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Archive for January, 2020

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Birthday cake to share with my Troy Mills JAM friends. And I wore the right color sweater!

Today’s the day. I made it. Born on this day in 1960, today I turn 60. Quite a milestone, actually, and one I do not take lightly. Thank you for reaching out to me through social media, texts, cards, in-person visits, and phone calls. I am blessed to have an amazing family and many wonderful friends, near and far. I’ve heard “Happy Birthday” from places like Istanbul, Brazil, and South Africa, as well as states coast to coast. I’ve received beautiful cards with heartfelt sentiments, flowers, coffee, cake, and time spent with family and friends. Those are my birthday presents.

But my goal today is to have birthday presence. To listen, to observe, to acknowledge those in my circle of influence; to be present wherever I am. Life is short. I don’t have time to mess around anymore. I’ve got to be about the important work God has given me to do…and I can’t do it if I’m not present. I can’t stayed mired in regrets, disappointment, and unforgiveness based in the past. My eyes are fixed forward.

I may not be in Istanbul with my sister, but I want to be present with her, listening to her stories, encouraging her in her adventures. I want to give her my presence (even when I can’t be physically present). I want to learn and grow through the expertise and stories of my co-workers, I want to be encouraged by the acts of kindness I witness on my daily walks, or in the grocery store line, or through a Facebook post. I want to share stories of triumph and victory, as well as mistakes and failures.

It sounds a bit arrogant but I want to give my presence to my youth group, the next generation of leaders, teachers, scientists, writers, pastors, artists, mothers, fathers. I don’t mean I’m the greatest person ever – but I know these students need someone outside of their family dedicated to loving them, listening to them….

I want to be a better aunt, sister, mom, wife…and I think if I commit to being present wherever I am, that’ll be a good start. May mean putting the phone and remote down, turning off the music, closing the book, turning my eyes and ears away from distractions and then, connecting.

Focus – my word for 2020 – is taking on deeper meaning, just two weeks into the year. Here’s to greater days yet to come and even more birthday presence.save-image

 

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Own_Your_ChoicesI ate a cookie this morning.

I usually eat healthy foods during the week…fruit, nuts, salads, veggies. If I eat sweets, it’s because one of my colleagues has brought in something she’s baked and I’m not going to hurt her feelings by saying “no” to banana cake. But today, I caved. I ate a cookie. A plain old, comes in a box, cookie. I have no excuses. No one forced me. No one threatened me. I made the choice. I. Chose. The. Cookie.

We all have choices every day. We choose what to wear, what to eat, what route to work, what to spend money on, where to go to church (or not), what to do with our time. Our choices are just that. Ours.

If I want to achieve a certain goal, I’m going to need to make certain choices. Sometimes those choices involve sacrificing what I WANT RIGHT NOW, for what I want down the line. If I want to be a healthy 60-year-old, I’m going to have to choose to live a healthy lifestyle. (P.S. – It probably won’t happen tomorrow. I will be eating sweets on my big day). But if I don’t make those healthy choices, I won’t be blaming someone else. It’s on me. And I’m good with that. I’m tired of seeing social media postings blaming everyone else for the circumstances in our lives.

“I can’t believe that cop gave me a speeding ticket.”
“My teacher gave me a D – just for one missing assignment.”
“I have no time to exercise (read, pray, call my dad, visit with my grandma, shovel my neighbor’s walk…)”
“It’s my mom’s fault.” (A particularly touchy one – Thankfully for them, this has not been posted by my children)

Yes, there are a lot of people in our world who have very few options.  Circumstances, and other people’s sinful choices, have kept them in bondage. But for MOST of us, we must take ownership of our choices. If we want a different result, we need to make a different choice. We want a different life. We want a smoother road, We want a better job. Or financial freedom. Or healthy relationships. It begins with one step, one choice. And only you can make it.

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A local coffee shop has the phrase “Live Passionately” on their wall in great big calligraphy. They have incorporated that phrase into their logo and have it on their to-go cups. It is who they are.

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What a great statement to embrace! It is inspiring but also causes me to contemplate my choices. It encourages me to live with purpose, with intention, with passion for whatever I’ve chosen to do, whoever I’ve chosen to be.

Back in November, when I started thinking about this upcoming birthday (2 days away), I worried a bit about how a 60-year-old woman would be perceived. That one year change from 59 to 60 seemed like such a huge chasm. The difference between January 15 and January 16 was monumental in my own mind. But as I mulled over all the lessons I’ve learned in the last six decades, the ones passed on by my mom and dad, the ones learned through parenting and pastoring, the accidents & mistakes that turned into blessings in disguise, I’ve come to realize that my birthday means only one thing.

I’m just one day older. One day closer to becoming exactly who God designed me to be. One day more to choose well – to live as an influencer for the Kingdom of God…salt and light to a world that needs to see the love of Jesus in action. And it’s not how others perceive me that matters. I live for an audience of One – and I know I matter greatly to my heavenly Father. He doesn’t see me as a birthday…He sees me as a dearly and desperately loved daughter of the King.

When I see “live passionately,” I don’t think of my local coffee shop. I think about the life I have left – be it one day, one year, or until I’m 100. I think about living so the passionate love of Jesus shines from my passionately lived life.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)

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Social media is lying to you. Viral rants from both sides are trying to lead us to believe our world is falling apart, that evil is winning, and no one cares about anyone else any more. That is just not true and I know because I saw evidence to the contrary today.

I’m always harping on “do what is in front of you to do.” This afternoon, Mary was in front of me. Coming in off the street, Mary appeared to only need directions. We get a lot of walk ins, asking how to get to the library, the post office, or the Human Services building around the corner. I’m always willing and able to give out directions. Today, I needed to invest a little more into Mary.

Mary was homeless. She’d been recently abused by her boyfriend and dumped downtown. Because she had her two cats with her, no shelter would let her stay overnight, so she walked the city streets all night. She was tired, hungry, upset, and wanting to get back to her home town, 30 miles away. She asked to use my phone to call somebody to get her home. “No one will help me,” she said, over and over.

So what would you do? How can I talk about kindness, and gratitude, and living my best life and not do something? I made some phone calls, tried some different options, but in the end, with the help of some wonderful co-workers, we opted to get Mary an Uber ride back to her home town. Her hometown police chief was going to be on the look out for her arrival so, hopefully, she’ll have a good night’s sleep in a warm bed, and a little peace of mind. As I helped Mary up into the truck, I tucked her coat around her and looked right into her eyes. “I’ll be praying for you. God loves you,” I told her. She thanked me over and over, eyes brimming with tears. The driver took off and I went back into my beautiful, warm office, and prayed for Mary.

I learned a couple of valuable lessons today. First, people are willing to help out those in need. I had multiple co-workers ask if I needed anything (as I was dealing with Mary),  and one came through with all the resources necessary to solve Mary’s dilemma. Even more importantly, I learned I must walk the talk. Blogs are fun and fine, but words mean nothing if you don’t follow through with actions.

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I’ve been leading off the teaching time each Sunday this month by telling the Bible story prior to Don’s sermon. Our theme is “unlikely heroes.” Last week I told the story of Gideon, and today, the well-known account of David and Goliath. My goal is to make these stories interesting by delivering the information in a somewhat entertaining manner. In other words, keep my listeners from falling asleep.

Don’t you love a good story? Me too. I love to read stories, watch stories unfold, and listen to stories. The very best ones are the ones that are true.

Therefore, my tidbit of wisdom today is two-fold: listen to other people’s stories and begin to tell your own.

Everyone has a story. The young. The elderly. Your kids. Your grandparents. Your friends. Your coworkers. Even strangers. We all have a tale to tell. Some are humorous. Some are heartbreaking. Some are touching. Some are educational.

Just like multiple movie and book genres, there are also genres of real life narratives. Some have lived through heart-pounding adventure. Others soul-stirring romances. Maybe yours is a hilarious comedy. Listen and learn. Pay attention. Ask questions. Hear the stories living lives around you. Nothing can touch your soul like a good story.

And finally, tell your story. Give it a voice and theme, settings and characters, conflict and resolution. Be a storyteller. Others need to hear what you’ve been through, the lessons you’ve learned, the hope you can give on our shared life’s journey.

Jesus was a storyteller. He knew the greatest lessons learned are those told as stories. The prodigal son. The persistent widow. The lost sheep. So many stories giving us a glimpse into the kingdom of God – stories of heaven, healing, forgiveness, and restoration.

I love to tell the Story.

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2019_selfie_siblingsThe greatest gift I received from my mom and dad was not my outward appearance, my good genes, or any present wrapped up with a bow. The best gift passed down to me and my siblings was a sense of humor. And I pray I passed that gift on to my children.

What is life without laughter? Without fun? Boring.

I love to laugh. I love to listen to others laugh. There is nothing as uplifting as a child’s giggles. I can’t help but smile when I hear an awful “dad joke.” Well, sometimes I groan too, but usually with a smile attached. I loved hearing my kids learning to tell jokes. You know those first few made no sense (except to them), but it was fun to watch them develop their own senses of humor. And to this day, no one can make me laugh like my kids. No one.

I am kind of picky about what types of humor I allow myself to engage in. I will not make fun of other people, or put up with listening to it from anyone else. I’m not a huge “slap stick comedy” lover, though my husband is a big fan. I don’t drink wine, but I do enjoy a nice dry sense of humor.

As I begin my journey into my sixties, I’m determined that I will not lose that sense of humor. I don’t want to get old inside, even if I can’t always control how old I look on the outside. I want to enjoy life even more now, than I did when I was younger. I want to laugh at jokes, tell hilarious puns at family dinners, make silly faces at children, keep others laughing with me.

The world we live in is in a precarious state. The news is dire every night. The future is uncertain and grim. But I can’t control those things. What I can control is my own environment, my own attitude – and I choose laughter and joy. I will smile at friends and strangers. I will spread the love of Jesus wherever I go. I will laugh at dad jokes.

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What a way to get your steps! Galena, Illinois, steps from downtown to streets above.

The big 6-0 is approaching – less than a week to go. I’ve come a long way since November when I first started thinking about my upcoming birthday. Those few short months ago, I was dreading it. Sixty?! It sounds so old! But since then, I’ve begun taking active steps, mentally and emotionally, to shift my mindset from what I used to think, to what I want to think. Sixty is a number – it is not my identity. I’m going to work hard to make sure my sixties are the best decade of my life – emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically. Therefore, today’s wisdom will be five of my favorite ways to stay healthy…even at this advanced age.

 

  • Drink water. Lots of it.

A few years ago, when I was actively working out at a Curves facility (I really miss my Curves workouts and friends), one of my favorite pieces of advice was to drink water. Weight loss is easier when you are hydrated. Everything is easier when you’re hydrated. I’ve made it a goal to drink at least 80 ounces of water a day, and I do not count coffee as “water.” Coffee is wonderful, but it doesn’t add to your hydration. There are so many benefits of drinking water. Your body and brain will thank you!

  • Get up and move.
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C25k app is my go-to for 5k training every year.

Regular exercise, even just walking or stretching, will help you feel better. Of course, I’m no doctor (I don’t even play one on TV), but regular movement gets the endorphins going, loosens up stiff joints and muscles, and burns a few calories. I walk every day. My goal is 10,000 steps, and I feel as though I’m keeping my body in better shape for those “elderly” years (whenever that happens). We were gifted with a great treadmill at the end of last year, and I use it every day that I cannot get outside because of darkness or cold. I’ll begin my running regimen this month, instead of having to wait until whenever spring decides to show up.

 

  • Fruit and vegetables.

The recommended daily intake of five servings of fruit and vegetables seems pretty doable. I absolutely love vegetables and so eating them in abundance every day is not a hardship for me. You’ll enjoy the benefits of increased vitamins and fiber (and all that does for a body). Don and I love roasting vegetables seasoned with some flavorful salts and peppers (425 degrees, 15-20 minutes, drizzled with EVOO and seasonings). I try to eat an apple every afternoon, instead of hitting up my co-worker’s chocolate stash. Spinach in a smoothie, pulverized carrots and onions in a meatloaf, raw veggies with hummus as a snack…possibilities are endless.

  • Sleep.

I love sleep. And I know I need at least 7 hours of sleep to function at my best the next day. I’m usually asleep by 10ish on weekdays, and up before 6, so unless my mind decides otherwise, I do get a good night’s sleep most of the time. As I get older, I realize I’m more like a toddler. If I’m grumpy and pouty, it’s because I’m tired or hungry.

  • Occasional pampering.

One of the very best benefits of getting older is guilt-free time for some pampering. When I was in my 30s and 40s, I would have loved a mani-pedi, or a massage, or taking a long walk alone, but it wasn’t possible for a variety of reasons. People frown on moms who leave their small children home alone. We also didn’t have much extra money, and I would have felt awful using any funds for “silly” things like a pedicure.  But now that I’m working, Don’s working, and the kids are grown up and out of the house, I feel no guilt if I take some money for a sugaring session, or a pedicure, or buying a new pair of running shoes. Today I was able to have a 75-minute stone massage and it was wonderful! My kids gifted me with a session for last year’s birthday and I was happy to use it up.

I know there could be health surprises in my future; things I have no control over. But I also know God has shown me ways to be a good steward of the body I have. My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and I want to honor Him with the choices I make. I want to be prepared for whatever my sixties hold. Come on 60! I hear you’re the new 40.

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