It Runs In The Family

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It’s true. It runs in the family. We look like contortionists when we sleep. And it’s not just the females in the family. My father does it, too. Maybe my daughter & I got this unusual flexibility from him. When I was a kid, I remember watching Saturday morning cartoons like this except my left leg was bent too with my left foot propped up against my right hip bone.

When we sit on the couch or at the kitchen table, instead of sitting with our feet flat on the floor, we’re sitting sort of Indian style but our right leg is flipped over the left instead of both feet tucked under. My father, my daughter and I all do this without giving it a thought. Maybe we should have tried out for Cirque du Soleil?

Procrastination (co-written with Joseph C. Bagatta)

 

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As soon as I get back on my feet, I’m gonna find good honest work, hold onto it and pull my own weight. The Lord whispered, “Come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest.”

The man did not hear him. While sitting on the porch at the end of the next day, he thought to himself, “As soon as this dark cloud lifts, I’m gonna pay down all my debt. Then I’ll feel better.” The Lord spoke softly, “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”

The man felt a slight stirring inside him. He had more strength to accomplish tasks that needed to be done.  He lay in bed that night, feeling good that his spirits had lifted, though he wasn’t quite sure where it came from. He drifted off to sleep thinking, “As soon as my luck returns, I feel like that might be soon, I’m gonna pay back all those who have helped me.”

The following week, after he was given a month of electrical work, he began dwelling on things that had gone wrong for him and he mentioned to a co-worker, “As soon as I get out from under, I’m gonna pay it forward, volunteer and help people around me.” His co-worker replied, “Why wait, man? We’re not promised tomorrow. This life is fleeting. We’re here one day and gone the next!”  That strange stirring danced inside his chest again and he walked off trying to make sense of it.

A month or two later, he was talking to a friend at the diner about life.  After a long conversation, his friend said, “I don’t know, bro, as soon as I can get this monkey off my back, I’m gonna pay all of my past-due child support, reach out to my children, and work on healing broken relationships. None of it’s my fault anyhow but maybe I’ll do something about it.”  The Lord gently whispered to his friend, “Forgive as I have forgiven you. I will help you.”

The man heard but convinced himself he was just tired and needed to get home and get more sleep.  As he was on his couch drifting off he thought, “I don’t know what that was all about but as soon as everyone gets off my back, I’m gonna quit drinking, drugs, smoking and gambling. I can’t do that now with all their nonsense.”  The spirit of the Lord hovered over him as he slept, giving him dreams of becoming a better man who sought the Lord and felt a new zeal for life. He didn’t yet understand that the Lord was giving him a glimpse of his future.

A year later, the man and his friend were talking on their way back to their trucks after work.  The man started out, “I don’t know what’s been happening this past year but something is changing me.  I’ve been seeing how I neglect my wife and how I put off reaching out to my kid from my first marriage.  I can’t stop thinking about it and I don’t know, man, I think it’s God leading me to do something about it.  I look forward to finishing work just so I can make it up to them.”  He stared at his friend for a second, thinking..  For the first time he told someone about his dream.  The Lord whispered to them, “Yes, do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

As the days passed, the friends found that their thoughts began to change.  There were fewer thoughts that began with, “As soon as this changes, I will..”  There was less blaming everyone else for their mistakes or putting off tomorrow to find ways to be better people and serve the Lord.  Amazing things were happening in their lives, no matter how big or small they appeared to other people.  God was moving, leading them to do the right things and they began talking openly about how God pursued them.  Gone were the days when they thought things like, “As soon as I’m living on easy street, I’m gonna..” The quality of their lives improved because they realized God was fueling them with strength. Each time their spiritual tanks ran low, God filled them up again, showing them the fullness of life.

 

 

What Does Freedom Look Like?

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This morning, I was thinking about what freedom looks like to a believer and how we live out our freedom in Christ. I think we get stuck sometimes, thinking about the meaning of this from only one perspective. When we become believers, we learn that we are new creations in Christ, that our sins have been washed away and we have a clean slate with God. The chains have been broken and we are no longer tied to the “old man” that dictated how we live our everyday lives and we now experience freedom in the presence of the Lord, to follow Him and in essence, get a do-over. We have freedom to love and serve others sincerely as God guides us. We have freedom to be who God made us be without our past mistakes bogging us down. We have freedom to choose a godly lifestyle which really frees our spirit.

Then, I was thinking about the Mercy Me song, Happy Dance. Have you heard it? I just heard it for the first time a couple weeks ago. It’s such a great song! The message of the song is that sometimes as Christians, we get so caught up in doing the right things & perhaps coming across as always having it together, that we forget that freedom we also have to dance, to be goofballs & joke around, laugh and enjoy life like a kid! I love this song because it reminds me to not always take everything so seriously that I’m afraid to come across as anything less than perfect.  God is perfect. Human beings are not. While I strive to be more Christ-like, that doesn’t mean that I should never let my guard down or constantly look like a go-getter who’s never short on wisdom.

So, did you notice my wacky picture at the top of this post? This is me, mostly when I’m at home or working with my giggly deaf student at work. This is me being free to be funny, believing that I can be a true servant of the Lord AND let my quirks and sense of humor show.  I don’t want to live in fear that someone may notice my weaknesses or shortcomings.  God knows the real me and He knows who you really are. And He doesn’t grow weary of us. He loves us and is aware of how much we seriously need Him.

This is what freedom in Christ looks like!

Having Fun And Staying Active In The Winter Months

 

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Every year, during the winter season, I feel that pull to start staying indoors more and go out less.  Especially when the short days of winter begin.  Most of us are effected by it.  Right around 5 o’clock, it’s so dark outside my body feels like it’s almost time for bed and it shocks me that all I want to do is put on pajamas and curl up on the couch. I’m typically a pretty active person. All summer long and into the fall, I’m out and about either working or taking my daughter on fun excursions and in search of new adventures.  Suddenly it begins getting dark at 4 and my body physiologically feels the difference.  It’s kind of an amazing phenomenon when you think about it. So what do you do when you feel this way? Do you succumb to the overwhelming urge to just lay down and do nothing?  Do you force yourself to do a few odds and ends around the house and then lay down to relax? Maybe you do that in the beginning and then decide you have to fight this slothful feeling and find ways to energize yourself despite the lack of sunlight.

This year, the time change really seemed to hit me worse than other years.  I was really feeling unmotivated by the time I got home from work.  I decided to leave things where they were instead of making the place immaculate.  I started liking the way it looked to leave my projects out with balls of lacing thread lined up on my bookshelf in varying colors, a pair of scissors, a yarn needle, pencils and crochet hooks popping out the tops of the thread like it was a pin cushion. My handwritten snowflake and earring patterns could be found stuffed underneath.  All of our scrapbooking supplies with a Shutterfly envelope stuffed full of pictures sat stacked on top of a small table near the couch. I’d leave the dishes in the sink for a couple days or put off getting to all of the mail at once.  These weren’t things I’d do as much before the time change, but I realized I just needed to ease into the season and rest more than usual until I got used to it.  I’ve talked to other people about the effects of the time change and a lot of people have said they feel more tired than previous years. Maybe we’re getting old?

Now, that I’ve had time to adjust, I’ve been finding more exciting ways to get out to do new things and make fun memories with my daughter, family & friends.  Before Christmas, we made plans to go to NYC with a close friend and explore the city during Christmas time.  Occasionally, I work out there and I love walking back to Grand Central Station at night after work.  I have a new appreciation for Christmas window displays at Macy’s and just how beautifully decorated everything is. I love the Christmas lights, the wreaths and walking through Bryant Park at night to watch the ice skaters and to just take in the view of happy people enjoying themselves. For all those reasons, I decided this year that I wanted to wander around and share these special things with people I loved. It was cold out and somehow that made it even more fun. We went to Saks Fifth Avenue, saw St. Patrick’s Cathedral all decorated for Christmas–it was the first time seeing that for each of us, we accidentally walked passed Trump Towers–not realizing until we saw a female police officer dressed in full riot gear with a huge gun almost the same height as her.  We milled around the inside of the Rockefeller Center, not knowing NBC records the news & the Today Show there or that it was built like a mall with lots of interesting stores and places to eat.  Really, we saw and did so much while we were there and it was all a blast.  Even stopping at a Starbucks to get coffee and a lemonade for my daughter was so much more fun to do than in upstate NY because it was different than our everyday routines.  Really, going out to try different things or to share things you love with people who are important to you breathes more life into your soul. So, what else have I gone out to do that may help you to think of things that you can do to get more into that happy frame of mind?

Exercise, especially running or cardio strength training, helps me to get a little spunk back.  I started tracking my runs with an app called Runtopia last July.  Again, since the dark days of winter started, I’ve been feeling less desire to workout.  Yesterday, I was feeling apprehensive and I knew I needed to get back on my treadmill to pound out the stress. Part of what got me on that treadmill was remembering the endorphin release when I run and part of it was that I thought it would be really cool to do one last run for 2017 and record it with Runtopia.  Let me tell you, it helped me to feel so much better. God knows what we need and He gave us exercise to keep us healthy mentally & physically.  Did you know that exercise is the most potent and underutilized antidepressant? And it’s free… I read this meme posted on Instagram and I said to myself, “Amen! That is so true!”

Something else that helps is starting new traditions that you love so much you would rather do them than sit on the couch. Particularly, something that challenges you in a way that you enjoy because you have fun, you impress yourself with your ability to do it and it comes with a great reward that is healthy for your mind, body and soul.  Last, New Year’s Day, my daughter and I bundled ourselves up to go hiking up a mountain that was mostly vertical.  This year, we made a tradition out of it and went back again to start our year out with an adventure. Wow, we forgot how breathless this climb would be!  We invited someone special to come with us this time and we got the cardio endurance work out of the year.  This time we went with ice cleats on our boots and made it to the top much faster.  The view, the feat and the fact that we made it to the top was so uplifting.  We were all smiling despite our sore legs.  And we learned some great things from that hike like how to work as a team, to look out for each other in order to keep each other safe, outdoor survival skills, how to have fun in the cold and to be prepared for anything.  Traditions like this build great relationships and give us more things we can look forward to doing as a family.  They make great memories and definitely help me to stay active in the winter.  If you want to chase away the winter blues and start laughing more again, I encourage you to try out some of these ideas.

 

A Short Christmas Post

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I shot this picture at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC on 12/21/2017.

In a nutshell, this is what Christmas is all about. Raising our hands in thanks to God even when there are things in our lives that don’t feel very praiseworthy.  When I lift my hands in prayer and focus on thanking God for all the good things, I end my prayer feeling the Holy Spirit around me, causing me to forget the things in my life that are still being ironed out.  I have a feeling that if everything was taken care of all at once, I might start to believe that I did something great to earn such an amazing life & start believing I was more capable than Him.  It’s crazy to me to even write that because God is the one who breathed life into me in the first place.  God knows how we tend to operate though.  We’re prone to wander away from him. Not having all my prayers answered at once is really something that I should be thanking God for too because it keeps me in relationship with Him.   I’m the happiest when I spend time with God because he re-energizes me at the end of the day when my spiritual tank starts to get close to empty.  Christmas is about thanking God for sticking so close to us that He even wants us with him for eternity.  And think about this. He wanted us so badly for eternity that He sent Jesus to show us how to live dependent on God, to show us that He literally feels our pain and to show us that Jesus is the atonement for all of our mishaps because He still wants us for eternity.  Now, that is something to seriously celebrate!!

Exhilarated

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A Time for Inspiration, Wonder & Freedom

In the third book of Ecclesiastes it reads, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to rebuild…” This photo of my daughter reminds me of this passage but then I add my own lines which would say, “A time to be inspired and a time to kneel down giving thanks for the glorious view set before me, a time to feel freedom in the purity of true beauty and a time to lift up & let go of the things that keep me from feeling freedom, a time to record the creations of a masterful artist and a time to be thankful for the things He devised to fill up our souls with adventure, a time for us to take in the scenic view and a time to say thank you, thank you, thank you for this place with the wind whipping through my hair, where I am awestruck, at peace & energized all at once.”