Monday, November 29, 2010

Lowered expectations

I love watching home decorating shows. It's exciting to see a room go from drab and ordinary to colorful and fabulous! I especially like the 'surprise' reveal at the end when you get to see the home owners' reaction to what has been done. Sometimes they love it and other times they're not so sure.

The other day a designer cleared out a young family's living room of all their baby paraphernalia to give them a sleek, modern new look. Basically they painted the walls gray, put a stick in a jar, centered it on their coffee table and called it a day. During the reveal you could see the young mom's disbelief as she tried so hard to mask her disappointment. I imagine she wanted a warm, comfortable space to raise her little family. What she got was a cool, modern room without much furniture and a large choking hazard as a centerpiece.

When they asked the young mom what she thought of the room, she simply said “I guess anything is better than how I had it.” My mental wheels screeched to a stop. What? How is ANYTHING better than the effort she had already made? That idea really burnt my toast!

It's that kind of stinkin' thinkin' that we all seem to get wrapped up in. 'So and so could do this better than I can' or 'I don't know how to make it happen so I shouldn't hope for something better'. What are we telling ourselves? Have we lowered our expectations so much and so often that we don't really care how things turn out? Do we not want more for ourselves or our situation?

This young mom was surrounded by people telling her that everything was fabulous. Yet you could see on her face this was not her wish fulfilled. She wanted something different, didn't express her feeling and took what she was given. Can you relate? Have you given up on a hope or dream because you don't see how it could possibly work? Have you lowered the expectations you have for yourself? For others? For God? Remember that the hope in your heart that aligns itself with God's will was put there BY GOD! He gave you the dream in the first place. His expectations haven't lowered one bit for you. Is it time to ask God to rekindle your dream? Or maybe to ask for a new one? Trust me, God is an amazing Dream Giver...

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Monday, November 22, 2010

The 'to-do' list

“Did you put the turkey in on time?”

“Yes.”

“Did you remember the little timer thingy?”

“It's there on the side, you can't miss it.”

“Oh, the wine. Did you pick up the wine?”

“Yep, I got it.”

“What kind did you get?”

“I don't know...a red, a pink and a yellowish one.”

“What??”

“Stop! You are driving me crazy! I have no idea why we ever host anything for your family because it makes you a basket case. You need to stop freaking out!”

Greg was right. Why do I get so stressed out about having my family over? I love them and don't get to see them much. There's just something about being all 'Martha Stewart' that makes me frantic. My mom and sisters are able to pull off amazing dinner parties effortlessly. They make beautiful centerpieces, serve gourmet dishes and mouth watering deserts. Here I am on the verge of a nervous breakdown with a husband who's fed up with me.

“God I need a little help here. I'm irritated and tense. Please give me a new perspective!”

I stop for a minute and just listen to the silence in the house waiting for my new perspective to arrive. Another minute passes...nothing. Assuming God was busy elsewhere, I went back to my 'to-do' list.

#1 - check the Jello. I made the Jello first thing this morning so it could just chill out in the refrigerator until the meal was ready. I gave the bowl a little jiggle to check the consistency...nice and firm. Hmm, it started as a liquid but has become so much more with just a little time and patience.

#2 - bake the crescent rolls. I do believe the world would come to an end if we didn't serve crescent rolls at our holiday meals. The twisting may go awry and they look a little weird but their buttery, flaky goodness still melts in your mouth. These go to show even when things get twisted up they can still turn out beautifully.

#3 - check the stuffing. I was amazed how much stuffing the turkey could hold. The turkey was filled to overflowing with the moist mixture of herbs, raisins and bread crumbs. I guess we can choose what we're filled with; stress and anxiety or appreciation and gratitude.

#4 – let the pies cool. These will be the best part of the whole meal! A pumpkin, cherry and pecan pie were now cooling on the baking rack. What a sweet reward for all the hard work. God, You are so faithful in rewarding our efforts when we work with all our heart.

The doorbell rang and soon the whole family had arrived. My stress and tension was gone and I was able to relax and enjoy the day. God's peace blanketed the entire house. It was the best Thanksgiving celebration we'd ever had. I took a moment of silent thanks for each blessing as it came to mind throughout the day. But I was most thankful for the new perspective God gave me through a simple 'to-do' list.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gratitude

I received a special gift from some sweet friends this week. My friend, David, noticed that the journal I write sermon notes in was almost full. While he and his wife Sharon were out shopping one day, he felt led to buy me a new one.

Meanwhile, God had been laying an idea on my heart. A few years ago I began writing a Gratitude Journal. Each day I would find a few things I was thankful for and write about them in a journal. Sometimes they were just basic things: my health, my family, my job. Other times it was extremely specific: someone's motives, an exact word of encouragement, a cool breeze on a hot day. As each day passed, God revealed more things to be thankful for and drew me closer to Him. I filled my journal and never got around to replacing it. That was enough to make me fall out of the habit and I've not done it since.

David intended to fill a need, but God used him to be a blessing. My new Gratitude Journal was born that day! My first entry listed my thankfulness for David and Sharon's obedience to God's prompting. The second entry was for a God that meets me in even the simplest of needs. Now a day hasn't passed without taking a few minutes to list a couple of things I'm grateful for.

Being grateful is a choice. It's easy to take things and people for granted. It takes effort to appreciate them. I encourage you to consider exercising your attitude of gratitude by trying a Gratitude Journal. Opening my mind, reflecting on my day and seeing how God's hand moved has been a huge blessing. It is making this humble heart softer toward His promptings. Isn't it time to start counting your blessings?

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Monday, November 8, 2010

Let there be light...

I'll admit it, I don't always have a bright bulb! I'm embarrassed to say that the light bulb above my kitchen pantry has been out for almost 3 months. The day it went out I felt I was cooking in a cave. As each day passed it bothered me less and less until I didn't even notice it anymore. Somewhere along the way I just got used to preparing meals in the dark.

You can imagine how proud of myself I was when I remembered to buy a replacement bulb at the store. My son, Jordan, ascended the ladder and screwed in the new bulb. I flipped the switch and instantly a bright beam shone forth. (I think I even heard the 'Ahhh' sound from an angel choir.) It was amazingly bright. I checked to be sure it was the correct wattage and the right size. I was a little shocked by how much brighter the kitchen was.

I can't help but think about the things in my life that can keep me in the dark. Lies I tell myself. Hurts that weigh me down. Sin strongholds that keep me bound up. But I can chose to replace my thoughts, my feelings and my actions. I can get rid of my 'stinking thinking' and trade it for God's word. Suddenly I'm basking once again in the radiance of His truth.

Have you been living in the dark lately? Is it time to replace some thoughts, actions or feelings that have been blocking out the light of God's truth? Just like a burnt out bulb we can quickly get used to living in spiritual darkness. Take a look, you may have some replacing to do...

Be blessed,
Jennifer

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fighting the Pain

I have a theory that there are three types of pain in our life: sudden, chronic and residual. Some of us have a high pain threshold while others are side lined at the smallest twinge. Regardless of our tolerance to the pain, what are we doing about it?

Sudden pain
This is the kind of pain that you don't see coming. It hits you out of the blue in the middle of your daily activities. But the impact of it can drop you to your knees. I get this a lot in the form of shooting back pain, stubbing my toe, and dropping my laptop on the top of my foot (that was NOT pleasant). But it can also come in the form of betrayal, insult or physical harm.

Chronic pain
This is the dull, nagging pain that we manage to live with. We alter our lifestyles to accommodate the pain and avoid some activities all together. My right knee gives chronic pain that I've had to adjust to. I have to avoid stairs as much as possible if I want to be able to actually bend my leg at the end of the day. I have also had to give up kneeling on that knee altogether, but God understands and accepts a variation in worship. I've spent time with those who are coping with the chronic pain of addiction in themselves or loved ones.

Residual pain
Residual pain and chronic pain seem to play in the same sandbox in my mind. They are both pain that you live with and, in many cases, adjust your life to accommodate. But residual pain is the pain that radiates from a hurt deep within your spirit. For some it could be abuse as a child or being victim of assault. For years I had the residual pain of making a poor choice with horrific consequences and my behaviors were altered because of it. For others it may words of rejection that replay over and over in their minds. Feeling unworthy of affection or 'less than' those around you.

Whether it's sudden, chronic or residual, we all suffer with pain. How we react to it, however, will make all the difference in our life. When we take our pain to God and lay it at His feet, He makes the choice to take away our pain or use the pain to strengthen us. Either way, God makes us better.

I don't know what kinds of pain you're going through in your life, perhaps several kinds. I pray that you will take that pain, no matter how big or small, and lay it at God's feet. He longs to love you through this and bring you healing according to His purpose. He is the Great Physician and loving Daddy that wants only the best for you.

Be blessed,

Jennifer

“But as for me, afflicted and in pain— may your salvation, God, protect me.” Psalm 69:29