Let’s Keep Looking Up

I should eat, I thought. I’ll regret it if I don’t. So I pulled out the eggs, the friendly spinach, and some easy oatmeal and got to work. Well, I did stop for just a minute to turn on the music. Nothing much gets done without the music. The raw green spinach leaves jumped into the warm pan to cozy up with a little rosemary and garlic olive oil.

As I stirred the greens, my ears caught the story of the song. The singer sang of love and how their memories were kept in a photograph, a place where hearts were ”never broken” and where time stays frozen. My smile started small at the idea of it, then grew in salute to the fellow encourager. And I say encourager because to label us idealists might break my heart. An encourager can see potential in what others may see as impossible.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if love could save the world right now amidst all of the pain, chaos, and uncertainty?

I find myself searching for answers, so lately I’ve been up to my ears in books. Books about writing. Books about teaching. Recipe books—because my cooking still needs some help. Books about becoming a better me. Books about anti-racism. Of course, there are the books that take my mind away from all of the above, even if just for a little while….the fiction, the make-believe. It’s been a season of books.

I sat down to eat my breakfast, squinting a bit against the morning sunlight through the open window. Looking out, I laughed out loud as I noticed a small grey and white striped cat with a big swashbuckling tail arguing with a pesky bird who kept swooping down at it from a low place in the sky. They were both squawking and hopping in the middle of the otherwise quiet cul-de-sac. That cat must’ve got into the bird’s business again. I wondered if maybe they could learn to be friends. I’m sure it’s possible. Anything is possible, right? With love…

When I finished eating, I got up and rinsed off my plate. The water was as mild as the summer morning, and a new song came on. The tune was catchy, and one I’d never heard before. As I processed the words in my mind, I smiled again. It must be one of those mornings when everything is lining up. All this love stuff. Just the other day on Facebook live I listened to a conversation with Dr. Clarence Jones, who played a role in some pretty amazing history, speak about events going on today and the thing he kept coming back to was…love. Redemptive love. Soul love. I stared out the window above the sink and focused on the new song.

“Love can change the world in a moment, but what do I know?” Ed Sheeran sings from my little speaker propped up on the kitchen counter. From his heart to my house. Isn’t it amazing how songs can travel from so far? Yet we connect with them as if they were born right here in our hearts. I get it…I mean, really, what do I know?

Leaving the music on, I turned and walked into the room where I like to write. With a day free from work, I sorted through the pile of books I could read today. I thought about how lucky I was to have a pile of books. The libraries must be so lonely right now. I picked up one book and then another. Hmm…this one? No. That one? Maybe.

Still undecided, I turned toward my favorite reading chair. It waited for me beneath the window. Golden sunlight would be my lamp. On the wide, curved arm I spied a rather large and familiar book which I knew held 1,809 pages. The spine was terribly damaged from being read over and over for thirty years, even though I’ve been careful. Last night, I set it on my chair to remind myself to revisit it again soon…because it had been awhile. With a Facebook check, a Zoom workshop, taking care of the dog, and breakfast, I’d already forgotten about it this morning. It’s easy for me to forget. Because you know, we fill life up with all these things we feel like we have to do. In order to pay the bills. Or to improve. Or to distract ourselves.

Looking at the big book on my chair, I remembered that it’s the best book I’ve got. It’s got it all in one place. Personal development, action, drama, comedy, and best of all…love. Man, I did have love on the brain. Seriously, though, when my mind does the swirly thing and starts spinning with the what-ifs and what-abouts, there really is no other book than this one that squashes all that. Every time, it guides me back to the truth and the reason for everything. The last time I opened it, I had begun reading about a king from history named Solomon. He’s known for his wisdom. I could use some of that right now. Okay, always.

The greatest love story is all throughout the pages of that great book. Love for me and love for you. It also talks about loving everyone, even those we disagree with. Even loving those who don’t like us. That’s not easy, as we well know. Not easy, but not impossible. That’s why I’m not giving up on this love stuff. It’s the real deal. It can heal. Let’s give it and receive it now more than ever. Just like the One who loves us.

I sat down, ran my hand slowly over the cover and then made that my first choice for today’s reading—the Bible. I wanted to be reminded of the Love. It’s not fleeting. It’s eternal. Sometimes it’s a process that we wait on with patient urgency. Sometimes it’s a call to immediate action. Love will meet you when you’re ready for it; sometimes it will find you when you think you’re not. I may forget again and read something else tomorrow, but one thing is for sure: it will always be there, waiting tenderly…calling on my heart.

The songs in the kitchen have been moving along as I write this. I can’t help but appreciate the words I hear right now as they drift down the hallway and reach my ears. “Love is more precious than gold,” Chris Stapleton’s voice croons confidently, “…I got love enough to spare. That makes me a millionaire.”

May you be rich in Love, friends.

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Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

“…Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” -Colossians 3:12-15

The Bookshop

Summer 2016

What wonders will I find today? The heavy wooden door resists, barely allowing me in as I push on the rounded brass handle. Despite the effort, I know I am welcome here and nod a greeting to the young clerk with the black glasses. He was the one who helped me find that one about the violinist in Nashville, set in the late 1800s. He glances up from his cash register and waves a quick hello.

I step further inside and breathe in the scent of paper and coffee. An espresso machine to the far left noisily chugs away. The rich aroma is hard to resist. Cappuccino is my candy, but I’m on a mission.

The coolness of the air conditioner reaches my flushed cheeks, giving immediate relief from the heat wave outside. My arms fall at my sides, the outside world fades away, and my shoulders relax as my hazel gaze sweeps across the cavernous room. A small graces my lips, and my heart skips a beat before it begins to race with anticipation. The books are everywhere, and they call to me.

Familiar carpet, thick and stoic, stretches down the wide center aisle all the way to the back wall as if awaiting royalty. Slowly, I let my bright pink flip-flops guide me in the direction of their choice. I’m not worried about where they will lead me first. Before leaving, I will step leisurely, contentedly, into every section of these cherished four walls. The only hard decision will be which book to purchase today out of the thousands laid before me. My budget whispers a reminder that there can be only one. But before I face that inevitable dilemma, I will enjoy every moment in this bookshop.

On the way to the first row of tall shelves to be explored, my fingers dance to a slow rhythm over spines and covers of books that tease me from their place on shelf ends. Pictures and words splash around to get my attention. Just a few paces in, I find myself stopping in front of a particular book that calls to me like fireworks on the 4th of July. The front of it is hot pink, same as my shoes. A blonde, fit woman with a wide, confident smile—everything my opposite—cheers me on to take a look inside the pages. What I find takes my breath away. Stories I can relate to are waiting for me inside. Truths about myself that are loving and God-breathed, not critical and full of doubt as I am so used to thinking. A helper wrapped up between two hundred and eighty-eight unique pages.

Keeping it with me, I continue to browse the store like a lazy bumblebee with a busy mind, stopping here and there for a quick fix of sweet nectar. But I already know that the one I hold onto will be the winner. It’s the one I need most today. Most often it is fiction that saves me from the stress and anxiety that life brings, but sometimes my heart needs clear-cut, straightforward facts in order to continue to heal and thrive.  It’s hard to pick just one, but I know without a doubt that I’ll be back for more.

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Photo by Caio from Pexels

Let Go of Worrying About What Others Think of You

Our thoughts are strong and powerful. More than we even realize. We don’t often enough give them credit. I’ve been told I think too deeply. That can be good and bad, depending on the thoughts. I love much, and I worry much.

I’m working on the worrying, and I have to say I’ve improved…but still it creeps in now and then when I least suspect it. Used to be, I’d worry about my health. To the point of distraction.

These days, I’ve been worrying too much about what people think. Always trying to predict how they’ll react…from every angle.

So it made me wonder how you are. Do you worry about what others think of you? Of your actions, words, decisions…I could go on and on.

I’m not up to writing today because I’m feeling under the weather, but I was thinking on this worrying what other people think thing and when I opened my medicine cabinet tonight a note I had taped inside caught my eye.

It seemed just the thing to share with you, in case you spend too much time worrying about what others think of you, too. Let’s not let that rob our joy. There are too many other good things to think on, too many spectacular wonders and life-giving thoughts we could focus on.

So from my little medicine cabinet to your heart, here is a list of reminders I wrote down a few years ago after listening to a podcast of Trish Blackwell’s. Her podcast is called The Confidence Podcast, and her book Insecurity Detox is one of my favorite books. My notes here are from her podcast episode #262: 5 Simple Ways to Stop Caring What Other People Think.

The statements below from the show are what I wrote down to tape inside my medicine cabinet to remind myself of how important it is to remember that I need to focus on knowing my worth for who I am, instead of trying to base it on who I think I should be in order to please everyone else. For a list in it’s entirety and to listen to the podcast, you can click here.

  • I am loved and I have value.
  • It’s okay for people to disagree with me or not like me…
  • God made me as I am, and has given me a story…
  • People liking me or not liking me has nothing to do with my value…
  • I choose to spend my emotional and mental energy on things that bring me joy….

Simple, yet profound. If you find yourself stuck in that worry cycle, too, I hope this is helpful for you to remember, as well.

While I continue to rest now, I’ll be spending my energy on dreaming of the glorious lavender fields under a pink sky in the Cotswolds of England. Because that is one of many things that will bring me joy. What do you think on that brings you joy?

Sweet dreams to you.

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Photo by David Bartus from Pexels

10 Things to Do to Pass the Time

I’m so excited! I have gifts for you today—some links to things that will help you pass the time while you’re sheltering in place. I don’t know about you, but we’re in Week 4 of staying at home and it’s time to change the scenery here a bit.

It’s raining today, so most of us are staying inside. We’re supposed to be inside anyway, but I believe it’s still important to get out and take a walk or a drive to nowhere to get out of the walls of your home at least once a day. A walk around the neighborhood while being mindful of keeping your distance from others is good for the body and for the soul.

When it rains, however, our outdoor time is dashed. So what do you do when the clouds are releasing their burdens? It can be especially quiet around the house if you are an empty nester or don’t have children, like me. Also, I’m typically working from home now during the day, but we are currently on Spring Break.

Scrolling through Facebook for a limited time is good for connecting with others, but it’s probably not a good idea to stay on it all day long. Certainly, it’s nice turn off the TV now and then, too. I rarely turn that box on at all.

There are lots of things you can do without leaving your home. The thing is, you just might need to be brave and try something new. So here’s my list, just for you:

10 Things You Can Do At Home To Pass the Time

  1. Read a book—My all time number one fave thing to do. No explanation needed. 🙂 Click here for a current list of the New York Times Best Sellers. Most of my reading time this year has been devoted to children’s books. Therefore, my current read (technically reread) is Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, which is a gem of a book. I am sad to say I have not read any of the Top 5 in any of the categories on The NY Times Best Seller list YET, except for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. Teacher life. *Sigh*.
  2. Work on a puzzle—This is not one of my favorite things to do, but I thought I’d list it because I’m seeing a lot of my friends’ finished puzzles pop up on their news feeds, and they are beautiful. Trivia is more my thing, and recently I discovered Trivia Plaza which has tons of online trivia questions with a lot of different categories. That’s another option if you don’t have a puzzle handy. Riddles are fun, too. In fact, I’ve been working out a riddle on Facebook recently. Trying to find connections with mystery is fun. Playbuzz has a page with 13 fun riddles that aren’t too hard, yet will still make you think.
  3. Reorganize something in your home—Last week, I created some office space of my own in the guest room since I’ll be working from home for the next several weeks. It was fun to get creative and find some things in the garage that I could use for my home office since I couldn’t go purchase a small desk. That is, until the little table I was typing on yesterday collapsed and caused my head to ram into the wall. But that’s another story. Stay safe in your house, friends! Or get LifeAlert. I might need that, myself. Anyway, if you don’t need some office space, maybe cleaning out your closet is just the thing (I love StitchFix, by the way…and no I’m not getting paid to say that). Or reorganize your garage or pantry.
  4. Call someone—At least every few days I like to make some phone calls or texts and check in on some people to make sure they are doing okay. It’s nice to hear their voice. The human connection is truly important, and unless you’re involved in a battle with someone, talking with someone always lifts your spirits and reminds you that you’re not alone in this strange event. If you make each other laugh, you get bonus points. If you’re kind of shy when on the phone, click here for 3 Ways to Make Your Phone Call Less Awkward. This has always been a struggle for me. Again, you’re not alone!
  5. Sing along to karaoke songs on YouTube—Did you know that you can search for pretty much any song title on YouTube and add the word “karaoke” after it to find a sing along version of the song? One of my current favorites to sing to is Memories by Maroon 5…the melody reminds me of a fast relative of Pachelbel’s Canon in D.
  6. Dance…it’s exercise!—-Speaking of music, turn your living room or kitchen into a dance studio. Push back the furniture, turn up the volume, and shake it. Meghan Trainor’s I’m A Lady always gets my feet moving.
  7. Play solitaire—If you have a deck of cards and you’re by yourself, solitaire is a great game to play. It will really help the time pass by. Never played before? For the rules of the game, click here. Or you can play a digital version here if you don’t have cards at home.
  8. Write a letter—If you’ve been too busy before to sit down and write a letter like back in the old days, now’s the time. Grab a pen and paper and surprise someone with snail mail. My best friend from college, Rosie, did this for me just a couple of weeks ago. She used to write me when I studied abroad in England, and said she thought she’d surprise me for old time’s sake. It really brightened my day.
  9. Try a new recipe—-Well, because we were out of it and I want to avoid the store as much as possible, I found a recipe to make my own BBQ sauce for our pulled pork nachos tonight. It was fab! Loved it so much, I don’t think I’ll ever buy bottled BBQ sauce again (although the sugar content is quite high). And it was super easy. For the recipe, click here.
  10. Write your story—Last, but not least, having extra time is a blessing for writing. Is there a story on your mind you’ve been wanting to put onto paper? Is there a time in your life you’d love to share with readers? Have you always wanted to document your life and the many lessons you’ve learned along the way? Any struggles that have turned into triumph? Or maybe you want to teach people how to do or make something. The words are your oyster. Hee hee. Seriously, though, to quote other writers out there, “your story matters”. Connect with others through writing yours.

BONUS ACTIVITY—-Think of something kind you can do for someone. Here’s a list of 58 Random Acts of Kindness, many of which you and I could still do even during the shelter in place.

Have fun, and please drop a comment if there is something you love from the list, OR if there is something that is not on the list that you’d like to share.

Stay safe and have a great week!

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Achieve Your Dream: 10 Things To Help You Along the Way

What dream is on your heart? What do you hope to achieve? Do you wish to accomplish something that seems so big—so outside the box—but you just don’t know where to start? I know the feeling!

So let’s get down to the nitty gritty and talk about 10 things we can do in order to help slay that goal of ours, whatever it may be:

#1) Acknowledge it—Know your goal. What is it? Write it down. Make a list of things you will need to do in order to accomplish your goal.

#2) Declare it— Tell people! Speak it out loud. This might seem scary, but it will challenge you in amazing ways you never imagined. Be brave and ask for help if you need it.

#3) Embrace it—Willingly and enthusiastically come to terms with the fact that it’s likely going to take a good amount of effort and patience to get to where you want to be. You will learn so much on this journey you’ll be on!

#4) Keep things in motion—Set small deadlines for yourself along the way. This is so helpful! Whenever I stop setting dates to accomplish the tasks I need to complete to reach my goal, I usually get distracted, uninspired, and off-track. In addition to deadlines, keep things moving along by learning more about where you’re headed. Find podcasts, websites, and read books about the topics related to your dream.

#5) Let it rest if you need to—Grit is a good thing, but sometimes we need to take a breather and be okay with releasing a goal if it’s just not turning out the way you hoped. Learn to listen to your heart…and if you feel pulled in a different direction, then go for that instead. You’re allowed to change your mind. 🙂

#6) Give yourself grace—If you encounter a mishap, make a mistake, have a set back, or stop working towards your goal, don’t beat yourself up about it—just get right back up again and get back to it if it’s still something you dream of achieving. We are too hard on ourselves. You’re still cool!

#7) Be yourself—It’s likely there are many other people in the world with the same goal in mind as you. That’s okay. Don’t let that stop you. What you’re doing comes from you and there is no one exactly like you. 🙂

#8) Be proud—I don’t know about you, but I tend to get a little shy when it comes to my dreams. Sometimes I wonder if they are silly or outrageous. I’m not working on my goals in order to make money, but think on this whenever you get that uncomfortable feeling that your idea is goofy or even maybe unworthy: Beanie Babies, Chia Pets, Snuggies, and Slinkys. Yep, those people made millions.

#9) Find encouragers—This is one of my favorites. There are people out there who are ready to root for you. Find them! Make a list of who is in your corner and refer to it in those times when doubt might set in or when you feel like you’re going at it alone. It’s such a powerful thing to realize that you are not alone and that many, many people want the best for you and want to see you succeed.

#10) Pray about it—Above all, pray about your dream. Is it something you feel God is leading you to do? Does it keep you up at night? Does it keep coming back to you even when you think you might not be equipped or qualified to accomplish it? Does it feel right, even though you might be scared to try? Pray for wisdom. Pray that He will help you discern the things which He has put upon your heart rather than the things others might be pushing you to do. Pray for courage and strength. You’ve got this!

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The Crime of Perfectionism

Me? A perfectionist? No way. 

That was how I used to think. Until about a year ago, I’d never really investigated the word perfectionism. In my mind, that word was reserved for people who were already perfect and, well, I surely was not. Inside or out.

Yeah, I actually believed perfection was attainable.

Then, one day while browsing the aisles with my latte, I picked up a book at Barnes and Noble for the title alone. You’re Already Amazing by Holley Gerth. While most of the title words were black, the word “already” was printed in bold red, as if it were saying, “Yeah, that’s right, you see me correctly. I’m saying you, yes YOU, are ALREADY amazing. Dare me to prove it to you.” Intrigued and downright hopeful, I bought it, took it home, and snuck it into the bathroom where I escaped into the first few chapters during a long, warm bath.

I was being sneaky about it because it was embarrassing to THINK myself amazing, let alone showcase to anyone who saw the book cover that I might also agree that I was. I did not want to be labeled as conceited. Yikes!

Inside that book, I met “Ms. P” (a.k.a Perfectionism) in Chapter 3, and I saw myself in her description. All or nothing. Never good enough. Every failed attempt hammering yet another nail into the coffin of “Unworthy”, rather than seeing those failures as growth experiments which honorably coexist with “Worthy”. When I read this poem by Gerth, it finally dawned on me that I had been a perfectionist all along. Here, take a peek:

Why You Don’t Have to Be Perfect

by Holley Gerth

I know Perfectionism.

She calls my name and says,

“You will never be good enough.”

And sometimes I listen.

I cower in a corner.

Or I endlessly run.

But it’s always about fear.

Then these words stop me in my tracks,

grab me by the heart,

and invite grace to speak instead:

Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18)

I don’t have to be perfect.

I only need to be perfectly loved.

And I am.

So are you. 

A reminder from 1 John—a truth—that we are loved by God. And that is what matters more than trying to do everything perfectly. In fact, that love sets us free.

Well, after that, for a good while I threw “You are amazing” around all over the place, like great splashes out of a giant fountain of love. Sticky notes on my mirror and in my car, posts on Facebook, on little chalkboards in my classroom, texts to family and friends…all little dashes of truth to everyone (and myself) who might need it. Reminding them that they are amazing just the way they are…and me, too. Because many of us get all caught up in what we think we ought to be or who we think others want us to be. Trying to please everybody from here to there and everywhere.

But forget that. We all fall short, and that’s just the way that it is. Of course, we still strive to do our best, but we must keep in our sights the reality that mistakes happen and it’s okay. We also can’t spend every hour making the perfect this and the perfect that. We must make room for balance. And we will go through seasons when we run low on patience, compassion, and friendliness. In light of that, I find myself humbled by the reminder that God extends grace, mercy, and forgiveness to those whom He loves…for I will need it all continually.

One of the areas of my life where perfectionism still seizes me greatly is in my writing. I want to write. I lovvvvvve to write. I want to either help or entertain others through writing (I don’t know which yet)…but I struggle. I have daily battles with thoughts of “no one will want to read that”, or “no way should you share that”, or “you’ll never be able to tackle an actual book, because you don’t know what you’re doing”. Perfectionism tells me “you don’t know enough” and “you’re not qualified to write that”.

Yacks! No wonder I haven’t returned to the book that’s on my heart. I’ve let that way of thinking rob me of more than six months of action. I put my book in a drawer after finishing the first draft and have. not. touched. it. since.

Recently, however, I was reminded to safeguard my good intentions by shaking off those threatening thoughts. I saw a shared post on the Higher Purpose Writers Facebook page of a quick little “perfectionism reality check” written by professor and author, Brené Brown. As I read it, I got to a part that literally stole my breath: “it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from being seen and taking flight.” So true.

Something in me ignited and caused me to comment on that post. A realization was born. “Perfectionism,” I typed with certainty, “is the culprit that puts up the imaginary black and yellow caution tape around my writing desk, cordoning me off from my creativity…leaving me too often with regret. We can’t let perfectionism rob us of our joy, so we have to fight back by taking action. One of my second graders often tells the kids very matter-of-factly, ‘when you’re feeling nervous, just do it scared’. Oh, how I wish I’d had that wisdom at age 8.”

(Even now, I have doubts because I’m not sure writers typically quote themselves as I just did, but…whatever! LOL)

Then I offered this quote because it always sets me back on track:

“Ditch the self-defeating tunes in your head and upgrade to life-giving thoughts.” -Trish Blackwell

It’s time, isn’t it? To shake off those thoughts that imprison our dreams. To stop sabotaging ourselves with our unreasonable expectations. The ones that kidnap the joy and satisfaction of accomplishing great big things. Or even great small things.

So…go do your thing. That thing you’ve been putting off. Just take the step and get it done. Baby steps, giant leaps…anything that gets you closer to your dreams. Someone will want to read this. Yes way, should I share this. You and I may not know what we’re doing or know it all, but the world’s got resources out there—we can figure it out. We are qualified to speak what’s on our hearts because we have been enrolled in Life 101 this whole time. And remember, God is with you…He wants us to live abundantly so that we can, in turn, be a light for others.

You’ve got this. We’ve got this! Let’s do this.

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P.S. Please remind me now and then. 🙂

 

Praying with Jane–A Book Review

Have you ever put off reading something because you felt like you were just too busy?

I was gifted with a treasure of a book which turned out to be the very thing I needed to calm down my busy-ness!

When Praying with Jane: 31 Days Through the Prayers of Jane Austen by Rachel Dodge arrived at my door, I was preoccupied in a flurry of this and that. It took me awhile to make the time to start it. After getting through my days filled with activity, I would glance longingly at the beautiful cover where it sat on my nightstand before closing my eyes and giving in to much-needed sleep.

On one particularly stressful day, feeling as if I could barely take a breath for all the demands of life weighing me down, I finally picked up Praying with Jane. That day, I felt especially far away from God…I felt lost. I felt overwhelmed. I kind of felt wretched. I remember hoping that maybe this book I’d been wanting to read would give me the respite I needed.

It did. I wished I had started it sooner, actually, because it provided a sense of calm and soul perspective that I’d neglected for quite awhile. Small, yet profound, after just a few of the short daily readings, I found myself able to breathe more deeply, more fully…and, most importantly, reconnect with my priorities in regards to my faith in Jesus, my Savior.

I love the gentleness of this book. Each day’s reading takes about 5 minutes or less to read, and through Rachel’s writing I was able to connect with the prayers of a woman who lived so long ago. Even now in the 21st century, I could relate to Jane’s prayers and, more importantly, I was reminded of areas in my life in which I wanted to grow or nurture.

I’m somewhat of a free bird when it comes to reading devotionals, picking them up here and there when I feel the need. Sometimes I like to think on a thing for several days. I loved going back to this book, and looked forward to each new piece. Each time I picked up Praying with Jane it seemed as though the topic of the day (or rather, the section of Jane Austen’s prayer Rachel was addressing) was fitting for me in that moment. Has that ever happened to you? It’s a stunning feeling.

My favorite parts of the book were the interactive prayers at the end of each day (“Let Us Pray”). There are times in my life when I want to pray to God, but cannot find the words, and these beautiful, humbling, and genuine prayers were very good at helping me along. In some cases, they also provided me with new insight on changing the way I pray.

I also, of course, learned much about Jane Austen, her life and times, and her family through Rachel’s expertise and easy way of weaving Jane’s history into relevant thoughts for today. I’ve only read a couple of books by Jane Austen. I’ve probably seen more film adaptations, actually.

While not previously knowing much about Austen, I am thankful for this book’s tender challenge to my heart in regard to my own three decades old relationship with Christ. The benevolent call to obedience—the soft whisper to open my eyes to my own sins, however big or small they may seem—the undeniable proof of God’s love for me, no matter how many wrong turns I’ve made along the road of life. That He “knows our hearts fully, even more than a close friend or family member.”

Praying with Jane would be a wonderful gift, even for those who may not be super fans of Austen. I also think new Christians (or even those who aren’t Christians) would gain a lot of biblical insight and knowledge through the many bible references sprinkled throughout each day’s read.

One of my favorite prayers for the reader written by Rachel from Praying with Jane is this:

“Thank you, Lord, for your faithfulness and your strength. Please show me the areas of my heart, temper, and habits that you want to refine. As the psalmist prayed, please “set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” (Psalm 141:3).  I confess to you now my negative thoughts regarding: [your specific confession]. Make my heart clean and new again. I turn to you now for refreshment and revival. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” -Psalm 51:10

What a wonderful way to start a new year, with the promise of renewal and refinement.  I’m so glad I took the few minutes out of many of my days to breathe in these integral reminders which are rooted in great faith and love.  I will be rereading it again in the new year.

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Promise

Several years ago, I discovered a non-fiction book by one of America’s favorite fiction authors, Debbie Macomber. It was called Knit Together: Discover God’s Pattern for Your Life. I loved this book. I loved it so much that I lent it out to friends and cannot remember who I last gave it to. I think it may be time for me to get a new copy and read it once more.

One of the things that stood out to me in Knit Together was the idea Debbie shared of having one word that is her defining word for the upcoming new year. She shared that it was a tradition for her to choose a word that meant something to her, that would represent what she wanted to focus on throughout the whole year. For example, surrender or prayer. In fact, she later wrote another non-fiction book on the whole topic called One Perfect Word. The idea really appealed to me, so for the last several years I’ve also been choosing my word for the year.

Lately, I’ve seen it come up on Facebook. For example, over at (in)courage, they are sharing DaySpring’s quiz to help people find their own word for 2019 since a new year is just around the corner.

Each Thanksgiving, I begin thinking of my new word. It’s usually hard for me to decide. But the last few months have been rough for me spiritually and physically, and I neglected to even give 2019’s word much thought.

However, recently I’ve been reading a little book called Praying with Jane by Rachel Dodge…and then came Christmas. Between those two things, I’ve been deeply reminded of the sweet joy of Jesus in my life and how I never want to take that gift for granted. And with His gift, the ability to make each morning new…our sins forgiven, if we but ask. The opportunity for a cleansed and revived heart….the hope we have in waiting on the Lord. I was reminded that what I want most is for His love to shine through me, and not be hidden.

And so I thought to myself, what is the root of all my trouble right now? What is keeping my light from shining? And I realized it came down to broken promises. Broken promises to myself in many different ways which eventually affect those around me.

Here is one example: If I break the promise I’ve made to myself to show up to thirty minutes of exercise (or even ten minutes!)…but then I break that promise every day, it then snowballs into an unhealthy habit. I end up not only feeling icky, unfit, without energy, strength, and stamina, but it also eventually makes me feel bad about myself for continually breaking that promise (this was an intriguing notion I learned earlier in the year listening to podcaster and confidence coach Trish Blackwell). Then I feel grumpy and have back pain from a weak core, and we all know grumpiness does not really pair up with friendliness. It’s hard to appear kind when I’m cranky.

Another example of breaking my promise to myself is when I am not in God’s Word consistently, yet I have every intention to do so. When I say “I will make time for the Lord today”, but instead choose TV or social media. By doing so, I am not reminded of God’s promises….of His grace and love and forgiveness…of the trials of people in the Bible and how they overcame them, how God provided for them…of the blessings and goodness and just downright peace that comes with praying to Jesus…that’s the fuel for the fire that keeps my light burning brightly. Without that fuel, my joy is not as easy to see, my kindness not as forthcoming as it ought to be. I need the fuel. I need to keep that promise to myself to stay in His word.

Promise.

That’s my word. And it’s all to do with showing up. Even when I don’t feel ready.  Even when I don’t feel I’ve got the energy.

So…here are the three ways in which my word for the year, “promise”,  will relate to me in 2019:

#1) I promise to show up for my health and spiritual wellness when I say I will. Except when I’m sick, of course! Ugh! Just saying this, I know there will be times when I’ll hit the snooze button or convince myself to go to bed early or…or…okay, therefore….here’s to #2!

#2) I promise to give myself grace when I mess up. ‘Nuff said. LOL

#3) I promise to do one thing every day that scares me. This is from a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, which I heard when I first began listening to Trish Blackwell’s podcasts. I’m not talking about skydiving (that won’t ever be on the list)…but instead I mean even the littlest things that get my heart jumping and tempt me to run in the opposite direction. Being an upstander. Showing up to my writing space. Overcoming my shyness to make someone feel welcome. Trying a new recipe (if you know my reputation for cooking, this will make sense!). Teaching in front of an observer. Making conversation at a party. That kind of stuff.

So, there it is. 🙂

What is YOUR word for 2019? When you know it, let me know in the comments below. And even better, share why it’s your word!

For another great example on how to choose your word of the year, listen to episode #298: How to Successfully Set Goals for the New Year on The Confidence Podcast with Trish Blackwell.  

Have fun pondering!

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