SPEAK THE TRUTH

2020 was a year that brought lots of changes. All of us have had to learn to do everyday life in new ways. When such drastic change happens in the world around you, it exposes weaknesses and strengths in the structure of your current life. I have taken the month of January to ask myself some hard questions. The one that brought me up short was “How did 2020 change me?” As I was honest with myself I had to admit to this one huge weakness that I had allowed in my life.

I HAD CHANGED FROM BEING OPEN AND HONEST TO SOMEONE WHO IS AFRAID TO SPEAK OUT.

My nickname as a child and even as a young wife and mom, was ‘honest John”. In fact, my in-laws always said, “If you want to know the truth, ask Susan. She tells it like it is!” I was honest to a fault!

Over the years I found out people didn’t want me to be too honest. Because I served in ministry in our church, I was often asked to councel those I served when they needed help. I learned pretty quickly that many of them didn’t really want to hear an honest answer to their situation. When I was honest with them about what I felt God showed me, oftentimes, they never asked for my council again. Over time I learned to test the waters before I offered any council to see how honest they really wanted me to be.

This year the art of hiding what I am really thinking has gone to another level. In fact, I have learned that if I say what I really think or even share what I know as truth, I am often ridiculed and shamed for speaking out. As a result, I have found myself choosing to be silent because I’ve been afraid of opposition.

I haven’t really liked this new me. It has made me feel uncomfortable, like I’m hiding in a cave, afraid someone will find me and do who knows what to me because they don’t like what I stand for or believe. I have never been a ‘hide in the cave’ sort of person!!

So I asked the Lord, (who is my ultimate counselor) “Is it a bad thing to choose to be silent and let others assume I agree with their view in order to avoid saying what I believe to be true because I’m afraid of rejection and ridicule?”

This is what I heard God say, “When you chose to follow me, you chose to be ridiculed and rejected.”

Being afraid to speak the truth or speak out against a wrong I see is something I face almost everyday. It’s easy to just hide in my corner of the world and pretend I am ok with things that are going on around me when I am NOT. When I chose to follow Jesus I wasn’t promised a life without opposition. All I have to do is read the New Testament to know that the life of a follower of Jesus was not easy. It is full of situations where believers were put in prison for what they said and did. They were beheaded and their children were killed. Life was scary! Do I think those things could happen to me? I sure hope not!!! But I can’t let the fear that they could keep me from sharing the gospel and speaking out against wrongs that are being called right.

Truth has become whatever people want it to be. We even hear statements such as “Well, that is my truth.” There aren’t any absolutes anymore. But if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ you should know what the truth is and it should set you free, not put you in prison!!

I HAVE TO BASE MY TRUTH ON THE WORD OF GOD!

He is the TRUTH! Therefore what He says is true. I have to know what the Bible says about how to live in this world. I have to know what my life is built on and make sure my foundation is sure. So many people who say they are Christians aren’t even sure they believe what the Bible says is for today. In order to be sure of what I believe, I have to be studying the scripture and check out what I am hearing from others to make sure what they are saying is based in scripture. I can’t just believe everything I’m told.

The days of the ‘lazy’ Christian are gone. We have to know what we know and when we don’t know we have to search the scriptures and depend on the Holy Spirit to teach us what is right!

How will 2021 be different from 2020 in my life? I plan to say more and read more. No longer will I accept what people are saying on social media or TV as truth. I plan to make a point to educate myself so I’m not afraid to speak out when I need to. 2020 was a wakeup call for me and I am excited to see what God is going to do in 2021.

I’d love to hear about the changes you want to see in your life this year.

WHAT A CHANGE OF VIEW CAN DO……FOR YOU!

After being gone from home for over a month I can honestly say, “There is no place like home.” It’s not really about the great view from the window of my home but a sense of peace and contentedness. The change I want to talk about today isn’t so much visual, it has to do with our ability to look at our surroundings with a new perspective.

You can be happy and content in any place as long as you are willing to look through the eyes of faith and hope and a belief that goodness is in everything.

There is a story that is found in the Old Testament that really explains what I’m trying to say. It’s found in 2 Kings chapter 6. The King of the Arameans was out to kill the prophet Elisha because he was telling the King of Israel the Aramean’s battle plans every time they were planning an attack. So Elisha and his servant were hiding out in Dothan and the Aramean King found out and sent “a great army with many chariots and horses to surround the city” vs 13. When Elisha’s servant woke up that morning, the first thing he saw was them being surrounded by troops and horses and chariots. They were “everywhere”. Quite a visual, right?? Fear, at this point, would be an appropriate reaction, quickly followed by run!!

Elisha, on the other hand, saw something totally different than his servant. He told his servant not to be afraid because “there are more on our side than on theirs!” vs 16. Elisha asked the Lord (prayed) to open his servant’s eyes and change his perspective. The next time he looked up he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots on fire. Elisha’s next prayer was to ask the Lord to blind the troops attacking them. When the Aramean King saw Elisha he didn’t recognize him and Elisha told him he had the wrong guy and lead him right to the King of Israel!! Both prayers had to do with seeing. One had to open his eyes and the other needed their eyes blinded.

To have a perspective of faith there are some things you need to close your eyes to and others you need to see through eyes of goodness and hope!

When I was about sixteen years old living in Nigeria with my family, we were driving through a large city in our VW van and found ourselves in the middle of traffic, blocked in at all sides. We had no idea there was a riot going on and people with large sticks and clubs had stopped cars and were yelling and hitting and breaking windshields, AND THEY WERE COMING TOWARD OUR CAR!! Needless to say, my three brothers and I and my mom were terrified. I remember sitting in that van holding my breath while the crowd came closer and closer. My dad and mom began to pray that our van would be invisible to the crowd and that we wouldn’t have a hand laid on us. AND THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED! It was as if we didn’t exist. They went right by us yelling and shouting but didn’t even touch our van. I didn’t see any ‘army of God’ surrounding us but I’m sure He blinded those people to protect us.

My perspective in this season of life is one where I know I have to choose every day to look through eyes of goodness and faith and hope, believing that this season is going to be filled with more fulfillment and purpose than ever before. I’ve had to close my eyes to what I don’t have and open my eyes to what I do have. When I look with a renewed perspective I realize goodness is always there! Going ‘back’ is not an option. Forward in faith is what I choose.

AN UPDATE ON HOW I’VE BEEN “ENJOYING” 2019

Finding purpose and joy in this season of life.

Enjoy is my word for 2019 and I have been challenged to see the joy in every experience I have this year.

January in Florida was kind of cold and dreary but ENJOY IT I DID!  So many people come to this part of the country in January to escape the rigors of winter in the north and as a result many of our friends and relatives have come our way.  It has been fun to have coffee every Thursday morning with friends and dinner out with other friends, having the joy of catching up with them and their families.

Then in February I spent almost three weeks in that beautiful cold and snowy climate up north helping both of my kids with their families.  My son and daughter-in-law and two grandkids needed my help because mom had broken her ankle and she was not able to walk on it at all!  After helping there I went to help my daughter and son-in-law and 9 grandchildren as mom and dad and two of the kids went to Florida to a conference for 5 days.  I also had the joy of being with my mom who turned 92 during that time. I ENJOYED EVERY MINUTE OF IT ALL!

Needless to say, those three weeks flew by.  I was so busy I didn’t have much time to think about anything else AND I quickly and easily slide back into my old life of responding to the needs of those around me.   The easy thing for me is to serve…..the hard thing for me is to use my other gifts and talents and stretch myself to go beyond the familiar into the unfamiliar.  I enjoy being with my kids and grandkids and it has been hard being so far away but I also know I am right where I am supposed to be.  By the time I came back to Florida I was tired (physically) and I’d had enough of the cold and the snow and I was reminded again that my new life in this season is the one meant for me.

So, here I am being open and honest and using this blog to talk to myself (and hopefully others who find themselves in this season of life).  My word for 2019 to ENJOY is a choice and some days it has been difficult.  It’s not hard because of the weather or any hard circumstance in my life.  It’s hard because everything in this new season is still so unfamiliar.  I don’t HAVE to DO ANYTHING, which is so different for me.  Every day it is up to me to make my life purposeful and to CHOOSE TO ENJOY even in the unfamiliar.  One thing I do know is that I am determined to press forward…..forget the past……enjoy 2019 and see what my future holds. Time is precious and not unlimited. Every day is a potential open door of purpose to walk through and I don’t want to miss it because my eyes are closed.

Along this way I am going to begin to be more purposeful in sharing with you all some practical steps I will be taking to pursue this journey of finding purpose and joy in this season.  If you are finding yourself in a season of change similar to mine and are having difficulty finding your way, let me know what you are doing that is helping you navigate and I know we will benefit each other.  #ENJOY2019

MY WORD FOR 2019

Choosing a word, one word, to describe what I am anticipating for this new year is not an easy thing to do….usually.  But this year it came to me in such a simple way that I couldn’t ignore it.  

Change is always challenging and these last four years have been all about navigating a lot of changes in my life.  2019 begins year number five and as it was nearing a close in December a lightness and anticipation began inside of me.  There wasn’t any one thing I can identify that made me realize my “word” for the year but this “lightness” was so noticeable it made me pay attention to it.  The last few years I have felt the exact opposite.  A heaviness has seemed to envelope me in so many ways and affected my everyday life in a way I had never experienced before.  So feeling “light” was such a change it was easy to notice.  No one around me commented about it but it was something inside that made me realize there is a change in the air and I began to be excited about it.

Some people say it takes up to five years to begin to adjust to a lot of change and maybe that is true.  I just know that I like it….whatever it is.  I wouldn’t trade all that I have experienced, in 2018 especially.  It wasn’t the easiest year, that is for sure.  But easy isn’t always the best and I know I have benefited from the difficulties and have become a stronger, more secure person because of it.  There is good in everything….especially when you trust God with your life.  His faithfulness and goodness never ends and I experienced so much from those attributes last year.

This year I am excited to experience whatever He brings my way.  My word for the year is ENJOY! Enjoy life, enjoy God, enjoy my family, enjoy my friends, just ENJOY.  I know that isn’t deep or necessarily profound but in my practical, ordinary way it means so much to me.  God has been so good to me and I have ignored His goodness because it wasn’t what I wanted or necessarily expected.  There is so much enjoyment to be had in my everyday living and I have been one who has not taken the time to even consider enjoying them.  Well, this year is different!

So….my word for 2019 is to ENJOY EVERYTHING THAT COMES MY WAY, EVERY DAY AND IN EVERY WAY I POSSIBLY CAN!  This picture says it all!!img_8554

One Season Ends so Another can Begin

Fall (Autumn) is upon us.  Summer of 2018 is gone.  Here in Florida the leaves don’t change and even though it might look colder outside because it is raining, it is still hot and humid.  Our Fall is our hurricane season and it was one year ago that we lived through Hurricane Irma.  Every hurricane brings loss to those who go through it.  We lost our electricity for 4 days and thus lost food in our fridge.  Fortunately, we had no other loss but others in the path of that storm did.

Seasons of life experience their storms as well and this season of life seems to be full of storms that bring huge change. The hardest storm is experiencing the loss of close relationships. Loss is so difficult whether it’s your parents or your best friend. My husband and I have lost a father, a brother, very close friends and several people we looked to as mentors and advisors in the last six years. My heart breaks for the husbands, wives, children, grandchildren, parents, siblings and friends who find themselves walking this road of loss. Trusting in God takes on a whole new meaning when you are faced with living in the season of loss.

How do you live in change when the familiar is gone? It seems to happen a lot in this season of life. Your job changes, you downsize your living space, your children leave home, you move away from familiar surroundings, and you lose loved ones. Sometimes you feel like you have been struck by a wave in the ocean of life and it took your feet out from under you. What do you do? How do you cope?

I’m learning that the best thing to do is to step into your tomorrow one day at a time. Don’t sit in the shadows but choose to step into the light. Every day brings a little more insight into the future. Each day God provides the hope that His plan for your life is still the same. His provision and care for you has not changed. In fact, I am convinced that since He is not surprised by the changes in your life, He has already gone ahead and made provision for you. He is ready to be what you need as you live in this new season. A friend of mine who recently lost her husband said it this way:

“I have to step out of my comfort zone so I can experience all that God has for me in the days ahead.”

This is my prayer for me and for anyone else who finds themselves in a season of change and loss:
“Lord, open my eyes and my heart to see Your goodness in this season. Give me a glimpse of the other side of this feeling of loss and sadness so I can live with joy all that you have for me. I don’t want to regret this time of my life. I trust you Lord!”

Remembering those we love, treasuring the memories and missing them every day!

ARE DETOURS​ NECESSARY?

Last month was pretty crazy.  There were days when I had a really hard time seeing any good that could possibly come out of quitting a job I had begun only three months before.  I mean, what had I been thinking when I said “yes” to working again?

 I am the kind of person who wants to know the next turn well in advance.  Ms. Google (on Google Maps) has become a personal friend of mine.  She tells me what to expect next.  She lets me know when I need to keep to the left to anticipate my upcoming left turn.  She even informs me that my destination is on my right when I have been looking left and would have missed it completely.  There have been a few times when I did question her directions.  Every time that happens it’s either because there is a detour I am not aware of or she know’s a shortcut that is new to me or I entered the address incorrectly.  In other words, it is usually my fault.  Ms. Google is actually getting me to my destination to avoid trouble.

Yes, a detour is necessary.

You remember the Children of Isreal who took detours all through the desert for 40 years?  Although their grumbling and complaining kept making their journey longer and longer, God kept waiting for them to get it right.  They are the ones who made the journey longer than necessary yet He gave them the freedom to make those choices.  He knew what they needed in order to be able to go into Canaan and take the land that was rightfully theirs.  In fact, a whole generation had to die out and the next generation was the one who accomplished what God called them to accomplish.  

He was willing to let them take as many detours as they needed to in order to complete His work in them for their future.

Saying “yes” to this job was God allowing me to choose my own way.  I see it now as a detour to open my eyes to see I was already in God’s perfect plan.  Experiencing life through my choices and decisions caused me to feel what it was like trying to get to my destination on my own.  It was difficult, to say the least!

I know the Children of Israel felt like life was more difficult once they were following God but if they would have been able to spend just one day back in slavery they would have realized God was actually moving them into something even better than what they had before.

Those three months of working did that for me.  I now see my current situation as one God is using to prepare me for what is ahead.  This season of life can seem like an end but in God, there is never an end.  There is always a plan for the future.

 We are the ones that put a period at the end of a season.  God puts a comma.  And sometimes a detour is for our own good!

Choosing Life in Change

This season of life is full of change. The hardest change is experiencing the loss of close relationships. Loss is so difficult whether it’s your parents or your best friend. My husband and I have lost a father, a brother, very close friends and several people we looked to as mentors and advisors in the last six years and even as recently as the last month. My heart is breaking for the husbands, wives, children, grandchildren, parents, siblings and friends who are having to walk this road of loss. Trusting in God takes on a whole new meaning when your closest relationships leave this earth before you. These loss’s leave a huge emptiness in your life and going forward seems impossible. I really don’t know what people do if they don’t have the promises of Jesus, the Hope of eternity and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

How do you live in change when the familiar is gone? It seems to happen a lot in this season of life. Your job changes, you downsize your living space, your children leave home, you move away from familiar surroundings, and you lose loved ones. So many things in life can bring change that can feel like you are being hit by a wave in the ocean and it takes your feet out from under you. What do you do? How do you cope?
I’m learning that the best thing to do is to step into your tomorrow one day at a time. Don’t sit in the shadows but choose to step into the light. Every day brings a little more insight into the future. Each day God provides the hope that His plan for your life is still the same. His provision and care for you has not changed. In fact, I am convinced that since He is not surprised by the changes in your life, He has already gone ahead and made provision for you. He is ready to be what you need as you live in this new season.

This is my prayer for me and for anyone who finds themselves in a season of change and loss:

“Lord, open my eyes and my heart to see Your goodness in this season. Give me a glimpse of the other side of this feeling of loss and sadness so I can live with joy all that you have for me. I don’t want to regret this time of my life. I want to see the goodness you have for me here on earth until the time you call me Home. I place my trust in You!”

A MARINATING SEASON

I am in Lincoln, NE this week where I lived for 25 years and where my daughter and son-in-law and their 8 children live now and also where my 90-year-old mom decided to settle for her final years.  So, even though I moved from Lincoln to South Florida 4 years ago, I find myself back here often.  On Monday we remembered my dad who passed away 5 years ago.  I happened to spend the afternoon with my mom and she was asked to play tIMG_7840he piano (she has played by ear for a long time) for the Memory Care Center in the complex she lives.  She is living in the Independent Living side.  These patients love her piano playing and she loves playing the old hymns for them.  As she played I could see my dad standing next to her singing harmony….as they often did when he was alive.  All of a sudden I was crying….and I could hardly speak.  It totally took me off guard.  She wasn’t crying at all.  But I was a basket case.  And I am not typically an emotional person.

This season of change and transition has opened up a part of me that is very vulnerable.  I cry easily.  I laugh easily.  I feel lonely at times.  I don’t know if I particularly like this “feeling so much” me.  But, I have noticed that it has made me think of others more.  I’m not as critical as I have been in the past.  I forgive and allow for mistakes in me and others when I have always been hard on myself and others in the past.  Maybe this is a good thing.  I’m beginning to realize I will never be perfect and I can’t expect others to be perfect.  Without God’s help, I would actually be nothing!!  I’ve always known that but now I feel it!!

Maybe that is what this season is all about.…tenderizing….marinating….a time when the seasoning that comes from life’s experiences is finally getting into my spirit and making me full of flavor so God can use me more than ever before.  You know….”salt of the earth”.  Marinating takes time and tenderizing has to be beaten into you. I guess it depends on how tough your piece of meat is. God knows how much we need.

When I first arrived here in Lincoln my 7-year-old granddaughter gave me a card she had made just for me.  The front of the card read:  To: Nana   From: Tori.  She had drawn a picture of earth with a moon and stars.  When I opened up the card it read…..You will do one big thing.  She had a picture of me with a helmet on and the moon.  Of course it made me cry and laugh.  (The thought of me going to the moon made me laugh!)

The Rev. Billy Graham died this week at the age of 99 and we were all reminded that our lives will count if we just do what God asks of us and no more.  THAT ONE BIG THING!