Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Gift of Single... at 43

If God simply granted wishes, I'd have married a high school sweetheart (and, of course, lived happily ever after - preferably in a cute little farmhouse on some land somewhere where it never goes above 80 degrees).

If He simply answered prayers, I'd have most certainly married by 43.

But, sometimes He gives us gifts that we don't want, aren't quick to see the value in and would never ask for. 

It's only taken me about 40 years to begin to discover the gift that singleness can be (and to stop rolling my eyes and huffing whenever I read 1 Corinthians 7:7).

   "God gives the gift of single life to some, the gift of married life to others."

(I can't be the only one to have read that and thought "Psh... if it's a gift, where can I exchange it?")

Yes, it is a much simpler life. Less complication. Less 'hassle'. Less mess. 
But, also less companionship. Less communication. Less support.

Point being: there's good and bad to most everything. And I believe Paul is just trying to help us to realize that God is a giver. And whether you find yourself married or not, it's a gift. Not only to be received, but to use. In both regards.

Don't waste so much time and energy resenting the gift that you've been given, that you miss what the gift beholds.


In my 20s, I just expected to get married. It was all but given. It's what you do. Go to college, meet someone, graduate, get married, have kids, get a career, retire, play with some grandbabies... boom. 
Wrong.

In my 30s, I fluctuated between being bitter and resentful that it hadn't happened for me yet (when it seemed to fall into place so easily for everyone else) and holding out hope that it still would somehow for me. 
Wrong again.

In my 20s, I didn't regard the gift at all. 

In my 30s, I focused solely on the gift of marriage and wondered if mine had somehow gotten lost in the mail, wondering if there was some sort of tracking number I could get my hands on somewhere. 

Now in my 40s, I can honestly say that my focus has shifted. From the gift to the Giver

I still have a great desire to marry. But, I desire Him more. I still long for intimate companionship, but He knows me better than anyone else ever could. And loves me unconditionally. I still would love to talk to someone besides myself or my cat when I get home. But, He is always available to talk to, is the best listener you can find and even answers if you give Him a chance.

I believe that God has brought me to this place, so I can know Him in ways that would have been hard for me to know if I were married. Seeking His counsel, trusting His protection and provision, focused solely on Him and the things of His heart and resting in His loving arms.

What a beautiful gift indeed.  


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Stewardship

So, I love Dr. Tony Evans.
He's just such a dynamic speaker and uses such great illustrations to convey the Word.
I had recently read 'Detours' and loved it, so was wanting more from him when I saw his newly revamped 'No More Excuses' book offered with his daughter Chrystal's 'She's Still There' and couldn't resist. 
I realize it's for guys, but truth is truth and we could all use some of that. And I just change out any "his" for "hers" and "brothers" for "sisters" and it's all good. :)  And, I figured it may just give me some insight to the male psyche, which couldn't hurt, should I ever need that down the line.  ;)

Anyway...
In 'No More Excuses', one of his chapters addresses stewardship. Not a common topic in the secular world, but certainly not a new concept in the church. We're often told "be a good steward of your time... of your money..." which, to me, always meant to be mindful, or responsible of your resources, in a nutshell. But, I love the way Tony illustrates stewardship.

He says:  A steward in Bible times was someone who administered or managed another person's property. Therefore, a steward didn't own anything, but he oversaw everything for the owner. He was accountant, foreman, field boss and office manager, all rolled into one. It was a position of great responsibility.

He then goes on to use Joseph as an example:
A biblical illustration of stewardship is Joseph in the house of Potiphar, the Egyptian official who bought Joseph as a slave.
According to Genesis 39:6, 'Potiphar left all that he had in Joseph's charge.' When Potiphar's wife tried to seduce Joseph, his reply showed that he understood his role. He told her 'Behold, because of me, my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?'

So, the nature of stewardship is very easy to grasp. A steward owns nothing, but he manages everything. When a steward starts acting like he owns his master's stuff, there are problems. (See Luke 16:1-2)

God owns everything because he created everything.
He's the owner; you and I are just the managers. 

At work, one of my jobs is to manage office supply inventory and order accordingly. Because it's not my money, but rather the company's, that I'm spending, I try to be as frugal and responsible as possible. I know that to some extent, I am accountable for the money that's spent and I don't take that responsiblity lightly. I want them to know that I'm managing their money to the best of my ability. 

If only I were that responsible with my own money! :o
I've never been a huge shopper or spender, but let's just say, money management is not my spiritual gift. I just don't like thinking about it. I want to make enough to cover my living expenses with a little extra for play and good causes. Other than that, I'm out.
But, Tony's admonition challenges me to be just as mindful with my own money as I am with my company's. After all, it's ultimately His money I'm managing. And to manage it to the best of my ability. 

The test of our stewardship is whether God winds up with our leftover time, energy and resources, or whether we give him our first and best... Jesus is either Lord of all or he is not Lord at all.

The real issue isn't whether you worry, but whether God is first. If he isn't then you should be worried. Because that means you're assuming the responsibility of providing for your own needs. You are trying to act like the owner rather than just the manager who works for the real owner.

I don't know about you, but this concept gives me both a greater sense of relief and a greater sense of  responsibility. It's not mine, but rather it's all God's and only mine to manage. For Him. Whew.

God says that if I will look after Him, He will look after me. That doesn't mean I don't have to work, save and be responsible, but it does mean I can turn the worry over to the Owner. It's His stuff, so if something breaks, He gets to fix it. (And is way more able than me, by the way.)

A final example Dr. Evans provides is this:
Take a pair of newlyweds. They are deeply in love. Yes, they want a house one day, and they hope to get into a better financial situation. But they are content because there is great gain in their relationship. They enjoy just being together.
Ten or fifteen years later, this husband and wife are looking good in their designer clothes. Each of them has a car and a career. The home is nice. But wouldn't it be tragic if, in all they've achieved, they've lost that 'great gain' because now they are living like two strangers in the same house?
That could happen because money can buy a house, but it can't purchase a home. Money can buy you medicine, but it can't buy you health. Money can buy pleasure, but it can't buy peace. There's nothing wrong with houses, cars and careers, but when you leave out godliness, God says He won't give you great gain because it has to do with the things money can't buy.

The secret to being a contented steward is to have such a dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ that it doesn't matter what your circumstances are. You're just tickled to death to belong to the Lord regardless.
The secret to real contentment is found only when Christ is dynamically at work in your life.

Put Him first.
Be a responsible manager of all you've been given charge over.
And see how He wants to use you and your resources.



Love Thy Neighbor

In talking with a neighbor the other morning, I learned that a fellow neighbor of ours had passed away recently. I was shocked, as he was rather young and saddened, as he was always one to have a smile on his face and greet you with an enthusiastic wave.
The girl who told me was sorry to hear of his passing as well as other neighbors who were familiar with Aaron.
I wonder if he knew the extent of his impact on the lives around him through a genuine smile and a simple wave. I hope he knew it didn't go unnoticed.
Rest in peace, my neighbor.
Hope to see that wave again some day.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Living on the Excess

LAs part of my forementioned Financial Inititative, I decided to 'live on my excess'. 

So many of us Americans have been so blessed, we don't even realize how excessively we tend to live. But, when I started thinking about ways to cut back on spending - food being one of the highest categories for me - I stopped and thought about how much food was in my fridge and freezer. So I determined to eat all of that before buying any more (with the exception of some of the essential expendables like butter, eggs, some fresh produce...) 

I had 3 packages of turkey breasts in the freezer. I threw those all in a crockpot and that's gotten me through almost 2 weeks worth of lunches. I had a package of top sirloin steaks that had darkened from being frozen, so I very well may have assumed they had gone bad and thrown them away before. But, I thawed them and had them for dinner one night this week - they were every bit as delicious as they would've been the day I bought them! I also thawed a pound of ground beef, but I didn't want plain burgers. I could've gone for some chili, but knew that meant going to buy more stuff to add to it. So, I looked in my cabinet and saw a single can of pizza sauce, from who knows when. So, I found a recipe for Paleo pizza crust online, whipped up a simple crust from the almond flour I had on hand, cooked up the ground beef with a bunch of yummy Italian seasonings, threw it on the cooked crust, topped it with a bunch of Swiss and cheddar and it was really good and  got me 3 more meals! 


I also had a freezer full of frozen veggies, many of which had become rather freezer-dried, but determined to make the best of those, too and not replace until eaten. (Hence the need for more butter.)  :)  
Also had some ice cream in there, too, which I happily dispensed of, but have not yet replaced!  ;)

And it's not just food.
I deep cleaned my bathroom last weekend and decided to see how long I could go without buying any more toiletries by using what I've got stored in there. Every time I go on a trip, I tend to buy the little travel sized items that never get fully used. And often tend to come home with any complimentary items.  :)  So, I've put all of those in a little basket to have at the ready, to actually use up and be able to throw away once used. Two birds, one stone! Cleaning up and saving money! 
And all that excess bubble bath... what better reward after a day of cleaning than a nice long bubble bath!
I also have a couple extra shower curtains and I hadn't changed that out in over a year, so I threw one of those up and boom - just like new!

Almost out of Febreze spray. But, thought of all the candles I have that I never use! So, burning those down before buying any more spray! And hey, burn enough of them at once, you can save on power! {Haha} Or use those essential oils in the medicine cabinet in that nice diffuser you got for Christmas!

I hadn't painted my fingernails in probably 15 years or more. But, I came across a bag full of nail polish and threw any that had dried up, away and decided to use the others. Why not! So, that's been fun and 'new' and didn't cost a dime!

And the list goes on and on...

But, all of this has just made me so much more aware. Of how much excess I really have in my life. And appreciative. Of the value of all that excess. And I can't help but think how more appreciative I'll be of FRESH veggies and how much mindful I'll be not to BUY more than I need going foward.


Finance Initiative

I'm blessed to work for a company that strives to keep their employees' best interest in mind.
In an effort to promote wellness, they have a Wellness Program, encouraging employees to exercise more and eat better.
In an effort to encourage community involvement, they offer 2 paid Volunteer Work Days a year.
And this year, they've offered us the chance to participate in a Financial Wellness class. 

Seeing as I already eat healthier than anyone I know and I do volunteer at the church with the youth program (not that I couldn't do more)... the financial wellness is where I've needed the biggest nudge. And this program has been just the nudge I've needed.

I admit, for some time now, I've tended to live with more of a spirit of resignation that one of intention. And I want to change that. This year, I've determined to live more intentionally. With goals and a purpose. With hope. And renewed resolve.

So, this financial program came just at the right time. 

I must say, money has never been much of a driving force for me. I'm glad to have a decent job and grateful for the income it provides. But, as long as my bills are paid and I have a little left over to 'play with'... I'm good. I believe the more you have, the more you spend and the more you have to spend, the less the stuff you spend it on means (to some degree). 

And I hate math. I can do it. I just don't enjoy looking at numbers. Let alone crunching them. 
But, look ~ bubbles! I can do bubbles.  :)


This is my budget, in bubbles. The program they've set us up on takes any of your bank accounts, credit card accounts and so forth and it pulls them together to show how you're spending your money. They have other formats, but I like the bubbles. All I had to do was go in and set specific monthly budget costs for each category and it shows what I've spent and tracks when I come close to the budgeted amount. Or, in some cases, gone over (hence the red bubbles). 

We took the introduction class on March 7th - just over 10 days ago. And I have been ridiculously good so far. I think, for me, just the awareness and accountabilty was the kick in the pants that I needed. Seeing all that red in February was incentive enough to see how March could shape up. And seeing as I spend mostly through my credit card, my changes won't really reflect until April... but I think I'm on the right track! (Shopping in still red just because I haven't set a budget for that, because it's so vague. Starting wtih tracking the others first before I decide what would be reasonable for that category.)

Thankfully, I don't have any outstanding debt (which is a lot more than most folks my age can say). I just need to be better about saving instead of squandering. After all, our instructor reminded us that:  Saving is merely delayed spending. So, might as well stop squandering so I can spend it on something I can look forward to!  :)

Saturday, February 18, 2017

February in Georgia

You're killing me, Georgia.
Killing me.


Do you even remember a little thing called Winter?
What's supposed to come before Spring?
The thing that gets me through the rest of your sweltering year?

I would enjoy these beautfiul days more if they weren't in February... and didn't make me dread what must lie ahead in the upcoming months.

Ah, well. Enjoying this cooler rainy Saturday.

78 though?.... Really??
Ugh.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sweet Surprises Bring Sweet Reminders

I received the sweetest surprise this morning.

My friend / former manager stopped by to hand deliver a pot of tulips and to tell me that she loves me. 


And as I looked at them throughout the day, I kept thinking. Back to my years at Blue Willow and how He had blessed me there. And where I am now and how He blesses me still. 

Regardless of my marital status, I am loved. Not only by my friend of over 13 years, but by the One who knitted me together and who continues to knit my life together.

Thank You, Lord. 


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Mekdelawit

This is Mekdelawit.
She lives in Ethiopia.
She is a precious student of a brand new school in the Shiro Meda area of Addis Ababa.
I began sponsoring her last August and so love getting updates on her! Don't you just love that smile? So sweet.


A friend of mine (Jen, from a couple of posts ago) learned of an Atlanta couple, Tymm and Laura Hoffman, several years ago, who had founded a charity called 'Brighton Their World'. 
Wonderful couple. 
In 2008, they were expectantly preparing to receive their first adopted baby from Ethiopia. His name was Brighton. Sadly, Brighton passed away from malnutrition before Tymm and Laura could get him. So, they turned their pain into purpose and now use their charity to raise both awareness and supplies for the children of that area.
Their main mission has been to get formula (and diapers) into those sweet babies' hands.
But, recently, they've been able to expand their mission! They now have a school there and are heading up a program that will ensure both nutrition as well as schooling for the children! So awesome! 
I love being a part of such an amazing effort!
And who knows... maybe, one day, I'll join Jen and Missy and go meet sweet Mekdelawit for myself.  :)

Check out Brigthon Their World at:  www.brightontheirworld.org .

To sponsor a student at Brighton Academy, the cost is $28 / month. This includes the schooling, meals at school and clean water for their family.
To be a nutritional sponsor, all it takes is $12 / month to provide them with meals and clean water.

If nothing else, add them to your prayer list. No telling what other ways God wants to use their willing hearts!



Sunday, February 5, 2017

Back To Life

This guy's music ministers to my soul like no other these days.
So grateful for him! He literally gets me through each and every day at work.
And I am so glad that he just released his new album 'Back to Life' this past Friday!

I cannot get enough of "See You Again". Powerful anthem that invokes such hope and resolve. Love it! Check it out!  https://youtu.be/fChUxSW9-bk  (I dare you to listen to that and not come away charged up for the Lord and what He can do!)  :)


Saturday, February 4, 2017

Home is Where the Trestle Is

An old friend of mine (we went all through elementary school together) does photography. 
I've admired her work for some time now, thanks to Facebook.
So, I finally asked her one day if she would mind doing me a favor.

I remember my Mom saying years ago that she wished she'd had a good picture of the train trestle that ran by our house in Illinois. And I had kind of wished we'd had one, too. 

So, my friend Becki obliged and took this beautiful shot of 'home'.


So many great memories. Our property jutted out into the water just there to the right. At one time, Dad even had a picnic bench set out down there for all the canoeing folks. It's where we would look for branches shaped like a 'Y' because those made the best pole rests.  :)

And I loved the trains that would travel those tracks. I remember whenever I'd hear them coming, I would run over to the tracks and anxiously wait for them to pass by so I could wave to the engineer. To this day, it warms my heart to hear a train whistle in the distance or watch one chug past a crossing. 

Thank you for this gift, Becki. 
I love it.