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**

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**

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 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**

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 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.