Grateful For the Hard Times

Have you learned how to have a heart of gratitude? According to researchers, there are specific things you can do daily to cultivate a grateful heart. Some are obvious. Some not so obvious. But all are oh, so important.

Like learning to recognize God’s presence in everything. And by everything, I mean EVERY THING. The good, the bad and the ugly. No matter what, you have never walked alone.

Think back. Look for it. You’ll see.

A few years ago, my son was in the hospital for brain mapping for his seizures. I was there with him for a week, because they needed a family member familiar with his seizures to press a button every time one happened. Little or big. I loved getting to know my young adult son on this intimate level. We talked, we laughed. When he had visitors, I’d step away for a break. For the most part, we were captive room mates. It was a strangely enjoyable time.

We had spent family time with my older brother just a few days before entering the hospital, and he had promised to visit Chris that week. It was quite a drive, so nearly every day I would leave him a message describing the traffic, say I knew he had to get up so early for work, and he should wait until the weekend to come visit. All was well.

Except it wasn’t. When my brother didn’t show up to visit Chris by Friday evening, I called him several times. No answer. I called his neighbor, who said the car was in the driveway, but lights were out in the house. I called my nephew, a police officer, to ask what I should do. He immediately drove there, and looking through the window, could see my brother lying on his bed. He was gone.

I know what you’re thinking: WHAT could possibly be good about this situation? How can you be thankful for your brother being found lifeless in his bed?

Clearly, I’m not thankful for the death of my brother. What I am thankful for is the orchestration of all the surrounding events:

* God chose to call my brother Home in the gentlest of ways. He simply took a nap after work, and didn’t wake up. I’m grateful.

* I was helplessly locked in to a commitment of being in the hospital with my son. If I hadn’t been there, I would have driven out to my brother’s house and I would have found him. I’m grateful to be spared from that.

* My nephew is a police officer in the adjoining city and when he called the dispatcher, he knew her. He knew the protocol of what to do in this situation and said to me, “Tami, God arranged for this to happen when I could take care of it for you.” I’m grateful for him and his good heart.

* Officers arrived & they had a common ground with my nephew. When they looked through the house and found no evidence of foul play or suicide, they reported it as such and the mortuary was called to pick up my brother, and not the coroner. This never happens in Los Angeles county. I’m grateful.

There is more, but I think you get the picture. As I think back on that night, I see God’s handwriting all over the situation, and I am grateful.

Since then, I’ve entering into times of beautiful blessing as well as hardship. I see God’s hand in that, as well. And I am grateful.

So very grateful.

Look at your life. Think back. Take some time to see how God connected the dots in your helpless and even hopeless situations. Never once, did you ever walk alone.

I hope you’ll see.

There is so much to be grateful for.

The Master Artist is Weaving a Beautiful Work

A friend and I were talking the other day about how we can always look back and see how God was working, but when we are in the midst of things we rarely see the tapestry he is weaving from our life events. And then, we started telling the stories until we were laughing at God’s creativity.

Connecting the dots is God’s specialty. He truly does want to work all things together for our good.

How many times have you looked back on a series of events and noticed that what you thought were random connections was actually a calculated step by step route to the end result? I do this often, and I am always amazed.

Try it sometime – start tracing a recent outcome backwards – you will see the finger of God drawing the lines between all the connections for as far as you can see. For example, this week I have the privilege of being the live backstage announcer for a very big conference here in California called The California Women’s Conference. I am overwhelmed to see my name on the speaker’s page for such a big event, because I know the likelihood of an opportunity like this coming to me is so very small. But I also know that none of this happened by chance.

When I trace backwards from this week’s event, it looks something like this:

Exciting 2 days and lots of work being the live announcer for the biggest conference for women business owners in California << Signed contract to be announcer for CWC  << Email sent just a month ago, with my proposal to be the announcer << Again, God told me to send an email to Michelle about this <<Let several months go by, decided I shouldn’t do it << pitched Michelle Patterson my offer to be the announcer, she immediately said yes << felt God whisper to me “tell her you will be the announcer for this conference ” << attended several events for Women Network << volunteered to be on Advisory Board for the conference << introduced to Michelle Patterson (CEO of Women Network) by friend Kristi << Kristi invited me to local Chamber of Commerce events << joined my Chamber of Commerce at the suggestion of new friend Kristi << met a new friend named Kristi at a market party for my Nerium business << became a Nerium brand partner and began attending events to learn more << researched this new idea of starting a business with Nerium << a friend suggested I’d like some of the products he is using & the company he is with << saw something from a new friend on Facebook that made me want to know more << joined a group called Dreamers and Builders & made new friends << answered a call to adventure by an author I follow and admire << Etc. Etc.

Honestly, I can go even further back in this sequence to why I joined Facebook in the first place, and on and on. My huge opportunity to be the announcer at such a big event was not randomly generated. It was woven by God through connections I’ve made in the past several years. In the midst of that was his voice prompting me when to take action. In the future I will look back at other events and be able to trace them back to this very week and the people I will meet as a result of attending and announcing for this conference.

NONE of it is random, although it ALWAYS seems that way at the time. When I look at the hand of God and what He is bringing into my life, I can do this exercise over and over again – always with the same outcome: the realization that GOD IS WORKING ALL THINGS TOGETHER FOR MY GOOD.

It’s an exercise in remembering the faithfulness of God.

Even when all the events in a sequence are not happy ones. Yes, even then. Perhaps especially then.

Even when we interrupt the artists hands and try to do it ourselves. Yes, even then. When we are ready to give the tools back to Him, God gently corrects our messy mistakes, although he doesn’t cover them up. They become part of the fabric of our lives. He weaves his colorful threads in between those places to make it beautiful again.

Take some time this week to draft a list of connected events & people you’ve met and I’m sure you’ll be overcome with the same awe and wonder.

It’s a beautiful, beautiful tapestry He is weaving of your life. I hope you will be able to step back from time to time and see it coming together.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NASB)

Are you Delighted?

delight [dih-lahyt]

1. a high degree of pleasure or enjoyment; joy; rapture: 2. something that gives great pleasure:

When is the last time you were delighted? Reread the definition above and really think about that for a minute. Unfortunately it’s an emotion that may be in short supply lately.  It’s an emotion I truly didn’t enjoy very often until a toddler started calling me grandma.

There is nothing like having a little person in your life who brings joy and wonder. His enthusiasm for EVERYTHING is over the top.

And he DELIGHTS me.

“Watch dis, gramma!” “Gramma, let me show you!” “I wuv you, gramma.”

Such music to my ears.

Every time I find such joy in my little guy, God gently reminds me that he feels the same way about me. And I am amazed.

“For the Lord takes delight in his people;
    he crowns the humble with victory.” Psalm 149:4

“the Lord delights in those who fear him,
    who put their hope in his unfailing love.” Psalm 147:11

“The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

Rejoice over you with singing! Oh! Doesn’t that make your heart just sing?

Let’s take it a step further: If we also delight in Him, God says He will give us the desires of our hearts! What?

Just this morning, I was playing with my grandson Luca & things got really silly. Doing something as simple as throwing a ball back and forth had us in giggling fits. We were delighting in each other. And you know what? There is no desire of his heart I would withhold from him when such delight is going on.

“Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

God desires that two-way relationship with us. When we take delight in Him, it makes His heart sing and burst with joy. Remember, He actually rejoices over us with singing! imagine yourself as a child with a daddy who is so in love with you that he delights in every little thing you do!

Father and daughter laughing and bonding

Our lives are so filled with trouble and angst that I know it’s hard to think about taking delight in anything some days. But what if we did? Find the smallest thing to start with, and see it with new eyes. Begin to change your outlook. Take delight in God, and He will take even more delight in you. Don’t miss out on walking in that kind of freedom…

And see what happens to your life.

Am I God’s Friend?

I was captivated by her story as she told me how God was her playmate as a child.

An only child, my friend Karen says, ” I didn’t have an imaginary friend as a little girl. I just talked to God all day long.” She smiled joyfully as she recounted days in the back yard of her family home, playing by herself. Only she wasn’t by herself. She was talking to God, her constant companion, about anything and everything.

Photo: AdobeStock - Used with Permission

Photo: AdobeStock – Used with Permission

I was amazed. You see, Karen didn’t have the benefit of attending Sunday school or church with her parents like I did.  She was left to her own devices in the spiritual realm at that young age. And yet, she KNEW God was close. He had called her by name. And she had listened. Her childlike faith allowed her to converse with the God of the universe like he was her best friend.

Because he was.

It makes me wonder – how many times had God called my name, even as a young girl, and I didn’t have ears to hear? My friend’s life-long ability to speak directly to God like he’s right there in the room with her is something I didn’t learn until much later in life, in spite of growing up in a pastor’s home.

Have you tried it? If you listen, he is calling your name. He wants you to know him. He wants you to talk to him. Like he’s right there in the room.

Because He is.

 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 18:3

The Walking Wounded

I can’t remember another time in my life when so many people around me are living in a constant state of pain. It’s debilitating. Yes, we can say it’s a choice to react to adversity by accepting the pain. And yes, we can choose joy… but we are human and we are tender and we are WOUNDED.

Our loved ones are in trouble, and we ache for their freedom.

Flags are flying perpetually at half staff these days, in response to the horror of the rash of terrorist attacks on innocent people. We cringe at the news of a new attack almost daily, and we mourn with those who’ve lost loved ones. The air is electric with emotion right now, and it is spilling over into our everyday lives.

The news shows images of death daily. Even if it’s not directly affecting us or someone dear, we still absorb the intensity of a world in mourning. So many in the mainstream population of the world right now are walking through their days in a state of uncertainty. They are traumatized, they are burdened, and they are afraid. A perpetual state of being the walking wounded.

There are days I feel like we are all living in a surreal movie setting. It’s as if reality has been suspended and this horrible new sequence of events has ushered in a new era of fear.

I’ve heard about the last days my whole life. Read depictions of it in books like the Left Behind series, marveled at how movies about the future were always so dark and depressing. And now, here we are in a moment of reality that rivals those fictional depictions. Today, I actually had the thought that I’m fearful of the future my grandson will be facing.

Should I be surprised? I’m not a theologian, and am certainly not here to discuss the biblical evidence of what to look for. That’s what we have Strong’s Concordance and Google for. But it goes without saying that there are some signs we can’t avoid.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.  

2 Timothy 3:1-5

Yes, all those who are brutal and abusive have left in their wake a people who are shell-shocked and hurting, and need to know that Jesus was wounded even as they are wounded. He sent the Holy Spirit to comfort us in our pain, and bring us hope.

Remembering the promises in Psalms made me lift up my face to the heavens and thank God for today. In spite of everything going on, we do have hope. And perhaps those of us who are able to carry more hope than others are tasked with the job of lifting up those who are still the walking wounded.

Photo: AdobeStock

Photo: AdobeStock

For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.  Psalm 37:9

 

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.

Psalm 62:5

 

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:11

 

but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

What Legacy Will You Leave?

LEGACY.

I’ve honestly not given that word much thought, nor have I had any use for it. Deep down I knew my own mother left us a legacy. She will be remembered for her love of people, her fun-loving nature, her laugh, and of course her sermons, which God has used to change the lives of thousands, even several generations.

I guess I just didn’t think I would have the opportunity to leave a legacy. I was wrong.

How we treat people on this earth leaves a lasting imprint into eternity. Yes, what we do here matters.

Being content to sit in the corner and watch the world go by doesn’t seem to be an option. God wants more. He wants action. Action brings change. Change brings renewal. And renewal creates a legacy that reaches across generations with stories and memories. Many people think of an earthly inheritance when they hear the word legacy, but it is so much more than that.

Hand writing the text: Whats Your Legacy?

I have a little grandson who is almost 2 years old. The idea of a legacy did not hit me until recently, when God began asking me to step out of my comfort zone, and take action where I previously had been complacent. Little Luca’s face is ever before me now, as I ponder what kind of a world will I leave for him?

I heard a sermon recently that illustrated how a life of legacy looks, using the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. (Daniel 6:1-23) Go ahead and read it, then ask yourself: What are the qualities of someone who leaves a legacy?

  •  When it comes to leaving a legacy, God looks for men and women of character.  In verse 3 of this story we see that Daniel had distinguished himself among the administrators by his exceptional qualities. Daniel lived a life of excellence, even though he was living in exile and was a visitor. I’d say this would be the ultimate illustration of how to Bloom Where You Are Planted, am I right?
  • When it comes to leaving a legacy, God looks for men and women of conviction. Verse 10 of this story tells us that when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home and prayed beside a window opened toward Jerusalem three times a day anyway. Daniel knew the penalty was death for praying to any other god or human besides King Darius. He did it anyway. That’s conviction.

“Daniel knew that the lion’s den of conviction is a far safer place than the royal palace of compromise” Pastor Chuck Olson

 

  • When it comes to leaving a legacy, God looks for men and women of confidence. And, I might add, not confidence in themselves. We hear a lot to talk about self-confidence, but what if we operated in God-confidence instead? Surely we could move mountains. Daniel faced death, but he went about his day doing what he believed in without concern for the consequences. I’m sure he knew the bogus decree was specifically intended to trap him. He could have whined about how unfair life is. He could have begged the king for mercy and asked for a special dispensation to disobey the law. He was very close to the king, after all. What Daniel had was an unwavering faith in God even when life’s circumstances don’t make sense. Verse 23 tells us that when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 

Don’t you want that kind of unwavering Character, Conviction, and Confidence? That’s what I’m talking about. A legacy of money is fine, but what people will talk about for generations is how you made a difference in this world.

What will be your legacy?

We Don’t Fight this War Alone

I can hear them coming. World War II era airplanes fly over our house on approach to the local municipal airport for the annual Memorial Day air show. It’s a great display of patriotism, but I get a catch in my throat every year as I think of what it must’ve been like to hear that sound during a time of war.

Imagine the tension of being set on edge by the drone of approaching engines. 

Friend or foe? It wasn’t always evident. 

War is an impossible realm of uncertainty and danger. Now our ability to see what’s going on around the world at a moment’s notice gives us a glimpse into the horrors of war. Can you imagine what it was like to feel isolated from the world when communication was cut off?

This morning God used the sound of those airplanes to remind me of another war that is waging. The constant tension of battles in the spiritual realm requires a diligent heart, always ready to fight. But unlike those in wartime who heard the planes approaching and were helpless in their defense of the outcome, we do not sit helpless.


Have you felt blindsided by the enemy lately? Even if you saw the attack coming, were you unprepared for the intensity of the battle? Were you left feeling hopeless? Helplessly wandering in the rubble that was left after the dust cleared?


We have all been there. I have been there, and I know how easy it is to think I am alone in the fight. Like any good warrior, though, I took inventory of my strategy and found this:

“But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the Lord will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” Isaiah‬ ‭52:12‬ ‭NIV

And this:

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus‬ ‭14:14‬ ‭NIV‬‬ 

Aaaand this:

“But be assured today that the Lord your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out and annihilate them quickly, as the Lord has promised you.” Deuteronomy‬ ‭9:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The battle, no not just the battle, the entire WAR belongs to the Lord. He will fight for you, and he will prepare you for battle when he wants you to fight alongside him.  This promise I know to be true: God will never leave us to fight this enemy alone.

Never. Never. Never.

Enjoying God, the Artist

I’m in Yosemite National Park this week. Or church, as I like to call it.

Yosemite Valley – Photo by Tami Romani

Isn’t it amazing how we feel closer to God when we are in His majestic creation? I hear this a lot from my friends, “being at the ocean is so calming to me,” and “when I’m in the mountains I feel like I’m being restored” – these are common themes in conversations lately. A friend told me the other day, “The reason people feel closest to God in nature is because nature is not trying to be anything other than what God created it to be.”

God’s creation isn’t trying to show off. It doesn’t need to. God created it to be what it is – an expression of His handiwork. We could learn a lot from God’s beautiful creation.

In his hand are the depths of the earth,
    and the mountain peaks belong to him.
 The sea is his, for he made it,
    and his hands formed the dry land.

Psalm 95:4-5

My yearly pilgrimage to Yosemite has become a necessity. It fills me up & gets me ready to tackle the rest of the year. The serenity of a bike ride whenever I want, the reading a book just because, the laughing and lingering with friends over a morning cup of coffee without a meeting to rush off to… these are the things that make being in this place extra special.

Yosemite Bike Path - Photo by Tami Romani

Yosemite Bike Path – Photo by Tami Romani

Not only is it wonderful to be away from the busyness of life sometimes, there’s an awe that takes over when I’m in such a place. I’m reminded that in the mundane of my life, there is majesty all around if I take the time to experience it. I believe it’s no accident there is very limited cell phone service and excruciatingly slow internet in the few places you can pick up a signal here. This place is meant for unplugging. And if you won’t do it on your own, it’s kind of forced upon you. It’s a good kind of coercion. For if I don’t worship Him in the midst of His glorious artwork, the rocks will surely cry out.

Yosemite Falls - Photo by Tami Romani

Yosemite Falls – Photo by Tami Romani

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
    let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
    let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.

Psalm 96:11-12

But you don’t have to trek to your nearest National Park to find this kind of peace. Sit outside during your next lunch break and listen to the birds sing their melody. When the sun begins to set, turn off your electronics and watch the miracle of the dance as the light fades from the sky.

What Yosemite reminds me of every year, is the importance of being in God’s presence in the moment. It’s kind of a shame that I need this reminder, but I am so very grateful it’s there.

Give Voice to Change

I love springtime. It brings the promise of new life and change. At any given moment, the new songs of birds and vibrant colors of budding flowers saturate the senses. I was granted life in springtime, which may be why I love it so much.

Seasons come and go in life. Like the coming of spring, a new season has been brewing in me for awhile now and just when I’m reaching the age when many women slow down, I’m feeling a desire to ramp things up.

Life. Isn’t it funny? Change is inevitable, and we can either embrace it, or fight it. We can grow with it, or stunt our growth by kicking and screaming our way to oblivion. Okay, that might be a bit dramatic. Think about it, though… don’t you know that person who just wants to quit on life? To just sit and vegetate for the rest of his or her days? I do.

But that’s not me. And if you’re reading this, I suspect that’s not you either.

We know we need to change and grow. It’s a strong desire we think about. A lot. What I’ve found though, is a chasm of disconnect between the knowing and the doing. I know I need to lose a few pounds. I know I need to organize my life. I know I need to allow for some down time to relax and recharge. But do I DO it? Nope. Not whole-heartedly, anyway.

It’s nice to think about changing myself. I envision what it would be like to be my ideal (for me) weight and shop for clothes without disgust. I think about how efficient I would be if my office was tidy. I love the idea of how much my mind would be cleared if I got rid of some of the clutter in my home. I fantasize about taking a day off to play with my grandson without feeling like I have a ton of things that need to be accomplished.

A month later, I’m still thinking. There is no doing. And in all of this thinking and not doing, I’ve learned something very important: I have to speak the change I want to happen. It must have a voice. Thinking about it to myself gets me absolutely nowhere. Goals and visions for my future must be written down and spoken to allow for my  brain to actually get it, and begin moving towards the changes I seek. I need to speak to Jesus about all of it, and ask him for direction.

Jesus said, “The thief enters only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.” (John 10:10)

Maybe your life is busy but not full. Does that make sense? Jesus promised a full life. Actually, He promised the fullest life, but we so often choose to just think about it and not take the action he requires for that to happen.

Okay, so let’s make a deal: I’m in if you are. I turned 57 years old yesterday and I’ve got big dreams and plans that I believe have been planted in me by God himself. We’re talking BIG, setting captives free kind of dreams. Even so, nothing will happen unless I take the leap of giving a voice to those things that must change in order to reach those dreams. I’d like a fuller life, but there’s some stuff in the way. How about we work together on voicing change to a fuller life?

That sounds pretty good.

I just had a birthday and it’s time for a change. I’m giving it a voice. You can follow along on my personal blog, Voicing Change. Let’s do this!

voicing change - 1200x900

The Choice

There’s something about waiting for an appliance repairman to show up that has me feeling captive. I spent the better part of the day today wondering exactly when during the 10am to 2pm window he would arrive. He finally called at 1:55 informing me he’d be there in about a half hour. Oh well. Day lost. Or was it?

Usually, I spend this time frustrated that I can’t leave the house, or trying not to start something big because I may have to run to answer the door. There was plenty to do. Laundry & the ever present tidying up beckoned for my attention. But today I heard a still, small voice inviting me to quiet myself and spend the time in Bible study and prayer. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I struggle with calming myself long enough to hear from God. With 3 business ventures to pursue, I am BUSY. But you know what? Today was different. Today was good. So good.

“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord.” Psalm 89:15

It’s so easy to forget that God longs to spend time with us. There’s nothing he’d love more than to have us seek his presence in our lives. In this journey towards more intimacy with God, I’m learning that sometimes he boldly provides that time and waits to see if we will use it to pursue a deeper relationship with him. It’s still our choice.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2

Today, I had a few hours of what could have been limbo, but instead I made the choice for spending time with Jesus & the rest of my day has gone well. There’s a peace in knowing God is in control and he’s got my back. A cup of coffee, a good Bible study book and some quiet time while chatting about the future and handing over the reigns for my business and family needs is so refreshing.

I highly recommend it.

Books and a coffee cup on a wooden table