“What have you got planned?”

Dressed in her pajamas, she sat in the center of the couch, feet tucked up underneath her, both hands cupped around a mug filled with hot water. “Are you sure you don’t want any tea or anything else Rach?”

“Nope! I’m really good, Sharon. Sitting right here with this hot water is perfect!” I replied.

We laughed because our grandmother, Inga used to do the same thing, drink hot water. It was pretty late, close to midnight, but as a way to wind down we sat visiting in her lamp-lit, beautiful living room.

She sipped from her mug, when I asked my sister, “So, what have you got planned? What are you looking forward to?”

She sat quietly for a moment, then replied, “Well, you know I just got back from that wedding and I have the shower tomorrow for the other wedding coming up in January.” She proceeded and rattled off things about work and other responsibilities that demand her time and fill her plate. I sipped my hot water from my mug as I listened intently.

Later, I got to thinking about my own question. What have I got planned?  I thought of these verses:  Come now, you say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”–– Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you want to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”  James 4:13-15

What Have I got planned? What am I looking forward to?  I try very hard to always say, “Lord willing, I plan to do X,Y & Z!”

I’ve noticed a great deal of what I plan happens and I am also equally aware of how often I am surprised at how my plans are not what happens at all. Yet it is the purposes of the Lord that remain. I’ve learned to be flexible. I am also learning about how the Holy Spirit likes to surprise me with the fun and unexpected. I love his sense for surprise.

People often become so overwhelmed by looking to the future that they adopt a spirit of dread. But any thought that doesn’t look to the future with hope attached can’t be a thought rooted in God. Because God is good and God is a “with us” god, Immanuel . So the future is not something to dread or be overwhelmed by.

This is what God’s word says about the future and life: Enjoy and feast on these promises:

Promise: The Lord will keep you from harm.  He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Proverbs 2:7 – 8

Promise: The Lord will guide you.  I will guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. Proverbs 4:11

Promise: If you persevere under trial, you will be rewarded.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:17–18

Promise: God plans good for you.  Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any god besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. Isaiah 64:4

Promise: God plans good for you. “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

Whatever we’ve got planned, God ‘s plans are better and they are for our good.  I remind myself He is for me not against me. Recalling this truth too: No weapon formed against me will prosper.

So when I think about the plans the LORD has for me and for my future it brings comfort and peace. I know it’s because he is the comforter and the Prince of Peace. It’s even better than being curled up in my PJ’s on a comfy couch in a beautiful room sipping’ hot water with my sister.

So what do you have planned? What are you looking forward to? Keep in mind God’s got you covered and it’s going to be good. As promised.

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I didn’t plan to see these turkeys in my yard today , but I did!

 

 

 

 

 

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Get rid of it! Now is the time! Exchange it!

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It’s the time of year when temperatures drop a bit and the leaves on trees turn golden-yellow, burnt orange and deep red. The feeling of autumn is in the crisp air.  I welcome the change of seasons. I like to switch from my summer clothes to fall sweaters, scarves and boots.

Sometimes it’s a conundrum to figure out exactly what to wear. Is it like summer or fall today? The flip-flop in temperatures can be tricky. Yet, now is the time! So, I switch my closet over, move into fall clothes but I keep a few summer favorites accessible.

During this time of closet transformation, I hold on to my favorites from summer.  Then I attempt to only bring out the home runs from my fall/winter collection. Truthfully, I stink at letting go of things. I have gotten better. I’ve begun to give things away that aren’t truly “ME.”  I do move on more easily than I used to.

My closet is “busting at the seams” right now as are some of my clothes… YIKES! I need to bag up some things and shed a few pounds too, I guess. I got to thinking about the closet overhaul as I stood inside my closet.

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My sister Sharon is a pro at getting rid of things, she is my role model in this regard. I’m extremely grateful because so many of my clothes are hand-me-downs from her. Friends say,  “Rachel, I love that sweater.”

“Thanks!” I reply. “It was my sister Sharon’s.  I snagged it because she was parting with it.” I gleefully welcomed her items into my closet. However, I don’t yet have a good exit strategy for my own.” IMG_5699

As I thought about getting rid of things. I wondered, Does this relate to our thoughts too? Is it like owning a pilled up, worn out, old sweater, the one you need to part with, but you keep it because it’s comfortable and you are used to wearing it?. Well, negative thoughts can be like that. We become so used to them, they’re familiar, so we let them hang in the “closet of our minds.” But we need to choose to get rid of them and replace them with what we know is true from God’s word.

We must renew our minds and not stay in the old patterns of thinking. Especially when we’ve been transformed by the renewing of our minds, we must remain in the renewed place and get rid of the old ways of thinking. Our thoughts can spiral into negative places.  Do you know what I mean? Those thoughts that tell us lies or become accusations, condemnations, limited opportunities, dread for the future, seem to cycle in our heads. They are like old clothes that just don’t fit us anymore. We have to get rid of them.

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We are in Christ so we have the mind of Christ. The kingdom of God is the dominion of the King. It says in scripture that righteousness, peace, joy in the Holy Ghost is the kingdom of God. So if it’s not right, has no peace attached to it, or is not joyful then it is NOT part of kingdom thinking. So what do we do? We have to GET RID OF IT! Swap or exchange those thoughts for the things we are told to dwell on or think about.

Graham Cooke, is a hero of the faith for me, I like a line he says, “If all the thoughts you’re thinking have brought you to a place you don’t like, have another thought!”

Philippians 4:6-9 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, Will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, Think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

So it’s pretty easy to discern what to keep in the “closet of our thoughts.” Keep these things hanging in your mind… things that are:

  • true
  • honorable
  • just
  • pure
  • lovely
  • commendable
  • excellent
  • praiseworthy
  • one version says of “good report”

So how is your thinking? Let me challenge you to think about what you’re thinking about.

If you live in the part of the country with four seasons, now is the time to change wardrobes, alter closet spaces for season-appropriate clothing. I challenge all of us.Let’s change the closet of our minds to a kingdom way of thinking. God is love, he is good and his kingdom is righteousness, peace and joy. So if it doesn’t fit with that, let’s get rid of it! Now is the time! Exchange it!

Anticipation, devastation and unity!

Multiple November birthdays was the reason an “all ladies” trip to Marco Island, Florida was first planned.  As we shared a text thread riddled with ideas, emojis and goofy videos the anticipation grew exponentially which resulted in my sheer joy. The weeks flew by, but as the day drew closer for the long-awaited trip our excitement turned to concern.

Marco Island was in the predicted path of Hurricane Irma. For those on the island we wondered, watched and prayed. The Naples Daily News reported September 11, 2017 Hurricane Irma made landfall on Marco Island shortly after 3:30 p.m. Sunday with recorded winds of 130 mph storm surges that caused extensive damage.

We all held our breath. After the hurricane damage information dribbled in from one of the home owners, we now were faced with the unwelcome decision, keep our plans or abort them? After much deliberation we decided to go. I was overjoyed to be headed to Marco Island, but had little idea about what I’d encounter when I arrived. One thing was assured, no matter what, I knew we’d have a great time together.

I flew in a few days before the others which ended up to be a blessing. I had solitude and silence along with some needed naps too.  As is my normal routine, I decided to take a walk. These photos were my way of documenting the storm’s effects and are captioned. I’m sure they will be self-explanatory.

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branches line the roads

 

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street signs down in some places

 

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some metal and concrete mixed in with the trees

 

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This roof is an example of the hurricane’s power to strip off the shingles

 

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beach is still beautiful

 

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love the water tide marks

 

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can’t stop beauty from springing up

 

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I guess I’ll cross the street whenever I think it’s safe to cross?

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plenty of coconuts

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I find beauty even in the rubble. I think this is stunning.

 

While I walked I couldn’t help but think about God being a restorer, rebuilder, way-maker, repairer of the breach and healer. I viewed these things with great hope. I saw what will be not what was. God gave me that sense for my life plans too. He is the God of all hope. He deals well with devastation.  I had a sense Marco would not only bounce back but would thrive in the future. I was actually encouraged by all I saw because God allowed me a perspective shift.

My friends arrived safely and we had such a sweet reunion. Of course, we decided to hit the beach. I tried to read, God is Good, while sitting in the sun.

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squinting because I didn’t bring sunglasses and reading glasses.

We took time one day to do a personality test and it was very informative and insightful. Our personalities were exposed and our dispositions became glaringly apparent in the hours that followed. I couldn’t put my finger on it but later there was a spirit of somethin’ stinky that entered and was beginning to stir in our group.

We tried to decide on dinner plans.  It was amazing at first because we came to the unanimous decision…“Let’s go out tonight!”  We looked on-line and perused the restaurants in the area. We studied menus and the deliberation process began to cause frustration. Everyone seemed to prefer one another, which is a good thing, but no clear decision was made.

We had multiple factors to consider:  budget and price points to honor, different dietary needs, some women were participating in the Whole Thirty Diet challenge, we had different opinions on the level of “celebration” we wanted/needed for the birthday girls too. As we wavered and waffled back and forth this ambivalence allowed an opportunity, which the enemy quickly seized, to come in and try to steal our joy. I kept thinking something’s just not right here. We felt completely off to me!

This photo was taken after we almost had a meltdown with one another. (This was odd… we truly love each other to bits and pieces!) YES, we worked it out. We prayed before ordering, not before eating like usual, before ordering! We stopped abruptly and Jeanne prayed. Oh, how we needed an adjustment. “Pray, pray, pray, pray, blah, blah, blah…  In Jesus name AMEN” and seriously it ALL just turned around. To God be the glory!

This ended up to be one of the most enjoyable meals and evenings. We truly enjoyed one another, our meals and our waitress. We celebrated each other and the birthday girls too. We even had enough time to see God’s handiwork in the sunset complete with a photo session.

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Can you feel the love?

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Birthday girls… One 50, 55 & 60. I’ll let you guess which one is which age. CELEBRATE!

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“Let’s get a sunset photo…Is there any one on the beach still so we can ask them to take it? There’s a lady walking this way, Lisa you ask her!”

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The woman in the very back was our photographer! She barely spoke English and was with two of her girlfriends from France. This was their last night in Marco so they were enjoying the sunset. We had to get a selfie with ALL of the girlfriends together. SO MUCH FUN! oh, what a night. There is something so beautiful about unity!

 

One of the next days we went out on the boat and went to a small island. We saw little crabs scurrying all around, we collected shells and floated in the home of the sharks.

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SueAnn, Rachel, Stefanie, Lisa, Jeanne, Lisa

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Lisa, SueAnn, Stef, Rachel, Lisa, Jeanne

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FABULOUS way to float in the water!

 

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It’s a Magical Life…When you do life together!

I collected sweet memories from my time the same way I collected shells on this island. Each person and memory is so special. Everyone from a good God who desires to give good gifts. My time away was truly that… A good gift!

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

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers/sisters dwell together in unity! – Psalm 133:1

The entire time together was beautifully orchestrated and ordained by Jesus. From the conversations we had, to the different groupings we found ourselves in, to the hours spent in the word of God and the precious prayer time we had for each individual. I am blessed beyond measure to have these friends and this trip was better than I could have ever imagined. The anticipation was palpable, the devastation was visible and sweet unity was experienced! God is so good.