Feeling Insignificant?

I’m just one in a million. Who cares about my point of view? I just plug along day after day like the billions before me, and have nothing original to say.

Do you ever feel this way?

I do. I struggle with the fact that I am literally one of billions of humans in the history of mankind, yet God created me to be unique. This seems contradictory.

You are, literally, just one of billions of other humans that have walked, walk or will walk the earth. However, there is NO ONE else exactly like you. You are genetically made like none other, EVER. You also have a unique Spirit which has been fostered in a unique set of circumstances. This means your perspective is one of a kind.

DNA-strand

You are created in the Image of God, in His Likeness. He is Creative, therefore we all have the capacity to create. Your life itself is art. Art is: the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination.

I am learning to shut out the critics and negative voices within and without. What I have to say is valuable, first to God my Creator, and then to me. I learn something every time I create. Every time I snap a photo. Every time I write. Every time I interact with a stranger. Beyond that, if someone else appreciates what I say or create, it is just icing on the cake.

I must stop seeking to please others, constantly wondering what “they” will think of my life/art/writing/creation. If God is pleased and I have grown, that is all the purpose it needs. Our society values others’ opinions too highly.

My challenge to myself and to you is to stop giving credence to the “critics” and to listen to what God says about us. His voice is the one that matters most. Sure, we should have checks and balances, and there are healthy ways of achieving this. However, if your life and your art lines up with Scripture, and your unique soul is connected with your Creator as you live your life, then you are on track my friend.

I also challenge us to stop being so critical of others. Allow others to uniquely create as God has inspired them. Encourage and uplift.

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.
Aristotle

Psalm 139: 13-16 says:
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

Take heart. Know you are special and that your insight into this life is unique and meant to be shared. Be empowered and strengthened by the fact that God your Creator designed you just as you are. The rest of us need to see and hear and feel what you create. Be bold and share it. You were created to do so.

Just Keep Swimming

I think most of us have seen the movie “Finding Nemo” when the character Dori sings “just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” In the movie “Finding Dori” we learn why she sings that song. She is a small young fish and sings the song with her parents when she is learning how to swim and she continues to sing the song when she is facing her fears.

We all have fears that we must face. Whether we are a small fish, a child, or an adult, we all have fears. “If you don’t look at fear as your enemy it will one day defeat you” (Havilah Cunningham). You are either driven by fear, or overtaken by fear. What will it be for you? If you let fear defeat you, you will not grow or become the person God made you to be. You can either step forward into growth or step back into safety. What will it be for you?

There is a spirit of fear that wants to dominate everything in you. It is Satan’s way of stopping you from doing the powerful things God created you to do. Will you let him stop you? Will you let him win? What happens when you face fear? What if? What would you become? You will not know unless you do it, unless you take action. It will not be easy. Facing what you are afraid of is NOT easy, but you will never know who you could be or what life has for you if you don’t.

I was asked why I go on so many trips, and do so many activities and adventures. And my answer is this, there is so much on this earth to experience and so many places to go, why not try to do as much as possible?! I said yes to an 11 month Christian mission trip to 11 different countries. I was scared. I was afraid. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I did it anyway and I am here to tell you I do not regret going one bit! I am so happy I was obedient to God. I grew in ways I would have never if I didn’t step out of my comfort zone and face my fears.

Our job is to be obedient and say yes to the opportunity in front of us even if it scares us. There is anointing that comes when you obey God. And when we obey the supernatural will happen. And I experienced just that. God gave me an anointing over my life and I experienced miracles, and went on many adventures.

I have run and finished a half marathon, completed a triathlon, hiked Half Dome in Yosemite, training now to hike Mount Whitney (the tallest peak in the continental America), went shark cage diving, laid with tigers, rode an elephant, went on a safari. I’m not saying this to brag of all the things I’ve done. This is a result of saying yes to an opportunity, facing fears and going for it. I accepted the challenge of training, of leaving the country for a year and in return I was able to do all this and more! 

Are you going to “just keep swimming” or are you going to let fear defeat you? It’s up to you.

finding-dori

PERFECT STRENGTH

The long-anticipated Rio Summer Olympics are on TV right now. Since I had a little foot surgery a few days ago and have to keep my leg elevated, I am watching hours of swimming, gymnastics, volleyball, et cetera. I am always amazed at how far the human body can be pushed to its physical limits.

I have never been an athletic person like my daughter, sister and niece are, but I appreciate and marvel at what our bodies are capable of. The mental and physical strength it takes for some athletes to continue to break world records year after year is amazing to me!

All of this world-wide competition is great, and it is exciting to watch, but there is a strength offered to us by our Creator that goes beyond the physical. It is His strength that gets us through the daily hardship of living.

You may have experienced a difficult time in your life when you had to completely depend on the promises of God to get you through. And….there are many scriptures that promise the undergirding of our loving and compassionate God.

Paul writes that he does not boast in his strength but in God’s alone. II Corinthians 12: 7-10 “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR YOU, FOR MY STRENGTH IS MADE PERFECT IN WEAKNESS. Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distress, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Then how do we become strong enough to run the race of our lives in order to win the best prize……eternal life with Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior?

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the WHOLE ARMOR OF GOD that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Ephesians 6

Please take time to read and re-read Ephesians 6 to give you the strength you need for each day! Don’t give up….keep on keeping on! God will give you the strength as you need it for each day.

Blessed Are The Flexible

In honor of Mother’s Day, coming up this Sunday, I thought I’d share this post.

My Mom says this to me often (and she tells me that her Mom said it to her),
“Blessed are the flexible, for they will bend and not break.”

I have wasted too much effort in my lifetime being fixated on things I could not control. As in all other areas, being flexible and unbreakable is for me a work in progress.

There are several things that happen in life that we have no control over. Two examples are: weather and getting sick – at the most inopportune times!

Have you ever planned an outdoor party, or even a wedding, and then it rained and stormed so badly that you couldn’t have it? You had to have a plan B somewhere inside? We can plan all we want to, and we are supposed to make a plan, but we can only work with the factors given us when the moment comes. We have to choose to see the good in it and believe it’s for the best.

I actually had a trip planned to Florida at the end of January to see my Mom and my Aunt Tami who was going to visit from California. I don’t get to see either of them as often as I’d like. I had been planning this trip for months!

Then, a trifecta of uncontrollable circumstances occurred at the same time that prevented me from taking this trip. My car broke down a few days prior requiring me to make rental car reservations. Then, I caught a bad cold the week leading up to the trip. I can’t remember when I was that sick! And finally, wouldn’t you know that we got an ice and snow storm in Charlotte the day before I was to drive! Ice is very treacherous when driving, and Charlotte basically shut down. Not only was I ill, but I could not get anyone to pick me up to take me to the rental car place, and even crazier, the rental car place closed due to inclement weather. When does that even happen? And all at the same time? I was so frustrated.

I actually got forced to decide not to go on the trip and forfeited my time with my Mom and Aunt all together. It took all I had to buck up and be flexible, believing that there must be a reason for this change of plan.

All these were things that were out of my control. There are many things in life that happen that way, and there is absolutely nothing we can do but resolve to learn a lesson and be flexible with our plans. God’s plan does not conform to ours! Try as we may, we are only human and cannot control all the factors in our lives. The example I gave was mild – we all face major circumstances in this human life that require us to be flexible. We must be so that we can be strong. The strength comes in the ability to bend, not in being so rigid that we can snap.

I am not known for being a very flexible person, but I continue to grow in this area the older I get. Fortunately for me, I have role models in this skill! My Grandmother was a very calm and flexible woman – she always believed that God knew what was best and rather than being irritated or rigid, she would “roll with life” and be open to where God was taking her moment by moment. My Mom has exhibited this skill, and continues to remind me to be flexible and teachable with her words and with her actions.

Grandma, Tami and Mom on Mother's Day 2007

Grandma, Tami and Mom on Mother’s Day 2007

So, on this Mother’s Day – I thank you Mom and Grandma for the wisdom you have bestowed upon me. It may be taking me a long time to grasp it, but you instilled it inside me! And here’s a shout-out to a great Mom, my Aunt Tami, and my very flexible and unbreakable cousin Nikki! Oh how I wish I could have mastered this skill as early as you have! You all inspire me daily! XOXO

As Your Day, So Shall Your Strength Be

Some days are easier than others.

Some days you feel great, the sun is shining, everyone seems to smile at you, you get paid, no bills come in the mail, you get your workout in, make a delicious dinner, and everyone does their “homework” and gets to bed. Nothing major happens.

Some days a huge, unexpected wrench is thrown into the mix, and your life story takes a turn. This happens to all of us – it is to be human. We receive a bit of bad news, or we have to deliver difficult news to another. Our schedule gets thrown off, we may exist in a state of shock for a day, or more, depending on the severity.

Some days come with an event or moment that has been planned and anticipated. There may be a huge buildup, and much preparation, sweat and tears put in to that day. These days are planned, but any number of variables may occur once the time comes. This still causes stress and requires poise and strength.

Such is life. We bring some of our “storms” upon ourselves…. and others just come because we live in an imperfect world.

Fortunately for us, God promises, even with the self-imposed circumstances, that He will never leave nor forsake us. Whether we are suffering through the consequences of our own actions, the natural valleys of life, or difficulties other people have imposed upon us, GOD WILL NEVER FAIL US.

Part of His promise is that we will have the strength we need for whatever we must face.

“May your bolts be made of iron and bronze, and may your strength be sufficient for each day you live.” (ISV)

“On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul.” (NASB)

My dear Grandmother was born on January 15, 1919 and Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929 just ten years later. These are two of the people I have most admired, and their words of wisdom have always topped my list of words to live by. We all just celebrated Mr. King’s life and contribution to our world this week. Imagine the days he faced, and the strength he needed to be so courageous and change the world. God gave him the strength he needed for each day. What an example of power and light even amidst great struggle.

I’ll conclude with a few words from a sermon titled “Weariness” that my Grandmother Gladys Johnson preached in the late 1980s:

“As your day, so shall your strength be. You may find peace in the Lord even amidst the bad day. He only gives us what we can bear. We can have joyful days regardless of circumstance. Use the Lord’s instruction and resources to have peace, strength and victory.”

Me with my Grandma on her 90th

Me with my Grandma on her 90th

Amen. And so, as you face what each day brings, may you always turn to Him, hold your head high, and draw on the strength that He gives to conquer what comes your way.

Run the Race…..

The Olympic Games have always fascinated me to the point that I work my daily schedule around watching the athletes compete on TV!

It is amazing to me, a non-athletic person, to see to what extent the human body can be pushed to excel. The twists and turns, the landings, the strength, the determination of the athletes is honorable.

Sometimes the one expected to do well, or break an Olympic record, doesn’t get a medal at all.

There are heartbreaking stories, and happy ending stories.

You know, it’s just the same for the spiritual race we are in. Sometimes we reach the pinnacle of faith and miracles happen. Other times we fall down and become so bruised it takes times to heal.

We are just human after all!

God knows our weakness and strength, and gives us encouragement from His Word to not give up.

Maybe, if we’re too damaged by life’s falls, we need a friend to pick us up and help us along while we’re limping.

Be encouraged today if you’re in the limping stage of this life’s race to not give up. Sometimes healing takes time, and you need the time to heal from the inside out. Band-aids only cover up the real, deep need.

Running feet

Remember to ask for help as you are getting stronger. Next time you will be the stronger one to pick up another runner!!!

Together we will make it to the goal. We will finish the race and receive the prize!

What a day that will be!!!

I Corinthians 9:24-25 NIV
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
(also read Hebrews 12)

Power Up! ! !

We all know what it’s like.  

Your phone dies – right in the middle of some important event while you’re snapping photos, or when you really need to make a call or check a message!

Now you search for an outlet. And if you don’t have your charger with you, you frantically ask everyone within earshot if they have the same charger you need.  

Once found, you are literally attached to that outlet if you want to use your phone. You have to let it recharge before you can be mobile once more.  

As I pondered this thought over the weekend, I related it to our spiritual lives.  

God is the source of our strength. He is the outlet into whom we must connect. His Word and time with Him are how we recharge our souls. This is where we as believers gain peace, perspective and power.  

My cousin Nikki and I were recently speaking about the way we “recharge.” We realized that people are different in that some recharge when they are alone, and others recharge by being with like-minded loved ones. But, whether you prefer alone time or time with others to gain back your strength when you are depleted, the truth remains that your “charge” can only come from The Source, God Himself.  

All of this made me realize two truths. 

If your battery drains, your device is worthless until you can plug it in to recharge it. 

If you leave your device plugged into the outlet constantly, you can’t take it with you.  

Photo by Kristin Coke

Photo by Kristin Coke

The same is true for us.  

If we run ourselves ragged and never take the time to recharge from The Source, we are basically no good to anyone. We have no energy or power left to put into service, our loved ones, or ourselves. We are depleted. Even if our days are filled to the rim with “good” activities, if we don’t take that time for ourselves to refill, we will eventually shut down.  

I think a lot of people fall into this category. Eventually they reach a breaking point. 

I also believe that some Christians spend so much time inside a church building, and only surrounding themselves with people just like them, that they live in a bubble and perhaps become just as useless as the ones who run ragged with no charge at all. These are the people who never unplug from the wall and never get out into the world that God called us to love.!

The challenge:

To find the best, most efficient and complete way for YOU to recharge. 

Absolute quiet? Reading the Word? Listening to music? Find what works best for you and make time for it. 

Then, remember to unplug and get out into the world to share your God-given power, passion and peace.  

Don’t be like the device that dies with no way to recharge, OR the device that remains in one place attached to the wall! 

POWER UP! 

1 Peter 4:11
If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

 

CORE Strength

996, 997, 998, 999 and 1000. Ahhh… done with my crunches.

LOLOL. Maybe within the year.

I am not the most consistent person when it comes to my workouts. I tend to focus on my extremities and get slack when it comes to strengthening my core. Plus, I get so distracted with daily life stuff that I easily fall in and out of cycles when it comes to my health.

This is the time of the year in Charlotte when all the yard work kicks into high gear. I have quite a large bit of property, so there is much to be done – and it never ends. On top of that there is the maintenance of the house and all that entails. Some days I just don’t get around to my workout.

Sure, I am getting exercise when I work in the yard. But, I keep telling myself if the only workout I have time for is some work on my core, that is what I need to do. Consistently.

A few days ago I did hours of lifting and moving and chopping and trimming… suddenly, the next day I had this terrible pain. I thought surely I had managed to get a hernia. I had never felt that type of pain. It was hard to walk, sit down, lie down, get up…. everything I did HURT. I became aware of just how much my core meant to me! How much it supports every movement I make.

I was grateful when Doc said NO HERNIA. However, if I had been faithful to do my crunches and core work every day, I probably would not have injured myself during all that activity. Focusing on my core rather than arms and legs would have prevented me from taking two days to rest with minimal physical activity.

killer-abs

CORE is defined as: the central or most important part of something; inmost part; essence (fundamental nature or quality)

We know our bodies need a strong core to be healthy. We have a core curriculum in school. The core of an apple contains the seeds and the structure for the entire fruit.

You get the picture.

This all relates to our spirituality as well. We can piddle around all day with details and this and that, and read a verse here and do a good deed there. But, just as with our physical bodies, our total strength is only as good as the strength of our core.

My Pastor once made the point that Jesus should not be at the top of our list of priorities. If your lists are anything like mine, I don’t necessarily cross them off in order. I may have a high priority task listed below a low priority task. Pastor’s point was that Jesus should be at the CORE of everything we do. That means He is central to everything else. All other things in our life will be supported by that core, and if that core is strong, we will be strong too.

This is how it should be with our relationship with our Lord. If we focus on our core relationship with him, then the relationships we have with others and to the rest of the world will become stronger automatically.  Jesus Himself will become the supporting structure around which the rest of your life grows and strengthens.

“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In Me you have everything you need, both for this life and for the life yet to come. Don’t let the impact of the world shatter your thinking or draw you away from focusing on Me. The ultimate challenge is to keep fixing your eyes on Me, no matter what is going on around you. When I am central in your thinking, you are able to view circumstances from My perspective.”
Sarah Young from Jesus Calling

Now… I’m off to talk with my friend Jesus while I do some core strengthening. How about you?