The Gift of Trusting God

Yesterday morning I awoke with some fears after an emotional dream. They were fears pertaining to different types of security. While driving to work I saw on the windshield of the car in front of me in large letters, “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. I could hardly believe it–a message from God right in front of my eyes! To make it even better, that is my favorite verse in the Bible!

Today I received a letter in the mail that again stirred up those feelings of insecurity. However, I remembered my verse and told myself that I needed to trust God. I also remembered that I have a “God Box.” I used to put my burdens and prayer requests in this beautifully decorated wooden box with an angel on it. I would write my burden or request on a small piece of paper, light a white candle, pray, and then put the piece of paper inside the box.

That box is still full of past concerns that God addressed in miraculous ways. I am excited to go through it and relive all of the beautiful answers to prayer. In friendships we build trust little by little until we know that the other person is safe. If I look back over my life, God has proven himself to be trustworthy over and over again in a multitude of situations. I know that my burdens are safe with Him and He will come through for me in His timing and in a way that is for my highest good.

I can rest with peace in my heart and mind as long as I leave my worries with God…and so can you. I am so grateful for the Gift of Trusting God on the Journey.

The Gift of Friendship

I am so thankful today for my friends. I have lost track of so many over the years. Either I moved or they moved or our interests took us in different directions. However, they remain in my mind and my heart. I do have one friend who I have known since we were twelve years old and whenever we talk, it’s like we’ve never been apart, even if it’s only once or twice a year. That friendship is precious to me. I now have a new friend whose friendship is precious to me as well. 

Close friends have usually gone through several conflicts and crises together, health issues and scares, sorrows and joys. Difficulties simply bring them closer to each other. Deep friendship is a safe haven of protection for us against the storms of life.

I received a beautiful text today from my new friend that was very affirming of me. That was so meaningful, having someone who has gotten to know me well enough to see my shortcomings, share the strengths she sees in me. This is another gift that friendship offers.

Being friends with someone who has different opinions and viewpoints has helped me to grow. It’s challenging, but rewarding as we struggle to understand and empathize with each other. It expands my little world beyond myself, my family, and my job.

How has friendship offered safety, affirmation, and growth in your life? Let’s thank God today for the special Gift of Friendship on the Journey!

The Gift of Memories Salvaged

A week and a day ago my struggling computer finally died. I was concerned that I would lose all of my precious pictures and important as well as treasured documents. Fortunately, the Staples technician was able to transfer all of my data from the old laptop to my beautiful new laptop. I didn’t lose anything!

I am so relieved and happy that all of these memories were salvaged. It makes me grateful as well for the memories in my mind and physical pictures and keepsakes. My maternal grandmother’s birthday was today. I spent the afternoon with my mom and she gave me a Holly Hobbie decorative plate that had been my grandmother’s with the following verse on it, “Always take the time to say what’s on your heart.” It’s my mother’s (and I like to think my grandmother’s) way of supporting my writing and my blog.

Sometimes it’s difficult to decide what items to keep and what to release. I am very sentimental, but with support from my mother and sister, was able to let go of quite a lot while preparing for my move from Pittsburgh, PA to Bradenton, FL over six years ago. I had accumulated 50 years worth of stuff I thought I needed to keep. However, I ended up saving a few items that are close to my heart.

Even among the pictures and documents on my computer are some that I’m sure I can release. However, at least I have the chance to look at them again and take my time in making those determinations. 

How do you decide what to keep and what to let go of in your life? I am so grateful for the opportunity to decide and the Gift of Memories Salvaged.

The Gift of Personal Progress

Sometimes it takes another person to reveal to us the progress that we’ve made. We are so close to our own lives that we only see the day to day steps forward or backward. We may actually be purposely and wisely concentrating on one step at a time…one day at a time. However, family members and friends who have known us for many years have the ability to see our progress from further away. They can see the giant strides we have made over the years.

If you think you are not where you should be in life, contemplate where you used to be. Chances are that you’ve made considerable personal progress. Do you react to situations in a more positive way than before? Have you become more self-aware? Have you met challenges with greater ease and wisdom? Are you more loving than you used to be?

Tonight I was speaking with my mother on the phone when she pointed out that it is a miracle that I have such positive self-esteem now, regardless of the number on the scale. I struggled with a poor self-image growing up. As an adult, my sense of worth was often tied to external circumstances like my weight, my looks at the time, being liked by the opposite sex, and whether or not I had the approval of others. Even in middle age, I often wilted at any hint of disapproval. Before my mother reminded me of my past struggles, I hadn’t realized how far I’d come. I thank God for this beautiful healing within me.

I encourage you to ask someone you trust who has known you for a long time to share with you in what ways they have seen you make progress. Then celebrate that growth.

Let’s thank God for the wisdom we have gained and the Gift of Personal Progress on the Journey!

 

The Gift of Nutritious Food

Like many women, I have had a love-hate relationship with food and my weight. Right now I feel bloated and uncomfortable. I am only 5’1” (used to be 5’2″) and am at one of my highest weights. Fortunately, my self-esteem is at an all time high despite this fact.

At the age of fifteen I was slender, but felt that my tummy needed to be flatter. I studied and memorized calorie amounts and got down to 102 pounds. I was also into nutrition to some extent. I gained the weight back in high school and although I was a healthy 117 pounds, I compared my body to my more petite friends’ and decided I was fat.

In college my “freshman fifteen” ended up being my freshman twenty-five or thirty! I had been experiencing a deep clinical depression and was using food to make myself feel better. I first started binging and eventually became bulimic. My parents took me to get help for the bulimia. It worked in a way, but I ended up just transferring my addiction from food to alcohol.

In my thirties, forties, and fifties, my weight has fluctuated within a 50 pound range. Thankfully, I no longer eat for emotional reasons. However, I still have trouble consistently choosing lower calorie, nutritious food over junk and sweets. I am now trying to be more mindful of what I put into my body. I hope to be able to get down to a more comfortable weight. It’s not about looks for me anymore. It’s about feeling good in my body.

If you are on a similar path, I pray that God will help us to take better care of ourselves and feed ourselves life-giving, energy-producing foods. Let’s give thanks for the Gift of Nutritious Food on the Journey!

 

The Gift of Mature Love

After a two year engagement, my fiancé and I are finally ready to set a wedding date. We are not the typical twenty-somethings that get married and start a family. He is sixty-three and I am fifty-five. He has a grown son. We have each been married and divorced twice. However, I have known Jim for six years and we are coming into this marriage with a more mature love than I have had in the past.

This time I chose compassion and kindness as two qualities I wanted in a man. I opted for mutual respect and tender affection. Neither one of us is perfect. However, we may just be perfect for each other.

Marriage is a risk at any age. It requires trust and commitment, especially after two past attempts. We don’t know what the future holds. Yet, I know that God meant for us to meet here in Florida after our last marriages ended. Jim moved here from New York a year before I moved here from Pittsburgh. Our parents are friends and live in the same condominium complex. We met on Christmas day in 2011 at his parents’ condo. I like to think of him as my Christmas present! Our first date was on New Year’s Eve of that year.

We have already survived trauma, surgeries, job loss, and other struggles and we have grown closer through them. I anticipate more struggles to come, but also a kind of peace that comes from having the Gift of a Mature Love on the Journey.

The Gift of Choice Points

Think back on all of the major turning points in your life…getting married, getting divorced, starting a new job, leaving a job, starting a family or pursuing a dream, etc. How did you make your decisions? Did you choose out of love, faith, and hope or out of fear, anger, and despair? Love, faith, and hope are the highest gifts in I Corinthians 13, with the greatest being love. Fear, anger, and despair can be thought of as “FAD,”–as in a  passing fad,  only temporary. We want our decisions to be made from a position of positive power and not on negative emotions that will eventually pass.

Several months ago, I revisited several choice points in my life and questioned myself about how I made those decisions. This is a very enlightening and revealing exercise. I encourage you to try this. Also, if you need to make a big decision, you can contemplate what a decision based on love, faith, and hope would look like. 

Sometimes we actually choose by default…by choosing not to decide. Those are the times we give up our power. At least making a decision is owning our power, even if the results end up being less than desired. Choosing by default leads to a victim mentality and thinking that things “just happen” to us. Another way we give up our power is by choosing what others want for us instead of what we want. In those cases, we now need to take responsibility for the choices we made. We may need to forgive ourselves as well as those we wanted to please who may have thought their desires were in our best interests. 

Even poor decisions made from negative emotions can lead to personal growth in the long run. For instance, drinking and rebelling against God and my parents helped me to forge my own path instead of remaining a child. It began my struggle for independence. It also led to Alcoholics Anonymous and to me getting the help I needed for clinical depression.

Decisions have always been hard for me. It goes back as far as when I was in grade school. I can stand in a grocery store and be paralyzed over which brand to buy. Fortunately, I am getting better at making the bigger life decisions as a result of the wisdom I have gained from experience. Let’s give thanks for our experience and for the Gift of Choice Points on the Journey!

 

The Gift of Listening with Focus

Tonight I have been thinking of what it means to really listen and also about focusing on a priority or goal. A thought just occurred to me that perhaps these seemingly separate ideas are related.

We all know how it feels when we are talking to someone and they are gazing somewhere else or checking their cell phone. It gives us the impression that the other is not really interested in what we have to say…that they’re not paying attention. On the other hand, when we are speaking to someone and they are making eye contact with us from time to time and at least looking in our general direction, we feel like they are listening and engaged.

When we care about another person, we tend to listen while focusing our eyes, ears, mind, and heart on the conversation. Otherwise, we may hear them with our ears, but not understand what they are trying to convey. We could miss nuances in facial expression and body language. 

I find that TV watching tends to promote a hearing loss of the heart and mind. Unless we mute the TV when a loved one is speaking, our attention is divided. It’s like listening to two conversations at a party. We may only catch part of each one.

Let’s make it a point to give others our undivided attention so that they know they are a priority in our lives. We can even do empathic listening and summarize what we hear them saying in order to keep the communication clear. I have experienced this with a friend and it can be very helpful when resolving a conflict or having an emotionally charged conversation.

I’m also aware that meditating, or listening to God, requires the same level of care, if not more. Let’s give thanks for the Gift of Listening with Focus on the Journey.

 

The Gift of the Unexpected

Every once in a while, God surprises me with something wonderful and unexpected…a miracle, an answer to prayer, the resolution of a problem that’s been weighing me down. Today was such a day! This unexpected blessing brings me peace where there was worry; love instead of fear; joy to replace my sadness; acceptance where once was rejection.

Just yesterday I was feeling angry at God for allowing a specific hurt in my life. However, it seems today that he answered my anger with love. What a beautiful response for him to have! It’s the way he responds to all of his children.

Has God ever surprised you when you weren’t looking? Has he healed you when you were sick? Has he answered a special prayer? We need to remember these times so that when we are troubled in life, we know God can do anything and he will help us. No, he doesn’t say yes to every prayer, but we can be assured that he wants the best for us no matter how things look to our earthly eyes.

I hope that God surprises you with love, peace, and joy beyond measure. Join me in thanking Him for the Gift of the Unexpected on the Journey!

The Gift of Forgiveness II

I thought I had forgiven everyone who ever hurt me. I really did. However, during a conversation with a friend recently about my first marriage 19 years ago, I felt anger welling up within me. No, not anger…rage. It’s still there, rising up from where I’d so neatly buried it. So is the resentment I thought I had released long ago. And so is the pain and rejection.

Why now…after all this time? I believe it’s because I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I’ve also learned that I have more work to do to forgive God for allowing me to be hurt. I think I did forgive my first husband and God to some extent, but it wasn’t deep enough. I didn’t feel the pain down deep in my core and still choose to forgive. I can now handle the hurt at that level. Now deeper forgiveness and healing begin.

How have I managed to forgive the other people in my life? Sometimes it helped to remember that I’d never walked in the other person’s shoes and then I started to feel compassion. I knew their past experiences shaped who they were at the time  they hurt me. This past November, I wrote my first blog about forgiveness (see link below) and how seeing others through Jesus’ eyes melted my heart. However, sometimes I just needed to forgive so that I could move on with my life in a positive way.

I’m actually looking forward to shining a bright light into the corners of my subconscious mind in order to find and eliminate every single cobweb of unforgiveness. Who better to help me do this than Jesus, the ultimate expression of unconditional love and forgiveness? I want my soul to be purified so that I can feel even freer to move forward confidently in the direction of my dreams.

Is there anyone you need to forgive? I believe we can do this with Jesus’ help as we give thanks to God for the Gift of Forgiveness on the Journey.