Gift Ideas - Handmade and Other

Monday, December 30, 2013

Handmade Gifts - Week Four

I hope that everyone had a lovely Christmas!! I had a quiet time with loved ones and enjoyed it very much.

Recently someone asked if I make handmade gifts for others. The answer is yes! In fact, this is the first year in many years that I didn't make any handmade gifts for Christmas . . . although I baked more cookies than I know what to do with! :)

Today I thought I would share with you a few of the gifts I have made with love and care over the years . . .

A plastic bag holder for my teddy bear collector mom.

A "Busy Book" for a young nephew.

A lap quilt and matching pillows as a wedding gift for a dear friend and her new groom.

A matching towel and dishcloth set.

A "Puppy Book" (much like a baby book only for a dog) for a 9 year old who had just received his much hoped and prayed for puppy.

A blanket to welcome a precious new life into our family!

How about you? Do you like to craft? 
What gifts have you made for others?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Handmade Gifts - Week Three

Christmas is now just one short week away. I am dashing to and fro with not one, but multiple to do lists that all seem too long. But in the midst of this hustle and bustle I want to pause for a moment and remember a few more handmade treasures that grace my home and the beloved people who made them for me.

The first is a handmade, prayer shrug. A few years ago our pastor's wife initiated a prayer shawl ministry at our church. Women from our church joined together to knit or crochet prayer shawls, lap blankets, baby blankets, scarves, hats and prayer shrugs to be given to people in times of difficulty and heartache. When this couple left our church about a year ago, Mrs. Pastor (as she was sometimes affectionately known) gave me a beautiful prayer shrug that she had crocheted. I often wear it on cool mornings while I am having my quiet time. I appreciate the beauty of the gift and the meaning behind it, and even more the prayers that I know this dear woman and her husband have prayed for me in the past and continue to pray for me still.

Another friend made me several painted items that I enjoy and appreciate. One is a wall-hanging with the verse "Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you" inscribed on it surrounded by cheerful flowers. The second is a heart shaped box, painted a cream color with a lovely floral design on the top. And last but not least is a little friend that comes out at this time of year and stays around until spring - a fun snowman that keeps me company and brightens my day through the long winter days.

Do you have homemade decorations that grace your home?
What are they like? Who made them for you?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Handmade Gifts - Week Two

I have been blessed to be part of a creative and talented family who throughout my lifetime has blessed me with many meaningful hand crafted gifts.

A few years ago, one of my sisters made me a decorative pillow. I love the colors she chose and the labor of love that went into designing and crafting it.

When I was a young child, my oldest sister made me two heirloom gifts. One year she made a wardrobe for my Barbie. She made a wedding dress, an evening gown, a matching dress and cape, she even knitted tiny sweaters, skirts, and stockings for her. There were pants, skirts, blouses, and dresses in this finely crafted wardrobe. I loved to dress my Barbie in these clothes and they were an inspiration to me to make other clothes for my doll myself.

A few years later my parents bought me my last baby doll. Again my oldest sister went to her sewing machine, pulled out her crochet hook and made a wardrobe for my doll. There were dresses, pajamas, play suits, and a crocheted ripple baby blanket for me to dress Abigail for any imaginable occasion. All beautifully handcrafted.

When my parents house burned a few years ago, both of these wardrobes were in storage at their house. I was very relieved to find them undamaged in their tote among the debris.

My mother too handcrafted many things for me over the years. She made many of my clothes and I remember looking forward to a new dress at Easter and Christmas, to new clothes each year for school, and the delight of choosing patterns and fabrics for those clothes. Just a few years ago, she finished a project that she had been working on for some time - a Hobby Holly Applique patchwork quilt.

Perhaps another day I will share about the ceramic and woodworking projects my family has blessed me with. So very thankful for these gifts of time, love, and creativity!!!

Do you have special gifts crafted for you by parents or siblings? 
What special ideas have they come up with to bless you?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Reflect

On Fridays Lisa Jo Baker invites people from around the world to link up for Five Minute Friday where we write unfettered and unedited for five minutes. The words flow from our minds and hearts through our fingertips to the keyboard and we WRITE. On this the last Five Minute Friday of 2013 before we take a break for the month of December, the prompt is "REFLECT".

Ready . . . set . . . write . . .

On this last Five Minute Friday of 2013, it is just the right time to reflect back on the year that is coming to a close.
My key word this year has been "emerging". The year 2012 was filled with tumult, loss, and profound grief. More tears were shed in 2012 that I thought I had within me to shed. As I reflect back on 2013, it has truly been about emerging from the pain to find peace even where there is no resolution or reconciliation. Emerging from conflict to stability and from loss to hope.

For some time I have had one word that seems to capture a year, to summarize its general direction. What will be my key word for 2014? Ummm . . . I don't know yet. Freedom . . . Choosing Life . . . these are themes that have emerged in 2013 and seem to hold portent for the future. I am not yet sure. I will reflect more on this in the coming weeks . . .

How about you? What word would you use to describe 2013?
What word do you hope will describe 2014?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Handmade Gifts - Week One

I love handmade gifts, especially ones that have a special significance. During this month when so much of our focus is on gifts, each Wednesday I want to share with you some meaningful handmade gifts that have been given to me over the years.

In my living room, I have three beautiful cross-stitch wall hangings made for me by a dear friend. All of them are special and meaningful, yet of the three this is my favorite - a sampler of "A Virtuous Woman" from Proverbs 31. Not only was this a labor of love - there is so much detail in this sampler - but it came with wonderful words of encouragement.

My friend has a rare understanding of and love for her single friends. When she gave me this treasure, she explained that she wanted me to know that she saw me as a Proverbs 31 woman. In her eyes having a husband was not necessary to be a virtuous women, a woman who honors the Lord. Her words of encouragement meant a great deal to me and every time I see this work of art, I am reminded of her love and encouragement.

Another dear friend created a lovely friendship wall hanging. Using a greeting card and my favorite colors, she chose a lovely picture with a saying about friends. Then she framed it with a pink mat (pink is my favorite color), a wooden frame, added embellishments in the corners and a beautiful reminder of our friendship was created.

This picture hangs over my bed where I am regularly reminded of this dear friend and the way she has walked through life with me, even when she is many miles away

On March 2, 2009 I received news of the unthinkable. My parents house was on fire. The house my father and brother had built. The house my mother had lovingly decorated. The house that had been my home more than any other was on fire.

By the time the firemen put the fire out, there was little left to salvage. The insurance company declared it a total loss. This was a grave loss to my parents in their mid-eighties and to me as well.

A couple of years ago, one of my nieces painted a picture of that house for me. It is in my living room and the first picture I see when I enter the room. Seeing it there comforts me time and time again.

As I look around my home, I am reminded of dear friends and family members who have expended their time and energy to share their love for me with me. I cherish these handmade works of art and the people who made them for me.

Do you have a homemade gift that has a special meaning to you? 
I invite you to share your story about it.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I am Grateful for . . . Photographs

As I look around my home and around my workplace, I am thankful for photographs.

Photographs remind me of people who have been part of my life, people who have added value and sweetness to my life.

Photographs remind me of special events - places I've visited; sights I've seen; adventures I've had; celebrations of birthdays, holidays, baptisms, weddings, showers, new babies . . . the special moments of life.

Photographs remind me of special animals that I have loved and enjoyed.

Photographs also remind me of beautiful places.

I am thankful for photographs!

What is your favorite photo? 
Why is it your favorite?

Monday, November 25, 2013

When the "To Do" List is Way too Long
Laundry is in piles. The Mom Taxi is working overtime traveling in a myriad of directions. Bills are waiting to be paid. Dishes. Meal preparation. House cleaning. A demanding career. A spouse and children who have needs to be met. Friends you value and want to see, yet the calendar is so full. Saying that little two letter word ("no") is so hard. Aging parents that need you. A never ending list of things to do.

The plates are spinning. The juggler is juggling. Any moment this fine tuned juggling act might come crashing to the ground . . . because the reality is, you can only keep up this level of activity for so long before things start to fall apart.

What can we do to keep it from all falling apart?

Remember the Airplane Oxygen Mask Lesson. You know that movie the flight attendants show at the beginning of every flight, the one that tells you a bunch of stuff you hope you never really need to know. On one flight I was traveling with a young child. When they asked the question, "What do you do when the oxygen mask drops?" My immediate response was, "Help the young child put hers on." I was initially appalled when they said, "Put on your own mask first."

"Isn't that selfish?" I thought. But then I realized that if I encountered a difficulty putting her mask on her and I didn't have my own on and I became unconscious, she would be in serious trouble. At that moment I grasped in a way that I never had before the importance of self-care. When we don't take care of ourselves, when our emotional and physical resources are depleted, we cannot care for those we love most. Self-care is very important to our overall well-being and to those we love.

Evaluate priorities. When dealing with a schedule that is overfull and a to do list that is too long, prioritizing helps to weed out what is keeping you from living a balanced, healthy life. Take some time to evaluate your priorities in life. What do you value most? Limit the number of things that you place on this list. I recommend keeping it to 3 or 4 things.

A few years ago, I had 4 things on my list of priorities (relationship with God/self-care, family and close friends, work, and a ministry). If someone asked me to do something, I ran it through this rubric and if it didn't fit, I had to say "no". Although I was busy, I was also focused, purposeful, and largely balanced. Some time later, I changed jobs and found myself trying to find my way to new ministries. Without my earlier rubric, I found it much harder to choose what to say "yes" or "no" to. My priorities had become much more fuzzy and it was harder to determine which things to do and not to do. Life felt much more scattered and out of control. Having a defined set of priorities to evaluate opportunities makes it easier to identify and say "no" to things that don't fit.

Practice saying "No." Although this tiny two letter word slips out of our mouths when we are two with amazing ease and frequency, somehow as we grow older it becomes harder and harder to say. Sometimes we need to practice saying it.

Practice it in the mirror. Practice it with a friend. Practice it in the car. Practice saying it to your children's toys. Say . . .

No with attitude.
No with charm.
No simply and straightforwardly.
No with a gracious explanation.

No can be said in many ways, but in the end, it needs to be said and to be held to firmly, because most people will take advantage of you if you let them. Practice saying "no" until you can say it comfortably to others because it frees you from commitments you can't afford to make.

When your schedule seems overwhelming,
what do you do to bring it under control?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Freedom to FLY
Chains . . . bars . . . painful memories hold us a prisoner to the past, but we can FLY to Freedom. When the past and it's difficulties hold us captive, there is a way to release the chains, throw open the bars and soar in Freedom.

Forgive. People have hurt us. People have done wrong to us. Things have happened, unforgiveable things have been done. Forgive. Forgiving does not say that what they did was okay, only that we will not seek revenge, only that we will not let it hold us captive any longer.

Let go. The past can wrap us up in bitterness. Let go. Rather than hold a grudge, let it go. Rather than rehearse the bad things done, let it go. Rather than nurse our right to revenge, let it go as an act of forgiveness.

Yield. Yield to the Savior who has paid for the sin of those who've hurt us and for our sin. Yield our well-being to Him and allow Him to bring us into freedom, into a place where there is something new, something beautiful. Yield to the peace and joy and love He longs to give us.

FLY - Forgive - Let Go - Yield
And FLY to Freedom

Five Minute Friday . . . 5 minutes of unfettered writing . . . every Friday morning at 12:01 a.m. with Lisa Jo Baker. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I am Grateful for . . . Authors who have Touched My Life

When I was in second grade, my teacher read the book Heidi to my class. I can still see the classroom and her standing at the front of the room, a blackboard behind her, a wall of windows looking out toward the grassy front lawn on her right. Her students sitting at desks lined up in neat rows. Daily she took us into the world of the Swiss Alps where the goats climbed high up to the meadows and Peter had to chase them, back at the cabin the Grandfather made his goat cheese, and the fir trees sang in the wind. I loved the characters and I wanted to be able to read that book again . . . and again . . . and again. Suddenly I was motivated to read a "big" book and I worked hard to be able to read Heidi all by myself. It took several months, but at last I could read it for myself and I haven't stopped reading since.

I am grateful for books and for the authors who have written them.

Authors who have entertained me:

  • Lilian Jackson Braun who wrote The Cat Who . . .  series. I was introduced to this series by a co-worker back in the early nineties and from the beginning fell in love with Qwill, Koko and Yum-Yum and their extraordinary exploits.  
  • Margaret Truman who wrote the Capital Murder series. The same person who introduced me to Ko-Ko and Yum-Yum also suggested I would like Margaret Truman's books and indeed I did.
  • Although a children's author, I didn't meet Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables until I was well into adulthood, but her books quickly became favorites to read time and again.
Authors who have taught me: 
  • Larry Crabb who is a Christian counselor and author of many books on counseling. His books were required reading in my counseling courses in college. Now I pick them up because of the impact his words have had on me and the value they hold to me.
  • Another set of Christian counselors whose books have helped to shape and form my thinking are Henry Cloud and John Townsend. From Boundaries to Safe People to Necessary Endings I have found advice and insights that have not only impacted my thinking but my relationships as well.
Authors who have both taught and entertained me:
  • Nineteenth century writer George MacDonald has entertained me with stories of the Scottish highlands with his strong characters like Wee Sir Gibbie, Malcolm, and my favorite Robert Falconer. At the same time the theology that he weaves through every story has given me cause to pause and evaluate my own understanding of God.
  • An avid fan and student of MacDonald's works, C.S. Lewis is another that has entertained me with stories of Narnia and outer space and in his storytelling given me a different perspective of God. One of my favorite quotes is from the Chronicles of Narnia: The question is asked "Is Aslan safe?" and the response given, "No, but He is good."
  • Last, but certainly not least is contemporary author Lynn Austin. The first time I heard of Lynn I was on a missions trip in Belize and one of the women on the team was lying on her bed in the afternoon reading a book. She mentioned that her aunt had just had this book published. I must confess I was a little skeptic since I didn't think I knew anyone related to a published author, but I was wrong. I knew an entire family related to her. Eventually someone loaned me one of her books and now I eagerly read her books each chance I get. She too is a gifted storyteller whose characters teach lessons of living a life of faith.
What about you? 
What authors have impacted your life through entertainment, teaching, or inspiration?

Note: I was not paid in any way for these recommendations. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

When News of the Unthinkable Comes
There are moments when the thing that you know happens, but hope beyond hope never happens to you does happen. The State Police knock on the door with the news of the sudden, untimely death of a loved one. Your doctor speaks the words you never want to hear . . . a diagnosis of a terminal illness . . . an unborn child has a birth defect that will affect all of his or her life . . . a loved one only has a short time to live . . . a diagnosis of a chronic illness that will affect your day to day life. A boss says, "I'm sorry, but today is your last day. We're downsizing and we're eliminating your position." An employer calls you into her office and says the terrifying words, "Your home is on fire."

The unthinkable has happened.

What do we do in the midst of the shock . . . the pain . . . the grief? When the world feels like it is spinning wildly out of control and suddenly nothing makes sense, what do we do? How do we respond?

Know that the shock, pain, overwhelming sadness, anger, and disorientation are normal. Many times we associate grief only with the passing of someone we love, however the feelings connected with grief can apply to many situations. Events that do not involve a physical death are sometimes labeled a death event because there is a death of a relationship, a job, a home, a dream, or physical well-being. The stages (or waves as I prefer to call them, because they often come in waves) of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance - apply to both a literal death and a death event. These feelings are normal - uncomfortable and difficult, but normal.

Give yourself grace and protect yourself. It is normal to be overwhelmed and fragile in the aftermath of unthinkable news. Allow yourself to feel the emotions that come your way and to express them in ways that will not cause yourself or others harm. Writing your feelings in a journal; crying; engaging in physical activity; talking to a friend, pastor, or counselor; or listening to music are positive ways to express our emotion. When waves of anger or depression come, it is easy to allow yourself to slide into a danger zone. At times like this, getting behind the wheel of a car, being alone with weapons that can cause you harm are dangerous and it is important that you protect yourself from releasing your anger or depression in a way that can harm you. If you feel overwhelmingly sad or angry reach out for help - call a friend or a local crisis hotline for help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255.

 Seek safe places and safe people. Not all people will be safe. Even well-meaning people may not be safe for you as you process what has happened. Find those people and those places where you will be loved, where people will be sensitive to your needs, where you will be sheltered from unsafe people. Look for people who will accept you where you are, help you process what's happening to you, and who are willing to help keep you safe (even from yourself if need be). If you do not have these people in your life, a local support group or faith community may be able to provide these safe people.

Cling to the God of all comfort. In the midst of grief, God is with us. He is there to comfort, strengthen, and support. He even understands if we are angry with Him. He does not promise to take away all the difficulties and pain we face in a broken world, but He does promise to give us the strength to make it through them.

If you have faced a time when unthinkable news has come, 
what did you do to help yourself through that time?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Tree . . . the one with the rope swing

Here we are on yet another early Friday morning, meeting with one another to write for five minutes, on one topic, little editing, no planning, just writing. Thank you Lisa Jo for hosting this party week after week and for inspiring us to write.

Ready . . . set . . . write . . .

When I saw the prompt many trees came to mind: the tree with the rope swing, the tree of Calvary, the row of graceful, ancient maples that arched over the country road in front of my childhood home, the apple tree out back that I loved to climb. As a child who grew up in the country and had a father who ran a sawmill, trees were a treasured part of my life. But the prompt said, tree . . . singular, so I will choose one tree. The tree with the rope swing.

In our yard, in front of a large, 1800's farmhouse stood a beautiful maple tree with a branch that was perfect for a rope swing with a wooden seat. I loved that swing and that tree. As a child I would spend part of many a day swinging on that swing, my legs pumping, leaning back my arms extended, and then pulling forward to gain momentum. Swinging high, looking up at the leaves high over my head.

Sweet memories of a beloved tree . . . and of the man who tended that swing and made sure it was safe and ready for me to use . . . my dad.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I Am Grateful for . . . My Dakota

In November of 2007, I prayed a prayer asking God to bring me a cat. A few days later, I walked into youth group and one of our students excitedly told me that at the end of youth group her mother was bringing her new litter of kittens for all of us to see. Her cat had given birth to four kittens. She could not keep them and needed to find homes for them when they were ready to leave their mama.

Ummm . . . answer to prayer?

Four tiny kittens arrived at the end of youth group. One could fit in the palm of my small hand. One black and white kitten was in the litter. One mewling, helpless, tiny ball of black and white fur. I carefully picked him up and held him against my chest. He was quiet, content. I fell in love.

The last weekend in November, I drove to the student's house and picked up my little bundle of fur.

While I waited for him to be old enough to leave his mama, I searched for just the right name for him. I was going through a period of transition and I wanted his name to have meaning as well as fit him. My search led me to a word that in it's native language means "friend." I hoped he would be a dear companion to me in a season of change. I called him Dakota.

He has been with me six years now. He is full of personality and at times makes me laugh until I cry, at times cry out in pain when he displays his ninja skills, and at times he comforts me with his loving presence.

I am very grateful for my little friend Dakota.

How has an animal in your life given you cause to be grateful?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Truth

On Fridays at 12:01 a.m. Lisa Jo Baker posts a one word prompt and people all over the world pause, then or sometime later, and write for 5 minutes on that one topic. Little editing, just us and our keyboards and our thoughts writing for 5 minutes. Ready? Set? Write.

Truth. Do we speak truth? Do we live truth? How often do the half-truths, the white lies, the things we say that we don't mean creep into our conversations?

I value truth. I seek to speak accurately and truthfully. Sometimes I struggle, though. I want to tell the truth and I don't want to hurt someone's feelings. I want to tell the truth and I don't want to get into a big messy conflict. I find myself conflicted, seeking to say the right thing, the truthful thing, the gentle thing, the diplomatic thing. Sometimes it's not easy to find just the right truthful words.

How do you handle those conflicted moments of speaking the truth when it is risky?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

I am Grateful for . . . My Nieces and Nephews

I have enjoyed being called "Aunt Dar" since I was eight years old. Being an aunt has been was of the greatest joys of my life.

My eighteen nieces and nephews came in various shapes and sizes and each one has their own distinct personality, gifts and abilities. Even though there are two sets of identical twins among them, there are none that are exactly alike. Among them are home inspectors, medical records experts, moms, dads, photographers, writers, artists, truck drivers, exterminators, pharmacy techs, architects, farmers, mechanics, students, and police officers.

When they were young I enjoyed swimming with them; planning treasure hunts and scavenger hunts for them; going on hikes, taking pictures, watching movies, playing games with them. I enjoyed their laughter and was saddened by their tears.
Now that they are older, I enjoy catching up with them when we see each other. I am delighted to get to know their children and to see these new little ones growing up. (Some are grown. My oldest great-nephew graduated from Marine boot camp recently. So proud of him!)

Earlier this year one of my sisters visited with three of her daughters. It was a special occasion. Her youngest daughter was pregnant with her first child, my sister's first grandchild. We were having a shower. What a pleasure to be in the same room with my sisters, their daughters and granddaughters as we celebrated the soon coming of this little one.

At one point as we were together in the days before the shower, I walked into the living room and all three sisters were curled up in a corner of a couch writing in their journals. I journal. Their mother journals. My grandmother, their great-grandmother, kept a diary until a stroke took away her ability to write. My heart was warmed and delighted to see this legacy passed on from one generation to another.

I am grateful for each and every niece and nephew that God has given me and for the new ones that are their children.

What about your family has brought you joy and pleasure?

Dear Nieces and Nephews, 
Sorry I was unable to include a picture of each of you. 
I ran out of room and pictures that seemed "right" for this post. 
Love you all!
Aunt Dar

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Shepherd Knows

Friday night Sheila Walsh took center stage at the Women of Faith Conference and talked about God's love for broken people. One story that she told touched me deeply.

She had been admitted to the psyche ward of a hospital with severe clinical depression. She didn't get in bed that first night. She took the blanket off the bed, wrapped herself in it, and sat on the floor in the corner of the room. Early in the morning (around 3 or 4 a.m.) she heard someone enter the room. She thought it was someone doing a routine check as they had been since she had arrived. However, this person walked into the room and came toward her until he was standing before her with his toes touching hers. He handed her a stuffed lamb like one you would give a child. He turned and walked toward the door. He stopped as he was about to leave and said to her, "The Shepherd knows where to find you."

I cried.

His words to her were exactly what I needed to hear.

When she said, "The Shepherd knows where to find you," snippets from my past flashed through my mind . . . the story of "The Little Lost Lamb" from a favorite childhood storybook . . . The Parable of the Lost Sheep from Luke 15 . . .  The Good Shepherd of John 10 . . . how the Good Shepherd knows His sheep. The last few weeks have been stressful and I have been feeling overwhelmed, alone, and lost in some big decisions that need to be made. I have been feeling like the little lost sheep. When she said, "The Shepherd knows where to find you," an overwhelming sense of the presence of God and His profound love flooded over me.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Grace

On Fridays we gather to write about one word for 5 minutes . . .

Ready . . . set . . . write. . .

I remember sitting in a room with two other people. Two of us had failed. We had failed each other. We had failed those we loved. We had failed God. We had failed. The third person in the room who could have been harsh and exacting, showed grace. He met us with love and grace and instead of punishing or making us feel like failures, he showed us grace. He encouraged us. He gave us hope.

He said, "Give this time and one day perhaps you will be an example of God's grace." I clung to those hope giving words and I learned a great lesson of what it meant to have grace extended to me. That human extension of grace gave me a greater understanding of what God's grace is like . . . a gift we don't deserve, but that He gives anyway.

As the old hymn says, "wonderful, marvelous, matchless grace, freely bestowed on all who believe . . . "


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Day 30: 31 Days Wrap-up

Dear Reader Friends,
Thank you for joining me on this 31 Day trek through my personal Pivot Points. I have enjoyed your visits and comments through this journey.

For me this has been an excursion through my past, through experiences, lessons, moments of sorrow, and of joy. Over the course of my life, each of these have changed who I am, each have been a step in the journey of transformation. The exciting thing is that the adventure continues. God persists with great patience and love to sand off my rough edges (though, I must confess, sometimes that hurts) and to shape and mold me into what He desires me to be.

I'd like to close this series with a key element of transformation - a renewed mind (changed thinking) through the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

The beginning each step of transformation in my life, has been a change in thinking. God has brought me to a place where I have changed what I think about God, how I think, my value, my boundaries, authenticity, grief, relationships, and emotions.

1. What I think about God. I have learned to trust that God is good. His moral character is pure, righteous, holy. There is nothing in Him that is evil or bad and He cannot do anything that is evil, bad, or wrong. If He were even a tiny bit evil, He would not be trustworthy. However, I can trust a God who is good, even when I don't understand.

2. What I think about how I think. Lies must be replaced with truth, if I am to be able to steer a correct course. What I believe affects what I feel and how I act. Even a slight error in thinking can lead me off-course. Additionally, perspectives are as varied as the people who hold them, but God's perspective is true and right in the whirling cacophony of public opinion. The thoughts I allow to occupy my mind and the perspective I approach them with are equally important.

3. What I think about my value. I am loved . . . even when I don't FEEL it. I am created in God's image and that gives me and every human being inherent value. Knowing that I am a valuable person helps me to approach others with confidence and also with love. Knowing that I am valuable also empowers me to serve God as He made me and not try to be someone else.

4. What I think about my boundaries. Boundaries are important to defining who I am and to maintaining healthy self care. Good boundaries allow me to engage in healthy, satisfying relationships without losing myself in the process.

5. What I think about authenticity. Authenticity doesn't mean that I have to spill my yuck all over others. It means I guard my heart to keep it pure as "the wellspring of life". If my heart is what it should be, my actions will follow.

6. What I think about grief. Grief comes into all of our lives, it is unavoidable. It is painful . . . hard . . . and difficult! But, there is a path through grief and a path that can lead to hope, health, and fullness of life once more. Finding meaning in life again is possible.

7. What I think about relationships. Relationships are given by God and they are very important to our well-being. The one thing in all of creation that God declared "not good" was Adam's aloneness. We have been designed to live in relationship, yet many times those relationships become unhealthy and damaging. They don't have to stay that way. We don't have to stay in unhealthy relationships and we can learn how to connect with people in fulfilling and healthy ways.

8. What I think about emotions. Emotions are wonderful - they let us know we are alive. Emotions are confusing and sometimes overwhelming. Emotions tell us what is happening in our inner being. Our emotions can be managed and channeled to help us live more fully, to discern our inner spiritual health, and to connect more fully with God.

Over and over God has changed how I think - through experiences; through conversations with people; through great books; through prayer, Scripture and the Holy Spirit. Each change in my thinking has led to a change in how I approach life. The thinking changed, the feelings changed, and eventually the actions changed.
In the coming days, I hope to expand on these themes and I invite you to join me in this exciting, ongoing adventure of transformation.

What have been keys to transformation in your life? 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Day 30: Pruning

"Define what you are shooting for,
and then prune against that standard.
That is when vision, goals, and even teams
begin to take the shape that you desire."
~ Henry Cloud, Necessary Endings

Pruning . . . God prunes away what is good but not best, what is sick and not getting better, and what is dead. 

Pruning can apply to an organization, to relationships, and to communication. God has pruned my ministries, my relationships, and an organization I am part of. God prunes so that we can produce more fruit. What is the fruit God wants to produce? 

Pruning leads to having enough, to having what is needed, what is used, what is best . . . but no more.

Are there things that need to be pruned from your life 
so that you can see what is best, not merely what is good?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Day 29: Changed Thinking

Do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed
by the renewal of your mind,
that by testing you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and acceptable and perfect. 
Romans 12:2 (ESV)

"by the renewal of your mind"

I have come to equate this with "changing the way you think." Changing the way you think may be changing what you think about (content) or it may be changing how you think about certain things (perspective).

Over the years I have had to redirect my thoughts many times. I have a tendency to be critical and negative especially about myself and I have had to become aware of times when my thoughts were leading me in a downward spiral. I learned I could control and change those thoughts and I learned how crucial that is to my emotional and mental well-being.

Thinking about things differently is important. One aspect of this is replacing lies with truth. This is thinking about things in a radically different way. This is identifying beliefs that you hold, perhaps deeply, that are in reality lies, then tearing down those lies and replacing them with truth. Finally turning toward that truth and living in accordance to it.

Another aspect of thinking differently comes from exposure to other perspectives whether through reading, hearing, or conversation and bringing with you an openness to be influenced by new data and input. It requires a willingness to hold one's own perspective loosely and to accept another's point of view with an open, yet evaluating, mind, taking what is good and leaving behind what is not.

Renewing of the mind leads to new ways of behaving and feeling, and is profoundly important to the process of transformation.

What has been the ripple effect of changing the way you think about something?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Day 28: Dependent on God and Connected to People

Dependent = unable to exist or function satisfactorily without the aid of another
Connect = to join, link, or unite

First of all, it seems like we hear a lot of terms bounced around - dependence, co-dependence, interdependence, and independence. In our culture independence is valued and dependency is equated with weakness. But what is God's view of this whole thing?

This is my theory. Infants are born totally dependent on their parents, unable to do anything for themselves. As parents (or other significant adults in their lives) our goal is to teach children to live independent lives . . . or so the view of the world goes. I would agree that we are to teach them to live in a way that is not dependent on people, however we need to train them to shift their dependence to God. We are not to live independently, for much of what is part of independence is also at the root of sin. We are to live depending on God and connected to people.

What do I mean by that? We are to live in complete dependence on God. We trust God to meet our needs - emotional, physical, spiritual, relational, intellectual. We trust God and God alone, not our spouse, not a good friend, not our family, not our pets or church or coworkers. God may use each and everyone of those people and that's great, that's good, that's WONDERFUL!! But at the core of who we are, our trust, our dependence must be on God not on those people. If any of those people or things are taken away, we must know that God will continue to meet our needs. God will continue to care for us. That's the dependence part.

Yet, we are to be CONNECTED to people. God created us to connect and be part of relationships with people. He said it was not good for man to be alone. The Bible is full of relationships and instructions about relationships and how to love others, how to have great relationships with others. Relationships are very important and God made us in such a way that we have the capacity and find great joy and fulfillment in having deep, intimate relationships with other human beings. That is good. Our DEPENDENCE must remain on God. Even in the deepest, most intimate of relationships our dependence must be on God, so that if that relationship is taken away through death or other separation, we are still able to go on, we are still whole people. Hurt, wounded, grieving, yes, but still whole, still healthy, still able to go on.

The difficulty comes when we look at the gift instead of the Gift Giver, when we shift our focus away from God as the Meeter of Needs, to a person or group of people, to money, to position, to anything other than God. This is easy to do because God is intangible to our 5 senses and human beings and possessions are tangible and often readily available. Despite the fact that it is a normal human response and an easy trap to fall into, it is a trap.

God alone will walk beside us through every trial. God alone will endure consistently and faithfully in our lives until death and beyond. Human beings will fall and fail and falter. God will not. God is the only one on whom we can depend.

Yet, God commands us to enter into relationships with human beings. So the answer cannot be to shut ourselves off from people. There is a way to connect deeply with people, even to enter into the one-flesh relationship of marriage and still be dependent only on God.

The solution is two-fold. One half of the solution is our relationship with God, the other half is our relationship with people.

Our relationship with God must be the number one priority in our life. He has to be first. He has to be the first place we run. We have to recognize and acknowledge Him (continually) as the Meeter of our Need and run to Him to do that. We have to put the time and energy into our relationship with Him that's required to keep that relationship strong, healthy, and dynamic. We have to surrender ourselves to Him, let go of our pride, our rights, our desires, our everything and deliberately choose to be DEPENDENT on Him in everything and for everything.

In our relationships with people we need to be what one author calls "differentiated but close". The key to developing this kind of relationship is personal boundaries. When boundaries are vague, a person's individual identity is lost. This is not good. It leads to people living reactively to the other person's emotions. Because one or both people's well-being is influenced by the other's emotions, mechanisms to control the other's emotions develop. The opposite is also true. When boundaries are rigid and communication is severed the relationship becomes distant and cut off.

The "differentiated but close" relationship is the balance in the middle. Each person in the relationship has boundaries, but they are permeable enough to allow for free flowing communication (and that communication exists). They are able to be together without anxiety or emotional entanglement. They have a mutually supportive relationship while maintaining their own identities. They are able to have intimacy without control or dependence. Each person is comfortable with who they are and comfortable with who the other person is (or at least able to accept who the other person is and let them be who they are).

the "differentiated but close" model for relationships is the balance that God desires for relationships, for connections with people, even in the most intimate relationships. Only in that model can people have truly fulfilling, intimate, healthy, and connected relationships with other people. There is no dependence on people, just connection, love, and support. Meanwhile, we choose to DEPEND on God and God alone to meet our needs, while we connect with people.