharp and the beauty of new life and new conquests will become the focus.

As in all circumstances, I can choose to become bitter because of heavy happenings, or I can choose to become better by learning from these experiences. My success at surviving life and its challenges thus far is pretty good, but I want to do more than just survive.  I want to make a valuable difference in my life, in the lives of those around me, and in as many lives as I can possibly touch in any way.  I can use the situations in my personal history to help others in their personal situations.  I must remember that I am stronger because of coming through times when I was very weak.

Against the current

Because I want to make a difference, I must become more intentional about how I live my life.  I have three simple resolutions this year, all directly from God’s instructions.  I am sharing these ideals for two reasons: by sharing my goals with others, I am held accountable for upholding my actions to these goals by many other people, creating a large support group, and by sharing my goals with others, maybe they will be spurred on to good deeds by my example.

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Goal one:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. ” (from the passage found in Matthew 22:34-40).

Love God, love others.  How hard is that?  Apparently, not as easy as four little words should be.  When I pay more attention to my iPad than to my husband, am I loving others?  When I lose my temper because a volunteer musician waited until Saturday to look at the music for Sunday, therefore they did not practice a new song, am I loving others, or even loving God, whom I am supposed to be worshipping through those very songs?  When I am driving and another driver cuts me off so I start yelling at him or her, am I loving others?

Lord, help me love like You love, without any ifs, ands, or buts.  Make my love for others be unconditional and freely given.  Let my love for You shine through everything I do.

Love others

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Goal two:  “Do all things without complaining…” (from the passage found in Philippians 2:14).

I used to think that I did not complain much, that I was fairly easy-going, and went with the flow without much dispute.  I thought that way until my husband said to me one day, “You complain an awful lot.  Are you just unhappy or what?”  So I stepped back and listened to myself and my words.  I was surprised by just how much I grumbled when plans don’t go the way I think they should, and how critical and, yes, judgmental I could be.  This is a goal I have been working toward for quite a while, and who says a resolution has to be completely new?  If you still have not perfected a habit, why not keep practicing?

Lord, help me to remember that when I grumble and complain against others that I am grumbling and complaining about Your creation.  I want to see to see people and circumstances as You see them, as beautiful masterpieces and opportunities for growth.

attitude

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Goal three:  “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven…” (from the passage found in Ecclesiastes 3:1).

I am adopting this goal in connection with my personal calendar and activities.  I often find myself wasting my time on a game for hours, while the laundry and dishes need done, or a paper needs researched and written, or I should be sleeping.  I often find myself up against a deadline when I had plenty of time to complete the task.  I also find myself saying “no” when I should say “yes” to an invitation, and saying “yes” when I should really say “no.”

Lord, help me to make your priorities my priorities, and help me to remember that You created a day of rest for a reason.

urgent or important

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Finally, I would leave you with this thought:

Did I offer peace today

Self-Help Sermon

Instructions for Christian Living

Ephesians 4:17-24.  So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.  They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.  Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.  You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

 How do I do this?  

How do I put on a new self and put off the old?  

How am I created to be like God?

1 John 4:8.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

What does that mean, “God is love”?  

Replace the words “love” and “it” with the word “God” in the following passage.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8.  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

Since we are to be created to be like God, we must strive for these attributes.  

Now, replace the words “love” and “it” with your own name.  Does each description ring true for you?

  • Are you patient?  Then practice patience.
  • Are you kind?  Then practice kindness.
  • Do you envy?  Then practice thankfulness.
  • Do you boast?  Then practice modesty.
  • Are you proud?  Then practice humility.
  • Do you dishonor others?  Then practice respect.
  • Are you self-seeking (selfish)?  Then practice compassion.
  • Are you easily angered?  Then practice gentleness.
  • Do you keep a record of wrongs?  Then practice forgiveness.
  • Do you delight in evil or rejoice with the truth?
  • Do you protect others?
  • Do you trust others?
  • Are you hopeful?
  • Do you persevere?

You will fail.  You are not God. 

When you strive for these characteristics of God, you will still fail, but you will fail less and less as you practice more and more. 

When you do fail, ask wholeheartedly for forgiveness both from God and from others.

attitude

My conversation is the simplest place to begin this transformation.

Colossians 4:6.  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

We need each other.  People were not meant to be alone, but to interact and care for each other.  When we connect, we should remember that our actions and words travel farther than the immediate surroundings.

Ephesians 4:29-32.  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

...and perhaps, mostly importantly of all…

Proverbs 27:17.  As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

…we need to hold each other accountable, build each other up into the likeness of God, and love each other unconditionally, no matter what.