Cross-posted from my Thriving in Grace blog.
The year that starts on Monday is “the year” for me in many ways. It’s “the year” my son graduates from high school, and homeschooling is completed. It’s “the year” that having an empty nest becomes a reality. (It won’t really be an empty nest since my son is staying in town for school, but it will be different since I won’t be teaching him anymore.) It’s “the year” that things change for me, and I enter a new phase of my life. That being said, I thought I would write down some of my goals for this upcoming year so I would have a written record that would hold me accountable.
My first goal is the one that holds some immediacy for me since it is related to my son’s graduation. I need to get his grades and transcript done in order to submit them to the head of our cover school so he can graduate. It’s not like I haven’t been keeping records all of this time. It’s just the matter of pulling everything together. It also hasn’t helped that I don’t need to submit a transcript to his college until it’s complete so it’s been easy to procrastinate. But, I will get it done before the last day. It’s my promise to myself. And once it’s done, I won’t ever need to do home school record-keeping again. Yay! Well, if I’m being honest, only part of me is happy about that, and the other part…not so sure.
My second goal is how I’m going to practice my faith. When I was younger, I attended churches that made a point (whether subtly or not so subtly) of saying that you could only serve God if you were married. Women were also relegated to serving in certain parts of the church–with other women, children, or in the kitchen. I recoil against both of those attitudes. Women have a lot to give to the church, and it’s time we realized it and allowed it to happen. I was able to write this in my journal earlier, and it showed me how far I’ve come in 2017. “I am a daughter of God all on my own! No one else is necessary for me to practice my faith!” Now, as far as my goals go, I have identified an area of service that I plan to get more involved in this year. I feel God calling me to it. I also will go to a Lifewalk group by myself, if necessary, to get the Christian community I want and desire.
The other three goals are directly related to the creative side of myself and will help me, I think, in deciding what comes next after May. The first of these goals is related to my crocheting. I want to learn how to crochet a prayer shawl. I have learned and been successful with two different stitches. I’ll probably need to learn more stitches, but I think crocheting a prayer shawl is a worthy goal for the year. It will help expand my creativity too.
My second creative goal is related to my writing. I need to be reading more so I can see and emulate good writing styles. Reading different genres will expand my horizons and will help me in my quest to use the creativity God gave me.
And finally, my writing goals. I think I was pretty consistent this year with blog posts. I wrote a lot about my faith and the questions it brought up. I was able to clarify my thoughts, feelings, and experiences as well. I also got a start on the novel I want to write before I got stuck. So, for this coming year, I want to get unstuck on my novel, write some short stories and articles, and start submitting. I will never know if I’m good enough if I don’t try, and I finally have the confidence to try. I’m looking forward to writing more and learning more about the trade of writing through submitting my pieces.
In conclusion, I hope that all of us, myself included, reach the goals we set for 2018 and that it’s a year of much blessings for all!
cross-posted from my Thriving in Grace blog
Have you ever been in a meeting where the person ended his talk with asking ‘Are there any questions?’ Come on, raise your hands. We’ve all been there. This can happen in any situation–at work, school, church, or in the community. The speaker wants to know if anyone has any questions he can answer.
So, what happens after this particular question is asked? People might look like a deer caught in headlights. They stumble over their words. Some people try to think of a question that doesn’t make them sound confrontational, or maybe they do want to be confrontational to get the answers they want. 🙂 There’s no way to know the mindset of the people in the room.
Sometimes, the questions asked are not expected, and the speaker has to scramble for an answer. This happened to me recently. I was at a meeting about the resignation of a person. The first two people who raised their hands didn’t really have questions to ask. They just wanted to compliment the speaker and tell him how much his tenure had meant to them.
Then, I thought of my question. Since his resignation was going to affect my son, I asked it. He didn’t know how to answer and had to come up with something off the cuff. The question was fairly innocuous, but I was surprised that no one would have thought a parent of a child in the group would have the question I had.
But, then, my mind turned to wondering just like it does before I have a writing idea whether it be for this blog or something else. What about the hard questions? Why do people want to hurt each other? Why do people want to steal? Why do people try to conceal the bad things they’ve done? What makes a person want to do bad things? We can come up with pat answers to these questions. We can even say it’s because of “sin nature” and think we’re done with it.
What about the harder questions though? Why did my child have to die? Why did the tornado or hurricane destroy my house? How come I have cancer? Why did I lose my job? Why does it seem like I’m the only one who struggles? Why is life so hard?
And then there are those questions that come with being a believer. Why does it seem like God has forgotten me? Why are people looking at me? I thought the church welcomed everyone. Why is it wrong for people to want to create? How is it wrong to ask questions about the budget? Why do people seem to judge more than they love? Why can’t we embrace our differences? What kind of songs should we sing in church? How many times should we have communion in a month? Do I trust God for His provision? There are many more questions one could ask as a believer.
I know I’ve peppered this post with a lot of questions (that goes with the title and all, 😉 ). They are questions I can’t answer, and I don’t think a lot of you have answers either. I don’t believe we will know the answer to most of them until we’re with our Lord and Savior. So, what happens in the meantime while we are living in the tension between this world and the next? I’m glad you asked. 🙂 For me, I think it will be a continual work in progress. I will pray to God for faith, patience, and strength. I pray that I will lean into Him for His comfort when I run into these unanswerable questions. And I pray that I will show Jesus’ love in whatever situation I am in and be the agent of change He wants me to be. So grateful that my Lord and Savior is fine with me asking any question I want to, even the hard ones!
Praying God’s blessings on you all today!
Reposted from my Thriving in Grace blog
Saw a challenge earlier and realized I could use it as a writing warm-up time. So, for the next thirty days, I will be completing Jeff Goins’ challenge to “practice in public” on this blog. It will be interesting to see what topics I can come up with.
For the past week, I’ve been using journaling prompts from bibleconnection.com as my topics. Today is the third prompt. I learned a great deal from the first two prompts, and I don’t expect anything less from the third one.
First, the prompt. “Beginnings can be exciting! What new chapter in your life are you about to begin? What have you recently started that you are excited about? What are you hopes for the future? Tell God about it—he wants to be involved in your life.”
The topic is new beginnings. Coincidence? I don’t think so. God has been leading me on a journey to trust Him and what He has given me as gifts. My gifts aren’t necessarily what other people think they are and not necessarily meant to be shared in the church.
So, what about that first question? What new chapter am I about to begin? The chapter of being an empty nester. My younger son is graduating from high school this spring. Though he will be staying at home for college, my role with him will change. Homeschooling will be done, and he will be venturing out to prepare for what he wants to do in life. He’s ready just like his brother was two and a half years ago when he graduated from high school. By the time this school year ends, I will have homeschooled them for 12 years. I was 40 when I began and will be 52 when I finish. That’s a lot of life. I am excited about the possibilities, but a little nervous too. I have poured myself into my kids for the last 12 years. I’ve lived in 6 different places and come back to my faith. I’ve lost family members and experienced illness and financial difficulties.
But, I know the next years will be just as amazing. I will have more time to write and maybe get something off the ground with my writing. I will have time to get in better shape. And I will have more time to either volunteer or get a job. My role with my kids will change, but it will be a good change I am looking forward to–relating with them as adults. I am most looking forward to growing in my faith in God. With God by my side, anything is possible, and I know the things I’ve mentioned will be more possible.
Answering the second question has more profound implications. I am most excited about my recent writing and where it is bringing me in my faith. The things I consider to be weaknesses are the things God wants me to focus on. Why weaknesses, I ask? Shouldn’t I be focusing on my strengths? That seems to be more logical. But, if I am transparent about my weaknesses, God has more of a chance to be seen in my life. This is shown in the first part of 2 Corinthians 12:9. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” Paul is speaking here, and I’m glad we have the second part of what he said. “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” We don’t generally boast about weaknesses in the church. In fact, we are reticent to bring up any part of ourselves which may be considered badly. That’s not what God wants though. God wants us to be as authentic within our community as He does when we are talking to Him alone.
So now, I have some knowledge of the steps God wants me to take. He wants me to be authentic and transparent. He wants me to show my weaknesses without being self-conscious. And He wants me to be confident in His love. For it is only in His love that my hopes for the future can be realized. They are all intertwined in order to show God’s glory. And that is the best hope of all!
Praying God’s blessings on you all today!
Cross-posted from my Thriving in Grace blog:
I looked at the date when I was on Facebook earlier. Not only is today the birthday of a very good friend, it is also the week before Halloween. This started me thinking about the holidays and what they have usually meant for me. I almost sighed audibly. Although my kids aren’t small anymore, I seem to do the same amount of running around in search of the perfect holiday. It is tiring, and there have been years when I’ve been exhausted at the end of December wondering where the time had gone. So naturally, I decided to turn this into a blog post. 🙂 These are the first sentences I wrote in my journal earlier. “Am I really looking forward to this year’s holiday season. I’m not sure at this point. For the last couple of years, I’ve felt like I’ve been slogging through the holidays. Not enough money, not enough time, running around to make sure everything gets done. I don’t want to be like that this year.”
Since I had some time to think about it, these are the thoughts I came up with. During the holidays, I want to be more intentional about my gratitude, about my serving, and about my reflection. It’s not just running around from place to place. It’s treating the whole time as an experience, one I might never have again. And if it’s something I might never have again, shouldn’t I live more in the moment? More in the gratitude. More in the serving. More in the reflection. More in the saying. More in the…playing. Yes, I said it–playing. I’ve heard it said many times that experiencing the holidays through the eyes of a child is the best way to get adults to slow down. I don’t have small children, but I am acquainted with several. In fact, I share a birthday with one of them which is also during this season. I’m looking forward to making memories with them during the next couple of months.
Another way I’m going to be more intentional about the holidays is through my writing. For those of you who don’t know, November is a month where many writers begin and hope to finish at least 50,000 words of a novel. It’s called National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo for short. It’s been several years since I’ve participated, but this year, this year I need to write the words down, to get this idea out of my head and onto the screen. Writing is how I figure out my world, and the times when I sit down and write are the times I experience the most clarity about the world around me. So, writing during the first part of this holiday will be my second way of being intentional. Now, would I like to get to 50,000 words and finish? Sure, I would. But this year, I want the journey to be about the words and about the story. In other words, to live in the experience while it is happening.
Finally, and most importantly, I will focus on the words of my Lord and Savior as I slow down and really think about what this time of year means to me. It’s not the gifts. It’s not the parties. It’s not even the Christmas tree. I’ve had holiday seasons where there has been plenty of money, and seasons where money has been scarce. The seasons that have been the best though are the seasons I have focused on God–having gratitude for what He has given me and serving where He calls me to serve. Psalm 100 brings all this to mind and more. I leave you with this psalm as you seek your own ways to be more intentional during this holiday season.
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
Have a great day!
Cross-posted from my Thriving in Grace blog.
Facebook memories can be a funny thing. They can also be one of the things to inspire a blog post as they have this morning. I was looking over my memories earlier and saw that on this date, four years ago, I published a post about writing quotes, https://writewhatyouknowdotorg.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/writing-quote-thursday/. I looked over the post and smiled. It was a fond memory of where I was as a writer four years ago and how far I’ve come since then.
Learning never stops though, and between this Facebook memory and the challenge issued by the writing blog, Positive Writer, http://positivewriter.com/7-inspirational-quotes-that-could-change-your-life/, I thought I would do another quote post today and talk about different quotes and what they mean to me.
I’ve been working on myself this year and how my faith in God brings me closer to the person He wants me to be. It’s a struggle. All of us come to Him with baggage. Heck, all of us have baggage, period. One of my struggles is believing in myself so the quotes I have chosen today reflect this struggle and how far I’ve come. They were all encouraging to me in different ways. Here is the first one.
“We are all unique, and have our own special place in the puzzle of the universe.” – Rod Williams
This reminded me of Psalm 139 which has become my Scripture reading of choice when my confidence lags and my insecurity reigns.
“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.” – Booker T. Washington
When I think about this quote along with what I’ve had to overcome with my faith, I don’t feel as insignificant to God as I felt on Sunday when my church was doing a ground breaking ceremony. People tell me that I mean a lot to my church, but sometimes I just don’t see it. I know I mean everything to God though, and that is what counts the most.
“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human experiment.” – E. E. Cummings
I feel like this is what I’ve done with my blogs over the past four years. I’ve published words I wouldn’t ever say out loud, except maybe in my pastor’s office. 🙂 I’m not successful like the world defines success, but I know God has a purpose in the words I share, and that is the success that means the most.
“Always be yourself, and have faith in yourself.” – Bruce Lee
This is so plain it shouldn’t have to be spelled out, but I’ve had to work on it anyway. I’m the person God made me to be, and He doesn’t want me to change though I have tried.
“You are braver than you believe, smarter than you seem, and stronger than you think.” – Winnie the Pooh
This is my favorite of these quotes. It teaches me to reach beyond my thoughts and feelings about myself and live the way God wants me to. God gave us thoughts and feelings, yes, and we are to express them honestly. But, He also wants us to have our value rooted in Him and no one else.
And finally, the last quote.
“We are made to persist. That’s how we find out who we are.” – Tobias Wolff
For awhile, I forgot how to persist. I’ve been so busy trying to make myself into the person I thought God wanted me to be that I lost track of who I actually was. No more though. My words are who I am and writing them down is my best way of honoring my God-given gifts and being true to myself and the person God is growing me to be.
Hope everyone has a great day!
It’s been a long time since I’ve written in this blog. So long, in fact, that I thought people had forgotten about it. But people are still finding this blog and following it which has been pretty amazing in and of itself. This has brought me to a decision. I’m going to start cross-posting the posts I write for my Thriving in Grace blog, https://alisarussell.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/following-jesus/, in this space to attempt to revive this blog. And come up with some original material for you all to enjoy too.
I’ve never made a secret in this blog of being a Christian, and that is where today’s topic comes from. Hope and redemption–two words that are used often in Christian circles. I never considered though that there might be a distance between them until the other day.
First, to gain some clarity, let’s define each of these words. Hope is to cherish a desire with anticipation or to have trust and reliance while redemption is the act or process or an instance of redeeming. Those of you who are Christians might have also heard of redemption being spoken of as the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil.
So, hope is a desire and redemption is action. Both are spoken of in Scripture. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Romans 3:24 says, “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (the action Jesus took by dying on the cross for us)
Both of these are necessary for the Christian faith. If there is hope without redemption, no change is ever made, and we won’t experience God’s love in this world. If there is redemption without hope, we are just doing good deeds without knowing the why behind them. Therefore, it is possible for a distance to develop between these words like I spoke of earlier.
I’ve experienced this distance myself in recent weeks, and I wasn’t sure why. A distance between me and my Lord and Savior. Human beings do a good job of hiding their inner selves from the people around them. We can even hide the deepest part of our souls from ourselves. Of course, they’re not hidden from God, but he can’t start to help us or start the healing process until we are willing to let them bubble up to the surface. That takes us being willing to ask ourselves the hard questions or having trusted people in our lives who are willing to ask us the hard questions. I had one of those moments last week, and once he asked the question, and I answered, I felt the layers of distance between hope and redemption dissolving through the tears. It was not something I had considered, but it was something which was totally correct. It was rejection and insecurity from my past I had not dealt with.
Oh, I thought I had, and maybe to a certain extent, I had. But, I was under a mistaken impression which God corrected in those moments in that office and in the moments for the rest of that day. What was that impression, you ask? I thought I could deal with and then put rejection and insecurity in the back of my heart, and it would stay there, never to come out again. It took me awhile, but with God’s help and my friend’s help, I finally figured out life doesn’t work that way.
That was what brought me back to the distance between hope and redemption. I can’t work on my issues until I’m willing to take action and bring closure to the distance. God wants me to take my fear of rejection and my insecurity to him each and every day when I wake up. This will not be something I will ever “get over”. I will leave these fears at His feet and pick up the truth of who He is and who I am in His Kingdom as I live this crazy messed-up life of mine. The distance between hope and redemption disappears as I know without a doubt I am God’s daughter, and nothing will ever change that!
God’s blessings on you all today!
A happier topic this morning and a continuation of my writing prompt series. Here’s the prompt.
Balloons … Streamers … Cake. I love a good party! What would be the best
theme if someone were throwing a party for you? What would capture your
all-time favorite things? What unique decorations would be used? What food
would be served? What music would be playing? Would there be costumes?
What do the centerpieces look like? What different elements would make it
the ideal party specifically for you? Capture the scene with your words …
My 50th birthday was last December. I hinted to my husband in every way I could that I wanted the day or days around it to be special. (since the actual day of my birthday was on a Monday) I would have to say he did well with the hints taking our family to dinner the night before and to see Christmas lights for the first time in the city we now live in. He also asked our entire church to sing to me when he was making an announcement after the service was over in the morning. I was not expecting that, and it was pretty cool.
What made it really special though was the actual day of my birthday. I’m a pretty simple person as far as decorations and centerpieces are concerned. It doesn’t matter to me whether I eat off of china or paper plates. I’m a meat and potatoes kind of girl who likes country and Christian music. So, when a good friend invited me to Shane’s Barbecue for lunch, I was very happy to get to spend time with her and wasn’t expecting anything else. Boy, was I Wrong! I write that with a capital W because I was wrong. Let me set the scene. I walked into the restaurant, and she came up and hugged me leading me to the back of the restaurant. I was bewildered because usually, ordering was done before sitting down. But, I walked back there and saw a group of our friends from church. It was a surprise party! It had been a long time since I had someone plan one of those for me. I was greeted and hugged by everyone and was especially excited to see my birthday buddy who turned 5 on that day. It made me feel good to know that I counted with these people because I struggle with that. Anyway, we ordered and had a good time talking and laughing as we ate lunch and the birthday cupcakes my friend had brought. People even brought me presents which was the last thing I had expected–mainly writing journals and Christmas decorations. The party was precious and made me cry. It was the best birthday party I had ever had. I’m very grateful for the community around me who showed me the love of Christ that day and who put up with me even when I’m not the best person to be around. I guess that’s what grace is all about. 🙂
Hope everyone has a great day!