When life is filled with the likes of a socially distant existence, taking a Sunday morning bike ride off the beaten path, offers the best kind of illustrated sermon.
The sunshine and spring time beauty brings a welcome change to the normal routine, that is anything but normal and routine these days.
Our world is facing a crisis of great proportion! Yet seemingly out of nowhere, I sense a stirring, a profound sense of hope. It comes to me (on my bike), thru beautiful countryside illustrations and the words of the Psalmist,
“The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me in the presence ofmy enemies. You welcome me as a guest, anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” PSALM 23 NLT
I remember with great fondness the day my children could recite this portion of scripture from memory. But today, it filled my soul in a way it hasn’t ever before.
Tomorrow I will resume my duties alongside an incredible team of healthcare professionals. I will choose calm, over chaos. I will choose peace over panic. As I adjust and re-deploy, as I pivot and realign at a moments notice, may it be this message of hope, awakened during a bike ride mission and a not so routine illustrated sermon , that becomes my message and my mission to a world in need.
Do you ever find yourself in a season or a trial that requires more of you than you think possible?
I recently completed a rigorous 17 weeks of physical therapy following a rotator-cuff repair to my right shoulder (dominant hand side), complicated by months of “frozen shoulder” prior to the surgery.
Recovery was a S L O W process. Some days demanded more than I thought possible…..incredible amounts of patience (not one of my strongest qualities), endurance, pain, hard work, humility, persistence, an occasional tear… and oh, did I mention patience? Many people told me it would be so, but no amount of forewarning could have prepared me for the day to day grind of walking it out.
James 1:2-4 says this: Count it all joy, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Perfect! Complete! Lacking nothing! Sounds like a pretty good deal. But could I? Would I count it all joy?
In the early weeks following surgery: *sitting in the recliner to sleep, for weeks. *a friend taking me to lunch and having to cut up my food. *my daughter coming for a visit and doing my hair (because I couldn’t) *my husband being there for better and for worse (helping me get dressed, opening jars, putting my seat belt on, enduring my occasional frustrated temper tantrums) Then as the weeks wore on: *working through persistent pain, that I thought would NEVER subside. *physical therapy sessions 3 times a week that were no joke. (eventually 2 times then 1 time before reaching my goals and being discharged) *feeling like my arm would never “work” normal again. *always two steps forward and one step back. *recovery felt daunting and insurmountable. *making the DAILY choice, both physically and mentally to work hard, to stay the course, and yes, to count it all joy (even when I had to dig deep, or rely on those around me, to count it).
I wrote a blog just days before my surgery about getting my mind right. Little did I know I would face that challenge time and time again on the road to recovery. At 51, I believed I had the mental strength to count it all joy, but could I endure the physical strength & movement limitations (again, not one of my strongest qualities) ?
I’m the first to admit, it wasn’t always easy, not even close. But, this is the first week in 5 months where my days off weren’t spent going to therapy. (I’m celebrating by painting a glider for my porch and it feels so good (and productive). Counting it ALL JOY does come with a price, but with the help of an incredible family, amazing friends and the greatest group of physical therapists on the planet, the dividends are far reaching and beyond compare.
It’s not a road I would choose to walk again anytime soon, if ever! But, at the end of the day, my life is richer because of it….(one step closer to perfect, complete, and lacking nothing). As for my physical progress, I am happy to report I am about 90% to my goal. January 31, 2020 will mark the one year anniversary and I am believing for 100% by then….. on the way to that goal, I AM COUNTING IT ALL JOY.
My hope and prayer for you is this: perfection, completeness, lacking nothing (in context)! When trials come (because they will), may you find it in you to count it all joy.
I remember like it was yesterday, our first Valentines Day together, tokens of love and endearment exchanged under a cold, midnight, moonlit sky. It marked the beginning of you and me… loving like there was no tomorrow. And as life would have it, the tomorrow’s would keep coming, and we would keep loving, again and again, and again.
29 years of Valentines Days and you’ve shown me that sometimes love looks romantic and elegant and lavish. But more often than not, it looks simplistic and practical and routine. 2 weeks into recovery from this dreadful shoulder surgery and the way you have put my needs before yours has shown me the deepest kind of love in the most practical of ways, by caring for me, prepare amazing meals, and most of all, exchanging the comfort of our bed for a makeshift one to be alongside me on the reclining sofa.
And above all else put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:14 ESV
Another February 14 is drawing to a close, but tomorrow is another day, Loving like there is no tomorrow and being bound together in perfect harmony.
“Get UR mind right” is a popular slogan used by best selling author, personal trainer and master motivator, Todd Durkin. His goal is to IMPACT and inspire the WORLD to greatness (thru physical, emotional and spiritual avenues)! Recently my adult son (who is in the early stages of his career as a fitness professional and personal trainer) had the privilege of attending one of his live conferences. When he returned home, he presented me with a small gift that he purchased while at the conference.
To understand the significance of this gift, it’s important to know that for the better part of 15 months I have been living with some physical limitations brought about by chronic shoulder pain. Having exhausted all treatment efforts and now facing surgery, (one that will grossly limit the use of my dominant hand for quite some time) had me feeling fretful and fearful and defeated.
That small gift…..
a bracelet with the slogan “Get UR mind right”. He said, “mom wear it as a reminder as you prepare for your upcoming surgery.” I could go on and on about what a great young man my son is, but the point is this: having a “right mind” is vital to “facing the giants” in life. And, every one of us can benefit from that reminder every now and again.
For me, getting my mind right starts at the foundation….in the WORD, anchoring into that shelter, that secret place of His Presence. A place where I take thoughts of fear and worry captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) because God has not given me a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). Rather than worry; I fix my thoughts on what is true and honorable and right, thinking about (a myriad) of things that are worthy and excellent of praise (Philippians 4:8).
He is my healer. He goes before me. He has surrounded me with amazing caretakers, friends, family and prayer warriors–I am not in this alone. When I am weak, He is strong. He holds me ever in the palm of his hands. He is my comforter. He is my shield. I take refuge in Him!
In T-24 hours I will finally be on the road to physical recovery! The journey may be long, but I’m taking the step. When my thoughts waver or my physical body grows weary, I just have to look down at my bracelet and be reminded…”GET UR MIND RIGHT!”
It was Christmas socks that would make a “favorite photo”, and it was that “favorite photo” that would set the tone for my New Year’s Eve reflections. I could spend hours writing stories about the places these feet have walked in 2018 (and in some cases I have). These feet belong to those nearest and dearest to me. In our walking, we love deeply and laugh heartily. In our walking, we face challenges and endure, together. The places we walk always lead us to friends, sometimes new and sometimes old. And almost always, we walk with purpose and a mission greater than ourselves. Some of my greatest joys and fears have come while walking “in step” and “alongside” of them. There are moments where we take giant leaps, but most days we plod along, one small step at a time. From the smallest feet (my sweet Haddie Lou) to the biggest feet, from the fastest feet to the slowest feet, we are…
Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us Kneeling on this battleground Seeing just how much You’ve done Knowing every victory Was Your power in us Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say Never once did we ever walk alone Never once did You leave us on our own You are faithful, God, You are faithful Never once did we ever walk alone Carried by Your constant grace Held within Your perfect peace Never once, no, we never walk alone Every step we are breathing in Your grace Evermore we’ll be breathing out Your praise You are faithful, God, You are faithful! Matt Redman Lyrics – Never Once
Christmas socks and all, we are walking into 2019 together, and never alone! Happy New Year, Crystal
The evergreens and lanterns lining the walk-way offered a warm-glow welcome to all who entered. Once inside, A beautiful winter-wonderland beckoned us all…
COME TO THE TABLE and Celebrate….
Friendship Family Joy Sharing
To the wife and mother who is really gifted at creating beautiful things, but struggles at the thought of a large gathering and people she doesn’t know, she “just happens” to sit next to the woman who makes her feel at ease and joyful. When the night is over, a kindred spirit has been found.
To the young professional who thanks us for including her — she also “just happens” to sit next to the woman who offers her just what she needs. Kindness and Passion for her profession! She later sent me a note expressing, “it was incredible to sit at a table filled with such confident, inspiring women”. To the woman and friend who saw fit to fill a tin with cookies, and deliver it to a friend who couldn’t be there because she is often just physically unable to get out.
To the coordinators of the event itself, hard work is always rewarding when you get to see first hand so many expressions of awe and joy and wonder. As a point person for the event, I received a lot of compliments and thanks. BUT, I learned a long time ago, it isn’t about how good “I” can be, rather, it is about the amazingly good people surrounding me. I am grateful for the love and thanks offered towards such a fine affair, but I am beyond grateful for all the ladies who collectively and sacrificially gave of their time, their resources and their talents. To the hostess and the table setters, to the decorators and silver polishers, to the soup makers and the bread buyers, and ALL who expressed their joy of the season thru making invitations and baking cookies to share…YOU are the amazingly good people around me.
As fulfilling as it is to create fun, festive, beautiful and delicious Christmas Cookies, it is really so much more than a cookie exchange. In the celebration, whether simple or elaborate, in our own unique styles, we find community and connection, we inspire other women, and most importantly, those places in all of us that feel void or uncertain, are encouraged. Something very special happens when we COME TO THE TABLE with an open and willing heart, ready to celebrate.
This Christmas Season may you savor the goodness of all those cookies, but more importantly, may you savor the gifts in COMING TO THE TABLE.
My day off began with the usual domestic duties….cooking, laundry, cleaning, tidying.
Because nothing takes the place of fresh pumpkinI decided to cook one in preparation for all of the upcoming holiday goodies…pumpkin scones, pumpkin pie and pumpkin-squash soup.
Feeling both resourceful and generous towards the animal kingdom this cold snowy morning, I took the butt of the pumpkin with all of the seeds and other stuff not really conducive to human consumption, and placed the two halves face up in the back yard.
It wasn’t long until the unfolding drama caught my attention. A very plump squirrel was happily marking his territory—those two pumpkin halves. He feasted like it was the finest! Curiosity got the better of me and in my attempts at capturing him on camera, I was taken with his persistence, not to mention his selfishness. Just as keenly as he guarded himself from “human” scent, he also with a vigilance and aggression, guarded his provision. Each time another squirrel would attempt to close in to partake in the feast of goodness, he would lunge as if to say, “back off, this is mine, all mine”. Feasting like royalty, he had no intentions on sharing the bounty.
I found myself both entertained and somewhat saddened by this little exchange. In a strange sort of way I saw a picture of the church and God’s goodness. What is the correlation you ask?
So often as Christians we partake in the feast set before us….through blessings and circumstance, through great teaching that is right and true, through favor poured out, peace and joy unspeakable….we guard it and mark it as our very own. The world watches, and in their attempts to get close, we push them away. We guard “our turf” because it’s safe and good and right. Sharing might leave us lacking or doing without.
Luke 6:38 says, Give away your life, you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity. (The Message Translation).
Going about my day, I soon forgot about the squirrel and his pumpkin, only to later discover an even greater act of drama. Mr. Squirrel had finally succeeded in getting rid of the “other” squirrels only to take on 2 new and bigger opponents. Not for one minute did he drop his guard. He scurried and lunged back and forth between 2 very large crows, and never once did he relent. The
battle got intense but finally, the crows were gone and he had succeeded in guarding his turf and keeping it all to himself.
Yes, I am fully aware that God created animals with survival and protective instincts. But, as I witnessed what seemed a trivial animal kingdom drama on this wintry morning, I couldn’t help but reflect on the goodness of God, all that I have to be thankful for, and how I can become better at sharing His Goodness with others.
I was never really able to capture the full extent of the drama on camera, but to see 2 squirrels and 2 crows feasting together on a pumpkin in my yard on a cold snowy November morning, would have been a “Kodak Moment” for sure. This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the moments in my life that are “Kodak” worthy (and yes, even the ones that aren’t). May I strive to spread the wealth, share the feast, and indeed, be generous with life and all of its goodness.