Thursday, September 19, 2019

A Give-to-Receive Perspective: Do You Have It?

It's been a long day. You are just leaving the office and hang your head because you know it's - again - going to be dark by the time you arrive home and you likely won't have much time with the kids. 

When will work ever let up? When will life get easier? 

As you step out the door to your building, you realize that there is a homeless man sitting outside next to his bike that is weighed down with bags. Your response is to make a mad dash to your car so you can get home. The last thing will do is let some stranger stop you. 

You arrive at your car, unlock the doors, throw in your bags, and hop in the driver's seat. And exhale. Finally, let's go home. 

But, as you begin pulling out of the parking space, you feel a very strange bumpy, almost wobbly sensation. No way. You cannot have a flat tire. Not today. Not this long after hours when everyone is gone - and you want to be, too. 

Putting the car in park, you hop out and take a look. Sure enough - it's completely flat. You call home and share the message and then head for the spare tire. Except, you don't have one. Nooo!

As a last resort, you pull out your AAA card and ask for assistance. Wait time? Just over two hours.  Waiting alone gets boring after awhile, so you decide to empty the spare change from your car into your hand and grab a few extra dollar bills. Then, you walk over to that homeless man. 

His name is Earl and he just lost his wife of 55-years. Earl is going through a hard time and just wants someone's shoulder to lean on as he shares stories about happier times in his life. Earl wants nothing more. 

As you rest your head on your pillow that night, you realize that your heart is full. You have a wife and a family that is still thriving - and you are alive to witness it.  
 ***********************
Perspective. It is all about perspective. So many things in life that we encounter on a daily basis will either make us a better person or tear us down. And it all comes down to how we look at it.
Take the above story, for instance. You can gripe and moan and complain because work kept you out later than you'd prefer. Or, get angry because your tire was flat. After all, no one wants to be stuck because of a tire when you were just heading home from a long day. Talk about crushing hopes!

But, what happens when you look at it from a different perspective? What happens when you consider that perhaps everything happened as it did -- the extra work causing you to be late and the flat tire with no spare -- so that you could be there for Earl. You were to be a blessing to him. And, in return, he was a blessing to you by reminding you what you still have in your life. 

Do you see it?

In Luke 6:37-39 (NKJV), Jesus says: 

"Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you...For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you."

It is easy to read that and say, Oh, sure, ok, yes, I don't judge. Well, I mean, when someone does something stupid of course I have to laugh at them. Who doesn't? And sure, I forgive. I don't forget - but I will forgive. Well, as long as it is not something too too serious. Otherwise, there are some things you just can't forgive. 

Do you think God has the same perspective when it comes to the words Jesus spoke? Do you think he saw some loophole in there, too?  

Newsflash: There is no loophole. There is no disclaimer. There is no little asterisk or fine print. If you want God's full forgiveness and wish not to be judged or condemned, then you need to do the same to others. Regardless of their actions or who they are. We can't view things how we want to see them. God knows our hearts and he sees our moves. And, he gives us back what we dish out. 

"...eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand..." - Exodus 21:24 Should we add forgiveness for forgiveness, love for love, goodness for goodness, mercy for mercy, and so forth? 

Sometimes, instead of just focusing on what is being put out there -- what we are responsible for -- we need to look at life from a different perspective. We need to see the bigger picture, the behind-the-scenes look, if you will. And, when you do, you will likely find there is a lot more joy attached than you ever thought possible. 





Thursday, August 22, 2019

Connection issues



I didn't plan to write this blog today. It just sort of happened. I know what you are thinking. It is probably something somewhere along the lines of, Michelle, blogs don't just appear - you have to write them. And, you are right. But, here's the thing - 

Do you ever have some common thread of circumstance appear in your life? 

Let me explain. 

Some people may go through a period of time when they always seem to find pennies. Others, may seem to get a lot of random phone calls for assistance in buying a house. And, still others - like my dad - always seem to find the one single bone that was missed in a boneless fish dinner. 

It doesn't happen all the time. And, it doesn't necessarily happen for extended periods of time. But when it does, is it coincidence? If you have been reading my blogs for very long you will know that I don't believe in coincidence at all. 

Excuse me for a moment while we hit a FLASHBACK

Years ago, prior to the terrorist events on September 11th, I would almost always see the time 9:11 on any nearby clock. It didn't matter whether it was morning or night. And, it became such a common occurrence that those around me knew, too, because I'd point it out every single time.

On September 10th, I remember sitting at work with my co-worker and long time family friend. She had listened to me tell her the time at 9:11 AM for months. So, as it hit me that the next day was 9/11, I pointed out to her that something was going to happen that day. Whether good or bad, I didn't know. 

Do you know on that day we both sat there in the office long after the towers fell and as I started to say, "oh my gosh do you remember what I said yesterday... " She looked up and softly said, "I know." 

I rarely caught the time 9:11 after that. 

Now, I am so not saying I have some sort of magic powers. But, what I am saying is that I don't think there is any coincidence about that. I have written several blogs attesting to the same type of situation.

WELCOME BACK
Ok, you've got me totally sidetracked here. Back to the blog at hand... 

It is all happening again. 

Everything around me keeps breaking. Either it won't work, it cracks, or I can't connect. But, no matter how you look at it, I am shut off from using multiple things at this point. 

For instance, my oven won't work. And, before it could get repaired, I somehow (though I honestly don't know how) majorly cracked the glass top of the stove. So, we purchased a new one. Got it in the kitchen and ready to install and hey - did you know that plugs vary on ranges? Three prong and four prong? Who knew!? Needless to say, we still don't have it connected. 

Then, all of a sudden, my dishwasher starts begging for attention -- less than a week after the range. It apparently believes that when it is locked, it should be off. And, when it is opened and unlocked, it is time to shower water everywhere. It's a dishwasher, not a kitchen washer.

Let's just say the refrigerator started making a loud noise two nights ago and I just ran out of the kitchen as if I never heard it.
I just can't take anymore. 

Then, yesterday I have a client that sent me a payment through the app Venmo. I have an account, but never really set it up until now. And... it will not connect to my bank. It actually tells me that my bank is having "connectivity" issues, but really, I think it meant to say that MICHELLE is having connectivity issues. 
After 30 minutes on the phone with the representative at my bank, I am assured that there are no connectivity issues - and no explanation as to why it will not work. 

While I was on hold with the bank, however, I decided to check out an app that I came across called MyPraize. From what I understand, it is a social media app like Facebook, but with a Christian vibe. Of course, I can't tell you truly what it is because before I could finish signing up, this delightful - and very brightly red - message that states, "There was an issue connecting to the server" appeared on my screen.

I closed my phone, then my eyes, and exhaled. Why in the world is everything going wrong? Why are things not connecting? Why are they so broken?

I have sat here asking myself this question more and more over the past week or two. And, while I don't have an exact answer, this is all I can figure out... 

Sometimes when things like this happen at every turn, it may be that you aren't focused and are at jeopardy of messing up the bigger picture. These events may be like neon signs telling you which way to go and, more importantly, which way not to go. 

"We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps" 
- Proverbs 16:9 (NLT)

No matter what we think we are going to do or what we want to do or plan to do, there is something much bigger than us at stake. And, well, there is a God who is painting the masterpiece. Don't dismiss things as bad luck or coincidence. Instead, take a look around and see if God may be trying to tell you something. 

With this change of perspective, you just may be surprised about what you find.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Following God is Simple - We Make it Complicated.

Where would you like to go to dinner? 

I don't care, what about you? I am open to anything. 

Ok, well how about we go to that good Mexican restaurant down the road? 

Aw, man. Anything but Mexican. I am getting burnt out on tacos and I just had a burrito last week. 

Ok, ok. Fine. Then, what about the Thai restaurant? We have not had Thai food in a LONG time. 

Ew. No. I do not feel like Thai food at all. No sushi, no Thai, not today. 

Ok, then. Geesh. Well, wait -- you have been wanting to try that new Greek restaurant that just opened. How about we go there. You've been talking about it a lot. Yes, let's do that!

I have? Nah. That is more of a lunch thing. I don't want to go there for dinner. 

Alright then, last suggestion - let's go for a burger or wings. Something easy like that. Yeah? 

You know what? Why don't we just go have some tacos? There is that Mexican restaurant down the road that we like. Why don't we just go there? It'd be quick and simple. 


Silence... 

😵

LIFE IS COMPLICATED


Does this sound like a typical Saturday night dinner battle with you and your significant other? So excited to get a night out and it becomes so frustrating that you almost wish you didn't, right? 

We overcomplicate everything. Well, if not everything - most things. 

Like deciding what color to dye our hair or what style cut to get. Or, how about going out of our way to avoid someone or beating ourselves up so badly over something someone said? Or perhaps spending three hours in a store looking for the perfect outfit to impress someone who may not even notice and spending money outside of our budget to do so. 

These are just examples. If you turn inward long enough, there is a good chance you will see where you have made some complications, too. It could deal with your financial matters, your health, your relationships, your work, your kids, etc. 

All we crave is simple. Yet all we do is complicate things. 

Have you ever thought about that?

FOLLOWING GOD IS SIMPLE


Have you ever paid attention to the things that God asks of us? 

He wants us to believe. 

He wants us to have faith. 

He wants us to read His word. 

He wants us to pray. 

He wants us to trust in Him. 

He wants us to give. 

He wants us to show gratitude. 

He wants us to forgive. 

He wants us to love. 


Simple actions that we humans can't seem to do without a hiccup or two. Or three, for some folks. God doesn't want us to say, "Sure, I will love them as long as they stop using drugs and take a shower." Or, "Yes, I will forgive him as soon as he shows some remorse."

That is not at all what God says. Yet, that is what we do, whether we realize it or not.

THE PROOF IS IN THE RED LETTERS

In Matthew 16:24 (NLT), Jesus says, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me."

He didn't say, "If any of you wants to be my follower, pick a date and time that works for your calendar, be sure to call all your family members, notify your office, and set up your social media accounts so all your followers will know what you are doing. Then, take some time for yourself to make sure that is what you want to do. Go shopping to get anything and everything you may need. Take a quick long weekend vacation to help you relax first. Then take up your cross and follow me."

The idea of all that just sounds exhausting, doesn't it? Like we really need to do all of that? 

Jesus is looking for the radicals, the leaders, the bold. Yet he also looks for the meek, the weary, and the broken.

No matter who you are or where you are in life, he simply wants you to take up your cross and follow him. Surrender all the complicated mess and bring humility to the life you know. 

You and Jesus. Jesus and You. The most simplistic yet deepest relationship you will ever know. 


Remember...
He wants us to believe. 

He wants us to have faith. 

He wants us to read His word. 

He wants us to pray. 

He wants us to trust in Him. 

He wants us to give. 

He wants us to show gratitude. 

He wants us to forgive. 

He wants us to love. 


FINAL THOUGHTS


Take a step back and try to uncomplicate the motions of your day-to-day life. If you spend so much time trying to perfect everything around you then you will miss the most important. 

"Who may climb the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place?" 
- Psalm 24:3

He wants you. 
It is that simple. 

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Your Purpose and Samson: Why You Shouldn't Lose Sight of God

Years ago, if you didn't know someone personally, then you didn't really know what went on in his or her private life. Once a social event is over, heading home meant shutting out the world. It was the one place where a guard could be let down and a person could be free. 

Then, along came social media. No longer did we need to work our way into an episode of Unsolved Mysteries to connect with long lost friends. Old classmates, neighborhood friends of our earliest days, and even those distant, brief connections - they are all at our fingertips. 

Type in a name. Boom. We now know that the kid we used to have a crush on in Kindergarten married someone else, has three kids, and he works as a real estate agent in Biloxi, Mississippi. He has a beautiful wife. His kids are active in school and make good grades. He is selling one house after the next, heavily sought after and in demand in the real estate space in and around Biloxi. Even his dog, Chap, is absolutely adorable. A nice home and lots of social, family functions. That stranger from all those years ago has a perfect life. He did well. 

Or did he? 

Regardless of what one has or doesn't have, very few people will honestly open themselves up to the world of social media without a filter. In fact, you may as well consider social media platforms to be the place for posting the best pics showing the best angles of life. Staged or real. 

So, what happens when we see all this goodness going on in the lives of the people we used to know? Or that we used to be acquainted with? 

Jealousy. We want what they have. We get disappointed with the things that we have and the hand that we were given. We automatically put others a step above us - based solely on what their social media pages tell us. 

We don't even know if it is real or not! Yet, we are basing how we feel, how we view our life and our own self-image on these social media posts. 

Sounds a bit absurd, doesn't it? 

Jealousy is ugly. And wasting time wanting what others have can stunt your growth. 

This type of behavior, in one way or another, has been getting us in trouble for years. 

Have you heard of Samson? 

His story, found in Judges 13-16, begins with him coming as a blessing before he was even born. An angel appeared to Samson's mother to tell her that she was pregnant and she was going to give birth to a baby boy she will name Samson. The angel went on to say that Samson should never cut his hair, "No razor will touch his head - the boy will be God's Nazirite from the moment of his birth. He will launch the deliverance from Philistine oppression." (Judges 13:5 MSG). 

As Samson was born and raised, his hair grew and no razor ever touched it. Unfortunately, though, Samson had a hard time fitting into the role God had created for him. 

Now, let's think about that for a moment. We all know that we were born because God created us. And, we know that we all have a special purpose. I don't know about you, but my mother has never told the story of my birth to include special instructions over my life and God's plan for it as delivered by an angel. Yours?

That is big. In fact, it is downright HUGE. An angel. A messenger of The Most High comes to tell your mama that you have big shoes to fill. Wow. 

Samson couldn't have cared less. He was wrapped up in wanting to live a life like everyone else. He wanted to attend the parties and feasts and mingle with beautiful women. He had a purpose that he did not follow. He made choices that affected his family and his entire nation. He insisted on marrying a woman from an enemy nation. In short, He in no way, shape, or form acted as a follower of God should, let alone as the leader he was created to be. 

The funny thing is that Samson's strength was in his hair -- which is why God didn't want him to cut it. And everyone around him was envious of this strength that he had. They wanted to know what it was, where it came from and were willing to find out at all costs. 

So, while Samson was busy wanting to be like everyone else - they just wanted the special gift that he had. And, he was too blind to even notice.

I am not going to get into details about the story of Samson. That is for you to read. If you don't know it and have not spent any time reading it, you should. Turn your bible to Judges 13


What you can do for yourself. 

Before you find yourself wrapped up in what everyone else has going on, take a step back and remind yourself of a few things: 

💚 Like Samson, you were born for a reason. Sure, maybe no angel came to talk to your parents before dropping you off, but God doesn't make accidents so you best believe there is a reason you are here. 

💜 Your reason for being here is going to vary from that of every person around you. You are unique and wonderfully made - with a purpose in mind. Specifically in mind for you

❤️ Telling you to shut down social media may be a bit extreme. Instead, make sure you aren't allowing yourself to get caught up in everything that comes with scrolling through those pages and stories. Just like you've always been taught not to believe everything you read or hear, don't believe everything you see on social media. 

💙 Everyone wants to be flawless. Everyone has flaws. Remember this. 

💛 Take time for inward focus. When you spend so much time focused on what others are doing, you are bound to be affected by it, whether you realize it or not. Take time to learn who you are, what you stand for, your goals, hopes, and dreams. 

💗 Perhaps the most important thing you can do for yourself is to develop a relationship with God. Spend time with Him. Allow God to hold your attention. By doing so, you will have less time to get lost in what you think you don't have and will be able to learn about all the riches have been blessed with. 

Final thoughts. 

Are you wondering how it ends? Are you wondering whether Samson ever regains control of his focus? Let's just say that GOD is good, GRACE is powerful, and PRAYER is a direct line to our Creator. 

Go read!

Then Samson prayed to the Lord, "Sovereign Lord, remember me again, 'O God, please strengthen me just one more time." 
- Judges 16:28









Thursday, July 11, 2019

Feeling less than? You don't have to.

Life is a mixture of calm, peaceful moments and chaotic uproars. Just when you arrive and have smooth ground underneath your feet, you come face to face with a mountain.  Do you detour? Do you climb it? Are you prepared for the task? 

It wouldn't necessarily be life if this didn't happen, right? After all, isn't the point of life to be challenged and grow while transforming into your best self? How else will you grow if you don't get pushed and tested?


It is easy for these large mountains of troubles to bring us down. They can be overwhelming, frustrating, and seem impossible. You may walk through day-to-day life as if everything is fine only to go home and sit motionless wondering what you are going to do to overcome. 

There is a good chance that someone along the way has told you that you ought not to focus on the negative things and, instead, focus on the good in your life. Sure. If only it were that easy, right? Let's just dismiss those struggles and that gigantic mountain blocking the sun and focus on the fact that we woke up this morning. 

Exactly!

Wait, what? 

When you feel like you are struggling under the weight of everything, finding the beauty in life itself can make that rugged mountain a bit easier to tackle. Showing gratitude can be a great way to remind yourself that, although you have struggles in this moment, your life is still magnificently beautiful. 

But, what if you had something even better? What if you had your own best friend who is always there no matter what - and not just to tell you to look on the bright side? This best friend can... 

Provide you comfort when you are feeling anxious. 
🕇
Lend a helping hand when you are feeling less than. 
🕇
Remind you that you are loved and worthy of goodness. 
🕇
Heal your broken pieces when you feel defeated. 
🕇
Show you that your troubles will create a new, stronger version of yourself. 
🕇
GOD will hold your head up when you can't. 

There was once a little guy named David. He went up against a giant - Goliath - that no one else could defeat. Everyone thought he was being foolish. But, David knew he had God on his side. All it took was a huge amount of faith in his best friend and a tiny little stone. Using his slingshot, he took down the giant. 

“...You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!" 
- 1 Samuel 17:45, 47 NLT 


Won't you allow God to let the mountains ahead of you build your strength and solidify your faith?

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Raising Someone Else’s Kids

Raising Someone Else’s Kids

“Do you have kids?”

That is always a tough question for me. And I always find myself stumbling over my answer. Yes, technically. I mean, they aren’t necessarily mine as in the normal way one has kids, but, in all other ways, yes, I have kids.

To be more specific, I have a stepson and two nephews. In my mind, though, they are all my kids. I didn’t have them so-to-speak, but they are mine.

And, here’s why. This is what it is like raising someone else’s kids.

When someone plays too rough outside and falls off a skateboard, tumbles over a basketball, or skids off a bike, you make sure you are there to wipe the blood, clean the wound, and dry the tears.

When someone feels beat down after a rough day at school or gets frustrated with a homework assignment, you speak uplifting words and provide encouragement.

When someone has a favorite breakfast, you go out of your way to make sure it is available in the morning.

When someone has interests, goals, and the like, you do what you can to guide their pursuit. You let them explore the things that matter to them.

When they do well, you praise them.

When they make a poor choice, you correct them.

When a kid gets excited about something, you feel yourself getting excited, too.

You brag about them.

You show up for them.

You sing with them, act goofy, and have your own inside jokes.

You do what you can to not let them down. And, if you ever accidentally do, you beat yourself up for it long past the time they’ve stopped thinking about it.

You make sacrifices to see them smile.

You hug and kiss them goodnight.

And, by all means, you tell them you love them.

Life is not easy. Life with kids is surely a rough ride. And, nobody – including myself – is perfect.
Raising someone else’s kids should be no different than raising your own biological children. Moral of the story? It doesn’t matter who had the darn kids – you raise them as if you did. You treat them as if they are yours. And you love the heck out of them.

You know, one of the wisest women I know once told me that you don’t ever love any kid differently, whether they are your own or your stepchild or another child in your care. She said that each child deserves to have unconditional love.

When I first fell into this role in my life, I had a hard time believing that. Not that I didn’t think all children should be loved unconditionally, but I felt that there is a certain piece of you that is bound to that child when it is biological. Something that I wouldn’t know for sure, of course. Perhaps I am wrong – I will leave that to all of you biological parents to discuss.

But I have grown into the woman that I am knowing that the love I have for the children in my life is not conditional. That there is not possibly anything I would do more or less for them if they came from me. I give them my all. Every day. Rain or shine. And, I do it because they are mine. All three of them.
  

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Be a diamond - shine bright

Life is not always easy, is it? Could you imagine if it was? Everyone would walk around happy, stress-free and carefree. And, while that may sound perfect, it isn't. Why? Because we grow out of the struggles we face. 

Many of us are either in the middle of something rough or we know someone who is. Life's hurdles will be different for each individual but encountering things such as: 


losing a job

*

battling cancer

*

dealing with teenage struggles

*

waiting to hear a doctor's diagnosis

*

walking away from a marriage
*

the loss of a loved one

*

These are awful events that are capable of bringing even the strongest person down. They can make us turn inward, leading to anger and frustration, and, maybe even a bus ride straight into a life of darkness. 


But, let's stop and think about Jesus for a minute. This guy lived his life in the light. He encountered resistance and doubt during his travels. He endured unimaginable pain and torture. And, he was killed as if he was one of the most horrible criminals. 


Did he complain? No. Did he turn inward? Nope. Did he get angry and frustrated? Not at all. Guess what else he did not do? He never blew out his light. 

So, no matter what you are going through at this stage in your life, do not let your light go dark. We live in a world where so many people do -- and where so much darkness exists. 



God needs you to shine so that you may show others the way. "Do everything without complaining and arguing so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the world of life..." - Philippians 2:14-16

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A Give-to-Receive Perspective: Do You Have It?

It's been a long day. You are just leaving the office and hang your head because you know it's - again - going to be dark by the ti...