Monday, October 16, 2017

Sixteen Candles

**Photo courtesy of www.google.ca**

In Sixteen Candles, Molly Ringwald's character, Samantha, is engaged in the most excruciating journey of her life - the teenage years. While battling internal angst, Samantha is also met with external chaos as her family plans and prepares for the wedding of her older sister.

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the matrimonial event exists Sam's upcoming and much anticipated right of passage - her sixteenth birthday. Even though most of the attention is focused on her sister, Sam still holds to the expected celebration she imagines will be thrown by her odd, yet loving family.

The morning of her birthday brings great hope which is soon crushed by non-existent acknowledgement of the most important day that could ever happen to a hormonally raging teen. Nothing from her mother. No cards or wishes from her grandparents. Not a word from anyone. Nothing. She's soon aware of the belief that no one cares. She's crushed.

To top it all off, Sam pines for the most popular senior in her school - Jake. A rugged fellow who happens to be dating the most popular girl in her school. In Sam's mind, Jake doesn't even know she exists. Life sucks.

It's never easy to think that no one cares, especially when the thought becomes a whole hearted belief and discouragement sets in. There have been times when I have felt the same. When a text message doesn't come or the phone doesn't ring and an entire day goes by in technological silence. When I think about friends in my life that I, rarely, hear from except on my birthday.

I have to make a decision to get away from that thought process, and soon, because I know what comes next - despair. Despair doesn't wait long to happen once you're already discouraged or disappointed about a situation in life and it can take root for hours, even days, if you don't change your mind.

Fortunately, over the years, I've come to not only read, but also embrace and believe a great truth that God has told me in His Word, the Bible. It is found in the book of 1 Peter, and says, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (5:7 NIV) No matter if I am thinking or feeling uncared for, these things are temporary and don't reflect the truth above.

Someone does care, a lot. Someone good, loving, and faithful cares for me and you and He always will even though we may think that others don't. That is a reassuring reality in amongst the pathways in life that may appear otherwise.

Samantha's story doesn't end in despair with a diss from her entire family or the beau she dreams about. In fact, it begins with a heartfelt apology from her father and mother and ends with Jake stealing her away from her sister's wedding. The scene moves to them sitting across from each other on a kitchen table. Between them is a lit birthday cake with sixteen candles and Sam knows that someone cares.

Encouragement for the week:

Being human means moving through a multitude of feelings and thoughts that can leave us in an emotional upheaval.

Feeling like someone doesn't care is often hurtful and disappointing but it isn't the truth.

If you are a Christian, you have the joy and security of knowing that God cares for you deeply and constantly. Don't let the feelings of the moment overrule the facts of God's love and care for you.

If you are not a Christian, you can look for Jesus and you will find Him. He is ready to show you how much He cares for you and it is something that never ends when you share a relationship with Him.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?


**Photo courtesy of www.google.ca**

Skipping school was never more appealing than when Matthew Broderick, as Ferris Bueller, brilliantly planned and carried out his absence in the movie, Ferris Bueller's Day Off. He further justifies the truant behavior with, "How could I possibly be able to handle school on a day like this?" (a perfect, sunny day).

While I would never recommend truancy to anyone, there was a time I felt brazen enough to skip out when in highschool. Well, okay, it was only one class and that one time I skipped out, was the one time I got caught and left hung out to dry by my friends. Needless to say, it was never attempted again. I am, definitely, no Ferris Bueller, but I digress.

Ferris goes to great lengths to skip with the help of his best friend, Cameron, who alters his voice to sound like Ferris' father and, reluctantly, gets Ferris excused from the day's scholastic activities. Cameron was legitimately sick the day that Ferris recruited him to help aid and abet his actions. Cameron was also a worrier. Especially when Ferris convinced him to take his father's prized possession, a 1961 Ferrari, as their mode of transportation for the day.

After picking up Ferris' girlfriend, Sloane, the three went on to experience unexpected and hilarious hijinks in the city of Chicago. Including Ferris' impromptu joining on a Von Steuben Day parade float and lip-syncing Wayne Newton's 'Danke Schoen'. Cameron barely cracked a smile the entire time while continuing to fret about the situation surrounding the 'borrowing' of his father's car. You could see the anxiety written all over Cameron's face.

I can relate to what Cameron was going through. Sometimes there are things in life that get us down and cause us to worry and be anxious. I was laid off from my full time job over a year ago and it's been tough trying to find another one. At times, it has been a challenge putting aside my worry and anxiety about it especially knowing that my savings will eventually run out.

It's times like that when I need to remember my life is more than what I am seeing in the moment. That there is someone in my corner who is looking out for me and cares about every thing that concerns me. That someone is God and He has been instrumental in pulling my attention away from my would-be hopeless situation and focusing on who He is.

There is nothing I care about in my life that He doesn't care about more. Even the fact that I have been unemployed for this long. Reading the Bible helps me to get back to having the proper perspective in times of worry and anxiety. The perspective that God will never let me down. He is faithful.

In fact, my mind slows down and my heart stops racing when I read Philippians 4:6, which says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." This is something that God tells us to do because fretting about anything won't help us, but it will hurt us. We'll lose sleep, get sick, and start to dream up a whole host of other scenarios that will, realistically, never happen.

All of those things have happened to me as a result of allowing worry to consume my thoughts, which then creeps into my heart and then I lose what peace resided there. Though, the deep rooted peace that comes from God never leaves me even though I may not sense it during an overwhelming time.

I pray a lot, everyday. For a job, for help, for healing, and for so many other things. Knowing that I can always do that, brings me back to what was once lacking in the midst of my unsettledness - peace.

Celebrating this day of thanksgiving magnifies the above verse into so much more than being grateful for turkey and stuffing. Although, tryptophan is one of the best after effects of eating that mighty bird. Praying, and thanking God while doing it, brings so much more into my heart that I had forgotten, existed. A fresh, new perspective that helps to alleviate a, once, heavy and worried heart.

I never need to be anxious about anything because in everything, I know that I can go to God with whatever is worrying me and He understands and helps me through it all until I come to that beautiful place of peace.

Encouragement for the week:

The past month seems to have been riddled with a lot of things, not only beyond our control, but beyond our comprehension. Like Las Vegas, Edmonton, Paris, London, and the hurricanes.

It's easy to fall into a state of worry and concern when there is so much bad news and a struggle to make sense of the senseless.

If you are a Christian, you know the importance and saving grace of having an intimate relationship with God. That He can give you everything you need in a time of worry or anxiety. That if you put all things into His hands, He will give you the peace beyond understanding and guard your heart and mind.

If you are not a Christian, you can look for Jesus and find Him and all the peace that He offers as part of a relationship with Him. That peace will help you cope with the things in your life that you can't understand and that bring worry and anxiety.


Monday, October 2, 2017

Still

"For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face..."
 - 1 Corinthians 13:12

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**


The contemplative things of life,
The joys, some pain, and wayward strife.

From ashes deep, see beauty come,
A precious gift, indeed, for some.

But how can we still understand,
Of someone else's willing hand.

To take a life by murderous scheme,
In this, our world, I could not dream.

That plots and plans would lead us here,
Into a seeming place of fear.

When violence breaks and threats abound,
We wonder where our hope is found.

Through bloodshed there is something bright,
Some shining glimpse, a piercing light.

Though evil tries to tear apart,
The worried mind and hurting heart.

There is no thing that'd ever be,
The crush or kill of unity.

Creation stands in peace and love,
To overcome and stand above.

The trials that test our strength and will,
In prayer the soul shall triumph, still.


Encouragement for the week:

The recent terrorist attacks in Paris, France and Edmonton, Alberta, Canada were stark reminders that evil lurks. This poem is for those affected by these events.

We can never quite figure out why things happen, brutal things.

Lives can be taken in a heartbeat and without remorse. May we never cease to come together in unity and stand on peace and love.

If you are a Christian, you know that Satan looks to steal, kill, and destroy God's children. Always be on guard and ready with your armor of God.

If you are not a Christian and were unsettled by these recent events, you can look for Jesus and find Him. He will bring you hope during times of uncertainty in our world.


Monday, September 25, 2017

Be Prepared

"Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know 
which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well."
 - Ecclesiastes 11:6

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

Be prepared for - life, the worst, and the unexpected. We're told to be prepared for the things that life, undoubtedly, will throw at us. Always wear clean underwear in case you're in an accident, get vaccinations when travelling overseas, and keep an emergency kit in your car. With all the things we're told to do to be ready for, can we really be completely prepared?

Over the past couple weeks, the news channels have been reporting the occurrences of natural disasters including hurricanes Harvey and Irma, earthquakes and flooding. There seems to be no shortage of calamity. From Texas to Puerto Rico, Cuba to Mexico, people's lives were taken and changed by what was happening. There are places still without power and folks with the inability to return to their homes due to the devastation these catastrophes left behind.

While it's a scary thought to be caught up in something like a hurricane or earthquake, modern technology has enabled us to be better prepared in the face of mother nature's hiccups. Through the use of sattelite tracking and other early warning systems, oncoming peril now gives us clues to when and how severe they will hit. However, there is no way to be fully set for something that may take your life, home, or family away in a matter of minutes.

I try to be as prepared as possible in my life. I get my car serviced at regular intervals, always have extra food on hand in case of emergency, and get a yearly medical exam to maintain good health. Yet, it's the day to day stuff that catch me by surprise that can't always guarantee readiness. Like getting a flat tire or splashing spaghetti sauce on an outfit right before I'm ready to head out the door. There are just some things that happen beyond my control.

There is a book in the Bible called Jeremiah. Jeremiah is a prophet who was given the task to go into ministry and turn around a wicked group of people. He felt totally unprepared when given the task but went ahead because God promised to give him the words to say and provide protection and guidance. In the first chapter of the book, God encourages Jeremiah to, "Get yourself ready!..." (1:17) and to prepare for what lies ahead.

Jeremiah was faced a lot of rejection, abuse, and peril during the decades of his ministry which would make anyone faint of heart. Poor guy. However, because he knew God and God's Word, Jeremiah was more than ready to take on what would be cataclysmic and greatly discouraging. He had gathered information, knowledge, and wisdom to get him through all the difficulties he would face while travelling the long road God had for him.

As a Christian woman, I value and depend on the wisdom found in the Bible. I used to depend on my own thoughts and information when faced with a misfortune and things didn't usually turn out well. It seemed that every situation I tried to overcome became insurmountable. There was, often, a period of time when I tried to figure out where things went wrong.

Now that I have my own emergency preparedness kit, in the Bible, life has been easier. It doesn't mean that I have been without difficulties, loss, and heartbreak, but it has meant greater knowledge and information in order to be ready for the unexpected.

There will be mishaps in life and missteps along the way but the information and wisdom I've gained from spending time in the Bible has been invaluable. Applying what it says to my life has equipped me with courage, strength, and perseverance when the storms of life come, which, they will.

Encouragement for the week:

Do you know of someone who was a victim of the recent hurricanes, earthquakes, or flooding? Have you asked them what their emergency readiness plan was when they found out the disasters were coming and how much time they had to prepare?

There is no promise of easy sailing in our everyday lives. Sometimes disasters are predicted and others just happen without warning.

If you are a Christian, you know the importance of being ready by reading the Word of God so that we may be prepared for the things in life, both expected and unexpected. Keep digging deep into the Word for the wisdom, knowledge, and information that will enable you to be ready for anything that comes your way.

If you are not a Christian, you can look for Jesus and find Him. He is the source of great wisdom and knowledge that will help you to be better prepared for the difficult events in life that will come. He will enable you to come through them with peace and hope.








Monday, September 18, 2017

The Final Frontier

**Photo courtesy of www.google.ca**


Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before (Source: Wikipedia).

Many of you are familiar with the above monologue that plays at the beginning of each Star Trek movie/episode. They're the taglines that cause us to know, immediately, this famous cult classic that has been a favorite for decades.

Man has spent a lot of time and energy exploring the outer reaches of the universe. The most famous endeavor being the lunar landing by Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969. Since then, missions to Mars and other outlying planets have been investigated/attempted.

There are mysteries in the galaxy that we just can't explain, like a black hole. NASA has described it as follows: "A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light cannot get out. The gravity is so strong because matter has been squeeed into a tiny space. This can happen when a star is dying. Because no light can get out, people can't see black holes. They are invisible." (Source: www.nasa.gov)

Even though invisible to us, black holes do exist. They are a complex phenomenon that have been studied and sought after by scientests and star gazers alike. Even the sci-fi starship Enterprise searched for and, dangerously, encountered black holes whilst fulfilling Starfleet missions.

As a Christian, I wonder about a lot of things that exist that I haven't seen like black holes, the Milky Way, and heaven. Even though I have heard of these things and read about them, there still lies a curiosity in seeing each one with my own eyes.

I'm not sure if I will ever lay eyes on a black hole or the Milky Way, but believe I will see heaven. There's a book in the Bible called Revelation that gives a sneak peek of what to expect from heaven. In Revelation 21, it describes heaven on earth. A place that, "...shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal." (Revelation 21:11)

It will also be a spectacular dwelling where, "There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain,..." (Revelation 21:4). A destination that, I imagine, will fill the senses and leave me in awe. All that I have read about heaven doesn't compare to how it will be when I see it. Much like it may have been when Kirk and his crew of the starship Enterprise explored the expanse of the universe and boldly went where no man had gone before.

Encouragement for the week:

Even though there are things we can't see, we know they exist.

They are incredible and baffling and lead us wanting to know more.

If you are a Christian, you know that though you can't see God, you know He exists. He's present in everything that surrounds you and within your peaceful heart. God's Word continues to be a true and wonderful source of understanding the unknown and unseen. Be sure to spend time, each day, in the Bible.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find Him. Even though you can't see Him, He is as real as if you could and He's ready to welcome you into His family.



Monday, September 11, 2017

Understand, You Do Not

**Photo courtesy of www.google.ca**

Star Wars is, perhaps, the most popular and iconic sci-fi movie series of our time. If you are a die hard follower of the Star Wars franchise, you are familiar with the many characters that remain beloved to you today - Han Solo, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, and Chewbacca, to name a few.

My favorite character was Yoda. A...creature of odd proportion, Yoda always knew what to say. He was considered to be exceptionally wise and, at times, spoke in a backward fashion, completely understood by those who knew him well. Skywalker would, often, seek Yoda's wisdom about a variety of predicaments that, young Luke, would often find himself in.

When I first started watching the Star Wars films, Yoda was a bit of a conundrum to me. At times, I didn't fully comprehend him but, over time, and having watched subsequent episodes, came to fully understand Yoda's 'ways'. Dare I say that I started speaking backwards while attempting to duplicate Yoda's voice. Don't tell anyone.

While it was over time I eventually figured Yoda out, there are things in this world that perplex me. Like the uncommon use of common sense, using anonymity to bully, or advocating violence while promoting a 'worthwhile cause'. These, along with so many other things, cause confusion and defy logic.

Growing up, one of the greatest things I didn't understand was God. To me, He was wrathful, distant, and poised to punish. An up-in-the-clouds deity not at all interested in the things that were causing me pain, depression, and anger.

It wasn't until much later in life that I became a Christian and entered into a personal relationship with God. Only then, did I come to fathom all the things that had, once, been pre-conceived as a young woman. Like thinking God was angry all the time and only interested in doling out discipline when, in fact, God was love and there was no denying it once I felt it for myself.

Then, there was the misconception that God had no interest in me or my life, until I spent time with Him. Now, I have come to understand that He's interested in even the smallest detail of every area of my everyday life. It's interesting how confused we can become when we don't take the time to really get to know the source of our misunderstanding.

Now, I can say that many things in life make sense because of the time taken each day to get to know God and His perspective on those things. The world and how it changes also makes more sense because of the time spent in God's Word, the Bible.

There is a book in the Bible called Jeremiah that speaks of a wonderful promise: "...In days to come you will understand it clearly." - Jeremiah 23:20 (NIV). A reassuring promise that, even though I may not understand something in this exact moment, I can look to God, asking for knowledge and understanding, and He will help me figure things out.

I am thankful for this kind of help and wisdom when it comes to navigating life. No matter what the situation, whether I get everything sorted out or not, God will help me and...understand, I will.

Encouragement for the week:

Understanding the difficult things in life can, sometimes, be elusive but with time, knowledge, and careful thought, those things can become less difficult.

With God, it's not so much that I need to comprehend everything in my life as much as it's knowing it's okay if I don't.

If you are a Christian, you know the importance of understanding the true character of God in order to comprehend the daily challenges we will encounter. Keep leaning into Him and He will help you to understand.

If you are not a Christian, and you struggle to understand some things in your life, look for Jesus and you will find Him. He will help you along the way to understand things from a more wonderful perspective than you have ever known.


Monday, September 4, 2017

Not So Fast!

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, 
and where thieves break in and steal." - Matthew 6:19

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**


Sometimes I do things impulsively or because of external pressure, having given little thought to whether or not this 'thing' is good for me. Then, there are times I say things that haven't been properly filtered through my heart, ensuring they are spoken in a spirit of love instead of hurt.

Since becoming a Christian, over ten years ago, I like to think that I have made some progress in these areas, with God's help of course. That I do unwise things less frequently and speak more lovingly because there were years in my life that I operated without any kind of social filter and, who knows, the hearts I damaged. The verbal hurt on others was a direct result of my own pain.

Relationships, especially, can suffer the collateral damage of hurtful things done and said by each person. Words spoken while hurting or frustrated can, often, be like a battering ram to the other person now, blindsided, by something completely unexpected. It can be as easy as an off mood or a frustrating work day that can open the gate to verbal assaults.

I have been there both in friendships and relationships, especially with my words, which always seem to wound more than actions. Elevated emotions are my usual trigger to saying something never intended to hurt. But it isn't long before I feel the sting of regret and act quickly to apologize and make things right. Hurtful words can come from a hurt heart and that's why careful thought and time need to be taken before speaking.

There is a verse in the Bible, within the book of Romans, that talks about the importance of not following what everyone else in the world does but being, instead, someone different. It says: "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:2)

Ultimately, it's saying to think differently in order to operate differently. To take something insincere and turn it into compassionate, before the words ever leave your lips. To have your thoughts reflect wise actions, beneficial to both yourself and others.

I am thankful and find it refreshing that, with time and some careful thought, my mind can be used to think of others before myself. That my words can be carefully weaved together to bless and encourage others.

There are so many things in the world causing us to say, and maybe even do, things that we wouldn't normally. Things that bring us to extreme emotional heights, resulting in a spewing of critical and hate filled vocabulary. Things that, if we decided to turn our minds away from its negativity, would allow us to renew our minds, adjust our filter, and aim toward that which is good.

So, if you know someone who might lack a social filter, be patient and kind. Words and actions of compassion toward that person could be life changing, for both of you.

Encouragement for the week:

Are there some areas of your life where you need to take extra time to think things over before doing or saying something? We know the popular acronym 'THINK', can help us when we're stuck for what to say:

T - Is it true?
H - Is it helpful?
I - Is it inspiring?
N - Is it necessary?
K - Is it kind?

If we change our minds, our hearts will follow, helping us make better decisions.

If you are a Christian, you know the dangers of being of the world. Be on guard by being renewed and transformed of mind.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find Him and all the ways He will help you in thought, word, and action for a good life.






Monday, August 28, 2017

It's Simple

"He has made everything beautiful in its time..." - Ecclesiastes 3:11

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

The best things in life are simple and give me tremendous peace and joy. Riding on the fender of a 1210 Case tractor while watching it cut hay, eating a fresh from-the-oven banana nut muffin, and sitting by a campfire while gazing at the star studded night sky, are some of these things.

Perhaps the best of the simple things in my life is in the quiet mornings, when I meet with God. Sitting on the couch and looking at the open field, majestic trees, and a passing bird, bring me into a place where I can leave my busy mind and heavy heart behind.

In fact, the word 'simple' has come to mean a lot in the past couple years. Maybe because I have grown a couple years older and, hopefully, wiser. I'm not sure if this acronym exists but here is what simple looks like for me:

S - Sitting
I - In
M - Morning
P - Prayer
L - Listening
E - Expectantly

Sitting, waiting, and listening are three easy activities to do on their own. However, when you are trying to do all three at once, it can be a challenge. Especially when you are really wanting or needing a reply. I've come to learn that if I don't get an answer right away to the things I am asking, and as long as I have peace, I'm in a good place and the answer will eventually come because God promises to answer.

I've also learned that some things are better left unsaid or undone, especially, in a stressful or frustrating situation where I might not be thinking clearly and emotions are heightened. Simple. Then there are times when I must allow myself some time to ask and answer key questions before being involved with something unsavory in nature.

Questions such as: Is this a battle worth fighting? Will this matter in a year? A month? A week? Most of the time, I can answer 'no' right away and move on to something else more light hearted.

Life is too short to not enjoy each day or take yourself too seriously, and laughter can, often, be the remedy to almost every situation. Meeting a difficulty head on with grace, compassion, and effective communication can make all the difference. It can be that simple.

Not to put a stamp on everything in life and say that this or that is simple and easy to navigate because there are certain things that you need to tread lightly in. Things that require more thought and intentional action. Things that, while they may seem simple on the surface, can quickly become complicated. Relationships of every kind can certainly be one of those things.

I used to be a very materialistic person who held stuff and money in high esteem. I could never make enough money or collect enough stuff to bring happiness, contentment, or peace. It actually created the opposite, mainly because the possessions racked up debt which then brought stress and inner chaos. The things I owned soon owned me and I had to file bankruptcy just to get free.

Once I became a Christian, God taught me the importance of managing money while simplifying thought processes and, ultimately, my life. The possessions became fewer while my peace and contentment became greater. It was freeing to discover something that, many years earlier, was foreign to me.

Now, I strive to keep my life simple and if that means purging things I don't need or paying something forward, I'm happy to do it. I also take more time to do things that are simple and enjoyable. There is a wonderful blessing in keeping things simple. Yes, the best things in life are free, but they're also simple.

Encouragement for the week:

Have you ever wanted to simplify your life but don't know where to begin? How about starting with the small stuff. Donate unread or unwanted books to your local church or library. Purge your wardrobe of fashion relics and give them to a thrift store for others to enjoy.

Taking these smaller steps will lead to the bigger things in need of simplicity that you have been putting off. Yes, it can be that simple.

If you are a Christian, you know that Jesus doesn't place any value on the things here on earth. In fact, He says in Matthew 6:19 - "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal." (NIV) There is freedom in simplicity.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find Him and the freedom you can enjoy each day, simply, by knowing Him.





Monday, August 21, 2017

Outstretched And Open

**Photo courtesy of Google**

There is something strangely satisfying about cutting grass with a zero turn riding lawn mower, especially when you live on an acreage, like I do. With the slightest push of my hands, forward and backward, and greatest of ease, the mower can be moved in any direction. It hugs trees and zooms down the straightaways, planting a smile on this carefree face.

For me, cutting grass is one of the best mindless tasks, freeing up my thoughts to ponder greater things. One of those things has been reflecting on the challenge of letting go. More specifically and lately, practicing the art of letting go of the hopes and dreams I had for my life. It's ironic that I was thinking this as my hands death gripped the mower handles while grass cutting, but I was.

Just like I had to pry my hands off the handles after completing the mowing, some things we hold onto tightly, in life, also require our hands to be pried off of. Things that can take over our thoughts and actions so much that we lose sight of what it really means to enjoy everyday life. I have been guilty of this for many years.

I used to believe that only marriage would bring fullness and happiness to my life. That without sex, I would die. That if I didn't bring enough readers to my blog, I would be a failure. That if I didn't keep trying to have a relationship with my son now, it would never happen.

Tighter and tighter my grip became on these things and before long, it's all that consumed my thoughts and, inevitably, created frustration. Frustration at things not happening because of my self-driven determination to see them come to pass, followed by misery and discontentment.

It has taken, literally, decades to wade through the muck of who I really am and what needs to be the priorities in life. Enjoying life, continuing to dream, and staying true to my faith while waiting are just a few.

What really matters is practicing all the valuable things that I have learned in my life. Not only from experiences but also from my faith and the Bible. The gratitude I have for knowing God often surpasses my own understanding. The freedom from worry, anxiety, and stress by living a life controlled by someone who knows exactly what He's doing...priceless.

The knowledge that holding nothing tightly only leaves room for greater things to come into my life, is unfathomable yet comforting. I used to want everything in my life to turn out exactly how I imagined it should. Then after seeing it all through the lens of faith, I saw a train wreck at the worst possible time.

Holding onto mediocre and 'feel good' things now, leaves no room for the incredible and best there is to come. It's not worth holding onto the steering wheel when you're headed for the ditch. Nor is it worth expecting good things to happen while holding on to what we've settled for.

If I am willing, which I am, then I can wait. With outstretched, open, and empty hands, I leave room for them to be filled with all kinds of great experiences and blessings.

Encouragement for the week:

It's hard not to want something badly. We all have something in our lives that we don't want to let go of or give up, but is that preventing us from gaining something better?

There is freedom in letting go. It takes the pressure off ourselves and our hearts so that peace and contentment can take over, making life more enjoyable.

If you are waiting for something, that's okay. The longer it takes, the greater it's going to be once it arrives. Enjoy the wait.

If you are a Christian, you know the importance of letting go of the past so that God can take you into the future He has planned for you. Use a pry bar if you have to.

If you are not a Christian, look for Jesus and you will find Him. He has incredible things for you and will help you let go of your past so that you can enjoy your life while you wait for your future.









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!