Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Trust & Gratitude: Lessons from a Ragdoll


This is my Ragdoll cat. His name is Manna. He jumped up on the bed the other night and I began thinking how many lessons God has taught me through him. I'd like to share a few.

Trust -
Just like most people, I've learned the common sounds around my house. I know what walls creek and pop. I know all my cats' sounds as they look out the windows and "hunt" birds. I recognize my neighbor's voice as he talks outside on the phone. I am very familiar with hearing the children laugh and be on pretend adventures when outside at the school across the street. So imagine my surprise then I was sitting on the couch, watching a movie, and I heard a "Squeak!" My three cats had been playing together in the front room and I knew that wasn't a normal cat sound. I jumped up and ran in there to find that Manna had gotten himself tangled in the mini-blind cord. It's amazing how quickly thoughts run through your mind. I remember preparing myself for the challenge of getting him loose as I saw him flip around wildly. I got myself ready for the claw and bite marks I'd nurse later yet as I reached in to pick him up something unexpected happened. Manna totally relaxed in my arms. You see, that's why Ragdoll cats have their name. They tend to go limp when picked up, just like a rag doll, and he did just that! It was as if I picked him up and he went into "trust mode" and I was able to gently untie the cord from around his stomach and set him down.

Psalm 33:4 says, "For the word of the Lord holds true, and we can trust everything he does." Later I reflected on how I want to be more like Manna when troubles come my way. I want to let God take care of me, pick me up, simply relax in His might hands and trust in Him.

Gratitude-
Manna is a gentle giant. Although he just turned one year old, he's already 12 lbs. A full grown Ragdoll male can average about 21 lbs. and the biggest Ragdoll ever recorded was 35 lbs! They are just big boned and are the second largest breed of domestic cat. Yet he's not a bully. In fact, by nature he's so uber sweet I just find myself shaking my head in disbelief sometimes. First of all, this cat is a purring machine. The first time I laid eyes on him in the shelter he looked at me through the glass, flopped over on his back, started kneading his paws in the air and purred. Often he'll jump up next to me and just begin purring. I don't even have to give him affection. He's just so happy that he'll sit there and purr continually. Also, when it's time for treats he doesn't normally eat them right away. When I set them down he must rub up against me (purring of course) about three times. After he's done 'thanking' me then he'll go eat his treats.

Colossians 2:6-7 reads, "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." Overflowing in thankfulness! Each time Manna goes along, just acting like himself, I find myself stopping and being convicted. I want to 'purr' with thankfulness and praise God so much that people turn to Him. I want to be grateful for any blessing before I even take them. And, I want to be grateful just to be in God's favor without him doing anything more for me.

These are just a few lessons I've learned from my little, well big, kitten. The word Manna according to my dictionary means, "something unexpected but welcome" and I find that this cat and the lessons God teaches me through him are just that.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Look for the Doors

Crocheting. This is something creative I like to do in the winter. In a lot of ways it's a lost art and you might be surprised to learn that a grandma is not the one who taught me.

One day I was on a campus watching people in our college ministry play volleyball. As I walked up to a group, I noticed a young lady with a very puzzled look on her face that turned to a bored expression. I introduced myself and joined to listen to the conversation. The women were sharing about their wonderful time at camp and who could blame them?! Unfortunately, they were speaking in a lot of church lingo. Ah, now I understood the young lady's confused, bored look. She had no way to join the conversation.

So I turned to her and asked what she did as a hobby. She shrugged and said, I like to crochet. "Really?!," I said. This young lady was only about 18yrs. old and was very alternative with a punk'ish style so this was not exactly the hobby I expected. I love it when people surprise me! So I began asking her more questions and asked if she'd ever taught anyone. You should have seen her come out of her colorful shell! Right then and there, we set up a time to get together. It was decided. She'd teach me how to crochet a blanket and I'd teach her about God.

We had so much fun together. Although, she decided that she didn't want to follow God at that time, I am hopeful about the seeds God helped me to plant. And I use the lesson she gave to me too! I still make blankets and usually donate them to people that are sick or in hospice. Each time I make a blanket, I remember her and try to pray for her.

This is just one tiny example of how I've seen God open someone up when I look for their passions, or what I like to think of as the doors into their heart. I forget to do this too often, so instead of working to pull people into my world, I'm strive to connect more with them within their passions.

Let's face it, we get talked AT all the time, sometimes we just need people to ask us questions and listen. I've broken down more walls with my ears than with my hands. Here's to making a decision to look for the doors!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Battle Cries & Power Moves

Every hero needs a battle cry. ~ Jaime Ridler

I'm reading a great book by Christine Mason Miller called "Desire to Inspire." In it there are stories by artists about creativity, motivation, and inspiration. Different contributors also provide little exercises to get your creative juices flowing and the other day one caught my eye. As I read it I thought of how much it could encourage someone in their walk with God. The exercise is titled "The Superhero in You."

There are two parts of this exercise I wanted to share because I think they are fun and unique. The first is to choose a battle cry. It could be just a simple word or a simple sentence. Have you ever thought about having one? A battle cry would inspire you to bold action. There is only one word for the moment that wraps up all that is going on in my life whether spiritually, personally, or professionally. My battle cry is, "Adventure!" I asked a few others if they would share their battle cry and some of the responses I received were:

"FREEEEEEEDOM!"
(and yes, I counted how many EE's she used - ha)
"Soar!"
"Not of this world!"
"Boldness!"
"The time has come, let us be brave!"
"Thrive and Flourish!"
"God's got my back!"
"Relentless!"

I've also heard of battle cries of "God is victor!" and "Let's do this!" Some friends needed time to think about it and I hope you will take some time and think of yours too. I imagine that through the years our battle cries will change so no worries...you aren't stuck with just one.

The second is to create your power move. This is such a fun idea that I'm going to quote her directly: "Imagine you have a secret move, one that activates your confidence and invokes your strength. Try a few possibilities. Standing tall?  Hands on hips? Raising your chin? Flicking your hair? Choose what feels powerful and then practice this stance on the subway, at your desk, and at the market. Use this pose whenever you need a little boost of heroic energy."

So what's my power move? Well, it's kind of dance where I rock my shoulders side to side and while snapping my fingers I say, "ooooh, look at me and my bad self." It's a line from the animation movie "The Emperor's New Groove." I don't know why I ever stopped using it because when I did it again my spirits were lifted. SO, what's your power move? Is it one of the examples above? Some other suggestions are to flex your arm muscles at yourself in the mirror (it's okay if it makes you laugh), or maybe it's a combination of saying your battle cry along with one fist pumped in the air? Could it be eyes closed, arms raised, and head back? A fighting stance? Hands in prayer position? The possibilities are endless.

If you have other battle cries or power moves, please share them with us by making a comment. I can't wait to hear from you!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Looking for God

Sometimes the world seems too big and too full of problems. Can you relate? At those moments, I feel the desire to go and look for God. Being creative helps me to shake off the problems of the world for a while and recently my creativity lead me to do something I had not done before. I went and took pictures of whatever I saw that made me appreciate the God we have and His sovereignty. I went looking for Him in the little details by giving myself 30 minutes to take photos.




I felt so refreshed and rejuvenated after my little photo exploration. And I did find God! :) I saw Him all around. If you ever decide to try this simple idea, don't put harsh expecations on yourself or what the photos 'should' look like because in the end the only goal is to take your focus from the world and turn it again to God.  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Heart to Serve

This title is the name of a popular British comedy I have enjoyed watching. The scene is set in a clothing store of sorts and the main actors are workers there serving the customers. I think this question is one we all like to hear because we honestly like to be taken care of and served. Yet Jesus said,“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:45

Mark 10:45 is one of my many favorite verses. It's such a simple statement but it keeps my heart in check. It's so important to serve with a right heart or motives and I want to be a woman who goes around asking others, "Are you being served?" :)

Below are some verses for study:
a.        Romans 12:1-13
b.        Ephesians 6:7
c.        Colossians 3:23-25
d.        1 Peter 4:7-11
e.        1 Corinthians 12

Questions I often ask myself:
What gifts do I have from God?
How can I serve in my community or neighborhood?
How can I serve in church?
Are there ways I can serve my Christian brothers & sisters?
What are some ways I can serve my family more?
Can I find ways to serve others at work?

Quotes to inspire

Anne Frank: How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

Edmund Burke: Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.

Emily Dickinson: If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching, Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin Unto his nest again, I shall not live in vain.


Marian Wright Edelman: We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.

 
Martin Luther King, Jr.: Everybody can be great... because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.

Mohandas K. Gandhi: The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Blessed With Sunshine & Blizzards

This week I've been overwhelmed with blessings and it's only Wednesday! ha. My life is flooded with blessings and I want to share how you can have that too. Don't worry, this is not a story about how to prosper. I'm not about to give you a formula to gain blessings in your life. What I'm about to share is about gratitude because really blessings for you abound but to be overwhelmed by them you've got to take notice and appreciate them.

First, what are blessings? Dictionary.com states the following:
bless·ing
[bles-ing] noun
1. the act or words of a person who blesses.
2. a special favor, mercy, or benefit.
3. a favor or a gift bestowed by God, thereby bringing happiness.
4. the invoking of God's favor upon a person.
5. praise; devotion; worship, especially grace said before a meal.

So good things! Uhhh, not always. Sometimes hard things happen, heartache, disappointment and God is using these things to send you off in the direction you need to go. But still it's a blessing because it's a part of his mercy (#2) that benefits you and even can bring you happiness in the end (#3). Just something to think about because in reflection of my own life some heartache, some hard times, some hard situations have turned out to really be a blessing to get me where I am now...even though I didn't see it at the time. I think this is where appreciation and gratitude comes into play because in our limited prospective we often only see and are thankful for blessings we call 'good.'

Now, in light of that...what are some of my blessings lately?
1. I had a project at work, that I was apprehensive about, go really well.
2. Another blogger decided to feature me on her blog and because of that "Silver Trumpets" will get some advertisement - which I'm hoping glorifies God.
3. I received a bonus at work. 
4. I've still been really sick lately; I have been chronically ill for a year or so now.
5. I found out that the whole roof on my house needs to be replaced.
6. I've been neglected by some people in my life recently.

The 'good' things I mentioned are obvious as blessings but the others, well, those are blessings too!

#4 Being sick - This has really caused me to cling to God. I've been learning so much about my character and about how to take care of myself.
#5 Leaky roof - I've learned to how to navigate the ins and outs of my insurance company plus I established a relationship with a great roofing company
#6 Neglected - This has reminded me how blessed I am to have a relationship with God as a shepherd who always looks out for me. Also, bad examples remind me of who I really want to be so I've been striving to be a better friend to others.

There are more examples but you get the point. I'm grateful for all that is happening in my life, good and not so good, because I trust that Jesus has a point, a reason, and desires great things for me so that's why all these things are happening.

If you get a chance today - write down your blessings. You might start with the good and then think about anything stinky that's happening in your life right now. As you pray for perspective, you might start to see all the ways God is using even the bad situations. If you don't see the good in it right away...patiently wait...because I bet you do in time! :) May you be continually reminded that you have a Wonderful Creator who is actively working in your life and be overwhelmed by His blessings.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Communion / The Lord's Supper

To really understand communion, often called the Lord's Supper, it helps to have background. This study takes more than a post or two can accomplish so please spend some extra time studying and praying for understanding. I think you'll be excited about what you learn and maybe learn some things you never knew!

Read about The Passover & Exodus: (Exodus 12) The blood from the lamb was used so that God’s wrath would “pass over.” Jot down some notes of your own too! 

the Last/Lord’s Supper”: Luke 22 -The Passover Jesus celebrated before he was crucified was later called both the Last supper or the Lord’s supper.

The following are additional insights from Douglas Jacoby (Teaching Consultant & principal instructor for the Athens Institute of Ministry since 2003)

There are five Greek terms employed in describing this sacred meal. As my paper argues, the early Christian practice was an actual meal, not a token observance. Understanding these terms will enable us more easily to enter into the discussion of communion, appreciating its history while moving toward an understanding that may differ from our current practice.” (Each bullet references the original Greek word or phrase)

* Communion is the most common term, and emphasizes the body life of the church: life in the body of the Lord as well as life in the body of believers. The common meal we participate in shows that the fellowship of the body of Christ transcends ethnic, social, racial, linguistic and other barriers. Location: 1 Corinthians 10:16. Greek word:
koinonia.

* The Lord's Supper
(1 Corinthians 11:20) suggests a focus on Christ, the command of Christ to celebrate this meal, and the continuity with Jesus' own Last Supper. The natural understanding of the Lord's Supper is a meal, as opposed to a snack or token representation. Greek phrase: kyriakon deipnon.

* Eucharist comes from the Greek word for "thanksgiving" and stresses the attitude every disciple should strive to maintain: gratitude to the Lord for salvation. This term is especially common in high-church circles. Location: 1 Corinthians 14:16 (see also 10:30). Greek word:
eucharistia.

* Love feast (Jude 12) was another term for communion. Ancient religions often celebrated meals in honor of their gods, and their feasting often led to carousing. By contrast, the Christian meal accentuated the Lordship of Jesus and was a visible and concrete expression of the awesome love of God, as well as of the tough love that binds all true Christians together. Greek word: agape (dative plural in this passage).

* The breaking of bread (Acts 20:7) is another synonym. As Jesus' physical body was broken, so the bread of the communion is physically broken and shared. We all eat of the one loaf. This term underscores the sacrifice of Jesus as well as our common dependence on the true bread of life, Jesus Christ (John 6:35). We recognize that 'breaking of bread' can refer to any meal, but in the Christian context, it has special meaning for the communion. Thus whereas Acts 2:46 probably refers to all meals eaten together, the same phrase in 2:42 and 20:7 refers to the communion. Greek phrase: he klasis tou artou.
Additional Verses: 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, Acts 2:42,

Monday, February 20, 2012

Quotes about prayer

Who rises from prayer a better man, his prayer is answered. ~George Meredith

No one is a firmer believer in the power of prayer than the devil; not that he practices it, but he suffers from it. ~Guy H. King

The value of consistent prayer is not that He will hear us, but that we will hear Him. ~William McGill

Before we can pray, "Lord, Thy Kingdom come," we must be willing to pray, "My Kingdom go." ~Alan Redpath

Prayer is communication with the Divine. It can be whispered or chanted or written or expressed in the work you do. However it is expressed, it is never in vain. ~Donna Wilk Cardillo

When at night you cannot sleep, talk to the Shepherd and stop counting sheep. ~Author Unknown

Friday, February 17, 2012

Quotes about Jesus

I happened across quotes about Jesus that were so encouraging I felt the need to share them before the other posts I had already scheduled. 

I think someone out there is really needing these quotes too!

May we always remember to focus more on who God already is and not more on who we still need to become. Remembering who he is always keeps me encouraged and wanting to grow :) Enjoy!


When Jesus comes, the shadows depart. ~Author unknown, inscription on a Scottish castle

If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me. ~Robert M. McCheyne

All the powers of darkness vanish;
Christ our Day-Star mounts the skies.
~Author Unknown

He changed sunset into sunrise. ~Clement of Alexandria

Let the resurrection joy lift us from loneliness and weakness and despair to strength and beauty and happiness. ~Floyd W. Tomkins

The name of Jesus is the one lever that lifts the world. ~Author Unknown

“Yet as I read the birth stories about Jesus I cannot help but conclude that though the world may be tilted toward the rich and powerful, God is tilted toward the underdog.” ― Philip Yancey

To holy people the very name of Jesus is a name to feed upon, a name to transport. His name can raise the dead and transfigure and beautify the living. -John Henry Newman

“It was no accident, no coincidence, that the seasons came round and round year after year. It was the Lord speaking to us all and showing us over and over again the birth, life, death, and resurrection of his only begotten Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, our Lord. It was like a best-loved story being told day after day with each sunrise and sunset, year after year with the seasons, down through the ages since time began.” ― Francine Rivers

Jesus is the God whom we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair. –Blaise Pascal

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sharing your faith

Have you ever asked yourself what it means to share your faith?

Get ready...I might be about to challenge your perspective a bit. Let me ask you this...Is it inviting people to come to a church service in the park? Is it passing along a flyer to someone welcoming them to come to a discussion group on campus? Is it asking someone to join you at a retreat? I believe strongly that NO, these things are not sharing your faith. Sharing your faith is more than just stating you believe in God and providing an invitation. Where's the honor to God in that? The focus is on you. As always, looking to the bible is where we can really see true examples come to life.

Philemon 1:6 says, “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”

Some examples in the bible are below of people sharing their faith. I thought it might encourage you to see how the disciples shared:

Peter – Acts 2:14-41
Paul – Acts 13: 13-52, Acts 16: 16-33, Acts 17:16-34, Acts 19:4-8, Acts 22:1-22
Philip – Acts 8:26-40
Apostles – Acts 5:41-42

Sharing your faith, from my study of the word, means that you share with someone about Jesus as the Christ and maybe even how God has made a dramatic change in your life because of Jesus. Why did I start studying this out? After seeing many people reach out to others inviting them to church, I saw someone do it different and I was moved in my heart. A guy from my church that I co-lead a group with and I were at a car rental place grabbing a van to transport teens to an event. At the end of our conversation with the car representative, this guy stated, "Hey listen, God has done some amazing things in my life...if you are open to it, I'd love to share them with you." The man looked up from his paperwork, smiled and said, "Sure." Hey, not everyone turns cartwheels but the point was that as he shared about Jesus and his testimony the power and love of Jesus came to life!

I never said that starting a conversation like this to share your faith is easy. We look for easy...which is why we've tended to swap "sharing our faith" for "inviting someone to church." Sometimes I ask others how they share just so i can grow more. When was the last time you really shared your faith? It doesn't have to be with someone you just met...is there someone that knows you but doesn't know how God has powerfully worked in your life through Christ? My friends, I'm challenged by this too, no doubt, and I pray that we both can be truly active in sharing our faith.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine Tree

I remember the day well. I was working as a front receptionist in the downtown area and it was Valentine's day. As a single woman, sometimes holidays can be a challenge. I had made up my mind that very morning, though, that I was not going to let the fact that I was single bring me down.

Then tons of flowers for other women in the office began flooding onto my desk. I had to call them each, one by one, to let them know flowers and gifts were waiting for them. The phone kept ringing, not with customers but with husbands and boyfriends calling for their significant other. Then a British gentleman called with his lovely accent and as always, asked, "Is my lady around?"

"Distract yourself!" I said in my head as my hand reached for the radio...flipping through all the love songs on the radio stations, and not being satisfied, I turned to the classical channel instead. "The wedding march? Arg!" This just wasn't working.

I decided to get away from the office for lunch. "I'll spend some extra time with God, " I thought to myself. Grabbing my lunch, I practically ran for the car, and drove to a cultural district to look for a perfect spot. I drove down one street and up another street but wasn't happy with the locations. They were blah. Frustrated because it seemed I was spending my whole lunch hour driving around, I finally pulled up to this huge chain linked fence by the zoo next to a city park and started praying.

I shared with God how sad I was and how much I didn't want to question his timing. I poured out my heart that it's hard sometimes being a single in a couple's world and how I didn't even think about it until days like this, or other people, point it out. I finished praying and flipped open my bible. A friend from church had sent me a scripture that morning so I decided to look it up. It was in Hosea 11 verse 4. It reads, "I (God) led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them."

Just then, I looked across the street from where I was parked and I saw it. It's just about the biggest tree I've ever seen! If you know me at all, you know that this country girl loves big trees. The base was so large that at least three to four people would have to link hands to stretch around it. The limbs hung so low they swept the ground and curved back up. It honestly looked like a huge bouquet! And it made me happy. I was overwhelmed. It's like God tugged at my spirit and made that scripture jump to life. I felt that God, my powerful God, had saved and sheltered this tree just for this moment. It was a gift from God to me. And why not? He knew it would encourage me.

I left feeling so much happier because it was then I knew that I would ALWAYS have a valentine. God had led me there to lift my burden and feed my spirit.


I know that not only singles struggle around holidays like this. Maybe you are recently widowed, maybe your relationship is just stinky right now...but no matter your situation...God wants to provide you a valentine to encourage your heart. You are loved! He does lead us with cords of kindness and love; He does lift the yokes from our necks and bends down to feed us."

May you have a wonderful Valentine's Day!!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Be Poetic

"How important is the poetess whose goal is only this:
to bring a revelation to the soul as a gentle kiss."

I wrote this many years ago during a time when poetry filled my life and words of rhyme came very naturally. I write from time to time when I feel moved. Have you ever tried to write a poem? Now, there are even websites to help you find a word to rhyme with one you have in mind. :) Maybe poetry can be a way to help express your feelings, desires, and dreams? You know it doesn't even have to rhyme! Maybe poetry can be a way to really connect with God in your heart and spirit? If you haven't tried it since your high school english teacher gave you an assignment to write one, then go ahead and try it again. Leave us a little legacy of your view of the world that God has made for us. You never know who you might inspire.


SIMPLE SENSATIONS
The mind was made for poetry and to hear poetic things.
Simple sensations are inspirations to cause our words to sing.
Imagine, hours of simple pleasures and days of noticed times
Where God’s creations are observations for us to lovingly find.


THANKS
My Lord I want to thank you for all that you have done.
For each day that starts anew beckoned by the rising sun.
The blessings you have given have truly enriched my life.
Please strengthen my heart within to live my days for Christ.


SPIRITUAL FIREWATER
Whether at times a burning flame or a flicker in my soul
This little light of mine will shine until at last I’m home
To touch even one inch of God or to see his loving light
To which my simple glowing coals with his fire reunite.

ELOHIM
Your friendship’s my ocean.
It refreshes me often.
Your support keeps me floating.
Your words are like dolphins
Who playfully splash me,
Guide me, and sing
The songs of the coral
And what you can bring.
An emotion so priceless
A friendship so rare
That I would drown of dryness
If taken from there.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Rock Where Moses Stood

Many people are drawn to stand at a place where something happened in history. Tourists travel to places ranging from Ground Zero, inside the Sistine Chapel, Niagara Falls, Mount St. Helens, the Taj Mahal, or Stonehenge.

In the song, "Mary" by Take 6, a singer states that he would like to stand on the rock where Moses stood. Previously when I would hear these lyrics, I pictured being on a rock near where God divided the sea. Yet in Exodus 33, God makes mention of a rock where Moses could stand while He passes by, “21 Then the LORD said, ‘There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.’ ” Later in 1 Samuel 6:18 scripture mentions a rock on which the ark was placed.

So I began picturing what it would be like if I stood on the rock where God passed by, or stood on the rocks that split at Golgotha (Matthew 27:51). Then I imagined standing on the rock that Jesus' tomb was cut from (Matthew 27:60) and how an angel of God rolled that huge rock back from the tomb and sat on it (Matthew 28:2).

Imagining I was standing on these rocks from scriptures reminded me of places I have stood and seen God moving in my own life. I remembered standing barefoot on the stone floor right before I was baptized. I revisited the rocks at camp where I sang with my brothers and sisters from church. I recalled my trip to Maine when I stood on the rocky edge of the ocean , got krump (type of dancing) and was moved to tears by the vastness of God as I looked out into the North Atlantic Ocean.


I didn't know it at the time, but this is a picture my best friend took right before I started dancing.

What ‘rocks’ have been a positive, pivotal point in your own life? If you have some time today, I hope you take a moment or two and revisit them.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Gift Ideas: Mason jars

I grew up in the country and I've always liked mason jars. Here are a few ideas of ways you can use them for gifts to encourage others.

Journal Jar

This is a great gift  for an adult to make for their grandchildren or for new parents to start for their own children.
  • Decorate the jar any way you please.
  • Write down memory and thoughts.
  • Then cut the questions into strips of paper and place them in the jar.  
  • Some question you might answer are:
- What was your favorite thing to do as a child?
- What is one bit of advice you would you impart to your children?
- When was the hardest time of your life and how did you overcome it?
- Tell about a positive experience that still gives you chills today

 
Time Capsule

  • Decorate the jar with items that symbolize time (i.e. clocks or calendars)
  • Cut one plain 8 X 11 piece of paper or stationary in half vertically.
  • Write or print questions that would be fun to look at in about five years. Leave room for responses.
  • Roll up the paper and tie with a ribbon.
  • Attach a card that gives instructions asking them to put in an item that represents their personality and answer the questions. Next, direct them to bury the jar and not to open it for 5 years or whatever time period you think is best. (If your SP lives in an apartment or some place where “burying” the jar is not an option, then suggest the back of the closet, under the bed or in a safety deposit box.
  • Find a way to send a remind of when to open the jar again.

Date Jar

  • Decorating a jar with tickets, pictures, or brochures you collected from the date make a nice touch. You can also go online and print off those pictures from the Internet if you didn't happen to take any.
  • On slips of paper write memories, inside jokes or conversation topics from the date.
  • Variation: this idea can also be done on the outside of a thank you of a card.
Boss's Day Jar

  • Tie some nice ribbon around a jar.
  • Using slips of paper write down inspiring “leadership” quotes, or ways you appreciate your boss.

Get Well Soon Plant

These jars make great planters. If you have an ivy plant, then you can take a cutting from the plant (be sure and cut below the leaf stub because this is what roots). Next, fill the jar with these leaves, water, and then tie a ribbon around the top.

** Variation: If you have a plant with roots already, fill with the plant, potting soil, and create a rock design to show through the outside the jar.

I'm sure there are other great uses...if you have any more, please share! :)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Destination Diva

Stop being a chicken. Oh yeah, i said it! *laughing*

Let's talk about travel. I'm not talking family vacations. I'm talking about just you and God getting out there and exploring the world he created. I travel a bit and recently I have been traveling solo. What's that you say? You could never do that? I beg to differ. Do you think I just busted out one day on my own, wild and fancy free? Of course not. People act as though I've been blessed with something special that allows me to 'get out there.' Don't fall for that...I know I don't. Here's how I went from scared straggler to destination diva.

Begin small. Go to a restaurant alone. (ooooh, scary) I know. I've done it. Do you know what helped me? A book. I took a book to read while I was waiting and then sometimes I'd take a journal. You might start questioning yourself, "Gee, do I look nerdy and pathetic sitting here all alone?" The answer is no. People find you mysterious. People find you confident. People find you inspiring, cause you know what? Everyone finds it awkward to eat alone so to see someone do it...to see anyone eat alone shows spunk. All that from a simple dinner. (or even try lunch at first) Do it once a month for 3 months...and after that time, if you never want to do it again. Fine. But after that, you can always say you did it.

Or you can even go to a movie...by yourself. To make it easier the first time or two, go to an early show. Do you know what I found when I did that? Other women, enjoying an early show. HA. There we were...all sitting and waiting for the movie 'Chicago' to start. This showed me that there is no reason I or anyone else should give in to the fear that you are the only one being only one. You can also wander around a museum or sit in the shade on a warm summer's day in the park. These are great chances to talk to God about everything and they can help build your confidence. There is really no one around to worry about, people to please, or rushing...it's only you and God. (even with strangers around)

After that, go on a vacation with a best friend. Wait...this isn't traveling solo! Yeah, I know but here's the thing...sometimes it helps to travel with someone to learn 'how' to travel well. Just today, I was reading about Naomi and Ruth. Talk about two women who traveled. Ha. My best friend and I have taken several vacations together but what was special was we didn't spend every waking hour together. We allowed each other TONS of space. We'd drive to a destination...like the beach...and wander our separate ways and spend time with God. We'd go to a B&B in some random town and I'd take a bubble bath then nap while she'd spend an hour or so outside on the balcony painting. Our vacations weren't just about us as friends but as individuals desiring more closeness with God. All these little activities and vacations helped me to have the courage to travel solo.

And wow, am I happy I had been getting prepared when I think about my most recent vacation. This vacation was going to be my first, as a single adult, out of the country. I was going to 'conquer' Iceland. Two women said they would go too but cancelled after I had already purchased my non-refundable flight and taken vacation time from work. Yet since I had traveled before...I knew how to plan. I made the decision this would just have to be a vacation with God. Then I planned, maybe even over-planned, to help my confidence. I also had a shirt made for my adventure to help strengthen my resolve:

I wore this shirt on the plane when I flew from the United States. So how was the trip, you ask? Wow...It Was Flawless. Also, when I met people on the plane or in restaurants and they found out I was traveling solo to Iceland they were super encouraging! I realized I wasn't alone and when I was tempted to 'feel' alone, God pressed it on my heart how close he really was to me. :) I grew so much in my relationship with God during that trip. Some life changing decisions were made there...which brings me back to the point of why I'm encouraging you to get out there with Him and go on adventures.

I might blog later about other tips and tricks but mainly I just wanted to share:

Don't sell yourself short! With God, you can do anything...even eat solo, movie watch solo or travel solo. Trust me...it's good to get alone with God and have some adventures.
If you have stories too, I'd love to hear them so send me a comment!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cardinals - D.O.G.'s story

Please read the background post "Cardinals - God's herald to me" first. This post will be much more impacting:

In 2008, I was sent to my first work conference out of the state. I was excited to travel and had never been to St. Louis. I visited my parents the weekend before and dropped off my dog since the trip would be a week long. This little Jack Russell terrier, named D.O.G. (pronounced dee-o-gee) is very spiritually special to me. I had been walking her the day I was met and invited to church. The great guy who invited me happened to be on a prayer walk that day in our apartment complex and he caught up to me while I was chatting with a neighbor about our dogs. Not long after, I began to study the bible and became a Christian. That all happened in 1998 and I have always known God used my dog, if even in just a small way, to help me come to know him.

my little one
Anyway, D.O.G. was in great hands with my parents. She was not a young pup by this time. I think she was around 14yrs old and like many older dogs she had starting having hip problems. The night before I left, I noticed she was having more trouble getting around so I decided to take her to the vet when I got back from my trip. My travel to Missouri went smoothly and when I arrived, I called mom and dad to let them know I made it safely. Mom said D.O.G. wasn't acting normal and that she'd take her to a local vet the next day just to be safe.

That following morning I sat in the first session of the conference and it was a blast! The conference was taking place in a hotel which happened to be connected to an old railway station so it was much like a local mall. During the breaks I was able to shop for family gifts. While in the second class session, mom called so I got up and left the session to see how my favorite 'mutt' was doing. Unfortunately, she was doing very poorly. She wasn't able to walk and was panting heavily. The vet got on the phone and explained that my little one had a tumor on her spine that was pressing so hard she could no longer walk. I asked if they could operate but was told that would be a bad idea because of the location and the age of my dog. When I heard the words, "She's suffering terribly so I would recommend you have her put to sleep," my heart broke.

I couldn't stand the thought of her suffering so I talked to mom and dad again to get their advice. They agreed with the vet and said they would stay with her. So I prayed and said okay. Animal lovers know the heaviness of this decision. I had never had to make it before this moment. I was sad I couldn't be there with her. I was sad that it would be four more days until I was scheduled to get home. I was sad for a lot of things, silly regrets, you name it and I missed her already...yet somewhere in my heart I believed God set things up this way well ahead of time...maybe even before the trip was originally scheduled.

I couldn't make myself go back into the session again. Instead I just walked around the mall looking at all the merchandise. The only other thing I remember during that brief time was one conversation I had with a friend. He asked me, "Well, so what are you doing?" "I don't know...just walking around," I said, "what do you do when your dog is dying?"

After I got home, I rested. Dad had already buried D.O.G. and planted a tree for her so there was no reason to rush to their home hours away. I sat in my papasan chair looking out the window and prayed to God. The house was SO quiet without her. It just felt empty. As I poured out my heart to Him, a red cardinal flew by and landed right outside my window. The Lord knew what that would mean to me! Then...whoosh... another showed up. Whoa, then a couple of more! I think five red cardinals plopped themselves down right outside my little window to peck the ground. I felt that God, my loving God, was reminding me that he loves me, hears me, and was there for me.

I started to write in my journal praising God for his sovereignty. And then something even more amazing happened. Something that builds my faith each time I remember the moment. As I wrote, I remembered where the conference had been....I had been in St. Louis, Missouri. That whole week, over and over again, I had seen red cardinals. They were on towels, shirts, hats, glasses..almost everything! That is, after all, the mascot of their baseball team. All of a sudden, my eyes where opened to all the little moments that God had been trying to comfort me and saying, "I am here. I love you."

During this time, Lamentations 3:19-24 became a scripture that comforts my heart. It reads,"I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. 21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” "

And that's what seeing a red cardinal means to me...it's just one of God's many reminders of how compassionate he is and a reminder that he loves me and his love never fails. I recall these compassions and I have hope when I'm downcast. What a powerful line that 'because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed!' We all know how consuming sadness can be.

Yet God is greater! He is so loving and he is always trying to communicate with you. Are your eyes open? Are you listening? He's probably not even communicating in the same way with you that he does with me...so don't take my little story and expect...cardinals...but instead be watchful, be attentive because God's compassions for you never fail.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cardinals - God's herald to me

I was going through a very hard time one year and remember praying and talking to God about all that was going on. I desired to 'feel' God's closeness to me and 'see' his love so I asked God to bring me a cardinal to just show me he loved me and heard me. Why a cardinal? Who knows? :) Maybe because I don't tend to see them much where I live and that seemed like an out of the ordinary request. Plus, it's a red, vivid bird. Anyway, I waited and prayed, waited and prayed. And guess what!!!!

One never arrived.

I was shocked. I knew God could have brought me a cardinal, he just didn't choose to send one my way. For days I struggled with this. I asked others about the whole thing and some replied, "Well, it's not the right time for cardinals to be in the state" or "You shouldn't test God - after all he showed you his love through Christ on the cross." Ugh, at 'pat answers'. I found myself getting a little angry at God. I just didn't understand.

A few weeks later, I 'randomly' saw a red cardinal. This made me smile, chuckle to myself, and ask, "Why bring it now, God?" So I kept praying to be able to see the lesson.

At the time of my original request, was it really just not the right time for cardinals? Well, yes. But I've read stories that defy stuff like that...God stopping the sun in the sky, parting the sea, bringing water from a rock... so I knew that a season didn't stop my God! Was it just that God had already showed me his love by Christ's death? No doubt, God has showed me tremendous love and mercy by saving me through Christ but this wasn't the lesson either. I know our Lord has an ever growing love and relationship with us. He didn't only save me through Christ to go, "Okay - it's finished. Now go away." The finish was just the beginning of our relationship! Like all relationships, stuff like this has to happen... there has to be some struggle... because for a flower to grow it has to push through the soil. (and that's not always easy)

God revealed to me this: as in all relationships, demands are damaging. None of us like to have someone demand something, especially to show love. It's not that God didn't want to show me his love and support or that he didn't even want to send a cardinal. He just didn't like the demand. Would I have praised him if he had sent me a red cardinal? Yes. Would I have shared the story about it to others to encourage someone else's faith? Totally! But then what? I'll tell you...I would have just gone on asking for God to show me. And that's not love.

What God began building was a special story between us. What he began tearing down was my demanding heart and lack of surrender. I'm so grateful for NOT seeing the cardinal! Now we have a special 'signal' of sorts. Like when Carol Burnett would tug her ear at the end of her show to let her grandma know she loved her and that everything was good, it's one little way God uses to remind me he's there. He has the freedom to show me when he wants and when he knows I really need it!

I'll share a powerful example of that tomorrow....I hope God uses my little story to reveal some little lesson to you. Until tomorrow...push on little flower!