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.


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?


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.


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


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!***


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?


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*


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.
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!

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!!!


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.


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.


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!