Do You Have Four Minutes?

Right now seems to be a season of flux for me. It looks like some changes are coming. For one, I’m taking a break right now from working on any novels. I am still writing daily using a writing prompt, and I hope to work on this blog a little more. But I will need to make some decisions about what direction I want to go with my career soon.

As a Christian, I want to follow God’s path for my life. I want to  use the gifts He’s given me for His good, not mine. Most of the time, I feel like I just need to get out of the way and quit overthinking everything.  There are some very simple mantras that stick in my head, like “Do the Work.” Or “Take Action.” Both of those are great and exactly what I need to do. But when you’re lost on which direction to go, it’s easy to just stop. And that doesn’t feel right either.

hourglass-1703330_1280Sometimes, though, it’s okay to stop. Take a break. Just breathe for a moment. And that’s where the title of this blog comes in: Do you have four minutes?

Recently at church, one of our teaching pastors, Ryan Leak (@ryanleak), talked about our prayer life. In this fast-paced world, we’re not always stopping to pray, and most certainly aren’t taking time out for quiet time with the Lord. We all know the passage in Psalm 46 that says “Be Still and know that I am God.” Yet most of us aren’t still. So, Ryan suggested an experiment. For four minutes, you sit still. Set a timer (because yes, it feels strange at first). But quiet yourself. You can start out praying, but God knows our hearts. He hears from us enough, but do we take time to hear from Him? So be still, for four minutes. And absorb the silence.

Now, you may not hear the booming voice of God. You may not hear anything. The answers may not come, but for four minutes, you focus on God. You quiet your heart. Maybe you find peace.

As I’m struggling in this season where I’m purposely taking a break, I’m going to try to be still for four minutes a day. Will I find the answers I need? Will my path suddenly appear before me? I don’t know. But I do know that for four minutes a day, I will revel in the quiet. I will settle my racing thoughts. I will have a peaceful moment. Maybe the answers will come, maybe they won’t. But I do know they certainly won’t come unless I stop long enough to listen. I’m setting aside four minutes a day to listen.

What about you? Do you have four minutes?

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.

 

Scoring For the Other Team

This past weekend, the Senior Pastor at my church delivered a message called “Know Your Enemy.” Our enemy is Satan, a fallen angel. This enemy can have us turn on each other. He can have us do things that take us further from our walk with Christ.

Our pastor gave a good analogy of how sometimes we think we are doing good and doing the right thing, but maybe we’re not. Like a hockey player who has the puck but he is going the wrong way down the ice towards the opponent’s goal, and ends up scoring for the other team.

How often have I scored for the other team by my actions or attitude? Am I doing what I want or want Christ wants?

I’m also studying Romans 8 right now, via Dineen Miller’s “You Are Loved” book. In Roman’s 8:1, it states: “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (NLT)

Dineen also states that the enemy’s mission is to condemn us and destroy our faith. If we have no condemnation as Christ followers, then how can the enemy do this to us? Easy – he is a deceiver. And if we’re not paying attention, then we’re scoring for the other team.

We need to remember how Jesus treated others. Are we so busy judging everyone else that we forget to take a look at ourselves? Are we so self-focused that we don’t care what anyone else is doing? Do we say, “I have to get there faster, I have to take care of my own stuff, I’ll ignore that because it has nothing to do with me.”

If we are no longer condemned as Christ followers, then what gives us any right to condemn others? If we are forgiven and set free, why can’t we forgive others? If someone lives a lifestyle different than mine, am I treating them with kindness or am I condemning them? Judging them? Spitting in their face because they’re different than me?

Or are we so busy trying to shine our light for Jesus that we end up with a strobe light in someone’s face instead? How can they see the light of Christ when we’re blinding them? Blinding with our attitudes and judgment.

It’s a dark world, but we know who has the ultimate victory. So, this week, as I think through all of this, I have to ask myself, “Is my light shining brighter in kindness, or in condemnation?”

In other words, I don’t want to keep scoring for the other side.

 

 

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 Next Phase of Life

It’s back to school time. You’ve seen the pictures flooding the internet of kids on their first day of school for this year. For some parents, it’s seeing their kids start high school or middle school, for others, it’s the start of Kindergarten, and finally there are those who are sending their youngest to college and are now facing the empty nest. There’s a new normal happening in many households.

Sandwich Generation

For my husband and I, well, we’ve been empty nesters for several years. Both kids are grown and married. We’ve been in this blissful phase of life, with the kids grown, but before grandchildren, and our own parents still healthy and active.

But as we all know, life can change on a dime and sometimes it’s an avalanche of change.

That avalanche has come roaring at us this year. And not with just one new phase of life, but with several phases bombarding us all at once. We’re entering a new season, and the quiet before these new storms are now past.

I’m mourning that quiet time before this change, but there are good things coming in this new season.

This is what I’m calling my “sandwich” year. I’m sure you’ve heard the term before – the sandwich generation. I don’t quite fit into that definition, but I’m feeling sandwiched enough.

In other words, this is the year where everything changed forever. My parents’ lives turned upside down with the advent of a couple of serious health issues. I spent a lot of time traveling back and forth to be with them, and will do so a few more times this year. For the first time, I see my parents as “older.” If you knew my folks, you know they have never been elderly or even come close to acting their ages. But unfortunately, I see that age now as one faces difficult health challenges and the other has gone into a caregiving role.

As I come to terms with the changes for my parents, we have the other end of the spectrum… and that’s the arrival of our first grandchild! It was so nice to have such joyous news in the midst of the trauma with my parents. As my husband and I anticipate this precious gift of a new baby, we know that nothing in our lives will be the same again. We’re very excited and while we remain empty nesters, we are already looking around our home, thinking about when the baby will be here, when we’ll play and entertain our grandchild…thinking about the “toy room.” (Okay, so we’re planning far ahead!)

This is definitely the year of change. My child and spouse will have a new normal in their lives as they become parents.

My parents have a new normal as they deal with health challenges and the long-term after effects.

As for my husband and I, these events in the lives of our children and parents have impacted us in numerous ways, that we too are finding our new normal. In the future, I know I will always reflect upon this year as our year of major change – some tough changes and joyous changes.

But I look forward to next year with such hope – the hope that comes from our new grandchild, and the hope that my parents will be healthy and strong from this point forward.

While I know I’ll have my sandwich moments yet to come, if we can balance that with a future and a hope (read Jeremiah 29:11), then we’ll make it through and continue to our next phase of life.

For a Limited Time

We’re surrounded on a daily basis with advertisements that say “Act Now,” only available “For a Limited Time.” The goal is to make the consumer believe they can’t live without the product or that your life will be enhanced if you have this product RIGHT NOW.
Sandglass-flat
All of that got to me thinking about our life here on earth. Most of the time we walk around with the attitude that we have plenty of time (at least I do). Even after two bouts with cancer, I still feel like I have a long life in front of me. And maybe I do. Only God knows how long I have here.

But most of us also know of someone we lost way too soon, whether it be to cancer, an accident or any other cause. Thinking about a life gone too soon makes all of us not want to take our own lives for granted or throw away the time we have to spend.

We are all on this earth “for a limited time.” So, what are you doing with your limited time?

There are days when I feel like I’m wasting time, throwing away those precious days. If we truly believe we are here for a limited time, then what’s stopping us from achieving our goals? Calling a friend? Telling a family member that you love them?

Our life is precious — let’s make it count, for our limited time.

Fighting Back from Discouragement

We’re several weeks into the New Year… and this is traditionally the time when we’re already failing in our resolutions that we made three weeks ago.

How are you doing with your goals for the year?

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big fan of tennis. The first Grand Slam of the year is going on now with the Australian Open. And a major upset of the tournament just happened — Roger Federer lost his match. The first time since 2003 that he won’t be in the second week of the Aussie Open. (This is one of the reasons I feel like he’s the greatest of all time… his consistency in the sport to reach semi-finals and finals of the tournaments…but that’s another discussion for another day.)
Roger-Federer-5-418x300
Last time Federer was upset this early in a slam, everyone was talking that his career was over. It must have been a discouraging time for Roger. His desire to play the game is still so strong, yet, these defeats will happen. So, now, at the ripe old (in tennis years) age of 33, is this his swan song?

I can’t wait to see. After the last time he was defeated early in a grand slam in 2013, he played inspired tennis for 2014, and was so close to reclaiming his #1 ranking. He started out this year with his 1000th career win (see why I believe he’s the greatest of all time?). I believe that Roger will take this defeat and turn it into an even stronger, burning desire to compete and win. I don’t think he’s giving up yet. Wimbledon will definitely be the tournament to watch for him.

Watching tennis inspires me again and again to fight my discouragement. I fought for years with my weight. About 2 1/2 years ago, I started to win the battle and lost 85 pounds! It felt so good. Now, the pounds are creeping back and discouragement is settling in. It would be so easy to have the attitude of giving up and belief that I will never beat this.

That may be true. I’ll be fighting my weight for the rest of my life. However, knowing I have achieved success makes me hungry to achieve that success again. And that takes hard work. Roger Federer is the great tennis player he is from hard work. And like Roger, I need to go back to the “practice court.” Sometimes you have to start with the basics and build back up again.

I need to start with what’s in my diet that’s sabotaging me. I need to get back to my strong exercise routine. We’ll see if I ever equal that 85 pound weight loss again. But I know I need to fight back. I feel stronger, more energized when I know I’m doing the right things. Whether I lose another pound or not, I’m going to fight this discouragement, one day at a time.

Roger will fight his discouragement one practice, one tournament at a time.

So, if you’ve fallen away from the goals you set for the new year, today’s the day to take a step, pick up your racquet and step back on the practice court.

Fight against the discouragement. You might be surprised how far you’ll go.

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.
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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.

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

Transitions in Life

What’s the old saying? The only thing that is constant is change.  Something like that.

I’ve been thinking recently about transitions in life.  Although we may say we wish our kids would stay little, or that we could stay in high school or college forever, or that we could stay 25 years old and not grow older, we know that life doesn’t work that way.

And it’s usually for the better. When we don’t go through the transitions in life and go on to the next stage, we’ll miss something wonderful that God has planned for us.

My niece just graduated high school, the last of her siblings to do so. My niece was such a cute baby and I wanted to coddle her forever.  Her big sister and I were very close and I have memories of her toddling to me and lifting her arms so I could pick her up.

Precious memories.  What would’ve happened if we stopped time right there?  Obviously, things like my one niece’s high school graduation and the excitement and hopes we have for her as she moves on to college would be gone. We wouldn’t see her blossoming into the young woman filled with sky-high, wonderful dreams.

With my other niece, if time had stopped when she still held her arms up for me to carry her, we would’ve missed her wedding, and her beautiful son.  Would I trade meeting my great-nephew to keep his mother as a toddler?  Look what we would’ve missed!  No way!

Most times, we’re nervous graduating college.  The bubble of academia and college life was something we quickly got used to. What would the real world be like?

Yet, if we don’t transition, then we miss out on marriage, family, and watching our own kids grow.

Transitions are scary, there’s no doubt.  But I wouldn’t want to miss the journey going from my own wedding day, to the day I went wedding dress shopping with my own daughter to watching her being escorted down the aisle by her father. If I could’ve stayed young, I  would’ve missed too many sweet moments.

I look forward to growing old(er) with my husband. We made the transition from a house full of teenagers to empty nest.  And yes, the empty nest time has been very sweet.  But when the next transition comes along, possibly of grandchildren, you can bet I’ll be standing in that doorway ready to leap.

Life is scary. Growing up and growing older can be frightening.  But I don’t want to stagnate — and I don’t want to miss the next exciting part of my life that God has planned.

What about you? Were some transitions in your life more difficult than others?