Are We All Just Done With 2020?

How many of us declared in January, this was going to be the best year yet? There were memes floating around social media about how the 2020 holidays fell on all the best days and it was going to be a fabulous year of celebrating.

And now here we are. This year has not played out like any of us expected. It has brought us a crazy amount of adversity – at a level we would have never even suspected. At this point, I think we are all a little tired of the masks…tired of the tension…tired of things not being normal.

However, we have four months left in this year so let’s not give up on 2020. While we cannot control the difficult events of this year, everything is not completely out of our control. We do get to control how we respond.

Often in life, our struggles worsen when we dwell on the negative. When we are able to recognize the good in our days, we are more likely to feel the peace that comes in knowing God is in control.

And He is in definitely in control. He has been all along.

Only God knows the great things He has planned for our lives. One of our greatest blessings might come this September, October, November, or December.

We have four months left in 2020! I can’t wait to see what God will do!

What is He Really Watering

I looked out the window yesterday and saw him watering my flowers. Flowers that he readily admits he does not care for, especially because they need to be watered every day in the hot Texas sun.

But there he was…watering my flowers…because he knows they bring me joy. When I saw it…my heart fluttered.

Yes, it meant a lot to me that he noticed my flowers needed watering. I really appreciated him stepping in to do that chore for me, but that is not why my heart fluttered.

I stopped what I was doing and took a picture of that moment because what he was really watering was our marriage.

Watering a marriage might actually include watering the flowers, but there are many others ways to water a marriage. It is really about looking for meaningful ways to show love, care, and kindness.

Watering the flowers is a fairly small act in a day filled with many activities. Watering a marriage is also filled with many small acts.

Of course a big effort can be exciting, fun, and appreciated. Those are important in building memories and bonding a couple, but those small moments throughout every day are what truly waters the marriage.

We know what happens when we water flowers…they grow, they bloom, they blossom. So it is with marriage. When we water our marriage, we grow our marriage and it blossoms into something truly beautiful.

Watching him water the flowers, made me realize I need to take in these little moments and not let them go unnoticed because recognizing his efforts is important in watering the marriage as well.

Keep Shining

Last week at work, I was emailing back and forth with a woman trying to help her fix an issue. In her last email, she sent me an apology for wasting my time because she thought what I had been working on wasn’t needed.  

She ended the email with “Keep Shining.”  It surprised me because I have never received that kind of message during a professional correspondence. It also made me smile.

I have not met this woman face to face. We don’t know much about each other beyond the work we were discussing. Even though it turned out that my time wasn’t wasted because the effort I had put in did correct the problem, I was still touched by those two words.

It reminded me that even though I am spending my workday communicating with others by phone or computer, I can still convey kindness. Even though my face to face contact is usually spent behind a mask, I can still show others I care.

Those two encouraging words – Keep Shining – reminded me that the tone of my voice over the phone or the words I chose to use in an email or text can make a difference. Even though the bottom half of my face is covered, I can still smile behind my mask. When I do, my eyes will squint or maybe even sparkle a little. The biggest thing keeping me from shining is my own attitude or response to a situation.

Jesus actually addressed this in the Sermon on the Mount. He said:

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  ~Matthew 5:14-16

These days can feel shrouded in darkness with all of the issues 2020 has brought us. Jesus calls us to let our light shine before others. When we do that, we are obeying Jesus, encouraging others, and glorifying God. 

In the darkness of these often-frustrating days, I encourage you to be the light that Keeps Shining.

It’s Your Season

We have all heard the term “Seasons of Life”. Some people are encouraged by that term and others can’t stand it. Honestly, I am one that is encouraged by it because I know that whatever is going on in my life at this very moment…it will not last forever.  

Every year as we grow weary of winter… the snow melts, a gentle rain begins to fall, and the cold air turns cool and inviting. Beautiful flowers begin to sprout, and the cool breezes become warmer and warmer. 

Soon we tire of the rain, but thankfully, the clouds part. The bright sun dries up the rain…the days grow long and more relaxing. 

Just as the heat becomes oppressive, a cool crispness fills the air. We find new delight as the green trees turn gorgeous shades of red, yellow, and orange. We layer up and breath deep the cooler and cooler air.

Slowly the leaves fall from the trees and a cold, gentle blanket of snow delicately covers the dreary dried up ground. Icicles glisten from rooftops and we bundle up and prepare for the cold days ahead.

Depending on where you live, there might be more distinct differences in the seasons. Some may last longer than others, but the seasons still change.

Life’s Seasons are very much the same. Your season might not look like my season. Yours might last longer than mine does. It may be a season that brings you immense joy or it may be one you dread. It may be a season that provides you with beautiful memories. It can even be one that you do not want to remember. 

The wonder of all of these seasons are that they do not last forever…just for a time. A time that God has ordained.  A time God has equipped us to endure or to enjoy. 

We are reminded in Ecclesiastes:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.

What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1; 9-12

What Season are you in at this moment? 

Is it one that brings you happiness or are you just “getting through it”? Are you feeling stuck and ready to move on to the next one? Are you wondering why you are even in this current Season? Are you enjoying it so much you dread the Season that will eventually follow?

While we don’t always have answers to why or when or even how…what we do know is the next season always comes…but right now…this is my Season in Life. It’s Your Season too.

How are we going to live it?

Love Deeply

I have been thinking about writing for my blog again for quite some time. I have been asking God to give me the words He would want me to say. So here we go…I’m back!

Like everyone else, I have plenty of opinions about this crazy 2020 year….but I don’t want to spend my time writing about that any more than you want to read it.

Recently, I have been working on a new project that I am excited about and plan to share soon. Several days ago, while doing some research for that project, I came across a scripture in 1 Peter that really stuck with me. 

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”  ~ 1 Peter 4:8 

Two words in that verse popped out at me and they have stayed with me all week. Love deeply.

No one seems to have answers for all the uncertainty that 2020 has brought us. Experts, leaders, family, and friends debate over the best approach to meet the challenges of this unprecedented year. 

In our hearts, as Believers, we know God is in control. We know this. It is hard to remember moment by moment as the arguing, news, and noise erupts around us.

We are all doing our best to figure out how to live in a time like no other. We have made mistakes. But I still believe there is good in people. When we fight with others, they tend to fight back. When we love others, they tend to return that love or pass it on.

As I thought about Peter’s words this week, I was reminded that instead of trying to prove my point (even when I am certain I am right), above all, I need to love others deeply

Later I came across this verse. If there was a scripture for 2020, this has to be it!

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”  ~Ephesians 4:23

Maybe the key to getting through this unforgettable year is to love deeply, bearing with one another, in a bond of peace.

What Is Wrong With People?

Another Monday has arrived and yet again our country is hurting from tragedy.  My first thought was: I have no words.

I mean…what do you write after waking to the news of over 50 Americans killed and over 500 injured at a concert in Vegas by another American?

How could something so horrific happen in America? It’s mind boggling.

Honestly, my next thought was: People need Jesus.

I don’t mean that in a flippant cliche kind of way. I am as serious as I can be when I say it, and I believe it to my core.

What is wrong with people? They need Jesus.

How do we deal with this heartache for our country?

I’m tired. I’m sure you are too. Aren’t we all just so tired of the heartache?

We are weary. We feel the burden that is enveloping our country. I have felt it all day. But then…a friend of mine posted our former pastor praying for Vegas. He was the pastor of our church when we lived in the Midwest.

Seeing his loving face and hearing his gentle voice as he prayed live on Facebook brought tears to my eyes and peace to my heart. Even though I had been praying off and on all day…hearing him pray brought me such comfort. I felt my body relax. Had I been tense all day?

As my mind tries to deal with the events of today, these very words of Jesus come to mind:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  ~ Matthew 11:28-30  (NIV)

If your soul is struggling and you need rest, Jesus really is the answer. He offers it freely and lovingly to you tonight. All you have to do is give your burden to him. *

We have a tremendous amount of heartache going on in our country. It’s heavy and we are hurting, but there is a way through it. His name is Jesus and He is the way.

*PLEASE NOTE: If you have questions about how to give your burdens to Jesus and put your faith safely in Him, please feel free to contact me.

His Stormy Outlook

JB and I are the Opposites Attract kind of couple. I am usually pretty optimistic and positive about life. He tends to look at things with a different perspective. As a matter of fact, we have joked about the fact that if he ever wrote a blog, it would be called My Stormy Outlook.

We discussed the idea of having him “guest blog” a My Stormy Outlook post today because he has a story to tell…but he has homework to grade and football to watch, so I will try my best to share a bit of JB’s Stormy Outlook.

It has been a few weeks since Hurricane Harvey roared across south Texas and dumped an unimaginable amount of water on a good chunk of our beloved state. The pictures we have seen and the first-hand accounts we have heard have been incredibly heartbreaking.

JB has a tough outer shell, but he’s a big softy inside…and his heart hurts for the people who are affected. He has 24 years of military service behind him and I know he misses the ability to GO and DO when something bad happens.

Just a few days after Harvey hit, our pastor announced at our Sunday morning church service that our church would be sending a disaster relief team to Houston. JB jumped at the chance to sign up to do something.

Yesterday JB returned home after a long weekend of extremely hard work. He arrived exhausted, saddened by what he saw, and thankful he could go and lend a helping hand.

He spent one whole day helping clean out a home that had been shut up since the storm. He met the couple that lived there. He watched with great heartache as they realized there was very little left to salvage of their possessions. All day long, they made trip after trip carrying their water-soaked belongings out of their home to pile them on the curb.

The next day, JB helped gut another home. The household goods had already been removed, so he spent the day pulling over 400 nails out of the ruined drywall. The flooded homes have to be striped of anything the water touched.

In the area where JB and his team worked, the homes were anywhere from four to 12 feet under water during the flood. This means many of the homes are being completely gutted down to the frame of the home.

The devastation is so tremendous that many Texans are left to completely start over from scratch. Everything they owned from clothes to cars were destroyed.

However, what impressed JB during the weekend was the spirit of the clean-up crews. From short-term volunteers…to ones who are there for the long haul…they are dedicated to doing the most dirty, difficult work to help the flood victims move forward. Most of the volunteers that JB met were well over 50 years old. Those with the time to give tend to be older, but they are not letting age stop them for doing what they can to help those in need.

With great sorrow in his eyes, JB told me how massive the clean up truly is…which means it will be a painstakingly slow process for these homeowners. It will be quite some time before they can move back into their homes and try to find some kind of new normal in a place that doesn’t quite look like home anymore…a place with all new furnishings but few keepsakes of the home that once stood there.

What is even more mind-boggling is that there are people in the same kind of recovery mode in Florida, the Caribbean, and our northwestern states. There are a tremendous number of people trying to put back together the pieces of their lives after storm and wildfire damage in just the last few weeks.

This post does feel more Stormy than Rosie, but sharing JB’s story is important. Many of you care and want to know how those affected are doing. Many of you would like to be able to do something to help as well.

There is a wonderful organization that has been on the ground helping from Day 1. They are called the Texas Baptist Men’s Disaster Relief. The money you donate to them will go directly to the those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

JB and his team worked directly with this amazing group. Some of the great work they are doing that JB witnessed was:

  • Preparing food for the volunteers and the flood victims
  • Providing trucks stocked with washers, dryers, and showers
  • Organizing and running the clean-up efforts in damaged homes

We can tell you with confidence, your support of the Texas Baptist Men will go directly toward helping Texans in need.

As I think about all that JB has experienced, these verses keep coming to mind:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
 ~Psalms 121: 1-2

I love these Psalms, because they remind us that in times of trouble, the Lord will send help. He won’t leave us all alone. He will be there to see us through troubled waters.  Sometimes we even get the opportunity to be that help for someone in need…and that can turn a Stormy Outlook…Rosie.

 

Just As It Was 16 Years Ago

You may have noticed there wasn’t a blog post from me last Monday. I actually wrote seven different drafts of which 0 turned out to be something I was pleased with enough to post. That lead to a discussion with my editor, JB, that I can only describe as “creative differences”.

Bless his heart…I’m thankful he hangs in there with me.

At some point we did agree that it was late…and a post just wasn’t happening…and we needed to “work on it tomorrow”.

Well…Tuesday was a crazy busy day from sun up until sun down with no time to write…and then the rest of the week flew by in a blur…which brought me to a point where I finally acknowledged it wasn’t happening.

Maybe someday I will go back and rework one or more of those posts, but today, this is on my mind:

America, you are beautiful and I am so sorry you are hurting.

As you and I know, America is struggling with her fair share of issues right now.

All at the same time, we have wildfires, floods, and hurricanes harming our loved ones. We have no control over the damage being done, but we can certainly be there to help those who are in great need.

Many of our country’s citizens have firmly taken a side in the political warrings that plague our nation. Of course, we cannot control what others believe or support. Shouting someone down, “educating” them with online articles and memes, or lecturing them on how they are wrong probably isn’t going to change anyone’s mind.

I truly believe living your convictions in a kind, passionate way has a much greater impact on those on the “other side” than anything you scream at them.

Today is the 16th Anniversary of the most horrific terrorist attack on American soil. For those of us old enough to have experienced that day in real time, the horror of it will never leave us.

America changed drastically that day and things have never been the same since. It was a time of tremendous loss, but we united in such a beautiful American way. We bravely rose from the ashes and stood strong together.

Old Glory was proudly flown on homes and buildings across this great nation. Our congressional leaders sang God Bless America on the steps of the capital. The churches were full and the name of God was called upon freely. We cheered each other on and celebrated our survival. We were all on the same team: USA!

Sixteen years later, the memories of shock, confusion, fear, heartache, and pride all stay with me. I distinctly remember how that day unfolded. The details are clear and the feelings are still very strong.

I was heartbroken and yet incredibly proud of my country in September 2001.

Funny…but sixteen years later I feel very much the same about the current issues our nation faces. From the natural disasters to the man-made ones, I still feel so sad for the damage done, but also pleased with the good we are seeing in so many people across this great land of ours.

I know there are people who don’t feel this way right now. They see the bad stuff that is happening and they are discouraged. It is very easy to get depressed if you focus on the destruction and negative choices.

But I want to encourage you to turn your focus to the good. There are people really stepping up to help others. Some are truly listening and trying to do something to make a positive difference in our country.

Despite the ashes that are falling down, the waters that are rising up, the storms blowing in, and the turbulence of differing opinions, every day citizens of this country continue to quietly reach out and help others in need. You may never know their story or even see the fruit of their labor, but they are still making a difference in our nation just the same.

There really is an incredible amount of good in our country. The next time you get discouraged by the negative news of the day, I encourage you to purposely look for the good happening around you. If you look for it, you will see it.

There is still heartache in this world, but God is still great, and Americans are still good. Just as it was sixteen years ago today.

 

 

 

 

How American Heroes are Born

Hurricane Harvey arrived in south Texas a few days ago and has caused tremendous loss and heartache in America. As we sit here safe and dry at Wild Blue Yonder, our prayers and concern are with our fellow Texans just down the road.

The pictures and stories coming out of the affected areas are full of great sorrow and amazing fortitude. We hear of neighbors helping neighbors, Texans taking care of Texans, and Americans caring about Americans during this incredibly difficult time.

Tonight I want to share a few hero stories with you.

We have dear friends living and helping in the Houston area. They are in the medical field and have been called to their hospitals to help.  Dr. R’s car stalled in rising water while trying to get to the ER that needed her. Several strangers came to her aid and pushed her car out of the waist deep water. Then, her hospital sent a big truck to get her. All of this happened while her husband is working at another hospital. He went in Friday and she doesn’t expect his return home until Tuesday.

This morning I saw a post online by a local woman who announced her husband had a boat and was heading south to see who he could help. She asked if anyone wanted to go with him and a man quickly responded that he would go. These two men didn’t know each other, but one had a boat, and they were both willing and able to go, so plans were made.

A couple of my friends have family members that were rescued by boat after getting trapped in their homes. I am guessing there are a good number of people, just like those two local guys, who are showing up with boats and helping people even though we may never know their names or hear the details of their incredible rescue stories.

We are located at least five hours away from the flooding, but that didn’t stop a local church from collecting material donations. They have already sent a truck load of items on their way and I hear they are continuing to collect more for another delivery.

Our pastor told us Sunday about a group called the Texas Baptist Men. I have seen pictures online of these men serving hot meals and providing other services for these communities. This is a group that is already there making a difference. If you want to make a cash donation, I believe your money would go directly to those in need. Just click on Texas Baptist Men to donate.

Last night my heart was touched by a guy in Houston that goes by the nickname of Mattress Mack. He invited those who needed shelter to his furniture stores. I have since read that his two locations are at capacity. His words of encouragement to his community were as kind as his offer to open his places of business to those who needed a place to stay.

Of course there are many more beautiful stories that will rise from the flood waters of South Texas in the coming days. As you know, Texas is a huge state. There is still a good portion that has not been flooded by Harvey. That means there are many many places in Texas prepared to welcome the evacuees, including where we are.

We all know the help isn’t just coming from fellow Texans. All across America, people are donating and praying. Americans are caring, loving people. When there are difficulties, we rally around those in need and help in whatever way we can.

When we hear these stories, we are touched. We call these Americans who go out of their way to help strangers our heroes. Of course, the heroes of the story don’t ever think of themselves as heroes. They just see someone in need and figure out a way to help them. To them, it’s just what needs to be done, so they do it.

It’s in times like these…when we hear these heartwarming stories…that we get to see first hand how American Heroes are born.

With My Eyes To The Sky…

Today was a very special day in America. We were blessed with a unique opportunity to experience a solar eclipse. While our family back in the Midwest marveled at 100% totality, we enjoyed about 76% here in Texas.

JB secured a pair of the approved viewing glasses and I made a pinhole camera similar to the one I remember making as a child. We used both methods for viewing the eclipse from our backyard. It was pretty cool to watch the moon inch across the sun right above Wild Blue Yonder.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. ~ Psalm 19:1

The sunlight diminished a bit and the temperature was comfortable, but we didn’t see any stars or hear the cicadas. Our outdoor lights didn’t come on like they did for those in the optimum viewing path, but we still reveled in our experience as we sat on our back porch.

All across America, people were having similar experiences. As the eclipse made its way from sea to shining sea, Americans were united in awe and enjoyment for a few minutes today. I’m so thankful for the peaceful excitement the Great American Eclipse brought to our country.

Frankly…in my opinion…we needed it.

Isn’t God just cool? He knew it…long before these days of division enveloped us. He always knows just what we need and today He gave us a moment in time to come together and look to the Heavens in pure wonder.

Thank you, Jesus, for loving us even when we struggle to be loving to each other.

Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name. 
 ~ Isaiah 40:26

Wouldn’t it be glorious if we could keep the feeling of amazement we shared today and block out all the heartache going on in this world?

Oh how I wish we could, but ugliness doesn’t go away. Mommas still get cancer, people still fight on the internet, terrorism is real, politicians still disappoint us, extremists still hurt others, and babies are legally aborted every single day. Great suffering continues in our world. A breathtaking moment doesn’t take those horrors away.

Clearly we can’t pretend everything is all beauty and love when we know it isn’t. We also can’t live in a constant state of fear, sadness, and anger either.

So what do we do during times like these?

I love this advice from the Apostle Paul to the people of Philipi:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.  ~Philippians 4:4-9

So while I can’t hide out on my back porch all day ignoring the heartaches of this world, I can choose what I think about as I go about my day. It’s up to me how I react to others. It’s on me to put good into practice. I need to be the good in this world.

Instead of worrying and wallowing in the problems of the day, I can spend my time marveling over the excellent and praiseworthy events that come along. I can focus on the many blessings of thanksgiving our family has enjoyed over this past year. I can pray God will take care of the problems of the day.

Additionally, I can trust God to envelop me in the peace which transcends all understanding, guarding my heart and my mind in Him.

So I am going to look at all of the beautiful pictures people have posted. I’m going to watch their videos and read their stories. I am going to meditate on this amazing gift of God’s handiwork that He gave to America on this day. It brings me peace.

Tomorrow, I’m going to keep today’s beautiful experience in mind as I go out to be the good in my little part of America.