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


"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.