Consider it ALL Joy

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I grew up attending Christian school from first through seventh grade.  There were many things I loved about attending a Christian school but one of the favorite things I loved was Bible verse memorization and presentation.  It was such fun to memorize the promises of God, especially the good ones.

Notice I said the good ones.  That is because there were certain Bible verses that I always shied away from, back then and even now as a grown woman. Truth be told, they simply scared me.  They talked about both good and bad things – all within the same verse.  Who wants to hear that?  I don’t know about you but, as a little girl and now, I much prefer to hear the good Bible verses and experience good times.

Obviously, that is not how life works.  We have to take the good with the bad because it is not always a rosy picture.

I have learned that this Christian walk is all about endurance.  Endurance in our prayer time.  Endurance with our faith.  Endurance in seeking and praising God.

This year has been a year of turmoil for me.  Many things have happened and one of my “scary scriptures” has now become one of my “good scriptures” and one I have turned towards faithfully, rather than run away from.

My “scary-turned-good” scripture is in James 1:2-4 and the verse I grew up memorizing is in the King James Version which states “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

I have to tell you, three words in that scripture have always leaped out at me. The “count it all joy” has always puzzled me.  Why should I count it all joy? Why would I have any desire to be joyful when something I don’t want or need to happen actually happens?  The real answer is because God wants us to have faith and endurance at ALL times.

I like how it is explained in the New Living Translation “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

The Message Bible even goes so far as to say “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.”  Excuse me, what?  A gift is supposed to be something we welcome because we want it.  Or a gift is offered to us as a pleasant and unexpected surprise.   A gift is not something bad that happens to us unexpectedly, makes us uncomfortable by upsetting or redirecting our carefully planned  lives, or is something we have absolutely no desire to ever choose to encounter.

Trials as gifts.  Sounds horrifically odd.  Yet trials are fabulous gifts.  They make us look deep within.  They raise our awareness.  They test our faith. They show us who we are and the substance we are made of.  They allow us to take on the characteristics of Christ and to share our testimony with others who experience a similar trial so we can build up the body of Christ.

The next time you experience a trial, be joyful.  Remain faithful as you endure. Consider it ALL joy.  Good things are going to happen as you move through it to make it to the other side of it – and beyond.

Flying High Like Dumbo

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What comes to mind when you see this image of Dumbo soaring effortlessly in the sky?

I think most of us will smile. We may say awww. Adorable.  Fun.  Cute. Freedom.  He makes you feel all warm and fuzzy!

Yet when I look deeper at the image I begin to have so many questions.  Hmmm, that is impossible.  How can he do that?  Elephants aren’t supposed to fly.  Of course, this can happen only in a fairy tale.

I always wondered why Dumbo didn’t look different from all the other elephants. Yes, his ears were a little big but he’s an elephant and they all have big ears!  After all, since he could fly that bumped him up to super hero status in my mind.  He doesn’t look like a super hero.  He doesn’t wear a cape.  He doesn’t wear a mask. He looks like any ordinary circus elephant.  Although he had those awful hallucinations about dancing pink elephants, he isn’t a different color.  There is nothing unique to make him stand out.

Until…

One day Dumbo decides to jump.  This jump is different because he is asked to jump from a higher platform than all of his previous jumps.  Scared, he does it and it’s a fantastic jump.  A life-changing jump. This jump enables Dumbo to discover he can truly fly all on his own, without a magic feather, by flapping those huge ears that caused others to laugh at and shun him.  To make him feel ashamed.

Isn’t that how it is with us?  We all go about our daily lives and most of us don’t look any different from our family, friends, peers, colleagues, etc. on the outside. We may not stand out.  Yet often we walk around on the inside where we focus on how someone has mistreated us, laughed at us, or made us feel like an outsider or less than.  But there is something unique about each of us.

God will use our life challenges and circumstances to take each of us to higher platforms in our lives.  Then He will gently push us to see what we will do. We don’t believe in magical feathers like Dumbo.  We believe in the promises provided by the word of God.  Will we use our faith to help us soar and fly high above doubts, despair, disappointments? Do we believe that His promises are true?  Do we really truly trust Him to do what His word says?

If we trust and wait on God, that seemingly impossible circumstance often gives us the push we need to give us greater strength.   Before we know it we will be flying high like Dumbo.

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  - Isaiah 40:31

Bounce, Swipe.

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Bounce, Swipe.

It was a familiar noise that could be heard often in our household when I was growing up.  So familiar I think it became background noise for my parents.

Bounce, Swipe.

It was something I could do to entertain myself or to have fun with friends.  My BFF and I had lots of fun laughing and playing with it.

Bounce, Swipe.

I loved to hear that sound on the kitchen floor or on the hardwood floors in the living room, family room, my room or on the linoleum in the basement. Basically, anywhere I could play the game!

That familiar sound was associated with colors that fascinated me.  Red and silver. So simplistic.  So complex.  Take a small red ball and bounce it.  Then swipe the silver jacks to pick them up.  That’s the game.

Sounds easy.  The key is you had to Bounce, Swipe and pick up the jacks before the little red ball bounced again.  Or you were out.

Bounce, Swipe.

When playing with friends, we would toss or flip the jacks to see who would go first.  Then we would either play solo, in teams, or if just two people we would switch off every other game.  We played “onsies, twosies, threesies, foursies”, etc. You get the picture…   In case you don’t know what that means, it is where you start by picking up one jack, then two jacks, then three jacks, then four jacks – all at the same time – until you could do “tensies” where you would swipe up all 10 of them all at once.

Bounce, Swipe.

We would switch it up and sometimes do what we called a “double bounce” where it was legal to double bounce and see what you could do.  We also played “clappers” where you would Bounce, Clap, Swipe.  Good times!

We also played “hand toss” where you tossed the jacks in the air and caught them on the back of your hand.

The winner, regardless of which version we played, was the one who picked up the most jacks.  I like to think I might have been a contender if there was a Jacks Tournament back in the day.  ;)

Bounce, Swipe.

Nothing exciting by today’s electronic game standards but oh how it fascinated me.

Bounce, Swipe.

I still have those original jacks.  I’ve long replaced my red ball which served me well and I have a new ball now.  I think I’ll go sit down on the kitchen floor and play a game…

In Expectation

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The word waiting means to: 1.  to remain steady in a place of readiness or expectation, 2.  to look forward expectantly, and 3. to be ready and available.

If we wait with expectation, then why is waiting so hard?  As kids we could not wait to grow up – to go to the next grade, have a first crush, get our driver’s license, go to prom, etc.  As young adults we wait to find the perfect mate.  As women we wait 9 months to birth and greet a precious baby.  As students we wait for college to end so careers can begin.  The list of the hopes, dreams, events, and things we wait for is endless.

Waiting can be a beautiful and happy experience.  It can also be a time of pain, struggle, questions and heartache when we have to wait for an extended period of time.

God has hidden joys along the waiting journey.  Waiting is our destiny.  A place of faith, trust and thankfulness.

Our trials and challenges strengthen and stretch us as they take us to new heights in confidence and character.  Waiting helps instill patience, trust, and thankfulness for God is always with us − He will never leave or forsake us.

  “The atmosphere of expectancy is the breeding ground for miracles.”  - Israel Houghton

Marching On!

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It didn’t roar in like a lion.  It came in beautifully−like the sweetest and gentlest lamb.  I’m talking about the first day of March.

After several cold and balmy days, followed by overcast skies and heavy downpours, today is simply spectacular!

This day was full of bright, white, fluffy cotton candy clouds dancing in a kaleidoscope of magnificently crystal clear skies−ranging in vivid colorations from pale to robin egg blue. Unseasonably warm with gentle breezes and temperatures reaching an unbelievable high near 70 degrees this afternoon.

No matter what is going on in your life, or the world around you, nothing can stop the seasons from changing.  March is a trendsetter−it always sets a precedent.

I love that March whispers Spring is near!  It sings Spring is almost here! March also whispers hope, renewal, and opportunity.  It brings smiles and laughter and the thrill of newness.  It brings with it the fullness of expectation, promise, and joy.  It says let us move onward and upward.  Such a glorious song March sings!

Come, take a peek with me around my yard!  This is one of my hyacinths preparing to bloom.

This hyacinth bloomed the other day.  This little cutie took a bit of a beating from the heavy downpours earlier in the week.  Although a little droopy, I think she still looks great!

The fabulously precious and gracefully welcoming Crocus!  Thankfully, we didn’t have enough snow this year for her to smile through earlier…yeah.  The squirrels must have eaten my yellow crocus, like they did my daffodils.

The always bright and smiling day lilies are already poking through the ground. I can’t wait to see their cheerful faces emerge as they reach toward the heavens to welcome and embrace the warming rays of the sun.

Look what else I found peeking through the ground.  Tulips are beginning to break through!

I don’t know about you but I am absolutely ready to march on!

In the Waiting

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In the Waiting by Vicki Yohe  04IntheWaiting.mp3

Pain
The gift nobody
Longs still it comes
Somehow leaves me
Stronger when it’s gone away
Pray I try and pray
For your will to be done
But I confess it’s never
Fast enough for me

It seems the hardest part
Is waiting on you
When what I want
Is just to see your hand move

I want a peace beyond my
Understanding I wasn’t to feel
It fall like rain
In the middle of my hurting
I want to feel your arms as they
Surround me
And let me know that it’s okay
To be in this place
Resting in the peace that only comes
In the waiting

Time, time to let it go and just believe
Trusting in what no one else
But you can see
Free freedom from the fears that
Close me in when I can’t beyond where
I have been but then Again the silence

Doesn’t mean that I’m alone
As long as I can hear
That I’m still your own

In The Waiting lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

Staying Hydrated

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Ahh, water!  So refreshingly tasty.

Water does a body good and is vital for life and proper cellular function.  It has so many functions and benefits within the human body including:

  • Protects vital organs
  • Regulates body temperature
  • Hydrates muscles, bones and cushions joints
  • Maintains proper blood volume
  • Transports nutrients within the body
  • Helps eliminate toxins from the body
  • Aids in waste removal

Here are a few tips to stay hydrated.

Drink before you become thirsty.  Stay hydrated throughout the day by maintaining a healthy water intake.  An appropriate fluid intake helps maintain a healthy blood volume.  Do this especially when the weather becomes warm and humid to regulate body temperature and to help ward off low blood volume which could potentially lead to dehydration or heat stroke.

Spruce it up.  Drink water out of an elegant glass as a special treat.  Add a slice or two of lemon, lime, tangerine, cucumber, or muddled fruit such as raspberries, strawberries, blueberries for a healthy, natural and sugar-free treat.  Try freezing a few mixed berries in ice cubes to add to a glass of water.

Heat it up.  There is something about a hot cup of tea that always seems to soothe and satisfy our body and soul.  Enjoy a cup of green, black, or herbal tea.  Cut back on, or eliminate, caffeine intake.

Eat it.  Melons such as watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew and citrus fruits such as oranges, tangerines, and grapefruit are chock full of water.  As Spring and Summer approach, add these tasty treats to your diet to plump up your water intake.

Think safety first.  Purchase a filtered-water pitcher to remove impurities in water and use a BPA-free reusable water bottle.  Reusable water bottles help you to track your water intake.  Reusable water bottles also eliminate plastic bottle disposal  in landfills.

Dining Out…Healthfully

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Some people advocate an all or nothing approach to diet and nutrition.  That’s not right for me.  You see, I believe that the stricter you are with your nutrition regimen, the more likely you are to set yourself up for big fat failure.

Since healthful eating is a lifestyle choice, failure is not an option for me.  I choose to do all things in moderation.  I hope you will too!  Go out.  Enjoy life. Enjoy friends and family.  Eat someone else’s cooking every now and again.

Try these ideas the next time you decide to dine out.

  1. Snack before you go.  Don’t starve yourself the whole day so that you can enjoy a great meal out at dinner.  Starvation is a trap.  It sets you up to order the wrong thing because you’re famished.  Eat a normal breakfast and lunch.  Then eat a light snack before you go out to dinner. Something like a small piece of fruit, a handful of nuts, a few baby carrots, sliced cucumber, grape tomatoes, or a glass of milk.
  2. Check it out.  Most restaurants these days offer their menu options on-line.  Go ahead, pull up their website and review the menu before you go.  Information is power and you walk in pre-armed with knowledge on your best choices.  Life is more than a salad!  So, don’t limit yourself to a salad every time you eat out.  Where is the joy and fun in that?
  3. Resist temptation.  I am not a bread eater.  But if you were to go with me to a Mexican restaurant, I will eat every single bit of chips with salsa or queso the waiter puts in front of me.  Know your triggers.  If the bread always grabs you, say no and ask the waiter not to bring it.  However, bread dipped into olive oil is healthy but if you know it will make you overindulge, ask the waiter to bring a half serving of bread or only a few pieces…just enough to allow you to satisfy your taste.
  4. Substitute it.  Ordering a protein such as chicken, fish, beef, or pork is always a healthy option.  Try to stick with the roasted or grilled options. Forego the mashed potatoes or the baked potato with sour cream and butter.  Instead, substitute it with choices such as a cup of soup, a side salad, an extra serving of fresh vegetables, or a sweet potato.
  5. Set it aside.  If the portion served is going to be too much, set it aside at the beginning of your meal.  Just because the restaurant serves it all at once doesn’t mean you need to eat it all at once.  Box it up and take it home to enjoy for lunch or dinner the next day.
  6. Eat slowly.  Savor your meal.  Enjoy your conversation.  Slowing your pace of eating allows your brain to register that it is full and allows satiety to kick-in.
  7. Keep it light.  Desserts can be a tempting sweet treat after a nice meal out.  Fresh fruit (e.g., fresh berries) is always a great option.  Now, if you’re dining at the Cheesecake Factory, that’s a slightly different story (adjust your meal appropriately so you can have that slice).  Wherever you are dining, if you can’t resist that piece of dessert, take a few bites at the restaurant and then box up the rest to take home to enjoy another day!

If you slip up every now and again, it’s ok.  Choose wisely.  It’s all about moderation.

I would love to hear any of your tips for healthful dining when eating out.