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When it doesn’t turn out like we planned

Life can be funny. At least we have to laugh sometimes to keep from crying.

Laughter is good medicine the wise Book tells us. It’s so true. When tension is high or stress wraps me tight, laughter can release sometime in me and lighten the load.

I love it when the one and only son calls, and his laughter is music to my ears. And Sweet William’s deep laugh can cause me to join in from pure enjoyment.

And don’t we need a little laughter on any given day? Today would be a good day for a chuckle.

Things are not turning out like I planned. The unexpected arises and I’m caught off guard. Other people do their own scheduling, and it does not line up with mine.

Sometimes life just doesn’t cooperate with me.

It has happened on any given day, the path I’ve laid out takes a wild twist and turn. Before I can catch my breath, a new agenda lies before me.

And so it is. Life is full of the unpredictable, the unforeseen. The road I’m on leads to a heavenly home, but there will be many a side street detour, a busy thoroughfare, even a rest stop I had not anticipated.

I’m ever learning to deal with the interruptions in my own blueprint for life. I’m really not wise enough to make all the decisions and chose the right answer every single time.

Thankfully, I trust in One who laid out His pattern for me. My Father’s ways are higher than mine; His thoughts are so far above mine. He knows what is best.

So today I will make a decision, a decision to smile and be happy, to expect joy in the most unexpected places. I know there are fresh mercies in store for this day.

Grace will abound, and it will be amazing.

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Sunday grace

Plans for the New Year. Plans for January. Plans for today.

I make them and work at them and sometimes accomplish them. But often “the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men” and me, crumble like a stale cookie.

I openly say it. Often. Out loud. “I don’t understand Your ways.”

My only recourse, my only peace lies in trusting the Great Planner, the One from everlasting to everlasting who knows no beginning nor ending. His plans are sure for they are in His eternal mind.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” — Proverbs 19:21 NIV

Rest weary soul from the futility of worry about the future, about today. God is working all things according to His purpose.

It shall be done, and all is well. All shall be well.

Sunday grace.

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The day after Christmas

Christmas-Ribbon-Tree

Wrapping paper and empty boxes fill trash containers. Toys and gifts are scattered through the house. We over-indulged on too many sweets and rich foods, and we declare that healthy eating begins today – after we eat up the leftovers, of course. There is still a week of school vacation left for children before the routine begins and we start a brand new year once again.

The day after Christmas finds me putting away the decorations and feeling relieved it’s over.

Some years I’ve just wanted it to be all over because of the heartache and disappointment I was dealing with. This year, I’ve experienced a deeper contentment, and I wonder if like the Apostle Paul I am finally learning to be content in all circumstances.

I have prayed for that. It must be an answer from my Heavenly Father who hears me and knows my heart like no other.

Some people choose a word for the coming year. I see it on blog posts as writers offer their choices and the reasons for them.

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I am considering doing that this year.

I’ve been a list maker and a goal writer in the past. In some recent years, I’ve not planned much because there was no way of knowing the direction the wind was blowing Sweet William and me. It was all I could do to hold onto the mast as the storm raged. I hoped I would not get thrown overboard.

I was in the school of Learning To Be Content.

I have given myself a gift this coming week, time to relax and reflect. I will put the house in order with an uncomplicated decor. I will start my organization throughout, checking closets and drawers and trying to turn loose of things. (I realize this is not relaxing to some, but for me it is exhilarating. I’m odd, I know.)

I will prepare my bullet journal for 2017 and make an effort to guard myself from being over committed. I will plan on Sabbath rest each week and a few minutes each day to stop, sit, and let my mind wander, probably with a cup of coffee in my hand.

I will seek the face of God to know His will as I walk out my days in 2017. I will ask to walk in power and confident trust, to see His glory in the miraculous and the every day. I will try to scatter kindness to those in my path.

The Christmas celebrations are over until next year. We are taking a collective sigh of relief as life returns to something we call “normal.”

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As I make tentative goals and plans, one thing I want to do is keep celebrating Jesus in my heart every day.

Once a year the world remembers the Christ Child born in Bethlehem. Remembering is necessary. Celebrating is good. Honoring Him every day of our lives is what matters.

And who wouldn’t want to spend the remainder of life on what really matters?

Welcome 2017. My God holds you in His mighty hands. He is sovereign over all my days. I can trust Him for the future.

Rest.

Making room

The heart carries a lot.

Yesterday afternoon, my heart was glad as two friends sat at our table. We ate, talked, and laughed together for hours. It was a gift of time, and my heart filled with the reward of friendship.

My hurt hearts this morning. After hearing of another untimely death last night, Sweet William and I agree that sad news is too much a part of this December .

I ponder the Christmas story in the gospels of Luke and Matthew, trying to see the narratives with fresh eyes. I’ve heard the accounts since I was a child, sung the carols, read the devotionals and commentaries, and written about it in one way or another.

The drama is old yet new. Every year it presents the mystery of a love that cannot be explained. It leaves questions unanswered in my mind. I marvel at the miracles scattered throughout like stars in the sky and angelic visitations as common as the postal delivery.

Never was there such a love story.

But if I am not careful, if I am not intentional, the beauty of it can be crowed out of my heart by the trappings of the season. The shopping, the cooking, the preparations, the events and parties, the busy schedules, and yes, even the heartache and sorrow can push aside the reality that is Christmas. My focus can become clouded by the daily stressors.

I must make room for the Savior.

In our 21st century fast-paced living, there seems to be no slowing down. We live in an age that requires much of us, our thoughts swirling like snowflakes in a wind. Our minds are scattered with obligations and to-do lists, the next project, the next appointment. There are people to see and places to go and any number of things that need our attention.

What am I to do to make room for the Savior?

He longs to be part of this celebration, this party for His birthday. But is He? Is He a Sunday morning thought as I rush about to get to church on time and after I’ve done my duty, is He simply a check off the list so I can continue with my plans?

Jesus will interrupt the plan. He will come in an unexpected, unexplained way. He will change everything.

If we accept His invitation to stop in our tracks and listen to the still small voice, nothing will be the same. Some won’t quite understand. Others might think we are a bit confused in our thinking, gone off the deep end.

If we make room in our hearts and in our lives for the Savior, He will take us on a journey we could not have imagined. It might be hard, challenging, overwhelming even.

But it could be miraculous and filled with wonder.

Let every heart prepare Him room this Christmas. Perhaps the world will witness and be curious. Perhaps some will ask why. Perhaps one or two will see Christ.

And then they also will stand amazed at an amazing grace and make room for the Savior.

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The journey to the cross – the hour has come

Day 35 of 40 days to Resurrection day

Today’s suggestion:

Read about Jesus last week and the events leading up to His arrest.

(Matthew 26:1-16, Mark 14:1-12, Luke 22:1-6, John 12:20-36.)

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I see the word “then” often as I read these passages.  The story unfolds as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John tell about Jesus’ last week of walking this earth clothed in flesh.  “And then . . . ” they say, showing us the sequences of events are coming one right after the other.

  • Passover draws near.
  • Jesus tells His disciples plainly that He is about to be killed.
  • He is anointed with precious ointment and acknowledges it is for His burial.
  • The Pharisees plot Jesus’ arrest.
  • Judas falls right into their hands and suggests he can help, for a price.
  • Jesus says He will be lifted up, crucified.

It’s as plain as the nose on your face.  The plan is in place.  The stage is set.  The will of the Lord is written in heavenly stone and it will come to pass.

Yet some still do not believe.

Matthew and Mark give us a peek into the private conversations of the Pharisees and elders who want Jesus dead.  “But not during the feast [Passover] or the people might riot,” they say to one another. Why would they say this?  It is because Jerusalem will be teeming with people from other countries, visitors coming for Passover.  Many of these have heard of the Miracle Worker.  Jesus had a huge following, those who had seen the wonders and  believed He was the promised Messiah.  The crowds had just hailed Him last Sunday as the One who would come and deliver them.

This was not the right time for an uprising.  Not the time for a crucifixion.

But it was the time, the fullness of time.  God’s time.  All things pointed to Jesus’ death.  And it would come to pass.  This year He would be the Passover sacrifice.

Just like the ointment poured on His feet, He would be poured out for the sins of the world, the precious blood of a Lamb without blemish, a fountain flowing forever to cleanse from the dreadful stain of sin. And nothing, not the powers of hell or anything else, can stop it from happening.

Jesus made a statement to His disciples this last week that would be a light at the end of their tunnel. One hope in the darkness of the events approaching like a galloping horseman.  One truth that will trump the enemy’s destruction.

He said:  “But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”

Oh Hallelujah!  His death is not the end of this story.  Sunday is on the way.

Revised and re-posted from April 2014

Planning for the unknown

A new year.  Brand new notebook.  Fresh page.  Crisp and pristine.  I like the feel of it, untouched, no smudges or coffee spills.  No torn or worn corners.

A new year is like that for me, presenting a fresh start.  Not exactly a do-over but a chance to do-differently.

I’m a planner by nature, making lists, checking things off.  It brings me satisfaction to make a plan and follow it through.

But oh my, I’ve learned a lot lately.  My plans are subject to change at any moment whether I’m ready or not.  This is the unknown factor to figure into the equation.

I hope I’ve learned to make adjustments more quickly, so I don’t stick long in the mud of my stubbornness wanting my own way.  I hope I’ve gotten better at discarding my plan for the richer plan of my Father.

As I begin 2015, my inner planner starts to list projects and goals.   There are things I want to do, places I want to go, people I want to spend time with.

Scripture teaches that we should plan for the future.   But it also tells me I must bow the knee to the greater plan, one that I cannot fully see or understand.  As I make my lists, I must be ready to change and be willing to roll with it rather than fight against it.

I’ll set aside some time in the next few days to make some plans and write a list for 2015.  They will be subject to the Father’s will, and I will pray to be ready to adjust to Him rather than throw a tantrum because I’m not getting my way.  But I’m learning.  After all these years, it’s about time, don’t you think?

 11836218446_4505cec52d_bPhoto by Alex Markovich of Idiot Photography

If you are making goals in 2015, would you share some of them with me?

Expect a change

I tried to keep a diary when I was a little girl.

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On January 1st I had the best of intentions, to write daily, to keep a record of the days of my young life.  But by mid February or so, I’d skipped too many days and lost the desire to keep at it.  My perfectionist personality (even at this tender age) made me feel like I’d failed if every day was not filled in to my satisfaction.  Yes, I set high standards for myself.

Years later I took up journaling which was more to my liking.  I could write one day and skip several or even a week and it was OK.  Because journaling is a record of a life not just a daily record.

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Sometimes I read old journals just to remember what was going on.  Today, I found myself back at January of this year.  I was preparing to leave my position as Academy of Arts Director at Little Flock Baptist Church, where I worked almost seven years.  They were really good years but that season of my life was coming to an end.

My last day was January 17th and I had planned to finish a few more details of the job with my successor, say good-bye to co-workers who were friends now, and then Sweet William and I were going to celebrate at Olive Garden with a dear couple whose wife had recently retired.

But then the weather changed and the snow fell and my plans took a detour.

My successor could not get out of her driveway.  The  co-worker/friends were not at there desks for me to say good-bye.  The anticipated dinner at Olive Garden was canceled.  And I was a little let down that my retirement celebration was crumbling.

Then I heard a gentle whisper from the Holy Spirit.  “Expect a change of plans.”  That is what I recorded in my journal.

When such a message comes to me, I tend to pay attention.  My plans for retirement are subject to change so I had better be ready for it.

As I think about my first year of “being retired,” it has certainly been different than what I anticipated.  Things I’d wanted to do had to be let go.  A trip to Tulsa to see three precious grandchildren was canceled.  Sweet William had another surgery.  Projects I hoped to complete never even got started.

It has most certainly been a year of changed plans.  Sometimes change can lay me low as I try to adjust and regroup.  But what remains unchanged is ultimately what is really important, what lifts up my weak hands and strengthens my feeble knees.

I am still loved.  Prayers never vanish or waste away but are before the throne of the Almighty.  Our needs are met daily.  My sins are forever forgiven.  Grace is still enough.

God is ever faithful in His extravagant love for us. His plan for my salvation and an eternal home with Him is set in stone, the chief cornerstone of Christ’s death and resurrection.

And with a heart of thanksgiving, I can rest in His unchangeableness.