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Valentine’s Day. A day set aside to celebrate love. And sell cards. And flowers. And chocolate. And jewelry. And cupcakes. Valentine’s Day can be pretty expensive.

Valentine’s Day can carry a heavy weight of expectation. Wives expect their husbands to show their love with something from the above mentioned list. Maybe even multiple things. Guys are expected to plan the perfect date, with perfect dinner, perfect romantic ambiance. Rarely can anyone meet the lofty expectations placed on them for this one holiday. My opinion? The only truly happy ones are the florists, restaurant owners, jewelry stores, bakers, candy and card sellers. $$$

I love my husband dearly. Kris_Don_balloon_2014I appreciated the cupcakes he bought for me last night. They were delicious!! I always love the sentiment of the cards he buys for me (but even more, the love expressed in the little notes)…but, don’t tell him this, I would love him just as much even without the cupcakes and card. Because my love isn’t tied to what he buys for me. Long ago I decided that I don’t need a special day to celebrate his love for me…because he treats me so well every single day. I learned that placing high expectations on another human being sets him up to fail and me up for disappointment. No one can meet the fantasy we build up in our minds. Something always goes wrong…flowers die, chocolate gets eaten, even jewelry fades eventually. But the strong and steady presence of a true love is based on relationship…it cannot be bought.

So no matter your place in this world (dating, married, single again), lower your expectations for a particular day and raise your awareness of how you express and receive love. Because the BEST love is unconditional and sacrificial…without expectation for reward or perfection…perfectly expressed through the model God gave us through His Son, Jesus.

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  ~ John 15:12-13

 

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Valentine’s Day again…I love my guy more than ever…31 years and counting. And yes, I know it’s Wednesday.

Ordinary Life Extraordinary Destiny


Today is Valentine’s Day. I hope you have someone to love and love you back. It doesn’t need to be a girlfriend or boyfriend, a spouse or significant other. Just someone who appreciates you and tells you.

I’m so glad for the man God gave to me 29 years ago. He is my best friend and my favorite days are the ones I get to spend with him. He fills my “love tank” with every love language and I couldn’t have a better soul mate.

But if you are alone today, I hope you’ll turn to the One who loves you most and knows you best. Let God wrap His arms of love around you and fill your heart with joy and peace. No person on earth can love you as He can. He knew you before you were formed in your mother’s womb and he knows you now. Give…

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I’ll be blogging again for the 40 days of Lent – but first, a reminder.

Ordinary Life Extraordinary Destiny

Nose

I have a cold. It isn’t horrible but my nose is either running or stopped up. It takes quite a strong aroma to break that barrier. Like Vicks Vapo-Rub – remember that stuff? Every time I smell it, I’m taken back to my childhood…when my mom would spread that goopy gel over my chest and on the bottoms of my feet. I don’t know if it helped, but the aroma was pervasive and brings back all those feelings of love and comfort from my mom’s nurturing care.

That’s the great thing about our sense of smell – the trigger of good memories whenever certain aromas hit our nose. I love the smell of freshly-roasted coffee beans and freshly-brewed coffee (taste too!). There’s nothing like the smell of warm cinnamon rolls, baking bread, peppermint ice cream, fresh cut wood, pungent orange peels, fresh cut grass, newly-turned earth, incoming spring rains, strawberry…

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Choices

One word. For the last few years I’ve tried to select one word to focus on for the year. In 2016, it was “family” and it was a year filled with intentional effort to put family first. I saw my nephew play basketball and my niece play softball. I attended another niece’s wedding and saw my own son marry the love of his life. I proudly watched my younger son graduate from college and then spent many fall Saturdays working alongside him at Iowa State football games. I traveled to California to spend a dream vacation with my brother & sister-in-law as they shared their national park passion with me. My family year was an amazing success.

Last year my word was “intentional” and though it’s a great word, I don’t have specifics on how it made my year extraordinary. But I know it did because I focused on being intentional in how I spent my time, who I gave attention to and where I put my energies. I loved this word so much that I’ve transitioned it into 2018.

This year’s word is “choices.” Everyday I’m faced with choices – who, what, when, where, why, how? I can choose to stay fixed right where I am or I can choose to grow and change and respond with love and kindness and grace.

I’m choosing to cut back on activities that are energy drainers and put more positive energy into relationships and activities that bring growth in me and in others. Choices bombard all of us, every moment of every day. By thinking of where I’ll spend most of my energy, I can be better prepared for the last minute, “have to” choices that tend to suck me dry.

I’m not perfect and I’ll make mistakes but I’m looking forward to a year of choosing kindness (over animosity), generosity (over selfishness), grace-filled truth (over gossip), and courage in the face of fear. I’ve always been a “glass half full” girl but now it’s time to listen to those who don’t think like me because optimist or pessimist or realist, none of us have all the answers.

So pick a word for yourself. Have fun. Spend the year you’ve been given to be all God created you to be. Open up to new and different and defining. It’s your choice.

To_Tell_The_Truth_image

The old television show “To Tell The Truth” featured a panel of four celebrities whose objective is to correctly identify  a described contestant who has an unusual occupation or has undergone an unusual experience. This “central character” is accompanied by two impostors who pretend to be the central character. The celebrity panelists question the three contestants; the impostors are allowed to lie, but the central character is sworn “to tell the truth”. After questioning, the panel attempts to identify which of the three challengers is telling the truth and is thus the central character.

The show expects people to lie…and lie very well. The challengers get paid if they fool the judges into believing the lies. Satan is like that. Instead of two other contestants lying to convince the panelists that they are the real person, we have the devil and our pasts which try to convince us that we aren’t really who we say we are. But the best part – instead of having a group of celebrities question every one and vote – we have the Creator of the Universe, our heavenly Father, who declares who we are for all to hear…we just need to believe it. Because HE really is telling the truth.

What is the Truth?

Most of the time we believe certain things about ourselves based upon our experiences, or things people have said to us or about us. On the surface, those things may appear to be true, but usually, we believe lies about ourselves.

For instance: I used to think that I was mediocre, just average. I talked about my “mousy brown” hair (before it was this beautiful silver), and being overweight. I refused to believe it when someone said I was pretty…because that isn’t what I saw in the mirror. I was average in sports talent, less than average in musical talent and certainly not particularly special. I “faked” confidence because inside I was trembling and scared that people would see the “real” me…a phony. I thought if people really knew me, they wouldn’t like me…so I stayed on the sidelines and watched others do talented and successful things…all the time, wishing I was brave enough to get out there and try something big.

When I became a Christian, I didn’t automatically change my thinking. It has taken the unconditional love of my heavenly Father; love and words of affirmation from my husband and then making the choice to believe the truth and not the enemy’s lies about me – all have combined to help me see myself as I truly am…and as you are too.

Who you are in Christ is all that matters…

But let’s look at a few of the lies the enemy of our souls would like us to believe…

Lie #1 – Satan tells us that we are sinners because we sin

Yes – we were sinners, but the blood of Jesus washed away our sins when we asked Jesus to be our Savior. We are no longer sinners, but saints because God has declared us righteous through the blood of Jesus.

1 John 1:7 –  But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

When God looks at us, He doesn’t see our sin, He sees an adopted son or daughter, brought into the Kingdom of God through His only Son’s sacrifice. You are no longer a sinner – You are a child of God.

Lie #2 – Satan says our identity comes from what we have done.

He wants us to believe that if we were cheaters, liars, thieves, adulterers, cowards before we accepted Christ, than that is still who we are…but that is a lie.

We are not those things any longer. Our identity is not what we used to do…God’s Word says our identity comes from what Jesus did for us. Instead of a liar, I am now a member of Christ’s Body…instead of a cheat, I am now redeemed and forgiven…instead of a coward, afraid of everyone, I am now a friend of God. And I am free from any condemnation – one translation says I no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud.

“The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.” Romans 8:2 (The Message)

Romans 8:1-2 – There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,[a] who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

You are free – no longer chained to the lie that we are what we have done in the past.

Ok – here’s Lie #3 – The devil says your identity comes from what other people say about you.

We’ve all believed this at some point or another. I had coaches who told me I was average…a good teammate but never good enough. I had classmates who told me I was too smart to be their friend…I wasn’t any fun. I wasn’t ambitious enough…I wasn’t pretty enough…I wasn’t outgoing enough…I was never enough!

But the truth of God’s word says my identity comes from what HE says about me…what He says about you!

God says you are fearfully and wonderfully made…He says you are chosen and He has a plan and purpose for your life. God says you are a temple of the Holy Spirit. You have been chosen by God and adopted as His child. You have been bought with a price and you belong to Him.

Psalm 139:13-14 – For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;[a]
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.

1 Corinthians 3:16 – Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?;

Ephesians 1:3-8… just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body[a]and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Stop believing the lies that we are what someone says we are – believe the truth that you are what GOD says you are.

And finally, Lie #4 – the devil will try to convince you that your behavior tells you what to believe about yourself.

The truth is that what you believe about yourself will determine your behavior. When you realize this, you can see who you really are…no longer stuck in the lies but choosing to believe the truth.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 – “…has given us the ministry of reconciliation…ambassadors for Christ.”

We don’t have to sit back and accept anything…we had DO what Christ has given us to do.

Ephesians 3:12 – “…in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.”

Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ[a] who strengthens me.”

The Apostle Paul thought of himself as the “least of all the saints,” – talk about a self-esteem issue…yet he didn’t let that keep him from moving forward, doing the work God had given him to do…and with boldness. He may not have been a naturally outgoing guy – but he knew what God said about him, and accomplished it all because he refused to believe the devil’s lies.

How about you?

Instead of saying, “I really screwed up at work, so I must not be smart” – we should say “I screwed up, so I need to admit it and move on, because God has given me the mind of Christ, and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Instead of saying, “My kids are struggling right now, I must be an awful parent” – try going with “My family is struggling right now, but I have access to the God of the universe who loves me & my family. He wants the very best for me. He will give me wisdom to know how to pray and what to do or not do for my kids.”

Or, “I was a bully, treated my parents badly, hated my teachers, disobeyed the law so God can’t really love me, I’m such a rotten person.” You don’t have to be that person anymore. Your behavior doesn’t mean that is who you are. Once you start believing the truth about yourself – then you’ll start to see behavior changes.

I used to only try those things that I was comfortable with. I was afraid so I didn’t attempt anything outside my comfort zone. Because I never thought I was enough…I behaved that way. I was told I wasn’t good enough at any sport so, instead of fighting against that opinion, I believed the lie and just went with it. I didn’t push back against the enemy’s schemes…I went along with all the lies. I was nervous and scared of being noticed, I tried to blend in…instead of standing out anywhere. I didn’t want to embarrass myself so I never tried anything new. I went with what was safe…all the time. I allowed my fears to rule my behavior and in the process, I missed out on the excitement of adventure.

It was all a lie. My behavior doesn’t mean that’s really who I am. In reality, my belief about myself will determine my behavior. And I needed to change my belief…I needed to believe what God says about me…and you need to believe what God says about you too!

Read this out loud – so your ears can hear what God says!

I am accepted…therefore I am renewed day by day. I am a friend of God so there is nothing too difficult for me. As a child of God, I have no reason to fear. I always have access to God – what can man possibly do to me?

I am secure…forever free from condemnation, I cannot be separated from God’s love. I am established, anointed and sealed by God.

I am significant…the salt and the light of the world, seated with Christ in heavenly realms, a branch of the true vine. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

You do not have to believe the devil’s lies about who you are…God’s truth is the final authority. Now you need to tell yourself the truth. You can stand up and proclaim that you are accepted, you are secure and you are significant.

Would the real ­­­­YOU please stand up?!

I love going for a run when I’m in a different city. There is something about the change of scenery and routine but I can’t wait to get out and explore. This morning was no different. I dropped Don off so he could teach Old Testament for four hours (his happy place) and I consulted my new All Trails app to find a close place to hit the road. I did not realize how much the Holy Spirit would teach me in the next 90 minutes. 

  • It’s about perseverance, not speed. 

We each have our own path to walk. None of us know how long or winding or narrow or steep or difficult our trail will be. We each need to train for the long haul. Rarely is our race a sprint. Most of the time it’s a triathlon with some mountains, oceans and valleys thrown in. The prize doesn’t go to the fastest but to all of us who finish. Run your own race, not your neighbor’s. 

  • Obey the obvious signs

The signs along your path aren’t meant to spoil your fun but to warn you of an upcoming change or to save you from a crash. Don’t ignore what you know is right just to be different or cool. 

  • Know your enemy

Not everything along the path you’re on is for your good. Your enemy would love to get you off track or harm you so you are not as effective as you are designed to be. Be smart. Know who you’re fighting against. Recognize the signs of danger and avoid stupid stuff. 

  • Take the time to rest and appreciate where you are

Your path will take you many places. Learn to appreciate each one. Look for beauty everywhere. Be grateful for wildflowers amongst the poison ivy. 

  • Remain vigilant

No matter how groomed your trail, there are occasional stops designed to trip you up. Sometimes those we think are towers of strength have shallow roots which, if you aren’t careful, will cause you to stumble. Be watchful. Trust the Holy Spirit who will always guide you. He’s the One who’s marking your path. The more you know Him, the more you’ll enjoy your run. 

That’s all for now. There was so much more but I’ll save it for another day. 

Keep going. Never quit.  We’re all in this race together. 

Be a Quitter

Most of you know me well enough now to realize that I love to encourage people. I don’t just see the glass half full…I see the glass at least 3/4ths full, maybe even more. I try to always find that silver lining. When I tutor my students, I combat low self-confidence all the time. I love motivating them – to see themselves as accepted, intelligent, capable, and productive.

I also enjoy motivational sayings. Facebook and Instagram are full of images of beautiful lakes, flowers, mountains, seascapes with a lovely motivational quotes about working hard, staying positive, “just do it”. I brought a couple to show you.

Fail_Stop_Trying_quote          Make_It_Happen_quote

 

What a great saying to get me up in the morning.

River_Rock_Persistence_quote

Aren’t these great? Don’t you feel motivated to tackle that task you’ve been avoiding?

And I made one just for this morning.

Quit_Before_Its_Too_Late

Wait – what?

Quit before it’s too late? How is that motivational? Let me tell you…

1 – Give up…Let it All Go

This is a perfect topic for Mother’s Day. Moms are not quitters…ever. We persevere through any trial, work hard every single day, strive to take care of our families, keep track of everyone’s schedules, make sure the dogs get fed, the kids do their homework, the church gets cleaned…we work, volunteer, run our kids to sports practices and games, dance lessons, 4-H club meetings, decorate for birthday parties, serve on church committees…and then we cook, clean, do laundry, mow the lawn…doing, doing, doing.

And we get it done. Somehow. But at what price?

We’re tired, grumpy, emotional, stressed, discouraged and certainly hardest on ourselves if we feel we failed at any one thing. We’ve set our expectations so high that we are often disappointed in ourselves for not “doing more” or “doing better.” Maybe we feel we’ve let others down when we just can’t do one more thing. Sometimes, when we don’t get everything done that we’ve put on our list, we mentally and sometimes, verbally, blame ourselves, our spouses, our kids, our bosses. We think we can do it all…or worse, expect perfection…from ourselves or others. Inside we’re discouraged, condemning, feeling like failures…when in reality there is only one thing we need.

We need to quit. We need to give up and let it all go.

2 – You were designed for more

Have you ever heard of the No Thumbs Challenge? It’s a little YouTube sensation where a couple of people very securely tape their thumbs down into their palms and then attempt to do a variety of normal activities…such as opening a bottle of water, writing their name, operating a can opener, peeling a banana. Some are easier than others, but overall, the tasks are made much more difficult without the use of thumbs.

This is an object lesson for what we do in life. God gives us brains, strengths, talents, gifts – and we can accomplish a lot without ever asking God to help us. We can be super-successful on our own. Many people in the world accomplish great things without once considering God. But they, and we, are going through life with our thumbs bound…yes, we can accomplish a lot…but think of how much more we could do – if we quit trying to do it on our own and ask God to help us.

We are designed to work best when we work WITH God’s guidance – when we work WITHIN His design for us (Psalm 139).

You’ve put up with a life “without thumbs” – learned to do everything we need to do with only 4 fingers – but it’s been a struggle, a hardship, sometimes a failure…let’s quit trying to do without God, when with Him, it is more than we could ever imagine.

Luke 18:27 – “But He said, ‘The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.’”

3 – Embrace the ASK

We need to admit we need help. That can be a real battle for some. We like that good ole American work ethic…that “git ‘er done” mentality. We’re proud of our accomplishments. But at what cost? Our health – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

Even if we do consider asking God for help, we don’t (or won’t).

“God, you’re great and all, but probably pretty busy with important world issues, like famine and war and cancer…so I’ll just go ahead and do my little stuff on my own. I got this. No sense in bothering You with my little things.”

But asking God for help, no matter what we need, is like being set free to do more, to see Him working through you. God wants to free you from the bondage of pride and self-sufficiency – He wants to release you – set you free and empower you to do more and better, as He intended.

2 Corinthians 12:9“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’” Paul goes on to say – “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

When we ask for God to help us, we become stronger than we are alone. When we admit we are weak without Him, then His power takes over. Instead of apologizing for bothering God, you should see how excited He is when we ask him to overcome our weaknesses with His strength.

So how do you go about asking God for help?

James 1:5“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to ALL liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” In Psalm 46:1 we hear that God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.

He doesn’t just listen to me, and not to you. He delights in hearing your requests. He delights in YOU.

Once you’ve asked for God to free you from your own pride, and give you wisdom in your daily life, expect to see a difference. John 8:36 says “Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” All four fingers and a great big thumb!

I challenge you to test God. Test His Word. Begin each day asking God to help you in every situation you encounter…both the planned and the unplanned. Ask Him to guide your steps, to give you wisdom when you don’t know what to do…to give you words to speak life and encouragement to your family and friends, even your enemies. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what to do when you’re confused or discouraged. He promises He will.

A number of years ago, the Chicago Bulls had a couple of pretty good basketball players…maybe you’ve heard of them. Michael Jordan and Stacey King. Of course, everyone knows Michael Jordan…but Stacey King was a decent player himself.  One night the two of them had a great game, beating the Cleveland Cavaliers. After the game, reporters interviewed King, quoting him in the next morning’s newspaper:

“I’ll always remember this as the night that Michael Jordan and I combined for 70 points.”

Wouldn’t that be a great game? Of course. But the part King left out…Michael Jordan scored 69 points and King scored only one.

But that’s how it is when we partner with God. God only asks that we are willing to score our one point, and He’ll take care of the rest. He’s a big God and He can and will help you to meet and exceed the challenges each of you face each day. Beyond your expectations.

Let’s pray.