Wednesday, November 20, 2019

When HE Lets Me Do it My Way

Sometimes I think God lets me do stupid things in my own power so I am reminded that I need to trust fully in HIM.

For example...
Yesterday I had a lot to get done in the morning.
My Precept group was meeting for the last time before our holiday break, and we were planning a potluck. I had decided to make something in the Crock Pot to share with my Precept sisters. That way I could bring a warm dish which would stay warm, and which would travel easily. Besides, these dear ladies always seem to enjoy the Crock Pot dishes I make. So I had a plan, and all was good.
Until a few days before - when I realized I had an appointment to get my hair cut at 10:45 the same morning. Because getting my hair cut at 10:45, driving home to pick up the Crock Pot, and getting to church by 11:30 just wasn't going to happen.
But I put a little thought into it and figured out that I could put the recipe together a bit earlier than necessary, take the Crock Pot to church to finish cooking in our meeting room, go get my hair cut and be back at church with minutes to spare. I was quite pleased with how creatively I had come up with a solution to my problem and *might* have secretly patted myself on the back for not stressing about how to get 'er all done.
So yesterday I was well on my way to successfully pulling off my plans - in the van, on my way to church, on time, with the Crock Pot - and its contents smelling so good! - when I realized I had neglected to bring my Bible study materials. And I panicked.
I thought, I can't go to Bible study without my homework and notes and stuff! But I can't turn around and go back, because I don't want to be late for my appointment. And there's no way I'll have time to go home after my haircut. Maybe I can just remember the stuff I wrote in my notebook. No. I need to go back. But I've already wasted time sitting through two lights. I don't want to be late. But I'm going to Precepts. How could I have forgotten my Precept notebook? What was I thinking? Do I have enough time? Oh, for crying out loud, Karen, stop arguing with yourself and turn around to get what you should have remembered!
(Am I the only one who has internal conversations like this?)
So I carefully turned around (Didn't want to spill the contents of the Crock Pot!) and I went home. Praying every second of the way. I asked God to work out the details of the lights for me so I wouldn't be delayed by them again. And I thanked Him every time He faithfully made the way. I prayed the doors at church would be unlocked and our room open so I wouldn't waste time looking for people with keys, and I thanked Him for meeting each of those needs. I asked Him to get me through traffic and safely to the hair salon on time so I wouldn't inconvenience Clayton by my forgetfulness. And I thanked Him for even giving me extra time upon arrival, so I could read over some Bible study notes before going in for my appointment.
As I took a deep breath - thankful for everything God had just done for me - I realized, God, You let me do that, didn't You. When I left home without my folder, You knew it. And You let me go. You could have nudged me - could have kept me from forgetting. But You let me go in my little flurry of getting things done, let me rely on my own ways and wisdom. You let me do it my way - so I would be humbled and recognize that I need to trust You for everything. Every little thing. And You let me see that when I trust You, You are faithful in every detail. In.every.little.thing.

I understand that my circumstance yesterday might not strike everyone as an encounter with the Almighty. But, I'm telling you, there is no room for doubt in my mind that HE was at the center of it.
And my heart is fully delighted.

Karen

Monday, November 18, 2019

Permission to Rest


The truth is, my days have been full and I just didn't "have it in me" to make a video devotion.
Rather than force something, I'm choosing to rest.
And because I have a feeling I am not the only one who feels this way, I want to extend the offer to you, as well. May the peace of Christ rest upon you today!

Karen

Friday, November 15, 2019

It's My Pleasure

I love it when I get to have significant conversations with guests while I'm working.

Love.it!

Sometimes, however, I am not able to say or do the things my heart wants to pursue.
Like yesterday afternoon in the drive-thru.
We were super busy, and were getting cars through the line at a very good pace when I did a double-take at the guest sitting outside the window. She didn't do much to make eye contact with me, but I could see that she had been crying. And as I handed out a bag of waffle fries all I had time to do was pray for her silently. If it had been in the morning, or if there weren't a long line of cars behind her I would have slowed the interaction and asked about her circumstance.
(Though it didn't really look like she wanted to talk, anyway.)
As it was, when she pulled away I asked God to comfort her and be her help. While I took care of the next guest I prayed still. And even as I am typing these words, I continue to pray.
Thankful that God is not bound by time.
Trusting that He knows her needs.
Believing He can work on her behalf.
Grateful for the opportunity to notice and pray when somebody is hurting.
LORD, please keep me alert to Your Spirit and the things You would prompt me to do through Him.

Karen

Thursday, November 14, 2019

HE Answers

Oh, my goodness!
God is so faithful to answer us when we pray.
Yesterday I was asking Him to lead me in what to say during a couple of women's events at which I will be speaking in the future. I was honestly contemplating how to address these groups which may not be fully given to believing His Word. I was thinking, How much should I say? At what point will they stop listening, or - worse yet - become offended?
And then, right on cue, HE let this video come across my computer screen. My first thought was that I didn't have time to watch it. But somehow God got me to click on it and right away I knew HE was answering my prayer regarding "how much" to say. My spirit was so convicted. And I just kept watching because HIS WORD was speaking and I wanted to hear.
Part of me has the desire to give you the play-by-play of my response to this message, but I realize my response doesn't matter. Instead, I simply want to implore you to listen to this word. To allow God's Spirit to speak to yours. And to respond with holy reverence.

Karen

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Another Dedication

Well, the letter finally arrived.
The letter, that is, from Michigan Tech University - for which my son has been anxiously waiting.
Annnnnnd, looks like my boy is going to be a Husky!
Now Matthew is busy learning about housing options, researching campus life, and dreaming about the future. I am in one moment proud, and excited to see him growing and pursuing new things. And in the next moment I am full of sentimentality - wanting to keep holding on to my baby boy, not feeling ready to embrace this soon-to-be-empty nest. (Especially as I sat through a child dedication ceremony at church Sunday morning. The memory of standing on the platform the day we dedicated Matthew to the LORD seemed so very recent. *sigh*)
Maybe that's why I found myself re-dedicating him in my heart. Thinking about him on the brink of adulthood, making more of his own decisions (Though I love when he comes to Brian and me for advice!), doing more of his own things - I still pray that God will lead. Still believe that HE is the One who knows best. The One who can be trusted. So even as those young mommas and poppas were making commitments to raise their children to know the LORD, I was praying for my man-child to be drawn to HIM as he takes these next steps.
To be honest though, as I considered those young mommas and poppas and all that is ahead of them I also reflected on those same things which are now behind me. The years of doing my best to do my best, of trying to get it right - but knowing I fell short many times, and the occasional moment of feeling like we were actually going to make it. I thought of times when I could have done this, should have done that, or might rather have done the other thing. I questioned, Did I do enough? Did I miss things? Is he really ready to go? And I felt the Spirit of God nudge my heart. Dear one, you can still trust Me. I am not finished with him. Yes, he's growing. Yes, he's soon going to be moving on. But you can know that I am already there, and I will go with him. Keep trusting. Keep praying. Keep believing. I've got this!
So that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to follow HIS plan.
Trust. Pray. Believe.
And send care packages.
I mean, HE didn't explicitly say care packages, but I'm sure that's what He meant! *wink*

Karen

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood


I grew up watching Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.
And in September I had the opportunity to see a movie based on his life. Specifically, based upon an relationship Mr. Rogers had with a journalist who interviewed him for a magazine article.
I was immediately willing to go to the preview, because I loved Mr. Rogers as a kid.
And because I have a general rule that I'll go see almost any movie starring Tom Hanks.
But I did not expect the level of inspiration I felt.
Like, seriously.
I left the movie wanting to be kind to everyone. I walked out with a greater amount of respect for Mr. Rogers than I ever could have understood as a kid - truly impressed by the tenderness of a man who just wanted to make a difference in the lives of people.
Even as I think about it now, I remember one scene when it seemed like Mr. Journalist was just trying to provoke Mr. Rogers to anger. However, Mr. Rogers kept responding graciously - and I'm all, How does he do that???
Indeed, the movie is full of inspiring scenes from beginning to end.
My two favorites of those scenes were the subway, and the bedside of the journalist's dying mother.
I'll not say more than that - but will encourage you to make plans to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood when it opens in theaters on November 22.

Karen

Monday, November 11, 2019

God Noticed Me

Last Friday I shared a story at an event called The Notice.
I had mentioned it here last week, and was asked how somebody might see it who doesn't live nearby.
My first thought was to find out if the event was being live-streamed. (It wasn't.)
My second thought was to ask my husband to record me while I spoke. (He did!)
And my third thought was to post it here for anyone who wishes to listen.
By that time, I was whipped. It isn't often that I think three thoughts so rapidly! *wink*
So, in case you're interested, here it is:

Karen

Friday, November 08, 2019

It's My Pleasure

"May I have your name for your order?"
It's a request I make of each guest, so we are able to greet them by name when we deliver their meal. And Monday I was able to have some quick-on-my-feet fun with that interaction.
That is, I asked for a man's name and as I was entering it into the order he asked (with a playful tone of voice which said he thought I didn't know how to spell his name), "Uh, how are you going to spell that?"
Without missing a beat I said, "T-H-A-T."
And I gave him a great big smile until he caught on to what I had just said.
Then we shared a laugh while he gave me the correct spelling of his name, and while he congratulated me on my fast thinking.
Ahhhhh, I love my job!!!

Karen

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

The Notice

Last year my church began holding Friday evening events wherein people were encouraged to share their God-stories. They were somewhat informal gatherings during which time we got together to be encouraged by hearing the things God had done and was doing.
They're back.
And this coming Friday I am going to share my testimony of when God noticed me through scripture.
I am very much looking forward to telling the story from several years ago when He met me in my pit of despair and gave me hope.
If you're in the neighborhood, I'd love to see you there, too!



Karen

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Silly Puppy!

Josh texted this picture - along with the caption, "She chewed the face off her favorite toy..."


Is it just me, or does Cleo look a little sad? Like she feels pity for the faceless toy?
The situation makes me chuckle just a bit, as I consider the two of them - Josh and Cleo - coming to terms with the consequences of their actions.
That is, I'm sure Cleo was just enjoying chewing, not realizing her favorite toy would soon become filler for the trash can.
And, similarly, Josh has expressed a level of disbelief at how difficult it is to "raise" a puppy. (He was only 10 when we got Mindy. Didn't do much in the training department. It was all fun and games for him!) She has chewed paint off the wall in his kitchen. House-training has been a challenge. He's gotten tired of her biting his hands. Getting her accustomed to her leash caused him some angst. He even said sometimes it's frustrating that she's so stinkin' cute.
Because her cute-ness makes it difficult for him to stay mad.
Ahhhh, but I know she'll grow out of her puppy-ways. The chewing will slow down and one day stop altogether. And when that day comes, she'll stop ruining her toys. I know the frustration Josh feels now will also decrease and eventually go away.
But in the meantime, I am enjoying watching him learn how to handle difficult moments. I delight in seeing him mature as he deals with the challenges life-on-your-own-making-adult-decisions is bringing his way. And it's a bonus to have this adorable silly puppy as one of the objects of his lessons. *smile*

Karen

Monday, November 04, 2019

In the Silence

When your throat gets sore, and you lose your voice, well...

Video devotions don't get recorded!

I was incredibly thankful that I made it through chapel at the women's mission Thursday night.
And MOPS Friday morning.
But after that? My voice was GONE!
I worked for seven hours Saturday, indebted to gracious managers and co-workers who made it possible for me to serve "behind the scenes" - so I could almost not talk at all during my entire shift.
And as I type these words Sunday night, I am actually able to speak again.
Enough to have a conversation at the dinner table. (Brian is so glad. Says he has felt like I've been mad at him the past two and a half days. *wink*)
Hopefully enough to effectively communicate enthusiastically at Chick-fil-A Monday.
But not enough to have made a video devotion.

And, that's that.
The reason for my "silence".
Might you take the three or four minutes you would have otherwise spent watching my video, and ask God what HE wants to speak to your heart today?

Karen

Friday, November 01, 2019

It's My Pleasure

I love telling stories here about fun interactions I have with guests at Chick-fil-A.

Because I LOVE those moments.

But sometimes our exchanges are not amusing and life-giving.
Sometimes a guest is in a rush. They approach the counter already speaking their order - rapidly. Clearly communicating they don't have time for relationship-building.
On other occasions their non-verbals simply express that they're closed off that day. No interest in connecting. Just take my order and send me on my way, please.
I understand that not every transaction can be fun but, honestly, it can be a challenge for me to not take those moments personally. I so enjoy the delightful interactions that those on the other end of the spectrum can make my spirit sad. I have to talk myself into moving on, without getting stuck in discouragement.
So, Monday I was in the middle of one of those times. That is, a man and his family were standing in front of me. He was doing the talking - not super fast, not totally closed off - but dry, and bordering on unfriendly. And as I was just about ready to accept the situation as "one of those", I noticed part of an H followed by E,A,T, and part of an O on the t-shrit he was wearing beneath his jacket. And something that looked like a college seal. So I asked, "Is that a Wheaton t-shirt?"
He sort of perked up and said, "Uh, yes!"
Then I told him that my daughter graduated from Wheaton and I learned that his family was presently en route to Wheaton - where his son is a student. I told him how much we loved the school, and suddenly I found myself in a delightful conversation with this man who - seconds before - I had nearly excused as someone who didn't want to be engaged.
And I rediscovered the power of making a connection. When we find out we have something in common with another person, we seem to be drawn to finding out more. To strengthen the connection. Even if it's only for a couple of minutes over an order for lunch.
But it can make those couple of minutes delightful.

Makes me wonder what would happen if we looked for connections more often. Particularly in those interactions we have with difficult people!

Karen

Thursday, October 31, 2019

When Death Makes You Think

I went to a funeral yesterday.

And I was so inspired!!!

As I listened to stories about a man whose faith was great, and whose love for family and friends was immense I found myself doing some soul-searching. Asking the question, Am I living my life in such a way that these kinds of things will be said of me at my funeral?
Oh, how I want to live a beautiful, faithful, God-honoring life.
How I want every moment to count - to make a difference for eternity.
When I come to the end of my days and I stand before my Lord, I long to hear Him say, Well done, My good and faithful servant.

And I love that in the economy of God death is not the end, and can actually inspire hope in life. Though there is sadness in the passing of this man - a hole left in the hearts of many, at the same time his legacy lives on. And we can be encouraged to emulate his faith and love.
Father, thank You for Jesus. For His atoning death which bought us life. Thank you that the earthly death of Your children is not the end, rather a beginning. And thank You for the example You gave through this saint, of a life well-lived. Please lead me today to walk in faithfulness and love.

Karen

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

When My Feelings Don't Matter

My plan yesterday was to exercise in the morning.
That is, when I got my work schedule last Friday and saw what my week was going to look like, I said to myself, "Self, you only have two days next week for which working out is going to be feasible. Make the most of those two opportunities."
So I got myself dressed and thought through some exercises.
But when I got downstairs and started doing said exercises? Well, I didn't feel like doing the three sets I had originally planned to complete. The truth is, I didn't even feel like completing the first set!
Actually, the truer truth is, for a moment I contemplated what might be the benefits of stopping an exercise regimine altogether.
But I knew that line of thinking was ridiculous, so I pressed on.
And I got my work-out done.
And when the third set was over I realized how glad I was that I hadn't given in to the feelings I'd had ten seconds into my first move. In fact, as I ponder it now I can say I expereinced a certain delight in pushing my want-to-quit feelings aside and replacing them with going-to-do-it-anyway determination.

Does anybody know what I'm saying???

I mean, I'm all for paying attention to cues our bodies and feelings give us about things we need to do.
Or stop doing.
Or redirect.
Or whatever.
But I am also fully aware that sometimes those cues are not for our good. Sometimes they're just excuses we employ to get us out of undesirable, uncomfortable, or unpleasant circumstances. You know, like exercising. Or changing habits. Or developing new perspectives. Or having hard conversations.
Oh, so many things we could avoid if we only listened to our feelings.
But my small victory in the basement Tuesday morning served to remind me that I don't always need to heed my feelings. And I'm asking God to give me the wisdom, the strength, and the grace to recognize those times when my feelings don't matter.

Who's with me?

Karen

Friday, October 25, 2019

It's My Pleasure

He ordered a 12-piece nugget meal and turned to her, "What would you like?"
She seemed confused and said, "I'll have my usual."
"Hmmmm," he mumbled, "I'm not sure what the usual is."
But he made a decision and ordered her lunch while she went to sit with friends.
As I looked at the total for their meals I perked up and said, "Hey! That's the year my dad was born!"
He said, "Me, too!" And with that we engaged in a brief conversation about my dad, wherein I mentioned that my dad has Alzheimer's. "Ahhh, so does my wife," he told me. Honestly, I kind of had a feeling that was the case as I observed her stumbling over what she wanted to eat. I've seen this couple before at Chick-fil-A, and have always had a sense she was struggling.
So as we continued our conversation while I got their drinks ready, I felt a higher level of compassion for this man - and for my mom as I realized I had probably just seen a picture of her future. I also discovered that I had a higher level of admiration for him - sensing the pain in his heart as he witnesses his wife's mind deteriorating, while also seeing a demonstration of his love for her as he does his best to bring her joy and a fulfilling life.
I hope they will continue to frequent our Chick-fil-A, and that I will have many more opportunities to serve them. Not just lunch, but kindness and compassion. I would love to know that in the midst of her confusion and his heartbreak we could be a small oasis of rest and delight. Because, really, that's my pleasure: Being an instrument of His grace to those who need Him.

Karen

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Speak, LORD

Oh, how I love, love, LOVE the Word of God!!!

Approximately once a month I teach the lesson for chapel at the Lansing City Rescue Mission women's shelter. And over the past few months I've been doing a series of lessons which I call, Feel-Good Phrases Which You Won't Find in the Bible.
Let's see, we've done "When God Closes a Door, He Opens a Window," "God Wants Me to be Happy," "Follow Your Heart," and next week we're doing "We're All God's Children". In each of these lessons we talk about the feel-good phrase - and the generally well-meaning intent behind each one - and then we look at the scripture which refutes the statement, and scripture which shows the Truth. And as I have been examining the passages we're going to look at next week regarding who is a child of God, what it means to be a child of God, and how one becomes a child of God? Oh! My heart is soaring with joy and thanksgiving for the fact that God sent His Son to save us from our sin!!!
And so I invite you to spend a few minutes letting this Word wash over your soul.
Really. Read it a few times - slowly - and ask God to speak to your heart.

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

~Ephesians 2:1-10


Karen

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Bless My Heart

I made a new recipe last night.
It was basically a hunk of meat surrounded by vegetables and covered in a balsamic marinade.
But neither my husband nor my son thought there was anything "basic" about it.
That is, both of them made quite a fuss over how it looked. To the extent that when I was getting ready to transfer it from the pan to the serving dish and bowl, Matthew screamed, "Wait!" asked me to wait.
Then he got out his phone to take a picture and post it on Instagram.


I don't know how many "likes" he's gotten. But at least one of his followers wanted to come for dinner.
***Awwww, shucks!***

Karen

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

I Scrubbed the Floor

I scrubbed the floor of the shower this morning before I took my shower. Figure I saved a good five minutes doing it this way. That is, I didn't have to change into grubby clothes first, didn't have to set aside what I was already doing to go take care of a chore, and didn't have to rinse my work space when I was finished. Just spray, scrub, turn on the shower, and hop in.

See, the thing is, I spoke for a group of MOPS moms last week. And as we were sitting around the table talking, the topic of how-can-I-get-things-done/how-can-I-be-satisfied-when-I-don't-get-things-done came up. I listened to these mothers of pre-schoolers bemoaning their never-ending list of chores and duties, and the struggle it is to do everything in the midst of caring for children - and I remembered being in their shoes. Wanting to get it all done, so I might feel like I was "good enough".
As if I had to prove my worth by having clean children and a sparkly house.
Well, see, the other thing is - I think the reason I could understand their struggle (besides remembering young motherhood) is because not a lot has changed.
OK. A lot has changed.
My life is no longer filled with diapers, sticky fingers, temper tantrums, and toys over which to stumble. Today the pressures come in much different shapes and sizes. And from different sources.
But they're still demanding, and they still leave me feeling like I can't do it all.
Ahhhh, but there's where the other change has come.
Today I know I can't do it all.
And by the grace of God, I'm OK with that knowledge.
My Father has convinced me that HIS love, HIS presence, HIS goodness, even HIS delight in me is not dependent on my performance as a keeper-of-my-house. God doesn't mind when my shelves are dusty. HE is comfortable sitting at the table with me even if there is clutter on the counter. And HE doesn't base my worth on the shiny-ness of my floors.
So I won't, either.

Oftentimes while I'm showering I think, Argh! I need to scrub these walls and floor. But I have A, B, and C to do when I'm finished getting dressed today. And then D, E, and F this afternoon. When am I ever going to get to cleaning the shower?
But today I took a couple of minutes before I got into the shower and I scrubbed the floor.
Maybe I'll quickly do one of the walls before my shower tomorrow.
And another one the next day.
For now, though, I am going to be satisfied with what's done.
And I am going to rest in the knowledge that God loves me. (No matter what my house looks like.)

If you relate to this struggle, may I invite you to join me in getting parts of work done in the pieces of time you can do them, and giving yourself a pat on the back for a-little-bit-of-a-job-well-done?

Karen

Monday, October 21, 2019

Friday, October 18, 2019

It's My Pleasure


On Monday a young man came to my register and ordered lunch. His amount due was $10.65 and he handed me a Chick-fil-A gift card to make his payment.
Lots of people come through with gift cards, and at that point I expected to see a window pop up on my screen asking if I would accept a partial payment of $10.
Because, most often, gift cards are for $10.
But instead of seeing what I expected, I heard a familiar ringing sound and the printer spit out a reciept. And, as I always do in those circumstances I glanced at the bottom of the receipt so I could announce to this young man how much money was left on his card.
That's when my eyes got big, and I said, "Oh! This is a nice gift card! Your balance is $89.35. Somebody must love you!"
He smiled back and explained that his grandmother had been visiting over the weekend and was afraid he wasn't eating enough. So she came to Chick-fil-A and got him a gift card.
He was very happy with her generosity, and I thought her gesture was so sweet.
Then I remembered some delightful things I have read and seen recently about Chick-fil-A. There was the Chick-fil-A manager who changed the tire of a World War II vet who came into the restaurant for help. The Chick-fil-A employee who emerged from the kitchen to tie a tie for a high-school boy whose dad was deployed over seas. Another employee who helped a single mom and her kids make it to "Family Night". And as I thought about this young man who was enjoying a warm meal - in the light of all the other Chick-fil-A folks who've cared for their guests, it occurred to me: How sweet is it that we're even trusted by grandmas to keep their beloved college students well-fed? *smile*

Karen

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

A Warning from Hebrews

For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.

~Hebrews 2:1

Pay much closer attention.
This is the warning we are given in the beginning of Hebrews 2.
(Among several other warnings throughout the book...)
And I'm thinking about it heavily today. That is, I have been thinking about it for several days recently - as I've been doing my homework for my Precepts class. I was never a fan of "homework" when I was in school but I'm telling you, studying the Word of God absolutely delights my heart!
Truthfully, though, sometimes the things I learn also break my heart.
Like the picture painted in this verse if we do not pay much closer attention.
The condition from which the warning is trying to save us sounds almost harmless in the english.
"Drift away".
The words themselves conjure an image in my mind of floating down a river on an innertube with the sunshine warming my skin. And that sounds glorious to me at this moment.
But the author of Hebrews meant to portray a much different scene.
The Greek word used here in Hebrews 2:1 is pararreĆ³ and it means to drift past a destination because you're being pushed by a current. As it is used in Hebrews 2:1 it means "to 'lapse' into spiritual defeat, describing how we slowly move away from our moorings in Christ." And that picture right there - slowly moving away from our moorings in Christ - breaks my heart!
I think of good-hearted, well-meaning people who get so busy doing helpful, neighborly, even honorable activities that they neglect to nurture and heed the Word of God which brought them to those good things in the first place. I think of commendable, inclusive, sincere individuals who intend to walk in truth but have been lead astray by teachings which sound good or seem right - yet which do not fully align with the Word of God. I think of myself, and how easy it would be to get caught up in a current and drift away from the faith God has given me through Christ. And my heart cries out, "LORD, save me!"
Friend, that picture in my mind - of me (of anyone!) drifitng away from Christ - makes me so very sad. So I pray that I (that each of us) will take this warning seriously.
God has spoken to us through His Son, therefore, let us give full attention to what HE has said.
Let us cling to HIS Word, so we do not one day find ourselves far away from Him and the salvation He has achieved for us.

Karen

Monday, October 14, 2019

Choose Well

So, yesterday I led a church service at the assisted living facility where I used to work.
Leading this service is something I always do on the second Sunday of the month. And I love, LOVE the time I have with these precious souls - who are eager to hear the Word of God.
(And who make me feel very young! *smile*)
After church is over I make the rounds to say "Hello" to everyone and give hugs. And yesterday my intention was to take a few minutes to record a video for today's blog after I left the building. But just as I was about to leave, someone I had never met before approached me. A retired Army colonel, who served during World War II. He was a mixture of laughter and tears - full of stories about his late wife, his children, life as a youth leader in church years ago, and experiences with the army and his comrades.
(Just to name a few!) And I quickly deduced that nothing I might say in a video devotion would be more valuable than this man having a listening ear, attached to a caring face.
I pray my decision honors God.
And encourages you to listen to somebody today who needs your time and love.

Karen

Friday, October 11, 2019

It's My Pleasure!

"Welcome to Chick-fil-A! I'd be happy to serve the next guest."
And, just like that, one of my small group friends was standing in front of me at the counter with his kids and their friends. Smiling, and asking if he could take my picture to send to the rest of the group. (Because another one of our group members has commented a few times that whenever he comes to Chick-fil-A while I'm working he "never" gets called to my register. And when our group leader came in last week, I had the pleasure of serving him at my register. Not sure if there is some sort of competition going on between them all... But comments were abundant in the group text which ensued.)
Anyway, I enjoyed serving my friend and his family.
And the next guest.
And the next.
And each one who followed.
And the question came to me, Why is it so easy - so delightful - to serve a seemingly endless line of (mostly) strangers, and so easy to become irritated when the two men with whom I live (My son and my husband!) present me with a small list of needs?
*Figuratively, that is. They don't really make lists for me!*
Honestly, I hustle around that restaurant giving my best effort and undivided attention to guests - whom I may or may not ever see again. And I do it all willingly and happily. (And often with a little boost from caffeine, to be honest.) Yet there are times when I feel reluctant to prepare dinner, or fold laundry, or get groceries for two of the people I love most on this earth, because I'm tired or pre-occupied, or I just don't feel like it.
Usually irony makes me chuckle. But not this time.
This time I am asking God to increase my heart's capacity to serve lovingly and willingly even when I don't wear a cute uniform, even when no one is watching, and even when I am not getting paid to do it.
Yes, LORD, please help me to serve and love like Jesus all the time.

Karen

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Fast-Forward 18 Years

It happened again.
One of those moments in which I found myself "remembering when", and smiling at the realization that God's grace and faithfulness have consistently carried me through.
That is, yesterday morning I served at church by caring for children, so their mommies could have time with other mommies. And as I always do on those mornings, while I was getting ready for the day I was praying for the babies. Asking God to bring peace and give grace to the children, the volunteers, and the mommas - that all might have a joyful morning. (A prayer I am also whispering for this morning - as I speak for some sweet MOPS moms!)
Anyway, as I was contemplating how the morning would transpire (Always plenty of crying now, at the beginning of the year!) my mind went back to when my Josh was three years old. Almost every time I took him to the nursery on a Sunday morning - no matter how pleasant his disposition may have been up to that point - he would put up a fight.
Like, seriously.
As I attempted to pass him over the half-door he would spread out his arms and legs to brace himself in the doorframe, thinking his strength would keep him from going into the nursery. And leaving me feeling like some wicked mother for forcing her child into the loving arms of a sweet servant, when said child clearly wanted no part in it. Of course, by the time I returned to pick him up, Josh was playing and having fun and was totally happy to be in the nursery.
But those first moments.
Oh, they were hard on my momma's heart!
So, as I said, I was thinking about that memory yesterday, after I had just spent the previous evening with my family at Josh's apartment having dinner and playing games. And I smiled as I thought about my 21-year-old son, grown and learning to make his way in the world - but still needing mom 'n dad now and then. I smiled as I recalled his fits over being taken to the nursery, him not realizing at the time that life would get a lot harder. And I smiled - I'm still smiling - as I pondered the faithfulness of our God through each day and every challenge we've faced over that past 18 years. Ahhh, yes. GOD is good!

And if you're reading these words as a mother of babes, if the heartache of tearful transitions and woeful cries is what you're experiencing these days, please hear my heart for you.
It's hard. I know it is! But God is faithful, and HE will bring you through this time.
Keep holding on to HIM, dear sister.

Karen

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Mindy 2.0

So, game night was fun last night.
And we met somebody new.
That is, Josh is still missing Mindy. As is his roommate. Thus, the guys have done some thinking, and asking around, and budget planning - and a lot of listening to their hearts which miss their furry companion.
And this is the decision they've reached.
Meet Cleo!

She is a precious little pup. And I am so pleased to see the smile return to Josh's face and heart.

Karen

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Coming Full Circle

I had an interesting conversation in the check-out lane at Meijer yesterday afternoon.
A few lanes over there was a young child half babbling, half screaming and I overheard the cashier and the woman in front of me commenting about it. I chuckled and chimed in, "Ahhh, it's fun to make noise." They agreed, and then the woman ahead of me in line noted that - while the noise-making can be cute - she does not miss her kids being that age. What with the temper tantrums and diapers and all the other unpleasantries associated with that time in life.
"But now they're teenagers," she said, "and they're driving me nuts in other ways."
I smiled and nodded, because I fully understood her observation. Then I said, "I get that, because I've been there. The crazy thing is they keep growing, and things keep changing. Tomorrow night we're going over to my 21-year-old son's apartment for dinner and a family game night. I am so looking forward to it!" And in that moment I realized that we have truly come full circle in this parenting gig. Having survived the baby days and the toddler years and the pre-school stage and grade school and the teens - now that two-thirds of our children are no longer living under our roof - we're all coming together under one of their roofs to enjoy one another and have fun.
Honestly, 19 years ago - when I was up to my armpits in diapers and young-mother angst - when older and wiser women told me, "There will come a time when you'll miss these days!" - I couldn't imagine I would make it to today. I was too caught up in the struggle of the moment to believe it would ever pass. And envisioning the today I'm living right now seemed waaaay out of reach.
Yet, here I am.
Wow.
And thanks be to God!!!
Full disclosure, though? I don't miss those days.
Oh, some many of the moments? Yes.
But not the entire day!
*wink*

How about you? Caught up in the middle of a struggle which seems like it will go on forever?
Hang in there, my friend. It will surely come to an end.
And, remember - God is faithful. Hold on to HIM!!!

Karen

Monday, October 07, 2019

Can God Be Trusted?

Oops! I tried a different set-up to record this video and didn't realize I was looking in the wrong direction. Sorry 'bout that!
Though it doesn't look like I'm talking to you, my prayer is that GOD will speak directly to your heart.


Karen

Friday, October 04, 2019

It's My Pleasure

For as much as I love working at Chick-fil-A, for as much joy as I find in playful interactions with guests and co-workers, and for as much of a pleasure as it is to serve people with kindness, nothing - and I mean NOTHING - delights my heart like when my Father gives me a kiss.

Yesterday I started off working at the front counter, moved to the drive-thru window to cover for somebody's break, then got positioned back at the front counter. Where I anticipated spending the rest of the day - because that's how it usually goes. But after some time my manager asked me to come over to drive-thru and do drinks so that person could cover for someone else who needed to be in another place so another individual could take their break.
Or something like that.
The details weren't important.
So I went over and started making drinks for drive-thru. Mind you, I have never really "done" drinks before, but I have certainly been on the receiving end of that job a lot and I was sure I could handle it. However, I quickly realized that getting drinks in drive-thru is a lot different than getting them for my guests at the front counter. Extra steps like "bumping" orders off the screeen, making sure everything is marked correctly, and keeping track of drive-thru vs. moblie order needs had me feeling like I was always forgetting something. Not to mention the speed with which the rest of the crew was moving. I know drinks are supposed to be the first thing handed out the window, and keeping up with them was a challenge - let alone keeping ahead of them!
So, anyway, I was doing my very best. But I kept feeling like I was lagging behind, or not doing as good of a job as other people do. And I started allowing myself to think negative thoughts about myself.
And then?
I overheard my co-worker at the window as he tendered the current transaction.
"You're change is $11.11."
I mean, that's what he said.
But what HE said was more like, Karen, dear, you may stop with the negative thoughts now. You're doing a fine job. And, remember, I love you regardless of how quickly you get these drink orders ready.
And the smile on my face got very big as I realized, I had just been kissed by the King.

Karen

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

The Reason I Blog

When I started blogging thirteen years ago (Gulp! Has it really been that long???) it was at the urging of my book coach/editor. I was in the process of publishing Confessions of an Irritable Mother
and Christine told me I needed to establish an online presence.
So, knowing virtually nothing, I began this adventure in the blogosphere.
Over time my focus shifted from being a cyber personality, to speaking words of encouragement to young mothers. And today I simply see this platform as a space which I want to make available for God to speak through me whatever HE may wish to say - to whomever may be here to read it.
And I think my present understanding of the purpose for Surviving Motherhood is good, and correct, and the place God has intended for me to land. But sometimes my perspective still gets a little skewed.
That is, there are days when I feel pressured to come up with something witty or charming or inspirational to post, so anyone who happens to stop by will be delighted that they came. On those days it is easy for me to get agitated and stressed because of a full schedule of other responsibilities. But my sense of duty tells me I need to post something. And, well, then blogging becomes a chore for me - rather than the blessing I believe God intends for it to be.
Until His Spirit speaks loudly enough for my sometimes-hard-of-hearing-other-times-too-worried-about-meeting-expectaions-heart to perceive. Yeah, until then. When somehow HE lovingly and graciously and firmly tells me, Karen, dear, you're putting this pressure on yourself. I did not bring you to this place to cause you stress. I don't operate that way. The gifts I give and the paths I create are good. They will bring you peace. Lay down your burdens and your expectations at My feet, dear one. And trust Me to order your steps and show you the things I have for you to do.
And as I listen to that Voice (Instead of my own!) I realize it's OK to not have something new posted every day. It's OK to not worry about search engine optimization and having fresh, searchable content.
It's OK - in fact, it's GOOD - to pay attention to my heart and step back when I'm feeling tired.
It's GOOD - in fact, it's BEST - to listen to my Father, and follow HIS lead in what I choose to take on each and every day.
Yes, it is BEST to trust Him and believe HE will accomplish His good and perfect will.

And, for a moment, I wasn't even going to publish this post because it really isn't witty or charming or inspirational. But then His Spirit nudged mine with the thought that maybe somebody who is also struggling with doing-too-much will stop by to read. And maybe they also need the encouragement to listen to their Father who will lead them in exactly what they need to do.
So, if that someone is you? I pray God will speak to your heart today!

Karen

Friday, September 27, 2019

It's My Pleasure

If you're friends with me on Facebook you may have seen the post I shared last Friday when this scene occurred. (In which case, I apologize for the repeat.) But I couldn't wait to talk about it then, and it's too sweet not to write about in this week's edition of It's My Pleasure.
So, prepare to have your heart delighted by God's kindness.

One Saturday during last July I had precious interactions with a young boy who was having lunch at Chick-fil-A with his mother and brothers. (You may read the whole story here, if you wish.) And since that day I have thought of Connor many times, wondering if our paths might cross again sometime while I'm at work. Hoping they would. Realizing they may not.
But then there was last Friday.
I was stationed at the register closest to the entrance and was doing my best to make myself visable to the folks at the front of the line - all the way at the other end of the counter. That is to say, the entrance to my left and the front of the line to my right, I was not paying a lot of attention to my left side.
Until I heard a small voice coming from that direction saying, "Karen???"
And when I turned to see who was calling my name, there he was.
Recognizing my young friend I said, "Connor???" He smiled.
Then I loooked at the woman in front of me and asked, "Will you excuse me very quickly, please?" And I ran over to give that little guy a hug. It was a brief but very sweet reunion which allowed me to tell him I've been thinking about him and was so glad to see him again.
But then I had to get back to work.
I didn't see Connor and his family as they proceeded through the line. Didn't wait on them at my register, or notice when they passed by to go to the dining room. But before they left Connor came up to me so I could refresh his lemonade, and that gave me the opportunity to talk with him and his mother for a few moments. His mother told me that they know several people at their church who also work at Chick-fil-A, and she said Connor has gotten into the habit of asking them, "Do you know Karen?" Seems my little friend has been thinking about me, as I have been thinking about him. And it delighted my heart to consider how simple kindnesses shown to a young boy - over the course of maybe 20 minutes - could have such a significant impact.
Indeed, it inspired me to look for more opportunities to just be kind.

Oh, and when I returned to my register after first seeing Connor and giving him a hug? The guest who had allowed me to step away for that moment paid for her $8.89 meal with a $20 bill.
Which made her change $11.11.
And I knew at that moment - seeing Connor was a gift God had arranged for me. Can't keep the smile off my face even now, as I cherish the thought of HIS sweet kindnesses.

Karen

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

HE Knows What We Need

Oh, how I love how HE knows me!

Yesterday afternoon I had various thoughts running through my mind - some good, some not so much - when I looked into my backyard and got distracted.
That is to say, I looked out and saw a patch of pink.
So I grabbed my phone and went to take a closer look.
This is what I saw:

The moss roses my friend gave to me, all blooming and beautiful and full of pink-ness.
It made my heart happy just to enjoy their color.
But then I noticed something else.
The zinnias which are growing right behind the moss roses were very busy. That is, they were being visited by about five or six, maybe seven little butterflies. So I stepped back to watch them - and started taking their pictures, too.




Some were flitting around from flower to flower, while others seemed content to sit on one for a few moments and just suck nectar - or whatever it is butterflies do when they're sitting on flowers.
The thing is, as I watched the butterflies I was impressed by their butterfly-ness. They didn't care about the wind which blew the flowers about. (And sometimes made it tricky to get an in-focus picture!) The stalk of zinnias which somehow got uprooted and was laying on the ground didn't seem to bother them. Nor did they pay attention to the phone which kept zooming in to capture the moment. (Maybe because I have a pink case. Yes, it probably just looked like another flower to them. *wink*) Rather than becoming agitated by their surroundings, the butterflies simply did what butterflies were made to do.
And as I pondered the butterflies being butterflies, it was as if God was speaking to my heart again.
The same message HE has been conveying repeatedly over the past couple of days.
(Seriously. It's everywhere!)
You need not worry about your life, or what you need to do, or how you're going to get it all done. Just trust in Me, dear one. When the wind is blowing or things seem to be falling apart or strange things come into view, fear not, My child. Only trust in Me to protect you and lead you and care for you. I've got this!

Ah, yes. I love how HE used my affinity for all things pink to get me out in the backyard - so I would notice the butterflies and hear His tender exhortation.
What is HE speaking to your heart today???


Karen

Monday, September 23, 2019

Friday, September 20, 2019

It's My Pleasure

Sometimes a person is dealt a hard hand in life.
Sometimes that hand seems to get harder and harder, and the hole that person senses they're in gets darker and darker. Because "nothing" goes right.
And "nothing" just keeps on not going right.
To the point that a person questions God's goodness, ability, and even His love.
Then, when a person is at their end and sees nowhere else to go, sometimes God steps in and says, Come this way, and HE leads that person along a path of hope and love and encouragement.

A young man was just hired at the Chick-fil-A where I also work, who has been experiencing a situation like the one I just described. But someone (who is lead by Someone!) is giving this young man a chance. And I am convinced God is going to use the people with whom this young man will be working to encourage him, to love him, and to fill him with hope.
It delights me to no end to work at a place like Chick-fil-A Okemos, where downtrodden people can be given a chance to experience the Light of Jesus through imperfect individuals who do their best to serve love and kindness while they're making chicken and taking orders.

Karen

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Happy Anniversary-ish to Me

I don't remember the day I officially started (and stopped...) but I know it was last September.
And since we've just passed the mid-point of this September I'm declaring whatever the specific date was, we're close enough to it now that I can celebrate my anniversary. That is to say, approximately one year ago I started following the Keto diet, and I stopped taking my anti-depressant.
And I realize it is quite possible that the significance of my previous statement is likely to be lost on just about everybody but me, so I'll explain.
I began (somewhat reluctantly) taking an anti-depressant in April of 2011. I was reluctant - not because I didn't need it - but because I was ashamed that I did need it. Thus over the course of the next three or so years I attempted to wean myself off of it a few times, until I realized how stupid it was of me to deny myself a thing which was truly helping me. And, moreso, until God was finally able to convince me that I needed to not be ashamed of the way He had chosen to work in me.
So when last September came along and I learned that some people who followed the Keto diet were able to successfully stop using their anti-depressant, well I was very interested. Not because of shame this time, rather because if I don't need to take a drug I'd rather not take it!
For that reason, I started eating "Keto" and stopped taking my pill. (Fully aware that the diet might not work for me and I may need to start taking my pill again. And completely willing to do so if necessary. Because the one thing I for sure did not want to "go back" to again - was living depressed.)
But, but, it's been a year.
It has been a whole year that I have been drug-free (And ice cream-free, and popcorn-free, and candybar-free, and bread-free, and if I keep going with this list depression may kick in, so I'm going to stop. *wink*) and I feel great!
It would appear that my brain is getting exactly what it needs from what I am eating. (Also avoiding what it doesn't need from what I am not eating...) And since I've made it to my one-year anniversary, I'm making it official: I've found a new way to eat which is good for my body and my mental health, and I'm sticking with it.

I thank God and I give Him praise for leading me on this journey. HE has used the pain of those depressed days to bring me closer to His heart that I might recieve His love more freely. HE has used the battle with shame and uncertainty to lead me to trust Him even when I didn't understand. And HE continues to draw my eyes to Himself when I am tempted to go down the road of self-condemnation. God is my Healer, and I am forever thankful.

Karen

Monday, September 16, 2019

Friday, September 13, 2019

It's My Pleasure

One of the things I love about working at Chick-fil-A is the team environment and support-one-another mentality which is so prevalent.
For example, when I'm taking an order and my guest wants lemonade or tea, oftentimes one of my co-workers will get the drink for me. (The lemonade and tea are behind us, so it takes an extra little minute to prepare.) That way, I don't need to leave the counter - and the guest's experience is more streamlined. And if I am not busy, I do the same favor for my co-workers.
Other times - especially when we're in a rush - I may notice that my lids or sauces are getting low. Or, surprise! My cups are all gone. And it's hard to find the time to re-stock because the line is so long and I don't feel like I can step away. But then - surprise, again! - I look down and see that some angel has seen my need and re-filled whatever was low or missing. (Sometimes an employee is specificially assigned to that job - just to keep things stocked during the busy times.)
So, yesterday when I was the beneficiary of both of these kindnesses I started to wonder something.
What would it be like if all of us operated in this manner everywhere we went?
What if we were always on alert for ways we could help one another?
What if, when we saw a need with which we could assist, we went ahead and offered help?
Without being asked for it???
And then, when we gave the unanticipated help - and the surprised and delighted recipent smiled happily and gushed, "Wow. Thanks so much!" - what if we responded with all sincerety, "It's my pleasure!"?

Y'all, I'm thinking we could create a small piece (PEACE!) of heaven on earth if we operated in this way.
Who wants to join me in giving it a try???

Karen

Thursday, September 12, 2019

OVERCOMER

Have you seen OVERCOMER yet?
It's the new Kendrick Brothers' movie.
You know the Kendrick Brothers, right? The makers of WAR ROOM.
I loved WAR ROOM.
Honestly, though, I sorta felt like it ruined me for movies. Because every time I saw a movie after seeing WAR ROOM (Six times in the theater!) I'd say something like, "Well, yeah. It was good. But it wasn't WAR ROOM." I compared everything I saw to that movie, and nothing ever measured up.
Until OVERCOMER.
That is, WAR ROOM is still my favorite, but OVERCOMER measures up.
Seriously. It's THAT good.
So, if you haven't gone yet - get out there and see it!
(And if you're local, invite me. I've already seen it twice, but I'd be happy to go again!)

Karen

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

God and the SoS

Yesterday I had an appointment at the Secretary of State's office to renew my driver's license. Just before I left the house I jotted a few things on a piece of paper which I needed to pick up at the grocery store. And for "some reason" I glanced at the grocery list from Monday which had fallen out of my purse. In so doing, I noticed an item which I'd forgotten to get Monday and I quickly added it to my new mini-list. Then I looked heaven-ward and whispered, Thanks, Lord. You've always got my back, don't You!
And with an extra spring in my step because God's faithfulness delights me, I grabbed my Precept materials (Because I was going to work on the current study while at the SoS, then go straight to church for Precept class.) and headed out the door.
Upon arrival at the SoS I went inside and sat down - thankful I had an appointment because there was already a long line of people - and opened up my Precept folder. Which is also just about the moment I realized I didn't have the envelope with me which contained all my paperwork for the license renewal. The envelope I had intentionally put on the table Monday night with everything in it, so I could easily grab it and have everything with me which was necessary for an expeditious visit to the known-for-taking-hours-to-get-through-Secretary-of-State-office.
Yeah. That envelope.
I picked up my Precept stuff, but not the envelope.
With a heavy sigh I gathered up my things and left the building. Realizing there was NO WAY I could make it home and back again before the If-you-haven't-arrived-within-ten-minutes-of-your-scheduled-appointment,-your appointment-will-be-canceled-and-you-will-need-to-reschedule time was up.
And suddenly I found myself thinking, Wait a minute, God. I thought You had my back. How is it that You noticed my grocery oversight, but not the envelope? Huh, God? How???
If my heart and mind hadn't been racing trying to figure out how I was going to re-schedule a new appointment this week, I might have heard His Spirit whisper, Trust Me, dear one.
As it was, however, my heart and mind were racing.
Not doing much listening.
So when I got home and picked up the elusive envelope (Which was sitting right on top of my Bible!), I wasn't prepared to discover that I was going to need to turn right around and go back to the SoS.
When I got onto the SoS website to reschedule, I found the next available appointment isn't until the end of September - which is past my birthday - which means I would be driving on an expired license if I waited for an appointment. And I wasn't going to do that.
My only viable option was to go back with my paperwork, and wait in line.
Thus, I gathered up my things again (Including the envelope this time!) and plodded back through the door, resigned to the idea that I would most likely miss attending Precept.
And musing once more, Thought You had my back, God.
Yet as I made the second trip to the SoS His Spirit managed to convince mine that maybe - just maybe - HE was working something for good.
It wasn't the lady I sat next to when I arrived though. She was number 67, 61 was being served, and it was only a matter of minutes until her number was called and she was on her merry little way. However, the lady who filled that empty seat was with me for the next almost-two-hours until it was my turn. And it didn't take me long to understand that God had orchestrated our meeting.
She was a believer, so there was no eternity-altering conversation. But the time we spent together was mutually-encouraging and God-honoring. We prayed for each other just before my number was called, and I trust that some who overheard our discussion may have been built up, as well.

As it turned out, I made it to Precept for half of the video lesson - and was inspired by the message I heard. And through it all God convinced me He does, indeed, have my back.
Even when I have to wait to see the evidence.

Karen