December 7, 2013
Typically, in Dallas during the month of December I’d be writing a blog about fun holiday ideas to do around the city. But instead, I’m looking out the window at ice-covered streets in a city that’s literally been shut down by a mega-fierce winter storm. I’ve now shifted my focus to give you some innovative ideas to do when you are forced to change your overly busy holiday schedule into a day of enjoying a much needed rest at home. Here’s a few things to do when you can go anywhere.
1. Construct a gourmet meal from what you have in the cupboards. Take stock of the items you currently have in your fridge, freezer, cupboards and pantry and create a unique meal. Explore your inner-chef and think of new and different ways to take the ordinary and make it extraordinary.
2. Clean out a closet for charity. We all could use a good closet clean-out and now you have the time to do it! Remember we wear about 20% of our clothes 80% of the time, so be tough on yourself and get rid of some of that 80% you aren’t wearing. Choose one charity you will donate your clothes and household items to after the snow melts.
3. Finish reading the book that you started five months ago. Finally, you have a quiet cozy day to conquer some of those books or magazines you’ve wanted to read but were too busy to complete. Weed out the books and magazines you don’t need. There’s probably a charity that could use those too.
4. Write a letter of encouragement to someone who needs a good word. I know writing a note is a dying art, but everyone loves receiving a hand-written, heart-felt note. So pull out a piece of stationary and encourage someone who needs to know you care. Your heart will be warmed and uplifted as you bring joy to another person.
5. Start a new exercise routine indoors. Wall sits, planks, squats, stretches, even running in place will lift your spirits and make you feel better about eating that meal you created in Idea #1.
6. Get to know your neighbors. Reach out and invite someone over for a meal (again, the benefit of Idea #1) or just invite them over for a cup of hot chocolate. If you have elderly neighbors, check in on them and see if they need any help.
7. Be Still. Turn off all the electronic distractions (if you still have electricity) and enjoy some peaceful quiet space. Take time to thank God for His blessings and listen to His direction in your life.
December 2, 2013
That won’t cost a Dime
1. A Smile – Everyone carries around too many frowns of their own to be bothered by yours.
2. Forgiveness – Give your family and friends the gift of ending all bitterness and resentment.
3. Encouragement – Offer sincere and specific words that lift up others. Everyone needs a good word.
4. Helping Hand – Lighten someone else’s load and your spirits will be lifted as well.
5. Listening ear – Put away the distractions and truly listen to the people around you. Listen to their hearts, look into their eyes and let them know you care.
Wrap each of these gifts in the beauty of God’s love and allow His light to shine through you. We love, because He first loved us. Reflect on His love and kindness toward you and share it in a practical way with others this holiday season.
November 26, 2013
It’s easy to be grateful when things are going well in our lives, but it takes strength from within to give thanks in the midst of trials. This past week I attended the funeral of Connor, a 17 year old boy, a precious life who went on to his Heavenly home. I first told of his story in my book Thrive, Don’t Simply Survive. This is actually the story of the Wright family. I know it well, as my daughter married Adam Wright, Connor’s brother.
Thriving through the Difficulties
Jan always pictured herself as the mother of girls. In fact, she still has her childhood Barbie collection, which she had planned to someday pass down to her daughters. But Jan wouldn’t trade her four sons for the world. She says the one word that describes her life is adaptation. Of course, adapting to four sons instead of having daughters has been a relatively easy adaptation to God’s plan, compared to adapting to the fact that one of her sons is severely disabled.
When Connor, her third son, was born, Jan and her mother, Dede, recognized that something wasn’t quite right. Although the hospital sent him home saying he was perfectly healthy, they noticed a few red flags. He didn’t cry, and although that may seem nice, Jan and Dede knew it wasn’t a good sign. Every feeding was a struggle, and Connor’s eyes didn’t track movement. Jan and her husband, Patrick, took Connor to doctor after doctor trying to find answers.
As Connor grew, he couldn’t walk or talk or feed himself. His full list of disorders includes cerebral palsy, seizure disorder, cortical visual impairment (brain blindness), microcephaly (small head), severe developmental delay, mental retardation, difficulty swallowing, low muscle tone, and immobility. Even now at twelve years old, Connor functions like a newborn, totally dependent on others. He cannot sit up, roll over, feed himself, or talk.
When Connor was two years old, the Wrights’ fourth son was born. With a special-needs toddler and a newborn who both needed full-time care, in addition to their other two sons, Jan soon became physically and emotionally overwhelmed. Each day she seemed to simply survive, trying to get the two older boys off to school and then care for the younger ones with little or no sleep. Jan had wonderful family and friends who helped, but she still felt like she was in the pit of despair with no answers and no hope.
Jan remembers one day when she walked into the restroom and looked at herself in the mirror. When she saw her haggard face, she thought, Who is that woman? Then in the quietness of the moment, she heard God’s voice saying to her, Are you going to let this kill you, or are you going to rise to the occasion and get on with your life? You have a husband who loves you, and your kids need a functional mommy. You have a lot to keep you going! She realized that her self-pity, anger, and grief were getting her nowhere.
Jan knew then that it was a moment of decision. Although she didn’t have all the answers, it was time to accept her situation and do the best she could do for Connor and the rest of her family. She began to open her eyes to God’s provision and to take positive steps forward. Jan recalls that she and Patrick decided they were not just going to survive this, but they chose to thrive in it, because they knew they were called to be more than conquerors through Christ. (In fact, Jan’s words became the inspiration for the title of this book.)
Jan is honest about her emotional journey through her challenges. She says, “I definitely did not feel adequate. I still don’t. But here I am!” By relying God’s strength day by day, she has learned to passionately live the life she didn’t plan.
They have endured hardships, but Jan and Patrick wouldn’t trade them for all the blessings they have received from having Connor in their family. The Wright family is fun-loving and joyful. They continually reach out to help other people, and their home is always filled with friends. The family bond is strong, and their trust in the Lord has grown deep.
Connor will never walk or talk this side of heaven, but his life is a blessing. He has brought joy to each member of his family. Their journey has been long and challenging, but they are thankful for the life lessons Connor has taught them. Jan readily admits, “I have always felt very fearful and ordinary. But I know the Bible is full of ordinary people God called and equipped to do something special.”
Jan didn’t sign up for the challenges she has faced, yet she has learned to lean on God through her journey. Day by day, God gives Jan what she needs to step up and passionately live the life she didn’t plan. Jan learned not only to adapt, but to live victoriously through her unexpected life challenges.
Today we can give thanks for Connor’s life. As my son-in-law, Adam, put it, “Connor was blind here on earth, but how wonderful to know that the first thing he was able to see was the face of Jesus.” I hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving and give thanks for every life in your midst.
November 19, 2013
Your unfailing love will last forever.
Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens.
Psalm 89:2 (NLT)
God’s unfailing love and faithfulness go hand in hand. Faithfulness implies steadiness, consistent strength, truth and stability. God is dependable and consistent. Although people may be unfaithful and undependable, God will never be unfaithful. It is not in His nature. You can trust His love for you. The Psalmist declared, “Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.” We cannot begin to fathom the height or depth of God’s love and faithfulness. They are limitless!
Our souls find great rest in the unfailing love and faithfulness of the Lord. We do not have to worry about God’s love running out. It won’t. We don’t have to worry about God’s stability or certainty disappearing. It won’t. The Bible reassures us of His continued faithfulness. It is one thing to know about God’s unfailing love and faithfulness in our minds, but do we trust it with our hearts? Father thank you for your great and trustworthy love for us.
This is an entry in my devotional, Pursuing God in the Quiet Places
November 11, 2013
As I look out my window and see big giant oak leaves floating through the air, I think about the beautiful principle we see in this simple act of nature. The old leaves must fall off in order to leave room for new growth in the springtime. The seasons reminds us that changes come in our lives, some pleasant and some not so pleasant, yet through every fall and winter we always know that spring will come.
We can choose to be angry about the changes in our lives, or we can choose to embrace them. Changes require work, just as the falling leaves require quite a bit of raking and gathering and bagging. Let us not fear change, just because it is work. Instead let’s focus on the beauty that change brings to our lives. Can you imagine if all trees remained exactly the same throughout the year?
I love the fall color because it reminds me that God is rich in creativity and color. He brings variety and fullness in our lives. If nothing ever changed, we would become complacent in our walk with Him, trusting in life’s constancy instead of a constant God. Life changes, but God doesn’t. How wonderful to know that although some things may fall away, He will never leave us or forsake us. He gives us strength to weather the changes.