Monday, August 14, 2017

The Good Seed

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

This year I decided to try my hand at planting a deck garden. After selecting deep, large pots and planters, I chose my favorite vegetable and herb seeds to plant. Basil and tomato, parsley and pea, cucumber and cilantro. Those and more were, carefully, placed in the soil and the waiting began.

A couple days went by and nothing. Then a couple weeks passed with no evidence that seeds had even been planted. You can tell that I'm a patient person.

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that if the seeds were meant to produce, they would. Until then, I knew that the right soil had been used and that each pot and planter was being watered, accordingly.

As you can see from the photo above, the seeds not only took root and started to grow, but they each produced a harvest of delightful and delectable eats. I was quite impressed with the outcome and, lately, have been wondering that if I were a seed to be planted, what would I grow to be?

Would I become a mighty tree, strong with deep roots, facing every difficulty in my life with determination? Or would I grow into a beautiful and fragrant rose bush, emitting my greatest fragrance when crushed by inclement circumstances? Perhaps a whimsical and delicate daisy?

Whatever the harvest, I would want to be a seed that brings a bountiful and overflowing harvest of goodness, compassion, and empathy. A strong, determined, and courageous manifestation that others could benefit from.

That when picked and used, could leave an imprint or fragrance in that person's life, if only for a short time. So, am I just one kind of plant or a cornucopia of herbs, flowers, and trees?

Depending on the situation and the things that life throws my way, I might have to take on a form of continual metamorphosis. That when life gets hard, I am the mighty and determined oak tree.

That I am the protective and loving rose when a friend needs healing and encouraging words in their time of pain. That I am that easy going daisy, fun and carefree, when someone needs a laugh after a long and discouraging week.

While the type of seed doesn't necessarily matter, the soil does. It is the soil that will determine the seed's rate of growth and its ultimate multiplication into a harvest that could feed many.

The same stands for each of us. To be a source of 'food' for others, our hearts have to be tilled and worked so that each seed planted in us can produce an incredible bounty (joy, laughter, encouragement, etc.), to be enjoyed by others.

Encouragement for the week:

If you were a seed to be planted, what would you become? A grumpy recluse or a loving extrovert?

We each hold seeds in our hearts that, if properly nurtured, can be of benefit to everyone around us.

If you are a Christian, you know how important it is to have good soil in your heart to plant strong and worthwhile life seeds that will grow to benefit others. Take care of that soil.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find Him and all the good seed you will need to grow a great harvest of goodness in your life.






Monday, August 7, 2017

Imagine

"In that day the LORD will whistle for flies from the distant streams of 
Egypt and for bees from the land of Assyria." - Isaiah 7:18

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

Growing up, I used to imagine all kinds of things. As a kid, it was that I would be a police officer, superhero, fire fighter, or farmer. As a teenager, I imagined being popular in school, attractive to boys, and smarter than my sister. While I knew these three teenage and hormonal driven dreams were far fetched, there was something hopeful in imagining them to be possible.

Now, imagine the impossible - walking after a spinal cord injury when the doctors said you would never walk again; conceiving after years of infertility; a second, clear ultrasound that, weeks before, showed cancer; being homeless, involved in a serious accident that takes one of your legs, then receiving a prosthetic leg for free.

Each scenario above has a living, breathing person on the other end of the impossibility. Each person experienced the miraculous come from their impossible situation that they never would have dreamed of going through. I knew these persons, some directly and some indirectly, as they faced their harsh reality. I couldn't help but long to know how their negative became a positive.

Was it a change of attitude? A fuelled determination to never give up on themselves or their situation? A believing faith? I believe all three played a part and that there is something powerful in the mind, and heart, that can imagine the impossible and dream, what appears to be, the unreachable dream, no matter how ridiculous.

Do we really know for sure that imagining something can't become real? Albert Einstein once said, "Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere." Imagination is what put man on the moon and the first motor vehicle on the road. Imagination is what fuels possibility and fulfills big dreams. It's seeing success in the face of, apparent, failure.

To imagine is to dream. A concept I have been extremely hesitant to exercise for a long time. Okay, that's not quite accurate...I have been scared to do because the dreams I had for my life years ago have just seemed to fizzle out. Even though I had incredible convictions about the validity of those dreams and imagining them coming to fruition.

Thankfully, I had an opportunity to do something different this past weekend that encouraged me to imagine the impossible again. To muster the courage to dream in big ways and tell my heart that it is, in fact, okay to do so. That without imagining and dreaming, life will drone on without much excitement or anticipation. I want to be excited about life and all the possibilities that exist when I allow myself to imagine.

At my age and stage of life, there really is nothing preventing me from seeking out and doing those things that once seemed impossible. Of course, this is all within reason and having a good dollup of common sense and wisdom along with. At the end of the day, I am still realistic about what I can and cannot do while relying on God to help me along the way.

For me, Jesus is the reason I have the hope that I do. He is the reason I dreamed big before and how I, recently, came to be encouraged to do it again. He does that. He knows what is in my heart and how much I really want to not only imagine the impossible but, also, live out the impossible. To hold nothing back and be excited about what could be. 

I want to imagine myself married, as far fetched as that might be. I want to imagine doing incredible things for God, even though I don't quite know what that looks like or what form it might take. I want to be completely open to any thing at any time, anywhere. To poke the imagination bear out of hibernation.

Now, it's your turn. If you were to imagine your impossible...what would it be? What big dream have you stopped dreaming? Would you be willing to walk through your fear and disappointment in order to imagine again? I bet there is still something inside of you who has held on to your dreams, even if it is by the tiniest corner, with the edges of your finger nails.

Grab hold of the dreams and let your imagination soar. It's time.

Encouragement for the week:

Imagine the impossible. Go ahead. The impossible happens all the time and your impossible is of no exception.

Allow yourself to dream. Don't let your imagination slip away and fall to the ground because it can take you everywhere!

If you are a Christian, it is the power to imagine the impossible that believing faith fulfills. God tells us in His Word to imagine (Ephesians 3:20) because He promises to do even more than what we ask or imagine.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find Him and experience the great promises and power behind God's Word, God's heart for you, and His desire that you imagine the impossible.

Monday, July 31, 2017

I Don't Know

"This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." - Psalm 118:24

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

I don't know. When seen separately, these three words are short, simple, and unassuming. When strung together in a statement, as above, they pack a punch bringing frustration, turmoil, and discouragement. Not the kinds of feelings you want to experience, even on a good day.

Lately, it seems that my answer to many of life's questions have comprised of these exact words. Sometimes said passively, other times aggressively, this vague yet confusing reply has leapt out when pondering my own life direction. There is nothing more irritating than not knowing something, especially when it has to do with your life course.

However, there was a break in the monotony of the unknown, one break. It came about four months after I got laid off from my job and was struggling with what came next. It came when I asked myself a question, one key life question that I, surprisingly, answered with confidence and excitement - What is your passion?

Writing. I love to write. It may have taken over 43 years to get to the place where I could, happily and solidly, answer this question but I got here and am hoping it can be something that not only creates value for others but also becomes a source of income. That is my goal and I know it's going to take a lot of hard work and perseverance to get there but I'm willing to put in the effort instead of having regrets or wondering 'what if?'

Writing enables me to become distracted from the plethora of things that remain unanswered. There is always a cringe factor that exists when I'm talking to someone about the deep things of life. Plans, purpose, direction, goals. These are the things that I can't answer completely. I want to, but the answer hasn't yet arrived.

There is no certainty when being asked, "Where do you want to be in a year? Three years? Five years? What is your purpose? Where would you move if you had to? In what direction do you feel your life heading? Where would you like a job?"

You'd think that at my age, ideas and plans would be flying out of my head and onto paper. Nope. I struggle to come up with the most basic of solutions when it comes to an introspective look at life. It seems that things keep happening around me and for other people instead of anything real happening to or for me. Am I being naive to expect that things should be happening or am I exactly where I'm supposed to be, doing exactly what I'm supposed to do, and trusting completely for the course to change if it's meant to?

While there may not be the profound and well thought out answers to life's toughest and most tugged over questions, I can say for certain that there is peace amidst the confusion. Each morning, when I sit by the window, look out at the surroundings, and seek answers, there is a deep, immovable peace. That has to count for something, right?

The fact that I don't have all the answers to my own life questions might make me normal or it could appear indecisive. Whatever it may seem to be, while I don't know the answers today, I might know them tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year. I can't always be in a hurry to know. Sometimes it's good for life to be a lengthy ballet, with the appropriate leg stretches and bathroom breaks along the way.

I want to make the right decisions, at the right time, in the right way. I want to be confident and excited about my answers, especially to the deep and profound life questions. Even though I don't know many things regarding my life direction, doesn't mean I don't care to know. Some answers just don't come easy and, sometimes, it takes a while for the answer to present itself.

As a Christian, I rely a lot on help from God to make tough decisions and have sure answers when the unexpected questions are asked. He will help steer me in the right direction at the right time as I keep trusting Him. This, I know for sure.

Encouragement for the week:

Do you feel pressured to have answers to some tough questions about your life? Do you dislike having to reply with "I don't know"?

It's okay, you're not alone. My struggle of not knowing my own plans, goals, and purpose are common to many people in the world, including yourself.

If you are a Christian, you know that the answers lie within having a close and intimate relationship with God. He knows the questions and has the answers. Keep trusting Him.

If you are not a Christian, you can look for Jesus and find Him and come into a knowledge and direction for your life that is true, sure, and exciting. God cares for you and where you're headed.






Monday, July 24, 2017

The Power of Privilege

**Photo courtesy of images.search.yahoo.com**

The Oxford dictionary defines privilege as: "A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group." Some consider driving and voting to be rights when, in reality, they are privileges granted to us when we turn a certain age.

For many, both of these privileges are taken seriously. For me, I have never taken the privilege of obtaining a driver's license or driving a car for granted, or ever thought they were rights. The responsibility of maintaining and operating a motor vehicle can, literally, mean the difference between life and death.

Voting, on the other hand, I never took seriously although the implications of not voting or giving an uninformed vote can have detrimental effects, even generations down the road. There is great power behind this incredible privilege of voting and that was never clearer for me than this past Saturday.

This once politically sheltered and naive voter stepped out and attended her first political event. Normally, this wouldn't be something to blog about but the impact it had on my perception of this process was immense. I had the opportunity to see and experience, first hand, the importance of not only voting but being informed about who your vote goes to.

Not only should you be aware of your local candidates and their platforms but you should also give great thought and consideration to how those two elements fit in with your own convictions, values, and beliefs.

There was an air of excitement as I listened to speakers, one after another, present what seemed to be their genuine and determined views on change they felt needed to be made and how they would work hard, for the people, to bring change. How making change for the better was never more important than right now.

That getting involved and having your say, through the power of voting, had the potential to right so many wrongs. That taking the privilege of voting to a higher rank of responsibility was more than just showing up at the right polling station and putting an 'x' in a box just so that you could say you took part in the voting process. I was guilty of thinking that putting an 'x' in a box was far more important than not showing up, even though I had no clue about the candidate or their platform.

I am, now, happy to say that the meeting on Saturday changed my entire perspective on the critical nature of a vote. Not that I could move mountains with my single vote but I could be informed and involved in instilling a leader that cares and fights for the common man and woman trying to make a living, struggling to keep food on the table, and making sure the lights stay on. By taking the time to allow the responsibility behind the act sink in.

I have to say that there is an extreme embarrassment in admitting that I didn't start voting until I was well into my 30's and, even then, I never took it seriously. Well, outside of ensuring that I registered to vote and found out where the polling station was located. At first, it was an inconvenience to vote at best and I, often, voted early to avoid forgetting to vote at all. Sad, but shamefully true.

I would even avoid all the political debates leading up to voting day and rarely picked up a paper to see what the media had to say about the candidates or what the latest polls were showing about who had the greatest chance of taking the majority vote.

As a Christian, I believe that things happen for a reason, as orchestrated by God. Even political things, and Saturday was no exception as I listened carefully and felt the excitement of an ordinary, everyday group of men and women clapping and shouting words of hope that real change was on the way. Change that, hopefully, would bring jobs, increase opportunity, and usher in a better future for their children and grandchildren.

I soon felt filled with hope at being part of positive change by getting more involved in the voting process and learning everything necessary to not only make an informed decision before reaching that paper begging an 'x' be marked, but also a responsible decision within the greater privilege.

No privilege should be seen as any less important than a right. An attitude of humility and responsibility are equally important as we make our way through each day in a world filled with uncertainty.

Encouragement for the week:

Do you think some privileges should be rights, like driving or voting? Would you take them more seriously if they were?

For too many years, I slacked off on taking certain privileges seriously and now I wonder if my lack of interest and information was to my own detriment? Perhaps, it's too many attitudes, like mine of the past, that have added up to a long line of detriment.

If you are a Christian, you are not only called to be responsible with rights and freedoms but also with privileges. May we see rights and privileges as equal and treat them with the same respect that God would desire us to.

If you are not a Christian, you can look for Jesus and find Him and all the ways He orchestrates opportunities to become responsible, humble, and wise people for every area of life that can often be confusing and difficult.






Monday, July 17, 2017

Cause And Effect

**Photo courtesty of www.bing.com**


Cause and effect is a relationship between events or things, where one is the result of the other or others. This is a combination of action and reaction (taken from examples.yourdictionary.com). For example, if a person smokes, there is a possibility that he or she may develop lung cancer. Or, if a glass is filled too full, the water will overflow, as seen above.

In our day to day lives, we can often encounter the principle of cause and effect. The principle can be seen on various scales, like if you eat poorly for a lengthy period of time, weight gain is inevitable. Or, that a gambling addiction can cause financial ruin. We have all experienced cause and effect on some level.

Recently, a man came across his own cause and effect...dilemna. It involved an inner battle, deciding between getting back into a familiar, but disliked, job situation that would have a negative effect on his mental, physical, and spiritual well being, or have the patience and faith to believe that something better would come along.

To an outsider, the answer may be quite simple. Take the well paying, short term position and tough it out while building up the bank account. After all, the pros of accepting the role outweighed the cons of the deliberation, or did they?

For this man, they didn't because he has come into a better understanding of himself as it relates to his faith. He has reached a profound place that is demanding he make wiser, more honoring decisions that will, ultimately, have lasting effects. Personal effects. Eternal effects. Here is where the dilemma deepens.

As people...humans, we are prone to wanting our own way at all times, no matter what. We want what feels good and suits us best. Anything uncomfortable or unreasonable that doesn't fall in line with our 'life plan' is quickly done away with. We don't want to be inconvenienced or make any sacrifices on the way to fulfilling our selfish ambitions.

The man, the one facing a difficult and, most likely, compromising decision has admitted to wanting, or not wanting, things his way. While logic and practicality have always been a part of his makeup, there is now something deeper that gnaws at him. A gnawing he can no longer ignore but adds to his inner battle.

Does he compromise his values and beliefs in exchange for security? Who wouldn't want that? We all long to have financial security. We want to know that everything will be okay as long as we save like a mad man to retire at a certain age and live a lifestyle we have become accustomed to. We'll even put a little extra aside for the unexpected.

After all, we might want to travel extensively and spoil ourselves on a few things we've never experienced. There's nothing wrong with that, after all, is there? It's fine to want the best in life and to compromise a few things here and there as long as it isn't illegal, right?

What about the compromise of peace, contentment, and joy? Would you be willing to lay those things aside to work a job you hate in exchange for a bigger bank account and guilt? For the man in this situation, he is not willing. He wants more than just the peace of mind knowing he did the right thing even though it meant choosing a completely different path.

A path that might bring mocking and disbelief from friends and family. A path that, rarely walked, holds confidence and a clear conscience having done what's right, wise, and noble. See, he wants to live a life that honors God. He wants to know that the choices he made throughout his life meant something. Not just to himself, but to his kids and grandkids.

That he can leave a legacy of character and integrity behind, in hopes of others charting the same course. That he will live according to his values and beliefs, without waivering. That compromise, in any form, is unacceptable.

So, after being in this dilemma for over a week, the man has a deep peace in saying, "No" to the job and waiting for the best to come along. He can rest assured that he won't compromise himself for things that are contrary to what has been deeply set into his heart as a result of his relationship with God.

Though some may see his decision as crazy and unbelievable, there is no mistaking in living out a life of faith with a knowledge that the best is right around the corner. With a little bit more time and, certainly, patience, this man's cause will have a lasting and eternal effect.

Encouragement for the week:

Have you ever found yourself in a cause that would bring a plethora of effects you weren't quite prepared for?

Would you be willing to compromise yourself for a short period of time in exchange for security? If you were, would it really be worth it?

If you are a Christian, you know that you have been set apart by God to make better, wiser decisions that come along. That the peace you have because of those wiser decisions is far better than the detrimental effect that compromise can have. Never falter on your values and beliefs when the world pressures you to. Stay strong.

If you are not a Christian, you can look for Jesus and find the peace that comes in making the right decisions with a clear and guiltless conscience. That a good night's sleep is worth doing the right thing as part of having a relationship with God.




Monday, July 10, 2017

The Cone Of Silence

**Photo courtesty of www.bing.com**

There is nothing more satisfying than to sit in solitude, peace and just be, and there is nothing more frustrating than sitting in the peace and quiet when all you really want is to be struck upside the head with an amazing revelation.

Being in the country has moulded me in ways that the city never could. Each morning, there is the privilege of sitting outside (well, during the summer months), soaking up the morning sun and listening to the melodious tunes of local birds inhabiting the many trees. It's nothing short of divine and incredibly calming.

The entire world seems to stand still as I glance across the landscape and marvel at the surroundings. There is an incredible opportunity to reflect and meditate on anything and everything that might fall on my heart. Some things are pleasant, while others bring a bit of heaviness.

I'm an emotional creature at the best of times, or is that the worst of times? In any case, if there is a conversation that causes me to well up, undoubtedly, tears will follow. It's irritating when all I want to do is say what has to be said without tears streaming down my face.

While it may not be a shortcoming, getting emotional is not something I consider to be my most admirable quality. However, I can't help but admit that it's a definite improvement over all the years that I only streamed profane and hateful words to people.

It appears a softening has taken place but does it have to be so extreme at times? Some may call it expressing passion, empathy, or compassion, but depending on the situation and the conversation, it could be considered unnecessary.

When there are times of wanting to know something about my life and I begin to pray for that very thing, the returning silence can be deafening. Kind of like being in a cone of silence, along with the above canine. A dog looking completely unimpressed because he just wants to get on with things but the cone doesn't allow him to.

All of a sudden, he has to halt his activities or risk a beheading in trying to go through the doggie door with something that isn't meant to. I think, in some small way, I can relate to man's best friend and his plight.

At times, I feel like I'm wearing a cone. That answers are being withheld or I'm being protected from myself and some of the things I could do, purely out of frustration or impatience. That it is a tool being used to slow me down in order to give things a second, even third, thought.

God knows me a little too well which is a good thing otherwise I would, constantly, jump ahead and do something unwise. So, does that mean eating a tub of ice cream to drown my impatience would be unwise? Only if my blood sugar has anything to say about it.

As much as the frustration or impatience may increase to the point of unbearable, there is something to be said for slowing down, being silent, and leaning toward the things of wisdom. God speaks a lot about wisdom in the Bible and, quite frankly, after living the messed up life before God came along, I would be a fool not to choose the wiser way.

Heck, if I could get away with it, I would have someone else, preferably God, make tough decisions for me because I know the outcome would be the best. Maybe it's the fear of making a bad decision that causes me to air this preference. After all, decisions, even the smallest, have consequences.

I was reminded, recently, that decisions have the capacity to bring regret. Even the best laid intention, within a decision, can turn sour if wisdom and honesty hasn't been a part of the process. So, when it's best to not make any decision, about anything, isn't it more effective and pleasing to be left in a cone of silence and just wait?

To hear nothing and feel peace instead of hearing too many thoughts racing through your head and being overwhelmed by anxiety and doubt? You, along with myself, may very well be shouting a resounding, "Yes!"

It's often said that silence is golden. Jesus knew the power of silence even as He was being led to the Cross to be crucified. I'm not sure how much self control it took for Him to be still and quiet of voice and soul, but I'm not so sure I could do the same knowing the outcome.

Overall, silence can be beneficial. It causes us to pause and realize that the silence isn't, necessarily, a bad thing. That the geographical and situational location you and I are in, at this very moment, is exactly where we're supposed to be. Otherwise, things would change.

Whether you're trying to make a big decision, waiting on a word of encouragement, or trying to find peace, silence can be the best ally against regret. Even though it takes everything in you to not be disappointed if an answer doesn't come right away.

Encouragement for the week:

Are you fighting to be silent? Is anxiety, impatience, and frustration tempting you to make some unwise decisions?

Whether you are seeking a life changing direction or wanting a little encouragement, relax and take the silence as a good sign. If you have peace, the silence is golden. Trust me when I tell you, as much as you are frustrated and impatient, the answer will not arrive any sooner.

If you are a Christian, you know how frustrating waiting on God for some direction or answers can be but He knows all of that and has the best in mind for you and me. Keep trusting and obeying Him.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find Him and all that God has in store for you, even in the moments of silence. He holds the peace, calm, and contentment you are, currently, looking for in your life.






Monday, July 3, 2017

I Don't Wanna

"Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates with choice fruits, with henna and nard, 
nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with every kind of incense tree, 
with myrrh and aloes and all the finest spices." - Song of Songs 4: 13-14

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

Is it just me or does being a responsible adult seem overrated? Especially considering we spend most of our adolescent life planning out all the things we'll do once we enter the world of adulthood. Nothing was greater than reaching the pinnacle of moving out on your own and being able to do whatever, whenever, however.

You would have your own place to entertain friends, be able to go out to clubs, and stay up as late as you wanted to. However, that didn't pay the rent or put Kraft dinner in your belly (for those of you out there who relied, heavily, on this culinary staple).

No, the fairy tale life of your older self soon fell into what's still known as reality and as we all know, reality tends to bite from time to time. So, you pull up your socks and get a job. Hopefully, one that pays good while giving you the freedom of weekends off to enjoy what's left of the fairy tale you thought being an adult would be.

There are times when I will be in the presence of children who say how they can't wait to be a grown up. More and more, I find the words, "Don't be in too much of a hurry", leave my lips. However, I used to be where they were, thinking that being young had too many drawbacks. You are under the watchful eyes of your parents who, in their best efforts, guide you along the road of your young life.

They discipline you when they need to, even though you believe putting gum in your sister's hair is completely valid and pretty. They keep you safe from things they know can harm you, otherwise, you would be hanging from the chandelier in the foyer of your house. You see it as adventurous, your parents see it as a trip to the emergency room. Potato, potaughto.

We're in constant rebellion against being too small to have full independence and being too big for our britches. I'm not sure there is ever a happy medium, but I'm sure that each kid, at some point in their life, longs to be their parents and experience what they believe to be freedom.

Let me assure you that the younger years should be lived out with excitement and awe because once the clock strikes twelve and you turn eighteen, a greater countdown begins. Not only will there be a long list of things you'll get to do when you're on your own in this new found 'freedom', but you will be paying for things you never thought possible.

Like car insurance, health insurance, and food. Yes, that's right, food. Something free that magically appeared on your parent's table for eighteeen years of life, now costs money. The once beautifully presented meatloaf is now mystery meat in a can and Mom's famous lasagne has turned into cup 'o' noodles. Yep, you've hit the jackpot becoming an adult.

We all have to grow up some time and if things went right in your childhood, your parents instilled a strong work ethic, taught you how to boil an egg, and went over basic car maintenance as a few survival tools they knew you would need once you left the nest.

I received all those things from my parents, and so much more, including invitations to come back to my childhhood home for dinner once in a while. As much as I yearned to be an adult as a kid, the appeal of now having that shiny prize was slowly and steadily wearing off.

Working for a living only to give thirty percent back to the government was offensive, to say the least. Paying off bills each month became a stressful event. Grocery shopping was short which rarely made it sweet. I liked food but there never seemed to be enough money to get everything I wanted. You still need to find a way to cook if the power gets shut off.

Thankfully, I didn't get into the situation that I couldn't pay the utility bills but there were many times when a little food had to last a long time. So, you got the things you knew would last - pasta, bread, cereal, and peanut butter - until the next paycheck.

Yep, being an adult meant living large...ly at a disadvantage if you weren't consistently employed. Sacrifices become the norm when making a decision between going out for the night or having gas for the car.

Not to say that all adults struggle because there are many who budget things out to ensure all the responsibilities are met prior to engaging in any entertainment at week's end. Maybe I struggled a lot because of years spending more than what I had and it, eventually, landed me in bankruptcy. Some lessons need to be learned the hard way and I can honestly say, I learned that lesson.

After going through the embarrassment and humiliation of losing everything, it became easier to adopt an attitude of humility while re-learning everything I thought I knew about money. Unfortunately, once I got through the period of time required to receive a bankruptcy discharge, the only way I thought I could repair my credit was to get into debt.

As irresponsible as that decision was, things turned around a couple years ago when I had a strong desire to get out of debt. I sold everything I could and did what needed to be done to earn extra money, including picking bottles. There is no greater liberation than to be debt free. I knew it had to be done and, thankfully, it was something God wanted done in my life.

Today, I am still debt free and plan to stay that way. There is no greater trap than to owe someone else money. Oh, adulthood and all of its realities.

While I'm grateful for all the things I have been able to do as an adult, there are certainly many days when I would, happily, trade my responsibilities for reversion to my childhood. When all I had to do is clean up my room and be back at the house in time for dinner, which was provided for free.

Yes, it is now in my forties that I re-think the spectacular draw of adulthood as bogus. When I sit on my couch and face the day with the heartfelt words, "I don't wanna be responsible today." When I'm struck with the realization that this adulthood isn't over yet, not by a long shot. So, for now, I'll march to my fridge, grab a popsicle and revert to my childhood, if only for a little while.

Encouragement for the week:

Ever feel like you are done being responsible? That you would like to pass the adult torch to someone else to carry forward on your behalf?

While I know how you feel, there is still that compulsion that tells you and me to keep going.

The Bible says that life, as a Christian, is much like a race and that even though we get tired and fed up with the day to day things we have to do as grown ups, we still need to not only run that race but run it well to the finish line.

If you are a Christian, you know it's not easy being an adult and there are times when we would rather sit it out, but God calls us to be strong and responsible so that we can be used by Him. Keep running the race because the greatest prize is yet to come.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find Him and all the strength He has to keep you going during the days you want to take a break from being a grown up.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Time's Up!

"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" - Matthew 6: 26

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

Turn over your papers and put down your pencils. Your time is up. Ugh. That's what would creep into my heart each time I didn't finish a test on time in school...dread. It's fair to say that as much as the information was crammed into my brain, it seemed to ooze out at crunch time.

I often panicked on test day and as the class in which the test was being administered approached, it was like a tribe of drummers were beating on my cerebral cortex. My palms got sweaty, the heart raced, and it became really difficult to swallow. You could say, for the most part, I choked when it came to tests.

As much as I disliked school, I disliked tests even more but there was always something inside that made me try harder to memorize the material that was tested on. Special attention was given to the items that the teacher made reference to. Granted, I never bombed a test but came awfully close...many times. The only classes I excelled in were the easy subjects of physical education and typing. Those were no brainers, thankfully.

These days, there isn't really anything that causes me to panic, well, almost anything, Recently, I got some disheartening news that something I thought had plenty of time left on, had just run out. Without warning, a security blanket disappeared. I was shocked and in awe of what had happened.

Panic came. My mind started to race and what seemed like a million things, were rushing through my head all at once. How could this be? How could my time be up? It was unexpected and, seemingly, unfair. In a way, I was prepared for this but not fully prepared. It's difficult when the squeeze of a timeline comes to an end much earlier than anticipated.

One of the key components that calm my mind and heart is a long walk. Out here in the countryside, there is no shortage of quiet places to be or long, deserted roads to walk on. The fresh air clears the mind and soothes the racing heart. It was exactly what I needed.

As I walked and pondered what had happened, an incredible peace began to set in, like it usually does on a walkabout. My focus turned to the simple crunch of my sneakers against the crushed rock on the road. Even though it was a power walk, my heart slowed and mind cleared.

Thoughts began to change into realistic and practical steps that would have to come next. That with great care and prayer, the questions sitting at the back of my mind would show up with answers. I knew that the calm wasn't just me, it was from a far greater source.

It came from the years of experience I had with God, being through numerous and far worse situations, that told me, "It's going to be fine." In those moments, I knew that God's got this. There has never been a difficult situation in my Christian life that God hasn't been there and always brought a solution. I just had to wait.

So, that's what I did. That's what I'm still doing, knowing that things and thoughts will come together for the next steps in a new direction. In a way, it's pretty exciting and freeing to not know what comes next in life. Not to say there isn't a wee bit of fear deep down because there is, but in having no fear of change quickly dispels the dread-like fear.

When time is up on things in our lives, it can be a challenge to not give up on ourselves or others. When you feel like the time is up for your marriage or a long time friendship because of a simple misunderstanding. When you feel like you have gotten to a stage of your life where you perceive to have no real purpose.

When there is nothing left inside of you to try and make ends meet, yet another month, as the bills outnumber your income. When all you want to do is stop what you're doing and cry. It's okay to do that. It always makes me feel better to have a good cry when difficulty strikes.

In reality, time isn't up on your situation. There are ways to make a difficult situation, work out. In a misunderstanding, things can be talked out. In a seemingly purposeless life, you can spend time with others who have no one in their lives. In a money crunch situation, there are ways to make some extra money.

For me, the time may be up on one thing but the clock has, actually, been re-set for another. I know things will turn around as long as I stick close to God and make the most of this next chapter of my life, no matter what lies ahead. I know that while you might be feeling like you're in a mess, where the clock has run out, it hasn't. It's been fully wound and is ready to count off the moments of a new and brighter direction.

Encouragement for the week:

Do you feel like time has run out in an area of your life? Let me assure you that it hasn't. In fact, it's more like a pause before setting out into a new, uncharted territory. There are better things ahead that you never thought possible.

While I still don't know what is to come, because of my relationship with God, I'm ready for whatever is ahead with wonder and some excitement. My prayer is that you will feel that way too.

If you are a Christian, this life is one of adventure and excitement. It is also one of the unknown that can be scary from time to time but we have a great God who only has great things in store for His children. Don't hug the shoreline too tightly.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find Him and all the adventure He brings in following Him, without fear that time is up.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Check!

"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul..." - Psalm 23: 1-3

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

I'm not much for lists but when it comes to shopping for food, it's a must. I have to make sure that the things I really want and need are on there while staying on a budget. After twenty minutes, or so, a meticulously thought out list appears with groups of items to be bought at their respective store. Of course, some room is left for the things that will come across my path while food hunting, causing excitement and a curiosity to try. Yes, I get excited shopping for food. Guilty as charged.

In the movie 'The Bucket List', a pair of cancer patients played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, while facing their own mortality, decide to comprise a list of the things they want to do before they, well, kick the bucket.

They go from skydiving to race car driving, from laughing until they cry to kissing the most beautiful girl (Jack Nicholson character's grand-daughter), from sitting at the top of an Egyptian pyramid to helping a complete stranger.

Each time I watch the movie, there is something that prompts me to make a list of things I would like to do before dying. With deep and long thought, I come up short of a significant list like they did. Maybe it's because a lot of what I really wanted to do in life has already been done sans list. Like international travel, adrenaline rushes, culinary gambles, and finding true love (giving birth to my son).

So, for the most part, I have already done most of the things that I always wanted to do. There were even things that happened, unrealized, I wanted to do until I did them, purely by blessing. Now that I am older, the list is taking on a different form. While there are a couple places I would still like to see (Israel and Bora Bora), I need there to be more depth behind the bullet points in my life.

I want it to be more about checking off boxes, not making lists. There needs to be a purpose behind the things chosen to do and the reason behind the choice. Are they on the checklist because of a need to gain attention or popularity? Are they directed at one person or every person met?

It would be easy to think of one thing and do it well. Like ridding a garden completely of weeds. That is no small task so that's probably why I don't have a massive garden, just a deck garden with veggies and spices in deep pots and planters. Priorities for my life or even for the day, have shifted. They have fallen into a marching order of the things that really need to matter in this one-chance-only life.

Like family and friends. While I may not see or talk to all of my friends and family on a consistent basis, I do pray for them. I pray for peace and hope to fill them and that they would always know they are loved. Often, that comes as a note to them saying, "I was just thinking of you and wanted to say hi!" Or being available to talk when they need more than a text. Check.

I don't want to float through life. I don't want to check the boxes of a superficial list. I don't want it to be all about me, even though those moments can happen often and fiercely. I don't want to be known as a selfish and indulgent woman who never reached out or showed compassion. So, what might the checklist look like for me?

Well, while the list might be long, I hope it will be meaningful. The points or questions of challenge will be well thought out. The spirit in which the points were written will be intentional and genuine. The only danger with making any kind of list is that it can quickly be forgotten or pushed aside, leaving something less fulfilling to take its place.

So, it's a daily decision to keep the checklist in place, somewhere visible, so that the commitment to fully check off each item is honored. That as selfish as I will feel some days, it's more important to ignore myself and reach out to others.

Will I be kind? Check - today was a good day to be kind. Will I be thankful even though things aren't going my way? Maybe tomorrow - I stubbed my toe. Will I help someone in need even though my day is crazy and the ten heavy bags of groceries are ripping my hands off? Check - ouch. Will I think before opening my mouth to deliver a sarcastic comment? Check - silence and grace won out, thankfully.

While I'm not perfect and some of the things on my checklist might take a long time to check off, consistently, it means more to be sincere about the check than to simply do away with it for the sake of getting it out of the way. What will or does your checklist look like?

Encouragement for the week:

Have you ever made a list of things you have always wanted to do? Were some of them things that added to your character and integrity?

While lists are great reminders of what we want or need to do, the items checked off with joy and a sense of satisfaction can mean alot to ourselves and others.

If you are a Christian, lists are just as critical as the items on that list. They can be a result of some great fruit being produced in you.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find Him and all the things that He will bring into your heart that you'll want checked off.

Looking forward to hearing your comments!




Monday, June 12, 2017

I Swear!


"it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy..." - Isaiah 35:2

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

Abraham Lincoln onced quipped, "We must not promise what we ought not, lest we be called on to perform what we cannot." Basically, Mr. Lincoln is telling us that we shouldn't make promises we can't keep.

People who you make promises to will go one of two ways. They will either hold you to that promise and hound you until you have followed through or they will simply hold no value to that promise and never ask it be fulfilled. Why? I think it has a lot to do with how the person, themselves, views promises and the type of person they see you as. The promise is bond or it's open for breaking.

I never used to be a person of my word. Years ago, when I was living a very sexually immoral and self-destructive life, words didn't hold a lot of value. I never concerned myself with my word being my bond and I never made a promise because I knew that it wouldn't be kept. Kind of sad, but I was smart enough to acknowledge the reality of my life and circumstances at the time. That reality being a promise would never be delivered.

Today, as a result of my life being turned around by God, I take the words that are spoken very seriously and my word is my bond. If I say I am going to do something, I will, and a promise made is followed through on. Seems simple enough doesn't it? So, why are some promises harder to keep than others?

The harder promises to keep, that come to mind, are a big trip somewhere when the monetary resources may not be there or making your child's play when your work schedule is more than insane. Perhaps, the greatest promises made are during a wedding ceremony. The kinds of promises that can be a real challenge to keep after a few years into the marriage.

While each person's intention to keep the promise may be real and sincere, sometimes situations happen that run the risk of breaking one or numerous promises. The person loses their credibility and the words no longer matter. For some, promises are taken very seriously and cause great emotional and psychological harm when they aren't kept.

Broken marriages, children, and friendships are all legitimate forms of collateral damage when the break of a promise occurs. Reality sets in and trust is lost. Quite often, it's hard to recover from the recurring cycle of broken promises. Have you ever made a promise that was challenging to keep?

Recently, I entered into a promise with someone. A promise that had to be made and one I thought, initially, would be easy to keep. Boy, was I misled. We entered into this covenant of sorts on June 1st, for forty days. Forty days. How hard could it be? Well, after being in it for only twelve days now, it is one of the most difficult promises I have made.

I never thought it could be this hard to keep this kind of promise. Granted, it's nothing to do with delivering a trip or showing up at a special event. It's real stuff, with integrity and honor at stake. It's trusting a process to take place while doing away with something meaningful, in hopes of obtaining an amazing outcome. An outcome that could set the course for even more amazing things to come.

Have I been challenged in keeping this promise? Uh, yeah! Do I intend on following through and finishing these next twenty-eight days without breaking that promise? Yes. For me, the words spoken as part of this promise, matter...a lot. I want to continue to be that person, that woman, who does what she says. Even if each day is broken down into ten minute increments in order to cope.

"Just a little longer", I tell myself. The heavy load of the promise has been lightened by my reliance on God to get me through, not only today, but in the days ahead. I confided in a close friend about the promise and she assured me that it would get easier as each day passed. I believed her, even though I haven't felt like it's gotten easier. At the end of the day, the way I get through this journey is a choice.

A choice to focus on other things and not get caught up in the pain of the promise. I am looking forward to the point when things do become easier. For now, I need to occupy my mind and time with things that ease the pressure and heaviness of what needs to be accomplished and the promise that needs to be kept.

Encouragement for the week:

Did you ever make a promise you didn't keep? How did that make you feel? How did the person you made the promise to feel?

We all have good intentions and sincerely wish to follow through but, sometimes, life gets in the way. Let it be life and not ourselves, that gets in the way of being persons of our word and keeper of our promises.

If you are a Christian, you have the promise of God's Word to hold on to, knowing that each promise will be kept. Let us be the same in keeping our word to others.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find Him and all of His great and wonderful promises for you that He is anxious to keep.












Monday, June 5, 2017

Don't Tell Me What To Do!

**Photo taken from www.bling.com/images**

This is, perhaps, one of the most said and favorite statements of children. Heck, I think it's the most used statement by a majority of people on the planet these days. It seems that along with certain freedoms we are given through life, not being told to do something is one of them.

I'm guilty of either saying or thinking this statement, especially recently. It happened when someone I trust was just trying to help. They were giving me advice about an insurance situation that, in reality, I didn't have the breadth of experience they did. I did my best to listen to what they were saying but I was thinking that I knew better. I didn't.

While I followed the advice being given and answered the questions being asked, there was a part of me that felt the need to rebel against the sound words that were being spoken, by relaying my experiences and debating why things would be any different. Even while I was doing this, it made no real sense to do so. So, why did I counter the obvious wisdom and experience of that person?

Then it hit me that this wasn't the first time I have gone against wisdom. In fact, most of my life was made up of arguing against any kind of thought process that didn't fall in line with my own. There were certain things that I had come to know in life and figured that was the way it was always going to be, without question or need for change. Boy, was I wrong and this most recent exchange was evidence of all the years I had deliberately rebelled against people who, truly, knew better and that this person, here and now, cared for me and really just wanted to help.

I was raised by two very strong and capable parents. My mother, especially, taught us kids the importance of not only doing for ourselves but also depending on ourselves, instead of other people, to get us through life. That was my interpretation anyway. It seemed as though I took all that information from my childhood and turned it into an invisible fence around my mind, letting no one enter. Whether they were bang on right or not.

It's like I was bent on going my own way and there was no other option, even though my way was absolutely, without a doubt, wrong for the most part. In a simple car insurance scenario, it appeared that I had reverted to my defiant childhood, standing toe to toe with my nemesis, refusing to back down.

It wasn't until I had a chance to calm myself, take a couple steps back, and really ponder what was happening and how I was reacting, that the words 'I was wrong', came to me. Completely wrong. I had come to 'know' things to be a certain way and that's just the way it was...forever. Why would I change anything? Why would I question anything? Why?

Well, that's how things progress, through questioning. If no one ever questioned anything and just let things go as they were, there is so much that would quickly go off course. Like a drunken captain never being questioned by his crew as to why they were always off course, even though they could smell the booze on his breath. Questioning brings about great discoveries, like cures for diseases that were once, incurable.

Questioning brings about new ideas and, hence, new ways to do things. Easier ways, wiser ways. It's not that the person is faulting or accusing another by questioning. It's a way of gaining insight into how another person thinks the way they do. Such was not the case with me about the car insurance. I was rebelling and making it known and, unfortunately, causing frustration to the other person who was just trying to help me in a situation that showed signs of fallibility.

Suddenly, as things were coming to a breaking point, I could feel myself crumbling and started to cry from realizing I had been taken advantage of, for a lot of years. It was heartbreaking for me, to see that my best interests were not first but that money was. I felt betrayed and more than angered that I had become so trusting and stopped questioning those who should have had more integrity.

See, there's nothing wrong with questioning. You're not attacking the other person.You're trying to understand something or someone better. It's not that the person questioning is trying to tell you what to do. It's that they care and are trying to help you through a situation, into a better resolution. My resolution came in saving almost $800 on my car insurance. All because someone cared enough to question, then help lighten my financial load.

I apologized to the person who was only trying to help me, and explained why I acted the way I did...having programmed thinking over the years and rebelling against anyone who, I believed, was trying to tell me what to do when, in reality, they weren't. I felt really bad but thanked the person for helping me, through their wisdom and experience, to have a beneficial outcome.

In retrospect, I can plead shame and embarrasment for ever doubting this person, knowing, I fully trust them. At the end of the day, it was my own stubborn pride that prevented me from seeing their honest and well intended motives. They really had my best interest at heart.

I can't help but relate this experience to my relationship with God, too. God always acts with the best intentions, having love and protection as the motives when showing the best way to go in life. Sometimes, I have moments of rebellion against God's best in my life, thinking I know better when I don't. While that rebellion may never completely leave, I want to make every effort, now, to get rid of as much of that stubborn naivity as possible and be more trusting in those who know better.

Encouragement for the week:

Do you feel like people are always telling you what to do? Are you sure that's what they are doing? If they are, what do you think their motives are for doing so?

It could be that the person has your best interests at heart and really wants to save you from hurt, grief, or unnecessary financial loss.

Don't be too quick to oppose them or make your case because they may just hold some wisdom or life experience that you need. I know that was the case for me.

If you are a Christian, you know the value and wisdom of God's Word in what He tells us to do. It's not to control or hinder us, but to protect and give us the very best that life has to offer as a follower of Christ.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find someone whose questions and advice are sound, having your best interests at the center of His heart for your life.

I would like to hear from all of you. Let's talk. I look forward to your comments!




Monday, May 29, 2017

I Wish I Had Known This Before



Have you ever had a moment of colorful clarity where you found yourself saying, "I wish I knew then what I know now"? There are many things in our lives we lament when we look back on them. For me, the moments of clarity happen when thinking about a period of time in my life I wish never happened. More specifically, the years of alcohol abuse and sexual addiction.

Those years were a fury of emotions and actions that took me to places I never thought I would go and wish that I could have known better or had someone in my life telling me the things to be wary of and exercise extreme caution in doing. Sadly, there wasn't but it was my own doing that caused those years to play out the way they did.

I, personally, created the sick and twisted environment in which I lived. The attitudes, hatred, and profane demeanor were all owned. No one had authority over how things were done, where things happened, or how often. As a result of a controlling and strong will, I never had anyone who could get close enough to watch over me.

To have another set of eyes see what I, obviously, didn't and slap me upside the head when getting off track or readying to do something stupid. To have someone take a hold of my hand and yank me in the opposite direction of where I was going and to not stop yanking until I relented.

Someone to tell me, 'Don't do it. That man is going to shame you. That one is going to abuse you. That one over there? He's going to control and threaten you.' I never heard those words because I never allowed any person to get within a reasonable proximity of my stone cold heart.

Then the thought emerges, "Would I have listened to the warnings? Would I have heeded all the urgent calls from that person when I wasn't even in a decent head space?" In order to be completely honest with myself while looking back on that time, I wouldn't have heard them. In fact, I could argue that there would be a certainty that I would kick and scream against that good willed and caring person, all in an effort to continue rebelling.

Sad, isn't it? Especially when a special friend was the one thing I was crying out for inside but adamantly denied, verbally. Interesting how a genuine need can be so easily ignored because of anger and stubbornness. Unfortunate how that destructive period of time, the years of drinking and meaningless encounters with men, could have been completely avoided if only I had laid down the arrogance and hatred. How do you do that when you are completely immersed in it?

That answer may never be known because of what I was going through at that time. It was as though every piece of my world had been turned inside out and upside down. There was no knowledge, wisdom, or discernment at my disposal...none that was accepted anyway.

The mind was blocked to any reason or common sense. Wanting to be lost in the insanity was more comforting than dealing with reality. It was a harsh reality that didn't exist if I didn't think about it. Oh, if only I could turn back time.

Even though time can't be turned back and while I may still lament those lost and hurtful years filled with scars that will always be there, I can hold my head high today and say that those scars may have come at a price but they are being turned into packages of beauty. Tattered things that have helped me become a different person. A better person, with compassion and empathy for those facing a similar fate.

I can be the voice in someone's head telling them not to do it. Even going to the extreme of showing up at their house, dragging them kicking and screaming from a situation I know they really want no part in but feel no reason to expect better for themselves.

I can be the woman who tells it like it is, sharing the things I know now that they may have already wished they knew before diving into the shallow end of the life pool head first. I can be the one to tell them the one thing that saved me from further heartbreak and imminent death, a relationship with God. Without that, this life would have been lost.

While I also wish that I had known a relationship with God before all the messy stuff I went through, there is a reason for it all. There is a greater purpose behind the pain endured and the shame inflicted. I may not know it completely, but I can try to save someone else from saying, years later, that they wish they had known this before.

Encouragement for the week:

I think there are a lot of people in the world who wish that the knowledge they have now, could have made it to the ears and mind of the younger 'them'. Wishing they had known certain things before their life started to go downhill and off the rails.

There are many times I wish that someone had told me about Jesus a long time ago but that didn't happen. While the wish remains, there is an immense gratitude that I know Jesus now and that's all that really matters.

If you are a Christian, I don't have to tell you how great it is to know Jesus and how grateful we are to the person who first told us about Him. Be the person who shares that great news with someone else.

If you are not a Christian, and have just an inkling within you wanting something more, look for Jesus and you will find Him. You will be glad you did without wasting any more time.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Ridiculosity

"Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." 
- Exodus 3:5

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

I'm a July baby, born in the heat of summer time. So, it comes as no surprise that my favorite season of the year is summer. It's hot, sunny, and, at times, humid with an inherent need to be silly and a frivolous nature to frolick, doddle, and throw caution to the wind.

Everyone is planning summer holidays, kids are free from school, and the opportunity to do and be ridiculous increases, exponentially. For me, it means taking things slow, breathing in the warm air, and basking in the joy of covering up this pasty white flesh with a coppery, glowing tan.

Yes, that time is almost upon us and the anticipation of longer days and iced drinks enjoyed on the back deck become a ritualistic reality. When time is spent with friends and family on the lawn, splashing in the make-shift pool, filling the air with sounds of laughter and fun.

It's even a time that opens us up to deciding that we've had enough of life kicking us in the butt and breaking away from the burdens, sorrows, and disappointments, if even for a short while. To turn our backs on the things that, while very much a part of our heart, still remain unfulfilled. To bring a little ridiculosity into the mix.

I think Marilyn Munroe summed it up best when she said, "Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring." Agreed. Life is too short to be serious about everything, especially when it comes to our circumstances.

As you know, I have a great desire to be married. It's been that way for about ten years but has grown in intensity over the past five years. I have even come to believe that not only is marriage a part of my future, but that I believe I know who my husband will be. If that's not the epitomy of ridiculosity, I really don't know what is.

No, the belief never came in the form of God speaking to my heart upon entering a room, that the man I was looking at would be my husband. Nor did it come in waking from a dream that showed me my wedding day with vivid colors and details. My indicators were a bit more subtle but, nonetheless, convincing.

They came in the form of what many would describe as ridiculous, unheard of, and unbelievable. Trust me when I tell you that it was never more of those things to anyone as they were to me. The sheer matter-of-fact nature in which some of the indicators were revealed, were no less baffling than if someone were to approach me and tell of every detail that lay in my future.

The more things happened to confirm what was set in my heart, the more ridiculous it seemed. How do you deal with an absurd line of situations, some people drumming them up to be mere coincidence, and believe them to be true? To some the answer would be cut and dry...you don't. It's just a series of 'things' that happened in a way that seemed to be pointing to the same thing but, really, they weren't. It was just a huge coincidence or deja vu.

If I were not a Christian, that's exactly how I would have understood it all to be, but I am a Christian and no longer believe in coincidence. I believe that I was created by God and that He is capable of doing anything, even the impossible and unimaginable. So, is it really ridiculous for me to believe something so strongly for ten years even if it hasn't happened yet? No, but how can I say it with such confidence?

In the Bible, which is also called the Word of God, it speaks of timing. More specifically, God's timing and that it rarely aligns with our perception of timelines. That how we think God should act and react is far different from how God truly operates. He finds the best situation, at the best time, and in the best place. All in an effort to show us that His way is not only more beneficial because we're now in a place to see and experience something significant happen, but also because He loves us beyond measure. What parent wouldn't want that kind of excellence for their kids? I can't think of a parent who wouldn't.

So, as ridiculous as it is, I continue to believe. Wanna know something even more ridiculous? There was a time when I felt this desire for marriage overwhelm me so much that it caused a writing flow. More specifically, one page laying out wedding vows and the other, a poem describing my husband (maybe I'll share the poem with you all someday).

I still have those documents and, to be honest, whenever I come across them, they cause me to laugh. Not only at my own ridiculousness for writing them but also at having a sense of humor about a situation that hasn't always been easy to swallow...singleness.

As a matter of fact, I would recommend to all of you to travel to the edge of the cliff of ridiculosity and jump. Do something completely opposite to what you normally would do or others would expect you to do. Shock them and yourselves. Don't let time pass being weighed down or disappointed another minute. Do something utterly ridiculous and laugh at yourself about it.

If you are a bit crazy by nature to begin with, share it with a friend but don't go another day allowing your situation dictate to you how you should feel or act. Don't allow a piece of yourself to be lost. Be ridiculous. Have a competition with yourself to surpass the last incident of ridiculosity with something even more ridiculous.

Encouragement for the week:

I needed to write about this today to break out of the funk I had been in. Deciding to defunk myself was the best thing to do. It came in the form of dancing like Carlton from Fresh Prince of Bel Air. You know the dance because you've danced it yourself.

If life is getting you down, turn your back on it. Get up and dance, sing or just do something ridiculous to break the hold that moment or situation is trying to keep on you.

If you are a Christian, there's nothing that says we can't be free to enjoy life and that includes being ridiculous sometimes. Break the hold the enemy is trying to keep on you by being silly for a little while.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find Him. He will help you to live life to the fullest when all it seems to do is pin you to the ground. He will help you break through the pain to experience laughter and joy.




Monday, May 15, 2017

Exotic Engineering


Audi R8 V10 Plus, Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Short, Bentley Continental GT Speed, Lamborghini Veneno, Ferrari Enzo. These are just a handful of the extreme and opulent vehicles of our day. It's not unheard of for a car to fetch a price tag of $250,000 or more. Some are even millions of dollars in value.

Years ago, I used to be fascinated by the style, speed, and price tag of cars. More specifically, American muscle cars, which took up most of a top 20 list. It wasn't until watching James Bond in Casino Royale that the number one car became the Aston Martin DBS V12. It was captivating as it raced along an isolated road, nearly running over a Bond damsel tied up and placed in the middle of that road. The car was, inevitably, destroyed as a result of the near miss.

At first it seemed to be a great tragedy when that scene concluded and the car was nothing more than a distorted piece of engineering. I couldn't believe that I was feeling remorse for all that torn metal and shattered glass, something that took a person from point A to point B, safely and elegantly. My own reaction, while surprising yet not completely unexpected, got me thinking about the fascination many of us have for expensive or opulent possessions.

That an incredible amount of value seems to be placed on something we own or even drive. Whether it's the popular VW Beetle or the Mercedes Benz, our mode of transportation is no longer an experience, it has become a relationship. With cute pet names and careful detail put into its appearance and cleanliness, it seems our vehicles have taken on a greater significance.

Back in the day, there were times when I would assign a gender to my car and, admittedly, found myself carrying on a conversation with the inanimate object. Remembering those kinds of things make me chuckle now. How it was nothing to spend an entire day washing, drying, vacuuming, and dusting the vehicle. Taking great care to clean every inch and being proud of a job well done. Only to have it get dirty a couple days later due to inclement weather or muddy/wet shoes.

Today, with a change in perspective and seeing the world in the mess that it is, a lot of material things that once held great value and pride for me have, well, fallen away. It now perplexes and saddens me that many objects of apparent wealth hold a higher status than the emotional, mental, and spiritual wealth of a human being.

That there are actual places in the world where a human life can be and is exchanged for a loaf of bread, bottle of alcohol, or bag of drugs. That the desperation to feed an addiction or a family overtakes an individual so much to cause them to use humans as currency...as bartering tools. I remember, myself, feeling the desperation to feed my alcohol addiction by selling my own possessions. How the value of that object no longer mattered. Only the satisfaction of my need, did.

I was willing to do whatever it took, at the time, to get that 'high' so that the pain that was haunting me would be silenced, if only for a little while. The little while was far more valuable to have than the sentimentality of the material object that was sold to get the small piece of time. The same could be said for my sexual addiction, except the thing I was selling to get that 'high', was a piece of my soul.

A piece of the soul is not easy to get back once it's gone. There is only one way to feel whole after years of giving away something that was always meant to be sacred. That one way being a choice to accept Christ into my heart and life. That is where the wholeness started. That is where the value of my life was restored to priceless.

It was never about the material or shallow things that really made the difference. It was never about putting all of life's value into a trinket, vehicle, or hope chest filled with memories. It was all about feeling worthwhile and valuable.

As many times as the fulfillment of a high went up, it never satisfied the drop of this human currency. The more this heart and soul was abused, the more the value of this unknown gem dropped and the more it didn't matter that there was any value on the inside.

At the time of Jesus, He never looked for the material to bring any value to others. He always looked at the person, perceiving something beyond the superficial ways in which that person lived. He could always get to the root of the individual, drawing out awe and disbelief from each person He came in contact with.

He had a way of disproving the currencies of His time and placing immeasurable wealth on every man, woman, and child that He encountered. He was never interested in what they could offer Him or how much money they had for bribery. He was interested in the currency of the soul. What value lay there? He knew the answer because He was the answer.

While the coin on which Caesar's face was stamped, held a certain value to the people of that day, it never accounted for the person who had worked for that coin. Jesus saw beyond all the things that the people were placing value on, right into the person themselves.

As we look at the unsteady trends of the stock market and exchange and see the value of numerous currencies rise and fall from moment to moment, a human life will never change in value. It is set in stone even though much of the world goes to great lengths to squash human worth by pandering individuals out via human trafficking and prostitution...much of it underground and unseen. Along with many other ways a human life is devalued nowadays.

We all know these things exist. Depending on the strength of your stomach, the queasiness that comes as a direct result of knowing these things exist, will vary from person to person. I believe it's time to place great value on every life. Not only that, I believe we have a responsibility to speak value in some way to each person we encounter.

That the exotic engineering we see would be in our words as much as our actions to one another. There is a great deal of uncertainty within the world we live. May each of us take on an air of intentionality to say or do something to build the worth of another person everyday.

Encouragement for the week:

In these days of brutality, violence, and shaming, is it worthwhile to be a person of change? To engineer something good within ourselves even though it may be a small thing and have that small thing take shape as a word or gesture to feed into someone else's value?

If you take a twenty dollar bill then crinkle it, step on it, and then spit on it, it never loses its value. A human, which may feel like that twenty dollar bill, will never lose its value no matter what he or she will go through.

Though it's hard to see value in yourself because of what's happened in your life...you are valuable beyond any material possession that exists in the world. If you find that hard to believe, I understand. I used to feel the same way but what I'm telling you is true. You are priceless.

If you are a Christian, I pray you know that what you hold doesn't dictate your value. It's who holds you who dictates that. Lean into Jesus and allow Him to tell and show you your value.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find someone who will tell you who you really are and what your value truly is.




Monday, May 8, 2017

The Art Of Perseverance


"But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded." - 2 Chronicles 15: 7

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

If you read last week's post, it mentioned that I was part of rescuing a red-tailed hawk caught in barbed wire. After rescued, it was brought back to my house and laid on the lawn. There was an inner compulsion to help it.

I gave it food and water in hopes of strengthening it. Then found and called a wildlife rehabilitation facility that took the hawk and administered emergency care. I persevered by seeing the task through.

I even did a follow up call to the rehab center to find out the status of the hawk. Unfortunately, it had to be euthanized due to the severity of its injury.

While I had no expectations of the outcome, I have to admit that I was thrown for a loop. At first there was shock which turned to sadness, then disgust.

Why did I put so much time, energy, and resources into trying to save this bird? What was the point of persevering? Everything done in an effort to help the hawk, now seemed completely useless and futile.

Okay, wait a minute. Back up.

After thinking about the sequence of events for a couple days, the answer to those questions came. A great truth emerged as to why I did what I did. A truth that calmed the inner turmoil, instantly.

Hope. I persevered in seeing things through, hoping for a positive outcome. It was the possibility of something great coming out of a dire situation that drove the perseverance.

This overwhelming realization was causing me to reflect on the reason for perseverance in the bigger areas of my life. The reason was the same. Hope. I persevere in praying for a husband because of the hope of being married...soon.

I persevere in pursuing my passion for writing and speaking in hopes it will pay off, even though there is no real promise that any of it will. It's hope that comes as a result of persevering but it's also hope that encourages perseverance, producing even more hope.

The Bible talks about this very thing, perseverance. Romans 5, verses 3-5 say, "...we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us..."

It's true. In my own life, as time passes by and some things in life get really discouraging and hard, it's hope that just will not loosen its grip on my heart. As small as hope can become, it remains as a result of my perseverance to see life situations through. No matter how big or small.

It's like a fuel to my inner fire, keeping things going when reality bites and draws blood. It's the tag team of perseverance and hope that keeps me praying through the painful stuff.

I would rather learn the art of painting the portrait of perseverance than brushing the stroke of regret. The outcome may be unknown but it's the drive of perseverance that will keep me going, as long as it takes.

Encouragement for the week:

Ever wonder what the point of perseverance is if the outcome might be negative? What if the outcome wasn't negative but you gave up before knowing?

Is the fear of the ending a better reason to quit while you might be ahead? Wouldn't you always wonder, "What if?"

While these are all questions I have asked myself, many times, I always chose to see things through, no matter the outcome.

It was more important to persevere and overcome the fear of what the end might bring, than to never know. I pray that you would make that same decision in your own life this week, no matter what you are facing.

If you are a Christian, we have the joy of receiving great hope when we persevere in all things, difficult and easy.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find Him and the greatest hope to ever take up residence in your life and heart.






Monday, May 1, 2017

I Need A Hero!


**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

Found this amazing creature entangled in barbed wire yesterday. After much effort, he/she was freed but not without sustaining permanent damage to its right leg. It's currently grounded on my lawn but I pray it musters enough strength to take flight and reach a safer place.

Like this red-tailed hawk, sometimes we need to be rescued. We find ourselves in unexpected predicaments that cause us to cry out, "I need a hero!" Someone that will come along to take over and give us rest from our anxieties.

In my singleness, I have had times of anxiety and worry in having to deal with and take care of all the things that will happen in life. Like having my transmission die while driving on a country road, getting a flat tire, or troubleshooting a frozen septic tank.

I'm not fully versed in all the backwoods issues having to do with cars or houses but with the help of heroes that have come along my path, the rescue has been gratefully accepted and abundantly appreciated.

It would be very easy for me to hand all of my life's hiccups over to someone else to navigate. I would be completely content with that...or would I? This is something I have often pondered and wrestled with as a single woman.

To have someone come alongside and take charge is reassuring and comforting because life can throw you some curveballs. The fact that I have muddled through the curves to the best of my ability does not dispell the fact that it was with extreme frustration and stress that I muddled.

However, if I have someone to look after the bigger things that cause me grief, that means I am now having to depend on that help for, possibly, lesser things, doesn't it? That scares me and I'm not sure why. As you all know, I have a great desire to be married. No, it's not so that there is someone who will ride in on his 'white horse' and take all my problems away, albeit nice.

It really is about journeying through life with a man having the same core values and beliefs that I have strong convictions for. It is about sharing the same goals and life direction while meeting and overcoming the 'hiccups' that life will bring, together. It's about rescuing each other when there's hurt, sorrow, or confusion.

So, until my husband gets the memo, I'm learning to lean into and depend completely on God as part of my ongoing relationship with Him. While He may not be here in the flesh, He does tend to show up in other people who come to my rescue. Other times, He has given me the wisdom and strength to find and implement solutions for unexpected problems. He is incredibly faithful and good.

I have learned a lot about life and myself in this season of singleness. There have been situations that I have come up against that seemed impossible to overcome but a solution always presented itself and the rescue, a success. There are everyday heroes in our midst, some being surprising and refreshing.

Jesus was such a man. An unsung hero without any presumption of being a hero. He rescued people who didn't even know they needed saving. The refreshing nature of His unsuspecting appearance and gentle demeanor caused even the strongest to crumble and cry out, "I need a hero!" He, quickly and powerfully, became everything the flailing swimmer needed in a lifeguard, pulling them to safety and freeing them from their anxieties.

That's the kind of hero that stands the test of time. One who is always on call and never sleeps until the difficulty passes and the one in need of saving is rescued. Inclement weather, hostile advances, and a plethora of unexpected surprises don't phase or stop them.

It's great to be rescued but it's also great to be a rescuer and while I may not have cheated death in order to help save the red-tailed hawk yesterday, it still felt good to be its hero. To speak words of reassurance while handling it gently and then caring for it today by checking on and feeding it. At the end of the day, no matter what walk or species of life, we could all use a hero from time to time.

Encouragement for the week:

Have you ever been in a situation where you were desperate to be rescued? What shape did your hero take on?

Life happens to all of us and it's reassuring to have some help when the going gets tough. It takes some of the pressure off our minds and hearts and gives us the peace required to navigate the emergency, calmly.

If you are a Christian, you know that you have the greatest hero in Jesus, for His promise to help you when you are in danger is real and true.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find a great hero in Him and know the safety and relief that comes from having Him as your rescuer.