Thursday Thankfulness Throwback

 

Once upon a time I had a different blog in which I’m sure I personally coined the phrase “Thursday Thankfulness” (or maybe not) where I wrote about all the things I was thankful for that week and then posted it every Thursday.

Since this is Thanksgiving month and Thanksgiving is on a Thursday, my less-than-stellar imagination did not have to break much of a sweat to come up with a post idea this week. I’m resurrecting Thursday Thankfulness just for this week before Thanksgiving!

Everyone who has spent any time around me knows that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It was my mom’s favorite holiday, too, and the memories of Thanksgiving week over the past several years will go down in the archives as some of my all-time favorite remembrances.

I have written about doing the week’s worth of grocery shopping with my mom starting at least 2 weeks before the holiday, and making at least 2 trips to Walmart over the course of those 2 weeks, and marking off the items on her list as she put them in the cart, and trying to organize the list so we didn’t have to go back down too many aisles more than once, and keeping the cart out of other people’s way as she read labels and pondered how many cans of green beans we needed that year, and maybe going back to the cart corral to grab another cart, and how the bread better not be squished because my mom turned into a different person if the bread was squished, and the tears always flow as I relive those treasured times.

And I have written about all the activities that go on during the week with my out-of-town sister and brother and their families who all come up and spend the better part of a week at The Farm, which is the loving name we’ve bestowed on my parent’s country home even though it’s not a real farm. There’s smoking the turkey, lots of kitchen activity with everyone picking a side dish and grabbing a partner and putting it together (including the guys and kids since my sister and I became the main 2 cooks a few years ago!), a bonfire every night, 4-wheeling through the open fields and winding around through the trees and pond, card games and jigsaw puzzles, skeet shooting, target shooting, the pool table, and more.

And I have written about how emotional this holiday has been for me every year since losing my mom in 2012. While the rest of the family was involved in all the various activities, Mom and I were usually at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee having discussion after discussion about topic after topic. Even after losing her and missing her terribly each Thanksgiving for the past 6 years, with all the happy memories surrounding the season, it is still my favorite holiday of the year.

So since I have written about it all many times before, I won’t talk about any of that this year.

*Ahem*

*Blank stare*

This year, I will simply praise God for His creation of family. In the first and second chapters of Genesis, He instituted the family unit and what an ingenious idea that was.

Between my parents, siblings, in-laws, children, niece and nephews, and the recent additions of our new grandchild and her sweet mama, we’ve had our ups and downs, agreements and disagreements, dysfunction and semi-normal-function, laughter and tears. At various times, we’ve all had sickness and health, poverty and wealth.

And we keep coming back, year after year, for more. Together.

Thank You, Amazing God, for creating FAMILY.

 

God has given us all hands ~ hands to serve. Let’s use them to serve Him well.

The Beauty In This Day

The beauty of this day cannot be ignored.

The picture above is Doug is outside sawing up the lightening-destroyed tree for firewood. I am inside working at the computer watching the scene and watching the leaves float gently from the trees surrounding our home. The beauty of the falling leaves ebbs and flows with every gust of wind. I can hardly stand the way it all fills my senses.

I thank God today for the changing seasons. What a loving thing for Him to create as He was creating the universe and us and setting our world in motion. I can’t imagine it was an afterthought to Him. I believe He created the seasons very specifically knowing they would bring us pleasure.

If you can’t see the beauty of the changing seasons today because of heavy weights in your heart, I understand that, too. I spent a long time not able to comprehend the beauty around me because of heavy clouds that always seemed to be hanging overhead.

The words “God loves you” and “I’m praying for you” may seem trite and meaningless when burdens are too heavy to bear one more day, but that does not mean they are not true. He does love you and I would love to pray for you. Actually I am praying for many of you today.

Your clouds won’t last forever. He sees. He loves. He cares. He answers prayers.
It’s true.

 

God has given us all hands ~ hands to serve. Let’s use them to serve Him well.

Don’t Be Afraid ~ Don’t Be Discouraged

 

Dear Discouraged One ~

“Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

“Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged…”

These words are woven all throughout the Old Testament in the midst of the battlefield. Fear and discouragement are apparently common when battles are being fought. God wanted to reassure His people over and over again that He was there in the trenches with them as they fought day after day after day.

I have had my share of both of these paralyzing strongholds. I lived many years in their grip. Fear and discouragement mess with your mind and can overtake your whole thought life if you don’t pull your hand away from them and reach for an even stronger one.

“…for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

I would love to tell you that I had an instantaneous paradigm shift one morning after years of living in fear and the depths of depression and discouragement, but the truth is that I walked a lot of difficult rocky roads before I started seeing the sun slowly start to rise on the horizon.

This time of year it is easy for me to liken my awakening ~ from the years of depressing slumps that had overtaken me ~ to the beauty of a God-kissed sunrise. Fall is the season where I am driving into work at the precise moment the sun begins to peek over the horizon. I walk out my door into the crisp Fall air and stare at a brilliant pink sky, drive east for a ways as the sky turns a beautiful orange, and then back north and then west for the remainder of my drive into work with the sunrise in its full magnificence in my rear-view mirror.

Walking out of the fog of paralyzing fear is like waking up out of the deep darkness of night into the beauty of sunrise. I have cried tears of thanksgiving on my way in to work recently as I have considered the depths that I have been pulled from.

I didn’t have the energy to pull myself up by the bootstraps. I prayed when I didn’t have any words to say except, “God, help.” I held the Bible against my chest when I didn’t even feel its warmth. I drank from the well of God’s Word and recited His promises over and over and over even though my thirst didn’t feel satisfied. I said the name of Jesus simply because I knew He was my only hope. I knew I had only one hope, only one constant to focus my mind on or I was going down for the count and might not make it up again.

I held tightly onto the Hand of God as He mercifully pulled me from the waters that were overtaking and drowning me.

It wasn’t a quick walk through the wilderness. I was camped out there for a good long while.

But beauty comes from ashes. New strength comes from overwhelming weakness. Faith I had never experienced before was birthed in me. Lessons of contentment were learned in the valley of leanness. Miracles are great and all, but coming to know just a little a portion of the depths of God’s love for me, ME, while in the midst of hard difficulties, is worth far more and that revelation has been pondered again and again with awe and a humbled spirit.

Hang on tight, discouraged friend.

God’s plans may not be what you thought you always wanted. But they are good.

 

God has given us all hands ~ hands to serve. Let’s use them to serve Him well.

New Mercies ~ Every Morning

 

“His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.” Lamentations 3:22b-23a

On days like today, I am so thankful for new mercies every morning.

Yesterday, I wrote a post and, as I tend to do, I hit Publish when I should have allowed the post to sit a few days while I pondered my words. When I allow myself to be patient, I can usually write out my frustrations, let them sit unread by anyone but me, and move on without having aired my poor-me attitude to the world. Or my largely unread blog. Whatever.

I am back into a better frame of mind this evening and just needed to get a new happier post up so that my vast readership can have something positive to read when they visit my world-famous blog.

I’m a little tongue-in-cheeky tonight. I hope that’s not too weird.

Fortunately, for me…

“His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.” Lamentations 3:22b-23a

Tomorrow is a brand new day filled with brand new unlimited mercies.

God…Thank You.

 

God has given us all hands ~ hands to serve. Let’s use them to serve Him well.

The New Kid on the Playground

My childhood is coming back to haunt me.

Recently I have begun trying to branch out and do new things and go new places in my writing adventures. I’m cutting back on the familiar because it is not where I believe I am supposed to be right now. I don’t yet know what is on the new horizon and am not really sure which direction I’m supposed to be heading so I’m just picking a direction, lacing up my shoes, and doing some online walking.

Leaving the comfort of the familiar and walking up to a new group to say hello has never been easy for me. The feeling that I’m the odd one in the room never really leaves me even when I’m comfortable, but when I’m the new face, it feels like it’s written on my forehead in neon pink ~ Hello! I’m different and odd! So happy to be here! See my real, not fakey smile? It’s real! Not fakey! I’m serious!

I am also coming to realize not just the death of a dream but also the death of an illusion. I have been under the illusion for years that I might have the potential to be up there with, not the great, but possibly at least the good writers. Oh, I have my moments when my heart pours onto the page and people like what they read. But, let’s face it, those people are my friends who know me and love me already. They know my life and who I am and what I’ve lived through. It’s not terribly difficult to endear them to my writings, probably partly because they are surprised that I can put in writing what, as a quiet introvert, I don’t have the vocal words to say.

But people who have never met me and don’t know who I am or what paths I have walked throughout my life, honestly, are not impressed by my written words. This fact is becoming apparent.

And, truth be known, the hard fact is even my friends aren’t very interested in following me to new places. My regular Facebook news feed, sure. Everyone’s there anyway. But a new Facebook page or blog, where you have to click a time or two to get to? Nah. Not worth it.

So…

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14 ESV

The New Living Translation says it this way: “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!…”

I love to go to the Word when I’m feeling less-than. I would assume that I’m supposed to be secure in who I am by this point, since I have graying hair and creaky knees and a good chunk of life experiences behind me, but no, no I’m not.

But I am fearfully and wonderfully made. God’s works are wonderful, I am wonderfully complex, and my soul knows it full well.

I will face this new adventure with these words firmly implanted in my heart. I will work hard at improving as much as I can. I will be content with encouraging whoever God sends my way. And I will look forward to going wherever it is that He leads me to next.

 

God has given us all hands ~ hands to serve. Let’s use them to serve Him well.

Lord, Teach Us

How interesting (to me)! During staff meeting at work today, I talked about this almost verbatim. I had totally forgotten I had typed this up back in July until I was going through some things this evening that I had previously written in FocusWriter (the place where I like to type out my thoughts and potential blog posts) and here was this. What makes it even more interesting is that this was the last thing I had written there, so I had not even been in that app for almost 3 months. Which tells you how long it’s been since I’ve written anything besides a Facebook post. I really need to do something about that.

But it’s still crazy interesting!

————————

July 28, 2017

Prayer

I am feeling the draw to begin praying more earnestly for others. I spent so many years barely getting prayers out for myself and living in such a deep depression that I couldn’t see my way out. My prayers were sent up for self-preservation purposes only. I didn’t want it to be that way, but it was. For years before those dark days, I had considered myself having deep roots. I found out they were much more shallow than I had ever realized. I cried out to God over and over to deliver us from our difficulties. I did not use flowery words and there was no lilt to my voice. I didn’t stand prideful on a street corner, but curled up in my recliner wishing the anxiety would just give me a break.

Those were the days, my friend. I thought they’d never end.

God has brought me out a ways now from those days. I still struggle with anxiety at times, but it is no longer 24-7. I can feel the unsettling in my soul at times, but it is not paralyzing as it once was.

I am laughing again. For real.

So when I say I am feeling drawn to begin praying for others, it is with a grateful, humble heart because for a few years, I honestly believed I would never be out from under the heavy weight of fear and selfish prayers.

So as I am beginning this new endeavor (and it is not lost on me that I am 57 years old and how sad is it that even though I have been thinking about this for a while I am just getting started in earnest, hopefully, to do it), the heavily-logical side of my brain, per usual, wants a plan. None of this going with the flow business. That never works for me. It leaves me lost in an ocean filled with many words and nothing connecting them to make sense. I get overwhelmed and therefore do nothing.

So I am making a plan. Because I can’t function well without one.

As I’ve thought about prayers, and how to pray, I have gotten so confused over the years. As much as I love words, prayer words are always hard for me. “God, help” had been my go-to prayer for so long. I love that prayer. It says so much in just two simple words. As a woman of few words, it speaks volumes to me.

I’ve also contemplated The Lord’s Prayer more than ever over the past few years. I have been blessed for the past year to work in a Methodist church office where The Lord’s Prayer is recited quite often. I have not ever been a part of a denomination that recited that prayer that often and I am enjoying it. The words “Give us this day our daily bread” have wonderful meaning for me.

I’ve also started reading a book of prayers by Charles H. Spurgeon. I love reading his prayers and his words, unlike mine, are many and beautiful. I am blessed by his thought-filled prayers and pray them along with him while I am reading them.

And just this week, I have started typing out prayers. Writing comes much more naturally to me than speaking. A few years ago I went to a monthly mom’s meeting where we began each night listening to worship music and writing in a journal. It was God’s perfect timing for me as I was going through the darkness of my depression during those days and my journaling was simply writing prayers, as quickly as they flowed through my fingers and pen, into my journal. It was a beautiful God-blessed time for me and I still have that journal and have read through it a few times over the years. I have been able to see from a distance now the depths that God brought me out of and it is such a glorious grace to have those prayers in my journal.

My most frequent prayers these days are to simply give thanks. In the good times and difficult times, there are always some things to be thankful for. Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts, was also a God-send to me in more recent years as I was in a place to humbly thank God for the years of drought. They taught me so much. To be able now to thank God, not only for bringing me out from those days, but also for walking with me through them, is a blessing I cannot describe.

Our pastor is teaching us the beauty of liturgical prayers.

And the lightbulb that has gone off in my head this week as I’ve prayed for so many needs in the lives of so many friends is simply, “Conform them into the likeness of Your Son and may Your name be glorified.” I can think of no others words that need to be said.

From “God, help” to “Conform them into the likeness of Your Son and may Your name be glorified” makes me realize how far I have come. Neither prayer is wrong. Both are needful in different times.

God, use me in Your service as I pray for others. And thank You for bringing me to a place where I can see beyond myself.

 

God has given us all hands ~ hands to serve. Let’s use them to serve Him well.

See, I am doing a new thing … Do you not perceive it?

 

I am finding it harder and harder to come to this blog and write at a time when I thought it would be easier.

Although life is not a blissful bed of roses, it doesn’t feel as anxiety-ridden and paralyzing as it has in past days. Yes, my husband had a heart attack and subsequent triple-bypass surgery this past Spring. And yes, we have had car woes every month since this time last year. And yes, we have had some other big surprises this year that we didn’t even begin to see coming. But we are used to living like this. We’ve lived like this pretty much forever. The situations change, but the stresses don’t ever go away.

However, I am at a place in my life where I think maybe, possibly, fingers crossed, I am beginning to understand that God’s got this. All the writing I have done in the past regarding learning to be content, learning to trust and rest in Him, knowing that He is always always faithful, laughing without fear of the future almost feels done. Not done as in “I have finally arrived” because I most definitely have not, but done as in “maybe it’s time to move into a different phase.”

I have felt this coming for a while now but, honestly, I still don’t know what to do with it. Our last child graduated from our homeschool 2 years ago and will be moving out of our home to start her own life next week. Our boys have been out of the house for a while now. Doug and I will be empty-nesters for the first time in 29 years. I have a new granddaughter who fills my heart with an inexplicable joy, and I have truly enjoyed getting to know and growing to love her mother as well.

All the things I have written about for so long now are still true, but continuing to write about them is not in the forefront of my mind these days.

I have begun working more hours outside the home since the kids have all grown up now and it is fulfilling. Even though we are still under the weight of stressful things, I am feeling again. I am seeing beyond my own pain and am happy to report that my prayer life has progressed from “Lord, help me” to “Lord, also help them.” My most heartfelt prayer for any and all situations these days is “Conform me/us to the image of Christ and may Your name be glorified.” In my mind at this point in time, there is no greater prayer to be prayed for anyone or any need anywhere at any time. Circumstances don’t need to be changed as much as hearts do.

My problem is simply that I don’t know what to write anymore. The writing voice I have always used doesn’t seem to be the right one to use now. But I don’t know how to write without it. It’s the only one I’ve ever used.

So I will see where this leads. I hope it leads to something new and wonderful for myself and all who may have some desire to read what I eventually have to say.

But for now … “Dear Lord, conform me/my readers to the image of Christ and may Your name be glorified.”

 

God has given us all hands ~ hands to serve. Let’s use them to serve Him well.

Whatever Happened to Paula Brazzell of My Hands To Serve?

 

Well, hello there! It appears I have been absent for about 6 months now, but here I am again giving it another go. We’ve had a bit of excitement in 2017.

Today’s post will simply be a quick run-through to get you caught up. But I’ll work hard to make it an interesting one.

To try and vindicate myself for going quiet for a few months, I will let you know that around the time of my last post in January, one of my 2 part-time jobs picked up and my workload increased. And then, in March, the bottom kind of fell out around here. But things are settling back down and it is good to be sitting at my laptop this morning. I have FocusWriter open with a clean white virtual sheet to type on and the world is my oyster. I’m not 100% sure what that means. But I also have coffee and yogurt, my home office window directly in front of me for viewing God’s magnificent creation, and I’m so ready to write.

Pushing back to March to begin.

For a long time, my husband had been having the signs, but we had largely been ignoring them because they would always dissipate when he would come in the house, sit down and rest. However, around 4 a.m. on Sunday, March 26, they could no longer be ignored. He woke me up and said he needed to go to the emergency room. His chest was hurting bad.

The bare bones version, leaving out detailed information I originally typed in dozens of Facebook posts and many family/friends text conversations, is that we spent 2 weeks mostly in an out-of-town hospital due to my husband being prepped for stents but then, plot twist, the doc deciding he needed triple-bypass surgery instead, and then a 24-hour bout with a-fib, and then a good week of intensive hands-on recuperation at home. Then I went back to my jobs and played catch-up for several weeks while also nursing my husband as he did his best to cooperate with all the many doctors’ and home health instructions. I am happy to say, after several weeks, life has fallen back into a groove and my husband is back to work also and doing very well.

If you have read my previous blog posts and are aware that I tend to struggle with anxiety during high-stress moments, or even low-stress moments, or even no-stress moments at times, I am happy to report that, aside from some anxious days at the beginning, and a few during his recuperation, I have mostly been strong and able to rest as I know many have been praying for us. God’s good and gracious hands have held us up throughout the whole process.

I will bare a little part of my soul here and say that much of my anxiety in any situation usually comes as a result of financial fears. And I will tell you, there are financial fears when you’re looking at a high insurance deductible, missed work with no paid time off, test after test after test in 2 different hospitals, 2 meals every day purchased in the hospital cafeteria, open-heart surgery, and a 2-week hospital stay. But God was, and always is, faithful and provided for us in some unexpected, but very humbly appreciated, ways. And I am confident He will continue to do so as we continue to pay out our bill over the next hundred years or so.

As if all that wasn’t enough, it came right smack-dab in the middle of another bit of stress regarding our modes of transportation. We have 3 vehicles – his, mine, and an old farm truck. At the point in time of the hospital situation, the farm truck was our only trustworthy vehicle. Let me rephrase that for impact. A 1993 farm truck was our only reliable ride to get us from Point A to Point B during the time we were driving back and forth to a hospital 2 hours away, first for surgery, then for follow-up visits. It rained off and on during those days so we had to pray that the windshield wipers would come on and do their job, and God in His mercy, provided, although we had a few good laughs about how they worked. They seemed to have a mind of their own. But I could see to drive when I needed to, so we just thanked the Lord and kept moving forward.

But it was not a new situation. We had had vehicle distresses for a few months, yes months, before the turn of events in March. With both of us needing to be at our different jobs, it had been a hassle for sure. And don’t get me started on the expenses incurred over all those months because, you know, anxiety. But we were determined that the last thing we needed was another monthly car payment, so we were doing our best to resist that option.

To try and keep a very long story from getting too far out of hand, I am happy to report that Doug’s car is now working again, even after an unfortunate event I had with a pothole on the drive home from our mechanic friend’s house, where he had just repaired it for what we thought was the final time, that sent me into an emotional crying jag that eventually worked a good bit of pent-up stress out of my system. So that was good. After my husband had recuperated well enough, he crawled under the car, did a little bit of this and a little bit of that, visited with our mechanic friend and the local parts store, and now the only thing that appears to be wrong with it at this time is, get this, the windshield wipers. What is it with us and windshield wipers?

And then there’s my vehicle situation. My poor little car still sits at our mechanic friend’s house where we have no idea if it is worth trying to get running again or not. We have put a lot into it already, but mess upon mess keeps descending upon it. So decisions, decisions.

But God…

In true “God fashion,” we have been blessed with another vehicle that runs so smooth and nice and, get this, has no signs of dying a painful and expensive death anytime soon. And by blessed, I mean blessed. I will leave it at that. But just so you understand, we’ve been blessed.

To recap:

We presently have working vehicles to get us where we need to go without having to work out shared ride schedules or bug other family members for a lift. And the farm truck still works, too. And while I know we need rain, we just presently pray it holds off during my husband’s morning and afternoon commutes.

We are both back at our jobs, hubby is healthy, I am all caught up with my work backlog, and at a semi-comfortable place with my home to-do list, and I’m sitting here today in my quiet house writing a blog post because I can.

So with all that negativity out of the way, and all restored that the locusts tried mercilessly, and unsuccessfully, to destroy over the past few months (see Joel 2:25), I have some exciting news to share also.

I’m a new first-time grandma.

Whaaaaaaatt? (You have to high-pitch this in your head to hear it the way I’m typing it.)

Yes, as of May 25, 2017, I am a grandma. Our son is a father. It is blessing upon blessing upon blessing. Upon blessing.

Her name is Phoebe and she is beautiful. One of the 4 most beautiful babies I’ve ever seen. If I had seen her mama as a baby, she would be one of the 5 most beautiful babies I’ve ever seen. She looks just like her mama. And did I mention she’s beautiful?

I get to babysit her periodically. And hold her, and hug her, and kiss her, and talk to her, and pray for her, and feed her, and burp her, and change her little drawers, and it all puts me in a very happy place. What a blessing new babies are. They are my favorite. And presently, Phoebe is my very favorite of all.

I AM SO BLESSED!!!!

As I went searching for the word “blessing” in my Bible app just now, I came across this verse – “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.” Isaiah 44:3

!!!

Well, now, doesn’t that just sum up my whole post?? I am not normally one to pull single verses out of context and rest a personal agenda on them as that can get dangerous or, at the very least, misinterpret the message being delivered within the context. However, I can’t help but believe God, at times, allows us to read verses like this one and then just sits and hugs us with them for a while.

I think I’m being hugged right now.

I seldom know how I’m going to end a post when I first start it. Most of the time, I am not even sure of everything I’m going to say within the body of it. I just start off with an idea, bleed and sweat and cry for a few hours, and hopefully finish in an upright position. The good news is, at this point in my writing career (term used as a bit of humor here), I have nowhere to go but up.

But I think God ended this one for me on a beautiful note and with a hug like only He can deliver.

AND I AM SURELY BLESSED.

 

God has given us all hands ~ hands to serve. Let’s use them to serve Him well.

We ALL Have Hands To Serve

The name of my blog is My Hands To Serve. My purpose for this blog is to encourage all of us, myself included, to look for opportunities to be of service to those who cross our paths, whether on a daily basis as with our families, as a specific ministry we devote regular time to, or periodically as we simply go about our lives and come across those who may need to see and hear about the hope we have through Jesus.

I have not been terribly consistent with that focus due to various reasons, namely that I just have not spent as much time blogging as I would like and also due to not really knowing the full extent of my own calling for service and being a little embarrassed about it seeing as I am too old to be this ignorant.

I have read 2 different books in the past week that highlight different avenues regarding service toward others.

The first book was Falling Free by Shannan Martin. I loved the author’s humorous and passionate writing style. Her admissions of faults and weaknesses were refreshing to someone like me who enjoys knowing I am not alone in the faults and weaknesses department. It was not so much a teaching tool, but more a book about how her family does life. However, I spent a good portion of my time reading it feeling terribly guilty that I am not doing more. I mean, they adopted children of various races, they lost high-paying jobs and moved from their dream farmhouse to a smaller home in the city, hubby became a jail chaplain, they have taken in various teens who needed a place to stay, they do life with those that would be considered outcasts, and a whole host of exhausting activities that would send me straight to a quiet corner that I would never want to leave.

The second book was Listen, Love, Repeat: Other-Centered Living in a Self-Centered World by Karen Ehman. This book was written in a more upbeat and straight-forward teaching style by a woman who is an admitted extrovert and social butterfly and whose spiritual gifts are encouragement and hospitality. It was a perfectly wonderful book and I can see where it would be a beautiful inspiration to someone who lives to light up a room with cookies, casseroles, gifts, and the presence of Jesus. I am not that person and have to admit that, with my personality, I was even more intimidated by this book than the first one. I am positive it was not either author’s intention to intimidate anyone and I take sole responsibility for my own reactions.

Two of my favorite writers are Kristen Welch and Ann Voskamp.

Kristen was just a regular mom and blogger who went on a mission trip with Compassion International a few years ago to blog her experience and came back to the states with her life forever wrecked by what she saw. She founded The Mercy House, a maternity home for young pregnant girls who have been rescued from poverty and hopelessness in Kenya, and she now also oversees other ministries as well, helping impoverished women around the world gain dignity and know their worth by starting small businesses to support their families. As if that’s not enough, she has also recently opened a physical store in south Texas selling many of those hand-made items from around the world to continue to help support and give hope to women who are learning daily about our wonderful God.

Ann went on that same mission trip with Compassion International and has worked since that time in various capacities with Kristen for The Mercy House as well as in her own life adopting a sweet daughter from China and sponsoring an immigrant family to begin a new life in Canada where she lives. She rocks my world every day with her poetic writing style and uncanny ability to speak right into my soul with her words. I am sure there are many more contributions that both of these women have made to God’s Kingdom than I even know to write about.

Talk about feeling small and insignificant out here in the backwoods of rural Oklahoma where I live my regular life and fall into bed exhausted at night because I work 2 part-time jobs.

My purpose for highlighting these 4 inspirational, yet very different women, is to try and convince myself that it is okay for my calling to service to look different than their callings. They are all doing wonderful things to further the Kingdom of God on this earth. But they are all doing very different things according to their own specific God-given talents and giftings.

Right this very second, I need to get up from this laptop and go make supper. I don’t want to. Cooking is not my spiritual gift. I would rather sit here and write, even though it has already taken me approximately 2 hours to get this far on this post. I am not a speedy writer nor a profound one. But I do enjoy it and, although it has taken me a while to get this far, I am excited that this post is beginning to take shape and to see what it has become since I really had very little idea what it would look like when I sat down and stared at a blank screen 2 hours ago. The thrill of a blog post that begins as a mere idea and morphs into over 1,000 words in a span of a couple of hours or so exhilarates me.

However, believe it or not, while I don’t enjoy cooking, in the past I have enjoyed working in our local soup kitchen during our church’s rotation every few months. Prep work, ladling soup, handing out sandwiches, filling cups with ice and tea and water, cutting cake. I can do all those things and enjoy them. But please don’t put me in charge of making sure the soup tastes good. I can’t handle the pressure. And neither will I be the one floating around the room engaging the folks in conversation unless I have time for a 3-day nap and solitude for the rest of the week. Rather, I will be the one behind the dessert table handing out cookies and making a mental note of facial expressions while I ask God to give me a heart for intercession.

In all the reading I have done this week, there was one chapter in one of the books that perked me up just a little bit. It was in the book written by the beautiful woman with the hospitality gifting and it was the chapter about The Sick at Heart. What a chapter to have perk you up. It says something about me and my melancholy temperament, for sure. But it helped me realize a little better that, with my own life experiences and my God-given temperament and my love for all things psychology, I do empathize well. Couple that with my enjoyment for writing, and I am now praying for God to open my eyes to see those who may need an encouraging word sent to them via, get this, snail mail. I may be putting myself out there prematurely and if so, I will have to backtrack at some point and admit that maybe I jumped ahead of God for the sake of a blog post. But time will tell. God knows how to back me up and start me over and I plan to be as pliable as I know how to be in allowing Him to do that.

What a lot of words I have written here without much of a point except to try and encourage everyone who reads this post to accept themselves for who God created them to be and to be willing vessels of service through which He can do His Kingdom work here on this earth and show Himself, through us, to all who need to know Him.

 

God has given us all hands ~ hands to serve. Let’s use them to serve Him well.

2017 Goals – It’s All In The Scripture

It’s crazy how God reveals things as I type. For instance, I was working on my 750 words today, just toodling along typing words, and ended up with this…

I’ve been thinking about 2017 and whether to make a list of goals, or pick a word, or what. My preference, really, after thinking about all the options over and over and over, per usual, is to choose another “Scripture Goal” as I have in the past. The Scripture that is on my mind lately regarding a goal is “She laughs without fear of the future”. Proverbs 31:25 NLT.

The first Scripture Goal I ever chose, about 15 years ago, was “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Philippians 4:11 ESV. Wow. That was definitely, no denying, God-ordained and it stayed my goal for lots and lots of years. Still is, but I have learned so very much over the years about contentment and am so thankful for it.

The second Scripture Goal was from the story of Mary and Martha where Mary chose the “one thing…necessary” – which is to “sit at the Lord’s feet and listen”. Luke 10:38-42 ESV. I am not sure I ever learned that one well, but it stays in the back of my mind and surfaces periodically as something I know I need to concentrate on more than I do. I don’t really know what to do with it at this point, but will continue to keep mindful of it as it comes to the forefront of my thoughts and I’ll see if God has more in mind for me through it. I’m pretty sure He does.

So “She laughs without fear of the future.” That’s an adventurous goal for me because fear tends to overtake me quickly when anxious thoughts about the future rears its ugly head, and true laughter is nowhere to be found during those times. But I long for the days when I can live and laugh without fear of the future. I want to be so saturated with God’s love and presence that fear will have nothing else to do but flee.

I lived for so many years without truly laughing at anything. Some of my Ardmore friends who have been with me since those days of yore might remember. It wasn’t pretty and life was very hard for me for several years. The only laughing during that difficult time was the surface kind that you do because it’s expected from you in the moment and it would be rude not to. I know you know what I mean. But true laughter, where the spirit feels happy and joyous and you just can’t help but laugh? Wasn’t there for a long, long time.

As I started coming out from under the heavy cloud of depression and started, slowly, slowly, laughing again, for real, remembering, ever so slowly, what being happy felt like, it occurred to me what a gift laughter was. A journal entry during those days included these sentences – “Thank You for laughter – the gift of laughter…Your love for me is revealed to me every time I am able to hear myself laugh again.”

What a blessing it was to hear true heart-felt laughter coming from the depths of my spirit again. The picture above is a necklace my daughter gave me as a gift a couple of years ago. She knows how special that verse is to me. God is so good!

But I’m here to tell you, laughing without fear of the future is a tall mountain to climb for someone who tends to look at life from the vantage point of Eeyore. When life throws curve balls, my default coping tools are to curl up in a corner and allow fear to walk right in through a wide-open door. The only way to manage that default mechanism is through, wow, I’ve had an epiphany right this very minute, wait for it, the “one thing…necessary” – which is to “sit at the Lord’s feet and listen”. I think maybe I just discovered I have a dual Scripture goal for 2017.

This is why I write.

 

God has given us all hands ~ hands to serve. Let’s use them to serve Him well.