Father, thank you for all the goodness of your creation that surrounds us. Please help us see all the beauty in our world.

Thank you for all you do to protect and provide for us, your children. Please be always our leader and King, our advisor and friend.

Help us follow the guidance of your Spirit as we learn to live and grow in peace. Help us help others by giving generously with care and compassion.

Be with us always to show us your ways, and teach us to show others your love. Thank you for the love of your Son who promises eternal life in your presence.

We love you, and we ask you to help us remember how blessed we are to share life in this country.

Amen.

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Who am I now? What should I do with myself?

Moms facing an empty nest when their children leave home may ask themselves these questions. These moms may find the answers in the book, Barbara and Susan’s Guide to the Empty Nest, written by Barbara Rainey and Susan Yates, and produced by Bethany House Publishers.

The book describes the premise of the Season Principle: our lives naturally move through different seasons of experience and development. The newlywed season is different from the new parent season, which is different from the parenting teens season, and the empty nest season is different from them all. Throughout these changing seasons, it is natural for moms to experience various and changing emotions. We have to give ourselves time and permission to experience our feelings and grow into our changing roles.

To help women make adjustments and experience healthy growth, the book offers many tools and techniques readers can use. Women are encouraged to build strong relationships with their husbands; nurture friendships with other women; turn to God through scripture study and prayer; assess their strengths, values, giftedness, and priorities; and develop mission statements to guide each new season of life. The book offers many practical resources to assist this process, including: suggested books and websites, Bible verses for reflection, a values assessment exercise, and a small group study guide which includes discussion questions and prayer prompts. All these resources may be helpful to moms who are adjusting to changing roles and developing relationships.

All women occasionally need support as we experience life changes. Barbara and Susan’s Guide to the Empty Nest provides resources and encouragement that many women will find useful.

I received a free copy of Barbara and Susan’s Guide to the Empty Nest from the publishers in exchange for writing a review.

How do you feel about facing the empty nest years? What techniques do you use to adjust to the changing seasons of your life?

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This spring I planted flowers. I filled plastic planters with potting soil, dug hollows, pressed delicate seedlings into place. I dragged the pots to the areas of best sunlight on my patio. I watered and watched, arranged and rearranged, worried and waited for something to grow. And waited.

Days passed without a stirring of greenery on the patio outside my window. I watered more, arranged again, watched and monitored, grumbled and complained that nothing seemed to be happening.

“I planted . . . but God gave the increase”

(1 Corinthians 3:6).

Faith so often means patiently waiting, and it is hard to practice patience. We want evidence that our work will be productive and positive. We want proof that our efforts will create the increase we desire, and we feel anxious when the bounty isn’t immediately delivered.

Growth so often takes place below the surface. While we work and wonder above ground, roots develop and spread beyond our sight. God controls the reaching and expanding that occurs without our knowledge. God generates the life that stirs before we see its presence.

All we can do is faithfully tend, water, weed, and wait. We have to choose to believe that God is acting and will produce the final harvest. We have to cultivate trust that the outcome belongs to God and the result will blossom in its season.

Weeks have passed, and my patio is finally covered in green. All I did was plant, water, and watch the good things grow.

What are you waiting for today? How do you trust God is working while you practice patience?

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Many years ago I worked in a bank. Banking is a fine career for someone with financial aptitude; but for me, it was just a job, and not a job I enjoyed. I felt bored, stifled, and out of place; but I dragged myself through work each day because I was afraid to give up the steady paycheck and health insurance. I had many other dreams for my life, but I told myself I needed that job, and I settled for punching keys at the bank while wishing I were anywhere else.

God doesn’t want us to settle for life that makes us feel stifled and unhappy. He tell us we are capable of reaching the goals and dreams he gives us. Often it is our lack of faith that keeps us from achieving our full potential. Over the years I’ve noticed a few behaviors that keep people from achieving their best.

Limiting Beliefs:

I don’t deserve it. I’m not good enough. I can’t do any better.

Negative beliefs are usually fed into us by other people who believed the same about themselves. This has been the hardest area for me to overcome, and I’ve never found an easy answer. At some point in my journey I decided that I will never know how much I can accomplish until I try, so I at least want to be able to say I made the attempt. That new belief has kept me persisting despite my doubts and persevering toward my goals during many times I wanted to give up and settle for less.

Making Excuses:

I’ve worked all day and I’m tired. I have too much to do. It’s not my fault.

Excuses deflect responsibility, blame others for our failures, and free us from the expectation to work hard. Excuses also prevent us from becoming the people we are meant to be. Becoming all we are capable of means taking responsibility for our actions, discovering how to motivate ourselves, and making the effort necessary to reach our goals. When I stopped complaining about being trapped in my job and started looking for a way to change, my situation improved and new opportunities presented themselves.

Habitual Thinking:

I’ve always done it this way. It will never get any better.  

Habit thinking is hard to identify because so often our bad habits are unconscious and automatic behaviors. It is easy to stay in roles, routines, and relationships that are bad for us because they seem so comforting and familiar. The best way I’ve found for changing bad habits is to work in the smallest possible increments and build up to achieving greater goals and bigger accomplishments. When I decided to leave the bank and began college, I started with one class while I worked. Over time I added more classes and worked up to full-time enrollment.

“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Each small step we take leads to the next phase of our journeys. I spent years of working to change my limiting beliefs and reach some of my goals; but I still have far to travel. When we choose to believe that God wants us to live more abundantly, we can faithfully follow wherever he leads.

For more information on changing limiting beliefs, check out this article. For an article about how to stop making excuses, click here. For information on how to change bad habits, check here.

How do you motivate yourself to reach your goals and dreams? How do you choose to live abundantly?

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“Are we there yet?”

Two years ago, my husband planned a romantic weekend getaway at a bed and breakfast in the heavily-forested corner of our state. He found the destination online, made the reservations, GPS’d the route that would take us to our secluded getaway. We packed the car and struck out for a few days of rest and relaxation.

But something went wrong. The GPS route took us on miles of out-of-the-way winding and wandering roads.  We cruised through darkened, mysterious forests and unexplored, dusty trails. We steered the car through steeply twisting paths, over green hills, down dark valleys, and around sharp turns. We passed abandoned, unpainted barns and tilting, empty houses. Gravel roads pinged the car with scattered stones. We drove around the countryside for miles, always following the curvy blue line on the GPS screen, but seemingly getting no closer to our destination.

“Are we there yet?”

Sometimes our lives lead us on long and winding roads and across unbeaten paths. We circle back and loop around through the curves and redirections, all the while worrying about where we are headed and wondering when we will ever arrive.

On that long and wandering drive, I could have complained about the endless delay, the bumpy roads, the flying gravel dust. I could have fretted about the desolation and isolation of our path, the long suspense of waiting to find a functioning bathroom. Instead, what I remember now is the beautiful scenery: the green, shading trees and fields of blooming wildflowers, the grazing deer and soaring birds, the interesting old barns and spooky, empty houses. When we finally arrived at the secluded B&B, we felt more grateful for the welcoming room, the comfortable bed, and the wonderfully functional bath.

We can complain about the unexpected twists and turns our lives may take, worry about frustrating delays, fret about arrival times, argue about the best and most efficient way to proceed. Or we can relax and enjoy the ride, watch the passing scenery, appreciate the beauty of God’s creation that surrounds us. We can choose to be happy and grateful for the time we spend traveling together; and when we arrive at our destination, we will be more aware of the warm and welcoming greeting that awaits us.

What road are you traveling this spring? How do you appreciate and enjoy your journey?

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“I got one!”

The fish splashed, flipping on the end of the line. I pulled him in slowly, through grasping weeds and past jutting rocks, then held him at arm’s length in an awkward photo pose. Tom carefully removed the hook and returned the tiny, spiny sunfish to the water’s edge. The fish quivered a moment in the shallows before disappearing into the depths.

All afternoon we cast and reeled, celebrating when we got a bite, quietly watching the water when nothing stirred. Hours of waiting left me plenty of time to contemplate how fishing is the perfect metaphor for living a life of faith.

Fishing teaches patience. To fish, we stand for long hours beside a dark and mysterious pool, endure lashing rain or blistering sun, all for the chance to capture a prize. Faith requires willingness to wait through times of storm and shadow, all to receive the promise of our future reward.

Fishing requires courage. To fish, we board tiny boats and brave towering waves, knowing monsters lurk beneath the murky depths. Faith requires fortitude to step onto the water and face roaring storms and churning seas, knowing God quiets the tempest, and the wind and waves obey him.

Fishing demands wisdom. When we fish, we have to know which catch is big enough to keep and which must be returned to swim another day. Faith understands there is a time to gather and a time to release; and when life becomes hopelessly tangled in strangling weeds and debris, we may have to cut bait and start again with a different lure.

Fishing builds hope. When we cast that fishing line, we know that some days the big ones get away and we turn for home with an empty bucket, planning to try again tomorrow. Faith believes that we will always catch enough to fill our needs, and when we push off from shore and row to the middle of the stream, the blessings often leap into the boat and land, wriggling, at our feet.

“Simon said to him, ‘Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless, at your word, I will let down the net.’ And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking” (Luke 5:5-6).

When we listen to God’s command, trust, obey, and act in faith, we discover that we capture more good things than we ask or expect. When we cast out and accept the gifts that swim our way, we often find our nets filled to overflowing.

How do you stay patient while living in faith? How do you build courage, wisdom, and hope?

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On a gray and rainy day in a dark and drizzly week, all I wanted to do was retreat to the sofa with a book and a blanket. All the cold and damp aggravated my old knee injury, so just hobbling to my desk seemed like too much effort. All I wanted to do was curl up in a cocoon on the couch.

Instead, I called Terra, a former coworker, and asked her to meet for lunch. I braved the tempest and limped through the crowded Chinese restaurant. We ate beef and broccoli while Terra told me about the breakup of her marriage, her upcoming move to a new city, the medical problem that put her in the hospital for two days.

“But I’m not crying anymore,” Terra said. She shook off her slump and again became the cheerful and positive friend I worked with years ago. “I know God is taking care of me. God will work it out.”

“This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

On that cold and dreary day, I was reminded that my aching knee is not the only pain in the world. My story is only one of many stories. God hears every prayer, and he knows every concern. Each day he offers me a new opportunity to choose joy in the life I am given, look for the reasons I have to be grateful, trust in him for the resolution of the future, and care for someone else within my reach.

Leaving my cozy and comfortable home reminds me of my purpose: to reach out and connect with friends, offer companionship and support on our shared journey, spread cheer and encouragement wherever I am able. When I trust that God is taking care of me, I am free to forget my small problems and focus on caring for others instead.

When we choose to confront each new day with joy, give thanks for all we are given, and love others we meet on the way; then the drizzle becomes less dreary, and the sun begins to break through the clouds.

How will you face the new day the Lord has made? How do you rejoice and give thanks for God’s care?

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