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


"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**

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!