A Tuesday… Pause

Today, I was thinking about where I am…oh, not just in the physical sense of where I live or what room I’m in, but where I am in life. Where do I want to be? What is my vision of what I would like my life to look like? What brings me comfort and happiness? I have found that asking questions in my daily life has been one thing that has helped me the most through the years. Why? Because it keeps me honest with myself. We can make ourselves believe almost anything if we allow justification and excuses, or even blame, to enter into our thinking. AND… if we tell ourselves that long enough, we will believe it. Questions keeps me honest with myself if I answer myself with the truth. Of course, I have a great “Truth Agent” in my life who helps me, if I am willing to ask, and sometimes He tells me even if I don’t want to know. We need to face things head on with all honesty if we truly want to be living the way God wants us to live. We need to be following His lead, and not leading our own selves and then asking Him to bless that.

I think in many ways, these times we are living in has made many of us re-evaluate what we want in life and how we want to live. Where do we land with our priorities? We have been forced to slow down; to not get to do things our way. Many of these new guidelines have not been fun at all. Even hurtful to some of us. Changes are good and often times the best for us, but it goes back to our questions. Do we listen to them, or ignore them by justifying why we do the old things in the first place? Are you getting a picture of where I am going with this? Let’s look deeper…

As many of you know if you follow me, I am a BIG proponent of a slower life style. Now… many say, “You can do that because your retired.” However, I have found that retirement doesn’t mean my life stops. I’m very busy. I’m just busy with different things. I also deal with a retired hubby and that in itself makes a difference because they are with you all the time, and it can make it difficult to get done what you need to get done. That said, I had years of going 90 per. I didn’t like it then, and I don’t like it even more now. I would have loved to have been a stay at home mom and wife. But given my circumstances, and yes, my decisions at the time, I allowed outside influences to determine what I should do. But even in that time of my life, I was active with my walk with the Lord and studying. In this day, we have so much information to help us make better decisions, that it comes down to how much we are doing things our way, or God’s way. I have discovered through asking questions of myself, that in those days, I let outside influences determine what I did instead of listening to my heart where God was speaking. I cared about what others thought of me in ways that weren’t healthy for me. That happened in many circumstances. So… it has led me to begin asking myself the hard questions and then answering those as honest as I can. Now when we have different schedules, let’s take the time to ask ourselves the hard questions, as well as the fun questions. Let’s stop living lives that compare ourselves to others in life, homes, cars, clothes, and achievements. It leads us into wrong thinking and decisions.

We often keep ourselves busy so we don’t HAVE to think about where we are and what we are doing. Maybe… we aren’t trusting God to take care of us and since we don’t feel He is, we go about doing something about it oursleves. Boy can THAT get us into trouble!! But God didn’t ask us to be another person’s project manager. He asked us to live has He lived, and love like He loved. We are to be an example for other to watch, so that, they see the way we live and want to live that way. That means, we need to put our priorities in right order and live a life that others see and want to have. We particularly need to do that within our families because our kids will see our way of life and the way we handle things, and most of the time, carry that into their lives and relationships as well. THAT is rather scary to think about, but so true. It is worth us asking ourselves the hard questions and answer them so that we can let others see how living our life this way, can bring about a great life.

So…let’s get back to one of the questions I started with…”What brings comfort into your life?” As an example, I have previously shared of my life, I love a cozy atmosphere in my home. I like soft light of a lamp or candles, I enjoy cozy clothes at home, a loaf of bread baking in the oven, a good book/magazine in my hand with an afghan wrapped around me, and a mocha in my hand. I love to have time to play my instruments and sing along. My favorite place also is my studio area at my desk with a favorite hot or cold drink, my lamp lit on “relax”, a glassybaby lit, and a study that I’m learning from, which is how I am right now today as I write this. I enjoy reading before I go to sleep, so I also make time for that. For you, it may be coffee with a friend.I love to sit outside with my hands warmed to a fire. I know these activities are important for me to keep me on the right track. I know that about myself. It is not just good for me, I choose them because I know I NEED them.

Have you ever stopped long enough to ask yourself what brings you joy and comfort? Because many times we don’t. We just keep pressing on, maybe even afraid to ask oursleves that because we know it will require something of us. Changing something, stopping something, or beginning a new habit. But promise me you will ask yourself, “What brings comfort in my life?” and leave it in the comments. I would love to hear. Each of you will choose so differently. But that is the fun of it! It might be family time over a puzzle or game, or an outting together. Please feel free to share.

It is my prayer that as we have had to slow down, we have learned something about ourselves, become more aware of our thoughts, and take the time to answer the hard questions that I’m sure have also come up for you. Our life is meant to live, not just endure. The way we live today determines our tomorrow. Before your next step, ask yourself as Andy Stanley talks about in his book, Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets, “What is the wise thing to do?” or this one is a real nailer…”Given my past, and my present circumstances, what would be the wise decision to make?”. I have found that to be a great book and made me think again about asking myself the important questions and being honest about my thinking and answers in that process. What I have discovered is, when I answer, I find I have not always been willing to shed the light into all the dark corners of my life’s story. THAT in itself, will lead me to make the wrong decisions because I end up taking it with me into my future again.

Do the things that bring you joy and don’t feel guilty if you aren’t running around doing everything. We were not meant to live such busy lives that lead us to less time for ourselves and family. We WILL pay the price for that some day if you aren’t careful with our daily lives and choices. Pause…have a cup, read something you enjoy, just sit in the chair and listen to your music for a while, call a friend, sending a snail mail note, take some pictures, cuddle up in something warm, lean back and close your eyes for a few mintues and just say “thank you” that you have this moment or two in time. You don’t get them back. We wear busy like a badge and we have seen that come to a hault in many ways, and many have had a hard time knowing what to do with themselves when required to be at home day in and day out. Take away what you can to make this learning time something that changes you for moving forward. Those around you will thank you. Looking forward to your comments!

Living in the moment…

~JoAnn

What Is Your New Beginning?

Ever wish you could just start over? A life do-over? Another chance to make a different choice or decision? I know I have.  It’s tough when something hits that is unexpected, or when the devil is trying to take you out. He is sneaky in how he gets us to think the worst of situations and leadS us off the path. And sometimes, it doesn’t take much to do that, nor doesn’t it take much time to work out those thoughts and feelings in wrong actions. Then he gets us with the guilt. Yes we are very blessed to have the option to start again. We have opportunities to re-invent ourselves over and over again in our lives.

I believe that there are different kinds of “new beginnings”. God tells us in HIs Word that His mercies are new every morning. To me, that means that each day I wake, I have an opportunity to live differently than I lived the day before. I may have made mistakes yesterday, or had bad thinking yesterday, or made bad decisions yesterday, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do this present day in a different way with different decisions and different attitude, and a dependence on Him to direct me this day. THAT’S both a good thing and a blessing that we have in our lives.

So… when I asked myself this question of what my new beginning is, I came up with a couple thoughts.  As I have shared before, I believe there are hardships that come into our lives that are for a reason. We might be going along in life thinking its all ok and WE have everything under control. So we have this, “I got this!”, mentality. We are pretty proud of ourselves. It might possibly be that God is bringing us up short in order to help us realize that we aren’t listening or even consulting Him on the issue before us as we should. His message may be to get your eyes off you and on to ME.

Another reason may be that there is something He wants to teach us. I know sometimes if its a hard thing for me, I have a tendency to try and ignore what I think I need to do a while longer because of feelings or thoughts I have about it because I KNOW change is required. Changing is hard and I know what it takes to make changes. It requires me to humble myself and realize that His plan isn’t mine and I might have to humble myself for His plan; surrender. That is always best. I might not even have a choice, as in my case with the skin cancer. That stopped me in my tracks! I had no choice but to move forward with what the doctors told me I had to do. Absolutely no choice there. I was hurt, angry, scared, anticipating some of the worst, and feeling a bit like a whimp in my faith. I was bummed out that it was my face where everyone could see. But this is where the Holy Spirit gently reminded me of all that God has walked through with me. He has never left me.  When I did surrender all of that, I felt the Holy Spirit tell me it’s ok to feel those things, but I needed to turn that over to Him. In other words, He didn’t expect me not to be afraid, or worried, or angry, but He did want me to share that with Him. Then He could comfort me or speak to me about the areas of concern. In this journey, He did that through many people. He listened, and now it was my turn to listen to Him about a path I could not see the end of. Trust. I had to trust Him, the doctors and now the process.

We tend not to be very good listeners. We don’t get quiet enough to hear His whisper. We hear a testimony and we say all the right things, but we don’t allow it to sink into the deep parts of our soul as an way for God to encourage us towards a deeper faith. I still have an area to keep turning over every new day. I am still dealing with going out in public… I look way less weird than I did last weekm but I still feel vulnerable about it. Does that mean my faith is less? No. I don’t think so. However, I DO believe this process is something God is working out in ME. A new level He is escavating in me. I won’t ever be the same; not just because of skin cancer and the surgeries, but because it has once again brought me to a place of surrender. As Joyce Meyer has been known to say, “New level, new devil.” So of course he wants to try to make that a stronghold for me. I feel God’s strength working in me for victory every day I get up.

So my new beginning is being an overcomer. For what, you ask? The skin cancer, the surgeries, the healing, AND the vulnerability of being seen as I am. Facing the questions in people’s eyes. BUT…God reminds me of the story I can tell! We all have a story, and in my case, this wasn’t in the my script. God rewrote this chapter, because someone else may need to read it.  As I think about the new beginning I have in my healing process, I am all the more convinced that I may need to be more bold about sharing what God has done. I am asking Him to show me where I need to study, and what He has for me to do. I am asking Him to help me to accept this chapter He has written as the Author of all things. I wake asking for His mercies for my new day. It is changing me.

From Great Grandmother

A dear friend in Norway when she saw my latest picture said, “Just like a fine embroidery, JoAnn.” THAT really touched my heart. As I thought about it, it is so true that what the devil meant for harm and chaos, God has so intricately embroidered as a beautiful thread into my face right out there for anyone to see. Yes. There will be questions, and wonderings, but that is an opportunity to share God’s ways and love. Yes, and just like in my case where He used another person to let me know He heard my prayers and concerns. That is an amazing part of this new beginning for me. That very message encouraged me more than I can say and I have the light that I have lit every day since.

So don’t despair of the hardships. Instead ask Him what He wants to teach you through it. Give up having your way, and take on His. You may not even be walking in His ways right now. If not, I would urge you to do so. Could it be the reason that you mind, soul and spirit is a bit ill at ease? Are you going through something difficult? This may be Him drawing to relationship. Don’t miss His hand extended out to you. Reach out.

Every day I wake up and tell God how thankful I am to be here to be able to give of myself in whatever way He may ask of me. I ask that He will lead me to someone who needs encouragement that day. Every night I thank Him for His love and direction through the day and for the lives I pray I may have touched. I also thank Him for the Holy Spirit Who gives guidance and direction to me. I have learned to be a better listener of His direction. That my friends, is living large!

What do you think would be a new beginning for you? What do you need to surrender so you can live more fully for Him on a daily basis? I will pray over your comments you leave.

Until next time,

~JoAnn