The Best Laid Plans

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Overwhelmed with schedules, plans and logistics of the day? Maybe with the upcoming week, holidays, or another year ahead? Or it’s possible that you’re not a planner at all, but one of those C’est la Vie, Que Sera Sera type of people.

I’m one that tends to get tied up in the plans, lists, schedules, and timetables; and I’m a clock-watcher (even though I’m habitually late for everything). I feel a certain sense of security in knowing what comes next even though I fully expect surprises and interruptions to my best laid plans. If you don’t know what happens to the best laid plans, here’s the spoiler: they often go astray.[a]

Speaking of plans,

In Jeremiah 29:11, God tells the exiled Jews who were wanting things fixed right now, 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.” 

This verse has been taken out of context[b] countless times to serve the purpose of the moment. Or just maybe, the verse can stand on its own in order to speak to all of God’s children at any time and in any situation, and it is a proclamation of who He is and how He cares for us.

What I do know is that when the plans for the future, no matter how immediate or distant, begin to overwhelm me I know that God is either in those plans or he’s not and that’s completely up to me. I can trust that God has a plan for every part of my life and that includes the daily, weekly, and monthly schedules. It includes next months’ vacation plans or the five and ten-year-plans my husband is so fond of. 

The key is to include God in the decision-making process through prayer and trust. Remember to pray for His guidance so that our plans fit into His plans and not to expect it to be the other way around. If we don’t think God is interested in the details, try looking at any part of His creation. He’s a details kind of God.

He’s also a God of grace and mercy so don’t worry if you made plans without him – He might change them and he might even bless them anyway! One thing I’m certain of is that He will always show up if you ask. 

God doesn’t have a plan B. He has a plan and it doesn’t change – It’s always for your good and ultimately for His glory. Within that promise is where we can make all the plans and have confidence that they are included in His.


[a] Poem by Robert Burns; To A Mouse

[b] Out of Context: to use only part of something that someone said, so that the original meaning is changed. Macmillan Dictionary

Reflection

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Reflection is looking back. Just like looking into a mirror, what you put in front of it is what is reflected back to you. But if you stand off to the side of the mirror and look, you don’t see yourself but everything that is behind you, and that kind of reflection can be a good thing.

Reflection is good for seeing how far you’ve come. How things in life have changed for the better. Looking back also helps us to see how once we’re out of the fire, it’s easy to admit that what seemed to be causing that fire might not have been the case at all.

When those lovely “memories” pop up on social media, sometimes it is truly that, memories of an event or a photo, or even a craze that was making the rounds. It isn’t a bad thing to remember those times with fondness and nostalgia. When memories cause us to reflect on a more difficult time, that is when thankfulness can come flooding in because we didn’t get stuck there.

Sure, many people are looking back right now to when days were better. When times were different. When life seemed simpler. I don’t know that I’ve ever thought that life was simple at any stage of my life. It seems that life is just hard, no matter what.  In reflection, it certainly was a simple time when my responsibilities were fewer and I didn’t have the worries or concerns for the future that I have now. But at that moment and at that stage of life, I wouldn’t have called it simple. A 6-year-old me had responsibilities and worries and concerns for the immediate future and they were huge! Or so it seemed to a 6-year-old. Or when I was experiencing the struggles of college life, young motherhood, or more recently, the empty nest. But in reflection, each stage seems simpler than whatever the current situation is. It would be impossibly soul crushing to carry the worries of every stage of life with us as we move to the next. Even so, remembering them can be good.

Today I was reflecting on one of those social media memories. It was only by the date that I originally posted it that I was able to connect the dots. I was obviously feeling all kinds of unappreciated and now I remember what it was all about. This is also when looking back isn’t really such a bad thing. I can see how I came through it stronger and how I learned to stand up for my worth. I also remember the people involved and can now see that was the circumstances of the situation, not the people at all. It’s a different stage of life now and reflecting back, it wasn’t so bad after all and what came from it was better anyway.

The sayings and famous quotes about moving forward from the past are true for the standard of daily living. For example, “Don’t look backward, you’re not going that direction.” “You can’t drive forward by looking in the rearview mirror.” A glance back, a moment to reflect, a memory that warms your heart or a condition that has helped move you forward; these are still good reasons to look back sometimes. Just glance, reflect, remember, then focus on what you’re doing now and take heart! Soon this will also be a time to reflect on and you’ll be able to see that what comes from it is better anyway.

I Don’t Know

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Has it never occurred to anyone that we just don’t know? We have to become better at being okay with not knowing.

As believers, we say that God’s ways are higher. His plans are greater. He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.  Then how can we expect that we have the answers to life’s biggest questions? How can we expect that the limitations of our humanness can understand the purposes and plans of such a God?

Our limitations and inability to make sense of so many things is the reason why we choose to have faith in The One who does.

We ask God for guidance, understanding and wisdom, then trust that he will give us what we need of it according to his plan. We do not receive bad gifts from God and knowing this, we should accept that what is good for us might not include knowing what His plans are. That is trust. That is faith. It is not knowing.

The excuses, reasonings, blame, and justifications are all part of our feeble attempt to answer life’s biggest question: “Why?” Sure, sometimes we ask the other big questions like when, where, who, and how. Mostly, I think we want to know why?

Why is evil allowed to run rampant? Why do Your children have to hurt? Why do bad things happen to good people? The list of why-questions could go on and on, and some of them even have answers! There are definitely consequences to some actions that are made clear in God’s Word and those certainly give us some answers, although it might not be what we want to hear. It is the abstract questions along with the very specific ones that frustrate us when we just don’t know the answer. Why does it seem like God doesn’t hear me when I pray? Why did something that I believed was God’s plan, not turn out?

In this era of the political unrest in the Unites States, put together with the outbreak of a contagious and often fatal virus, there have been more times than not that we feel we need answers. Why do people who believe and trust in God, have such different views here on earth? Why would God allow so much sickness and death?

I think we need to continue to trust this almighty God and His all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present greatness to take care of the “why.” We have to get better at not knowing. We have to get better at trusting.

Isaiah 55:8-9

8My plans arent your plans,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
Just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways,
    and my plans than your plans.

Good Intentions

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Have you heard the phrase “Good intentions are like rocking in a rocking chair – you think you’re doing something but you’re accomplishing nothing”? If we mobilize our good intentions however, then we can see some actual results. It’s like the difference between the movement of a rocking chair and a car.

How many times have you been strong in your well-doing only to feel like you have sabotaged it all by failing in some way? You’ve gotten up from the rocking chair and bolstered every ounce of bravery in order to take up your cause and put your good intentions out there, then wham! You feel like you’ve been smacked down because you blew it. Now all the good has been wiped out and erased with one swift stroke of thoughtlessness.

A girl we’ll call Betty, was excited to make a difference by making it her cause and her goal to be especially kind to the people in the service industry that she came in contact with. It wasn’t just a goal, but an effort and a real sacrifice to be ultra-complimentary, focused on courtesy and smiles, letting others go in front, and not complain – ever. She was sure that every waitress, grocery clerk, and post-office worker was going to be blessed by her kindness and truly see Jesus in her. Because the community was small and choices limited, it was generally the same people she came in contact with over and over again. Then one day her response in the grocery store was, “The line is back there.” “I put the groceries on the belt the way I want them bagged. If I wanted my bleach in with my hamburger, I would have put it up that way.” Then at the fast food drive-through, after repeating her order 3 times through the squawk box only to be given the wrong order anyway, she tells the 16-year-old in the window, “It’s not rocket science.” Suddenly, all the dozens if not hundreds of times she stayed true to the cause to be kind was ruined. Wiped out.

There are so many encouraging things I could tell you about feeling like you’ve blown it. There are many quotes and Scriptures to tell you that it’s just not the case. I can tell you that love will cover a multitude of sin (1 Peter 4:8); or that the blood of Jesus blots out sin (James 5:20). Maybe something pithy like “failure is an opportunity to begin again” will help ease the guilt.

However, we still feel judged by those involved when we blow it. Our enemies seem to have the upper hand now, because our cause seems to be left in ruins. But this is where I read that good intentions, being carried out in action, will not go to waste and because of them, we will succeed!

My enemies turn back;
They stumble and perish before you.
For you have upheld my right and my cause,
Sitting enthroned as the righteous judge.
Psalm 9:3-4

When our good intentions are carried out with drawing others to Jesus as the goal (if not a great by-product) and we’re operating with the Spirit of the Lord inside of us, then our enemies will turn away because they perish in the presence of the Lord. If He is in you, then they are in His presence. Your enemies are those who will try to condemn you and tell you that you’ve blown it beyond repair. The lies that say your good intentions were a waste.

God will uphold our right and cause. Even if your cause is simply to show kindness to your community. Only God is a righteous judge.

So let’s get off the rocking chair, take up our cause – whatever it might be – and put our good intentions into action. Let’s not be afraid of not doing it right or blowing it because done with a right heart, God will uphold us.

Me. Myself. And I.

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When I think of selfishness, I think the most common form is an unbalanced attitude that has been promoted by the idea of self-care. Taking care of ones needs and simply paying attention to how we function best isn’t a bad thing. If you know you need times of solitude, or are one who knows you need a lot of socialization, sleep, exercise, independence, or partnership, etc.; those are personality traits that make each person unique, enabling them to live to be the best they can be, when practiced in balance. That isn’t selfishness, that’s just smart, self awareness.

Although, it never ceases to amaze me the level of selfishness people have achieved. Just do a quick internet search of the word selfish. Especially if you look it up in images, you will see every quote and philosophy of why selfishness is such a wonderful thing. I’m sure there are many of life’s experiences and circumstances that cause people to become selfish. Maybe it is past hurts that have caused them to build walls so they won’t be victimized again. Or it could be a false belief that having it all and being number one is what success looks like. The biggest lie is that we have to care for ourself first, above everything else. For whatever reason made them that way, I know two things: It is hurtful to those who love them; and nothing about selfishness is even close to being Christ-like.

Those who love selfish people are never put first in their lives. At some point, everyone who is in relationship puts the other first – except selfish people. Every interaction, whether it is as small as a text message or as large as marriage, will always be at the convenience and only in the best interest of the selfish person. One of my extended family once had their outgoing voicemail message say, “I’m probably here but I don’t feel like picking of the phone. Leave a message and I’ll call you back if I feel like it.” That’s a pretty funny message to be sending to a telemarketer, but this family member really meant it for everyone and it’s actually how they felt. Now that is selfish. (Or they’re just a jerk.) It was hurtful to people who called and really wanted to talk with them. Selfish people do things that could be detrimental to their own well-being, just because they want to. Never mind that it causes worry and concern for those that love them. At the very worst, they risk their own lives through selfish behavior of NOT taking care of themselves, or other life-controlling behaviors or actions, without considering the effects it will have on those who love them.

Selfishness is contrary to everything Jesus stood for. There isn’t any place I know of in the New Testament where Christ followers are told to be selfish and put themselves above all else. As it applies to relationships with others, and people who love, the most obvious scripture is in I Corinthians 13:3-4; the love chapter.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Romans 2:8 “But for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.”

I can’t find anywhere that the Bible tells us to do what we want, when we want it, the way we want it, and everyone else can go kick rocks! The very basis of Christianity is selflessness. It doesn’t get much more selfless than to die for the sins of every person. John 3:16 “God loved the world so much that he gave his only son to die, so that anyone who believes in him would have life forever!” God is the only one who is worthy to consider only He, Himself, and His. Even though he could, he didn’t.

Allow Room for Change

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When I was a child, I used to believe in everlasting consequences. I had an unbalanced concept of cause and effect, believing that the results of every action lasted forever. I am so happy to say that I was so very wrong! The thing is, it often occurs to me that many of us still believe that behaviors of the past will be part of us forever. If we don’t believe it of ourselves, we too often believe it for other people – at least we behave as if it’s true for them but not us.

How many times have we begun a statement about another person with “they always…” or “they’ll never change”? What we knew about a person’s behavior, attitudes, or actions in the past, should not keep them chained to the present without evidence that there’s been no change. After all, isn’t that the basis of our faith as Christians, to believe that Jesus came to save us from our sins and renew our hearts, giving us a new life in Him? There is so much in the Bible about the change that has taken place in people by the power and miracles of Jesus, so why would we doubt that it’s still happening today?

We must be careful about holding people to habits and attitudes that were once part of their life because it doesn’t allow for the growth and change that we claim to believe in! Many times the person we once knew (even if it is ourselves) has worked very hard to make changes. Maybe the change is a natural progression as they have grown in faith, maturity, or a personal awareness that improvements needed to happen. Regardless of how and when positive change happens, we absolutely need to allow room for change. When we don’t, we teeter dangerously close to judging people based on old information. It’s a very fine line that could cross into an attitude of unforgiveness, bitterness, gossip and even slander.

I know I have changed over the years, and I hate it when people treat me as if they know what my actions and attitudes will be, based on what they knew about me many years ago. I wish they’d allow room for the changes in me, and if I’m wishing that for myself then I know I need to allow it for others.

What are you wearing?

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In a popular tv advertisement, a lady asks a man on the other end of the telephone, “What are you wearing, Jake from State Farm?” It’s her attempt to verify that the person her husband was talking to on the phone was really an insurance agent and not another woman. It might be one of those things that you have to hear for yourself to find the humor in it but trust me, it’s a funny commercial.
(Side note: the best insurance commercial ever was the one where Sheryl is getting a Sheeshier she-shed! but I digress.) There’s another commercial where a couple is on a first date and the man takes off his coat and reveals a stretched out-of-shape T-shirt and his date, searching for the right words finally says, “You look….. comfortable.”

Women especially will ask each other, “What are you wearing?” when they are discussing an event they will both be attending. They also have a tendency to take a look at their husbands who are getting ready to go somewhere and ask them, “Are you wearing THAT?!”

Apparently, it’s pretty important to us and to those around us, what we wear. How we are clothed is important for the occasion; business attire, casual, black-tie or sporty. It kind of serves as an at-a-glance that sums up who we are projecting to be at that moment. Maybe the occasion calls for us to appear glamorous, professional, hard-working, or comfortable. Even everyday clothing holds a certain level of importance to some people who are conscious of how they are perceived or if they feel particularly judged if they are not at their very best in all situations.

What we wear is also dictated very much by where we live. I live in the Pacific Northwest, so almost year-round I will have on some sort of sweater, sweatshirt or coat that has a hood because it is very likely to rain. More so however, it is pretty important to Jesus what we’re wearing. I can tell you that it’s not the latest and greatest fashion or adorned in jewelry! He wants us to put on what will reflect Him. No matter what country or region we live in, if we’re living in the Spirit of the Lord – following Him and walking in His guidance, then the clothes that people should see on us is different from any hoodie, dress, or Khakis pants (as Jake from State Farm was wearing).

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:12-17

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3

10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.   Isaiah 61:10

I guess the challenge is to ask ourselves, “What are you wearing?”

My House Has A Crack

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My house has a crack. Just over the doorframe, creeping to the ceiling. I see it every time I come down the stairs. I asked how this happened and the answer was, “collateral damage.”
Collateral damage is defined as damage to things that are incidental to the intended target. Nothing was slammed against that wall and we had no major earthquake.  But something else, probably underneath, at the foundation had shifted, causing the crack above door.
Oftentimes I find myself being the collateral damage; a by-product of other people’s cracked foundations.  When criticized, neglected or have been rude to, I have to remember that I am not their intended target.  Something that is amiss in their foundation is creating damage all around them. 
Like the crack in my wall, no amount of putty and paint is going to fix the source of the problem. Even though the collateral damage is well hidden, repairing the foundation is the only true fix. 
Psalm 147:3 promises God can fix these broken parts. As He heals our hearts, He will show us that the cracks weren’t the source of the problem. By taking our eyes off the cracks and opening our hearts to God, the more God’s grace will repair our damaged foundation.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

Another Clip of the Apron Strings

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Trying to tie my apron strings behind my back, blindly, with arms twisted and fingers working as nimbly as possible, I find that if I tie it very loosely it’s easier but that only works if the apron strings are really long. It stays in place without being too tight, and it keeps me safe from whatever mess I might get into.

While I was raising children, it’s a good thing my apron strings started out long because they got a regular trimming. As my children grew, I clipped my apron strings according to how far they’d have to stretch and how tightly a grip they needed to hang on to me. As they grew more independent, it became less of need for them to hold on to me, and more of a comfort for me to have them there at my heels. Eventually, I had to clip them so short that neither of us could benefit from the ribbons that kept us within an arms reach . Even though I still wear the apron, the string are barely long enough to tie; just enough to hold my printed, fabric armor in place. It’s the protection I wear when I’m facing the heat and sloppiness of creating something wonderful. 

Simply navigating through life throws children into messy and sometimes heated situations. My hope is that my cut short apron strings that help keep my protecting armor on, will somehow protect them, too. And I hope they always know that the comfort of my apron and that it has just enough length of the strings left to tie my children to my heart forever.

Be Picky About Who You Entertain

I want to talk about entertaining. My giftings are definitely not the kind that can capture the attention of others with music, stories or hilarious jokes. When people speak of me, I’m pretty sure entertaining isn’t one of the words they use to describe my personality. 

However, I am pretty darn good at entertaining guests by preparing the most desirable atmosphere and setting possible. I always do my best to make sure my home is clean and presentable. I want them to be confident that I’ve prepared for them with cleaning, shopping for amenities, cooking to their tastes and planning activities they might enjoy. I want my guests to feel welcome, right at home, and happy to be here.

Unfortunately, my gift for entertaining extends to my thought life. I struggle with entertaining thoughts and imaginations that are of no benefit to me or anyone else. It’s those thoughts that have fear at their basic root; the ones that start out with “what if…?” Then they begin to snowball and grow into huge imaginations of all the worst possible scenarios. It’s what people today call “in your own head.” And I have come to understand that it’s because I am entertaining them, it’s that thing I am so good at. It’s a gift!  I’m making them feel welcome, feeding them and making them comfortable and right at home in my own mind. 

Sometimes these thoughts are legitimate things to be concerned with, but even those are not supposed to be consuming us or occupying our mind.  There are many scriptures that teach us a better way. John 14:1 Do not let your hearts be troubled; Isaiah 41:10 Do not fear, I am with you; Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; Philippians 4:6 Be anxious about nothing. The list goes on and on. It tells us that even legitimate worries shouldn’t consume us. 

That is s a lot of what NOT to do, and much easier said than done! But then what do I do? Because if I could just stop it because I wanted to, I would have conquered this a long time ago. Well, continue to read in Philippians 4:8 it says Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable –if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about these things. 

In other words, go ahead and entertain! Just make sure you have the right guests invited into your head.

Don’t Give Up

When people say “don’t give up,” they’re usually trying to encourage someone who is working toward a goal. Maybe they are trying to reach their best time running, or highest score in a sport, or reach a desired weight. There is usually an attainable goal in mind that can be accomplished with perseverance.

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves to not give up on those intangible, ongoing challenges that are day to day living. It’s a very broad stroke to just say “don’t give up” on life. The alternative is pretty drastic! Everyday life is a challenge all by itself as we navigate relationships, homes, family, money, feelings, thoughts, and quite frankly, all our personal baggage. And that’s without adding any specific, personal goals to the load.

Seriously, don’t give up. Just keep pressing on, plugging along, putting one step in front of the other, and before you know it one of those things you wanted to give up on has found its’ resolution. Then the load is a little lighter and now it’s a little easier to tackle the next challenge that life is throwing at you. As simplistic and naive as it sounds, it was an effective enough of a solution that God even tells us to Don’t Give Up.

Hebrews 12:1 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 entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Yes, I can!

I struggle with the concept of self-care. It’s not that I don’t believe we shouldn’t take care of ourselves because it’s critical to our well being. Our physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional health depends on taking care of ourselves. Long before there was the pop-psychology term we know as self-care, people always encouraged each other to “take care of yourself.” It’s a basic need for a balanced healthy life.

It’s when self-care blurs the line over into selfishness that concerns me. I was recently reading a series of answers to the question, what will be your word for the new year? The one-word responses ranged from Productive, Focused, and Giving to fun words like Caffeinated, or Clothed. (I’m assuming someone’s goal was to get out of their PJ’s.) I was a little disappointed at how many people chose the word NO as their mantra for 2020.

I once worked for Radisson Hotels and their slogan was Yes, I Can! There was no such word as no, only many different ways to make it happen. There’s so much to be gained with saying Yes! In it’s selflessness, you will find joy and satisfaction. In your relationships, when you don’t feel like another coffee date or leaving the house in the evening, your yes to an invitation can mean the world to another person. As the saying goes, in being a blessing to someone else, you were the one who received.  When your supervisor asks you to take on a project, say yes. You can work out the when and how later but just agreeing to it can be a boost of confidence. When that family is need of a meal-train, but you can barely get dinner made on time for yourself, say yes. (Again with the blessing others.)

Yes is also a wonderful word for taking care of yourself. Say yes to treating yourself to a massage, a whole Saturday on the couch, that art class or dance-workout class, or reading that novel – even if it’s just a few pages a day. Saying yes to the things that improve your life will do you much more good than becoming selfish and practiced at saying no.