Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Remember. Be Grateful: October 2017

Another month has come to an end....and this one is my favorite so I am extra sad to see it go.  I thought it only appropriate to end with a look back at a few of my favorites - from fall and from October.

Fall favorites - every year:

Pumpkins are everywhere!  The white ones used to be a bit rarer but I have been seeing them a lot this year.  It seems the new "trend" in pumpkins are the lumpy, bumpy ones.  I'm not sure how much I love those but I am always (always!) a year or two late when it comes to embracing trends...so, I'm sure I'll have a porch full of them year after next!

Actually, fall decor, in general, is my absolute favorite.  I would say even more than Christmas decorating but I might risk losing all my readers.  Fall decorations just make me happy.  Wondering the aisles of any home store this time of year is my complete happy place.

Fall clothes are another favorite.  Cozy sweaters (but not the bulk of winter ones), cute tights, outfits of burgundy, grey, navy, yellow or orange - I enjoy it all.  Clothes that actually cover a body are just one more thing to like about fall.  Just sayin.

Some specific blessing from October this year:

The return to Bible study.  I met every Tuesday this month with a great group of ladies - several I met for the first time -  and it has been a blessing.  The actual study has not been particularly deep or challenging but anytime you get into the word, there is something to learn and this study has certainly held its nuggets of wisdom.  The real blessing has been sharing with the ladies each week.  Each one of us seems to get something different from the lesson and it is great to learn from one another.  Today is the last study until after Christmas and I will admit, I'm sad for it to end.

Another trip to Lancaster.  Yes, it is one of my favorite places:)  This month's trip we shared with some of our dearest friends.  We laughed, and ate, and shopped and ate and had the perfect day!  Definitely a highlight of this month!  We also spent another evening out with them earlier in the month.  We are blessed with their friendship.

One year anniversary.  My brother had cancer surgery a year ago this month - and convalesced at our house.  I'm not sure if it was the excellent post-op care or not, but this month marks one-year cancer-free and doing great!!  I have only the one brother and I am more grateful for him that I ever say.

Oreos.  Yes, that is random.  And, yes, I am thankful for Oreos any month.  In any season.  But this month, we received Oreos (decorated and everything!) - delivered to the door.  From our daughter and "just because"!  She knows what speaks to our hearts!  Both of our children are such a joy.......I would be remiss if I did not mention them in this list of many blessings this month! 

It has been a wonderful October!  I am looking forward to all God has in store for November!    What has been your greatest blessing this past month??

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Three Suggestions to be an Effective Listener Next Sunday

Whether you've been attending church and listening to sermons for years and years, or you only recently started attending church, there will always be times when simply paying attention - much less actually getting something from the preaching - is just a challenge.  It happens to everyone...and can even be expected.  We have a real enemy who wants to distract us and certainly wants us to leave a preaching service totally unchanged or challenged by God's word.  Usually, he starts early - before you even arrive at church.  It takes a determined effort to stay focused and to have our hearts prepared for the message.  The effort is more than worth it!

Here are three suggestions I think can help anyone - veteran or new church member - get the most from a sermon:

ONE - Prepare your heart before you even get to church.  For years, I was faithful to my devotion
time six days out of seven.  I never seemed to make the time on Sundays.  I definitely was in a stage of life (getting my littles ready) where it was more difficult to set the time apart but, truthfully, I just did not appreciate the need on Sundays.  I thought being in God's word corporately, at church, was enough.  But time spent alone with God is needed every day.  Getting in God's word and spending time in prayer before I go to church helps prepare my spirit to receive something fresh from the Sunday morning message.

TWO - Participate in the worship service.  Sing - even if you are not a singer.  Think about the words rather than singing mindlessly.  The hymns.  The choruses.  The special music.  They are all designed to continue the preparing of our hearts to receive the Word.

THREE - Take notes during the preaching.  I have had friends tell me they just can't take notes (because it is distracting, etc.) however, those same friends cannot remember what the sermon was about three days later.  Notes do not need to be fancy, long and all-inclusive, or even written in a journal. But simply writing down the key thoughts helps to keep you focused and listening for those points.  Taking notes allows you to be an active participant - keeping your mind engaged.

No doubt, everyone has a different idea what to do with all those sermon notes.  Many people keep them all.  Few actually ever look at them again.  I like to read through my notes later in the week and write down one or two particular points that challenged me, encouraged me or, for some other reason, I really want to remember.  The goal is not to, one day, be able to recite the entire sermon but to gain wisdom - and to recall that nugget of truth.  You might write your nugget in a notebook, on an index card or put it in your phone but make it available throughout the week. 

Throughout the week, reflect on what you learned.  On how you were challenged and on anything the Holy Spirit might have led you to do.  Let a song from Sunday morning repeat in your head all week.  It will help bring the sermon thoughts to mind.  And, instead of having merely attended church on Sunday, the time spent there will continue to impact you all week.  That is truly benefitting from a sermon.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Discover Why

Time for another Five Minute Friday.  All of the encouragement can be found here...and I hope you do take a minute or two to enjoy at least a couple of the other posts.  This week's prompt is DISCOVER - and remember I'm writing for only five minutes!


"There are two great days in a person's life - the day we are born and the day we discover why." William Barclay

Yes, I completely believe that God has a very unique and specific purpose for each one of our lives.  I am also learning that purpose evolves, matures and can look completely different as we go through our days.  Each stage of life is different.  Since quitting my job back in May, and a new phase has begun, discovering my purpose has been a new experience.  It is not that I didn't desire to know His will in years past but I have definitely had to more actively seek these past months.  What I may have thought was His plan, and His purpose is being tweaked, fine-tuned and, in many ways, changed.

STOP - I really did not get much said there -I was afraid that might happen.  This subject gives me much cause for pause, reflection, and some over-thinking.  I think that is okay, as long as the "pause" does not allow me to become stagnant.

I know many posts end with questions....so, I am curious - what ways or tools do you use to help you discern God's best and His purpose for you?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Living a Frugal Life

I mentioned last week Crystal Paine's webinar and how much I had taken away from that hour...including the motto "Live frugally so you give generously."  That simple phrase continues to impact me.  I want to be not only willing but also able to give generously - to give of my time, my talents and, yes, my treasure.  I think there is much wisdom in the idea of living frugally so I am able to do all three.  What does it look like to be frugal with my time...or my talents...and my money? 

The definition of frugal includes:   sparing with regard to money or food (oh my - one more way to consider being frugal!); careful; prudent, sparing and unwasteful.

My time.  I certainly don't need to be wasteful with my time.  And I want to be prudent how I schedule my to-do list and the commitments I make with my time.  If every hour is scheduled, and even over-scheduled, I will not able to give my time.  Every week opportunities arise where I can give my time to meet someone else's need or to simply be a blessing.   The senior who doesn't drive but needs to get to the pharmacy.  Oh, and then the grocery store.  A friend who would like to share her heart.  Sitting with an acquaintance during medical tests because they have no family close by.  And plenty of other little bits of needed time in between.  I want to have time available to give - and to give generously.

My talents.  This looks a bit like giving my time but when I am asked to use my gifts and talents,
as much as I am able I want to be able to do so.  This might be simply planning the next Sunday school class outing (and they do love their outings!) or organizing another ministry related activity.  It might be the Lord laying on my heart to lead a Bible study or plan a missions trip.  It might be any number of things, but if I am already depleted and spread too thin - meaning, I have not been frugal and careful making commitments and becoming involved - then I am not able to give generously with my talents.

My money.  The result of not being careful and frugal with my resources is much easier to identify.  I am unable to give (above my tithe, etc.), unable to support missionaries or special missions projects.  If every dollar is spent or already promised, there is not even a chance to meet unexpected needs of others or to be a blessing financially when opportunities arise.  No matter what the budget, all of us can live in a way that allows us to be givers.  I want to make sacrifices as needed so I am always in a position to give generously.

Live frugally - so you can give generously.  Wise words to keep pondering this week.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Inviting Ourselves In

The assisted living facility has a beautiful lobby and living room.  The gas fireplace is massive and is always on and is homey and inviting no matter the weather outside.  Every afternoon I arrive, there are always two or three residents gathered there.  Simply spending the hours before dinner is served.  Often someone has dozed off in an upright position.  I usually go by quietly so I don't disturb the napper.  But, what about the others who are awake? 

Yesterday, I stopped and started talking.  Apparently, it is much easier to begin an easy chat, or even a discussion, than it is to try and end it.  No one wants to be lonely.  No one wants to be alone....at least, not for too long.  We want to be included. We want to belong. But not everyone is able to connect - even with folks sitting close by.  Or has the courage to join the conversation or the group - even if invited.

Sometimes we have to invite ourselves into their world.  It might sound socially incorrect and may, initially, even feel awkward but there are so many around us who not only need us, but also want us, to engage them.  The new member at Bible study.  The visitors sitting by themselves before church begins.  Neighbors who just moved from across the country.  The senior waiting alone in the doctor's office.  The list is endless.

STOP.  We need eyes that looking for others.  Hearts that are sensitive to needs and a willingness to invite ourselves into their lives....for a just a few minutes, for a time or even for a friendship.

This week's prompt is INVITE.  You can find the others joining this week here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Three Words to Help with my To-Do List

Last week, I watched not one -  but two! -webinars!  For many (most) of you, that is not big news.  But for this technologically deficient lady...it was impressive.  To log on with over 4000 other viewers - from literally all over the world - and have someone share with me (from the comfort of their own couch) was, for me, totally cool!!:)  After I got over the awe of it all, there was so much good information!

Monday night's webinar was with Crystal Paine - she blogs at Money Saving Mom.  I took so much away from all she shared, including this quote "Live frugally in order to give generously."  Why didn't I come up with that!!?!  It not only inspired me but really expresses my heart.  However what I wanted to mention most today was a phrase she used for reaching your goals:  FOCUS AND FINISH.

I realize the phrase is not original and probably not new to many but I think those three words have rumbled through my thoughts at least ten times every single day since she shared them.  I don't consider myself overscheduled or even "too busy" - which I know makes me a bit of the odd one out - but I do have a "to-do" list (whether mental or written) and things I hope to accomplish each day and through the week.  Several of these things are specific tasks I believe the Holy Spirit has placed on my heart to be done.  However, even with enough time planned on my agenda, it is surprising, and often discouraging, just how much does not get finished and is carried over to the next (or the day after that!)

No doubt, simple procrastination can always be a problem.  But, often it is all the distractions.  The internet.  The cell phone.  Any and all types of media.  Interruptions.  The cell phone.  Oh, right.  Distractions are constant and endless.  If I am not careful, they will interrupt my devotions first thing in the morning and just follow me all day.  I tend to guard my quiet time carefully and set aside all possible distractions the best I can.  And I'm realizing I need more of this purposeful focused time throughout the day.

Set aside 30 minutes that will be focused and free of distractions and see a task finished.  I try to "schedule" as many of these focused blocks of time as the day will allow.  If a task takes more than 30 minutes, break it into smaller bites and finish one part each day.  Its only been a week since I started becoming aware how easily I lose my focus, and that I've been committing to "focus and finish" for blocks at a time - and things really are being finished.  Taming the distractions, staying focused in order to finish is another way to help me be a wise steward of the time I have each day.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Everyone Has a Story

I noticed him in the parking lot.  I had stopped for a quick errand on my to church and was in a bit of a hurry.  He had already found a full-size shopping cart and was pushing it across the parking lot.  He seemed to be in a hurry as well.  Perhaps, just very focused.  He was older, dishelved, and his too large sneakers made his gait a bit awkward.  Once we were in the store, we went opposite directions as I rushed to grab my two items.  But we ended up side by side at the check-out.  His full-size cart held a gallon of milk and five foot-long thin sticks of beef jerky.

I have to admit, my first thought was something along the lines of "a full-size cart from across the entire parking lot for that?!?"  Sad, I know. (My critical spirit never can seem to keep silent.)  But as the clerk bagged my things, I began to wonder if that was his dinner.  Was he going home to a meal of beef jerky sticks?  Maybe he had stopped for a gallon of milk and simply grabbed a few of his favorite snacks.  I have no idea.  He put his things back in the cart and left.  Was he using the large cart as a walking aid? Again, I don't know.  But that gallon milk and sticks of jerky nagged at me.  My heart wanted to know his story.

We all have a story.  The folks we notice at the grocery store.  And even the ones we don't.  Each senior now living at the assisted living center.  All the new ladies I'm meeting at Bible study each week.  My neighbors.  The servers at lunch and the obviously overtired hostess at dinner.  The young woman walking the neighborhood to endorse her political candidate that I am too quick to dismiss.

STOP...and my take away.  Everyone does have a story.  If we are going to live people-centered lives or we ever hope to connect with people, meet them where they are and have any hope of sharing Christ with them, we need to hear their stories.  Yes, it takes time and sometimes it takes sacrifice on our part but the reward is beautiful.  It also can be eternal.

This week's prompt for Five Minute Friday is (can you guess?) STORY.  You can find everyone's thoughts on STORY here. Funny how quickly five minutes speeds by when you are trying to tell a story!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

In Their Easter Finest

With the best of intentions, I have tried posting every Tuesday and Friday.  And then I did not get a post up yesterday...which made the day feel just a bit off.  However, it was a full day - plenty of things on the "to do" list but, even more, just a day full of little surprises...and gifts from God.  Not a parting of the red sea type of day but an ordinary day with an extra amount of blessings and smiles from Heaven.  So, although I may be a tad off schedule, I do not want to miss the opportunity to praise my heavenly father....truly He is so good to me!

Among those smiles yesterday, a sweet friend sent me this picture she stumbled across....

That cute redhead - in his Easter cardigan (and blue shorts, with white socks to his knees), and his mouth full of cookie, I suppose....never fails to make my heart happy!!  I hope your day has had an extra smile, or two, from Heaven today!