It’s pretty easy to get used to things and even create new habits, at least certain ones. Here’s a silly example, it started me thinking. We have a slow-release lid for our new toilet in our remodeled master bath. When it is shut, it lowers slowly, automatically and quietly until it’s fully closed. It’s fabulous.
Sometimes I use a different bathroom, in our home, which isn’t very often, but I forget I’m not using the toilet with the slow- release lid, so I lower the lid but it flops down super fast with a loud, BANG! Whoa! That’s so loud it hurts my ears. Oh, my goodness, I’m so used to the other bathroom, I’ve totally forgotten!
I wondered today what other things have I gotten used to? I mean in a negative way? I’m sure we’ve all gotten used to somethings and readily adopted what we shouldn’t have. BUT we are just used to them now. I’m asking myself and you… What have I become used to that really should not be tolerated? What has to go? Is it a stronghold in my life? Does it need to be prayed away? If it’s a stronghold it needs to be broken down.
It might be things like:
a negative attitude
thinking something is too big for God to handle
sitting in unbelief about a situation
thinking in the negative
frustration with a spouse
anger toward anyone
just fill in the blank __________________.
The season that we’re in prompted my thoughts today. So here is my prayer, you may borrow it too, if you’d like.
God, I pray that I wouldn’t except anything in my life that I’ve just gotten used that isn’t from you or isn’t a fruit of your Spirit, or it’s not your best for my life. I pray that we would all pull down strongholds and anything that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.
And I pray we’d take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. That things that we are thinking about, that are stinkin’ thinkin’ would have to go, now! In Jesus name. I pray that we wouldn’t become used to sin patterns. I thank you Lord, you’ve made us victorious! You’ve made us saints not sinners, through your son Jesus. So we don’t need to sit in the pig-pen…ever!
I thank you for what you are doing God and I pray, in the name of Jesus, we would know what should remain and what should be eliminated today. Amen.
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flash but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. 2 corinthians 10: 4-6.
Early in this season of forced sabbath rest, I was seated on the couch participating in my second EVER “Zoom call” with some friends. The coronavirus (Covid-19) and the “Stay Home-Stay Safe” movement was sweeping the nation and globe. One friend posed a simple question, “How can we pray for you in this season?”
I will never forget it, because within seconds, out of my mouth tumbled, “Pray that I would use this season well and I’d get whatever God wants me to have and leave behind anything He doesn’t want for me to carry into the future.”I’ve been thinking a lot about my request, it’s still my prayer today.
I hear people use the phrases like: new normal, back to normal, when this is over, as soon as we can begin to live our normal lives… I have this ache in my heart and stirring in my spirit. It’s a longing of sorts because I don’t want to go totally back to “normal.” I want to change by the work of Holy Spirit in my life and be transformed by the renewing of my mind.
I want to live differently because I think differently. I desire an upgrade in my vision for my life, my future and those who live around me and are close to me. I don’t want NORMAL. I have this sigh in my heart, “Oh, God don’t let me miss it. I want to squeeze out everything from this time you want me to receive and then give it out.” I don’t want to live in fear that I’ll “miss it” because perfect love casts out fear.
I feel a bit like a caterpillar that goes along eating up every thing in sight as it’s about to enter into the confines of the tightly bound up chrysalis stage. Even before this pandemic started I’ve been so HUNGRY for more of God and intimacy with him and fellowship with the Holy Spirit. I don’t want to die out, like a glowing ember. Rather, I’d like it to be fanned into flame, burning ever brighter during this rest period.
As far as the caterpillar goes, I really have no idea how one feels, but I do think there are similarities here… it’s dark, closed in, lonely, without contact with the outer world for a season, five to twenty-one days, then it emerges and BUSTS out to FLY!
So here are the things I pray will not follow me into the future as I break out:
fear of man
praise of man
Maybe you are like me. Are you amazed at how completely different a caterpillar is from the butterfly? Think about it, one is worm-like, tubular, so slow and lowly and confined while the other is beautifully ornate, whimsical and glorious not bound to land but flutters and flies and purposefully alights.
A few years back this verse became an inheritance verse for me, like God gave it to me not for a season but for an outlook on life, a perspective shift. It has helped me navigate changes that happened in my home, my church, my friendships and my family. It was a welcomed metaphor for my life’s journey and it still gives me a sense of hope and excitement about the future..do you not perceive it? It’s like I hear Holy Spirit gleefully rubbing his hands together as he bounces on his toes with joy about what’s to come. “Do you not perceive it?” God alone is the ONLY one who can make a way in the desert and give us streams in the wasteland.
So may I suggest you join me…Let’s not dwell on the past or wish it would all go back to normal, rather let’s welcome the “Upgraded New Normal” the new thing He is doing in us, through us and around us. Let’s FLY!
Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18,19
I don’t freak out when I track the faithfulness and kindness of God in my life. So let’s all live NOW and as we move forward here is a phrase I use in life, it’s also the title of one of my talks I give.
I’m seated comfortably in my favorite chair in my upper loft area with my feet up on the ottoman. I was about to write a new post for this blog “Fresh Perspectives for Every Day Life” when I recalled a post I wrote years ago and I realized, it’s still what I would want to say today. I’m normally home most days, the only difference is now most people are homebound too because COVID-19 “Stay Home” is in effect.
At a time when FEAR is rampant and anxiety levels are high with many people hooked up to news feeds like it’s an IV, I wanted to share a few thoughts about”What God is NOT doing” during COVID-19 this global pandemic.
Here ya go:
She was dressed for summer in an icy blue, vertically striped shirt and a pair of white pants. Her familiar smile lit up her face and mine. She greeted me with a sweet hug that enveloped me, “Hi friend!” then blurted out, “I have to run to the bathroom quickly. Be right back!”
When she returned, we ordered our drinks, grabbed a seat and caught up. “It’s been months since we last met? When was that?” we wondered. Many work transitions and family health trials have entered her life since we’d last met. I sat. I listened. She’s reading the book of Daniel now and we thought through each situation from Daniel’s lens and his prayer of praise in Scripture.*
She asked me…”So, what’s going on with you?” I reported about some of the fun and beautiful things going on in my life and what God’s been teaching me, about me. I also shared a few updates related to my husband, ministry, plus a quick update on my empty nest and my grown children.
We marveled at all that had taken place in our lives while, it seemed, other things hadn’t changed at all. We both have difficult situations where, since we last spoke, it seems there has been no change. You know what I mean where it appears God is not doing anything related to an issue. I got to thinking about that wacky perspective of concentrating on what God’s not doing and how off that really is.
So, I told her. “You know, the other day, I thought of it this way… I can only imagine what my response would be, if I had throughly cleaned my house-vacuumed all the carpeted rooms, dusted the entire place, scrubbed every toilet, mopped all the floors, washed every dish and put them all away, only to hear my husband comment when he returned home, “You left the mail on the counter!” I’d be so disheartened thinking, WHAT? Don’t you see all the things I’ve done?
“It is kind of like that.” I said. “God is doing SO many wonderful things all around me and I resolve not to be the brat kid who stomps her foot at the Father and accuses Him of inactivity. But, but, but you haven’t done…this yet, God!”
She said, “Wow! I’ve never thought of it like that. Good point.”
Okay, yeah, it may be tempting to think he is not at work. I’ve been there. So whenever I’m tempted to focus on what God is seemingly NOT doing, I say, yeah, sure, God is not doing some things. Here are a few of the things God is NOT DOING:
He’s not scratching his head wondering, Oh, boy what do I do now?” Or “How will I help?”
He’s not out of the office or unaware.
He’s not working against me. He is FOR me.
He’s not surprised or shocked.
He’s not wringing his hands.
No, He is not biting his nails bewildered, wondering, “How do I respond in this difficult situation?”
He’s not confused and doesn’t need to call in a committee to help with decisions.
NO he is not because…HE’S GOD! And He is good!
I truly believe God is doing so much, in and around me, all the time! Jesus is quoted in the book of John saying, “My father is always working.” So, yes, for now… I will live in the mystery of all He is doing. I am thankful and I praise Him and I’m thankful for the things he is NOT doing as well.
When our time drew to a close, we discussed a next time to meet and said our good byes.
*Here is the praise passage from Daniel 2:19-23
“During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said: “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king.”
Especially at this time read this Scripture:
“You can go to God Most High to hide. You can go to God All-Powerful for protection. I say to the Lord, “You are my place of safety, my fortress. My God, I trust in you.” God will save you from hidden dangers and from deadly diseases. You can go to him for protection. He will cover you like a bird spreading its wings over its babies. You can trust him to surround and protect you like a shield. You will have nothing to fear at night and no need to be afraid of enemy arrows during the day. You will have no fear of diseases that come in the dark or terrible suffering that comes at noon. A thousand people may fall dead at your side or ten thousand right beside you, but nothing bad will happen to you! All you will have to do is watch, and you will see that the wicked are punished. You trust in the Lord for protection. You have made God Most High your place of safety. So nothing bad will happen to you. No diseases will come near your home. He will command his angels to protect you wherever you go. Their hands will catch you so that you will not hit your foot on a rock. You will have power to trample on lions and poisonous snakes. The Lord says, “If someone trusts me, I will save them. I will protect my followers who call to me for help. When my followers call to me, I will answer them. I will be with them when they are in trouble. I will rescue them and honor them. I will give my followers a long life and show them my power to save.””
In my previous blog I talked about how my strength training coach can get more out of me than I know is in me. It’s true, she does. She has taught well and pushed me and I’ve become stronger. (Toothpaste and Workouts) and an interview from the real deal link: (the real deal)
Chelsea is a good teacher and demonstrates every exercise before I attempt to do it. She’ll point out all the particulars of each movement and she is excellent. Equally important, she mentions what not to do. I’ve heard her say, “Don’t let your arm extend pass this angle, don’t hyper extend your knees, keep them slightly softened.” But mainly she stresses what’s “right” and she does it. (Teaching) I learn by watching what is “right” and doing what is right. Not only am I stronger now but I’m more aware of the way my body works. I’ve even caught myself in wrong patterns, old cheat patterns, or poor body mechanics and I’m now able to correct some old habits.
I’m excited because I have even caught myself when I’ve not used correct form. For example, when I pull open the microwave door now, I reach toward the handle, set my shoulder and use my lats instead of my shoulder and neck muscles to open it. That way I won’t carry pain and tension in my shoulders but engage the muscles that operate my shoulders from behind in my upper back. She is teaching and I’m learning!
Here’s my point… I wouldn’t know the proper way to do this unless, while working out, my coach also called out my errors or mistakes. “Nope, don’t raise your shoulder Rachel! Keep those muscles quiet and pull from behind. Yes, there that’s it!” She will touch the muscles she is referring to and help me correct if I need to.
Whether I’m using free weights, resistance bands or the weight machines that operate on a pulley system, I am being taught, reprimanded, corrected and trained well. And I love it. Never once have I thought, Oh, my gosh! Why is she saying that? She is so judging me and doesn’t care about me. Not at all! In fact it’s quite the opposite. I know she is for me and she wants me to grow and become stronger.
We expect and welcome advice from a strength coach about our bodies. We similarly want to be taught and challenged regarding our nutrition, our money and investments. We accept tips from experts who’ve gone before us. They get our attention and we are open to it. Even when they express how to avoid the pitfall or challenge us in the HARD things of life we welcome it. We know, in order to grow, it’s all part of the deal.
I love the word of God, I do! Scripture is a written love letter from the author, God, to us and it helps us become more like His son, Jesus Christ.
All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 ESV
Every scripture has been written by the Holy Spirit, the breath of God. It will empower you by its instruction and correction giving you strength to take the right direction and lead you deeper into the path of godliness. Then you will be God’s servant, fully mature and perfectly prepared to fulfill any assignment God gives you. 2 Timothy 3: 16-17 TPT
Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Proverbs 19:20
4 areas are mentioned:
Teaching (What is right because it says later “in righteousness”)
Reproof (What’s not right)
Correction (How to get it right)
Training (How to keep it right)
No matter where we are let’s be open to teaching, rebuking, correcting, training, so that we may be perfectly prepared and complete to fulfill our assignment. It’s a one time transfer into the Kingdom of his beloved Son, yet it’s a life long process! So let’s welcome the correction that is involved in the process instead of resisting it. That way we will all grow in righteousness.
There is more in you than you know. I heard God tell me. You’ve got more and more is required because you rely on meand I am in you. You may be wondering, Rachel, when did you have this thought? Let me give you the back story.
We were headed to Marco Island, Florida my bag was packed, except for the toiletries. I knew my toothpaste was almost gone. The tube was getting pretty empty but I held it in my hand and thought, I’ll probably run out, but it’s better than taking a new, heavier tube, in my checked bag. But it was amazing, it never ran out! I even had more left when I returned home.
One morning just before tossing it in the garbage, I decided to employ the method my husband uses to get at the last little bit. I used the edge of the vanity and I pulled the tube along to force the tooth paste to the end. Next, I used my toothbrush handle and slid it down the tube a second time to ensure I’d get all the remaining paste out. It worked like a charm! It lasted a for a few more days. It was a tube that kept on giving.
At my next brushing, I squeezed again and I heard His voice again, There’s more in you too. I’m never pushing you to hurt you, but for you to know more fully what you contain. You contain me and the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. You are a container of me – the hope of glory. I know! Those profound encounters happened in the bathroom, for goodness sake! Hmm? I chewed on the thought awhile.
Later, I was at the gym working out doing some strength training, a new thing for me this year. Even there I felt the same message was being confirmed and impressed on me. You’ve got more in you.
I’m working with a coach, Chelsea, who is excellent, she both pushes me and is encouraging. One time she gave instructions while demonstrating, “What you’re going to do here is you’re going to walk up these steps, holding a kettle ball weight in each hand.” I looked up at the significant number of steps and watched her climb her way up.
As she climbed, she continued the instructions,”Step by step all the way to the top, engaging the glutes and quadriceps and pushing through the big toe as you climb. Once you reach the top, turn around at the landing a then come back down slowly.” I watched as she demonstrated and then it was my turn. (Side note: I did it! Alternating with another exercise, which I don’t remember and repeating each station three times.)
Later, Chelsea instructed as she laid face-down on a weight bench, bar below. “This time we work to fatigue. Pull up like you are rowing. You need to give me six, but you may even get up to ten.” I got into position…then, while I’m breathing and lifting she’d ask, “What number are you on?” I replied, “Six!” She said, “Rachel, you’ve got another, or two more in you!” I would do it! Then the same message repeated “you’ve got more, there is more in you.
Let me ask you, “Do you know how much you’re capable of? Do you know how strong you are? Do you know the one who meets you even in your weakness? Do you know that you too have more in you?” Well, let me tell you, you do!
A few reminders:
But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. 1 John 4:4 NLT
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13NLT
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV
The LORD will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun- scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Isaiah 58:11 NIV
Those waters that never fail are better thantoothpaste that never runs out. May God strengthen your frame today. I bless you and remember: “There is more in you, because of who you contain.”
It bugged me for months yet I just couldn’t seem to get past it, tackle it, become motivated. I was stuck! I knew I needed to face it, but I felt powerless. In the midst of remodeling our master bathroom, my husband kept the tools he needed close at hand in our bedroom, it makes sense, I know.
But chaos and clutter in the bedroom became the norm… it wasn’t just the tools. It was the level, T-square, step ladder, sponges, paint cans, copper pipes along with an original pile of junk I hadn’t dealt with from months earlier. What originally needed to be addressed, because of neglect, was now complicated by the bathroom’s remodel spilling over! Dealing with all this JUNK became so daunting that I didn’t want to do the task at all, or ever! I was busy with other things and embarrassed and paralyzed. I was baffled by my own indifference yet I was disgusted at the same time.
The one small pile grew and took on a life of its own. In the end, it had taken up the floor space of about 1/3 of our bedroom’s square footage. There was no way for me to open the sliding glass door to get onto the deck. Because it’s winter and I don’t use it very much in the cold weather, it seemed to be no big deal which perpetuated the mess being tolerated.
Every morning, I woke up with a voice,”You know you should tackle this today. What’s your problem? Just do it!” I lived with the knowledge that I should get after it yet every evening I went to bed with the sense of disappointment that I still didn’t get it done. But enough is enough and the time finally came. Dun, dun dun, dun DUNNNNN!
I have a friend who is an accountability partner for what we’ve fondly referred to as our “Purging Days.” You may be wondering. What’s that? It’s when I go to her house to tackle an area she has become overwhelmed or discouraged by and we purge, pitch and organize. Then she comes over to my house and returns the favor.
Recently, we worked in her basement. She planned to go through things and purge. Her goal: properly put away the Christmas decorations. She was a motivated woman! Oh my goodness! My quadriceps were quivering and completely taxed from going up and down the steps, but we cleared out so much stuff it was worth it! It was unbelievable the amount of clearing out and purging that was accomplished. Yay! Yippee! Yahoo!
We loaded up her SUV, filled to capacity, and I watched her drive away as she took the stuff to Goodwill. She also had multiple bags of trash and some things she recycled. As the day progressed, she’d say through her laughter, “Oh, my gosh! Rachel look how much we’ve cleared out! How many empty bins do I have now? This is so exciting! Let’s work over here now.”
She had moved from disturbed, to encouraged and was finally elated and grateful. In the end, we both had a huge sense of accomplishment. It was such an exciting day. We both put the date to tackle things in my house on our calendars.
Sometimes you just need to sew a seed and that is how I viewed the day spent in her basement. I knew my house was next. Between clearing out her basement and the “purging day” at my own, my husband had nearly completed our bathroom’s remodel. We took away all the tools that were no longer needed. I appreciated his help because it seemed to jump start my energy-level and began to give me hope for the room.
I knew my turn would come…and it did. The following Monday, my friend came over and we tackled the dreaded area. We scratched our heads for a few minutes, then said, “How ’bout we just start over there by the bookshelves?” We cleared off every shelf, dusted the books and I decided whether to keep, donate, or sell each book. You have to start somewhere. Next, we sorted through papers AAAANNNNDDD the ball was rolling!
I was invigorated. It was like somebody shot the gun off for a race. I was able to run, stay in my lane, while being cheered on to the finish line. I don’t know about you, but for me, sometimes the gun just has to go off! And hearing the BANG is when I start running.
Let me ask you a few questions that might get you unstuck and help you move forward:
What is it that you need to do to hear the gun go off? (Set a date, time, call someone?)
Is there something that accountability or a partner could help you do? (Reach out and ask to be held accountable or ask for help…period.)
Do you work best with a partner or alone?
Maybe you don’t need to be near ANYONE, quite the opposite, you may be the type of person who just needs to have time ALONE to accomplish tasks. If that’s the case, I suggest you write down a day and carve out the time to do it solo. (Write it down is key!)
Either way, I believe it’s important to “sew a seed then proceed.” Here’s what I mean by that, when I went over to my friend’s house to work in the basement that was a seed sown. My master bedroom got tackled for me later.
Here is another example of sewing a seed. Let’s say you want to have a date night with your husband, but you don’t have someone to watch your children. How ’bout you first, sew a seed. Perhaps you could offer to watch someone’s children so they could have a date night. Then later, they watch your kids so that you can get away.
Being generous with your time, resources and availability will boomerang back to you. You sow the seed. It’s not the only reason you do it, but I’m telling you, it is a blessing when it comes back to you. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25
There is a residual effect too. You know what? After working in my bedroom, I now feel like I can tackle other areas in my house. There is a spill over affect. I’m more able to take on messes in my emotional life and headspace that need to be purged and cleared out. I’ve noticed when we do something in the tangible physical realm it affects us in the emotional and spiritual realm too. I feel lighter, less cluttered, and invigorated to go after clutter in other areas in my life.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily in tangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31, 32
So whether you need to purge and get rid of things that are physical items, like my dreaded pile of junk, or whether it’s more emotional and spiritual trash that needs to go… I would encourage you to find a partner or even carve out the time alone to “Get ‘er done!” Let me tell you…If I can do it, you can do it! I’m rooting for you and freedom is on the other side.
I bought a new mirror the other day. It has one side with regular vision and the other has five times the magnification. You know the kind, right? I needed to replace a broken mirror because it had no handle, but I also liked the fact that the handle on the new one could be bent and folded to set on a counter and stand alone.
It is a bit ironic that at the start of the year 2020 I purchased something to give me better “vision” while tweezing my eyebrows or smoothing out my foundation. I’ve been struck by the year “2020” and I’ve been asking God to give me his vision for: my life, my situations, my circumstance, my future, my goals, my paths and my decisions.
I don’t think I’ve sat long enough to get complete answers to all of the above mentioned, but I do know He gives me answers and enlightens me along the way as I spend time in His presence. Then things are revealed bit by bit as I gain clarity and sharper focus from Him.
As I focus on Jesus, other things become clearer too. This is contrary to the way it works in the natural, there you can only focus on one thing at a time. However, in the spirit realm, the more I focus on Him other things gain sharper focus. This year instead of making a New Year’s resolution, I am asking for New Year’s revelations from God. (I hope I’m ready for what He’ll reveal!)
I have my yearly eye exam today and I find it interesting that I would be thinking about this topic of clarity and focus when I’m about to get my eyes checked. I go every year and I kind of know the drill. One thing I’m pretty sure of though, my eye doctor is NOT going to ask me questions like, “Rachel, do you have the eyes of Father God towards other people?” Nor will he ask, ” Do you know how much I love you? Are you aware of how delighted I am in you? Is your own identity in the kingdom clear and in sharp focus?”
I know my doctor won’t ask me, but these are the questions I am asking myself and God is asking me them too. I want these things to define my life this new year. My “eye sight” to be clear and see God, myself and others the way He sees. I want new and better vision. I’m asking God because He is the one who made both my “natural and spiritual” eyes. “God please reveal the answers to me and help me make adjustments for the best and clearest vision possible.”
Back to the new mirror…The side with the 5X magnification really does work to see those nasty rouge eyebrows, the ones that need to be plucked, because everything is so large! Also, good lighting helps a great deal too. Have you ever noticed you know you need to tweeze your brows whenever you’re in the car? Outdoor natural lighting makes me think I should really keep an extra tweezers in the car.
When it comes to the things of the heart, it works well under both of those variables, magnification and light. So my prayer becomes, “Lord make me see what I need to see about me and about you and about other people too. God, please make it large enough for me not to miss what needs to be changed or altered and shine the light of who you are on me so I can allow the junk in my life to be plucked away too. In Jesus name, amen.
God, I invite your searching days into my heart. Examine me through and through; find out everything that may be hidden within me. Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares. See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on, and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting ways – the path that brings me back to you. Psalm 139:23,24 TPT
This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.
“So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”
2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT
You reflect the LORD’s glory and are being transformed into his likeness. You go from glory to glory…So rejoice!
Thanks everyone for listening. “the real deal” Podcast had its first birthday! One year old January 8th woo hoo!
The holidays seem to bring a sense of nostalgia, don’t they? Christmas time can immediately bring us back to our childhood with distinct memories we are fond of replaying in our minds for comfort or for the poignant moments to ponder in our hearts, just like Mary the mother of Jesus did.
As I walked today, I was reflecting on my Christmas Eve memories both as a child and young mother. I was the youngest of four girls and our house was just the perfect size. As we grew older and married, we began to have our own children too. That same house, at Christmas time, became jam-packed with people, food, music, packages and laughter. It was just as packed as my grateful heart is now reflecting about it.
Yes, our Christmas Eve celebrations were a bit loud and even chaotic but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It was lots of people, and loads food and tons of dishes to wash and too many sugar treats. Mix all that with young children, mostly boys, all running around and wrestling and sweating. The windows even steamed over from all the body heat but inevitably, someone would open the front door and allow the late December frigid air to cool down this precious packed house.
Golly, I remember those Christmas Eve nights so well. After our Christmas meal, desiring to all be together, we’d pile into as few cars as possible and head up the street, just a few short blocks to the church. Our entire crew would descend upon the church’s sanctuary for the yearly open-communion service. We’d park our cars and make a mad dash for the door. Gladly escaping the winter’s cold and trading it for the warmth within those hallowed walls.
It took us a few moments, but we’d shed our coats and help the young ones near us, it was all part of the process. We spoke in hushed tones as we made sure we were all accounted for. “Okay, kids come with me. Let’s stay together. Sure, I’ll hold your hand.” Then we processed into the sanctuary like a long Heggen family parade.
I remember how magical it was to open the center isle doors and all walk in without any talking. The place was aglow! It was fully illuminated with only white candles which lined the isles and multiple candelabras strategically placed throughout the room. It was breath taking! Such beauty to behold. The candle’s flames each flickered slightly, dancing to the simple reflective music playing in the background.
Each person or family group could come and go as they pleased, not led or prompted by anyone. Everyone was welcome to sit in a pew for as long or briefly as they desired. A long wooden altar lined the entire front section of the church. When we were ready to to receive it, we walked to that altar, knelt down and were served communion without using words. It was quiet and reflective. It was holy.
This is the first time I’ve thought about those still moments in a long time. It was unique unlike any other time in the calendar year. It was special to me then and is a fond memory now which I’ve pondered because it represented such blessing and family unity. It was a time of togetherness, it was sacred and I’m tearing up even while I type. I believe my tears are like liquid gratitude flowing freely down my thankful face to my fully jammed packed heart.
After the time of candle lit communion. We always had the same routine. It became a tradition.
No matter what, we’d pile in the cars again and tour around the neighborhoods to look at the houses and all the Christmas lights. As the years marched by and many of us moved away, we’d wonder if a particular property was still owned by the same family. “Mom and Dad, do the “SMITHS” (NOT the real name) still live on the corner over by the school?” we asked.
“Hey, do you guys want to go swing by there on our way back to Mom and Dad’s?” It was always unanimous. “Let’s drive by their property just to see if they still have all of the same lawn decorations along with the hundreds and hundreds of stringed lights!” Each time I’d think, this isn’t going to be a big deal. Yet when we’d wind our way around the corner, catch a glimpse of that house we’d all begin to belly-laugh, usually my oldest sister would start it while someone else would exclaim, “YEP! It’s still the same things only they’ve even added to their displays!” Another would ask, “Did they always have the Choo-Choo train?” We thrived on the evening’s routine. It was a tradition. It was great fun.
When it came to gifts and opening packages, we’d start from youngest to oldest as we went around the room. I was the youngest of the four girls and therefore so were my children when they came on the scene, they liked that too. It was such a treasured time for me. Our Christmas Eve celebration seemed to go late into the evening each year as we all lingered and enjoyed one another’s company. I never wanted it to end. I loved it!
I realized this year, that TOGETHER is my primary love language. I really don’t care what it is we are doing… we could be eating, singing, worshiping, doing the dishes, reading the Christmas story from Luke chapter two, driving around the town gazing at lights or laughing, I just simply like that we were doing it together.
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for the brethren to dwell together in unity. – Psalm 133:1
I’ve felt very distracted today and wasn’t able to focus enough to write. After writing an instragm post, I was waylaid by social media and was glued, mindlessly, to my phone. Oh, it’s getting late and I’m still in my robe! So I decided to go outside, get some fresh air and take my daily walk to clear my head. It helped for awhile.
Then I made myself a delicious lunch and cleaned up the kitchen. Both making lunch and doing the dishes were a bit of a stalling tactic because I still wasn’t FEELING it yet, writing I mean. But I climbed the stairs and chose to start. It’s a matter of the will Rachel. So I sat down beside my Christmas tree to gather my thoughts and begin to write. I love this spot beside my tree.
I’ve enjoyed sitting in my upper loft area with my Christmas tree lit, for weeks now. It is peaceful and tranquil and once I sit down, I never want to get up. I put the tree up early in November because I knew my December was filled with the normal activities and additional speaking engagements. I’ll admit I had a little battle in my mind over whether or not I should put up the tree so early. It went something like this.
Rachel you usually wait until after Thanksgiving to put up the tree. You should get the most out of the season of thankfulness without moving on to the Christmas season. But I am thankful always no matter what month it is. Don’t rush into it. It’s too early, you can’t have people over in November, before Thanksgiving, with a tree up! You really can’t put it up yetit’s too early.
Then I heard myself ask aloud, “Who told you that?” What? Who told you that? YEAH, who? I’m free to do it if I want. NOW is when I have time. Besides, it isn’t a God commandment, Rachel it is only your own thoughts and the influence of others around who may wonderabout it… but I decided…I’m going to put up the Christmas tree. SO WHAT? I’m a free agent.
Even though it took me two or three days to put up the tree this year, I had a wonderful time. The outcome was splendid. A few years ago the “pre- lit” tree was no longer “lit,” so I had to put all new lights on this year, 2,300 of them! But Im glad I did it in November because had many free days and I had a few gatherings in my home. I knew it would be good to have the warmth and the festive atmosphere for these things:
My parents visit and “Sisters Weekend” (See past blog: Push Past Disappointment- Onward )
“Salad supper and share your testimony” with ladies from Bible Study
Prayer times with friends
House Guests for four nights
Morning coffee with my husband before work
Let me turn a corner and have you read these words from Genesis 3:8-11a
They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called the man and said to him, “Where are you? “And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked?
One time I heard a pastor say, “Ask yourself, “Who to you that…”
Who told you that:
You can’t put up your Christmas tree yet!
You won’t be able to concentrate long enough to get it done.
You’re not smart!
You’re too short!
Your situation will never change!
You don’t have a bright future.
You aren’t able to do/become/have_____________(fill in the blank)
Word for the wise…It might be good to ask yourself, Who told you that?
Yeah, who told you that you were too distracted and wouldn’t finish a blog post?
I was about to burst with excitement as I expectantly prepared for my parents and sisters to come to town for a visit. I love “sister weekend” it’s going to be so much fun to have them all here! I cleaned and fussed about plus, unlike my general rule, I decorated my Christmas tree to enhance the atmosphere.
Next, I looked at possible menu items and made a brief list so I could run to the grocery store. I was also about to make reservations for dining out for our big celebration.
But I quickly found myself operating in “Plan B Mode” after I received word my mom wasn’t feeling up to traveling. My head knew it was all going to be fine, but my heart sunk and sat stuck in disappointment.
Then it hit me like a tidal wave as I began to spiral into a saddened state. I didn’t stay there long, but I cried and went to God in prayer and reached out to friends to pray about it.
So, instead of hosting visitors from Iowa, I traveled to Iowa for a visit. It was a quick switch-a-roo and I began to move ONWARD with the new plan. This view, from my sister’s window, is what delighted me this morning.
Wow! I need to grab my camera!
“Good morning LORD! Thanks for the sunrise. It’s a beautiful crisp day in Iowa. I’m glad to be here visiting my parents and my sisters. Who knows what’s lies ahead for this ‘sister’s weekend.’”
As I reflected on our past times together and previous “Sister’s weekends” I began to visualize…
I can bank on these things: there will definitely be giggling and story-telling. We’ll all talk at the same time and the volume will increase. I suspect we will make something/ a craft or project as well. And then there will be food, both going out to eat and eating in.
I am extremely blessed! I’m blessed this very weekend to celebrate my parents’ 68th wedding anniversary, my mom’s 88th birthday and mine as well…notice how I left the number off that one!
I sat still this morning and thought about the goodness of God. Thanks for the day ahead LORD you are a master painter and planner and I know you have good plans for me, I’m forever grateful.
As I moved ONWARD, I began to count my blessings and concentrated on them versus my concerns, worries or disappointments. (We move in the direction of our most dominant thought.)
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17
Let me encourage you to push past disappointments-ONWARD!
I’m counting my blessings and I’m truly thankful! Onward, Rachel, onward! .