Blooming Where You’re Planted

I caught the end of the movie “Mr. Holland’s Opus” recently. The movie released in 1995 and remains one of my top favorites of all time. The ending of the movie never fails to move me.

Mr. Holland, played by Richard Dreyfuss, is a frustrated composer who finds fulfillment as a music teacher. Mr. Holland spends 30 years as a teacher, something he never wanted to be. But when the school system cuts the music program and he’s out of a job, he realizes that teaching is the thing he loves to do the most.

I could write several blogs about how life takes us in different directions than we dreamed, but that’s for another time. Today, my focus is the end of the movie.

(SPOILER ALERT) Mr. Holland is packing up his classroom, getting ready to leave the school for good. He believes that no one will miss him and that the last 30 years have been a waste. As he’s leaving his classroom, walking through the empty halls, he hears clapping and music coming from the school auditorium. As he enters the auditorium, it is filled to capacity with current and former students, and it turns out that they are all there for a farewell celebration for Mr. Holland.

The governor of the state was one of his former students, and she arrives to give a speech about how Mr. Holland may feel like most of his life as been misspent, but in reality, he has touched the lives of every person in that room.

Besides the wonderful tribute to teachers, this movie can teach a lesson for all of us. We never know what impact we’re making on other people. A lot of us yearn for something greater than our daily routine. However, we shouldn’t overlook the importance of what’s happening right where we are.

In the way we conduct ourselves everyday, working honestly and ethically, showing integrity and character can make a bigger impact than we realize. Just smiling and talking with the person ringing up your groceries in the checkout line can impact their day. Showing kindness wherever you go can make a difference.

Whenever we think we’re stuck in a dead end job or frustrated with the mundane of day-to-day life, we need to understand what influence we may be having on others. I hope it’s always a positive influence. Your attitude makes a big difference there.

With an attitude of gratitude and always showing kindness, you may influence and impact someone else’s life far beyond what you can ever imagine.

Be grateful for wherever you are. Remember to always “bloom where you’re planted.” You never know the impact you will make.

 

A Mother’s Love

After the last couple of blog posts about different kinds of mothers, and who we choose to love as our mothers, I couldn’t help thinking about my own mother.

For some reason, it’s difficult to write about my mom. Maybe because the emotions run too deep. She is a huge influence on my life, and a source of strength for me. That was magnified a couple of years ago as she battled her own health issues. Her determination to get through it all was amazing to watch. That same quality of determination, courage and strength propelled her through her years as a military spouse, too. What a wonder she is!

I suppose I could go on and on describing my mom’s qualities, but truly, there’s only one word to describe my mom: LOVE.

She exudes love. She is sunshine, hope and light. You can’t exhibit these qualities without being filled with love. I’m blessed to have a mom who exemplifies love, who showed me love.

Hopefully, I’ve passed on those lessons to my own kids, and now to my granddaughter.

So, thank you, Mom.

Now, I would be remiss, for this Mother’s Day post, not to thank my mothers-in-law as well. For my Mother-in-law #1, thanks for your laughter and the joy you take in life. And MIL#2 (technically, the step-mother-in-law, but she’s a mother-in-law all the way), I thank you (frequently) for your love, support, advice and understanding in taking on a ready-made family. I’m so thankful for our conversations and the fun we have together.

Happy Mother’s Day to all my moms, biological, via marriage, or adopted by love. I’m thankful for everything you give to me to make me a better mom.

Now, it’s not too late! If you want to read stories of hope, love, and laughter about Mom’s, please pick up Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever! — And don’t forget to read the story on page 235! 🙂

Little Things

This summer seems to be filled with anger from an ugly political season and violence. Many people I know are also facing tough times, with health issues and tragic deaths in their families. For me, I’m just upset about computer problems. That may seem minor, but my entire job is on the computer and this time of year, having everything work is critical.

Ok, compared to what others are going through, I have no problems. However, all that to say is when you feel surrounded by sadness or anger, how do you battle through? How do you keep from being pulled into the pit of negativity? Life events may take us to negative places, but how do you not stay there?

For me, I find solace in little things. Admittedly, sometimes I have to look hard for the little things that are positive, but they’re there. The other night, in the midst of my computer frustration, a friend texted me. The conversation evolved from what I’m not doing to how to reach future goals. She lifted my spirits in unexpected ways.

Then the next day was just coffee and breakfast with a friend. Thinking that I really didn’t have time to be away from my desk, I felt rushed and hurried when I arrived to meet her. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to see my friend. But I was concerned about the timing of our visit. As always, God showed up then. That breakfast had good conversation, serious thoughts that moved to laughter, and a sweet morning of sharing. I’m so glad I took the time. It was the boost I needed to power through the rest of my work day.

None of this will solve the grief my friends are experiencing with tragic deaths of relatives, or help others with serious health issues. But friends, family, and little moments can help all of us get through one day to the next. Knowing friends are there for prayers and support are God’s way of saying “I still have this.”

So despite the turmoil surrounding us, we cling to our faith. God’s still got this. He has us! He’ll make a way for us to walk through these trying times.

I’m determined to cling to His promises and to look for the little things.

2015: The Year of the Unchosen Path

Our message last week at church was called “The Unchosen Path.” And wow, did that title resonate with me when I thought about 2015. It was definitely the year of walking a path I did not choose!
Unchosen Path
I’ve called 2015 my year of change. Everything turned upside down. It was the year I finally felt my age, and felt “old.” I’m usually the one who still happily admits my true age and that I’m grateful to have made it this far. I didn’t have a fear of growing old. But some of that changed last year. I wouldn’t say 2015 was a bad year, it was just a hard year. And many times, I dwelled too much on the negative. It was so easy to do. However, my husband, God bless him, kept reminding me that there were still a lot of positives from 2015:

First and foremost, we learned we will be grandparents for the first time! Our daughter announced her pregnancy over Father’s Day weekend, and we’re anxiously awaiting the birth of our grandchild in a couple of weeks. It’s an exciting time as we watch our daughter embrace her pregnancy and impending motherhood.

Second, our son and his wife had their first home built and are settling in with their careers and life together. Life is good for our kids. Praise God.

Next, despite the serious health challenges that my mother faced in 2015, and the way both Mom and Dad’s world changed forever, there were good things that came from that as well. One is a stronger relationship with my father. I grew up as a daddy’s girl, and our relationship has always been good, but while Mom was in the hospital, Dad and I spent our evenings just talking and sharing, and found ways to laugh and cry together. An even deeper bond formed between us during dark and uncertain days.

There was also bonding with my brothers. One brother I was rather angry with, but we were able to have an adult conversation, and share our feelings openly and honestly about the situation. We ended with a mutual understanding of each other’s viewpoints and a deeper love and respect for each other. Amazing what happens when you can sit down and talk (not yell, not argue), and just try to understand what the other is feeling. Love that this happened.

Another brother had a complete life change in 2015, with a move to another state and more. Witnessing and sharing in this positive and happy change for him makes me smile.

And with all my trips back and forth to be with my parents (who live in a different state), I am grateful to have a renewed friendship with someone I hadn’t seen in several years. Those years melted away when we got back together. Oh, how I wish we lived in the same town, but I’m thankful to keep in touch with her and her husband and grateful to have a restored relationship now.

Also in 2015, my husband and I began leading a church life group. We didn’t feel qualified to do this, but we jumped in, even in the midst of everything that was swirling around us at the time. And guess what? We’re having a great time. Our life group members are blessing us more than they realize. So thankful we took the chance even when the timing wasn’t perfect. I guess there’s a lesson in there somewhere. 🙂

As usual, when you go through a difficult crisis, you find strength that you never knew you had. That’s God’s gift to us, because He is the one who strengthens us. He is always there, even on the dark days when you don’t feel His presence. He doesn’t waste the pain we go through at times.

While it was easy to focus on the negative of 2015, my husband taught me to focus on the positives that still occurred during a tough year. And lo and behold, there were many. 2015’s journey may have been a path I wouldn’t have chosen, but in the long run, it’s a path we conquered, and many of these good things that happened, wouldn’t have happened without the hard events first.

It’s amazing how our God works when we stop, reflect, and listen for His voice.

The Last Normal Day, Part 2

I had written a post back in 2013 called “The Last Normal Day.”  Recent events in my world having me pondering this again.  Everything changed for my family about 10 days ago. Changes that have us on quite the roller coaster ride. The good news is that we should have a positive outcome — but our world has changed. There is no doubt.

It’s time to revisit the post from 2013. The question at the bottom is an important one: What will you do with today? Here’s the original post:

What if today was the last “normal” day of your life? What if everything changed tomorrow?

It happened earlier this year with the devastating tornadoes in Moore and Shawnee, Oklahoma.

It could happen to me when it’s time for my annual cancer screening (MRI, Mammogram, Sonogram day). What if I don’t get the “all clear” words that I’m praying for? What if there’s a recurrence?

Any recurrence would be scarier than the one before. Because cancer comes back. It really needs to just leave me alone!

Back to today — how am I going to spend today?

It really is true that time, friends, family are all so precious. Even after having cancer twice, I still take so much for granted, although I try to hang on the special moments.

It’s too easy to get back into the groove and grind of daily life.

But we all need to take a moment and ask, “what if this is the last normal day? What if everything changes tomorrow?”

What will you do with today?

A New Perspective on “One Word” for the Year

If you’re like me, you know several people who choose “one word” for the year and try to live by that word. I’ve done it myself. Many are talking about it now as we’re preparing to go into the new year.
086
This has got me thinking (always a dangerous thing! :)) There’s a song out now that keeps echoing in my head:

“When you don’t know what to say, just say Jesus. There’s power in the name….”

Last year, my word was “shine.” I wanted to shine Christ through me and shine in all I did, I wanted to make sure my focus was on Him.

And every time I felt like I was failing, or when I was having a bad day, I would pray. And the first word out of my mouth was “Jesus.”

I had already picked out my word for 2015, which was “time.” You know, time for God, time for others, better time management at work. You get the idea. The thing is, none of that can be accomplished without Jesus first.

While it’s great to ponder whatever word is on your heart for the new year, or if you don’t utilize “one word”, let’s not forget to name the most important: Jesus. Nothing we want to accomplish in the new year can be done without Him.

So perhaps, every year, every month, every day, we already know what our “one word” should be: Jesus.

Wishing you many blessings for 2015.

Stay focused on the one who saved us.

Gratitude – All Year Long

I’ve written about having a spirit of gratitude before, but I think this is a topic that never grows old, so here we go once more:

Thankfulness should come more than every November. We need to live our lives with a spirit of gratitude. Imagine how your attitude would improve if you approached everything with an attitude of thankfulness: for your job, your commute, your family, your health…

Sometimes in this world, we’re frustrated with our job, marriage, family, co-workers and more. But what would happen if we approached each day with an attitude of thankfulness. Being thankful for all we have.

What if, in the midst of that frustration, we took a deep breath, and said “Thank you God for this job,” “Thank you for the abilities you’ve given me” or “Thank you God for my family, friends, co-workers.” We know there are others in this world who suffer much more than we do. So, our gratitude for our lives should be an everyday occurrence.

How would that change your attitude?

Romans 12:1 from the Message says:
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering.”

Do your work with a spirit of gratitude…thanking God for your abilities to do your job, for your family, for your health. Place them before God as an offering. The audience of one!

Have that spirit of gratitude every day! Something to remember when those tough days come, when you’re in a bad mood, when work overwhelms you or the holidays overwhelm you. Be thankful for the blessings, for the provision of food, gifts, decorations, plus the job that provides that.

Be blessed for the rest of this year, and as the new year approaches, think about having that spirit of gratitude all year long for 2015.

A Blink of an Eye

It’s amazing how things in your life can change in the blink of an eye… and take you into a completely new direction.

I’ve experienced this personally with my own journey with cancer. It profoundly changes you.

Losing parents and family members will change you. Becoming a parent… and so on…Good things and bad things can change your trajectory.

A couple of people in my life are experiencing things that will profoundly change them.

Sometimes processing the change and the impact it has on you is daunting. Knowing that you’ll never be the same again… but sometimes change is good, even when it starts out as scary or even life-threatening.

Having cancer, I’ve learned to appreciate life more. A lot of the little stuff that could be bothersome are no longer bothersome. Appreciating time with my husband, my kids, family — even watching the seasons change, makes me want to enjoy every day.

I’m a big believer in having a positive attitude. Attitude can help you through the lowest times. My faith in God, the hope that I found with faith also carries me through.

Going through the dark tunnel can bring even brighter days.

We may be resistant to change, but most times we have no choice. So having the positive attitude, and knowing that this won’t last, can carry you through.

After all, something else will come along, in the blink of an eye.

In Our Darkest Moments

NOTE FROM BECKY:  Hi everyone. My friend and fellow writer, Jennifer Slattery, is guesting on my blog today — with a great message of hope.  Please enjoy!

In Our Darkest Moments:
Jennifer Slattery
by Jennifer Slattery

I stood in the back of a large, cafeteria-styled room, Bible in my hand, and stared at the broken women and children in front of me. I’d been asked to speak, to share God’s Word, and never before had I felt the pressure of such a task more intensely.

They sat with hunched shoulders, faces drawn. They’d come for a meal and maybe a bed. The one who pierced my heart most was a teen with thick, tightly curled hair and wide brown eyes. Close to my daughter’s age.

My mother’s heart ached as questions surfaced. How does a homeless child fare in the cruel, clique-laden, shallow halls of high school where poverty is seen as a disease? Does he dream for better? Or drown his pain in busyness and noise? Or booze?

Nothing I could say would fix these women and children’s problems. I couldn’t fill their bellies tomorrow or buffer them from the heat or rain or cold.

But I could share the story of a man who’d been right where they were, one who found glory in the darkness.

His name was Joseph. He was the youngest of twelve sons, favored by his father and despised by his brothers. One day, his brothers turned on him, and his life instantly changed. They stripped him of his robe, threw him in a cistern, and sold him into slavery.

From there, owning nothing and with no hope for aid, he began the long, treacherous journey to Egypt. He arrived in this foreign, pagan land, completely alone, his life at the mercy of the highest bidder.

Or so he thought. But even in the depths of Joseph’s despair, God was watching. And loving Joseph to his very core. In fact, I believe Joseph sensed God’s presence with every step and every bid. Those strong arms surrounding him, buffering him, giving him strength and holding him close.

For a while, things went well. Joseph served with faithfulness, and God blessed him for it. But once again, when he least expected it, a human betrayed him, and Joseph was thrown into a dark, dank prison, indefinitely. No hope of a trial by jury or even a trial at all.

And once again, God was watching, and loving Joseph to his core. I believe Joseph sensed God’s presence with every shiver and hunger pain. Those strong arms surrounding him, giving him strength and holding him close.

Because Joseph clung and surrendered to his Creator, he was able to bring light to a dark and hopeless place. One morning, he noticed two inmates looked upset, so he asked them about it (Genesis 40:5-7). They told him they had two very unsettling dreams, and Joseph used their revelation to point them to God.

This encounter-Joseph’s noticing the pain of other prisoners, compassionately engaging them, and pointing them to God-resulted in Joseph standing before the Pharaoh, the leader of an immensely powerful pagan nation, pointing him, also, to Creator God.

Joseph alone was in a position to speak to those inmates, and God had used his lowly position for something so glorious, pastors preach on this event today!

Had Joseph been consumed with self, he would’ve missed it, and how different this story would’ve been. A lonely man, betrayed first by family than by strangers, left to die in a dark, dank prison.

This was the message I gave those women, and it’s the one I give to you. Each day, we have countless “Joseph” moment, opportunities to look past our circumstances to those God sets before us, individuals in need of hope.

In need of God.

Will we allow God to use us in our lowly, broken state, for His glory?

About Jennifer:

Jennifer Slattery writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. Her debut novel, Beyond I Do, is currently available in print and e-book format for under $10! You can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Jennifer-Slattery/e/B00JKQ4ZTW/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

Jennifer loves helping aspiring authors grow in their craft, and has editing slots open beginning in November. Find out more here: http://wordsthatkeep.wordpress.com/

Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. 

Beyond I Do:
beyond I do
Released Sept. 2014

Will seeing beyond the present unite them or tear them apart?

Marriage . . . it’s more than a happily ever after. Eternally more.

Ainsley Meadows, raised by a hedonist mother, who cycles through jobs and relationships like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, falls into a predictable and safe relationship with Richard, a self-absorbed socialite psychiatrist. But as her wedding nears, a battered woman and her child spark a long-forgotten dream and ignite a hidden passion. One that threatens to change everything, including her fiancé. To embrace God’s best and find true love, this security-seeking bride must follow God with reckless abandon and realize that marriage goes Beyond I Do.

Read a free, 36-page excerpt here: http://issuu.com/newhopedigital/docs/beyond_i_do_sample?e=6362996/8842858

Tripping Over Today

“We’re looking so forward to tomorrow that we’re tripping over today. God has placed you where you are, right now, totally on purpose.” 31 Days to Thrive, Day 24, from Casting Crowns.

Those words particularly struck me this morning. I was wide awake the night before last, tossing and turning at 3:30 in the morning, with my mind going 90 miles per hour over my to-do list for work.

I was angry at myself for thinking about all of these things, when I really couldn’t do anything about them at that moment.

Even through my frustration, I was praying for God to settle my mind… I knew He had things in hand, yet there I was, wrestling with my thoughts in the middle of the night. Did I really have faith?

Yes, I have faith, I just have weak moments.

So, this morning’s devotional about tripping over today hit home a little bit. All of my concerns were about an event that’s a month away. And while there is preparation and planning to be done, my focus needs to be on one item at a time. Plowing through my list and knowing God is in control. My panic about doing everything right, making sure everything is done, took over and God took the backseat.

Time to change that. Time to focus on today and the blessings and challenges and the plans God has for me TODAY.

I remember an old saying that stated: God is my co-pilot. Well, that needs to change.   God is my pilot and all I need to do is focus on today.

How about you? Are you tripping over today worrying about tomorrow? How do you focus on today?